George Carlin 1937-2008

This is vintage George Carlin talking about his favorite subject - death.



Common gets the word out on HIV/AIDS

Hip hop genius Common has always kept it real with tight lyrics and social conscienceness. He is also one of the very few rappers (and famous black men) who uses his platform to promote safe sex.

He is best known for his ads for the "Knowing Is Beautiful" HIV/AIDS campaign, and now he is joining the Kaiser Foundation and ThinkMTV to use lyrics to get out the word on HIV prevention. Wannabe rappers from across the country had a chance to submit lyrics that talked about safe sex. The winning lyrics are performed by Common for National HIV Testing Day.

“It’s important to know your status by getting tested because HIV/AIDS is taking a lot of lives in our community and around the world. I had an uncle succumb to HIV, so I’ve personally felt the impact of the disease,” Common said in a Kaiser Foundation statement. “Your lyrics can really have an affect on people’s lives and I’ve seen it happen.”

Common performs Jose Riviera's winning lyrics on why HIV testing is so important. Jose won the It's Your Sex Life "A Minute" Contest and flew to LA to film this spot with Common! Check it out here!

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Radical Music Videos: Sylvester

Happy Pride, Everyone!!!

Lets groove to Diva Sylvester



Traces of the Trade

By Talia Whyte
Originally published in The Bay State Banner

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the U.S. abolition of the transatlantic slave trade, a bicentennial that has some blacks and whites trying to reconcile their respective places in American society.

Katrina Browne is one of them.

The filmmaker, who is white, thought that because her family was from Rhode Island, there was no way that her ancestors could have been involved in slavery. But when she read a book given to her by her grandmother, Browne learned that her family was not only involved, but were the largest slave trading family in the United States.

Her latest film, “Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North,” premieres Sunday on WGBX as the opening entry in the 21st season of the documentary series “P.O.V.” In it, Browne documents her struggle to understand her family’s past and how it relates to race relations in today’s America.

To better grasp that past, Browne — a direct descendant of Mark Anthony DeWolf, the family’s first slaver — invited 200 other family members to retrace the triangular trade route from Rhode Island to Ghana to Cuba and back.

However, she said, most of her family didn’t support the trip.

“There was one relative who was particularly against the concept of the trip,” Browne told the Banner in a recent telephone interview. “He was concerned about how his black co-workers would treat him. He was also concerned about the usefulness of rehashing history.”

In 2001, Browne and nine relatives embarked on their journey from their hometown of Bristol, R.I., to look at the various business ventures that made the DeWolfs successful in the community. The DeWolfs conducted slave trading over three generations, beginning in 1769 and continuing until well after the U.S. banned the practice in 1808. The family brought over 10,000 African slaves to the Americas; it is believed that half a million of their descendants are alive today.

“My family has inherited the privileges they have, and we have also brought a lot of misery to other black people in this country,” said Browne. “I think as a family, we are obligated to address our past grievances.”

While traveling in Ghana, the DeWolf descendants attended Panafest, a biennial celebration that promotes Pan-Africanism through arts and culture. However, the family was not welcomed with open arms by some African American participants. One black woman shown in the film is distraught at the presence of white people in a sacred space at a time specifically designed to bring together members of the African Diaspora.

Following both the festival and the trip to Havana, the family participated in discussions with other blacks and whites about the uncomfortable subject of race in America, and especially the topic of reparations for African Americans. For Browne, these conversations were a “cleansing experience.”

According to Browne, the recent controversy surrounding the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s blunt statements about America’s racial past illustrates why Americans need to have more honest discussions with each other.

“With the Jeremiah Wright case, it really opened me up to the distrust in the black community,” she said. “As white Americans, we have a lot of baggage from slavery. I am a strong believer in addressing what separates us to bring us together.”

Browne says she supports reparations for African Americans, and wants to use her life as an example of racial reconciliation. She has spent most of her career in activism focusing on eliminating racism. Before making her film, Browne served as an outreach planning coordinator for the film adaptation of “Twilight: Los Angeles,” Anna Deavere Smith’s play about the 1992 Los Angeles riots. She also founded Public Allies, an AmeriCorps program to recruit young people of color into careers in the nonprofit sector.

Some of Browne’s family members have also made strides to reconcile their ancestors’ sins. Browne’s cousin, Thomas Norman DeWolf, wrote a memoir about his experience on the triangular trade journey called “Inheriting the Trade: A Northern Family Confronts Its Legacy as the Largest Slave-Trading Dynasty.”

In the book he writes about his ancestor, U.S. Sen. James DeWolf, at his death in 1837 reportedly the second richest man in the U.S., thanks in part to his three sugar plantations in Cuba. The senator was best known in history as a ship captain on several slave trading vessels throughout the West Indies, who allegedly had a sick female slave thrown overboard while gagged and tied to a chair.

Browne wants her film to help begin healing the nation’s racial wounds.

“We hope the film will lead to more discussion about reconciliation,” she said. “We need more of that today.”

“Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North” premieres on June 29 on WGBX Channel 44 at 9 p.m., with a second showing on June 30 on WGBH Channel 2 at 10 p.m. For more information about the film, visit www.tracesofthetrade.org

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Lessons from our African forefathers

Yesterday, two historical events happened involving two people from Africa's political history. The events show how much African leadership has moved forwards - and backwards - in recent years.

The Good
Nelson Mandela celebrated his 90th birthday in London with some of his best celebrity friends and 46,664 invited guests. (I can't help but mention how Naomi Campbell can be disinvited to the concert, but drug addicted, racist Amy Winehouse can not only be invited, but also be allowed to perform on stage. But I digress.) The concert was a celebration of Mandela's dedication to a free, colorbind South Africa and what a social activist can do to mobilize the world to think differently.

Unfortunately, the next generation of South African leaders seem to be going in a different direction.

The Bad
Meanwhile in Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe virtually won his "sham" run-off election, thanks in part to Morgan Tvansgirai's abrupt withdrawal and unfair voting procedures.

From the BBC:

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network, a monitoring group, reported that people had been forced to vote in most rural areas.

A Zimbabwean journalist said militias loyal to Mr Mugabe had gone door-to-door in townships outside the capital, Harare, to coerce people.

Despite the pressure, Marwick Khumalo, who heads of the Pan-African parliamentary observer mission, told the BBC that overall turnout had been low and the mood sombre.

"We saw one long queue, which we mistook for a polling station, only to find the people were queuing for bread," he said, adding that the ingredients for a free and fair election were missing.

There was a time Robert Mugabe also was a man seen to dedicate his life to the betterment of Africans. But something went terrible wrong a few years ago when he evolved into a dictator.

This is a lesson in democracy.



American caravan seeks to improve U.S.-Cuban relations

Caption: Lisa Valanti (left) and Maribou Latour explain US-Cuban relations.

By Talia Whyte
Originally published in The Bay State Banner

Where the United States government sees danger, some American activists see opportunity.

For nearly the last five decades, the relationship between Cuba and America has been contentious. But now that an ailing Fidel Castro has ceded power to his brother Raúl, American activists say they want to change the dynamic between the two countries, largely by denouncing what they believe to be outdated U.S. policies toward the communist-aligned nation.

Nearly 100 people plan to spend the next month traveling across the United States and Canada as part of the 19th annual U.S. Cuban Friendshipment Caravan. Last week, the caravan made a stop at a packed Spontaneous Celebrations in Jamaica Plain.

The goal of the caravan is to educate Americans about what those onboard say are the detrimental effects that U.S. policies have on Cuban society.

Leading the charge was Lisa Valanti, the founder and president of the national U.S.-Cuba Sister Cities Association and founder of the Pittsburgh Cuba Coalition. She has traveled to Cuba 20 times without applying for or accepting a license from the U.S. Treasury Department.

