Anti-gay marriage clerk in Kentucky faces voters in forum
By ADAM BEAM
Tuesday, October 23
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Jailed in 2015 for refusing to issue marriage licenses after gay weddings became legal, a Kentucky clerk running for re-election told voters on Tuesday she did not treat anyone unfairly and her act of defiance was to protect the state’s Constitution.
“I did not treat anybody unfairly. I treated everybody equally because I quit issuing marriage license altogether,” Republican Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis said during a candidate forum in Morehead, Kentucky. “I took an oath to stand up and uphold our Kentucky constitution and federal constitution, that’s exactly what I did.”
In 2004, Kentucky voters overwhelmingly approved an amendment to the state Constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman. But in June 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees same-sex couples have the right to marry. The ruling overturned same-sex marriage bans nationwide.
During Tuesday night’s forum, Davis appeared to still not accept that ruling.
“I have had many people ask me, ‘Why didn’t you do your job? Why didn’t you do your job? Why didn’t you just quit?’ Well if you will read our Kentucky state statutes, they still say that marriage is between one man and one woman. That’s what we voted in,” Davis said. “Our Constitution has not changed.”
Davis made international news in 2015 when she stopped issuing marriage licenses days after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, citing her religious beliefs and saying she was acting under “God’s authority.”
Gay and straight couples sued her, and a federal judge ordered Davis to issue the licenses. She refused and spent five days jail. She was released only after her staff issued the licenses on her behalf but removed her name from the form. The state legislature later passed a law removing the names of all county clerks from state marriage licenses.
A federal judge later ruled Kentucky taxpayers must pay the couples’ legal fees of about $225,000.
Davis is running as a Republican in the Nov. 6th election, seeking a second four-year term to a job that pays her about $80,000 a year. She was first elected as a Democrat in 2014, but later switched parties because she said the Democratic party “abandoned her.” She faces Elwood Caudill Jr., who has worked for the county Property Valuation Administrator’s Office for 21 years. She has faced him before, defeating him by a scant 23 votes in the 2014 Democratic primary.
Caudill said Tuesday if elected he would treat everyone equally because he took an oath to “uphold the law of the land.”
“That’s not my choice. I didn’t vote (gay marriage) in. But I have to go by the law. You have to issue what the law tells you do,” he said.
The forum was broadcast live on local radio stations, and Davis appeared to have the crowd on her side as they applauded her answer about gay marriage. Caudill later criticized Davis for hiring her son to work for her, calling on county officials to pass an anti-nepotism ordinance. Davis defended the hiring, saying her son is someone she can trust to oversee human resources and handle the office computers.
The moderator offered Davis to ask Caudill a question, but she declined saying “for me to impugn him with a question that would hurt him or to make him look anything other than honorable, I will not do. Thank you, Elwood, for being my friend.”
Caudill said that meant a lot to him, but he did have a question for Davis.
“Do you still love me,” he asked as the crowd laughed, adding: “I feel the same way.”
Reclaiming video games’ queer past before it disappears
October 24, 2018
Author: Adrienne Shaw, Associate Professor of Media and Communication, Temple University
Disclosure statement: Adrienne Shaw receives funding from Refiguring Innovation in Games (York University, Toronto Canada) and has received funding from the Temple University Digital Scholarship Center for work on the LGBTQ game archive. Research cited here was also funded by the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania.
The role of video games in queer communities is finally being recognized – but it’s almost too late.
For 30 years, GLAAD, a leading advocate for LGBTQ visibility in the media, has honored TV shows that positively represent LGBTQ people – and along the way has expanded its attention to include other genres, such as English language film, journalism, theater and Spanish language media. The 2019 GLAAD Media Awards will, for the first time, recognize video games with LGBTQ characters.
As someone who has studied LGBTQ issues in games since 2005, I see this move as an important historical shift, acknowledging that games are worthy of LGBTQ media activists’ attention. When I started my career, I had to convince people that there even were LGBTQ game content, players or creators to be studied. Now I’m the curator of an entire archive of games with LGBTQ content dating back to 1985 – and that’s just what I’ve been able to find so far.
Now, at last, a mainstream LGBTQ activist organization has found that it can’t ignore video games any longer.
A long time coming
This recognition has been a long time coming. Back in 2007, GLAAD told me it wasn’t able to focus on video game content due to resource limitations – but things have changed. Since 2009, the organization has worked to combat homophobia in online spaces. And in 2015 GLAAD honored the game “Dragon Age: Inquisition” for its positive representation of LGBTQ characters.
