Browsing articles from "April, 2015"

Workers’ Comp: CA Bill Would Stop Insurers From Suspending Care

Apr 30, 2015   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Workers’ Comp: CA Bill Would Stop Insurers From Suspending Care

Joel Ramirez climbs back into his wheelchair with the help of Francisco Guardado, a home health aide, at his home in Rialto, Calif.i

Joel Ramirez climbs back into his wheelchair with the help of Francisco Guardado, a home health aide, at his home in Rialto, Calif.

Patrick T. Fallon for ProPublica


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Patrick T. Fallon for ProPublica

Joel Ramirez climbs back into his wheelchair with the help of Francisco Guardado, a home health aide, at his home in Rialto, Calif.

Joel Ramirez climbs back into his wheelchair with the help of Francisco Guardado, a home health aide, at his home in Rialto, Calif.

Patrick T. Fallon for ProPublica

A California Senate committee has approved a bill that directly addresses a problem reported in the ProPublica/NPR investigation of state changes in workers’ compensation benefits.

The measure sponsored by the California Medical Association (CMA) would prohibit insurance companies from using the state’s 2012 workers’ compensation reforms to reopen approved treatment plans and deny existing medical care.

The CMA cited the ProPublica/NPR investigation in justifying the bill.

ProPublica/NPR detailed the case of paralyzed worker Joel Ramirez, who lost his home health care after Travelers Insurance reopened his treatment plan. The story prompted the state Department of Industrial Relations to launch an audit of Travelers and to issue a warning to insurance companies that the new workers’ comp reforms cannot be used to deny approved home health care.

The new bill blocks changes in treatment plans unless there is a relevant and demonstrated change in the medical condition of the injured worker, or the care is determined to no longer be based on current medical evidence or treatment guidelines.

Insurance companies “cannot withdraw care until an independent medical review is completed and an alternative treatment is provided—unlike what happened to Ramirez,” reports ProPublica’s Michael Grabell, in this detailed story on the measure.

CMA also cited a 2014 survey of 231 medical practices, which focused on the medical review processes established by California’s 2012 workers’ comp reforms.

Two-thirds of the physicians responding to the survey said new review procedures made it more difficult to get approval for treatment. Close to half said the greatest problem and challenge in the new approval system is “inappropriate denials of medically necessary tests, procedures or services.”

The Senate bill is opposed by business and insurance interests who worry about unnecessary and costly treatment.

Western Hemisphere Eradicates Its Third Virus

Apr 30, 2015   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Western Hemisphere Eradicates Its Third Virus

It took 15 years and 250 million vaccines, but this week, health authorities officially declared North America and South America free of rubella — a virus that can cause severe birth defects.

#TBT: Hoping For Presidency, Former Senator Throws Rock In Water

Apr 30, 2015   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on #TBT: Hoping For Presidency, Former Senator Throws Rock In Water

Standing on the shores of a lake, he stared into the camera for a painfully long minute and 10 seconds before finally pivoting. He turned and administered the coup de grâce of the video with a rock, heaving the stone into the water and simply walking away.

Former U.S. Sen. Mike Gravel speaks during during a September 2007 Democratic presidential debate as then-Sen. Hillary Clinton listens.i

Former U.S. Sen. Mike Gravel speaks during during a September 2007 Democratic presidential debate as then-Sen. Hillary Clinton listens.

Darren McCollester/Getty Images


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Former U.S. Sen. Mike Gravel speaks during during a September 2007 Democratic presidential debate as then-Sen. Hillary Clinton listens.

Former U.S. Sen. Mike Gravel speaks during during a September 2007 Democratic presidential debate as then-Sen. Hillary Clinton listens.

Darren McCollester/Getty Images

What did it all mean? No one was quite sure what to make exactly of the video, starring former U.S. Sen. Mike Gravel (pronounced with an accent on the last syllable, not like the stone). But the video – viewed 1.2 million times on YouTube — made the then 75-year-old an unlikely viral star in the 2007 chase for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The crusty Alaskan barely registered in the polls, grabbing actually less than 1 percent support in national and statewide polls. That didn’t change after the video launched in May 2007. But that wasn’t really the point.

“What people like you don’t understand — which I think is hilarious — is this is a metaphor,” Gravel said crankily on MSNBC at the time.

It was the first election after the creation of YouTube. And there was a lot of experimenting. Gravel took that to extremes. He interviewed himself in his video “Two Mikes” below.

“You’re running for president? Well, you’ve been out of politics for 25 years,” he told himself.

“Well, you can say I’m well rested,” Gravel responded to Gravel.