Valanti first traveled to Cuba in 1971 as a college student. She said she felt strongly then — as she does now — that the U.S. shouldn’t prohibit Americans from going there and seeing firsthand how U.S. policies are impacting the island.

Having grown up in a privileged, white community in the Midwest, Valanti says she became instantly radicalized after seeing Cuba’s extreme poverty and class warfare. For the first time, she said, she began to look at ways to not only bring social justice to Cubans, but also to marginalized Americans.

“As someone from the First World, it was unfathomable to see the poverty in Cuba,” Valanti said. “When I came back from Cuba, I realized that I lived in my own little world. I didn’t think about these issues before. I began to see class inequities and racism in a different light.”

In 1992, Valanti went back to Cuba, this time with Pastors for Peace, a ministry of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization and the organizers of the caravan. The objective of the trip was the same then as it is today: to help communities caught up in the crossfire of world politics.

Valanti contends that current U.S. trade policies victimize both those Cubans living on the island and those in America.

As evidence, she cites the 1992 Cuban Democracy Act, which prohibits foreign companies that trade with the U.S. from also trading with Cuba. The law also prevents travel to Cuba by American citizens and imposes limits on how many times Cubans living in America can travel to their homeland to visit family. In 1996, the U.S. enacted a penalty of 10 years imprisonment and a fine for violators of the embargo.

As Valanti sees it, such restrictions are too harsh.

“Americans don’t realize how egregious this Cuba law is,” she said. “When the U.S. government tells you when you can visit your family, how free is our country?”

After their North American tour, the caravan will head to McAllen, Texas, which is located five miles from the U.S.-Mexican border, and then drive to the coastal town of Tampico, Mexico. There, the caravan will meet up with a Mexican union group that will help them load a ship with donated aid and supplies for delivery to Cuba. The group will then fly into Havana.

Maribou Latour, a Cuban American living in Leverett, will be joining the caravan for the first time on this trip. Word of her trip would likely dismay her parents — both of whom back U.S. trade restrictions against Cuba. She hasn’t yet told them that she is going.

Latour said she is joining the caravan because she wants to know what is really going on in her family’s homeland.

“I need to see Cuba for myself,” she said. “I have been told a lot of things about it by my parents that now I am realizing are not true. I need to see it for myself and tell my family what I saw.”

Valanti said that the hallmark of the trip is the “people to people” exchange between the caravan members and the Cuban civil society activists working to improve life on the island.

“The Cubans love this project,” she said. “They warmly welcome us, and genuinely want to learn more about us.”

Valanti said that the Cubans she meets are particularly concerned about the plight of African Americans. The rebuilding of post-Katrina New Orleans and the possibility that Barack Obama will be elected the first African American U.S. president are regular topics of discussion all over the island, she said.

As far as the future of U.S.-Cuban relations is concerned, Valanti said there is a slight chance that an Obama administration would eliminate the Cuban Democracy Act. There is no such chance if presumptive Republican nominee John McCain is elected, she said, because he has stated before that he will not negotiate with the communist state.

However, Valanti thinks that the American people, not politicians, are the ones who can really be agents of change.

“Most Americans favor ending this embargo,” she said. “What kind of people are we if we don’t demand this?”

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Journalistic objectivity in cyberspace

When I was in J-school, one of the first things my professors taught me was that a good journalist is one who puts aside their bias to report in a fair and balanced manner. But I don't think my professors had the new world of online social networking in mind during that time.

From Metro Boston:

...An increasing number of journalists are toeing the line with MySpace and Facebook. Whether adding a candidate as a “friend” or posting messages about his campaign, many journalists are, for better or worse, bending the rules.

Given Barack Obama’s stunning ascent from local Illinois politician to strong contender for the presidency, largely due to his wide appeal among the young and tech-savvy, it’s natural to see a surge in excitement among the public.

But in media, are we witnessing the dawn of a new paradigm, or a crumbling of rules designed to keep the press transparent and free?

Hey, I have never said that I wasn't biased, based on reading a few of my blog post. We are all opinionated about everything, including reporters. However, I always try to be fair and balanced in my reporting. With that said, I see nothing wrong with journalists having online social networks to voice their own opinions, as long as they are also transparent.

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Racism in Europe still lives

Sometimes I have to snap back into the reality that America isn't the only place in the world with a "race" problem.

From The Associated Press:

Racist violence and discrimination persist across the European Union, and most members of the 27-nation bloc aren't taking advantage of tough legislation to crack down, the EU's rights agency warned.

Britain and France lead a list of nine countries credited with actively fighting racism and xenophobia, but most other EU members aren't making the most of a tough EU-wide "racial equality directive," the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights said.

Between 2006 and 2007, Britain punished 95 offenders, more than the other 26 members combined, the Vienna-based agency said. It also lauded Bulgaria, France, Ireland, Italy, Hungary, Romania, Finland and Sweden.

By contrast, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Greece, Spain, Cyprus, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal and Slovenia issued no sanctions during the same period.

While the report praises the UK for "fighting racism and xenophobia," how much progress has a place like London made if they elect resident lunatic Boris Johnson to be mayor?

During his mayoral campaign, Johnson came under fire for statements perceived to be racist by many in London's black community, including Labor MP Diane Abbot and Doreen Lawrence, mother of racially slained Stephen Lawrence.

Following an inquiry into Stephen's death, better known as the Macpherson Inquiry, Johnson, who was a journalist at the time, called the racial charges against the police to be plain "hysteria," and also said that the inquiry's "recommendation that the law might be changed so as to allow prosecution for racist language or behaviour 'other than in a public place'" was akin to "Ceausescu's Romania."

Johnson was also critized for a column he wrote in the Telegraph, mocking then Prime Minister Tony Blair's diplomatic trip to the Congo. Johnson said Blair would arrive as "the tribal warriors will all break out in watermelon smiles to see the big white chief", just as "it is said the Queen has come to love the Commonwealth, partly because it supplies her with regular cheering crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies."

While Johnson did apologize for the above at a January debate for his use of piccaninies, many of his colleagues then came out and said that the mayor uses the derogatory term all the time.

The saga continued this weekend when one of the mayor's aides, James McGarth, quit over statements made towards London black immigrants who didn't like that the Tory party now ran the city.

``Well, let them go if they don't like it here,'' McGrath said, according to the account on the-latest.com.

It just so happens that I am renting the full two season of the fabulous black britcom, Desmond's, which was about a Caribbean immigrant family dealing with London life during the Thatcher years. When I first watched the show a few years ago, I actually thought it was a bit dated, considering the amount of racial advancement London has made over the year. But with this Johnson in office now, advancement could be stalled for a while.



Zim opposition party used Google Maps

Description: The abrupt withdrawal of Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai from this Friday's runoff presidential election essentially handed President Robert Mugabe a victory and left Zimbabwe's future up in the air. However, given the uphill battle to have a fair election, Tsvangirai's party, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) looked to cyberspace to get the word out about the possibility of a changing political landscape in Zimbabwe.

Tools Being Use: Google Maps

What Did They Do: Tsvangirai's party used the free software Google Maps to inform MDC supporters about campaign rallies around the country up until Tsvangirai withdrawal, as well as spots where alleged detentions, arrests and beatings have taken place at the hands of ZANU-PF.

"The courageous people of Zimbabwe, of this country, and the people of the MDC have done everything humanly and democratically possible to deliver a new Zimbabwe and new government," Morgan Tsvangirai said to CNN following his withdrawal.

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Al Hurra is a joke

Sunday night 60 Minutes, in collaboration with ProPublica, did an excellent report on Al Hurra, the Bush regime's propoganda channel in the Middle East. Check out the video here.

So just a round up of what is wrong with this channel:

1. Al Hurra is broadcast from Springfield, Virginia. The last time I checked a map, I don't remember this place being anywhere near the Middle East.

