Arizona Sued for Denying Driver’s Licenses to Immigrant Youth

Arizona Sued for Denying Driver's Licenses to Immigrant Youth

A coalition of civil rights groups filed a class action suit in federal court today, challenging Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s executive order denying drivers licenses to young undocumented immigrants granted work permits through President Obama’s deferred action program. The suit is latest in a line of legal challenged against the Arizona governor who’s made a name for herself as a supporter of anti-immigrant legislation and an opponent of the Obama administration.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which Pres. Obama issued in June, allows some young undocumented immigrants who came the country as children to stay in the country with authorization to work. In most states this authorization means recipients can also apply for driver’s licenses.

But on August 15, the day the federal government began accepting DACA applications, Gov. Brewer issued exec. order 2012-06, barring her state agencies from providing services or offering programs to recipients of deferred action. This includes the Arizona Department of Transportation, which now denies licenses to immigrants presenting DACA documents.

There are approximately 80,000 young people in Arizona eligible to apply for relief from deportation under the program.

The complaint, filed today by the American Civil Liberties, the National Immigrant Law Center and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund on behalf of five named undocumented defendants and the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition claims that the ban makes it “difficult, if not impossible for [DACA recipients] to accomplish essential aspects of daily life” like getting to work, school or medical appointments.

In addition to Gov. Brewer, the complaint names as defendants John Halikowski, the director of the Arizona Department of Transportation, and Stacy Stanton, assistant director of the department’s Motor Vehicle Division. The two state officials applied Brewer’s order to deny licenses to DACA recipients.

Alejandra Lopez is one of the plaintiffs in the case. Lopez, 19, came to the United States when he was four and is raising her baby son and her four and 15-year-old brothers. She was granted deferred action, but without a license was turned down from a job that required a commute by car.

The complaint claims the executive order violates the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, which grants the federal government power over immigration lawmaking, and the Equal Protection Clause, by denying licenses “without any valid justification, including even a rational basis.”

Gov. Brewer’s executive order barred DACA recipients from all state services, asserting that a grant of deferred action though the particular Obama Administarion program does not amount to proof legitimate immigration status.

“The Deferred Action program does not and cannot confer lawful or authorized status upon the unlawful alien applicants,” Brewer said in her order.

But the executive order contradicts existing Arizona law, which regularly grants licenses to immigrants with permission to be present and work in the country.

“It’s not up to the states to decide for themselves that DACA recipients are not authorized when the federal government has said that they are,” Jennifer Chang Newell, an attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project told “Hopefully we can help ensure that other states keep issuing licenses and don’t follow Arizona.”

The suit, announced today at a press conference in Tempe, AZ, is the latest challenge from these and other civil rights groups against Arizona and Gov. Brewer for violating the rights of immigrants and overstepping state authority.

The three groups are currently involved in a civil rights suit against Arizona’s SB 1070, the “show me your papers” law.

Here’s Why Hundreds of NYC Fast Food Workers Are Striking Today

Here's Why Hundreds of NYC Fast Food Workers Are Striking Today

Workers at dozens of fast-food restaurants in New York City walked off the job Thursday morning. Organizers say New Yorkers will see hundreds of workers on strike at some of the largest fast food chains including McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Domino’s, Taco Bell and other fast-food restaurants across the city.

The workers’ campaign is Fast Food Forward. They’re coming together to fight for $15 / hour and the right to form a union. The campaign’s goal is to put money back in the pockets of the 50,000 men and women who work hard in the city’s fast food industry - but still can’t afford basic necessities like food, clothing, and rent.

The workers coming together is a major act of courage because among them are some who have already faced retaliation for organizing today’s strike.

Jose Cerillo, a 79-year-old man who’s been cleaning floors at McDonald’s since 1996 was fired recently for organizing workers to support Fast Food Forward. After 16 years of working there he was making $7.40 an hour, 15 cents above minimum wage, reports.

You can support the workers by signing the campaign’s petition at

Also, If you’re in New York you can support the workers by visiting one of the picket sites listed at the end of this story.

The organizing drive is backed by community organizing groups like New York Communities for Change as well as the SEIU. New York Communities for Change organizing director Jonathan Westin told Salon the current effort is “the biggest organizing campaign that’s happened in the fast food industry.”

The main strike sites and picket times are listed below:

McDonalds- 280 Madison avenue @40th street-6am (media location 6:30am)

Yum and Burger King-Penn Station-Midtown- 11am-1pm (Media location noon) Gather at BK on 34th between 7th and 8th.

Wendy’s- 425 Fulton St. Wendy’s-Brooklyn-11am -1pm (Media location noon)

McDonalds- 220 West 42nd Street- Times Square- 4pm-6pm (Rally/ media location 5pm)

additional picket locations & times

1) Harlem-McDonalds- 145 east 125 street 11am-1pm

2) Harlem- McDonalds- 2142 3rd Ave 10-noon

3) Brooklyn-KFC- 495 Nostrand Ave noon-1pm

4) Brooklyn KFC-798 4th Ave # 812 11a-noon

5) Time Square- McDonalds 1188 Avenue Of The Americas 7am-9:30am

Petition Calls Out NYT Art Critic for Racist and Sexist Framing

Petition Calls Out NYT Art Critic for Racist and Sexist Framing

A new petition is demanding the New York Times “acknowledge and address” a Times art critic’s recent reviews that have compared women and black artists to white male artists, “only to find them lacking.”

