BET Exports Its Hot Mess to England!

Black Entertainment Television (BET) launched a British version of its channel on Sky TV this week.

From Digital Sky:

Its US content will be given "a regionalised look and feel", said BET Networks. The broadcaster is looking to commission home-grown content in the future "to give BET an even stronger British accent".

Initially BET will rely on shipped-in programming such as student reality show College Hill, crime documentary American Gangster and music show 106 & Park.

A British journalist friend of mine named Lindsay was here in the States during Martin Luther King Jr day weekend, and was distraught by the fact that on the holiday of the slain civil rights leader, BET was showing a maraton of the disppointing, but highly rated reality show about R&B singer Keyshia Cole and her family.

Lets just hope that UK blacks are not portrayed in the same degrading way their American counterparts are in the States.

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YouTube Under Siege!!!

YouTube, the popular video-sharing website, is being taken to task by some governments who don't want freedom of expression in their countries. Coincidentally, the Pakistani government tried to block the website Sunday, causing it to be inaccessible for 2 hours worldwide.

From CNN
The outage followed a letter sent Friday evening by the Pakistani Telecommunications Authority (PTA) to Internet service providers, ordering them to prevent people in Pakistan from visiting YouTube.

The authority cited a "highly blasphemous" video featuring right-wing Dutch politician Geert Wilders.

The block was intended to cover only Pakistan but extended to about two-thirds of the global Internet population, The Associated Press cited Renesys Corp, an Internet monitoring company, as saying...

...The 3-year-old YouTube has exploded in popularity by letting ordinary people post their own videos online and watch videos that others have posted. The Web site's growth also has spawned efforts around the world to regulate it.

Authorities in Brazil, China, Iran, Morocco, Myanmar, Syria and Thailand have blocked access to YouTube in the last few years, according to Reporters Without Borders, a press advocacy organization.

The countries acted after concluding that YouTube videos were subversive (China), immoral (Iran), embarrassing to well-known figures (Brazil) or critical of a country's king (Thailand), the group said.

Governments also have sought to regulate user-supplied Internet content to stymie allegations that they abuse human rights, the group said.

A few months ago, YouTube, responding to complaints, took down videos posted by an award-winning Egyptian human rights advocate that showed what he described as police abuse. About five months later, after media reports, YouTube restored his account and let him continue posting videos.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, YouTube reinstated a video showing abuse of prisoners in a Russian prison camp.

From The Wall Street Journal:

Lawyer Robert Amsterdam posted the video to YouTube in December with the explanation that the 2006 footage comes from a prison camp in Yekaterinaburg and was discovered by Lev Ponomarev, co-founder of the Moscow-based Foundation for Defense of Rights of Prisoners.

The six-minute clip includes scenes of a troop of men in camouflage uniforms and helmets marching into a building and then beating unarmed individuals with clubs. A Feb. 12 Wall Street Journal editorial-page article discussing Mr. Ponomarev and cruelty to prisoners in Russia, which appeared before the clip's removal, directed readers to the YouTube video.

YouTube removed the video last week after a user flagged it on the site as not being appropriate for all viewers. "In this case, our general policy against graphic violence led to the initial removal of a video documenting alleged human rights abuses because the context was not apparent," said a YouTube spokesman. "Having reviewed the case, we have restored the video."

It is getting a little scary out here in cyberspace...



African lesbians speak out

From the BBC:

Lesbians from across Africa have called on African governments to stop treating homosexuals like criminals.

The demand came as about 75 activists gathered at a conference in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique.

The Coalition of African Lesbians called the conference to highlight discrimination across the continent.

Conference spokeswoman Fikile Vilakazi told the BBC that action was needed to respond to homophobia which, she said, was rife in Africa.

She said her main goal was to stop governments treating homosexuality as a criminal offence.

According to the International Gay and Lesbian Association, homosexuality is outlawed in 38 African countries.

One participant said the conference was helping to provide support for lesbians across Africa.

"We might be seemingly a bit lost right now on the African continent, but there's positive talk," said the delegate. "As Christians we realise that the Bible doesn't discriminate, it embraces us in our diversity."

Another participant, Nahlahla Mukize, said being a lesbian in Africa was a negative experience.

"I'm finding myself as an individual who is every day trying to get the people that I identify with... everyday having to educate them about who I am, but finding it difficult for them to open their minds and their hearts," she told the BBC.

"I haven't found myself being attacked or kicked out of home but it's just the discourse, how people talk about lesbian issues or how our government... how they tend to sideline people like myself."

Mugabe attack

Many traditional African societies view same-sex relationships as abhorrent and activists accuse some African governments of state-sponsored discrimination and persecution.

In Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe, has attacked homosexuality as a Western import - describing gays as "worse than dogs and pigs".

In Senegal, the recent publication of photos from a gay wedding provoked violent demonstrations.

In contrast, South Africa holds the most liberal attitude towards homosexuality on the continent.

