Solar eclipse in August in the USA

This video says about itself:

22 August 2015

There will be a total eclipse of the Sun in the USA on Monday, 21 August 2017. This documentary explains how to view it very simply, in completely safely and without specialised equipment.

More information is here.

From Science News in the USA:

Read up on solar eclipses before this year’s big event

New books chronicle the science, history and cultural significance of these phenomena

By Sid Perkins

8:00am, April 30, 2017

In August, the United States will experience its first coast-to-coast total solar eclipse in nearly a century. Over the course of an hour and a half, the moon’s narrow shadow will slice across 12 states, from Oregon to South Carolina (SN: 8/20/16, p. 14). As many as 200 million people are expected to travel to spots where they can view the spectacle, in what could become one of the most watched eclipses in history. Excitement is building, hence the flurry of new books about the science, history and cultural significance of what is arguably one of Earth’s most awesome celestial phenomena.

Total solar eclipses happen when the moon passes in front of the sun as seen from Earth, and the moon blocks the entire face of the sun. This event also blocks sunlight that would otherwise scatter off the molecules in our atmosphere, reducing a source of glare and so allowing an unfettered view of the sun’s outer atmosphere, or corona. Total solar eclipses arise from a fluke of geometry that occurs nowhere else in the solar system, astronomer Anthony Aveni explains in In the Shadow of the Moon. Only Earth has a moon that appears, from the planet’s viewpoint, to fit so neatly over the sun — a consequence of the fact that the sun is a whopping 400 times as large as the moon but also 400 times farther away. Moons orbiting other planets are either too small to fully cover the sun’s face or are so large that they fully block any view of the corona.

In fact, the fluke of geometry is also a fluke of history: Because the moon’s orbit drifts about four centimeters farther from Earth each year, there will come a time when the moon will no longer appear to cover the sun, notes planetary scientist John Dvorak in Mask of the Sun. We already get a preview of that distant day: When the moon passes in front of the sun during the most distant portions of its orbit (and thus appears its smallest), Earth is treated to a ring, or annular, eclipse.

In the Shadow of the Moon, Mask of the Sun and physicist Frank Close’s Eclipse all do a good job of explaining the science behind total solar eclipses. That includes clarifying why one is seen somewhere on Earth once every 18 months or so, on average, instead of every time the moon crosses paths with the sun during the new moon. In short, it’s because the moon’s orbit is slightly tilted compared with Earth’s orbit around the sun, making the moon pass either above or below the sun during most new moons.

Many solar eclipses are preceded by a lunar eclipse about two weeks earlier — a coincidence that may have helped ancient astrologers “predict” an eclipse, Close writes. Additional observations, Dvorak notes, may have helped these nascent astronomers notice the long-term pattern in solar eclipses with similar paths, which tend to recur roughly every 18 years. While ancient Babylonians could predict the onset of a solar eclipse within a few hours — and ancient Greeks to within about 30 minutes — today’s astronomers can pin down eclipses to within a second.

That precision has fueled the craze of “eclipse chasing,” in which scientists and nonscientists alike trek to often remote regions to gather data or to simply experience the brief darkness — rarely more than seven minutes, and sometimes less than one second — of totality. In 1925, scientists chased an eclipse with an airship; in 1973, they did so at supersonic speed in a Concorde. All three books describe in detail various historical expeditions to view eclipses, everywhere from New York’s Central Park to exotic hot spots such as the South Pacific and Pike’s Peak in Colorado (which was pretty remote and exotic in 1878).

Each book shares many of the same anecdotes and recounts many of the same scientific breakthroughs that resulted from eclipse research. Both In the Shadow of the Moon and Mask of the Sun take readers on a largely chronological path through eclipse history. But their organizations differ slightly: The science of eclipses is deftly scattered throughout Mask of the Sun, while In the Shadow of the Moon addresses various scientific topics in wonderfully thorough chapters of their own.

