Browsing articles from "December, 2017"

Australian Women In Music Publish #MeNoMore Open Letter

Dec 12, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Australian Women In Music Publish #MeNoMore Open Letter

Australian singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett is one of more than 300 musicians to sign the #MeNoMore open letter.

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Australian singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett is one of more than 300 musicians to sign the #MeNoMore open letter.

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Women in Australia’s music industry —- more than 300 of them —- have now released their own version of a united front against sexual assault. Centered around the hashtag #MeNoMore, an open letter, including anonymized stories of abuse and harassment, was published today.

“We all have our own stories, or know someone who does,” it reads. “We are not whingers or vibe-killers. We are passionate people dedicating our lives to music. In the face of uncountable discrimination, harassment, violence, and the general menace of sexist jargon, we have gritted our teeth and gotten on with the job. But today we say, no more.”

The move was directly inspired by another open letter, which was signed by more than 2,000 women within Sweden’s music industry last month. Like Sweden’s open letter, the names here come from a cross-section of the industry; musicians to managers, publicists and more. Some names are familiar, like pop duo The Veronicas (sisters Lisa and Jessica Origliasso), folk band All Our Exes Live In Texas and singer Courtney Barnett.

“We want to thank our colleagues in the Swedish Music Industry who came forward with a powerful open letter that inspired us to do the same,” it reads. “In its honesty and precision, it relays an experience which is so often hard to pinpoint or qualify.”

2,000 Women From Swedish Music Industry Sign #MeToo Letter

The #MeNoMore letter includes 14 anonymous stories detailing varying levels of sexual misconduct, ranging from receiving unsolicited sexts to having their heads pushed into someone’s crotch to being forced to perform sexual acts — and then receiving career-ending threats afterwards.

Coincidentally (though ostensibly with no direct connection), after Sweden’s open letter was published last month, an executive at the Swedish division of Warner Music Group was placed on leave following allegations of sexual misconduct by ten women. The signatories of Australia’s open letter hope to achieve a similar goal of spotlighting perpetrators and pushing the industry as a whole for accountability.

The letter’s organizers did not immediately respond to an email asking whether its organizers planned to publicly name any alleged perpetrators.

The landslide of sexual assault allegations and silence breaking will be one of 2017’s most memorable social phenomenons. Across industries and countries, more people are speaking up and out about the sexual assault they’ve lived through. The public disgrace of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein in October accelerated a purge of notable figures, like actor Kevin Spacey, comedian Louis C.K., Today Show host Matt Lauer and Metropolitan Opera conductor James Levine. The purging of high-profile figures has even occurred within NPR’s own newsroom — in early November, former executive Mike Oreskes, was fired following sexual assault accusations, while chief news editor David Sweeney, was placed on leave pending an investigation.

Waste Not, Want Not: Drink Beer To Feed Fish And Help Save The Planet

Dec 12, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Waste Not, Want Not: Drink Beer To Feed Fish And Help Save The Planet

Forage fish like these at a Chilean processing plant are often used for fish meal used in aquaculture. But critics consider this inefficient and wasteful and worry it could deplete fish populations. Now several companies are developing protein substitutes to replace fish meal.

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Forage fish like these at a Chilean processing plant are often used for fish meal used in aquaculture. But critics consider this inefficient and wasteful and worry it could deplete fish populations. Now several companies are developing protein substitutes to replace fish meal.

Julio Etchart/ullstein bild via Getty Images

In Westfield, N.Y., perch, bass, catfish and trout are growing fat on the byproducts of an adjacent brewery and distillery. The fish, still young but intended to be harvested and eaten next year, are the first fruits of an innovative project aimed at turning waste into food while addressing a suite of problems associated with more conventional means of catching and farming seafood.

The operation is a partnership between TimberFish Technologies and Five 20 Spirits and Brewing, both based in Westfield. The brewery and distillery generate between 750 and 1,000 gallons of wastewater and grain discards each day.

Mario Mazza, the company’s general manager, says a large brewery can incur six-figure annual costs in managing such volumes of waste. “This way, you’re taking a byproduct that you were previously paying to get rid of and using it to produce something of value,” he says.

The system takes the heaps of waste grain from Five 20’s distillery, as well as wastewater, and, just yards away in a system of plastic cubicles, composts the energy-rich material. This supports colonies of microbes and invertebrates, including worms and snails, which are in turn dispensed into the tanks of hungry fish. The plan, Mazza says, is to start serving the fish at the onsite restaurant, Bird, sometime in the spring.

The TimberFish-Five 20 collaboration is just one of many examples of how industry trailblazers are striving to lessen the energy and resource costs of aquaculture.

Conventional aquaculture systems rely heavily on wild fish, like anchovies and herring, that are fed to the captive fish, often in the form of fish meal or pellets. This system is fundamentally wasteful, since it can take large amounts of feed — often made from fish people could be eating directly — to produce a small amount of marketable fish. For example, it takes up to 20 pounds of raw fish to grow one pound of cage-fattened bluefin tuna. Other species, including salmon, are more efficient at converting food into body mass, but growing them is still resource intensive.

