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Israel awards actor Michael Douglas $1 million prize

AP Entertainment News - Wed, 01/14/2015 - 10:42pm
Israel awards actor Michael Douglas $1 million prize Associated Press - 15 January 2015 07:42-05:00 News Topics: Arts and entertainment, General news, Celebrity, Entertainment, Celebrity causes People, Places and Companies: Michael Douglas, Benjamin Netanyahu, Michael Bloomberg, Jay Leno, Israel, Jerusalem, New York City Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Foreclosures fell in 2014 to levels before housing bust

AP Business News - Wed, 01/14/2015 - 10:36pm
Foreclosures fell in 2014 to levels before housing bust Associated Press - 15 January 2015 07:36-05:00 News Topics: Business, General news, Personal finance, Financial crisis, Home sales, Foreclosure rates, Banking and credit, Economy, Financial markets, Real estate, Financial services, Industries People, Places and Companies: United States Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Kerry says he's going to France to give 'a big hug to Paris'

AP Politics - Wed, 01/14/2015 - 10:34pm
Kerry says he's going to France to give 'a big hug to Paris' Associated Press - 15 January 2015 07:34-05:00 News Topics: General news, Government and politics, Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris, Events, Terrorist attacks, Terrorism, War and unrest People, Places and Companies: John Kerry, France, Paris, Bulgaria, United States Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

France cyberdefense chief: 19,000 cyberattacks in last week

AP Technology News - Wed, 01/14/2015 - 10:26pm
France cyberdefense chief: 19,000 cyberattacks in last week Associated Press - 15 January 2015 07:26-05:00 News Topics: Business, General news, Technology, Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris, Religious strife, Terrorism, Terrorist attacks, Shootings, War and unrest, Anti-Semitism, Events, Violent crime, Crime, Racial and ethnic discrimination, Discrimination, Human rights and civil liberties, Social issues, Social affairs, Race and ethnicity, Government and politics People, Places and Companies: Francois Hollande, France, Paris, Yemen Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Bank of America earnings fall 9 percent

AP Business News - Wed, 01/14/2015 - 10:20pm
Bank of America earnings fall 9 percent Associated Press - 15 January 2015 07:20-05:00 News Topics: Business, General news, Earnings estimates, Earnings reports, Earnings, Financial performance, Corporate news Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Vietnamese leader says banning social media sites impossible

AP Technology News - Wed, 01/14/2015 - 10:02pm
Vietnamese leader says banning social media sites impossible Associated Press - 15 January 2015 07:02-05:00 News Topics: Business, General news, Technology, Social media, Online media, Human rights and civil liberties, Arrests, Government and politics, National security, Media, Social issues, Social affairs, Law and order, Crime, Military and defense People, Places and Companies: Nguyen Tan Dung, Vietnam, Thailand, Hanoi, Southeast Asia Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Vietnamese leader says banning social media sites impossible

AP Business News - Wed, 01/14/2015 - 10:02pm
Vietnamese leader says banning social media sites impossible Associated Press - 15 January 2015 07:02-05:00 News Topics: Business, General news, Technology, Social media, Online media, Human rights and civil liberties, Arrests, Government and politics, National security, Media, Social issues, Social affairs, Law and order, Crime, Military and defense People, Places and Companies: Nguyen Tan Dung, Vietnam, Thailand, Hanoi, Southeast Asia Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Despite low gas prices, gas tax hike appears unlikely

AP Politics - Wed, 01/14/2015 - 9:55pm
Despite low gas prices, gas tax hike appears unlikely Associated Press - 15 January 2015 06:55-05:00 News Topics: General news, Government and politics, Oil and gas industry, National taxes, Energy and utilities regulation, Legislature, Transportation industry regulation, Government budgets, Transportation and shipping, Road and highway construction, Transportation, Gasoline retail, Energy industry, Industries, Business, Government taxation and revenue, Government finance, Government business and finance, National governments, Industry regulation, Government regulations, Industrial products and services, Heavy construction industry, Construction and engineering, Transportation infrastructure, Retail industry, Retail and wholesale, Consumer services, Consumer products and services People, Places and Companies: John Cornyn, John McCain, John Boehner, Bill Shuster, Orrin Hatch, Jim Inhofe, Barack Obama, Anthony Foxx, John Thune Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Despite low gas prices, gas tax hike appears unlikely