“Don’t do it. Everybody’s going to say you can’t win. And even a lot of Democrat don’t like you.”

“When I get done, they’re going to like me even less.”

Remember “Obama Girl”? Even though he took no money from lobbyists, he thought he could lobby her support.

“You should drop your crush on Obama,” he told her. After a flirtation with supporting him, in the end, she walks away saying she’d “think about it.”

“I totally learned that Soulja Boy dance for nothing,” he deadpanned. It was a thing at the time.

Gravel got on debate stages, but was left particularly exposed in one debate moderated by the late Tim Russert. Russert pointed out that Gravel’s condo business had gone bankrupt and he’d filed for personal bankruptcy in 2004, leaving $85,000 in credit bills unpaid.

“Who did I bankrupt?” Gravel asked. “I stuck the credit card companies with $90,000 worth of bills. And they deserved it, because I used the money. They deserved it.”

Gravel always had a flair for the dramatic, but wasn’t always considered fringe or, what he risked in 2007, unserious.

He made a name for himself in 1971, when, as a staunch anti-Vietnam critic, he entered almost 60 percent – or 4,000 pages – of the Pentagon papers into the congressional record by reading them aloud during a Senate subcommittee hearing.

So what is he doing now? It might not surprise some that, in 2014, it was announced that Gravel was heading up a marijuana company working on developing and marketing “innovative new cannabis products.”

What Song Did You Turn To This Week?

Apr 30, 2015   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on What Song Did You Turn To This Week?

Clockwise from upper left: A woman faces riot police in Baltimore (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images); A woman and child sit amid earthquake ruble in Nepal (Omar Havana/Getty Images); Demonstrators outside the supreme court (Drew Angerer/Getty)

Clockwise from upper left: A woman faces riot police in Baltimore (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images); A woman and child sit amid earthquake ruble in Nepal (Omar Havana/Getty Images); Demonstrators outside the supreme court (Drew Angerer/Getty)

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All Songs is a music podcast, and we like to have fun. But music can speak to significant political, cultural and social events that can be challenging to process on their own. Songs can spark a protest or offer peace of mind, or just be close companions.

Over recent weeks, emotions have run deeper than normal. The death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore raised frustration and anger; the earthquake in Nepal caused great sadness, but also inspired thousands to donate to relief efforts. The Supreme Court debate over gay marriage may have given you hope, or challenged your beliefs.

All of this made us wonder: Is there a song, new or old, that captures your feelings about current events? Tell us about it using the form below. We’ll talk more about your responses later in our Plus One podcast.

It’s Sotomayor V. Roberts In Supreme Court Death Penalty Drama

Apr 29, 2015   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on It’s Sotomayor V. Roberts In Supreme Court Death Penalty Drama

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor grilled lawyers arguing the constitutionality of new lethal-injection cocktails.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor grilled lawyers arguing the constitutionality of new lethal-injection cocktails.

Win McNamee/Getty Images


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Lethal injection was the grim subject before the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday. Specifically at issue: whether the drug combinations currently used to execute convicted murderers in some states are unconstitutionally cruel.

The issue comes to the court after three botched executions over the past year.

In 2008, the high court upheld the use of a three-drug cocktail used by most states to administer the death penalty. The first drug, sodium thiopental, is an anesthetic used to put the prisoner in a deep comalike state. The second and third drugs paralyze and then kill the prisoner.

The problem for death penalty states is that the key drug used to anesthetize the inmate is no longer available in most places. Drug manufacturers and pharmacists have refused on ethical grounds to provide it for executions. The result is that states have tried other drugs. The most prominent is a drug called midazolam, which has been used in 15 executions.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor exit the front entrance of the Supreme Court building following Sotomayor's investiture ceremony in 2009.i

Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor exit the front entrance of the Supreme Court building following Sotomayor’s investiture ceremony in 2009.

Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images


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Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor exit the front entrance of the Supreme Court building following Sotomayor's investiture ceremony in 2009.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor exit the front entrance of the Supreme Court building following Sotomayor’s investiture ceremony in 2009.

Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

Inside the courtroom there were two dramas: One was the dispute over the death penalty, and how far states must go to impose it humanely. And second was a clash between Justice Sonia Sotomayor and lawyers for the state of Oklahoma, a clash so pronounced that Chief Justice John Roberts, without much subtlety, chastised Sotomayor for talking too much at the expense of the lawyers’ time.

Lawyer Robin Konrad opened arguments, telling the justices that midazolam is not a barbiturate. It’s not a drug that renders people insensate and keeps them in a deeply unconscious state, she said. Moreover, she asserted that it has a ceiling effect, meaning that no matter how much of it you give, the drug’s effect levels off.

