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Blue Eyes Connected to Raised Alcoholism Risk

Your eye color may tell you something about your risk for alcohol addiction, according to researchers. People with light-colored eyes have a higher frequency of dependency compared to those with darker eyes.
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Trust and cost the sticking points on Greek debt deal

The rising cost of rescuing Greece, and the lack of trust between the negotiating partners, are the major sticking points preventing a debt deal.
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From Social Networks To Market Networks

Most people didn’t notice last month when a 35-person company in San Francisco called HoneyBook announced a $22 million Series B. What was unusual about the deal is that nearly all the best-known Silicon Valley VCs competed for it. That’s because HoneyBook is a prime example of an important new category of digital company that combines the best elements of networks like Facebook… Read More
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David Sweat will choose whether he lives or dies: sheriff

It's up to escaped convict David Sweat if his 22-day taste of freedom ends with a return trip to prison — or a one-way ticket to the morgue.
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Grey's Anatomy Star Jesse Williams and Wife Aryn Drake-Lee Expecting Baby No. 2

Jesse Williams is expanding his family again! E! News can confirm that the Grey's Anatomy star and his wife Aryn Drake-Lee are expecting their second child together. In fact, the...
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ASSEMBLAGE: Meet Queer Punk Band bottoms

“ASSEMBLAGE“ is an inquiry into the different ways artists utilize performance and technology to explore and express different notions of identity. An effort to push forward marginalized artists with a focus on people of color, non-western nationalities and those along the queer/trans spectrum, “ASSEMBLAGE” provides a platform for analysis of how art and performance intersect with the lives of these individuals who are visibly and openly existing in the digital age. This is the eighth installment.

Queer punk band bottoms is a musical grouping unlike any other. Made up of two performers -- Jake Dibeler and Simon Leahy aka Babes Trust -- and drummer Michael Prommasit, bottoms is a project that in many ways explores the complicated, nuanced relationship queer people have with themselves and the world around them in 2015.

bottoms came into fruition a bit over a year ago following the break-up of Leahy and Prommasit's previous band Teeth. Dibeler joined the group as the lead vocalist -- a style of vocalization that can only be described as high-pitched screaming in a way that almost sounds manufactured but, in reality, is Dibeler's actual voice.



Dibeler's voice aside, what makes bottoms so unique and important is the hyper-political nature of their work and the shades of queer identity and experience encapsulated in the group's lyrics.

The queer community is at a strange and significant moment in time, as we move out of the aftermath of the AIDS crisis and into an era marked by PrEP, instantaneous access to sex, mainstream transgender visibility and the legalization of same-sex marriage. As specific types of queers become more visible and our relationships with sex, institutions and governance shift, we are at a place where many people are reimagining or rethinking what it means to be queer.

bottom's music heavily explores the intersection of this complicated history marked by violence and disease and modern day realities surrounding visibility and sex.

"We're really interested in a lot of the culture surrounding the gay community during the time of the AIDS crisis," Diebler told The Huffington Post. "There was a great resistance from the conservatives to acknowledge the crisis, so the gay community had to look to each other for support. I hope that bottoms can harness that same sort of energy -- angry queers with a message. I think that we're in this place as gays that's very apathetic. Being able to fuck dudes from your phone in minutes is amazing, PrEP is amazing, but it really makes for this sort of 'pre-AIDS-there's-nothing-wrong' mentality -- and maybe that's true, maybe nothing is wrong and this is the end of HIV and AIDS. But at the moment -- I think we need to balance this 'have unprotected sex with a stranger in an alley' attitude with one of respect and care for a community that lost a huge chunk of themselves in the 90s."



bottoms also deals with notions of shame and self-hatred, shared realities for queer people navigating the world we operate in since the beginning of time. As with any way of existing the world, it can be hard to communicate the realities of queer experience to those who haven't felt the effects of growing up as a faggot, trans person, or anywhere along the queer spectrum. For this reason, music -- or more broadly, performance -- serves as an immensely valuable tool to tell these stories authentically and unapologetically and, hopefully, change our culture.

As Dark Matter mentioned in a previous installment of ASSEMBLAGE, "no matter how many policies we change, no matter how many legislations we pass, people’s hearts and minds aren’t going to change. The only way to actually change people's hearts and minds is to engage them with feeling and emotion. Because often oppression is incredibly irrational." Using art and performance to open a dialogue about these different shades of queer experience, like learned shame and self-hatred, is very present in the work of bottoms. The group's first music video, "My Body," is about the complicated relationships queer people have with their bodies, from issues of gay body shame to the spectrum of transgender identity. Brooklyn performer Macy Rodman stars in the "My Body" video, below.



