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Obama names 21 for Medal of Freedom — Abdul-Jabbar and Jordan, De Niro and DeGeneres, Tyson and Hanks

President Barack Obama named 21 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

The awards will be presented at the White House on Nov. 22.

In a press statement, the president said, “The Presidential Medal of Freedom is not just our nation’s highest civilian honor — it’s a tribute to the idea that all of us, no matter where we come from, have the opportunity to change this country for the better. From scientists, philanthropists, and public servants to activists, athletes, and artists, these 21 individuals have helped push America forward, inspiring millions of people around the world along the way.”

Here’s what the White House says regarding the recipients:

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the National Basketball Association’s all-time leading scorer who helped lead the Los Angeles Lakers to five championships and the Milwaukee Bucks to another. During his career, Abdul-Jabbar was a six-time NBA Most Valuable Player and a 19-time NBA All-Star.

Before joining the NBA, he was a star player at UCLA, leading the Bruins to three consecutive championships. In addition to his legendary basketball career, Abdul-Jabbar has been an outspoken advocate for social justice.

Elouise Cobell (posthumous)

Elouise Cobell was a Blackfeet Tribal community leader and an advocate for Native American self-determination and financial independence. She used her expertise in accounting to champion a lawsuit that resulted in a historic settlement, restoring tribal homelands to her beloved Blackfeet Nation and many other tribes, and in so doing, inspired a new generation of Native Americans to fight for the rights of others.

Cobell helped found the Native American Bank, served as director of the Native American Community Development Corporation, and inspired Native American women to seek leadership roles in their communities.

Ellen DeGeneres

Ellen DeGeneres is an award-winning comedian who has hosted her popular daytime talk show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, since 2003 with her trademarked humor, humility and optimism. In 2003, DeGeneres lent her voice to a forgetful but unforgettable little fish named Dory in Finding Nemo. She reprised her role again in 2016 with the hugely successful Finding Dory. DeGeneres also hosted the Academy Awards twice, in 2007 and 2014. In 1997, after coming out herself, DeGeneres made TV history when her character on Ellen revealed she was a lesbian.

In her work and in her life, she has been a passionate advocate for equality and fairness.

Robert De Niro

Robert De Niro has brought to life some of the most memorable roles in American film during a career that spans five decades. His first major film roles were in the sports drama Bang the Drum Slowly and Martin Scorsese’s crime film Mean Streets.

He is a seven-time Academy Award nominee and two-time Oscar winner, and is also a Kennedy Center honoree.

Richard Garwin

Richard Garwin is a polymath physicist who earned a Ph.D. under Enrico Fermi at age 21 and subsequently made pioneering contributions to U.S. defense and intelligence technologies, low-temperature and nuclear physics, detection of gravitational radiation, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computer systems, laser printing, and nuclear arms control and nonproliferation.

He directed Applied Research at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center and taught at the University of Chicago, Columbia University, and Harvard University. The author of 500 technical papers and a winner of the National Medal of Science, Garwin holds 47 U.S. patents, and has advised numerous administrations.

Bill and Melinda Gates

Bill and Melinda Gates established the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000 to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, the foundation focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, the mission is to ensure that all people-especially those with the fewest resources-have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life.

The Gates Foundation has provided more than $36 billion in grants since its inception.

Frank Gehry

Frank Gehry is one of the world’s leading architects, whose works have helped define contemporary architecture. His best-known buildings include the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, the Dancing House in Prague, and the Guggenheim Museum building in Bilbao, Spain.

Margaret H. Hamilton

Margaret H. Hamilton led the team that created the on-board flight software for NASA’s Apollo command modules and lunar modules. A mathematician and computer scientist who started her own software company, Hamilton co-created the concepts of asynchronous software, priority scheduling, and human-in-the-loop decision capability, which set the foundation for modern, ultra-reliable software design and engineering.

Tom Hanks

Tom Hanks is one of the Nation’s finest actors and filmmakers. He has been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role five times, and received the award for his work in Philadelphia and Forrest Gump. Those roles and countless others, including in Apollo 13, Saving Private Ryan, and Cast Away, have left an indelible mark on American film.

Off screen, as an advocate, Hanks has advocated for social and environmental justice, and for our veterans and their families.

Grace Hopper (posthumous)

Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, known as “Amazing Grace” and “the first lady of software,” was at the forefront of computers and programming development from the 1940s through the 1980s. Hopper’s work helped make coding languages more practical and accessible, and she created the first compiler, which translates source code from one language into another.