To address such inefficiencies, fish farmers are increasingly looking toward other feed sources, including algae and insects, to relieve pressure on depleted wild fisheries. McFarland Springs trout farm in northern California is raising rainbow trout on algae, discarded nut waste from local farms and flax seed. KnipBio, in Lowell, Mass., is producing fish meal alternatives by growing microbes that convert ethanol, methanol and other waste energy into protein. Feedkind is a comparable protein-fat blend, now being produced by the fermentation of methane at a facility in Teesside, U.K.

NovoNutrients, in California’s Silicon Valley, claims to have the means to turn millions of tons of carbon dioxide, captured at industrial smokestacks, into edible fish feed pellets every year. The idea: Use a microbial culture to convert a problematic greenhouse gas into a productive energy source. The process, applied at a large scale, could in theory help slow the concentration of CO2 in our atmosphere, which the vast majority of scientists agree is causing the planet to warm rapidly, while also lessening the impacts of growing — and feeding — farmed fish.

Currently, NovoNutrients is producing a proprietary protein meal using CO2 and hydrogen at a laboratory scale and is not approved for commercial production. Scaling up the process, explains the company’s CEO, David Tze, would involve installing production equipment adjacent to large industrial facilities, from which the needed gas emissions would be piped in and exposed to the microbes.

Tze says the idea is to blend the powdery protein meal into industrial salmon feed and reduce the need for fish inputs.

“Our product will replace some or all of the 20 percent or so of aquafeed that is currently fish meal,” Tze says.

And not only that, Tze says replacing fishmeal by converting CO2 into protein actually cuts overall costs of feed production.

Casson Trenor, author of Sustainable Sushi and director of ocean conservation at SoulBuffalo Expeditions, likes NovoNutrients’ idea.

“The concept is incredibly appealing — turning a net negative into a net positive,” says Trenor, also a restaurateur who has advocated for sustainable fisheries and food production for years.

But questions remain about marketability.

“They have a nice lab-scale proof of concept, but can they scale it up and make it commercially viable?” asks Kevin Fitzsimmons, a professor of environmental science at the University of Arizona who has studied aquaculture for four decades. He says “protein digestibility” of fish meal alternative products can be a potential problem. One common issue encountered in making experimental blends is “getting the amino acids way out of balance,” which can make the protein very difficult for animals to efficiently process.

Fitzsimmons helped organize a worldwide contest to develop and sell a fish-free aquaculture feed blend. The $200,000 prize was awarded in September to Evergreen Feed Company, from China, for a fish meal replacement formula made, Fitzsimmons says, of poultry parts, soy and sesame seeds. A follow-up contest is now underway, Fitzsimmons says, that offers a cash prize for a fish-free fish oil replacement.

Fitzsimmons wants to see these products go successfully to market, and the sooner the better.

“Forage fish stocks have been maxed out for decades,” he says.

Research published in January revealed that most wild fish used as livestock or aquaculture feed is of food-grade quality.

“It would be much more efficient to eat these sardines and anchovies directly,” says lead author Timothy Cashion, with the University of British Columbia. Cashion says he would like to see fish meal production veer away from using whole fish and, instead, process only unmarketable waste scraps that would otherwise be discarded.

Feeding farmed fish is an important logistical issue, though Trenor cautions that it’s just one of many problematic areas associated with industrial aquaculture, like pollution, disease outbreaks and the escape of captive fish.

At Five 20, the first crop of fish is still months away and is expected to weigh in at several thousand pounds. Jere Northrop, a managing member at Timberfish Technologies who has helped build the project, says the system could eventually be producing 2 to 3 million pounds of fish per year.

He hopes others in related industries take note of the project.

“We want to demonstrate that our model is superior to existing ways of both disposing of waste materials and of producing fish,” he says. “Because [change] is not going to happen by regulation, and it’s not going to happen by people doing the right thing. There has to be a profit.”

The Prophetic Struggle Of Kendrick Lamar’s ‘DAMN.’

Dec 12, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on The Prophetic Struggle Of Kendrick Lamar’s ‘DAMN.’

Kendrick Lamar, performing at Coachella in Indio, Calif. in April, just after the release of DAMN, an album made for a moment of struggle, when politics, religion and personal accountability are on a collision course.

Kendrick Lamar, performing at Coachella in Indio, Calif. in April, just after the release of DAMN, an album made for a moment of struggle, when politics, religion and personal accountability are on a collision course.

“Do you pray at all?”

It may as well have come in all caps, the way it landed like an accusation instead of a question. It wasn’t the first time I’d received a text from my mother dripping with good ole Christian guilt. The only sin greater than letting God down is allowing your parents to find out your faith walk is no longer patterned after their footsteps.

Her text wasn’t about Kendrick Lamar’s album, DAMN., per se, but without knowing it she’d just triggered an existential debate I’d been having with myself since its April release. I was in the middle of laying down some definitive thoughts about the LP when the realization hit me. Just like her nagging text, the Compton MC had spent the better half of a year forcing me to reckon with my doubts about the wrath of God.

