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Category Archives: African American News

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Africa: How to Make Sure the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit is on Positive Side of History

Photo: The White House Barack Obama (file photo). Photo: The White House
Barack Obama (file photo).

By Robin Renee Sanders

Washington, DC — In two weeks, we will witness a historic happening in Washington, DC, when for the first time, an American president will host African heads-of-state and government to discuss key issues impacting U.S. relations with that vibrant continent.

This event is a major step in the right direction for the United States. However, Africa hands and activists on both sides of the Atlantic and many African Leaders are asking why there will be no individual meetings with participating heads-of-states. China, France, and Japan have gotten this right. Their summits with African leaders include one-on-one meetings, even if they last only a few minutes.

I am not necessarily arguing for bilateral meetings, but what about five presidential sessions with the leaders of the west, central, east, south and north Africa regions? This option would not require an excessive amount of time (reportedly the reason for no one-on-ones). Considering the cost and time involved as these leaders travel to the United States with their (large) entourages and the respect-balance ratios at stake, shouldn’t we be able to manage five meetings?

Encouraging regional integration and cooperation has been a cornerstone of U.S. policy, and these sessions could advance the dialogue on key Summit agenda issues, including peace and security, governance, investment, and the Young Africa Leaders Initiative.

With Africa poised to become the most populous continent by 2050 and with the United States needing allies and partners on policy, business and counterterrorism, Africa is increasingly key to U.S. interests.

White House-level S. focus on Africa is welcome , and Summit themes are on target. Interactive dialogue, engagement, and partnership are the Summit’s stated goals. All good! Related events – starting with this month’s FEEEDS-Gallup-AllAfrica Forum – will address key related issues.

But we need to do something more to address Africa’s perception (not ours) of appropriateness. Thus, my suggestion to add regional meetings to the program. This could further concretize and synergize our positive rhetoric about raising the U.S.-Africa relationship in an unprecedented manner.

The meetings could each be tied to a theme – peace and security for west and/or central, given the challenges in Mali, Nigeria, Niger, and Central African Republic and related terrorism threats to U.S. national interest. East Africa discussions could focus on economic issues and perhaps energy.

The last three U.S. presidents, inclusive of President Obama, have done a tremendous job of changing the post-Cold War paradigm — creating signature initiatives –AGOAPEPFAR, the Millennium Challenge CorporationFEED the Future and YALI. I am pleased to been involved as a former U.S. diplomat with at least four of these and am proud of all the successes.

I am also pleased that this Summit is taking place – more than a decade after something similar was suggested in the AGOA legislation of 2000. My hope is for this event to be remembered in a good light. We talk about stemming views that the United States is not as serious about Africa as China, India, and newcomer Brazil. The Summit offers an opportunity to really do this.

We don’t want the footnote to be that the United States couldn’t find time to hold bilateral meetings. As I write, I remember taking part in the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit, which had about the same number of world leaders (49), where reports on the President’s schedule at that time listed 9-10 bilateral meetings, one of which I attended. However successfully the Summit plays out, the absence of heads-of-state meetings with the host president, even at the regional level, might be what is remembered most. And that would be a shame.

Calling the Summit historic should not be hyperbole! I am routing for the Summit to be remembered for all the things we did right, not for the one thing we left out. Let’s add regional meetings to the agenda to ensure that the event is a clear success.

Ambassador (Dr.) Robin Renee Sanders is CEO of FEEEDS Advocacy Initiative and FE3DS, LLC. As a former distinguished career U.S diplomat, she served as U.S. ambassador to Nigeria and the Republic of Congo. She is currently an Adjunct Professor & Public Service Scholar at Pittsburgh’s Robert Morris University, director of the U.S. Office of Songhai Farms, author of The Legendary Uli Women of Nigeria, and global advisor for the AGOA CSO Network. Follow her on Twitter @rrsafrica.

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2014 in African American News

 

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AIDS conference attendees on downed Malaysian jet

Associated Press

Prominent AIDS researchers killed in Malaysian plane crash

Prominent AIDS researchers killed in Malaysian plane crash

SYDNEY (AP) — Researchers and activists heading to an AIDS conference in Australia were on the Malaysian jetliner shot down over Ukraine, officials said Friday, news that sparked an outpouring of grief across the scientific community.

Among the passengers was former president of the International AIDS Society Joep Lange, a well-known researcher from the Netherlands, opposition leader Bill Shorten said in Australia’s Parliament.

“There are Australians who would have planned to be at the airport tomorrow night to greet friends and family — amongst them, some of the world’s leading AIDS experts,” Shorten said. “The cost of this will be felt in many parts of the world.”

Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, heading from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, crashed Thursday with 298 people on board. American intelligence authorities believe a surface-to-air missile brought down the aircraft, but it was not yet clear who fired it.

The 20th International AIDS conference starts Sunday in the Victoria state capital of Melbourne.

Chris Beyrer, president-elect of the International AIDS Society, said if reports of Lange’s death were true, “then the HIV/AIDS movement has truly lost a giant.”

Nobel laureate Dr. Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, co-discoverer of the AIDS virus and president of the International AIDS Society, paid tribute to Lange in a speech in the Australian capital, Canberra.

“Joep was a wonderful person — a great professional … but more than that, a wonderful human being,” she said. “If it is confirmed, it will be a terrible loss for all of us. I have no words, really, to try to express my sadness. I feel totally devastated.”

She later told reporters the conference would continue out of respect for the lives lost: “Because we know that it’s really what they would like us to do.”

Lange had been working on HIV since the earliest years of the epidemic, participating in clinical trials and research across the world, Barre-Sinoussi said. He had dedicated his life, she said, to “the benefit of mankind.”

Sharon Lewin, co-chair of the conference, called Lange a true renaissance man, who also had a keen interest in arts and literature.

“He was passionate about his job and passionate about global health and improving people’s lives in low-income countries,” Lewin said. “He was quite visionary actually, I think since the very early days of the epidemic and could see what the challenges were that lay ahead.”

The World Health Organization’s Geneva-based spokesman Glenn Thomas, who was en route to the conference, was also among the dead, said Christian Lindmeier, spokesman for WHO’s Western Pacific region. “Everybody’s devastated,” Lindmeier said. “It’s a real blow.”

The International AIDS Society expressed its grief over the news that several of its colleagues and friends were on board.

“At this incredibly sad and sensitive time the IAS stands with our international family and sends condolences to the loved ones of those who have been lost to this tragedy,” the group’s statement said.

Robin Weiss, an emeritus professor at University College London, said Lange’s death was comparable to that of Jonathan Mann, who led WHO’s first AIDS department — and who was killed after his flight to Geneva was sabotaged 17 years ago. Weiss noted the AIDS community has grown much larger since then, lessening the impact of any one person’s death.

“It’s now a much bigger pond,” he said. Weiss said that while identities were still being awaited for the other passengers bound for the Melbourne conference, the AIDS community was likely robust enough to bounce back. “It sounds callous but if any of us (working on HIV) are in a plane crash or have a heart attack, it’s a loss for the people who know us,” he said. “It’s a moment of great sadness, but I don’t think (Lange’s) loss alone sets us back in the fight against AIDS. The momentum to continue is still there.”

Dr. Jennifer Cohn of Doctors Without Borders said the AIDS community would honor the loss of their fellow researchers by “re-doubling (their) commitment and efforts to address the HIV pandemic,” in a statement.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton will deliver an address at the AIDS conference, which brings together thousands of scientists and activists to discuss the latest developments in HIV and AIDS research.

Flags at government buildings across Victoria will remain at half-staff throughout the conference, the state premier said.

House of Representatives Speaker Bronwyn Bishop, who addresses the conference Monday, called for a moment of silence in parliament.

“I know there will be many empty spots” at the conferece, Bishop said. “And I think that what we’re doing is mourning with all of the world and all that had been lost. And we want to see justice but in a measured way.”

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2014 in African American News

 

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Some well-known human traits are now linked to creativity

Creativity is something that has always fascinated humanity — now scientists in those fields that typically deal with creativity have discovered a whole range of human traits which they believe indicate creativity in human beings.

Some of these findings are a little curious and some of the things under discussion could surprise people because they are not the things which are typically associated with creativity. Although creativity is still a largely uncertain science, there are now some things scientists feel could be associated with creativity. One human trait scoring at the top level in relation to creativity is mental illness. Since the early 70s many studies have been done on this subject and mental illness have been linked to several other disorders including schizophrenia and manic depression. However popular opinions go back thousands of years too long before research into these conditions were a possibility and apparently even Aristotle was quoted as saying that no great mind ever existed without a touch of madness.

Scientists generally agree that of all possible links to creativity, it will be the most difficult to write off mental illness. History contains substantial evidence that most of history’s most notable artists were plagued by rather severe mood disorders and among them were Michelangelo and Ernest Hemingway. Some of the research into creativity was performed at the Karolinska Institute where as many as 1 million creative people were tested. Check PakWired for more information.

Researchers at the institute discovered some remarkable things and they have concluded that writers are two times as likely to commit suicide. Bipolar disorder is often found among dancers and photographers. Another very strong indication of creativity is the tendency to display arrogance. Another study conducted at the University of North Carolina discovered that those people who most regularly take part in various kinds of creative activities were not very humble or honest.

However on the positive side, creativity was not linked to anger or a tendency to distance oneself from others. When one observes these two findings there seems to be a contradiction in them, but this could be explained by the behavior of many artists who need to be creative and will require substantial amounts of imagination in order to bring their acts before the public. They will still require the support of many others in order to actually make a success of such performances, however, and that’s why they will need both attributes.

It would seem that those who are most creative will also be more prone to take chances and to bend the accepted rules of conduct, they will also not shrink back from cheating when taking a specific test. According to these research results such creative people were not devious on purpose but they simply have a special way in which to stumble upon methods in which to navigate through difficult situations. In another study it has been found that walking has a very positive effect on the creative mind and it could substantially stimulate creativity in people.

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2014 in African American News

 

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Please welcome ridesharing to New York City and remove barriers to transportation innovation

Please welcome ridesharing to New York City and remove barriers to transportation innovation
  • Petitioning New York City Council
    1. Vea Cayaba-Wong
    2. Petition by

      Vea Cayaba-Wong

      New York, NY

As a world-class city, we need world-class transportation that is safe, friendly, affordable and that embraces technology. Please join Christopher Prozeller from Brooklyn, Vea Cayaba-Wong from Queens, Lisa White from the Bronx, Marcus Jackson from Manhattan, and Magdalena Ratel from Staten Island in support of ridesharing. Sign this petition to ask New York City to support Lyft in each of the five boroughs!

Despite a world-renowned public transit system and other existing transportation services, people in New York City still lack sufficient options for safe, friendly, affordable rides between boroughs. While we have the largest bike share program and 772 miles of subway line, we must continue to build on this momentum to create an infrastructure that meets the needs of current and future residents of New York. We can leverage technology to accelerate our advancement as a city and provide outstanding consumer choices in transportation.

Here are our stories. What’s yours? Sign the petition and add your story!

“I have lived all over New York City, but have spent 7 years in my favorite borough, Brooklyn. Brooklyn has a fabulous subway system that quickly gets me in and out of Manhattan. However, when I am traveling between Brooklyn and any other borough it can be quite challenging and require numerous transfers and long commute times. This often means I forgo visiting friends in Queens or Staten Island to avoid the transportation hassle. In outer Brooklyn it can also be a challenge getting a cab to get me to a subway stop. We need transportation modes like Lyft in Brooklyn.”  - Chris Prozeller

“If Queens was its own city, it would be the fifth largest city in the country and it’s the largest geographical area of the five boroughs. Queens is also he most ethnically diverse area in the world! However, even with all of Queens’ benefits, transportation can still be difficult. We do have subway lines, but there are lots of neighborhoods that aren’t that close to a subway stop, and require lots of walking at night, in the cold, or through rougher neighborhoods. Having an affordable option like Lyft to get between neighborhoods, and to experience all the amazing things Queens has to offer would be a great addition to our transportation options!”  -Vea Cayaba-Wong

“I was born, raised and still reside in the Bronx. The Bronx is an amazingly diverse borough with so much to offer its residents. However, if you don’t live near a subway line it can also be a challenging place to get around. Cabs rarely come to the outer edges of the Bronx and walking long distances to the subway can be treacherous. I would love to see something like Lyft in my area.  It would give me and my neighbors more safe and reliable ways to get around my borough. Please bring Lyft to the Bronx.”  -Lisa White

Manhattan is amazing and dynamic! It is the most densely populated of NYC’s five boroughs and one of the more densely populated places in the world. And, although we are known for our subway system and yellow cabs, transportation can still be a challenge at times. When it’s raining, snowing or on a hot and humid day finding a ride can be difficult. I think Lyft would be a great addition to NYC’s uniquely comprehensive transportation options and provide an affordable, fun, and safe way to get around the city. Please give Lyft a chance in Manhattan!” – Marcus Jackson

“I’ve lived on Staten Island for 10 years. We have one train line and a ferry that transports Islanders to and from Manhattan. Cabs are few and far between.  We need other modes of affordable transportation that can get us around the island, or home from Manhattan when the ferry is running scarcely. I would love to see Lyft become a part of Staten Island’s transportation options.”  -Magdalena Ratel

Other parts of the country have embraced ridesharing. Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Boston, Atlanta, Washington D.C. are already benefitting from this safe, affordable mode of transportation. Ridesharing helps to combat drunk driving reduce road congestion, and make a positive impact on the environment while improving public safety for our community.

Please support ridesharing in New York City! Now is the time to prove we are world-class by supporting and encouraging innovation.

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2014 in African American News

 

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Feminism and Prisons: Why “Add-Incarceration-and-Stir” Doesn’t Cut It

(Photo:<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/sideonecincy/6251780750/in/photolist-aws1Bh-6WPMef-kC6xT-awraqN-awr6hE-om8CR-awnxPp-9wFsqR-awsjM3-NaurN-dVGngs-aws9RL-awoWd6-awqWRY-awrYR1-7vn5uA-awqEjq-awr2ZA-awpng4-anffzj-7vn9DN-dSGZXL-6fBna-9gtCwc-dVDoyb-h2U4d-4ZTdPk-abPEuK-FhEf-6gvj3W-6aNH7L-6gribF-FhFi-FhEx-dSGSLQ-NRwkq-7vDCYi-4Pdpuy-FhEZ-6mNCjD-5pSGoL-5pSQTE-4Pa5YF-cBNd6E-92X8oU-2bxqyX-6c763f-6aHMhX-4gKEeR-93gv9p" target="_blank"> Chris Miller / Flickr</a>)(Photo: Chris Miller / Flickr)

Many mainstream feminist and prochoice groups have been reluctant to adopt intersectional approaches and to declare common cause with other progressive movements. Yet the advent of mass incarceration and the prison industrial complex (PIC) makes clear that securing women’s reproductive health and rights requires our full-on and intersectional engagement. We must reject an “add prisons and stir” approach to advocacy in favor of making dismantling mass incarceration and other systems of institutional discrimination central to our efforts. And there is no better time than the present: if the War on Drugs and the 600% increase in incarceration of women between 1980 and 2000 wasn’t enough to propel feminist organizations into action, perhaps the introduction of laws that allow the incarceration of women because they are pregnant will.

On July 1, 2014 Tennessee law SB 1391 went into effect, making it possible to punish pregnant women and new mothers for the crime of fetal assault if a newborn experiences an “injury” that can be ascribed to something other than a woman’s “lawful acts” or “lawful omissions.” The law has a special focus on pregnant women who use illegal narcotics. This law, passed in the guise of promoting drug treatment, renders Tennessee the first state in the country to legislatively pass such a law. One week after the law went into effect, police made their first arrest.

Since the 1970s, feminist activists and scholars have called attention to the ways in which the U.S. criminal justice system has harmed women. In the 1990s, for example, feminists and others sounded the alarm about the dramatic increase in the number of women arrested, prosecuted, and incarcerated and called attention to theimpact of parental incarceration on children. More recently, shackling incarcerated pregnant women and sterilization abuse in California prisons rightly have been the focus of growing public outrage and cessation campaigns. The popular Netflix series “Orange is the New Black” has helped to call public attention to disturbing features of prisons, such as correctional officer misconduct and discrimination against transgender persons. For the most part, however, feminist groups have not played a major role in opposing the War on Drugs, nor have they (or pro-choice organizations) focused on pregnant women as targets of mass incarceration.

The quest to secure social, civil, and human rights for pregnant and parenting persons demands that our concerns extend beyond shackling and the impact of maternal incarceration. It certainly demands more of us than watching “Orange is the New Black.” Now more than ever, we need to recognize that the fight for reproductive justice and human rights more broadly is inextricably linked to the need to end mass incarceration in all its forms and manifestations. Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, explains that contemporary mass incarceration is a form of racialized social control using the processes of criminalization to create “a lower caste of individuals who are permanently barred by law and custom from mainstream society.” The United States’s obscenely and comparatively heavy reliance on prisons to punish people is but one feature of mass incarceration. The massive system locks up millions of adults and hundreds of thousands of youth; millions more are under court supervision. Its reach also extends to other official systems of social control, like child protective services, immigration, and public schools that increasingly rely on surveillance, criminalization, and punishment.

Even before the Tennessee law was passed, women in 44 states (including Tennessee) were arrested and locked up based on the claim that being pregnant and using a criminalized drug should be treated as a unique crime. A 2013 study by National Advocates for Pregnant Women’s (NAPW) Lynn Paltrow and Jeanne Flavin identified413 cases of arrests, detentions, and forced medical interventions of pregnant womenfrom 1973 to 2005. Women who are poor and African American are especially vulnerable to these deprivations of liberty. (See link to TFW’s profile of NAPW here.)

We can also look to Alabama where, as the result of judicial activism, it is now a crime for a person who becomes pregnant to use any controlled substance, even those prescribed to her. In 2006, Alabama enacted the “Chemical Endangerment of a Child” statute. This law criminalizes the act of bringing children into an environment where drugs are manufactured or distributed (e.g., methamphetamine labs). Prosecutors and other law enforcement officials, however, quickly applied this law to pregnant women and new mothers who allegedly used a drug during pregnancy.

Consider Amanda Kimbrough, who lived in northwestern Alabama with her family, including two young daughters. In April 2008, Kimbrough experienced a stillbirth; she also admitted using methamphetamines once during her pregnancy. In response, the state removed her daughters from her custody, forced her into parenting classes and drug treatment, arrested her, set bail at $250,000, and charged her with Class A felony chemical endangerment of a child, which carries a possible sentence of life in prison. Following the advice of her attorney, Kimbrough pled guilty in exchange for a sentence of 10 years incarceration (and preserved her right to appeal on constitutional grounds).

The decision in Ms. Kimbrough’s case was challenged in conjunction with a similar ruling against another Alabama woman, Hope Ankrom. These cases landed in the Alabama Supreme Court, where misapplication of the law as a result of expansion of the word “child” to include fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses was affirmed, and the law judicially rewritten to apply to any woman who uses a controlled substance during any point in pregnancy. This 2013 ruling was affirmed in 2014 when the court ruled in the case of Sara Hicks, whose son had tested positive for cocaine and was born healthy. In Hicks, as with other cases, prosecutors claimed that drug use during pregnancy contributes to negative birth outcomes and deserves criminalization – amedia-created myth that is not based in science and that leading medical organizations and experts have denounced.The chief justice in Hicks wrote a concurring opinion relying on biblical law as the basis for recognizing “personhood” of the unborn and overturning Roe v Wade.

NAPW’s Lynn Paltrow reminds us that the criminal justice system we have now differs radically from that which existed at the time of Roe. Since 1973, we have seen the creation of a prison industrial complex (PIC) that features staggering rates of incarceration, the collusion of government and for-profit prison industry, and responses to crime defined by political and economic interests rather than social needs or empirical evidence. Prison abolitionists like Angela Davis have long pointed out that the system disproportionately impacts people of color; indeed, the U.S. system of law is steeped in the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.

