Termination takes a strategic turn

first_imgTermination takes a strategic turnOn 1 Jul 2002 in Personnel Today A new survey reveals that redundancy is increasingly seen as a quick fix forturning around struggling businesses. Jessica Davey and Vanessa Molyneux reportIt is a sad fact that businesses, under constant pressure to perform in thecurrent economic climate, are now making redundancies on some scale. Recentpress reports suggest up to 20,000 imminent job losses in the City, forexample. In this difficult climate, international law firm Allen & Overyhas conducted a survey of employers to establish current trends in redundancypractice. On the whole, the results demonstrate that most employers have a goodunderstanding of the legal requirements on both collective and individualredundancies. Nevertheless, some results were surprising. In some sectors, collective consultation on redundancies has yet to catchon. Within the financial sector, almost half of the organisations surveyed saidthey never consulted collectively. The situation was dealt with on anindividual basis and, in the case of more than a quarter, by increasingcompensation packages to buy out the risk of a compensation award. Also revealed was the fact that the days when UK employers selected forredundancy on a ‘last in first out’ basis are over. Performance and skills arenow key factors in the selection process, with employers taking a morestrategic view in the highly competitive market conditions by retaining thoseemployees most able to drive their business forward. The organisations Taking part in the survey, conducted by Allen & Overy’s WorkplaceRepresentation and Consultation Group, were 125 organisations, of which themajority (68 per cent) had 500 employees or more, 27 per cent had 51 to 500employees, and employers with fewer than 50 employees made up 5 per cent. Respondents were from a wide range of organisations, from FTSE 100companies, investment banks and City of London institutions to charities,universities, regulatory bodies and small businesses. The questionnaire alsocategorised respondents by industry sectors covering finance, manufacturing,technology, media, retail, pharmaceuticals and leisure. The largest responsecame from the financial sector (39 per cent). Redundancy policies Almost three-quarters of respondents had some form of redundancy policy inplace, either oral or written. What was surprising is that as many as 36 percent had a contractual policy. Adopting a contractual policy restricts anemployer’s flexibility in tailoring redundancy programmes as it means they haveto act in accordance with the policy at all times. Failure to follow acontractual procedure could give rise to breach of contract cases and alsoincreases the likelihood of unfair dismissal claims. Definition of ‘establishment’ Where between 20 and 99, or more than 100 redundancies are proposed at one‘establishment’ within a 90-day period, collective consultation with employeerepresentatives is required for a minimum of 30 or 90 days respectively. The sameadvance notice must be given to the DTI. However, it is not always straightforward to define the relevantestablishment, and the approach adopted by employers may be different for thepurposes of notice to the DTI and for consultation. For example, employees inone location may be employed by different legal entities. This means twonotices would have to be submitted to the DTI, even though there would probablybe one overall consultation exercise. The DTI’s approach is to request one notice per employer per officelocation. However, tribunals have held that one establishment may include anumber of different premises where the organisation and management of thebusiness is such that the individual locations are merely constituent parts ofone establishment. Absurdly, this can lead to different notice and consultation periods on thesame redundancy programme. The majority of respondents to Allen & Overy’ssurvey adopted a pragmatic approach to this problem. More than half defined‘establishment’ by reference to office location, although a significantproportion, 29 per cent, defined it by department or division. DTI notification Fifty-two per cent of respondents indicated they notified redundancies tothe DTI within the last two years, suggesting that the majority of recentredundancy programmes have been collective. Forty-three per cent did not notifythe DTI and a small percentage were unsure. The overwhelming reason for non-notification (86 per cent) was thatorganisations were making fewer than 20 employees redundant and therefore theobligation to notify did not arise. That still leaves 14 per cent that didn’tnotify the DTI for other reasons. When this statistic is examined with the responses on definition of‘establishment’, it suggests that the confusion over the statutory definitionis a real issue and a percentage of employers are not notifying the DTI becausethey are assuming that the obligation is not triggered. Another reason for non-notification is there is an increasing trend foremployers to look for voluntary redundancies, which