• Jeeyoon Kim

    • 10/20/2017
    • Reporters Desk
    • Calendar
    • Comments are off

    ENTERTAINMENT

    Oct. 21
    Jeeyoon Kim

    Classical Crossroads’ “The Interludes” concert series presents Beverly Hills National Auditions winner, pianist Jeeyoon Kim. A native of South Korea, Jeeyoon Kim has performed recitals, chamber music, and concertos in leading venues across the United States.
    Time: 3 p.m. Oct. 21
    Cost: Fre
    Details: (310) 316-5574; http://www.palosverdes.com/ClassicalCrossroads/TheInterludes.htm
    Venue: First Lutheran Church & School, 2900 W. Carson St., Torrance

    Oct. 21
    Dirk Hamilton
    Dirk Hamilton will be singing, playing and talking some on acoustic guitar, harmonica and vocals.
    Time: 8 p.m. Oct. 21
    Cost: $20
    Details: https://alvasshowroom.com/event/dirk-hamilton
    Venue: Alvas Showroom, 1417 W. 8th St., San Pedro

    Oct. 22
    Sabine Trio

    Sabine


    Sabine is widely respected as an award winning classical pianist in the United States and Europe.
    Time: 4 p.m. Oct. 22
    Cost: $20
    Details: https://alvasshowroom.com/event/ sabine-trio-2
    Venue: Alvas Showroom, 1417 W. 8th St., San Pedro

    Oct. 24
    Native Plant Society
    The Native Plant Society is a sextet led by CSUDH faculty composer Jonathon Grasse specializing in improvisation.
    Time: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 24
    Cost: Free
    Details: (310) 243-3543
    Venue: California State University Dominguez Hills, 1000 E. Victoria St., Carson

    THEATER

    Ongoing

    Boeing Boeing
    A zany French farce featuring the swinging bachelor Bernard and his three stewardesses – all engaged to him without knowing about each other.  Turbulence abounds when airline schedules change and they all end up at his Parisian flat at the same time.
    Time: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturday, through Oct. 21
    Cost: $23 to $45
    Details: https://shakespearebythesea.secure.force.com
    Venue: Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro

    Dracula

    Dracula

    Celebrate the Halloween season with the Long Beach Playhouse in the company of the most classic monster ever to roam through literature, film, and stage – Count Dracula! As Lucy Seward succumbs to a mysterious illness which is draining her life force, her father and his long-time associate, Dr. Van Helsing hunt the true cause of her malady – a vampire stalking London.
    Time: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sundays, through Oct. 21
    Cost: $20
    Details: (562) 494-1014; www.lbplayhouse.org
    Venue: Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach

    In the Heights

    Before there was Hamilton, there was Lin-Manuel Miranda’s cutting edge musical masterpiece In the Heights. The story is set over the course of three days in the vibrant New York community of Washington Heights – a place where the coffee from the corner bodega is light and sweet, the windows are always open and the breeze carries the rhythm of three generations of music.
    Time: 8 p.m. Oct. 21, 27, 28, Nov. 3 and 4, 1 p.m. Oct. 22, 29 and Nov. 5, 2 p.m. Oct. 28 and Nov. 4, and 6 p.m. Oct. 29.
    Cost: $20
    Details: (562) 856-1999; www.musical.org
    Venue: Carpenter Performing Arts Center, 6200 E. Atherton St., Long Beach

    Cabaret
    From the enigmatic Emcee, to the wounded Sally Bowles, to a mature couple dealing with the difficulties of the prevalent anti-semitism that flourishes around them, these familiar characters will reignite the sense of despair and danger so commonly found in fascist regimes.
    Time: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays, through Nov. 18
    Cost: $20.00 to $24.00
    Details: www.lbplayhouse.org
    Venue: Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach

    ARTS

    Oct. 21
    Saturday ArtWalk
    The San Pedro Historic Waterfront Business Improvement District and the Arts District invite the public to explore the galleries and artist lofts, dine in our unique eateries and stay for a show or listen to music at local bars and restaurants. The free guided ArtWalk tours will be offered.
    Time: 2:30 p.m. Oct. 21
    Cost: Free
    Details: www.sanpedrobid.com
    Venue: Sirens Java and Tea, 357 W. 7th St., San Pedro

    Ongoing
    Diasporagasm

    Diasporagasm

    South Bay Contemporary Gallery in conjunction with Michael Stearns Studio 347 presents a co-
    located multimedia exhibition Diasporagasm. This exhibit is curated by artist, Beyoncenista, the alter ego of April Bey. This exhibit acts as a performance bringing together melanated artists working in Los Angeles, Haiti, Ghana, the Caribbean and West Africa.
    Drawing from the groundbreaking film Moonlight—a timeless story of human connection and
    self-discovery, the curator appropriates, amends and recontextualizes the juxtaposition of art,
    race and gender. The opening reception is from 6 to 9 p.m. Oct. 5.
    Time: Through Nov. 18
    Cost: Free
    Details: (562) 400-0544
    Venue: Gallery 347, 347 W. 7th St., San Pedro

    PUMP 2017
    FLOOD, the artist group that brought Soundwalk to Long Beach for 10 years and recently inaugurated “soundpedro” at Angels Gate Cultural Center in San Pedro, is pleased to announce PUMP (Public Urban Multi-Sensory Presentations). This arts festival will highlight works by over 50 emerging and mid-career artists from throughout Southern California.
    Time: Runs through Oct. 21
    Cost: Free
    Details: lbpump.org
    Venue: Various locations in Long Beach

    17th Annual Frida Kahlo Artist Exhibit

    Enjoy another awe-inspiring exhibit featuring several artists at Picture This Gallery. The opening reception night, from 4 to 8 p.m. Sept. 16, will include live musical performances featuring CASI SON and Omar Perez, as well as Frida look-alike contest.
    Time: 12 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays, through Oct. 31
    Cost: Free
    Details: (562) 233-3726
    Venue: Picture This Gallery, 4130 Norse Way, Long Beach

    blink•point
    TransVagrant Projects and Gallery 478 are pleased to present blink•point, recent work by Ellwood T. Risk.
    Risk is a self-taught artist who has been living and working in Los Angeles since 1992. Risk appropriates, alters, re-contextualizes, shoots (here and there) and re-presents the ordinary in unanticipated iterations. An artist’s reception is scheduled 4 to 7 p.m. Sept. 9.
    Time: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, through Nov. 25
    Cost: Free
    Details: (310) 600-4873; (310) 732-2150
    Venue: TransVagrant Projects and Gallery 478, 478 W. 7th St., San Pedro

    rebidishu III
    Los Angeles Harbor College Fine Arts Gallery is pleased to present rebidishu III, Recent Paintings by Katy Crowe.
    Abstract art is often seen as carrying a moral dimension, in that it can be interpreted to stand for virtues ranging from order and purity, to simplicity and spirituality. In the case of Crowe, virtue is obtained by process and intuition.
    Time: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, through Nov. 30
    Cost: Free
    Details: (310) 233-4411
    Venue: Los Angeles Harbor College Fine Arts Gallery, 1111 Figueroa Place, Wilmington

    COMMUNITY

    Oct. 28
    Scary Stories 15
    Snuggle up around the bonfire for an all-new program of scary stories with sound effects. It’s suitable for all ages. Fresh frights await you. Picnics are welcome; bring your own seating and dress warmly so you don’t get the shivers.
    Time: 6:30 p.m to 8 p.m. Oct 28
    Cost: $5
    Details: (310) 519-0936
    Venue: Angels Gate Cultural Center, 3601 S. Gaffey St., San Pedro

    Oct. 29
    Spooky Pedro Walking Tour
    Join San Pedro historian Angela “Romee” Romero and Psychic Medium Mary O’Maley for a stroll through haunted and historic downtown San Pedro. We’ll rattle some chains and see what bumps back.
    Time: 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 29
    Cost: $20
    Details: (310) 808-7800
    Venue: Downtown San Pedro

    San Pedro Día De Los Muertos Festival 2017

    The streets will come alive with art, culture, delicious cuisine and live entertainment. You can enjoy the sacred altar competition and exhibition, craft vendor booths, on-site face painters, a food court, children’s stage and play area and main stage entertainment.
    Time: 3 to 9 p.m. Oct. 29
    Cost: Free
    Details: http://sanpedrodayofthedead.com
    Venue: Downtown San Pedro, 398 W. 6th St., San Pedro

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  • Lessons and Questions from the Sustainable Seafood Expo

    • 10/18/2017
    • Richard Foss
    • Features
    • Comments are off

    There was a curious mix of enthusiasm and concern among participants in the Sustainable Seafood Expo, Oct. 1, at the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium.

    The enthusiasm was largely due to the fact that even skeptical parts of society have admitted the importance of ensuring a continuing supply of seafood. The worry is that the awakening may be too late to save some of the species that Americans most enjoy eating.

    Members of several ecological organizations and seafood industry entrepreneurs rubbed shoulders at the event that featured cooking demonstrations, a panel discussion about the state of the oceans and food sampling. Simmering under the surface of the event were two questions: Who defines “sustainable?” How much are consumers willing to pay to ensure a continuing stream of seafood?

    One might expect to be able to get a simple answer from a government organization, since the United States enacted laws against overfishing as early as the establishment of the National Marine Fisheries Service in 1870. The successor to that organization is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and representatives were staffing a booth by the entrance.

    Some of them admitted that “sustainable” is a difficult concept to quantify because it depends which organization is saying something is sustainable. There isn’t always agreement between, for instance, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Seafood Watch and MSC Certification. The U.S. government does have an act in place with 10 standards of sustainability
    and all of their actions in managing fish are focused upon following those national standards.

    Anyone optimistic about the idea that capitalists will think long-term, might point out that it is in the best interest of businesses to maintain sustainability standards so they can sell fish for a long time.

    Indeed it is, but seafood harvesters have a long history of focusing on short-term profit rather than long-term stability. The collapse of the Monterey Bay sardine industry memorialized in John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row is most famous, but you don’t have to have lived in our own Harbor Area very long to remember when thousands of people worked in the local
    fishing and processing industry. The last of the tuna canneries on Terminal Island shuttered in 2001, a victim of decimated local fish stocks and cheap foreign labor.

    Some see a future in local seafood harvesting thanks to careful management, among them Kelly Stromberg, marketing director of Catalina Sea Ranch — the first American aquaculture facility operating in deep offshore waters. The Sea Ranch project is pioneering programs to farm mussels, oysters, scallops, abalone and kelp. Stromberg is optimistic that new regulations on harvesting sea urchins can make a difference. Those urchins fetch good prices from Japanese and Italian restaurants, but indiscriminate harvesting is causing havoc in the ecology.

    “There are different species of urchin, and some of the ones that are being wiped out actually help the kelp,” Stromberg said. “Also there are regions that have a good balance and shouldn’t be fished, so there are not enough urchins where they’re wanted and too many where they’re not.”

    Catalina Sea Ranch sold its first batches of shellfish to local restaurants in July, and at this event their booth was across from another newcomer called Omega Blue. Representative James Smith explained that they have been raising almaco jacks — a fish similar to albacore tuna — in the Sea of Cortez to take advantage of the deep, pure water in the area. While posing proudly with a large whole fish, he mentioned that while the environment is important to the taste of seafood, there’s more to it than that.

    “These were swimming 36 hours ago, but the quality of a fish isn’t all about how recently it was caught,” Smith said. “If you catch a fish on a line it was fighting and stressed, which releases a lot of lactic acid into its bloodstream … that degrades the quality of the meat. We put ours in an ice bath so that they literally fall asleep, so they’re never stressed. The shelf life of this fish far exceeds that of a line caught fish.”

    The buyers at seafood restaurants who purchase Omega Blue’s fish pay a premium but know exactly what they’re getting. Marine biologist Sarah Rathbone suggested they may be in the minority. Rathbone is the cofounder of Dock to Dish, and she was eloquent about the problem with seafood fraud.

    “Fish fraud is pervasive, a recognized problem in the industry and an unfortunate situation for consumers of seafood,” she commented. “The industrialization and globalization of the seafood market create this long chain of custody between the harvester and the place where people are buying or eating. One of the biggest problems is with fish labeled red snapper, a name that is slapped on every white fish with red skin. In California it’s usually some variety of rockfish, of which there are about 100 species.

    “True red snapper are found only in the Atlantic. Any local menu that claims to offer local red snapper must be wrong. I’ve also seen local white seabass on a menu two weeks before the season opened. I asked the chef and he said it was too expensive to reprint the menus and they were serving corvina from Mexico. Somehow the price doesn’t come down when they switch to cheaper fish.”

    Dock to Dish offered tastes of a smoked fish medley that included king salmon, Pacific mackerel and black cod. Rathbone was emphatic that they actually were what was advertised.

    “I saw the salmon landed at midnight on Avila Beach three days ago,” she reminisced. “It was very exciting for me.”

    There is less drama for Neil Radix of Selva Shrimp because reeling in shrimp isn’t terribly exciting, but he has the same enthusiasm for his crustaceans that are raised in mangrove swamps in Vietnam. These operations are rare good news in the often exploitative world of aquaculture, because they involve careful maintenance of a natural environment.

    “This shrimp isn’t intensively raised – they’re released into mangrove channels, and those channels provide all the food the shrimp needs,” Radix said. “There is not only no artificial feed, there is no feed at all, because they’re raised in their native environment in their natural densities. We let Mother Nature do what Mother Nature does. We manage what nature does, put guardrails on it. The downside of that is that we do have an unpredictable return. Last year there were heavier rains than normal, which lowered the salinity, and that slows the growth rate of shrimp. It’s just one of the things we have to work around. We have 3600 farmers in designated zones, and we have a traceability program that helps us to verify
    that our shrimp doesn’t get mixed in with intensively farmed shrimp.”

    Radix was emphatic that any customer who has had the genuine article can tell the difference between counterfeit sustainable shrimp.

    “There is a flavor difference between wild caught and farm raised shrimp, because the farm raised are usually fed a diet that is designed to maximize their growth rate,” Radix said. “You can see the difference in color [and] taste it. If you take a raw wild shrimp and squeeze it, it’s more firm because they’re swimming more, they have more space to move than they
    would in a very tight pen. You taste that difference across the board, as sushi, ceviche, or cooked. This type of shrimp has been revered in the Japanese market for years, not because of the sustainability but because of the quality. The Japanese will pay anything for the best because they often prepare seafood with delicate seasonings, so you really taste the quality.”

    Radix emphasized the natural texture and form of his ingredients, while Norah Eddy of Salty Girl spends her time concealing both. Her product is frozen discs of mixed salmon, broccoli and sweet potato and was conceived as a way to get children to eat seafood that isn’t fish sticks or some other highly processed product.

    “It’s an answer to moms all over the country who want better options – they want things that are convenient that kids love,” Eddy said. “We’ve made this awesome product that families can keep on hand and cook up like a chicken nugget, but it’s wholesome pure wild Alaska salmon.”

    Eddy didn’t bat an eye in answering whether this was the world’s most sneaky way to get children to eat broccoli and have a balanced diet.

    “Yes, totally,” she said. “They don’t even notice that it’s in there and they love it. After they’ve tried it and like it families can start this conversation about where food comes from. It’s a great way to get kids engaged, get them eating food with integrity instead of dinosaur-shaped mystery meat.”

    Though the product in this case was far from its natural form, it followed a theme I heard in almost every conversation. The people who know sustainable seafood believe that once people learn about its health advantages, flavor difference and ecological impact, they’ll stop buying intensively farmed junk fish. They probably don’t care why you’re doing so, as long as you do it. Past experience suggests that we aren’t particularly good at resisting the immediate bargain and focusing on the long view, but there are counter-examples of ecosystems and species brought
    back from the brink. A trickle of seafood harvesting jobs is returning to the Harbor Area and if some of the local operations are successful the flow may increase.

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  • Bureaucracy Beats All in “The Consul”

    As far as opera’s go, The Consul qualifies as modern. First performed in 1950, Gian Carlo Menotti’s bleaker-than-bleak tale of one woman’s struggle to escape her poor police state of a country by way of its Kafkaesque bureaucracy and join her freedom-fighter husband was a Broadway smash, winning not only the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award but also the Pulitzer Prize for Music.

    But a funny thing has happened on the way to the 21st century. Like so many films of the mid 20th century that wrestled with the brave new modern world, The Consul feels more dated than timeless.

    Of course, if you’re considering coming out for The Consul, it’s the music that matters most to you—and on that score (ha!), things aren’t so simple. To be sure, as opera The Consul does not feel dated musically. More often than not, with an adventurous interplay of strings and horns spiced with modern touches like plucking and strumming the inside of the piano, Menotti puts us in mind more of mid-period American film composer extraordinaire Bernard Herrmann (remember all those racing Hitchcock scores like North by Northwest?) than of Verdi. Even though the world of The Consul is dreary and monotonous, Menotti keeps things interesting. As always—and I do mean always—the Long Beach Opera Orchestra is equal to the task.

    Vocally, although there are moments for the supporting cast to shine, this is Magda’s story, and Menotti has written the role as a tour de force. Patricia Racette does the honors, and she’s flawless. Admittedly, I’d never heard The Consul, and I’m pretty far from the world’s foremost expert in opera, so do I know that her performance was literally flawless? Don’t be silly. But the seeming effortlessness with which Racette performs this obviously heavy lifting is unmistakable. If you’ve got a hankering to hear a soprano just kill it, go buy a ticket to The Consul.

    For all Racette’s greatness, my favorite vocal moments came at the close of the first three sections, when Racette sang in concert with other performers. To some extent the scenes in The Consul—especially the earlier ones—are pretty formulaic musically: a lot of recitative (my pet peeve with opera. I just don’t get the point), some solo singing (whether by one or multiple performers trading off), then a group climax. The first scene, for example, climaxes with Racette, Justin Ryan (playing Magda’s husband), and Victoria Livengood (Magda’s mother) soaring in unison. Wonderful stuff.