Of this trio of books, Eclipse — more a memoir of Close’s lifetime fascination and personal experiences with eclipses than a detailed chronicle of historical lore — provides the most amusing and insightful descriptions of eclipse chasers. They are, Close writes, “an international cult whose members worship the death and rebirth of the sun at moveable Meccas, about half a dozen times every decade.”

A teacher kindled Close’s love of eclipses in 1954 when Close was an 8-year-old living north of London. He reached his 50s before experiencing a total eclipse (1999 in extreme southwestern England), but since then has seen a handful more, including from a cruise ship southwest of Tahiti and a safari camp in Zambia.

Who knows how many budding young scientists the Great American Eclipse of 2017 — or these books — will inspire.

Endangered Species Act works for United States birds

This video from the USA says about itself:

The Endangered Species Act: 40 Years at the Forefront of Wildlife Conservation

19 September 2013

The Endangered Species Act of 1973 is by far the most significant piece of endangered species legislation and is considered one of the world’s most important conservation laws. The bald eagle now soars the sky in every state across the nation. The black-footed ferret once teetered on the brink of extinction, but now has hundreds of ferrets bred in captivity and more than 1000 in the wild. And the Tennessee purple coneflower now blooms its beautiful purple petals in its historic range after 32 years of federal protection.

Today the Endangered Species Act protects more than 1400 U.S. species and 600 foreign species. It provides a critical safety net for fish, wildlife and plants and has prevented the extinction of hundreds of imperiled species, helped the recovery of many others, and conserved the habitats upon which they depend.

Forty years later, we can look back at the successes we’ve shared, and look ahead to the work that still needs to be done. Habitat degradation, climate change, invasive species and many other issues threaten our nation’s threatened and endangered species. It is under the Endangered Species Act that we protect the animals, plants and habitats that make up the fabric of our nation’s natural tapestry. And we can all celebrate that by conserving them, we help ensure the benefits that accrue from them—healthy air, land, and water—on which we depend.

From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA:

New Report Shows the Endangered Species Act Works for Birds

The Endangered Species Act is sometimes criticized as a needless economic drag that benefits lawyers more than animals. But that’s just not true for birds, says a report by the American Bird Conservancy, which compiled the numbers and found that some 70% of species were increasing, stable, or delisted due to recovery. See the stats.

Painter Kerry James Marshall, United States exhibition

This video from the USA says about itself:

2 May 2016

This video accompanies the exhibition Kerry James Marshall: Mastry, organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. The exhibition is cocurated by Dieter Roelstraete, former Manilow Senior Curator at the MCA; Helen Molesworth, Chief Curator at MOCA; and Ian Alteveer, Associate Curator at The Met. At the MCA, the exhibition was realized with the assistance of former Curatorial Assistant Karsten Lund and former Research Associate Abigail Winograd.

Kerry James Marshall: Mastry is on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, April 23–September 25, 2016, at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 25, 2016–January 29, 2017, and at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, March 12–July 2, 2017.

By Clare Hurley in the USA:

American painter Kerry James Marshall’s retrospective, Mastry

2 February 2017

Kerry James Marshall: Mastry, an exhibition at the Met Breuer Museum in New York City, October 25, 2016 – January 29, 2017; subsequently at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, March 12 – July 2, 2017.

American artist Kerry James Marshall’s paintings of barbershops and beauty parlors, public housing projects and middle-class suburbia are vibrant renderings of quotidian twentieth century African-American life that are distinctly modern while embracing the canon of Western European art. This retrospective of 35 years of Marshall’s work, jointly organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, is welcome and somewhat overdue.

In De Style (1993), two urbane young men are getting their “dos” done while others hang out in the seats along the wall. The young men’s deadpan gazes assert their self-confidence within the social hierarchy of an African-American barbershop. The painting explicitly references a sixteenth century Hans Holbein portrait, Two Ambassadors, of similarly confident and worldly young noblemen. At the same time, it alludes by its title and color scheme to the Dutch De Stijl movement (1922-1932), a form of pure abstraction that distilled the visual world into grids of black, white, yellow, red and blue.