She taught mathematics as an associate professor at Vassar College before joining the United States Naval Reserve as a lieutenant (junior grade) during World War II, where she became one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer and began her lifelong leadership role in the field of computer science.

Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan is one of the greatest athletes of all time. Jordan played 15 seasons in the NBA for the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards; he is currently a principal owner and chairman of the Charlotte Hornets. During his career, he won six championships, five Most Valuable Player awards, and appeared in 14 All-Star games.

Maya Lin

Maya Lin is an artist and designer who is known for her work in sculpture and landscape art. She designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. and since then has pursued a celebrated career in both art and architecture. A committed environmentalist, Lin is currently working on a multi-sited artwork/memorial, What is Missing? bringing awareness to the planet’s loss of habitat and biodiversity.

Lorne Michaels

Lorne Michaels is a producer and screenwriter, best known for creating and producing Saturday Night Live, which has run continuously for more than 40 years. In addition, Michaels has also produced The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Late Night with Seth Meyers, and 30 Rock, among other popular, award-winning shows. He has won 13 Emmy Awards over the course of his lengthy career.

Newt Minow

Newt Minow is an attorney with a long and distinguished career in public life. After serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, Minow served as a Supreme Court clerk and counsel to the governor of Illinois. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy selected Minow, then 34, to serve as chairman of the Federal Communications Committee, where he helped shape the future of American television and was a vigorous advocate for broadcasting that promoted the public interest. In the five decades since leaving the FCC, Minow has maintained a prominent private law practice while devoting himself to numerous public and charitable causes.

Eduardo Padrón

Eduardo Padrón is the president of Miami Dade College , one of the largest institutions of higher education in the United States

During his more than four decade career, Padrón has been a national voice for access and inclusion. He has worked to ensure all students have access to high quality, affordable education. He has championed innovative teaching and learning strategies making MDC a national model of excellence.

Robert Redford

Robert Redford is an actor, director, producer, businessman, and environmentalist. In 1981, he founded the Sundance Institute to advance the work of independent filmmakers and storytellers throughout the world, including through its annual Sundance Film Festival. He has received an Academy Award for Best Director and for Lifetime Achievement. Redford has directed or starred in numerous motion pictures, including The Candidate, All the President’s Men, Quiz Show, and A River Runs Through It.

Diana Ross

Diana Ross has had an iconic career spanning more than 50 years within the entertainment industry in music, film, television, theater, and fashion. Diana Ross is an Academy Award nominee, inductee into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and recipient of the Grammy Awards highest honor, the Lifetime Achievement Award. Ross was a recipient of the 2007 Kennedy Center Honors. Diana Ross’s greatest legacy is her five wonderful children.

Vin Scully

Vin Scully is a broadcaster who, for 67 seasons, was the voice of the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers. In Southern California, where generations of fans have grown up listening to Dodger baseball, Scully’s voice is known as the “soundtrack to summer.” In 1988, he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Scully’s signature voice brought to life key moments in baseball history, including perfect games by Sandy Koufax and Don Larsen, Kirk Gibson’s home run in the 1988 World Series, and Hank Aaron’s record-breaking 715th home run.

Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen is a singer, songwriter, and bandleader. More than five decades ago, he bought a guitar and learned how to make it talk. Since then, the stories he has told, in lyrics and epic live concert performances, have helped shape American music and have challenged us to realize the American dream. Springsteen is a Kennedy Center honoree and he and the E Street Band he leads have each been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Cicely Tyson

Cicely Tyson has performed on the stage, on television, and on the silver screen. She has won two Emmy Awards and a Tony Award, and is known for her performances in Sounder, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, and The Help. In 2013, she returned to the stage with The Trip to the Bountiful, and was awarded the Tony Award for best leading actress. Tyson received the Kennedy Center Honors in 2015.

End of meat? Startups seek meat alternatives for the masses

Patrick Brown is on an improbable mission: Make a burger Americans love, minus the meat.

Veggie patties have been around for decades, but Brown and others want to make foods without animal products that look, cook and taste like the real thing — and can finally appeal to the masses.

“We are not making a veggie burger. We’re creating meat without using animals,” said Brown, a former Stanford scientist who has been scanning plants in search of compounds that can help recreate meat.

