Cumberbatch Wants Britain To Pardon Men Convicted Under Anti-Gay Law

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Jan 31 2015

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Actor Benedict Cumberbatch poses for photographers in London in December.

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Actor Benedict Cumberbatch poses for photographers in London in December.

Actor Benedict Cumberbatch poses for photographers in London in December.

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English actors Benedict Cumberbatch and Stephen Fry have joined in a campaign to secure 49,000 pardons – most that would be posthumous — for men convicted under Britain’s now-defunct “gross indecency” law that made it a crime to be gay or bisexual.

Cumberbatch has been nominated for a best actor Oscar for his portrayal of code-breaking genius Alan Turing in The Imitation Game. Turing, who Winston Churchill described as having “made the single biggest contribution to the Allied victory in the Second World War” for breaking the German military’s Enigma code, committed suicide in 1954 after being convicted under the law.

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British actor and comedian Stephen Fry at the BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) award nominations in London, earlier this month.

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British actor and comedian Stephen Fry at the BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) award nominations in London, earlier this month.

British actor and comedian Stephen Fry at the BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) award nominations in London, earlier this month.

Matt Dunham/AP

A letter sent by Cumberbatch and Fry to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge asked the royal couple to persuade the government to issue a blanket pardon to gay and bisexual men convicted under the law, which was repealed in England and Wales in 1967.

“The UK’s homophobic laws made the lives of generations of gay and bisexual men intolerable,” the letter says, according to the U.K.’s Channel 4 news.

“It is up to young leaders of today including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to acknowledge this mark on our history and not allow it to stand,” it says. “We call upon Her Majesty’s Government to begin a discussion about the possibility of a pardoning all the men, alive or deceased, who like Alan Turing, were convicted.”

The letter says that an estimated 15,000 men convicted under the law are still alive.

In 2009, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown apologized on behalf of the British government for Turing’s treatment, which included a requirement that he undergo chemical castration. Four years later, in in Dec. 2013, Turing was officially pardoned. In a statement issued at the time, then-Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said the mathematician — who also was the first to outline the broad concepts of modern computing “deserves to be remembered and recognized for his fantastic contribution to the war and his legacy to science.”

Article source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2015/01/31/382901723/cumberbatch-wants-britain-to-pardon-men-convicted-under-anti-gay-law?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Recent Attacks Highlight Difficulty In Combating ISIS

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Jan 31 2015

ISIS militants continued their deadly attacks this week, evidence that the campaign by Iraq and the U.S. to defeat the group could take years. NPR’s Arun Rath talks with reporter Alice Fordham.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/2015/01/31/382936117/recent-attacks-highlight-difficulty-in-combating-isis?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Mindy Kaling’s Super Bowl Ad: Are Indian Women Invisible?

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Jan 31 2015

A Super Bowl commercial for Nationwide Insurance shows an Indian American woman — none other than author and actor Mindy Kaling — trying to hail a cab in New York City. And it’s not easy.

“After years of being treated like she was invisible, it occurred to Mindy Kaling she might actually be invisible,” the narrator says.

Kaling then pretends she is invisible, doing all kinds of ridiculous things. She steals ice cream from a store, walks through a car wash and stretches in a park, naked.

Watching the ad’s teaser, I wondered if there’s more to the message than trying to sell insurance. Do minority women in America feel invisible? What about women in India?

As an Indian woman who lived in the U.S. for 11 years and now lives in India, I have had a taste of both worlds.

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Mindy Kaling and the author agree: A cloak of invisibility has advantages.

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Mindy Kaling and the author agree: A cloak of invisibility has advantages.

Mindy Kaling and the author agree: A cloak of invisibility has advantages.

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In the U.S., I experienced my share of invisibility. And my minority women friends there tell me they’ve also experienced it.

For me, one example was at work. Some colleagues were putting together a project highlighting the accomplishments of a group. But I wasn’t included in the presentation, despite belonging to that work group.

Then someone higher up — I’m not sure who — decided the project needed to show “diversity” in the workplace. And so, I was eventually asked to participate.

I was game, did my bit and even teased my colleagues about making me the “token minority.” They responded with embarrassment and self-deprecating comments, and we merrily went back to working together.

I must add a line here in defense of all the people who wittingly or unwittingly made sure I wasn’t invisible for most of my time in the U.S. I mostly felt supported and encouraged by numerous colleagues and friends. An experience of significant visibility, I’d say.

Still, it was hard not to notice the times where I was overlooked or my work underappreciated. And I’m not alone. This problem has been documented in studies, especially on African American women. Take this 2010 study for example, which shows how black women go “unnoticed” and “unheard.”

Back here in India, I find myself aching for invisibility — not when hailing a cab though, like Kaling. That would be no good.

