Judge Overturns Utah's 'Ag-Gag' Ban On Undercover Filming At Farms

A farm sits at the foot of sandstone formations in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument on May 11, 2017 outside Escalante, Utah.

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A federal judge has ruled Utah’s ban on secretly filming farm and slaughterhouse operations is unconstitutional, striking down what critics call an “ag-gag” law that Utah enacted in 2012.

The ban violates the First Amendment’s free-speech protections, U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby said.

Shelby rejected the state’s defense of the law, saying Utah had failed to show the ban was intended to ensure the safety of animals and farm workers from disease or injury.

In his ruling, Shelby noted that one of the bill’s sponsors in the state legislature, Rep. John Mathis, said the ban was a response to “a trend nationally of some propaganda groups … with a stated objective of undoing animal agriculture in the United States.” The judge noted that another sponsor, Sen. David Hinkins said it targeted “vegetarian people that [are] trying to kill the animal industry.”

A farmer who supported the ban had said he and his colleagues “don’t want some jack wagon coming in taking a picture of them,” according to the court’s citation of state records.

The challenge to Utah ban was filed by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, PETA, and Amy Meyer, the director of the Utah Animal Rights Coalition. Meyer was arrested in 2013 while she filmed workers using heavy machinery to move a sick cow at a slaughterhouse in Draper City. At the time, Meyer was on public property; the charges against her were later dismissed.

“I was shocked when I was the one charged with a crime instead of that animal’s abusers,” Meyer said after the court ruled in her favor Friday. “It should never be a crime to tell the story of an animal who is being abused and killed, even if it’s for food.”

After acknowledging the importance of the agricultural industry in the U.S. — and the government’s longtime interest in supporting the industry — Shelby wrote:

“Utah undoubtedly has an interest in addressing perceived threats to the state agricultural industry, and as history shows, it has a variety of constitutionally permissible tools at its disposal to do so. Suppressing broad swaths of protected speech without justification, however, is not one of them.”

It’s the second time a federal court has overturned a ban on filming at farms: In 2015, a district court judge ruled that Idaho’s “ag-gag” law was unconstitutional, violating the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause.

The Idaho case — Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Wasden — is currently pending in the Ninth Circuit, after Idaho filed an appeal.

Since the 1990s, at least 16 states have adopted “ag-gag” laws, from Kansas, Montana, and North Dakota to Iowa and North Carolina.

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The Life And Work Of Pierre Henry, Ceaseless Sonic Explorer

Pierre Henry in 2007, at the Saint-Joseph school in southern France. The musique concréte innovator died this week at the age of 89.

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Pierre Henry, a true giant of 20th-century musical exploration, died this week at the age of 89, as reported by Le Monde. The composer began exploring the nascent possibilities of electronic sound in the 1940s.

Beginning in 1949, Henry was vital to the development of musique concréte, a groundbreaking form of music devised in France by Pierre Schaeffer just one year prior, in 1948. Think of musique concréte as an early form of sampling, using sounds collected from anywhere, from the sound of a bell to a passing train. “The technique of sampling is at the heart of musique concréte,” Henry explained to The Wire in 1997. “We invented an alphabet, and today it has become a language.” The language Schaeffer and Henry developed is still spoken in the pop music we hear every day.

Back then, synthesizers and samplers as we know them didn’t exist, but there were a few ways to make electronic sounds, using homemade circuits, tone generators or various contraptions. The best-known of these electronic forebears is the theremin, invented in 1919. Tinkerers soon realized that they could “hack” devices that already existed — turntables, radios, reel-to-reel tape machines — to make some of the first electronic music. One could slow down and speed up a tape, loop it, play it backwards or cut it up, leading to worlds of new possibilities.

Musique concréte is known as tape music, but in the early days it was turntable music, too. Messing around with turntables was easier than tape machines, which at the time were finicky and expensive. Henry quickly became “a sort of turntable genius,” as Schaeffer observed in his diary, translated to English in the book In Search Of A Concrete Music. Henry soon became adept at working with tape machines too, chopping and splicing with skill. Even after synthesizers became widely available, Schaeffer preferred to use his old tools instead of the new ones.

Musique concréte is about the art of decision,” Henry said in the indispensable documentary The Art Of Sounds. “It’s the art of choice. You select one sound over another, and that’s where composing begins.” In the hands of artists like Henry, musique concréte became something exquisite and sophisticated. A key to musique concréte‘s allure and mystery was that one could “manipulate” the sounds by using various treatments to transform them.

