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Ear Hustle’: Podcast Unchains Voices From Behind Prison Walls

Ear Hustle': Podcast Unchains Voices From Behind Prison Walls

Sound designer Antwan Williams combines beats, keyboards and ambient sounds to create the unique sound of “Ear Hustle.” Jim Seida / NBC News

The rush of outside engagement has not been equaled at California s other prisons, most of which are located in the Central Valley, far from the state s large and liberal urban centers. But the push to clear a

path for prisoners to change apparently has been embraced by many of the state s residents. Twice in just the last two-and-a-half years, Californians voted to reduce penalties for less serious offenders, via Propositions 47 and 57.

Those initiatives came before the election of Donald Trump and the ascension of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who in May pushed the U.S. in the opposite direction. Sessions told federal prosecutors to pursue the toughest possible charges and maximum sentences against crime suspects. California stands apart when it comes to capital punishment, too. Texas and Arkansas, alone, have put eight men to death in 2017, while the lethal injection chamber at San Quentin has not been used since 2006. And there is no effective political or legal drive to reverse that trend. While not overtly political, at least in its initial episode, Ear Hustle s very existence posits that prisons and prisoners can t all be crowded into a few narrow categories, or represented in hyper-violent dramas like HBO s Oz. San Quentin and its residents have to live down not only such pop-culture clouds but a grim history that includes a 1971 escape attempt that left six inmates and guards dead. A half-century later, images of that

bloody episode and attendant riots still fix The Q in many minds as the home of hopeless incorrigibles.

But most of San Quentin s population today is classified as Level 2 medium security and the main yard can feel surprisingly loose, with inmates mostly free to move about. Many who aren t playing basketball or tennis or lifting weights mill around with fellow prisoners. Black, Latino, white and Asian inmates stick with their own much of the time, but also allow each other to mix with other races. That would be unthinkable in California s maximum security penitentiaries.

Woods, Williams and Poor have remarkable latitude to record conversations, the odd rap session and happenings around the facility. They invite other prisoners to San Quentin s Media Lab. The bungalow can echo with conversation, so voluble that visitors occasionally must be shushed, so fresh recordings won’t be spoiled. The chatter and bits of discovered sound become part of the yard talk, a regular leitmotif of Ear Hustle. In Episode 1, cellmates Sha Wallace-Stepter and Donte Smith break down the relative merits of Denzel Washington vs. Jamie Foxx and Jay-Z vs. Ja Rule. They re chopping it up, explained Woods, in a way that is totally compatible, totally acceptable. Sha and Donte s laughter and easy rapport reveals that their unwanted home as a place of deep connections and even joy beating back a persistent fog of lost lives and freedom.

Not that Ear Hustle shies from the bleak reality that can take hold inside the beige fortress, where inmates live tantalizingly close and impossibly far from some of the world s most exclusive communities. Case in point: Episode 1 introduces listeners to an inmate named Ron Self, a former Marine who might have become hardened after years at the ultra-tough Corcoran State Prison. But even Self, a veteran professional prisoner, is thrown off-center when he arrives at San Quentin s reception center and immediately is subjected to a fierce stare-down by a prisoner named Duck.”

Self recalls being so unnerved he could not wait to leave the inmate reception center. When he did, minutes later, guards directed him to his new cell, only to find Duck waiting inside. Says Self: That one six-month period felt more like 60 years.

We have caused a tear in the Universe that can never be put back together, said Ear Hustle sound designer Antwan Williams. But that gives us an obligation, a responsibility, to show we actually understand where the wrong was.

Later in the program, Self returns to explain how he later won a single cell, because of multiple medical challenges. Alone, he finally can escape the hundreds of other men and enjoy a slight respite from the unending cacophony of the cell block. I can go back in there, shut the door, he confides, and just cry. One challenge for the Ear Hustle team will be to find a way to evoke their common humanity with their audience, without minimizing the crimes that brought them here.

We have caused a tear in the universe that can never be put back together, said Williams. But that gives us an obligation, a responsibility, to make sure that, here on forward, we show we actually understand where the wrong was.

Williams said that when he was a teenager growing up in Los Angeles s Crenshaw District, he nearly died in a car crash. Bed-ridden for weeks, he became sad, then agitated, when he wasn’t visited by people he thought loved him. It was like, Screw everything, screw everybody, he recalled. He set out on a series of armed robberies. I made that my excuse to act on my own selfishness, Williams now says. His crime spree earned him a 15-year prison sentence that he hopes will end in parole in another two and a half years. As Ear Hustle s sound designer the man responsible for its beats, keyboard riffs and unique rhythms he is hoping to find similar work outside. For Woods, 45, who co-hosts the podcast with Poor, an upcoming episode on California s three-strikes law will be personal. He is serving 31 years and is not eligible for parole until 2028 for an attempted second-degree robbery. His long sentence stems largely from a juvenile crime that counted as two strikes. I kidnapped and robbed a drug dealer, he said, and I got a strike for each of those.

