United States cartoonist sacked for anti-Trump cartoons


United States President Trump breaking up families, censored cartoon by Rob Rogers

By Kayla Costa in the USA:

Political cartoonist fired by right-wing Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editors over anti-Trump cartoons

16 June 2018

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette fired political cartoonist Rob Rogers on Thursday, after weeks of editors blocking his content from the publication. The newspaper’s censorship coincides with the rise of openly pro-Trump members on the editorial board.

Rogers is an acclaimed political cartoonist, who has won a number of awards including the National Headliner Award and Thomas Nast Award. Having worked for the Post-Gazette since 1993, Rogers has only recently faced rejection of his political content. Nineteen of his ideas and cartoons have been rejected since March, according to his own count.

Tracey DeAngelo, an executive from the newspaper, said that their decisions “had little to do with politics” and more to do with the “working together and the editing process.”

However, the content of Rogers’ artwork places politics at the center of any editorial discussion. Of the cartoons that were rejected by the editors, many were highly critical of the anti-democratic and anti-immigrant policies of the Trump administration.

Rogers’ rejected cartoons referenced President Trump’s discussion of pardoning himself from the ongoing investigation into supposed Russian meddling in the 2016 election, his far-right attack on basic democratic rights and his brutal immigration policies. He also depicted topics relating to racism, including the recent moves by the National Football League (NFL) to force players to stand during the national anthem in the wake of demonstrations against police brutality.

The paper’s editors did not give an explanation to Rogers as to why these cartoons would not be published, but they had recently encouraged him to not issue such harsh criticisms of Trump or comment on other social issues. Prior to firing him, the paper tried to work out a new deal for 2 cartoons and a cartoon strip per week that posed less opposition to the right-wing views of the paper. While they didn’t ban him from anti-Trump content, they openly sought to lower “the tone and frequency” of it.

Another censored Trump cartoon by Rob Rogers

The censoring of Rogers’ artwork is a relatively recent phenomena, starting in March after the merger of the editorial boards of the Post-Gazette and Toledo Blade, both of which are owned by Block Communications.

Keith Burris, the new vice president and editorial director for both newspapers, represents the conservative and right-wing elements that now run the paper. He has written a number of editorials and articles that endorsed Trump’s 2016 election campaign and defended his actions since, such as his racist condemnation of immigrants from “shithole countries” in January.

The papers’ publisher, John Robinson Block, and Burris had a meeting with Trump on his private plane in 2016. Though the executive layers of the publishing company have long been filled with conservative ideology, the past three months mark a decisive shift to limit left-wing opinions from finding any expression the Post-Gazette.

Burris said on Friday that his goal is to move away from “ideological intent” toward “independent and thoughtful” journalism. To give an idea of the irony of these arbitrary guidelines, recent editorials by Burris run the headlines “Let Trump be Trump” and “John McCain: The last statesman.”

The editorial director’s right-wing views have drawn criticism from staff, including a letter from the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh signed by 150 newsroom employees of the Post-Gazette that denounced his editorial justifying Trump’s “shithole countries” diatribe. The letter opposed the outright racist bigotry of the editorial and clarified that “its sentiments solely represent the opinions of the Block family, owners of the Post-Gazette, and not their loyal employees who use our talents to fight against what this editorial stands for.”

Upon being dismissed from the company and rejecting an insulting offer to be an independent contractor, Rogers said in a statement: “I fear that today’s unjustified firing of a dissenting voice on the editorial pages will only serve to diminish an opinion section that was once one of America’s best. I love what I do and will continue to find ways to do it and get it out there. The world needs satire now more than ever.”

Many individuals and groups have come to Rogers’ defense. The Newspaper Guild wrote, “Given the recent killing of a number of Rob’s cartoons critical of President Trump and conservative positions, favorites of the publisher and editorial director, it perhaps is not surprising that this sad day for the Post-Gazette, the Pittsburgh community and journalism has arrived.”

