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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Ridiculous Things NFL Cheerleaders Put Up With

The Ridiculous Things NFL Cheerleaders Put Up With


The Ridiculous Things NFL Cheerleaders Put Up With

Posted: 23 Apr 2014 11:12 AM PDT

Another group of NFL cheerleaders is suing their team for wage theft claiming that they’ve worked hundreds of unpaid hours training and performing, as well as appearing at events where they were at risk for cat calls and groping.

Five former Buffalo Bills cheerleaders filed suit on Tuesday, and they are the third group of cheerleaders to do so. As TIME reported in February, cheerleaders for the Cincinnati Bengals and Oakland Raiders have filed similar suits for poor pay and demeaning treatment.

Buffalo Bills cheerleaders, called the Buffalo Jills, say they are wrongly classified as independent contractors and are therefore not paid the state’s $8 minimum wage. One of the cheerleaders, Alyssa U. told the Associated Press that she estimated she was paid only $420 for the 2012-13 football season, and another cheerleader, Maria P., says she only got $105 for the season.

Previous cases have had mixed results. Cincinnati Bengals’ Ben-Gals cheerleader Alexa Brenneman, 24 filed that suit was paid a total of $855 for her time as a Ben-Gals cheerleader. She says she spent over 300 hours performing, practicing and attending events–she missed one game for a funeral and wasn't paid. The minimum wage in Ohio is $7.85, but Brenneman's pay equates to less than $2.85 an hour. Brenneman’s case is still pending. And unfortunately for the Oakland Raiders cheerleaders who brought the complaint, the Raiderettes, the U.S. Department of Labor announced in March that it had closed its investigation of the case, concluding that the Raiders are exempt from paying their cheerleaders minimum wage, since they are considered "seasonal amusement." The suit may go to private arbitration. Some of the Raiderettes still want to go to court.

Beyond the surprisingly low pay for a job in this very profitable industry, these women say they are subjected to treatment and demands that are unfair and degrading. The calendars the women pose for? They don’t get any free copies. The Oakland Raiderettes, for example, got to purchase their calendars at cost. All the women have highly specific and sometimes costly physical standards they must maintain, which includes mandatory trips to nail and hair salons. And according to the Buffalo Bills’ suit, their cheerleaders are forced to participate in what are called “jiggle tests” so their coach can assess the firmness of their bodies. According to the complaint documents which were procured by Deadspin, the women were also given a rulebook with demands like: “how to properly wash “intimate areas,” and how often to change tampons.”

“Everything from standing in front of us with a clipboard having us do a jiggle test to see what parts of our body were jiggling,” cheerleader Alyssa U. told the Associated Press, “and if that was something that she saw, you were getting benched.”

These policies aren’t isolated cases. A Raiderette guidebook that was released to the Los Angeles Times listed demands like: "There's not a female alive (or male either) who doesn't like attention. But you need to learn to deal with attention you receive from the public (and especially the players) without it getting out of hand and going to your head." When it comes to parties, the women were told to be on their best behavior, with the manual citing a popular annual Halloween party that had been hosted by an NFL player: "This same player was suspended from the team for drug use but also arrested for date rape. For you on the squad who have attended those parties, just think how narrowly you missed having your photo in all the local papers and/or being assaulted."

Cheerleaders are not bringing in all the money for the NFL, but they are a necessary draw for many teams as they are evidence of a franchise’s success. For example, the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders still bring in about $1 million per season for their team. Not to mention that overall, the NFL is the most lucrative sport in America. As TIME reported, in 2012, the Oakland Raiders were valued at $825 million, with revenue of $229 million. The NFL, a tax-exempt organization, brings in about $9 billion in revenue annually, and the group hopes to bring in $25 billion by 2027.

The argument the women hear constantly, is that there are hundreds of women who would gladly take their spot if given the chance. "Do they pay a lot? No they don't. But there are women who would continue to do it if they paid even less. It's really not amount the money. It's about the opportunity, and the prestige, and loving the sport and the game," Starr Spangler Rey, 27, a former three-season Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader—now a management consultant, told TIME.

The women hope for policy changes in how they are treated and paid. Given the immense wealth of these franchises, it doesn’t seem like a lot to ask for.

When asked to comment about the lawsuit, Scott Berchtold, senior vice president of communications for the Buffalo Bills, said in an email response to TIME: "We are aware of this lawsuit and it is our organizational policy not to comment on pending litigation."

