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21 Sep 2018


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  • Posted on 21 Sep 2018

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    Tennis' Battle Of The Sexes Match Still Resonates 45 Years Later

    This week marks the 45th anniversary of the Battle of the Sexes, the landmark tennis match between 29-year-old Billie Jean King and 55-year-old Bobby Riggs.

    King soundly defeated Riggs in the three-set match, instantly becoming an symbol for women's equality on and off the court. Her victory was timely. It came in the first year of Title IX, which required the government to equally fund both men and women's sports programming in colleges across the country. 

    The issue of gender inequality in professional tennis made headlines again recently, when Serena Williams protested a penalty she perceived to be sexist during a championship match in this year's U.S. Open in Queens.

    Caitlin Thompson, founder of Racquet Magazine, spoke with WNYC's Richard Hake about the historic match, and how much has  and hasn't  changed in the decades since.

  • Posted on 21 Sep 2018

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    Review: The Other Bauhaus

    Everyone interested in art history knows about the Bauhaus, the adventuresome school in Weimar, Germany, that put crafts on equal footing with high art. But inevitably you are less familiar with “The People’s Art School,” a similarly progressive academy that was founded in the snowy provinces of Vitebsk, Russia, in 1918, just a few months before the Bauhaus. The Vitebsk school is now the subject of a fascinating group show at the Jewish Museum that brings together the work of about a dozen of its faculty and students. The three best-known among them are mentioned in the title – an act of snobbism that flies in the face of the collectivist beliefs explored by the show.

    No matter. “Chagall, Lissitzky, Malevich: The Russian Avant-Garde in Vitebsk, 1918-22” offers a deeply satisfying introduction to an overlooked moment in art history. In 1918, in the wake of the Russian Revolution, Marc Chagall became head of the brand-new, tuition-free People’s Art School in his native Vitebsk. It was a triumphant period for Chagall, not least because the Revolution granted full-fledged citizenship to Russian Jews for the first time. His eight-foot-tall painting, “Double Portrait with Wine Glass” – in which the artist sits astride his wife’s shoulders, raising a glass – looks almost tipsy with optimism.

    A year after the opening of the school, Kazimir Malevich arrived and joined the faculty. He quickly became Chagall’s nemesis. While Chagall painted poetic scenes of his hometown – with cows and goats and upside down houses – Malevich, the founder of Suprematism, demanded that realistic subject matter be jettisoned from art. His paintings, with their airy arrangements of crosses and rectangles rendered in stark red and black, have the look of revolt, and students immediately signed on. To Chagall’s dismay, his own students abandoned him, quickly switching to Malevich’s class and the vogue for geometric abstraction. Chagall resigned from the school and moved away from Vitebsk.

    Not all of the work in the Jewish Museum show is first-rate, but it’s not intended to be. Instead, it evocatively captures one of those rare moments in history when art fervor blended with political fervor. How best to capture it? The other day I watched “Chagall-Malevich,” a Russian film that came out in 2014, and is available online. As far as period dramas go, it’s a bit heavy-handed, but it includes some wonderful scenes of the cobblestone streets of Vitebsk festooned with Suprematist-style posters, banners and trolley car decorations. They’re a poignant reminder that the People’s Art School began as a utopian project, but produced only one graduating class. Sadly, it resembles the Bauhaus not only in its early idealism, but in its tragic defeat by the forces of fascism.

    'Mystic Suprematism (Red Cross on Black Circle)' from 1920-22 by Kazimir Malevich now on view at the Jewish Museum.
    (Stedelijk Museum Collection, Amsterdam. Ownership recognized by agreement with the estate of Kazimir Malevich, 2008)


  • Posted on 21 Sep 2018

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    Percoco Corruption Called "Corrosive" by Sentencing Judge

    A former aide so close to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo that he considered him like a brother was sentenced to six years in prison Thursday for fraud and accepting bribes. The judge said she hopes the punishment "will be heard in Albany."

    U.S. District Judge Valerie E. Caproni tried to put the sentencing of Joseph Percoco in perspective, noting other recent high-profile convictions of state leaders.

    She said those seeking the modest salaries of government jobs should not seek to supplement their incomes by accepting bribes.

    "If you do so, this court will show you no mercy," she said.

    Percoco, 49, was convicted in March of accepting more than $300,000 from companies that wanted to gain influence with the Cuomo administration.

    The conviction was an election-year embarrassment for Cuomo. His opponents say it proves the two-term Democrat hasn't done enough to address chronic corruption in state government, even within his own administration.

    Prosecutors had asked Caproni to sentence Percoco to well over five years in prison. His lawyers said he should get no more than two years.

    Cuomo wasn't accused of wrongdoing, but testimony presented an unflattering picture of the inner workings of his office.