I’ve developed a love-hate relationship with DAMN. In some ways I suspect this is the response Lamar set out to provoke. I imagine I’m not alone. In order to have your LP debut at the top of the Billboard 200 chart — then remain in the top 10 for more than 25 consecutive weeks, while racking up double-platinum sales and seven Grammy nominations to boot — all of God’s children, or a close approximation, must be listening hard.

Between its chart-topping success and cultural dominance, DAMN. is easily the most celebrated album of the year. It snatched the top spot on NPR Music’s list of the best albums of the year by a long shot. It’s clearly made for such a time as this — one in which politics and personal accountability are colliding with unprecedented force. The question is whether or not we’re grappling with DAMN. — and being convicted by it — like Lamar no doubt intended.

This is an album that requires much of faithful listeners. It suggests even more about his relationship with his audience, and the ways in which he envisions himself as a prophet more than a pop star. Like a lot of fans, I’ve found myself meditating over DAMN.‘s verses like scripture, dissecting the text forward and backward in search of holy discernment. Lord knows I’m no biblical scholar. Hell, I can’t remember the last time I set foot inside a church. (Trust, my mother reminds me of this often.) But Lamar’s magnanimous LP has me wrestling with the nature of my supposed cursed existence as a black man in the bowels of Babylon — and the ways in which I may be complicit in it.

Like Ta-Nehisi Coates laying out America’s legacy of racial plunder with an atheist’s realism, Lamar’s faith walk is no cake walk. It often borders on the fatalistic. His futility is echoed across a present-day hip-hop landscape awash in suicide ballads, drug abuse and mental health issues. Steeped in the black prophetic tradition, Lamar is less interested in the glory to come in the sweet by and by. He’s also no prosperity pimp, pushing a gospel of good-and-plenty in the here and now. Rather, it’s God’s judgement, and our collective failings, with which he’s most concerned.

Yet, for all the religious overtones in which the Compton native shrouds his fourth studio album, the real revelation of DAMN. is that faith no longer feels adequate enough to sustain America’s masquerade. And when a country tosses its moral compass aside, all hell tends to break loose.

What good is a prophet, anyway, unless he’s come to level total condemnation?

Kendrick Lamar performs at Coachella in Indio, Calif.

Kendrick Lamar performs at Coachella in Indio, Calif.

“As I lead this army, make room for mistakes and depression.”

— Kendrick Lamar, “Mortal Man”

The Old Testament is full of prophets trying their damnedest to save the world. More often than not, the first obstacle they must overcome is self: self-doubt, self-loathing, even their personal aversion to self-sacrifice. Moses the deliverer was a murderer with a speech impediment. Noah the ark-builder was a documented drunk. Elijah the resurrector was straight-up suicidal. All were broken vessels, but vessels for their God, nonetheless. Then there was Jeremiah. He suffered depression so badly — likely from carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders — that students of the Bible refer to him as the weeping prophet.

I’ve recently taken to calling him something else: the patron saint of Kendrick Lamar Duckworth.

Like Kendrick, Jeremiah was pretty prolific in his time. He penned the longest book in the Old Testament, Jeremiah, as well as Kings and Lamentations. Think of them as his three major-label studio LPs, the same number contained in Lamar’s TDE/Aftermath/Interscope discography. His most personal LP, Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City most easily aligns with Jeremiah’s self-titled accounting, while his follow-up and most political album, To Pimp A Butterfly, might be seen as his Book of Kings — Jeremiah’s 400-year history of the upheaval of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah.

But DAMN. is Lamar’s Lamentations, bleak in tone and temperament, long on suffering and short on hope.

To get a sense of where Lamar is coming from on DAMN., it helps to rewind his previous studio masterpiece, 2015’s To Pimp A Butterfly. Juxtapose the cover art of TPAB and DAMN. and the contrast is stark. The former is a jubilant image with Lamar surrounded by his boys from the hood as they stand on the front lawn of the White House, just outside its gates, like shirtless conquerors bearing ravenous grins and fist fulls of cash. It’s a portrait of the American Dream, extended to “the least of these,” in the Age of Obama. The latter, released just months into Donald Trump’s presidency, features a close-up of Lamar alone in a white tee, looking defeated, depressed, possessed. His eyes are hollow and soulless; he resembles a demon with hellish intent.

Our image of prophets today is warped by history. Consider the realities they lived and the messages they espoused in ancient times: They did not bring hope and redemption. They preached apocalyptic visions, full of fire and brimstone, meant to turn the people away from ungodliness. They did not come to praise or worship, but to destroy and rebuild. With a sense of duty that compelled them to speak truth to power, they faced frequent persecution, imprisonment, even death. Prophets rarely won popularity contests, at least not without being beheaded for it later.

Kendrick Lamar performs at Coachella in Indio, Calif.

Kendrick Lamar performs at Coachella in Indio, Calif.

