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05 Jul 15:56

Trump’s reported Supreme Court finalists are likely down to these 4

by Dara Lind

The president will announce his nominee Monday night (unless he tweets it out first). He’ll probably pick one of these four.

President Donald Trump plans to announce his pick for the Supreme Court nominee to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy on Monday, July 9, at 8 pm Eastern time, according to Fox.

Unless he just tweets it out before then — something Axios reports he’s considering.

Arguably, the timing of Trump’s Supreme Court announcement is every bit as big a surprise at this point as who he’s going to pick. In the ongoing reality show that is America’s Next Top Supreme Court Justice, reports have made it clear that Trump has narrowed his initial public list of 25 names down to four: current appellate judges Brett Kavanaugh of the DC Circuit; Amy Coney Barrett of the Seventh Circuit; Raymond Kethledge of the Sixth Circuit; and Thomas Hardiman of the Third Circuit.

Brett Kavanaugh

Frist And McConnell Meet With Judicial Nominee Brett Kavanaugh Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Current position: Federal appellate judge (DC Circuit Court of Appeals)

Why Trump picked him: Brett Kavanaugh has about as long and high-profile a record in Republican legal circles as anyone on this list. A former clerk to Anthony Kennedy, as well as appellate judges Alex Kozinski and Walter Stapleton, he represented Cuban child Elian Gonzalez pro bono during the conservative battle to keep him from returning to Cuba, and was one of the George W. Bush campaign’s lawyers in the Florida recount.

Before that, though, Kavanaugh was a protegé of Kenneth Starr, whom he served both in the solicitor general’s office under George H.W. Bush and as independent counsel during the investigation into the Clinton family’s Whitewater real estate deal. He was a principal author of the Starr Report, which detailed Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky and misrepresentations of that affair in sworn testimony.

“As a prosecutor, Kavanaugh set a bracing literary standard (‘On all nine of those occasions, the President fondled and kissed her bare breasts…’),” the New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin recalled in 2012, “but his work as a judge may be even more startling.” Toobin cites Kavanaugh’s opinion on the DC Circuit when considering a constitutional challenge to the Affordable Care Act:

[A]ccording to Kavanaugh, even if the Supreme Court upholds the law this spring, a President Santorum, say, could refuse to enforce ACA because he “deems” the law unconstitutional. That, to put the matter plainly, is not how it works. Courts, not Presidents, “deem” laws unconstitutional, or uphold them. “It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is,” Chief Justice John Marshall wrote in Marbury v. Madison, in 1803, and that observation, and that case, have served as bedrocks of American constitutional law ever since. Kavanaugh, in his decision, wasn’t interpreting the Constitution; he was pandering to the base.

It’s hardly his only stridently conservative opinion on the DC Circuit. In a profile for Ozy, Daniel Malloy notes, “Kavanaugh this year declared that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is unconstitutional, given the agency’s independence and unitary structure, and he has voted repeatedly to slap back aggressive regulations from Barack Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency.”

But as Trump has considered Kavanaugh to replace Kennedy, some conservatives have started to voice concerns that the judge isn’t reliably conservative enough. Some conservatives, including Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), have pointed to Kavanaugh’s record on health care; others are concerned that Kavanaugh told senators during his DC Circuit confirmation hearing that he’d respect precedent on abortion and declined to share his views on Roe v. Wade. This could very easily be the typical DC song and dance of pretending not to believe what he clearly believes on key questions of jurisprudence, but it appears to be a concern.

The biggest problem for Kavanaugh, though, might be his association with Bush. Multiple reporters have heard from aides that Trump is suspicious of anyone in the GOP who was too closely tied to the Bushes. “You hear the rumbling because if you’ve been part of the establishment for a long time, you’re suspect. Kavanaugh carries that baggage,” one conservative organizer told the Washington Post.

Amy Coney Barrett

Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearing on C-SPAN. C-SPAN

Current position: Federal appellate judge (Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals)

Why Trump picked her: Amy Coney Barrett, only 46, is relatively new to the bench; her first appointment came from Trump in 2017. She only got her commission last November. (Before joining the federal bench, Barrett was a clerk to conservative appellate Judge Laurence Silberman as well as Antonin Scalia, and a longtime professor at Notre Dame.) But Clarence Thomas was barely on the circuit court for a year when he was elevated to the Supreme Court, and there’s no reason Barrett couldn’t follow in his footsteps.