“Let’s be honest about what’s going on here,” Justice Samuel Alito interjected. “This court has held that the death penalty is constitutional.”

In view of that, Alito asked, “Is it appropriate for the judiciary to countenance what amounts to a guerrilla war against the death penalty, which consists of efforts to make it impossible for the states to obtain drugs that could be used to carry out capital punishment with little, if any, pain?”

Justice Antonin Scalia echoed that sentiment, saying that the best anesthetics to use in executions have been rendered unavailable by the “abolitionist movement putting pressure on” the drug manufacturers.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, whose vote could be critical in the case, asked just one question: Is it relevant that the preferred drugs are not available because of opposition to the death penalty?

Lawyer Konrad said it should have no relevance.

Justice Sotomayor interrupted, noting that there are other, painless ways of executing individuals. “It doesn’t have to be a drug protocol,” she said.

“I know that you’ll get up and argue that those other ways are not constitutional either,” Sotomayor added. “But the little bit of research I’ve done has shown that the reason people don’t use the other methods [is] because it offends them to look at them.”

Chief Justice Roberts, however, said his understanding is that states have moved to lethal injection as a “more humane” method of execution than “hanging, firing squad, electric chair,” and the gas chamber.

“You’re not suggesting that those other methods are preferable … are you?” Roberts asked.

Konrad replied that death by gas chamber would appear to be painless but has been discarded because of its associations with the Holocaust.

After Konrad sat down, Oklahoma Solicitor General Patrick Wyrick rose to argue that midazolam, administered at high doses, protects the prisoner from feeling pain.

Justices Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg all disputed the evidence of that presented in the courts below. They pointed to testimony from the state’s own expert witness, noting that it was not only “wrong” but that the state had conceded as much.

Breyer said there was “zero” actual data cited by the witness for his conclusions. Kagan called the reasoning of the district court judge “gobbledygook.” But it was Justice Sotomayor who openly dismissed Oklahoma’s evidence as untrustworthy.

Addressing the state’s lawyer, she said, “I am substantially disturbed that in your brief you made factual statements that were not supported by the cited … sources and, in fact, directly contradicted [those sources].”

Sotomayor then proceeded to lecture him, chapter and verse, with examples — so much so that when Wyrick’s time had expired, Chief Justice Roberts said to the lawyer, “to an extent that’s unusual even in this court, you have been listening rather than talking. And so I’m happy to give you an extra five minutes, if you’d like.”

And he liked.

Court: Corporations May Be People, But ‘Judges Are Not Politicians’

Apr 29, 2015   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Court: Corporations May Be People, But ‘Judges Are Not Politicians’

David Barrows, of Washington, D.C., waves a flag with corporate logos and fake money during a rally against money in politics outside the Supreme Court in 2013.i

David Barrows, of Washington, D.C., waves a flag with corporate logos and fake money during a rally against money in politics outside the Supreme Court in 2013.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images


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David Barrows, of Washington, D.C., waves a flag with corporate logos and fake money during a rally against money in politics outside the Supreme Court in 2013.

David Barrows, of Washington, D.C., waves a flag with corporate logos and fake money during a rally against money in politics outside the Supreme Court in 2013.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

If there’s one thing that today’s Supreme Court doesn’t like, it’s governmental overreach in regulating political money.

But if there’s something the court likes even less, it’s the increasing prominence of money in electing America’s judges. That’s how five justices came to uphold a rule in Florida that prevents judicial candidates from personally soliciting campaign cash.

Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the court’s four liberals in rejecting an appeal by Lanell Williams-Yulee, a lawyer who, in 2009, ran for a county court seat in Hillsborough County. Yulee mailed voters a personal letter asking for money; she also posted it online.

The ruling affects the 39 states that elect judges – and it surprised many observers.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday on whether judicial candidates should be permitted to personally solicit campaign contributions.

The Roberts court hasn’t been reluctant to strike down money limits in elections for other offices. But the opinion in Williams-Yulee v. The Florida Bar finds that “Judges are not politicians.”

The opinion allows states to limit the free speech of judicial candidates, due to a “compelling interest in judicial integrity.” It finds a “regrettable but unavoidable appearance that judges who personally ask for money may diminish their integrity.” And it reiterates previous findings that while the executive and legislative branches have their own spheres of influence, the judicial branch has only its reputation.

That reputation has been tarnished in recent years by the big money moving into judicial elections. Last year, nearly $300,000 flowed through a Washington-based group, in a bid to unseat the incumbent in a Missouri county court. (It failed.)

