BY MINA KANEKO AND FRANCOISE MOULY
“The police shooting of Michael Brown resonates on a personal level with me,” Eric Drooker says about next week’s cover. “An artist friend of mine was killed by a cop in lower Manhattan, back in 1991. He happened to be black, and the police officer was never indicted.” Drooker continues, “As a resident of Manhattan’s Lower East Side, I witnessed the blurring distinctions between the police and military during the Tompkins Square riots of the eighties. I’ll never forget the day the N.Y.P.D. showed up in a military tank to evict nonviolent squatter friends from buildings on Avenue B and Thirteenth Street, where I grew up. This incident triggered a vivid childhood memory of the police driving a similar armored tank on East Fourteenth street, in 1968, to quell possible ‘disturbances’ after Martin Luther King was assassinated.
“Of course, rubber bullets, tear gas, and Tasers have been used for a while—on nonviolent anti-war protests at the dawn of the Iraq invasion, not to mention Occupy—but the U.S. media has often chosen to ignore these images. Now that billions have been spent and the equipment is in place throughout the country, the intensive militarization of America’s police forces is finally being acknowledged after the horrors of Ferguson.”
Posted by REBEKAH WILCE on August 21, 2014
The company confirmed that “in 2014 Microsoft decided to no longer participate in the American Legislative Exchange Council’s Communications and Technology Task Force, which had been our only previous involvement with ALEC. With this decision, we no longer contribute any dues to ALEC.” The confirmation was sent by email to The Sustainability Group of Loring, Wolcott and Coolidge and Walden Asset Management, which had engaged Microsoft over its affiliation with ALEC.
Microsoft has left ALEC, but big technology companies Google, eBay, Facebook, and Yahoo reportedly still fund and remain engaged with ALEC.
The $25.7 billion-a-year pharmaceutical British and Swiss company AstraZeneca and the energy companies Ameren, MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company (MEHC) — now known as Berkshire Hathaway Energy — PacifiCorp, NV Energy, Alliant Energy, and PG&E have also confirmed that they have cut ties to ALEC. This brings the number of corporations that have left the controversial group to at least 80, along with 19 non-profits, for a total of 99 private sector members that have publicly announced leaving ALEC. (Three of those corporations have subsequently returned to ALEC, and many of the non-profits listed by ALEC as “lapsed” in August 2013 share an ideological agenda with and noted their desire to return to ALEC.)
Companies’ Involvement with ALEC
The Sustainability Group noted in a statement released in July that it believed Microsoft’s “affiliation with ALEC, which is actively fighting policies that promote renewable energy, was incongruous. In addition, there were numerous other ALEC actions that conflicted directly with Microsoft’s values.”
As a member of ALEC, Microsoft has gained access to and influence over state legislators from all 50 states and has underwritten ALEC’s agenda to resist U.S. Environmental Protection Agency attempts to limit carbon dioxide pollution from coal plants at the state level, to penalize people who generate solar power on their rooftops, to restrict citizens’ ability to vote for reportedly partisan reasons, and to push “Stand Your Ground” laws around the country.
As a member of ALEC’s Communications and Technology Task Force, Microsoft has helped big telecom change state laws for corporate gain and has helped limit access to broadband, as the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) has reported.
The Sustainability Group said, “We commend Microsoft on its commitment to open dialogue with shareholders, and for making this important decision.”
AstraZeneca has been a member of ALEC’s Health and Human Services Task Force as well as state corporate co-chair of Delaware. The company confirmed, in response to an April 2013 shareholder question, that it decided not to renew its membership in ALEC’s task force.
As a member of ALEC’s Health and Human Services Task Force, AstraZeneca has funded ALEC’s agenda to oppose health insurance reforms, eliminate mandated benefits intended to ensure minimal care for American workers, to cap damages for pain and suffering and for the loss of companionship of a loved one who is killed due to medical negligence or incompetence, to amend Medicaid to replace the current funding program — in which the federal government matches a percentage of state costs — with block grants, and to erode the safety net for older Americans or Americans living in poverty.
Ameren has a long history of involvement with ALEC, having sponsored ALEC’s 1998 annual meeting. More recently, it sponsored “Missouri Night” at Antoine’s Restaurant in New Orleans during the 2011 ALEC Annual Meeting.