Woods, nonetheless, called three strikes a good law, but one he believes was unfair to him and others who accumulated strikes when they were teenagers and before California voters approved the tough new guidelines, in 1994. Woods helped write a ballot initiative in 2015 that would eliminate strikes accumulated before passage of the law. But with only volunteers gathering signatures, the initiative failed to qualify for the ballot. When he gets out, Woods hopes to work in video and audio engineering. I am pretty damn good on this software, he said, adding with a chuckle: I can make people say stuff! Poor, a 54-year-old who lives in San Francisco, is all-in with her Ear Hustle partners and the push for systemic reform. But they agree that another change must come first. We ve all said, How can you get people interested in changing laws, unless they know the people who are affected by those laws? she said.

A professor of photography at California State University, Sacramento, Poor arrived in 2011 to teach videography. She soon determined that the process of hauling video outside the prison for editing and securing the requisite security approvals would be far too cumbersome. So she proposed a jump to the audio world. I really liked the idea that we would be doing something we had to learn together, with this new medium, Poor said. I wouldn t be the instructor.”

Public radio station KALW in San Francisco was soon accepting the

offerings from San Quentin and airing them on a program called Crosscurrents. But Poor, Woods and Williams wanted to push farther. Poor longed to break the boundaries of traditional journalism and create free-form pieces. Ear Hustle is the result.

Besides helping craft the tone and broad themes of the show, Poor lends an every-woman s voice in her role as co-host. She wants to know: How does one plan a funeral or family visit in phone calls limited to 15 minutes? And, isn t looking for a cellie really a bit like dating? She had a nice joust with Woods over that idea.

Ear Hustle': Podcast Unchains Voices From Behind Prison Walls

Ear Hustle': Podcast Unchains Voices From Behind Prison Walls

Earlonne Woods and Nigel Poor interview inmate Jack Benbro in the Lower Yard at San Quentin State Prison. Jim Seida / NBC News

PRX has committed to distribute 10 episodes of Ear Hustle, each ranging from 22 to 30 minutes. The show s win in the podcast competition also meant it joined in the promotion and ad sales network provided by PRX s

Radiotopia network[5]. Though there s not yet a formal agreement for a Season Two, talk has already begun of new topics to explore. And which ones to avoid. A prison guard recently pulled Williams aside to suggest, in all earnestness, that he had a great story about a colonoscopy.

Williams demurred: I m sure that s hilarious. We ll have to think about how we re going to frame that.

While Ear Hustle looms large, there are other concerns for the partners to tend to. With his current cellmate weeks away from parole, Woods continues to focus on finding a new one. Williams time is short enough that he can think seriously about life outside. But, for now, there are the microphones, the next bit of ambient sound cued up on Pro Tools and all those other men locked away. Every one could be holding on to a story, one that Ear Hustle might set free.

You come down here and you don t have to pay attention to all the penitentiary stuff, Woods said, toying with a digital recorder in the Media Lab. You come in, do your work and get lost in it. It s almost like a piece of freedom right here in prison.

[1][2][3][4]

References

  1. ^ path for prisoners to change (www.nbcnews.com)
  2. ^ bloody episode (www.latimes.com)
  3. ^ offerings from San Quentin (kalw.org)
  4. ^ Earlonne Woods and Nigel Poor interview inmate Jack Benbro in the Lower Yard at San Quentin State Prison. Jim Seida / NBC News PRX has committed to distribute 10 episodes of Ear Hustle, each ranging from 22 to 30 minutes. The show s win in the podcast competition also meant it joined in the promotion and ad sales network provided by PRX s Radiotopia network. Though there s not yet a formal agreement for a Season Two, talk has already begun of new topics to explore. And which ones to avoid. A prison guard recently pulled Williams aside to suggest, in all earnestness, that he had a great story about a colonoscopy. Williams demurred: I m sure that s hilarious. We ll have to think about how we re going to frame that. While Ear Hustle looms large, there are other concerns for the partners to tend to. With his current cellmate weeks away from parole, Woods continues to focus on finding a new one. Williams time is short enough that he can think seriously about life outside. But, for now, there are the microphones, the next bit of ambient sound cued up on Pro Tools and all those other men locked away. Every one could be holding on to a story, one that Ear Hustle might set free. You come down here and you don t have to pay attention to all the penitentiary stuff, Woods said, toying with a digital recorder in the Media Lab. You come in, do your work and get lost in it. It s almost like a piece of freedom right here in prison. (media2.s-nbcnews.com)
  5. ^ Radiotopia network (www.radiotopia.fm)