Barrett might be fading in Trump’s esteem. Trump has said he wants a Supreme Court nominee with degrees from Harvard or Yale; Barrett’s law degree comes from Notre Dame Law School. And according to one report, she performed poorly in her one-on-one interview with Trump.

But the best thing Barrett has going for her in Trump’s eyes might be how worried liberals are about her. Most attention has been to her religious practices — she’s a member of a Catholic revivalist group called “People of Praise,” in which members swear an oath of loyalty and give each other input on personal life decisions.

The question is to what extent Barrett’s religion affects her jurisprudence. Liberal groups have identified writing on questions of Catholic faith and constitutional interpretation as concerning, noting a piece she co-authored that rejected Justice William Brennan’s argument that Catholic judges should always hold the Constitution as more important than their religious faith.

In her confirmation hearing for the Seventh Circuit, Barrett asserted that these were her co-author’s views, not her own. But the hearings earned headlines due to a controversial line of questioning from Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin (IL) and Dianne Feinstein (CA), who asked her repeatedly about her Catholic faith. Durbin asked, “Do you consider yourself an orthodox Catholic?” while Feinstein commented, “When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you.”

That sort of questioning — which conservatives characterized as Feinstein trying to impose an unconstitutional “religious test” for office on Barrett — could make for some feisty Supreme Court confirmation hearings. Some (like Margaret Hartmann of New York magazine) have speculated that Trump might relish the idea of partisan conflict during a hearing to fire up the base.

Barrett also argued that the birth control benefit in the Affordable Care Act impinges on religious liberty, argues that cases like Roe v. Wade might not need to stand as precedents if future courts judge them to be wrongly decided, and has explicitly asserted that the “original public meaning” of the Constitution must be upheld, even though that “adherence to originalism arguably requires, for example, the dismantling of the administrative state, the invalidation of paper money, and the reversal of Brown v. Board of Education.”

Barrett was ultimately confirmed with only three Democrats (Joe Manchin, Joe Donnelly, and Tim Kaine) voting in favor. But an elevation to the Supreme Court would force a much larger dispute about what, exactly, she believes the original meaning of the Constitution requires.

Some court-watchers are concerned that Barrett has been too explicit on abortion to be confirmable. But others speculate that overturning Roe v. Wade might be less galvanizing to progressives if a woman casts the decisive fifth vote.

Raymond Kethledge

Judge Raymond Kethledge C-SPAN

Current position: Federal appellate judge (Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals)

Why Trump picked him: Raymond Kethledge appears to be the kind of judge who very much enjoys telling people why they’re wrong.

In 2014, he wrote an opinion upholding the use of credit checks to screen potential employees at Kaplan, a for-profit education firm, defending the company from an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) lawsuit. The opinion noted, pointedly, that use of credit checks was permitted by the EEOC’s own hiring guidelines — an act of gotcha jiujitsu that was praised by the Wall Street Journal.

More recently, in a case involving the IRS’s alleged persecution of conservative political groups, Kethledge forcefully ordered the agency to turn over information — and rejected the tactic it had tried to use in its defense as an “extraordinary remedy” not appropriate for a suit like this.

But if you’re picturing Kethledge as a mini-Scalia, all flashy rhetoric and black-and-white conservative principle, you’re off the mark. He was a Senate Judiciary Committee staffer under Michigan Republican Spencer Abraham in the 1990s, but Abraham, while a founder of the Federalist Society, was also a pro-immigration Arab American who lost (to Debbie Stabenow) after being attacked as a terrorist sympathizer. And during his confirmation hearings before the committee in 2003, he emphasized his pro bono work with criminal defendants and low-income residents trying to keep their homes.

A 2013 Kethledge opinion, which is already being cited outside his home circuit, says “there are good reasons not to call an opponent’s argument ‘ridiculous’” — not the least of which, he elaborates, is that you might be wrong. It’s hard to imagine hearing that sentiment from Scalia — or from the president now offering to appoint Kethledge to the highest court in the land.

Thomas Hardiman

Thomas Hardiman Roy Engelbrecht

Current position: Federal appellate judge (Third Circuit Court of Appeals)

Why Trump picked him: Donald Trump’s been known to say that “the police in our country do not get respect.” That is assuredly not Thomas Hardiman’s fault.