2. Most of Al Hurra's employees are Lebanese Christian.

3. The channel got off to a bad start in 2004. After Israel assassinated the founder of the militant group Hamas, Al Hurra stuck with a cooking show.

4. Poor use of money, especially with vendors

5. Al Hurra claims to be a network dedicated to free speech, so long as it aligns with US foreign policy.

6. Who the hell takes three hours lunch breaks these days without getting fired?

7. Not only is no one in the Middle East watching Al Hurra, apparently the Al Hurra executives aren't watching it either.

8. Apparently no one doesn't need to know how to speak Arabic to work for Al Hurra.

9. There is no control over what anyone says on air, even if its anti-Semitic

10. The Bush regime has not figured out that the Middle East hates US policies.

Where's the US taxpayer outrage?

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No hope in Zim

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai dropped out of the runoff election Sunday, essentially handing a victory to dictator Robert Mugabe.

From CNN:

"The courageous people of Zimbabwe, of this country, and the people of the MDC have done everything humanly and democratically possible to deliver a new Zimbabwe and new government," candidate Morgan Tsvangirai said after a closed-door meeting of his Movement for Democratic Change.

A government official, however, said Tsvangirai dropped out only because he fears being handed a "humiliating defeat" in the runoff.

MDC is not afraid of a humiliating defeat; they fear Mugabe and friends raging WWIII at the expense of the rest of the country. Tsvangirai has pretty much been walking with a "fatwa" on his head since March.

According to reports from insiders, approximately 70 MDC members have been killed, and nearly half a million Zimbabweans have been displaced since the March elections.

Of course, my two friends are still missing.

Where's the outrage!



AP vs. Blogosphere

The Associated Press announced this week that it will set new guidelines on how bloggers can use their copyrighted material, in light of a dust up with the Drudge Retort.

From The Associated Press:

In response to questions about the use of Associated Press content on the Drudge Retort web site, the AP was able to provide additional information to the operator of the site, Rogers Cadenhead, on Thursday. That information was aimed at enabling Mr. Cadenhead to bring the contributed content on his site into conformance with the policy he earlier set for his contributors. Both parties consider the matter closed.

In addition, the AP has had a constructive exchange of views this week with a number of interested parties in the blogging community about the relationship between news providers and bloggers and that dialogue will continue. The resolution of this matter illustrates that the interests of bloggers can be served while still respecting the intellectual property rights of news providers.

Many of you have been sending me emails about my position on this matter. As you can see from this blog, I do appropriately credit where I get my information from, but I will hold off on giving any further opinion until the AP releases the new guidelines.

In the meantime, please read Roger Cadenhead's response.

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Shame on Barack Obama

America's jihad on Islam continues this week, further proving that Americans have lost their minds. This time the culprits are in Barack Obama's campaign.

From CBS News:

Two Muslim women at Barack Obama's rally in Detroit on Monday were barred from sitting behind the podium by campaign volunteers seeking to prevent the women's headscarves from appearing in photographs or on television with the candidate.

The campaign has apologized to the women, both Obama supporters who said they felt betrayed by their treatment at the rally.

"This is of course not the policy of the campaign. It is offensive and counter to Obama's commitment to bring Americans together and simply not the kind of campaign we run," said Obama spokesman Bill Burton. "We sincerely apologize for the behavior of these volunteers."

Building a human backdrop to a political candidate, a set of faces to appear on television and in photographs, is always a delicate exercise in demographics and political correctness. Advance staffers typically pick supporters out of a crowd to reflect the candidate's message...

While it is all well and good Obama apologized, apparently Muslims don't reflect in his message. Of course, this really isn't his fault. With recent incidents around Sikhs and Keffiyah-gate, as well as conservative bloggers spreading rumors that he is a Muslim, Obama wants to set the record straight about himself. However, to purposely bar women wearing hijabs from appearing next to him, is not only unexceptable, it also goes against his message of bringing Americans together through hope and change.

Speaking of going against his message of change.

From The Wall Street Journal:

Democrat Barack Obama became the first major presidential candidate to reject taxpayer financing for his general-election campaign, allowing him to spend without limit in his contest against Republican John McCain.

The move, never attempted in three decades of public financing for presidential candidates, puts the Illinois senator in the position of being a self-styled reformer, pledged to diminish the influence of money in politics, who now plans to wage the most expensive campaign in history.

Sen. Obama's decision, which may kill off the reform program created in the wake of the Watergate-era scandals, came after he signaled earlier in the campaign that he was committed to staying inside the system. But the move wasn't entirely unexpected. With his campaign able to draw more than $1 million a day in donations from mainly small contributors, he will hold a financial edge by opting out of public financing.

Through April, Sen. Obama had raised an unprecedented $265 million -- far more than the $96 million Sen. McCain had raised -- and had $46.5 million on hand, including $8.8 million for the general election. By staying in the public-financing system, Sen. Obama would have been limited to spending $84.1 million in taxpayer cash between his late-August nominating convention and the Nov. 4 election. Sen. McCain said Thursday he would stick to public financing...

...Sen. Obama is one of three major authors of legislation to revamp the public-financing system for presidential elections. He has said on several occasions that he supports public financing -- an endorsement noted in a "Timeline of Reversal" missive sent out Thursday by the McCain campaign.

In January 2007, Sen. Obama criticized Democratic rival Hillary Clinton for opting out of public financing for the primary season. In February, responding to a questionnaire, he pledged to remain in the public-financing system as long as his Republican opponent agreed to a "fund-raising truce" for the general election...

The more things change, the more things remain the same.

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Zimbabwe's Bongo Love, out of Africa and into Boston

By Talia Whyte
Originally published in The Bay State Banner

Thanks to the instant, worldwide connections made possible by the new frontier of online social networking, more musicians than ever are finding audiences in far-flung places.

Case in point: the Zimbabwean quartet Bongo Love, who are now traveling the U.S. on a tour that has featured a number of Boston-area stops, including a date this coming Tuesday at the South End nightspot 28 Degrees. The tour is the result in part of a growing fanbase that used a combination of new technology and old-fashioned word of mouth to get them here.

After finishing high school in 2001, group members John Mambira, Themba Mawoko, Trymore Jombo and Mpho Mambira moved from the small Zimbabwean town of Bulawayo to capital city Harare. There, they began to perfect their style, a mix of African folk music and American R&B beats played on traditional African instruments that bandleader John Mambira said they taught themselves to use.

“We call our music ‘Afrocoustic,’” he told the Banner in a recent interview. “We are music-influenced. We based our music on listening to Africans like Salif Keita, Baaba Maal and Angélique Kidjo, but we also like Tracy Chapman, Bob Marley and Seal. Paul Simon, especially, has a African feel to his music.”

In 2005, the band entered and won a contest that allowed them to travel to Mozambique, Sweden and the Dominican Republic to perform and teach their music. The overseas audiences really took to Bongo Love’s sound and began heading online to tell their friends in America about it.

The electronic promotion opened the door for the band to launch its first U.S. tour last year, a trip that saw them not only play shows, but also offer private lessons to aspiring young musicians.

Needham resident Bette Hoffman first learned about Bongo Love when they were invited to teach at Plugged In, a nonprofit youth-oriented music program that her son, Aaron, participates in after school. After seeing them perform, Hoffman wrote a post about the band on her blog to promote their music to her friends.

“I just got hooked on their music immediately,” she said. “I think they are wonderful, and I want to help them be even more successful.”

Hoffman invited Bongo Love back a few months later to surprise Aaron at his bar mitzvah. As luck would have it, on the day that they performed at Aaron’s party, the band was invited to perform at another concert in Acton a couple of weeks later.