Since Alabama’s chemical endangerment of a child statute was enacted in 2006, NAPW has documented over 110 cases of Alabama women who have been arrested and charged – some sentenced to incarceration in facilities like Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women that are under federal watch for persistent, ongoing, and well-known human rights violations, including “unabated staff-on-prisoner sexual abuse and harassment” that has included rape and pregnancies.

This zeal to criminalize pregnant women is less surprising when we consider the numerous entities with a vested financial interest in maintaining mass incarceration. Tennessee, ground zero for new legislation to punish pregnant women, is also home to the corporate headquarters of Correctional Corporation of America (CCA), the largest private prison company in the country and operator of three of Tennessee’s 14 prisons. In her essayDeborah Peterson Small, founder and executive director of Break the Chains, documents the political influence CCA brandishes in Tennessee. Governor Haslam, who signed the pregnancy criminalization bill into law, was among the top four recipients of campaign contributions from CCA. Haslam found nearly $31 million to keep a CCA prison open even as he made deep cuts to TennCare and higher education. (Haslam’s Democratic predecessor had sought to close this prison down.)

To fail to recognize the power wielded by our criminal justice system is to be part of the problem. Supporters of the Tennessee law claim that it would “only” come with a misdemeanor charge and sentences would be deferred if drug treatment through the drug court system was sought and completed. The misdemeanor claim is patently false. Besides, criminalization in any form – misdemeanor, felony, violation, or state mandated drug treatment – contributes to our system of mass incarceration. We should challenge any approach that relies on the court system (in this case, the drug courts) to administer health care. (It bears noting that Tennessee refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. The law also precludes women from getting methadone and other medication assisted treatments that are ongoing; such treatment does not satisfy the requirement that a mother successfully complete a program.)

As NAPW’s research findings and legal developments in Alabama and Tennessee and elsewhere make clear, attacks on reproductive rights and health do not happen in a vacuum; they take place in a country where mass incarceration is pervasive, entrenched, and taken for granted. Pregnant women face the specter not only of back alleys, but also holding cells, jails, and prisons where they will be incarcerated whether they have an abortion or – as Amanda Kimbrough did –birth a healthy baby.

Feminist scholars and activists along with many others are starting to grasp the dimensions and impacts of mass incarceration, especially their racialized aspects. However, contenting ourselves with “awareness” falls well short of achieving needed social change. We must similarly resist the temptation to “add prison and stir” to our existing advocacy efforts. Ending the criminalization of pregnant and parenting women challenges feminist and pro-choice organizations to declare common cause with other progressive movements that share a resolve to dismantle mass incarceration and the War on Drugs. Even the most popular television series is no substitute for the power of deep and widespread public education, movement building, and collective action.

Acknowledgement:  The authors would like to thank Lynn Paltrow for her thoughtful input on an earlier draft of this essay.

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2014 in African American News

 

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How Banning One Question Could Help Ex-Offenders Land A Job

Since being released after serving time in prison for a felony assault, Chearie Phelps-El of Washington, D.C., has been determined to get her life in order. She’s had trouble getting a job.

Pam Fessler/NPR

Washington, D.C., is expected to join four states and several cities soon in prohibiting companies from asking job applicants — up front — if they have a criminal record.

It’s part of a growing movement called Ban the Box, a reference to that box on a job application form that asks, “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?”

Advocates for the laws say having to check the box prevents many ex-offenders from getting a fair shot at a job.

Chearie Phelps-El says it happened to her. The Washington resident was released from prison about a year ago after serving five years for felony assault for fighting with two other women.

It was her second conviction for assault. But at age 51, Phelps-El says she was determined to get her life in order, and has applied for numerous jobs at local hotels, sports clubs and hair salons.

“But none of ‘em called me back,” she says. “That’s the only thing I can think of is the box.”

Phelps-El says that’s ironic, because in prison she received lots of training on how to re-enter society and become a productive, law-abiding citizen. She took classes on how to do her resume and apply for jobs, among other things. And now it seems like a waste.

“Just ban the box. Give us a chance to go in, have an interview, sell ourselves, let the person know who we are,” she says, adding that employers are missing out on a lot of good workers.

In Washington, D.C., an estimated 1 in 10 residents has a criminal record. Nationally, about 70 million people in the U.S. have been arrested or convicted of a crime.

Sherman Justice says he also had to struggle when he got out of prison two years ago after serving time for robbery and drug trafficking.

“It was hard for me. I didn’t just get a job off top when I first got out,” he says. “I almost hung around the wrong people again. And I made a conscious decision, like, this is not what I want to do.”

Eventually, the 27-year-old landed a job with a Washington advocacy group, the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation.

But many ex-cons get frustrated when they can’t find work and return to a life of crime.

Sherman Justice says he struggled when he got out of prison after serving time for robbery and drug trafficking.

Pam Fessler/NPR

“About 50 percent of returning citizens do re-enter the criminal justice system,” says Ari Weisbard, deputy director of the D.C. Employment Justice Center. “Anything that we can do to lower that is going to both be better for overall costs and lowering the costs of imprisoning all of these people, and, of course, better for the victims of those crimes.”

And he says employment has been shown to be one of the best ways to reduce recidivism.

Advocates of ban-the-box laws note that sensitive jobs, like child care, are still protected under the laws. And they point out that employers are not prevented from checking an applicant’s criminal record. They just have to do it later on in the hiring process — in some cases after the employer has made a preliminary job offer.

That’s too late, says Elizabeth Milito, senior executive counsel with the National Federation of Independent Business. “That’s pretty far down the road for a small business owner that might have only five or 10 employees and needs somebody in there now,” she says.

Milito argues that small businesses can’t afford a long hiring process, especially if they know that someone’s criminal record is relevant. She gives the example of a plumber who sends his workers into customers’ homes.

“They’re very concerned about sending anyone in that may have a conviction, a recent conviction, say for theft, burglary. And certainly physical issues, too,” she says.

In the end, Milito predicts, the new laws will discourage some companies from hiring.

Christine Cunneen is the CEO of Hire Image, a background screening company in Rhode Island. She says many of her clients hire ex-offenders, but they want job applicants to be honest about their criminal backgrounds upfront because it’s an important factor in the hiring decision.

“It shows certain characteristics of a person. Are they going to be able to listen to authority? Are they going to be able to be trusted? There’s a lot of businesses out there that are accepting credit cards, so if someone’s had credit card fraud, I mean, somebody should know about that,” she says.

Still, banning the box is increasingly popular. Hawaii, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Minnesota have ban-the-box laws for companies, and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is expected to sign a similar law for his state soon. Illinois and several other states have already banned the box for public sector job applicants. The Washington, D.C., city council is expected to pass its bill banning the box on Monday.

Also, several big chains, like Wal-Mart and Target, have eliminated the criminal history question from their application forms. And advocates hope to expand the campaign to other areas, like housing, where ex-offenders are also excluded.

Sherman Justice, the former prisoner, says barriers to re-entry are everywhere. He says last year he was invited to a White House event for his group’s work on civil rights. He says he was preparing to go that morning, when he got a phone call at home.

“I sat on the edge of the bed, and, you know, I mean, the tears start coming in,” he recalls.

Justice was told he wouldn’t be able to go to the White House event after all. With his felony record, he hadn’t passed the security check.

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2014 in African American News

 

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The Dark Origins of 11 Classic Nursery Rhymes

 
IMAGE CREDIT:
WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

In the canon of great horror writing, Stephen King, Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, Bram Stoker, and Mary Shelley tend to dominate the craft. But Mother Goose isn’t too far behind. Yes, that fictional grande dame of kiddie poems has got a bit of a dark streak, as evidenced by the unexpectedly sinister theories surrounding the origins of these 11 well-known nursery rhymes.

1. BAA, BAA, BLACK SHEEP (1731)

Though most scholars agree that “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep” is about the Great Custom, a tax on wool that was introduced in 1275, its use of the color black and the word “master” led some to wonder whether there was a racial message at its center. Its political correctness was called into question yet again in the latter part of the 20th century, with some schools banning it from being repeated in classrooms, and others simply switching out the word “black” for something deemed less offensive. In 2011, news.com.au reported on the proliferation of “Baa, Baa Rainbow Sheep” as an alternative.

2. GOOSEY GOOSEY GANDER (1784)

It’s hard to imagine that any rhyme with the phrase “goosey goosey” in its title could be described as anything but feelgood. But it’s actually a tale of religious persecution, during the days when Catholic priests would hide themselves in order to say their Latin-based prayers, a major no-no at the time—not even in the privacy of one’s own home. In the original version, the narrator comes upon an old man “who wouldn’t say his prayers. So I took him by his left leg. And threw him down the stairs.” Ouch!

3. JACK AND JILL (1765)

 

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Admit it, you fooled around with the lyrics to “Jack and Jill” a bit yourself when you were younger, turning what you thought was an innocent poem into something a little bit naughty. But its origins aren’t as clean-cut as you probably imagined. One of the most common theories surrounding the story’s origin is that it’s about France’s Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette, who were both found guilty of treason and subsequently beheaded. The only problem is that those events occurred nearly 30 years after “Jack and Jill” was first written. The more likely possibility is that it’s an account of King Charles I’s attempt to reform the tax on liquid measures. When Parliament rejected his suggestion, he instead made sure that the volume was reduced on half- and quarter-pints, known as jacks and gills, respectively.

4. LONDON BRIDGE IS FALLING DOWN (1744)

 

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In 2006, Fergie got saucy with some of this classic kid tune’s lyrics. But the original song wasn’t much better. Depending on whom you ask, “London Bridge is Falling Down” could be about a 1014 Viking attack, child sacrifice, or the normal deterioration of an old bridge. But the most popular theory seems to be that first one. More specifically: the alleged destruction of London Bridge at the hands of Olaf II of Norway some time in the early 1000s. (“Alleged” because some historians don’t believe that attack ever took place.) The song’s popularity around the world is often cited as further proof that it was the Vikings who created it, believing that they brought the tune to the many places they traveled. Oh, and that whole child sacrifice thing? That’s an idea that is also often debated (there’s no archaeological evidence to support it), but the theory goes that in order to keep London Bridge upright, its builders believed that it must be built on a foundation of human sacrifice, and that those same humans—mostly children—would help to watch over the bridge and maintain its sturdiness. Which we’re pretty sure isn’t a practice they teach you in architecture school.

5. MARY, MARY, QUITE CONTRARY (1744)

 

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“Contrary” is one way to describe a murderous psychopath. This popular English nursery rhyme, which reads like a solicitation for gardening advice, is actually a recounting of the homicidal nature of Queen Mary I of England, a.k.a. Bloody Mary. A fierce believer in Catholicism, her reign as queen—from 1553 to 1558—was marked by the execution of hundreds of Protestants. (Silver bells and cockle shells are torture devices, not garden accouterments.)

6. THREE BLIND MICE (1805)

“Three Blind Mice” is supposedly yet another ode to Bloody Mary’s reign, with the trio in question believed to be a group of Protestant bishops—Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Radley, and The Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer—who (unsuccessfully) conspired to overthrow the queen and were burned at the stake for their heresy. Critics suggest that the blindness in the title refers to their religious beliefs.

7. EENY, MEENY, MINY, MO

No, there’s nothing particularly inflammatory about the lines “Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Mo, Catch a tiger by his toe.” But there is when you consider that the word “tiger” is a relatively new development in this counting rhyme, as a replacement for the n-word. Even with the lyrical switch-out, any reference to the poem still has the ability to offend. In 2004, two passengers sued Southwest Airlines was for intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress, following an incident where a flight attendant used the rhyme in a humorous fashion during takeoff when she told passengers: “Eeny meeny miny mo, Please sit down it’s time to go.” (The court sided with the airline.)

8. HERE WE GO ROUND THE MULBERRY BUSH (1840)

“Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush” is often sung as part of a children’s game. According to historian R. S. Duncan, a former governor of England’s Wakefield Prison, the song originated with that 420-year-old institution’s female prisoners, who were exercised around a mulberry tree. Which is probably not the connotation your six-year-old self had in mind.

9. ROCK-A-BYE BABY (1765)

One interpretation of this famous lullaby is that it is about the son of King James II of England and Mary of Modena. It is widely believed that the boy was not their son at all, but a child who was brought into the birthing room and passed off as their own in order to ensure a Roman Catholic heir to the throne.

10. RING AROUND THE ROSIE (1881)

Considering that some of today’s classic nursery rhymes are more than two centuries old, there are often several theories surrounding their origins—and not a lot of sound proof about which argument is correct. But of all the alleged nursery rhyme backstories, “Ring Around the Rosie” is probably the most infamous. Though its lyrics and even its title have gone through some changes over the years, the most popular contention is that the sing-songy verse refers to the 1665 Great Plague of London.“The rosie” is the rash that covered the afflicted, the smell from which they attempted to cover up with “a pocket full of posies.” The plague killed nearly 15 percent of the country’s population, which makes the final verse—“Ashes! Ashes! We all fall down”—rather self-explanatory.

But Snopes labels this reading false, and quotes folklorist Philip Hiscock with a more likely suggestion: That the nursery rhyme probably has its origins “in the religious ban on dancing among many Protestants in the nineteenth century, in Britain as well as here in North America. Adolescents found a way around the dancing ban with what was called in the United States the ‘play-party.’ Play-parties consisted of ring games which differed from square dances only in their name and their lack of musical accompaniment. They were hugely popular, and younger children got into the act, too.”

11. OLD MOTHER HUBBARD (1805)

 

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To many, “Old Mother Hubbard” is not a mother at all—nor a woman. The poem is speculated to have been written as a mockery of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, whose refusal to grant an annulment to King Henry VIII, so that he could marry Anne Boleyn, led to his political downfall.

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2014 in African American News

 

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How All 50 States Got Their Names

IMAGE CREDIT:
THINKSTOCK

Alabama

 

Before Europeans landed on American shores, the upper stretches of the Alabama River in present-day Alabama used to be the home lands of a Native American tribe called – drum roll, please – the Alabama (Albaamaha in their own tribal language). The river and the state both take their names from the tribe, that’s clear enough, but the meaning of the name was another matter. Despite a wealth of recorded encounters with the tribe – Hernando de Soto was the first to make contact with them, followed by other Spanish, French and British explorers and settlers (who referred to the tribe, variously, as the Albama, Alebamon, Alibama, Alibamou, Alibamon, Alabamu, Allibamou, Alibamo and Alibamu) – there are no explanations of the name’s meaning in the accounts of early explorers, so if the Europeans asked, they don’t appear to have gotten an answer. An un-bylined article in the July 27, 1842 edition of the Jacksonville Republican put forth the idea that the word meant “here we rest.” Alexander Beaufort Meek, who served as the Attorney General of Alabama, Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury and the President of the First American Chess Congress, popularized this theory in his writings throughout the next decade.

The rub, of course, is that experts in the Alabama language have never been able to find any evidence to support that translation. What they did find are two words in the Choctaw language (both tribes’ languages are in the Muskogean language family), alba (“plants” or “weeds”) and amo (“to cut” or “to gather”), that together make Albaamo, or “plant gatherers.” We also know that the Alabama referred to a member of their tribe as an Albaamo, cleared land and practiced agriculture largely without tools and by hand and had contact with the neighboring Choctaws. Today, the prevailing theory is that the phrase was used by the Choctaws to describe their neighbors and the Alabama eventually adopted it as their own.

Alaska

Like Alabama (and, as we’ll see, plenty of other state names), the name Alaska comes from the language of the area’s indigenous people. The Aleuts (a name given to them by Russian fur traders in the mid 18th century; they used to, and sometimes still do, call themselves the Unangan), natives of the Aleutian Islands, referred to the Alaskan Peninsula and the mainland as alaxsxaq (ah-lock-shock), literally, “the object toward which the action of the sea is directed.”

Arizona

There are two sides in the argument over the origin of Arizona’s name. One side says that the name comes from the Basque aritz onak (“good oak”) and was applied to the territory because the oak trees reminded the Basque settlers in the area of their homeland. The other side says that the name comes from the Spanish Arizonac, which was derived from the O’odham (the language of the native Pima people) word ali ?ona-g (“having a little spring”), which might refer to actual springs or a site near rich veins of silver discovered in 1736. For what it’s worth, official Arizona state historian Marshall Trimble had supported the latter explanation but for now favors the former.

Arkansas

The first Europeans to arrive in the area of present-day Arkansas were French explorers accompanied by Illinois Indian guides. The Illinois referred to the Ugakhpa people native to the region as the Akansa (“wind people” or “people of the south wind”), which the French adopted and pronounced with an r. They added an s to the end for pluralization, and for some reason it stuck when the word was adopted as the state’s name. The pronunciation of Arkansas was a matter of debate (Ar-ken-saw vs. Ar-kan-zes) until it was officially decided by an act of the state legislature in 1881.

California

California existed in European literature way before Europeans settled the Western U.S. It wasn’t a state filled with vineyards and movie stars, but an island in the West Indies filled with gold and women. The fictional paradise, first mentioned in the early 1500s by Spanish author Garci Ordóñez de Montalvo in his novel Las Sergas de Esplandián, is ruled by Queen Califia and “inhabited by black women, without a single man among them, [living in] the manner of Amazons.” The island is said to be “one of the wildest in the world on account of the bold and craggy rocks… everywhere abounds with gold and precious stones” and is home to griffins and other mythical beasts.

While there is some consensus that the area was named for the fictional island, scholars have also suggested that the name comes from the Catalan words calor (“hot”) and forn (“oven”) or from a Native America phrase, kali forno (“high hill”).

Colorado

Colorado is a Spanish adjective that means “red.” The early Spanish explorers in the Rocky Mountain region named a river they found the Rio Colorado for the reddish silt that the water carried down from the mountains. When Colorado became a territory in 1861, the Spanish word was used as a name because it was commonly thought that the Rio Colorado originated in the territory. This was not the case, however. Prior to 1921, the Colorado River began where the Green River of Utah and the Grand River of Colorado converged outside of Moab, Utah, and the United States Geological Survey identified Green River of Wyoming as the Colorado’s actual headwaters. The Rio Colorado did not actually flow through Colorado until 1921, when House Joint Resolution 460 of the 66th United States Congress changed the name of the Grand River.

Connecticut

The state is named after the Connecticut River, which was named quinnitukqut by the Mohegans who lived in the eastern upper Thames valley. In their Algonquian language, the word means “long river place” or “beside the long tidal river.”

Delaware

Delaware is named for the Delaware River and Delaware Bay. These, in turn, were named for Sir Thomas West, 3rd Baron De La Warr, the first colonial governor of Virginia, who traveled the river in 1610. The title is likely ultimately derived from the Old French de la werre (“of the war” or a warrior).

Florida

Six days after Easter in 1513, the Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de León landed near what is now the city of Saint Augustine. In honor of the holiday and the area’s plant life, he named the land Florida for the Spanish phrase for the Easter season, pascua florida (“feast of flowers”). The name is the oldest surviving European place-name in the U.S.

Georgia

In the early 18th century, the British Parliament assigned a committee to investigate the conditions of the country’s debtor prisons and didn’t like what they found. A group of philanthropists concerned with the plight of debtors proposed the creation of a colony in North America where the “worthy poor” could get back on their feet and be productive citizens again. Their plan ultimately didn’t pan out as the colony wasn’t settled by debtors, but the trustees of the colony still wanted to thank King George II for granting their charter, so they named the place after him.

(Bonus: The nation of Georgia is supposedly called so because its inhabitants revere St. George and feature his cross on their flag, though Georgians refer to themselves asKartvelebi and their country as Sakartvelo.)

