Emaciated polar bear seen in ‘gut-wrenching’ video and photos … absolutely one of the saddest things you might ever watch…

~~~  WATCH/READ IF YOU CAN  ~~~

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The world’s tragedies often have images that end up defining them: A five-year old screaming in Iraq after her parents were killed by U.S. soldiers. A starving child being stalked by a vulture during a ruthless famine in Sudan.

A video released this week of an extremely emaciated polar bear has served as a similar purpose: as a rallying cry and stand-in for a largely unmitigated environmental disaster.

 

SNL’s Trump gets spooked by Michael Flynn, and the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future

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~~~  WATCH SNL  ~~~

It was another busy news week full of headlines about powerful men accused of sexual misconduct. But “Saturday Night Live” tackled that later in the show, and instead kicked off by making fun of President Trump with a Dickens-inspired sketch.

SNL’s Roy Moore sketch a joke about Alabama being backward

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~~~  WATCH  ~~~

There is still a very real chance — if not likelihood — that Roy Moore will be elected the next senator from Alabama. This despite The Washington Post reporting Thursday on a detailed account of a woman who says Moore initiated sexual contact with her when she was 14 and he was 32. Members of the state GOP are standing up for Moore, after all, with some even saying they’d support Moore if the allegations were true.

And for that, “Saturday Night Live” made Alabama the butt of a series of jokes in its cold open this weekend.

“Voters in Alabama will never elect someone who’s had relations with a minor,” the Vice President Pence character says.

“You sure about that?” asks SNL’s Roy Moore, dressed in a leather vest and cowboy hat.

“No,” Pence admits.

Pence later tells Moore: “It’s hard to convince people that you’re not into young girls when you dress like Woody from ‘Toy Story.’”

After Pence tells Moore he needs to “do the right thing” — a clear suggestion that he should drop out of the race — Moore responds, “All right, if everyone thinks I did it, I’ll marry her.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, played by Kate McKinnon, then makes an appearance. The man who used to hold the same Senate seat Moore is seeking tells him, “I’m Alabama, but you — you, sir, are too Alabama.”

By the end, just to drive home the point, Sessions pulls out a stuffed possum that he calls “papa” and seeks its advice.

Sonny Rollins Spent A Mythical ‘Night at the Village Vanguard’ 60 Years Ago Today November 3, 2017

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Sonny Rollins during the recording of A Night at the Village Vanguard.

Francis Wolff/Blue Note Records

One of the greatest jazz albums ever made was recorded 60 years ago today. It’s A Night at the Village Vanguard, a live date by saxophonist Sonny Rollins, featuring a muscular backdrop of bass and drums. It’s not a carefully plotted concept album, nor a manifesto, but a document with the slangy nonchalance of a conversation overheard on the street, extemporaneous and unburdened. It’s a slice of musical vérité that captures a true master of the form on a good day, in a generous and jocular mood.

At 87, Rollins is an acknowledged eminence in American culture: Earlier this year his archives were acquired by the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library, and there’s a serious effort afoot to rename the Williamsburg Bridge in his honor.

He’s also legendarily self-effacing, the harshest critic and most reluctant listener of his own past work. By his estimation, he hasn’t heard A Night at the Village Vanguardsince shortly after it was released. But, when I asked him to talk about the album and the circumstances around its creation, he readily obliged.

“The Vanguard was sort of the premier room at that time,” he recalls, speaking by phone from his home in Woodstock, N.Y. “A lot of guys played there, and they all seemed to express the music without any sort of impediment. I felt particularly comfortable.”

In the original liner notes to the LP, released on Blue Note Records in 1958, Leonard Feather notes that it “constitutes a double premiere.” He’s referring to A Night at the Village Vanguard being both the first live documentation of Rollins as a bandleader and the first album recorded the Village Vanguard, a wedge-shaped basement room regarded, then and now, as “one of New York’s foremost havens of contemporary jazz.”

~~~  KEEP READING/WATCH  ~~~

‘Impossible To Save’: Scientists Are Watching China’s Glaciers Disappear

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The Tianshan No. 1 glacier is melting fast, receding by at least 30 feet each year. Scientists warn that the glacier — the source of the Urumqi River, which more than 4 million people depend on — may disappear in the next 50 years.

Rob Schmitz/NPR

At the end of every summer, scientist Li Zhongqin takes his seasonal hike near the top of a glacier in the Tianshan mountains in China’s far northwestern region of Xinjiang.

Li scrambles over a frozen ridge and heads toward a lone red pole wedged in the ice. Clouds emerge from a peak above and quickly blow past. He stops to catch his breath. He’s at 14,000 ft. The snow is thick. The air is thin.

“This is called a sight rod,” he says, grasping the pole. “We come up here each month to check it, to see how fast the glacier’s melting. Each year, the glacier is 15 feet thinner.”

