Edmund White on writing, incest, life and Larry Kramer

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Thursday, November 8, 2007

What you are about to read is an American life as lived by renowned author Edmund White. His life has been a crossroads, the fulcrum of high-brow Classicism and low-brow Brett Easton Ellisism. It is not for the faint. He has been the toast of the literary elite in New York, London and Paris, befriending artistic luminaries such as Salman Rushdie and Sir Ian McKellen while writing about a family where he was jealous his sister was having sex with his father as he fought off his mother’s amorous pursuit.

The fact is, Edmund White exists. His life exists. To the casual reader, they may find it disquieting that someone like his father existed in 1950’s America and that White’s work is the progeny of his intimate effort to understand his own experience.

Wikinews reporter David Shankbone understood that an interview with Edmund White, who is professor of creative writing at Princeton University, who wrote the seminal biography of Jean Genet, and who no longer can keep track of how many sex partners he has encountered, meant nothing would be off limits. Nothing was. Late in the interview they were joined by his partner Michael Caroll, who discussed White’s enduring feud with influential writer and activist Larry Kramer.

Contents

  • 1 On literature
  • 2 On work as a gay writer
  • 3 On sex
  • 4 On incest in his family
  • 5 On American politics
  • 6 On his intimate relationships
  • 7 On Edmund White
  • 8 On Larry Kramer
  • 9 Source

Category:January 11, 2008

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Chula Vista, California becomes model for blight control laws in the US

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The San Diego, California suburb of Chula Vista has responded to the recent housing crisis with an aggressive blight control ordinance that compels lenders to maintain the appearance of vacant homes. As foreclosures increase both locally and throughout the United States, the one year old ordinance has become a model for other cities overwhelmed by the problem of abandoned homes that decay into neighborhood eyesores.

Chula Vista city code enforcement manager Doug Leeper told the San Diego Union Tribune that over 300 jurisdictions have contacted his office during the past year with inquiries about the city’s tough local ordinance. Coral Springs, Florida, and California towns Stockton, Santee, Riverside County, and Murietta have all modeled recently enacted anti-blight measures after Chula Vista’s. On Wednesday, 8 October, the Escondido City Council also voted to tighten local measures making lenders more accountable for maintenance of empty homes.

Lenders will respond when it costs them less to maintain the property than to ignore local agency requirements.

Under the Chula Vista ordinance lenders become legally responsible for upkeep as soon as a notice of mortgage default gets filed on a vacant dwelling, before actual ownership of the dwelling returns to the lender. Leeper regards that as “the cutting-edge part of our ordinance”. Chula Vista also requires prompt registration of vacant homes and applies stiff fines as high as US$1000 per day for failure to maintain a property. Since foreclosed properties are subject to frequent resale between mortgage brokers, city officials enforce the fines by sending notices to every name on title documents and placing a lien on the property, which prevents further resale until outstanding fines have been paid. In the year since the ordinance went into effect the city has applied $850,000 in fines and penalties, of which it has collected $200,000 to date. The city has collected an additional $77,000 in registration fees on vacant homes.

Jolie Houston, an attorney in San Jose, believes “Lenders will respond when it costs them less to maintain the property than to ignore local agency requirements.” Traditionally, local governments have resorted to addressing blight problems on abandoned properties with public funds, mowing overgrown lawns and performing other vital functions, then seeking repayment afterward. Chula Vista has moved that responsibility to an upfront obligation upon lenders.

That kind of measure will add additional costs to banks that have been hit really hard already and ultimately the cost will be transferred down to consumers and investors.

As one of the fastest growing cities in the United States during recent years, Chula Vista saw 22.6% growth between 2000 and 2006, which brought the city’s population from 173,556 in the 2000 census to an estimated 212,756, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Chula Vista placed among the nation’s 20 fastest growing cities in 2004. A large proportion of local homes were purchased during the recent housing boom using creative financing options that purchasers did not understand were beyond their means. Average home prices in San Diego County declined by 25% in the last year, which is the steepest drop on record. Many homeowners in the region currently owe more than their homes are worth and confront rising balloon payment mortgages that they had expected to afford by refinancing new equity that either vanished or never materialized. In August 2008, Chula Vista’s eastern 91913 zip code had the highest home mortgage default rate in the county with 154 filings and 94 foreclosures, an increase of 154% over one year previously. Regionally, the county saw 1,979 foreclosures in August.