On the Third Circuit, Hardiman has consistently sided with law enforcement against defendants and inmates. He ruled that a policy of strip-searching jail inmates didn’t violate the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable search (an opinion the Supreme Court upheld). He’s also written, in dissent, that the First Amendment does not give citizens the right to tape police — something with which every state in the union currently disagrees.

Hardiman’s pre-judicial career is full of the kinds of things liberals and Democrats don’t like: He donated to Republican candidates before being appointed to the bench (something that is neither illegal nor, to most legal experts, a big deal), and he represented plenty of political clients and political cases while he was in private practice. Most of this is insignificant: Just like it’s a defense lawyer’s job to defend murderers, it’s a civil lawyer’s job to defend companies accused of discrimination.

But it’s ironic that one of Hardiman’s most high-profile cases was a housing discrimination suit against a company accused of conspiring to keep out low-income clients — given that the president who might appoint him to the Supreme Court, early in his own career, settled a housing discrimination suit of his own against the federal government.

Perhaps most relevant to Hardiman’s chances, though, is that he was reportedly Trump’s second choice after Neil Gorsuch to replace Antonin Scalia. Despite his conservative record, grassroots right-wing activists freaked out when his name was floated, arguing he could be a stealth liberal. (The evidence for this was shockingly weak.) Perhaps, then, second time’s the charm?

28 Jun 14:02

A baby was treated with a nap and a bottle of formula. His parents received an $18,000 bill.

by Jenny Gold, Kaiser Health News
Park Seong-jin, 39, wakes up his son Jeong-whan, 2, from a daytime nap in their home, in South Korea.

An ER patient can be charged thousands of dollars in “trauma fees” — even if they weren’t treated for trauma.

Update: After this story was published on June 28, Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital agreed to waive the $15,666 trauma response fee charged for Park Jeong-whan’s visit to the hospital. In a letter, the hospital’s patient experience manager said the hospital did a clinical review and offered “a sincere apology for any distress the family experienced over this bill.” Further, the hospital manager wrote that the case “offered us an opportunity to review our system and consider changes.”

On the first morning of Jang Yeo-im’s vacation to San Francisco in 2016, her eight-month-old son Park Jeong-whan fell off the bed in the family’s hotel room and hit his head.

There was no blood, but the baby was inconsolable. Jang and her husband worried he might have an injury they couldn’t see, so they called 911, and an ambulance took the family — tourists from South Korea — to Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital.

The doctors at the hospital quickly determined that baby Jeong-whan was fine — just a little bruising on his nose and forehead. He took a short nap in his mother’s arms, drank some infant formula, and was discharged a few hours later with a clean bill of health. The family continued their vacation, and the incident was quickly forgotten.

 Jun Michael Park for Vox
A photo of Park Jeong-whan at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital after his admission shows bruise marks on the forehead and nose from his fall.

Two years later, the bill finally arrived at their home: They owed the hospital $18,836 for the 3 hour and 22 minute visit, the bulk of which was for a mysterious fee for $15,666 labeled “trauma activation,” which sometimes is known as “a trauma response fee.”

“It’s a huge amount of money for my family,” said Jang, whose family had travel insurance that would cover only $5,000. “If my baby got special treatment, okay. That would be okay. But he didn’t. So why should I have to pay the bill? They did nothing for my son.”

American hospital bills today are littered with multiplying fees, many of which don’t even exist in other countries: fees for blood draws, fees for checking the blood oxygen level with a skin probe, fees for putting on a cast, minute-by-minute fees for lying in the recovery room.

 Jun Michael Park for Vox
Original medical certificate, final notice, and medical bill for $18,836 from Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital.

But perhaps the kingpins are the “trauma fees,” in part because they often run more than $10,000 and in part because they seem to be applied so arbitrarily.

A trauma fee is the price a trauma center charges when it activates and assembles a team of medical professionals that can meet a patient with potentially serious injuries in the ER. It is billed on top of the hospital’s emergency room physician charge and procedures, equipment, and facility fees.

Emergency room bills collected by Vox and Kaiser Health News show that trauma fees are expensive — typically thousands of dollars — and vary widely from one hospital to another.

In the past six months, Vox has collected more than 1,400 emergency room bills submitted by readers in all 50 states and Washington, DC, as part of an investigation into emergency room billing practices.

