The photographer became an addict after getting hooked on a prescription opioid. Now clean, she is waging war on the art philanthropists who have profited from the crisis
The photographer became an addict after getting hooked on a prescription opioid. Now clean, she is waging war on the art philanthropists who have profited from the crisis
After Jen Sinconis had twins 16 weeks early, requiring millions of dollars to save their lives, bills drove her family into debt
One of the foremost black intellectuals in the US has deleted his Twitter account after a public row. Commentators Melvin Rogers, Patrisse Cullors, Carol Anderson and Shailja Patel discuss the impact on the debate and struggle for racial equality
In a blistering Guardian article last Sunday, Harvard scholar Cornel West labelled award-winning African American author Ta-Nehisi Coates the neoliberal face of the black freedom struggle. A furious debate raged all week among black academics and activists.
The disagreement between Coates and me is clear, said West. Any analysis or vision of our world that omits the centrality of Wall Street power, US military policies, and the complex dynamics of class, gender, and sexuality in black America is too narrow and dangerously misleading. So it is with Ta-Nehisi Coates worldview.
Coates hit back on Twitter, listing the articles he has written criticising US foreign policy, before quitting the social media site and deleting his account of 1.25 million followers.
So did this row between two of the best-known African American thinkers set back, or advance the struggle for black equality? We asked black academics and activists for their verdict.
Deborah Dunafon is unapologetic about the sign she posted saying Toxic Masculinity Welcome Here despite unsurprising outrage on social media
Deborah Dunafon knew that a big sign outside her strip club that read Toxic Masculinity Welcome Here could land her in trouble. But she thought it needed to be said on behalf of her clientele and men everywhere, who she says have been given a bad rap in the news lately.
I think its horrible to accuse men of being toxic, because theyre not, said Dunafon, owner of the 35-year-old Shotgun Willies strip club, which is also a marijuana dispensary, in Glendale, Colorado. Our business is men, and men are not toxic.
How many men are we gonna pick on until finally theres no men standing? How would you like a society with men meekly running around with little bonnets on their head?
Shotgun Willies is located in Glendale (whose mayor is Dunafons husband, Mike), a hamlet surrounded on all sides by Denver the city where a coffee shop recently found itself in hot water over a sandwich board sign that read: Happily Gentrifying the Neighborhood since 2014.
That sign was not received well in a historically black area where residents had been displaced. A statement from the ad agency behind it said it was intended to be a cynical perspective on the issue, and claimed a misunderstanding about the definition of gentrification.
At Shotgun Willies there is no cynical marketing gimmick, and certainly no apology.
I didnt put that up because of marketing, Dunafon said in an interview. I put it up because Ive been watching whats going on in our country as far as men are concerned and its infuriating.
I have a son, I have four grandsons, and I feel sorry for my grandsons because theyre all teenagers and Im afraid for them. Im wondering if theyre gonna have to make girls sign a contract before they can even go on a date.
A photo of the sign was taken by Bonnie AD, a Denver activist for conscious sexuality, who posted the image on her Instagram account, @eroticselflove. It duly made the rounds on social media.
I had a visceral reaction of disgust when I saw the sign, because toxic masculinity is not a joke, AD said. I wanted to share the image because I think that community accountability is vital for social change. Largely, the response on social media has been one of disgust.
This message is approving of toxic masculinity, which is socially irresponsible and culturally poisonous. Anyone on the feminine spectrum, especially sex workers, already have to deal with the covert problems of toxic masculinity and rape culture, so when an establishment publicly makes this kind of commentary, they are adding unnecessary weight to an issue that is already a burden, and a danger, to many people.
Dunafon put up her sign on Tuesday, a day before revelations that two popular media hosts, Matt Lauer, of NBCs Today show, and Garrison Keillor, of public radios A Prairie Home Companion, had been fired: Lauer over allegations of sexual misconduct and Keillor over allegations of inappropriate behavior. The accusations were the latest against powerful men in the torrent since the public downfalls of Bill OReilly and Harvey Weinstein.
I think almost all of them are being accused unfairly, Dunafon said. In my business Ive dealt with sexual harassment a lot, because it is a provocative business.
Harassment was a very subjective thing, she said. Like today, the Garrison Keillor thing, Im sorry, but thats obscene.