De Style, 1993. Acrylic and collage on unstretched canvas

Such a mash-up between historical contexts and artistic styles is characteristic of postmodernism in its heyday in the early 1990s, a zeitgeist that influenced Marshall. Set apart from his contemporaries to some extent, however, by his attention to scenes of working class life and his continuation of a tradition of representational figurative painting, his work has perhaps received less attention than its due over the past 30 years.

Amid the present ramping up of identity politics, however, the fact that all of Marshall’s figures are exclusively and uniformly painted the darkest hue of black has won him attention. …

His most significant body of work is the Garden Project, a series of five large-scale paintings on canvas tarps affixed directly to the wall with grommets that takes its name from public housing projects in Chicago and Los Angeles. Built in connection with the Great Society programs in the 1960s in the US, these densely clustered high-rise complexes, often named “Gardens,” were attempts to alleviate the explosive social tensions building up in urban areas across the country.

Marshall himself lived in one such housing project when his family moved from Birmingham, Alabama, to Watts in 1963. Two years later, police brutality provoked a five-day uprising in the Los Angeles neighborhood that resulted in 34 deaths, thousands of arrests and $40 million in property damage, and necessitated the calling out of 4,000 National Guard to suppress it.

The pall of such events, though not referred to explicitly, hangs over Marshall’s Garden Series despite their sunny blue skies. The painting Many Mansions (1994) shows three men tending flowerbeds, identically dressed in white shirts and black pants. The towers of Chicago’s Stateway Gardens form an imprisoning wall behind them. From their steely expressions and the cellophane-wrapped gift baskets of stuffed animals at their feet, they would seem to be digging graves, rather than gardening.

Many Mansions, 1994. Acrylic on paper mounted on canvas

Marshall has said he wanted to show life in these projects as something more than concentrated poverty ridden with drugs and crime. He focuses our attention on the figures, many of them children, who inhabit this world, stoically playing, running, camping out in these concrete-bound landscapes. Recurrent themes are the aspiration to a middle class life, the desire for leisure and romance, and the promise of equality often frustrated and betrayed. Other noteworthy paintings are Souvenir 1 (1997), of a golden-winged woman carefully tending to the memories of fallen civil rights and Black Panther leaders in her shrine-like living room, and The Lost Boys (1993), in memoriam to two young men who met an early death.

That being said, Marshall’s postmodernist-influenced outlook … has severely limited his ability to place these experiences in the broader context of political developments in the US over the course of the 1980s and 1990s. Likewise, his treatment of black working class life as a social universe entirely unto itself contributes to this disconnect and makes this life seem fixed in amber. …

Marshall’s difficulties are hardly his alone, but are shared by many of his generation, particularly those of the so-called “Pictures Generation,” a diverse group including John Baldessari, David Salle, Cindy Sherman, Richard Prince, Robert Longo, and Mark Tandy. United by their skepticism toward the authenticity of the image per se, these artists did not create but rather “appropriated” images, whether from advertising or Old Masters paintings, in order to comment upon their artificiality, their supposed lack of meaning. Marshall may have maintained his belief that visual art could still communicate something original about the objective world, but he shares other aspects of this postmodern outlook.

Souvenir 1, 1997. Acrylic, collage, silkscreen, and glitter on canvas

He came of age with the burgeoning of the California art scene in the1960s-early 1970s. As part of Los Angeles’s efforts to establish its credentials as “America’s Second Art City,” the Pasadena Art Museum mounted an influential retrospective of avant-garde artist Marcel Duchamp in 1963 and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) opened in 1965 with a focus on contemporary art. The early LA art scene embraced sleek European minimalism, the Pop Art of Andy Warhol, and the politically charged assemblage/installations of such artists as Edward and Nancy Kienholz.

As a high school senior, Marshall turned down a scholarship to the Chouinard Institute, where for decades many of Walt Disney’s illustrators honed their skills in technical drawing and animation. By the early 1970s, the newly founded California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) absorbed the Chouinard, replacing its traditional skills-based training, so essential for commercial work but considered “stifling” to visionary artists, in favor of more experimental conceptual work.