    Those group vocals serve an additional purpose in this production: they help compensate for a venue whose acoustics are not well designed for opera. Often during the performance soloists are not quite loud enough in relation to the orchestra. At first you might think the cast isn’t quite strong enough (Ryan’s first solo lines, being in a lower register than most of what we hear in this female-dominated work, suffer particularly), but before long it becomes apparent that the problem lies elsewhere. Thankfully, Racette almost always comes through loud and clear.

    The Consul’s biggest defect is its plot. For starters, very little happens, and most of what does happen is simply Magda in the consulate as the bureaucracy spins its frustrating wheels. Yes, bureaucracy sucks. Paperwork sucks. We get it, G.C. Then there’s the gaping plot hole concerning occurs just before and after intermission. While the first-act curtain goes down on a major revelation (never mind that we see it coming from miles away), the second act opens as if it never happened. Don’t even try to figure it out; it’s simply bad writing.

    Although there are some nice scenic and lighting elements to The Consul (an angled light bar that drops down from the fly space, shadows cast by hanging chairs), a few tech problems plagued opening night, including a lack of payoff from the design element that took the most time of any set up during scene changes. (I’m still not sure what it was.) Because this is a fairly spare production, it’s notable when a few things don’t go right. But the visual concept for the show, with its monochromes and Caligari angles, nicely complements Menotti’s intended miasma. (Bonus points for the consulate secretary’s towering edifice of a desk.)

    Although you won’t get anything in The Consul that’s revelatory on the subjects of oppression and bureaucracy, this is a prime example of the state of the art that of opera in the middle of the 20th century. And with a prima donna (you know, in the good way) that is Patricia Racette, this may be something you want to hear.

    Time: Fri 8 p.m., Sun 2:30 p.m., Runs through Oct. 22
    Cost: $49-$150
    Details: (562) 432.5934, LongBeachOpera.org
    Venue: Centinela Valley Center for the Arts, 114901 S. Inglewood Ave., Lawndale

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  • Hell Is the Modern World in “Machinal”

    Sophie Treadwell’s expressionistic telling of one woman’s struggle to find her way in a world she experiences as mechanistically cold and condemningly absurd seems to spring from Franz Kafka, Samuel Beckett, and David Lynch. The fact that Machinal, completed in 1928, predates these three seeming predecessors (Kafka wasn’t published in English until 1930, Beckett wasn’t published at all until 1929, and Lynch was born in 1946) makes Treadwell’s achievement all the more impressive. And although Cal Rep’s current production may not fully capitalize on that achievement, it easily comes close enough to communicate this masterpiece’s continuing relevance.

    The office in which Helen (April Sigman-Marx) works functions like a machine, largely because the people there are unquestioning cogs. But Helen can’t quite make herself fit. She is unpunctual; she is inefficient. But she has an out: her wealthy and powerful boss, George H. Jones (Tom Trudgeon), wants her as his bride. Though her skin crawls at the thought of the touch of his fat hands, seemingly it’s an escape. Unfortunately for her, it becomes immediately apparent that she’s simply traded one deterministic gaol for another.

    Machinal presents an interesting acting challenge for its lead, as Treadwell moves her through nine scenes (or “episodes,” as the playwright calls them) with dialogic styles that emulate the various milieus wherein Helen finds herself. In the first episode, for example, Helen falls in with the robotically efficient chatter of her workplace:

    STENOGRAPHER: You’re late!

    FILING CLERK: You’re late.

    ADDING CLERK: You’re late.

    STENOGRAPHER: And yesterday!

    FILING CLERK: The day before.

    ADDING CLERK: And the day before.

    STENOGRAPHER: You’ll lose your job?

    HELEN: No!

    STENOGRAPHER: No?

    HELEN: I can’t!

    STENOGRAPHER: Can’t?

    FILING CLERK: Rent—bills—installments—miscellaneous.

    ADDING CLERK: A dollar ten—ninety-five—3.40—35—12.60.

    STENOGRAPHER: Then why are you late?

    HELEN: Why?

    STENOGRAPHER: Excuse!

    ADDING CLERK: Excuse!

    FILING CLERK: Excuse.

    TELEPHONE GIRL: Excuse it, please.

    STENOGRAPHER: Why?

    HELEN: The subway?

    TELEPHONE GIRL: Long distance?

    FILING CLERK: Old stuff!

    ADDING CLERK: That stall!

    STENOGRAPHER: Stalled?

    Then in the next episode the dialog downshifts to reflect the life that Helen shares at home with her mother (Leslie Valdez), as they discuss the possibility of Helen’s accepting Jones’s proposal:

     

    HELEN: Tell me—you’re skin oughtn’t to curl—ought it—when he just comes near you—ought it? That’s wrong, ain’t it? You don’t get over that, do you—ever, do you or do you? How is it, Ma—do you?

    MOTHER: Do you what?

    HELEN: Do you get used to, it—so after a while it doesn’t matter? Or don’t you? Does it always matter? You ought to be in love, oughtn’t you, Ma? You must be in love, mustn’t you, Ma? That changes everything, doesn’t it—or does it?

    Episodes that follow include domestic life as Mrs. Jones (stylistically dominated by his cliché-ridden optimism), a maternity ward (clinical, sterile), and a court proceeding (adversarial, litigious). Sigman-Marx excels in all of it, managing always to display Helen’s ill-at-ease core, regardless of what milieu is being reflected off her surface. Viewing Sigman-Marx up close (in my case, from the third row) only helps to reveal how good she is, able to display facially even the subtlest of the hairpin turns of the association-of-ideas style with which Treadwell imbues her. But even in the back row of the auditorium no-one could miss how commandingly Sigman-Mark fires off Helen’s machine-gun monologs. This is easily one of the greatest theatrical roles of the first half of the 20th century, and Sigman-Marx is equal to the task.

    As much as Helen is the center of the Machinal universe, the space around her has to live and breathe for the play to work. Much more than being a study of a single character, Machinal concerns the coldly encroaching, suffocating nature of modernity. On that score, Cal Rep’s production is mostly successful, although director Julianne Just’s interpretation is probably too spartan. Machinal is a play about having arrived in an uncomfortably crowded future, with Treadwell anticipating the Digital Age; Cal Rep’s production is too analog, too spare. It’s not that it doesn’t look good (Szu Yun Wang’s lighting is a help here), but there should be more of it.

    Chris Porter’s sound design hits closer to the mark. From the buzzing that separates each episode to the hums that run underneath them to the music, chatter, and unidentifiable hodgepodge of sound saturating the background, noise pollution is itself a minor character. At times it may be a little distracting, but thematically it’s difficult to fault.

    An aural element that is all Just’s is having the supporting cast provide whispered echoes of both dialog and Helen’s thoughts or feelings. This device falls flat in one scene, but it’s a bold choice and works just about everywhere else. These are the voices in Helen’s head, the static that society broadcasts into the receiver that is her soul. Our hearing those voices, too, certainly helps us share her unease.

    The supporting cast is solid. As Helen’s husband, Trudgeon is good in all his scenes, but nowhere better than their honeymoon, where his obtusely self-congratulating sense of husbandly entitlement is truly revolting. The standout of the minor characters is Chris Bange, who effects a memorable, effortlessly comedic turn with his small part as a man in a café.

    With her daring, compelling, unflinching script, Sophie Treadwell masterfully crystallizes many of the philosophical themes that dominated her time: fears of losing our humanity in an increasingly automated world, women struggling to chart their own course, early existential preoccupations with freedom and free will. Cal Rep is to be commended for digging up Treadwell’s too-little-known treasure. It’s a shame their production is enjoying such a short run (seven performances over the course of eight days), because this is a play that enacts not only elements of the Zeitgeist in the 1920s, but questions that appear to be hauntingly timeless. In Machinal, the modern world is definitely a dystopia, but no more dystopian than it is in real life. What Treadwell intuited so powerfully as this new day was dawning is that, for at least some of us, the modern world is a nightmare from which we cannot wake.

    Time: Wed–Sat, 8 p.m. (Thurs. 7 p.m.), Sun 2 p.m., Runs through Oct. 21
    Cost: $15-$20
    Details: (562) 985-5526, Calrep.org
    Venue: California Repertory, 1250 Bellflower Blvd., Long Beach

     

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  • LB Land Use Element Draws Angry Crowd

    • 10/12/2017
    • Reporters Desk
    • Briefs
    • Comments are off

    Boos and hiss greeted Long Beach Director of Development Amy Bodek who made a presentation at an Oct. 4 Land Use Element community meeting at Whaley Park.

    The General Plan is a long-range policy document required by state law, which sets forth the goals, policies, and directions the city will take to achieve the vision of the community over the next 20 years.

    The proposed Land Use Element for the city’s General Plan expands density throughout Long Beach with sparse provision for increased parking.
    The Long Beach Whaley Park community room overwhelmingly overflowed capacity (200) forcing the Fire Marshall to shut down the meeting. More than 400 people transferred to an overflow tent with more spillage outside.