Hawaii

No one is certain, so take your pick. The name may come from the Proto-Polynesian Sawaikior “homeland” (some early explorers’ accounts have the natives calling the place Hawaiki, a compound of hawa, “homeland,” and ii, “small, active”) or from Hawaii Loa, the Polynesian who tradition says discovered the islands.

Idaho

The origin of Idaho’s name, like a few other names we’ve already talked about, is a mystery. When it was proposed as the name of a new U.S. territory, it was explained as a derivation of the Shoshone Indian term ee-da-how, meaning “gem of the mountains” or “the sun comes from the mountains.” It’s possible that the word, and its Indian origin, were made up by the man who proposed the name, George M. Willing, an eccentric industrialist and mining lobbyist (not all historians and linguists agree on this, though, and the most common alternate explanation is that the name comes from the Apache word idaahe (“enemy”), which the Kiowas Indians applied to the Comanches they came in contact with when they migrated to southern Colorado). When Congress was considering establishing a mining territory in the Rocky Mountains in 1860, Willing and B. D. Williams, a delegate from the region, championed “Idaho.” The request for the name came up in the Senate in January 1861 and Senator Joseph Lane of Oregon objected to “Idaho,” saying, “I do not believe it is an Indian word. It is a corruption. No Indian tribe in this nation has that word, in my opinion… It is a corruption certainly, a counterfeit, and ought not to be adopted.” Lane was roundly ignored, probably because he had the bad luck of having been the vice presidential candidate for the pro-slavery southern wing of the Democratic Party in the previous year’s election.

After the Senate approved the name, Williams, for some reason, gave into curiosity and looked into Lane’s claim. He heard from several sources that Willing or someone in his group of territorial supporters had invented the name “Idaho” and that the word didn’t actually mean anything. Williams went back to the Senate and requested that the name be changed. The Senate agreed and used a name that had been on the table before Willing and Williams showed up: “Colorado.”

A year later, Congress set out to establish another mining territory in the northwest part of the continent. “Idaho” was again a contender as a name. Without Williams there to call shenanigans and with the senators who should have remembered the last naming incident just a little bit preoccupied with the Civil War, “Idaho” went unchallenged and became the name of the territory and the state.

Illinois

“Illinois” is the modern spelling of the early French explorers’ name for the people they found living in the area, which they spelled in endless variations in their records. The Europeans’ first meeting with the Illinois was in 1674. Father Jacques Marquette, a Jesuit missionary and explorer, followed a path to a village and asked the people there who they were. According to Marquette’s writings, “They replied that they were Ilinois…when one speaks the word…it is as if one said, in their language, ‘the men’.” The explorers thought the tribal name to signify a grown man in his prime, separate from, and superior to, the men of other tribes.

Indiana

The state’s name means “Indian Land” or “Land of the Indians,” named so for the Indian tribes that lived there when white settlers arrived. While its meaning might be simple enough, the way it got the name is a little more interesting. At the end of the French and Indian War, the French were forced out of the Ohio Valley, so a Philadelphia trading company moved in to monopolize trade with the Indians in the area. At the time, the tribes of the Iroquois had already formed a confederacy and conquered territory beyond their home lands, subjugating other tribes and treating them as tributaries. In the fall of 1763, members of the Shawnee and other tribes who were tributary to the Iroquois Confederacy conducted raids on traders from the Philadelphia company and stole their goods. The company complained to the chiefs of the Iroquois Confederacy and demanded restitution. The chiefs accepted responsibility for the behavior of their tributaries, but did not have the money to pay off the debt. Instead, when making a boundary treaty with the English five years later, the chiefs gave a 5,000-square-mile tract of land to the Philadelphia company, which accepted the land as payment.

The land’s new owners, in the search for a name, noted a trend in the way states and countries in both the Old World and New World were named. Bulgaria was the land of the Bulgars, Pennsylvania was the woodland of Penn, etc. They decided to honor the people to whom the land originally belonged and from whom it had been obtained and named it Indiana, land of the Indians. The year the colonies declared their independence from Britain, the Indiana land was transferred to a new company, who wanted to sell it. Some of the land, though, was within the boundaries of Virginia, which claimed that it had jurisdiction over the land’s settlers and forbade the company from selling it. In 1779, the company asked Congress to settle the matter. It made an attempt, but, still operating under Articles of Confederation, had no power to compel Virginia to do anything. The argument eventually went to the United States Supreme Court, but Virginia’s government officials, strong believers in states’ rights, refused to become involved with a federal court and ignored the summons to appear. In the meantime, Virginia’s politicians worked to secure the Eleventh Amendment, which protected the states’ sovereign immunity from being sued in federal court by someone of another state or country (and was proposed in response to a Supreme Court case dealing with Georgia’s refusal to appear to hear a suit against itself, in which the Supreme Court decided against Georgia).

After the amendment was passed and ratified, the company’s suit was dismissed and it lost its claim to the land, which was absorbed by Virginia. The name would come back in 1800, when Congress carved the state of Ohio out of the Northwest Territory and gave the name “Indiana” to the remaining territorial land and, 16 years later, a new state.

Iowa

Iowa’s name comes from the Native American tribe that once lived there, the Ioway. What the word means depends on who you ask.

One pioneer in the area wrote in 1868 that “some Indians in search of a new home encamped on a high bluff of the Iowa River near its mouth…and being much pleased with the location and the country around it, in their native dialect exclaimed, ‘Iowa, Iowa, Iowa’ (beautiful, beautiful, beautiful), hence the name Iowa to the river and to those Indians.” A report from the 1879 General Assembly of Iowa translated the word a little differently and claimed it meant “the beautiful land.” However, members of the Ioway Nation, who today inhabit Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma, will tell you that Ioway is the French spelling of Ayuhwa, a name meaning “sleepy ones” given to the tribe in jest by the Dakota Sioux. (The Ioway refer to themselves as Baxoje (bah-ko-jay) or “the gray/ashy heads,” a name that stems from an incident where tribe members were camping in the Iowa River valley and a gust of wind blew sand and campfire ashes onto their heads.)

Kansas

Kansas was named after the Kansas River, which was named after the Kansa tribe who lived along its banks. Kansa, a Siouan word, is thought to be pretty old. How old? Its full and original meaning was lost to the tribe before they even met their first white settler. Today, we only know that the word has some reference to the wind, possibly “people of the wind” or “people of the south wind.”

Kentucky

There is no consensus on where Kentucky’s name comes from. Among the possibilities, though, are various Indians words, all from the Iroquoian language group, meaning “meadow,” “prairie,” “at the prairie,” “at the field,” “land of tomorrow,” “river bottom,” and “the river of blood.”

Louisiana

Louisiana comes from the French La Louisiane, or “Land of Louis.” It was named for Louis XIV, the King of France from 1643 to 1715. Exciting, no?

Maine

Maine is another case where no one is quite sure how the name came about. Ferdinando Gorges and John Mason, who received a charter for land in Maine, were both English Royal Navy veterans, and the name may have originated with the sailors differentiating “the mainland” from the many islands off the state’s coast. Maine’s state legislature, meanwhile, passed a resolution in 2001 that established Franco-American Day and claimed that the state was named after the French province of Maine.

Maryland

The English colony of Maryland was named for Queen Henrietta Maria, the wife of King Charles I, who granted Maryland’s charter. Mariana was also proposed as a name, but Maryland’s founder, Sir Lord Baltimore, believed in the divine right of kings and turned the name down because it reminded him of the Spanish Jesuit and historian Juan de Mariana, who taught that the will of the people was higher than the law of tyrants.

Massachusetts

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Bay Colony that preceded it were named after the area’s indigenous people, the Massachusett. The tribe’s name translates to “near the great hill,” referring to the Blue Hills southwest of Boston. An alternate form of the tribe’s name, the Moswetuset (“hill shaped like an arrowhead”), refers to the Moswetuset Hummock, an arrow-shaped mound in Quincy, MA.

Michigan

The state takes its name from Lake Michigan. Michigan is a French derivative of the Ojibwa word misshikama (mish-ih-GAH-muh), which translates to “big lake,” “large lake” or “large water.”

Minnesota

Minnesota is derived from the Dakota tribe’s name for the Minnesota River, mnisota (mni“water” + sota “cloudy, muddy;” sometimes translated to the more poetic “sky-tinted water”). The English language doesn’t really dig words beginning with mn (you’ll find only one, mnemonic), so early settlers in the region added some i‘s and produced a mini sound that they wrote as “mine.” The city of Minneapolis combines mni with the Greek polis, or “city.”

Mississippi

The state is named for the Mississippi River. You may have heard that mississippi means “the Father of Waters” and you may have heard that from no less a source than novelist James Fenimore Cooper or President Abraham Lincoln (who wrote in a letter after the Civil War after Union victories during the Civil War, “the Father of Waters again goes unvexed to the sea”). I hate to pee on Honest Abe’s parade, but the word, a French derivation of the Ojibwa messipi(alternately misi-sipi or misi-ziibi) actually means “big river.” It may not sound as dramatic as Lincoln’s preferred translation, but whatever the meaning, the name caught on. As French explorers took the name down the river with them to the delta, it was adopted by local Indian tribes and replaced their own names, and the earlier Spanish explorers’ names, for the river.

Missouri

The state and the Missouri River are both named after the Missouri people, a southern Siouan tribe that lived along the river. Missouri comes from an Illinois language reference to the tribe,ouemessourita, which has been translated as “those who have dugout canoes,” “wooden canoe people” or “he of the big canoe.”

Montana

Montana is a variation of the Spanish montaña, or “mountain,” a name applied because of its numerous mountain ranges (3,510 mountain peaks, total). Who first used the name, and when, is unknown.

Nebraska

Nebraska comes from the archaic Otoe Indian words Ñí Brásge (in contemporary Otoe, it would be Ñí Bráhge), meaning “flat water.” The words refer to the Platte River, which flows across the Cornhusker State.

Nevada

The state’s name is the Spanish word for “snowfall” and refers to the Sierra Nevada (“snow-covered mountains”) mountain range. The non-Nevadan pronunciation of the name “neh-vah-dah” (long A sounds like the a in father) differs from the local pronunciation “nuh-vae-duh” (short A sounds like the a in alligator) and is said to annoy Nevadans endlessly.

New Hampshire

John Mason named the area he received in a land grant after the English county of Hampshire, where he had lived for several years as a child. Mason invested heavily in the clearing of land and building of houses in New Hampshire, but died, in England, before ever venturing to the new world to see his property.

New Jersey

New Jersey was named for Jersey, the largest of the British Channel Islands, by its founders Sir John Berkeley and Sir George Carteret. Carteret was born on Jersey and served as its Lieutenant Governor for several years.

New Mexico

New Mexico and the country it used to be part of, Mexico, both take their name from NahuatlMexihco. The meaning of the word is unclear, but there are several hypotheses. It might reference Mextli or M?xihtli, an alternate name for Huitzilopochtli, the god of war and patron of the Aztecs, and mean “place where M?xihtli lives”. It’s also been suggested that the word is a combination of m?tztli (“moon”), xictli (“center”) and the suffix -co (“place”) and means “place at the center of the moon” (in reference to Lake Texcoco).

New York

Both the state and New York City were named for James Stuart, Duke of York and future King James II of England. The old York, a city in England, has been around since before the Romans made their way to the British Isles and the word York comes from the Romans’ Latin name for city, written variously as EboracumEburacum and Eburaci. Tracing the name further back is difficult, as the language of the area’s pre-Roman indigenous people was never recorded. They are thought to have spoken a Celtic language, though, and Eboracum may have been derived from the Brythonic Eborakon, which means “place of the yew trees.”

North Carolina

King Charles II of England, who granted a charter to start a colony in modern-day North Carolina, named the land in honor of his father, Charles I. Carolina comes from Carolus, the Latin form of Charles.

North Dakota

North and South Dakota both take their names from the Dakota, a tribe of Siouan people who lived in the region. No detailed etymology of Dakota is widely accepted, but the most common explanation is that it means “friend” or “ally” in the language of the Sioux.

Ohio

A common translation, “beautiful river,” originates in a French traveler’s 1750 account of visiting the region. He referred to the Ohio River as “une belle riviere” and gave its local Indian name as Ohio. People took his description of the river as a translation of the Indian name, though there is no evidence that that was his intention or that that is even a correct translation. In fact, no definitive meaning for the word is available, though ohio is more likely a Wyandot word meaning “large/great” or “the great one,” than “beautiful river.” It could also be derived from the Seneca ohi:yo’ (“large creek”).

Oklahoma

Oklahoma is a combination of the Choctaw words ukla (“person”) and humá (“red”). The word was used by the Choctaw to describe Native Americans, “red persons.” Allen Wright, chief of the Choctaw Nation from 1866 to 1870, suggested the name in 1866 during treaty negotiations with the federal government over the use of the Indian Territory. When the Indian Territory was whittled down to what is now Oklahoma, the new territory took its name from the Choctaw word.

Oregon

The origin of Oregon may be the most hotly debated of the state names. Here’s a few of the competing explanations (and I may have even missed a few):

- Derived from the French ouragan (“hurricane”) and the state named so because French explorers called the Columbia River le fleuve aux ouragans (“Hurricane River”) due to the strong winds in the Columbia Gorge.

- Derived from oolighan, a Chinook name for the eulachon (Thaleichthys pacificus), a smelt found along the Pacific coast and prized as a source of food for Native Americans in the area.

- Derived from the Spanish orejón (“big ears”), which early Spanish explorers reportedly used to refer to local natives.

- Derived from Ouragon, a word used by Major Robert Rogers in a 1765 petition asking the British government to finance and supply an overland search for the Northwest Passage. As to where Rogers got the word, it could have come from an error on a French-made map from the early 1700s, where the Ouisiconsink (“Wisconsin River”) is misspelled “Ouaricon-sint,” and broken so “Ouaricon” sits on a line by itself or it might have been derived from the Algonquian wauregan or olighin, which both mean “good and beautiful” (and were both used in reference to the Ohio River at the time).

- Derived from the Shoshone words Ogwa (river) and Pe-On (west) and picked up from the Sioux, who referred to the Columbia as the “River of the West,” by American explorer Jonathan Carver.

Pennsylvania

Named in honor of Admiral William Penn. The land was granted to Penn’s son, William Penn, to pay off a debt owed by the crown to the senior Penn. The name is made up of Penn + sylva(“woods” ) + nia (a noun suffix) to get “Penn’s Woodland.” The younger Penn was embarrassed by the name and feared that people would think he had named the colony after himself, but King Charles would not rename the land.

Rhode Island

First used in a letter by Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano, in which he compares an island near the mouth of Narragansett Bay (a bay on the north side of Rhode Island Sound) to the island of Rhodes in the Mediterranean. The explanation preferred by the state government is that Dutch explorer Adrian Block named the area Roodt Eylandt (“red island”) in reference to the red clay that lined the shore and the name was later anglicized under British rule.

South Carolina

See North Carolina above.

South Dakota

North and South Dakota both take their names from the Dakota, a tribe of Siouan people who lived in the region. No detailed etymology of Dakota is widely accepted, but the most common explanation is that it means “friend” or “ally” in the language of the Sioux.

Tennessee

While traveling inland from South Carolina in 1567, Spanish explorer Juan Pardo passed through a Native American village in modern-day Tennessee named Tanasqui. Almost two centuries later, British traders came upon a Cherokee village called Tanasi (in present-day Monroe County, Tennessee). No one knows whether Tanasi and Tanasqui were actually the same village, though it is known that Tanasi was located on the Little Tennessee River and recent research suggests that Tanasqui was close to the confluence of the Pigeon River and the French Broad River (near modern-day Newport). Tennessee could have come from either one of these village names, but the meanings of both words have since been lost.

Texas

Texas comes from teysha (sometimes spelled tejastayshastexiasthecastechanteysas, or techas), a word widely used by the natives of the eastern Texas region before the arrival of the Spanish. The tribes had various spellings and interpretations of the word, but the usual meaning was “friends” or “allies.” Some tribes, like the Hasinais and the Caddo, used it as a greeting, “hello, friend.” This is the usage that Spanish explorers picked up and used to greet friendly tribes throughout Texas and Oklahoma. The explorers also applied the word as a name for the Caddo people and the area around their East Texas settlement.

Utah

Derived from the name of the native tribe known as the Nuutsiu or Utes (which itself may come from the Apache yudahyiuta or yuttahih, meaning “they who are higher up”), whom the Spanish first encountered in modern-day Utah in the late 1500s. In the tribe’s language, utemeans “Land of the Sun.” (The tribe referred to themselves as the “Nuciu” or “Noochew,” which simply means “The People.”)

Vermont

Derived from the French words vert (“green”) and mont (“mountain”). Samuel Peters claimed that he christened the land with that name in 1763 while standing on top of a mountain, saying, “The new name is Vert-Mont, in token that her mountains and hills shall be ever green and shall never die.” Most historians would disagree, as would Thomas Young, the Pennsylvania statesman who suggested that his state’s constitution be used as the basis for Vermont’s and is generally credited with suggesting the name to maintain the memory of the Green Mountain Boys, the militia organization formed to resist New York’s attempted take-over of the area.

Virginia

Named for Queen Elizabeth I of England (known as the Virgin Queen), who granted Walter Raleigh the charter to form a colony north of Spanish Florida.

Washington

Named in honor of the first president of the United States, George Washington. In the eastern US, the state is referred to as Washington State or the state of Washington to distinguish it from the District of Columbia, which they usually just call “Washington”, “D.C.” or, if they’re very local, “the District.” Washingtonians and other Pacific Northwesterners simply call the state “Washington” and refer to the national capital as “Washington, D.C.” or just “D.C.”

West Virginia

West Virginia, formed from 39 Virginia counties whose residents voted to form a new state rather than join the Confederacy, was named after the same queen as the state it split from, though the new state was originally to be called Kanawha.

Wisconsin

Derived from Meskousing, the name applied to the Wisconsin River by the Algonquian-speaking tribes in the region. The French explorer Jacques Marquette recorded the name in 1673, and the word was eventually corrupted into Ouisconsin, anglicized to its modern form during the early 19th century, and its current spelling made official by the territorial legislature in 1845. Modern linguists had been unable to find any word in an Algonquian language similar to the one Marquette recorded, and now believe that the tribes borrowed the name from the Miami meskonsing, or “it lies red,” a reference to the reddish sandstone of the Wisconsin Dells.

Wyoming

Derived from the Delaware (Lenape) Indian word mecheweami-ing (“at/on the big plains”), which the tribe used to refer their home region in Pennsylvania (which was eventually named the Wyoming Valley [Wilkes-Barre represent!]). Other names considered for the new territory were Cheyenne, Shoshoni, Arapaho, Sioux, Platte, Big Horn, Yellowstone and Sweetwater, butWyoming was chosen because it was already in common use by the territory’s settlers.

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2014 in African American News

 

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When Did Americans Lose Their British Accents?

IMAGE CREDIT:
SHUTTERSTOCK

Readers Nick and Riela have both written to ask how and when English colonists in America lost their British accents and how American accents came about.

There are manymany evolving regional British and American accents, so the terms “British accent” and “American accent” are gross oversimplifications. What a lot of Americans think of as the typical “British accent” is what’s called standardized Received Pronunciation (RP), also known as Public School English or BBC English. What most people think of as an “American accent,” or most Americans think of as “no accent,” is the General American (GenAm) accent, sometimes called a “newscaster accent” or “Network English.” Because this is a blog post and not a book, we’ll focus on these two general sounds for now and leave the regional accents for another time.

English colonists established their first permanent settlement in the New World at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607, sounding very much like their countrymen back home. By the time we had recordings of both Americans and Brits some three centuries later (the first audio recording of a human voice was made in 1860), the sounds of English as spoken in the Old World and New World were very different. We’re looking at a silent gap of some 300 years, so we can’t say exactly when Americans first started to sound noticeably different from the British.

