as a weekly practice I listen to npr and do a little sketch on one of the stories. take a look, you can click on the illustration to make it bigger!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Caring Makes Us Human

When the scruffy orange cat showed up in the prison yard, I was one of the first to go out there and pet it. I hadn't touched a cat or a dog in over 20 years. I spent at least 20 minutes crouched down by the Dumpster behind the kitchen as the cat rolled around and luxuriated beneath my attention. What he was expressing outwardly I was feeling inwardly. It was an amazing bit of grace to feel him under my hand and know that I was enriching the life of another creature with something as simple as my care. I believe that caring for something or someone in need is what makes us human.

Over the next few days, I watched other prisoners responding to the cat. Every yard period, a group of prisoners gathered there. They stood around talking and taking turns petting the cat. These were guys you wouldn't usually find talking to each other. Several times I saw an officer in the group — not chasing people away, but just watching and seeming to enjoy it along with the prisoners.

Bowls of milk and water appeared, along with bread, wisely placed under the edge of the Dumpster to keep the sea gulls from getting it. The cat was obviously a stray and in pretty bad shape. One prisoner brought out his small, blunt-tipped scissors, and trimmed burrs and matted fur from his coat.

People said, "That cat came to the right place. He's getting treated like a king." This was true. But as I watched, I was also thinking about what the cat was doing for us. There's a lot of talk about what's wrong with prisons in America. We need more programs; we need more psychologists or treatment of various kinds. Some even talk about making prisons more kind, but I think what we really need is a chance to practice kindness ourselves. Not receive it, but give it.

After more than two decades here, I know that kindness is not a value that's encouraged. It's often seen as weakness. Instead the culture encourages keeping your head down, minding your own business and never letting yourself be vulnerable. For a few days a raggedy cat disrupted this code of prison culture. They've taken him away now, hopefully to a decent home — but it did my heart good to see the effect he had on me and the men here. He didn't have a Ph.D., he wasn't a criminologist or a psychologist, but by simply saying, "I need some help here," he did something important for us. He needed us — and we need to be needed. I believe we all do.

-excerpt from NPR

Friday, September 26, 2008

WaMu becomes biggest bank to fail in US history

As the debate over a $700 billion bank bailout rages on in Washington, one of the nation's largest banks — Washington Mutual Inc. — has collapsed under the weight of its enormous bad bets on the mortgage market.The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. seized WaMu on Thursday, and then sold the thrift's banking assets to JPMorgan Chase & Co. for $1.9 billion.

Because of WaMu's souring mortgages and other risky debt, JPMorgan plans to write down WaMu's loan portfolio by about $31 billion — a figure that could change if the government goes through with its bailout plan and JPMorgan decides to take advantage of it. "We're in favor of what the government is doing, but we're not relying on what the government is doing. We would've done it anyway," JPMorgan's Chief Executive Jamie Dimon said in a conference call Thursday night, referring to the acquisition. Dimon said he does not know if JPMorgan will take advantage of the bailout.

"For all depositors and other customers of Washington Mutual Bank, this is simply a combination of two banks," Bair said in a statement. "For bank customers, it will be a seamless transition. There will be no interruption in services and bank customers should expect business as usual come Friday morning."

The seizure by the government means shareholders' equity in WaMu was wiped out. The deal leaves private equity investors including the firm TPG Capital, which gave WaMu a cash infusion totaling $7 billion this spring, on the sidelines empty handed.

WaMu ran into trouble after it got caught up in the once-booming subprime mortgage business. Troubles then spread to other parts of WaMu's home loan portfolio, namely its "option" adjustable-rate mortgage loans. Option ARM loans offer very low introductory payments and let borrowers defer some interest payments until later years. The bank stopped originating those loans in June.