Lamar agonized over his own metaphoric beheading in the 12-minute opus “Mortal Man” that concluded To Pimp A Butterfly. It wound up foreshadowing the direction of DAMN., an album that finds his head swollen with temptation and righteous indignation as he calls out false prophets, fights the pull of false gods and holds up a mirror to X-rated America. Mostly, he’s fighting a battle within.

That an album as unlikely as this epic conceptual narrative, steeped in Old Testament theology, has emerged as the year’s centerpiece speaks to the seemingly troubled state in which we find ourselves. By making a choose-your-own adventure album, with faith and fate hanging in the balance, Kendrick’s offered us a way out. It’s a morality tale, to be sure, but one in which he grants his listeners free will to determine our own destiny.

“Is it wickedness? Is it weakness? You decide,” producer and DAMN. contributor Bekon sings in a ghostly voice at the album’s outset. “Are we gonna live or die?”

Like the prophets of old, Lamar uses a range of rhetorical devices to convey the urgency of his message. His lessons come steeped in allegory, hyperbole and metaphor. Above all, he uses himself. Just as Jeremiah once bore the yoke of an ox in public to illustrate the impending yoke that God would allow Babylon to place on his chosen people, Lamar spends the majority of the album alternating between protagonist and antagonist in a psychodrama of his own undoing.

The Old Testament is packed with stories of God’s chosen people cyclically falling out of favor with the Lord, only to be defeated by their enemies, thrown into slavery and forced to worship foreign gods as divine retribution. It’s a narrative that bears more in common with the Transatlantic Slave Trade than coincidence.

For too many centuries in this country, black Americans couldn’t afford to harbor doubt. When the powers that be are whip crackers, a relationship with a higher power is not optional. It’s bare necessity. Like an old patch quilt, Christianity got handed down from one generation to the next. If it was good enough to get your great-great grandparents through slavery, it was good enough for you. And so the logic went, even though our ancestors were legally prohibited from learning to read the biblical text white evangelicals used to justify their enslavement.

Kendrick Lamar’s focus on God’s heavy-handed judgement comes straight out of that same biblical bag historically used to oppress African-Americans on these shores. Which begs the question, what does it mean when your liberation tool, the key to your spiritual redemption, is the same tool your oppressors wielded to marginalize you for hundreds of years?

It’s a trick bag, no doubt, one that black America has wrestled with since pre-emancipation. Even as the black church became the primary site for progressive political leadership in the late-19th and 20th centuries, we found ourselves othered and outcasted within the scope of our own theological worldview. More than anything, it highlights the absence of a westernized framework, or cosmology, to center the black experience. So we learned to adopt and adapt, taking old models and reclaiming them as our own.

Kendrick Lamar performing at Coachella in Indio, Calif.

Kendrick Lamar performing at Coachella in Indio, Calif.

Herein lies the appeal of the Hebrew Israelites, the black nationality Lamar lyrically aligns himself with on DAMN. “I’m an Israelite / Don’t call me black no mo’ / That word is only a color / It ain’t fact no mo’,” he raps on “YAH.” — a double-entendre of an exultation meant to simultaneously evoke Yahweh, the ancient Hebrew name of God. Dating as far back as the early 1900s, the Hebrew Israelites have proclaimed themselves direct descendants of the 10 lost tribes of ancient Israel. “We are a cursed people,” Lamar’s cousin, Carl Duckworth, says on the album via voicemail. “Until you come back to these commandments … we’re gonna be under this curse because He said He’s gonna punish us — the so-called blacks, Hispanics and Native American Indians are the true children of Israel.”

Like Black Liberation Theology before it — which rejected the image of a white European Jesus and remodeled Christianity under a black power rubric — Hebrew Israelites center black folks within the biblical lineage. But, ironically, being God’s chosen people in this context also means being cursed, which puts African-Americans back in the same position where the old Christian enslavers once relegated us.

When it comes to the Judeo-Christian tradition, black folks are literally damned if we do and damned if we don’t.

It’s part of what makes listening to DAMN. a somewhat agonizing, if enlightening, experience: Are we damned by our existence in America? Or are we damned by our reliance on a theology that paints us a cursed people? Is it the inherent wickedness of America’s racialized politics or our weakness as a people that we must overcome? Or is our faith predicated on a false binary that only feels like free will while leaving us judged by our nation and cursed by our God?

While Lamar makes clear that he’s “not ’bout a religion” on “YAH.,” his conceptualization of God reflects a western dichotomy that prizes good over evil. What if the very thing he’s relying on for salvation is the thing that’s killing him?

More than anything, I hear him searching throughout this album for answers. Maybe he realizes the faith he’s been armed with is inadequate to quell his fatalistic urges. Like the protoypical Old Testament prophet, he’s a tortured soul. When he wails out, “Ain’t nobody praying for me,” he sounds like a modern-day Jeremiah, pleading on behalf of his people, “Is there no balm in Gilead?”