Chad Urmston, formerly of the popular folk act Dispatch, who disbanded in 2002, also performed at the Acton show. A social activist committed to improving the quality of life in Zimbabwe, Urmston was entranced by Bongo Love’s sound, and invited them to perform with his band’s reunion concert — at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

Originally slated to be a one-night-only reunion to raise funds for charities benefitting Zimbabweans worldwide, an additional two nights were added after the “Dispatch: Zimbabwe” concert sold out during the first half-hour of an exclusive presale available only to fans on the band’s MySpace page.

Two extra nights meant thousands more listeners exposed to Bongo Love’s music, and the exposure has translated into a swell of fan support. Viewer reception to Bongo Love’s Madison Square Garden performances and their live videos available on YouTube helped increase the demand that led to their current return engagement in the States.

“People really get into our music,” said Mpho Mambira. “People are amazed because they have never heard African music like ours before. Everyone has a good time when we perform.”

Bette Hoffman knows Boston public relations specialist Colette Philips through a mutual friend, who introduced Philips to Bongo Love. Also entranced by the band’s sound, Philips invited them to perform at the next “Get Konnected” networking cocktail reception she is hosting for Boston’s professionals of color.

“They represent … bringing multicultural people together,” said Philips.

As their American fanbase expands and their profile continues to rise, the band’s members said they are enjoying the ride.

“Our American fans have been really good to us,” said Jombo. “I get to perform, and so I am happy.”

Bongo Love will perform at the Get Konnected reception on June 24 at 28 Degrees, 1 Appleton Street, Boston. The band is scheduled to play at at 6:30 p.m.

For more information, visit www.bongolovemusic.com, www.myspace.com/bongolovemusic, or www.28degrees-boston.com.

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Pride, family values shine in Hub's gay black culture

By Talia Whyte
Originally published in The Bay State Banner

The recent decision by Gov. Deval Patrick’s daughter to come out of the closet marked a significant milestone in what has been a productive year for Boston’s black lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, as it makes strides in the struggle for acceptance and forges stronger allegiances with the larger black community.

In the middle of Boston Pride Week 2008 and on the eve of the city’s annual gay pride parade, Katherine Patrick revealed in an exclusive interview published in the June 12 edition of Bay Windows, a Boston-based weekly newspaper for LGBT readers, that she decided to tell her parents last summer following the state Legislature’s defeat of a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would have put the issue of gay marriage up to a vote by Massachusetts residents.

Because of her dad’s strong support for defeating the ballot proposal and his backing of gay rights in general, Katherine Patrick said she felt confident that her coming out would be welcomed and accepted by her parents.

The governor and his wife, Diane Patrick, showed their acceptance and solidarity last Saturday as they marched alongside Katherine and their other daughter Sarah during the parade at that highlighted Pride Week. Black parade attendees expressed excitement about Katherine’s announcement.

“It’s good because [Katherine] has the backing of her father, which makes it easier for her in the long run,” said participant Roe Robinson.

The media attention that followed the Bay Windows interview underscored an issue that is often overlooked, but always present.

“Black gays and lesbians have always been a part of the black community,” said the Rev. Irene Monroe, a Ford Fellow and doctoral candidate at Harvard Divinity School who is also an openly lesbian community activist and a nationally syndicated religion columnist. “We care about the same issues that straight people care about, especially around family issues. The gay community is lucky to have affirming, straight black allies who work with us.”

In addition to the governor, other allies like state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson and state Reps. Linda Dorcena Forry and Byron Rushing have played key roles in supporting marriage equality and embracing the gay community.

Greater Boston area has also seen its share of openly gay public officials. Former Cambridge Mayor Kenneth Reeves and his successor, E. Denise Simmons — the first openly gay black man and woman to be mayors of an American city — have been community activists in Boston and Cambridge for many years.

But despite the inroads made by public figures like Simmons and Reeves, some obstacles to widespread tolerance remain. According to Monroe, greater acceptance of gays in the black community has to start in the black church.

“We certainly need more gay-friendly churches, and … ministers who are accepting of gays,” said Monroe. “The media focuses so much on gay-bashing ministers that they don’t ever talk about the few ministers who are affirming.”

One of those gay-friendly black ministers is the Rev. Martin McLee, the outgoing minister of the South End’s Union United Methodist Church. When he arrived at Union eight years ago, it had just become one of the very few black churches in the country to adopt a welcoming and affirming approach to its gay congregants. Last year, Union hosted the city’s annual gay pride interfaith prayer service, a first for a predominantly black church.

Next month, McLee will transition to his new position as district superintendent for the Metro Boston Hope District of the New England Conference of the United Methodist Church. He says he hopes to continue his social justice work in his new role and serve as a voice for the gay community, which he says was a hallmark during his tenure at Union.

“What we have done at Union was move away from demonizing gays,” McLee said. “We look at the gay community as God’s children, and we should respect them as our brothers and sisters.”

McLee also hopes Union can serve as an example for other black churches on how to talk to the black community about homosexuality.

“We need to have a serious conversation about sexuality in our community,” he said. “If we continue to marginalize our gay brothers and sisters, we are going to isolate them. It’s not holy.”

The Massachusetts gay marriage debate sharply divided the black community, and community activist David Wilson got caught in the middle of it.

Wilson and his partner, Robert Compton, were one of the seven couples named as appellants in the landmark Goodridge v. Department of Public Health case that led to the legalization of same-sex marriage. In October, Wilson became chairman of the board of directors for MassEquality, Massachusetts’ leading marriage equality advocacy group. These days, he spends much of his time speaking to black community groups about why he views gay marriage not as a religious issue, but rather as a civil rights issue.

Wilson and Compton had been partners for seven years prior to their 2004 wedding. Before getting married, Compton’s personal health problems sometimes required long stays in the hospital. But because Wilson wasn’t legally a member of Compton’s family, hospitals denied him visitation access.

“After we got married, these hospital visitation problems simply went away,” Wilson said. “Now I don’t have to worry about whether Rob is getting the proper care.”

Around the time Wilson took up his new position, MassEquality also rolled out a brochure specifically targeting the black community. Entitled “Jumping the Broom,” the brochure provides stories of real black gay couples and their allies, intending to illustrate why marriage equality is also a family values issue.

Wilson and Compton were both previously married to women, and have a combined family of five adult children and six grandchildren. The couple lives in Jamaica Plain, and Wilson says that his marriage has only made the family stronger.

Wilson also stressed that when he goes to community meetings to discuss gay marriage, he discusses it in relation to other problems affecting the larger black community, such as health care, unemployment and poverty. He is particularly focused on the black community providing support for gay youth, like Katherine Patrick, so that vulnerable young people are better equipped to deal with both homophobia and racism as adults.

“More time is needed on our youth,” he said. “The more we can give them, the better they will be. They are the next generation.”

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Surui take back the land with Google Earth

Description: The Amazon Rainforest is one of the world’s last remaining rainforests and comprises the most biodiversity on Earth. However, this is being threatened by man-made deforestation. According to the Amazon Rainforest Deforestation News, during the last five months of 2007, more than 3,200 sq. kilometers (an area equivalent to the size of the state of Rhode Island) was deforested during a time when deforestation would normally drop. But, Amazon residents are demanding to take back the land through technology.

Tools Being Used: Google Earth

What Are They Doing: Google and the Amazon Conservation Team officially launched a new initiative yesterday with Indian tribes from the Surui reservation of Brazil to help reduce illegal deforestation. With the help of the Surui chief, Almir Narayamoga Surui(pictured above), tribe members will use the free software Google Earth to police their 600,000-acre reservation. The images will be used as evidence to show the Brazilian government of deforestation, or at least scare away loggers and miners.