The South African constitution bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and the government legalised same-sex marriages in 2006.

But even here, activists say, openly gay and lesbian people have been threatened, detained and arrested.

Some Stats on queerness in Africa:

Homosexuality is outlawed in 38 African nations, and legal (or unmentioned in the statute book) in at least 13
In Mauritania , Sudan and northern Nigerian states , homosexuality may be punished by death
In Uganda , offenders may receive life imprisonment, and in countries including Gambia , Kenya , and Tanzania , homosexuality is punishable by up to 14 years in jail
South Africa is the only country in the world which guarantees gay and lesbian rights in the constitution - but discrimination remains in practice
In Zimbabwe , even same-sex displays of affection may be a criminal offence



Obits: Shomron and Bravo

Two names from the past died in the last couple of days...

From CNN
Former Israeli military chief Dan Shomron, the paratrooper who commanded the famed 1976 hostage rescue at Entebbe airport in Uganda, died Tuesday from the effects of a stroke. He was 70. Promoted to brigadier general in 1974, he was put in command of Israel's paratroopers and infantry. It was in that post that he oversaw the daring Entebbe mission in 1976. His commandos landed at the Ugandan airport under cover of darkness and freed more than 100 airline passengers who had been held hostage by Palestinian and German hijackers for a week.

From the Jamaica Gleaner

MARION Bravo, regarded as one the pioneering women of Jamaica's trade union movement has died at the age of 96.

"She was a jovial, hard-working and loyal person," said former BITU senior vice-president and current minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, Senator Dwight Nelson.

"She was the epitome of the ideal support staff for trade unionists; she was well respected and she contributed immensely to the trade union movement," Nelson added.
BITU general secretary, George Fyffe, recalled Bravo as "a warm and kind" staff member "who was devoted to the trade union movement".

Bravo along with Gladys Longbridge (Lady Bustamante) and Edith Nelson were once regarded as the most powerful women in the BITU, all serving the union for more than 50 years, mainly in charge of financial and secretarial affairs.

Longbridge later married the union's founder, the late national hero Sir Alexander Bustamante, while Nelson rose to become the general secretary prior to her retirement.

Bravo will be buried on Saturday, March 1, following a thanksgiving service at the Holy Cross Church, Half-Way-Tree Road.

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Wire 58: Omar's Dead!!!!

In a strange turn of events on last night's episode. Omar was shot dead by baby hopper. Now I think his death was even more significant than Stringer Bell's (Sorry Idris) Omar was my favorite character on the show.

Back in the newsroom, all hell is starting to break out. Gus is becoming even more suspicious of the homeless stories Templeton the Fabricator is putting out there. I am so glad when Gus took a stand against running TtF's lede, citing the sourcing policy.

But I was puzzled when Gus decided against writing a story about Omar in the paper, even though he was a big player in the drug game.

The only media highlight was that the cub reporter Mike Fletcher is going to write a story about Bubbles. So props to him and Gutierrez.

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Winners and Losers: Ruby Dee and Ralph Nader

Although Rudy Dee didn't win the Oscar last night for her role in "American Gangster," she is still a winner in our hearts for being a staunch social activist. For nearly sixty years Lady Dee and her beloved husband, the late Ossie Davis, used their celebrity to speak out on racial injustices, especially during the Civil Rights Movement. Ruby, keep it real and make it rain on them with your red dress!

Consumer advocate Ralph Nader is back again, running for president. While I support and respect his efforts to stop corporate welfare and special interests in Capital Hill, what is the point of him getting in the race so late in the game. It almost seems like he wants John McCain to win.

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Hillary done lost her mind!

In a desperate move to look like she is still relevant in the race, an indigent presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton went on a 'rage' yesterday, claiming that her opponent Sen. Barack Obama was spreading lies about her position on NAFTA in a flier the Obama campaign is mailing out to Ohio voters.

From CNN

The NAFTA mailer says Clinton was a "champion" for NAFTA while first lady, but now opposes it. NAFTA was negotiated by the first President Bush and signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

"I am fighting to change NAFTA," Hillary Clinton said Saturday.

"Enough with the speeches and the big rallies and then using tactics right out of Karl Rove's playbook. This is wrong, and every Democrat should be outraged," she said.

Obama denied Clinton's assertions that the literature was false.

"There's nothing in that mailing that is inaccurate," he said, adding that he was puzzled by the sudden scrutiny since the mailers had been around for days, if not weeks.

"We have been subject to constant attack from the Clinton campaign, except for when we were down 20 points. And that was true in Iowa. It was true in South Carolina. It was true in Wisconsin, and it is true now," Obama said.

He described Clinton's anger as "tactical" and defended his campaign.

"The notion that somehow we're engaging in nefarious tactics I think is pretty hard to swallow."