do not count towards thethresholds. Half the respondents indicated they have sought volunteers,although 92 per cent were not obliged to accept them. This demonstrates thatemployers appear to be using many devices to take control of the redundancyprocess, retaining those they need for the business going forward withoutbreaching statutory obligations. Consultation Where collective consultation took place, most respondents (76 per cent)indicated that they published minutes of meetings, 22 per cent by e-mail and 11per cent by intranet. A Q&A format was used by 25 per cent, memo by 16 percent and feedback sessions by 26 per cent. Most respondents (79 per cent) gaveguidance to their employee representatives as to their duties and the scope oftheir role, making the process more efficient. Within the financial sector, 47 per cent of respondents said they neverconsulted collectively. The lack of collective consultation was dealt with byindividual consultation and by increasing the compensation packages to buy outthe risk of a protective award (compensation for failure to consultcollectively) in the case of 27 per cent. Although it is not possible toprevent a claim for a protective award in a compromise agreement, the surveyresults indicated that claims for protective awards were rarely pursued. Individual consultation Whether or not collective consultation and notice to the DTI is required,individual consultation is a fundamental requirement of fairness on anyredundancy. Most employers who responded to the survey conducted individualconsultation, although the extent of consultation varied considerably. Nine percent had one meeting, most organisations (40 per cent) had two consultationmeetings (including the one where notice of redundancy was given) withindividuals, 32 per cent had three meetings and 18 per cent had more than threemeetings. Maternity and sick leave absences Failure to consult about redundancies on an individual basis with employeeson maternity leave or long-term sick leave makes any resulting dismissal unfairand may also lead to claims for sex or disability discrimination. Yet 16 percent of respondents failed to consult with these employees. This may be becauseemployers are reluctant to intrude upon the privacy of those that are sick orhave young babies but, if claims are to be avoided, these employees should beconsulted in the same way as any others. Garden leave Many employers place employees on garden leave either during theconsultation period or during notice once redundancies have been confirmed.Although this increases the risk of claims – for breach of contract or forunfair dismissal if the consultation process is perceived to be a sham – thestatistics show that employers are concerned to protect the business frommisuse of confidential information or IT systems by aggrieved employees duringthe redundancy process. Selection criteria The selection process is probably the most important aspect of anyredundancy process. No amount of consultation will protect the business fromunfair dismissal claims if the selection process is flawed. Selection criteriamust be objective, relevant and appropriate and applied fairly. The survey revealed that the days of redundancy selection on a ‘last infirst out’ basis are over. Instead, performance and skills are key retentionfactors in redundancy selection, with employers taking a more strategic view inthe current highly competitive market conditions by retaining those employeesmost able to drive their business forward, irrespective of their length ofservice. Most popular selection criteria were: skills (63 per cent),performance (54 per cent), relevance to future business need (50 per cent),experience (45 per cent), discipline (43 per cent) and attendance (38 per cent)– ‘last in first out’ was used in only 14 per cent of cases. Compromise agreements Most organisations (54 per cent) required compromise agreements. Thisstatistic supports the commercial approach of employers. Generous packages arebalanced against the security of knowing that tribunal claims are an unlikelyconsequence of the redundancy process. Fifty-seven per cent of respondentscontributed to legal fees with the majority (56 per cent) contributing between£250 and £500. Tribunal claims Finally, the merits of compromise agreements were borne out by the lowpercentage of claims. Only 22 per cent of respondents indicated that tribunalclaims resulted from their redundancy programme, most of which (67 per cent)were for unfair dismissal. Sex discrimination accounted for 14 per cent ofclaims, race discrimination 11 per cent and disability discrimination 6 percent. Protective awards hardly featured at all. Jessica Davey and Vanessa Molyneux are associates in the employment,pensions and incentives department at Allen & Overy Find out more… – on Employment Relations Act 1999 at www.dti.gov.uk/er– on CAC decisions at www.cac.gov.uk/recent_decisions– On information and consultation proposals at www.dti.gov.uk/consultation Comments are closed. Related posts:No related photos. Previous Article Next Articlelast_img read more

