Thursday, January 31, 2008

Tyra Makes Make-A-Wish Girls' Dreams Come True

As much as the media loves to poke fun at Tyra Banks, what is no laughing matter is the star power that this woman possesses. As the head of her empire and owner of one of the few black female production companies Bankable Productions, she is a driving force in entertainment today.

Wednesday's show 1/30/08 was dedicated to a group of black girls from ages 11-18 who were all diagnosed with debilitating diseases. These warrior young women were brought on the show because through the "Make a Wish" foundation it was their wish to meet the one and only Tyra. Tyra embraced these precious young women, gave them a platform to speak about their perseverance in the face of their illnesses. These young women have been diagnosed with diseases like sickle-cell anemia, ovarian cancer, leukemia, and bone cancer. In the midst of their realities, these young ladies were dreaming big about their futures. They all had wonderful aspirations including modeling, teaching, and pediatric medicine.

This was not a fly-by night "just for the publicity" stunt for Ms. Banks. She has been involved with the "Make a Wish Foundation" since she was19 years old. Tyra is using her star power and celebrity to bring to the world's attention the forgotten issues that most people would like to ignore. She is using her platform to do more than just promote herself and that is more that can be said for many celebs in her position.

-Nana-Adwoa Ofori

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Sexual Exploitation of Women in Dancehall Music

Anyone who follows Jamaican music, especially Reggae and Dancehall knows that dancehall’s lyrics are generally about four main subjects, two of which are women and sex. The sexual content is seen by some Jamaicans as being very disrespectful of women, but interestingly lots of women love these songs.

Go to any dancehall show and the people shouting the loudest and dancing wildly to songs, whose lyrics offer graphic details of a woman’s body, are usually women.

Those who embrace dancehall see the lyrics as part and parcel of the Jamaican culture and psyche. Beenie Man’s popular song of the 1990s, “Man Fi Have Nuff Gal” was a major hit, but what the song was essentially saying is that it’s ok for a man to have as many girlfriends/lovers has he wants.

If you believe that dancehall is the domain of male performers – think again. Lady Saw, the undisputed queen of dancehall, has made her fame and fortune from being as raunchy as, and sometimes even raunchier than her male counterparts. Even before the entry of Lady saw into the male domain of dancehall, there was Patra, who once ruled as the queen of raw sexuality. The new crop of female DJs’ and dancehall artists are generally not as sexually explicit, but they too have no fear of expressing sexual lyrics or flaunting their sexuality on stage.

Hip hop is said to have some root in Jamaican Reggae and Dancehall and judging by the sexual content and music videos, it is also ‘guilty’ in the eyes of some sectors of society of glamorizing the sexual exploitation of women.

Tom Jennings in his article, “Dancehall Dreams” explores to some extent the sexual exploitation of women in Reggae and Dancehall. His article however, confirms that the success of this exploitation in Dancehall is dependent on the support of women themselves. Jennings noted that “Nor should there be any suspicion that women merely ‘receive’ this attention passively in the dancehall. Although reggae’s sidelining of women as stage performers or recording artists has often amounted to outright exclusion, during the dance event women are actively central – indeed, slack lyrics make little sense without their and the DJs’ fully mutual call and response. Carolyn Cooper’s crucial Slackness “Hiding from Culture: Erotic Play in the Dancehall” illuminates the complementary rhetorical – and literal – functions of dirty talk in the DJ’s oral stage art and dirty movement in the cauldron of the dance.” He further said, and supports a common point used in defending women’s support of dancehall and its sexually explicit language, when he wrote, “Temporarily escaping their (more or less) embittering daily grind, local women dress up for the party and conduct themselves wholly on their own terms – deciding when, to what and with whom to ‘grind’ (i.e. dance), setting the tone for the success of the entire night. Parading the sexiest gear and most gymnastic contortions, the haughtily intimidating ‘dancehall divas’ clear space for all women to enjoy themselves without feeling besieged by men.” Lovers of these musical artforms will contend that it is simply a form of expression for the people and of the people…referring specifically to the ghettoes. However, passa passa, a popular weekly session held downtown has its fair share of ‘uptown’ attendees.

For years to come the debate will continue as to whether or not Dancehall music and its derivatives such as hip hop promote and encourage the commodification and objectification of women.


-Jessica McCurdy Crooks

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

One Laptop Per Child

The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project is an extension of the vision of an architect and computer scientist, Mr. Nicholas Negroponte and his crew at MIT, the Media Club. There are various blog sites where you can find out about the mixed opinions on the One Laptop Per Child project, and it's a healthy debate on many levels.

The main opponents to the idea argue that laptops will not feed and clothe the poor and hungry. Mr. Negroponte is a determined man with a vision; a vision shown in his 1995 bestseller, "Being Digital". The book describes his speculations on "the interactive world, the entertainment world and the information world eventually merge." Back then, his critics already thought that Mr. Negroponte's "techno-utopian" ideas were askew from the realities of current socio-political and historical environment.

