Friday, February 29, 2008

Study Says Rap, Sexism Not Correlative

In a study conducted by North Carolina State University, researchers found that rap does not cause sexism, as many of its critics allege. Times of India reports:

the study's authors say that the connection they have found between rap and sexism is unlikely to be a direct cause-and-effect. "It's like hearing the word 'chocolate' and suddenly having a craving for a candy bar. Sexism is imbedded in the culture we live in, and hearing rap music can spontaneously activate pre-existing awareness of sexist beliefs," says Dr. Michael Cobb, assistant professor of political science, who conducted the study along with Dr. Bill Boettcher, associate professor of political science. "We feel it's unlikely that hearing lyrics in a song creates attitudes that did not previously exist. Instead, rap music, fairly or unfairly, has become associated with misogyny, and even minimal exposure to it can automatically activate these mental associations and increase their application, at least temporarily," the researcher adds.

What's most interesting about the study is that respondents exhibited/held higher levels of sexist attitudes after listening to rap, no matter the type of rap to which they were exposed in the study (one set, explicitly sexist to the degree of misogynist, the other lacking any sexism in lyrical content), leading researchers to believe that even in the absence of sexist content, the general idea of rap as an art form and the negative associations therein somehow triggers a sexist response.

However, as stated above, researchers were sure to clarify that rap in itself does not CAUSE sexism, noting that most of the sexist ideas and attitudes held by the respondents, and, in turn, the general public, come from a variety of sources:

"Priming latent sexism is not the same thing as causing it. At worst, we
could conclude that rap music might exacerbate pre-existing tendencies, but so
too can other genres of music and varied forms of entertainment. There is not
much evidence in our study to support an argument in favor of censorship," Cobb
says.

Despite the researchers' attempt not to have their research be used for the purpose of censorship, I would not be entirely surprised if censors cited this research in the near future as a justification of the limits they place on rap music. Though, arguably, if we, as a society, were able to reduce elements that trigger sexism, though not only limited to rap, I wonder what the outcome would be. If lacking the motivation for sexism, i.e. the visual objectification of women in countless advertisements, the lyrical content of the majority of our music, rap or otherwise, and the media representations of women as pitiful, self-obsessed, male-dependent playthings, could we minimize our sexism-related workplace woes?

- Wendi Muse
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If Rape Should Occur

In Pakistan as well as many Islamic countries, women are still looked down upon as weaker of the two sexes. According to the state law, in the event of rape a woman witness is considered only half as good as a man– and she cannot even testify against the rapist. The victim has to actually produce four 'good Muslim' male witnesses to the crime.


The sex ratio in this region is 105.7 men to 100 women. An already battered and tormented woman could be subjected to honor killing, a consequence of choosing her own life partner, deciding to move out of a bad marriage, or asking for a divorce. Honor killings also occur if a woman has been raped.

Most men in the Pakistani society believe that such an honor killing would restore their lost respect. According to The Human Rights Commission, a rape occurs every three hours. This accounts only for the reported cases. Women, especially in the rural areas are routinely subjected to physical, mental and sexual abuse and society has conditioned them to not even question any such act. Defiance to the established customs where the authority of the men cannot be questioned is a way of life to most Pakistanis.

What needs to be looked at is that the incidence of cases against women belonging to the higher strata of the society is much lesser than those recorded against the poor, illiterate women. The socio-economic milieu should be studied for a thorough solution to this gender based violence and exploitation that women in Pakistan face everyday.

The new regime in Pakistan may see better laws in place that would help women break free from these shackles. After all, this country has had a woman prime minister who was unfortunately assassinated right after her comeback from exile. Even though the NGOs working for the Pakistani women's welfare and emancipation were skeptical about the relevance of 'Women Protection Bill, 2006' it is a step in the right direction –men could now be held accountable for the offences they commit against women. If rape should occur, a woman would needn't fear that death would follow.

-Praveen Sequeira
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Jamaica Debates on Legalizing Abortion -- Again

I’ve lost count of the number of times Jamaica has had major national discussions as to whether or not abortion should be legalized. Since the beginning of 2008, the issue is again a hot topic on the country’s agenda. Like all the times before this, the main arguments against legalizing abortion in Jamaica have been based on religious factors.

There is no need to rehash the basic issues of what abortion is for this article, however, the definition of what is considered a viable fetus continues to cause major dissention between those opting for legalization and those against.

The revival of the abortion debate was started recently when a report on abortion was tabled in the Jamaican Parliament. The report presented by the Abortion Policy Review Advisory Group stated that the public health sector was being adversely affected by the number of patients coming for care after ‘botched abortions’. The largest groups of women affected according to the report from the Abortion Policy Review Advisory Group were from poor, inner-city communities.

The committee that made up the APRAG recommended that some sections of the Offences Against the Person Act be repealed. Once done, it should be replaced by a civil law that would allow abortion under some circumstances. This law would be called the Termination of Pregnancy Act. This sounds reasonable, but since Jamaicans love to talk about being a religious country, the very thought of abortion raises the hackles of many.

The report revealed that 641 patients were treated at a Kingston hospital for complications associated with abortions during March 2005 and August 2005. Of this number, almost 200 said they had already had at least previous abortions. Two-fifty of the patients were coming in to deal with the complications of their first abortion. Frightening as these statistics are, they also need to be taken into context. For instance, it was pointed out as a footnote to the table included in the report that of this number, only 48 admitted that they had tried to abort the fetuses.

Advocates for abortion also note that unsafe abortions are the main cause of deaths among adolescents in Jamaica, and thus the eighth cause overall of all maternal deaths.