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Episodicity within a mid-Cretaceous magmatic flare-up in West Antarctica: U-Pb ages of the Lassiter Coast intrusive suite, Antarctic Peninsula and correlations along the Gondwana margin

first_imgLong-lived continental margin arcs are characterized by episodes of large-volume magmatism (or flare-ups) that can persist for ∼30 m.y. before steady-state arc conditions resume. Flare-up events are characterized by the emplacement of large-volume granodiorite-tonalite batholiths and sometimes associated rhyodacitic ignimbrites. One of the major flare-up events of the West Gondwana margin occurred during the mid-Cretaceous and was temporally and spatially associated with widespread deformation and Pacific plate reorganization. New U-Pb geochronology from the Lassiter Coast intrusive suite in the southern Antarctic Peninsula identifies a major magmatic event in the interval 130−102 Ma that was characterized by three distinct peaks in granitoid emplacement at 130−126 Ma, 118−113 Ma, and 108−102 Ma, with clear lulls in between. Mid-Cretaceous magmatism from elsewhere in West Antarctica, Patagonia, and New Zealand also featured marked episodicity during the mid-Cretaceous and recorded remarkable continuity along the West Gondwana margin. The three distinct magmatic events represent second-order episodicity relative to the primary episodicity that occurred on a cordillera scale and is a feature of the North and South American Pacific margin. Flare-up events require the development of a highly fusible, lower-crustal layer resulting from the continued underplating of hydrous mineralogies in the melt-fertile lower crust as a result of long-lived subduction. However, the actual trigger for melting is likely to result from external, potentially tectonic factors, e.g., rifting, plate reorganization, continental breakup, or mantle plumes.last_img read more

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Future USS Ralph Johnson to commission March next year

first_img October 24, 2017 Share this article View post tag: Arleigh Burke-class View post tag: HII The US Navy’s next Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, the USS Ralph Johnson (DDG 114), is to be commissioned on March 24, 2018, in Charleston, South Carolina, US Navy secretary Richard V. Spencer has announced.Ralph Johnson, commanded by Cmdr. Jason Patterson, is the 64th Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, and the 30th DDG 51 class destroyer built by the Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) shipyard. It is the first warship named for Medal of Honor recipient Marine Pfc. Ralph Henry Johnson.Johnson, a native of Charleston, posthumously received the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions during the Vietnam War. Johnson used his body to shield two fellow Marines from a grenade, absorbing the blast and dying instantly in March 1968.In early fall of 2014, the keel of Ralph Johnson was laid down. The ship was launched on Dec. 12, 2015 and christened on April 2, 2016 during ceremonies at the Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi.The DDG 51 class ships currently being constructed are Aegis Baseline 9 Integrated Air and Missile Defense destroyers with increased computing power and radar upgrades that improve detection and reaction capabilities against modern air warfare and ballistic missile defense threats. The Aegis Combat System will enable DDG 114 to link radars with other ships and aircraft to provide a composite picture of the battle space. When operational, DDG 114 and her sister ships will serve as integral players in global maritime security.After commissioning in Charleston, Ralph Johnson will head for the Everett, Washington, homeport. New US destroyer Ralph Johnson (DDG 114) to commission March next year View post tag: US Navy View post tag: USS Ralph Johnson Back to overview,Home naval-today New US destroyer Ralph Johnson (DDG 114) to commission March next year last_img read more

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Consumer watch Men and children first?

first_imgAs we all know, the out-of-home market has grown substantially over the last 10 years and both chains and independent outlets have enjoyed a period of high consumer “affluence”. But what happens when finances get tight and the first thing to be cut is discretionary spending, such as the out-of-home eating and drinking that has fuelled this growth?For the next 12 months, things are going to get a little tougher. Now, more than ever, it is important to understand customers’ needs to maximise your sales. But far too often, operators neglect the most vital questions: what are they buying; how do they choose what to buy; are they impulsive; how much do they spend; how often do they visit; do they notice promotions or other signage; and how do customers rate the outlets for customer service, cleanliness and toilets?Each year him! speaks to thousands of customers while they are eating and drinking in food-to-go outlets, such as Greggs, Pret, Burger King and Subway, and coffee chains, such as Costa, Caffè Nero, Starbucks and Coffee Republic, to understand their motivations and behaviour.By speaking to 1,300 coffee chain customers, for example, him!’s Coffee Chain Tracking Programme shows that the average customer is female (60% of customers). They are 40 years old and of a higher social class (25% are AB). These customers are more likely to be visiting on their own.However, customer demographics do differ by time of day or day of the week; more 25-34-year-olds will use a coffee chain on a Saturday and Sunday compared to 35-44-year-olds during the week. And during the week customers are generally on their own, but at the weekend they are in groups or have children with them.It is important to understand these different customer groups so that we can adapt the atmosphere, offer and sales promotions to suit them. These examples alone highlight opportunities to get more men and families into the coffee chains.Over the next few months we will be sharing with BB readers exclusive insights from him!’s food-to-go and coffee chain programmes, looking at everything from purchasing decisions to staff behaviour, promotions to failed purchases, in a little more detail. So keep an eye out.last_img read more