Who hasn't read the news lately? The "reality" presented by mainstream media is often a dismal forecast. There is an alternative thinking mode, and Mr. Negroponte is a model for this.
He's probably heard arguments against OLPC many times and in an interview with LAPTOP, back in April 29, 2007 he responded:
LAPTOP: Critics of the OLPC project maintain that developing countries need food, development, and medical aid--not laptops. What's your response?
NN:
Substitute the word "education" for "laptop" and you will never ask that question again. The theory of OLPC is simple: There are 1.2 billion children in primary and secondary schools worldwide. Fifty percent of those schools have no electricity, and many are so rural they hold class under a tree. Many teachers do not show up, or have barely a sixth-grade education themselves. Under these conditions, while we build schools and train teachers (a 20- to 30-year process), let's leverage the children themselves, inside and outside of the school.
Mr. Negroponte is a visionary like the other great thinkers (Leonardo DaVinci, Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin) who have evolved our way of living and thinking.

I admire Mr. Negoponte's gumption to realize his dream. Upon reviewing the history of the OLPC since its birth in 1967 with the development of "Logo" (a programming language written for children) up to this year when the XO computer has already began its distribution and children are beginning to learn with the XO, it's a great feat equal to the launch of the first rocket into space.

Why do I think this is an achievement in progress? It takes a lot of will and energy to gather the right minds and hands to plan the project and build the tool (XO laptop). The challenges can include but aren't limited to: technical boundaries, the politics of different wills, the social landmines.

It would be hard to fault Mr. Negroponte's good intention and the sweat and his own financial backing into the project. Upon closer inspection of the content in the OLPC main website, I think there is a definite influence by Mr. Negrotone on the makeup of the tone and content in the OLPC website.

The main page is a simple design of four symbols that convey the message and goal:
1 laptop -> o
x
(the laptop is a symbol)

Mr. Negroponte's actions show a person who thinks out of the box; a trait that results in the revolution of change.

-Analyn Revilla

Sources:
Official website of the OLPC: http://www.laptop.org/
BBC Technology for discussions on the OLPC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/technology/



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STOP FIRESTONE COALITION

SUPERBOWL HALFTIME SPONSOR BRIDGESTONE FIRESTONE USES CHILD LABOR,

ABUSES WORKERS AND ENVIRONMENT IN LIBERIA

Stop Firestone Coalition Decries Conditions on Tire Company's Rubber Plantation


This Sunday, Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire (BFNT) will enjoy the media spotlight as the title sponsor of the Super Bowl XLII halftime show featuring Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers while workers on the company's rubber plantation in Liberia continue to be exploited. Since 1926, Bridgestone Firestone has operated the world's largest rubber plantation in Harbel, Liberia where there is child labor, widespread abuse of workers' rights and environmental damage. Workers on the plantation earn just $3.19 per day.


The Stop Firestone Coalition, which includes both U.S. and Liberia-based human rights, labor, environmental and Africa-focused organizations, calls on Bridgestone Firestone to stop the exploitation of workers and the environment on their plantation in Liberia and to negotiate a fair collective bargaining agreement with the newly elected union leaders on the plantation. The NFL should not be involved in a marketing partnership with Bridgestone Firestone until the company stops using child labor and ignoring international labor standards. The sponsorship agreement between the NFL and Bridgestone Firestone will also include the 2009 Super Bowl halftime show.


Alfred Brownell, Director of Liberia-based Green Advocates said, "The cost of sponsoring the Super Bowl would go a long way to fix the problems on Firestone's plantations in Liberia."


Emira Woods, co-director of Foreign Policy In Focus, a project of the Washington, DC-based Institute for Policy Studies, said, "NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell must not allow sponsorship from a corporation linked to child labor and destruction of the environment. While it may be late for Super Bowl XLII, Firestone's deal for next year's game must be revoked."


Bama Athreya, Executive Director of the International Labor Rights Forum in the U.S. said, "The NFL's partnership with a company that is known to use abusive child labor stands in stark contrast to their charitable commitment to youth in the U.S. Instead of purely focusing on public relations, Bridgestone Firestone should make a concrete investment in making sure conditions on their rubber plantation are in line with international labor standards."

The company is also the target of a lawsuit filed by International Rights Advocates, which is moving forward on child labor claims in the U.S. District Court in the Southern district of Indiana, Indianapolis division.


The Stop Firestone coalition is a coalition of U.S. and Liberian-based human rights, labor, environmental and Africa-focused organizations working to hold Firestone accountable for its 82 years of exploitation of Liberia. For more information, please visit: www.StopFirestone.org.

###

Emily Schwartz Greco

Media Director

Foreign Policy In Focus www.fpif.org

Institute for Policy Studies www.ips-dc.org


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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Halle Berry Graces the Cover of InStyle Magazine

Mainstream media does not make a habit out of adorning their coveted glossy covers with black women.

