current events Archives

  1. Obama to Restore Mt. McKinley’s Name to Denali →

    It turns out that McKinley had nothing to do with Denali at all:

    The mountain was named for McKinley before he became president, by gold prospector William A. Dickey, who had just received word of McKinley’s nomination as a candidate in 1896. McKinley died without ever setting foot in Alaska, assassinated at the start of his second term in office.

    Can’t we all agree that the preservation of the National Park should have been indicative that Alaska was in favor of the mountain’s original name?

    The tallest mountain in North America has long been known to Alaskans as Denali, its Koyukon Athabascan name, but its official name was not changed with the creation of Denali National Park and Preserve in 1980, 6 million acres carved out for federal protection under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. The state changed the name of the park’s tallest mountain to Denali at that time, but the federal government did not.

    Apparently not:

    Speaker of the House John Boehner R-Ohio said he is “deeply disappointed in this decision” to remove Ohio-native McKinley’s name from the mountain.

    According to this Huffington Post article, this battle has been going on for some time:

    Alaskans had been blocked in Congress by Ohio politicians, who wanted to stick with McKinley as a lasting tribute to the 25th U.S. president, who served from 1897 until his assassination in 1901.

    Great move, Obama!

  2. Google will offer free broadband to low-income families in White House pilot program →

    This is wonderful.

    “While many middle-class US students go home to internet access, allowing them to do research, write papers, and communicate digitally with their teachers and other students, too many lower-income children go unplugged every afternoon when school ends,” the White House said in a statement, first reported by Bloomberg. The announcement comes after a new report from the White House Council of Economic Advisers that shows income is still the biggest barrier to gaining broadband access, even over geography.

  3. Nigeria’s new president Muhammadu Buhari – the man who jailed Fela Kuti →

    Commenting on the election, Seun Kuti said that Buhari “trampled on the rights of my family when he jailed my father” but also that “I can forgive him if he begins to do to Nigerians what Fela would have liked … I would understand that, even if Fela were alive, [if] Fela sees Nigeria going forward, he would speak in favour of the man. But so far, I can’t betray my father based on some promises and some words.” And how did Stein regard the election result? “He’s claiming to be a born-again democrat. Let’s see.”

  4. Alan Lomax’s Massive Archive Goes Online →

    I first heard of Alan Lomax through a 2011 interview on NPR’s Fresh Air, with Terry Gross. It is very exciting to hear that his archive is now available to the public.

    He traveled the world through the 20th century, recording folk music wherever he went to build a massive collection of it for future research:

    Throughout his career, Lomax was always using the latest technology to record folk music in the field and then share it with anyone who was interested. When he started working with his father, John Lomax, in the ’30s, that meant recording on metal cylinders. Later, Alan Lomax hauled giant tape recorders powered by car batteries out to backwoods shacks and remote villages.

    His intent was to one day make his recordings publicly available:

    He imagined a tool that would integrate thousands of sound recordings, films, videotapes and photographs made by himself and others. He hoped the Global Jukebox would make it easy to compare music across different cultures and continents using a complex analytical system he devised — kind of like Pandora for grad students. But the basic idea was simple: Make it all available to anyone, anywhere in the world.

    What is amazing is that the organization he created has succeeded in making this happen:

    “We err on the side of doing the maximum amount possible,” says Don Fleming, executive director of the Association for Cultural Equity, the nonprofit organization Lomax founded in New York in the ’80s. Fleming and a small staff made up mostly of volunteers have digitized and posted some 17,000 sound recordings.

    You can find his recordings at the Association for Cultural Equity webpage. The description on their website sums up their achievement:

    The Sound Recordings catalog comprises over 17,400 digital audio files, beginning with Lomax’s first recordings onto (newly invented) tape in 1946 and tracing his career into the 1990s. In addition to a wide spectrum of musical performances from around the world, it includes stories, jokes, sermons, personal narratives, interviews conducted by Lomax and his associates, and unique ambient artifacts captured in transit from radio broadcasts, sometimes inadvertently, when Alan left the tape machine running. Not a single piece of recorded sound in Lomax’s audio archive has been omitted: meaning that microphone checks, partial performances, and false starts are also included.

    I love this story for many reasons including the history captured by the recordings, the multiple generations of effort to make this happen, the changes in technology that Lomax enountered and used over his years of recording, and the tedious efforts to digitize every last bit of the recordings as they were was recorded.

  5. The monarch massacre: Nearly a billion butterflies have vanished →

    This story seems to come up every year. Sadly, I find myself paying attention to it only after seeing my first monarchs last year in Shenandoah National Park. They are friendly and beautiful creatures.

    Fortunately, there is a way to help:

    In an attempt to counter two decades of destruction, the Fish and Wildlife Service launched a partnership with two private conservation groups, the National Wildlife Federation and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, to basically grow milkweed like crazy in the hopes of saving the monarchs.

    Here is a website where you can order free milkweed seeds! I ordered mine moments ago and will be littering the edges of the field next to my house, where I saw a monarch flying last summer.