But when I’m out and about in New Delhi, I wish I could go about my business unnoticed. That’s because being visible comes with a certain risk of violence, especially in a city like New Delhi, often called the rape capital of India.

Public spaces here often have different rules for men and women. Men outnumber women, and there are liberties a man can take that women still can’t.

For instance, a man can loiter. A woman can’t — at least, not without drawing stares from men and assumptions about the woman’s character being “loose.” It’s a guaranteed way to draw all the creeps in the vicinity.

A man can go for a walk, anywhere and at any time of the day. A woman can’t.

A man can walk out of the house wearing almost anything he wants. Indian men often wear shorts, lungis (wrap skirts for men), or or even no shirt at all. Nobody raises an eyebrow.

A woman doesn’t have that freedom. Each time I step out of the house, I have to consider carefully what I’m wearing. Is it too tight? Is it too revealing? Is it going to draw lewd stares and comments from men? There are no specific rules, so to speak. But anything that’s too revealing and modern — shorts, short skirts, tank tops — is bound to draw unwanted attention.

When I was younger, I didn’t care. I wore what I wanted, despite the stares. Now, in my mid-30s, I no longer want my clothes to be a potential risk to my own safety, so I worry about my wardrobe.

An invisibility cloak would definitely come in handy here in New Dehli. I could wear it and go wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted. And I could remove it when I needed to be visible, say, when hailing that cab.

But I recognize that invisibility isn’t the answer. Only when more and more women step out into public spaces here can we hope to make spaces safer for Indian women. It will take time and maybe a few more generations. But, I think, it’s the only way to go.

And actually, when you think about, the situation in New Delhi isn’t that different from that in the U.S. Only by persisting in workplaces and public spaces, and making sure we are seen and heard, can we hope for a day when women of all colors feel more visible.

Going about one’s life as though one’s invisible, is definitely not the answer. Right Mindy?

Article source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/goatsandsoda/2015/01/31/382708057/mindy-kaling-s-super-bowl-ad-are-indian-women-invisible?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Civilians In Eastern Ukraine Flee As Fighting Intensifies

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Jan 30 2015

Civilians in villages near the front lines in Eastern Ukraine are being forced to leave their homes as fighting intensifies between Government forces and Russian-back separatists.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/2015/01/30/382717113/civilians-in-eastern-ukraine-flee-as-fighting-intensifies?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Latvia Keeps Careful Eye Trained On Russia

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Jan 30 2015

Robert Siegel speaks with Edgars Rinkevics, foreign minister of Latvia, on his visit to Washington, D.C. Rinkevics is in town to to discuss Russia and security cooperation with the U.S.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/2015/01/30/382717122/latvia-keeps-careful-eye-trained-on-russia?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Close Friend Of Putin Awarded Contract For Crimea Bridge

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Jan 30 2015

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In a photo taken in Aug. 2013, Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, is shown with businessman and billionaire Arkady Rotenberg, right, mourn during a farewell ceremony for Putin’s first judo coach, Anatoly Rakhlin in St. Petersburg, Russia.

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In a photo taken in Aug. 2013, Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, is shown with businessman and billionaire Arkady Rotenberg, right, mourn during a farewell ceremony for Putin's first judo coach, Anatoly Rakhlin in St. Petersburg, Russia.

In a photo taken in Aug. 2013, Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, is shown with businessman and billionaire Arkady Rotenberg, right, mourn during a farewell ceremony for Putin’s first judo coach, Anatoly Rakhlin in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Mikhail Klimentyev/AP

Moscow has awarded a $3 billion contract to build a bridge linking Russia with the newly annexed Crimean peninsula to a close friend of President Vladimir Putin.

The bridge that would join Russia and Crimea across the Kerch Strait will be constructed by the SGM Group, majority owned by Arkady Rotenberg, which the BBC describes as “a childhood friend and judo partner of the Russian president.” Further, Rotenberg, 63, “was among the first Russian businessmen to be put under Western sanctions over the Ukraine crisis,” Reuters says.

SGM, which specializes in building pipelines, has no previous experience at building bridges, the news agency notes. The company was assembled in 2008 from several units sold by state-owned gas producer Gazprom, Reuters says.

According to the Kremlin announcement of the deal, the bridge is set for completion no later than Dec. 2018.

The Moscow Times reported in March that it will be Russia’s most costly bridge. The project, it said, was estimated in March at a cost of 50 billion rubles, but by June the estimated cost had tripled.

However, the BBC says “it is still unclear where on the Kerch Strait the structure will be erected, meaning the span could be anything from 4km to 15km (2.5 to 9 miles).”