For the month of February, Halle Berry graces cover of In Style magazine. Radiant and glowing in all white, proudly holding her baby bump , Berry joins the ranks of Demi Moore, Christina Aguilera and Linda Evangelista as woman who have graced the covers of major magazines while visibly pregnant. Although her critics have been quick to condemn her for pregnancy out of without marriage, Berry confidently expresses herself as the cover headline reads: Halle! Her key to finding happiness at least. (Read: Making beautiful babies with Gabriel Aubry is the key to happiness.)

Here's the table-of-contents description: A thriving career. A hot boyfriend. And a sure-to-be- adorable baby (due any minute). It would be easy to envy Halle Berry—if she weren't so nice. Here, the secrets to what makes her tick.

For all of the critics who want paint Halle as a "bad role model" for rejecting marriage, bringing a baby into the world without a husband, and of course doing the cardinal sin of dating a white man, I say "Leave Halle Alone"

She's been through enough! Her romances/marriages/divorces are in the public eye. Eric Benet cheated on her and it was all over the tabloids.

I would not crown Halle Berry as a martyr for social justice, she has re-defined the way black women are looked upon in Hollywood. The images created in the times of American slavery; black women as "Mammy" all the way to the images of "Welfare Queens (phrase coined by the Regan era) are still a prevalent visuals in today's society. We take steps to demystify those stereotypes when the focus is placed on women who do not project those stereotypes. When I saw In Style placed her on the cover I said to myself "You go on Halle with your bad self!" Not only does Ms. Berry truly seem so insanely happy, but more importantly she is fearless!

I remember a quiet, shy, woman who was married to former Atlanta Braves star David Justice. I remember watching in interviews seeing a broken-hearted Halle while she was married to cheating hubby Eric Benet. After all she has been through, no wonder why she is not focusing on marriage or "getting married", she is focused on building her happiness. It is so inspirational to read that there actually is a celebrity who has not totally fallen victim to perils of the Hollywood lifestyle. It seems that this Oscar –award winning actress has found the secret to happiness, and is not letting go! Congratulations Halle!


-Nana-Adwoa Ofori

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The Lavanilla Experience

My mother has many quotes that I often attribute to my life daily. One of the most important sayings she has is "a woman's scent is the key to her happiness". This statement could not ring more true. There is nothing I enjoy more than after a steaming hot shower, is to apply my favorite scents to fill my senses with a sweet smelling essence. If you you find yourself agreeing whole-heartedly with these sentiments then please rush yourself to your nearest Sephora store, to check out LAVANILLA LABORATORIES.

These scents will immediately sweep you up with its commanding vanilla based scent with subtle hints of different flavors. Vanilla is the core scent mainly because of highly aromatic vanilla bean. It's one of the worlds most identifiable and comforting flavors. Vanilla is associated not only with warmth, softness, and purity, but medically proven to reduce stress and anxiety. There are four scents available at LAVANILLA LABORATIES: Pure Vanilla, Vanilla Coconut, Vanilla Grapefruit, Vanilla Blossom. Each scent is carefully formulated and blended to leave your skin not only smelling amazing, but the natural essences and oils in their lotion and perfume hydrate and not damage the skin. This is why this product is among my top favorites for 2008. The creators of LAVANILLA are women who understand the importance of hydration for skin, and created a product that is remarkable for all skin types, but especially women with melanin. According to statistics from the Good Housekeeping Institute, " The skin as the body's largest organ, absorbs about 60% of what is put on it directly into the bloodstream." This is the reasoning behind LAVANILLA using the finest natural ingredients and technologies that lead the way to safe, non-toxic and effective fragrance and skin care. There are no synthetic preservatives in ANY of there fragrances, no phthalates (used is most fragrances to extend the life of the scent). LAVANILLA uses pure essential oils from concentrated, highly aromatic components of plants and fruits produced for their own survival and protection from disease. The molecular structure of essential oils is close to that of the fluids and oils of our skin therefore readily absorbed to the deepest layers. Their regular use in skincare has been proven effective in helping correct uneven complexion, dryness, and wrinkles. This is a must have product! If you do not have ready access to a Sephora, do not fret! You can enjoy LAVANILLA by accessesing www.sephora.com prices point ranges from $-18-$56.

http://www.sephora.com/browse/brand_hierarchy.jhtml?brandId=5850&cm_mmc%3dus_search-_-GG-_-br%20lavlab-_-lavanila


-Nana-Adwoa Ofori

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Top Schools Set To Give Big Breaks, But Is It Enough?


It looks as though the American middle class will be getting a break from more than just the government, thanks to recent Senate inquiries. Reacting to pressure from the Senate Finance Committee to disclose important financial information, in particular the use the endowment funds, institutions of higher education with endowments over $1 billion have begun offering more extensive financial aid programs for its students. Of the 136 universities asked for details on the allotment of their endowment funds, particularly as tuition and dean salaries skyrocket annually, the Ivy League has been the loudest to respond, with schools like Dartmouth guaranteeing 100% financial aid (tuition, room, board, and books) to its neediest applicants. Harvard and Yale have followed suit, offering more financial aid to students from middle-income families (loosely defined as families earning between $60,000 and $200,000 a year). Some wonder, however, if this will truly help the financial aid crisis within institutions of higher learning, myself included.