The dominant storyline to emerge is what anyone who has visited an emergency room might expect: Treatment is expensive. Fees have risen sharply in the past decade. And when health insurance plans don’t pay, patients are left with burdensome bills.

Charges ranged from $1,112.00 at a hospital in Missouri to $50,659.00 at a hospital in California, according to Medliminal, a company that helps insurers and employers around the country identify medical billing errors.

“It’s like the Wild West. Any trauma center can decide what their activation fee is,” says Renee Hsia, director of health policy studies in the emergency medicine department at the University of California, San Francisco.

Hsia is also an emergency medicine doctor at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, but was not involved in the care of the patients discussed in the story — and spoke about the fees generally.

Comprehensive data from the Health Care Cost Institute shows that the average price that health insurers paid hospitals for trauma response (which is often lower than what the hospital charges) was $3,968 in 2016. But hospitals in the lowest 10 percent of prices received an average of $725 — while hospitals in the most expensive 10 percent were paid $13,525. Data from Amino Health, a health cost transparency company, shows the same trend. On average, Medicare pays just $957.50 for the fee.

According to Medicare guidelines, the fee can only be charged when the patient receives at least 30 minutes of critical care provided by a trauma team — but hospitals do not appear to be following that rule when billing non-Medicare patients.

At the turn of the century, such fees didn’t even exist.

But today many insurers willingly pay them, albeit at negotiated rates, for hospitals in their networks. Six insurers and industry groups each declined to discuss the fees, and a spokesperson for America’s Health Insurance Plans, the industry trade group, said, “We have not seen any concerning trends surrounding trauma center fees.”

 Jun Michael Park for Vox
The Jang family near their apartment complex in Suwon, an hour south of Seoul, South Korea.

Trauma centers argue that these fees are necessary to train and maintain a full roster of trauma doctors, from surgeons to anesthesiologists, keeping them on-call and able to respond to medical emergencies at all times.

Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital spokesperson Brent Andrew defended the hospital’s fee of over $15,000, even though Jeong-whan didn’t require those services.

“We are the trauma center for a very large, very densely populated area. We deal with so many traumas in this city — car accidents, mass shootings, multiple vehicle collisions,” Andrew said. “It’s expensive to prepare for that.”

Patients face steep bills — and questionable charges — when trauma teams “activate”

Experts who’ve studied trauma fees say that there’s little rationale behind how some hospitals calculate the charge and when the fee is billed. But, of course, those decisions have tremendous financial implications.

After Alexa Sulvetta, a 30-year-old nurse, broke her ankle rock climbing at a San Francisco gym this past January, she faced an out-of-pocket cost of $31,250.

An ambulance brought Sulvetta to San Francisco General Hospital, where, she recalled, “my foot was twisted sideways. I had been given morphine in the ambulance.”

Sulvetta was evaluated by an emergency medicine doctor and sent for emergency surgery. She was discharged the next day.

 Heidi de Marco/KHN
Alexa Sulvetta and her husband, Ben Verley, at their home in Oakland, California.

The hospital charged Sulvetta a $15,666 trauma response fee, a hefty chunk of her $113,336 bill. Her insurance decided that the hospital fees for the one-day stay were too high, and — after negotiations — agreed to pay only a charge it deemed reasonable. The hospital then went after Sulvetta for $31,250.

“My husband and I were starting to think about buying a house, but we keep putting that off because we might need to use our life savings to pay this bill,” she said.

Andrew, the hospital spokesperson, said that the hospital is justified in pursuing the bill. “It’s fairly typical for us to pursue patients when there are unpaid balances,” he said. “This is not an uncommon thing.”

“I feel like I created a monster”

Trauma response fees were first approved by the National Uniform Billing Committee in January 2002, following a push by a national trauma consulting firm. The high costs of staffing a trauma team available at all hours, the firm argued, threatened to shut down trauma centers across the country.

Trauma centers require special certification to provide emergency care for patients suffering very serious injuries above and beyond a regular emergency department.

“We were keeping an ongoing list of trauma centers that were closing all over the country,” said Connie Potter, who was executive director of the firm that succeeded in getting the fee approved. She now consults with hospital trauma centers on how to bill appropriately.

Trauma teams are activated by medics in the field, who radio the hospital to announce they are arriving with a trauma patient. The physician or nurse who receives the call then decides whether a full or partial trauma team is needed, which results in different fees. Potter says that person can also activate the trauma team based on the consultation with the EMTs.