    In a statement after the sentence was announced, Cuomo said: "Joe Percoco is paying the price for violating the public trust. And it should serve as a warning to anyone who failed to uphold his or her oath as a public servant. On a personal level, the human tragedy for Joe's young children and family is a very sad consequence."

    In a court filing, Percoco's lawyers wrote that his punishment has already begun.

    "The trial - which played out on the pages of virtually every newspaper and media outlet in New York - has all but destroyed Joe's life. Joe faces impending bankruptcy and a substantial term of incarceration," they wrote.

    In court, Percoco told Caproni he wanted to "express how sorry I am for my actions."

    Outside court, Percoco declined to comment, walking away as he was asked if he had remorse.

    His lawyer, Barry Bohrer, said outside court that it was a "difficult day in court." He vowed to appeal.

    "We had hoped for better. Obviously it is not the sentence we requested but it wasn't the sentence the government requested either. Mr. Percoco is a man of strength and a man of faith. He has faith in the system and we are hopeful that our appeal will be successful," Bohrer said.

    Prosecutors in pretrial submissions had called on Caproni to send a message to state officials.

    "As the Court is aware, and all too sadly, Percoco's trial exposed wrongdoing at high levels of state government that is hardly aberrant. Recent prosecutions and trials in this district have laid bare the ugly truth that, too often, political power and responsibility in New York leads to political corruption," they wrote.

    After the sentence was announced, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said in a statement that the punishment "sends a strong message that public officials who violate their duties to faithfully serve the citizens of New York will be held accountable for their corrupt actions."

    During the state's Democratic primary contest, Cuomo's opponent, Cynthia Nixon, dismissed the governor's explanation that he didn't know about Percoco's misdeeds.

    "We have either incompetence or corruption," she said. "Which is it?"

    The scandal didn't substantially hurt Cuomo with Democrats. He won in a landslide. But his Republican opponent in the general election, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, has picked up the cudgel, asking police to investigate Percoco's use of a state office and telephone while he was leading Cuomo's 2014 re-election bid.

    Percoco plays a big role in Molinaro's "Cuomo Corruption Tour," a series of campaign events that he launched last week.

  • Posted on 21 Sep 2018

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    Sweeping School Desegregation Plan Approved in Brooklyn

    City officials approved a plan to overhaul admissions in one Brooklyn school district on Thursday, in one of the most striking examples of desegregation under the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio.

    Middle schools will no longer grant admission based on grades, test scores and attendance across District 15, which spans Park Slope, Red Hook and Sunset Park. Enrollment in the coming school year will instead be based on a lottery system that offers preference to English language learners, students from low-income backgrounds and those in temporary housing.

    The plan was developed through public engagement sessions over the course of a year, with input from parents in the district, which is more racially diverse than many others. Students currently enrolled in middle schools across District 15 are 42 percent Hispanic, 31 percent white, 12 percent Asian, and 12 percent black, according to city officials.

    Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza applauded the effort to make classrooms more reflective of both the racial and economic diversity in the district, and said the plan could serve as a “template” for other districts.

    "It's a top-down, bottom-up approach,” he said. “From the top, we're signaling that we want communities to do this work and that we'll pay for it. We'll invest in this work."

    The plan's approval was announced at M.S. 51 in Park Slope, a school that had been attended by both the mayor’s children. He said he worked with other parents on a plan to better integrate schools in the district 15 years ago, but received “the coldest shoulder” from the Department of Education.

    “You can feel in the air that momentum for diversity is growing, momentum for change is growing,” he said. He noted that there has been a similar change in the admissions policy in District 3, which spans the Upper West Side and Harlem. That plan, when it was in the proposal stage, received far more vocal push back from parents. They were concerned that grouping students with varied academic achievements would lower education standards.

    Lenore DiLeo, principal of M.S. 51, said teachers are prepared for more diverse classrooms.

    She said that if teachers are supported, "I know that they can do greater things to a greater extent to meet the needs — whether it's culturally or academically — to meet the needs of all the students in this district."

    Eliza Seki, a seventh grade student involved in developing the desegregation plan, said schools aren’t just about learning from textbooks.

    "If everyone has the same experience and the same background, no one is going to learn about things that are going to happen in the real world, especially in such a diverse city,” she said.  

    Seki said she felt it was important that students like her had a say in the plan. Those leading the charge sought input from across the district, but Neal Zephyrin, a member of the district's community education council, said that the black, Hispanic, and Asian parents who predominate in Red Hook and Sunset Park had been less involved than white parents in Park Slope.

    At a recent dismissal time at the Red Hook Neighborhood School, WNYC spoke to more than a dozen parents. Not one had heard of the plan.

    In the next phase, the Department of Education will reach out to parents and inform them about their children's school options.


  • Posted on 21 Sep 2018


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