Though the aid offered is amazing and would surely benefit the students who reach the pearly gates of a 4-year college or university, I wonder what is being done to help those for whom college is nowhere in sight. Considering the less-than stellar state of American primary and secondary education, it's no wonder so many of the wealthier, well-established schools can offer such aid packages: lower income students aren't getting there in the first place.

Students from families in lower income brackets are more likely to go to public schools, many times in neighborhoods of a lower tax bracket, meaning substandard educational resources. Not to mention, poor students do not have access to or the financial means to acquire SAT/ACT tutors or to enroll in college preparatory classes, and often lack important curricular and extra-curricular programs in their schools that would make their college applications stronger (i.e. foreign language instruction, AP classes (and thus AP credit), music or art programs). In addition, external stresses such as hunger, inadequate healthcare, violence, sexual harassment, and lack of familial support inevitably affect lower income students as they attempt to pursue an education, and those factors cannot be ignored, particularly as one surveys their respective academic performance.

Until the government commits conduct an extensive overhaul of public education in this country, promising students in less-than-forgiving environments will have limited opportunities to "get out," meaning that no matter how much money universities throw at students of lower income brackets, attendance is still beyond their reach.

- Wendi Muse READ MORE

Obama Sweeps South Carolina Primary, Gains New Supporters


In a complete upset in South Carolina this weekend, Senator Barack Obama gained an immense amount of support from a pivotal southern "red" state. Gaining 55% of the vote, with 99% of the electoral precincts reporting, Obama carried voter support by a wide margin Saturday night, putting him ahead of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and fellow Democratic candidate John Edwards. Edwards, who was born in South Carolina, only gained 18% of the electoral vote. And despite previous allegations by former President Bill Clinton, as he helped campaign on his wife Hillary's behalf, Senator Obama can look beyond the black community for campaign allegiance. Obama is noted to have said to the southern crowd Saturday night that he "did not travel around this state over the last year and see a white South Carolina or a black South Carolina . . . [he] saw South Carolina," marking the desire for his road to presidency to be one marked by unity and not division along racial lines. In fact, Senator Obama gained 25% of the white vote in South Carolina this weekend, demonstrating his cross-racial appeal, even in a place in which the population is frequently reminded of its sullied Confederate past, the Confederate flag still a mainstay in public events and private residences.


Obama also garnered increased publicity and endorsement from prominent members of the Kennedy family, including Senator Edward Kennedy, much to the chagrin of the Clintons. Obama's campaign and future goals are considered to be a modern embodiment of the late former President John F. Kennedy's legacy. Obama and his family, wife Michelle Obama and his two daughters Malia Ann and Natasha ("Sasha"), are the post-millennial version of "Camelot," providing a reminder that all hope is not lost for black families, young families, and/or families that are comprised of parents who are aggressively devoted to their careers. In an Op-Ed piece today in the New York Times entitled "A President Like My Father," Caroline Kennedy remarked with regard to the striking similarities between JFK and Senator Obama:
OVER the years, I’ve been deeply moved by the people who’ve told me they wished they could feel inspired and hopeful about America the way people did when my father was president. This sense is even more profound today. That is why I am supporting a presidential candidate in the Democratic primaries, Barack Obama.

My reasons are patriotic, political and personal, and the three are intertwined. All my life, people have told me that my father changed their lives, that they got involved in public service or politics because he asked them to. And the generation he inspired has passed that spirit on to its children. I meet young people who were born long after John F. Kennedy was president, yet who ask me how to live out his ideals.

Sometimes it takes a while to recognize that someone has a special ability to get us to believe in ourselves, to tie that belief to our highest ideals and imagine that together we can do great things. In those rare moments, when such a person comes along, we need to put aside our plans and reach for what we know is possible. . .

We have that kind of opportunity with Senator Obama. It isn’t that the other candidates are not experienced or knowledgeable. But this year, that may not be enough. We need a change in the leadership of this country — just as we did in 1960. . .

I want a president who understands that his responsibility is to articulate a vision and encourage others to achieve it; who holds himself, and those around him, to the highest ethical standards; who appeals to the hopes of those who still believe in the American Dream, and those around the world who still believe in the American ideal; and who can lift our spirits, and make us believe again that our country needs every one of us to get involved.

I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them. But for the first time, I believe I have found the man who could be that president — not just for me, but for a new generation of Americans.


The Obama family may come as an answer to the "family values" Republican candidates often speak of, but for which they can rarely provide adequate examples. Other Democratic candidates are taking notes, the Clintons presenting themselves as the most unified they have been in years, with Bill supporting his wife on the campaign trail. Yet the Clintons provide an example of the type of family dysfunction that, while practically the contemporary norm, is a bit unsettling considering the turmoil in which America is engaged abroad and the crumbling domestic economy. If anything, America seems to want to see a candidate who can provide hope for the future, and unfortunately for Senator Clinton, her campaign has yet to fully provide that sense of security for many American voters, despite her impressive resume.