If suffering for the sake of our sins is Lamar’s cross to bear, then the personal truly is political. In that, he’s not alone. Whether your beliefs are being assailed or your very being, we live in a time of increased domestic extremism, with many paying the back taxes on America’s transgressions. Like the mythological Garden of Eden, the origins of our nation are wrought in a self-deception so deep that strange fruit, it seems, is our destiny to bear.

Kendrick Lamar performs at Coachella in Indio, Calif.

Kendrick Lamar performs at Coachella in Indio, Calif.

Interpreting an artist’s intentions is always a tricky thing. But I don’t think Kendrick’s hung himself out to dry for his sake alone. He’s dying for us to grapple with DAMN., in the same gut-wrenching way he has.

The best exegeses of DAMN. have come not from elite publications with access to Lamar, but from hip-hop blogs with dedicated writers obsessive enough to keep turning the album over in their heads — figuratively and literally.

Two weeks after the LP dropped, Lamar penned a response to an essay written by scribe Miguelito, who drew a sharp distinction between Lamar’s heavily-burdened displays of his Christian faith in comparison to the praise-and-uplift put forth by mainstream peer Chance the Rapper. In an email thanking the site for its “accuracy” and “respect for the culture,” Kendrick summarized the profound distinction between New Testament redemption and his Old Testament-rooted discipleship: “I feel it’s my calling to share the joy of God, but with exclamation, more so, the FEAR OF GOD,” he wrote. “The balance. Knowing the power in what he can build, and also what he can destroy. At any given moment.”

It was Ambrosia For Heads writer Parfit who decoded the duality of DAMN. upon discovering it to be two albums in one if played backwards from finish to start. After Parfit wrote about it in April — debunking the short-lived theory that Lamar had planned to release a second album titled NATION. on Easter Sunday to bookend the Good Friday release of DAMN. — Lamar went on to confirm the double-play concept four months later in an interview with MTV News.

“You listen from the back end, and it’s almost the duality and the contrast of the intricate Kendrick Lamar,” he said. “Both of these pieces are who I am.” Last week, Lamar’s label released DAMN. Collector’s Edition., with the tracklist reversed.

Played from beginning-to-end, DAMN. is introduced with an allegory of a blind woman Lamar approaches to offer help finding something she’s lost. The woman — presumably, Lady Justice — proceeds to take his life with the bang of a gun that resembles the sound of a gavel. It also feels symbolic of the sacrifice one makes upon accepting a calling to give one’s life to God. Kendrick follows that intro (“Blood”) with the Mike WiLL Made-It-produced “DNA.,” on which he goes on a lyrical warpath, taking personal inventory of his heritage of human contradiction.

“I know murder, conviction, burners, boosters / burglars, ballers dead, redemption / scholars, fathers dead with kids / and I wish I was fed forgiveness,” he raps.

The internal battle continues with the album counting the wages of sin and sacrifice, as Lamar vacillates, track-by-track, between vanity and humility, lust and love, vengeance and peace. “I’m willin’ to die for this s***/ I done cried for this s***, might take a life for this s***,” he raps, reveling in his “Element.” “Put the Bible down and go eye for an eye for this s***.” “Feel” finds a self-absorbed, egotistical Kendrick bemoaning the fact that “the whole world want me to pray for ’em / but ain’t nobody praying for me,” while the climactic “Fear” features Lamar’s cousin Carl Duckworth quoting Deuteronomy to explain the generational curse that’s given him “that chip on [his] shoulder.” But Lamar is unearthing more than his personal fears here. His struggles serve as proxy for the human condition, a mirror image of America’s own dark soul. “But is America honest or do we bask in sin? / Pass the gin, I mix it with American blood / Then bash him in, you crippin’ or you married to blood?” he raps on “XXX.”

DAMN. resolves itself with “Duckworth,” the autobiographical parable in which he illustrates how his own destiny, that of the “greatest rapper,” stems from his father (Kenny “Ducky” Duckworth) and TDE label founder (Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith) exercising free will many years ago to avoid a tragic fate for all three. Through karmic law, they overcome wickedness.

But that’s only one side of the story. On the reverse listen the narrative subtly switches from insufferable but gradual enlightenment to one that seems to devolve deeper into frustration and spiritual degradation over the course of the 14 tracks. In this opposite playback sequence, Lamar succumbs to his weakest emotions and base character traits before meeting the same fate that started the original listen.

Most prophets die misunderstood, their pronouncements discarded by the rulers of the day and their followers, only to be paid credence in hindsight. That DAMN. has garnered the fanaticism to warrant a re-release, despite the only difference from the original being a reversed tracklist, speaks to the degree to which his message is being heard. Whether we, as individuals, a people and a nation, are prepared to take heed remains to be seen.

Kendrick Lamar performs at Coachella in Indio, Calif.

Kendrick Lamar performs at Coachella in Indio, Calif.

“I’m not a politician. I’m not ’bout a religion.”

— Kendrick Lamar, “YAH.”

Despite the album’s biblical context and the Christian faith that has long been explicit in Lamar’s work, his relationship with the church sounds about as testy as mine. Just listen to him recount a service he attended in his April letter to “I went to a local church some time ago, and it appalled me that the same program was in practice. A program that I seen as a kid the few times I was in service. Praise, dance. Worship. (Which is beautiful.) Pastor spewing the idea of someone’s season is approaching. The idea of hope. So on and so forth.