Professionals from the real estate and mortgage industries object to Chula Vista’s response to the crisis for the additional burdens it places on their struggling finances. Said San Diego real estate agent Marc Carpenter, “that kind of measure will add additional costs to banks that have been hit really hard already and ultimately the cost will be transferred down to consumers and investors.” Yet city councils in many communities have been under pressure to do something about increasing numbers of vacant properties. Concentrations of abandoned and neglected homes can attract vandals who hasten the decline of struggling neighborhoods. Jolie Houston explained that city officials “can’t fix the lending problem, but they can try to prevent neighborhoods from becoming blighted.”

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CEO Robert Klein of Safeguard, a property management firm, told the Union Tribune that his industry is having difficulty adapting to the rapidly changing local ordinances. “Every day we discover a new ordinance coming out of somewhere”, he complained. Dustin Hobbs, a spokesman from the California Association of Mortgage Bankers agreed that uneven local ordinances are likely to increase the costs of lending. Hobbs advised that local legislation is unnecessary due to California State Senate Bill 1137, which was recently approved to address blight. Yet according to Houston, the statewide measure falls short because it fails to address upkeep needs during the months between the time when foreclosure begins and when the lender takes title.

News briefs:July 14, 2010

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Toxic wetlands may be cause of thousands of bird deaths in Western Australia

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Sunday, January 14, 2007

Western Australian government authorities say they believe a toxin may be responsible for the recent mysterious death of an estimated 5,000 birds found in the area of Esperance – on the state’s south eastern coastline. Autopsies by toxicologists from the WA Department of Agriculture will test for organochlorins, organophosphates and heavy metals.

Esperance residents first noticed large numbers of dead birds littering their streets and gardens on December 7 last year. Populations of honeyeaters, wattle birds and miners have reportedly been effected.

The birds were being found vomiting and convulsing in bushland and suburban backyards over an extensive area. Department of Environment and Conservation‘s (DEC) nature conservation coordinator Mike Fitzgerald says toxic wetlands near Esperance are the most likely reason for the mass bird deaths.

The DEC says it has failed to figure out the cause of death despite interviewing industry groups, farmers, grain handlers and timber companies about pesticide and chemical use.

Birds Australia, the peak group dedicated to the conservation, study and enjoyment of Australia’s native birds and their habitats, said it had not heard of a similar occurrence. “Not on that scale, and all at the same time, and also the fact that it’s several different species,” chief executive Graeme Hamilton told the Sunday Times. “You’d have to call that a most unusual event and one that we’d all have to be concerned about.”

Mike Fitzgerald said the DEC were looking at something “pretty potent.” “This is not a normal situation. The common thing that we have seen and heard is that the affected birds have an insatiable thirst… If it turns out to be a toxin that is responsible, that will raise more questions because there is no obvious source of exposure.”

The deaths could be a result of a drier than normal winter, causing algal and bacterial blooms in the Esperance Lakes Nature Reserves. Esperance recorded 457mm rainfall in 2006; the average is 620mm.

Initially, health authorities feared a virus, such as the deadly avian bird flu, was responsible. That was quickly ruled out, along with poisoning from bacteria or eating poisoned insects.

The first deaths were reported by Esperance resident Michelle Crisp – who lives close to the worst-affected area. Dozens of native birds began dying in her back yard a week before Christmas. She says she contacted neighbours to discover if they were experiencing the same thing. Mrs Crisp found four dead birds, then 16, then 30 and finally up to 80.

Mike Fitzgerald said that any one of hundreds of toxins could be causing the deaths but so far all leads had not produced any answers.

A Surprising Variety Of Custom Containers}

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A Surprising Variety of Custom Containers

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Bullmans Shipping Containers

Custom containers include not only containers of non-standard dimensions but also containers rebuilt into houses, shops, garbage bins, and so on. By containers, we mean those large 20’x8’x8′ and larger boxes used to transport everything from heavy machinery to thousands cartons of trinkets (in each box).

