Our Common Good

Chasing Ice movie reveals largest iceberg break-up ever filmed - guardian.co.uk)

SHOWTIME will explore the human impact of climate change in the documentary event series YEARS OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY. This first-of-its-kind series is a collaboration between some of Hollywood’s biggest actors and producers, along with the country’s leading news journalists, who will report on first-person accounts of those affected by – and seeking solutions to – global warming. The project is executive produced by James Cameron, Jerry Weintraub, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, along with Emmy®-winning 60 Minutes producers Joel Bach and David Gelber, and climate expert Daniel Abbasi.

Film and television stars such as Matt Damon, Don Cheadle and Alec Baldwin will participate as first-person narrators on the ground. Also expected to join the project is actor Edward Norton, with more names to be announced soon. Reporting from the field is a dream team of New York Times journalists including three-time Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas Friedman, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Nicholas Kristof, as well as renowned columnist Mark Bittman, and MSNBC host and political commentator Chris Hayes, among others. The announcement was made today by David Nevins, President of Entertainment for Showtime Networks Inc. Extensive in both scale and scope, YEARS OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY will unfold over six to eight, one-hour episodes and is scheduled to air in 2013.

Ms. Anadi is the star of the documentary film Solar Mamas. The film follows Ms. Anadi and her friend, the older, quieter Umm Badr, as they journey to India to be trained in solar engineering and return to their remote village to implement what they have learned.

The women were selected to be trainees at the Barefoot College, a programme created by the Indian activist, Bunker Roy, where illiterate and semi-literate grandmothers from rural villages around the world are trained to become solar engineers. With many of the women unable to speak the same language as their instructors, knowledge during the six-month course is transferred using sign language, repetition, and visual aids.

Amazingly, the technical challenges these women faced were just the beginning of their story. Six weeks into the course, Ms. Anadi’s husband called to tell her that if she did not return immediately he would divorce her and take her children. By staying at Barefoot College, she was breaking radically with the moral order of her community. But remember those eyes: Rafea Anadi cannot be intimidated.

Did she have doubts?

“Never. I always wanted to do it. On the contrary, you tell me ‘no’ and I want to do it ten times more,” she says with only the faintest hint of a smile.

Mona Eldaief, the director of Solar Mamas, focused on these women from Jordan because she wanted to capture some of the cultural obstacles that women can face when attempting to change their communities.  Anadi and Umm Badr went through “hell” to reach their goal, according to Ms. Eldaief.

At the same time, the director wanted the film to demonstrate how much can be accomplished by putting the responsibility for alleviating poverty into the hands of women.

“If you give a man training he might take his skills and move to the city, away from his family. But when a woman has control her instinct is to give it back to her children,” says Ms. Eldaief. “And we see in Rafea’s case that she was able to bring sustainable income and sustainable energy to where there’s no resources.”

The other lesson of Ms. Anadi’s experience is that the knowledge she gained can bring profound, positive changes to the sustainability of small communities.

Raouf Dabbas appeared in the film when he was senior adviser to Minister of the Environment in Jordan. He is now vice-president of Friends of the Environment, which has taken over the mission of training and equipping local women in solar engineering. “Jordan is the fourth poorest country in the world for water resources… and receives 90 per cent of its energy from outside,” he says.

This means that in small impoverished towns where fuel is extremely expensive, villagers must burn firewood. The frequent uprooting of trees loosens ground soil and destabilises the entire ecosystem.

The knowledge and resources provided by Barefoot College and Friends of the Environment allowed villagers to halt this practice at a stroke. Ms. Anandi was also trained in the installation of solar cookers and water harvesting technology, making the town even more independent and sustainable.

What makes the programme different than other solar initiatives, says Mr. Dabbas, is the fact that training local women creates a lasting change. While solar systems implanted by other NGOs broke down after six or seven years, the systems in Ms. Anadi’s village can last indefinitely as she passes on her knowledge to the community.

“By doing it this way the people of the village are empowered … It’s a great model that we can replicate everywhere,” says Mr. Dabbas. “I hope that through COP18, we’ll shed light to all the legislators who are here that we can do the change if we’re thinking in a sustainable way.”

'Chasing Ice': Time-Lapse Cameras Capture Rapidly Melting Glaciers (by ABCNews)

Documentary shows Catholic positions on abortion, contraception are relatively new  (via The Raw Story)

Actor and outspoken liberal John Cusack is developing a movie about conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, Cusack’s production company said Friday.

An alarming, hilarious documentary revisits the Tea Party-fueled fight over evolution and Obama in school textbooks

But if McLeroy is the most famous figure, and oddly the most compelling, in the Texas textbook battle of recent years, “The Revisionaries” makes clear that others were probably more powerful and influential. National media drifted away from the half-comic, half-tedious circus of the Austin school board meetings after the partially successful right-wing attempt to wiggle discussion of “intelligent design” into science textbooks that addressed evolution. But Thurman and his fellow filmmakers stuck around for a battle over social-science textbooks that was arguably worse, since opinions and analyses in that field can’t be subjected to the same scientific rigor. Culture-war amendments were added fast and furious to the academic standards in that area: removing references to the slave trade from the texts and praising leaders of the Confederacy; substituting “country music” for “hip-hop” in a discussion of pop culture; adding, preposterously, religious figures like Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin as inspirations for the American Revolution, while deleting the word “Enlightenment.” (One board member even suggested that every reference to Barack Obama should include his middle name.)