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BMV to open another 73 branches Monday

first_img Twitter BMV to open another 73 branches Monday IndianaLocalNews Facebook Google+ Pinterest (Photo supplied/Elkhart Truth) 73 more Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicle (BMV) branches will open Monday for appointments.This brings the total number of open branches to 128.Customers can only schedule an appointment for transactions that cannot be made online, which include the following:Knowledge TestingCommercial Driver’s LicenseNew Driver License/Learn Permit or Identification CardAmend a Current Driver License/Learn Permit or Identification CardReplacement Driver License/Learner Permit or Identification CardTitle TransferUpdate to an Existing TitleNew RegistrationDisability PlacardBMV Connect kiosks located at open branches will also be available. Driving skills exams are still unavailable to take at all BMV locations.You can get more information here. Facebook WhatsAppcenter_img By Brooklyne Beatty – May 8, 2020 0 379 Google+ Twitter TAGSbmvbureau of motor vehiclescoronavirusCOVID-19IndianaMondayopen Pinterest Previous articleBremen boy struck by car, injured while riding bicycleNext articleBerrien County launches website to offer guidance for local businesses seeking to reopen Brooklyne Beatty WhatsApplast_img read more

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News story: Businesses and interest groups to advise on trade policy

first_imgMembers of the Strategic Trade Advisory Group have been named today. They will advise the government on future strategic trade policy issues, including on future trade agreements with the USA, Australia and New Zealand.The group includes 16 representatives from organisations – including businesses, trade unions and civil society – that cover a wide range of interests from all parts of the UK. It will meet at least 4 times a year and will be chaired by Trade Policy Minister George Hollingbery.This is part of the government’s commitment to an inclusive and transparent trade policy that works for all regions and nations of the UK.It follows a 14-week consultation period on our future trade agreements, which attracted around 600,000 responses.As part of the consultation, government ministers and senior officials also hosted series of 12 roundtables in partnership with businesses and interest groups, including the CBI and TUC.Minister for Trade Policy George Hollingbery said: BackgroundMembers have been selected to provide a breadth of knowledge and experience. Membership will be reviewed each year and members for 2019 to 2020 are: Michael Gidney, CEO of Fairtrade Foundation, said: We are delighted to have been chosen to represent the business voice on the government’s new Strategic Trade Advisory Group, an important body that will steer the UK’s trade policy for years to come. Trade between the United Kingdom and international partners is the cornerstone of our strong economy, creating new jobs, raising productivity and increasing prosperity across the country and the globe. We look forward to working closely with the government to ensure the interests of business are prominently reflected in the UK’s trade policy, and that we take full advantage of expanding our trading footprint in rapidly growing markets. Mike Cherry OBE, National Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: Exporting is critical to boosting small business productivity. It’s essential that the voice of small business is front and centre of developing trade policy including new free trade agreements and practical interventions to increase exporting across the globe. The Strategic Trade Advisory Group is an important step forward in ensuring the needs of small businesses in relation to trade are understood and delivered upon. For trade to work across all regions and nations in the UK, this group will allow an inclusive and transparent policy to be created, lowering costs for small firms and keeping trade easy.center_img The UK has a golden opportunity to forge stronger trading relationships with some of the largest and fastest growing economies in the world as we leave the European Union. We will approach all trade negotiations in a transparent and inclusive way and the Strategic Trade Advisory Group will help us to secure new trade agreements that increase prosperity across the whole of the UK. The group includes representatives from across business, civil society and trade unions. This will make sure we have robust and productive discussions about the direction of our trade policy, taking all points of view into account. At Fairtrade, we know that decisions about trade policy can have a dramatic impact on developing country farmers and workers, and their access to our market. Participation in the UK government’s Strategic Advisory Group is a valuable opportunity to ensure that their voices are heard at the highest level and I welcome the opportunity to engage at this critical juncture. Fairtrade will continue to draw on the experiences of those 1.66 million Fairtrade producers, in 73 countries around the world, to argue for a just global trading system that delivers for those who continue to live and work in poverty. Carolyn Fairbairn, Director-General of CBI, said: George Hollingbery, Minister for Trade (Chair) Prof Holger Breinlich, University of Surrey (Academia) Carolyn Fairbairn, Confederation of British Industry (BRO) Gary Campkin, TheCityUK (Services BRO) Dr Scott Steedman CBE, British Standards Institution (Standards) Caroline Normand, Which? (Consumer) Dr Dirk Willem te Velde, Overseas Development Institute (Developmental) Mark Abrams, Trade Finance Global (New Entrant) Michael Gidney, Fair Trade Foundation (NGOs) Nick Coburn CBE, Ulster Carpets Group (NI Business) Denise Valin Alvarez, Burberry (Regional Business) Liz Cameron OBE, Scottish Chambers of Commerce (Scottish Business) Sean Ramsden, Ramsden International (SMEs) Mike Cherry OBE, Federation of Small Business (SMEs, BRO) Sam Lowe, Centre for European Reform (Think Tanks) Paul Nowak, Trade Union Congress (Trade Unions) Prys Morgan, Kepak Group Limited (Welsh Business)last_img read more