The Gleaner of January 18, 2008, had a letter from Dr. Doreen Brady-West, responding to another article of January 15, 2008. In her letter Dr. Brady-West stated that “If abortion is legalized, can infanticide be far behind? If financial strain, emotional stress, inconvenience, or anticipated physical/mental handicap justifies the killing of the unborn child, what moral authority can be used to prohibit the killing of an infant when similar situations arise? What your attention grabbing headline (referring to the January 15 article titled, “Rethinking Abortion – Advisory group wants current laws repealed – Botched jobs put strain on public purse” well illustrates is that induced abortion (the ultimate act of child abuse) not only kills babies, but also hurts women.” This is a strong argument put forward by some who are totally against legalization.

Interestingly, it is not only Jamaicans or rather persons living in Jamaica who have weighed in on the debate. Rev. Michael Friday from Nebraska had an article published in the Sunday Gleaner, February 24, 2008, saying that ‘careful, sensitive legislation was needed’ in the abortion debate. He was responding to another person’s view, namely, Peter Espeut, on the issue who said that “All this talk of abortion is about trying to avoid the consequences of irresponsible sexual intercourse.” Rev Friday challenged this argument on a number of fronts, citing examples of someone who contracted HIV through other means than sexual intercourse, whom is then raped and becomes pregnant.

While not advocating abortion, Rev Friday highlighted ways in which the need for abortion could be minimized. He said that “raising their (people) socioeconomic quality of life” would be a step in the right direction.

Dr. Wendel Abel, consultant psychiatrist at the University of the West Indies’ Community Health and Psychiatry department, has been giving his views on the issue of abortion during this current debate. Ultimately, Dr. Abel believes that “every woman should be given the choice to make a personal decision” when it concerns abortion the reason why she wants to have one.

One reason given against wanting abortion legalized, is that “abortion militates against the deeply held values of the nation”. While this sounds nice, taken against the backdrop of an almost nonchalant acceptance of infidelity, children growing up without a father or non-existent family structure, it seems more like pretty words than an actual fact. Sadly, Jamaicans, like people in other countries will say one thing in public and do the total opposite in private.

Sadly, many persons who are against abortion, are the same ones who on seeing a woman struggling to raise a horde of children, will wonder why she had so many. I have even heard solid, up-right Christians saying they will not give them anything because they are ‘careless’ to have so many children.

In the same breath, you have persons saying that children who are not wanted should not be aborted, but brought to term and then given up for adoption. Yet, many of these same persons will never adopt for various reasons. I for instance heard someone say she would never adopt because ‘she didn’t want anyone’s bad blood pickney giving her trouble.’
.

Like Jamaica’s stance on homosexuality and casino gambling, the abortion debate will continue to be played out for years. Political leaders will always be wary of going against the desires of the churches for fear of losing favor with the people who put them in power. However, there is strong reason to believe that this time there may be minor changes to the abortion laws, where women will be allowed to have the procedures in certain circumstances such as pregnancies resulting from rape.

Even if this was to happen, abortion is one of those issues that I doubt will ever go away. Everyone will have their say, even those who will never lift a finger to help.

-Jessica McCurdy Crooks
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Thursday, February 28, 2008

The "One Million Signatures Campaign"

Imagine being told to go home before dusk, before you have completed your day's work to be with your family. Every time you return to your office you have to catch up from the previous day, and consequently are always trailing behind your male counterparts. In Iran, this is what the female culture ministry officials and journalists at the state run newspaper and news agency have been asked to do. Don’t be led into believing that this is a novel way to bring in that elusive work-life balance; most Iranian women believe that this is just one way to halt the progress that they have been making over the past few years during the former President Khatami’s liberal rule.


The nation’s women have endured many hardships to try and beat the system. Every woman in her own way has contributed to the remarkable changes that this nation has seen. The "One Million Signature Campaign for Equality"was begun in 2006 in hopes to change laws that treat women with inferiority towards men. Many of the women involved in this operation were arrested but they believe that it would be worth the effort, that one day their fellow countrywomen would live a normal life and have a greater say in Iranian society.


The mullahs (Islamic clergy) of the nation have banned a modern feminist magazine ‘Zanan’, claiming that it was showing women in a bad light! Zanan published articles and stories that promoted women's liberation and denounced their unequal, and sometimes inhumane, treatment. Stories of stoning and public hanging of women continue to do the rounds even to this day. The custom of ‘Hijab’ which mandates a woman to cover her head with a scarf and thus not reveal her hair to the outside world is still the norm, and women that are tired and desire to break the traditional norm are beginning to speak out.


Things are different in Iran than they have been since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Iranian women have a far greater presence than women in any other Muslim nation; they vote, drive, work and occupy public offices. Consider this – in 1975 the illiteracy rates for rural women was greater than 90% , while in the urban areas it hovered around 45%. Now the literacy rate has risen to a massive 98% for girls aged between 15 and 24. 80% of the teachers, 33 % of the doctors are women. Parvin Ardalan, a journalist won the International Olof Palme Prize for her contribution to the women’s right groups, and others continue on similar paths to professional recognition and equal rights.


The "One Million Signature Campaign" is one of the many ways to join the fight, and add to the voice against gender inequality around the world. For more information, please visit http://www.wechange.info/english/


-Praveen Sequeira
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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

E-GOVERNMENTS


The times are changing for some aspects of our day-to-day activities that touch upon dealing with the bureaucratic machinery called the government. Some governments are making their services available online for various reasons that I can think of including:

1) improving the speed of processing

2) improving security for the government

3) expanding their services beyond the normal Monday to Friday business hours

4) to be more cost effective.

Last week's issue of 'The Economist' compares between the user's experiences of applying for a visa in the Indian consulate versus the American consulate in England. The American counterpart sounded vastly more sophisticated and efficient compared to the Indian government.

Here is a brief comparison of the visa application process between India and USA.


India
The whole process from beginning to end requires the applicant to be in the Indian Consulate.

Applicants lined up at 3 a.m. to get a good spot in the queue for the visa office that opens at 8:30 a.m.