For Marshall, a working-class kid from Watts who wanted to paint like an Old Master, neither the Chouinard nor CalArts turned out to be the right place to study. After several years working and earning credits at Los Angeles City College, he enrolled in the BFA program at Otis, LA’s classical fine arts college. There he studied with his long-time mentor in figure drawing, the self-taught Charles White (1918-1979), an African-American artist best known for his WPA murals, as well as with artist Betye Saar, whose assemblages and collages incorporated ritual cosmologies from the Asian and African Diaspora.

… Many of his early pictures, such as A Portrait of the Artist as a Shadow of His Former Self (1980), address issues of his “invisibility” as a black man. Playing on “blackface” stereotypes and referring to Ralph Ellison’s searing 1952 novel of racial violence of the same title, in Invisible Man (1986) the naked black figure is barely distinguishable against the black background except for the gleaming whites of his eyes and toothy grin.

Untitled (Painter), 2008. Acrylic on PVC panel

This mask-like uniformity of the faces in almost all of Marshall’s paintings highlights his shortcomings. Mindful perhaps of artist Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000), whose Migration Series paintings (1940-1941) chronicled the historical experience of African-Americans as they moved by the millions out of the South, Marshall similarly gives his faces the barest of detail.

But whereas Lawrence placed his blank-faced figures within a political and historical context to show them as representative of a movement not of individuals but of masses, in Marshall’s case such a broader, more developed consciousness is absent. Thus, the uniformity of the faces tends to blunt empathy, and undermine their “realism,” not just in a formal sense.

The relative strength of Marshall’s work remains its empathetic, concrete and imaginative depiction of working class life, which he attempts to situate artistically within the tradition of Western European figurative painting. For example, the Garden Series paintings allude, among other things, to the tradition of idyllic imagined landscapes in the manner of such painters as French Rococo muralist Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721), in order to comment on the illusory nature of these urban “gardens.”

Racists taking over United States police

This video from the USA says about itself:

White Supremacists Are Taking Over Police Departments Across America

1 February 2017

Time to freak out, The Intercept has obtained a FBI report on white supremacists infiltrating American police departments. Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian, the hosts of The Young Turks, discuss the right-wing takeover of law enforcement.

WHITE SUPREMACISTS AND other domestic extremists maintain an active presence in U.S. police departments and other law enforcement agencies. A striking reference to that conclusion, notable for its confidence and the policy prescriptions that accompany it, appears in a classified FBI Counterterrorism Policy Guide from April 2015, obtained by The Intercept. The guide, which details the process by which the FBI enters individuals on a terrorism watchlist, the Known or Suspected Terrorist File, notes that “domestic terrorism investigations focused on militia extremists, white supremacist extremists, and sovereign citizen extremists often have identified active links to law enforcement officers,” and explains in some detail how bureau policies have been crafted to take this infiltration into account.

Although these right-wing extremists have posed a growing threat for years, federal investigators have been reluctant to publicly address that threat or to point out the movement’s longstanding strategy of infiltrating the law enforcement community.

No centralized recruitment process or set of national standards exists for the 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States, many of which have deep historical connections to racist ideologies. As a result, state and local police as well as sheriff’s departments present ample opportunities for white supremacists and other right-wing extremists looking to expand their power base.”

Read more from The Intercept here.

So, after President George W Bush welcomed nazis into the United States armed forces as the Iraq and Afghanistan wars raged, now they seem to be welcome in the police as well.

Bigoted trainers given platform at National Sheriffs’ Association conference: here.

Louisiana’s new “Blue Lives Matter” law, signed into law last year by Democratic Party Governor John Bel Edwards, is already being used to provide cover for police and extend harsher penalties on the accused: here.

WASHINGTON ― Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ordered a wide-ranging review of the Justice Department’s efforts to rein in rogue law enforcement agencies, putting the future of police reform in doubt: here.

Red-winged blackbirds in the USA

This video from the USA says about itself:

19 January 2017

A nice trio of male Red Winged Blackbirds – just a few low-key calls they are keeping a low profile for a little longer and then they will be staking out their territories like this: