As a family of three who A) lives in an RV full-time and B) owns annual passes to Walt Disney World, the majority of our time in Florida is spent staying in Orlando-area camprounds. Occasionally though, we will take a break from the most magical place on earth to see what other adventures Florida has to offer.
Last week, our wanderings brought us to the Ringling Museum.
I don’t honestly know how much brand recognition the name “Ringling” has outside the US, but at least here in the States, before Cirque de Soleil became a household name around the world, the (now-defunct) Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus was for many years the circus to see. They didn’t call it “The Greatest Show on Earth” for nothing.
I have fond childhood memories of oversized clowns getting out of ridiculously tiny cars, of elephants doing tricks, and the death-defying stunts of trapeze artists. Whenever I visit my parents’ house, there’s an old Ringling circus cup with an elephant trunk handle that I still drink out of to this day. It left a deep impression on me.
However, I never knew all that much about the most famous of the Ringling brothers, John Ringling, so it came as something of a surprise when I discovered he and his wife Mable (who was an avid art collector) founded the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, now known simply as “The Ringling”. The only reason I even found out about this place was because we had parked our RV about an hour away from the Sarasota, FL area and needed something to do other than sit in a campground all day.
As it turns out, this place is actually the official state art museum for Florida and is quite incredible. All the basic facts you’d want to know about it are on its Wikipedia page:
The institution offers twenty-one galleries of European paintings as well as Cypriot antiquities and Asian, American, and contemporary art. The museum’s art collection currently consists of more than 10,000 objects that include a variety of paintings, sculpture, drawings, prints, photographs, and decorative arts from ancient through contemporary periods and from around the world.
What the wiki fails to articulate, however, is how grand the museum is. I don’t just mean the size of the place — though it is quite enormous, to the point of being just about impossible to see all of in one day — but also how well-kept and tasteful everything is. I don’t profess to be an art historian by any stretch of the imagination, but even I can see that the breadth of artwork amassed here is quite impressive.
My favorite things to view in the museum were all the Rennaissance-era European paintings, which were numerous, to say the least. They also had quite a few Asian antiquities — including calligraphy scrolls and ancient dining implements — which were impressive in their own right but didn’t capture my imagination in quite the same way.
One thing that surprised me was how many of the paintings contained dark subject matter, which oddly enough were the ones my 5-year-old son had the most interest in, though a few made him so uncomfortable in their depiction of violence that we had to move to the next room.
Anyway, like I said earlier, the museum is very large and we didn’t have quite enough time in one day to explore everything we wanted to, including Cà d’Zan, the mansion John and Mable lived in long ago. The slideshow above features some of my favorite photos I took in the art museum, using only my iPhone 6.
In part two of this photo essay, I’ll share the photos I got from another section of the museum dedicated to circus history.
Five months ago, at a Boeing factory in South Carolina, President Trump proclaimed, "We are going to fight for every last American job.”
On Thursday, workers at the North Charleston plant learned they’d soon face layoffs.
The airplane maker announced it would be cutting “fewer than 200 people” at the 787 Dreamliner campus and other facilities in the city.
“Our competition is relentless, and that has made clear our need as a company to reduce cost to be more competitive,” Boeing said in a statement. “We are offering resources to those affected by layoffs to help them in finding other employment and ease their transition as much as possible.”
The company has yet to notify the affected employees — who work in operations management, engineering, quality control and training, among other roles — and represent a tiny sliver of its workforce in the state. Boeing would not say how many, exactly, could lose their jobs and when the dismissals will begin.
The South Carolina plant was Trump’s first company visit outside the Beltway after he became president. The point of the trip was not to unveil a major economic policy or promote a new White House initiative, though. Rather, Trump celebrated the launch of the company’s new Dreamliner model.
"We’re here to day to celebrate American engineering and American manufacturing," Trump said at the time. "We’re also here today to celebrate jobs. Jobs!" (The White House did not respond to a request for comment.)
Boeing employs about 140,000 workers in the United States, mostly in Washington, California, Missouri and South Carolina. Roughly 50,000 work on the factory floor, putting planes together. Approximately 7,300 work in the Palmetto State.
In December, Boeing said it planned to cut jobs this year because of a dropping demand for new planes. The company revealed it would decrease production of the Boeing 777 by 40 percent in 2017.
By March, the company had accepted about 1,880 voluntary layoffs from employees in Washington state. Then nearly 500 workers near Seattle received involuntary layoff notices in April, according to the Seattle Times.