    Photo by Diana Lejins

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  • Ban the Weed or Take the Money: Proposition 64

    • 10/12/2017
    • Lyn Jensen
    • News
    • Comments are off

    By Lyn Jensen, Carson Reporter

    Carson is considering its options regarding recent changes to statewide cannabis regulation: ban commercial cannabis in a city-designated “drug-free” since 2008, or take what could be considerable tax revenue.

    Proposition 64, passed in 2016, legalized marijuana for “recreational” adult use starting in January 2018. To reconcile systems for regulation and enforcement, the governor has signed the Medicinal and Adult-use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act. The state will soon issue licenses for marijuana businesses.

    At a city council meeting on Aug. 1, Assistant City Attorney Chris Neumeyer explained possible courses of action.

    “If cities are silent, likely state licenses will allow folks to operate [any licensed marijuana businesses] in that city,” he said. “Cities throughout California are asking, what are we going to do?”

    Carson inched toward answering that question by convening two special city council meetings on Sept. 23 and Sept. 28. They were also described as workshops — to “consider seeking the community’s input regarding” Prop. 64, according to the agenda.

    About 100 people attended the Sept. 28  meeting at the Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald Community Center. Council members Lula Davis-Holmes, Jawane Hilton, Elito Santarina and Cedric Hicks attended; Mayor Albert Robles did not.

    Attendees learned that the new state laws will allow personal adult use of marijuana and home cultivation of up to six plants (enough for one ounce). Cities may ban outdoor cultivation (in public view) and regulate but not ban indoor cultivation (in private).

    All operations must have state licenses but cities may impose additional requirements for local licenses or ban operations except private indoor cultivation. Torrance and Lomita have already banned all commercial activity.

    Carson already has a law to tax any allowed marijuana operations. There is a state excise tax on legal marijuana activity, and some of that money can go back to the local level, but only to cities that allow commercial marijuana.

    At both workshops, several panelists debated such activity. Matthew Eaton, a specialist in cannabis compliance, estimated perhaps 18,000 homes in Carson could be growing for personal use under the new law.

    Panelists Tyler Strause and Susan Marks advocated for medical marijuana to scattered applause.

    Another panelist, community activist Dianne Thomas, who opposes locating marijuana dispensaries in Carson, noted dispensaries are only a 10-minute drive away in neighboring cities..

    She produced statistics from the internet showing that three years after Colorado legalized marijuana, there has been a 58 percent increase in arrests of black and Latino minors; a majority of marijuana businesses are in communities of color.

    She compared banning commercial marijuana to keeping liquor stores out of minority neighborhoods. She received thunderous applause.

    Carson residents who commented at the Sept. 28 meeting were divided. Some suggested Carson allow commercial activity for the tax revenue.

    Others argued Carson is a “drug-free city,” referring to a council resolution passed in 2008, and minors should be discouraged from drug use.

    Editor’s note: This story was updated with a correction regarding Dianne Thomas position on marijuana dispensaries in Carson.

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  • Social Media is the Real Fake News Source

    • 10/12/2017
    • James Preston Allen
    • At Length
    • Comments are off

    Revelations expose that  Facebook, Google are used by Russian Trolls

    By James Preston Allen, Publisher

    As the resident skeptic in this part of the great metropolis at the Port of Los Angeles, I tend to have contrarian reactions when I hear people start repeating mindless refrains about making America great again or insisting that standing for the National Anthem is somehow a mandatory expression of patriotism.

    And even more contrary to the latest TV show, Wisdom of the Crowd, I quite often see that the psychology of the masses is the motivation towards conformity without any regard to whether the “group-think” is wise, just or even beneficial. This leads me directly to question why you — and everyone you know — have their nose plugged so deep into smartphones that you can’t even put them down for more than 15 minutes?

    The answer is that the programmers up in Silicon Valley and now over at Silicon Beach are designing apps that bypass your better judgment and connect to your human instincts  — just think of former US Rep. Anthony Weiner.

    The benefit of these new “smart” phones is obvious to everyone who uses one. They are fast, portable and offer more access to information than you can possibly imagine. These devices, or rather Internet companies such as Google and Facebook have gotten quite good at predicting the user’s wants, desires and intentions — frustratingly so at times.

    With the digitalization of 24/7 news delivery, Facebook and Google have become de facto gatekeepers as they have become today’s most dominant “publishing” platforms. Between the two, everything from personal home videos to 11 o’clock news clips and an increasing amount of political propaganda is being aggregated by these companies.

    For most people, this is the perfect medium of free speech and at times it is. Yet often times, it’s just an echo chamber reinforcing the belief systems of the loudest voices or a battleground of fundamentalist ideologies fought with crude incivilities.

    Facebook in particular is like a town hall meeting without a moderator. At other times, it’s a group counseling session without a psychologist. People get to yell or scream and say pretty much whatever they think or feel. It’s therapy I suppose. But the problem here, is that between media conglomerates buying up local news outlets and other media and Facebook and Google using whatever algorithm to act as “gatekeepers,” Americans will become more susceptible to fake news and foreign and domestic manipulation.  This will continue to be true as access to diverse media outlets are restricted and the American general public is unable to critically differentiate the news they are receiving.

    It is the advertising side of social media that now concerns us as a nation, and me as a skeptic.  As reported on twice within the past month, both Facebook and Google have been paid to “publish” postings by “Russians who posed as Americans.”

    In an Oct. 9 New York Times report, Google turned over more than 3,000 Russia-linked advertisements to the Senate and House intelligence committees. These intelligence committees are reportedly attempting to learn the depth of  the sprawling foreign effort to interfere with the 2016 United States presidential election.

    Just this past week, it was announced that Google found evidence that Russian agents bought ads on its wide-ranging networks in an effort to interfere with the 2016 presidential campaign. This latest disclosure adds to the growing pile of evidence shows that the lax oversight of these giant corporations of the “new media” have made them complicit in foisting fake news and false information onto the public. And they’ve been doing it solely for the pursuit of profit–nothing more or less.

    A while back, we received a comment on Facebook, asking, “if we believed the crap that we print.” I replied, “Yes, because we stand behind the news that we print.”  The other side of this is that all media have an inherent bias or slant that they report from and that it is impossible to have completely “object” reporting.  Unlike most of the corporate owned media in the country, we here at RLn, like many other alternative publications, are just more honest about it.

    And this is why amongst all of the disruption and chaos that the new social media has presented, people like you still read a publication like this, because we stand behind what we print. We filter out a lot of useless B.S. and present you with what, in our subjective perspective, is most relevant.

    It’s a judgment call that you trust us to make and we take that trust very seriously, because it’s more valuable than advertising dollars.  It is becoming obviously clear that the new media giants have nothing more in mind than their bottom line.

    So the irony of writing this column is I needed to do a Google search to find the author of this quote that fits the subject, LOL, “Believe nothing you hear, and only one half that you see.” —Edgar Allan Poe. This is relevant because social media is more like the rumors that you hear as opposed to facts that you read, caution is the watchword of our new era of “smart” technology.

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  • Grand Annex Showcases Electrifying Hispanic Beats in October

    • 10/12/2017
    • Melina Paris
    • Music
    • Comments are off

     By Melina Paris, Music Columnist

    One of Spain’s finest guitarists and an all-female salsa band are slated to get all feet on the dance floor this month at the Grand Annex in San Pedro.

    Spanish guitarist El Twanguero performs Oct. 13 and Las Chikas, who are breaking ground in a male-dominated genre will perform Oct. 28.

    I recently spoke to them about their upcoming performances and music.

    El Twanguero (Diego Garcia)

    El Twanguero doesn’t play concerts, he plays musical trips.

    It is most evident in El Camino and Fields of America. They are soft and patient numbers that encompass a sonic journey which he says is inspired by the nuances of life.

    “I have to pay attention to what happens out there and how it affects to my inner world,” El Twanguero said. “Then I try to filter all that experience and change into sounds.”

    The Spanish musician dubbed the fire-breathing guitar hero, El Twanguero launched his successful solo career after years of accompanying Latin music giants such as Bunbury, Calamaro, El Cigala and others.

    El Twanguero is well versed in a range of sounds and genres from high-energy rock to rockabilly and low tempo  numbers. He calls his sound “Spanish twang.” He started playing classical guitar, the Spanish repertoire, at the age of six when he entered the conservatory of Valencia.

    At the same time he was listening to his father’s vinyl records for bands like The Shadows, the Beatles and Dire Straits.

    His upbringing has led him to develop an acclaimed sound and an impeccable finger-picking style. He has won a Goya and a Spanish Latin Grammy. His records include: Octopus, El Twanguero, The Brooklyn Session, Argentina Songbook, and Carreteras Secundarias (Volume 1). They encompass Spanish flamenco, tango and American folk.

    One of his goals is to cross over to the American markets, not just the general market with his music (instrumental and Spanish flair) and also the American Latino markets.

    His Grand Annex performance will showcase his Spanish twist on the music of Les Paul, Chet Atkins and Carl Perkins. But there may be other surprises to listen for such as the sounds on his album, Carreteras Secundarias (Backroads). The album is the result of a six month trip from Chicago to Argentina.