Recent trends show the limits of the Yulee decision. Six- and seven-figure sums go into independent expenditures. In the Missouri race, for example, the challenger received $100,000, but an outside group got nearly twice as much for attack ads and mailers.

Critics of big money in politics celebrated the decision. “Pragmatic” is how Matthew Menendez, of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, described it. “The majority looks at elections as they really happen, and what people really think about them,” he said, comparing it to “the very theoretical approach taken in Citizens United and McCutcheon.”

Citizens United is the 2010 case in which the court allowed corporations and unions to finance messages explicitly supporting or attacking candidates. The court majority said these “independent expenditures” wouldn’t be corrupting because they would not be coordinated with candidates, while “the appearance of influence or access… will not cause the electorate to lose faith in our democracy.” Since then, Super PACs and their billionaire donors have amassed significant political power.

McCutcheon, decided a year ago, eliminated an aggregate limit on how much a single donor could give to candidates in one election. It dismissed the real-world political impact, for example, of giving a congressional leader a large sum, to be distributed to lawmakers of the leader’s choosing.

The Yulee opinion stops short of cutting off all contact between judicial candidates and donors. A candidate can still write thank-you notes.

How One West Baltimore Principal Is Helping Her Students Make Sense Of It All

Apr 29, 2015   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on How One West Baltimore Principal Is Helping Her Students Make Sense Of It All

Crystal Harden-Lindsey, 35, is the principal of Green Street Academy in West Baltimore.i

Crystal Harden-Lindsey, 35, is the principal of Green Street Academy in West Baltimore.

Shereen Marisol Meraji/NPR


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Crystal Harden-Lindsey, 35, is the principal of Green Street Academy in West Baltimore.

Crystal Harden-Lindsey, 35, is the principal of Green Street Academy in West Baltimore.

Shereen Marisol Meraji/NPR

Editor’s note: Code Switch reporter Shereen Marisol Meraji is spending the day with a West Baltimore principal who’s charged with a huge task today: helping her middle and high school students, who are overwhelmingly poor and black, make sense of what’s happening in Baltimore right now. We’ll be updating the post over the course of the day.

Part One

It’s 7:12 a.m. on Wednesday morning and Crystal Harden-Lindsey rolls into the parking lot of Green Street Academy in West Baltimore, which she’s headed since 2012. Today is a big day: school’s back in session after shutting down all day yesterday in the face of protests and unrest. Harden-Lindsey, who’s 35 and grew up in East Baltimore, knows her kids are going to have lots of questions; a few of them were texting with her yesterday, sending her their cell phone videos of the looted stores and burned buildings.

It helps that she knows where they’re coming from. Harden-Lindsey has roots in this city. She grew up across town, right around North Rose and East Monument Streets. Her grandmother lives right by Southern Baptist Church, near the senior center that was engulfed in flames on Monday. And throughout her life she’s been no stranger to violence. When she was just a kid, she recalls seeing a dead body in the street. It’s nothing new, and this sort of violence still breaks her heart, she says.

But on a day like today, it’s all about looking forward.

“If we can get today under control, we’ll be okay until Friday,” Harden-Lindsey says. On Friday, the Baltimore Police Department is expected to release the findings of its investigation into Gray’s death, according to the Baltimore Sun. Depending on what those findings say, the weekend could be fairly quiet or embroiled in further protests.

Stay tuned for the next dispatch from Green Street Academy.

Nepal, Before The Earthquake Struck: A Photographer’s Portfolio

Apr 29, 2015   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Nepal, Before The Earthquake Struck: A Photographer’s Portfolio

Commemorating a king, the statue-on-a-pillar was erected in 1701 in Durbar Square in Patan, where a Krishna temple is located. The photo was taken in 1987. Much of the area sustained damage from the quake but the pillar is still standing.i

Commemorating a king, the statue-on-a-pillar was erected in 1701 in Durbar Square in Patan, where a Krishna temple is located. The photo was taken in 1987. Much of the area sustained damage from the quake but the pillar is still standing.

Courtesy of Kevin Bubriski and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology Ethnology, Harvard University


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Courtesy of Kevin Bubriski and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology Ethnology, Harvard University

Commemorating a king, the statue-on-a-pillar was erected in 1701 in Durbar Square in Patan, where a Krishna temple is located. The photo was taken in 1987. Much of the area sustained damage from the quake but the pillar is still standing.

Commemorating a king, the statue-on-a-pillar was erected in 1701 in Durbar Square in Patan, where a Krishna temple is located. The photo was taken in 1987. Much of the area sustained damage from the quake but the pillar is still standing.