The chief discovered the tool while playing around with it and was entranced with its power instantly. He told the International Herald Tribune last year, that he “saw thin whitish lines suggesting deforestation in the vast verdant swath that popped up when he zoomed in on his reservation.”

The loggers and miners "will certainly be scared, because we'll be watching all the time and denouncing the invasions," he said in the interview.

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The future of journalism is online

The cyber revolution is taking its toll on the newsroom, and it is largely affecting female journalists. Could it be back to the kitchen for the fairer sex?

From IPS:

A study by the American Society of Newspaper Editors in 2006 showed that the number of women executives has stagnated in this sector. "The percentage of women in daily newsrooms increased slightly to 37.7 percent ... 64.5 percent of all supervisors are men. They are also 58.5 percent of all copy editors, 60.3 percent of reporters and 72.6 percent of photographers," the study said.

"Part of the reason could be that women are frustrated with their progress. A 2002 study by the American Press Institute and the Pew Center for Civic Journalism documented a brain drain among women who didn't anticipate moving up in their organizations and thought they might leave journalism," the International Women's Media Foundation report said.

The group Media Report to Women, a provider of information about how media depicts women, cited a 2006 study by the Atlantic, Harper's, The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker and Vanity Fair, which found a 3-to-1 ratio of male to female bylines.

And the American Journalist Survey, released in 2003 by Indiana University, showed that female journalists' median salary in 2001 was about 81 percent of men's salary of $46,758. The wage gap widened as journalists grew older.

Meanwhile, the state of racial diversity in journalism is just as dismal.

From The National Association of Black Journalists:

Staffing in the nation’s newsrooms declined for the fourth consecutive year and efforts to bring diversity to reporting and editing teams remained a challenge according to the annual census released Sunday by the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) at their annual gathering in the nation’s capital.

The number of newsroom employees in 2007 dropped by 2,400 jobs or 4.4 percent when compared with the previous year. Journalists of color left 300 positions, falling to 7,100, according to the 2008 census released at ASNE’s annual convention in Washington, D.C.

But because of layoffs and hiring freezes, the percentage of journalists of color in daily newsrooms actually grew by a tiny margin, to 13.52% from 13.43% of all journalists.

Blacks make up the largest number and percentage of journalists of color with 2,790 or 5.3 percent of the workforce, according to the survey.

That figure has remained near 13 percent for the last four years, illustrating that as the nation’s minority population continues to rise at 36 percent, its newsrooms continue to fail that pace of diversity.

People ask me all the time if I will ever switch careers. But as a black woman journalist, believe it or not, this has not deterred me. I actually think this is possibly the most exciting time in my life.

I was actually resistant to learning new media just a mere four years ago. At that time, I wasn't even sure what a blog was. I said to myself sometimes "blogs will never change the world."

Well, was I wrong.

Not only do I blog at least once a day about the news, I now make money doing it. Not enough to make a living right now, but I am sure a bigger paycheck is around the corner.

I have also made this blog the home of the Global Wire Group, my new media consultanting firm. I spend a great deal of my time connecting with many of you with ideas on how to incorporate online social networkings into your social justice projects.

I also spend time educating citizen bloggers on how to be ethical journalists. A story in yesterday's paper shows why there is a need for this kind of training.

From the Associated Press:

Miami real estate agent Lucas Lechuga didn't expect a $25 million defamation lawsuit when he started a blog to share his knowledge of the local market.

And Wisconsin commodities trader Gary Millitte is so worried about the legal boundaries of writing online that he still hasn't started LakeGenevaNews.com in the eight years since he purchased the domain name.

That's why non-journalists entering the world of blogs are turning to professional reporters for help learning what's libelous, how to find public documents and the difference between opinion and news.

About a dozen would-be reporters navigated the basics of journalism at a recent training offered by the Society of Professional Journalists in Chicago.

The group is planning similar seminars this month in Greensboro, North Carolina and Los Angeles.

Lechuga, who didn't attend the training, said it would have been a good idea. Having jumped into the world of online publishing with a finance degree, he said the claims against him -- which are still pending -- arose from a question of semantics, and he would have chose his words differently if he had a second chance.

"It would definitely have been something that would be worthwhile and I'd (have) been able to prevent this," said Lechuga.

Roy Peter Clark, a senior scholar at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla., which supports working journalists, praised the effort to offer training to so-called citizen journalists.

"I think that what we're moving toward is some king of positioning between amateur and professional," Clark said.

And then there are the questions:"Aren't you afraid citizen journalists are going to make it harder for you to do your professional journalism job."

I tell them that journalism is a cat-and-mouse game; it is all about who can get the story first and correct.

You see, I think new media will open the door to a new kind of journalism. Unfortunately, the old kind has been saturated by corporate greed and unfairness. As a matter of fact, some of the best news coverage recently, whether its the Obama's "bitter-gate" or Hurricane Katrina, have come from amateur reporters.

This is a new dawn.

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Why is the US media lacking international news?

This entertaining yet thought-provoking video from Alisa Miller, the president and CEO of Public Radio International, says it all.

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Technology and the Presidency

Presumptive Republican Presidential nominee John McCain said in a recent interview with Politico.com that he isn't computer literate.

"I am a illiterate that has to rely on my wife for all the assistance I can get," McCain said in this video.

At the age of 71, McCain is not unlike others of his generation. My own mother, who is near McCain's age, is afraid to go near a computer and has no idea what an email is. According a recent study, McCain and my mother are not the only ones in America living offline, mainly due to economic and racial disparities.

From the July 2007 Pew Internet & American Life report:

- 47% of Americans have a broadband connection at home," an increase of 5% since a year before.

- Home broadband adoption in rural areas, now 31%, continues to lag high speed
adoption in urban centers and suburbs.

- 40% of African Americans now have a broadband connection at home, a nine
percentage point increase from early 2006.

While there are many Americans who could sympathize with McCain's lack of tecnological savvy, it is different when one is running for President. Is it really politically wise for McCain to make a public statement like this and bring attention to his age again, just when voters were finally starting to look at the differences between him and Barack Obama on issues?

History has shown that understanding the power of technology can make or break a presidential career.


-George H. W. Bush lost the 1992 election because he had no understanding of supermarket scanners.

-Richard Nixon lost to John F. Kennedy because JFK had a better understanding of how to use the new technology of TV during their infamous 1959 Presidential debate.


- John F. Kennedy's commitment to the space race continues to resonate in today's technology

- Bill Clinton, not "Internet Inventor" Al Gore, helped pave the way for the dot com boom that created today's tech giants like Yahoo and Google. I

Much of Barack Obama's success has come from his use of social networks like Facebook to fundraise millions of dollars. While former Presidential candidate Howard Dean was the first major politician to use the Internet for a campaign in 2004, Obama has taken this to a whole new level, by also engaging young people and communities of color, populations that generally lack political engagement, to take an interest in politics.

Furthermore, the next President can not afford to lack computer literacy. With India and China becoming tech giants in the global economy, the future of America is dependent on staying on ahead of the digital curve.

I hope Mrs. McCain will read this post to her husband.

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Tim Russert 1950-2008

Everyday is a blessing.

Someone told me once that we should live everyday like it is our last day on Earth, because you never know when you are going to go. We hope only Tim Russert lived what he thought was a fulfiling life, too.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Russert family.

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What is bad tourism?

The PBS documentary series P.O.V. recently gave its "Film Your Issue" award to Brandon Odum, the director of "New Orleans For Sale."

From P.O.V.

Odums is a 22-year old New Orleans college student who is part of a young filmmaking collective called 2-cent that makes projects to inspire change within young people. When they noticed the gawking tourists who had come to see the devastated 9th Ward after Hurricane Katrina, they decided to make a video about the locals' reactions.

In addition to winning the P.O.V. award, New Orleans for Sale also garnered an FYI Jury Award 2008, the NAACP Award and the AFI SILVERDOCS Award.