    “It has an extensive palette of sounds that surround the album — echoes of tango, Brazilian choro, Mexican waltzes, blues and milonga,” El Twanguero said.

    He is also working on a new album. One new song, Gypsy Lady is set for release in November. The album will be released in the spring in Europe and United States simultaneously.

    Details:  www.twanguero.com/

    Las Chikas

    The Los Angeles-based, all-female salsa band, Las Chikas, will perform Oct. 28 at the Grand Annex. File photo.

    Having a salsa outfit comprised entirely of women is rare. Most salsa bands are comprised of all men; occasionally, you find one woman in a band.

    “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, ‘Oh, you play pretty good for a woman,’” said Iliana Rose, who arranges Las Chikas’ music and plays keyboards during performances.

    But she takes the backhanded compliment as a challenge.

    “We not only bring it but we also play with a level of sensitivity that [only] we bring to the table,” she said. “I want Los Angeles to know that there is a smoking hot female salsa band in town and we’re ready to make some waves.”

    Las Chikas has been evolving for almost a decade. Rose noted that women musicians, especially in Latin music, all kind of know each other and play in other bands, including other all-female bands. It’s no different for Las Chikas. They performed on a TV talk show featuring music and comedy called, Noches con Platanito, for four years and their relationship evolved. Eventually they decided it was time to perform live.

    “Just as salsa erupted from a variety of far-flung musical components, so have the members of Las Chikas found their flavor by stirring their distinct backgrounds — from Cuba, Mexico, Venezuela, and Miami — into an international blend,” Rose said.

    It was very deliberate to get together with these particular musicians.

    “There’s really no other working female salsa band — locally anyway — that’s in existence right now,” Rose said. “And, there are so many talented female musicians that it was just a no brainer.”

    Rose cited the chemistry between vocalists Gabby Tamez of Mexico and Lilly Hernandez of Cuba as an example.

    “Every time [Lilly] sings, I’m in awe of her,” Rose said. “She is legit as it comes. And the combination, not only tone-wise, of Gabby’s voice and Lilly’s voice is so powerful but [it’s] also in their personalities. The onstage banter is hilarious.

    “Lilly is the sassy Cuban with the finger snaps and Gabby is the sweet, young Mexican American, beautiful innocent girl,” she said.

    Las Chikas will be performing a tribute to Celia Cruz. Rose and Tamez both include Celia Cruz as one of their biggest influences and inspirations.

    Rose and Tamez want to carry on their musical heritage and make an album of original music and some of their favorite songs. Rose envisions possibly having an album within a year or next Christmas.

    Las Chikas will perform songs that are nostalgic for many salsa fans like La Negra Tiene Tumbao and Carnaval. Rose said it might bring the audience back to maybe the first time they heard some of those songs. She feels not only incredibly fortunate to be a performer but also a responsibility to the public.

    “Music is a way of bringing joy, of moving people both internally and externally,” she said. “Music has the power of healing.”

    Offstage, members contribute complementary skills. Rose focuses on arranging, composing and musical direction. Tamez is a wiz at gaining followers on social media, letting people know where they are performing and what the latest news for the band is.

    “It’s spectacular … the openness to share your everyday world and bring people in so they can see that you’re not standoffish, you’re just regular people who enjoy making music,” Rose said.

    “We do everything, salsa music, pop music, cumbia, bachata. We would love to play for as many people as possible all over the world. That is the ultimate goal. Take whatever work comes your way and just try to remain true to whatever allows you to be fulfilled and happy.”

    Details:  www.laschikas.com

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  • Harbor Gathers to the Call of the Elders

    • 10/12/2017
    • Zamná Ávila
    • News
    • Comments are off

    By Zamná Ávila, Assistant Editor

    Columbus Day was a flash point on the 525th anniversary of his voyage to the New World. Recently, the Los Angeles City Council voted 14-1, Councilman Joe Buscaino opposed, to change Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day. But the struggle isn’t over for indigenous people. The education system still largely ignores native histories.

    “The history of this country is not told properly,” said John Funmaker, a community activist and spiritual Ho-Chunk leader. “It’s often ended in violence.”

    For Native Americans, oral history is and has been a way to heal and reconnect with their ancestors. It offers a pathway to generations through time, identity and culture. Many Winters Elders’ Gathering, Oct. 12 through 15 at Angels Gate Cultural Center in San Pedro will offer that opportunity for Harbor Area residents.

    “The elders will bring their history through words, songs, dance,” said George Funmaker, John’s son. “We wanted to come back to the earth and return back to our culture through our elders…. Being in the city, we are disconnected from a lot of the culture. That’s why it’s important to have this event.”

    The mission system, for example, still is venerated in California, ignoring the thousands of families torn apart when children were displaced and forced to assimilate Eurocentric standards. The Catholic church even canonized Junipero Serra who forced the conversion of many natives.

    “For us, the California missions are the equivalent to concentration camps,” said George Funmaker. “There was a lot of abuse through the mission system.”

    In fact, indigenous people were outlawed from practicing many of their traditions until 1978, when President Jimmy Carter signed the American Indian Religious Freedom Act.

    “We suffered a great trauma at the hands of the U.S., the government and the church,” George Funmaker said.

    The generational traumas bestowed upon indigenous people by the non-native governments include: mass incarceration, poverty, land stripping, exploitation of natural resources, violence against women and children, failed education, housing issues, inadequate health care, suicide, and the death of culture and language.

    Cultural appropriation also continues to add insult to injury.

    “It’s offensive to use natives as mascots,” George Funmaker said. “We are the only people who they can do that to.  It’s a stereotype that [implies] that we are inferior…. When we are made caricatures, we are made less than humans.”

    George Funmaker sees this moment, with the struggle to change Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day back in the forefront, the rollback of environmental protections and the divisiveness caused by the current administration, as the best time to bring back the gathering

    “What better time to start this with the attacks on the environment [and on] the native people,” George Funmaker said.

    While indigenous people are diverse in language and culture, there is one thing natives have in common: their respect for Mother Earth.

    “All tribes have reverence for the natural world,” George Funmaker said. “Most natives want less development. We want to preserve the natural environment as much as we can.”

    The gathering serves as a reminder that native people are still here and are part of contemporary society.

    “We are looking at it as a ceremony of healing [and] people coming together to share their medicine,” George Funmaker said.

    Their spiritual medicine is in the form of oral history, food, prayer and dance. Funmaker likens the event to a professional conference without the classroom setting. It will include seminars, booths and sweat lodges. Alcohol, cameras or other recording equipment will not be allowed.

    “Humanity, compassion [and] respect are shared spiritual values,” George Funmaker said. “When you attend a ceremony there is no schedule. Things just happen. Come sit down and just listen to elders. We have a lot to offer and I think it’s come full circle to where the dominant society needs to listen and learn from the indigenous people.”

    Fighting Back Against Genocide

    George Funmaker discusses how fire is one of the four elements of the Many Winters Elder’s Gathering.

    The Many Winters Elders’ Gathering was started in 1992 as a response to the 500-year celebration of Christopher Columbus’ “discovery” of America. John Funmaker was one of the founders of the event.

    “They wanted to show he didn’t discover anything,” George Funmaker said. “‘Many Winters’ refers to our survival of 525 years of colonization. We have survived many winters and we are still here.”

    The event took place at Angels Gate Cultural Center for about 12 years. The most recent Many Winters Elders’ Gathering took place in 2007. It is possible that the funding, energy and relationships with Angels Gate Cultural Center had changed over the years, but it’s back now. And, it’s needed said John Funmaker.

    “The teachings of native people are relevant to what is going on in the world,” he said. “The path that we’ve been led to is very destructive.”

    The senior Funmaker was referring to the lack of reverence for Earth, climate change, the divisiveness that seems to be prevalent in today’s society and the value for materialism, which is often trumped over kindness and a love for nature.

    Angels Gate Cultural Center’s Executive Director Amy Eriksen said she was interested in bringing back the event to the center, but waited for the right time.

    “What I realized was [that] it will come back when it’s supposed to,” Eriksen said. “Our mission is to bring events to the community that include every culture that walks through our community.”

    Angels Gate Cultural Center is a site where members of the Tongva nation came down from the foothills to do different types of fishing. It was a place of sacred gatherings that has remained a part of nature throughout the years, she explained. The site also is connected to three of the four directions: water, land, air and fire. Four is a special number for many indigenous nations.

    “We have committed to organize the gathering for four years and hopefully beyond, honoring the four directions, the four colors, the four seasons, the four stages of life and so on and so forth,” George Funmaker explained.

    The narrative of the event is simple: empathy, understanding and the courage to share and care for each other, Eriksen explained.

    “These are things we really need in this world,” she said.

    The event falls into their mission also as an art form, of which oral tradition is in and of itself.

    “It’s a time of renewal and a chance to share stories and language that aren’t always used,” she said. “It’s really a handing off to the younger generations.”

    Passing of the Torch

    As a young man, George Funmaker was teased in school for his long hair and his uncommon surname. He was often the only Native American in his classroom.

    “We live in two worlds,” Funmaker, now 34, explained. “For native youth, it’s a constant struggle with identity, having to be part of a lot of other cultures.