Leaders of the Ad Hoc Group to Free Rob Rogers organized a rally in downtown Pittsburgh on Friday where dozens denounced the paper. “The local paper is one of the foundations of American democracy,” the group wrote in an official statement. “Its purpose is to inform the citizens and to hold the powerful in the public and private sectors accountable. But who is there to hold the Post-Gazette accountable? We, the people. That’s who.”

Rogers’ cartoons largely reflect the politics of the Democratic Party. His criticisms of Trump do not mention the role of wider layers of the military-intelligence and political establishment, including the Democrats themselves. …

Nonetheless, the Post-Gazette’s decision to fire Rogers on the basis of his anti-Trump politics constitutes a disregard for basic principles of free press and must be understood within the context of right-wing, anti-democratic politics which dominate the mainstream media.

Google and Facebook have initiated an advanced censorship campaign in an effort to block all “fake news” and “divisive content,” suppressing left-wing, anti-war and progressive websites. These moves have been aided by their close relationships with the military-intelligence apparatus and federal government.

Local news agencies are not at all isolated from these trends. The FCC is likely to approve the proposal of Sinclair Broadcast Group to buy Tribune Media, after which the national media corporation would own local TV news stations reaching three-quarters of the American population. Sinclair openly pushes a right-wing agenda. David Smith, the executive chairman of Sinclair, told New York Magazine this year, “The print media is so left wing as to be meaningless dribble which accounts for why the industry is and will fade away.”

When media and news is dominated by a small handful of corporate interests, information itself is used in the interests of promoting the conservative, right-wing and fascistic politics of the ruling class that news executives represent. Fearing the growing radicalization of the working class and youth, the billionaires atop the media monopolies are eager to suppress left-wing and oppositional views from reaching a wide audience.

See also here.

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Song commemorates London Grenfell disaster


This video from London, England says about itself:

14 June 2018

Classical singer Nancy May sings “Over the Rainbow” at today’s #Grenfell memorial event

‪#GrenfellTowerFire #GrenfellTower #Grenfell

British pro-peace artist Peter Kennard exhibition


Union Mask (2003), Warhead (1986), and Broken Missiles (1980). Photo: Peter Kennard

By Len Phelan in England:

Monday, June 11, 2018

Exhibition Review: Art of protest and survival

Peter Kennard‘s exhibition marking the 60th anniversary of CND is a potent reminder of why its message is so vital, says LEN PHELAN

Art Against War: Peter Kennard and the CND Movement
Millennium Gallery, Sheffield

THE SABRE-RATTLING over the Korean peninsula a few months ago saw the spectre of nuclear conflagration again loom into view, a vision chillingly reinforced by the hands of the Doomsday Clock — the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ symbol representing the likelihood of a man-made global catastrophe — moving to two minutes off midnight.

Arms Conversion (1986) and Haywain with Cruise Missiles (1981) by Peter Kennard

So to say that this exhibition, marking the 60th anniversary of the foundation of CND, is timely is something of an understatement.

It draws together works by Peter Kennard, one of this country’s most significant political artists, who for decades has supported the campaign founded in 1958 in response to the detonation of Britain’s first hydrogen bomb and the housing of US nuclear weapons in this country.

His photomontages have ensured that the movement, and the striking imagery that came to represent it, have been etched into the public consciousness, none more so than his 1980 image Protest and Survive, depicting a skeleton reading a civil “defence” booklet which skewers the idiocy of government propaganda, or the portrait of Tony Blair taking a selfie in front of a massive conflagration during the Iraq war.

Kennard, who trained as a fine artist, turned from painting to photomontage in the late 1960s and, drawing on the traditions of constructivism and the techniques of early pioneers like John Heartfield, developed his unique and instantly recognisable subversion of the familiar and the iconic.