Brown’s company, Impossible Foods, is part of a wave of startups aiming to wean Americans off foods like burgers and eggs, and their efforts are attracting tens of millions of dollars from investors. The goal is to lessen the dependence on livestock for food, which they say isn’t as healthy, affordable or environmentally friendly as plant-based alternatives.

The challenge is that most Americans happily eat meat and eggs. That means that, without a breakthrough, those seeking to upend factory farming risk becoming footnotes in the history of startups.

To understand the difficulty of their task, consider the transformation raw chicken undergoes when cooked. It starts as a slimy, unappetizing blob, then turns into a tender piece of meat.


In its office in Southern California, Beyond Meat works on “chicken” strips made with pea and soy proteins that have been sold at places like Whole Foods since 2012. But founder Ethan Brown concedes the product needs work.

To give the “meat” its fat, for instance, canola oil is evenly mixed throughout the product.

“That’s not really how it works in an animal,” said Brown, a vegan. “The fat can be a sheath on tendons.”

To form the strips, a mixture is pressed through a machine that forms and sets the product’s texture with heating and cooling chambers. The method isn’t new in the world of fake meats, but the company says it fine-tuned the process to deliver a more realistic offering.

Brown dismisses the idea that fake meat might weird people out and says it’s a “desirable evolution.”

“It’s like moving from the horse-drawn carriage to the automobile, or the landline to the iPhone,” he said.

But Beyond Meat isn’t quite there yet; The Huffington Post described the strips as having an “unpleasant” taste that inhabits a “strange territory between meat and vegetable.”

At Impossible Foods, the patty is made by extracting proteins from foods like spinach and beans, then combining them with other ingredients. The company, which has about 100 employees, expects the product to be available in the latter half of next year, initially through a food-service operator.

Few have tasted it, but the vision continues to gain traction. In October, Impossible Foods said it raised $108 million in funding, on top of its previous $74 million. Among its investors are Bill Gates, Google Ventures and Horizons Ventures.


Another startup isn’t totally ditching the cow.

With $15.5 million in funding, Modern Meadow in New York City takes cells from a cow through a biopsy and cultures them to grow into meat. At a conference in February, company founder Andras Forgacs likened the process to culturing yogurt or brewing beer.

“This is an extension of that,” he said.

Modern Meadow doesn’t have a product on the market yet either. The company says it doesn’t necessarily want to replicate steaks and burgers, and gave a hint of the type of foods it might make by presenting “steak chips” for attendees at a small conference last year.

Only about 200 people have tried the chips, which Forgacs describes as “crispy, crunchy beef jerky.”

Citing the demand for more openness about how food is made, he sees a day when people tour meat plants, as they do with breweries.

“There could be your friendly neighborhood meat brewery,” Forgacs said.


In San Francisco, Hampton Creek’s mission is to replace the eggs in products without anyone noticing. In trying to appeal to the mainstream, co-founder and CEO Josh Tetrick has a simple rule.

“Number one, never use the word ‘vegan,”” he said.

To avoid perceptions its eggless spread Just Mayo won’t taste good, Hampton Creek even removed the V-word from the label. Tetrick says what makes the product different is that it tastes better and costs less — not that it’s made with a protein from a Canadian yellow pea instead of eggs.

“The egg-free thing is almost irrelevant,” he said.

Swapping out a single ingredient in a product may make it easier for people to swallow change. It may also make change simpler to achieve; Just Mayo’s consistency and taste are similar to mayonnaise. The product, which is available at retailers including Target and Wal-Mart, is gaining enough traction that the American Egg Board, which is responsible for slogans like the “Incredible, Edible Egg,” sees it as a “major threat,” according to emails made public through a records request.

So far, Hampton Creek has attracted $120 million in funding. It continues to screen plants for compounds that can help replace eggs in recipes and plans to eventually introduce a scrambled-egg product.


For those looking to lessen the reliance on animals for food, there are encouraging signs all around.

Last year, Pinnacle Foods, the maker of Hungry-Man dinners, paid $154 million to acquire Gardein, which makes frozen veggie patties, nuggets and crumbles. Pinnacle CEO Robert Gamgort said he thinks meat alternatives are in the “early stages of a macro trend,” similar to the way soy and almond milk changed the dairy category.

But for now, vegetarian products remain a niche market. And even if people cut back on meat and eggs for health, environmental or animal welfare reasons, they might not want literal replacements.

