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Member since: Thu Feb 14, 2008, 10:58 AM
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The clowns bringing laughter to refugee camps: Happiness matters like food

Source: The Guardian

An adorable six-year-old in a pink top reaches up to me, her bright green eyes pleading for a hug. Next to her a slightly older girl, with curly brown hair and laughing dark eyes also reaches up. I lift the first child on to my back and bounce her around for a few moments before gently setting her down again. The games are starting and it is time to get into a circle and pay attention.

I am dressed in a spotty shirt, outsize trousers, stripy socks and a glittery bowler hat. This isn’t my usual working gear, but I am visiting this Greek refugee camp as an undercover clown with The Flying Seagull Project. Hoards of children, some barely older than toddlers, run free around the camp. Their parents have travelled with them from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan in the hope of finding a life away from violence and poverty. Now they are stranded in camps in Greece while politicians deliberate on where they can go.

The Flying Seagulls visit this camp every day to provide games, organised play and shows for the children. Ash Perrin, the ringmaster, has seen an improvement in behaviour since they started: “It used to take 15 minutes before you saw their child faces. They came with hard adult faces. Now the minute they see us it’s the vulnerable open child we see. They’re responding well.”

The games are simple and based on sound and movement that is easy to understand without language. “If you need to use words to describe it – give up, you won’t get through,” says Perrin. “We try not to speak too much anyway because there’s something very inclusive about not needing to understand anything to play the game. A circle is a very strong structure. In a circle there’s no start or finish so no one gets to be at the front. It’s a productive shape to use.”

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2016/dec/29/clowns-flying-seagull-project-normal-children-refugees-greece

2016 Was a Really Bad Year. These Folks Made It Better.

Source: Mother Jones

2016 was certainly a bad year. The planet continued to get hotter (spelling doom for future habitants of Earth), natural disasters wreaked havoc all over the world, white nationalists and neo-Nazis stopped hiding on the fringes of society, and Prince, David Bowie, and Carrie Fisher left us way too soon. But before we consider 2016 as being totally bleak, let's pause and remember a few folks who made a bad year better. From smart kids to activists and politicians, here are some of the bright spots.

Sarah McBride: Sarah McBride made history this year when she became the first transgender woman to speak at a major-party convention. "Will we be a nation where there is only one way to love, only one way to look, and only one way to live?" McBride, the national press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign, asked fellow Democrats gathered to nominate Hillary Clinton. "Or will we be a nation where everyone has the freedom to live openly and equally?" Growing up in Wilmington, Delaware, McBride didn't think she could live authentically as herself while achieving her professional goals in politics. Since coming out in 2012, she's been proving her younger self wrong, breaking down barriers and fighting for transgender rights. As an intern, McBride became one of the first transgender people to work in the White House, and she played an instrumental role in getting transgender rights legislation passed in Delaware. She also made waves this year when a bathroom selfie she took in North Carolina went viral after state lawmakers approved legislation barring transgender people from using the bathroom of their choice.

Mari Copeny: Mari Copeny is better known as Little Miss Flint. In 2014, her hometown's water was poisoned with lead when the city of Flint, Michigan, changed to an improperly treated water supply. It took months to warn Flint residents, and as a result thousands of children in the city tested positive for high levels of lead in their blood. Mari sent a letter to the White House asking President Barack Obama to visit, and Obama responded and visited Flint a few weeks later. Mari’s mother operates a Twitter account for the young girl where she continues to tweet about the ongoing water crisis.

Dinner is done, it took 6 packs of water, so 144 bottles of water #FlintWaterCrisis #ThanksGiving #WaterIsLife

— Little Miss Flint (@LoveMeLuLu22) November 24, 2016

Lindy West: In a year when some of the worst corners of the internet gained new power, Lindy West's accounts of confronting trolls provided badly needed evidence that you can stand up to cyberbullying and win. In her debut novel, Shrill, West describes what fat shaming really means, a perspective that This American Life host Ira Glass and others have noted changed their perspective on the issue. West’s book, which is a New York Times bestseller, is a delightful yet heart-wrenching collection of essays, spanning subjects from sexism in comedy to finding love. A columnist for the Guardian, she has also argued that objectifying men at the Olympics was not a real issue, and she's called on everyone to dispense with verbal contortions and just call white nationalists Nazis. (West spoke to Mother Jones earlier this year about internet trolls, fat shaming, and rape culture.)

Read more: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/12/mother-jones-people-made-bad-2016-better

Big Mouth Strikes Again - The Smiths

Trump Spam.

Marine father gives his daughter a pride flag for Christmas, along with a beautiful surprise

Source: Mashable

Twitter user @SatanKotah, otherwise known as Dakotah, asked her father for a gay pride flag this year. Not only did she receive the flag, she also received a genuinely sincere, moving response from her father, a United States Marine.

His gift of a flag came with a special note.

"When I saw that a gay pride flag was on your list, at first I thought it was an odd request. But after thinking about it, I think I know why. I reckon that you feel that everyone else in the family, except grandma, has a flag that represents someone we were/are a part of. I have the Marine Corps, Grandpa and Mom have the navy, and Darr has the army. So it makes sense that you would want a flag to represent something you are a part of. I present you with this flag, to display how you would like. In the spring, when I hang the flags up, I would be proud to hang yours up."