Shotgun Willies is located in an area used by shoppers at Target, Home Depot and the Cherry Creek Mall. It is no stranger to controversy. Just before they were married, Mike Dunafon cast the deciding vote on the approval of his then fiancees application to add a marijuana dispensary to her strip club the first such endeavor in the nation.
Mike Dunafon is a cigar-smoking former Denver Bronco who ran for governor in 2012 on a pro-marijuana, anti-mass incarceration platform, landing the endorsement of rappers Snoop Dogg and Wyclef Jean, who recorded a campaign song and accompanying video with him.
Earlier this year, four former dancers filed a class action lawsuit against Shotgun Willies alleging a pay-to-play arrangement with performers.
An erotic dancer who works for multiple strip clubs around Denver other than Shotgun Willies and wished to remain nameless said she had seen pictures of the toxic masculinity sign on social media, and found the message problematic.
I believe that Dunafons heart is in the right place, but toxic masculinity isnt about targeting men, it is about fighting the current social concept of what is manhood, the dancer said. As a sex worker, I find that the current strip club environment is a place where many can embody these negative qualities, qualities that might lead to actions that would get them punished in the real world.
Not to say all men come into my place of work to intentionally treat women poorly. But I have had many men, and women, harass me, grab me inappropriately, trying to pull on my clothing or me while I am on stage, trying to place body parts or cash into random orifices.
I have been working in strip clubs for almost four years and while I have had many great exchanges with people, I have also had my fill of people who come to strip clubs as if they are places to treat the women that work there as objects. It might not always be intentional, but toxic masculinity does seem to rear its head more aggressively in these businesses.
At Shotgun Willies on Wednesday, an attempt to talk to some of the dancers was rebuffed by an employee.
Deborah Dunafon resented the idea that any of her dancers were exploited in the course of their work, and said her entire team stood behind the statement about male toxicity.
We believe that men in society today are totally being picked on, she said. Shotgun has a lot of different guys come in blue-collar guys, white-collar guys and Id say 98.99% of them are good guys. And they dont want to be accused of being monsters, because really theyre not. They come in for fun.
Every once in a while one of them is unruly and we kick them out, but the entertainers are in total control of them.
This week, rapper Lil Peep died of a suspected overdose. Hip-hop has always been open about recreational drug use but how did constant references to depression and prescription painkillers move into the mainstream?
Pop a Perky just to start up / Pop two cups of purple just to warm up Quavos lyrics swim through the slow, narcotised production of Slippery, a track by rap trio Migos that has become one of the genres biggest hits of the year with nearly 150m views on YouTube. For the uninitiated, Perky is Percocet, a painkiller made up of paracetamol and the opioid oxycodone; purple is a drink made from codeine-based cough syrup. Quavos drug use is as improvisatory as it is blithe, and is just one example of a rap scene where substance abuse has become normalised.
This permissiveness has claimed a talented victim in Lil Peep, a New York-born 21-year-old rapper who died this week of a suspected overdose. On his Instagram in the hours leading up to his death, he said he was taking magic mushrooms and honey (a kind of super-concentrated version of marijuana, turned into a wax); another picture sees him with an unidentified substance broken into pieces on his tongue. He is also filmed dropping bars of Xanax, the anxiety medication that has become perhaps the most fashionable drug in 2017s rap scene, into his mouth.
Lil Peep also rapped about drug-taking: I hear voices in my head, they tellin me to call it quits / I found some Xanax in my bed, I took that shit, went back to sleep; Sniffin cocaine cause I didnt have no Actavis / Smokin propane with my clique and the bad bitches; Gettin high cause my life dont mean shit to me. His vision of drug-taking was not without pleasure, but certainly a means of escape as well as straightforward hedonism a marked change in rap culture.
Three drugs are most commonly associated with hip-hop: alcohol, weed and crack. The former is often used merely as a straightforward wealth signifier: Hennessy and Courvoisier cognac, Cristal champagne, Patrn tequila and Grey Goose vodka. Blended with a gin and juice, Snoop Dogg hymned the relaxing properties of marijuana (laaaaaid back…) while Cypress Hill synthesised its paranoia with the creepy malevolence of B-Reals voice.