The requirements are:

1) The applicant must be physically present through the entire process

2) A $60.00 fee (cash only)

3) A visa form filled out by hand and authenticated with a signature and picture (hard copy only.)

4) The visa document is authenticated.

The process is expected to complete by noon; however, the on busy days the applicant may need to pick up the visa the next day.

Options
1) Applying by post (which could take weeks.)

2) Cash only payment accepted


Considerations:

Person applying does not have:

1) To pay electronically by credit or debit card. The person doesn’t have to rely on a banking institution as long as they have the cash available.

2) Have to have access to internet.


India is facing tremendous growth in their IT sector and other businesses (steel manufacturing)

Though faced with constant threat of terrorist activities from other neighboring countries (Pakistan, Sri Lanka) their process to apply for a visa does not seem to have any underlying motives for collecting information.

On the road from being a third world country to a manufacturing giant, it is the largest and most populous democracy in the world.

USA
The process begins with the applicant applying online.

The whole process is a blend of online internet processing and manual meaning the applicant goes to the American Consulate to complete the process.

The requirements are:

1) Submit the application online plus paying electronically a non-refundable fee of $131.00

2) The applicant receives a confirmation e-mail which includes a barcode. The barcode serves as an identifier.

3) The printed e-mail serves as a ticket to allow the applicant to enter the consulate office to complete the application process

4) Upon arrival at the consulate the barcode is scanned, the applicant is photographed and fingerprinted (digitally recorded)

5) The visa document is produced in a secure bank-note style paper

Options
None. It is not possible to apply by post. Payment is by electronic funds

Considerations:
Person applying must have the means to:

1) Pay electronically by credit or debit card

2) Have access to internet
A person’s identity is liable to identify theft via the internet.

The US government is collaborating with private businesses to gather and have access to peoples’ private information, and this process supports and enforces an individual to divulge private information online that is stored in a database and easily retrievable.

Speculation on this practice is that the US government’s enacting the USA Patriot Act where one of the provisions (Section 215) “allows the FBI to make an application for an order from the Foreign Service Intelligence Court for an order requiring production of ‘any tangible thing’ for an investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities.”

There are deep implications in the changes the way governments operate. Perhaps it is not a fair comparison, because the vast differences in historical development of both countries. A consideration is the ideology of elected officials.

Mahatma Gandhi's words are displayed in public offices throughout India:

"Who is a customer? The customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption of our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business, he is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so."

Are the peoples of other countries considered a valued customer by their governments? Government is big business, and it can be made profitable by those we vote into power. Are the efficiencies in government used to benefit the masses or the few?


-Analyn Revilla

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Where Is Gloria Steinem When You Need Her?

On his radio talk show the night of February 19th, notorious Fox News host Bill O'Reilly said the following in response to a caller who had characterized Michelle Obama as a "militant. . . angry woman":

"I don't want to go on a lynching party against Michelle Obama unless there's
evidence, hard facts, that say this is how the woman really feels. If that's how
she really feels -- that America is a bad country or a flawed nation, whatever
-- then that's legit. We'll track it down."

Even after his apology, O'Reilly left the country wondering why "lynch" was an appropriate action verb in this statement? Not to play Oppression Olympics here, but it certainly left me wondering whether or not O'Reilly would have used such a verb in relation to someone who was not of African descent.

Considering the history of lynching in the United States, oftentimes its basis linked to allegations of black men flirting with, having a relationship with, or even sexually assaulting a white woman. The torture was also reserved for black men who were considered "uppity," men who overstepped their bounds in terms of success or decided to engage in interactions with whites that did not sink to a level of dehumanization. If black men decided to take on their Constitutional right as "men created equal," they were subject to harassment, torture, and death.

It's odd that now, in 2008, as so many critics and fans alike of Barack Obama assume that his ascendance to the presidency will allow for a transcendence of race in this country, that we must still deal with the racism thrown at black leaders. It comes as a reminder that yes, blacks and many anti-racist allies still flinch when they hear the term lynch, it's effect far more powerful than a racial slur as it implies the collaboration of Racism with a Violent Act. Lynching was America's answer to the Holocaust, a blind terrorization of people on the basis of their ethnic background, and often geared by a fear of miscegenation and, ultimately, economic threat. Frozen in time, a bleak period in the post-slavery U.S., lynching parties ("party" in this case meaning both a mob of people and a cause for celebration) as found in references from sports commentators to "news" anchors like Bill O'Reilly have been regurgitated into the present, mentioned lightly as if the word has no power. But much like references to atrocities committed toward other groups of color, varied religious background, and sexual orientations, this word still bears considerable power.

What is ironic in O'Reilly's use of the word, however, is that he geared his verbal vitriol to a woman, a black woman, nevertheless, but still a woman. Lynching, though not reserved exclusively as an act of violence toward men as women and children were lynched too, was more commonly carried out against black men and is more frequently used to address violence of that era toward men. His use of a term related to violence more often reserved toward black men in relation to Michelle Obama only goes to proving the point that society does not view black women or even women in positions of power, period, as "real women." Somehow, donning a powersuit and a briefcase masculinizes them, allows them to simultaneously divorce themselves of their femininity. Despite the efforts on the part of the Obama family to provide America with the image of themselves as the New Camelot, as Wayetu notes below and to which even Caroline Kennedy, daughter of JFK and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, attested when she announced her endorsement of Barack Obama for president in the New York Times piece "A President Like My Father," the media continues to go after Michelle Obama's ability to be...well...a woman.