Many of those were the work of Cynthia Dunbar, a board member who is much smoother, subtler and smarter than McLeroy – and enormously more dangerous. Dunbar is a highly articulate lawyer who teaches at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University in Virginia, and who was evidently groomed for her position on the Texas board by political activists on the Christian right. She cooperates readily with Thurman’s film and appears to have nothing to hide, but neither in talking-head interviews nor in board sessions does she ever offer the least insight into her personality, offering bland generalities about “community service” as she doggedly pursues a hard-right agenda. McLeroy is honest to a fault, haranguing his dental patients and Sunday-school students about Noah’s ark – yes, he got the dinosaurs on there somehow – and apologizing regretfully for his most inflammatory statements. Nothing, on the other hand, ever penetrates Dunbar’s Teflon surface; I had to consult Wikipedia to learn that she has described public education as unconstitutional and a “subtly deceptive tool of perversion.” (She served one term on the board and did not run for reelection; one gets the feeling bigger things are contemplated.)


On one hand, “The Revisionaries” is clearly meant to support Miller’s argument, which is that liberals and progressives need to focus harder on fighting at the granular level of school-board elections and other lower-level political bodies that actually set policy, as opposed to electing the lesser of two evils every four years. That’s true and all, but I can’t help feeling that on a larger scale people like McLeroy and the vastly more sinister Dunbar are trying to fight back the tide of demographic and social change. Non-Hispanic whites are already a minority in Texas – and a rapidly shrinking minority among those under 18. What’s keeping the state reliably red are the lower rates of citizenship and voting among minorities, both of which will normalize over time. Yes, the right can edit Cesar Chavez and Rosa Parks out of the textbooks, and concoct tortured phrases meant to undercut Darwinism. But how long can that extend their hegemony? I’m left with the vision of Don McLeroy wandering around a soccer field with a handful of Sunday school kids, pacing off 300 cubits by 50 cubits and explaining how Noah got those caribou and beavers and scorpions and T-rexes in there. The lower of the three decks, he tells the kids, was for all the poop. I always wondered about that!

Friends in Texas, remember that the entire Board of Education is up for reelection Nov. 6. The Texas Freedom Board has info about the candidates.

- D’Souza rightly argues that the national debt has risen to $16 trillion under Obama. But he never mentions the explosion of debt that occurred under Obama’s predecessor, Republican George W. Bush, nor the 2008 global financial crisis that provoked a shock to the U.S. economy.

- D’Souza says Obama is “weirdly sympathetic to Muslim jihadists” in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He does not mention that Obama ordered the raid that killed Osama bin Laden and the drone strikes that have killed dozens of terrorists in the region.

-D’Souza wrongly claims that Obama wants to return control of the Falkland Islands from Britain to Argentina. The U.S. refused in April to endorse a final declaration on Argentina’s claim to the islands at the Summit of the Americas, provoking criticism from other Latin American nations.

-D’Souza says Obama has “done nothing” to impede Iran’s nuclear ambitions, despite the severe trade and economic sanctions his administration has imposed on Iran to halt its suspected nuclear program. Obama opposes a near-term military strike on Iran, either by the U.S. or Israel, although he says the U.S. will never tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran.

- D’Souza says Obama removed a bust of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill from the Oval Office because Churchill represented British colonialism. White House curator William Allman said the bust, which had been on loan, was already scheduled to be returned before Obama took office. Another bust of Churchill is on display in the president’s private residence, the White House says.


This Academy Award-nominated film features compelling first person accounts which reveal the physical, legal, and emotional consequences during the era when abortion was a criminal act. Remembrances include those of women who experienced illegal abortions, doctors who risked imprisonment and loss of their licenses for providing illegal abortions, and individuals who broke the law by helping women find safe abortions.

If you have never seen this, you should download it and watch. 

From environmental pollution to their efforts to dismantle social security for working Americans, the Koch Brothers have launched a large network, attacking our American values.

Koch Brothers Exposed Trailer (by bravenewfoundation)


The Road We’ve Traveled | Official trailer

A film documenting Barack Obama’s first term as president. Directed by Davis Guggenheim. Sign up to see it. [via]


I’ve been talking bout decentralized social networks for awhile, here’s a documentary about exactly that.

Free The Network, coming soon to Motherboard on Vice

After recovering from a mountain biking accident that left him nearly incapacitated for many long, pain-filled months, Hollywood writer/director/producer Tom Shadyac (Ace Venture: Pet Detective, Liar Liar, The Nutty Professor, Bruce Almighty) took a look at his life up to that point, a life that was largely ruled by rampant materialism which consisted of travel in private jets and living in a 17,000 square foot mansion.

With the realization that there was more to life than just accumulating possessions, he shifted gears from comedy to documentary, assembled a small camera crew, and set out to ask some of world’s most profound thinkers two questions:

What’s wrong with our world, and what can we do about it?

"I AM" - Official Trailer (by PaladinFilm1)

How did I miss this?

Kidnapped for Christ follows the stories of several American teenagers who were sent to Escuela Caribe, an American-run Evangelical Christian reform school in The Dominican Republic.

Kidnapped for Christ Trailer (by KidnappedForChrist)