Performance, of course, also serves a dual role for the performer in the exploration of their own sense of self throughout this process of authentic storytelling. Within the context of a queer punk band like bottoms, the experiences being talked -- or screamed -- about are tangible, real and felt by every queer person in the room. At the risk of making a claim about universal queer experience (of which there is none) it can often feel very much that the pain, struggle, freedom and history of what it means to be a queer person bleeds through bottoms' performances in an unapologetic way that truly does connect with any random queer watching from the audience -- which is truly a remarkable accomplishment for any artist.

"I'm definitely always performing -- literally always," Dibeler elabprated. "'All the worlds a stage,' all that bullshit. It's true, every moment is basically a standup comedy show for me, whether you want to be there or not. bottoms doesn't really step into a role when we get on stage, and it's the same with my own performances. I think a reason why it's relatable in this way is because you can actually see a real person on the stage. That's actually why I don't really like being on stage when I perform. I'd rather be in the audience because I think it's important to break down that wall of this 'We're a band and you're an audience and you're here to stand and listen to us.' We want the audience to be, like, 'Those fags in wigs are screaming about death and disease and fear are me, and I am a part of this too.'"



As the nature of what it means to be a queer person shifts and changes with the passing of time, one can only hope that we always have art and performance that accurately reflect the intricate nuances of what these experiences are like -- politically, socially, emotionally, physically.

At this strange and complicated period for the queer community, bottoms seems to be accomplishing this in an impressive way that is not only informed by our history with AIDS, persecution and violence but also the current climate of agency and self-identification that parallels mainstream LGBT "acceptance." We hope to see more work like this from others along the spectrum of queer performance in the future.

bottoms is currently prepping to record the group's second EP later this summer.. Their first EP, "Goodbye," can be found here or head here for their Soundcloud.

Missed the previous installments in ASSEMBLAGE? Check out the slideshow below.

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

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He's believed to be ISIS' leader in Afghanistan and Pakistan

Should U.S. bomb ISIS oil fields? | Turkey arrests 21 suspected ISIS members | Photos: Terror group leaders
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More than 500 people injured in explosion, fire at water park

Flammable powder may be to blame | Photos from the scene
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Obama's Grace

President Obama during the singing of Amazing Grace yesterday at Emanuel AME Church (Brian Snyder / Reuters)

I think Barack Obama’s eulogy yesterday at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston was his most fully successful performance as an orator. It was also one that could only have come at this point in his public career — and not, for instance, when he was an intriguing figure first coming to national notice, as he was during his celebrated debut speech at the Democratic National Convention in Boston 11 years ago; when he was a candidate fighting to stay in the race, as he was when he gave his “Race in America” speech in Philadelphia early in 2008.

I’ll explain why I say so, but first a word about the odd circumstances in which I’ve heard and learned about the speech.

***

During the past week’s tumultuous events I have been physically and electronically removed from the swirl of news. Through the Confederate-flag aftermath of the murders in Charleston, to the Supreme Court’s health-care and same-sex marriage rulings, to the president’s speech President Obama’s eulogy yesterday, I wasn’t in range of TVs or radios or more than a little trickle of the Internet and thus am catching up on everything all at once now.

Our scene of removal was the American Prairie Reserve in northeastern Montana, a Serengeti-scale long-term project to restore the northern grasslands to their original plant and animal population. It is a deeply impressive undertaking, and part of its power is the very fact that it is so far distant from urbanized America and its dramas and concerns. We’ll be writing more about it.

Yesterday, on our Cirrus flight down from Montana to the Denver area, we were listening to news programs on Sirius XM radio — which is (properly!) designed so that the news/music programming automatically blanks out whenever there’s a transmission on the air-traffic control frequencies. We were about 100 miles (or 30 minutes) north of Gillette, Wyoming, where we’d planned to make a refueling stop, when we came across a station playing the memorial service for Rev. Clementa Pinckney. We began listening, and heard the introduction for the president when we were about 20 minutes out.

The closer we got to the airport, the more frequent the air-traffic chatter became. In the final few minutes, it was back and forth: “We do not earn grace. We don’t deserve it. It is freely given by God—” “—Cirrus Five-Sierra-Romeo, runway three-four in use, report ten miles out, altimeter three zero two four—” “We cannot leave our children in poverty.” It was only when we’d landed and were rolling along the taxiway to the refueling area, and the controller part of the conversation was done, that Sirius kicked back  in with someone signing Amazing Grace. Deb and I looked at each other and thought: Could that have been Obama?

***

And of course it was. His singing was the aspect of the speech that will be easiest to remember. That is in part because it was so unusual and in part because it was so brave: Obama sang well, but not perfectly. For someone so precise and aspiring-to-perfection in most other realms achievement, and so obviously hyper-aware of his levels of skill (he told Marc Maron in his remarkable WTF interview that he didn’t like playing basketball any more, now that he recognized that age had made him the weakest player on the court), singing like another enthusiastic parishioner, and not like a featured member of the choir, was brave and said something about his comfort with this crowd.