Yet for some reason, I hear little from feminist groups on this. In fact, a particularly loud silence comes from the Gloria Steinem's corner. After her piece on Hillary Clinton in the New York Times, I am surprised Steinem has not stepped in to Michelle Obama's defense. Steinem, in the piece that many a POC blogger tore to bits and pieces, notes [emphasis mine]:

So why is the sex barrier not taken as seriously as the racial one? The reasons are as pervasive as the air we breathe: because sexism is still confused with nature as racism once was; because anything that affects males is seen as more serious than anything that affects “only” the female half of the human race; because children are still raised mostly by women (to put it mildly) so men especially tend to feel they are regressing to childhood when dealing with a powerful woman; because racism stereotyped black men as more “masculine” for so long that some white men find their presence to be masculinity-affirming (as
long as there aren’t too many of them); and because there is still no “right” way to be a woman in public power without being considered a you-know-what.
Michelle Obama, though not running for president, must also encounter this double-edged sword. Despite glaring examples of her devotion to her husband and family, her perfectly coiffed hair and firmly pressed skirt suits, Obama's femininity is questioned left and right. Now that race in thrown into the mix, there are even more questions raised. Can a black woman in power ever be a woman? I'd like to see what Steinem has to say about that. But for reasons unknown to me, she's nowhere to be found.

- Wendi Muse
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Jackie Kennedy played by.....Michelle Obama?

As March 4th nears, political campaigns are looking everywhere they can to find motivation and favor for their candidates. One of the main debates is who will likely win Texas. Obama's supporters are said to have increased in the state of Texas over the past couple of weeks, slighting Clinton's chances of winning the party nomination. We'll see. It always makes me giggle when people refer to Texas as one big hegemonic settlement where sand dunes still blow, and everyone generally thinks in the same way. Texas is BIG, and increasingly diverse in population, religion, and world view. Let's remember that and not try to predict the frame of thought of one of the largest states in America.

Other than the Texas debate, the most recent thing that I saw on the news that surprised me was a comparison of Michelle Obama to Jackie Kennedy. I know how America loves the Kennedys, so the fact that Michelle Obama, a black woman from Chicago, was juxtaposed to the classic beauty for style and grace made me think, "Wow, is America really becoming color-blind?"

While I am aware that the precedent is highly and obviously unlikely, it really says something when journalists and political theorists don't go out of their way to find a black beauty of classic American culture to compare Michelle Obama to.

Consider this: Beyonce Knowles is constantly referred and compared to Diana Ross, even though her sex-appeal spans an audience more similar to Marilyn Monroe. Black writers are reviewed as "Hansberryesque", even when their literary styles resemble Faulkner, and even Shakespeare. Usually what happens, since the social norm is to have one black person that represents every other person in that field, is that when a beautiful black singer comes out then she is compared to Beyonce. When a black leader arises then he is said to be the next Jackson or Sharpton. They don't do it to the athletes as much, and seem to view academics like Cornel West and Eric J. Dickey in an individual light. This is one of the first times that I saw a black woman (or a black person) publicly and widely compared to someone white.

Is this because there were no other African-American first ladies before her, or does America really see Obama and his wife through a lens and ideology that we all thought was impossible? Will the next prospective African-American first lady only be compared to Michelle Obama? Or are we witnessing a chain being broken?

-Wayetu Moore READ MORE

Phylicia Rashad Continues Her Artistic Legacy in Raisin


“A Raisin in the Sun” was the first play by an African-American woman to be produced on broadway. Lorraine Hansberry's piece is about an African-American family on the South Side of Chicago, whose lives are disrupted by the arrival of an insurance check in the amount of $10,000. The 1959 cast included Oscar Winner Sidney Poitier and actress Ruby Dee, who was nominated for an Oscar this year for her role in "American Gangster". The original cast also went to film, in a 1961 Columbia Films feature.

Last night, the three-hour event aired on ABC. The contemporary cast included Sanaa Lathan, Tony Award Winner Audra McDonald, Sean Combs and Phylicia Rashad, who won a Tony Award for her role as Lena Younger (the recipient of the check). Rashad was the first African-American woman to win a Tony Award for a lead character in a play.

Combs' performance was not as bad as I (or most) imagined that it would be. He showed in this performance that he was indeed trying, and challenging himself in the art. I attended an NAACP Hollywood Bureau screening of the film on November 10th of last year, and had an opportunity to meet the movie's producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron. I remember Zadan mentioning that in order to fully get into character, Combs had an exact replica of the set built in his living room. Talk about Lee Strasberg at his finest.

The performance that excited me the most was that of Phylicia Rashad, who has proven time and again with candor and grace that her artistic legacy will live on. Rashad has managed to successfully embody EVERY character that I've seen her play. She brings stories to life in a way that most contemporary actresses can learn from, remembering her theatrical root even while on the screen. Her performance was phenomenal, and whether or not the Globe, Essence, or Bob recognize her, she is greatly appreciated and loudly celebrated for her work in performance.

-Wayetu Moore


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JENNIFER HUDSON AND OTHERS BEAM AT OSCARS

Jennifer Hudson looked like an angel, gleaming in all white at Sunday night's Oscars. I was glad to see Jennifer looking so beautiful, since last year she made the worst dressed list.

Jewels intermixed in dresses is a big fashion A+ for this season!
Thank goodness Jennifer has a stylist that likes her now!














Ruby Dee joined the trend of red-wearers and was absolutely stunning. We really do age beautifully.

















Sean Combs took a break from his Making the Band dictatorship for the black tie celebration. The Oscars were the night before the premiere of the tele-play "A Raisin In the Sun", which Combs both acted in, and Executive Produced. He cleans up nicely when he's not playing with kids' emotions.














Viggo Mortensen's niece (what we know her as) was charming on her uncle's arm in a light gold dress that was appropriate for what seemed to be her age. I noticed that while Ryan Seacrest was interviewing her uncle, she asked him politely if he was selling his house (something she must've heard on his show). It seemed like something a nervous teenager would ask to break the ice but Ryan quickly dismissed the question, congratulated her uncle, and went on to interview the next guest. It's okay, girl. Next time don't sweat him.