But reports from the field are often fragmentary, and there is much discretion in when to alert the trauma team.

An alert means paging a wide range of medical staff to stand at the ready, which may include a trauma surgeon, who may not be in the hospital.

Potter said if the patient arrives and does not require at least 30 minutes of critical care, the trauma center is supposed to downgrade the fee to a regular emergency room visit and bill at a lower rate, but many do not do so.

Hospitals were supposed to come up with the fee for this service by looking at the actual costs of activating the trauma team, then dividing it over the amount that their patients are likely to pay. Hospitals that see a lot of uninsured and Medicaid patients might charge more to patients with private insurance to make up for possible losses.

But soon, Potter said, some hospitals began abusing the fee by charging an exorbitant amount that seemed to be based on the whims of executives rather than actual costs.

“To a degree, I feel like I created a monster,” Potter said. “Some hospitals are turning this into a cash cow on the backs of patients.”

The $15,666 Sulvetta was charged is San Francisco General’s low-level trauma response fee. The high-level response fee in which the trauma surgeon is called into action is $30,206. The hospital would not provide a breakdown of how these fees are calculated.

Unfortunately, outside of Medicare and state hospitals, regulators have little sway over how much is charged. And at public hospitals such fees may be a way to balance government budgets. At San Francisco General Hospital, the $30,206 higher-level trauma response fee, which increased by about $2,000 last year, was approved by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

An ibuprofen, two medical staples — and a $26,998 bill

Some patients question whether their particular cases ought to include a trauma fee at all — and experts think they’re right to do so.

Sam Hausen, 28, was charged a $22,550 trauma response fee for his visit to Queen of the Valley Medical Center in Napa, California, last January.

An ambulance brought him to the Level 3 trauma center after a minor motorcycle accident, when he took a turn too quickly and fell from his bike. Records show that he was alert with normal vital signs during the four-mile ambulance ride, and that the ambulance staff alerted the hospital that the incoming patient had traumatic injuries.

He was at the hospital for only about half an hour for a minor cut on his head, and he didn’t even need X-rays, CAT scans, or a blood test. “The only things I got were ibuprofen, two staples, and a saline injection. Those were the only services rendered. I was conscious and lucid for the whole thing,” said Hausen.

 Heidi de Marco/KHN
Sam Hausen was charged a $22,550 trauma response fee for his visit to Queen of the Valley Medical Center in Napa, Calif., in January after a motorcycle accident.

But because the ambulance medics called for a trauma team, the total for the visit came to $26,998 — and the vast majority of that was the $22,550 trauma response fee.

Queen of the Valley Medical Center defended the charge. “Trauma team activation does not mean every patient will consult with and/or be cared for by a trauma surgeon,” spokesperson Vanessa deGier said in an email. “The activation engages a team of medical professionals. Which professional assesses and cares for a trauma patient depends on the needs and injury/illness of the patient.”

Guidelines for trauma activation are written broadly on purpose to make sure they don’t miss any emergencies that could otherwise kill patients, said Daniel Margulies, a trauma surgeon at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles and chair of the American College of Surgeons committee on trauma center verification and review. Internal injuries, for example, can be difficult to diagnose at the scene of an accident.

“If you had someone who needed a trauma team and didn’t get called, they could die,” he said.

Medics err on the side of caution when calling in trauma patients to avoid missing a true emergency. To that end, the American College of Surgeons says it is acceptable to “overtriage,” summoning the trauma team for the 25-35 percent of patients who don’t end up needing it.

But that logic leaves patients like Jang, Sulvetta, and Hausen with tens of thousands in potential debt for care they didn’t ask for or need, care that is ordered out of an abundance of caution — a call by an ambulance worker, a triage nurse, or a physician — based on scant information received over the phone.

Jeong-whan had fallen three feet from a hotel bed onto a carpeted floor when his nervous parents summoned an ambulance. By the time the EMTs arrived, Jeong-whan was “crawling on the bed, not appearing to be in any distress,” according to the ambulance records. The EMTs called San Francisco General Hospital and, after a consultation with a physician, transported Jeong-whan as a trauma patient, likely because of the baby’s young age.

At the hospital, Jeong-whan was evaluated briefly by a triage nurse and sent to an emergency department resuscitation bay.

