How do you say ‘wookie’ in Navajo, eh?

“Spaceship” isn’t a common Navajo word. But actor James June used it a lot while working on a Navajo language version of “Star Wars IV: A New Hope.”

“It is not very often that you hear spaceship every day,” June said. “That was a new word that we had to learn. For me, it was hard. I never realized that modern Navajo has a lot of slang to it. And to speak the proper Navajo language was really challenging for me.”

“Star Wars IV: A New Hope” in Navajo played at Twin Arrows March 29 before a crowd of about 150 people – it is the first major motion picture where Navajo is spoken throughout the movie in an effort to have people learn and be engaged with the Navajo language.

Manny Wheeler is the director of the Navajo Nation Museum. In 2013, he worked with a small group of people to dub the movie into Navajo. He said the voice performances in Navajo took only 90 days to record – where a usual dubbing of a movie in Hollywood would take six to eight months.

“That is a huge feat,” Wheeler said. “From the moment they started translating to the moment we showed it at the Fourth of July fair, it was 90 days. Even by Hollywood standards that is a very, very big accomplishment. There were a lot of people who worked really hard to make it happen…”

“We’re doing it to bring awareness to language preservation,” Wheeler said. “We’re trying to say the language and we’re trying to bring awareness. With this, I really think we’re bringing awareness because the movie by itself isn’t going to save our language but it is going to lead to other things. In a sense we are saving our language. But, more importantly right now, we’re bringing awareness as to why we should know our language.”

A truly worthwhile read. I guess most Americans haven’t confronted language and culture preservation once they’re 2nd or 3rd generation-born in the USA. For Native Americans, for many immigrants, these are critical questions. More so – in my mind – for First Nation folks because every tribal reservation, every independent nation is surrounded by an American, Canadian or Mexican society that consciously or otherwise considers itself superior.

Language is so much a part of the process. Both my Canadian-Scots grandfather and my Italian grandfather forgot their native language entirely out of dedication to “fitting in”. Eduardo Trotta was pushed into the process the day he left Ellis Island by a bureaucrat who decided his name should be Edward Trotter.

RTFA. It prompts and provokes discussions that are especially relevant in a society that in daily practice rarely considers the topic important.


Republican attempt to limit minority representation fails in the Supreme Court

Mapmaking bigots

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that state and local governments can continue their longstanding method of drawing equal-sized election districts, rejecting calls for what might have been a transformational change reducing Hispanic voting clout.

Unanimously upholding Texas voting lines Monday, the justices rejected conservative groups’ arguments that map-drawers should stop using total population and start using eligible voters as the measure for the Constitution’s “one person, one vote” principle. That approach might have reduced representation for areas with large numbers of children and non-citizens and shifted some seats to more heavily Republican areas.

Writing for six justices, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the total-population approach protects the interests of nonvoters, including children who attend public schools and their parents.

“As the framers of the Constitution and the 14th Amendment comprehended, representatives serve all residents, not just those eligible or registered to vote,” she wrote. “Total-population apportionment promotes equitable and effective representation…”

Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito agreed with the outcome only, writing separately to lay out different reasoning.

The ruling touched on a fundamental question about representative democracy, asking whether lawmakers serve on behalf of everyone in their district or only those eligible to cast ballots. The issue has taken on greater importance as the share of non-citizens in the U.S. has grown…

The case stemmed from the Supreme Court’s landmark 1964 Reynolds v. Sims ruling, which established the “one person, one vote” standard and said the Constitution’s equal protection clause requires states to make their voting districts roughly the same size. The ruling voided maps across the country that had disproportionately allocated legislative seats to heavily white rural areas.

I still support the formation of a non-partisan redistricting commission along Canadian lines. Take the political crap motivating both of the two old parties out of the equation. That would follow the tenets of representative republican democracy in legitimate fashion. And, then, we might finally lose the silliness of an electoral college fashioned to the demands of horse-drawn transportation and rural slave-owners.

Milestone a’coming: Stem cell repair system

Stem cell therapies capable of regenerating any human tissue damaged by injury, disease or ageing could be available within a few years, following landmark research led by UNSW Australia researchers.

The repair system, similar to the method used by salamanders to regenerate limbs, could be used to repair everything from spinal discs to bone fractures, and has the potential to transform current treatment approaches to regenerative medicine

Study lead author, haematologist and UNSW Associate Professor John Pimanda, said the new technique, which reprograms bone and fat cells into induced multipotent stem cells (iMS), has been successfully demonstrated in mice…

“We are currently assessing whether adult human fat cells reprogrammed into iMS cells can safely repair damaged tissue in mice, with human trials expected to begin in late 2017.”

There are different types of stem cells including embryonic stem (ES) cells, which during embryonic development generate every type of cell in the human body, and adult stem cells, which are tissue-specific. There are no adult stem cells that regenerate multiple tissue types.

“This technique is ground-breaking because iMS cells regenerate multiple tissue types,” Associate Professor Pimanda said.

“We have taken bone and fat cells, switched off their memory and converted them into stem cells so they can repair different cell types once they are put back inside the body…”…

The study’s first author, Dr Vashe Chandrakanthan, who developed the technology, said the new technique is an advance on other stem cell therapies being investigated, which have a number of deficiencies.

“Embryonic stem cells cannot be used to treat damaged tissues because of their tumour forming capacity. The other problem when generating stem cells is the requirement to use viruses to transform cells into stem cells, which is clinically unacceptable,” Dr Chandrakanthan said.

“We believe we’ve overcome these issues with this new technique.”

RTFA for the basic explanation of what the good doctors have accomplished. Bare bones, so far. Interesting that the lead in human trials is considering back and neck pain, spinal disc injury, joint and muscle degeneration. Those bits and pieces which bring major debilitation to life and lifestyle under failure.

Though, whatever we can put back together again – will help.

American household expenditures, income and expenses

Expenditures are a key but often overlooked element of family balance sheets. In measuring household financial security, significant attention is typically paid to income, but much less to whether those resources are sufficient to cover expenses. To begin addressing this gap…this chartbook uses the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Survey to explore household expenditures, examining changes in overall spending and across individual categories from 1996 to 2014. It also details the differences in expenditures by income, with a particular focus on the degree to which households have slack in their budgets that could be devoted to savings and other wealth-building efforts.

This analysis focuses on the working-age population, which includes survey respondents or their spouses who are between the ages of 20 and 60. For the purpose of examining differences in spending by income…

The analysis shows that both median income and expenditures contracted after the Great Recession, reflecting the economic turmoil of the country. By examining household spending, this research helps to shed light on family financial security over time, and especially in recent years.

Read it and weep.