The writing is on the wall - and the flier - Mrs Clinton. Your husband created NAFTA, the largest trade bloc in the world, and you did support him. The agreement is responsible for the loss of millions of American jobs and the destruction of livlihoods in Mexico. Now that it seems fitting to act like you're a supporter of workers' rights, you have conveniently changed your mind.

Somebody please put this woman in a stray jacket before she hurts anyone. Obama (and now Nader), you better watch your back!

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APTA is up for renewal

The Andean Preference Trade Act (APTA)is up for renewal on February 29, and the battle rages again over the good and bad of free trade agreements. APTA was created in 1991 to eliminated tariffs on products coming into the US from Bolivia, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador. The US is the Andean countries' most important trading partnerand is the destination for over one-fifth of their total exports. Over half of Andean country exports to the US now enter under ATPA.

APTA Pros (according to the US)

1. Improve access to goods and services
2. Strengthen its investments
3. Promote security and democracy
4. Fight against drug trafficking

APTA Cons (according to trade justice orgs)

1. Decreased labor rights, including children's labor rights
2. US subsidies harm subsistence farmers
3. Increased deforestation and animal rights violations
4. Dubai Port World is only using Latin American ports to get into the US port system

So, it is up to you to decide. If you are in the US please write or call your Senator or Representative about your concerns about APTA. If you need more information, go to Oxfam America's page on trade justice.

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Bush and Africom

President Bush concluded his Africa tour today in Liberia, claiming that rumors of building U.S. military bases are “baloney.” This is inspite of an announcement just one year ago to the contrary, when he told the Defense Department he wanted to create an African command, or Africom.

From the BBC

The lukewarm response in Africa to Mr Bush's idea of a US military command headquarters in Africa, called Africom, was evident on this visit. It has been seen as a fig leaf for US troops in Africa, which could be poised to defend strategic interests like oil in, for example, Nigeria. In Ghana, the US president tackled the issue even before he was asked about it, saying there were rumours that he was coming here to build military bases - this he described as "baloney". White House officials say Africom is about training African peacekeepers, and co-ordinating US efforts to help the continent. But many African nations, from South Africa to Ghana, see it as a threat to their sovereignty.

So why does the US want to militarize Africa?

From Black Agenda Report

At the end of World War II the United States had emerged as a leading political, economic and military force in world politics. It was in this period when the US established unified military command structures such as the European Command, the Pacific Command, the Southern Command, the Northern Command, and Central Command. Each command covers an area of responsibility (AOR). When this command structure was being refined, Africa was an after thought in so far as the United States had relegated the exploitation of Africa to the former European colonial exploiters. Hence, Africa fell under the European Command with its headquarters in Germany. Africa had not been included in the geographic combatant commands in so far as it was expected that France, Britain, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Portugal and other colonial powers would retain military forces to guarantee western "interests" in Africa. The collapse of the Portuguese colonial forces in Mozambique, Angola, Guinea and Sao Tome and the collapse of the white racist military forces in Rhodesia gradually led to a rethinking by the US military. During this period the US had labeled all African freedom fighters as terrorists. When the US was allied with Osama Bin Laden and Jonas Savimbi, Nelson Mandela had been branded a terrorist…The USA wanted to control the oil resources from Africa. Presently Africa supplies more petroleum to the USA than the Middle East and US corporations wanted the US military to guarantee the dominance of US oil conglomerates…

There you have it! Viva American Imperialism!


Castro and his relationship with the African Diaspora

Now that Fidel Castro officially threw in the towel today as Cuba president, everyone, including those at the White House, are on 24-hour death watch. In the meantime, I thought it would be interesting to point out some highlights from the revolutionary's life. While there are questions about how Castro handles human rights in his own country, he has always been a staunch support of civil rights for African Americans and anticolonial efforts for the diaspora worldwide. I found this article online that talks a little about this.


Wire 57: Something is wrong in the state of Denmark

It seems like people are starting to figure out Templeton the Fabricator, except the top editors, which makes you want to think if they are deliberately letting him commit fraud in their news sheets. With the slumping readership for newspapers, interested parties will do anything to get people to read them, even if they are full of lies.

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British Royals racist? Of Course!

Billionaire Mohammed Al Fayed committed a “verbal drive-by shooting” today during an inquest into Princess Diana’s death today in London. Al-Fayed, whose son, Dodi, also died in the tragic Paris accident, accused the British establishment for conspiring to get rid of Diana because of Buckingham Palace couldn’t handle seeing her have a romantic relationship with an Arab.

While Al Fayed’s accusations of conspiring Diana’s death is a bit outlandish, the belief that the royals are racist is not that off the mark. Notably Prince Philip has had more than his share of making racially insensitive remarks. Here are a few:

From Associated Content

In Scotland

One of his most notorious remarks was made during a small town visit in Scotland. In a brief conversation with a driving instructor, he asked, "How do you keep the natives off the booze long enough to get them through the (road) test?"