As for the “why,” though, one big factor in the divergence of the accents is rhotacism. The General American accent is rhotic and speakers pronounce the in words such as hard. The BBC-type British accent is non-rhotic, and speakers don’t pronounce the r, leaving hardsounding more like hahd. Before and during the American Revolution, the English, both in England and in the colonies, mostly spoke with a rhotic accent. We don’t know much more about said accent, though. Various claims about the accents of the Appalachian Mountains, the Outer Banks, the Tidewater region and Virginia’s Tangier Island sounding like an uncorrupted Elizabethan-era English accent have been busted as myths by linguists.

TALK THIS WAY

Around the turn of the 18th 19th century, not long after the revolution, non-rhotic speech took off in southern England, especially among the upper and upper-middle classes. It was a signifier of class and status. This posh accent was standardized as Received Pronunciation and taught widely by pronunciation tutors to people who wanted to learn to speak fashionably. Because the Received Pronunciation accent was regionally “neutral” and easy to understand, it spread across England and the empire through the armed forces, the civil service and, later, the BBC.

Across the pond, many former colonists also adopted and imitated Received Pronunciation to show off their status. This happened especially in the port cities that still had close trading ties with England — Boston, Richmond, Charleston, and Savannah. From the Southeastern coast, the RP sound spread through much of the South along with plantation culture and wealth.

After industrialization and the Civil War and well into the 20th century, political and economic power largely passed from the port cities and cotton regions to the manufacturing hubs of the Mid Atlantic and Midwest — New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit, etc. The British elite had much less cultural and linguistic influence in these places, which were mostly populated by the Scots-Irish and other settlers from Northern Britain, and rhotic English was still spoken there. As industrialists in these cities became the self-made economic and political elites of the Industrial Era, Received Pronunciation lost its status and fizzled out in the U.S. The prevalent accent in the Rust Belt, though, got dubbed General American and spread across the states just as RP had in Britain.

Of course, with the speed that language changes, a General American accent is now hard to find in much of this region, with New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Chicago developing their own unique accents, and GenAm now considered generally confined to a small section of the Midwest.

As mentioned above, there are regional exceptions to both these general American and British sounds. Some of the accents of southeastern England, plus the accents of Scotland and Ireland, are rhotic. Some areas of the American Southeast, plus Boston, are non-rhotic.

 
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Posted by on July 1, 2014 in African American News

 

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After Forming Deep Roots in U.S., Man Discovers He Isn’t a Citizen

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Mario Hernandez, in his backyard in Tallahassee, Fla., came to the United States as a Cuban refugee in 1965 but only recently discovered that he never became a United States citizen.CreditBryan Anselm for The New York Times

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — After living nearly a half century in the United States — marrying and raising a family here, paying taxes and working for decades for the federal government — Mario Hernandez made a discovery recently that rattled him to his core: He is not an American citizen. In fact, he is not even a United States resident.

Nobody had ever told him. Not his mother or his grandparents. Not the United States Army, where he served for three years in the 1970s. Not the election supervisors in four states who tallied his votes in every major election since Jimmy Carter won the White House. Not the two state agencies where he was employed, one in Washington State and the other in Florida. And not the two federal agencies, including the Justice Department, where he spent most of his career as a prison supervisor handling notorious inmates and undergoing thorough background checks every five years. Citizenship is a requirement for the job.

The revelation came only after Mr. Hernandez and his wife, Bonita, started planning a trip to celebrate his recent retirement from the Bureau of Prisons after 22 years. The two had settled on a Caribbean cruise, which would have been Mr. Hernandez’s first time out of the country since arriving in 1965 as a Cuban refugee. On a cruise line website, he found out that a United States passport was a requirement. He did not have one and wondered whether he even had naturalization papers.

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Mr. Hernandez was 9 years old when he left Cuba. CreditBryan Anselm for The New York Times

“I thought I was a citizen — I’ve always been proud of being a citizen,” said Mr. Hernandez, 58, the father of two grown children, one an engineer who is an Afghan war veteran. “This has really messed with my head.”

At a time when immigration overhaul remains on the table in Congress, Mr. Hernandez’s plight is the latest example, and one of the more extreme, of how large federal bureaucracies can stumble when it comes to identifying who is here legally, illegally or somewhere in between. With so many immigrants in the country under so many varying rules, keeping track can sometimes pose monumental challenges.

For Mr. Hernandez, the consequences are worrisome. Deportation is not something he would face as a Cuban refugee and military veteran. But he can no longer vote, and he cannot leave the country. And he could face prison and fines for having falsely claimed citizenship and for voting.

At the moment, he exists in immigration limbo — not fully legal or illegal. After he attended an immigration interview in March, his request for citizenship was denied. It should not have been, said his lawyer, Elizabeth Ricci, from Tallahassee. Mr. Hernandez was entitled to citizenship, she said, because he had served in the Army during a “designated period of hostility” at the end of the Vietnam War era.

A second letter from the immigration service followed. It said the case would be reopened but asked for more information, including why he had claimed to be a citizen, had registered to vote and had voted.

Sharon Scheidhauer, a spokeswoman for United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, said the agency could not comment on individual cases.

“I think they are gravely embarrassed,” Ms. Ricci said, “and are trying to shift the burden on him now to make him look like a criminal.”

Not only did Mr. Hernandez work for the Bureau of Prisons (and before that the Bureau of Indian Affairs), but he had been a supervisor, overseeing day-to-day operations, detainees and inmates, including terrorists.

By the time he retired, he had a desk full of commendations. In 1995, he personally kept watch over the two Oklahoma City bombers, Terry Nichols and Timothy McVeigh, keeping an eye on each in their isolation cells for 12 hours a day on separate weeks over the course of a month. When Willie Falcon, the notorious cocaine trafficker from Miami, had to change prisons, Mr. Hernandez was in charge of the transfer — one of several he oversaw involving high-profile prisoners.

By all accounts, Mr. Hernandez is a make-the-best-of-it kind of man who was taught to be self-reliant at an early age. But he is unnerved by the turn of events.

“It’s like I’m living a bad dream,” he said as he sat in his comfortable home decorated with Holstein cow knickknacks and dozens of framed photographs of his children and grandchildren. “This cannot be real; I’ve been living here 49 years. This is the only country I’ve ever known.”

Elizabeth C. Pines, a longtime immigration lawyer in Miami, said she had run across a handful of similar cases but none as extreme as this one.

“It goes to show you how broken the system is for a federal and a state agency to have not even checked his background — his criminal background, yes, but not his immigration background,” she said.

The only immigration document Mr. Hernandez has is a parole document, which he received as a 9-year-old when he arrived at Miami’s Freedom Tower with his family. The paper allowed him to remain in the United States indefinitely.

Cuban citizens are granted special immigration privileges when they flee Cuba and arrive in the United States. First, they are granted parole. After a year, unless they are criminals, they can become United States residents. Five years later, they can become American citizens. The only hitch is that the paperwork must be filed, which Mr. Hernandez’s parents never did on his behalf.

Growing up in Fullerton, Calif., Mr. Hernandez always assumed that all of this had been done for him as a child. Nobody ever mentioned his immigration status at home — less a topic of conversation in those days, particularly for Cuban refugees, Mr. Hernandez said. He never thought to ask, he added.

Jobs came easily. As a parolee, Mr. Hernandez says, he was given an unrestricted Social Security number, which he has had since childhood. Later, he got a driver’s license.

When he enlisted in the Army in 1975 as a teenager, he said he remembered, he handed officials his parole document and taking some kind of oath. That he may not have been an American citizen crossed his mind then, he said, but the oath he took — a citizenship oath, in his mind — allayed any doubts.

Decades later, worried about his lack of citizenship papers, Mr. Hernandez met with Ms. Ricci. Ms. Ricci said she was stunned at how long he had lived in limbo. She said she was baffled why the Bureau of Prisons had never flagged his lack of citizenship, particularly since Mr. Hernandez did the opposite of remain in the shadows.

“It’s a classic example of government inefficiency,” said Ms. Ricci, who has taken his case pro bono.

Passionate about America and its privileges, Mr. Hernandez said he took his citizenship responsibilities to heart. When Leon County election officials here recently stripped his name from the voter rolls, “I broke down crying,” he said. He could not even tell a friend about it as they pumped gas.

“It was just overwhelming to him,” said Brenda Salvas, the friend and a former colleague. “He said he would call me later on the phone and tell me. That’s the kind of person he is. He cares.”

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2014 in African American News

 

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Before Ink Dries on Army Rules, Soldiers Rush to Get Tattoos

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“I like getting tattoos,” said Sgt. Ray Stevens, who was a customer on Monday at Aces-n-Eights in Lakewood, Wash. CreditMatthew Ryan Williams for The New York Times

LAKEWOOD, Wash. — An Army soldier walked into Brass Monkey Tattoo last month and told Dan Brewer, the tattoo artist, to go for it.

“He dropped a thousand bucks,” Mr. Brewer said, standing in the shop here, about five minutes from the gate of Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Ten hours under the needle later, an ex-girlfriend’s name from a previous tattoo had been covered up, and a memorial to six buddies lost in the war in Afghanistan had been inked across the soldier’s back and ribs. “It was a good day,” Mr. Brewer said.

The military tattoo has a deep history, with reports going back at least to the Roman legions, historians say. Images of adventure or battle — if not a haunting beauty from the frontiers of Gaul — could be captured forever on a bicep. Declarations of unit loyalty or individuality, or both, could be sealed through rituals of ink and pain.

But now a tightening of the Army’s regulations on the wear and appearance of uniforms and insignia — issued on March 31 with a 30-day window of unit-by-unit enforcement — have driven a land rush here and at other Army posts to get “tatted,” as soldiers call it, while the old rules still applied. About 40,000 active duty and reserve personnel are stationed at Lewis-McChord, about an hour south of Seattle, making it one of the United States military’s largest bases.

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Two soldiers waiting on Monday at All American Custom Tattoo in Lakewood, Wash., which is close to Joint Base Lewis-McChord. CreditMatthew Ryan Williams for The New York Times

“I’m just going to let her do it until I can’t take anymore,” said Specialist Charles Chandler, 22, an Army infantryman, as he pulled up his left sleeve to show the canvas he planned to present to his tattoo artist this week.

The new rules restrict total inkage on arms and legs visible on a soldier wearing short sleeves and short pants. They also limit the size of each visible tattoo to no bigger than the wearer’s open hand. But the Army is also generally allowing soldiers to keep the tattoos they had before the effective date of the new rules, as long as they do not violate prohibitions on things like obscenity, racism or extremism, and are documented with a photograph before the deadline.

Hence the rush to get inked. With some superior officers, many of them tattooed as well, giving ample warning as to when those photographs would be taken, soldiers said they have experienced a unique window of opportunity — but also, perhaps, a nudge — to get that next tattoo, or a lot of them.

“I would probably do it anyway; I’ll just do it sooner,” said Sgt. Ray Stevens, who came after work on Monday to Aces-n-Eights Tattoo and Piercing here in Lakewood for some work on his left forearm. “I like getting tattoos,” said Sergeant Stevens, who is originally from Portland, Me.

Tattoo artists like Tyrell Barbour, at Stay Fresh Tattoos on Lakewood’s main commercial drag, Bridgeport Way, said they had never seen such fat times. “I’m getting hit like no tomorrow,” he said. “Especially younger military, but a lot of superiors, too,” he added.

Military regulation of tattoos, or at least the attempt, is not new. Shortly before World War I, military authorities tried to reign in wayward ink with a prohibition on “indecent or obscene” tattoos — mostly naked women in those days — but allowed existing depictions to be altered to meet the new rule, which led to many a discreet grass skirt as cover-up.

The Navy updated its tattoo policies again in 2003, and again in 2006, and with a further update in 2010 — nodding to the modern military of men and women serving together — that tweaks the rules on so-called permanent makeup tattoos, allowed for eyebrows, eyeliner, lipstick and lip liner.

“Permanent makeup shall be in good taste,” the Navy’s regulations say.

The Marines tightened their personal grooming and appearance regulations in 2010, the Air Force in 2012. All four main military branches prohibit tattoos around the neck. No person with what is called a sleeve — or fully tattooed arm — can become a Marine.

“They’re asserting an individualistic identity,” said Anna Felicity Friedman, a tattoo historian and blogger at tattoohistorian.com, describing her hypothesis about the average soldier or sailor’s love affair with skin art.

“People who are in situations of depersonalization, whether it’s wearing uniforms, or other ways stripped of the ability to assert their identity, tend to react to this depersonalization by getting tattoos,” said Dr. Friedman, who is heavily tattooed herself.

Prisoners, chefs and athletes are in much the same boat, she believes — all straining to declare difference to a community, or a marketplace, that might other otherwise have a hard time telling them apart.

The tattoo economy on the edge of Lewis-McChord is bracing for change, too. Mr. Brewer at Brass Monkey, where about 80 percent of the business is military, said the shop’s owner was anticipating a big drop in customers after the regulations are fully in place, and is planning a move to Tacoma, about 10 miles north, to be nearer the city’s night life and bar scene.

But at South Tacoma Tattoo, just a few blocks away, the tattoo artists said they thought there would be still plenty of skin left to decorate when things quieted down. The new rules do not say anything about chests and backs and other parts of the body always covered by a uniform, they said.

And Specialist Chandler, the infantryman who was planning out his arm art this week, said he was also studying the rules carefully as to what might push the boundaries of content and good taste. Regardless of the timing question on getting tattooed now, he said, he wants to re-enlist in a few years and does not want any overly racy skin art to hold him back.

So the girl he plans on his arm will be clothed. “A pinup girl, to stay in the regs,” he said. “You have to adapt to the Army — the Army doesn’t adapt to you.”

 

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2014 in African American News

 

9 Little Translation Mistakes That Caused Big Problems

IMAGE CREDIT:
THINKSTOCK

Knowing how to speak two languages is not the same thing as knowing how to translate. Translation is a special skill that professionals work hard to develop. In their new book Found in Translation, professional translators Nataly Kelly and Jost Zetzsche give a spirited tour of the world of translation, full of fascinating stories about everything from volunteer text message translators during the Haitian earthquake rescue effort, to the challenges of translation at the Olympics and the World Cup, to the personal friendships celebrities like Yao Ming and Marlee Matlin have with their translators.

The importance of good translation is most obvious when things go wrong. Here are nine examples from the book that show just how high-stakes the job of translation can be.

1. THE SEVENTY-ONE-MILLION-DOLLAR WORD

In 1980, 18-year-old Willie Ramirez was admitted to a Florida hospital in a comatose state. His friends and family tried to describe his condition to the paramedics and doctors who treated him, but they only spoke Spanish. Translation was provided by a bilingual staff member who translated “intoxicado” as “intoxicated.” A professional interpreter would have known that “intoxicado” is closer to “poisoned” and doesn’t carry the same connotations of drug or alcohol use that “intoxicated” does. Ramirez’s family believed he was suffering from food poisoning. He was actually suffering from an intracerebral hemorrhage, but the doctors proceeded as if he were suffering from an intentional drug overdose, which can lead to some of the symptoms he displayed. Because of the delay in treatment, Ramirez was left quadriplegic. He received a malpractice settlement of $71 million.

2. YOUR LUSTS FOR THE FUTURE

When President Carter traveled to Poland in 1977, the State Department hired a Russian interpreter who knew Polish, but was not used to interpreting professionally in that language. Through the interpreter, Carter ended up saying things in Polish like “when I abandoned the United States” (for “when I left the United States”) and “your lusts for the future” (for “your desires for the future”), mistakes that the media in both countries very much enjoyed.

3. WE WILL BURY YOU

At the height of the cold war, Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev gave a speech in which he uttered a phrase that interpreted from Russian as “we will bury you.” It was taken as chilling threat to bury the U.S. with a nuclear attack and escalated the tension between the U.S. and Russia. However, the translation was a bit too literal. The sense of the Russian phrase was more that “we will live to see you buried” or “we will outlast you.” Still not exactly friendly, but not quite so threatening.

4. DO NOTHING

In 2009, HSBC bank had to launch a $10 million rebranding campaign to repair the damage done when its catchphrase “Assume Nothing” was mistranslated as “Do Nothing” in various countries.

5. MARKETS TUMBLE

A panic in the world’s foreign exchange market led the U.S. dollar to plunge in value after a poor English translation of an article by Guan Xiangdong of the China News Service zoomed around the Internet. The original article was a casual, speculative overview of some financial reports, but the English translation sounded much more authoritative and concrete.

6. WHAT’S THAT ON MOSES’S HEAD?

St. Jerome, the patron saint of translators, studied Hebrew so he could translate the Old Testament into Latin from the original, instead of from the third century Greek version that everyone else had used. The resulting Latin version, which became the basis for hundreds of subsequent translations, contained a famous mistake. When Moses comes down from Mount Sinai his head has “radiance” or, in Hebrew, “karan.” But Hebrew is written without the vowels, and St. Jerome had read “karan” as “keren,” or “horned.” From this error came centuries of paintings and sculptures of Moses with horns and the odd offensive stereotype of the horned Jew.

7. CHOCOLATES FOR HIM

In the 50s, when chocolate companies began encouraging people to celebrate Valentine’s Day in Japan, a mistranslation from one company gave people the idea that it was customary for women to give chocolate to men on the holiday. And that’s what they do to this day. On February 14, the women of Japan shower their men with chocolate hearts and truffles, and on March 14 the men return the favor. An all around win for the chocolate companies!

8. YOU MUST DEFEAT SHENG LONG

In the Japanese video game Street Fighter II a character says, “if you cannot overcome the Rising Dragon Punch, you cannot win!” When this was translated from Japanese into English, the characters for “rising dragon” were interpreted as “Sheng Long.” The same characters can have different readings in Japanese, and the translator, working on a list of phrases and unaware of the context, thought a new person was being introduced to the game. Gamers went crazy trying to figure out who this Sheng Long was and how they could defeat him. In 1992, as an April Fools Day joke, Electronic Gaming Monthly published elaborate and difficult to execute instructions for how to find Sheng Long. It wasn’t revealed as a hoax until that December, after countless hours had no doubt been wasted.

9. TROUBLE AT WAITANGI

In 1840, the British government made a deal with the Maori chiefs in New Zealand. The Maori wanted protection from marauding convicts, sailors, and traders running roughshod through their villages, and the British wanted to expand their colonial holdings. The Treaty of Waitangi was drawn up and both sides signed it. But they were signing different documents. In the English version, the Maori were to “cede to Her Majesty the Queen of England absolutely and without reservation all the rights and powers of Sovereignty.” In the Maori translation, composed by a British missionary, they were not to give up sovereignty, but governance. They thought they were getting a legal system, but keeping their right to rule themselves. That’s not how it turned out, and generations later the issues around the meaning of this treaty are still being worked out.

 

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2014 in African American News

 

10 Crazy Ways People Amused Themselves Before Television

Before people had hundreds of channels, if they wanted to watch surgery or gawk at celebrity babies, they had to actually leave the house.

1. ATTENDING PUBLIC DISSECTIONS

Thanks to advances in science and the relaxing of church and government laws, the dissection of human corpses came back into vogue in the 1300s. At first these dissections were performed in small rooms or houses for the benefit of a handful for medical students. Then, almost overnight, a bored and apparently pretty morbid public started clamoring to attend them as well.

Specially designed “anatomy theatres” were purpose-built in many of the major European cities; most could seat well over 1,000 people. Tickets were sold to the public and the prices often varied based on how “interesting” that particular corpse was. The most expensive tickets sold in Hanover were 24 Groschen to see a woman who died while pregnant. The audiences were so excited about what they were watching that as early as 1502 a surgeon recommended having guards present at each dissection to “restrain the public as it enters.”

