Photographer Mary Ellen Mark dies …

New York…

Mary Ellen Mark, an artist known for her incredible humanist photography, passed away Monday in New York City. A rep confirmed the news Tuesday morning. She was 75.

Mark was born (March 20, 1940) and raised in Elkins Park. She graduated from Cheltenham High School (“I was head cheerleader,” she told the Inquirer’s Stephen Rea in 2008). In 1962, she received a bachelor of fine arts in art history and painting from the University of Pennsylvania, and a master’s in photojournalism in 1964 from Penn’s Annenberg School of Communication. She would return to the local institution to receive honorary doctorates in fine arts in 1992 and 1994.

Mark said she got her big break while working for a Penn alumni magazine. On assignment at Rosemont College, she met Pat Carbine, then managing editor of Look, who later took her pitch to photograph London drug clinics.

“From the very first moment I took pictures [on the streets of Philadelphia], I loved it,” Mark told the Inquirer’s Michael Matza in 1988. “The thrill was the idea of just being on a street, turning a corner and looking for something to see. It was just an amazing feeling. … Photography became my obsession. … In a way it’s not so different when I go out to work now. It’s just that now I have years of experience in knowing how to use that little machine in front of me – at least better than I used it then. When it’s good and interesting it’s still that feeling of being on the street and wondering – God, I love this! – what’s going to happen next?”

You can enjoy Mary Ellen Mark’s work in her online gallery.


Executive Action to regulate wetlands, streams, and tributaries …

President Obama has taken executive action regulating wetlands, streams and tributaries of larger waterways. The administration said this action was necessary to clarify rules under the Clean Water Act…

“We’re finalizing a clean water rule to protect the streams and the wetlands that one in three Americans rely on for drinking water. And we’re doing that without creating any new permitting requirements and maintaining all previous exemptions and exclusions,” EPA head Gina McCarthy told reporters Wednesday.

McCarthy and other Obama officials sought to emphasize that the rule is about increasing clarity for businesses and helping make it easier to determine which waterways are subject to the pollution rules of the Clean Water Act.

“This rule is about clarification, and in fact, we’re adding exclusions for features like artificial lakes and ponds, water-filled depressions from constructions and grass swales,” she said

“This rule will make it easier to identify protected waters and will make those protections consistent with the law as well as the latest peer-reviewed science. This rule is based on science,” she continued.

The new regulations will help the EPA control pollutants from these waterways and help prevent issues like algal blooms.

“There is nothing complicated about the idea that we should protect the tributary system that flows into our nation’s rivers,” said David Uhlmann, a law professor at the University of Michigan who previously led the prosecution of environmental crimes at the Justice Department. “What is more difficult is deciding when to protect wetlands, which perform essential ecological functions but often make it difficult or impossible for landowners to develop their property.”

These new rules have not come about without significant opposition…

The American Farm Bureau has led the opposition. “The proposed rule provides none of the clarity and certainty it promises,” the bureau wrote in a letter to Congress. “Instead, it creates confusion and risk by providing the agencies with almost unlimited authority to regulate, at their discretion, any low spot where rainwater collects.” That could include farm ditches, agricultural ponds and isolated wetlands, it said. “The proposed rule provides none of the clarity and certainty it promises,” the bureau wrote in a letter to Congress. “Instead, it creates confusion and risk by providing the agencies with almost unlimited authority to regulate, at their discretion, any low spot where rainwater collects.” That could include farm ditches, agricultural ponds and isolated wetlands, it said.

The EPA has a website up to explain the changes and clarify the Clean Water rules.




NYT’s Summer Reading List …

Summer officially starts June 21st, but, the New York Times’ Summer reading list is out with their choices of what should be the book blockbusters of the season. Stephen King is always one of my favorite summer reading authors and he is on the list with “The Knockoff.” I really like David McCullough and his new book “The Wright Brothers” will definitely be in my book bag. One title that has been described as “the Gone Girl” of this summer is “Disclaimer.” This is a debut thriller by Renée Knight that looks intriguing.

Here’s the list…

THE KNOCKOFFby Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza. 338 pages. Doubleday. $25.95.

FINDERS KEEPERSby Stephen King. 434 pages. Scribner. $30. (June 2.)

LOOK WHO’S BACKby Timur Vermes. Translated by Jamie Bulloch. 313 pages. MacLehose. $25.99.

SO YOU’VE BEEN PUBLICLY SHAMEDby Jon Ronson. 290 pages. Riverhead Books. $27.95.

TERMS OF SERVICE: SOCIAL MEDIA AND THE PRICE OF CONSTANT CONNECTIONby Jacob Silverman. 429 pages. Harper/HarperCollins Publishers. $33.50.

THE LAST LOVE SONG: A BIOGRAPHY OF JOAN DIDION by Tracy Daugherty. 703 pages. St. Martin’s Press. $35. (Aug. 25.)

THE INGENIOUS MR. PYKE: INVENTOR, FUGITIVE, SPYby Henry Hemming. Illustrated. 500 pages. PublicAffairs. $26.99.

THE WRIGHT BROTHERSby David McCullough. 320 pages. Simon & Schuster. $30.

DISCLAIMERby Renée Knight. 336 pages. HarperCollins Publishers. $25.99.

THE ROYAL WEby Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan. 454 pages. Grand Central Publishing. $26.

OH! YOU PRETTY THINGS by Shanna Mahin. 358 pages. Dutton. $26.95.

BARBARIAN DAYS: A SURFING LIFEby William Finnegan. Illustrated. 447 pages. Penguin Press. $27.95. (July 21.)

ORIENT by Christopher Bollen. 612 pages. Harper/HarperCollins Publishers. $26.99.

