Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Monday, 2 March 2015

Bill Clinton’s portrait for the National Portrait Gallery has a Monica Lewinsky reference slipped into the painting -

Bill Clinton’s portrait for the National Portrait Gallery has a Monica Lewinsky reference slipped into the painting - 

The artist who painted Bill Clinton’s portrait for the National Portrait Gallery claims that he slipped in a Monica Lewinsky reference into the painting.
Nelson Shanks told the Philadelphia Daily News that he “subtly” incorporated Lewinsky’s infamous blue dress into the 2006 portrait.
“The reality is he’s probably the most famous liar of all time. He and his administration did some very good things, of course, but I could never get this Monica thing completely out of my mind and it is subtly incorporated in the painting,” Shanks said.
He explained that he put a shadow of the blue dress into the painting.
“If you look at the left-hand side of it there’s a mantle in the Oval Office and I put a shadow coming into the painting and it does two things,” Shanks told the Daily News. “It actually literally represents a shadow from a blue dress that I had on a mannequin, that I had there while I was painting it, but not when he was there. It is also a bit of a metaphor in that it represents a shadow on the office he held, or on him.”
Shanks claims that that Clintons want the portrait removed from the gallery.
“And so the Clintons hate the portrait. They want it removed from the National Portrait gallery,” he told the Daily News. “They’re putting a lot of pressure on them.”
The National Portrait Gallery denied the claim to the Daily News.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the former president’s wife, Hillary Clinton, will likely enter the presidential race in April.


Prisons Increase Profits by Replacing In-Person Family Visits with Video Screens -

Prisons Increase Profits by Replacing In-Person Family Visits with Video Screens - 

Those in charge of the nation’s jails and prisons have found a way to make some money off the backs of those who can often least afford it—the families of inmates.

Telecommunications companies, last seen making huge profits off phone service for inmates, have had to find a new revenue stream since the Federal Communications Commission capped most jail phone rates. Now they’re installing video visitation systems at jails and prisons across the country, charging huge fees for their use and splitting the profits with the facility.

The new systems are touted as more user-friendly for families and better at restricting the flow of contraband into correctional facilities. But they come at the cost of high charges—up to $1.50 a minute—for remote video visiting.

“Seventy three percent of the people in our jail have not been convicted--that means they are innocent until proven guilty,” Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins told NBC News. “And 100% of their family, their spouses and their children are innocent, who are the people who end up paying for this.”

Prisons often don’t start getting their share of the loot until the chat system has been paid for or until a certain level of calls are made each month.

Prisons have no incentive to make the charges affordable for families and some officials show a complete disregard for the cost. The purchasing manager for St. Clair County, Illinois, Tom Maziarz, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “A dollar a minute strikes me as a fair price. I guess it depends what viewpoint you’re coming from. The way I look at it, we’ve got a captive audience. If they don’t like (the rates), I guess they should not have got in trouble to begin with.”

In some cases, a limited number of video chats are free but must be done at a central facility. One company, Securus, requires that jails and prisons that install its systems curtail in-person visits by all except attorneys and clergy. However, that often disincentivizes the use of such systems. A study by the Prison Policy Initiative reports that when traditional through-the-glass visits are retained, there is an average of 23 minutes of offsite video chats per month. When in-person visits are eliminated, that number falls to 13 minutes per month.

Whether done at a central site or remotely, video and sound quality of the chats are often poor, causing much of a pre-scheduled video conference to be wasted.

The systems also eliminate the personal contact between families and inmates that is credited with reducing behavior problems while incarcerated and recidivism after release. “It just seems so impersonal,” Ashika Coleman-Carter, whose husband was jailed in Travis County, Texas, told NBC News. “The old visits, even though you couldn’t touch behind the glass, at least you could go into an actual visiting room and see someone’s face. Now you can’t get close to the person at all.”

The video chats also provide less privacy for visitors with picture and sound being recorded and often reviewed by jail officials. In-person visits were usually in a separate room, but the video chats often take place in the dayroom of a jail. Sometimes family members watch while fights break out behind their loved one.

Attorneys are also troubled by the lack of privacy. “When I need to discuss with them issues germane to their defense or what a witness said…anything with substance, I’m not going to do it over the computer, because I don’t trust them,” Marci Kratter, a Phoenix defense attorney, told Al Jazeera America. “I’m a bit of a cynic, so I have concerns about whether what’s discussed over the Internet is actually privileged and that there’s not some way that they are recording it.”

She’s right to be concerned. Prisons in several jurisdictions have been sued by defense attorneys, charging their conversations with clients have been illegally monitored.

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Too much Facebook leads to Envy and Depression -

Too much Facebook leads to Envy and Depression - 

Constantly checking Facebook to see what your friends are doing could lead to some serious depression.
A recent study conducted by researchers at Nanyang Technological University, Bradley University and the University of Missouri Columbia found that heavy Facebook (FB, Tech30) users can experience envy -- which can ultimately lead to extreme sadness.

The researchers surveyed 736 college students and found that, basically, if you quietly stalk your friends on Facebook and then realize that your life doesn't measure up to theirs, you feel bad about yourself.
"If Facebook is used to see how well an acquaintance is doing financially or how happy an old friend is in his relationship -- things that cause envy among users -- use of the site can lead to feelings of depression," said Margaret Duffy, a professor at the University of Missouri School of Journalism.
This isn't just a college phenomenon. I am nearing middle age and I can relate.
Facebook is a huge part of my life. Like most Facebook users, I have the app on my phone. I check it at work. I check it at home. I check it when I am out. If I am in a subway station with Wi-Fi, I check it there too.
I am up to date on all my friends, their kids and whatever they are reading at that moment. Unfortunately, it's an addiction that I can't quit.
Facebook has allowed me a little window into my friends' lives back home. They have babies -- well some of them have teenagers. They have lovely homes. And the dinners -- oh the dinners they serve! There are food presentations that look like something out of a Martha Stewart magazine. I watch all the videos of their kids saying the darndest things. I click on their pictures of vacations in exotic places.
I have come to the conclusion that Facebook is a lifestyle magazine featuring my friends, who are doing it better than me.
I peruse Facebook from computer on my coffee table, because I am not grown up enough to buy a desk for myself. My coffee table is my all-purpose table. I eat there too -- usually hunks of cheese with a knife and no crackers. That's right no crackers, because I am too lazy to run out to the bodega.
My only consolation is sometimes my friends confuse "there," "their" and "they're" in their posts about their lovely vacations and darling children. Then suddenly, I feel a little bit better about myself.

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