When touring a Scottish factory, he came upon an old-fashioned fuse box and commented, "It looks like it was put in by an Indian."

Also in Scotland, after the tragic 1993 crash of a Pan Am jumbo jet that also killed eleven townspeople in Lockerbie, the Prince said to a person who lived near the crash, "People usually say that after a fire it is water damage that is the worst. We are still trying to dry out Windsor Castle."

In China

The Prince's most publicized example of foot-in-mouth disease came during a visit to China. Upon meeting a group of British students, he said, "If you stay here much longer, you'll all be slitty-eyed."

Even though this last remark was made in 1986, the reputation of any high profile American politician or public figure would never survive anything even remotely similar. Witness the storm of controversy around Senator George Allen's "macaca" slur, which became a true career bomb.

Another one of the Prince's most famous Asian slurs: "If it has four legs and is not a chair, has wings and is not an airplane, or swims and is not a submarine, the Cantonese will eat it."

In Australia

In a 2002 visit to Australia, Prince Philip asked an Aborigine, "Still throwing spears?"

In the Islands

He once told a group of deaf children standing near a Jamaican steel drum musician, "Deaf? If you are near there, no wonder you are deaf."

To the Prince's credit, he later apologized to his deaf subjects for this remark.

On a visit to the Cayman Islands, he asked an islander, "Aren't most of you descended from pirates?"

Despite repeated examples of this behavior throughout the years, the Brits take the Prince's careless and witless remarks, with a shrug of the shoulder and a touch of whimsy.

And why are the British royals still relevant? Don't worry the Empire will strick back one day.



By Inviting Bush to Africa, We are Dishonoring Ourselves...

In case you didn't know - or didn't care - President Bush will be traveling to Africa tomorrow for a week-long "Lets Feel Good About America" tour. But apparently many Africans are none too happy about this trip. Between the newly launched Africom, the continuation of the ABC policy and the lack of US intervention in Darfur, there a few things many Africans would like to get off their minds with Bush. Here are some links to what many people are saying about the trip.

By Inviting Bush We Are Dishonouring Ourselves
By Hamza Mustafa Njozi

George Bush Visits Africa to promote the US Africa Command
By Horace Cambell


Baldwin: A literary standard

by Talia Whyte
Originally published in the Bay State Banner

“I know that what I am asking is impossible. But in our time, as in every time, the impossible is the least that one can demand — and one is, after all, emboldened by the spectacle of human history in general, and American Negro history in particular, for it testifies to nothing less than the perpetual achievement of the impossible.”

— James Baldwin, “The Fire Next Time”

James Baldwin had fire, all right.

He was a dynamic public intellectual, a friend to some of the most important figures in history, and a brave writer who became an oracle for African Americans during the height of the civil rights movement. Baldwin motivated people around the world to think about what social change could really look like.

In the 20 years since his death, however, any memory of his illustrious career has usually been relegated to the back annuls of black history. Conventional wisdom suggests that bigotry toward Baldwin’s homosexuality has kept him off par with other black luminaries.

Nonetheless, Baldwin is known for his outspoken, militant and often unpredictable viewpoints, behaviors that created countless enemies and may explain the lingering resentment.

Baldwin, in more ways than one, was a walking contradiction. While he was an out and proud gay atheist, he was also close allies with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, and had the occasional dinner with Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad.

He also took criticism from every direction. Black nationalists chastised him for propagating black misery during segregation to appeal to white liberals, while at the same time establishment civil rights leaders thought Baldwin’s radicalism would alienate those same white liberals.

Case in point: In May 1963, Baldwin was invited by then-U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to bring a group of prominent African Americans to Kennedy’s apartment to discuss the state of race relations. This group included actors Harry Belafonte and Lena Horne and playwright Lorraine Hansberry. Malcolm X was critical of this group because he felt they didn’t represent the spectrum of African American life, as they all had white spouses.

The meeting, it turns out, exploded into a shouting match between Baldwin and Kennedy. Baldwin claimed Kennedy was naïve about the impending race war in America, and chastised him for not taking a harder stance on civil rights legislation. Offended by Baldwin’s accusations, Kennedy had FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover put Baldwin under surveillance.

A few months later at the March on Washington, Baldwin’s speech was censored because it was believed that his words were too militant. Malcolm X, who famously called the historical event “the farce on Washington,” said Baldwin was barred from speaking because he was “liable to say anything.”

“He was just too unpredictable,” said Herb Boyd, historian and author of the new book, “Baldwin’s Harlem: A Biography of James Baldwin,” during a recent telephone interview from New York. “The March organizers wanted to see his speech beforehand. He had so many fires and so many causes. The sword was always drawn with him.”

Boyd argues in his book that Baldwin’s ideologies and literary style were shaped while growing up in Harlem, the historical home of some of the most important social and political events and people of the black experience.