What is most impressive about Spike Lee and Wesley Snipes is their ability to multi-task talent and style. Well done gentlemen! Snipes slightly reminded me of the guy on 125th street in Harlem that hands out Muhammed Speaks. I don't know. Maybe that was just me.














Pictures like this make me smile in hope, in spite of the notion of dwindling black love. Forest and Keisha Whitaker look great together. She looks classic in her tube sequined dress and flapper hair-do. They were nothing over the top or didn't seem to try hard. They were simple, elegant, and both looked absolutely perfect.














-Nana-Adwoa Ofori & Wayetu Moore
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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Natalee Holloway is not a Black Woman


You would have to be dead or a castaway on a deserted island not to know that Natalee Holloway is the high school teenager who disappeared almost three years ago while in Aruba on a graduation trip. Although no one has ever been convicted and her body has never been found her story continues to be the stuff “news” stories are made of. Just last night NBC Dateline dedicated their sixty minutes to her disappearance and new evidence in the case. I watched the entire show and it ended without one iota of new evidence. So why was there an hour dedicated to a three year old story with no new or even compelling information? Because Natalee Holloway is not a Black woman.

Of course, you have probably seen the now famous graduation photo of her; smiling, youthful and with blonde hair cascading down her shoulders. But that’s just one way that you can tell that Natalee Holloway is not a Black woman. Here’s another, when it was reported that she had disappeared on May 30, 2005 not only did Aruban investigators participate in the search, there were also FBI agents, specially equipped Dutch soldiers and Dutch F-16’s. The latter being a multi-million dollar jet fighter primarily used by the United States, Turkish, Israeli and Egyptian Air Forces. When was the last time a Black Woman was reported missing on prime time TV and/or received heavy news coverage for months following the incident let alone had F-16’s dispatched?

When Latoiya Figueroa (deceased) a five month pregnant mother from Philadelphia went missing on July 18, 2005 there was no media coverage. It took pressure from her family and the blogging community to force mainstream media outlets to cover her story. Ms. Figueroa disappeared about six weeks after Natalee Holloway and was pregnant. That’s just the type of story that generally spreads like wild fire through the media. Remember, Lacey Peterson? But these are not just indicators of race, they also speak about class. The town that the Holloway’s reside in is Mountain Brook, Alabama which has a 98% White population, mean family income of $315, 500 and in 2002 was the 17th richest city in the United States. So the Holloway family had the resources and the power to make their daughter’s disappearance an issue. For the many Black women and girls who are missing, and the ones who will go missing this year, race and class will play a greater role than justice.

To find out more about missing Black women and children go to: www.blackandmissing.blogspot.com where you can also sign a petition to force more media coverage on disappearances of Black women.

-Adisa Vera Beatty
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Saturday, February 23, 2008

So what was the visit REALLY about?

"We're going to Benin, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ghana and Liberia. Each of these countries is blessed with natural beauty, vibrant culture, and an unmistakable spirit of energy and optimism. Africa in the 21st century is a continent of potential. That's how we view it."- President George W. Bush

The "potential" of Africa beckoned the first visit of US President George W. Bush since he became President. Bush made visits to discuss America's Africa policy with various leaders, as well as to pledge aid to hospitals for treatment of the AIDS epidemic, and to schools in light of the continent's vast illiteracy rate.

Networks published pictures and video footage of content and supportive citizens, eager leaders, traditional dancers, and orphaned children. You know they had to include the children.

The skepticism before his trip was that the only reason he visited the continent was because the United States planned on building a US military base somewhere in Africa, in light of the nation's ongoing war in Iraq. He immediately dispelled the rumors in an associated press article as "baloney", ensuring the Ghanaian president that a base was not what he was interested in. Nigeria and South Africa tensed up at the news, sure that
"the plan signals an unwanted expansion of American power on the continent or is a cover for protecting Africa's vast oil resources on the United States' behalf." -Associated Press

African media even saw America's heightened interest as a response to the significant presence of socialist China and India. The Chinese have heavily invested in Africa in the past decade, specifically to recovering nations of war.

So what was Bush's visit really about? Good will? Press? Guilt? Humanitarian efforts? AIDS? China?

AFRICOM.

U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) is currently based in Germany and was initiated in February 2007 as (according to their website), "a 10-year thought process within the Department of Defense (DOD) acknowledging the emerging strategic importance of Africa, and recognizing that peace and stability on the continent impacts not only Africans, but the interests of the U.S."

Headed by General William E. Ward (a Morgan State University alum), the program will hopefully move to Africa in September of 2008 and begin its full operation. The hope is that AFRICOM will promote and keep relations with more than fifty African nations....and be responsible for U.S. Military operations in those nations (A.K.A. Military bases).

The discomfort of most African nations with a permanent American presence is the memory of the last time the U.S. was allowed permanent military presence and trade on the continent, about, say, 400 years ago.

Liberian president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf offered Liberia as a base for the AFRICOM headquarters, seeing the program as an opportunity for sustained peace in the small nation.

We'll see.

-Wayetu Moore

*Sidenote: I love the look on the little girl's face front and center. She's looking at the photographer like "Why is this white man talking to me like I'm deaf?" READ MORE

THE OTHER BHUTTO WOMAN

Fatima Bhutto - She is as beautiful as her aunt, has similar tragic appeal and orphaned like most Bhuttos as a result of political assassination.” (Jemima Khan)

Fatima Bhutto is only 25 years old and she is outspoken - some might say brash - idealistic, refreshingly honest and a rare advocate for unconditional democracy in Pakistan.

She is a western-educated writer with two books to her credit. She also writes a weekly column for Pakistan's largest Urdu daily newspaper, Daily Jang and its English sister paper, The News International.

Fatima is the granddaughter of former Pakistani Prime Minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who was deposed in a 1977 military coup and executed two years later. She is the niece of former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto but a complex family feud rooted in broken bloodlines has kept this powerful clan divided among themselves, even after the untimely assassination of her aunt in December 2007.