Other LGBTQ rights organizations have also expressed interest in video games: In 2013, Electronic Arts and the Human Rights Campaign held the Full Spectrum mini-conference in New York City, where panelists discussed LGBTQ representation in games and harassment in online gaming.
For years, LGBTQ gamers have had to face homophobia in online gaming spaces, while at the same time in offline LGBTQ communities, they were looked down on and ridiculed for gaming. GLAAD’s move is one indicator that mainstream LGBTQ activism is embracing games – and gamers, or “gaymers” – as part of LGBTQ culture. There are other changes, too: Gay bars around the United States have begun hosting “gayme” nights or adding arcade machines to their spaces. These shifts help claim games as a part of mainstream and LGBTQ cultures, as well as acknowledging that LGBTQ people are part of gaming culture.
What’s already lost?
Although there is a long history of LGBTQ people working in the games industry, much of the mainstream game industry’s recognition of LGBTQ gamers – and its inclusion of game characters – is a result of the recent exponential growth in independently produced queer games, which started around 2012.
In particular, games that represented the everyday lives of transwomen, like Merritt Kopas’s “Lim,” Anna Anthropy’s “Dys4ia” and Mattie Brice’s “Mainichi,” garnered critical attention for the way they questioned how games are expected to work and whom they are expected to represent. As in other media industries, attention to those titles helped the industry see the possibilities, and value, of representing LGBTQ people in video games. As games researcher Brendan Keogh wrote: “What the ever increasing number of creators of the queer games scene are showing the rest of us is that ‘games’ is a living tree, and as more and more people start making games that are important to them, the branches of that tree will start to grow in all kinds of new and exciting directions.”
My ongoing project the LGBTQ game archive helps chart that history, showing that LGBTQ content in games is not new. The archive’s master list includes more than 1,200 games spanning almost four decades. As early as the 1980s, and possibly even earlier, there were games including LGBTQ characters – across genres, platforms and, certainly, production quality.
“Caper in the Castro,” which came out in 1989, and 1992’s “GayBlade” were both independently produced and had received some media coverage when they were released. Yet until I began my research, they had both been largely forgotten. “Foobar vs. the DEA,” a 1996 game about a gay superhero rescuing his boyfriend from a federal agency, was only added to my list because someone submitted it via email to the archive. It likely would have been forgotten otherwise, as it had not yet been included in any other documentation of LGBTQ game history.
Moreover, even recent indie games, including “Lim” and “Dys4ia,” are no longer online for a variety of reasons. Some queer creators have taken down their games because of harassment. Others found their free games were being overused by institutions that could rightly pay for them, and still other designers felt attention on those projects obscured their other or newer work.
Yet, independent games are not alone in their notable or nuanced forms of LGBTQ representation. In 1995’s “Orion Conspiracy,” the player’s character is investigating the murder of his son, who it turns out was a gay man. Just this year, Sony released a trailer for its new game “The Last of Us Part II,” featuring the player character Ellie dancing with and kissing another girl. LGBTQ characters have certainly moved more toward center stage in games over the last three decades. The archive also contains games that represented LGBTQ people in less flattering light, though on the whole the portrayals are not as offensive as people might expect.
As mainstream respectability rises, however, I have also seen a decline in the number of LGBTQ-gamer internet communities like those I used to research. Many of them aren’t even online anymore, lost to history, like even earlier groups that were never studied or documented at all. Social media platforms like reddit, Twitter and Tumblr increasingly serve as hubs rather than dedicated forums. Even as we work to preserve games, it’s also important to preserve the spaces for the LGBTQ people who have always made and played games.
Joe Dirk: From what I have seen these games are not popular for two reasons. First, they have not created a game that is much fun with replay ability. Almost all games ever created fall into this category. It is very difficult to create a game that becomes popular. Second, a lot of the games with a LGBTQ slant are way over the top – such as GayBlade. Whenever you crowbar yourself into a category you are limiting your consumer base. That game looks so over-the-top that people who are not LGBTQ will not be interested in it.
As a side note, I noticed that GayBlade cost $39.95 +$2.50 when it was released. It is amazing how the costs of computer games have been lowered since that era. New releases these days can be downloaded for an average of $15, big name games for about $25. Getting into an early release ‘alpha’ stage game costs about $10 with massive replay appeal because of the constant updates.
John Carver, logged in via Google: Why would a straight person have an interest in a gay theme game? Wouldn’t it be solely up to the gay community to support this? If it fails its their fault. Straight people want to play Call of Duty.
Why cows are getting a bad rap in lab-grown meat debate
October 24, 2018
Author: Alison Van Eenennaam, Extension Specialist: Animal Biotechnology and Genomics, Department of Animal Science, University of California, Davis
Disclosure statement: Alison Van Eenennaam does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: University of California provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.