Jang recalls being greeted by nine or 10 providers at the hospital, but the baby’s medical records from the visit do not mention a trauma team being present, according to Teresa Brown of Medliminal, who reviewed the case.

 Jun Michael Park for Vox
Jeong-whan was discharged with a clean bill of health after staying at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital for a couple of hours. Jang Yeo-im claims that he didn’t receive any medical treatment at the hospital and she put the Band-Aid on her son’s nose herself.

The baby appeared to have no signs of major injury, and no critical care was required. Five minutes later, the family was transferred to an exam room for observation before being released a few hours later. Brown says she would dispute the $15,666 trauma response fee because the family does not appear to have received 30 minutes of critical care from a trauma team.

Jang currently has a patient advocate working on her behalf to try to negotiate the bill with the hospital. She fears that the pending medical debt could prevent her from getting a visa to visit New York and Chicago, which she hopes to do in the next few years.

She said her experience with the US health care system and its fees has been shocking. “I like the USA. There are many things to see when traveling,” she said. “But the health care system in USA was very bad.”

 Jun Michael Park for Vox
Jang Yeo-im plays with her son in their family’s bedroom.

This story was produced in collaboration with Kaiser Health News.

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06 Mar 19:27

Three Little Pigs [Comic]

by Geeks are Sexy
11 Nov 04:40

White protestors have been waving South Africa’s old apartheid flag again

by Lynsey Chutel
Apartheid-era South African flag flown at protest march

Apartheid was a crime against humanity and yet its symbols are still prevalent in South Africa, even as so many wounds from that era are still raw. The old South African flag, one of the regime’s proudest symbols, was seen flapping in the wind this week, sparking a debate on the flag’s painful history and its place in South Africa today.

On Oct. 30, dozens of mainly white South Africans dressed in black and protested what they call the targeted murder of white South African farmers. The killings are described as “an onslaught” and “a form of terror,” with 72 farm murders this year, according to Afrikaner cultural group AfriForum. The group says they collect the figures independently, but their data has been called into question.

The rhetoric around farm murders is characterized by a tone of victimization and isolation, often communicating that white South Africans have been abandoned and isolated by the black majority government of the African National Congress. A closer look at statistics reveal all South Africans feel vulnerable as violent crime is on the increase.

Yet, groups like AfriForum argue farm attacks are characterized by torture and specific brutality. It’s what has fueled the myth that a “white genocide” is waiting to happen in South Africa. The myth has gained traction among white supremacists around the world, especially among conservatives in the US. It’s also a myth that wraps itself in the apartheid-era flag for comfort.

The #BlackMonday protest’s aim to raise awareness over the lack of police response to farm murders was marred by accusations that the old flag was flown. It was further muddied by fake news about flying the old flag and burning the new flag. Images were circulated on social media of photos from another protest in which the old three-color flag made an appearance. AfriForum denies that the flag was flown at all, but dozens of social media users say otherwise, while many white South Africans also condemned its reappearance.

The old flag was first flown in 1928, a combination of the Dutch orange, blue and white with the Union Jack, and the Afrikaner republics of the Orange Free State and the Transvaal. At the time, it symbolized a break from the British Empire, under which Afrikaners themselves were oppressed. The country’s flag was changed in 1994 to the bright, multi-coloured flag South Africa flies now, but the old flag has surfaced time and again, most notably on the jacket of American white supremacist mass-murderer Dylann Roof.

Like the Confederate Flag, those who still fly the flag have argued it is a symbol of cultural heritage, irrespective of its racist history. That, however, dismisses the symbolism of the flag that reinforced the notion that the white minority had a divine right to South Africa and its resources above all others, the very spirit of apartheid.

South Africa’s constitution enshrines the right to freedom of expression, even if it means flying the old flag. However, just because something is a right, argues constitutional expert Pierre de Vos, doesn’t mean it’s right. Hiding behind the argument of free speech is the same logic employed by tiki-torch bearing white supremacists in the US who, under the more innocuous term “alt-right”, put on a display that seemed to celebrate America’s dark, racist history, when black people were property and rights were only for whites.

For many black South Africans, the old apartheid flag honors a time when every facet of their lives were subjugated according to the color of their skin. It reminds them of a time when they were vulnerable to state-led violence, and their killings were not documented. Hoisting the flag in a post-apartheid South Africa reads as a protest against progress in the country, irrespective of the intentions of the demonstrators.