These containers are used extensively in international trade as they can be packed and custom sealed at the factory and then transported by truck, railcar and ship (or aircraft) to distant locations without being opened till they reach their destinations. The standardized dimensions and specialized handling equipment make it easy to transfer the containers from trucks to railcars to ships and in the reverse direction. With containers, the efficiency of transport logistics improves dramatically.While transporting containers filled with merchandise is an economic proposition, transporting empty containers is not. Containers that come in are re-used to ship merchandise out from their original destinations. Where this is not possible because of unbalanced trade, empty containers tend to accumulate at high import destinations.These empty containers cause problems, and hence the urgency to convert them into other uses. Let us look at some of these rebuilt custom containers.Container HousesA 20 feet long, 8 feet wide and 8 feet high container can accommodate a 9’x6′ living room, an adequate bed that folds into the wall when not needed, several chairs that also can be folded into the wall, a counter, small kitchen unit and toilet. It would be cramped of course, but can provide living quarters at worksites. A 45’x8’x9.5′ container is another standard size. It can accommodate more spacious rooms and facilities.The containers can be fitted up inside to protect from outside heat and create pleasing interiors, and doors and windows can be cut to suit the overall design. With solar power, it can even move around with continuous power supply.Instead of living quarters, the design can be adapted for creating mobile shops, eating-places, or other kinds of accommodation. More than one level can be built by stacking containers over one another, or by going for smaller levels.Flat RacksThe container walls and roof can be stripped out (and recycled) leaving the four corner reinforcements intact on the floor plate. With a little modification, these can then be converted into flat racks suitable for different uses. For example, fit them with wheels and they can be moved along tracks. Cargo can be fitted inside easily, and lifting and loading are also made easier.Several numbers of these racks can be stacked while transporting empty, saving space and cost.Garbage ContainersAnother custom container is the garbage container. The empty containers lying around wasting space can be converted into excellent garbage containers that can be transported in container trucks, and handled with standard container handling equipment. Garbage can be packed tightly inside, and removed by opening one end that constitutes the door.Open Top ContainersLoading certain kinds of cargo, such as heavy machinery, is easier into open top containers. With the top open, such items can be lifted by crane and placed into the container. This is much easier than trying to load them the conventional way.Custom ContainersThe above examples will give an idea of the versatile applications possible with standard containers. Then there are tank containers for liquid cargo, refrigerated containers, ventilated containers for organic produce, smaller containers for air cargo and so on to fit numerous custom container requirements.

Sam Bullman writes for Bullmans

Shipping Containers

based in Barking Essex

Article Source:

A Surprising Variety of Custom Containers}

California meat packing firm recalls 143M pounds of beef

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

I am dismayed at the in-humane handling of cattle that has resulted in the violation of food safety regulations at the Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company.

In a press release today, California-based Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Co. indicated that it has voluntarily recalled just over 143 million pounds (65 million kilograms) of raw and frozen beef products, which is considered to be the largest single recall of beef products in U.S. history. The move follows an investigation by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) into allegations of animal cruelty and mishandling of cattle destined for the human food chain.

The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) had determined that beef products produced by the Chino, California company were unfit for human consumption as the cattle had not received “complete and proper inspection.”

The recall has been designated as Class II, which the USDA describes as “a health hazard situation where there is a remote probability of adverse health consequences from the use of the product.”

On Friday, Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer indicated that charges had been laid against employees of the plant alleged to have taken part in the mistreatment of cattle. “Today [Friday], the San Bernardino District Attorney filed felony animal cruelty charges against two employees who were terminated by Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company,” said Schafer. “It is regrettable that these animals were mistreated and I am encouraged and supportive of these actions by the San Bernardino District Attorney in response to this mistreatment.”

The USDA learned of the possible inhumane handling of non-ambulatory (disabled) cattle at the packing plant on January 30 and has since suspended activities at the plant. “We continue to conduct a thorough investigation into whether any violations of food safety or additional humane handling regulations have occurred,” said Secretary Schafer in a press release. “On February 8, our Office of the Inspector General took the lead on the investigation. At that time, USDA extended the administrative hold on Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company products for the National School Lunch Program, the Emergency Food Assistance Program and the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations while the investigation continues,” said Schafer.