A battle royal is brewing over what to call animal cells grown in cell culture for food. Should it be in-vitro meat, cellular meat, cultured meat or fermented meat? What about animal-free meat, slaughter-free meat, artificial meat, synthetic meat, zombie meat, lab-grown meat, non-meat or artificial muscle proteins?
Then there is the polarizing “fake” versus “clean” meat framing that boils this complex topic down to a simple good versus bad dichotomy. The opposite of fake is of course the ambiguous but desirous “natural.” And modeled after “clean” energy, “clean” meat is by inference superior to its alternative, which must logically be “dirty” meat.
The narrative posited by, for now let us call it cultured meat, proponents is that animal agriculture requires large amounts of land and water, and produces high levels of greenhouse gases (GHG). The environmental impacts of a product, such as a beef hamburger, is then compared to the anticipatory ones for producing a cultured hamburger patty through tissue engineering-based cellular agriculture.
I research how biotechnology can improve livestock production, and while it is true that conventional meat production has a large environmental footprint, the problem with this dichotomous framing is that it overlooks the rest of the story.
Cattle produce more than just hamburgers for well-off consumers, and they typically do so by utilizing rain-fed forage growing on non-arable land. Additionally, cellular hamburger patties are themselves not an environmental impact-free lunch, especially from the perspective of energy use.
Energy inputs versus methane
Cultured meat requires the initial collection of stem cells from living animals and then greatly expanding their numbers in a bioreactor, a device for carrying out chemical processes. These living cells must be provided with nutrients in a suitable growth medium containing food-grade components that must be effective and efficient in supporting and promoting muscle cell growth. A typical growth medium contains an energy source such as glucose, synthetic amino acids, antibiotics, fetal bovine serum, horse serum and chicken embryo extract.
If cultured meat is to match or exceed the nutritional value of conventional meat products, nutrients found in meat not synthesized by muscle cells must be supplied as supplements in the culture medium. Conventional meat is a high-quality protein, meaning it has a full complement of essential amino acids. It also provides a source of several other desirable nutrients such as vitamins and minerals, and bioactive compounds.
Therefore to be nutritionally equivalent, cultured meat medium would need to provide all of the essential amino acids, along with vitamin B12, an essential vitamin found solely in food products of animal origin. Vitamin B12 can be produced by microbes in fermentation tanks, and could be used to supplement a cultured meat product. It would also be necessary to supplement iron, an especially important nutrient for menstruating females, that is also high in beef.
The process for making cultured meat has technically challenging aspects. It includes manufacturing and purifying culture media and supplements in large quantities, expanding animal cells in a bioreactor, processing the resultant tissue into an edible product, removing and disposing of the spent media, and keeping the bioreactor clean. Each are themselves associated with their own set of costs, inputs and energy demands.
The start-to-end environmental footprint – called a life cycle assessment (LCA) – of cultured meat at large scale is not available as no group has yet achieved this feat. Anticipatory life cycle analyses are therefore based on a range of assumptions, and vary dramatically, ranging from favorable to unfavorable comparisons to conventional meat production.
One study concluded that “in vitro biomass cultivation could require smaller quantities of agricultural inputs and land than livestock; however, those benefits could come at the expense of more intensive energy use as biological functions such as digestion and nutrient circulation are replaced by industrial equivalents.”
This idea of “industrial replacement of biological functions” emphasizes the point that nature has already developed a fully functional biological fermentation bioreactor for the conversion of inedible solar-powered cellulosic material, such as grass, into high-quality protein. It is called a cow. Ruminants have evolved, along with their large vat of rumen microbes, to digest cellulose, an insoluble carbohydrate, that is the main constituent of plant cell. That is their super power.
It does comes with the trade-off that methanogenic bacteria are required to perform this conversion and they produce methane, a greenhouse gas, that is subsequently burped up (eructated) by the cow.
To keep greenhouse gas emissions from livestock in perspective, according to the EPA, all of agriculture is responsible for 9 percent of GHG emissions in the United States, and collectively animal agriculture is responsible for slightly less than 4 percent. Entirely eliminating all animals from U.S. agricultural production systems would decrease GHG emission by only 2.6 percent. By contrast, energy production for electricity and transportation are each responsible for 28 percent of U.S. greenhouse gases.