While most etchings from the period show only men at the viewings, women attended as well. In 1748, the crowds to see cadavers dissected at the theatre in Dresden, Germany were so large that they started having “ladies only” viewings, during which the women were invited to touch the corpses.

In many countries, these viewings only happened three or four times a year due to a lack of available bodies. In Bologna, Italy, dissections became fancy events, with women wearing their best clothes to the viewing, and balls or festivals followed in the evening.

Then in England in 1751, Parliament passed the Murder Act, allowing for all executed criminals to be publicly dissected. The increase in the number of public dissections did not diminish their popularity, and thousands of people continued to attend them each year until they were finally outlawed in the 1800s.

2. WATCHING PEOPLE INFLATE BALLOONS

Starting as early as the preparations for the first-ever hot air balloon flight in 1783, watching balloon ascents was incredibly popular, drawing some of the biggest crowds ever seen in Europe. Even the filling of the first balloon, which took numerous days, drew such huge crowds that they were in danger of interfering with the process, and the balloon had to be secretly moved the day before the flight. Benjamin Franklin, then the American Ambassador to the court of Louis XVI, was among the thousands of people who witnessed the first unmanned flight in Paris on August 27th. When the balloon came down in a village a few miles away, the locals were so terrified that they attacked it with pitchforks and rocks, destroying it.

The Montgolfier brothers sent the first living creatures (a goat, a duck, and a rooster) up in a balloon at Versailles in front of an enormous crowd that included the King and Marie Antoinette. The first ascents with humans drew upwards of 400,000 people, or “practically all the inhabitants of Paris,” with many of them paying large sums to be in special “VIP sections” close to the balloon.

The first hot air balloon flight in England was orchestrated by a man named Vincenzo Lunardi and drew a crowd of 200,000 people, including the Prince of Wales. One woman in the crowd was so astonished at the sight of the balloon that she supposedly died of fright and Lunardi was tried for her murder; he was eventually acquitted. George Washington was part of the crowd that viewed the first ballooning attempt in America in 1793.

Despite the overwhelming public interest in ballooning, it, like everything always will, had some detractors. Among their biggest fears were that women’s “honor and virtue would be in continual peril if access could be got by balloons at all hours to [their bedroom windows.]”

3. POKING PATIENTS WITH STICKS

If you were bored in the 1800s, you could always pop down to the local insane asylum to liven up your day. Many of these institutions allowed the public to pay a small to fee to walk around gawking at the residents. Most patients lived in what was basically squalor, and the liberties afforded to these head-case tourists did not make things any better.

The most famous mental hospital of all time is probably St. Mary Bethlehem, aka Bethlam Hospital, aka Bedlam. The bastardized version of its name is where we get the word for absolute craziness. And in the 1800s it was very crazy at Bedlam. Visitors paid a penny to look at the patients and if they were being too calm and docile for the visitor’s liking, they were allowed to poke the patients with sticks. Many people smuggled in beer and fed it to the patients, just to see how the mentally ill acted when drunk.

In 1814 over 96,000 people visited just that one hospital. Of course, not everyone had a penny to spare for entertainment, and the hospital management knew everyone should be able to poke powerless and mentally unwell individuals with sticks, so every first Tuesday of the month admittance was free.

4. RIDING ESCALATORS

Image credit: Brooklyn Museum

The first escalators completely blew people’s minds. Nothing remotely similar had ever been seen before. Jesse W. Reno patented his idea for an “Endless Conveyor or Elevator” (later called the “inclined elevator”) in 1892, and by 1896 the first working example had been installed…as a ride at the popular Coney Island amusement park.

It differed from modern elevators in that you sat on slats rather than stood on stairs, but the general principle was the same. The belt moved the riders up about two stories at a 25 degree incline. It was only displayed at the park for two weeks, but in that short time an astonishing 75,000 people rode it.

The same prototype was moved to the Brooklyn Bridge for a month-long trial period. It remained popular there, and in 1900 was shipped to Europe and displayed at the Paris Exposition Universelle, where it won first prize. Shortly thereafter, the Otis Company bought Reno’s patent and started producing escalators for businesses.

The novelty and excitement of riding an escalator was such that in 1897, the first department store in New York City to install one, Frederick Loeser, actually included it in its advertisements, promising customers that they could reach the second floor in a mere 26 seconds!

But while these escalators were very popular, they all had something in common: They only went up. It took the public and businesses almost three decades to accept that the far more frightening down escalators were safe to use.

5. STARING AT QUINTUPLETS

At the time of the Dionne Quintuplets’ birth in 1934, in Ontario, Canada, no one even knew conceiving five babies at once was possible. Not only was it possible, but babies Yvonne, Annette, Cecile, Emilie, and Marie thrived despite being delivered two months premature. Their existence was so astonishing that newspapers paid huge sums for photos of them. A year later their father signed a lucrative contract to display the girls at the 1935 Chicago World’s Fair.

The Canadian government stepped in, claiming that their parents were obviously not fit to raise the quints if they were willing to exploit them like that. The Canadian parliament quickly passed a bill making the girls wards of the state. The quints were placed in a hospital/nursery directly across the street from their parents, where the Canadian and Ontario government proceeded to exploit the girls themselves, to an astonishing degree.

© Bettmann/CORBIS

In less than a decade, 3 million people, sometimes upwards of 3,000 a day, passed through “Quintland,” as the compound the girls were held in became known. This was at a time when the entire population of Canada was only around 11 million. Visitors viewed the quints playing, eating, and sleeping through special one-way windows. The quints were by far the most popular tourist attraction in Canada, drawing more visitors than Niagara Falls. It is estimated that the girls’ popularity directly contributed half a billion dollars to the Ontario economy in just nine years. Celebrities flocked to see them as well, including Amelia Earhart, Clark Gable, James Stewart, Bette Davis, James Cagney, Mae West, and the future Queen Elizabeth II.

And in case any particularly sharp readers are saying to themselves, “Surely televisions have been commercially available since the late 1920s,” don’t worry. Canada didn’t start broadcasts until 1952, nine years after Quintland closed. By that time, the girls had been returned to their family.

6. MUMMY UNWRAPPINGS

Mummies have always been a source of fascination, especially to the English. One of Charles II’s mistresses, Nell Gwyn, supposedly owned a mummy way back in the 1660s. But it was 200 years later when the Victorians really went crazy for Egyptian mummies.

Egypt became a popular tourist destination and one of the must-have souvenirs was your very own mummy. No one is quite sure when it started, but at some point the owners of these mummies got curious about what exactly was inside the dusty wrappings. And if they were going to find out, why not invite all their friends over as well? And serve food and drinks! Eventually, the mummy unwrapping party was born. Some of these events were more scholarly than others, but there is evidence that dozens of parties had as their after dinner entertainment rather botched amateur unwrappings, after which the body and wrappings were just thrown away. Hundreds of mummies are estimated to have been lost in this manner.

Due to an export ban in the 1830s, mummies were much rarer in America than in Europe. Their unwrappings were huge events and advertised in the papers, although usually only men were allowed to attend, as the subject was “deemed inappropriate for women and children.” One famous unwrapping promised to include an Egyptian princess. The chance to see royalty, even long dead royalty, led to a crowd of 2,000 people, all of whom were shocked to eventually see the “princess’s” mummified penis.

7. PUBLIC EXECUTIONS

Public executions were quite possibly the most attended events in history. Almost every country publicly killed convicts at some point, and everyone from little children to royalty showed up to watch.

The crowds that turned out, especially if the condemned was infamous by the time they were put to death, could be enormous. In 1746, the hanging of a Protestant pastor in Paris drew 40,000 people. The hanging of a man and woman in London, who had together killed a man, drew 50,000 people in 1849. The last hanging of a forger in England, in 1824, drew over 100,000 people, the largest crowd ever assembled for an execution in the UK. To put those numbers in perspective, the recent Super Bowl in New Jersey was held in a stadium that seats about 80,000 people.

While these executions were ostensibly a lesson to the crowd (“don’t do bad things”), in reality they were a grisly entertainment venue, illustrated by the fact that people often paid huge sums to be as close to the scaffold as possible. Ballads and short (heavily embellished) histories of the condemned and their crimes were sold to the crowds, along with food and drink from vendors. Every aspect of popular executions was covered in the papers; ladies in high society often discussed at length the pros and cons of the outfits condemned women chose to wear to their deaths.

The executions themselves could last hours from start to finish, with the condemned often driven in a cart through throngs of onlookers, as if he or she was on a parade float. Sometimes they stopped off at pubs along the way, where the giddy public got many a condemned man drunk before his ultimate demise.

8. MILITARY BATTLES

What better way to enjoy a lovely day than with a picnic? And if your country happens to be in the middle of a war at that moment, and a battle is happening just down the street, well, you‘ve got yourself some free entertainment to go with your sandwiches.

When wars were fought in fields with weapons whose range was short, people regularly turned out to enjoy the spectacle. There are unsubstantiated accounts of this occurring during the Battle of Bosworth and various battles of the English Civil War. But perhaps the best war for picnicking was the American Civil War.

The Battle of Memphis was only 90 minutes long, but 10,000 people turned out on the cliffs overlooking the Mississippi to watch the ships fight in the river below. Even a Confederate loss didn’t dampen the festive mood. That was not the case during the First Battle of Bull Run. The people of Washington had expected an easy victory for their side and the fashionable elite of the city, including numerous congressmen, grabbed their picnic baskets and their children and settled down for an afternoon of bloody entertainment. When the Union army retreated in defeat, the panicked picnickers fled, blocking the streets back to Washington.

9. TAKING X-RAYS

Today X-rays may evoke bad feelings, associated as they are with hospitals and being unwell. But when they were first discovered in the 1890s, people went mad for this new technology. Here was a cheap, seemingly safe technique to actually look inside people! It was unlike anything that had ever been seen before. Even the name was sexy; “X-rays” sounded futuristic and mysterious.

Since the basic setup needed to make X-rays was both small and cheap, they started showing up in the oddest of places. Thousands of “Bone Portrait” studios sprang up, where photographers calling themselves “skiagraphers” specialized in taking X-ray photographs. These were especially popular with newly engaged couples. X-ray slot machines appeared in major tourist destinations, where for the cost of a coin you could stare at the inside of your hand for a minute.

Perhaps the oddest use was in shoe shops. In 1927, a device called a “fluoroscope,” or the retrospectively creepier “pedoscope,” started showing up in all good department stores. It X-rayed your feet while you tried on different pairs of shoes. This allowed you to see how different fits affected the bone structure of your feet, ensuring you bought the perfect size.

X-ray equipment was so easily obtainable and popular that a trade even sprang up in lead-lined underwear so that one could save one’s modesty from all the creepy Peeping Toms that people assumed were now walking the streets.

10. TAKING SELFIES

Some things never change.

While there were different versions of photo booths starting in the late 1800s, they didn’t produce great pictures. The beginning of the modern photo booth is usually traced to one man, a Russian immigrant named Anatol Josepho. He trained as a photographer in Europe and after a spell in Hollywood learning the mechanics of cameras, he moved to New York City. There he managed to borrow the astonishing sum of $11,000 to make his first photo booth. It produced clear pictures and could run completely on its own. He opened a studio on Broadway in 1925, put the photo booth inside, and sat back to watch the money roll in.

For 25 cents, customers were led to the box by a “white-gloved attendant,” who would then direct them to “look to the right, look to the left, look at the camera.” Then after about ten minutes, the booth spit out eight photos and the customers went away happy. They probably told all their friends to check it out — and check it out they did. Soon, the line to the studio was stretching around the block, and up to 7,500 people a day used the machine. According to the April 1927 issue of TIME, more than 280,000 people visited the photo booth in the first six months alone, including the Governor of New York and at least one Senator.

Within a year, Josepho was astonishingly wealthy and dating a famous silent film actress. Then a consortium of investors offered to buy his patent for $1 million. He accepted the deal, and immediately put half of that money into a trust for various charities. He invested the other half in several inventions.

Imitation photo booth studios popped up around the US and Europe, and even the Great Depression didn’t diminish people’s desire to look at pictures of themselves. One shop owner in NYC was so busy he managed to keep his entire extended family employed for the entire Depression.

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2014 in African American News

 

The Legacy of Roe v. Wade and the War on Poverty

by Heidi Williamson
SOURCE: AP/Susan Walsh

Pro-choice demonstrators rally outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, January 22, 2014.

This column contains a correction.

This year we celebrate both the 41st anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision and the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty. Less than 10 years before the Supreme Court handed down a decision that allowed women the right to an abortion, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared an “unconditional war on poverty” in 1963. The subsequent creation of social safety net programs such as Medicaid, Head Start, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, marked the beginning of an incredible journey that helped reframe the destiny of American women.

The legalization of abortion bolstered the promise of the War on Poverty for women and families. In the years prior to the Roe decision, poor women bore the brunt of unplanned pregnancy. Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, approved birth control pills in 1960, many states did not allow doctors to prescribe them to unmarried women. Coupled with the drug’s high cost, women who lived in poverty struggled to control their family size and take advantage of America’s economic opportunities. President Johnson’s War on Poverty, however, gave women unprecedented access to necessary health care services through the first federal family planning grants. Family planning dollars further increased when Congress enacted Title X in the 1970s, which explicitly funded reproductive health services for low-income women.

Increasing women’s reproductive autonomy was an investment in more educated and empowered families that could strengthen their communities and ultimately the nation. The War on Poverty was the catalyst to move women toward greater economic mobility, access to affordable health care, and the promise of equal economic and social opportunity in America.

Economic mobility

The War on Poverty was the beginning of a new day. For the first time, the theory of economic mobility was put into practice through President Johnson’s budget and a series of new laws that guaranteed rights to health care, food, and education. For women, however, economic mobility was not simply a matter of managing money or resources but also the ability to control if and when they would have children. Women’s health has always had a direct impact on families’ well-being, but after Roe, it began to influence the workforce as well.

Legalized abortion, access to birth control pills, and civil rights legislation allowed women to be more self-sufficient, both by controlling their fertility and taking advantage of the various educational and economic opportunities created by the War on Poverty. By the late 1960s, women were approaching education, career, marriage, and children in a way that no generation had before. The social and economic impact of Roe not only ushered women into the workforce, but it also allowed women to contribute to the economic stability of their families. Fifty years later, women make up 50 percent of the workforce and are increasingly breadwinners or co-breadwinners for their families. The high percentage of women working outside of the home is directly linked to access to birth control and legalized abortion. It has also played a critical role in enabling women to contribute to the economic mobility of their families. However, a woman’s contribution often hinges on her ability to control her health and balance her unique set of circumstances.

Equal access to health care

President Johnson understood that affordable health care was critical to lifting people out of poverty and maintaining economic prosperity. The creation of Medicaid had a profound effect on women, particularly women of color, getting access to the care they needed. After Roe became the law of the land, this included abortion services as well as the preventive care that comes with family planning. Prior to the passage of the 1976 Hyde Amendment, which prevents the spending of federal dollars for abortion services except in the case of rape, incest, or the life of the mother, poor women used this vital source of funds to take care of their health, and in many instances, it saved their lives.

Before Roe v. Wade, many women sought illegal abortion services. Poor women and women of color, who often sought out cheaper and consequently more dangerous services, had higher rates of death or damaging complications such as hemorrhaging and septic shock. This resulted in a public health crisis that impacted everyone, not just women. Approximately 5,000 women died annually from illegal abortions—many of whom were mothers, wives, and caregivers. Many others suffered from other long-term health problems such as high-risk future pregnancies or infertility. Women as caregivers and human beings needed to have more control over their lives and the dignity of access to safe health care, regardless of their income.

After the passage of Hyde, poor women once again ceased to have the War on Poverty’s promise of access to affordable health care for all of the essential services that impact their reproductive lives. Medicaid continued to cover sterilizations, experimental drugs that prevented pregnancy, and childbirth but not abortion. While 17 stateshave decided through legislative action or court decision to use their own budgets to cover this procedure, poor women in the remaining states still lack access to abortion.

Equal opportunity and the American Dream

A critical result of the War on Poverty and the Roe decision is the realization that economic security, educational opportunity, and health are inseparable. More importantly, women’s right to control their own fertility and government action to protect that right are essential to ensure that the War on Poverty’s promise becomes a lived experience. Abortion access is a critical component to women’s lives as they balance raising a family, engaging in healthy relationships, and pursuing economic and educational opportunities.

Abortion is not affordable or easily accessible today and thereby is not truly a right for all women. According to Dr. Susan Wood, abortions costs as much as a month of rent for some women. Accessing this legal health service should not require women to choose between medical care and their family’s economic stability.

Conclusion

This year, we will celebrate Roe by working to ensure that all women have access to abortion services, regardless of their income or source of insurance. The War on Poverty rages on, and it must continue until all women and girls have the economic, social, and political power and resources to make healthy decisions about their bodies, sexuality, and reproduction for themselves, their families, and their communities in all areas of their lives.

Heidi Williamson is a Senior Policy Analyst for the Women’s Health and Rights program at the Center for American Progress.

*Correction, January 24, 2014: This column incorrectly stated the number of states that offer Medicaid coverage for abortion. The correct number is 17.

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2014 in African American News

 

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3,600-Year-Old Egyptian Mummy Unearthed By Spanish Archeologists

 

An archaeologist and an Egyptian worker look at the wooden sarcophagus that was lifted from the ground in Luxor, southern Egypt  www.dailymail.co.ukAn archaeologist and an Egyptian worker look at the wooden sarcophagus that was lifted from the ground in Luxor, southern Egypt
http://www.dailymail.co.uk

By MARIAM RIZK -AP

CAIRO (AP) — Spanish archeologists have unearthed a 3,600-year-old mummy in the ancient city of Luxor, Egypt’s Antiquities Minister said Thursday. Prosecutors accused nine people including three Germans of smuggling stone samples from pyramids.

In a statement, Mohammed Ibrahim said the rare find in a preserved wooden sarcophagus dates back to 1600 BC, when the Pharaonic 17th Dynasty reigned.

He said the mummy appears to belong to a high official. The sarcophagus is engraved with hieroglyphs and decorated with inscriptions of birds’ feathers.

The exact identity of the well-preserved mummy will now be studied, Ibrahim said, adding that it was discovered by a Spanish mission in collaboration with the Egyptian antiquities ministry.

Antiquities department head Ali Al-Asfar said the two-meter sarcophagus still bears its original coloring and writings.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s top prosecutor referred three Germans to criminal court on charges of smuggling and damaging antiquities and six Egyptians for acting as their accessories.

Hisham Barakat said authorities issued arrest warrants for the alleged German thieves, who fled to their country after the incident. He said authorities would communicate with Germany to restore the pieces they say were taken last April under the pretext of use for research.

The Egyptian defendants are already in detention.

Barakat says the Germans, along with their Egyptian guides, entered the famed pyramids of Giza with permits to visit but not excavate, and left with samples of stone from the ramparts of two tombs and the burial room of King Khufu.

Egyptian archaeologist Monica Hanna says the German researchers wanted to use the samples prove their hypothesis in a documentary they later filmed, which says that the pyramids were built by a people that pre-dates the ancient Egyptians.

The online documentary, removed in the wake of the controversy, showed one researcher inside the inner chambers of the Khufu pyramid, taking samples from the king’s cartouche.

Egypt has experienced a security vacuum since its 2011 uprising. Thousands of artifacts have been stolen.

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2014 in African American News

 

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47 Percent of Wrongfully Convicted Exonerees Are African American

trib.com – Wyoming prosecutor drops charges against Andrew Johnson for 1989 rape

 

by Frederick H. Lowe -thenorthstarnews.com
The National Registry of Exonerations, which reported that there were 87 recorded exonerations last year, said that black defendants are over-represented among the wrongfully convicted.

Of the 1,281 individual exonerations from January 1989 through December 2013, 47 percent or 598 were African American; 40 percent or 513 were white; 11 percent or 147 were Hispanic and 2 percent or 23 were Native American or Asian.