An Ameren spokesperson told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the company is not a member of ALEC in April 2014.
Berkshire Hathaway Energy
Greenpeace sent letters to nine utility companies that have supported ALEC’s anti-science environmental attack campaign in early 2014, asking them to cut ties. The environmental activist organization confirmed in May that MidAmerian Energy Holdings Company, PacifiCorp, NV Energy, Alliant Energy, PG&E, and Ameren had quietly dumped ALEC.
Formerly known as MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company, Berkshire Hathaway Energy is a holding company owned almost entirely by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, which has owned a controlling stake since 1999. It also has a long history of involvement with ALEC, havingsponsored ALEC’s 1998 annual meeting.
Alliant confirmed to Greenpeace in May 2014 that it had cut ties to ALEC.
PG&E confirmed to Greenpeace in May 2014 that it had cut ties to ALEC.
The Rush to Cut Ties to ALEC
Corporations that have publicly cut ties to ALEC since CMD launched ALECexposed.org in July 2011 and highlighted Coca Cola’s role in the group include Coca Cola, Wells Fargo, General Electric, Western Union, Sprint, General Motors, Walgreens, Best Buy, Hewlett-Packard, MillerCoors, John Deere, Dell, Johnson & Johnson, Wal-Mart, Amazon.com, Procter & Gamble, Mars, Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Kraft Foods, and PepsiCo. The addition of these eight companies brings the total to at least 80 corporations. These and 19 non-profits that have cut ties brings the total number of private-sector ALEC members who have cut ties to at least 99.
At least 78 state legislators have also cut ties with ALEC.
Public interest groups including Sierra Club, Forecast the Facts, Sum of Us, CMD and others have been actively urging Google to uphold its motto “don’t be evil” by cutting ties to ALEC, which spent years peddling Stand Your Ground gun laws and bills to make it harder for Americans to vote before trying to distance itself from that legacy. It has also worked to repeal renewable energy laws and the ability of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate greenhouse gases. Despite Google’s stated commitment to efforts to address global climate change, ALEC has routinely worked to indoctrinate legislators against the near consensus (97 percent) in the scientific community that global climate changes are underway and has sought to undermine the power of the EPA and other agencies to address climate change.
Aug 21, 2014
Southern California-based company MotoArt designed an epic office conference table made out of a Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet engine. The company is considered to be the pioneer of recycled airplane parts furniture designs, but this innovative 12’ wide table is probably their grandest work yet.
The table looks extremely hip and modern with its high mirror polish and a custom-fabricated stationary engine core set with internal multi-coloured LED lights topped with a polished spun aluminium dome and a stylish 1/2″ round tempered glass top. The table is also complimented with phone holders and electric sockets beneath the glass to charge them.
By The Conversation
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Augustus, who died 2000 years ago, was the first emperor of Rome. He brought peace after the turmoil in the republic after the assassination of Julius Caesar when he defeated the forces of Antony and Cleopatra. But despite this, two millennia after he bestrode the world, his mausoleum lies in disrepair under piles of rubbish while his celebrated stables, only discovered five years ago, are to be reburied due to lack of funds.
There’s a rich agenda of special and extravagant events in Rome as it celebrates the 2000th anniversary of the death of Augustus. The city is packed with cultural events, from special exhibitions to the re-enactment of ancient Roman rites. But the restoration of these important monuments are a step too far – one that simply can’t be afforded.
The mausoleum of Augustus is the monument that should be a star of the celebrations. Their restoration works, which are part of a larger project that aims to convert the square surrounding the monument into a pedestrian area, began in 2006, but have been interrupted for years. The work was a project of the local government and the negligence of the city council appears to be the cause of the progressive degradation of the area. Rubbish piled up against the pillars of the portico and eventually the restoration site became first a toilet and then a shelter for a group of homeless people.
These inhabitants of Augustus’s burial place converted the fences into clothes hangers and one of them even built a shop for his artworks. Since this spring the situation improved as the square has been partially cleaned; but the mausoleum is still closed to visitors. There are hopes for its reopening at the end of 2014, but I’m certainly not holding my breath.