The FSIS reported that Hallmark/Westland had not contacted the FSIS public health veterinarian, as required, when cattle became ill or disabled after undergoing ante-mortem (slaughter) inspection, putting the company out of compliance with FSIS regulations. “Because the cattle did not receive complete and proper inspection FSIS has determined them to be unfit for human food and the company is conducting a recall,” explained Secretary Schafer.

The cruelty charges stem from an undercover video that reportedly showed sick cattle being moved by crews using forklifts.

“Words cannot accurately express how shocked and horrified I was at the depictions contained on the video that was taken by an individual who worked at our facility from October 3 thru November 14, 2007,” said Steve Mendell, President, Westland Meat Co. and Hallmark Meat Packing. “We have taken swift action regarding the two employees identified on the video and have already implemented aggressive measures to ensure all employees follow our humane handling policies and procedures. We are also cooperating with the USDA investigators on the allegations of inhumane handling treatment which is a serious breech of our company’s policies and training.”

The USDA stressed that it is “extremely unlikely” that the cattle involved were at risk for Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or mad-cow disease due to the employment of multiple safeguards. The USDA felt the recall was required, however, as the plant had allegedly violated USDA regulations.

The recall involves raw and frozen beef products produced on various dates from February 1, 2006 to February 2, 2008. For further information about the recall, consumers, media, and distributors are encouraged to contact Hallmark/Westland’s Plant Manager Stan Mendell or Food Safety Consultant Steve Sayer at (909) 590-3340 or the FSIS website, www.fsis.usda.gov.

Adele and David Bowie each win five Grammys

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

On Sunday, British singer Adele won five Grammy Awards at the 59th Grammy Awards event in Los Angeles. David Bowie posthumously won five Grammys.

Adele won Song of the Year, Best Pop Solo and Record of the Year for her song Hello, and Album of the Year for her album 25, becoming the first singer to win the Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Album of the Year twice.

David Bowie was nominated in five categories — three for his album Blackstar in Best Alternative Music Album, Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical, and Best Rock Performance; and two for his song Blackstar, Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance. Days after releasing his 25th album, Blackstar, Bowie passed away in January 2016, due to cancer. Before Blackstar, Bowie won a Grammy for his music video Jazzin’ for Blue Jean, and Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006, never winning the award in a major category before.

In the event, singer Bruno Mars paid tribute to music icon Prince, replicating style, costumes, and guitar of Prince’s. Minneapolis-based funk band The Time, who had performed with Prince, paid tribute to the singer who passed away in April at the age of 57. Adele, in her performance, paid tribute to George Michael. While performing, Adele stopped, swore, and restarted. She later apologised, saying “I am sorry for swearing and I am sorry for starting again, I can’t mess this up for him[…] I am sorry, I can’t.” British pop singer George Michael died on Christmas Day of heart failure at the age of 53.

Adele was in tears while receiving Grammy for the Album of the Year. In her acceptance speech, she said, “But I can’t possibly accept this award. And I’m very humbled and I’m very grateful and gracious. But my artist of my life is Beyoncé. And this album to me, the ‘Lemonade’ album, is just so monumental. Beyoncé, it’s so monumental. And so well thought out, and so beautiful and soul-baring and we all got to see another side to you that you don’t always let us see. And we appreciate that. And all us artists here, we fucking adore you. You are our light. And the way that you make me and my friends feel, the way you make my black friends feel, is empowering. And you make them stand up for themselves. And I love you.” Other albums in the pool, besides 25 and Lemonade, were Justin Bieber’s Purpose, Drake’s Views, and A Sailor’s Guide To Earth by Sturgill Simpson.

Earlier, while receiving award for the Record of the Year, Adele said, “My dream and my idol is Queen Bee [Beyoncé], and I adore you and you move my soul every single day and you have done for nearly seventeen years”. Other songs nominated in the category were Beyoncé’s Formation, Work by Rihanna, 7 Years by Lukas Graham, and Stressed Out by TWENTY ØNE PILØTS.

Beyoncé received the largest number of nominations for the event — nine — but she won only two. Her album Lemonade won Best Urban Contemporary Album and her song Formation won Best Music Video.