In fact, the Clinton campaign has headed down a dark path from which they are scrambling to recover. Many voters and campaign advisers found the tone of the campaign to be one of negativity and beyond borderline mudslinging. In fact, the Clinton camp has sought to pull the reigns on Bill Clinton's hardball approach, requesting that he soften his message after a comparison of Senator Obama's success in South Carolina to that of Jesse Jackson's during his campaign in the 1980s got him quite a bit of hot water. The reliance upon Bill's popularity in the black community has also backfired, rendering Bill (and the Clinton campaign as a whole) the butt of jokes heard 'round the blogosphere regarding his assumed claim of black authenticity. Bill Clinton's involvement has also damaged the image surrounding Hillary as a strong female leader. With her husband at the helm, due in part to his notoriety, Hillary is overshadowed, and the idea of a "partner presidency" comes to the forefront, turning off voters who may have supported Hillary, but who were not big fans of Bill. Hopefully the campaign for Hillary Clinton can have a turn-around so that voters can focus more on policy and Hillary's political voice than a physical reminder of 1992 - 2000, but only time will tell.



For full transcripts of the Democratic candidates South Carolina primary speeches, click the links below:


- Wendi Muse
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Friday, January 25, 2008

America's "First Black President" Makes Race-Based Accusations

With the New York Times editorial board having formally endorsed Hillary Clinton in the Democratic race and Ms. Clinton having recently won the popular vote in the Nevada primary, it is no wonder that the race has grown increasingly more tense in the past few weeks between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the top Democratic forerunners in the race to the White House. However, it seems as if a third member has entered the running, and it's not John Edwards.

Bill Clinton has been ardently supporting his wife with her campaign, so much so that it has deepened the bitter rift between Clinton and the Obama camp, his criticisms dwelling primarily on the subject of race. Though the Obama campaign has openly addressed present issues of race in the United States, their campaign has very little to do with race, Obama having minimized the fact that his skin color matches that of one of the most important constituent bodies in this race: the black community. As of late, Former President Bill Clinton has launched a campaign of his own in reaction to the Obama camp, accusing them of "stirring [the] race issue" and using Obama's blackness as an advantage over Ms. Clinton. In a recent Op-Ed piece by Gloria Steinem, a similar issue has been raised, painting Ms. Clinton as a victim of her gender in this presidential race in which gender and race have been contenders in the Oppression Olympics.

"Who has it worse? Blacks or women?" many have asked in relation to the Clinton and Obama campaigns, blatantly ignoring that black women exist on the fault lines. Blacks can be women and women can be black. How is this issue constantly ignored by so many white feminists AND black community activists in the public eye? Bill Clinton himself, known affectionately by many of his supporters in the black community as America's "first black president," has fallen into this trap, just like Steinem, portraying his wife as one who may suffer from being a woman as she campaigns against a black man. During a recent campaign sweep, Mr. Clinton is quoted as having said during his public remarks regarding the South Carolina primaries that "They [Clinton and Obama] are getting votes, to be sure, because of their race or gender, and that's why people tell me that Hillary doesn't have a chance to win here" as many of the voters are expected to be black.

Other statements from the former President have also caused a few Obama supports to raise eyebrows:

Mr. Clinton said no one in the audience in Charleston had asked him about how race was being used in the campaign. “They are feeding you this because they know this is what you want to cover,” he said. “What you care about is this. And the Obama people know that. So they just spin you up on this and you happily go along.”
in addition to the following from a New York Times piece on Mr. Clinton's involvement in the campaign:

KINGSTREE, S.C. — Former President Bill Clinton defended himself Wednesday against accusations that he and his wife had injected the issue of race into the Democratic presidential primary in South Carolina, and he accused Senator Barack Obama of Illinois of putting out a “hit job” on him.

Scolding a reporter, Mr. Clinton said the Obama campaign was “feeding” the news media to keep issues of race alive, obscuring positive coverage of the presidential campaign here of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.

“They know this is what you want to cover,” Mr. Clinton told a CNN reporter in Charleston, in an apparent reference to the Obama campaign.

“Shame on you,” the former president added.


From a personal perspective, however, I am tired of being a pawn for the candidates to fight over. I don't like being discussed in the third person as I stand close by and watch. Something about the scramble for black votes in this campaign is a bit unnerving, and the use of Bill Clinton as part of the campaign, though understandable, makes me feel even more like an object, as if black voters are simply blind followers, voting for Hillary because they retain a sense of nostalgia from the Clinton Presidential era or, as the Former President assumes, voting for Obama simply because he's "one of us." I'm insulted by the assumption that I, or other black voters, would ignore the facts and the plans for the future that each candidate advocates and simply press a button for a candidate based on purely superficial reasons. I'm interested in seeing how the campaigns will progress from here, but if they continue down this path, I fear that I will face many more problems in choosing candidate.
- Wendi Muse
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ONLY ONE BLACK WOMAN SHOWING AT NYC FASHION WEEK



Out of the countless number of designer labels that exist in NYC and show at Mercedes-Benz fashion week, there is only ONE black woman showcasing her line, and that is the amazingly talented Tracey Reese! She literally and figuratively stands in a class all on her own.