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As Ramadan begins, the economy slows but happiness increases

first_img Read Full Story This year, June 29 marks the beginning of Ramadan, a 30-day period during which time devout Muslims around the world pray, reflect, and fast from sunrise to sunset. It is a time when religious tradition trumps business considerations. Shopkeepers reduce their hours and workers spend less time on the job and more time in the mosque. This year, in particular, fasting will be particularly intense for Muslims across the Northern Hemisphere, as the month coincides with the long days of summer. A Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) Faculty Research Working Paper co-authored by two HKS faculty members confirms that more intense Ramadan fasting does, in fact, prove to be a drag on the economy, although not on the spirits of its adherents.Examining data on Ramadan in predominantly Muslim countries dating back to 1950, Associate Professor Filipe Campante and Assistant Professor David Yanagizawa-Drott find that increasing the amounts of time fasting as a result of longer daylight hours, results in statistically significant reductions in economic growth, not just in the month itself but on a year-on-year basis.last_img read more

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Walt Whitman’s war

first_imgThe American Civil War left behind 750,000 dead. It also left at least one abiding literary mystery: Why did Walt Whitman turn his back on “Drum-Taps”? His book saw print only in 1865. Then he chopped it up and folded it into “Leaves of Grass,” the ever-expanding, mutable masterwork he had begun a decade earlier.Yet “Drum-Taps,” some observers say, invented the modern war poem, with its photographic, unforgiving details and its anti-romantic impulses. It rendered a murderous war — Whitman called it “the red business” — in journalistic detail, during an age when poetry and prose vied equally for the public’s attention.“Drum-Taps” also muted the boisterous and expansive voice — all ego — that the poet had created for himself as a representative American man. In that book of poems, Whitman evolved from a seeming celebrant of war to a regretful, elegiac observer of its toll.The fate of “Drum-Taps” at the hands of its own creator is part of Whitman lore. The poet originally conceived of it as “a book separate,” he wrote, “not linked to the others.” But then he changed his mind and “linked” it to his successive editions of “Leaves of Grass,” starting in 1867. He turned the body of the previous book into a “torso,” wrote author and Fordham University English Professor Lawrence Kramer. A recent visitor to Harvard, he edited “Drum-Taps: The Complete 1865 Edition” (New York Review Books, 2015), the first edition of the war poems to appear in 150 years.“It’s his fault,” said Kramer of Whitman’s near-erasure of his own book. “We’re correcting him.”And what a book it is. “Drum-Taps” is arguably one of only two books of American Civil War poetry to survive the cannonades of critics. The other is Herman Melville’s 1866 “Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War.” A third such body of work might be the wartime writing of Emily Dickinson. Some analysts consider her a poet of the Civil War, though she observed its distant tumult only through the domestic (albeit cosmic) lens of her Amherst home.Within its original muted brown covers, “Drum-Taps” contained 51 poems in its April iteration, and 18 more in an October sequel. (Included in the 18 was Whitman’s most famous, and most classically framed, poem, “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d.”) Both parts are together again, with neat green paper covers by Kramer and his collaborating students.Kramer was among a panel of experts who gathered at Paine Hall on April 30 for “Whitman’s Civil War Revisited: Drum-Taps at 150,” organized by the Mahindra Humanities Center. The event was the last of the school year for the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Seminar on Violence and Non-Violence, a round of lectures, seminars, and symposia that will continue next year to explore what center Director Homi K. Bhabha called “the ethical narratives at the heart