Article source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2015/01/30/382720112/close-friend-of-putin-awarded-contract-for-crimea-bridge?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

U.S. Report On Spending In Afghanistan Classified For First Time

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Jan 29 2015

The latest quarterly report on U.S. spending in Afghanistan was released on Thursday. Conspicuously missing were figures on how more than $50 billion is being spent on training and equipping Afghan military and police forces. Those figures have been classified for the first time in years of such reporting and the general who ordered keeping them secret says it’s to keep enemies from sharpening their attacks. Key senators disagree.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/2015/01/29/382463459/u-s-report-on-spending-in-afghanistan-classified-for-first-time?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Guantanamo Bay A Sticking Point Between U.S., Cuba Since 1903

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Jan 29 2015

Guantanamo Bay is home to the United States’ oldest overseas base. And since it was established in 1903, the base has been a bone of contention in U.S. and Cuban relations. Melissa Block talks to Vanderbilt History professor Paul Kramer.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/2015/01/29/382463480/guantanamo-bay-a-sticking-point-between-u-s-cuba-since-1903?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

The Arctic Circle’s Coolest Accommodations Turn 25 Years Old

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Jan 29 2015

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Ice hotels have sprung up around the world, but Sweden’s Icehotel is the original — now celebrating its 25th anniversary. Each winter, the hotel is carved from scratch out of the frozen Torne River.

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Ice hotels have sprung up around the world, but Sweden's Icehotel is the original  now celebrating its 25th anniversary. Each winter, the hotel is carved from scratch out of the frozen Torne River.

Ice hotels have sprung up around the world, but Sweden’s Icehotel is the original — now celebrating its 25th anniversary. Each winter, the hotel is carved from scratch out of the frozen Torne River.

Rich Preston/NPR

On a recent winter’s day in the village of Jukkasjärvi, Sweden, it’s 22 degrees below zero — or -30 Celsius. Whatever you call it, it’s way below freezing.

Sculptor Jens Thoms Ivarsson stands over a block of ice with a razor-sharp chisel, turning a bare room into an ornate Spanish mosque made entirely of ice.

Here, 120 miles above the Arctic Circle, sits a frozen institution: Icehotel, the original.

Other hotels made of ice have popped up around the world, but Icehotel, celebrating its 25th anniversary this winter, was the first. The destination is more than a hotel: It’s also an art exhibition, one that changes every year as artists like Ivarsson build it anew.

Beneath his chisel, the ice transforms. Some of it is crystal clear, some of it looks like snow and some of it is textured like rough stone.

Ivarsson, who has been design director at Icehotel for the last two years, used to work with stone, wood and concrete.

“I always like to bring out the qualities [that are] in the material,” he says. “For this — I mean, here it’s just water.”

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Icehotel is located 120 miles above the Arctic Circle. The temperature outside is well below zero, but inside the hotel — while still, of course, below freezing — it’s much warmer, hovering in the low 20s.

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Ari Shapiro/NPR

Icehotel is located 120 miles above the Arctic Circle. The temperature outside is well below zero, but inside the hotel  while still, of course, below freezing  it's much warmer, hovering in the low 20s.

Icehotel is located 120 miles above the Arctic Circle. The temperature outside is well below zero, but inside the hotel — while still, of course, below freezing — it’s much warmer, hovering in the low 20s.

Ari Shapiro/NPR

This 55-room lodge is built from scratch every fall, entirely from the frozen Torne River. Every spring, it melts back into the water from which it came.

As an artist, Ivarsson says, that impermanence frees him from the pressure of carving something seemingly permanent out of marble or granite.

“When I work with the ice and snow, it’s very liberating — because I know already when I start on the drawing board, that this will disappear,” he says.

Every year, more than 100 artists from around the world compete to design rooms here. Fifteen are chosen, and Icehotel flies them to nearby Kiruna, Sweden. Many of the sculptors have never worked with ice or snow before.

“That’s what we want,” Ivarsson says. “For us that’s important.”

He says everyone has seen swans and eagles before; he wants artists to find something new in the ice.

There are rooms that look like forests or cathedrals. One room has typeface set into the wall, and another is pure angles, telescoping and spiraling inwards.

Each room has a bed in the center, covered in reindeer hides, because people actually sleep here.

Tour guide Paola Lappalinen says the building provides a level of insulation. So even if the temperature outside is, say, minus 22 F, inside the hotel rooms it’s never colder than 19 to 23 F.

And that, she says, is “really warm.”

Then she says something even harder to believe: “Even sometimes when we go and wake people up in the hotel rooms, they say it was too hot to sleep there.”

Inside the hotel, there’s a warm room where people leave their luggage and electronics. The front desk hands out snow suits, balaclavas, boots and sleeping bags heavy enough for the Arctic.

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Visitors walk past icy decorations at Icehotel. Artists from around the world compete for the chance to design rooms in the Swedish landmark, and every year the hotel is rebuilt from scratch, with new sculptures.