Boy, 10, Killed as Tropical Storm Cindy Churns Towards Gulf Coast

NEW ORLEANS A boy on an Alabama beach was struck and killed Wednesday by a log washed ashore by storm surge from Tropical Storm Cindy, which spun bands of severe weather ashore from the Florida panhandle to East Texas as it churned ever closer to the Gulf coast. Baldwin County Sheriff’s Capt. Stephen Arthur said witnesses reported the 10-year-old boy from Missouri was standing outside a condominium in Fort Morgan when the log, carried in by a large wave, struck him. Arthur said the youth was vacationing with his family from the St. Louis area and that relatives and emergency workers tried to revive him. He wasn’t immediately identified. It was the first known fatality from Cindy. The storm formed Tuesday and was expected to make landfall some time late Wednesday or early Thursday.

Rough seas also led to the rescue of a shrimp trawler in danger of sinking off the coast of Texas. The U.S. Coast Guard said crew of the trawler Footprint was about 80 miles (130 kilometers) southeast of Galveston when the crew radioed that the vessel was taking on water faster than onboard pumps could clear it. A helicopter crew lowered an extra pump that enabled the shrimp boat crew to clear enough water to stay afloat. A Coast Guard cutter escorted the vessel to Freeport, Texas. Cindy was expected to come ashore near the Louisiana-Texas line but the severe weather extended far to the east. National Weather Service forecasters estimated it had dumped anywhere from 2 to 10 inches (50 to 250 millimeters) of rain on various spots along the Gulf Coast from south Louisiana to the Florida panhandle as of Wednesday. And more rain was on the way. Alek Krautmann at the weather service office in Slidell, Louisiana, said more moisture was heading in from the Gulf Wednesday evening.

“There were plenty of breaks today, but it’s filled in a little more this afternoon,” he said.

Coastal roads and some buildings flooded. There were several reports of possible short-lived tornadoes. In Gulfport, Mississippi, Kathleen Bertucci said heavy rainfall Wednesday sent about 10 inches of water into her business, Top Shop, which sells and installs granite countertops.

“It’s pretty disgusting, but I don’t have flood insurance because they took me out of the flood zone,” said Bertucci, whose store is near a bayou. “We’re just trying to clean everything up and hope it doesn’t happen again.”

In nearby Biloxi, a waterspout moved ashore Wednesday morning. Harrison County Emergency Management Director Rupert Lacy said there were no injuries but fences, trees and power lines were damaged. Storms also downed trees in the Florida Panhandle. Fort Walton Beach spokeswoman Jo Soria said fallen trees hit houses and cars in what she called “pockets of wind damage” in two or three residential neighborhoods.

Related: Here’s Why You May Hear About More Storms This Summer[1]

The White House said President Donald Trump was briefed on the storm Wednesday by Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert. Also Wednesday, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency, like his Alabama counterpart a day earlier. He was among authorities stressing that the storm’s danger wasn’t limited to the coast. In Knoxville, Tennessee, the power-generating Tennessee Valley Authority, said it was drawing down water levels on nine lakes it controls along the Tennessee River and its tributaries in Tennessee, Alabama and Kentucky, anticipating heavy runoff from Cindy’s rains once the storm moves inland. The TVA manages 49 dams to regulate water, provide power and help control downstream flooding.

The storm was centered Wednesday afternoon about 135 miles (215 kilometers) south of Lake Charles, Louisiana, and had top sustained winds of 50 mph (85 kph). A tropical storm warning was in effect along the coast from San Luis Pass, Texas, to the mouth of the Mississippi River.

Boy, 10, Killed As Tropical Storm Cindy Churns Towards Gulf Coast

Boy, 10, Killed As Tropical Storm Cindy Churns Towards Gulf Coast

Don Noel carries his daughter Alexis, 8, with his wife Lauren, right as they walk through a flooded roadway to check on their boat on June 21, 2017 in the West End section of New Orleans. Gerald Herbert / AP

In Alabama, streets were flooded and beaches were closed on the barrier island of Dauphin Island. Some roads were covered with water in the seafood village of Bayou La Batre, but Becca Caldemeyer still managed to get to her bait shop at the city dock. If only there were more customers, she said.