“Black defendants continue to be over-represented among exonerees, particularly in sexual assault, robbery and drug cases. As we noted last year, the disparity is greatest in sexual assault cases. Black defendants constitute 25 percent of prisoners incarcerated for rape, but 61 percent of those exonerated for such crimes,” reported the National Registry of Exonerations, a joint project of the University of Michigan Law School and the Northwestern University Law School.

The Exoneration Project reported that 46 percent of African Americans were exonerated for homicide; 61 percent were exonerated for sexual assault; 25 percent were exonerated for child sex abuse; 69 percent were exonerated for attempted murder; 58 percent were exonerated for robbery; 38 percent were exonerated for other violent crimes; 55 percent were exonerated for drug crimes and 59 percent were exonerated for other non-violent crimes from January 1989 through December 2013.

The Registry now lists 1,304 exonerations from 1989 to February 3, 2014.

Andrew Johnson, a black man, was exonerated for rape and burglary by DNA evidence in 2013 after being wrongfully convicted of the crimes in 1989 in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Exonerations by Race

A woman, who Johnson had been drinking and smoking marijuana with earlier, accused him of breaking into her house and raping her.  He was convicted of the crime and sentenced to life in prison. Johnson denied that he broke into the woman’s home and raped her although she claimed he did.

The Rocky Mountain Innocence Project took on Johnson’s case. In 2013, DNA tests excluded Johnson as the perpetrator, as DNA evidence from the rape kit proved that the woman’s abusive boyfriend attacked her.

The Laramie County District Attorney’s Office later dismissed all of the charges Johnson, the first person acquitted by DNA evidence in Wyoming.

The National Registry of Exonerations noted that DNA exonerations dropped from 23 in 2005 to 18 in 2013. At the same time, the number of non-DNA exonerations rose from 34 in 2005 to 69 in 2013.

Texas, Illinois, New York, Washington and California were the leading states with exonerations in 2013. There were 13 exonerations in Texas, 9 in Illinois, 8 in New York, 7 in Washington and 6 in California.

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2014 in African American News

 

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Cuts to the Child Care Subsidy System Force Parents and Providers to Make Difficult Choices

by Katie Hamm
SOURCE: AP/Danny Johnston

A child plays near a housing unit at Our House, a nonprofit that provides child care, shelter, and other programs for working homeless people in Little Rock, Arkansas, on October 10, 2013.

Most of us have heard about sequestration’s devastating impact on the federal Head Start program. Due to funding cuts, nearly 60,000 children were cut from the program in 2013, and some centers had to shut down classrooms or shutter their doors. Equally important but less visible are cuts to the child care subsidy system that have forced some families out of quality child care programs.

The government cut $115 million from the child care subsidy system in 2013 as a result of sequestration, exacerbating the damage done by years of funding that has failed to keep up with the growing cost of child care. Cuts to child care assistance have been largely absent from the national discussion on the impacts of sequestration, as they are difficult to quantify. Flexibility in federal child care funding allows states to set their own program requirements, including families’ eligibility, provider reimbursement rates, and health and safety standards. States can even choose to transfer funds from other federal grants into the child care subsidy funding stream, which can mask the impact of funding cuts. While it’s hard to pinpoint exactly how many children have lost access to child care, there are some troubling trends in states and communities across the country.

Many states have dealt with cuts by paying child care providers less and requiring low-income parents to pay more toward child care. According to a National Women’s Law Center report, only five states increased payments to child care providers in 2013, despite the rising costs of rent, utilities, food, and fuel—all of which drive up the cost of child care. At the same time, eight states increased the proportions of their incomes that families must pay in order to be eligible for child care assistance. Many states also allow providers to collect additional fees if subsidies do not cover the cost of child care for parents who do not receive a subsidy. States have also changed the way they reimburse providers: Child care providers report, for example, that the state no longer reimburses them for days a child is absent, resulting in a net loss for providers.

To better understand the impact that cuts have had on the child care subsidy system in the absence of national data, the Center for American Progress conducted interviews with child care providers that serve children in the child care subsidy system in multiple states. We also spoke to parents who face difficult choices in the child care subsidy system.

It’s clear that cuts to the child care subsidy system have resulted in fewer low-income children having access to high-quality child care. Several large child care providers have reported a drop in the number of children enrolled in their programs who currently receive a subsidy. The Child Care Network, for example, which operates 200 centers in 10 states, saw its proportion of subsidized children drop from around 60 percent in 2010 to 40 percent in 2013. Likewise, the New Horizon Academy, which operates 70 nationally accredited programs in Minnesota and Idaho, has experienced a 15 percentage-point drop in the number of children enrolled in the subsidy program, from 35 percent to 20 percent.

In most cases, children from families who do not receive a subsidy—and who can afford subsidy costs—take the place of these children, and families in the subsidy system are forced to go elsewhere. Many families find informal child care settings of varying quality or leave early childhood programs altogether. Mark Kehoe is the CEO of Brightside Academy, which operates 60 centers in urban areas that primarily serve children who receive child care subsidies. Over the past several years, he has seen an increase in providers with no credentials or training providing low-quality child care; some of them do not even follow requirements to collect co-payment from families. “The options of low quality [are] increasing, while the options of high quality [are] decreasing,” said Kehoe. “Access to low quality is increasing and in the long run, that is detrimental to what the child needs.”

Ashley Thorton is a single parent in Virginia who works full time to support her 2-year-old son. For the past six months and with the help of a child care subsidy, her son has attended a KinderCare program, where he has learned to count to 10, identify colors, and recite the alphabet. But Thorton recently received a notice that her child care subsidy would be terminated because she recently earned an extra $100 per month. Thorton does not want to take her son out of the classroom where he is learning, so she will pay to send him two or three days per week, and he will spend the other days with a family member. She is concerned, however, about moving him between two child care settings and upsetting a routine that has worked so well for him.

A single parent in Illinois also struggles to keep her 9-year-old daughter in the high-quality, safe child care program that a subsidy gives her the ability to afford. As co-payments have increased, she has had to cut back on groceries to make ends meet. Her housing situation has been unstable since she lost her home during the economic downturn, and she has had to move several times to afford child care. She believes it’s worth it, however, to maintain the safe and caring environment that the child care center provides. Even though she has made sacrifices in order to afford quality child care, she refuses to change child care providers. She remembers a friend’s baby dying from abuse sustained in an informal child care setting. She worries that any increase in her income will result in her losing her subsidy and that she will no longer be able to afford to send her daughter to the center.

Other families choose to leave the child care subsidy system altogether, leaving paid employment or school programs to care for their children rather than settling for low-quality child care programs. Chad Dunkley, who oversees 70 nationally accredited programs in Minnesota and Idaho, finds that, “Parents have seen the research on brain development, and they want their child in a high-quality child care setting. If they can’t find it, they would rather put their goals for improving their lives on hold than leave their child in an unsafe environment.”

To avoid raising enrollment fees, child care centers are finding ways to cut or defer costs. As the costs of wages, insurance, food, and supplies rise with inflation, child care providers must find creative ways to maintain services with less funding. Many large child care providers have deferred maintenance projects and capital investments; one provider that transports children to and from school has not replaced buses in 10 years. While this is a short-term fix to sustain operations during revenue shortfalls, child care providers will eventually have to address these kinds of improvements.

Cuts to child care have also had impacts on staff salaries and retention. For example, Brightside Academy has historically provided a 3.5 percent annual wage increase so that its staff can keep up with the cost of living, but this increase has been only 1.5 percent for the past three years. As a result, turnover has increased, particularly among more highly qualified teachers who have opportunities for better-paying positions. In 2008, New Horizon Academy froze wages for the first time in its 42 years of operation.

Cuts to the child care subsidy system are jeopardizing children’s access to quality child care, parents’ ability to hold down full-time jobs, and high-quality providers’ ability to participate in the child care subsidy system. If we want to give parents opportunities to improve their lives through education and employment and prepare their children for school, we need a well-funded child care subsidy system that supports children, parents, and providers.

Katie Hamm is the Director of Early Childhood Policy at the Center for American Progress.

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2014 in African American News

 

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JAMAICA NEWSWEEKLY For the week ending February 7th, 2014

  • ——————————————–
    THIS WEEK”S SUMMARY
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    27 VICTIMS OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING RESCUED BAY JCF SINCE 2011—02/01/14
    According to the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), 27 victims of human trafficking have been rescued in the past two years, with a total of 41 rescues overall. The gains achieved by the police have caused an upgrade in Jamaica’s position on the United States State Department Tier 2 Watch List to Tier 2.

    FORMER SENATOR WANTS JAMAICANS TO SEE ECONOMIC REALITY—02/02/14
    Former Jamaican Senator Dr, Christopher Tufton believes that Jamaicans must face economic reality before it can deal with conditions in the country. Tufton left his position as Jamaica Labor Party chair of the St. Elizabeth South west area in 2014. He said that Jamaica’s economy is not stable and that more people need to be involved with addressing the issues required to improve it.

    FOOTBALL FEDERATION WANTS COACHES TO BE CERTIFIED—02/03/14
    Horace Burrell, president of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), announced that as of September 14, 2014, all football coaches in Jamaica will have to be certified and have a JFF certified coach’s license for all levels of coaching in the country. Burrell said all head coaches and assistant coaches must have JFF Level-One certification or an equivalent.

    HYLTON SAYS GOVERNMENT WILL FAST-TRACK LOGISTICS HUB—02/04/14
    Anthony Hylton, Jamaica’s Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, suggests that the government will take quicker action in regard to implementing the proposed logistics hub. The government will better understand the proposal by China Harbor Engineering Company for the trans-shipment hub on the Goat Islands within a few weeks and then decide how to proceed. There will also be a greater effort to keep the public informed about the progress of the project.

    DAVIS WANTS PAULWELL TO ANSWER QUESTIONS ABOUT 360MW POWER PLANT—02/05/14
    Dr. Carlton Davis, the co-chair of the Energy Monitoring Committee (EMC) in Jamaica, is hoping that Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell will answer major questions about the 360-megawatt power plant project. Davis is special adviser to the Prime Minister, Portia Simpson MIller, and he wants to be reassured that Energy World International (EWI) has sufficient capacity to handle the project.

    HANNA CONDEMNS MURDER OF SCHOOL GIRL IN ST. THOMAS—02/06/14
    Lisa Hanna, Jamaica’s Youth Affairs Minister, issued a condemnation of the murder of eight-year-old Selena Edmund. She was a student at Whitehall Primary School in St. Thomas and was killed while performing an errand for her mother. Hanna stated that children are “too often” preyed upon by adults rather than protected by them.

    FOUR POLICE OFFICERS CHARGED WITH ASSAULT IN FALMOUTH—02/07/14
    Four police officers face charges in connection with the alleged assault of Kamoza Clarke in October 2013 while Clarke was in custody at the police station in Falmouth. The officers were arrested and taken to Resident Magistrates Court. Two were charged with wounding with intent to do grievous bodily harm and misconduct in a public office, while the other two officers were charged with neglect of duty.

    NEW KINGSTON HAS FARMERS’ MARKET—02/07/14
    Farmers set up booths and sold crops at the Maggi Farmers’ Market in New Kingston among the crowds of business people who were happy to see it. Buyers in general thought it was an excellent idea to bring goods into the city. Especially favored was the chance to buy exotic fruits not normally available in that location. The farmers’ market is an attempt to link rural Jamaica with urban areas and encourage the purchase of locally produced crops and products.

    ——————————————–
    JAMAICAN DIASPORA NEWS
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    JAMAICAN APPOINTED RAPPORTEUR ON WOMEN’S RIGHTS—02/01/14
    The Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) has appointed Tracy Robinson, a Jamaican lawyer, to by the Thematic and Country Rapporteur for the Bahamas, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Suriname. She will also be Rapporteur on the Rights of Women and the Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Transsexual, Bisexual and Intersex Persons (LGTBI). Robinson, in addition to being a lawyer, lectures on Gender and the Law, Constitutional Law, and Commonwealth Caribbean Human Rights at the University of the West Indies in Mona, Jamaica.

    GROUPS IN U.S. DONATE BOOKS TO STUDENTS IN JAMAICA—02/04/14
    The Read Across Jamaica Foundation and First Book Inc. plan to send thousands of books to Jamaica by May 2014. Representatives of the groups visited Jamaica’s ambassador to the United States Stephen Vasciannie in Washington D.C. to describe their plans. Read Across Jamaica is sponsored by the National Association of Jamaican and Supportive Organizations, a major Diaspora groups in the U.S.

    JAMAICAN MAN ARRESTED WITH FAKE PASSPORT—02/05/14
    United States Customs and Border Protection agents arrested a Jamaican man who was deported after being convicted of fraud 17 years ago. Christopher Hagigal still faces marijuana charges from six years ago in Florida. He was arrested on the border with Canada after presenting a passport and U.S. Green Card in the name of Adrian Bandoo. He now faces prosecution in the U.S. for misuse of a passport, making false statements, and misuse of identification documents.

    NETBALL STAR VICTIM OF CYBER STALKING IN AUSTRALIA—02/06/14
    Romelda Aiken, Jamaican netball star, has been victimized in a “racist” cyber attack in Australia. According to Laura Geitz, captain of the Queensland Firebirds, the team supports Aiken after she publicly admitted that she has experienced bullying, cyber racism, and aggressive threats stemming from the posting of her photograph on social media. Queensland police are investigating the matter. Aiken has been with the Firebirds since 2008.

    BERNARD HAPPY WITH SUPER50 PERFORMANC—02/07/14
    Dave Verhard, captain of Jamaica’s cricket team, stated that he was pleased with how his players performed during a six-wicket victory over Ireland at the NAGICO Super50 tournament in Trinidad. He said the Jamaicans played well as a team and limited Ireland to 161 in an excellent effort.

    FIVE JAMAICAN DESIGNERS SHOW WORK AT LONDON FASHION SHOWCASE—02/07/14
    Five fashion designers from Jamaica will have their work on display at the 2014 International Fashion Showcase in London. The showcase will present the works of emerging designers Dexter Huxtable, Spokes Apparel; Claire Requa, Clairely Upcycled Jewellery; Ayanna Dixon, ASD Clothing; Simone Nielson, Ms. Sim; and Abenah Gonzalez, Abenah Adelaide Designs. The collection will be introduced on February 12, 2014, at an event hosted by the High Commission of Jamaica in London.
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    CARIBBEAN NEWS SUMMARY provided by Caribbeantopnews.com
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    CUBA RETURNS TO BASEBALL SERIES AFTER 54 YEARS—02/01/14

    PRINCE GEORGE VISITS CARIBBEAN WITH HIS MOTHER—02/02/14

    U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL VISITS HAITI TO AID ADOPTIONS—02/03/14

    LUIS RAUL MARTINEZ, PUERTO RICAN COMEDIAN, DIES—02/04/14

    MEMBERS OF CRFM CONSIDER CASE ON IUU FISHING—02/05/14

    SIGNIFICANT THREATS FOUND IN CARIBBEAN IN 2013, SAYS U.S.—02/06/14

     

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    BUSINESS NEWS SUMMARY
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    COGLE TO HELP SAGICOR DURING BANK OWNERSHIP TRANSITION—02/01/14
    Robert Cogle, the top official at Royal Bank of Canada in Jamaica, has been loaned to Sagicor Group to facilitate the transition of ownership in the bank once the deal is completed. Cogle has worked at the bank since 2012 and was made group managing director in 2013. He will remain in that post until the transaction is finished, according to Donovan Perkins, president and CEO of Sagicor Investments.

    SAMUDA ALARMED AT GOVERNMENT SILENCE ON EWI DUE DILIGENCE—02/03/14
    Karl Samuda, the Opposition Spokesman on Industry, Investment, Commerce, Mining and Energy in Jamaica has expressed alarm at the reluctance of the government to tell the public about its findings in the due diligence performed on Energy World International (EWI). EWI is the preferred bidder on the building of a 360-megawatt energy plant. The government has not disclosed whether EWI is in a position to actually construct the proposed plant and handle the project.

    RENEWABLE ENERGY SUMMIT HELD IN CARIBBEAN—02/04/14
    Politicians and experts on renewable energy will meet on the private island owned by billionaire Richard Branson to discuss how to transition various operations to clean energy. They will also attempt to find ways to encourage small island nations in the region to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels. Branson is the CEO and founder of Virgin Group and is hosting the three-day meeting on Necker Island.

    CPJ OF JAMAICA JOINS WITH ST.LUCIA BOTTLING FiRM—02/06/14
    Caribbean Producers Jamaica (CPJ) is expanding its operations by entering into a partnership with Du Boulay’s Bottling Company, a manufacturing and distribution firm in St. Lucia. The new partnership will be known as CPJ St. Lucia and plans to target the growing hospitality sector. It plans to expand into food manufacturing in the future.
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    Caribbean Science and Technology News provided by Caribbeantopnews.com
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    LOCAL RESEARCH ON LIONFISH PUBLISHED IN SCIENTIFIC JOURNAL—02/02/14

    POLICE IN JAMAICA FIRST IN AREA TO USE AUTOMATED DATA REQUEST SYSTEM—02/05/14

     

     

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    ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
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    SEAN PAUL RELEASES NEW STUDIO ALBUM—02/01/14
    Grammy- award-winning musician Sean Paul plans to launch his sixth studio album on February 18, 2014. The new album is called “Full Frequency” and will be released first on iTunes. It features cross-genre music and several top reggae, hip-hop, and pop stars, including Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley, Nicki Minaj, and Iggy Azalea.

    ENGLISH SERVICE FOR CARIBBEAN LAUNCHED BY HBO—02/02/14
    A new English feed of HBO Latin America will be launched in Trinidad and Tobago and provide the Caribbean with local content of special interest to audiences there. Gustavo Grossman, the corporate vice president of HBO Latin America, said T&T is one of the first countries to obtain the service because of its British influences, which is likely to mean that English content will represent a welcome addition to media offerings there.

    “BUNNY RUGS” DEAD—02/03/14
    William “Bunny Rugs” Clarke, a pioneer of Jamaican reggae, has died in Florida. Olivia “Babsy” Grange, Opposition spokesperson on Youth, Sports, Information, Culture and Gender Affairs, expressed “profound sorrow” at his passing. Clarke was the former lead singer of Third World. Grange called Clarke a performer who helped to make Jamaican music “a major force for world change, equality, and justice.”

    SINGER PAYS TRIBUTE TO STUDIO ONE—02/04/14
    The singer Visionary grew up listening to the sounds from Studio One, the legendary Jamaican record company. On his second solo album, “Grassroots,” the singer, who is based in Toronto, Canada, pays tribute to the music provided by Clement “Coxson” Dodd, the founder of Studio One in 1962. The album’s songs are driven by Studio One beats, but the lyrics have been written by Visionary.

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    SPORTS
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    JAMAICANS ON PODIUM AT MOSCOW INDOOR MEET—02/03/14
    Akheem Gauntlett and Aleen Bailey of Jamaica won their spots on the podium at the Russian Winter Indoor meet in Moscow. Gauntlett took second place in the 400-meters with a time of 48.78 seconds. Bailey took third in the women’s 60-meters, clocking 7.31 seconds.

    CLARKE TO UMPIRE BADMINTON IN COMMONWEALTH GAMES—02/05/14
    Joseph Clarke, Jamaica’s first and mostly highly ranked international umpire, is the first Jamaican to be named to officiate badminton at the Commonwealth Games since the tournament was held in Jamaica in 1966. The 2014 games will be held in Scotland in July and August. This is just the latest in a series of historic achievements for Clarke, who is also the first Jamaican elected to the Badminton World Federation Council and the first and only Jamaican to become a BWF accredited umpire.