Chance The Rapper won Best New Artist, and claimed Best Rap Performance for No Problem and Best Rap Album for Coloring Book. Chance’s songs were never sold, and were available for free on streaming services.

The new host James Corden took a pratfall on the stairs while entering. The duo TWENTY ØNE PILØTS won Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for their song Stressed Out. Upon announcement, they removed their pants to accept the award. Sharing an incident of watching Grammys before the duo was famous, Tyler Joseph said Josh Dun proposed if they were to receive a Grammy, they would receive it in their underpants as they were in underpants watching the award ceremony at the time. In his acceptance speech, he said, “I want everyone who’s watching at home to know that you could be next. So watch out, because anyone from anywhere can do anything.”

US home sales fall at fastest pace on record

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Sales of previously owned homes in the US fell at the fastest rate ever recorded last December, according to data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

According to the association, existing home sales fell 16.7% last month, to an annual rate of 5.45 million, the largest crash since 1968. The figure was less than the 5.90 million units, or an eleven percent drop, predicted by most analysts.

Sales of homes went up for the entire of 2009 to 5.156 million units, or 4.9% for the year, and prices dropped from 2008 by 12.4%.

NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun described the figures as being “probably the largest annual drop since the Great Depression”. He said that “the market is going through a period of swings driven by the tax credit. We’re likely to have another surge in the spring. Job creation is the key to a continued recovery in the second half of the year.”

Pierre Ellis, a senior economist for Decision Economics in New York, commented on the figures, saying: “The drop in home sales is the payback for the acceleration of sales that occurred with the original first-time home buyers tax credit. […] There is an issue as to whether the decline represents a fundamental weakening.”

“The housing market continues to face significant headwinds, including high unemployment, record delinquencies and foreclosures, the specter of rising mortgage rates as the Fed’s [mortgage-backed securities] purchase programs comes to a close in late March, and tight credit,” Omair Sharif, an economist for RBS Securities, noted.

“Still, the resale market showed resilience in the second half of 2009, and the expansion and extension of the tax credit to April 30 could boost purchases during the spring selling season,” he said.

“We’ll see a pickup in existing home sales in the next couple of months as people take advantage of the tax-credit extension”, economist Adam York of Wells Fargo Securities LLC in Charlotte, North Carolina claimed. He fore-casted a pace of 5.4 million. He said that there were unlikely to be buyers of homes, despite the fact that the U.S. was “past the bottom.”

All four regions of the country saw a decline in sales. In the Northeast, sales fell 19.5 percent, in the Midwest, they plunged 25.8 percent. The South, the country’s largest region, saw a 16.3% decline, while in the West, sales waned by 4.8%.

US stocks fell slightly after the announcement, but went back up later in the day.

British Parliament bans smoking in pubs, workplaces and clubs

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Friday, February 17, 2006

MPs at the British Parliament have voted by large majority of 200 to bring in legislation banning smoking in all pubs, clubs and workplaces in a landmark free vote. The ban is expected to come into force from summer 2007.

The originally proposed fine of £200 was raised to £2500 for failing to stop people smoking in banned areas in the late stages of the parliamentary process. Other fines include a fixed penalty notice of £50 for lighting up in banned areas and spot fines of £200 for failing to display no smoking signs in banned areas.

Smoking may also be banned in “substantially enclosed” venues such as railway stations and football stadiums; this may also include cars carrying passengers but no decision has been taken on this as yet. Ministers will finalise precise regulations after a three month consultation.

The vote was politically fraught, as the Labour Party in government had proposed a ‘compromise’ bill, in line with their election manifesto, which would allow pubs not serving food to be exempt from the ban. With many Labour MPs threatening to rebel against this compromise however, in favour of a full ban, Labour granted its members a free vote. MPs then voted for the full ban by a margin of 453 votes to 125,­ a majority of 328.

MPs then debated a last-minute amendment to exempt private members clubs, which was also rejected, by 384 votes to 184,­ a majority of 200. The Prime Minister, Tony Blair, voted for a complete ban along with his health secretary, Patricia Hewitt.

The ban will bring England in line with Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, which will all be introducing a full smoking ban for pubs and clubs. The bill also gives ministers powers to increase the age for purchasing cigarettes from 16 to 18 which ministers will begin the consultation process upon shortly.

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