Baldwin was born on Aug. 2, 1924, a day after Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association hosted a massive march past Harlem Hospital where he was born to open the fourth annual International Convention of Negro Peoples of the World. Growing up in abject poverty, Baldwin found his voice through writing at an early age. The poet Countee Cullen was one of his mentors in high school. His breakthough 1953 autobiographical novel, “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” was a coming-of-age saga of a black teen in the African American church.

After a brief stint working menial jobs in New Jersey as a young man, Baldwin hitched his wagon and took off for Paris, where he came into contact with the likes of writers Richard Wright and Ernest Hemingway. His Paris experience provided partial inspiration for future novels like 1956’s “Giovanni’s Room” and 1962’s “Another Country,” which dealt candidly with racial and sexual identities at a time when such topics were still taboo.

Motivated by the growing racial tension back in the United States, Baldwin came home in the early 1960s and threw himself into the fire of the burgeoning civil rights movement. He gave speeches and wrote prolifically for major publications of record about the growing tides of change in America. His groundbreaking 1963 book, “The Fire Next Time,” and “Blues for Mr. Charlie,” a play loosely based on the 1955 murder of Emmitt Till, are considered two of the era’s most influential works about race relations.

Over the years, Baldwin’s politics grew more militant. He became more supportive of black nationalists like Angela Davis and Stokley Carmichael. Following the assassination of Congo Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba in January 1961, black radicals stormed U.N. headquarters demanding answers to his murder. In a New York Times article written after the incident, Baldwin said the “riot” at the United Nations was “but a small echo of the black discontent now abroad” and “if we are not able, and quickly, to face and begin to eliminate the sources of discontent in our own country, we will never be able to do it in the world at large.”

For all his advocacy against racial injustice, Baldwin found himself dodging accusations of anti-Semitism throughout his career. One of his first major essays published in Commentary, a Jewish-owned publication, accused Jewish business owners of ripping off black Harlemites and “doing the dirty work of Christians.” There would be many more accusations, including when he allegedly defended the Rev. Jesse Jackson for his use of “Hymietown” during a speech at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in 1984.

“The anti-Semitic charges were incorrect,” Boyd said. “When he wrote the article for Commentary, there was a lot of hostility toward white businesses in Harlem at the time. Black folks like him at the time didn’t see a difference between Italians, Polish or Jewish — they were all white, as far as they were concerned. As a matter of fact, he had many close associates and advisors throughout his life who were Jewish.”

During the last two decades of his life, Baldwin continued to write books and essays that many say expressed his deep bitterness and anger toward the assassinations of many of his famous friends. Baldwin died on Nov. 30, 1987, in his home in southern France.

Today, tributes to Baldwin’s life have been limited — a commemorative stamp from the United States Postal Service, a passing reference in history books. However, according to Boyd, Baldwin’s legacy may have had a more significant, if often invisible, impact.

“He was a profound and prolific witness,” Boyd said. “He had that gift of eloquence and integrity. He spoke truth to power.”

Boyd believes that if Baldwin were alive today, he would be speaking out on pressing issues such as U.S. involvement in Iraq and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It would only be natural for him to go where the fire was.

“We are responsible for the world in which we find ourselves,” Baldwin wrote in his book, “No Name in the Street,” “if only because we are the only sentient force which can change it.”



Spielberg finally sees the Olympics for what it is?

Film legend Steven Spielberg pulled out as the artistic advisor for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics yesterday.

From the BBC

In a statement, he accused China of not doing enough to pressure Sudan to end the "continuing human suffering" in the troubled western Darfur region….

…Mr Spielberg, who had been brought in as artistic adviser for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Games, said the cause of Darfur was more important than his role.

"I find that my conscience will not allow me to continue business as usual," he said in a statement.

"At this point, my time and energy must be spent not on Olympic ceremonies, but on doing all I can to help bring an end to the unspeakable crimes against humanity that continue to be committed in Darfur."

With all due respect to you, Mr Spielberg, didn’t you know about the Darfur/China relationship BEFORE you took on your duties? At least 200,000 Sudanese have been killed and another two million have been forced from their homes since the conflict began five years ago. Even if you weren’t aware of the Sudan connection, you have to have known about what the Chinese government is doing to its own people, as well as Tibetans and Burmese people, for years.

While everyone is happy about Spielberg’s change of heart, he won’t find any sympathy from this blogger. You have to wonder Spielberg’s real motives are for stepping down. George Clooney and Mia Farrow, longtime Darfur victims’ advocates, must have threatened to not star in any future Spielberg movies if he didn’t step down from his Olympics post or sometime. Also, will Spielberg now return money he already received in payment from the Beijing organizers?

It’s said that it is better to change your mind later rather than never, but sometimes you have to wonder.



US goes bananas for EU deal with former colonies

The US finally got its way with one of the last great trade strangleholds over the weekend.

From The Associated Press:

The United States emerged victorious in the banana trade war after the World Trade Organization (WTO) declared the import tariff imposed by European Union (EU) on bananas to be illegal.