    JAMAICAN BOBSLEDDERS HAVE GEAR AFTER AIRLINE LOSES IT—02/06/14
    The Jamaican bobsled team arrived in Sochi to participate in the 2014 Winter Olympics, but they did so without their gear, which was lost on the flight to Russia. Without clothes, sliding suits, helmets or runners for their sled, the Jamaicans could only watch the first day events. They finally received the gear around midnight, allowing them to participate in the second-day “unofficial” training. The delay in receiving their equipment has not dampened their enthusiasm for the competition, and they are ready to go.

    SIMPSON DOPING CASE DELAYED AGAIN—02/07/14
    The doping case against Sherone Simpson, Jamaican Olympic champion, has been delayed once against after officials could not figure out the meaning of a report from a Kentucky sports science laboratory. Lackston Robinson, attorney for the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission (JADCO), said he could not continue because he did not understand the report. Simpson’s lawyers said the test revealed that oxilofrine was in the supplement consumed by Simpson.

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    JAMAICAN JOBS
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Posted by on February 7, 2014 in African American News

 

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CARIBBEAN SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY NEWS SUMMARY for the week ending February 7th, 2014

 

LOCAL RESEARCH ON LIONFISH PUBLISHED IN SCIENTIFIC JOURNAL—02/02/14
Four Jamaican scientists have published groundbreaking research on lionfish in one of the world’s leading peer-reviewed scientific journals, Food and Chemical Toxicology. The scientists, working at the University of the West Indies, Mona, International Center for Environment and Nuclear Sciences, published their study, the “Evolution of Dietary Exposure to Minerals, Trace Elements and Heavy Metals from the Muscle Tissue of the Lionfish Pterois Volitans.”  The scientists who published their results were Leslie Ann Hoo Fung, Johann Antoine, Charles Grant and Dayne Buddo.

POLICE IN JAMAICA FIRST IN AREA TO USE AUTOMATED DATA REQUEST SYSTEM—02/05/14
The Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) is the first police force in the Caribbean region to utilize a custom system for the management of electronic documents and records. The new technology is used to digitally automate the approval, auditing, and managing of all communications data requests occurring between police officers and providers of services.

 

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Unbought And Unbossed: Shirley Chisholm’s USPS Black Heritage Stamp Revealed

Shirley-Chisholm

The first African American Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm was honored with an official stamp as part of the USPS Black Heritage series. Ronald Stroman, Deputy Postmaster General of  USPS, explained on “NewsOne Now” that it’s important to use the stamp to honor her contributions and teach her legacy to young people.

“You have to have a strong foundation and she set that foundation for those who came after,” said Stroman, “and the people who go first often time suffer backlash. She was willing to take on that challenge, willing to be independent and take all of the criticism that came.”

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2014 in African American News

 

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CARIBBEAN SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY NEWS SUMMARY for the week ending January 24th, 2014

ANTIGUA TO EXPLORE JOINT ACTIVITIES WITH JAMAICAN UNIVERSITY—01/19/14
Antigua and Barbuda has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with Jamaica’s University of Technology to explore several partnership possibilities. These include joint degree programs, collaboration in research projects, and various technology initiatives.

SUSTAINABLE GROWTH TIED TO ICT, HUMAN RESOURCES—01/20/14
If integration between information and communication technology (ICT) and the development of human resources were improved in the Caribbean, it could turn the tide in terms of sustainable growth and development in the region. This suggested came during a special meeting of the Council of Trade and Economic Integration in Grenada.

INCREASE IN CLIMATE-SENSITIVE DISEASES WORRIES CARIBBEAN NATIONS—01/21/14
According to Dr. David John, the chief medical officer in Dominica, countries in the Caribbean, which are trying to get out of their poor economic situations, now must be concerned with the diseases arising from climate change. These diseases tend to have a more serious impact on the lives of the poor. Dengue and some respiratory illnesses are affected by changes in the climate, said John.

DIGITAL CURRENCIES USED TO FUND JAMAICAN BOBSLEDDERS—01/22/14
When the Jamaican Bobsledding Team qualified to participate in the 2014 Winter Olympics, the team lacked the money it needed for equipment, training, or travel expenses. To remedy the situation, the team turned to crowd funding, getting significant donations in a digital currency known as Dogecoin. This currency was converted to Bitcoins, which were then converted to US dollars. By using online sources, the team managed to obtain the thousands of dollars required for its bid for a medal at the Sochi games.

 

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PBS CELEBRATES BLACK HISTORY MONTH WITH NEW PROGRAMS AND A DIGITAL CAMPAIGN THAT UNITES MORE THAN A CENTURY OF HISTORY AND CULTURE

 

goodblacknews.org

 

BlackNews.com
Arlington, VA (BlackNews.com) — In commemoration of Black History Month and as part of its year-round commitment to provide diverse programming and resources for all Americans, PBS today announced new shows and online content celebrating the African American experience past, present and future. From an AMERICAN MASTERS profile of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker, to an INDEPENDENT LENS documentary about the secret spy agency created to maintain segregation in 1950’s Mississippi, Black History Month on PBS will provide programs that educate, inform and inspire viewers to learn more about the rich culture of our nation.

The lineup begins on February 3 at 10:00 p.m. with “American Promise,” a powerful coming-of-age documentary from POV that follows the journey of
two young African-American males from kindergarten through high school graduation as they attend a prestigious Manhattan private school.
Confronting challenges from typical childhood growing pains to cultural identification within a predominantly white environment, the young men and
their parents push toward success and discover their own individuality in the process.

Also airing in February are two programs that celebrate the contributions of artists such as Bobby McFerrin and Terence Blanchard in JAZZ AND THE
PHILHARMONIC, and Bill T. Jones and Brian Stokes Mitchell in BECOMING AN ARTIST.

“Our Black History Month lineup delves deep into the stories of notable people and historical topics in a way that’s uniquely PBS,” says Donald
Thoms, Vice President, Programming and Talent Management.  “We feature the work of diverse and independent producers, which remains a staple of our content offerings year round, and I think our viewers will enjoy and even find a little inspiration from our content this year.”

In addition to on-air programs, the PBS Black Culture Connection (BCC), an extension of PBS.org featuring black films, stories and discussion across PBS, announces a digital partnership with the Because of Them, We Can(TM) campaign, which aims to educate and connect a new generation to heroes who paved the way. In an original blog series called “Behind the Lens,” hosted on PBS.org/bcc, PBS will go behind the camera of cultural architect and campaign photographer Eunique Jones Gibson, and her powerful images, to tell the rich story and history of African American icons through the eyes of our nation’s youth. During the month of February, the BCC will feature images from the Because of Them, We Can(TM) campaign including portraits of children inspired by Harriet Tubman, James Brown, Muhammad Ali and the Freedom Riders, along with a blog post by the photographer giving details of the subject, the shoot and the child/children who are pictured. “Behind the Lens” will be hosted on both the PBS Black Culture Connection and on www.BecauseofThemWeCan.com.

“Eunique has created a special link to our past through a campaign that’s inspired and powered by our youth, our future,” said Nicole Eley-Carr,
editor, PBS Black Culture Connection. “In many ways, she’s contemporizing Black History, and PBS is excited to be a space for this evolving dialogue
that empowers young people by honoring achievers of yesterday and today.”  “I am excited and honored to share a glimpse into the making of the
Because of Them, We Can(TM) campaign with the PBS audience,” said Eunique Jones Gibson. “Through the ‘Behind the Lens’ blog series I hope to further the campaign’s mission of building the esteem of both children and adults, while helping them reflect on a living legacy of greatness.”
“Behind the Lens” will debut during Black History Month on PBS.org/bcc, alongside more than 30 films that will be available for streaming
online throughout the month of February. The full Black History Month programming lineup is listed below (check local listings) and will also be
available for online streaming on the BCC after premiere:

POV “American Promise”
Monday, February 3, 2014, 10:00 p.m.-12:00 a.m. ET “American Promise” spans 13 years as Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson,
middle-class African-American parents in Brooklyn, New York, turn their cameras on their son, Idris, and his best friend, Seun, who make their way
through Manhattan’s Dalton School, one of the most prestigious private schools in the country. Chronicling the boys’ divergent paths from
kindergarten through high school graduation, this provocative, intimate documentary presents complicated truths about America’s struggle to come
of age on issues of race, class and opportunity. Winner, U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award, 2013 Sundance Film Festival

AMERICAN MASTERS “Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth”
Friday, February 7, 2014, 9:00-10:30 p.m. ET Most famous for her seminal novel The Color Purple, writer/activist Alice Walker celebrates her 70th birthday. Born February 9, 1944, into a family of sharecroppers in rural Georgia, she came of age during the violent racism and seismic social changes of mid-20th-century America. Her mother, poverty and participation in the Civil Rights Movement were the formative
influences on her consciousness, becoming the inherent themes in her writing. The first African-American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for
Fiction, Walker continues to shine a light on global human rights issues. Her dramatic life is told with poetry and lyricism, and includes
interviews with Steven Spielberg, Danny Glover, Quincy Jones, Howard Zinn, Gloria Steinem, Sapphire, and Walker herself.

INDEPENDENT LENS “Spies of Mississippi”
Monday, February 10, 2014, 10:00-11:00 p.m. ET View the story of a secret spy agency formed during the 1950s and 60s by the state of Mississippi to preserve segregation and maintain white supremacy. Over a decade, the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission employed a network of investigators and informants, including African Americans, to help infiltrate the NAACP, Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). They were granted broad powers to investigate private citizens and organizations, keep secret files, make arrests and compel testimony. The program tracks the commission’s hidden role in important chapters of the Civil Rights Movement, including the integration of the University of Mississippi, the trial of Medgar Evers and the KKK murders of three civil rights workers in 1964.

JAZZ AND THE PHILHARMONIC
Friday, February 28, 2014, 9:00-10:30 p.m. ET JAZZ AND THE PHILHARMONIC is a unique, generational and wholly American concert experience that highlights two of the greatest musical art forms the world has ever seen, classical and jazz. With performances by artists
such as Chick Corea, Bobby McFerrin, Terence Blanchard and Elizabeth Joy Roe, this special emphasizes the works of legendary past composers such as Bach and Mozart with these contemporary artists. Songs are performed with the Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra from the University of Miami Frost School of Music and National YoungArts Foundation alumni.

BECOMING AN ARTIST
Friday, February 28, 2014, 10:30-11:00 p.m. ET Enjoy an inspiring tribute to the power of mentoring and the vital role it plays in passing on our artistic cultural heritage from one generation to the next. The documentary features acclaimed artists across the disciplines, including Mikhail Baryshnikov, Robert Redford, Rosie Perez, Bill T. Jones, Frank Gehry, Brian Stokes Mitchell, John Guare and Kathleen Turner working with some of the nation’s most talented students selected by the National YoungArts Foundation. BECOMING AN ARTIST is a celebration of our cultural vitality and the need to ensure its continuance.

The following is a sample of the more than 30 programs available for online streaming on the BCC in February:

* The African Americans:  Many Rivers to Cross with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
* The March
* Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson
* Independent Lens – Daisy Bates, Black Power Mixtape, Soul Food Junkies
* Memories of the March
* Bill T. Jones: A Good Man (American Masters)
* Cab Calloway: Sketches (American Masters)
* Dreams of Obama (Frontline)
* Endgame: AIDS in Black America (Frontline)
* Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
* Freedom Riders (American Experience)
* Interrupters (Frontline)
* Jimi Hendrix: Hear My Train A-Comin’ (American Masters)
* Jesse Owens (American Experience)
* “Roots” Special on Miniseries (Pioneers of TV)
* Not in Our Town: Class Actions
* Slavery by Another Name
* Too Important to Fail (Tavis Smiley)
* Underground Railroad: The William Still Story
* Sister Rosetta Tharpe: The Godmother of Rock & Roll (American Masters)
* James Baldwin: The Price of the Ticket (American Masters)
* POV – Black Male Achievement documentary special series: Teaching
Fatherhood, The Jazz Ticket, The Algebra Ceiling

Other series that routinely offer programming to commemorate Black History Month include FRONTLINE, GREAT PERFORMANCES, PBS NEWSHOUR, TAVIS SMILEY and WASHINGTON WEEK WITH GWEN IFILL.

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2014 in African American News

 

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Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebrations Honor The Late Civil Rights Activist

 

www.wowktv.com

 

 

By PHILLIP LUCAS

ATLANTA (AP) — Hundreds of people filled Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta on Monday to remember and reflect on the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., who preached at the church.

The service featured prayers, songs, music and speakers. It’s one of the many events across the country honoring King, including parades, marches and service projects.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal said there were not many states that can boast a native son that merits a national holiday, but added: “we Georgians can.”

Deal said this year he would work with state legislators to find an appropriate way to honor King at the Georgia Capitol, which drew a standing ovation from the audience. He did not give any specifics.

“I think that more than just saying kind thoughts about him we ought to take action ourselves,” said Deal, a Republican. “That’s how we embed truth into our words. I think it’s time for Georgia’s leaders to follow in Dr. King’s footsteps and take action, too.”

Deal also touched on criminal justice reforms his administration has tried to make, including drug and mental health courts and community-based services to keep non-violent criminals and young people out of prison.

In Ann Arbor, Mich., activist and entertainer Harry Belafonte planned to deliver the keynote address for the 28th annual Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium at the University of Michigan’s Hill Auditorium.

In Memphis, Tenn., where King was assassinated, an audio recording of an interview with King was played at the National Civil Rights Museum. The recording sheds new light on a phone call President John F. Kennedy made to King’s wife more than 50 years ago.

Historians generally agree Kennedy’s phone call to Coretta Scott King expressing concern over her husband’s arrest in October 1960 — and Robert Kennedy’s work behind the scenes to get King released — helped JFK win the White House.

The reel-to-reel audiotape was discovered by a man cleaning out his father’s attic. The father, an insurance salesman, had interviewed King for a book he was writing, but never completed it and stored the recording with other interviews he’d done.

King was born Jan. 15, 1929, and the federal holiday is the third Monday in January.

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2014 in African American News

 

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How to Start Your Own Business While on the Job

 

by C. Daniel Baker - Black Enterprise

Smiling Black Guy at Computer

Becoming an Intrapreneur isn’t something people typically fall into. If you want it to happen, you’re going to have to get out there and make it happen. And to do that, you’ll need a plan.

Item number one on your list is to master your job. This is actually a two-parter.

First, become an expert in your current role. Second, you’ll need to hit certain milestones if you want to pull this off. The first one is being at your job long enough for you to learn your role and feel that you could teach everything you do to another person. You need to prove your worth and demonstrate that you can handle the responsibilities you were hired to do. You’ll also want to build in enough time on the job to make your boss look like a rock star and gain his trust before you venture outside your role. Otherwise, you’re going to have a really tough time getting him to buy into and support your ideas (and to support you in your desire to expand your role in the company). In my experience, it usually takes six months to get to this point. Of course, if you can do it in less time, great! But don’t rush things. It’s better to take a little more time than to try to make a move when you’re really not ready.

Throughout this process — and throughout your entire career — it’s important to think in terms of how you can best leverage your strengths and weaknesses to help your company succeed. What are some things your company does really well? What does it do less well? What should it be doing to improve? How can your strengths and intrapreneurship goals get your company where it needs to go? With that in the back of your mind, you’ll be better able to articulate to your manager how your intrapreneurial idea will benefit the company.

You’ll also need to be able to clearly define your objectives and metrics.

In other words, what does success look like and how can you measure it? Be absolutely sure that your project aligns with the corporation’s mission and values.

If you want your company to support your idea, you’ll need heavy hitters behind you. Start with your manager. Sit down with them and talk about the potential opportunity you see. They’ve worked at the company longer than you have and they know the path to making a project successful, including how to assemble a team and how to get decision makers to buy in. Have a presentation that describes the opportunity, how it benefits your company, and what resources you’ll need to execute (people, materials, funding). Once your manager is solidly backing you, ask for their help in lining up a senior executive or major decision-maker inside your company to put his or her name on the project. That will help you get the resources you’ll need to give you the greatest chance of succeeding.

Remember, this is your project, and you want to be the center of attention, right? But don’t try to do everything — you’re going to need help. In addition, trying to do it all makes you seem either like you can’t get others to work with you, you can’t delegate, or you’re trying to hog all the glory. Instead, surround yourself with people who have skills you don’t but who can make your idea even better. Look for people who are passionate about the idea you want to develop. Some will come from inside your organization, but others may come from outside.

Optimism and self-confidence are great qualities for intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs alike. But they can easily turn into naïveté if you don’t have a backup plan. Having a great idea, a great team, strong backing, and deep resources significantly increase your chances of success. But even with all that, sometimes things don’t work out the way you’d hoped. Life can be awfully unpredictable, and it doesn’t pay to be overconfident. There are too many factors beyond your control, such as your company’s health, management changes, and corporate mergers. So you’ll want to have a backup plan — at the very least so you can salvage the work you’ve done and have something to show for it. Not having a contingency plan is just plain foolish (and it’ll be interpreted by people you’re trying to turn into allies as amateurish and immature).

You also want to have a contingency plan because intrapreneurship, just like entrepreneurship (and everything else in life, for that matter) is risky. You could get laid off tomorrow. You could get hit by a bus on the way into the office. Likewise, there’s no guarantee of success in business — most ideas fail.

Taking risks is what builds successful careers. Those who don’t, get stuck (in fact, I’d argue that not taking risks at work will be more harmful to your career than failure, because your company needs new ideas in order to grow. So if you’re holding back on proposing a new internal business opportunity, don’t. And keep in mind that you could benefit even if your project doesn’t get funded.

Two final things and then we’ll move on. First: As you go through the process, check in with your team to learn what’s working and what isn’t, what you’d need to do to improve. How could you prevent mistakes in the future and repeat your success? Intrapreneurship is all about experimenting/testing ideas, measuring the results, and improving on them. It can sometimes take a few tries to figure out whether or not something is right for your company. Finally, as soon as your project is up and running, start thinking about your next one and what kinds of people, backing, and resources you’ll need to build it out.

This post is an excerpt adapted from the author’s book, Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success.

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2014 in African American News

 

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Childless Couples Are Happier Than Those With Kids, Study Says

 

dadandburied.com

 

 

By Emily Thomas

The happiest couples are those without children – at least, that’s according to research out of the United Kingdom’s Open University.

The study titled “Enduring Love?” found that childless married and unmarried couples reported being more satisfied in life and feeling more valued by their partners than did pairs with kids. Unmarried parents were found to be slightly happier than married parents.

Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, the research involved intensive interviews and surveys with more than 5,000 people of all ages and sexual orientations in long-term relationships.

Of those interviewed, mothers reported being happier with life than any other group, and childless women reported being the least happy, the study, which was obtained by The Huffington Post, revealed.

The child factor also influenced intimacy levels among couples. Fathers were twice as likely to cite a lack of sexual intimacy as the biggest downfall of their relationships, while mothers reported that they want to have sex less often than their partners do.

According to the research, simple expressions of gratitude play a big role in fulfilling marriages. Small gestures, such as telling a partner “thank you” and giving compliments, were shown to be among the most important factors in maintaining healthy relationships.

“What this study shows us is that couples need to keep investing in their relationships.It’s reassuring to know, especially in these tough economic times, that it’s the small gestures of appreciation and affection, rather than the big romantic displays that really make the difference,” said Ruth Sutherland, chief executive of the relationship support organization Relate, which contributed to the study.

The results will be presented at the British Library later this week.

Earlier this year, The Stir’s Sasha Brown Worsham shared 10 simple tips to sustaining a happy marriage. The article suggests laughing more, admitting when you’re wrong and having your own interests.