Running Out (2005) and Firth of Clyde (1980) by Peter Kennard

Thus John Constable’s bucolic Hay Wain has a trio of Cruise missiles ready for launch, a monochrome Trident submarine looms out of what initially appears to be a banal colour postcard, the world mutates into a gas mask and, Transformers-like, a tank is reconstructed as a digger.

“I want to encourage people to think about their own situation and activate”, Kennard has said. “But I’m not trying to tell them to do this or that. I’m just trying to show how I see the world at the moment.”

How he’d like it to be transformed is memorably represented in the image Warhead, where a nuclear missile is decapitated by the CND symbol. A familiar sight on anti-war demonstrations, its brilliant visual economy in representing what the campaign is all about six decades on demonstrates why Kennard remains such a potent recruiting sergeant for the peace movement.

The exhibition, which is free, runs until October 7, opening times: museums-sheffield.org.uk.

Brazil’s oldest mammal named after David Bowie


This 29 May 2018 video, in Portuguese, is about the newly discovered dinosaur age mammal Brasilestes stardusti from Brazil.

From the Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo in Brazil:

Discovery of the oldest mammal in Brazil pays tribute to David Bowie

June 11, 2018

Summary: Brasilestes stardusti lived around 70 million years ago and was named after Ziggy Stardust, the singer’s iconic persona. Description was based on a fossilized tooth. It’s the 1st indication that placental mammals and dinosaurs co-existed in South America. For scientists, fossil features showed similarities with another pre-historic mammal found in India, suggesting both shared a common ancestral native from the Gondwana supercontinent.

Brasilestes stardusti is the name given to the oldest known mammal found in Brazil. It lived in what is now the northwest of São Paulo State at the end of the Mesozoic Era between 87 million and 70 million years ago. It is the only Brazilian mammal known to have coexisted with the dinosaurs.

The discovery of Brasilestes was announced on May 30, 2018, by a team led by Max Langer, a professor at the University of São Paulo’s Ribeirão Preto School of Philosophy, Science & Letters (FFCLRP-USP). Langer’s team included colleagues at the Federal University of Goiás and the University of Campinas in Brazil, La Plata Museum in Argentina, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US.

Physically speaking, Brasilestes consists of a fossilized premolar tooth with a maximum crown length of 3.5 mm. “The tooth is small and incomplete: the roots are missing,” said paleontologist Mariela Cordeiro de Castro, first author of the paper recently published in Royal Society Open Science.

“Small but not tiny”, Castro continued. “Although it’s only 3.5 mm, the Brasilestes tooth is three times bigger than all known Mesozoic mammal teeth. In the age of the dinosaurs, most mammals were the size of mice. Brasilestes was far larger, about the size of an opossum.”

The name of the new species pays tribute to British rock star David Bowie, who died in January 2016, a month after the fossil was found. Brasilestes stardusti alludes to Ziggy Stardust, an extraterrestrial character created by Bowie for a 1972 album.

The research was supported by the São Paulo Research Foundation — FAPESP as part of the thematic project “The origin and rise of dinosaurs in Gondwana (late Triassic-early Jurassic)”, for which Langer is principal investigator.

The fossilized tooth was found in a rocky outcrop of the Adamantina Formation in General Salgado, São Paulo State. The rocks are in a field on a ranch called Fazenda Buriti.

“We were visiting Mesozoic outcrops when Júlio Marsola [another member of the team], keen-sighted as a lynx, spotted a small tooth sticking up out of a rock”, said Castro, a professor at the Federal University of Goiás (UFG).

“The General Salgado deposits are well-known. Several Mesozoic crocodiles have come from them. The particular outcrop where I found Brasilestes is interesting, with dozens of fragments of Mesozoic crocodile eggshells. I bent down to look more closely at a small part of the outcrop to see if there were any eggshells and spotted the tooth. If it had stayed out in the open like that for a few more days, the rain would have swept it away.

“When I noticed what appeared to resemble the base of the tooth’s two roots [the roots themselves have broken off], I thought it must be a mammal. Laboratory analysis gave us the certainty that it is indeed from a mammal.”