Crack cocaine was a different prospect: the rappers never got high on their own supply. On Clipses Grindin, Pusha T says that four and half [ounces] will get you in the game and that he is known in the neighbourhood as Mr Sniffles, but his laser-precise flow suggests sobriety and business nous. On the 2014 mega-hit Trap Queen, Fetty Wap introduces his girl to his stove hes not showing off his new Aga, but rather where they will cook crack together. The songs pop beauty conjures a couple revelling not in the drugs high, but the emancipation it gives them as a result of cash from its sale. By shamelessly leveraging the glamour of criminality, these rappers appeal to prurient middle-class audiences (including a sizeable white demographic) and by pointing a route out of poverty, they appeal to working-class ones too.
Around the turn of the century, rappers increasingly started dabbling in designer drugs, too, particularly ecstasy. Eminem recorded two songs from The Slim Shady LP while high on it, while mentor Dr Dre suggested on Bad Intentions, take an X pill, how the sex feel? A little-noted detail is that the civic euphoria of Jay-Zs Empire State of Mind is powered by the drug: MDMA got you feeling like a champion / The city never sleeps, better slip you an Ambien. Kanye West sees a whole party melting like Dali after dropping molly, raps now-favoured name for ecstasy (also namechecked by the likes of Tyga, Rick Ross, Rihanna and, infamously, Miley Cyrus). In their songs at least, there are no comedowns, only the dizzy, meaningless highs.
But at the same time, prescription drug addiction took hold of the US last year, 91 people a day died of opioid overdoses. Thanks to a robust marketing campaign, sales of the opioid painkiller OxyContin grew from $48m (36.5m) in 1996 to $1.1bn in 2000; in 2012, 282m prescriptions were made for it a bottle for every American. Its popularity has tailed off slightly, but other prescription drugs often used recreationally have joined it, arguably in part thanks to the inadvertent marketing by rappers, who have swapped uppers for downers.
Producer hired team to investigate 91 film industry figures in attempt to stop harassment claims going public
The Observer has gained access to a secret hitlist of almost 100 prominent individuals targeted by Harvey Weinstein in an extraordinary attempt to discover what they knew about sexual misconduct claims against him and whether they were intending to go public.
The previously undisclosed list contains a total of 91 actors, publicists, producers, financiers and others working in the film industry, all of whom Weinstein allegedly identified as part of a strategy to prevent accusers from going public with sexual misconduct claims against him.
The names, apparently drawn up by Weinstein himself, were distributed to a team hired by the film producer to suppress claims that he had sexually harassed or assaulted numerous women.
Juli Briskman has been hailed as a hero and fired from her job for a spur-of-the moment demonstration that quickly spread around the world
Juli Briskman found flowers on her doorstep on Monday night. Juli: I dont know you and yet I am so proud of you, an accompanying note said. Youre my hero. Truly. Thank you for standing up to this admin. We need more like you. Continue to resist. Were with you all the way. Sally M.
Briskman does not know who Sally M is, but she knows what motivated the message. In the past week, she has received media calls from as far away as Colombia and Sweden as well as her share of hate mail. One told her: I hope you get used to saying, Do you want fries with that?
It is all because of a split-second decision that made Juli Briskman a hero of the resistance and a case study in the wildly unpredictable effects of social media.
It was 3.12pm on Saturday 28 October when Donald Trump, after a round of golf, departed the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, northern Virginia. His motorcade, which included the Guardian and other journalists, overtook a female cyclist wearing a white top and cycling helmet, who responded by raising the middle finger of her left hand.
The fleet of vehicles swept on imperiously on but then slowed for a red light, and the cyclist caught up. She persisted. She flipped the bird a second time before turning right as the motorcade turned left.
A photo of her act of defiance took off on social media. The Washington Post called it the middle-finger salute seen around the world. The late-night TV host Stephen Colbert said: No one has summed up the mood of the country better Long may she wave.
Juli Briskman, a 50-year-old mother of two, said marketing company bosses called her in and fired her for obscene gesture
A woman whose picture went viral after she raised her middle finger at Donald Trump as his motorcade passed her on her bicycle has been fired from her job.
Juli Briskman was cycling in Virginia last month when she offered the gesture in a gut reaction to Trumps policies, she said.
He was passing by and my blood just started to boil, she told the Huffington Post. Im thinking, Daca recipients are getting kicked out. He pulled ads for open enrollment in Obamacare. Only one third of Puerto Rico has power. Im thinking, hes at the damn golf course again.
I flipped off the motorcade a number of times.