Courtesy of Kevin Bubriski and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology Ethnology, Harvard University

Kevin Bubriski may live in Vermont but his heart is in Nepal.

Bubriski first visited Nepal in 1975 as a 20-year-old Peace Corps volunteer. He worked on a project to bring drinking water to villages. He came with a curiosity about the place and a camera in hand. And it was the camera that has shaped his destiny.

He began taking photos of the people he met and the sights he saw. And he has never stopped.

Over 40 years, Bubriski has visited Nepal many times and made many close friends. So when he awoke to a text message and a “flurry of emails” about the earthquake on Saturday, he immediately took to Facebook. Much to his relief, he saw messages from friends in Kathmandu indicating they were safe. But, there is an eerie silence from those in more remote regions, the villages where there is at best limited electricity. Those are the people he is thinking of now.

Girls share a quiet moment before school starts in Barpark village in the Gorkha district, 1984. The village was reportedly at the epicenter of the earthquake.i

Girls share a quiet moment before school starts in Barpark village in the Gorkha district, 1984. The village was reportedly at the epicenter of the earthquake.

Courtesy of Kevin Bubriski and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology Ethnology, Harvard University


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Courtesy of Kevin Bubriski and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology Ethnology, Harvard University

Girls share a quiet moment before school starts in Barpark village in the Gorkha district, 1984. The village was reportedly at the epicenter of the earthquake.

Girls share a quiet moment before school starts in Barpark village in the Gorkha district, 1984. The village was reportedly at the epicenter of the earthquake.

Courtesy of Kevin Bubriski and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology Ethnology, Harvard University

Father and son wool spinners, Barangsia village, 1985. A boy heads to collect tape water for his family in Mangri village, 1985.i

Father and son wool spinners, Barangsia village, 1985. A boy heads to collect tape water for his family in Mangri village, 1985.

Courtesy of Kevin Bubriski and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology Ethnology, Harvard University


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Courtesy of Kevin Bubriski and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology Ethnology, Harvard University

Father and son wool spinners, Barangsia village, 1985. A boy heads to collect tape water for his family in Mangri village, 1985.

Father and son wool spinners, Barangsia village, 1985. A boy heads to collect tape water for his family in Mangri village, 1985.

Courtesy of Kevin Bubriski and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology Ethnology, Harvard University

Early morning, open-air haircuts were a Nepali tradition in 1989, when this photo was taken. The stretch of open green in the city of Kathmandu, called Tundikhel, is now reportedly a camping ground for earthquake survivors.i

Early morning, open-air haircuts were a Nepali tradition in 1989, when this photo was taken. The stretch of open green in the city of Kathmandu, called Tundikhel, is now reportedly a camping ground for earthquake survivors.

Courtesy of Kevin Bubriski and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology Ethnology, Harvard University


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Courtesy of Kevin Bubriski and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology Ethnology, Harvard University

Early morning, open-air haircuts were a Nepali tradition in 1989, when this photo was taken. The stretch of open green in the city of Kathmandu, called Tundikhel, is now reportedly a camping ground for earthquake survivors.

Early morning, open-air haircuts were a Nepali tradition in 1989, when this photo was taken. The stretch of open green in the city of Kathmandu, called Tundikhel, is now reportedly a camping ground for earthquake survivors.

Courtesy of Kevin Bubriski and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology Ethnology, Harvard University

“They don’t have a voice,” says Bubriski, who teaches photography at Green Mountain College. “And they are far away. And they don’t have access to technology, and they might not even have paths out of their villages to walk to safety.”.

The villagers of Karkibada take to the rooftops to thresh and bag their harvest of winter barley and wheat. 1985.i

The villagers of Karkibada take to the rooftops to thresh and bag their harvest of winter barley and wheat. 1985.

Courtesy of Kevin Bubriski and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology Ethnology, Harvard University


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Courtesy of Kevin Bubriski and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology Ethnology, Harvard University

The villagers of Karkibada take to the rooftops to thresh and bag their harvest of winter barley and wheat. 1985.

The villagers of Karkibada take to the rooftops to thresh and bag their harvest of winter barley and wheat. 1985.

Courtesy of Kevin Bubriski and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology Ethnology, Harvard University

Dancers take off their masks in Bhaktapur, 1987. Dilgo Kyentse Rinpoche of Bhutan was a revered Tibetan Buddhist lama, 1984 (he died in 1991). A soldier stands at attention at Durbar Square, 2005.i

Dancers take off their masks in Bhaktapur, 1987. Dilgo Kyentse Rinpoche of Bhutan was a revered Tibetan Buddhist lama, 1984 (he died in 1991). A soldier stands at attention at Durbar Square, 2005.