There is plenty to be admired by the talented Ms. Reese, and it is high time that her designs and accomplishments be embraced by the community at large. Ms. Reese has broken through many glass ceilings, and jumped over many hurdles to be a contender at fashion week. In a business where few designer labels seem to make it past their fifth anniversary, Reese has two clothing lines, TR and Plenty, which have been sold at Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale's, Anthropologie and other top retailers since the mid-1990s. Her company's sales topped $12 million in 2003, and it launched a Plenty-label home line that same year and a footwear collection the following. This woman has her heart on the pulse of fashion! She understands the curves and fit of a woman. She is known primarily for her dresses, and ladies you don't have to save up for months for her signature/couture line at Barney's and Saks, her dresses are available at a decent price point starting at $150 available at www.anthropologie.com. This collection of Spring dresses have intricate details, flowing cottons, and African-inspired prints that would put a smile on your face, and a spring in your step on your way to the office, church, or a that romantic dinner you have been dying to go on!

Ladies, this spring make it your mission to grab hold of a Tracey Reese creation! It is a must have for the warm weather. Plus it is ever so important to show love to artists/designers at every level, but especially the ones the break through the corporate jungle to make it out on top!! Not only will owning a TR or Plenty frock make you the fly girl on the block, but you will also be making a political statement as well. You can’t go wrong!

Reese will debut her highly anticipated Fall 2008 collection under the magnificent tents at Bryant Park Sunday, February 3 at 3pm. My mouth is watering with enthusiasm to see the first look sash-shay down that run-way. In all my seasons of attending fashion week, I have NEVER seen a designer get an overwhelming standing-ovation, except for Ms. Tracey Reese. I’ll be reporting live from the tents, to give you a look by look break down of the afternoon’s celebrity sightings, interviews, and highlights!

-Nana-Adwoa Ofori for The Coup Magazine


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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Market Meltdown or Media Madness?



Controversial financial adviser Robert Kiyosaki in a recent newsletter, has bemoaned what he perceives as the financial illiteracy of some financial journalists.

I sometimes wonder about the intelligence of many financial journalists, both in print and the electronic media...The problem with much of the financial news in print and on the web, radio, and television is that it comes from journalists who may not be investors. When I listen to most journalists whine and cry about the subprime mess, the slowdown in the economy, and the volatile stock market, I can all but tell that they're not really investors.”

I am inclined to agree with Kiyosaki who has made millions by going against conventional financial thinking strategies.

My inclination has come in the light of overly-sensational newsclips by American and foreign correspondents which are being splashed around the world as forecasts of a global recession projected as the inevitable outcome of America's economic woes. In spite of their strong continually expanding economies Asian, European and South American markets are now dipping to levels lower than those experienced in the post -911 tragedy largely as a result of poorly researched, media-generated hysteria. News stories are liberally sprinkled with phrases like “worldwide recession”,“bear market” and “crash” and “global market meltdown”.

Could this be a manifestation of the current media malady that chooses cheap sensationalism, and careless generalizations and over well-researched truthful and balanced reporting?

The irony of it all is that US economists, fund managers and financial experts are yet to reach an empirical consensus that the US is slipping into recession. The myriad views being expressed are based on opinion and intuition rather than fact and figures.

I am aware of the sub prime debacle and the ensuing credit crunch in the US. I am also aware that the Federal Reserve has been slashing the federal fund rate on a regular basis and President Bush has announced a 145 billion dollar stimulus plan to regenerate the US economy but no respected authority figure has been clear about the motives for these measures. Are they intended to stave off the possibility of a recession or is the US already into a recession cycle?

Ken Fisher, CEO of Fisher Investments and Forbes columnist describes a recession as “a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months, normally visible in real Gross Domestic Production (GDP), real income, employment, industrial production and wholesale and retail prices.”

I am seriously asking myself if some of these financial journalists are even able to define the term “recession” precisely or understand the basic dynamics of economic growth and development.

How many of these financial reporters have done in depth comparative research on GDP statistics in the US or the emerging markets to make such far reaching prognostications about a worldwide recession? Very few would be my guess. Instead they appear to rely on man-in-street hearsay, expert quips taken out of context and the avalanche of speculation and wishful thinking that is acceptable as responsible reporting today.

Investors across the globe, with herd-like docility are panicking and selling off shares en masse to avoid being caught up in the perceived “oncoming global recession.” This artificially stimulated fear reaction is inevitable because consumers are media-conditioned beings whose thought patterns and behavior are shaped and controlled by hundreds of multi-media clips every few hours. To compound matters, they also trade on emotion and the financial media is having a field day promulgating fear and worldwide recession because it makes for a “good” story almost in line with the gleeful frenzy behind a juicy Hollywood scandal.