THE CARTELby Don Winslow. 640 pages. Alfred A. Knopf. $27.95 (June 23.)


SICK IN THE HEAD: CONVERSATIONS ABOUT LIFE AND COMEDYby Judd Apatow. 489 pages. Random House. $27. (June 16.)

THE MARRIAGE BOOK: CENTURIES OF ADVICE, INSPIRATION, AND CAUTIONARY TALES FROM ADAM AND EVE TO ZOLOFTby Lisa Grunwald and Stephen Adler. Illustrated. 536 pages. Simon and Schuster. $35.

But, the list does not come without critics. Jason Parham points out the the list is 100% “white.” He suggests these books for a little variety…

In the Country by by Mia Alvar

The Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari

Flood of Fire by Amitov Ghosh

Loving Day by Mat Johnson

Australia’s Tampon Tax…

I am trying to decide if this is true misogyny or if some lawmakers in Australia were just uncomfortable discussing if feminine hygiene supplies are necessary for a woman’s health. These product are subject to a 10% “Goods and Services” tax…

Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey is to ask state and territory governments to remove the consumption tax on tampons and other sanitary products.

Earlier this month, an online petition asking the government to stop taxing a “bodily function” attracted about 90,000 signatures.

Unlike products such as condoms and sunscreen, pads and tampons attract the 10% Goods and Services tax (GST).

Mr Hockey said he would lobby state and territory governments to exempt them.

However Prime Minister Tony Abbott later downplayed Mr Hockey’s pledge.

He said he understood why many people wanted to see an end to the tax, but that it was “certainly not something that this government has a plan to do”.

Mr Abbott said it was up to states to decide.

In May this year, ahead of a national tax review, Sydney university student Subeta Vimalarajah started an online petition calling for an end to the tax on a “bodily function”.

The petition questions the validity of taxing something most women are forced to buy every few weeks but which the government does not consider “necessary” enough to be GST-free.”

“On the other hand, condoms, lubricants, sunscreen and nicotine patches are all tax-free because they are classed as important health goods,” noted the petition.

Uh, hoo boy. I can’t imagine sanitary products NOT being “important health goods.”

“The reason this has not been addressed already and why sanitary products were originally not exempt is either because politicians are too awkward to confront the reality of periods or they just want us to literally pay for them. Either way, it’s sexist,” she wrote on her blog.

During a post-budget discussion on ABC TV on Monday night, Ms Vimalarajah asked Mr Hockey if he thought sanitary products were an essential health product for half the population.

“Do I think sanitary products are essential? I think so, I think so,” he replied, and said the tax “probably should” be taken off.

Mr Hockey said he would raise the issue with state treasurers at their next meeting in July…

The tax was introduced by John Howard’s conservative government in 2000, replacing various federal and state taxes…

But calls for an exemption for tampons were dismissed by Mr Howard on the grounds that it would lead to too many other exemptions.”

Sure, buddy. I bet if men needed something similar they would be subsidized or even doled out for free. Really.
But, to be fair, most of the states here in the U.S. have a tax on feminine products and many other countries have one as well.

With most all other personal care items not subject to “Goods and Services” tax in Australia, it just struck me odd that feminine hygiene products were.

Challenge to the Concept of “One Person, One Vote” …

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case if states should draw voting districts based on eligible voters, instead of total populations.

The case — Evenwel v. Abbott — stems from the 2013 redistricting of 31 seats in the Texas Senate, which was based on 2010 census population figures alone. Texas voters Sue Evenwel and Edward Pfenninger sued then-Texas Governor Rick Perry and then-Texas Secretary of State Nandita Berry for allegedly violating the “one-person, one-vote” principle of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause by not dividing districts in a manner that equalized both total population and voter population.

This principle requires that, “when members of an elected body are chosen from separate districts, each district must be established on a basis that will insure, as far as is practicable, that equal numbers of voters can vote for proportionally equal numbers of officials.”

The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the state, which argued that there was no legal basis for Evenwel and Pfenninger’s claims that the new election districts were unconstitutional.

Why is this being heard and possible consequences if the SCOTUS sides with Evenwel and Pfenninger’s claims…

A 1964 Supreme Court decision, Reynolds v. Sims, ruled that voting districts must contain very close to the same number of people. But the court did not say which people count.

Almost all state and local governments draw districts based on total population. If people who were ineligible to vote were evenly distributed, the difference between counting all people or counting only eligible voters would not matter. But demographic patterns vary widely.

If the challengers succeed, the practical consequences would be enormous, Joseph R. Fishkin, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin wrote in 2012 in The Yale Law Journal.

It would, he said, “shift power markedly at every level, away from cities and neighborhoods with many immigrants and many children and toward the older, whiter, more exclusively native-born areas in which a higher proportion of the total population consists of eligible voters.”

That sounds like a bit more of the erosion of representation of the people. Election Finance Laws, the Voting Rights Amendment, voter ID laws and the list goes on. I am just wondering where these Texas voters got this great idea

The organization behind the challenge, the Project on Fair Representation, also was the brainchild of other major Supreme Court cases challenging minority preferences. Among them: Fisher v. University of Texas, challenging the use of affirmative action policies in college admissions, and Shelby County, Ala., v. Holder, challenging a major section of the Voting Rights Act.

The challengers were backed by a half-dozen conservative and libertarian groups, an unusually large number for a case that had yet to be granted by the high court. But it appears they were persuasive.

I guess the “real constituency” is dying out and needs a boost of power.

Evenwel v. Abbott will be heard by the SCOTUS in the fall.

Steppin’ out

There’s a long story involving me in a club wearing heels, walking up and down dozens of steps while drunk, and being absolutely furious at my date while Joe Jackson performed live, but honestly, I’d rather you just used your imagination:

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