Li, who heads the Tianshan Mountains Glaciological Station of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, points to a valley beyond a valley of boulders below to another glacier in the distance. “Twenty years ago, when I was a young scientist, these two glaciers were connected,” he says. “But now, look: They’re completely separate. Things are changing very, very quickly.”

Scientist Li Zhongqin has studied the glaciers of Xinjiang for most of his life. He says at the current rate of global warming, the glacier he studies most will be gone within 50 years.

Rob Schmitz/NPR

 

Xinjiang, a land of mountains, forests and deserts, is four times the size of California and is home to 20,000 glaciers – nearly half of all the glaciers in China. Since the 1950s, all of Xinjiang’s glaciers have retreated by between 21 percent to 27 percent.

In the past 50 years, says Li, the average global temperature has risen by 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit). As a result, these glaciers — split from the original Tianshan No. 1 glacier into No. 1 East and No. 1 West — are retreating by around 30 ft. each year.

Li calls out to scientists hiking nearly 1,000 feet above. In their bright parkas, they look like neon-colored ants. They call back, their voices bouncing off an ice and stone amphitheater that cradles the eastern glacier.

Scientists are the only people allowed here – the government has banned tourism on the glacier and shut down factories in the town below, laying off 7,000 workers to try and lessen the impact of pollution.

But local sources of pollution account for just 30 percent of the damage to glaciers, says Li. The other 70 percent is caused by global carbon emissions that have warmed the entire planet.

The central goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change — which the Trump administration has promised to pull the U.S. out of, but to which China is still a party — is to limit the rise in global average temperature to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). Tianshan is one of those rare places where the impact of climate change policy can be measured and seen.

“If every country sticks to the emissions reductions in the Paris Agreement, these two glaciers will be around for another hundred years,” says Li. “If not, then temperatures will continue to rise, and the glacier we’re walking on? It’ll be gone in 50 years.”

And that, says Li, is a problem for this entire region.

These glaciers are the source of the Urumqi River, which provides water for half the city of Urumqi, the largest in the region and home to nearly 4 million people.

~~~  READ/LISTEN TO THE STORY  ~~~

20 Years On, That Buena Vista Social Club Magic Endures

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The iconic cover photo for the 1997 album Buena Vista Social Club.

World Circuit/Nonesuch

 

Twenty years ago this month, Americans were introduced to the romantic sounds of the Buena Vista Social Club. It was an unlikely group of stars: mostly elderly musicians from Cuba playing very old-fashioned music. But when the group’s debut album was released in 1997, it wound up selling millions of records around the world.

Buena Vista Social Club started out as a very different album from the one you know. The previous year, British record producer Nick Gold and American guitarist Ry Cooder had the idea to show the connections between Cuban and West African music. They arranged for a group of musicians from Mali to record in Havana with musicians from the island. But Gold says that, as often happens, bureaucracy got in the way.

“The Africans couldn’t make the trip because [their] passports were sent to Burkina Faso to get visas — and they didn’t come back,” he recalls. “So the Africans couldn’t come.” (Gold did eventually manage to realize that Cuba-Mali project; AfroCubismwas released in 2010.)

Studio time had been booked at Cuba’s national recording label, EGREM, whose main studio was built by RCA Victor in the 1940s. Before the revolution in 1959, everyone — from Cuban stars to Nat King Cole — recorded there. Gold raves, “The actual room has got the nicest sound I’ve ever heard in any studio. It has this beautiful natural reverb.”

“I mean, I don’t know if we knew that it would be financially or commercially successful, but we knew something amazing was going down,” Gold says. Some of these older musicians had once been famous in Cuba, and some had not. But Gold believed they were all ready for their moment in the spotlight: “They knew they had nothing to prove. They knew why they were there.”

A few of the musicians hadn’t performed in years. In a 1999 interview with Fresh Air, Ry Cooder recalled asking Juan de Marcos González if anyone still sang the old-fashioned ballads called boleros.

“We asked, ‘Does anybody still sing this way? This beautiful high tenor lyric voice?'” Cooder explained. “He says, ‘There’s only one guy left … and this is Ibrahim Ferrer. And he’s hard to find. He’s on the street somewhere.’ He went out and he came back two hours later with this really strange-looking fellow — he’s just very skinny, moves like an old cat.”

Ferrer was 69 years old at the time, and shining shoes to earn a bit of money.

“He says, ‘So, what do you want me for? I don’t sing anymore,'” Cooder continued. “I’m thinking, ‘This is somebody, you know, this guy’s heavy. Put him up in front of a microphone and see what he’s going to do here.'”

~~~  CONTINUE  ~~~

Hunter S. Thompson’s Widow Opens Doors To His ‘War Room’

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Years after his death, gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson’s legend lives on. His widow takes Aspen Public Radio’s Claire Woodcock on a visit to The War Room in his home, where Thompson spent 16 hours a day locked in, writing such pieces as Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

~~~  LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW  ~~~