The WTO said the EU tariff of $254.9 a metric ton on bananas from Latin America was not warranted...

...The WTO ruling was the latest debacle for EU, which had been batting preferential trade deals for its ex-colonies in Central America.

Of the total banana consumption of the EU, Latin American bananas account for 60 percent of the EU market, African and Caribbean bananas taking in 20 percent and the remaining 20 percent provided by EU-grown bananas - mainly from Spanish and French islands.

While the US does not export bananas to EU, but three large US-based multinationals, including Chiquita, maintain plantations in the region.

And we know about those "great" US-based multinationals if you remember the film, Life and Debt, which deals with the decreasing banana trade in Jamaica.

From Life and Debt's website:

Central America is characterized by cheaper labor, a different soil type, high rainfall and a climate suited to large-scale banana production and thus more efficient. In 1993, a strike at Chiquita Farms in Colombia wherein 25,000 workers protesting for better wages was settled by firing shots at the striking workers and killing 40 people and the banana ships rolled insuring Chiquita's high rate of "efficiency." Jamaica's entire banana production could be produced by one farm in Central America. Banana's bring in 23 million US to Jamaica, comprising 8% of all exports. Yet, in the Windward Islands, bananas account for 50% of total exports. In St. Lucia, St.Vincent, bananas also comprise significant % of total exports, so quota loss will impact the entire Caribbean. At present the European Union has granted $600 million to help Jamaica become more efficient in their banana production so that they may attempt to compete on the "free market" in year 2000. The quota that is being so forcefully contested by US multinationals is under 5% of all global banana production. It is unlikely that the banana industry here could match the price of bananas from Central America. Already the number of small banana growers on the island have shrunk from 45,000 to 3,000.

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The Wire 56: Reminicing....

No media watch from this week’s episode of any real note. But I do want to use this opportunity to tell you why I just love this show. The fourth season is my favorite because it really gets into how a drug dealer becomes who they are with the introduction of the four teenagers. I felt like I personally knew these young “hoppers” because I have had to interview kids like them in the past. It only makes you think why isn’t more done to deal with the war on drugs in our schools.

Also, it seems amazing to me that as great as this show is, it has yet to win any of the great awards from the Emmys and Golden Globes. Since this is the last season of the show, I want to hope that the folks running these awards show are paying attention this show now.

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Cartoonists of Color keeping it real in today's funny pages

If you are regular reader of the funny pages, you may or may not have noticed that some of your favorite cartoons might look a little different today.

Eleven cartoonists of color are staging a "sit-in" of sorts by protesting racial quotas many U.S. newspapers have about having more than one or two comic strips that are minority-drawn. They will do this by drawing cartoons that appear today portraying some variation of a white reader complaining about a minority-drawn strip, complaining that it's a "Boondocks" rip-off and blaming it on "tokenism."

From The Washington Post

Plans for the protest began with Cory Thomas, a Howard University grad whose strip, "Watch Your Head," deals with college life at a predominantly African American university. Thomas, Trinidad-born and D.C.-bred, says he was frustrated by the number of times his strip was turned down by newspapers that didn't feel the need to sign him up, because, well, they already had a black comic strip. Most editors, he says, only allow for one or two minority strips, viewing them all as interchangeable. Never mind that his strip is a world away in sensibility from the scathing sociopolitical musings of Darrin Bell's "Candorville" or the family-focused fun of Stephen Bentley's "Herb and Jamaal."

So Thomas drew a strip addressing that, and then enlisted the help of Bell. From there, they got others to agree to participate: Bentley, Jerry Craft ("Mama's Boyz"), Charlos Gary ("Cafe con Leche" and "Working It Out"), Steve Watkins ("Housebroken"), Keith Knight ("The K Chronicles"), Bill Murray ("The Golden Years"), Charles Boyce ("Compu-toon") and editorial cartoonist Tim Jackson. Alcaraz, who says he found out too late to meet his deadline, will be chiming in on Feb. 11.

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Radical Music Videos: Erykah Badu

Erykah Badu, the queen of neo-soul, is back with her five studio album, New Amerykah, coming out later this month. Badu made it fashionable again to be a talented singer without having to dance half nake in a music video. Her sould has been comparable to the late great Billie Holiday. Check out her new video below, which seems to be her homage to her favorite vinyl covers:



Zimbabweans take action against Mugabe in upcoming elections

There are resistance actions taking place worldwide in anticipation of the rigged March presidential elections in Zimbabwe.