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Ari Shapiro/NPR

Visitors walk past icy decorations at Icehotel. Artists from around the world compete for the chance to design rooms in the Swedish landmark, and every year the hotel is rebuilt from scratch, with new sculptures.

Visitors walk past icy decorations at Icehotel. Artists from around the world compete for the chance to design rooms in the Swedish landmark, and every year the hotel is rebuilt from scratch, with new sculptures.

Ari Shapiro/NPR

But the minute you step outside that room, the inside of your nose begins to tingle with frost. Your eyelashes become thick and heavy with white ice crystals.

Many hotel guests duck into the ice bar, to drink Swedish vodka out of glasses made of ice.

Gary Armstrong, visiting with his wife and adult daughter, says, “I was just saying how crazy it is with the English always complaining about the weather — and then we come here in January. You know, 5 degrees under for us is a nightmare, and then we come to 30 degrees under … it’s bizarre, really.”

Why do they do it?

“We have no idea,” he says with a laugh.

But it’s not so bizarre, really.

People come because it’s like experiencing a fantasy world, borrowed from the river, which will return to the river again in the spring.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/parallels/2015/01/29/382436869/the-arctic-circles-coolest-accommodations-turn-25-years-old?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Where Is All That Excess Oil Going?

Uncategorized | Posted by Israel Grossman Attorney
Jan 28 2015

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Tankers are berthed beside the Fawley oil refinery on Jan. 7, in Southampton, England. With low oil prices, some traders are buying oil and storing it in tankers, hoping the price will rise soon so they can sell it at a profit.

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Tankers are berthed beside the Fawley oil refinery on Jan. 7, in Southampton, England. With low oil prices, some traders are buying oil and storing it in tankers, hoping the price will rise soon so they can sell it at a profit.

Tankers are berthed beside the Fawley oil refinery on Jan. 7, in Southampton, England. With low oil prices, some traders are buying oil and storing it in tankers, hoping the price will rise soon so they can sell it at a profit.

Matt Cardy/Getty Images

There’s a term traders use when the price of a commodity like oil has fallen because of oversupply but seems guaranteed to rise again.

It’s a market that’s “in contango,” says Brenda Shaffer, an energy specialist at Georgetown University. “It almost sounds like a sort of great oil dance or something.”

And Shaffer says that some oil speculators see an oil market that is in contango in a major way.

“Some people out there think that oil is going to get more expensive so it’s worthwhile now to buy oil, lock it in, and have those supplies, have them stored and have them available to sell a few months down the line, if you actually believe it’s going to go up,” she says.

The last time this happened was in 2008-2009, after the price of crude oil plummeted to about $35 barrel amid a global downturn. At least 70 million barrels were stored on tankers until the price rebounded.

Crude oil is now selling for less than $50 per barrel, less than half its price last summer. It’s almost certain to go up again. But when?

Some international traders are betting that the price will head north soon. They are buying oil, putting it on tankers, anchoring the ships — and waiting it out. Basil Karatzas, a ship broker and adviser, says the tanker market is very active right now.

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“Especially tankers for crude oil and particularly for very large crude oil carriers, the supertankers for transporting 2 million barrels of oil each time,” he says.

It costs about $15 million a year to store the crude oil on one oil tanker, according to Karatzas. Only a few international traders have the heft to buy and sit on this much oil, he says, companies such as Vitol, Trafigura and Gunsor Beheer. He says he’s inundated with calls from investors who want to take advantage of the contango and buy and store oil. But it’s not so easy to do.

“You have to have a special license; you have to be a registered trader with oil producers like Saudi Arabia,” he says. “If you are just a financial institution, you cannot just show up in Saudi Arabia and tell them I want to buy 2 million barrels of oil because I want to speculate. They will not sell it to you.”

Ken Medlock, senior director of the Center for Energy Studies at Rice University, says oil companies and countries are also trying to take advantage of the soft market.

U.S. companies store oil in huge tanks onshore. Medlock says producers such as Saudi Arabia, the largest oil producer in the world, are looking further afield.

“The Saudis have been very active themselves creating storage capabilities,” he says. “There was an announcement a few months back of an expansion of storage capability in Asia. So they’ve been playing into this as well.”

Medlock says the risk for traders is that the price could keep dropping and stay low for a prolonged period.

“Then the oil you’re holding on to, that you’ve been hoping to sell forward, if you haven’t fully contracted that out, you’re going to sell at a loss,” he says.

Medlock says trading in international oil is not for the fainthearted. But if prices turn in their favor, the traders stand to make a huge profit on the oil they are now storing.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/parallels/2015/01/28/382173205/where-is-all-that-excess-oil-going?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world