Ellen Page Is Renaming Everyone’s Dogs On Twitter, Including Lena Dunham’s

Posted: 23 Apr 2014 11:04 AM PDT

Yesterday, actress Ellen Page made a pretty nonchalant confession on Twitter:

Then everyone got really excited about this, and began asking the X-Men: Days of Future Past actress to grant their pups new monikers. She swiftly began to reply, doling out some truly perfect new dog names:

Even Lena Dunham got in on the fun:

Page also proved that she doesn’t discriminate by naming a cat, too:

Good job, Ellen Page. This is by the far the best thing any celebrity has ever done on Twitter.

HBO Just Made a Brilliant Move to Hook Younger Viewers

Posted: 23 Apr 2014 11:01 AM PDT

HBO and Amazon aren’t only targeting their shared enemy, Netflix, with their major content licensing deal announced Wednesday. They’re going right after me and my friends, millennials aged 18-25, because we’re vaguely aware The Sopranos and The Wire were pretty great shows, but we were way too young to catch ‘em on their first go.

The Sopranos, the most influential show included in a deal that will bring older HBO content to Amazon Prime subscribers even if they don’t separately subscribe to HBO, ran from 1999-2007. That means when Tony Soprano was first beamed into HBO subscribers’ homes, I was eleven years old, more interested in Nickelodeon offerings like Spongebob Squarepants or Rocket Power, both of which premiered in the same year.

My generation’s tastes changed as we grew older, but it’s tough to fight society’s demands that we spend our time watching whatever’s hot at any given moment, lest we fall out of cultural relevancy. Some college friends watched The Sopranos or The Wire on DVD, but most of us preferred to spend our TV time making sure we were catching the moment’s hot shows, like The Office, The Walking Dead or It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia—we just didn’t have time for outdated stuff, regardless of how good it was.

Now, though, we want to catch up on what we’ve been told was some pretty great television. While some of us have HBO GO access for Game of Thrones and True Detective (thanks, Mom and Dad!) many of us don’t, because it’s still pretty expensive to add HBO service to most cable packages and we’re kind of broke right now. But we do have Amazon Prime, because we buy lots of stuff online and we want it fast – Prime’s pretty affordable when you consider all the benefits (subscribing to HBO for the video content doesn’t mean I can also get HBO to send me new socks and a box of Cup Noodles in two days’ time).

There’s still some cultural demand to watch today’s best shows, but there’s so much great television that we’ve got to pick and choose anyway: Game of Thrones, True Detective, Orphan Black, New Girl, Mad Men, The Walking Dead, Veep, Silicon Valley, the 24 reboot, Orange is the New Black, Justified, Parks and Recreation, Sherlock, The Americans, Scandal and oh, yeah, the Stanley Cup playoffs, among other hits I’m missing here.

That picking-and-choosing that everybody’s doing reduces the cultural pressure to be up-to-date on all the top shows: If we all tried to watch all these shows so we could talk about each and every one of them around the watercooler, we’d all lose our jobs, and with them our access to the watercoolers to begin with. That’s lose-lose.

So, if you’ll need me, I’m taking a break from trying to keep up with today’s TV so I can finally get around to The Sopranos. No spoilers, please.

When We Talk About Technology, It’s Time to Stop Using the Word ‘Mobile’

Posted: 23 Apr 2014 10:45 AM PDT

Back when I was a wee lad and first became obsessed with computers, we called them by a name you don’t hear anymore: “microcomputers.”

That was to distinguish them from the big, important machines of the day–minicomputers and mainframes–and once it became clear that the vast majority of computers would be microcomputers, nobody felt obliged to be so specific.

Years later, when some PCs acquired audio-visual features such as sound cards and the ability to play back video, they were known as “multimedia PCs,” or MPCs for short. And then virtually all PCs got those features, and we stopped drawing that distinction.

It’s now time to do something similar: When we talk about technology, we ought to stop throwing around the word “mobile.”

At the moment, it’s one of the industry’s favorite words. Companies declare that they’re pursuing a mobile-first strategy; people talk about mobile operating systems; we make reference to having left the age of PCs behind and entered the mobile era.

Here’s why the term–which I cheerfully admit I use all the time–seems increasingly out of date:

Mobile is the default, and has been for a very long time. Depending on whose numbers you believe and how you do the math, sales of laptop computers overtook desktop PCs as long ago as 2003. Smartphones vastly outsell PCs, and tablets may surpass them as well any moment now. As for other devices–well, except for desktop computers, printers and scanners, how many pieces of hardware aren’t mobile these days?