Her father, Mir Murtaza Bhutto was the younger brother of Benazir Bhutto. After a 16 year absence, Murtaza returned to Pakistan in 1993 to work with Benazir who had been elected Prime Minister for the second time.

Her father had expected to assume a senior role or even leadership of Benazir's ruling People Progressive Party in keeping with the patriarchal rights of leadership practiced by the Bhutto landlord class for many generations. Benazir, influenced by her husband, refused to cooperate and Murtaza reacted by openly criticizing Benazir's policies. As the rift between the siblings intensified, Murtaza formed his own party which failed to attract popular support.

In 1996 he was killed by what appeared to be a carefully planned police assassination and to this day, there are still many unanswered questions about Benazir's role in his murder. Fatima who idolized her father, still holds Benazir and her husband Zardari “morally responsible” for Murtaza's death.

Like Benazir, Fatima's life was molded by the brutal murder of her father and she bears a striking physical resemblance to her aunt but that is where the similarity ends. According to Fatima, “The comparisons are largely cosmetic...In terms of political ideology, what we read, how we think, we are very different. I don't think that I am anything like her.”

Fatima had openly criticized her aunt's final return to the political stage in Pakistan in 2007. In her newspaper column, she referred to Benazir as a “puppet democrat” fearing that her aunt's deliberate duplicity to win public sympathy and her willingness to compromise with military dictator, Pervez Musharraf, would sabotage “an earnest grass roots movement for real democratic reform.”

She also expressed grave misgivings about the graft and corruption that tainted Benazir's two terms in office. Benazir's modern and US-friendly leadership style earned her favor in the outside world but many allege that she and her husband, Asif Zardari, known as “Mr 10 Percent” were responsible for stealing over one billion dollars from Pakistan's treasury.

There have been recent suggestions that Fatima or her brother Zulfikar Ali, as offsprings of the male Bhutto line, are the real heirs to Benazir's title. But they are unlikely successors, since Benazir's teenage son, Bilawal, has already been anointed for that position. His father will conveniently “act on his behalf” until he is ready to assume responsibility as leader of the PPP.

Fatima claims that she is not driven by a sense of entitlement and does not subscribe to birthright politics. Unlike some other members of her family clan, she does not believe that the Bhutto name qualifies her for automatic leadership of any political party in Pakistan. She would prefer to see an end to dynastic politics and has reiterated that she is not interested in becoming Benazir's successor.

In spite of her anti-Musharraf stand, she has refused to accept the final results of Monday's national elections which pointed to a victory for the opposing parties, led by the PPP, with the highest number of votes. Even as Benazir's husband , the ubiquitous Asif Zardari, prepares for a government of “national unity” with the other parties, Fatima has been critical of the PPP claiming that they committed fraud to win votes in Monday's elections.

It seems that for now she will make her contribution to Pakistan's politics through her writing, verbal candor and support for candidates who are genuinely committed to democratic principles and improving the lives of Pakistanis at all levels.

She is learning from experience as she invests herself with the power of an indomitable spirit and perhaps the purest form of patriotism that can be found among the offspring of the privileged classes in Pakistan.

Maybe one day, with her ideals and patriotism still intact, Fatima will stand as the beacon of light amidst the violence and corruption of her country's bleak political landscape. Given the history and character of the self-serving opportunists who will be playing key roles in the new government of “national unity,” it is unlikely that Pakistan will have much to celebrate after the post-election euphoria is over.


-Carol Ann Mohamed

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Friday, February 22, 2008

Prostitution & Occupation

Believe it or not, some nomadic groups within North, North-eartern and Central India are best known to pursue prostitution with the consent of their families. Some of the tribes known are Bedia, Nat, Sansi, Kanjar, and Bachada. Out of which the most popular is the Bedia tribe, where women are kept unmarried and are asked to indulge in prostitution. These women contribute to the family income and meet the family’s immediate economic needs.

The act of prostitution is more like a family occupation amongst the unmarried women of the Bedia tribe. The question though that arises is that what becomes more of a pressure -- To continue their family tradition or stand for their individuality as a woman? The elder women believe that this will not change for a long time.

These customs have been followed for a long time. The reason for this desperate occupation within the community is because of economic conditions, even at the tradition's conception. Their ancestors believed that Bedia women could survive this new-found occupation with comfort, and that it was better than begging for money. The Bedia brothers who tie the knot do not let their wives enter into this profession. It is only the unmarried daughters and sisters within the house who are forced to adorn the family occupation. They are also subjected to perform household work along with the other ladies within the house.

What shocks one is that the men within the community rarely engage themselves into any kind of activity which supports the families. Some may get into agriculture but most of the men survive on the household income earned by the women through sex work. This situation completely contradicts the system within the nation that the man is the breadwinner and the lady is the home-maker.

The most startling thing though is that the kind of money that has started coming into community ever since this newly found profession is almost 10 times more than what they would have otherwise earned.

However, while Western ideals force our question and skepticism, the Bedia women are not yet complaining of the existing situation.

-Praveen Sequeira
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Thursday, February 21, 2008

STEPHEN BURROWS PROVES HE'S BACK AND BETTER THAN EVER

The buzz from the spectacular sights from New York's fashion week is still resonating with fashionistas around the world. In my opinion this season NY fashion houses completely outdid themselves. It was all about fit, flare, and, fabric, and FABULOUSNESS all around. There was one designer that completely floored my thoughts and expectations; the ever-amazing Stephen Burrows.


For those who aren't up on their fashion history, Stephen Burrows was the FIRST African-American designer to be accepted to be accepted by the tents and the fashion community at large. He received international acclaim in the 1970's for his slinky styles on the famous faces at Studio 54! From the 80's until 2002 Stephen Burrows was on a fashion hiatus. No one barley saw or heard anything from him, and then out of the ashes, he reemerged stronger than ever.