Courtesy Kevin Bubriski and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology Ethnology, Harvard University


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Courtesy Kevin Bubriski and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology Ethnology, Harvard University

Dancers take off their masks in Bhaktapur, 1987. Dilgo Kyentse Rinpoche of Bhutan was a revered Tibetan Buddhist lama, 1984 (he died in 1991). A soldier stands at attention at Durbar Square, 2005.

Dancers take off their masks in Bhaktapur, 1987. Dilgo Kyentse Rinpoche of Bhutan was a revered Tibetan Buddhist lama, 1984 (he died in 1991). A soldier stands at attention at Durbar Square, 2005.

Courtesy Kevin Bubriski and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology Ethnology, Harvard University

A father and son manufacture bricks from wet clay, then set them out in the cold air to dry before baking them in kilns. Kathmandu Valley, 1987.i

A father and son manufacture bricks from wet clay, then set them out in the cold air to dry before baking them in kilns. Kathmandu Valley, 1987.

Courtesy of Kevin Bubriski and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology Ethnology, Harvard University


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Courtesy of Kevin Bubriski and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology Ethnology, Harvard University

A father and son manufacture bricks from wet clay, then set them out in the cold air to dry before baking them in kilns. Kathmandu Valley, 1987.

A father and son manufacture bricks from wet clay, then set them out in the cold air to dry before baking them in kilns. Kathmandu Valley, 1987.

Courtesy of Kevin Bubriski and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology Ethnology, Harvard University

It was thoughts of these friends and villages that prompted him to upload a photograph onto Instagram, the first image he shot in Nepal with his large-format view camera outside of Kathmandu.

This gentleman was the self-proclaimed global emperor. The photo was taken in Tundikhel, a grassy field in Kathmandu, in 1985. Earthquake survivors are reportedly camping out there now.i

This gentleman was the self-proclaimed “global emperor.” The photo was taken in Tundikhel, a grassy field in Kathmandu, in 1985. Earthquake survivors are reportedly camping out there now.

Courtesy of Kevin Bubriski and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology Ethnology, Harvard University


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Courtesy of Kevin Bubriski and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology Ethnology, Harvard University

This gentleman was the self-proclaimed global emperor. The photo was taken in Tundikhel, a grassy field in Kathmandu, in 1985. Earthquake survivors are reportedly camping out there now.

This gentleman was the self-proclaimed “global emperor.” The photo was taken in Tundikhel, a grassy field in Kathmandu, in 1985. Earthquake survivors are reportedly camping out there now.

Courtesy of Kevin Bubriski and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology Ethnology, Harvard University

The 1984 image was taken in the Barpak village in the Gurkha district, which is at the epicenter of Saturday’s quake. It is a photograph of Gurung girls sitting cross-legged —one of many images in his book “Nepal: 1975-2011.” published last fall. The photos start with 35 millimeter Leica M3 black-and-whites and end with digital photographs from a few years ago of young Nepalis set against colorful billboards and shops.

Bubriski began to cover Nepal in earnest in the 1980s. Inspired by the in-depth portraiture of August Sander’s “People of the Twentieth Century,” as well as Edward Curtis’s images of Native Americans and Walker Evans’s depression-era photographs, he decided to cover as much of Nepal as possible. Since he had no familial obligations at home, he says, “I really had that freedom to spend time and walk through the mountains for months at a time. I used to say to people, the only deadline is the expiration on the film, which is several years.”

Candles are lit as part of a ritual to ward off bad karma during a festival in Bhaktapur in 1988. The ancient city in the Kathmandu Valley was hard hit by the quake.i

Candles are lit as part of a ritual to ward off bad karma during a festival in Bhaktapur in 1988. The ancient city in the Kathmandu Valley was hard hit by the quake.

Courtesy of Kevin Bubriski and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology Ethnology, Harvard University


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Courtesy of Kevin Bubriski and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology Ethnology, Harvard University

Candles are lit as part of a ritual to ward off bad karma during a festival in Bhaktapur in 1988. The ancient city in the Kathmandu Valley was hard hit by the quake.

Candles are lit as part of a ritual to ward off bad karma during a festival in Bhaktapur in 1988. The ancient city in the Kathmandu Valley was hard hit by the quake.