As you all know, I went to New Orleans last March for the NTEN conference. While I was there, some of my colleagues wanted to go on a bus tour of the Lower Ninth Ward. I couldn't in good conscience go on such a tour, where people are taking pictures and pointing fingers at a space that has become so sacred to many who have either lost their lives and/or livelihoods.

I realize that my colleagues and others like them only had the best intentions when they went on this tour. Hurricane Katrina really opened hearts and minds to the realities of poverty in America. Many "poverty tourists" believe that by going down to the devastated areas, they would have a better understanding of the issues the people there are facing.

However, I also believe that this crosses the thin line into voyeurism. If these people really wanted to understand the problems Katrina survivors were going through, then when going down to the Lower Ninth, go there with open hands instead, asking what you can do to help rebuild the city, which in the three years since the storm, rebuilding has been slow to stalemate.

(For the record, NTEN organized a "day of service" for attendees to share their tech expertise with New Orleans nonprofits devastated by Hurrican Katrina. The bus tours were organized separately by conference attendees.)

Like I have blogged about before, poverty tourism seems to be worldwide phenomenon right now. But my question is when do we start treating other people like human beings, rather than animals in a zoo?

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S. Koreans got beef with US beef; so should Americans

Nearly 100,000 South Koreans demonstrated in central Seoul Tuesday, which was a culmination of anger over the decision by the Bush regime's new BFF South Korean President Lee Myung-bak to lift a 5-year ban on US beef in accordance with a new trade deal.

The Korean-US Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) is the yet to be signed deal that will be the most important milestone in US-South Korean relations since the end of the Korean War. A signed agreement would approve a substantial amount of money flowing between the two nations.

But President Lee poorly misread the sentiments of most South Koreans. The protesters are not having any to do with US beef, due largely to concerns about the meat being contaminated with mad cow disease.

From The New York Times:

To many South Koreans, however, the beef dispute was not entirely about health concern or science. It was not entirely about the economy, either — beef from the United States is half the price of homegrown meat. To them, it is also the latest symbolic test of whether their leader can resist pressure from superpowers, even if there is good reason for the pressure, as is the case in the beef dispute. South Korea had promised to lift the ban once the World Organization for Animal Health ruled American beef fit for consumption, as it did last September.

South Korea has built the world’s 13th largest economy largely through exports. Nonetheless, historical resentments linger.

South Koreans in their 40s remember a popular childhood song handed down from their fathers and grandfathers: “Don’t be cheated by the Soviets. Don’t trust the Americans. Or the Japanese will rise again.” Koreans still chafe at the fact that the United States and the Soviet Union divided Korea after liberating it from Japanese colonial rule at the end of World War II.

But getting back to the beef (the meat that is), this only begs the question - why are Americans not as outraged about contaminated foods?

Well, for one thing, the US media has no interest in telling the American people the truth behind bad food. I am not a conspiracy theorist, but as a journalist who has seen a lot of "stuff" happen behind the scenes, it is not a coincidence that most major news outlets are giving the South Korean protests, which have been going on for the last six weeks, either little or no attention as to why the protests are really happening. Could it be that most news media today (NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, MSNBC, NYT, Time, Newsweek etc) is owned by corporations that sleep in the same bed (or in polite company, sit on the same boards) with other corporations that put out crap food?

hmmm, thinking out loud...

Secondly, Americans have become simply oblivious about bad food. The latest recall from the Food and Drug Administration are for salmonella-tainted tomatoes, which have reportedly sicken over 160 Americans. Everyday during lunch I go to this supermarket around the corner from work that has a pretty decent salad bar. (Yes, I am on the diet watch, y'all!) For the last few days I have been going there, not only does the supermarket still put out tomatoes at the bar, but I see customers taking the ticking red time bombs, like it was no big thing. And probably it isn't a big thing. Hell, if we stopped eating everything that had to be recalled, there wouldn't be a lot to eat.

However, due to globalization, there are going to be more food recalls and more people getting sick, simply because we are not demanding to be educated about the consequences of the food we eat as a result of today's global economy.

If the following doesn't bother you, than I don't know what will.

From Alternet:

Earlier this month the Bush administration urged a federal appeals court to reverse a lower court ruling that allowed Arkansas City, Kan.-based Creekstone Farms Premium Beef to conduct advanced mad cow testing on its animals -- presumably because it would raise consumer questions and make other packers look bad. (viz. BST-free milk labels)

"This is the government telling the consumers, 'You're not entitled to this information,'" protested Creekstone attorney Russell Frye, according to the Associated Press -- a charge also heard in March when the USDA refused to name companies selling 143 million pounds of recalled Westland/Hallmark beef because the information was "proprietary."

Meat from 200,000 dairy cows was impounded after a Humane Society of the United States undercover video was released depicting slaughter of downer cattle -- a violation of U.S. mad cow regulations.

The video may even have reached South Korea.

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JA gays fight to get into UN AIDS meeting

Description: World leaders and civil society activists are gathering this week at UN Headquarters for the 2008 High-Level Meeting on AIDS. The goal of the meeting is to reevaluate the amount of progress the international community has made in combating the HIV/AIDS epidemic. However, some governments are being criticized for obstructing meaningful advocacy and implementation of HIV/AIDS prevention tactics. Specifically, the Jamaican government has been chastised in recent weeks for letting stigma fester on the island around the HIV/AIDS and sexuality. The Jamaican government went as far as preventing its country’s leading gay rights group from even attending the New York meeting. Bloggers throughout the Caribbean are taking the country’s government to task.

Tools Being Used: Blogs

What Are They Doing: Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG) was denied accreditation to the UN event last week after representatives of the Jamaican government complained about their presence only after the group was given clearance to attend the meeting months before.

“J-FLAG is extremely disappointed by this move,” said J-FLAG spokesperson Jason McFarlane. “The Jamaican government itself has acknowledged that homophobia is fuelling our HIV epidemic. Silencing J-FLAG – Jamaica’s only LGBT organization – undermines Jamaica’s efforts to combat HIV/AIDS.”

J-FLAG used their blog to update readers on their efforts to get into the UN meeting. The blog has also become an activist space to share pertinent information and advice with LGBT Jamaicans and their allies, such as counseling and referrals on asylum cases, as well as updates on homophobic behavior on the island. In recent days progressive bloggers throughout the Caribbean have also criticized the Ministry of Health’s decision to abruptly fire Annesha Taylor, an HIV-positive spokesperson for the MOH’s HIV/AIDS campaign, because she became pregnant and allegations that Jamaica feared a backlash from the US government for not using its funds to promote abstinence. Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding came under fire two weeks ago by other bloggers for his controversial appearance on BBC’s HardTalk, where he stated that gays had no place in his government.

While stigma around homosexuality and HIV/AIDS have been hard topics to discuss publicly in Jamaica for many years, social media is opening a new door to have conversations and advocate on these issues.

Outcome: Tuesday afternoon a J-FLAG representative wrote a post on their blog, saying that after much handwringing with the UN civil society task force, J-FLAG was finally admitted to the UN AIDS meeting.

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Waiting 'Til the Midnight Hour

Gill Scott-Heron once said “the revolution will not be televised” – so Peniel E. Joseph wrote about it instead. In his provocative book, “Waiting ‘Til The Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America,” the young Brandeis University professor/social activist chronicles the highlights and lowlights of the people and the ideas that made up organized black radicalism in the United States over the last century. While the seeds of black power bore their roots in Marcus Garvey’s United Negro Improvement Association, the book really takes off during the burgeoning civil rights movement in the 1960s, when black militants like Stokley Carmichael and Malcolm X began to question Dr. Martin Luther King’s peaceful resistance tactics to address racism. Joseph does a good job of giving comprehensive biographies of not only the well-known key players like Amiri Baraka, James Baldwin and Angela Davis, the author also pays homage to long-forgotten names, such as renegade journalist William Worthy who befriended Communist leaders in Viet Nam and Cuba during the height of Sen. Joe McCarthy’s witch trials. Joseph also points out the failures of some black power groups, most notably the Black Panthers, the militant, Oakland-based cadre that fell from national prominence due to internal conflicts and the vices of the Party’s leadership (Huey Newton’s drug addiction and Eldridge Cleaver’s misogyny and conversion to conservatism).