It would seem therefore that general public consciousness about the health of global economies is molded by a plethora of sensationalized, and largely under-researched, news breaking stories across the media repeated with parrot-like frequency every few minutes.

This is difficult for me to compute at any level.

I am no expert on world economies but I took the time to educate myself on the reality of basic market dynamics. As a small investor, a self-taught woman of colour who took many years to move beyond the safety of 2% per annum fixed deposits and into the high risk world of offshore equity investing I am aware of my nondescript, almost plebeian status within the world of high finance.

Yet, I am audacious enough to ask question and make observations based on my research. In my opinion, there is no real credit crisis in emerging markets. On the contrary, American financial institutions mired in the sub prime mess are being bailed out by Middle Eastern and Asian corporations with an eye on long term benefits. To this, we should factor in a rapidly growing demand from an affluent Asian middle class reality and the fact that with the exception of Japan, emerging markets in the East, sell 43% of their products to non-American markets. An American recession would no doubt result in lowering the demand for products from around the world and slightly smaller returns from equity investments in the BRIC countries, but given the strength and resiliency of these emerging markets, this is hardly likely to lead to a global recession.

I am appalled by the media's sieve -like perceptions of the current economic situation around the world and irresponsible reporting which is exacerbating a situation that really does not contain the fundamentals to become an international crisis Yet, I am more puzzled that no international high profile economic or government expert has taken the collective media to task for this level of irresponsibility. This type of journalism is inflicting unnecessary and incalculable damage to the American and global markets. The legendary Warren Buffett has always said that it is very important for society to have accurate and informed sources of information and he is correct. The repercussions of unreliable financial reporting is today having dangerous and unnecessary repercussions everywhere and media houses must invest more resources in proper economic research or lose their claim to credibility in the eyes of the world.

-Carol Ann Mohamed for The Coup Magazine READ MORE

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Let's Get Political


This upcoming presidential election in 2008, in case you didn't already know, is incredibly important. This is history in the making, and you can play a pivotal role. Please do not forget to register to vote if you have not already done so, and if you are away from the state in which you are registered, be sure to send in an absentee ballot. Every vote counts, so play your part. Learn about the candidates and don't be afraid to be ask questions. There is no shortage of information available at your fingertips—from the paper, to the tv, to the internet, there are infinite sources at your disposal. So don't make excuses about not knowing enough or not having time or not knowing what to do. Be pro-active and make your voice heard. Get involved and be a part of an amazing race in 2008.

Newspaper Coverage:
NY Times Politics Page
Washington Post Politics Page (note: the site is free, but you must register to view content)
LA Times Politics Page
Houston Chronicle Politics Page
Chicago Tribune Politics Page


Debates:
Candidate Myspace Pages (note: select a candidate from the drop-down menu on the far right to view more info)

Voter Registration Information:
Declare Yourself
General FAQs

Absentee Ballot Information:
What is "absentee voting," and how do you do it?



- Wendi Muse
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Peace-Time Mortality in the Congo, Several Sources to Blame

5.4 million people have died in the Congo since a Rwandan and Ugandan-backed rebellion began in the region in 1998 to challenge the regime of Laurent-Désiré Kabila. Kabila, who had only recently overthrown the government of Mobutu Sese Seko, found himself in the middle of an intense state of turmoil as the aforementioned rebels fought against his allied troops from other Sub-Saharan African nations including Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia, Chad, and the Sudan. Despite several cease-fires and peace accords that went into effect throughout the course of the war, the eastern region of the country remained a hotbed of violence, culminating in the assassination of Kabila.

Though the war finally ended in 2003, the effects continue to greatly affect the Congolese, painting a grim picture of their future that all too closely resembles their colonial past, with a reliance upon Western aid for recovery. According to an article in today's issue of the New York Times, long term recovery is the last of the worries for the Congolese. In fact, the high mortality rate of the nation's population is at the forefront of its problems must be addressed in the immediate future. Hunger, disease, lack of medical resources are contributors to the deaths of the estimated 45,000 people who die each month in the Congo, and, quite surprisingly, the mortality rate in some regions, including central Congo has actually grown in the past few years as a result. As many international non-governmental organizations focused their energy and resources on the eastern region, other areas that had experienced less conflict suffered greatly from isolation and economic ruin.

In Biblical terms, the Congo could be considered the Job of Sub-Saharan Africa. The nation has had little time to improve its conditions as it's all too often the site of political conflict. It endured decades of colonialism under Belgian rule, a military dictatorship under Mobutu, and a continued rape of its natural resources (primarily its enormous mineral wealth of diamonds, gold, copper, and uranium). Nearly half of the Congolese who have lost their lives in the aftermath of the war have been its children, with babies dying from malaria, dysentery, measles, and typhoid as the population has such limited access to proper immunization for its young. And just this past Monday, as the United States paused to honor late civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Congo finally reached a peace agreement with the militia armies that had continued to fight in the east, even after the official end of the war.