And of course he was aware that “this crowd” was not simply the many hundreds crowd into that arena but the many millions around the world who would see it live, or later on. I cannot emphasize strongly enough the value of seeing this speech, in one of the video versions now available, versus just reading the text. (For the record: a video of the full nearly five-hour session is here, with Obama appearing around time 3:55; a New York Times video of his 35-minute speech itself is here; and the White House transcript of his remarks is here.) Like most Obama speeches, the text is indeed carefully written. But it is something entirely different as … I was going to say “as delivered,” but really the term is “as performed.” Here are the general aspects of the speech that struck me, followed by some line-by-line commentary.

Here are the three rhetorical aspects of the speech that I think made it more artful as a beginning-to-end composition than any of his other presentations:

— The choice of grace as the unifying theme, which by the standards of political speeches qualifies as a stroke of genius.

— The shifting registers in which Obama spoke — by which I mean “black” versus “white” modes of speech — and the accompanying deliberate shifts in shadings of the word we.

— The start-to-end framing of his remarks as religious, and explicitly Christian, and often African-American Christian, which allowed him to present political points in an unexpected way.

***

On grace:

When I finally watched the speech today, having been aware that it ended with Amazing Grace, I was increasingly surprised by the way in which Obama had built the whole preceding part of the speech toward that conclusion.

What were the advantages of his emphasizing grace —and not “justice” or “compassion” or “equity” or “opportunity”—as the recurring note of this speech? There were many:

— The president, most powerful man in the world, could put himself in the closest thing possible to a stance of humility. “We don’t earn grace.  We're all sinners.  We don't deserve it.  But God gives it to us anyway.”

— It allowed him to recast one part of the shooting’s aftermath in the most glorious way. When the families of the nine murdered victims told the killer that they forgave him, one undertone of their saintliness was that we might have another “noble victim” episode. Black people would be killed or abused; they would prove their goodness by remaining calm; and in part because of their magnanimity, nothing would change.

But by characterizing their reaction as a reflection of grace rather than mere “forgiveness,” Obama was able to present it as something much different than patient victimhood:

[The killer of Reverend Pinckney and eight others] surely sensed the meaning of his violent act.  It was an act that drew on a long history of bombs and arson and shots fired at churches, not random, but as a means of control, a way to terrorize and oppress.  (Applause.)  An act that he imagined would incite fear and recrimination; violence and suspicion.  An act that he presumed would deepen divisions that trace back to our nation’s original sin.
    
Oh, but God works in mysterious ways.  (Applause.)  God has different ideas.  (Applause.)  

He didn’t know he was being used by God.  (Applause.)  Blinded by hatred, the alleged killer could not see the grace surrounding Reverend Pinckney and that Bible study group -- the light of love that shone as they opened the church doors and invited a stranger to join in their prayer circle.  The alleged killer could have never anticipated the way the families of the fallen would respond when they saw him in court -- in the midst of unspeakable grief, with words of forgiveness.  He couldn’t imagine that.  (Applause.)  

The alleged killer could not imagine how the city of Charleston, under the good and wise leadership of Mayor Riley -- (applause) -- how the state of South Carolina, how the United States of America would respond -- not merely with revulsion at his evil act, but with big-hearted generosity and, more importantly, with a thoughtful introspection and self-examination that we so rarely see in public life.

Blinded by hatred, he failed to comprehend what Reverend Pinckney so well understood -- the power of God’s grace.  (Applause.)  

—It allowed him to use a genuinely brilliant rhetorical device through the “policy” portions of his speech. The president recited the words to Amazing Grace midway through the speech, before singing them at the end. Including these crucial, closing words: “Was blind, but now I see.”

Soon after reciting those words the first time, Obama said:

As a nation, out of this terrible tragedy, God has visited grace upon us, for he has allowed us to see where we’ve been blind.

And from that point on in the speech, he consistently used the “we’ve been blind / but now we see” pairing to present all the policy points he wanted to discuss. For instance, with emphasis added:

For too long, we were blind to the pain that the Confederate flag stirred in too many of our citizens.  (Applause.)  It’s true, a flag did not cause these murders.  But as people from all walks of life, Republicans and Democrats, now acknowledge—including Governor Haley, whose recent eloquence on the subject is worthy of praise—(applause)—as we all have to acknowledge, the flag has always represented more than just ancestral pride. (Applause.)  For many, black and white, that flag was a reminder of systemic oppression and racial subjugation.  We see that now.