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2014 in African American News

 

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Laozi, Nietzsche and Kropotkin: Are The Common People Good?

by  on January 14, 2014 in News

Pic: Hugh Rankin (PD)

Pic: Hugh Rankin (PD)

What say you, Disinfonaughts? Are the common people, and the uncivilized, good? Are they better off than those on high?

via Bao Pu 抱朴

I picked up Nietzsche’s The Genealogy of Morals (1887) yesterday and found a passage which immediately made me think of Laozi. Here’s Nietzsche, writing about the origins of the concept of “good” :

… the judgment good does not originate with those to whom the good has been done. Rather it was the “good” themselves, that is to say the noble, mighty, highly placed, and high-minded who decreed themselves and their actions to be good, i.e., belonging to the highest rank, in contradistinction to all that wasbase, low-minded and plebian. It was only this pathos of distance that authorized them to create values and name them … Such an origin would suggest that there is no a priori necessity for associating the word good with altruistic deeds, as those [English] moral psychologists are fond of claiming. In fact, it is only after aristocratic values have begun to decline that the egoism-altruism dichotomy takes possession of the human conscience …

Nietzsche goes on to mention that he discovered that the etymology of the word good in various languages always contains the basic concept of noble, “in the hierarchical, class sense …” and that “this development is strictly parallel to that other which eventually converted the notions commonplebianbase into the notion of bad.”

Ancient Daoists would scoff at the idea that goodness is the domain of the aristocrats. Laozi suggested that the great Dao has more in common with the lowly, that which lies unseen, neglected, at the foundation. The Daoists avoided using the aristocratic-flavoured term Junzi, which can be translated as Princely Person, Superior Person or Gentleman, as a term for their ideal human.

Peter Kropotkin argued in Modern Science and Anarchism (1901) that “… a scientific study … proves that usages and customs created by mankind for the sake of mutual aid, mutual defence, and peace in general, were precisely elaborated by the ‘nameless multitude.’ And it was these same customs that enabled man to survive in his struggle for existence … Science demonstrates to us that the so-called leaders, heroes, and legislators of humanity have added nothing to history beyond what had already been worked out by the Customary Law. The best of them have only put into words and sanctioned the institutions that already existed by habit and custom …”

It seems to me that this resembles Laozi’s view, to which he adds the observation that making morality explicit, makes it forced. Forced morality is far from ideal, and creates more problems. Authentic “morality” has been “worked out” by the “nameless masses” before any philosophers, religious authorities or heroes spoke of them. [this morality is nothing more than local morality however, not universal or objective]

It seems that many (e.g., Daoists, Mohists, Legalists) felt the Ru, (which includes the Confucians) took themselves too seriously, were self-righteous, and looked down on the plebian, common people, the Little People (Xiaoren).

But, pages later, Nietzsche seems to think this view is appalling, as he blames the Jews and Christians for inverting the aristocratic value system as those who began this “grand and unspeakably disastrous initiative”: “It was the Jew who, with frightening consistency, dared to invert the aristocratic value equations good/noble/powerful/beautiful/happy/favored-of-the-gods and maintain, with the furious hatred of the underprivileged and impotent, that ‘only the poor, the powerless, are good; only the suffering, sick, and ugly, truly blessed …’”

Zhuangzi gave examples such as crippled and deformed people, those who had lowly occupations such as butchers, and those of ancient times who were uncivilized, plain and lived at one with Nature as those who might be better regarded as “good,” or better off.

I could go on, but, I will not.

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2014 in African American News

 

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Syria’s refugee crisis: drops in the ocean

 by Editorial

The number of Syrian refugees in Britain is so small because they are caught in a Catch-22

Amid the diplomatic to and fro ahead of next week’s scheduled Geneva talks, the reports of jihadi massacres in the north or chemical weapons disposal, it is easy to neglect Syria’s great human tragedy: the plight of more than 6 million displaced people who have fled their homes, 2.3 million of them crossing the country’s borders to become refugees. Half of this vast exiled population are children. No wonder the refugee crisis has been characterised as the greatest humanitarian catastrophe of modern times.

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, is working to feed and clothe the displaced, who are now living through the frost and snow of the war’s third winter, and to ensure that the most desperate are prioritised for assistance. It is to this end that UNHCR has called for 30,000 of the most vulnerable to be taken in by the other countries by the end of 2014, including at-risk women and girls, torture survivors, refugees with medical needs or disabilities, vulnerable older adults and refugees in need of family reunification. The international community has responded: the United States is expected to accept several thousand under the programme. Germany has said it will take 10,000 over three years, limited to a two-year stay. Norway, Finland and Sweden have each accepted between 400 and 1,000; Austria and France 500. Moldova is taking 50. Britain’s contribution to the UNHCR callout, meanwhile, is so far none at all.

The deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, spoke about Syrian resettlement in the House of Commons last week. He answered testily that Britain had already taken in “hundreds upon hundreds” of Syrians under the UK’s international asylum obligations. As Mr Clegg must know, the 1,500 or so Syrian asylum-seekers the UK accepted in 2013 represent drops in the oceans of both the total refugee population and the number of people who are allowed to settle in Britain each year. He may also know that the number of Syrian refugees in Britain is so small because they are caught in a Catch-22. To claim asylum they must reach British territory but to do so they are almost always obliged to break the law. A putative refugee would need a visa before an airline would let them board, and as there are no visas given for the purpose of asylum-seeking they would have to lie about their intent in the UK. More likely, our refugee would take the dangerous journey through one of the third-party countries, such as Greece, where they could face the threat of xenophobic violence, or Bulgaria. Under a European law known as the Dublin regulation, if they ever reached the Channel’s northern shores they would be sent back to apply for asylum in the European country they entered first.

In lieu of acceding to the UNHCR requests for resettlement, and in a political climate where Ukip and the Tory right have rendered all discussion of immigration toxic, ministers are proud instead of spending £500m on the Syrian relief effort in the region. We can applaud the substantial sum but lament the lasting impression that Britain is exporting its obligations to Syrian refugees overseas, to countries that already bear a near-impossible strain. In Lebanon, riven by sectarian tensions long before the Syrian war, the number of refugees is expected to reach 37% of the population by the end of 2014, according to a recentWorld Bank report, with 170,000 people pushed into poverty. Jordan, meanwhile, is running short of water, and food prices have shot up. Turkey has spent an estimated $2bn it can ill afford on the refugee crisis.

As the UN high commissioner for refugees, António Guterres, has pointed out, Syria’s neighbours do not just need financial and technical support, they also need western countries to receive “refugees who are today in the neighbouring countries but who can find a solution outside the region”. The Syrian crisis shows little sign of abating. It is time for the UK to change its shameful stance and accede to the UNHCR’s wish.

 
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Posted by on January 13, 2014 in African American News

 

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Tips on Overcoming and Surviving a Financial Crisis

Executive Services Firm Hardesty LLC Offers Organizations Tips on Overcoming a Financial Crisisby C. Daniel Baker - Black Enterprise.com

It’s no secret the best time to overcome a financial crisis is before there is one. It’s also no secret that financial crises can be sparked by any number of reasons including recessions, terrorist attacks, overvalued assets, stock market activity, poor debt management, or regulatory failures.

Some are foreseen, others cannot be predicted. Regardless of the underlying cause, having a reliable sense of your future cash flow and a strategic plan in place can provide the tools to manage or avoid any potential problems.

Karl Hardesty, CEO of Hardesty LLC, a national executive services firm, realizes overcoming a financial crisis has its challenges, but it doesn’t have to be cause for panic. He offers the following steps any organization should implement to prevent or overcome a crisis.

  1. Establish a communications plan. Every organization has a chain of command, but in a crisis, the rules change. Assign a spokesperson to speak with media calling with sensitive questions. Make certain someone is ready to speak for the management team when investors come knocking, and someone is responsible for contacting customers and vendors. Knowing who will carry approved messages to key audiences before a crisis occurs may make the difference between satisfied investors who are well informed of your cash management or disgruntled investors who read misinformation about your business challenges on their Twitter feed.
  2. Develop a 13 week cash flow. The ability to forecast, monitor, and perform in the short term can establish the foundation for a positive outcome during any financial crisis. A 13 week cash flow is an appealing structure because it provides visibility into when cash will come in and what order obligations need to be addressed. Often it can help corporate turnarounds by focusing on short-term liquidity requirements and using weekly tracking to ensure fewer surprises and lower variances. Knowing your cash flow situation can help you get ahead of any issues before they become problems.
  3. Set up a cost reduction plan. There may come a time when cash is short and you’ll need to prioritize quickly. There’s always a lag between execution of a plan and positive impact on cash. Developing a plan after you notice the cash flow shortfall means it’s already too late. Create a line-item specific phased cost reduction plan that can be executed quickly. When doing so, note which vendors will need to be prioritized. Will you freeze disbursements? Will you reduce salaries or institute furloughs? How quickly can you revise payment terms with creditors? Once you’ve realized a cash flow shortage, have answers to those questions in place and move immediately.
  4. Encourage customers to pay faster. A payment acceleration plan can boost cash flow immediately. Initiate customer discounts or a rewards plan to encourage swift payment of receivables. Consider offering discounts to liquidate excess inventory. An example of companies that do this are discount wireless providers, who offer customers “shrinking payment” discounts for consistent early or on-time payments. Utility companies often allow lower payments for customers who pay early. Some businesses enter customers into contests for monthly cash or gift card giveaways for on-time payments. There’s no reason your business can’t apply a similar model that works for you.
  5. Keep your reorganization options open. Sometimes, cash flow issues unveil deeper problems in your business, and a reorganization becomes necessary. Perhaps no one is accountable for business performance. Maybe your structure drives up payroll costs even when revenue generation is at a standstill. It may be best to bring in outside management with experience in your industry to allow them to evaluate cost structure versus incoming cash.

For more information about averting a financial crisis, visit www.hardestyllc.com.

 
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Posted by on January 10, 2014 in African American News

 

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Majority of Americans still in the dark about incandescent light bulb phase-out

 

Yannick LeJacqNBC News
IMAGE: Incandescent, compact fluorescent and LED light bulbs. (John Brecher / NBCNews)
John Brecher / NBCNews.com
From left: Incandescent tungsten, compact fluorescent and LED light bulbs.

The Jan. 1 deadline to end production of 60- and 40-watt incandescent light bulbs is fast approaching, but most Americans aren’t even aware that their traditional light sources will soon become a rare commodity, according to one consumer survey.

Lighting manufacturer Osram Sylvania recently released its sixth annual “Sylvania Socket Survey,” which found that only 4 in 10 consumers were aware that 60- and 40-watt light bulbs are being phased out in 2014 as production ends.

Sixty-four percent of participants were aware that a general elimination of incandescent light bulbs was taking place, however, which represents a sharp increase from recent years. In Osram Sylvania’s 2012 survey, only 52 percent of participants were aware of any phase-out. In 2008 — just a year after then-President George W. Bush signed the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) into law, mandating that low-efficiency light bulbs be gradually removed from production — only 21 percent of people surveyed knew of the oncoming shift in how you light up your house. 

The government began phasing out 100- and 75-watt light bulbs in 2012 and 2013 respectively. The elimination of 60- and 40-watt bulbs will have a much greater impact on U.S. consumers because they are the two most popular bulbs on the market, according to the electronics industry research firm IMS Research.

Lights out?
With a major shift on the horizon, some Americans are doing their best to take stock of the situation. It’s still perfectly legal to buy incandescent light bulbs as long as supplies last — companies just can’t import or manufacture any new ones. Osram Sylvania’s survey found that 30 percent of those who are aware of the phase-out are planning to stockpile the leftover light bulbs.

Others have already begun to seek out alternatives, however. Noah Horowitz, director of the Center for Energy Efficiency for the Natural Resource Defense Council, identified “three major types of bulbs to choose from” in a recent blog post: more-efficient incandescent bulbs (also referred to as halogen incandescents), light-emitting diodes (otherwise known as LEDs) and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs).

Osram Sylvania’s survey found that 46 percent of respondents are planning to switch to CFLs, while 24 percent prefer LEDs. Thirteen percent hope to use new and improved incandescents.

The 60- and 40-watt light bulbs are being discontinued because they fail to meet standards set forth in EISA. That legislation set a timetable that requires all screw-in light bulbs to use 25 percent less power by 2014 and 65 percent less by 2020. 

While the phase-out may take some getting used to, energy experts expect that the transition to alternatives like LEDs and CFLs will wind up saving many of us a significant amount of time and money. Incandescent models like the ones that are about to be phased out may seem cheap, but they waste about 90 percent of their energy producing heat rather than light. More efficient alternatives like LED lights can turn as much as 60 percent of their energy into light. Horowitz thus predicts that a successful transition away from incandescent light bulbs could save Americans as much as $13 billion annually on electricity bills.

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2013 in African American News

 

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10 Hotel Secrets from Behind the Front Desk

IMAGE CREDIT:
MICHAEL CLINARD

By Jacob Tomsky

Jacob has worked on the front lines of hotels for more than a decade, starting as a lowly valet in New Orleans and ultimately landing at a front desk in New York City. He’s also the author ofHeads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality and a man with some hospitality secrets to spill.

1. HOTELS ARE RAKING IT IN.

The fact that a hotel could fail to be profitable astounds me. Why? The average cost to turn over a room, to keep it operational per day, is between $30 and $40. If you’re paying less than $30 dollars a night at a hotel/motel, I’d wager the cost to flip that room runs close to $5. Which makes me want to take a shower. At home. That $40 turnover cost includes cleaning supplies, electricity, and hourly wages for housekeepers, minibar attendants, front desk agents, and all other employees needed to operate a room as well as the cost of laundering the sheets. Everything. Compare that with an average room rate, and you can see why it’s a profitable business.

2. STAYING FOR JUST ONE NIGHT? YOU MIGHT GET “WALKED.”

The term “walking a guest” sends shivers down any manager’s spine. Since the average no-show rate is 10 percent daily, hotels will overbook whenever possible. The sales and reservations departments are encouraged to book the property to 110 percent capacity, in the hopes that with cancellations and no-shows they will fill every room. What happens when the numbers game doesn’t play in the hotel’s favor? Someone gets walked. The hotel will now pay for the entire night’s room and tax (plus one phone call—how cute is that?) at another comparable hotel in the area.

A guest is more likely to get walked if:
1. He booked using Expedia, hence he has a deeply discounted rate and is less important.
2. He never stayed here before and may never visit the city again.
3. He’s a one-nighter.
4. And this one is so much more important than all the others: He is acting like a jerk.

3. SMART COMPLAINERS WIN.

Though most complaints should be delivered to the front desk directly, in person or on the phone, keep in mind that most issues will not have been caused by the front desk at all. So briefly outline your problem, offer a solution if you have one, and then ask whom you should speak with to have the problem solved. “Should I speak to a manager about this?” “Should I speak to housekeeping about this?” Those are wonderful and beautiful questions to ask. Most of the time, the front desk will be able to solve the problem immediately or at least act as proxy.

Want to make sure that the agent doesn’t nod, say “certainly,” and not do a damn thing? Get his or her name. Nothing tightens up an employee’s throat like being directly identified. You don’t have to threaten him or her either, just a nice casual “Thanks for your help. I’ll stop by later to make sure everything has been taken care of. Tommy, right?” Whatever you asked me to do I am doing it. (Will screaming get you what you want? Well, probably. But it’s not nearly as effective.)

4. THERE’S A BETTER WAY TO CASE A PILLOW.

To put on a pillowcase, the housekeepers throw a solid karate chop right down the middle of the pillow and then shove it in, folded like a bun. This method is preferred to the civilian method of tucking it under your chin and pulling up the pillowcase like a pair of pants because these ladies have no interest in letting 50 pillows a day come into contact with their faces.

5. ENJOY YOUR LEMONY FRESH GLASSES.

You know what cleans the hell out of a mirror, and I’m talking no streaks? Windex? No. Furniture polish. Spray on a thick white base, rub it in, and you’ll be face-to-face with a spotless, streak-free mirror. However, I am not recommending you take this tip and apply it in your own home. Though using furniture polish is quick and effective, over time it causes a waxy buildup that requires a deep scrub.

The housekeepers kept this move behind closed doors along with another dirty secret I didn’t discover until I walked in on ladies with Pledge in one hand and a minibar glass in the other. Keeping those glasses clean-looking was also part of the job. So the next time you put a little tap water into the glass and wonder why it has a pleasant lemon aftertaste, it’s because you just took a shot of Pledge.

6. NEVER, EVER PAY FOR THE MINIBAR.

Minibars. Most people are appalled at the prices. However, you never have to pay for the items in the minibar. Why not? Minibar charges are, without question, the most disputed charges on any bill. That is because the process for applying those charges is horribly inexact. Keystroke errors, delays in restocking, double stocking, and hundreds of other missteps make minibar charges the most voided item. Even before guests can manage to get through half of the “I never had those items” sentence, I have already removed the charges and am now simply waiting for them to wrap up the overly zealous denial so we can both move on with our lives.

7. BOOK ON A DISCOUNT SITE, GET A DISCOUNT EXPERIENCE.

Reservations made through Internet discount sites are almost always slated for our worst rooms. Does this seem unfair? First of all, we earn the slimmest profit from these reservations. And honestly, those guests didn’t really choose our property based on quality; they chose based on value. We were at the top of a list sorted by price. But the guest behind them in line, the one with a heavy $500 rate, she selected this hotel. When she comes to New York, she goes to our website to see what’s available. Since we have no reason to assume Internet guests will ever book with us again, unless our discount is presented to them, it truly makes business sense to save our best rooms for guests who book of their own volition.

8. BELLMEN HATE YOUR SUITCASE—BUT NOT BECAUSE IT’S HEAVY.

Bernard Sadow: the man all bellmen hate, though they’ve never heard his name. In 1970, he invented the wheeled suitcase, the bane of the bellman’s existence. Before that, the bellman was a necessity, a provider of ease and comfort, a useful member of society. When Sadow sold his first prototype to Macy’s in October 1970, he instigated a catastrophic change in the hospitality environment, causing the once noble species to retreat, rethink, and reemerge as a hustler fighting for survival. Sadow might as well have invented the phrase no bellman wants to hear, the phrase that leaves bills unpaid and ruins Christmas: “No, thanks, I got it.” Or that surprisingly prevalent and ignorant phrase: “I don’t want to bother him.” Don’t want to bother him? The man has a family. No one is being bothered here!

9. FRONT DESK AGENTS CAN ALSO BE AGENTS OF KARMA.

Any arriving guest should receive what are referred to as initial keys, which are programmed to reset the door lock when they are first inserted, deactivating all previous keys. Not until the keys expire or a new initial key enters the lock will the keys fail to work. With a “key bomb,” I cut one single initial key and then start over and cut a second initial key. Either one of them will work when you get to the room, and as long as you keep using the very first key you slipped in, all will be well.

But chances are you’ll pop in the second key at some point, and then the first key you used will be considered invalid. Trace that back to me? Not a chance. Trace that back to the fact that you told your 9-year-old daughter to shut her mouth while harshly ripping off her tiny backpack at check-in? Never.

10. THERE’S ONE SUREFIRE WAY TO GET AN UPGRADE.

Here is one of the top lies that come out of a front desk agent’s mouth: “All the rooms are basically the same, sir.”

Bull. There is always a corner room, a room with a bigger flat screen, a room that, because of the building’s layout, has a larger bath with two sinks, a room that fits two roll-aways with ease, a room that, though listed as standard, actually has a partial view of the Hudson River. There is always a better room, and when I feel that 20 you slipped me burning in my pocket, I will find it for you. And if there is nothing to be done room-wise, I have a slew of other options: late checkout, free movies, free minibar, room service amenities, and more. I will do whatever it takes to deserve the tip and then a little bit more in the hope that you’ll hit me again.

Some people feel nervous about this move. Please don’t. We are authorized to upgrade for special occasions. The special occasion occurring now is that I have a solid 20. That’s special enough for me!

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2013 in African American News

 

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