Henry was an incredibly prolific composer over the course of his life, even converting his Paris home into a living musical instrument of sorts — a quirky venue and sound installation, packed with collages and antique machines. And Henry didn’t just toil on experimental music in the studio; he was on the pop charts, too. You can still hear traces of Henry on TV; Futurama‘s theme song is inspired by Henry’s groovy “Psyche-Rock,” from 1967.

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Henry was classically trained, studying at the famous Conservatoire in Paris under Olivier Messiaen and Nadia Boulanger. At the time, Schaeffer predicted that Henry would soon quit the challenges of musique concréte. “All of the musicians whom until then we had invited to join us had practically run away from a musical undertaking bristling with difficulties and defended by the barbed wire of technique,” Schaeffer wrote in his diary. But Henry refused to back down, wrestling with the machines until they did what he wanted them to. “Pierre Henry had abandoned his kettledrums and was giving all his time to the studio,” Schaeffer marveled. “Within a few months he had acquired skills in manipulation that amazed even sound engineers.”

Just as importantly, Henry’s wife, Michele Henry, was the unsung heroine of the early days of musique concréte. She capably managed the immense task of cataloging and organizing the thousands and thousands of “sound objects,” or samples, that Schaeffer, Henry and others were creating.

Where Schaeffer was cool and cerebral, a theoretician with a background in radio engineering, Henry was wild, a musician prone to impulse and occasional flights of fancy. Henry was trained in percussion and piano, and wanted to make songs at a fast clip. Schaeffer, meanwhile, sought to develop a lofty philosophy of sound.

Both were geniuses, and both were stubborn. Without that push-pull dynamic, without the tension between them, musique concréte as we know it would not exist. Henry helped take that music out of the laboratory and into the world. He wasn’t afraid of commercial success, or of pop music. “For Schaeffer, musique concréte was like a musical philosophy … for me, I immediately wanted to create works, and what’s more, profitable ones,” recalled Henry in The Art Of Sounds.

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Henry and Schaeffer collaborated in 1950 on the strange and beautiful Symphonie pour un homme seul (“Symphony For A Lonely Man,” or “Symphony For A Man Alone”). In 1951, Schaeffer, Henry and the engineer Jacques Poullin were the three forces behind a center called the Groupe de Recherches du Musique Concréte (GRMC). Schaeffer and Henry worked tightly together before acrimoniously parting ways in 1958 (and then befriending each other again, decades later).“As time passed Schaeffer reproached me with spending too much time on practical applications and not enough on research,” Henry said in 1997, encapsulating the personality divide between them. “But I was more interested in opening up musique concréte to wider audiences. We quarreled a great deal and he ended up firing me. But it wasn’t such a bad thing because I founded my own studio.”

In 1958, the famous GRM (Groupe de Recherches Musicales), which exists in France to this day, was established. Henry set up his own studio, which he called Studio Apsome, in his house. In 1963, he created one of his enduring masterpieces — Variations pour une porte et un soupir (“Variations For A Door And A Sigh”), inspired by sampling the squeaky sounds on a door in an old French farmhouse. In addition to squeaky door sounds, there was also an actual sigh, and plenty of farm noises, too. “Occasional offstage noises intrude: Henry blocked the stream to heighten the sound of rushing water, starved the pigs to make them squeal, rampaged after clucking chickens, recording all the while,” wrote the critic Art Lange in his memorable primer on musique-concrete in The Wire.

Decades of memorable compositions by Henry followed, including sonic explorations inspired by the Tibetan Book Of The Dead, a stint on the pop charts in the late 1960s for “Psyche-Rock,” cortical brain experiments and a collaboration with the British rock band Spooky Tooth. Henry released album after album, each different from the previous one, and kept on creating and collecting exciting new sounds until he died. Through it all, his childlike wonder never left him — he always remained fascinated by new sonic possibilities.

“I think nature was my first influence, and the sounds I heard during my childhood,” said Henry in The Art Of Sounds. “I listened to them a lot, and they remained a part of my inner landscape … The passion I had from the first to add sound effects to my instruments, to find analogies to what I was doing at home and what I could hear outside.

“My childhood certainly proved to be the best beginning an innovative musician could have.”

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'G19' Nations Affirm Climate Plan, Acknowledging U.S. Withdrawal

Despite President Trump’s decision to withdraw from an international climate accord, other leaders affirmed their commitment to the plan at the G20 Summit. Trump is seen here with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday.