A photographer traveling with the presidential motorcade snapped Briskmans picture and the image quickly spread across news outlets and social media. Many hailed Briskman as a hero, with some saying she should run in the 2020 election. Late-night comedy hosts also picked up the story.
Briskman had been working as a marketing and communications specialist for a Virginia-based federal contractor, Akima, for six months. She thought it best to alert the HR department to the online fuss. Bosses then called her into a meeting, she said.
They said, Were separating from you, Briskman told the Huffington Post. Basically, you cannot have lewd or obscene things in your social media. So they were calling flipping him off obscene.
She said the company was displeased she had used the image as her profile picture on Twitter and Facebook, and told her it violated social media policy and could hurt the companys reputation as a government contractor.
Briskman said she pointed out that her social media pages do not mention her employer, and that the incident happened on her own time. She also said another employee had written a profane insult about someone on Facebook, but had been allowed to keep his job after deleting the post and being reprimanded.
Virginia, however, has at will employment laws, meaning private-sector employers can fire people for any reason.
Suddenly, the 50-year-old mother of two found herself looking for a new job.
Briskman, who votes Democratic, said she planned to look for a new job with an advocacy group she believes in, such as Planned Parenthood or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
After leaving his Virginia golf club and before passing Briskman, Trumps motorcade passed a pedestrian who gave a vigorous thumbs-down gesture. Another woman had been standing outside the entrance to the golf club, holding a sign saying Impeach.
As news of Briskmans firing spread, many social media users asked why she was being penalized for expressing free speech on her own time, under the first amendment to the US constitution.
Akima did not immediately respond to a request for comment. On Monday, its website went down. Someone began a crowdfunding page online to raise money for Briskman.
Briskman said she had no regrets about the attention her public show of displeasure received. In fact, she said, she was happy to be an image of protest.
In some ways, Im doing better than ever, she said. Im angry about where our country is right now. I am appalled. This was an opportunity for me to say something.
Created by Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the Cascade-Siskiyou monument protects Oregons extraordinary biodiversity, from butterflies to trout. But a Trump review threatens to open the landscape to the timber industry
Dave Willis, a grizzled woodsman and backcountry outfitter, has spent decades laboring to protect the mountains of south-western Oregon, one of the most beautiful, biodiverse regions in the country.
Through grassrootsactivism, Willis and his conservationist allies have won the support of two US presidents. In 2000, Bill Clinton created the roughly 52,000-acre Cascade-Siskiyou national monument, proclaiming it an ecological wonderland. Located just outside of Ashland, it was the first such monument established solely for its extraordinary species diversity. Its a place that harbors rare lilies and endemic trout, Pacific fishers andgoshawks, black bears and a stunning array of butterflies.
During his final week in office, meanwhile, Barack Obama added about 48,000 acres to the Cascade-Siskiyou monument, nearly doubling it in size.
Now, the Trump administration is threatening to undo it all. In April, the White House announced its intent to review 27 different national monument designations, as the Interior Department looks for commercial opportunities for the oil, mining and timber industries on American public lands. And the Cascade-Siskiyou preserve is on the list.
All the signs indicate that were in the crosshairs, says Willis, as his horses drift through 10-storey trees during a recent ride through the monument. We could lose it all.
With the monument review due to the president on Thursday, conservationists like Willis are on edge. Ryan Zinke, the swaggeringMontana native who is the secretary of the interior and is leading the effort, has already unveiled some of his recommendations. They include shrinking the Bears Ears national monument in Utah, a 1.3 million-acre monument created by Obama to protect Native American antiquities. Zinke said six monuments should be left alone, which leaves 20 including the Cascade-Siskiyou at risk of being reduced in size, eliminated or opened to industrial uses.
In Syria I learned that Islamic State longs to provoke retaliation. We should not fall into the trap
As a proud Frenchman I am as distressed as anyone about the events in Paris. But I am not shocked or incredulous. I know Islamic State. I spent 10 months as an Isis hostage, and I know for sure that our pain, our grief, our hopes, our lives do not touch them. Theirs is a world apart.
Most people only know them from their propaganda material, but I have seen behind that. In my time as their captive, I met perhaps a dozen of them, including Mohammed Emwazi: Jihadi John was one of my jailers. He nicknamed me Baldy.