Courtesy of Kevin Bubriski and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology Ethnology, Harvard University

By the mid-1990s, Bubriski slowed down the pace of his Nepal coverage. Married and a father, he wanted to spend time with his family. And other photographers tried to urge him to cover different parts of the world so his portfolio would have variety.

But in the end, Nepal pulled him back. In 2005 he returned for the first time in 8 years and has been taking short trips back ever since. Rather than focus on just one theme — traditional life, say, or the changing face of Nepal, he has aimed to “document what is, what presents itself.”

A buddhist shaman is in a trance at sacred Gosaikunda Lake, 1988. A village boy soaks up the winter's sun in Talphi village, 1977.i

A buddhist shaman is in a trance at sacred Gosaikunda Lake, 1988. A village boy soaks up the winter’s sun in Talphi village, 1977.

Courtesy of Kevin Bubriski and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology Ethnology, Harvard University


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Courtesy of Kevin Bubriski and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology Ethnology, Harvard University

A buddhist shaman is in a trance at sacred Gosaikunda Lake, 1988. A village boy soaks up the winter's sun in Talphi village, 1977.

A buddhist shaman is in a trance at sacred Gosaikunda Lake, 1988. A village boy soaks up the winter’s sun in Talphi village, 1977.

Courtesy of Kevin Bubriski and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology Ethnology, Harvard University

Today he is worried about the remote villages, the rural areas, the landslides triggered by the quake. He worries about monsoon season, which is in June. But he hopes to return and continue creating images of Nepal. Until then, he stays in touch with his Nepali friends on Facebook. He was especially glad to learn that his local photography assistant Norgay Sherpa, who worked with him on that large-format photograph of the Gurung girls from 1984, is safe: “I just heard from his wife that he flew from Istanbul to Kathmandu yesterday to participate in the recovery.”

But he remains deeply concerned about the toll on Nepal’s villages.

“The loss,” he says, “is far beyond belief or comprehension.”

A monsoon rain doesn't deter the devout from witnessing a chariot ride by a young girl worshipped as a living goddess known as Kumari — derived from the word for virgin. Kathmandu, 1975.i

A monsoon rain doesn’t deter the devout from witnessing a chariot ride by a young girl worshipped as a living goddess known as Kumari — derived from the word for “virgin.” Kathmandu, 1975.

Courtesy of Kevin Bubriski and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology Ethnology, Harvard University


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Courtesy of Kevin Bubriski and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology Ethnology, Harvard University

A monsoon rain doesn't deter the devout from witnessing a chariot ride by a young girl worshipped as a living goddess known as Kumari — derived from the word for virgin. Kathmandu, 1975.

A monsoon rain doesn’t deter the devout from witnessing a chariot ride by a young girl worshipped as a living goddess known as Kumari — derived from the word for “virgin.” Kathmandu, 1975.

Courtesy of Kevin Bubriski and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology Ethnology, Harvard University

A Scene From Baltimore: This Is ‘Not A Carnival’

Apr 28, 2015   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on A Scene From Baltimore: This Is ‘Not A Carnival’

After a day of violence, demonstrators turned to music on Tuesday in Baltimore.i

After a day of violence, demonstrators turned to music on Tuesday in Baltimore.

Eyder Peralta/NPR


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After a day of violence, demonstrators turned to music on Tuesday in Baltimore.

After a day of violence, demonstrators turned to music on Tuesday in Baltimore.

Eyder Peralta/NPR

Whether it seemed appropriate or not, today parts of Baltimore seemed to be swept up in a carnival atmosphere.

This morning, as the sun began to make its way across the horizon, several demonstrators set up a drum circle and they danced. Others gave away water and food, and dozens of them linked arms to act as a buffer from a line of police.

Carrying signs and chanting slogans, hundreds of people marched in west Baltimore to protest the death of Freddie Gray, who suffered a fatal spine injury while he was in police custody.

It was a much different scene than the one following Gray’s funeral, where anger gave way to riots. Residents set buildings and cars on fire. Twenty police officers were injured and more than 200 were arrested.

But today, Derika Brown, 25, made her way past the chain and looked the police officers in the eye.

“Whose side are you on?” she screamed.

Brown said she was angry that police continue to beat and kill black men. She was angry that protests had turned into a celebration.

“I appreciate peace,” she said. “But at the same time it’s not a carnival. This is not a celebration of a man’s life. We’re angry. We should be angry. We don’t have to be angry and burn down buildings, but we have a right to engage in dialogue. We have a right to walk through our communities and we should do that. But it’s not a carnival.”