And on throughout the speech. We were blind to a problem; but now through God’s grace our eyes have opened; and we can see what we should do. Another example:

For too long, we’ve been blind to the unique mayhem that gun violence inflicts upon this nation.  (Applause.) Sporadically, our eyes are open:  When eight of our brothers and sisters are cut down in a church basement, 12 in a movie theater, 26 in an elementary school.  But I hope we also see the 30 precious lives cut short by gun violence in this country every single day…

The vast majority of Americans -- the majority of gun owners -- want to do something about this.  We see that now.  

If you watch the speed again, note how carefully the “was blind, but now I see” theme knits together its elements. As a matter of composition, this is harder to pull off than you would think. And as a matter of political framing, it may not actually make a difference, but it’s a much as a political could possibly do to have people think about the issues in a different way.

***

On shifting registers:

— Listening to chopped up snippets of the speech in the airplane, I was struck by something that was the more impressive when I heard the whole thing today. That was the way Obama, certainly on purpose, “code switched” with regularity through the speech. Sometimes he spoke almost as if he were an AME preacher, and certainly as if he was so comfortable in this setting to know its tones. Listen for the words “Shout Hallelujah!” about 12 minutes into the speech to hear this tone.

In other places—including, fascinatingly, his most explicit discourse on racial justice late in the speech—Obama sounds as neutrally professional-class-white-American as he does in most speeches from the Oval Office. When Obama first emerged as a national figure, the both-black-and-white story of his personal background conveniently paralleled the “bring us together” message of political oratory. Manifestly the Obama years have not been a time of bridging the red-versus-blue divides. But I thought this speech more completely illustrated his own bridging potential than others he has given. Paralleling his shifts in diction was a surely non-accidental shifting use of the word “we.” At different points in the speech it meant: we Christians; we African-Americans; we members of the black church; we parents; we people of faith; we Americans.

In his 2004 debut speech Obama had to explicitly spell out that he embodied the different strands of America: white mother from Kansas, black father from Kenya, the more fully American because of that mixture. He conveyed that message implicitly in this speech, in diction and use of “we.”

One thing we’ve learned about post-presidencies is that much of the poison drains away. We like nearly all of these people better once they’re out of office than when they were in the middle of the fray. You can imagine a post-presidential Obama being able to do more, on the “bring us together” front, than the poison of today’s national politics has allowed him to do in office.

— Here is another reason to watch rather than just read about the presentation. It reinforces the fact that this was a major national ceremony, involving fundamental discussion of national issues and prospects, in which all the major participants were black: President, preachers, mourners, congregation. I can’t think of a comparable previous event. Someone writing about our time will, I think, note it as an important step that this was treated not as a “minority” commemoration but as a central American discussion.

***

On religion:

If asked to describe Obama (as I once tried to do here), I would probably use up a lot of other adjectives before I got to “religious” or “Christian.” Obviously that is not because I believe he is a secret Muslim. It is just because he has struck  me as so coolly cosmopolitan, and so much more likely to explain his views with reference to history or literature or economics or jurisprudence than to the teachings of his faith.

But in this eulogy he was obviously completely at ease in the black church. He opened with a verse from the Old Testament, not even need to spell out what he was quoting. He referred to the black church as the “beating heart” of the black community. Actually as “Our beating heart.  The place where our dignity as a people is inviolate.” (Note this use of our.) He knew the cadence of preaching. And of course there was the hymn at the end.

I cannot presume to know whether Barack Obama is in a deep way a “believer.” I will say that no fair-minded person who watches this presentation can doubt that the church is also part of his beating heart. Again this is where I see post-presidential potential for him as a bridging figure. Some of the people who hate him most ferociously now might eventually be open to the grace of such a presentation.

***

I took minute-by-minute notes while watching the speech today, which I might conceivably apply in a follow-up post. For now I am out of time at the computer, and have certainly said enough about this speech.

I have my complaints about and disappointments with Obama. But I hate the conventional DC-media disdain for him as a guy too cool, too aloof, and too generally above-it-all to be interested in the grimy work of public affairs. Think of the columns that begin, “Barry is bored ...” We can’t fully reckon with the ways this era has changed our country, from the long aftermath of the 2008 recession to the consequential court decisions good and bad. (Side point: political writers wonder when the Republican party will produce its next really shrewd strategist, the one who knows how to pick his battles rather than getting mired in obstructive pandering to the base. Such a figure already exists. His name is John Roberts.) But I think the events of this past week, leading to the Grace speech, will play an important part in the reckoning.

This article was originally published at http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/06/grace/397064/









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Escaped Inmate Appeared to be Intoxicated When Killed

Escaped prisoner Richard Matt appeared to be acting intoxicated at the time he was shot and killed, an official briefed on the matter told ABC News.
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