of the humanities.”When Whitman self-published “Drum-Taps,” he was a 46-year-old clerk at the Bureau of Indian Affairs and a sometime volunteer nurse in Union hospitals in Washington, D.C. (The Civil War brought American women into nursing, but male nurses of the era outnumbered their female counterparts by four to one.)Whitman’s war was played out in these hospitals, scenes of “chaos and suffering” that contemporaneous images often sanitized, said Kramer, who called the book “an act of mourning.”The poet nursed wounded and dying soldiers, but was also there “to bear witness to their suffering.” Whitman intended “Drum-Taps” to be a work apart from the effusive “Leaves of Grass,” to be its own vivid, particularized document of a war. Kramer noted the muted, modulated voice within the poems, some obviously Whitman but many others borrowed from ordinary soldiers and other observers and victims. The poems “all begin in fury,” he said, “and they all end in heartbreaking compassion.”Panelist Elisa New, Harvard’s Powell M. Cabot Professor of American Literature and a scholar of American poetry, noticed the same change in voice. Before the war and “Drum-Taps,” she said, “Whitman is stuck inside his giant, capacious, generous voice.” That big voice, evident in “Leaves of Grass,” she added, “goes AWOL” during the Civil War.Sitting next to her on the panel, Lawrence Buell, Harvard’s Powell M. Cabot Research Professor of American Literature Emeritus, called “Drum-Taps” Whitman’s “first attempt to cut lose from ‘Leaves of Grass’ and do something else.” The poet’s “all-seeing voice,” he added, became less assertive in “Drum-Taps,” even “elderly.”“Drum-Taps” was a book of “scenes and pictures,” said Kramer, “an attempt by Whitman to match the documentary power of photography,” the emerging art form that vividly chronicled the war’s carnage.New noticed that aspect too, saying the Whitman of “Drum-Taps” employed the tools and voices of the journalist, historian, and documentarian. During the war, Whitman eschewed the ecstasies of the cosmos and became “a practitioner of the quotidian,” she said.At the same time, New added, the war and its horrors and its sudden intimacies liberated Whitman’s voice, allowing for “the emancipation of feelings that are not allowed in peacetime. Energy is released by war.” Kramer, in the book, invented a phrase for how Whitman transformed his famously heterodox sexuality within the chambers of care that war hospitals had to become. The poet of “Drum-Taps,” he said, cultivated an “eroticized compassion.”New will explore “Drum-Taps” (along with Melville’s war poems) in a new HarvardX online American poetry course on the Civil War and its aftermath. The course launches May 8. She praised Kramer’s edition for its “spaciousness,” including white space that allows the poems to become “separate performances” on the page. “You’ve made it all new here.” (In 1865, Whitman was scrambling to cope with the high cost of paper and had to cram his poems onto the pages.)The panel agreed on another facet of “Drum-Taps”: its polyphony or layered melodies. “If there ever was a volume that had musicality in it,” said Buell, “it’s this.” New compared the book to Melville’s goal of his own Civil War poems, for which he “but placed a harp in a window.” Whitman was documenting sounds, said New, including “the conscripted rhythms of the parade ground.”Kramer, a composer, had his own way of expressing Whitman’s musicality. Two of his compositions, set to poems from “Drum-Taps,” were among six that rounded off the event, with live performances by pianist Heinrich Christensen and tenor Eric Christopher Perry.The literary mystery remains unsolved. No one knows why Whitman buried “Drum-Taps” within another book. But at the end of his life, Buell said, Whitman regarded the “Drum-Taps” remnants as “the pivotal, central section” of “Leaves of Grass,” suggesting that the war was his most jarring and formative experience.In the end, the reader benefits from both the early “Drum-Taps” and the shorter version, embedded in Whitman’s great epic. “For me, it’s sort of a twofer,” said Buell of “Drum-Taps” and its second life. “It’s very good where it was and very good where it ended up.”last_img read more