    Following his father’s footsteps, the younger Funmaker has been active in his community, not only as counselor, but also rallying and fundraising to support issues that impact Native Americans and the environment. This past year, he fought against the Standing Rock Dakota Access Pipeline.

    “I pride myself in having a very spiritual, traditional family that is also very humble,” John Funmaker said. “Language, traditions, legends, all of them, I’ve carried them and I’ve passed it onto my son. He knows the importance of our culture. It’s the only way that we are going to survive.”

    “This young group of organizers is making their own way,” said Laurie Steelink, the founder of Cornelius Projects, an art gallery in San Pedro. “It’s really grassroots …. There is a newness, freshness.”

    For many indigenous people, the gathering is an opportunity to reconnect with their roots. Steelink, for example, has taken the opportunity to reconnect with her heritage that’s she’s been separated from for some time. Her biological mother belonged to the Akimel O’odham nation from Arizona, but she was adopted as child by a non-Native American family when she was 6 months old.

    She grew up in a loving home, but she always had a sense of being outside. Being native was never kept secret from her. When she grew up she sought out information about her lineage and was able to find her birth certificate. Later, she met her birth mother after her adoptive mother died. By being part of the Many Winters Elders’ Gathering Committee, she is relinking with native cultures.

    She recently hosted Gathering for the Gathering, a fundraiser to help pay for the expenses related to the Many Winters Elders’ Gathering. The fundraiser was an intimate exhibition of donated art works by contemporary indigenous artists. As an artist herself, she is starting to notice connection within her own work.

    “I feel like I’m a child in this community and I’m learning, and I want to approach my education with respect,” Steelink said.

    And, the learning is not limited to people with indigenous roots in America. Elders from across Turtle Island [i] (Turtle Island a term used to refer to North America) will share their teachings to foster a greater understanding of traditional indigenous values and spiritual beliefs.

    Mitakuye Oyasin[ii], we are all related,” said John Funmaker. “Everything is connected.We humans, animals, plants, trees are all related. Whatever you do to your brother you do it to yourself. When we see each other as separate beings that’s a very destructive way of thinking.”

    Angels Gate Cultural Center has made a commitment to host the event for four years. They are expecting between 500 to 1,000 attendees.

    The Many Winters Elders’ Gathering will take place Oct. 12 through 15 at Angels Gate Cultural Center, 3601 S. Gaffey St., in San Pedro. The event is free and open to people unfamiliar with indigenous cultures.

    Details: http://angelsgateart.org.


    [i] Turtle Island is a term used to refer North America. The term comes from creation stories of some East Coast native nations, such as the Iroquois. According native mythologies the Great Spirit created their homeland by placing earth on the back of a giant turtle.

    [ii] Mitakuye Oyasin is a phrase from the Lakota language. It reflects the worldview of interconnectedness held by the Lakota people of North America.

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  • Fake News, Dark Money and More Censored Storylines

    • 10/12/2017
    • Paul Rosenberg
    • News
    • Comments are off

    By Paul Rosenberg, Senior Editor

    In America, we commonly think of press freedom and censorship in terms of the First Amendment, which focuses attention on the press and places limits on the government’s power to restrict it. But the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, drafted in the aftermath of World War II, presents a broader framework. Article 19 of that document reads:

    Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

    By highlighting the right to receive information and ideas, Article 19 makes it clear that press freedom is about everyone in society, not just the press, and that government censorship is only one potential way of thwarting that right. This is the perspective that has informed Project Censored from its beginning more than 40 years ago.

    Even though Project Censored’s annual list of censored stories is specific, the overriding message has always gone beyond isolated examples. Collectively, they serve to highlight how far short we fall from the fully-informed public that a healthy democracy requires — and that we all require to live healthy, safe, productive, satisfying lives. It’s the larger patterns of missing information, hidden problems and threats that should really concern us. Each Project Censored story provides some of that information, but the annual list helps shed light on these broader patterns of what’s missing, as well as on the specifics of the stories themselves.

    During the 1972 election, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein were reporting on the earliest developments in the Watergate scandal — and they were covering it for the Washington Post. Yet, their work was largely isolated. The story was covered as a developing criminal case; it did not transform into a political story until after the election. That’s a striking example of a missing pattern. It was among the issues that motivated Carl Jensen to found Project Censored; he defined censorship as “the suppression of information, whether purposeful or not, by any method — including bias, omission, underreporting or self-censorship — that prevents the public from fully knowing what is happening in its society.”

    In the introduction to the current edition’s list of stories, Andy Lee Roth writes, “Finding common themes across news stories helps to contextualize each item as a part of the larger narratives shaping our times.” Roth proceeded  to cite several examples spanning the top 25 list: four stories on climate change, six involving racial inequalities, four on issues involving courts, three on health issues, “at least two stories” involving the Pentagon, three on government surveillance and two involving documentary films produced by the Shell Oil Co.

    “There are more connections to be identified,” Roth said.  “As we have noted in previous Censored volumes, the task of identifying common topical themes within each year’s story list and across multiple years transforms the reader from a passive recipient of information into an active, engaged interpreter. We invite you to engage with this year’s story list in this way.”

    It’s excellent advice. But to get things started on the more limited scope of the top 10 stories, three main themes clearly seem evident: first, threats to public health; second, threats to democracy, both at home and abroad; and third, an out-of-control military.

    Don’t let this overview pattern blind you to other patterns you may detect. Individual stories often involve different overlapping patterns — environmental destruction and an out-of-control military or public health and infrastructure concerns. These patterns don’t just connect problems and issues, they connect people, communities and potential solutions as well. A shared understanding of the patterns that hold us down and divide us is the key to developing better patterns to live by together. With that thought in mind, here is Project Censored’s Top 10 List for 2016-17:

    1. Widespread Lead Contamination Threatens Children’s Health and Could Triple Household Water Bills

    After President Barack Obama declared a federal emergency in Flint, Mich., based on lead contamination of the city’s water supply in January 2016, Reuters reporters M.B. Pell and Joshua Schneyer began an investigation of lead contamination nationwide with shocking results. In June 2016, they reported that although many states and Medicaid rules require blood tests for lead in young children, millions of children were not being tested. In December 2016, they reported on the highly decentralized data they had been able to assemble from 21 states. Those limited results showed that 2,606 census tracts and 278 zip codes across the United States had levels of lead poisoning more than double the rates found in Flint at the peak of its contamination crisis. Within that group, 1,100 communities had lead contamination rates “at least four times higher” than Flint.

    In Flint,  five percent of the children screened had high blood lead levels. Nationwide, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 2.5 percent of all  children younger than six — about 500,000 children — have elevated blood lead levels.

    Pell and Schneyer’s neighborhood focus allowed them to identify local hotspots “whose lead poisoning problems may be obscured in broader surveys,” such as those focused on statewide or countywide rates. They found such hotspots in communities that “stretch from Warren, Pa. … where 36 percent of children tested had high lead levels, to … Goat Island, Texas, where a quarter of tests showed poisoning. … In some pockets of Baltimore, Cleveland and Philadelphia, where lead poisoning has spanned generations, the rate of elevated tests over the last decade was 40 to 50 percent.”

    In January 2017, Schneyer and Pell reported that, based on their previous investigation, “From California to Pennsylvania, local leaders, health officials and researchers are advancing measures to protect children from the toxic threat. They include more blood-lead screening, property inspections, hazard abatement and community outreach programs.”

    But there’s a deeper infrastructure problem involved. “Lead pipes are time bombs,” and water contamination is to be expected, reporter Farron Cousins wrote in the January 2017 edition of DeSmogBlog. The U.S. relies on an estimated 1.2 million miles of lead pipes for municipal delivery of drinking water, and much of this aging infrastructure is reaching or has exceeded its life expectancy.

    In 2012, the American Water Works Association estimated that a complete overhaul of the nation’s aging water systems would require an investment of $1 trillion within the next 25 years, which could triple household water bills. As Cousins reported, a January 2017 Michigan State University study found that, “while water rates are currently unaffordable for an estimated 11.9 percent of households, the conservative estimates of rising rates used in this study highlight that this number could grow to 35.6 percent in the next five years.”

    “While the water contamination crisis will occasionally steal a headline or two, virtually no attention has been paid to the fact that we’re pricing a third of United States citizens out of the water market,” Cousins concluded.

    2. More than $6 Trillion in Unaccountable Army Spending

    In 1996, Congress passed legislation requiring all government agencies to undergo annual audits. Nonetheless, a July 2016 report by the Defense Department’s inspector general discovered that during the past two decades the Army alone has spent $6.5 trillion that cannot be accounted for.

    Dave Lindorff reported in This Can’t Be Happening! that the Department of Defense “has not been tracking or recording or auditing all of the taxpayer money allocated by Congress — what it was spent on, how well it was spent, or where the money actually ended up. Things aren’t any better at the Navy, Air Force and Marines.”

    According to Likndorff, the report appeared at a time when, “politicians of both major political parties are demanding accountability for every penny spent on welfare…. Ditto for people receiving unemployment compensation.”