A placental mammal in the Botucatu Desert

While a mere 3.5 mm tooth, especially an incomplete one, may seem insufficient to describe a new species of mammal, in actual, fact extinct mammals are frequently described on the basis of a single fossilized tooth.

This is because teeth are the most durable part of the mammalian skeleton. After all, they have to withstand the wear and tear of chewing for an entire lifetime. In contrast, many fish species and reptiles, for example, grow new teeth continually throughout their lives. Indeed, mammalian teeth are often the only skeletal remains that stay intact long enough to become fossilized.

The fact that a single premolar is all that is left of Brasilestes and that it is incomplete prevented the researchers from distinguishing with absolute confidence the group of mammals to which the species belonged. They know the tooth belonged to a therian, a member of a large subclass of Mammalia that includes marsupials and placentals.

Although there is not enough evidence to support the inclusion of Brasilestes in either infraclass, the researchers believe (but cannot categorically conclude) it was a placental mammal. If so, the fossil is unique.

Today, there are three major groups of mammals, namely, placentals, marsupials and monotremes. All three evolved during the Mesozoic Era. At that time, however, they were by no means the only groups of mammals. There were also multituberculates, which were common in the northern hemisphere, as well as groups typical of the southern hemisphere such as meridiolestids and gondwanatherians — named for Gondwana, the ancient southern supercontinent that gave rise to Africa, South America, Australia, Antarctica, and India.

The first Mesozoic mammal fossils were found in Argentinian Patagonia in the early 1980s, and some 30 species are now known. Until the Brasilestes announcement, these were the only ones found in South America. None remotely resembles the little tooth found in Brazil.

“When I showed the Brasilestes fossil to Edgardo Ortiz-Jaureguizar, a paleontologist at La Plata Museum, he was very surprised. He said he’d never seen anything like it, and at once showed it to another specialist at the same institution, Francisco Goin, who had the same reaction. Goin said Brasilestes resembled no other Mesozoic mammal found in Argentina, hence in South America”, Castro recalled.

Among the 30-odd Argentinian species of Mesozoic mammals, there are meridiolestids, gondwanatherians, and even a few suspected multituberculates. There are no marsupials or placentals. The only fossils in these two groups found in South America date from after the mass extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs 66 million years ago in an event that marks the end of the Mesozoic and the onset of the current geological era, the Cenozoic.

Until the discovery of Brasilestes, the only traces of Mesozoic mammals in Brazil were hundreds of tracks and footprints left by unknown creatures 130 million years ago as they traversed the dunes of the Botucatu Desert in what is now São Paulo State. The solidified surface of those dunes has been preserved as sandstone slabs on which the footprints can be seen.

In 1993, Reinaldo José Bertini , a professor at São Paulo State University (UNESP) in Rio Claro, announced the discovery of a mammalian jawbone fragment with a single tooth far smaller than the Brasilestes premolar. However, Bertini did not publish a detailed study of the fossil and therefore could not name a new species.

“Brasilestes is not just the first Brazilian Mesozoic mammal to be described but also one of the few Mesozoic mammals found in more central regions of South America. The Argentinian fossils were found in geological formations in Patagonia, the southern tip of the continent”, Langer said.

“Furthermore, Brasilestes is different from everything found before, suggesting that possibly placental mammals inhabited South America between 87.8 million and 70 million years ago,” said the FAPESP thematic project coordinator.

New species possibly related to a mammal from India

Even more surprisingly, the Mesozoic mammal with premolars that most resemble the Brasilestes tooth lived on the other side of the world, in India, between 70 million and 66 million years ago. Its name is Deccanolestes. No other creature in the global fossil record is so similar to Brasilestes.

How could two members of the same lineage have lived so far apart in unconnected regions? Approximately 100 million years ago, when South America and Africa had only just been separated by the opening of the South Atlantic, India was breaking away from Gondwana and starting to wander through the Indian Ocean.