The black power movement left an indelible mark in American history, as can be seen in today’s social movements and particularly the rise of hip hop in the 1980s. The black power movement also provided an opportunity for African Americans to see themselves on the international level and unite with other blacks worldwide in the name of Pan-Africanism. With the high amount of support for Sen. Barack Obama’s Presidential candidancy from the African Diaspora, its seems like black power may have come full circle. This only begs the question – what would Marcus Garvey have thought of Obama if he lived today?



Watch AfroPop!

Check out a preview of the new series by the National Black Programming Consortium, Afropop, which will be airing on PBS stations nationwide June and July. The series will premiere great documentaries by some of the most innovative black filmmakers on modern life in Africa and how the African diaspora interacts with each other. AfroPop will be hosted by none other than the fabulous actor Idris Elba (don't all sigh at the same time). Did I also mention that he is quite the fine-looking man? I will be doing an article on AfroPop in the next couple of weeks for a local publication.

So, please share this video with those who would be interested. Most importantly, please support this program because there are very few documentaries by and for black folks that ever get played to a wide, mainstream audience.

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It's 2008, not 1961

Did you know that U.S. foreign policy is backwards? Okay, I think that might be a dump question considering the people currently running the White House. No, but serious, the way America deals with providing aid overseas today is mostly based on how on the world dealt with problems under the pressures of the Cold War.

From the Center for Global Development:

The world is becoming increasingly interconnected as opportunities and challenges here in the U.S. and abroad tie us to the rest of the world in ways we are only beginning to understand.

American foreign assistance programs have proved to be an influential aspect of our engagement with the world in the past, but our foreign assistance policy was written in 1961. A lot has changed since then.

We need a new foreign assistance policy for the 21st century. The 2008 presidential elections are our chance to make that happen.

The Foreign Assistance Act was established in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy to provide goodwill to countries in need of aid, while indirectly discouraging them from taking up with the Soviets. While there were some updates to the act in 2004 to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic, there are many other enormous problems the current FA Act can not address in its current state.

CGD is running a petition drive, asking concerned Americans to encourage whoever moves into the White House in January to revisit the Act.

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Nader being Nader

New York University professer Tunku Varadarajan recently interviewed Independent Presidential candidate Ralph Nader (yes, he's still in the race, too) in the Wall Street Journal on the downfall of American politics.

His thoughts on Barack Obama
"He's really a . . . the Wall Street Journal's editorial page wouldn't describe him as such . . . but he's really a corporate Democrat. His record in the Senate is not one of challenging corporate power."

Why Obama isn't for fair trade and against special interests:
"Look at who gets the corporate money. Six out of seven industries giving money, through PACs and individual executives, etc., are giving more money to the Democrats than to the Republicans. I mean, John McCain's having trouble raising money, even now. Obama's taking large money from the securities industry, the health insurance industry . . . I've gotten used to this ritual where the companies give Democrats this leeway, and say, 'Well, Obama's gotta say that stuff, but he'll come around. There's no way he'll touch Nafta or touch the WTO.'"

So why isn't he supporting Hillary
"With her, we'll just get what Bill gave us. I think she's like Bill Clinton."

Did he cause Al Gore to lose the 2000 elections
Yes," says Mr. Nader, looking, for all the world, as if I'd asked him the silliest question. "Bush is the worst president we've ever had – in terms of damage to the nation, and incapacity."

Any regrets about the 2000 elections
"No . . . If the premise is that we have an equal right to run for election, no one's a 'spoiler' – unless we're all 'spoilers' of one another. So when they say, 'You cost Gore the election,' I say, 'I thought Bush took more votes from Gore.'"

What's his beef with the Democrats
"The Democrats hadn't been challenged from my side of the political spectrum since Henry Wallace," FDR's vice-president, who ran for president in 1948 as the nominee of the Progressive Party. "They're not used to third-party challenges, while the Republicans are challenged by the Libertarians all the time. So they still scapegoat the Green Party, instead of looking in the mirror and asking, 'Why didn't we landslide this bumbling governor from Texas?' And that's what they've been doing for eight years!

Why the media hates him
"I don't complain much publicly. I've been told by a lot of the television bookers around the country, 'Ralph, they don't like you.' So the door is shut. But I say to myself, 'Should we close down and go to Monterey and watch the whales?' No. Better to fight when you have a small chance, than to fight later when you have no chance at all."

For someone who doesn't complain much publicly, he does seem to have a lot to say.

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The South wants food sovereignty back

World leaders and policy makers gathered this week in Rome for the three-day UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) summit to mainly discuss the worldwide food crisis and its effects on the Global South. Everyone who was anyone attended the summit, including 'suspect' people like Zim President Robert Mugabe and WTO officials. But it seems like a whole group of people were noticeable M.I.A. - the Global South.

From IPS:

More than 100 delegates from international social movements, farmers organisations, indigenous groups from the South and NGOs are holding a five-day forum on food sovereignty.

The civil society forum Terra Preta (black soil, in Portuguese) has been organised by the International Planning Committee (IPC), a global network of NGOs and civil society groups concerned with agricultural issues.

IPC includes social organisations representing small farmers, fisher folk, indigenous peoples and agricultural workers' trade unions. It works as a facilitation mechanism for dialogue between social movements and the UN agencies dealing with food and agriculture.

"We are here to remind governments that they cannot take any effective decision to solve the food crisis without consulting those who feed the planet," Antonio Onorati from IPC told IPS.

"While 80 percent of the world food comes from their work, farmers are not represented enough at the official meeting," he said. "Normally those desks are occupied by the interests of the big agro-alimentary transnational companies and financial institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), that asks for a further liberalisation of the agricultural market, which would foster uncontrolled food price rise."

Across from the FAO headquarters in Rome, farmers have set up a table with empty plates on it to represent world hunger. Demonstrations continue outside the building.

In addition, civil society organizations delivered a letter to WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy, stating their disgust with his wack views on why he thinks finishing the Doha Rounds will solve the food crisis.

Grassroots International and the Oakland Institute are circulating a petition to get the United Nations and FAO to not use the food crisis to push through more failed free trade policies. New free trade policies would increase hunger and poverty worldwide, while permitting Western nation to continue dumping their agricultural products on poorer ones that can't compete.

According to the petition, pro-Global South trade policies will increase cash contributions for food aid geared towards local food purchasing in hard-hit countries, develop sustainable agriculture systems through genuine agrarian reforms and end speculation on food as a commodities in the global financial markets.

Please consider signing the petition to stand in solidarity with the people who are actually being affected by the food crisis.

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To out or not to out

After watching Hillary Clinton give her practice swan song last night, I was talking on the phone with my good friend, Carl, when CNN anchor Anderson Cooper said to Democratic strategist Donna Brazile that he wants to be her "boo."

Without missing a beat - and never the one to self-censor - Carl, who is openly gay, said: "Oh please, who are these people fooling? Everybody knows Anderson is so into d*#k, and Donna eats out. All this pretend heterosexual talk by quasi-closeted gay people just to appease middle America is just plain ridiculous. Why don't they just come out the closet? Somebody needs to out them."