    He noted that politicians have also engaged in pervasive efforts “to make teachers accountable for student ‘performance.’”

    Yet, he observed, “the military doesn’t have to account for any of its trillions of dollars of spending … even though Congress fully a generation ago passed a law requiring such accountability.”

    In March 2017, after Donald Trump proposed a $52 billion increase in military spending, Thomas Hedges reported for The Guardian that, “the Pentagon has exempted itself without consequence for 20 years now, telling the Government Accountability Office that collecting and organizing the required information for a full audit is too costly and time-consuming.”

    The most recent Department of Defense audit deadline was September 2017, yet neither the Pentagon, Congress, nor the media seemed to have paid any attention.

    3. Pentagon Paid PR Firm in the UK for Fake Al-Qaeda Videos

    Concern over Russian involvement in promoting fake news during the 2016 election is a justified hot topic in the news. But what about our own involvement in similar operations? In October 2016, a report by Crofton Black and Abigail Fielding-Smith in the Bureau of Investigative Journalism revealed that the Pentagon paid more than $660 million to a British public relations firm to run a top-secret propaganda program in Iraq from at least 2006 to December 2011.

    The firm, Bell Pottinger, produced three kinds of products: TV commercials that portrayed al-Qaeda in a negative light, news items intended to look like Arabic TV and fake al-Qaeda propaganda films.

    A former Bell Pottinger video editor, Martin Wells, told the bureau that he was given precise instructions for production of fake al-Qaeda films, and that the firm’s work was approved by former Gen. David Petraeus — the commander of the coalition forces in Iraq — and on occasion by the White House. Black and Fielding-Smith reported that the United States used contractors because “the military didn’t have the in-house expertise and was operating in a legal ‘gray area.’”

    The reporters “traced the firm’s Iraq work through U.S. Army contracting censuses, federal procurement transaction records and reports by the Defense Department’s inspector general, as well as Bell Pottinger’s corporate filings and specialist publications on military propaganda.” Black and Fielding-Smith also interviewed former officials and contractors involved in information operations in Iraq.

    Documents show Bell Pottinger employed as many as 300 British and Iraqi staff at one point, and the cost of the company’s media operations in Iraq averaged more than $100 million per year. It’s remarkable that an operation on this scale has been totally ignored in midst of so much focus on “fake news” here in the United States.

    4. Voter Suppression in the 2016 Presidential Election

    The 2016 election was the first in 50 years without the full protection of the Voting Rights Act, first passed in 1965. In Shelby County v. Holder (2013), a 5-4 conservative majority on the Supreme Court struck down a key provision requiring jurisdictions with a history of violations to “pre-clear” changes. As a result, changes to voting laws in nine states and parts of six others with long histories of racial discrimination in voting were no longer subject to federal government approval in advance.

    Since Shelby, 14 states, including many southern states and key swing states, implemented new voting restrictions, in many cases just in time for the election. These included restrictive voter-identification laws in Texas and North Carolina, English-only elections in many Florida counties, the last-minute relocation of polling places as well as the implementation of changes in Arizona voting laws that the Department of Justice had rejected before the Shelby decision.

    Ari Berman, author of Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America, was foremost among a small number of non-mainstream journalists to cover the suppression efforts and their results. In May 2017, he reported that an analysis of the effects of voter suppression by Priorities U.S.A, showed that strict voter-ID laws in Wisconsin and other states resulted in a “significant reduction” in voter turnout in 2016 with “a disproportionate impact on African-American and Democratic-leaning voters.” Berman noted that turnout was reduced by 200,000 votes in Wisconsin, while Donald Trump won the state by just over 22,000 votes.

    Nationwide, the study found that new voter-ID laws significantly reduced voter turnout for elections from 2012 to 2016.  In counties that were more than 40 percent African-American, turnout dropped five percent — more than twice the 2.2 percent reductions in places where the rules stayed the same. In counties where African Americans comprised less than 10 percent  of the population, election turnouts decreased 0.7 percent under new voter-ID laws. Where there were no changes to voting laws, they increased their election turnouts by 1.9 percent.

    “This study provides more evidence for the claim that voter-ID laws are designed not to stop voter impersonation fraud, which is virtually nonexistent, but to make it harder for certain communities to vote,” Berman concluded.

    As Berman noted in an article published by Moyers & Co. in December 2016, the topic of “gutting” the Voting Rights Act did not arise once during the 26 presidential debates prior to the election, and “

    [c]

    able news devoted hours and hours to Trump’s absurd claim that the election was rigged against him while spending precious little time on the real threat that voters faced.”

    5. Big Data and Dark Money Behind the 2016 Election

    When Richard Nixon first ran for Congress in 1946, he and his supporters used a wide range of dirty tricks aimed at smearing his opponent as pro-Communist. One was a boiler-room operation that generated phone calls to registered Democrats and simply said, “This is a friend of yours, but I can’t tell you who I am. Did you know that Jerry Voorhis is a Communist?” Then the caller would hang up.

    In 2016, the same basic strategy was employed, but with decades of refinement, technological advances and massively more money behind it. A key player in its deployment was right-wing computer scientist and hedge-fund billionaire Robert Mercer, who contributed $13.5 million to Trump’s campaign  Mercer also funded Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics company that specializes in “election management strategies” and using “psychographic” microtargeting — based on thousands of pieces of data for some 220 million American voters — as Carole Cadwalladr reported for The Guardian in February 2017.

    “We are thrilled that our revolutionary approach to data-driven communication has played such an integral part in President-elect Trump’s extraordinary win,” said Cambridge Analytica’s CEO Alexander Nix, after Trump’s victory.

    Until recently, Cambridge Analytica’s parent company, Strategic Communication Laboratories, participated in elections across Europe, Africa and the Caribbean with a style that was more old-school. In Trinidad, it paid for the painting of graffiti slogans that were generally assumed to be the work of grassroots youth. In Nigeria, it advised its client party to suppress the vote of the opposition “by organizing anti-poll rallies on the day of the election.”

    These days, however, their approach is decidedly new-school, thanks to technology that enables them to micro-target their deceptive, disruptive messaging. “Pretty much every message that Trump put out was data-driven” after they joined the campaign, Nix said in September 2016. On the day of the third presidential debate, Trump’s team “tested 175,000 different ad variations for his arguments” via Facebook.

    This messaging had everything to do with how targeted voters would respond, not with Trump’s or Mercer’s views. In a New Yorker profile, Jane Mayer noted that Mercer argued that the 1964 Civil Rights Act was a major mistake, a subject not remotely hinted at during the campaign.

    “Suddenly, a random billionaire can change politics and public policy — sweep everything else off the table — even if they don’t speak publicly, and even if there’s almost no public awareness of his or her views,” Trevor Potter, former chair of the Federal Election Commission, told Mayer.

    With the real patterns of influence, ideology, money, power and belief hidden from view, the very concept of democratic self-governance is now fundamentally at risk.

    6. Antibiotic Resistant “Superbugs” Threaten Health and Foundations of Modern Medicine

    Anson Stevens-Bollen, Santa Fe Reporter

    The problem of antibiotics giving rise to more dangerous drug-resistant microorganisms (“superbugs”) has been present since the early days of penicillin, but has now reached a crisis, with companies creating dangerous superbugs when their factories leak industrial waste, as reported by Madlen Davies of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in September 2016. Factories in China and India, where the majority of worldwide antibiotics are manufactured, have released “untreated waste fluid” into local soils and waters, leading to increases in antimicrobial resistance that diminish the effectiveness of antibiotics and threaten the foundations of modern medicine.

    “After bacteria in the environment become resistant, they can exchange genetic material with other germs, spreading antibiotic resistance around the world, according to an assessment issued by the European Public Health Alliance, which served as the basis for Davies’s news report,” Projected Censored explained. One strain of drug-resistant bacterium that originated in India in 2014 has spread to 70 other countries.

    Superbugs have already killed an estimated 25,000 people across Europe, thus globally posing “as big a threat as terrorism,” according to a UK National Health Service Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies.

    “At the heart of the issue is how to motivate pharmaceutical companies to improve their production practices,” Project Censored noted. “With strong demand for antibiotics, the companies continue to profit despite the negative consequences of their actions…. The EPHA assessment recommended five responses that major purchasers of medicines could implement to help stop antibiotic pollution. Among these recommendations are blacklisting pharmaceutical companies that contribute to the spread of superbugs through irresponsible practices, and promoting legislation to incorporate environmental criteria into the industry’s good manufacturing practices.”

    Superbugs are especially threatening modern medicine, in which a wide range of sophisticated practices — organ transplants, joint replacements, cancer chemotherapy and care of pre-term infants — “will become more difficult or even too dangerous to undertake,” said Margaret Chan, head of the World Health Organization.

    “Although the threat of antibiotic-resistant microbes is well documented in scientific publications, there is little to no coverage on superbugs in the corporate press,” Project Censored noted. “What corporate news coverage there is tends to exaggerate the risks and consequences of natural outbreaks — as seen during the Ebola scare in the United States in 2014 — rather than reporting on the preventable spread of superbugs by irresponsible pharmaceutical companies.”

