Author Archives: DCG

Bill Nye becomes science warrior in Netflix series

bill nye

It’s Hollyweird…a faux scientist can become a real one in the land of make believe.

From CNN: Can Bill Nye really save the world? Probably not by preaching to the choir, which doesn’t make his half-hour Netflix show “Bill Nye Saves the World” any less noteworthy as a breezy blow struck on behalf of science, despite a few structural miscalculations.

The title alone speaks volumes: Premiering more than 20 years after “Bill Nye the Science Guy” started on PBS, the new series is pitched primarily toward adults, casting the bow-tie-wearing Nye as an advocate and science warrior, trying to beat back the anti-scientific thought and quackery that’s prevalent, especially within the political sphere.

Nye turns his attention to a different topic in each installment. They include the need to vaccinate children, the reality of climate change (inevitably) and applying a “Quack-O-Meter” to alternative medicines.

The episodes feature the host engaging in low-key, roundtable discussions with experts, and also taped pieces — dispatching a correspondent to India, for example, to document the success vaccination has registered there in preventing polio. Nye’s explanations are clear, simple and often funny, capitalizing on a sort-of nerd-chic personality that’s well suited to the program’s micro-budget, including perhaps the world’s tiniest studio audience.

The producers, however, apparently felt pressure to up the ante on entertainment value, and rather unfortunately chose to add what amount to little comedy sketches to illustrate their points. Those segments range from celebrity cameos (Zach Braff drops by to rail about the climate) to having different actors portray various diseases, modeling T-shirts with names like “POLIO” and “INFLUENZA.”

These vignettes are harmlessly goofy but also wholly unnecessary, feeling like a form of pandering in a series that seeks to arm its audience with greater scientific knowledge.

Like astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, Nye has a lot to offer at this moment in time, when there’s such a strong, politically motivated culture of science denial. His eagerness to deliver straight talk on these matters — from asking whether vaccinations should be mandatory to lambasting the U.S. for failing to lead on climate change — will surely feel like a tonic to those share his concerns.

While “Bill Nye Saves the World” is a relatively modest enterprise by Netflix’s standards, it is, overall, an admirable addition to its lineup. If it’s not quite a rescue mission, Nye appears to have taken to heart the concept of trying to provide a small beacon of light rather than just cursing the darkness.

DCG

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Illinois dems aim high with minimum wage proposals

robot

The future of Illinois…

Despite this proposal stalling, I guess this is one way the demorats can prove they aren’t out of touch with their supporters.

From MyFoxChicago (AP): Amid a national push by unions and worker advocates for a $15 minimum wage, Illinois Democrats hope to pass an ambitious hike during the spring legislative session, despite a warning from Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner that he opposes an increase of any kind.

The proposal would lift the state’s minimum wage from its current $8.25 to $15 over the next five years, a more accelerated leap than previous adjustments in Illinois. It also would constitute a larger jump than increases toward $15 approved last year in New York and California, where the rates had been $9 and $10, respectively.

But, as with previous efforts in Illinois, the measure is likely to be tied up in the state’s electoral politics.

Sponsors of the legislation acknowledge Rauner’s opposition but have signaled they want to force him to act on the measure ahead of next year’s gubernatorial election, in which he already faces half a dozen Democratic challengers.

“We will get a really good opportunity to see where the governor stands,” said Rep. Will Guzzardi, a Chicago Democrat sponsoring the wage bill in the House. “Does he side with the 2.3 million people in this state who need a raise now or does he side with the big corporations?”

In the past, Rauner has said he supported minor increases in the minimum wage. But he told the audience at a business forum on April 13 that requiring employers to raise pay is out of the question. “That’s not gonna happen,” Rauner said. “Companies will just leave.”

Democrats say they have considerable support for the $15-per-hour measure in the House, and expect a floor vote in May. The Senate is also considering two minimum wage bills, one similar to Guzzardi’s and a less ambitious one that would raise the wage to $11 by 2021.

In 2014, Democrats placed an advisory referendum on the Illinois ballot asking voters whether they supported a minimum wage increase in an effort to motivate their base to go to the polls. The referendum secured 67% of the vote in the same election that Rauner won his first term in office. During the campaign, Rauner was criticized by his rival, former Gov. Pat Quinn, for statements supporting a reduction of the minimum wage.

Illinois has raised its minimum wage above the federal floor, currently $7.25 per hour, twice in recent history – first in 2003 and again in 2006 to $8.25, where it’s remained since 2011. That leaves Illinois with a lower rate than 20 others nationwide, but above every state it borders.

Business leaders claim increasing the rate puts Illinois at a competitive disadvantage, driving companies across state lines or forcing them to reduce staff. Labor unions and other allies of the national “Fight for $15” campaign contend raising the minimum wage boosts the economy by putting more money into pockets of low-wage workers, decreasing reliance on government assistance.