Jonathan Battaglia, representative for the Machinists Union, which the Boeing employees in North Charleston voted not to join in February, said about 700 people in South Carolina have taken buyouts over the past year. The coming wave of layoffs at the North Charleston campus are the first involuntary dismissals to hit its South Carolina workforce.
“Despite Boeing’s promises, it’s clear that job security is something they don’t feel their so-called ‘teammates’ deserve,” Battaglia said. “This isn’t about competitiveness, it’s about more money for shareholders and executives.”
Boeing, meanwhile, promotes its investment in American jobs.
"Boeing’s market success plays a key role in supporting high-value aerospace jobs across its supply chain and across the United States," according to the company website. "In 2015 alone, Boeing paid nearly $50 billion to more than 13,600 businesses, supporting an additional 1.5 million supplier-related jobs."
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Major health care industry groups largely fell into two camps on Thursday when Republicans released their Affordable Care Act repeal: There were those groups that criticized the bill, and those that preferred to say nothing at all.
For the health insurance industry, the bill is a mixed bag. The major trade association for health insurers, America’s Health Insurance Plans, declined to issue a specific response to the bill, saying they were still evaluating it. But the proposed legislation contains several provisions that the industry has been fighting for, including a tax repeal worth $145 billion over 10 years to the industry and a guarantee that billions of dollars of federal subsidies would be paid in 2018 and 2019 to stabilize plans in the Affordable Care Act’s marketplaces before they are phased out. There are also two funds, adding up to $112 billion over a decade, to stabilize the market and make insurance more affordable.
"Whatever insurers have been doing to lobby paid off," said Larry Levitt a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation.
But it also holds major drawbacks, particularly for firms that provide Medicaid coverage. Companies that sell commercial insurance in the marketplaces set up by the Affordable Care Act stand to benefit in the short-term, although long-term questions loom over the stability of the marketplace that the bill would set up. Meanwhile, health insurers that provide Medicaid coverage stand to lose if millions of the program’s recipients become ineligible.
"I’m very unhappy with what came out today. In the long run, it’s no better, and in some aspects it’s even worse than the House bill," said John Baackes, chief executive of L.A. Care Health Plan, a California health plan with 2 million Medicaid members who spearheaded a sharply critical letter to lawmakers arguing against Medicaid cuts earlier this week. He noted that while there had been significant publicity around the individual market where 12 million people buy insurance, Medicaid covers nearly 75 million people.
"What we see in the Senate and House bill is just awful — it’s just awful for poor people," Baackes said.
The final assessment of how many Americans would lose coverage if the bill passes will come next week from the Congressional Budget Office, and some industry groups said they were reserving judgment until then. But several health policy experts said they expected the losses, driven largely by Medicaid cuts, to be on par with those in the House bill. The CBO projected that under the House bill, 23 million additional people would be uninsured in 2026 as compared to if the Affordable Care Act remains law.
"When you take a step back and think about the size of these cuts, they are just unprecedented," said Dan Mendelson, president of Avalere Health, a consulting firm. "It’s hard even for policy analysts to estimate how fundamental those cuts will be."
Concern about those losses was echoed by another major industry that will suffer huge economic consequences if millions of people lose coverage: hospitals.
"Now is the time for the Senate to hit reset and make key improvements to this legislation," Chip Kahn, president of the Federation of American Hospitals said in a statement.
Steve Shapiro, chief medical and scientific officer of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center said the bill would take a toll on hospitals, increasing the amount of "bad debt" — care they must give for free — because patients lack insurance or can’t pay their bills. He said the toll would fall especially hard on rural hospitals, many of which are already struggling financially and are fighting an opioid epidemic.
"In a way, this is moving us back to the bad old days when people didn’t have preventive care, coordinated care, were too sick and used the emergency department," Shapiro said.
A major group representing doctors, the American Medical Association, was largely quiet as well. David O. Barbe, AMA’s president, said the group was reviewing the bill, with "grave concern" over whether changes to Medicaid "will not cover needed care for vulnerable patients."
The biggest questions the bill will raise are in the long-term, when the new marketplaces would be set up with less generous subsidies that are structured slightly differently than the Affordable Care Act. The bill effectively eliminates the mandate that people carry insurance or pay a penalty and does not replace that provision with any other incentive to try and get healthy people to sign up. That leaves big question marks over whether the insurance market set up by the law will have enough healthy and sick people to function.
The Medicaid cuts, too, will be felt over time, since they would establish caps based on recent spending and grow more slowly than medical costs.
"It kicks the can down the road," Mendelson said. "There’s going to be a lot of political pain in 2020."
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Local shelters and rescues, as well as nonprofits like the ASPCA and Humane Society, sprang into action to assist with search-and-rescue operations and to create temporary emergency shelters for pets found lost in the storm.