Yes, the silly sexual exchange between Cooper and Brazile seemed odd, to say the least. Both of them have been rumored to be gay for years, but neither have either confirmed or denied it. And why should they say anything to anyone? Sexual orientation, and sexual behavior among consenting adults in general, is a private matter, and doesn't need to be shared with anyone, even if the persons in question are public figures.

However, Carl and other like-minded people within the LGBT community feel that it is not only necessary for gay public figures to be out about their sexuality, they should also be pushed out the closet by other gays who feel public figures need to be role models for other gays struggling with their sexual orientation. But wouldn't gay celebrities be better role models for keeping their private lives private? With the rash of sex tapes out of Hollywood in recent years, I think it is too much information to know about somebody else's sexual habits. Plus, there are many reasons people are not open about their sex lives, many because of homophobic backlashes, but also for wanting to respect themselves and their significant others.

Nonetheless, I do think it is only okay to out a well-known person who is privately gay but very publicly homophobic (Larry Craig, anyone?). But, there are many of you who may disagree with me.


BTW, I found this footage of Anderson Cooper allegedly coming on to or interviewing soccer sensation David Beckham on 60 Minutes, another alleged gay man.



She just won't go away

It just dawned on me last night that Sen. Barack Obama has now become the first African American to be the presidential nominee for a top political party. This was possibly because I never thought this day would ever come. With the incredible history being made in St. Paul, the other candidate in New York said she "will make no decision tonight" about dropping out. Unfortunately, Obama looked disappointed on a night he should be happy. Even Obama is finding it hard to believe this day happened either.

At this point Sen. Hillary Clinton is like the last person at a house party hanging around when everyone else has left, and the house owners don't know how to politely ask that person to leave.


I heard comedian Jerry Seinfeld on the radio yesterday asking if she was staying in the race because she hasn't worn all of her pantsuits yet. LOL!


Israelis, Palestinians unite through technology

Description: Since the deterioration of the Oslo Peace Accords in 2000, business relations between Israelis and Palestinians have been incredibly difficult to sustain, especially in the technology sector. Palestinians need permits to enter Israel, while Israelis are not allow to enter any Palestinian areas. However, a technological advancement created through a business partnership is uniting these two groups in an innovative way.

Tools Being Used: Google Docs, Flickr, Zoho

What Are they Doing: G.ho.st, short for Global Hosted Operating System, was created in 2006 by Israeli and Palestinian venture capitalists to give users a free, Web-based virtual desktop that lets them access their files from any computer with an Internet connection using one sign-in. Instead of recreating the wheel, G.ho.st uses familiar tools like Google Doc and Zoho to organize word documents, spreadsheets, web-conferencing, music, database applications, email and a calendar and Flickr to upload and share photos. Not only does this service make life easier for those of us with busy, computer-hopping lives, but G.ho.st also, in a unique way, provides a "digital" olive branch between the warring factions. In addition, G.ho.st's charitable foundation provides free or subsidized cyber cafes and technology training in disadvantaged locations for both Palestinians and Israelis.

“We are doing something across cultures and across two sides of a tough conflict,” said Zvi Schreiber, G.ho.st's chief executive to the New York Times. “I was prepared for the possibility that it might be difficult, but it hasn’t been.”

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Sex and identity politics

I finally went out to see 'Sex and the City' last night. Before you all get on me about the identity politics in the film, I do have to say that I quite enjoyed the film. It could have been a better film, had the film's director cut the script by maybe an hour and tightened the story line. Hell, Samantha doesn't even have sex in the movie! (Sorry, if I gave away too much of the movie) Other than that, it was worth my hard earned money to spend on a ticket for the movie.

Moving onto the topic on tap, there has been a much discussion recently about lacking representations of women of color during the show's run on HBO. It seems like the makers of the movie tried to compensate for this problem by casting Oscar-winning songstress Jennifer Hudson. However, it became so apparent that Hudson's role as Carrie's personal assistant/therapist was a token gesture, that it just set the whole SATC phenomenon further back, rather than forward. Maybe if Hudson's character had a little more substance, she could have been more believable.

'Sex and the City' is a story about privileged white women navigating the romance in New York. Yes, like the TV show, the movie version is a glamorization of high price shopping, bitching gay men and all night partying. Yes, there are a lot of things about the show I can't really relate to not only because of the race issue, but also the class issue. Believe it or not, there are many low income white women who can't relate to the show either, and can only dream about the lifestyles of Carrie, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte.

On the flip side, I know plenty of well-to-do black women who actually live the SATC lifestyle. I have a black hair and makeup artist friend who works on Broadway, and never forgets to find an opportunity to tell me about going out every night after shows to parties and meeting hot guys she later beds. And just the other day I discovered Brown Funky Chick, a black freelance journalist in New York trying to make sense of the dating world.

At the end of the day, 'Sex and the City' dealt with issues that were universal to all women. Every woman has gone through heart break, a weird blind date, bad sex or a combination of all three at once. And this is why the show is popular with women from across the spectrum.

While the many women who charged the movie theatres this weekend for the film premiere were looking to view the film for appeasement and escapism, they also saw themselves somehow in all the characters.

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Bo Diddley 1928-2008

Legendary blues guitarist Bo Diddley passed away yesterday. As a musical innovator, his style influenced some of today's most well-known rock stars, including the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and U2.

Check out some old school Diddley doing what he does best.

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Yves Saint-Laurent 1936-2008

Look, I have never claimed to be a fashionista. I don't own any brand name designer clothes, unless you count Eddie Bauer as stylish. I admit I have watched a few episodes of American Top Model and the Kimora Lee Simmons show, but that hasn't made me anymore fashion-inclined. I actually just brought my first ever evening gown, which I will be wearing to a gala event at Unity this summer. In my regular life I prefer a backpack over a purse to carry of my stuff around, wear makeup sparingly and only own one pair of high heels...

Okay, now that we have gotten over me being seriously fashion-challenged, lets move on.

I didn't really know that much about Yves Saint-Laurent before I heard about his death. But after reading about him, he sounded like a really right on dude.

YSL was one of the most progressive fashion designers, as he was one of the first designers to have black models in his runway shows, and the late Guinean supermodel and human rights activist Katoucha Niane was one of his muses. Also, despite the fact that the fashion world is pretty much dominated by gay men these days, he was also one of the first to be open about his homosexuality even when it was seen as career death.

YSL most importantly pioneered Le Smoking tuxedo suit, which was a precursor to pantsuits for women at a time when feminism was coming to a forefront around the world. While the pantsuits were all the rage among many, there were women who were actually turned away from restaurants and hotels for wearing the revolutionary suit. Today, I don't know one woman who doesn't own at least one pantsuit.

It must be a sad day for Hillary Clinton!

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Dick Gregory on good health

I was trolling YouTube yesterday and found this vintage film of legendary comedian Dick Gregory talking about the benefits of water and good nutrition in general.

From Wikipedia:

In recent years, Gregory has been a figure in the health food industry, becoming better known as a nutrition guru during the 1980s, advocating for a raw fruit and vegetable diet. Gregory first became a vegetarian in the 1960s, and has lost a considerable amount of weight by going on extreme fasts, some lasting upwards of 50 days. He developed a diet drink called "Bahamian Diet Nutritional Drink" and went on TV shows advocating for his diet and to help the morbidly obese. He is probably best remembered for his attempts, chronicled in the media on daytime talk shows in early 1988, at helping 1,200 pound (540 kg) Long Island man Walter Hudson drop nearly 600 pounds (270 kg) in only a few months on a liquid diet. Mr. Hudson shortly gained the weight back and later died from complications from his extreme obesity. Nonetheless, Gregory claims his diet has kept him in good health and continues to advocate for a natural diet lifestyle.

Wow, Dick Gregory was doing the health watch back before it was fashionable. At 75 years old, he is still going strong. Big ups to him!

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