Morningstar, a longtime maker of vegetarian products owned by Kellogg, says people are becoming more accepting of vegetables as main ingredients. As such, it wants to evolve from a maker of meat substitutes to a brand known for its “veggie cuisine,” such as bowls with brown rice and black beans.

Yves Potvin, Gardein’s founder, also thinks veggie alternatives don’t have to replicate meat, so long as they taste good. It’s why Gardein’s products are shaped to be reminiscent of meat, but don’t try to mimic their exact flavor and texture.

“What people like is the experience,” Potvin said. “They like the memory.”

Review: Documentary presents Steve Jobs’ darker side

Was Steve Jobs a brilliant visionary whose singular mind, capable of blending art, technology and commerce as never before, inspired the world to “think different” and changed the way we live?

Or was he a ruthless businessman who treated co-workers callously, took credit for the work of others, and often acted out of jealousy and spite?

Documentarian Alex Gibney is known for pulling no punches when it comes to his subjects, most famously Scientology in his recent Going Clear. And so it should come as little surprise that in Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine, he comes down heavily on that second, darker image of the Apple CEO. Even if you haven’t read much of the copious material out there on Jobs, who died in 2011, you’ll know some of this, especially his early attempt to dispute his paternity of his first child Lisa, even as he was raking in millions. But though Gibney doesn’t seem to come up with anything truly groundbreaking, there’s surely more negative stuff here — and lots more detail —than you’ve encountered before.

With this, Gibney, a skilled filmmaker, has little trouble holding our attention for more than two hours. But he raises another tantalizing question without really answering it: What does our collective adulation of Jobs and his creations say about US? Perhaps it was all too much for one movie.

The film begins, wisely, with the stunning reaction to Jobs’ death of pancreatic cancer, similar to the grief that erupted with the passing of John Lennon — only expressed in 2011 technology. We see the makeshift shrines outside Apple stores, and the ubiquitous hashtag #iSad. A young boy explains, incredulously: “He made EVERYTHING!” On the news, Diane Sawyer speaks of “a global wake.”

How to explain this impact? Gibney gathers footage both of the brash young Jobs with long hair, proclaiming how the computer, once bulky and scary, will change people’s lives, and famously giving the finger to IBM; and the older Jobs, in his second stint with Apple, pacing the stage in his black turtleneck and delighting fans with those much-awaited product launches.

And there are much less flattering elements, in interviews with people who worked with (or loved) Jobs: for example, Bob Belleville, who came over from Xerox in the ‘80s. “How bad could this be?” Belleville recounts thinking beforehand. “I didn’t realize how bad it could be.” The memories cause him to weep.

We hear how Steve Wozniak, the eventual Apple co-founder who began his journey with Jobs in a garage, did much of the work on a video game the duo sold to Atari, but was iced out of most of the money by his friend. And there’s school buddy and Apple employee Daniel Kottke, wondering succinctly: “How much of an asshole do you have to be to be successful?”

Chrisann Brennan, mother of Lisa Brennan-Jobs (Jobs’ daughter did not cooperate with the film — nor did his widow, Laurene Powell, or Apple itself), describes telling Jobs she was pregnant and watching him clench his jaw and slam the door.

There’s also sobering detail on working conditions (and suicide rates) at the Chinese factories where Apple products are made; on a scandal involving Apple stock options; and on Jobs’ zealous pursuit of the tech bloggers who wrote about an iPhone 4 prototype accidentally left in a bar. We’re also told how, contrary to Bill Gates and his huge philanthropy, Jobs ended Apple’s charitable gifts.

Yet there’s admiration, too, for Jobs’ creative mind, specifically the crucial connection he was able to make between a piece of machinery and the human experience it could provide. As the film says of the iPod: “It wasn’t a machine FOR you. It was you.”

And it’s Gibney himself who best describes the lure of a shiny Apple phone.

“I had to have an iPhone,” he says. “My hand was drawn to it like Frodo’s hand to the ring.”

Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine, a Magnolia release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for “some language.” Running time: 127 minutes. Three stars out of four.

Microsoft’s Ballmer, Gates donate $100,000 each to marriage equality

Microsoft Corp. CEO Steve Ballmer and co-founder Bill Gates have each donated $100,000 to the campaign supporting the state’s new gay marriage law, which faces a referendum vote in November.

Zach Silk, campaign manager for Washington United for Marriage, said the checks were reported to the state Public Disclosure Commission on July 2.