“As a child, I always felt this Sermon had an emptiness about it,” he continues. “Kinda one sided, in what I felt in my heart. Fast forward. After being heavily in my studies these past few years, I’ve finally figured out why I left those services feeling spiritually unsatisfied as a child. I discovered more truth. But simple truth. Our God is a loving God. Yes. He’s a merciful God. Yes. But he’s even more so a God of DISCIPLE. [sic] OBEDIENCE. A JEALOUS God. And for every conscious choice of sin, will be corrected through his discipline.”

I find it hard to believe in a God who would create me and curse me in the same breath. Even Pope Francis recently advised overhauling the Lord’s Prayer so it no longer reads in a way that suggests God’s the one who leads us into temptation. “A father does not do this,” the pope explained in Italian. “A father quickly helps those who are provoked into Satan’s temptation.”

Our concept of the divine is a reflection of how we see ourselves. And it makes sense that black America, despite being the moral compass in the country, still feels the weight of a cursed fate. But I also hear DAMN. as Lamar’s revelation that evil is not something that only exists outside of us. The same way we proclaim ourselves gods, in the metaphysical sense, we are inhabitants of the darkness. So maybe it’s as important to confront the evil and the fear within.

From the birth of the Old Negro Spiritual, black America has crafted hymns to get over the confounding hardships of this world. Lamar complements that tradition, but he also complicates it. DAMN. embodies a year in which hip-hop — and America at large — finds itself wrestling in public with its inner demons. He could’ve made another Black Lives Matter anthem like “Alright” to quell our fears. Instead he held true to his prophetic vision and laid his vulnerabilities on the line.

He’s shown how hard it is to hold one’s self accountable to God’s word, and how challenging it is for America to hold herself to her own.

In fact, his prophecy is being echoed in some pretty high, if surprising, places as of late: “I don’t think President Trump has a fear of the Lord, the fear of the wrath of God, which leads one to more humility,” California Governor Jerry Brown said last Sunday on 60 Minutes. The governor of Lamar’s home state was commenting on the president’s position on climate change, as his state experiences its most destructive fire season on record. “This is such a reckless disregard for the truth and for the existential consequences that can be unleashed.”

I’d missed 60 Minutes myself and probably wouldn’t have heard anything about Brown’s statement, save for an unexpected text I got late Sunday night. “He said Trump has got to wake up,” my mom added, likely proud of herself for having found a way to sneak some God talk into the politics of the day. But it was obvious whose wake up call she was really praying for. It was such a perfect ending, I couldn’t even be mad.

Desert Testing Attracts Major Automakers To Arizona

Dec 11, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Desert Testing Attracts Major Automakers To Arizona

People across the country move to the desert because of the warm winter weather. Desert conditions also bring major auto companies looking to test out brand new cars.

KJZZ’s Casey Kuhn (@CaseyAtTheDesk) reports how Arizona’s test tracks are a major part of the car business.

Amid Alabama’s Special Election, Meet Birmingham’s New Mayor

Dec 11, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Amid Alabama’s Special Election, Meet Birmingham’s New Mayor

Randall Woodfin was sworn in as mayor of Birmingham, Alabama, at the end of November. At 36, he’s the youngest person to be elected mayor in more than a century.

Here Now‘s Jeremy Hobson talks to Mayor Woodfin (@WoodfinForBham) about being a Democrat in a deeply Republican state and about Tuesday’s special election.

Mario Batali Steps Aside From His Restaurants Amid Sexual Misconduct Allegations

Dec 11, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Mario Batali Steps Aside From His Restaurants Amid Sexual Misconduct Allegations

Celebrity chef Mario Batali in October in New York City. Batali said Monday he was stepping aside from day-to-day running of his businesses amid allegations of sexual misconduct by women who worked for him.

Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for NYCWFF

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Celebrity chef Mario Batali in October in New York City. Batali said Monday he was stepping aside from day-to-day running of his businesses amid allegations of sexual misconduct by women who worked for him.

Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for NYCWFF

Celebrity chef Mario Batali is stepping aside from directing his restaurants and taking leave from his TV cooking show following reports of sexual misconduct over a 20-year period.

The move was apparently spurred by a report published Monday morning on the dining and food website Eater, in which four women allege that Batali touched them inappropriately:

“Three of the women worked for Batali in some capacity during their careers. One former employee alleges that over the course of two years, he repeatedly grabbed her from behind and held her tightly against his body. Another former employee alleges that he groped her and that, in a separate incident, he compelled her to straddle him; another alleges that he grabbed her breasts at a party, though she no longer worked for him at the time.”