Even now I sometimes chat with them on social media, and can tell you that much of what you think of them results from their brand of marketing and public relations. They present themselves to the public as superheroes, but away from the camera are a bit pathetic in many ways: street kids drunk on ideology and power. In France we have a saying stupid and evil. I found them more stupid than evil. That is not to understate the murderous potential of stupidity.
All of those beheaded last year were my cellmates, and my jailers would play childish games with us mental torture saying one day that we would be released and then two weeks later observing blithely, Tomorrow we will kill one of you. The first couple of times we believed them but after that we came to realise that for the most part they were bullshitters having fun with us.
They would play mock executions. Once they used chloroform with me. Another time it was a beheading scene. A bunch of French-speaking jihadis were shouting, Were going to cut your head off and put it on to your arse and upload it to YouTube. They had a sword from an antique shop.
They were laughing and I played the game by screaming, but they just wanted fun. As soon as they left I turned to another of the French hostages and just laughed. It was so ridiculous.
It struck me forcefully how technologically connected they are; they follow the news obsessively, but everything they see goes through their own filter. They are totally indoctrinated, clinging to all manner of conspiracy theories, never acknowledging the contradictions.
Everything convinces them that they are on the right path and, specifically, that there is a kind of apocalyptic process under way that will lead to a confrontation between an army of Muslims from all over the world and others, the crusaders, the Romans. They see everything as moving us down that road. Consequently, everything is a blessing from Allah.
With their news and social media interest, they will be noting everything that follows their murderous assault on Paris, and my guess is that right now the chant among them will be We are winning. They will be heartened by every sign of overreaction, of division, of fear, of racism, of xenophobia; they will be drawn to any examples of ugliness on social media.
Central to their world view is the belief that communities cannot live together with Muslims, and every day their antennae will be tuned towards finding supporting evidence. The pictures from Germany of people welcoming migrants will have been particularly troubling to them. Cohesion, tolerance it is not what they want to see.
Why France? For many reasons perhaps, but I think they identified my country as a weak link in Europe as a place where divisions could be sown easily. Thats why, when I am asked how we should respond, I say that we must act responsibly.
And yet more bombs will be our response. I am no apologist for Isis. How could I be? But everything I know tells me this is a mistake. The bombardment will be huge, a symbol of righteous anger. Within 48 hours of the atrocity, fighter planes conducted their most spectacular munitions raid yet in Syria, dropping more than 20 bombs on Raqqa, an Isis stronghold. Revenge was perhaps inevitable, but whats needed is deliberation. My fear is that this reaction will make a bad situation worse.
While we are trying to destroy Isis, what of the 500,000 civilians still living and trapped in Raqqa? What of their safety? What of the very real prospect that by failing to think this through, we turn many of them into extremists? The priority must be to protect these people, not to take more bombs to Syria. We need no-fly zones zones closed to Russians, the regime, the coalition. The Syrian people need security or they themselves will turn to groups such as Isis.
Canada withdrew from the air war after the election of Justin Trudeau. I desperately want France to do the same, and rationality tells me it could happen. But pragmatism tells me it wont. The fact is we are trapped: Isis has trapped us. They came to Paris with Kalashnikovs, claiming that they wanted to stop the bombing, but knowing all too well that the attack would force us to keep bombing or even to intensify these counterproductive attacks. That is what is happening.
Emwazi is gone now, killed in a coalition air strike, his death celebrated in parliament. I do not mourn him. But during his murder spree, he too followed this double bluff strategy. After murdering the American journalist James Foley, he pointed his knife at the camera and, turning to the next intended victim, said: Obama, you must stop intervening in the Middle East or I will kill him. He knew very well what the hostages fate would be. He knew very well what the American reaction would be more bombing. Its what Isis wants, but should we be giving it to them?
The group is wicked, of that there is no doubt. But after all that happened to me, I still dont feel Isis is the priority. To my mind, Bashar al-Assad is the priority. The Syrian president is responsible for the rise of Isis in Syria, and so long as his regime is in place, Isis cannot be eradicated. Nor can we stop the attacks on our streets. When people say Isis first, and then Assad, I say dont believe them. They just want to keep Assad in place.
At the moment there is no political road map and no plan to engage the Arab Sunni community. Isis will collapse, but politics will make that happen. In the meantime there is much we can achieve in the aftermath of this atrocity, and the key is strong hearts and resilience, for that is what they fear. I know them: bombing they expect. What they fear is unity.