Lumping phones and tablets into one category makes no sense. I acknowledge that there’s a great deal of technological overlap between them. But phones are designed for fast-paced, on-the-go usage scenarios, while a tablet is often something you relax with when you’ve got plenty of time on your hands, like a good book. We think of them as one category in part because neither is a PC, a mindset we should have moved past by now. It’s like declaring burger joints and steakhouses to be one category of restaurant based on their shared usage of beef.

There are no longer clear boundaries. Maybe there was a time when you could declare iOS and Android to be mobile operating systems, and Windows to be something else. But Windows now runs on tablets and phones that compete directly with iOS and Android devices, as well as on various sorts of hybrid devices that are part PC, part tablet. Also: I’m writing this piece on a Chromebook, and I have no idea whether I’m expected to consider Chrome OS to be a mobile operating system, a desktop one or some sort of unique category.

It’s not just about portability. The fact that it happens to be easy to carry around computing devices is an awfully superficial way to define an entire era. I hate the term “cloud,” but at least it acknowledges the fact that we’re all using web-based services and storing a meaningful percentage of our data online rather than on our hard disks. That’s as important a factor as the weight and dimensions of any given piece of hardware.

So if we stop using the word “mobile,” what should we replace it with?

Here’s my proposal: nothing. Personal technology is almost always mobile these days. In those rare instances when it isn’t, we can say so. O.K.?

Now that we’ve cleared this up, we can move on to other pressing issues. Such as rethinking the term “desktop,” which can mean a computer that isn’t portable (“desktop PC”). Or any piece of PC software, even if you’re running it on a laptop (“desktop browser”). Or, if you’re talking about Windows 8, only a certain type of PC software…

Bonus tidbit: Here, thanks to the indispensable Google Ngram Viewer, is a chart showing the rise and fall of the term “microcomputer,” which peaked in the mid-1980s.

microcomputer

Low-Level Drug Convicts Get New Route to Ask Obama For Clemency

Posted: 23 Apr 2014 10:32 AM PDT

Non-violent federal inmates who have served at least 10 years of their prison term are eligible to participate in a new initiative to send more clemency requests to President Barack Obama, the Department of Justice announced Wednesday.

The Obama Administration has been working for years to reduce the sentencing disparities between convictions for crack cocaine and powder cocaine, but sentencing legislation updated in 2010 was not made retroactive. Obama recently granted commutations to eight crack-cocaine offenders who were serving lengthy sentences, but there are thousands more in similar positions, some of who are expected to qualify under the expanded criteria for clemency announced Wednesday. Under the 2014 Clemency Initiative, non-violent, low-level, federal prisoners who would have received a lower sentence if convicted today and have served 10 years in prison with good conduct can be identified and seek clemency through the Bureau of Prisons, Deputy Attorney General James Cole said.

"These defendants were properly held accountable for their criminal conduct," Cole said. "However, some of them, simply because of the operation of sentencing laws on the books at the time, received substantial sentences that are disproportionate to what they would receive today.

Officials said the new initiative will streamline the process of clemency requests and identify more candidates for Obama to consider. They said the initiative will keep public safety in mind, reiterating that clemency does not mean prisoners are being pardoned for their crimes. "Even low-level offenders cause harm to people through their criminal actions, and many need to be incarcerated," Cole said.

A number of pro-bono lawyers and organizations, including the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, the American Bar Association, and the American Civil Liberties Union have also agreed to work with prisoners who fit the criteria and request legal assistance. The groups praised the administration's shift on sentencing, while noting there are many other federal inmates whose sentences are disproportionate to their crimes.

"The doors of the Office of the Pardon Attorney have been closed to petitioners for too long,” said Mary Price, FAMM General Counsel. “This announcement signals a truly welcome change; the culture of 'no' that has dominated that office is being transformed. We stand ready to assist in any way we can to support petitioners and bring their cases to the attention of the President."

The Republican Woman Loses, Again

Posted: 23 Apr 2014 10:16 AM PDT

Voters in a Florida congressional district went to the polls Tuesday to elect a new representative following Trey Radel's resignation this year after pleading guilty to cocaine possession. The winner was millionaire businessman and Tea Party darling Curt Clawson, who self-funded his campaign to the tune of $2.65 million. But the story of who won isn't much of a surprise: A rich, white Tea Partier is not a new breed in Washington these days. It's the story of who lost that’s more telling for the GOP: Florida state Senate Majority Leader Lizbeth Benacquisto.

Benacquisto was the establishment favorite for the seat and had the most political experience by far. Her supporters in Tallahassee spent almost $300,000 in Super PAC money to help get her elected and she received money from Republican Reps. Aaron Schock and Jason Chaffetz. Not to mention former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin came and campaigned for her.