Advocates say anything less than $15 falls far short of the cost of living for millions of Illinoisans. They point to research including a 2016 report from the University of Illinois that shows at least 34 percent of Illinois workers earn less than $15 an hour, many of them while helping to support a family.

The report projects an increase to $15 would result in just a 0.78 percent employment decline while yielding an extra $2.4 billion in tax revenue.

Robert Bruno, a professor of labor relations at the university who co-authored the report, said research on previous increases indicates companies are able to recoup additional labor costs by raising prices a few cents on the dollar and benefit from enhanced worker productivity and purchasing power.

Some business organizations, including the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, oppose any increase above federal levels. Others, like the Illinois Restaurant Association, are willing to consider a more incremental adjustment – something some economics experts also recommend, warning against potential job loss resulting from more substantial leaps.

Sen. Kimberly Lightford of Maywood, the Democrat sponsoring both Senate proposals, has been advocating for a higher rate since 1999 when she first proposed what became Illinois’ 2003 increase. She said if the federal minimum had risen with inflation since its peak in 1968, it would be $11 today. “I cannot sit back and allow millions of working people to receive no wage increase at all because it could not be the $15,” she said.

The bills are HB198, SB1738 and SB2.

DCG

Obama meets with at-risk youth ahead of Chicago speech

obama

I’m back. You got a prob with dat?

31 people shot in your home town over the weekend. Five died. But hey, “optimistic!”

Once a community organizer, always a community organizer.

From ABC News: Former President Barack Obama met Sunday with at-risk young men and boys in his hometown of Chicago before his first major post-presidency speech.

The former president spent time at a roundtable with youth from the organization Chicago Create Real Economic Destiny located in the Roseland/Pullman neighborhood in South Side Chicago where Obama started as a community organizer at age 25.

The CRED program provides job skills and employment opportunities for at-risk young adults.

Spokesman Kevin Lewis says Obama listened to the young men’s stories and shared some of the challenges that he faced growing up. Obama “was optimistic about their potential to positively contribute to their communities and support their families because of the services provided in the program,” Lewis said.

The program was founded by Obama’s education secretary, Arne Duncan, who also attended the meeting.

“The president and Mrs. Obama look forward to working with similar organizations through the Obama Foundation and the My Brother’s Keeper initiative that are already committed to bringing much needed expansion of opportunities in Chicago neighborhoods,” Lewis said.

Obama will speak Monday to young community leaders and organizers at the University of Chicago, where his presidential library is planned.

Obama’s first public engagement comes as President Donald Trump nears his 100-day mark in office.

DCG

Survey: 1 In 5 Adults In The UK Can’t Change A Lightbulb, Boil An Egg

change a light bulb

Good grief…what in the world is wrong with people?

From StudyFinds.org: Are you handy enough that if a lightbulb went out in your home you’d be able to change it? Believe it or not, one in five people aren’t so skilled. In fact, a new survey of people in the United Kingdom finds not only do about 20 percent of people not know how to change a bulb — the same number aren’t sure how to boil an egg, either.

The British insurance company Aviva recently released their annual Home Report which detailed, among numerous findings about how people do work around the house, relatively common tasks that people encounter. The company surveyed 2004 people across the UK in February and March about their habits and roles at home.

In addition to just one in five not being able to change a lightbulb or boil an egg, the survey found that nearly a third of the participants couldn’t cook any meal on the fly. And if someone were to spill a portion of their meal on their clothes or on the floor, only 59 percent would know how to get rid of the resulting stain. Only 37 percent could change a flat tire.

The findings were even surprising to the folks behind the study.

“As a nation we tend to take pride in our ability to do things ourselves in and around the home, so it’s a surprise to see there could be a skills gap in places,” says Aviva Propositions Director Adam Beckett in a press release. “That said, we also know that people lead busy lives, so while we enjoy doing things ourselves, we also appreciate the opportunity to leave things to a professional from time to time, particularly with some of the more challenging jobs.”

Interestingly, while 50 percent of those surveyed said they learned how to do a home task on their by trial and error, plenty of people are turning to the internet for help, especially millennials. The study found four in 10 people aged 25 and under prefer learning do-it-yourself chores online. That’s more than twice the number in the age group who turn to an actual book for help.