"This is a definite win for JPMorgan," said Sebastian Hindman, an analyst at SNL Financial, who said JPMorgan should be able to shoulder the $31 billion writedown to WaMu's portfolio.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

On holiday until the 24th

back to brooklyn and drawing soon! X alex

Monday, September 15, 2008

Financial Giants Falling: Lehman, Merrill Lynch, AIG

When Wall Street woke up Monday morning, two more of its storied firms had fallen.

Lehman Brothers, burdened by $60 billion in soured real-estate holdings, filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition in U.S. Bankruptcy Court after attempts to rescue the 158-year-old firm failed. Bank of America Corp. said it is snapping up Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. in a $50 billion all-stock transaction.The demise of the independent Wall Street institutions came as shock waves from the 14-month-old credit crisis roiled the U.S. financial system six months after the collapse of Bear Stearns.

Employees emerging from Lehman's headquarters near the heart of Times Square Sunday night carried boxes, tote bags and duffel bags, rolling suitcases, framed artwork and spare umbrellas. Many were emblazoned with the Lehman Brothers name. Its businesses in Britain were placed in administration Monday, said the administrator, accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, and employees carrying boxes and bags were walking out of Lehman's London offices.

TV trucks lined Seventh Avenue opposite the building, while barricades at the building's main entrance attempted to keep workers and onlookers from gumming up the steady flow of pedestrians flowing in and out of Times Square.

Some workers had moist eyes while a few others wept and shared hugs. Most who left the building quietly declined interviews.

-excerpt from NPR

Friday, September 12, 2008

Palin Tested On National Security, Foreign Policy

Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin is emerging from her protective media bubble in interviews with ABC News and says she's ready for the job.

That was at the crux of the first question out of the box from ABC's Charles Gibson, who inquired about her decision to accept the place on the Republican ticket, her national security positions and her stances on energy and the environment.

"I have the confidence in that readiness and knowing that you can't blink," Palin told Gibson. "You have to be wired in a way of being so committed to the mission, the mission that we're on, reform of this country and victory in the war, you can't blink."

-excerpt from NPR

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Pigs Out, But Artist Sells Tattoo Off Man's Back

At ShContemporary, Shanghai's largest art fair, everyone is talking about something that didn't actually happen. Eight pigs, tattooed with Louis Vuitton logos and Walt Disney characters, were supposed to be exhibited as part of an artwork by Belgian artist Wim Delvoye. Chinese authorities banned the pig exhibition, Delvoye says, "not because of sanitation issues, not because of animal rights, not because of ideological considerations, not because there's something anti-communist, not because there's nudity in it — but this time it was not allowed because it was not art."

Instead, Delvoye is putting on display a Swiss man named Tim Steiner, whose back Delvoye has tattooed with a scene featuring the Virgin Mary. The tattoo on Steiner's back has been sold for almost $215,000 to a collector who has the right to remove it after he dies. Delvoye says bluntly that this is one yardstick that makes the tattoo an artwork, rather than just another tattoo.

"It's art because it got sold," Delvoye says.

Steiner is contractually bound to display his tattooed back at various events and functions, including ShContemporary, where he sits on a stool facing a wall so people can marvel at his back. He is a living canvas whose back will live on as artwork after his death, yet he denies that the concept is macabre. "If the project finishes the way it should, and the skin will be removed and properly framed, then I will exist forever, at least a part of me will, and I find that concept more exciting than morbid," Steiner says.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

McCain camp: Obama's 'lipstick' remark disgraceful

What's the difference between the presidential campaign before and after the national political conventions? Lipstick. "You can put lipstick on a pig," Barack Obama told a rally in a reference to a line in Sarah Palin's vice presidential acceptance speech. "It's still a pig. You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called change. It's still going to stink after eight years."

Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama told an audience Tuesday that GOP presidential nominee John McCain says he'll change Washington, but he's just like President Bush. "You can put lipstick on a pig," he said to an outbreak of laughter, shouts and raucous applause from his audience, clearly drawing a connection to Palin's joke even if it's not what Obama meant.