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The G20 Summit ended in Hamburg with affirmation to pursue the Paris climate accord by leaders of the world’s strongest economies, minus President Trump.

“The leaders of the other G20 members state that the Paris Agreement is irreversible,” reads a declaration adopted on the final day of meetings Saturday, by a group that includes Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China, and which is now being referred to as the “G19.”

Noting Trump’s decision to withdraw from the near-global climate agreement, the declaration says that the U.S. “will immediately cease” payments to an international fund to implement the plan. The U.S. had promised to send $3 billion to the Green Climate Fund; the stoppage comes after $1 billion was already paid under President Obama.

Rather than participate in the Paris accord, the leaders’ declaration states, the U.S. “will endeavor to work closely with other countries to help them access and use fossil fuels more cleanly and efficiently and help deploy renewable and other clean energy sources.”

Another agreed-upon document, the Climate and Energy Action Plan for Growth, notes the divide between the U.S. and its economic allies in the first footnote on the first word (“Preamble”).

“The United States is currently in the process of reviewing many of its policies related to climate change and continues to reserve its position on this document and its contents,” the footnote reads.

By affirming their commitment to the Paris agreement, the G19 group fulfilled a key goal of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the summit’s host.

Leading up to the two-day meetings in Hamburg, Merkel had said that climate change, terrorism and migration are issues that must be confronted with international unity.

“Whoever believes that the problems of this world can be resolved with isolationism and protectionism, is sadly mistaken,” Merkel said.

Paris will host another round of climate discussions in December — two years after the initial accord was adopted, French President Emmanuel Macron said on Saturday.

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G20 Hamburg: Tens Of Thousands Demonstrate On Summit's Last Day

Policemen stand in front of a looted shop after riots struck Hamburg’s Schanzenviertel district as the G20 Summit heads toward its close on Saturday.

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Tens of thousands of people turned out for the largest protests yet against the G20 meetings in Hamburg, Germany, Saturday. The peaceful marches contrasted with the violence of Friday night, when rioting and clashes with security forces erupted.

As of around midday local time on Saturday, 143 people have been temporarily detained and 122 taken into custody in summit-related operations that began on June 22, the Hamburg police department said, adding that 213 police officers have been injured.

Anti-G20 Summit protesters set fires during clashes with riot police in Hamburg, Germany, Friday night.

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In last night’s unrest, cars, barricades, and trash cans were set on fire, stores were looted, and rioters threw bottles and stones at police.

“Police used water cannons and SWAT teams to try and stop the hundreds of rioters who plundered a grocery store and vandalized other parts of a multi-cultural district in the city,” NPR’s Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports. “Hamburg police spokesman Timo Zill told public broadcaster ARD it took time for police units to move in because they discovered rioters had prepared Molotov cocktails and stashed them on rooftops.”

A store that was ravaged by looters during protests against the G20 Leaders’ Summit, is seen in Hamburg, Germany, Saturday.

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Hamburg’s police said they carried out a search Saturday at a building linked to a group called the Hamburg Anti-imperialists, where officers found and confiscated illegal pyrotechnic devices.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said of the unrest, “There is no justification for violent protests. I respect peaceful protesters; they are exercising their fundamental democratic rights. Violent protesters merely demonstrate their contempt of democracy.”

Demonstrators gather to march against the G20 Summit in Hamburg on July 8, 2017.

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The meeting of the world’s most powerful leaders have drawn a wide range of protesters to Germany, from economic equality groups to climate activists and refugee advocates.

As the summit headed toward its conclusion Saturday, police said some 20,000 participants gathered for one of the largest protests, with thousands more taking part in marches and gatherings with titles such as “One World – One Vibe,” “Unlimited Solidarity” and “Hamburg Shows Attitude.”

Pro-Smurf demonstrators are seen at Saturday’s “Grenzenlose Solidaritaet” (“unlimited solidarity”) protest march in Hamburg, Germany.

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From Hamburg, Soraya reports for our Newscast unit from the scene of a demonstration Saturday, “The march included Kurds protesting against Ankara. There were also communists. And still other groups chanted against capitalism.”

Soraya adds, “Police in riot gear flanked the protesters, but most of the officers looked relaxed and did not intervene.”

The G20 Summit ended shortly before noon (ET) on Saturday.

A boy hands flowers to police as they watch a demonstration pass by during G20 Summit meetings on Saturday.

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