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The director and the whistle-blower

first_imgEven when he’s the subject matter, Oliver Stone directs. Meeting with reporters in the guest speaker’s “green room” before his appearance Monday night at the Harvard Kennedy School, the filmmaker at first asked that the temperature in the room be lowered. He next instructed photographers how he wished to be photographed. (“Why do you take the side so much?” he quipped.)Soon after, in front of a packed audience of more than 700 undergraduate and graduate students, Stone yelled out for someone to raise the volume when a clip was played of his new movie, “Snowden,” about National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. The stage lights, the Oscar-winning director also complained, were way too bright. “I feel like I’m under interrogation here,” he joked.In a way, since taking on the controversial Snowden as a film project, he has been.In seemingly every interview he grants, Stone is asked what it was like to meet Snowden, a fugitive living secretly in Moscow who is wanted by the U.S. Justice Department on charges that he violated the Espionage Act and damaged his country’s security.The other question Stone is pressed to answer: Is his movie a true depiction of Snowden’s case, or merely his personal view of a man who is portrayed largely as a hero for releasing top-secret files in 2013 that showed, among other shocking revelations, that the government gathers the phone calls and emails of hundreds of millions of people.Stone, who turns 70 this week, is of course well-accustomed to being a lightning rod for debate. He has made a career out of taking on the toughest of subject matter, from the Vietnam War to the assassination of President John Kennedy to the travails of President Richard Nixon, generally presenting an anti-establishment view of American history.‘When you take somebody’s life, you are responsible to tell that story, and I think we told it as quickly as we could, as dramatically as we could.’ — Oliver StoneWith “Snowden,” which opens nationally on Friday, with actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the leading role, Stone is adamant that he did not set out to prove the 33-year-old whistle-blower’s innocence. He said he had no intention of making a movie about him, in fact, until Snowden’s attorney in Russia reached out to him through channels, eventually inviting him to Moscow to meet clandestinely with Snowden.“I went out of curiosity. Who’s going to say no to a man like that?” Stone told his audience.The man he found, he continued, was intelligent, articulate, and above all a passionate believer in the Constitution, which Snowden believed the government violated. (In 2015, a federal appeals court ruled that the phone surveillance program Snowden brought to light was illegal.)“I was very impressed by him. He’s not a guy to hang out with in a bar. He’s very serious. He lives on his computer,” Stone said. “He’s the opposite of the celebrity type, the attention-seeker.” <a href=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5rC0qpLGciU” rel=”nofollow” target=”_blank”> <img src=”https://img.youtube.com/vi/5rC0qpLGciU/0.jpg” alt=”0″ title=”How To Choose The Correct Channel Type For Your Video Content ” /> </a> Related With such a protagonist, some film critics already have called “Snowden” too methodical, even dull, lacking the flash of Stone’s most engaging films. (Others, meanwhile, love the movie.) Stone said he doesn’t read reviews until a movie’s run is “way over.” But he said it was a huge challenge to portray Snowden’s largely cyber world (the details of which Stone himself found “mindlessly boring,” he said) in a way that would grip audiences.“When you take somebody’s life, you are responsible to tell that story, and I think we told it as quickly as we could, as dramatically as we could,” he told reporters before his talk.Clips of the movie, shown at various times during Stone’s talk, were indeed engaging, and well-received by students who filled the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum, a theater space at the Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics where Stone said he last spoke in 1992 after the release of his movie “JFK.” Many in the audience flocked afterward to the Harvard Film Archive, which co-sponsored Stone’s talk and featured a special showing of “Snowden” last night. A ‘sitdown’ with Snowden In videoconference, U.S. contractor who leaked surveillance data defends actions Stone’s talk was moderated by Ron Suskind, a Harvard Law School lecturer and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who directs the Law School’s Investigative Journalism Project. Suskind and Stone have known each other for years and had a comfortable rapport, though Suskind challenged Stone at times with tough questions, pushing the director on whether his own liberal biases entered into “Snowden.”To that, Stone replied that he and co-writer Kieran Fitzgerald did as much research as they could, reviewing journalistic accounts and released documents, as well as interviewing Laura Poitras, whose documentary on Snowden, “Citizenfour,” won the 2015 Oscar, and Snowden’s girlfriend, Lindsay Mills, who joined him to live in Moscow and, Stone said, is more important to his tale than anyone realizes.“I made nine visits to Moscow to try to get his side of the story. There’s only so far you can go before you gotta say enough,” Stone said, his hands in the air. “When you strip all the research out, you gotta make a movie that works because people want to see what happens next. I would never consciously distort the truth for that goal. Never. I never felt that I have.”Snowden himself, interviewed recently by The Financial Times of London, said the movie’s story is as “as close to real as you can get in a film.” Stone, who showed reporters the quote on his cellphone, clearly takes heart in that.“I hope there are more whistle-blowers,” he said. “We need them desperately in our society.”last_img read more