Below is some info on actions occurring in Washington DC:


The program has now been finalized for the February 21 – 22 protest. The Global Zimbabwe Forum need to contact as many Zimbabweans as we can reach to come to the demonstration. Please contact by email or by phone as many friends as you can reach. We need to know by Wednesday next week how many people we can expect at the demonstration. The following have been tasked with coordinating recruitment efforts: New York.Fungisai and Alice (516) 967 4613/(646) 577 5289; Pennsylvania Nick Mada (610)2469462 nmada@msn.com; Stan Mukasa (724) 467 0001 mukasa@iup.edu; Ohio/Michigan Zvidzair Ruzvidzo/Allan Banda Phone :614 622 0427 zvidzair@yahoo.com; Washington DC "Robson Nyereyemhuka"robson55@yahoo.com; Indiana Alan Bako (317) 345 2368Accommodation arrangements are being made byMaswela at Maswelas@aol.com (513) 410 9495. Scheduled speakers for the protest are Ralph Black, Handel Mlilo, Ruzvidzo Zvidzair and Nassar Rusike. The Event MC and also in charge of publicity will be Briggs Bomba.

The next conference call will be on Thursday, February 14, starting at 9 p.m.Conference details:Number to Call ---: 1-605-475-6000 Access Code---- : 875057# Time----------:9.00PM (Eastern Time)

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And the church said amen!

Thank you America for ending the big ole hot mess better known as the Mitt Romney Presidential Campaign! Finally, the rest of the country is waking up to what Massachusetts knew all along – he’s a flip-flopper. After his dismal performance on Super Tuesday, Romney has decided to “suspend” his campaign (meaning he will get back into the race in the event McCain drops dead or something before the RNC convention or Huckabee drops out). Despite the complaining by American right-wing talk radio that McCain isn’t a “true” conservative, the truth of the matter is Romney was never going to be the nominee because the vast majority of Republicans, his own party, don’t really trust him. He has changed his opinion on so many issues – abortion, immigration, gay rights – that make Republicans shiver at the thought of getting another “compassionate conservative.” C'mon people, do you honestly think if Romney was really a conservative, he would have been elected governor of Massachusetts - the land of gay marriage, health care for all and all things unabashingly liberal.

As far as religion goes, the cast of Deliverance has spoken. Not only did Romney lose in all the “Bible-belt” states, he came in third. Meaning, the religious right would much rather vote for Catholic McCain over Mormon Romney if Southern Baptist Huckabee wasn’t in the race. This further proves the very existant bigotry of the American religious right, who purport to be the true messengers of Christianity but really spew hatred and intolerance to anyone who disagrees, even if slightly, with their view of the world.

So, Mr. Romney, while you say you are suspending your campaign, lets be real, you didn’t have a chance in the first. You’re young and have the good looks of someone straight out of central casting. Just drop out altogether, come back in four or eight years, get a really opinion on the issues and figure out a way to loosen the stranglehold the religious right has on your party.



"Gay Marriage" in Senegal

It's good to know that with all the problems of poverty, disease, war, violence against women and children, and corruption in Africa, the Senegalese government chooses to focus its energies on the most pressing issue in its country - gay marriage?

From the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission:

In a letter to Senegalese Minister of Justice, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) and PAN-Africa ILGA have demanded the immediate and unconditional release of up to 20 gay men believed to have been arrested on suspicion of homosexuality in Senegal in the past week.

At least 7 and perhaps as many as 20 gay men have been arrested in Dakar, the Senegalese capital, since the morning of Sunday 3 February after a popular local magazine, Icones, published photographs of a marriage ceremony between two Senegalese men. The wedding is believed to have taken place in a discrete location in Dakar more than a year-and-a-half ago. Sources report that the photographs were sold to the sensationalist magazine by the photographer for 1,500,000 ($3000) CFA francs. The arrests were reportedly undertaken upon the orders of Mr. Asane Ndoye, head of the Senegalese Police's Division of Criminal Investigation. It is unclear where the men and women are being held.

"Mass arrests of people simply because they are gay terrorize the entire community," said Paula Ettelbrick, IGLHRC's executive director. "The inhuman treatment of gay men and lesbians must stop. We call upon the world community to enforce international human rights law." The U.N. Human Rights Committee affirmed in its decision in Toonen v. Australia (1994) that existing protection against discrimination in Articles 2 and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) incorporates sexual orientation as a protected status.

"We are afraid for our lives, especially those of us shown in the photographs," said Jean R., a Senegalese gay activist who spoke to ILGA and IGLHRC from a hotel where he is seeking refuge. "Some of us have gone into hiding and others are fleeing the country."

Senegal is one of the few Francophone African countries that penalize homosexuality. Under Article 3.913 of the Senegalese penal code, homosexual acts are punishable by imprisonment of between one and five years and a fine of 100,000 ($200) to 1,500,000 ($3,000) CFA francs. While there are occasional arrests and convictions of gay men under the Article, social stigma and blackmail are the most prevalent abuses faced by gay men in the country.

"Many consider Senegal to be one of the most progressive African countries on the issue of homosexuality," said Joel Nana, IGLHRC's Program Associate for West Africa. "The government has included a commitment to fighting HIV among men who have sex with men in its national AIDS response plan since 2005. That's why we found these arrests to be very distressing."