AP Business News - Wed, 01/14/2015 - 9:55pm
Despite low gas prices, gas tax hike appears unlikely Associated Press - 15 January 2015 06:55-05:00 News Topics: General news, Government and politics, Oil and gas industry, National taxes, Energy and utilities regulation, Legislature, Transportation industry regulation, Government budgets, Transportation and shipping, Road and highway construction, Transportation, Gasoline retail, Energy industry, Industries, Business, Government taxation and revenue, Government finance, Government business and finance, National governments, Industry regulation, Government regulations, Industrial products and services, Heavy construction industry, Construction and engineering, Transportation infrastructure, Retail industry, Retail and wholesale, Consumer services, Consumer products and services People, Places and Companies: John Cornyn, John McCain, John Boehner, Bill Shuster, Orrin Hatch, Jim Inhofe, Barack Obama, Anthony Foxx, John Thune Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

US pushes Bulgaria on energy dependence, corruption

AP Politics - Wed, 01/14/2015 - 9:51pm
US pushes Bulgaria on energy dependence, corruption Associated Press - 15 January 2015 06:51-05:00 News Topics: General news, Government and politics, International relations, Energy industry, Pipeline construction, Industries, Business, Heavy construction industry, Construction and engineering, Industrial products and services People, Places and Companies: John Kerry, Boyko Borisov, Bulgaria, Sofia, United States, Russia Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Probe finds NYC jail guards hired despite arrests, gang ties

AP US News - Wed, 01/14/2015 - 9:30pm
Probe finds NYC jail guards hired despite arrests, gang ties Associated Press - 15 January 2015 06:30-05:00 News Topics: General news, Criminal investigations, Arrests, Crime, Prisons, Law and order, Correctional systems People, Places and Companies: New York City, New York Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Switzerland stuns markets by scrapping exchange rate peg

AP Business News - Wed, 01/14/2015 - 9:02pm
Switzerland stuns markets by scrapping exchange rate peg Associated Press - 15 January 2015 06:02-05:00 News Topics: Business, General news, Currency pegging, Swiss franc, Currency markets, Euro, U.S. dollar, Central banking, Monetary policy, Economic policy, Economy, Government business and finance, Government and politics, Government policy, Financial markets, Banking and credit, Financial services, Industries People, Places and Companies: Switzerland Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

2 men reach top of Yosemite's El Capitan in historic climb

AP US News - Wed, 01/14/2015 - 8:42pm
2 men reach top of Yosemite's El Capitan in historic climb Associated Press - 15 January 2015 05:42-05:00 News Topics: General news, Sports, Rock climbing, Climbing, Recreational sports, Outdoor recreation, Recreation and leisure, Lifestyle People, Places and Companies: Barack Obama, California Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