Yet in light of all this turmoil and a rapidly decreasing population, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. The population studies for the Congo remain inconclusive as citizenship is difficult to determine in many cases due to the large influx of Rwandan and Sudanese refugees who fled their native countries during heated conflict and largely as a result of never actually having an official number for the Congolese population in the past, meaning that the mortality rate, though incredibly high, may be having slightly less of on an impact than originally thought. A representative from Doctors Without Borders also reported that mobile phone coverage had increased over the years in the Congo, vastly improving communication between organizations and families, and, in turn, resulting in more immediate aid where it's needed most. Though the situation remains dire, organizations working to ameliorate suffering throughout the region have not given up and continue to work hard to help those who are living to stay strong despite the bleak future predicted for the Congo.

To read more about the history of the Congo, check out the book King Leopold's Ghost by Adam Hochschild


To learn more about Doctors Without Borders, their field reporting and aid in the Congo, and how you can donate, click here.


- Wendi Muse
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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Blu-Ray shines at CES 2008


I recently started working for a large manufacturer and distributor of consumer electronics, and heard about the CES (Consumer Electronics Show) back in October 2007. The sales team on the east coast was preparing to make an appearance in the show, and they asked the IT department to help them. The kind of help they need of IT is usually to setup a network and make the display booth functional for demonstrations.

The degree of my input to this event was little. I work in the shadows. I 'm one of the few who try to keep the "systems" running when there's a bug messing around with someone 's paperless document or their report. I' m also the one who recommends how to improve the workflow where there is a glaring misuse of the technology (more on this topic at a later date).

The CES show took place last week, the week of Jan 7th, 2008. All companies vying for a place in consumers ' hearts put stakes in the ground last week in hopes of screaming to an age and generation of technology ' Hi there. I'm here!!'

Same idea goes for NAMM, another trade show I attended this past weekend in Anaheim NAMM is a tradeshow for manufacturers of musical instruments. Before leaving, I entertained the idea of buying a set of V-Drums (an electronic drumkit) that is convenient for apartment dwellers (more on this later also).

This year at CES, the biggest buzz in consumer electronics (next to the Apple's MacBook Air) is the rivalry between Blu Ray Disc technology (also known as BD) versus HD DVD. BD allows recording, rewriting and playback of high-definition video (HD). It also supposedly offers more than five times the storage capacity of traditional DVDs. According to blu-ray.com, the new technology "will offer consumers an unprecedented HD experience".

This reminds me of the rivalry between Beta versus VHS back in the 80' s. Beta was touted to have the better quality over VHS, but VHS won the market. Will DVDs? Probably not. http://www.blu-ray.com/info/

-Analyn Revilla for The Coup Magazine

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Oh No He Didn't!

Looks like Don Imus has a rival in the Land Down Under. AOL Sports writer Michael David Smith reports "Australian Open Announcer More Interested in Venus Williams' Backside Than Her Backhand" as tennis coach Roger Rasheed decided instead of gearing his commentary towards Venus Williams' skills, he'd treat her as a modern Venus Hottentot:



Rasheed will not be punished by his employers. In fact, by the appearance of things, even some of the fans thought he merely sought to compliment Williams, failing to notice that his comments were beyond flirting or harmless flattery. Instead, what Rasheed did during the Open was clear sexual harassment. Imagine if he had commented on a male tennis player's penis size through his shorts. I can hear the fans now. Yet in this case, some fans even blamed Williams, an occurrence that happens all too often in cases of rape and sexual harassment. How many times have we all heard the "if she hadn't dressed like that..." excuse? Harassment, whether it be verbal or physical, that relates to a woman's sexuality, body, and appearance is never warranted. We live in a society we like to call modern, advanced, and civil, yet we always find a way to revert to some defective model of ourselves from the distant past. Why must some turn into cavemen when they see a beautiful woman?

Women should be proud of their bodies, and considering that Williams has worked damn hard for hers, not to mention, unlike some of her blond bombshell tennis-playing counterparts, she actually has the talent to back it all up (no pun intended). Venus is a role model to young women everywhere, especially young women of color who are few and far between on the courts. If anything, people should continue to laud Venus and her sister Serena for their talents on grass, clay, and concrete instead of speculating on their performance in the bedroom. I hope that the Williams sisters continue to keep their heads up and their goals high, and that they will not allow the idiocy of people like Rasheed interrupt their continued strive for excellence.

For more information on sexual harassment and what you can do if you or someone you know is a victim, please check out the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's guide or SexualHarassmentSupport.org.

- Wendi Muse READ MORE

Monday, January 14, 2008

I'm Back!

Hi everyone,

I just wanted to inform you all that I am back from my hiatus and The Coup Magazine's blog page is officially "back in business." I will be making several posts throughout the week, so be on the lookout for more news stories than before. I'm super excited to be writing again, and I hope to hear from some of you on the content as well, so be sure to leave comments and feedback.

- Wendi Muse READ MORE