“It’s pretty quiet,” Caldemeyer said by phone from Rough Water Bait and Tackle. “Nobody can cast a shrimp out in this kind of wind.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered the State Operations Center to raise its readiness level. He also activated four Texas Task Force 1 boat squads and two Texas Military Department vehicles squads of five vehicles each for weather-related emergencies.

The Louisiana National Guard dispatched high water vehicles and helicopters into flood-prone areas. The state said the Federal Emergency Management Agency also was moving 125,000 meals and 200,000 liters of water into Louisiana. And workers on Grand Isle, Louisiana’s barrier island community south of New Orleans, reinforced a rock levee protecting the island’s vulnerable west side.

“All arms of the state’s emergency preparedness and response apparatus are taking Tropical Storm Cindy seriously, and we are calling on all Louisianans throughout the state to do so as well,” Edwards said in a statement.

[2]

References

  1. ^ Here’s Why You May Hear About More Storms This Summer (www.nbcnews.com)
  2. ^ Don Noel carries his daughter Alexis, 8, with his wife Lauren, right as they walk through a flooded roadway to check on their boat on June 21, 2017 in the West End section of New Orleans. Gerald Herbert / AP In Alabama, streets were flooded and beaches were closed on the barrier island of Dauphin Island. Some roads were covered with water in the seafood village of Bayou La Batre, but Becca Caldemeyer still managed to get to her bait shop at the city dock. If only there were more customers, she said. “It’s pretty quiet,” Caldemeyer said by phone from Rough Water Bait and Tackle. “Nobody can cast a shrimp out in this kind of wind.” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered the State Operations Center to raise its readiness level. He also activated four Texas Task Force 1 boat squads and two Texas Military Department vehicles squads of five vehicles each for weather-related emergencies. The Louisiana National Guard dispatched high water vehicles and helicopters into flood-prone areas. The state said the Federal Emergency Management Agency also was moving 125,000 meals and 200,000 liters of water into Louisiana. And workers on Grand Isle, Louisiana’s barrier island community south of New Orleans, reinforced a rock levee protecting the island’s vulnerable west side. “All arms of the state’s emergency preparedness and response apparatus are taking Tropical Storm Cindy seriously, and we are calling on all Louisianans throughout the state to do so as well,” Edwards said in a statement. (media2.s-nbcnews.com)

North Korean officials ‘mugged’ at US airport by Homeland Security

HomeAmerica[1][2]

Published time: 19 Jun, 2017 11:50

Get short URL[3]

North Korea accused the US of carrying out a violent assault like gangsters after a package was taken from delegates at JFK airport. The hostility has been used by Pyongyang to question if New York is a suitable location for international meetings. The delegation was at the airport on June 16, en route home to North Korea following attendance at the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, according to the Pyongyang s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, cited[4] by the Korean Central News Agency. A group of 20 officials using physical violence confiscated the package from the delegates, according to the Ministry, with the North Koreans described as being literally mugged. The Ministry said the confiscation was illegal as the delegates were in possession of a valid diplomatic courier certificate.

The international community needs to seriously reconsider whether or not New York, where such an outrageous mugging is rampant, is fit to serve as the venue for international meetings, it said, demanding an official apology from the US.

If the US fails to give its due response to our demand which is all too reasonable and fair enough, it will be totally responsible for all the consequences to be entailed.

In a statement to the Japan Times, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) confirmed an incident took place at the airport with North Korean citizens. It claimed the group were not accredited members of North Korea s Mission to the UN and had no entitlement to diplomatic immunity. [5]

David Lapan, deputy assistant secretary for media operations at the DHS, said the package in question, which was amongst several items seized, had no diplomatic protection from inspection. The incident comes days after the release of US student Otto Warmbier, who had been held in North Korean custody for 17 months, and adds further strain to the tensions between the two countries. The 22-year-old was returned to the US in a long-term coma, which the North said was due to botulism and sleeping pills.

READ MORE: ‘No excuse’ for N. Korean treatment of Otto Warmbier, father says[6]

References

  1. ^ Home (www.rt.com)
  2. ^ America (www.rt.com)
  3. ^ Get short URL (on.rt.com)
  4. ^ cited (www.kcna.kp)
  5. ^ statement (www.japantimes.co.jp)
  6. ^ READ MORE: ‘No excuse’ for N. Korean treatment of Otto Warmbier, father says (www.rt.com)
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