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09 Nov 04:34

Fotografiando bajo la lluvia: Trucos y consejos para no dejar la cámara en casa

by Óscar Condés

Fotografiando bajo la lluvia: Trucos y consejos para no dejar la cámara en casa

Estas semanas de otoño, en la que el tiempo es muy variable y puede llover con mayor frecuencia, tenemos la posibilidad de acabar teniendo que hacer fotos bajo la lluvia o en un ambiente húmedo y deberíamos estar preparados para ello.

Por ello, aquí recogemos una serie de recomendaciones para fotografiar bajo la lluvia y/o en condiciones de alta humedad. Cosas que van desde las precauciones que deberías tener para proteger tanto tu equipo como a ti mismo, hasta consejos para sacar partido de una condiciones que, en principio, no parecen las más adecuadas para hacer fotos.

Sal preparado para todo

El lema de los boyscouts es perfectamente válido para los fotógrafos. Ir preparados por lo que pueda pasar, porque el tiempo puede cambiar rápidamente, es una excelente estrategia para esta época otoñal en la que, como decimos, la climatología es muy cambiante. Cuanto menos deberías llevar un chubasquero y alguna bolsa de plástico de esas con cierre tipo zip. Sobre el primero, ahora que tanto se ha popularizado el running es fácil encontrar en tiendas de deportes los denominados “cortavientos” para correr. Estos suelen llevar una capucha y pueden usarse perfectamente como chubasquero con la ventaja de que son extraordinariamente ligeros así que apenas abultarían en tu mochila.

Fotografiando Bajo La Lluvia 6 Foto de Oskar Krawczyk

En cuanto a la bolsa, ésta sí que apenas ocupa nada y en un momento dado puede servir para poder hacer fotos bajo la lluvia con la cámara dentro de ella. Aunque desde luego para esto seria mucho más adecuado usar una bolsa específica, pero si no la vas a utilizar apenas quizá no merezca la pena la inversión. Por cierto que en ese caso también puedes fabricarte una casera tal y como te contamos aquí o recurrir a remedios más “pintorescos”. Por otro lado, piensa que una simple bolsa con zip podría servirte para salvaguardar el equipo de la humedad en caso de que el agua penetre en tu bolsa fotográfica.

Protege bien el equipo

Lo anterior deberías tomarlo con una medida habitual para épocas de clima variable, pero si directamente tienes previsto hacer fotos en condiciones difíciles, ya sea lluvia, nieve, niebla o similar, deberías hacer una pequeña inversión en material específico para proteger tu equipo. Empezando por una bolsa o mochila impermeable, y ojo porque no todas lo son y una cosa es aguantar un poco de lluvia y otra ser totalmente impermeable. Por eso, si vas a salir, se prevé lluvia y tu bolsa no está totalmente preparada no está de más llevar una bolsa de plástico grande con la que cubrirla.

Si la vas a usar con cierta frecuencia, tampoco desdeñes comprar otra bolsa específica diseñada para introducir tu cámara y hacer fotos bajo la lluvia. Claro que también es posible que tengas una cámara sellada contra los elementos, en cuyo caso no tendrás problema en que se moje. Eso sí, ten en cuenta un par de cosas. La primera es que puede que la cámara sea resistente pero ¿lo son también los objetivos? Por supuesto que los hay, y últimamente cada vez son más frecuentes, pero es posible que el tuyo no lo sea y entonces que la cámara esté sellada te servirá de poco.

Olympus Om D E M1 Mark Ii La Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II en una toma de contacto realizada por Jesús León.

La otra cosa que tienes que tener en cuenta es que no es lo mismo resistente al agua que sumergible. Como sabrás, hay unos estándares que miden estas cosas pero lo que interesa saber es lo que te decimos: Que las cámaras que prometen estar selladas normalmente no tienen problemas si se mojan pero desde luego no están preparadas para sumergirlas en el agua. Seguramente por eso Sony siempre añade en la descripción de sus productos de fotografía un asterisco para indicar, en la letra pequeña, que no garantizan la resistencia al 100%.

Otros consejos para proteger tu equipo

Otros consejos interesantes para proteger el equipo podrían ser llevar bolsas de sílice junto al equipo (ya sabes, esas bolsitas que suelen venir con las cámaras y objetivos nuevos o en las cajas de zapatos nuevos) para que absorban la humedad, utilizar el parasol para proteger la lente, nunca cambiar de objetivos en ambiente húmedo y tener siempre a mano una bayeta de microfibra para ir limpiando la lente con cuidado si se moja con la lluvia.