How Bessie Smith Ushered In The Jazz Age

Apr 28, 2015   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on How Bessie Smith Ushered In The Jazz Age

Blues singer and songwriter Bessie Smith is the subject of an upcoming HBO biopic.i

Blues singer and songwriter Bessie Smith is the subject of an upcoming HBO biopic.

Bettmann/Corbis


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Blues singer and songwriter Bessie Smith is the subject of an upcoming HBO biopic.

Blues singer and songwriter Bessie Smith is the subject of an upcoming HBO biopic.

Bettmann/Corbis

Jazz and blues are often treated as one and the same — but how did one end up taking over and surpassing the other, ushering in the jazz age?

That’s a subject of an upcoming HBO biopic, called Bessie, about singer and songwriter Bessie Smith and her mentor Ma Rainey. Jazz bassist and composer Christian McBride, host of NPR’s Jazz Night In America and a regular guest on All Things Considered, spoke with host Audie Cornish about Bessie Smith’s legacy.

An edited transcript of their conversation follows.

Audie Cornish: So I’m excited to talk about this because the star of this movie is Dana Owens, a.k.a. Queen Latifah. She started out in hip-hop and has definitely done more than one jazz album actually, the first of which came out in 2004. Anytime you do something like this, there’s going to be some comparison.

Christian McBride: Well, I think we could talk about both in the same conversation. I’m very impressed that Latifah took this on because I certainly feel that out of all of today’s modern artists — popular artists that is — is that she would be the most well-equipped. And I say that from experience, because I had a chance to work with her many times. I played on her second jazz CD called Trav’lin’ Light. People don’t even really have any clue just to how talented she really really is — and for her to take on Bessie Smith, I applaud her.

Can you talk about style a little bit, because the thing about Bessie Smith is: Because she and Rainey and other people in the blues were precursors to the jazz singers that we’re all familiar with, we almost take their sound for granted, right? Like you hear it, but you forget that this was the initial sound. This is where it started.

This is very much the initial sound. Bessie Smith was known as the “empress of the blues.” She was born in Chattanooga, Tenn., and Bessie Smith is the one that really brought that sort of — the modern blues sound, and Bessie Smith was pretty much the queen of that area.

At the time that she is becoming popular this is when the Harlem Renaissance is getting underway, and she sells so many records that she saves Columbia records from bankruptcy. Just so people can understand kind of how big of a star she was, and at the time she was a star, vinyl records were just coming into being.

Christian, let’s talk about her style a little bit. The first thing I noticed was diction. You know, we’re talking early days of recording, and I can understand every word.

Yes, well, she has that little growl every now and then when she says certain words, and that really kind of comes from what gospel singers were doing. And someone asked the question, like, “what’s the difference between gospel and blues?” I think it’s a simple word. It’s the simple changing of the word “God” to “baby” or “sweetheart” or something like that. It’s the same sound, the same feel. It’s that same passion. And she was the prototype. Everyone from Billie Holiday to Ella Fitzgerald — although they weren’t known as blues singers, you can hear a lot of that — the phrasing, the diction, all of that from Bessie Smith.

What to you is the difference between jazz and blues? Is it the kind of thing like these days we say ‘hip-hop’ and ‘rap’ and, do we use it interchangeably?

Yeah. When you think of jazz, certain words like sophistication, elegance come to mind. Blues is really sort of the foundation, I mean because you can’t have jazz without blues, no matter how many intellectuals will try to make that argument. You cannot have jazz without blues, so to me the big difference between jazz and blues is really kind of hard to say verbally, but you know it when you hear it and you know it when you feel it. There’s more things in jazz, whereas blues is sort of a raw emotion.

Given what you talked about in terms of the period and what was happening, what do you think at the end of the day, Bessie Smith’s legacy is? I mean, I think it’s interesting that this film is even being made, frankly, because she’s not a figure I think — even though her name is well-known — she’s not talked about very much.

You know, when you think of the ’20s and you think of modern jazz, you think of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. Well for those of us who know, it’s the same with Bessie Smith, and her predecessor Ma Rainey. They really started the modern blues/jazz singer. It started with people like Bessie Smith.

It’s funny, I hadn’t thought of it in terms of gender actually, but that makes a lot of sense. These are twin. These are, in terms of the building of jazz — these things are bookends.

Absolutely, and if you listen to any singer. I mentioned earlier, I think Billie Holiday has a very large sense of the blues in her voice, and if you listen to Billie Holiday right behind Bessie Smith, you can’t help, but go, “Oh, OK, I hear where she got some of that.” Obviously it’s one’s own personality flourishing, but you’ve got to get ideas from somebody.

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