McCain's campaign called the comments "offensive and disgraceful" and said Obama owes Palin an apology. Obama's campaign said he wasn't referring to Palin and said the GOP camp was engaging in a "pathetic attempt to play the gender card." Obama's camp also noted that McCain once used the same phrase to describe Hillary Rodham Clinton's health care plan. Obama followed up by saying Palin is an interesting story, drawing boos at the mention of her name that he tried to cut off.

-excerpt from NPR

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

KFC shoring up security for secret recipe

Pssst. The secret's out at KFC. Well, sort of. Colonel Harland Sanders' handwritten recipe of 11 herbs and spices was to be removed Tuesday from safekeeping at KFC's corporate offices for the first time in decades. The temporary relocation is allowing KFC to revamp security around a yellowing sheet of paper that contains one of the country's most famous corporate secrets.

The brand's top executive admitted his nerves were aflutter despite the tight security he lined up for the operation. "I don't want to be the president who loses the recipe," KFC President Roger Eaton said. "Imagine how terrifying that would be."

So important is the 68-year-old concoction that coats the chain's Original Recipe chicken that only two company executives at any time have access to it. The company refuses to release their name or title, and it uses multiple suppliers who produce and blend the ingredients but know only a part of the entire contents.

Louisville-based KFC, part of the fast-food company Yum Brands Inc., hired off-duty police officers and private security guards to whisk the document away to an undisclosed location in an armored car. The recipe will be slid into a briefcase and handcuffed to security expert Bo Dietl for the ride.

"There's no way anybody could get this recipe," said Dietl, a former New York City police detective. His security firm is also handling the security improvements for the recipe at headquarters.

-excerpt from NPR

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Palin Takes No Prisoners in Debut Speech

Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin took the podium to a huge standing ovation from the Xcel Center crowd -- it must have lasted at least two minutes. And after all the recent talk about Palin's so-called unpreparedness for the customary attack-dog role of the VP nominee, she came out tonight with guns blazing.

Palin talked up her own political germination as an "average hockey mom" (joking that the only difference between a pitbull and a hockey mom is lipstick) who "signed up for the PTA because I wanted to make my kids' public education better." She worked her way up, earning a seat on the city council and eventually reaching the mayor's office in her hometown of Wasilla. She described that job with poke at Barack Obama's oft-cited beginnings as a community organizer in Chicago.

-excerpt from NPR

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

New Orleans residents to return to no power.

Enter at your own risk, New Orleans. That was the message from Mayor Ray Nagin, who gave residents the go-ahead to return to the Crescent City early Thursday, but with several warnings — many homes were without electricity or working toilets and a dusk-to-dawn curfew would still be in effect.

"It's my humble opinion that the city is still in a very, very vulnerable state," Nagin said Tuesday evening.

Millions fled the Gulf Coast in fear of Hurricane Gustav, and many were ready to get back home after spending several days in hot, overcrowded shelters. But as of late Tuesday, there were still nearly 800,000 homes in Louisiana without power, including about 77,000 in the city of New Orleans. Officials said the main transmission lines into southern Louisiana were crippled and they had no timetable of when much of the power might be restored.

-excerpt from NPR

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Palin's Teen Is Pregnant; News Overshadows RNC

The announcement that Sarah Palin's unmarried, 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, is pregnant, came in a statement released by the McCain campaign. The statement, made in Sarah and Todd Palin's name, said:

"We have been blessed with five wonderful children who we love with all our heart and mean everything to us. Our beautiful daughter, Bristol, came to us with news that as parents we knew would make her grow up faster than we had ever planned. We're proud of Bristol's decision to have her baby and even prouder to become grandparents. As Bristol faces the responsibilities of adulthood, she knows she has our unconditional love and support.

"Bristol and the young man she will marry are going to realize very quickly the difficulties of raising a child, which is why they will have the love and support of our entire family. We ask the media to respect our daughter and Levi's privacy as has always been the tradition of children of candidates."

-excerpt from NPR