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By  Bryan Newbury
April 28, 2008

A person’s views on the death penalty don’t just change. They evolve. When someone takes the time to investigate the process and the punishment, the only intelligent conclusion he can arrive at is that capital punishment is a barbaric miscarriage of justice. This seems to be the case At the Death House Door puts forward, and it would be difficult to argue to the contrary.

Most who maintain a fervently anti-death penalty stance have a Road to Damascus moment in which the act of a state killing in order to discourage killing unravels before them. For some, it was the case of Roger Keith Coleman of Grundy, Virginia. In 1992, Coleman became a cause célébre. All the pieces seemed to fall into place. Here was a coal miner who seemed to have had to complete a decathlonesque performance en route to the rape and murder of his sister-in-law. Key evidence seemed to point to at least a shadow of a doubt. Governor Wilder was up for reelection, and seemed to be hearing none of the case.

The same year saw the execution of Ricky Ray Rector. Though the evidence of his guilt wasn’t in question, the issue of trying, convicting and executing a man who was essentially retarded shone a light on the craven political advantage in vengeance and blood lust. Governor Bill Clinton took the time to return to Arkansas, mid-campaign, in order to make sure the execution transpired.  Read the rest of this entry »


By Umut Newbury
April 22, 2008

On the 38th anniversary of Earth Day, an entire generation of Americans born after the introduction of this much-mocked and undervalued holiday/celebration/day of pondering can now be affectionately referred to as the “Children of the Corn.”

Anyone who pays the slightest attention to the ingredient lists of most of the food items sold at the conventional grocery stores across this country would know this, except the American consumer seems to do very little research while buying things that go directly into her body. This is why we need more investigative reporting and more documentary films on the subject of food. This is why King Corn, directed by Aaron Woolf, Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, is important viewing for the average American consumer.

In King Corn, Woolf, Cheney (we hope of no relation the Cheneys of Wyoming) and Ellis spell out in very basic terms, what has gone so wrong with American agriculture and its direct product, American food. They present their hardest evidence first: Ellis and Cheney have their strands of hair analyzed at the University of Virginia. The result: the carbon in their bodies originated from corn. The two Ivy League grads seem shocked and appalled. They run to the grocery store and start reading labels of their favorite food products such as Twinkies and apple juice. They find out the obvious — most packaged foods in America contain some derivative of corn, whether it comes in the form of corn oil, the infamous and ubiquitous high fructose corn syrup or the mysterious xanthan gum. 

Instead of doing the East Coast elitist exposé composed of interviews with nutritional and agricultural talking heads (which does happen in small bits in the latter half of the 90 minutes), the directors take a softer, more personal approach to the controversial subject.

Ellis and Cheney, best friends from Yale, decide to move to Iowa for a year and grow corn to find out what happens with it. It’s not quite as extreme as the personal sacrifice of Morgan Spurlock with Supersize Me! or as abrasive (yet entertaining) as Michael Moore with his ambush interviews, but it’s an effort at least appreciated by the rural farm folk of Iowa (at first.) Read the rest of this entry »