This implies that at least 100 million years ago, the ancestors of Brasilestes and Deccanolestes populated the Gondwana supercontinent. In other words, the lineage to which Brasilestes and Deccanolestes belong is far older than the ages of their fossils — between 87 million and 70 million years ago for Brasilestes, and between 70 million and 66 million for Deccanolestes.

“The discovery of Brasilestes raises many more questions than answers about the biogeography of South American Mesozoic mammals”, Langer said. “Thanks to Brasilestes, we’ve realized that the history of Gondwana’s mammals is more complex than we thought.”

Finding triggers speculation on xenarthrans’ origins

This could give rise to new hypotheses and new lines of investigation. Who knows, for example, whether future research inspired by the discovery of Brasilestes will reveal the origin of a typical South American group, the xenarthrans, the order of armadillos, anteaters and sloths? Castro’s main research interest, in fact, is the evolutionary history of the xenarthrans.

“An interesting feature of the Brasilestes premolar is its superthin enamel, which is only 20 micrometers thick. The Brasilestes enamel is the thinnest of any Cretaceous mammal in the fossil record. Most Mesozoic mammals have enamel in the range of 100 to 300 micrometers”, Castro said.

“Tens of known species of xenarthrans are alive now. Hundreds are extinct. Only three have enamel. The microstructure of Brasilestes’ premolar enamel is very similar to that of the nine-banded armadillo“, said the FAPESP-supported researcher.

According to Castro, “molecular clock evidence suggests the xenarthran lineage started at least 85 million years ago. However, the oldest armadillo fossils, found in Rio de Janeiro, are about 50 million years old.”

While it is intriguing to imagine Brasilestes as an ancient xenarthran, it is far too soon for any such affirmation.

“The age and provenance of Brasilestes do match molecular hypotheses for the origin of the xenarthrans, but it would be premature to infer taxonomic affinity in light of the morphological differences between the Brasilestes tooth and armadillo teeth”, Castro said.

Langer agreed. “We have only one Brasilestes fossil. That’s nowhere near enough to extract conclusions from the fossil record”, he said.

The fact that no Mesozoic mammal fossils were found in Brazil before Brasilestes could mean such fossils are rare or too fragile to be preserved. “Who knows, one day we may find new Brasilestes fossils that help us understand its history better. It could take decades”, Langer said.

Anti-nazi Till Eulenspiegel opera on stage


This 2018 classical music video says about itself:

Jan van Gilse – Thijl (1940)

Jan Pieter Hendrik van Gilse (Rotterdam, 1881 – Oegstgeest, 1944)

Thijl, dramatic legend in a prologue, three acts and an epilogue on a libretto by Hendrik Lindt (1940)

This summer (2018), a new performance of Thijl is staged in Soest, the Netherlands. For more information, see www.thijl2018.nl.

Parts:

Overture (0:00)
Act I (1:27)
Act II (1:02:43)
Act III (2:00:45)
Epilogue (2:45:49)

Recording of the World Premiere on June 5, 1980 at the Circustheater, Scheveningen (as part of the Holland Festival)

After that first time, the opera would not be on stage again. Until this year. It is said to be the biggest Dutch opera ever written.

Performers:

John Bröcheler – Thijl
Guus Hoekman – Lamme Goedzak
Thea van der Putten – Nele
Peter van der Bilt – De Uil [the owl, symbol of jester/freedom fighter Thijl]/ Balladezanger
Amsterdams Philharmonisch Orkest Nederlands Operakoor
Conductor: Anton Kersjes

Images:

I have included images relating to Van Gilse’s life, and the tropes that underlie this opera (aside from the story of Thijl Uilenspiegel, obviously). The first act contains photographs from the places where Van Gilse lived and worked: Berlin, Utrecht, and Leiden (Oegstgeest). The second act shows scenes from the conquest of Den Briel by the Watergeuzen, a band of marine marauders in the service of the Dutch uprising against the Spanish in the 16th Century, a motive often exploited in the name of Dutch nationalism. The third act and epilogue, finally, illustrates the German occupation of the Netherlands during the Second World War, a strong undercurrent in Van Gilse’s final works (Thijl and the “Rotterdam” cantata).