One word, two syllables: JERSEY! This fabric is my pick for the ultimate fashion DO for fall 2008! It is flatters the shape of any woman, because of the way it drapes so elegantly on the curves. My favorite look from this amazing collection, is his use of jersey! "


The storyline is about the culmination of water and earth, and includes elements of matte and shiny, sexiness and body consciousness," Burrows said, "I used a lot of matte jersey, charmeuse, and hammered satin."


To view all of his spectacular collection and to find out where you could purchase one or more of these beautiful pieces, please visit http://www.stephenburrows.com/


-Nana-Adwoa Ofori
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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A Matter of Mismanagement


In reviewing the Democratic candidates' hopes for change upon official entry into the 2008 presidential election, they appear more as twins than rivals. There are few policy differences. They both supported the continued construction of a fence at the border between the United States and Mexico (which, I pray, contained some other set of provisions beyond just that because, quite frankly, how could they possibly have voted for such a xenophobic border policy without other things going on in the bill???). They both express continued support for the Roe v. Wade decision. They both advocate a reauthorization and extension of the assault weapon ban. They both want to take a bite out of No Child Left Behind.

Provided the aforementioned, I, along with many other American voters, am having a tough time picking a side. I struggle on a daily basis, finding flaws in each candidate, and ending up with a pretty even pro/con list. But I wonder if my gut reaction, say if I were held at gunpoint and forced to pick a candidate, is more contingent upon campaign management and public image than the issues?

I never thought of myself as one of those fickle, image-obsessed, mainstream media-reliant voters. I always choose candidates based on their voting records, their resumes, and their plans for the future. But with a race as tight as this one, I find myself looking for other things. One of them is campaign management. Though I realize it's out of the candidates' control to an extent, I have come to recognize how vital the proper steering of a campaign can be, especially as the momentum fueling Hillary Clinton's camp has begun to screech to a halt.

Despite Hillary's depth and extensive qualifications, the dog-eat-dog, hypercritical tone her campaign has elected to use as verbal artillery against her opponent has become tiresome. But a part of me wonders: is this all her fault, or simply a case of poor campaign management?

In a piece in the Guardian today, the UK paper covered the latest news that Obama's campaign was encouraging Clinton to concede considering Obama's recent wins in Hawaii and Wisconsin, noting that most of the negative campaigning could be taking its toll on the Democratic base, causing a greater shift in Obama's favor:

The Clinton campaign also appears to have miscalculated with a last-minute burst of negative advertisements in Wisconsin. The Clinton campaign had accused Obama of plagiarising his speeches from the Democratic governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick. But the attacks appeared to have alienated undecideds, who turned towards Obama.


Is there enough time for Clinton to change her course between now and the big votes in Texas and Ohio? With the Clinton campaign running a little low on funds and even lower in time, the shift of Clinton's team from Alpha- to Under-dog is filling this race with more suspense than many voters had expected, keeping us glued to our tv sets to find out what happens next.


--

Please note that the next major political contests will take place in Texas and Ohio on March 4th, though early voting has already begun in Texas. The next Democratic debates are scheduled as follows:


1. 2/21/08: Austin, TX

2. 2/26/08: Cleveland, OH

3. 2/28/08: Houston, TX


- Wendi Muse

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DUBAI

Dubai is one of the seven emirates (a political territory ruled by an Arab monarch) that makes up the United Arab Emirates (UAE.) It is the second largest geographic emirate (3885 sq. km) of the union, next to Abu Dhabi (67340 sq. km), but it has the slighter bigger population at 1.469 million.

Dubai has been attracting a lot attention and foreigners with purpose. I remember how my Kenyan friend described with the wonder and pleasure about her short visit to the luxury hotel of Burj Al Arab, which is claimed to be the world's tallest hotel. She couldn't afford to stay at the hotel at its minimum $1,000 per night rate; but she was able to afford the $100.00 fee to take the tour bus that crossed the bridge to get the floating hotel. This is a small glimpse of the awe that Dubai attracts.



Recently, the revenue generated in the country is primarily from trade, warehousing (entrepot), and financial service

s; and surprisingly, not from oil and natural gas. The emirate's economy was built and grew from its abundant natural resources from the ground, but is predicted that Dubai's oil reserves will be depleted in 20 years. Based on this, it's clear to see why the emirate is growing its financial services and IT industry.


By creating free economic zones which are areas that favor businesses to set up at a lower tax rates and 100% foreign ownership, some major IT firms including Oracle, Microsoft, Sun MicroSystems, Nokia, IBM, (and the list goes on) have set up shop in Dubai's information technology park called Dubai Internet City (DIU). Another free economic zone set up that target a specific industry is the Dubai Financial Market (DFM) for securities and bonds. One other significant free economic zone is the Dubai Media City (DMC) where media organizations such as news agencies, publishing, and advertising can do business completely tax free. The government has made it very easy for such companies to operate by setting up the fibre optics infrastructure to facilitate communication and has relaxed visa and operational requirements.


As I do my research on this aspect of Dubai, I am naturally curious to find out what opportunities exist there for me. I think of the difficult hurdles I've had to jump over and continue to face working here in the U.S. being a Canadian citizen. The first thing was to find a company to sponsor my visa. The application process need to show the Customs and Immigration office that I am not a threat to home security, and secondly that I have the education and the experience over other American citizens to do the job. I work for a Japanese company that operates in the US. The corporation itself has other standards to meet and show the US government the right to operate a business here: proper HR practices, providing a safe environment for its workers, operating legally by meeting financial obligations that include paying taxes and submitting financial reports.


The world class view Dubai seems to present is the ease to do business and work there, and the glamour of the companies to be found there. Going back to Burj Al Arab, it has rated itself as the world's only 7-star hotel (thus far, though three more are under construction in other countries.) There's a buzz going on there, and anyone who wants to be in the business and stay in the business needs to be near or in the thick of the buzz.