And then there are Augustus’s fabled stables, discovered during the construction of a new underground car park in the heart of Rome. The plan was to have them open to visitors by the time of the current celebrations, but now they are to be reburied due to lack of funding.
Their discovery in 2009 was deemed an extremely important archaeological find, making for a unique opportunity to study the structure of the stables in the Roman era and the organisation of the games held in the Circus Maximus. But despite the value of this project, the efforts of the society in charge of the excavations have the tragic futility of Sisyphus’ curse.
Five years of work and €5m are to be buried under a thick layer of “pozzolana”, a material made of volcanic ash. The stables will be left to rest there, protected from erosion, until new funds become available – perhaps for the rediscovery of future generations. The car park will be built, but its new location has yet to be decided upon.
There are no public funds for such restorations and there are unlikely to be. But Ialy’s minister of cultural heritage, Dario Franceschini, has been inviting foreign investors to help the country to preserve its artistic and historical beauties. The minister told the New York Times:
Our doors are wide open for all the philanthropists and donors who want to tie their name to an Italian monument … We have a long list, as our heritage offers endless options, from small countryside churches to the Colosseum … Just pick.
Italian luxury shoe brand Tod’s was certainly happy to finance the restoration of the Coliseum –gaining copyrights and incomparible visibility along the way. And Fendi didn’t miss the opportunity to sponsor the Trevi Fountain, where beauty and fashion icon Anita Ekberg took a bath in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita.
But the recently discovered and less famous stables did not attract local or foreign sponsors. Despite its historical importance, the site is not so appealing to corporate brands who look for prestige and visibility in such ventures. The stables require a massive investment of time and money, they cannot be open to visitors before the completion of a long process of excavation and restoration – and they won’t make for a good film location anytime soon.
Worryingly, the growing power of the corporate sector in arts and heritage funding very possibly may bring a serious change in our conception of cultural heritage – from majestic symbols of our past, to expensive advertising gimmicks.
And so the bimillenary of Augustus takes us on a bizarre tour from car parks to cardboard boxes. As we celebrate Rome’s past grandeur we find the Divus Augustus’s tomb covered in not very divine garbage, and consign an archaeological gem to rest under the streets. Until, perhaps, a mega fashion brand from the future decides to dig it up for some fabulous campaign or other.
Alice Borchi does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.
[Roman emperor Augustus on Shutterstock]
Fri, Aug 15, 2014
Ever dream of packing a bag and leaving everything behind to live closer to nature? Here’s one inspiring photographer who did just that.After escaping a destructive relationship and quitting her office job in Sydney, nature photographer Julie Fletcher hit the road to experience all that the Australian wilderness has to offer.“I was very unhappy until one day I made the life-changing decision to leave,” Fletcher tells MNN. “I set a date, got everything in order, packed my car with the essentials and drove away with $3,000 in my bank account. It was the best thing I ever did.”That was more than 12 years ago, and she hasn’t looked back since. The abrupt career change led her to take jobs at tourist resorts and remote cattle stations, which gave her the opportunity to explore and photograph the surrounding scenery on her days off.“I was on a journey,” Fletcher reminisces. “A journey of photography, but more than that, I was rediscovering ‘me’ again.”Fletcher now spends her days traveling, camping, and hiking for miles just to the find the perfect shooting locations. Armed with her trusty Nikon gear and a dedication to the outdoors, she’s managed to make a living out of her passion.One of Fletcher’s most favorite photographs, seen above, was captured at Menindee Lake in New South Wales. The photo, titled “Graveyard,” won several awards and was even a finalist in National Geographic’s 2013 Nature Awards. To this day, she still can’t believe she witnessed such a surreal moment.“I don’t just photograph an area, I connect to it,” Fletcher explains. “My tenacity leads me back to the same location many times to achieve the right light for the right image, time and time again.”When she’s not trekking around the country, Fletcher lives with her partner in the small, remote town of Marree, South Australia. She’s recently begun hosting workshops focusing on outback photography, as well as collaborating with other professional photographers for group photo tours.Continue below for more of this talented artist’s work, and be sure to visit her Facebook and website to purchase prints or sign up for a photo workshop.* * *Related content on MNN:
- Want to see more great photos? Check out MNN’s photo blog