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Harvard Opportunes win national competition

first_imgPart March Madness, part “Pitch Perfect,” all (virtual) vocal adrenaline.The Harvard Opportunes, the University’s oldest all-gender a cappella group, was recently named the winner of UpStaged National Collegiate Performing Arts A Cappella Championship.Called UpStagedAID: One World, Every Student Voice, the nationwide competition was billed as the biggest virtual college a cappella championship in history. It started with a pool of more than 5,000 groups before being narrowed to 64 of the nation’s best college a cappella groups and put into a March Madness-style bracket for public voting.With their tournament submission, a video made pre-COVID of Labrinth and Zendaya’s “All For Us,” the Opportunes made it to the top rounds (with titles such as “Singing Sixteen,” “Ultimate Octet,” and “Closing Quartet”) before gathering via Zoom to watch the Jan. 18 announcement of the last group standing. The winner was decided by a panel of judges.“They uploaded the video at noon so we screen shared and watched together,” said Carly Tiras ’22, president of the group. “We were all really excited. … I’m glad that we got to share that moment together, even though we could not be together in person.”The $3,000 first place prize is split between the Opportunes and a charity of their choosing. The group chose the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund because of the social unrest felt so acutely when they submitted the video last August.“We thought that it was a natural time to highlight the NAACP in light of George Floyd and the [Black Lives Matter] protests,” said Ben Dreier ’22, the Opportune’s music director. “It’s a historic issue: Underrepresented minorities not getting proper legal defense and at the NAACP, they have this great, historic, [and] really effective program to try to combat that.”The all-male Vanderbilt Melodores took second place.Tiras, who has one of the solos in the song, and Dreier said the group selected their rendition of “All for Us” because it was a stellar performance, and because so many people were involved in the overall production.“We had multiple people choregraphing it, and we had multiple people arranging it in the group,” Tiras said. “It was a testament to our dynamic and how close we are as a group and how everyone’s so involved in the concept of all of our songs.”The Upstaged competition may have lacked some of the traditional pre-performance jitters that make live performances so exciting but it was still good for the group, which hasn’t been able to sing live together because of COVID, to keep people invested in creating art together, Drier said.Established in 1980, the Opportunes aren’t accustomed to having their vocal chords so far apart. During the pandemic the group has stayed in touch through texts and calls and have even recorded songs they arranged last year.While the group is psyched with the win, they can’t wait to reunite.“There’s nothing like performing live, especially when it’s so dependent on the people you’re performing with and how it sounds together,” Tiras said. “I’m really excited to get back to that when we can.”last_img read more

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