But all that glitters is not gold as the saying goes.


Dubai is also attracting attention because of violation of human rights for its wrongful treatment of foreign workers who work. I have family and some friends who have complained of the difficulties working in a country with strict Islamic rules. There are curfews that need to be respected. Also, there are differences in the treatment of the different working class. Those deemed to be at the bottom of the rung are especially treated harshly. I've heard personal stories of domestic helpers from the Philippines being subject to rape and mental abuse. This commentary is not specific to Dubai, because this issue is also occurs to other domestic helpers working in other countries such as Japan and Canada.


That considered I regard Dubai still as a place of opportunity, but anyone who is thinking of going there as a foreign worker need to research deeply into what they are walking into. They need to consider the country's culture and have regard and respect for the customs. Are they prepared to adjust to the differences in culture and climate? What personal sacrifices can be given up for what price? Sometimes the pure experience of just being there is enough. A hundred dollars to cross the bridge to Burj Al Arab and experience the regality is maybe enough for some people.


-Analyn Revilla

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Homophobia in Jamaica

Jamaica, according to many published reports is known as one of the most homophobic societies on earth, save maybe for the Middle East. As a matter of fact, in referring to Jamaica’s homophobic stance, Rebecca Schleifer from Human Rights Watch said that “Jamaica is the worst any of us has ever seen.” This quote was taken from a 2006 interview published in Time Magazine.

Homophobia is widely defined as “the fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals. It can also mean hatred, hostility, or disapproval of homosexual people, sexual behavior, or cultures, and is generally used to insinuate bigotry…” The Meriam Webster Online Dictionary also gives an almost identical definition, stating that homophobia is the “irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals.”

While even the most outspoken people do not generally express a “fear of homosexuals or homosexuality”, they do have an aversion to homosexuality. To understand the average Jamaican’s stance on homosexuality calls for an understanding of the cultural and historic background of the island. This understanding will also help to reveal why the Caribbean as a whole is seen as being homophobic to extremes.

To begin with, Jamaican law is based on English law where buggery, the sexual act between two men is a crime and is still on the law books. Also part of Jamaica’s ‘hatred’ or ‘perceived hatred’ of homosexuality could be based on the country’s historically Christian culture. It is a common occurrence to find among the contents of a gunman’s pockets, a small Bible.

Jamaican religious leaders will never agree for homosexuality to be accepted in the Jamaican society. I have often heard and read articles from such leaders who contend that they do not hate homosexuals, but they do condemn the act of homosexuality itself as going against the Words of the Bible. There are many Jamaicans like myself who have acquaintances or friends, or even relatives who are known to be homosexuals. While not accepting of the lifestyle, they quietly accept the person for who they are.

It is true that Dancehall is blamed for much of the anti-homosexual sentiments in the country, because many songs condemn the act and encourage taking action against homosexuals. However, it is not every Jamaican, and I believe that it is a minority who advocate physical retaliation against homosexuals, but as happens in most cases, the actions of the few are used to brand an entire group.

While most Jamaicans will speak out against homosexuals when in large groups, private conversations are sometimes a completely different matter. When having a one-to-one with persons it is not uncommon to hear this statement frequently uttered, “I don’t care what they do in their bedrooms, but I don’t want them to take it to me or my children.”

There is also a quiet acceptance by many persons for lesbians; Jamaican men are not immune to the fantasy of seeing two women getting it on. In fact, I have often heard both men and women state that they can see two women together, but the thought of too hairy men together is unimaginable.

A few weeks ago I saw two men talking on the streets of Kingston. They were in the Three Miles area and I observed that one was holding the fingers of the other while they chatted. I commented to my husband, that if we were truly as homophobic as the media claimed those young men could not have been holding hands while talking – especially in one of the rougher areas of the capital.

I also wonder if we are such homophobes, why is it that so many of us migrate to countries where homosexuality is legal and have to live, eat and work with homosexuals. Truly homophobic persons would not be able to live in such environments. Our cultural and religious belief has ingrained the idea that homosexuality is a sin and should not be accepted.

I must confess to not being totally convinced that in some cases homosexuality is a learnt practice as is said by some Christian leaders and psychologists. I have known two persons who even as children growing up were considered unusual. The young man was a former classmate and even when we were six or seven he was just different from his brother. He was more delicate and more inclined towards doing what girls did – I was not surprised years ago to learn that he is a homosexual.

I also knew a girl who was branded a homosexual from an early age. She was always drawn to masculine activities, and even her physical mannerisms were masculine in nature. Eventually she had to migrate many years ago in order to escape the taunts – but the point is, as a child, she was not surrounded by only men or homosexuals. My question has always been how did these children learn to be homosexuals? They didn’t have homosexual role models.

Finally, years ago I had a coworker who also happened to be a friend, and he confided in me that he was gay. When I asked him why, he simply said that even as a boy he tried to like girls in that way, forced himself to date and have relationships but he was never physically attracted to women. He prayed about it, but nothing changed.

Recently there has been an ongoing debate in the media regarding police recruits undergoing sensitivity and diversity training so that they can relate to homosexuals. It is believed that the police are generally slow to investigate crimes against alleged homosexuals. If this is actually true then I do support the call since all Jamaicans should be protected and assault is a crime regardless of the sexual orientation of the victim.

It is hard for me to believe that the majority of homosexuals in Jamaica, the men in particular, would willingly enter into a lifestyle that could result in their death if they were found out. So is Jamaica the most homophobic society on earth? I disagree with the notion that Jamaica is the most homophobic society, but will admit that we do have a high level of intolerance, at least publicly, to homosexuality.

-Jessica McCurdy Crooks

*For more sex related topics and articles, look out for The Coup Magazine's Sex Issue via www.thecoupmagazine.com on March 1st
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