    Once again, it’s not just a problem of suppressing a single story, but two overlapping patterns — the biological problem of superbugs and political economy problem of the corporate practices that produce them so wantonly.

    7. The Toll of Navy Training on Wildlife in the North Pacific

    The Navy has killed, injured or harassed marine mammals in the North Pacific almost 12 million times over a five-year period, according to research conducted by the West Coast Action Alliance and reported by Dahr Jamail for Truthout. The casualties include endangered species such as humpback whales, blue whales, gray whales, sperm whales, steller sea lions and sea otters. The number of destroyed and damaged marine lives was derived from the Navy’s Northwest Training and Testing environmental impact statement and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s letter of authorization, which report the number of “takes” of marine mammals caused by Navy exercises.

    “A ‘take’ is a form of harm to an animal that ranges from harassment, to injury, and sometimes to death,” Jamail wrote. “Many wildlife conservationists see even ‘takes’ that only cause behavior changes as injurious, because chronic harassment of animals that are feeding or breeding can end up harming, or even contributing to their deaths if they are driven out of habitats critical to their survival.”

    As the alliance noted, this does not include impacts on “endangered and threatened seabirds, fish, sea turtles or terrestrial species” due to Navy activities. Those activities have dramatically expanded, according to the Navy’s October 2015 environmental impact statement. These include:

    • A 778 percent increase in number of torpedoes
    • A 400 percent increase in air-to-surface missile exercises (including Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary)
    • A 1,150 percent increase in drone aircraft
    • An increase from none to 284 sonar testing events in inland waters

    “It is, and has been for quite some time now, well known in the scientific community that the Navy’s use of sonar can damage and kill marine life,” Jamail reported.

    “With little oversight on Navy training activities, the public is left in the dark regarding their environmental impacts, including especially how Navy operations impact fish in the North Pacific and marine life at the bottom of the food chain,” Project Censored noted. “There has been almost no coverage of these impacts in the corporate press.”

    8. Maternal Mortality a Growing Threat in the U.S.

    The U.S. maternal mortality rate is rising, even as it declines across the developed world. Serious injuries and complications are needlessly even more widespread with shockingly little attention being paid.

    “Each year more than 600 women in the United States die from pregnancy-related causes and more than 65,000 experience life-threatening complications or severe maternal morbidity,” Elizabeth Dawes Gay reported, covering an April 2016 congressional briefing organized by Women’s Policy Inc. “The average national rate of maternal mortality has increased from 12 per 100,000 live births in 1998 to 15.9 in 2012, after peaking at 17.8 in 2011.”

    “The U.S. is the only nation in the developed world with a rising maternal mortality rate,” Rep. Lois Capps stated at the meeting.

    “Inadequate health care in rural areas and racial disparities are drivers of this maternal health crisis,” Project Censored summarized. “Nationally, African-American women are three to four times more likely than white women to die from pregnancy-related causes, with rates even higher in parts of the U.S. that Gay characterized as ‘pockets of neglect,’ such as Georgia, where the 2011 maternal mortality rate of 28.7 per 100,000 live births was nearly double the national average.”

    The Alliance for Innovation on Maternal Health has developed safety bundles of ‘best practices, guidelines and protocols to improve maternal health care quality and safety,’” Gay wrote. “These ‘bundles’ include equipping hospital labor units with a fully stocked cart for immediate hemorrhage treatment, establishing a hospital-level emergency management protocol, conducting regular staff drills and reviewing all cases to learn from past mistakes, among other things.”

    More broadly, Kiera Butler reported for Mother Jones that doctors rarely warn patients of the potential for serious injuries and complications that can occur following birth.

    “Women have a right to make informed decisions about their bodies and serious medical situations; however, when it comes to birth and its aftereffects, Butler found that doctors simply are not providing vital information,” Project Censored summarized.

    Many state laws require doctors to inform women of the potential complications and dangers associated with delivery, but none require them to discuss potential long-term problems, including the fact that some complications are more prevalent in women who give birth vaginally, rather than by cesarean section.

    “All told, according to a 2008 study by researchers at the California HMO Kaiser Permanente, about one in three women suffer from a pelvic floor disorder (a category that includes urinary incontinence, fecal incontinence, and prolapse), and roughly 80 percent of those women are mothers,” Butler reported. “Women who deliver vaginally are twice as likely to experience these injuries as women who have a cesarean or who have not given birth. For one in 10 women, the problem is severe enough to warrant surgery.”

    “The corporate news media have paid limited attention to maternal mortality and morbidity in the U.S.,” Project Censored notes. There have been scattered stories, but nothing remotely close to the sort of sustained coverage that is warranted.

    9. Primaries? Dems Say Party Empowered to Pick Prez Candidate

    A key story about 2016 election has mostly been ignored by the media — a class-action lawsuit alleging that the Democratic National Committee broke legally-binding neutrality agreements in the Democratic primaries by strategizing to make Hillary Clinton the nominee before a single vote was cast. The lawsuit was filed against the DNC and its former chair,  Debbie Wasserman Schultz, in June 2016 by Beck & Lee, a Miami law firm, on behalf of supporters of Bernie Sanders. At an April 27 hearing,  DNC lawyers argued that neutrality was not actually required and that the court had no jurisdiction to assess neutral treatment.

    As Michael Sainato reported for the Observer, DNC attorneys claimed that Article V, Section 4 of the DNC Charter, which instructs the DNC chair and staff to ensure neutrality in the Democratic presidential primaries, is actually “a discretionary rule” that the DNC “didn’t need to adopt to begin with.” In addition, DNC attorney Bruce Spiva later said it was within the DNC’s rights to “go into back rooms like they used to and smoke cigars and pick the candidate that way.” Sainato also reported that DNC attorneys argued that specific terms used in the DNC charter, including “impartial” and “evenhanded,” couldn’t be interpreted in a court of law, because it would “drag the Court … into a political question and a question of how the party runs its own affairs.”

    Jared Beck, representing the Sanders supporters, responded, “Your Honor, I’m shocked to hear that we can’t define what it means to be evenhanded and impartial. If that were the case, we couldn’t have courts. I mean, that’s what courts do every day, is decide disputes in an evenhanded and impartial manner.”

    Not only was running elections in a fair and impartial manner a “bedrock assumption” of democracy, Beck argued earlier, it was also a binding commitment for the DNC: “That’s what the Democratic National Committee’s own charter says,” he said. “It says it in black and white.”

    Much of the reporting and commentary on the broader subject of the DNC’s collusion with the Clinton campaign has been speculative and misdirected, focused on questions about voter fraud and countered by accusations of indulging in “conspiracy theory.” But this trial focuses on documentary evidence and questions of law — all publicly visible yet still treated as suspect, when not simply ignored out of hand.

    As Project Censored notes, “[E]ven Michael Sainato’s reporting — which has consistently used official documents, including the leaked DNC emails and courtroom transcripts, as primary sources — has been repeatedly labeled “opinion” — rather than straight news reporting — by his publisher, the Observer.”

    10. A Record Year for Global Internet Shutdowns: 2016

    According to the digital rights organization Access Now, in 2016 the world’s governments shut down internet access more than 50 times, “suppressing elections, slowing economies and limiting free speech,” as Lyndal Rowlands reported for the Inter Press Service.

    “In the worst cases internet shutdowns have been associated with human rights violations,” Rowlands was told by Deji Olukotun, of Access Now. “What we have found is that internet shutdowns go hand in hand with atrocities.” Olukotun said.

    Kevin Collier also covered the report for Vocativ, noting that Access Now uses a “conservative metric,” counting “repeated, similar outages,” like those which occurred during Gabon’s widely criticized internet “curfew,” as a single instance. The Vocativ report included a dynamic map chart, designed by Kaitlyn Kelly, that vividly depicts internet shutdowns around the world, month by month for all of 2016, as documented by Access Now.

    “Many countries intentionally blacked out Internet access during elections and to quell protest. Not only do these shutdowns restrict freedom of speech, they also hurt economies around the world,” Project Censored notes. “TechCrunch, IPS, and other independent news organizations reported that a Brookings Institution study found that Internet shutdowns cost countries $2.4 billion between July 2015 and June 2016” — a conservative estimate according to the study’s author, Darrell West.

    As Olukotun told IPS, one way to stop government shutdowns is for internet providers to resist government demands.

    “Telecommunications companies can push back on government orders, or at least document them to show what’s been happening, to at least have a paper trail,” Olukotun observed.

    On July 1, 2016, the U.N. Human Rights Council passed a non-binding resolution signed by more than 70 countries lauding the Internet’s “great potential to accelerate human progress,” and condemning “measures to intentionally prevent or disrupt access to or dissemination of information online.” It noted that, “the exercise of human rights, in particular the right to freedom of expression, on the Internet is an issue of increasing interest and importance.”

    Yet, “understanding what this means for Internet users can be difficult,” Azad Essa reported for Al Jazeera in May 2017. Advocates of online rights “need to be constantly pushing for laws that protect this space and demand that governments meet their obligations in digital spaces just as in non-digital spaces,” he was told by the U.N.’s special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye.

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