JT Torres: En Trance

49 Writers - Wed, 01/14/2015 - 6:00am
The first ceremony of the week-long Festival de San Lazaro.

We were sitting at a brightly lit café in a neighborhood in Colón. The dirt streets stretched into darkness in each direction. Maybe two houses were lit; the rest faded into the night sky glowing impossibly clear constellations.
This was my first dinner in Cuba. I should have been thinking about the questions I would ask during interviews. I should have been deciding on a schema for how I’d record my observations. Methodology was furthest from my mind, though. Instead, I worried about the food—lettuce washed in contaminated water, meat not thoroughly cooked.
The servers all wore Santa Claus hats and garland necklaces with flickering red and green lights. Christmas is still a relatively new holiday in Cuba, since the revolution that is.
A stray dog limped into the café and rubbed against my leg. I nudged it away from me. It whimpered and limped into what I believe was the kitchen.
Before I could worry too much about the dog sniffing around the food while it was being prepared, Jill, the lead researcher, asked Roberto what we should do if he fell into a trance.
Roberto, a Santero who served as our religious guide, smiled bashfully. He pulled his white scarf up over his face and waved the question away with his other hand. “Es no problema,” he said. Everything he wore was white, except for his green and yellow bracelet, the colors of Oshun, the orisha of rivers and love.
“No, no,” Jill said. “Do you want me to bring you back or let you go?”
The tone of Jill’s voice, and Roberto’s coy response, struck me more than what was actually being discussed. Falling into trance means a spirit has possessed the mind and body. This happens almost exclusively at ceremonies when the drummers have reached a level of performance that can only be called divine. Everyone present dances the same dance, as one step, chanting the same chants, as one voice. The power of unison and musical energy acts like tundra charged with electrons, which attracts lightning from a storm thousands of miles above. The analogy is almost perfect; the spirits are believed to “come down.”
So, Jill was essentially asking Roberto what he wanted us to do if he became possessed, and her question came as normal as if she was asking what he wanted to drink.
In Cuba, everything strange is normal. Magic is mundane. The most unbelievable stories, when told, are heard without the slightest disbelief.
Melba, our translator, said, “We have to bring him back.” Of course, she said this in English so Jill, and not Roberto, would understand. “How will he interpret the ceremony in a trance?”
Of course, I thought to myself, the only concern in the event of a spirit possession is who would narrate the possession.
Worrying about getting sick from the food suddenly felt like a concern from another world.
A shooting star streaked across the sky, leaving a green trail. Those who noticed showed as much amazement as someone in Alaska would show while watching snow fall. Our server, followed by the stray dog, brought our food. The smell of mojo and platanos maduros reminded me of my grandmother. I remembered the stories she used to tell me of Cuba, each one having to do with spirits. One in particular was about a woman who kept an affair from her husband. Eventually, her husband caught her and killed her lover. It didn’t matter, Nana told me. Her lover’s spirit visited her often and they continued their affair. Flesh and ghost. Carnal and spiritual.
During Nana’s last days, my family attributed all of her supernatural stories to her worsening Alzheimer’s. “She’s crazy,” my mother would say with tears in her eyes. “Don’t instigate her,” my sister would admonish me. “You are making her worse by validating her lunacy.”
I was the only one who listened—really listened. I believed everything she said. Her stories were normal to her and while they weren’t necessarily “normal” to me, I fully entered her world. I’d lost that ability. Something happened when she died that I can’t explain. Maybe that’s why I was in Cuba. Maybe I needed to live her stories in order to remember her.
It was after Nana died that I left Florida, lived in state after state, changed job after job. I lost my ability to remain in step. A normal life became a chimera, something I could not define even though I chased it blindly. Or did the idea of a normal life chase me? I don’t know. Traveling to Cuba for the Festival of San Lazáro is anything but a normal life.
After dinner, we went to a house where the first night of the festival was taking place. About sixty people were gathered under a hut. Four drummers, one of them no older than thirteen, beat their hands in a blur against drums that were purported to be hundreds of years old. According to Roberto, the drums were carried here by slaves and repaired using skins only from Africa. I quickly noticed I was the only white person present, and it wasn’t even close. The second lightest skin tone was the color of ancient bronze. I am the color of fear. The stares of everyone present held me in what felt like eternal displacement. That was the closest I’ve come to feeling the existential crisis of diaspora.
Roberto must have sensed my discomfort. He pulled me after him into the room with the altar. Statues of white-skinned San Lazáros in purple cloaks and Caridad del Cobres crowned an arch. Under the arch, sheltered by dried palm leaves, was a statue of San Lazáro with black skin. The arrangement symbolized how Arará survived in Colonial Cuba. Arará, with its traditions rooted in West Africa, was outlawed in Cuba. Practitioners were brutally persecuted. Slaves had the choice of converting to Catholicism or suffering painful deaths. The result was a genius demonstration of creative literacy. Afro-Cubans syncretized symbols and names from Catholic hagiography and applied them to their traditions. Therefore, Saint Lazarus (Catholic), San Lázaro (Arará), Babalú-Ayé (Santería), and Sakpata (Ewe), became different representations of essentially the same figure. Afro-Cubans went on celebrating their religion to the ignorance of European slave-owners, oppressive governments, and dominant cultural norms.
Hanging from the ceiling was a stuffed animal monkey. Roberto informed me this meant that once you become a Santero, you are no longer “someone’s monkey.” You are free.
I stood in awe, breathing in the smell of plantains hanging from another part of the ceiling, the smell of rum poured as an offering on the altar and of tobacco spicing the air. Just as Roberto guided me out of the shrine, a man who couldn’t be older than forty, who had been dancing—dare I use the word?—normally cranked his head back and flung out his arms, knocking a woman next to him down. His body thrust against the ground, blurred like the drummers’ hands. The hard soil carried the vibrations to my own feet. I felt them thunder up my spine. His legs dangled like loose ribbons as he appeared to float.  Float? Then, as if cables attached to his shoulders controlled him, his body was tossed into the crowd, knocking more people down.
Roberto danced. “Míra, él está en trance,” he said, smiling.
I found Jill, who was also dancing. Melba and her husband, Miguel, chanted along with the singers. Only three people didn’t dance: the apparently possessed man and two Santeros who tried holding him still.
As they restrained him a mere six feet from me, I stared at the entranced man’s face, searching for a sign of cognizance. His eyes were blank. I mean this literally, as in there were only the whites of his eyes, and figuratively: there was something apparent that was not warm flesh human. Something beyond human. Drool spilled from his trembling mouth. The statues of San Lázaro had more expression.
Es un muerto,” Roberto said. “Es Palo.”
Palo is a variation of Arará that focuses more on elemental powers and communication with spirits of the dead rather than orishas, divine representations of deities. A muertois one such dead spirit, who can do damage if “mounting” someone, the term used when a muerto possesses the living.
The ceremony’s host, a man dressed in traditional burlap with purple ribbons streaming from his clothing, purified the possessed man by passing aja sticks, a bundle of broomlike bristles, throughout his body. The possessed man was carried into the altar room, and then the host purified the rest of us, to ensure the muertowouldn’t possess anyone else.
The drummers never stopped. The heartbeat music pumped blood into the veins of each person. Jill looked at me with disappointment. I was the only person not dancing. How could I? How could everyone go on as if what just happened was normal?
The dance required each person to place their hands on their head, then hold their hands up in the air. Again I thought of Nana. Her stories. What did it mean to believe? Was listening not enough?
And what about methodology? As if I could think about that now. Was the simple act of recording observations insufficient? “Go to Cuba,” Nana used to say. “See that the stories are real.” Participate. Perform.
“She’s crazy.”
“You are making her worse.”
“I believe in their power to believe.”
My knees felt weak. My stomach twisted upon itself, and I knew it wasn’t the food. I was terrified for the man who fell into a violent trance. I kept looking up at Roberto, whose hazel eyes reflected the light from the fire, assuring me that he was still present, still in control of his own soul. Roberto continued to dance. He looked at me, still smiling, nodded for me to follow his step. I swallowed hard and tried.