Cattle and land use
On a global scale, the Earth’s 1.5 billion cattle are found in almost all climatic zones. They have been bred for adaptations to heat, cold, humidity, extreme diet, water scarcity, mountainous terrain, dry environments, and for general hardiness. More than just hamburgers, they autonomously harvest forage on marginal lands to produce 66 million tons of beef, 6.5 billion tons of milk, macro- and micronutrients, fibers, hides, skins, fertilizer and fuel; and are used for transportation, draft power, a source of income, and a form of banking for millions of smallholder farmers in developing countries. Even in developed countries, the products and ecosystem services produced by cattle extend well beyond milk and harvestable boneless meat.
Land use per unit of beef varies significantly by region. It has been estimated that globally only 2 percent of the cattle population is produced in intensive feedlot systems, with the remaining 98 percent being produced on grassland-based grazing systems, or mixed crop and livestock systems. Grass and rangelands make up 80 percent of the 2.5 billion hectare of land used for livestock production, and most of this land is considered too marginal to be convertible to cropland.
Hypothetically removing ruminants from this non-arable land would mean that 57 percent of the land currently used for livestock production would no longer contribute to global food production. This does not consider the unintended impacts of removing grazing animals, which play an important role in maintaining healthy soil and grassland ecosystems. Rain, so-called “green” water as distinct to “blue” surface and ground water, would still fall on rangelands with no cattle, but it would generate no food. And ironically, it is this green rainfall that constitutes the vast majority of beef’s water footprint. Beef LCA document large amounts of land and water, but do not reflect that rain falling on non-arable land has no alternative food production use.
Cultured meat, or whatever it ends up being called, may provide an additional source of protein to help meet projected future demands, and it may further appeal to consumers who choose not to consume conventional meat for ethical or other reasons.
However, framing cultured meat as “clean,” thereby unavoidably invoking dirty as the alternative, belittles the important role that ruminants play in global ecosystems and food security. Furthermore, I believe that overplaying the role that dietary choices actually play on GHG emissions in the United States distracts focus from reducing the much larger source of GHG from human activities – the burning of fossil fuels for electricity, heat and transportation.
Esport betting platform gets license for video game gambling
By JAKE SEINER
AP Sports Writer
Tuesday, October 23
Video gamers in the United States and elsewhere will soon be able to bet on themselves.
The live-betting esports platform Unikrn had its wagering license approved by the Isle of Man on Tuesday, clearing the way for users to legally gamble on competitive video games.
“There is finally a legitimate, regulated operator in the space that has a pretty comprehensive offering,” Unikrn CEO Rahul Sood told The Associated Press. “It’s huge.”
Unikrn immediately began rolling out to 20 countries a variety of online products, and will soon bring esports wagering to most of Europe, South Korea and other Asian countries, and parts of Latin America. Certain types of esports betting will also be available in the U.S.
Unikrn had previously only been licensed to provide real-money betting on esports in the U.K. and Australia.
In countries with legalized sports betting, Unikrn users will be able to make odds bets on major esports competitions, like the upcoming League of Legends World Championship on Nov. 3.
Unlike traditional sports books, the esports platform will also offer skill-based bets. Essentially, gamers can bet on their own abilities in games like Fortnite, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and League of Legends.
Once they have verified their age and location, users can link their game to the Unikrn platform, and then Unikrn will generate odds for the player based on his or her profile within the game. Players can place a bet on the Unikrn website into a mutual pool, play their next match, then come back to the site to claim their winnings or make another wager.
In America, skill-based betting will go live in 41 states as part of Unikrn’s product rollout, although a date for the U.S. unveiling hasn’t been made public. Esports spectator betting will not yet be available in the U.S.
Unikrn is still trying to establish esports odds betting in America. A path was paved this summer when the Supreme Court struck down a 1992 federal law that banned sports betting in most states, but the industry remains fragmented. Sood is hopeful that if a national governing sports betting body is formed, it will provide a path for esports betting in American casinos. Unikrn does have a venue at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, where users can wager on themselves in video game tournaments, similar to poker. Unikrn plans to open similar venues at casinos elsewhere.
Sood believes that if the U.S. market is developed, esports betting could be a $9 billion industry by 2020.
Unikrn was launched in 2014, and its investors include Mark Cuban, Elisabeth Murdoch and Ashton Kutcher. It is the first wagering company in the world — esport or otherwise — built entirely on Blockchain and claims to support 9,000 transactions per second. Blockchain is touted as a secure, decentralized ledger of transactions spread across a global network of computers that use their processing power to verify any changes.
A class-action lawsuit was brought against the Seattle-based company in August alleging it sold unregistered securities to the public when it held an initial coin offering for its UnikoinGold tokens. Sood told The Associated Press the lawsuit is “very frivolous” and claimed there is “no merit to it.”
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