But while she raised almost $1 million in less than three months, Benacquisto couldn't compete with Clawson's self-funding. Nor could she keep pace with the nastiness of the special election.

During a midterm election cycle in which establishment candidates are generally beating back Tea Party challengers, it’s striking how many female House GOP candidates have lost primaries or are trailing in both polls and in fundraising. In statewide elections this year, Republicans have succeeded in attracting a host of qualified women who are running strong campaigns. But House candidates continue to lag. To date, House Republicans have 33% less women running this cycle than in 2012.

Theoretically, Benacquisto should have gotten help from Project GROW, the National Republican Congressional Committee's push announced last year to help elect women. But that program has done little since failing to help Kathleen Peters, a Florida lawmaker, win a primary in another special election earlier this year. And the NRCC's director of strategic initiatives and coalitions, Bettina Inclan, who ran Project GROW, made a rare mid-cycle jump from the NRCC earlier this month to a Florida consulting firm. Jessica Furth Johnson, the NRCC's deputy executive director and general counsel, has taken over running to program, according to NRCC spokeswoman Andrea Bozek.

As I wrote earlier this week in a story about another neglected female House candidate, highly qualified Republican women are struggling to break through in House races this cycle. Female lawmakers on the state level tend to be more moderate and thus have a harder time competing in highly gerrymandered districts where primaries favor the most conservative candidate. And even if they are as conservative, women candidates also tend to be less bombastic, making it tough to break through on a rhetorical level. "The NRCC doesn't endorse candidates in primaries," Bozek says. "We work with all candidates in competitive races put together strong campaigns."

At this rate, there won’t be many Republican women left standing come November.

“Dreams” Do Come True: BOOTS Debuts New Track Featuring Beyoncé

Posted: 23 Apr 2014 10:09 AM PDT

There are only a handful of people in the world who can get Beyoncé to appear make a guest appearance on one of their songs: Her husband Jay Z, her sister Solange and the mysterious producer known as BOOTS.

BOOTS, who helped Queen Bey shock the world when she dropped her surprise visual album Beyoncé, has just released “Dreams,” the closing track on his forthcoming mixtape, WinterSpringSummerFall — and it features guest vocals from none other than Beyoncé.

Bey comes in at the end of the track with a soulful verse before sweetly singing the chorus: “All my life, I’ve been dreaming of you.”

Besides Beyoncé, BOOTS’ 16-song mixtape also features appearances by Shlohmo, Jeremih, Kelela, Margot and “hidden” guests.

If the chance to revel in another Bey n’ BOOTS collaboration isn’t enough to get you download the track, maybe this will: Sales of the song will benefit the charity Day One, according to BOOTS’ Facebook page. "Day One is the only organization in New York City solely devoted to the issue of teen dating violence," he said. “Every cent made from this song will go directly to Day One.”

Listen here:

MORE: Hear New Songs From Röyksopp and Robyn's Do It Again EP

MORE: 14 Things to Know About Beyoncé's New Album

Obama’s New Bodyguard: Mr. Issa, Meet Mr. Eggleston

Posted: 23 Apr 2014 09:49 AM PDT

Perhaps the best indicator of what the final two years of the Obama presidency will be like came Monday with the announcement that Obama had chosen W. Neil Eggleston as his White House counsel.

A former lawyer for Bill Clinton's White House, Eggleston continues a return of veterans of the 90's like John Podesta and Jennifer Palmieri to the Obama team. More importantly from Obama's point of view, Eggleston's client list over the last 20 years includes top players in some of the messiest, highest-stakes fights in Washington.

Eggleston represented two Clinton administration cabinet officials in corruption cases and Hillary Clinton's close aide Cheryl Mills during the controversy over Bill Clinton's pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich. He was Rahm Emanuel's lawyer when former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was being investigated for selling Obama's vacated Senate seat in 2008-9.

It is his work during the Bush administration that offers the best foretaste of Obama's final two years, however. During the scandal over the allegedly politically-motivated firing of U.S. prosecutors, Eggleston deftly represented Karl Rove's aide and former White House political director, Sara Taylor, in negotiations over her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Eggleston was also hired by Ralph Reed, the former head of the Christian Coalition, during the lobbying scandal surrounding Jack Abramoff. Reed served as a pass-through for money from Abramoff's Indian tribal clients, and Abramoff asked Reed to arrange access to Karl Rove early in the Bush presidency. Once Congress began investigating Abramoff, Reed hired Eggleston to represent him as he cooperated with the Congressional inquiry.