The fourth accuser is a chef who says she met Batali at a party 10 years ago:

“Minutes into their conversation, she recalls, he told her, ‘Come work for me, I’ll pay you double what you’re making.’ Moments later, someone bumped her glass, spilling wine all over her chest and down her scooped-neck shirt. She alleges that Batali began rubbing her breasts with his bare hands while saying something like, ‘Let me help you with that,’ as he groped her chest. ‘He just went to town, and I was so shocked,’ the chef says. ‘Jaw on the ground, I just stepped back from him in utter disgust and walked away.’ “

In the article, a number of other current and former employees at Batali’s restaurants described bullying and lewd behavior. Some said they had complicated feelings about Batali, who has also championed a number of women’s careers and started a children’s education and empowerment foundation.

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Batali did not deny the allegations, admitting they comport with his past conduct.

“I apologize to the people I have mistreated and hurt,” Batali said in a statement to Eater. “Although the identities of most of the individuals mentioned in these stories have not been revealed to me, much of the behavior described does, in fact, match up with ways I have acted. That behavior was wrong and there are no excuses. I take full responsibility and am deeply sorry for any pain, humiliation or discomfort I have caused to my peers, employees, customers, friends and family.”

Batali will remain an owner at his restaurants, but he said he would hand over day-to-day oversight of his businesses while he works to regain the trust of those he has hurt and disappointed.

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A spokesperson for Batali’s restaurant group, Batali Bastianich Hospitality Group, told Eater that it had received its first formal complaint of inappropriate behavior by Batali in October. It said Batali was reprimanded and required to attend training.

“We have strong policies and practices in place that address sexual harassment. We train employees in these policies and we enforce them, up to and including termination,” the group said in a statement. “Mr. Batali and we have agreed that he will step away from the company’s operations, including the restaurants, and [he] has already done so.”

Batali hosts a cooking show on ABC called The Chew. On Monday, the network said it has asked Batali to take leave from the program while it reviews the allegations. “While we are unaware of any type of inappropriate behavior involving him and anyone affiliated with the show, we will swiftly address any alleged violations of our standards of conduct,” the network said in a statement to NPR.

The allegations against Batali join a cascade of sexual harassment complaints against powerful men, including senior news managers at NPR.

Batali rose to prominence in the mid-1990s with the launch of his Food Network show Molto Mario, which ran for 10 seasons. He and Joe Bastianich opened the restaurant Babbo in New York’s Greenwich Village in 1998. He now has 10 restaurants in New York, as well as eateries in Las Vegas, California and Singapore. He is a partner in Eataly, the Italian food emporium with locations around the world.

In 2012, Batali and Bastianich agreed to a $5.25 million class-action settlement with employees who claimed the partners’ restaurants had illegally confiscated part of their tips.

How The Food Industry Uses Cavitation, The Ocean’s Most Powerful Punch

Dec 11, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on How The Food Industry Uses Cavitation, The Ocean’s Most Powerful Punch

Cavitation produces a bubble that rapidly collapses and becomes hotter than the sun’s surface. The mantis shrimp uses it, and now so do food and drink firms, to improve flavors — from yogurt to beer.

Reinhard Dirscherl/ullstein bild via Getty Images

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Reinhard Dirscherl/ullstein bild via Getty Images

Cavitation produces a bubble that rapidly collapses and becomes hotter than the sun’s surface. The mantis shrimp uses it, and now so do food and drink firms, to improve flavors — from yogurt to beer.

Reinhard Dirscherl/ullstein bild via Getty Images

Throughout history, being on the receiving end of anything involving cavitation, a miniscule underwater implosion, has been bad news. Millions of years before humans discovered cavitation — and promptly began avoiding it, given its tendency to chew up machinery — the phenomenon has provided the shockwave and awe behind a punch so ridiculously violent that it’s made the mantis shrimp a honey badger-esque Internet mascot.

Now, a slew of companies are co-opting the phenomenon behind the ocean’s most powerful punch to process food and beverages from yogurt to beer.

Cavitation is when low pressure in a liquid produces a bubble that rapidly collapses, and heats up to 20,000 Kelvin — hotter than the sun’s surface. This usually releases a flash of light called sonoluminescence, which physicists still don’t understand. Some physicists even theorize that cavitation bubbles could get hot enough to power nuclear fusion.

Mantis shrimp’s club-like appendages generate these bubbles by punching with the acceleration of a .22 caliber bullet. When they hit their prey’s shell, they create a low-pressure area, vaporizing water and forming a cavitation bubble that collapses with a shockwave with up to 280 percent of the force of the original punch. Pistol shrimp, the world’s loudest animal, snap their claws so quickly that they create a low-pressure jet that causes cavitation bubbles, stunning prey.

We humans are newcomers to cavitation. We never properly observed it until 1895, on torpedo boat propellers. And, save for using cavitation to reduce drag on torpedoes, engineers have generally designed equipment to avoid it like the plague.

According to Doug Mancosky, chief science officer of Hydro Dynamics, which designs cavitation technology, when 15 years ago he started trying convince biofuel and petroleum manufacturers that cavitation could be used to refine their products, they thought he was crazy. Now, his company is at the forefront of a burgeoning sector of firms selling cavitation technology to food and beverage manufacturers.