“It’s going to make a tremendous difference,” Silk said. “It’s very important for us to have that broad support from business leaders and companies themselves.”

Microsoft is one of several prominent Pacific Northwest businesses that have expressed support for same-sex marriage. Others include Starbucks Corp. and Nike Inc.

Referendum 74 was certified for the ballot last month after gay marriage opponents turned in more than 240,000 signatures, far more than the minimum of 120,577 valid voter signatures required.

The referendum seeks to overturn the law passed earlier this year allowing same-sex marriage in the state. That law was passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Chris Gregoire in February. The law was supposed to take effect June 7 but was put on hold once the signatures were turned in.

Gay marriage supporters have been raising money for months to protect the law, as national groups, including the Washington, D.C.-based National Organization for Marriage, have said they’ll aggressively fight to strike it down. The National Organization for Marriage was involved in ballot measures that overturned same-sex marriage in California and Maine.

Before the Microsoft-related donation, Washington United for Marriage had raised nearly $1.5 million for the campaign to fight back attempts to overturn the law. Preserve Marriage Washington has raised more than $130,000, according to the most recent numbers with the Public Disclosure Commission, though the money race is expected to heat up significantly in the coming months.

Gay marriage is legal in New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington, D.C. Maryland legalized gay marriage this year as well, but that state is also poised to have a public vote this fall. In Maine, voters will decide on an initiative to approve same-sex marriage three years after a referendum overturned a law passed by the Maine Legislature. And in Minnesota, voters will decide whether or not to pass a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage there.


Referendum 74 language: http://bit.ly/Aog5aO

Preserve Marriage Washington: http://preservemarriagewashington.com

Washington United for Marriage: http://washingtonunitedformarriage.org

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Become a philanthropist!

You don’t have to be a fat cat like Bill Gates to join one of the most admired fraternities around: philanthropists.

Since I work as a fundraiser and am painfully aware of how budget cuts are devastating human services, here’s a personal pitch along with some tips for being a smart, effective donor.

For those of us with jobs, the quickest way to give is to respond to the fall workplace giving campaigns of United Way and Community Shares that are sponsored by many employers. Government employees have additional options.

Workplace campaigns allow you to make a onetime donation or a continuing pledge that will be deducted from your paycheck and sent directly to the charitable campaign. A “donors choice” option allows you to specify which group will be the recipient of your donation, although a minimum dollar amount or other criteria may be required.

Some employers are willing to match your gift, so make sure you ask for any extra form that’s necessary to process that match. It’s a great way to double the impact of your donation.

Milwaukee’s Cream City Foundation and Madison’s New Harvest Foundation, which fund a variety of LGBT services, are members of Community Shares of Greater Milwaukee and Community Shares of Wisconsin, respectively.

In the absence of a workplace campaign, you can always contribute directly to a foundation or nonprofit whose work you like. Some donors prefer this route because it cuts out the “middleman,” reducing processing costs and maximizing the benefit to the targeted charity.

Guidestar.org is an excellent online resource you can use to check on the fiscal integrity and funding priorities of organizations you want to support. Guidestar allows you to search for non-profits and access their annual IRS forms.

On the IRS 990 form (section IX), charities must list their management, fundraising and program expenses. Management and fundraising should not rise above 20 percent. In fact, efficiently run groups often keep that percentage as low as 8-12 percent, which means the percentage they spend on actual programs to help their clients or community may be as high as 88-92 percent.

Foundations are required to attach a list of the charities they have given grants to in that reporting year. This is a handy way to learn whether the foundation’s giving is simpatico with your own interests and, if you represent a nonprofit, whether your group matches their priorities and should apply for a grant.

No matter how much you donate, you have the right to communicate with that charity to ask them about their programs or for an annual report. If they have their act together, they are likely to cultivate you in return and try to engage you in the organization in other ways, which leads to a final point.

You don’t need money to be a philanthropist. Really. Volunteers are as valuable to nonprofit agencies as money. There are dozens of tasks to be accomplished, from mailings to event staffing to IT support. Volunteer labor frees paid staff to focus more on core services. If you have extra time, let the group know your interests and have them assign you to a volunteer gig where you’ll be engaged and make a difference.

I don’t think philanthropy can or should ever substitute for our government’s duty to respond to basic human needs. But there’s nothing inherently wrong with a charitable impulse, and these days we all need to pitch in any way we can.