The Obama administration has faced a number of Congressional investigations over the years, including an ongoing one by House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa into alleged politically motivated behavior at the IRS. Issa’s committee has charged a mid-level IRS official with contempt of Congress for refusing to testify on Fifth Amendment grounds. Issa previously charged Attorney General Eric Holder with contempt for refusing to provide documents in the Fast and Furious case. Last week, Issa announced he was probing the U.S. Census Bureau’s decision to revise questions regarding health insurance coverage, saying the adjustments “could be used in misleading arguments about the coverage impact of the affordable care act.”

If Republicans win the Senate next year, such conflicts between the legislative and executive branches are sure to increase. With Eggleston, Obama will now have one of the best in the business on his end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

Netflix Is Making Its First Spanish-Language Original Series

Posted: 23 Apr 2014 09:47 AM PDT

Netflix announced its first Spanish-language original series on Wednesday. The show will be a soccer comedy from director Gaz Alazraki that follows a feud among family members who inherit a soccer club, Variety reports.

The show is shooting entirely in Mexico but includes a cast that hails from all over Latin Ameria. The 13-episode series is set to premiere in 2015, and will reunite the team that made We Are Nobles, a Mexican box office hit.

"Gaz has the disruptive vision and creative storytelling we were looking for in producing our first original series in Mexico," said Ted Sarandos, Netflix Chief Content Officer. "We're confident our members in a market as important to us as Mexico and Latin America will love this family comedy."

[Variety]

The Boy Scouts Banned My Church Because We Support Gays

Posted: 23 Apr 2014 09:46 AM PDT

The congregation that I serve, Rainier Beach United Methodist Church, is an incredibly diverse place. We have various racial and ethnic groups. Our people come from various economic strata. We have gay and straight people. Beyond just having the diversity, we are a place that values every person that God has placed within our community.

Because our church sits in the heart of our diverse neighborhood and has become somewhat of a community center, we knew that it was the right time to charter a Boy Scout troop in the congregation. In envisioning this troop we wanted it reflect who the congregation is, and to welcome in the community around us with authenticity.

We didn’t choose Geoff McGrath as a political statement. We chose Geoff because he was the perfect person for the job, an Eagle Scout himself, and someone who has a Master's degree in Social Work. He has mentoring and leadership skills that someone taking on this role needs. A perfect fit. Geoff was quite willing, to serve as scoutmaster but was also nervous that his being gay would pose a problem for me and for the congregation. I assured him that putting him in the leadership of this troop would reflect and live out the values of our congregation, and that we would not have a troop at Rainier Beach UMC unless it was fully inclusive, because that is who we are.

Apparently, who we are is a problem for the Boy Scouts of America. Our congregation’s new troop was welcomed warmly by the Chief Seattle Council with full knowledge of the values of Rainier Beach United Methodist Church, as well as who Geoff McGrath is. Our congregation is the religious partner in this chartering relationship, and it troubles me that our belief that God created and loves each and every one of us, just as we are is being ignored and in fact denied by the Boy Scouts of America.

Last year, when the Boy Scouts voted to remove the ban on gay youth from Scouting, much of the speculation was on how churches might react to the change. It seems as though that speculation was only concerned with the churches that actively exclude LGBT people from congregational life and leadership. The actions of the Boy Scouts has communicated to me that there is little reverence for a congregation that welcomes, includes, and values all people. Rainier Beach United Methodist Church believes putting someone in a closet and not letting him be honest about who he is when asked is not "morally straight," to use a Boy Scout term.

Our congregation is the chartering organization for the troop, and yet I, as the pastor, had no contact from the BSA when they told Geoff that he was kicked out as a leader. Further, the BSA asked me and the congregation to violate our conscience and our religious beliefs by removing him as a leader of the Boy Scout troop when we know he is the most gifted for the leadership of the troop we chartered. That is not how a partnership works. The Boy Scouts of America need to recognize the growing number of churches whose beliefs include all people. And by all, we mean all.

Our congregation continues to be committed to serving the youth of our community. At the moment, we are exploring what options exist for the future of the troop that we have worked so hard to build. We hope that the Boy Scouts will support our congregation and our values, as it has supported so many other congregations around the country.

Our Boy Scout troop is a part of our congregation’s ministry to its immediate context. Rainier Beach UMC serves the immigrant, the refugee, the middle class person, the mixed-race person, the single parent, the elderly, the young, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender person, the lonely, the powerful, the least and the lost. We will keep serving all those people who are a part of our context, because that is what the Gospel calls us to do.

Rev. Dr. Monica Corsaro is the pastor of Rainier Beach United Methodist Church in Seattle.

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