Tampoco desdeñes al uso de un paraguas, aunque en este caso necesitarías contar con un ayudante que lo sostenga, y si llueve en exceso o tu cámara se está mojando demasiado trata de disparar desde lugares a cubierto o, incluso desde detrás de una ventana. Finalmente, cuando ya hayas acabado no pienses que todo ha terminado porque es el momento de un último paso, limpiar bien el equipo después de una sesión húmeda, una medida muy recomendable para mantenerlo como el primer día.

Saca a flote tu creatividad

Un vez que nos hemos asegurado de estar protegidos contra la lluvia, pasamos ya a la parte más creativa del asunto. Y lo primero que hay que reseñar es que, aunque puedas pensar que lloviendo no hay mucho que fotografiar, estás muy equivocado. La lluvia puede ser una excelente oportunidad de lograr imágenes diferentes y originales, sólo es cuestión de observar, abrir nuestra mente y tratar de buscar otro tipo de motivos y escenas.

Fotografiando Bajo La Lluvia 17 Foto de David Marcu

Mira al suelo… y al cielo

Lo primero que suele llamar la atención es que el agua que se acumula en el suelo puede provocar interesantes reflejos a los que sacar mucho partido. Por ello, no te olvides de fijar tu mirada en el suelo porque este elemento puede convertirse incluso en protagonista de la imagen o, al menos, ser un añadido muy interesante.

Fotografiando Bajo La Lluvia 14 Foto de Hernán Piñera

Claro que no sólo debes mirar al suelo y sus reflejos, sino que tampoco deberías perder detalle del cielo que puede resultar espectacularmente dramático por efecto de las nubes que están volcando (o han volcado) el agua de lluvia.

Aprovecha elementos específicos

Además de los reflejos, el cielo y la lluvia en sí, hay un montón de elementos relacionados con el agua de lluvia de los que se puede sacar mucho partido: Los paraguas, las botas de agua, los riachuelos que se forman en las calles, las gotas acumuladas en ciertos elementos (como las hojas de los árboles)… Hay miles de cosas de las que sacar partido gracias a la lluvia y hay que aprovecharlas.

Nick Scheerbart Foto de Nick Scheerbart

Piensa también que la lluvia puede provocar ciertos comportamientos en los humanos que no son frecuentes (esa niña que salta sobre los charcos, esa señora que se tapa con una bolsa de plástico…) y que pueden ser un buen motivo para lograr fotos originales. Igualmente, la lluvia suele asociarse normalmente con la melancolía de tal manera que los colores suelen aparecer más apagados. Por eso es un buen momento para añadir más dramatismo gracias al uso del blanco y negro o, por el contrario, de tratar de hacer resaltar algún color discordante que resalte en el entorno.

No guardes la cámara antes de tiempo

Ten en cuenta que después de la lluvia no se acaban las posibilidades fotográficas, sino que, muy al contrario, la magia continúa. Como ya sabrás, cuando deja de llover se dan las circunstancias para que se produzca un bonito arcoíris o es posible que las nubes dejen pasar unos rayos de sol que produzcan una bonita iluminación.

También puede ser el momento, ya sin tanto riesgo para el equipo, de hacer tomas de gotas de lluvia en las hojas de los árboles (no te olvides de las posibilidades de la macrofotografía) o de aprovechar los charcos que se han creado para lograr tomas originales de las calles de la ciudad.

En definitiva, los días lluviosos no tienen porqué ser aburridos y lejos de pensar en quedarnos en casa deberíamos plantearnos salir a la calle a aprovechar todas sus posibilidades fotográficas siguiendo estos consejos que os hemos dado. Sólo hace falta prepararse un poco, para cuidar el equipo del riesgo que supone el agua (no olvidemos que hablamos de un equipo electrónico), y lanzarse a hacer estupendas fotos que seguramente sólo podremos conseguir en estas condiciones.

Fotografiando Bajo La Lluvia 11 Foto de Tuncay

Foto de portada | Elijah O'Donnell

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La noticia Fotografiando bajo la lluvia: Trucos y consejos para no dejar la cámara en casa fue publicada originalmente en Xataka Foto por Óscar Condés .