JT Torres is a PhD candidate at Washington State University. His upcoming novella will be included in Weathered Edge, alongside Don Rearden and Sarah Birdsall, by VP&D House. He had an essay in Best Food Writing 2014. And, yes, he recently returned from Cubawith Dr. Jill Flanders Crosby. The resulting research will inform a cultural memoir about Arará, Santería, and his own connections with Cuba.
Categories: Arts & Culture

JUMP 2015 Winter Film Fest

JUMP Society - Thu, 01/08/2015 - 12:10pm
Thursday, Feb 12 · 7 pm Friday, Feb 13 · 7 pm & 9 pm Saturday, Feb 14 · 7 pm & 9 pm Gold Town Nickelodeon Friday, Feb 27 · 7 pm UAS Egan Room The JUMP Society Film Festival features locally made short films. Admission is free and tickets will be available (soon) […]
Categories: Arts & Culture

Superintendent speaks out about student privacy rights

Juneau School District Announcements - Fri, 08/29/2014 - 1:40pm

Supe's On  - Welcome to the Superintendent's Blog

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Categories: Arts & Culture

School District Report on Investigation into Hazing

Juneau School District Announcements - Wed, 08/27/2014 - 3:35pm

The Juneau School District has concluded our investigation into allegations that on or about May 30-31 of this year a group of incoming senior boys hazed/initiated a group of incoming freshmen boys by paddling them multiple times.

These events were first brought to our attention in early June. At that time the district began an initial investigation, which, due to an active police investigation and summer vacation, was put on hold. When we were informed that the police had concluded their investigation we resumed our efforts.

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Categories: Arts & Culture

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