The hero of this opera is Till Eulenspiegel, a ‘fool‘/jester known from 16th century German stories. Under the 16th century Dutch name Thyl Ulenspiegel (modern Dutch: Tijl Uilenspiegel), 19th century Belgian author Charles De Coster made him famous as a freedom fighter against 16th century Spanish absolute monarchical rule in the Low Countries, born in Damme town.

20th century Belgian author Hugo Claus wrote a theatre play based on De Coster’s Ulenspiegel book. Van Gilse’s opera is based on De Coster’s book as well.

Translated from the site about the 2018 performance of Thijl:

Thijl takes place at the beginning of the Eighty Years’ War. Thijl emerges as an enthusiastic but naive idealist. In an exuberant mood, Thijl sings on the Damme market a satirical song in which he ridicules the Spanish ruler Philip II and the pope. A collaborator betrays him, hoping to claim Thijl’s legacy share as a reward. Thijl escapes, but his father is caught instead.

The execution of his father drives Thijl towards resistance ….

The musical creator of Thijl was an idealist in heart and soul. Just like Thijl, he opposed injustice and unfreedom wherever he could. Jan van Gilse (1881-1944) started his musical career in Germany, but in the Netherlands he became conductor of the Utrechts Stedelijk Orkest and director of the Utrecht conservatory. …

Thijl’s theme can not be seen separately from Jan van Gilse’s personal struggle for free speech and against the intolerant society that the Nazis aimed at. Van Gilse left Germany in 1933, following the election victory of Hitler. When the war broke out in the Netherlands and the Germans took over the government, Van Gilse took the lead in resistance. …

Van Gilse, who had not appeared in public since the 1941 general ban on Jews visiting public places, had to go into hiding. From his hiding addresses he remained one of the leaders of the artists’ resistance, and together with his son Janric set up the resistance magazine De Vrije Kunstenaar, which appeared in a monthly edition of 3,000 copies. Both sons of Van Gilse were executed for their resistance, and Van Gilse did not survive the war either. He died in 1944. …

The opera Thijl was Van Gilse’s last work. He completed it in 1941, and dedicated it to “To the fighters for justice and freedom.” He took the handwritten score with him to all his hiding addresses. Shortly before his death, his wife Ada van Gilse added at his request: “.. and to my boys who lost their lives for this justice”.

This 2017 music video shows a performance in Utrecht city of the song from Thijl ‘Slaet op den Trommele’.

Jurassic World new film, comments


This video from the USA says about itself:

Thoughts on Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (NO SPOILERS)

10 June 2018

Here’s how we felt about Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the newest continuation of my favourite film of all time! This is a very subjective review as we’re talking about our opinions of the film, and you probably won’t agree with everything we say. We also don’t talk about any major plot points that haven’t been shown in trailers here, so don’t worry about spoilers!

BBC: The plot might be ludicrous and the CGI below par, but the latest dinosaur blockbuster is ‘good old-fashioned summer entertainment’, according to Nicholas Barber.

London Grenfell disaster, film by survivors


This video from London, England says about itself:

On the ground at Grenfell

8 June 2018

Made the week of the fire by 9 young people: survivors, local residents, and volunteers.

Screened in Parliament to 170 MPs 12/12/ 2017.

‘On the ground was filmed at a time when things were still so raw, really helped capture the pain we all went through.’ – Shahin Sadafi, Grenfell United

Winner Best Film 2017, Portobello Film Festival

‘An incredible film’ Naomi Klein, ‘Remarkable’ Channel 4 News, ‘Powerful’ ITV

An urgent film that needs to be seen as widely as possible BFI

WARNING: This film contains traumatic footage and very graphic and prolonged imagery of fire.