Their first foray into the food market, in 2013, was when Hydro Dynamics discovered that cavitation could simplify egg pasteurization. According to Mancosky, their tech, which uses a hole-filled rotor (picture the inside of a washing machine) to generate cavitation bubbles, could heat from within the liquid. “The surfaces of our devices actually stay cooler than the liquid flowing through it” so eggs couldn’t harden like they did on hot industrial equipment. And since companies could tune the intensity of cavitation, they could pasteurize and mix eggs without breaking apart too many proteins in them.

Since then, Hydro Dynamics and their licensees have branched out into processing pet food and dairy products — such as making fluffier, aerated yogurt products and milk. More recently, they’ve begun using cavitation bubbles to unravel and condense proteins in low-fat whey drinks to a size where they produce a richer, fat-like mouthfeel. They aren’t alone in the dairy market, though. Among others, Yoplait and Valio have also patented in-house methods of using cavitation to process dairy products in recent years.

However, since 2015 — when an Italian National Research Council team published pioneering research on using cavitation to brew beer — cavitation has been making the most waves in the beverage industry.

According to one scientist from that research team, Francesco Meneguzzi, they found that cavitation processed and converted more of the starch in barley to brewable sugars — without having to germinate it first — in less time, at lower temperatures. It also reduced volatile gases, broke apart gluten, and punctured microbes’ membranes, sterilizing wort, the sugary liquid fermented into beer. They could skip boiling the wort, reducing energy consumption by 40 percent. MIT’s Technology Review hailed the team’s innovation, and since then, cavitation has become a burgeoning fascination of craft brewers.

Hydro Dynamics, for example, found that as cavitation bubbles formed and collapsed, they pushed and pulled wort through hops “like a plunger,” Mancosky says, improving flavor extraction. Two years later, they have partnerships with a slew of craft breweries, including Anchor Brewing and Cabarrus.

“One application leads to another,” Mancosky says. Cabarrus, which makes a beer infused with cold brew coffee, asked him if they could use cavitation to extract more flavor from coffee. “We said ‘Yeah, it should help, the same way it helps extract more flavor from hops. They fired it up, and next thing you know, they’re able to reduce their cold brewing time by 80 percent.” Afterwards, working with Anchor Brewing on their blackberry ale, Hydro Dynamics demonstrated that cavitation could also more effectively extract flavor from fruit.

The transition to using cavitation technology has posed some technical challenges for brewers, though. As Anchor Brewmaster Scott Ungermann tells NPR, “cavitation can drive extraction of undesirable flavors as well as the ones that we are looking for … with so many other variables it is very difficult to dial in exactly the flavor profile.”

Ryan Cottongim of Witches Brew, another craft brewer that works with Hydro Dynamics, seconds Ungermann’s sentiments, saying that trying to integrate new technology while trying to keep brews consistent has been difficult. Moreover, while Cottingham has enjoyed more efficiently extracting extra hop flavor, “at some point you hit that saturation point where you’re not going to get any more from this.”

Nevertheless, cavitation’s alcoholic applications go even further. It can age liquor and wines by acting a catalyst. Cavitation can effectively accelerate barrel aging by extracting flavor from charred wood chips — while using the char as a carbon filter to trap impurities.

In the past two years, Hydro Dynamics has sold equipment to several wineries and distilleries for aging. And, two companies, Cavitation Technologies and Sonn Beverage Systems, are targeting consumers with household devices that age wine and spirits.

Sonn, however, uses ultrasound cavitation, a method of generating cavitation with soundwaves most well known for its use in breaking up kidney stones. Sonn CEO Denis Londry tells NPR they opted for ultrasound because “unlike other ways of generating cavitation, nothing is pressurized.” The whole thing can be an open container with few moving parts — suitable for a countertop, if not a winery.

Much like Hydro Dynamics has, Londry says Sonn is also aiming to expand into the tea and coffee markets — both of which are markets eager to improve their flavor extraction technology. In fact, one cavitation technology firm confirmed to NPR that they’re testing cold brewing equipment with one of the world’s largest coffee chains.

But the edible applications of cavitation don’t stop there. The same phenomenon behind the most powerful punch makes for a better blender, catalyzes sought-after reactions, and can “neutralize a large spectrum of spoiling and harmful microbes,” such as bacteria and waterborne viruses, according to Meneguzzo, “much more effectively and efficiently than most other technologies.”

After millions of years of punctuating the most destructive attacks the ocean has ever seen, the cavitation bubble has a bright future in making humans’ food and drinks safer and tastier.

A Record-Breaking Astronaut

Dec 10, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on A Record-Breaking Astronaut

NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro talks with astronaut Peggy Whitson, who returned from a mission to the International Space Station this fall. Whitson has spent more time in space than any other American.

How 311 Helped Understand Air Pollution After Harvey

Dec 10, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on How 311 Helped Understand Air Pollution After Harvey

NPR has obtained recordings of calls made by Houston residents fearful about putrid odors in the hours and days after Hurricane Harvey started flooding the city’s petrochemical infrastructure.



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