Here’s a look at the polled tasks and the number of people who indicated they could successfully complete them:

 Task Percentage who feel confident doing this task
Boil an egg 81%
Change a light bulb 79%
Cook a complete meal without using a recipe 69%
Read a map 66%
Sew on a button 65%
Unblock a sink 62%
Remove a stain from a carpet or clothing 59%
Change a baby’s nappy 57%
Wire a plug 57%
‘Bleed’ a radiator 53%
Check oil levels in a car 53%
Put up a shelf 47%
Put up wallpaper 39%
Change a flat tyre 37%
Change a washer on a tap 30%
Fit tiles 22%

DCG

Abortion is not negotiable: Democratic Party Draws A Line In The Sand On Abortion Rights

tom perez

The DNC future: Agree with us or go

A personal/religious belief shall not go against the collective thinking of the demorat platform.

Tom Perez is the best thing to happen to the RNC (and yes, I mean RNC)!

From HuffPo: Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez became the first head of the party to demand ideological purity on abortion rights, promising Friday to support only Democratic candidates who back a woman’s right to choose.

“Every Democrat, like every American, should support a woman’s right to make her own choices about her body and her health,” Perez said in a statement. “That is not negotiable and should not change city by city or state by state.”

“At a time when women’s rights are under assault from the White House, the Republican Congress, and in states across the country,” he added, “we must speak up for this principle as loudly as ever and with one voice.” 

Perez’s statement follows the DNC’s controversial embrace of Heath Mello, a Democratic mayoral candidate in Omaha, Nebraska, whose years-long history of voting against abortion rights in the state Legislature drew fire from progressives this week. Daily Kos, a liberal website that raises money for lesser-known Democratic candidates, pulled its endorsement of Mello this week after discovering his history on the issue, and NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue slammed the DNC for adding him to its cross-country unity tour.

“The actions today by the DNC to embrace and support a candidate for office who will strip women — one of the most critical constituencies for the party — of our basic rights and freedom is not only disappointing, it is politically stupid,” Hogue said in a statement.

Perez initially defended the DNC’s acceptance of an anti-abortion Democrat. “Our job at the DNC is to help Democrats who have garnered support from voters in their community cross the finish line and win ― from school board to Senate,” Perez said. “The biggest threat to women’s reproductive rights is the relentless Republican attacks on women’s health care, including legal, accessible abortion services. And I won’t let anyone get in the way of our fight to protect a woman’s right to choose.”

But Perez changed course Friday and delivered a big victory to the reproductive rights movement, saying that he “fundamentally disagree[s] with Heath Mello’s personal beliefs about women’s reproductive health” and that “every candidate who runs as a Democrat should do the same, because every woman should be able to make her own health choices. Period.” 

Perez’s statement will likely alienate some high-profile anti-abortion Democrats in the party, including Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards and Sens. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Edwards said at the Democratic National Convention in 2016 that the party might be more successful in the Deep South if it allowed more anti-abortion candidates to rise in the ranks. 

“It’s hard to remain a big-tent party if you have a very small platform,” he said. “We have to make our voices heard.”

Reproductive rights advocates agree with Perez that the party must stand firm on the issue. Hogue celebrated the victory for the movement on Friday.  “Kudos to Chair Tom Perez and the DNC for recognizing that we are a stronger party when we stand for our core values,” she said in a statement to The Huffington Post. “Women across the country who are, and have always been, the heart and soul of the Party, are breathing a sigh of relief to know that the DNC has our backs, and we look forward to a day when we don’t have to fight this fight again.”

h/t Twitchy

DCG

Avoiding making eye contact or asking where someone is from are signs of racism says Oxford University

microaggressions

From Daily Mail: Avoiding making eye contact with someone or asking where they are originally from have been deemed as racist micro-aggressions in a newsletter issued by Oxford University.  The institution’s Equality and Diversity Unit states these two common behaviours could potentially cause the listener ‘mental ill-health’. 

The Trinity term newsletter claims asking someone where they are ‘originally’ from implies that the questioner does not believe they are British.  The Trinity term newsletter also mentions ‘not speaking directly to people’ and ‘jokes drawing attention to someone’s difference’ as possible forms of everyday racism.

It says people doing these things are often ‘well-meaning’, but insists they are still reinforcing negative stereotypes and making people feel like they ‘do not belong’.

But Professor Frank Furedi, author of What’s Happened To The University, said the advice was ‘Orwellian’ and called on Oxford to ‘wake up to reality’.  He told MailOnline: ‘To go from simply stating someone is racist based on what they say to assume they are unconsciously racist is a very Orwellian turn. Microaggressions empower the accuser to say that it doesn’t matter what you intend by that look, I just know by the look of your eyes you are racist.

‘It is a very insidious way of thinking. Universities used to understand the reality that humans are complex.  It would be nice if Oxford could wake up to reality.’

Oxford University said the advice was part of an attempt to fight discrimination and encourage equality of opportunity. Students at the university recently took part in a campaign called ‘I, too, am Oxford’, to raise awareness of unconscious racism.

At one college, Pembroke, students are advised by their representatives to report ‘macro and microaggressions’ to a welfare officer. She will then deal with the issue by ‘mediation with the other party’ or ‘through the harassment policy’.