Via: http://mashable.com/2016/12/27/marine-dad-pride-flag-daughter-christmas/?utm_cid=hp-r-2

P.S. Grandma needs a flag, too!

Carrie Fisher's impact was epic even beyond her iconic Princess Leia

Source: Freep


Matriarch of millennial women: Speaking of "Force Awakens," when Fisher returned as Leia with a promotion from princess to general, it was everything — and credit where credit was due. You can't consider contemporary characters like Katness of "The Hunger Games" or Tris in "Divergent" or now, Jyn Erso of "Rogue One" without putting them in the context of Leia.

In the real world, Fisher's cultural imprint may be even greater. The little girls who saw "Star Wars" in their childhood, either at the movies, on cable or DVD, have grown up to be the women who run businesses, support families, raise children and hold political office – sometimes all at the same time. Fisher was an icon of being on equal terms with men and having equal commitment to causes. By rocking it in a work of fiction, she showed the generations who followed her that they could do the same in their own lives.

And by being open about her battles with drugs and mental illness, Fisher became an advocate who helped change perceptions of those conditions. And by refusing to cave to the patriarchal entertainment industry that makes women more invisible the older they get, Fisher was a beacon for being kick-ass at any age.

"There's no way to prepare for seeing yourself rendered as a 12-inch plastic doll," she once told Esquire of her "Star Wars" fame. Fisher probably wouldn't have been prepared for pop-culture immortality, either, but we're all the better for her having achieved it.

Read more: http://www.freep.com/story/entertainment/2016/12/27/carrie-fisher-star-wars-princess-leia-author-screenwriter/95877094/

Stars Wars was the first movie I ever saw in the movie theater, and Leia was the first kick-ass heroine I ever knew.

Ms. Fisher was a brave woman in so many respects. I truly admired her for her outspokenness and her candor.

Oh, Just a Gingerbread House Rendition of the Bates Motel

Source: Messy Nessy Chic


Welcome to the Bates Motel ladies and gentlemen! The set from Alfred Hitchcock’s cult movie Psycho, in gingerbread! Aaron is a young filmmaker himself and pays huge attention to detail. With every he photo uploaded to the net, he gives details of how the gingerbread house came together. Everything except for the base and lights is edible…

More: http://www.messynessychic.com/2016/12/24/oh-just-a-gingerbread-house-rendition-of-the-bates-motel/

Happy Holidays, DU!

A Christmas Story - 8 Bit Cinema

9 questions about Russia you were too embarrassed to ask

Source: Vox

Vladimir Putin and the nation he leads lurked in the background of the 2016 campaign for months and months, perhaps even shaping the outcome of the race. And now Putin’s preferred candidate, Donald Trump, appears ready to embrace him as an ally — a stunning shift in US-Russia policy.

This is a source of growing alarm among cosmopolitan-minded liberals. Putin is bad, they say, and so are the European far-right parties that are aligning with him — a multicontinental alliance undergirded by Islamophobic politics that alarms respectable opinion throughout the West.

And among political elites there really is a fairly firm consensus that this is, in fact, bad. America’s military leaders have repeatedly called Russia the greatest threat to the US-led world order. Among Republicans, it’s the ones focused on national security who put up the greatest resistance to Trump, and since the election he’s gotten more pushback from Senate Republicans on the Russian hacking issue than on anything else. Hillary Clinton’s campaign clearly sought to make hay out of this, arguing that Trump would be Putin’s puppet.

But the mass public is relatively indifferent to foreign affairs and mostly doesn’t seem to care about this. Foreign policy is the classic sort of issue that doesn’t matter in politics until something goes badly wrong, at which point it starts to matter a lot.

National security leaders across the spectrum worry, with good reason, that the kind of friendly arrangement Trump seems to want to make with Russia would only shift the ratchet and end up involving the United States in more direct military engagements in Europe that we’d rather not put to the test.

But the Cold War has been over for a long time, and both the US-Russian relationship and Russia’s approach to Europe have changed while most Americans weren’t paying attention. Here, then, is an attempt to answer some of your most basic questions about the contemporary US-Russian relationship and where it might head in the Trump era.

Read more: http://www.vox.com/world/2016/12/22/13982102/russia-putin-trump-hacking

Emergency managers, city officials targeted in latest Flint water charges

Source: Freep

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced new criminal charges against four defendants Tuesday – including two former emergency managers appointed by the state – in his ongoing criminal investigation of the Flint drinking water crisis and lead poisoning of city residents.

Schuette brought 20-year felonies against defendants he alleged conspired to operate the Flint Water Treatment Plant when it wasn't safe to do so and used a phony environmental order to allow Flint to borrow money to proceed with the Karegnondi Water Authority pipeline, while tying Flint to the Flint River for its drinking water in the interim.

In 67th District Court in Flint this morning, a judge authorized charges against former Flint emergency managers Darnell Earley and Gerald Ambrose and city officials Howard Croft, who was public works superintendent, and Daugherty Johnson, the utilities administrator.

Jeff Seipenko, a special agent with the Attorney General’s Office, told Judge William Crawford II that the investigations showed the former emergency managers conspired with Croft and Johnson to enter a contract based on false pretenses that bound the city of Flint to utilize the Flint River as it's drinking water source, "knowing that the Flint Water Treatment Plant was unable to produce safe water."

Read more: http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/flint-water-crisis/2016/12/20/schuette-flint-water-charges/95644964/
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