Some of these pets were happily reclaimed by their owners after the storm had passed, but others were still homeless, even months later.
When Nina Roadeler learned about the sheer number of dogs affected by the storm, she decided to become a foster for dogs from local dog rescues.
Nina and her dog, Toby. All photos via Nina Roadeler, used with permission.
In fact, after Nina took a job outside the city and bought a car, she became an adoption coordinator for Friends With Four Paws, a small foster-based rescue run entirely by volunteers in New York and Oklahoma.
All of the dogs rescued by Friends With Four Paws are pulled directly from high-kill shelters in Oklahoma. They spend some time with Oklahoma foster families while they are vaccinated, microchipped, and spayed/neutered. Then they go up for adoption and are driven by a volunteer over two days to New York and placed with new fosters while they await their forever homes.
Not only does she coordinate the transport of dogs from Oklahoma and interview potential adopters before they bring a dog home, but as one of only two volunteers with a car, she spends her weekends driving around New York’s five boroughs — and sometimes beyond — picking up and dropping off food, crates, and toy donations with foster families.
When she’s not driving stuff, she’s driving dogs to their new homes. In other words, she spends a lot of time as a "dog chauffeur."
Of course, no two dog passengers are alike.
The first one she ever drove, Peggy, was a scruffy 40-pound terrier with tons of energy.
“She was adorable, but she was all over my car,” says Nina, laughing. “She was bouncing around in that car like nobody’s business.”
Peggy, the first dog Nina ever drove in her car.
Some like to sit on a passenger’s lap, while others prefer to curl up in a dog bed.
Some like to ride in style and look out the window.
And some can get a little car-sick.
Of course, all this driving also means a lot of time in bad traffic, especially when the drive is into Manhattan or New Jersey.
“When you drop off a dog at an adopter or you are there when the adopter meets the dog, you feel like you are Santa Claus because you bring them a gift — such a huge gift for the many years to come,” says Nina. “I know how I felt when I got my dog. … He just makes me smile. And knowing that you are a part of really bringing life and love to a family is amazing.”
In fact, she says, she will never forget the experience she had of placing a dog with a woman whose fiance and her previous dog had passed away. “We found her the perfect dog,” Nina says. “And when you do this, [it’s] one of those cry moments.”
A group of fosters, volunteers, and adopters at a Friends With Four Paws "Transport Day,"greeting some of the dogs that have just arrived from Oklahoma.
“I do love the people that I am [volunteering] with” she says. “We’re a very small rescue, and so it’s like [being] part of a family that tries to do the right thing and tries to do what they can to really make this world a better place.”
She adds: “So, you do this for dogs, you do this for humans. Rescue is my happy place.”
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During a recent visit to Bangladesh to revisit my years there as a student, a colleague suggested I meet Sultana Kamal, much admired for decades of work on justice as a human rights defender.
But Kamal was not making many public appearances, because of threats from militants.
The story that emerged is a tale of authorities who, while attempting to appease some hardline religious groups, ended up compromising basic human rights principles.
In May, prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s government, which has long claimed a commitment to secularism, caved to the extremist group Hefazat-e Islami’s demands to remove a statue representing “Lady Justice” in front of the Supreme Court in Dhaka because it was deemed to be an un-Islamic religious object.
On May 28, Kamal argued during a television debate that by this logic no mosques should be permitted on the court premises. That prompted the Hefazat spokesman to call for Kamal’s arrest, and threaten that if she came out on the streets they “would break every bone in her body.” Kamal has said that after the threat was made, abusive postings appeared on Facebook, including doctored images of her being lynched.
While Kamal has since received police protection, the government has yet to publicly condemn the threats. On June 18, a lawyer served legal notice seeking her arrest “for hurting religious sentiments of the Muslim majority in the country;” however, Kamal has not been arrested.
These threats and claims of hurt sentiments are not new. They follow several lethal attacks by extremist groups on bloggers and activists for promoting secularism. Rather than condemn the attacks and arrest those responsible, officials responded by warning that “hurting religious sentiments is a crime.”
All this is happening against a background of increasing attacks on free speech by the state. Over the past two years, the government has cracked down on media and civil society.
The authorities restored “Lady Justice” to another part of the Supreme Court complex. But Bangladesh is on a dangerous course. The government needs to do much more to protect rights activists like Kamal and promote an environment where they can carry out their work free from threats and attacks. Appeasing religious extremists and silencing dissent will only lead to more violence.
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If you’re planning to see Idris Elba as Roland, finish it.
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) June 22, 2017