Professor Furedi said giving advice on avoiding microaggressions happens at ‘virtually every’ university in the USA, but is fairly new to the UK. The Emeritus Professor of Sociology at Kent University urged British students to resist the trend, adding: ‘A minority of students make it their own cause. ‘But there are usually a lot of people who think it is stupid but they acquiesce to it and eventually the influence of these ideas becomes more prominent.’

An Oxford University spokesman told MailOnline: ‘The Equality and Diversity Unit works with University bodies to ensure that the University’s pursuit of excellence goes hand in hand with freedom from discrimination and equality of opportunity.

‘The newsletter is one way of advising and supporting staff towards achieving these aims.’

The row comes two months after a Cambridge college was accused of ‘cultural misrepresentation’ by students after serving ‘Jamaican stew’ and ‘Tunisian rice’.  Students argued the dishes served at Pembroke College were not authentic to countries they were described to be from, The Sunday Times reported.

The original complainant said: ‘I’m used to as a minority student being constantly invalidated when flagging up specific issues but if people feel their cultures are misrepresented they have the right to address this. Micro-aggressions are a reality of the everyday exist­ence of many people of colour.’

DCG

Weinstein Co. to Challenge MPAA’s R Rating of Transgender Teen Drama

3 generations movie

Actors Fanning, Watts and Sarandon

Because it would be a “tragedy” if high school students couldn’t see this film.

From Hollywood Reporter: The Weinstein Co. (TWC) will challenge the MPAA’s decision to assign an R rating to its upcoming transgender drama 3 Generations. TWC was told that the film, which stars Elle Fanning, Naomi Watts and Susan Sarandon and was directed by Gaby Dellal, received the rating due to language and some sexual references.

In its bid to downgrade the R rating to a PG-13, TWC has enlisted attorney David Boies, who is the company’s go-to lawyer for high-profile cases (Boies also represented TWC in its battle with Warner Bros. over the use of the title The Butler).

The MPAA offered a statement in response to TWC’s promise to fight the 3 Generations rating. “Under the Classifications and Ratings Administration (CARA) rules, the ratings board and appeals board maintain confidentiality and do not comment publicly about the process for movies under review,” MPAA spokesperson Chris Ortman said. “Any filmmaker who objects to the given rating can choose to go to the appeals board.”

TWC has a long history of challenging the MPAA’s ratings, sometimes successfully. The Michelle Williams-Ryan Gosling starrer Blue Valentine initially received an NC-17, but it was knocked down to an R. The company’s best picture Oscar winner The King’s Speech also received an R, which remained in place, but TWC managed to get a PG-13 rating for an alternate version.

Boies helped get the rating changed on the documentary Bully. Initially given an R for reasons similar to 3 Generations, TWC challenged the rating because it wanted the film to be more accessible to its intended teen audience. The film eventually received a PG-13.

“This film is a beautiful and touching story about family and identity,” said Watts, who stars in the film as the mother of the protagonist Ray, played by Fanning, and who also is an executive producer. “It is important for teenagers to see it and the R rating doesn’t reflect today’s society. 3 Generations doesn’t have a bad bone in its body. It’s an expression of love, acceptance, strength and honesty — values that could not be more necessary right now.

Added TWC co-chairman Harvey Weinstein: “Gaby, Naomi, Susan and Elle made this movie to share its message of acceptance and inclusion with all generations. The fact that an R rating would prevent high school students from seeing this film would truly be a travesty. The MPAA and I were able to come to an agreement on Bully, and I am confident that we will be able to do so again.”

The film follows Ray, a teenager who has struggled with the body assigned to him at birth and is determined to start transitioning. His single mother Maggie must track down Ray’s biological father (Tate Donovan) to get his legal consent to allow Ray’s transition. Dolly (Sarandon), Ray’s lesbian grandmother, is having a hard time accepting that she now has a grandson. The film follows their journey as each character confronts his or her own identity and learns to embrace change while ultimately finding acceptance and understanding.

“3 Generations is an important movie for everyone to see, especially transgender youth who are feeling isolated or fearful and their families,” said Sarandon. “It’s ridiculous to have an R rating, which would prevent this audience from seeing the film.”

Added Dellal: “As a mother and a filmmaker, I want to speak to kids, to parents and to grandparents everywhere in a common language of love and inclusion about a subject matter that is not only real and complicated, but one that is important and alive today. There are kids all over this country that are still too fearful to speak out and to step out; they’re too alone to fight, lacking the kinds of support that would let them feel free to be themselves. Our story wants to humanize this family experience, and to take the mystery out of the secrets. I hope the MPAA will reconsider this R rating and encourage children to see this story and feel connected.”

DCG