Senegal has strong political and economic ties to a number of conservative Islamic governments and institutions, and will be hosting the summit of the Organization of Islamic Conference in March. The OIC has invested heavily in the rehabilitation of Dakar's infrastructure in preparation for the Summit.

Under the circumstances, IGLHRC and Pan-African ILGA expressed concern as to whether Senegal is well-suited to host the upcoming International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA), scheduled to take place in Dakar in December 2008.

"There will be no room for an open and inclusive discussion on the human rights dimensions of HIV in the face of such harassment," said Danilo da Silva, co-chair of Pan-African ILGA, a federation gathering over 40 lesbian and gay groups from all parts of Africa. "We expect more from a leading country like Senegal."



The Wire 55: Let the games begin

So now McNutty and Templeton the Fabricator are getting together to make up a story about sexually molested dead homeless people.

Jesus, take the wheel now!!!

What I thought was interesting this week was Templeton the Fabricator's lack of real newsreporting skills, and I am not just talking about the made up quotes. I am not surprised when he is asked by his editor to interview homeless people, and he doesn't know where to find them. Unfortunately many j-schools today graduate students who have no idea about the real world. Instead of actually going out to interview people for quotes today, many young reporters just do google searches or use recycled press releases.

I have interviewed homeless people many times in my writing career. The homeless tend to have the most interesting stories to tell because for them to end up in the situation they are in, they must have something interesting to say.

Now I am really intrigued with how this will go down on the show.

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US brings trade misery to Colombia and El Salvador

Leave it up to the United States to continue relationships with other countries that don't treat their own people right.

From The Los Angeles Times

Colombia, one of our staunchest allies in South America, needs us to fulfill our commitment to the Andean region's economic development. President Bush has called on Congress to ratify the free trade agreement with Colombia negotiated by his administration, and we too want to see a pact approved. But it's not just Congress that must act with haste.

Colombia has a terrible record of labor violence and abuses. Labor organizers there don't just get fired, they get fired on; more organizers are killed in Colombia in one year than in the entire world. President Alvaro Uribe has created a special department to prosecute crimes against unionists, but the statistics are still dreadful. According to the International Trade Union Confederation, in the last 12 years, only 14 people have been sentenced in more than 1,100 cases of documented union murders.

Premature ratification of the trade agreement could eliminate the best leverage the United States has to encourage Colombia to root out the anti-labor forces linked to paramilitary groups and even to some members of the Colombian Congress. Also, labor groups say U.S. workers will not be able to compete with Colombia's terrorized and unorganized workforce, resulting in an exodus of jobs. Uribe's government, however, argues that the economic opportunities provided by the trade pact will result in greater social stability. It's a thorny issue. The human rights concerns are pressing and valid. It's also true that failing to ratify the agreement would be tantamount to abandoning a neighbor in its time of greatest need.

Colombia is beset with crises. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, holds hundreds of people hostage, including three American military contractors and former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt. Uribe upped the ante last weekend, ordering troops to surround the rebels' jungle encampments. That strategy could work, and the rebels could agree to negotiate. But it's a huge risk. They also could respond as they have in the past, by executing hostages.

At the same time, Colombia's relationship with Venezuela has chilled to freezing. The Venezuelan Congress voted to recognize FARC as legitimate combatants -- not the kidnapping, drug-trafficking terrorists they are -- and President Hugo Chavez claims that Colombia and the United States are conspiring to attack his country. Coincidentally, Venezuelan troops are engaging in exercises along the 1,300-mile border between the two countries.

Meanwhile, two years after signing the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR), El Salvador's workers have still not reaped the benefits of promised trade deals.

From IPS
Government leaders had proclaimed that from the moment of the agreement’s entry into force, the pact would boost the local economy, creating thousands of jobs, so that even street vendors would be exporting their snacks.

The Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA) with the United States was supposed to enable El Salvador to increase its exports to the U.S. market and attract foreign investment. However, economists consulted by IPS said these promises were unrealistic, and ordinary Salvadorans are still waiting for the promised benefits...

...Herminio Alas, 50, a former employee of the privatized National Telecommunications Administration, which is now in the hands of the Telecom consortium, said he is not aware of any benefits, as "the economy is not improving and there are few jobs to be had."

Alas, a telephone line technician, has been unemployed for three months and has not managed to find a stable job since he was laid off by the National Telecommunications Administration 10 years ago...

...In spite of the [Salvadoran] government’s optimism, economist Carlos Acevedo of the United Nations Development Program said there are no reliable data on how many jobs DR-CAFTA has created.

Acevedo said 80,000 new jobs a year are needed to absorb the growth of the economically active population.

"The government’s expectations were unrealistic and obviously have not been met," said the expert, who is the assistant coordinator of the El Salvador chapter of the U.N. Development Program’s Human Development Report.

Business as usual for the US, I guess.