Monthly Archives: June 2011


Khaled Jarrar is stamping the passports of tourists arriving at the West Bank with a voluntary entry stamp for Palestine. This isn’t official practice or policy, though. The Palestinian artist is mounting his own form of political protest through a conceptual work of art, seen in a video by NTD TV.

Palestinians don’t have the right to set their own border entrance policies and lack any kind of recognized statehood. Jarrar’s piece functions as a critique of the area’s conflicted politics and lack of self-governance. Considering the political heft of an Israeli passport stamp and the exclusionist border policies that keep holders of Lebanese and other stamps out of the country, Jarrar’s stamp is a loaded symbol.

“I believe in art that makes a difference, that talks change,” the artist says, “And the art that I am making, is making a political statement.” Jarrar “hopes his stamp will remind people that [Palestine] is a nation waiting to be born,” writes Lourdes Garcia-Navarro for NPR station WGBH. The stamp depicts a hummingbird next to a flowering branch and is emblazoned with “State of Palestine.”

Jarrar’s project comes in advance of an initiative for Palestinian statehood; Palestinians now say they will take their drive for statehood to the United Nations this September. In the meantime, Jarrar’s stamp functions as part of the state as it could be, representing the possibilities of self-governance and the potential for stable infrastructure. Tourists and Palestinians alike seem to be supportive, though NTD notes a New Zealander who refused the stamp citing possible visa issues.




Minneapolis was named the country’s number one city for biking last year by Bicycling magazine, but the city’s bike community isn’t resting on its laurels. Looking to make Minneapolis even more welcoming to cyclists, local entrepreneurs recently opened the city’s first self-service bicycle repair kiosk, to serve the flat tubes and busted gears of the thousands of cyclists who travel Minneapolis’s bike paths each week.

The kiosk, called Bike Fixtation, offers basic bike tools, a repair stand, and a vending machine full of useful goodies, including tubes, lights, patch kits, and snacks. For their first station, founders Alex Anderson and Chad Debaker chose a location along the city’s bicycle superhighway, the Midtown Greenway. The crowning achievement of the city’s pro-biking initiative, the Greenway is a cyclist’s dream with 5.5 miles of bike-only trails reclaimed from an outmoded railroad corridor. The repair center will be open 18 hours a day, 365 days a year, and a second location is already in the works.

Projects like Bike Fixtation drive home the point that for bike culture to truly blossom on a large scale, city dwellers need more than just the occasional bike shop, they need a true commitment to biking infrastructure. Bike lanes and greenways are an important first step in making cities more bikeable. But just like car-culture has fostered a urban landscape of ubiquitous gas stations and service stations, bike culture will need more projects like Bike Fixtation to truly flourish.

Two years after the New York State Senate strongly rejected gay marriage it finally came to a vote again tonight. This time, the State Senate voted to legalize same-sex marriage by a margin of 33 to 29. The religious amendments to the bill passed in the Assembly by 82-47 earlier in the evening; now the bill just needs Governor Cuomo’s signature to become law.

As the vote began there was some confusion when State Senator Tom Duane started to defend the bill he sponsored—saying “What this bill will do is say that we are family in a way that no other word can. And that word is marriage.”—before he was replaced by Senator Stephen Saland who instead defended the bill’s amendment, which he worked on. As he spoke about the bill and its inseverability clause it became increasingly clear that he would be the much rumored 32nd vote in favor of marriage equality in New York State.

“I, like many people, have struggled over this issue. It has been a difficult issue to deal with,” he said. He then spoke of the thousands and thousands of his constituents who had contacted him and said, “They all asked me to do the right thing. Needless to say my decision on this bill is going to disappoint a significant number of people. I have to define doing the right thing as treating all persons with equality. And that equality includes the definition of marriage.”

The religious exceptions amendment passed 36-26.

Only four Senators actually spoke before the vote, getting to a lively start when a grandstanding Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr., got into a tiff over time limits with Lt. Governor Robert Duffy. Once he was done, Tom Duane got up to speak again in favor of the bill and showed that going too long was not unique to either side of the debate, leading Duffy to cut him off one last time, “I ask you conclude, and I recognize your vote is affirmative.”

Republican Senator Mark Grisanti then spoke about his struggle before coming to his decision to vote for the bill. “A man can be wiser today than he was yesterday,” he said.

After Grisanti there was a brief, nerve-wracking recess so Duffy could confer with Senate majority leader Dean Skelos and then Carl Kruger spoke to the Senate, reiterating how difficult this vote is and repeating Duane’s line that in this vote “there are no villains, there are only heroes.”

And then marriage equality was approved by a Senate vote of 33-29. See who voted for it and who voted against it below.

As the vote went down tens of thousands watched it live online and on TV, or in crowds around the state, most notably in the West Village by the Stonewall Inn where the gay rights movement began in the early hours of June 28, 1969.

Marriage equality wasn’t the only vote in the State Senate tonight. The-so called “Big Ugly” omnibus bill made it through 57-5 and Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to let livery cabs pick up street hails passed as well.


The man who shot himself in front of San Francisco’s Mission police station on Monday was identified as Eric Swenson, co-founder of the popular skateboarding magazine Thrasher , the Examinerreports. Swenson was 64 years old when he chose to end his life, perhaps because of perennial pain spawned from a motorcyle injury that happened when he was about 20. He is hailed as one of the guiding forces behind High Speed Productions, Inc., which includes such hip pop culture magazines as Juxtapoz and Slap, in addition to Thrasher. He also helped launch a local skateboard part manufacturer called Independent Trucks, now 33 years old. Swenson is survived by his wife Linda, sister Rebekah, and many admirers who credit him for incubating San Francisco’s skateboard culture.



James Richard Verone delivered Coke products in North Carolina for 17 years before he was laid off in 2008. After that he was able to find work as a truck driver but was soon dropped from that job, too. When Verone was unable to find other employment that wasn’t punishing on his 59-year-old body, things went from bad to worse. His health began deteriorating rapidly, and he found a “protrusion” coming out of his chest. That’s when he’d had enough.

Two weeks ago Verone walked into a bank and robbed the place of $1. He then sat down and waited for the police to come. After applying for early Social Security and being denied, and struggling to stay healthy with no insurance, Verone decided that going to jail was the only way he could get the help he needed. “The pain was beyond the tolerance that I could accept,” he told his local newspaper.

Consider Verone the latest casualty in America’s battle over health care reform. Even as conservatives try to roll back the expanded coverage provided by President Obama’s health care bill,  that expansion isn’t enough to cover everyone. The result is poor people who get sick and can’t afford to get better, and who then become dangerously desperate. In a nation as rich as the United States, Verone’s story is a tragedy.

But it worked. Verone’s insane plan is already paying dividends: He’s had a few visits from nurses, and last Friday he was finally able to see a doctor. All it took was a felony.