The petition includes an open letter that calls out two articles by Times art critic Ken Johnson: his October 25th review of “Now Dig This! Art & Black Los Angeles 1960-1980″ at MoMA PS1 and his November 8th preview of “The Female Gaze: Women Artists Making Their World” at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. According to the open letter, both articles use “irresponsible generalities.”

The petition has “no sponsor information” available but it appears it was created by someone connected to artists and the art world. The petition’s early supporters includes notable names.

Artists Glenn Ligon and Coco Fusco confirmed to ARTINFO they signed the petition this morning. Other (currently unconfirmed) signatures on the petition include artists Kara Walker, Paul Ramirez Jonas, Janine Antoni, Louise Lawler, Julie Mehretu and Martha Rosler as well as art historians Rosalyn Deutsche, Miwon Kw0n, and Robert Storr.

An excerpt of the open letter is below:

Open Letter to The New York Times:

The recent writing of art critic Ken Johnson troubles us. His October 25th review of “Now Dig This! Art & Black Los Angeles 1960-1980” and his November 8th preview of “The Female Gaze: Women Artists Making Their World,” present ill-informed arguments. Using irresponsible generalities, Johnson compares women and African-American artists to white male artists, only to find them lacking.

In his review of “Now Dig This!” Mr. Johnson starts with the claim that “Black artists didn’t invent assemblage.” Instead, he states that black artists appropriated the form from white artists who developed it. Both these statements attack a straw man; no historian, artist or curator has ever made a claim that anyone, black or white, “invented” assemblage. In fact, assemblage has roots in many cultures and it is well documented that European and American Modernist artists borrowed heavily from African art in their use of the form.

Mr. Johnson organizes his review around an oversimplified opposition between the apolitical, “deracinated” work of white artists and the political, “parochial” work of black artists. He claims that white European artists, such as those of Cubism, Surrealism and Dada, who “were as free as anyone could be,” were only playfully messing around with aesthetic conventions. The aesthetic play of assemblage “took on a different complexion,” to use Mr. Johnson’s unfortunate turn of phrase, when black artists politicized the form. But he ignores both the extreme political unrest in Europe at the time and the ideological motivations of these artistic movements. What was DaDa if not a response to the social psychosis and industrialized mass murder of WWI?

The open letter goes on to point out Johnson also compares women to white male artists, and again, “only to find them lacking.”

Mr. Johnson frames “The Female Gaze: Women Artists Making Their World” in similar terms: “The day that any woman earns the big bucks that men like Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst rake in is still a long way off. Sexism is probably a good enough explanation for inequities in the market. But might it also have something to do with the nature of the art that women tend to make?” His text brackets the real impact of sexism and leaves us only with an insinuating question. There is no explanation of “the nature of the art that women tend to make.” The reader is only left with the sense that women’s art is a problem, somehow.

Johnson, 59, covers gallery and museum exhibits for The New York Times. He’s also a critic-in-residence at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

The petition had 967 signatures at the time this story was published.

December 1 is World AIDS Day, Find Events Near You

Every year World AIDS Day events take place across the country to raise awareness and show support for people living with HIV. World AIDS Day is on Saturday, December 1, 2012. has a national calendar that contains a list of conferences and events related to World AIDS day. is the online home for the magazine Poz that chronicles the lives of people affected by HIV and AIDS.

You can also find events on

If you have an event you’d like to share with readers please list it in the comments below.

Louisiana Teachers Take Gov. Jindal’s School Vouchers Law to Court

Louisiana teachers were in court today to challenge Act 2, the nation’s most expansive statewide school voucher law passed this year, and the cornerstone of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s education reform victories. In a trial which began this morning, Louisiana teacher unions argue that the law, which hands state money to private entities who take in public students, is unconstitutional.

In its challenge (PDF), the Louisiana Federation of Teachers and other plaintiffs argue that Act 2, which the Louisiana legislature hastily passed this spring, is unconstitutional because the statewide voucher program will divert funds meant for public schools to private entities, including private companies that run online education programs, and private schools, including religious schools. Louisiana teachers also argue that the state’s legislative process was abused, forcing lawmakers to vote on a law that got inadequate consideration.

“In the haste to steamroll these bills through the Legislature, the constitution was often treated like little more than a list of inconvenient suggestions,” LFT President Steve Monaghan said in a statement. “The passage of these laws has elevated legal challenges to acts of civic responsibility.”

The trial will be brisk; opening statements happened this morning, and Judge Timothy Kelley expects a ruling by the end of the week, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported. But both sides do not expect the legal fight, and the political conversation around the changing role of the nation’s public schools, to wrap up anytime soon.

Did a Top Romney Adviser Just Brag About Losing Poor Voters of Color to Obama?

Did a Top Romney Adviser Just Brag About Losing Poor Voters of Color to Obama?

On Wednesday the Washington Post published an op-ed written by Stuart Stevens, the chief strategist for the Mitt Romney presidential campaign. Stuart wrote that although Romney didn’t win the election he’s “proud” of the voters the campaign secured.

Stevens starts by pointing out at that Romney won the voters who really count. :

On Nov. 6, Mitt Romney carried the majority of every economic group except those with less than $50,000 a year in household income. That means he carried the majority of middle-class voters. While John McCain lost white voters under 30 by 10 points, Romney won those voters by seven points, a 17-point shift. Obama received 41 / 2 million fewer voters in 2012 than 2008, and Romney got more votes than McCain.

According to Stevens, “The Republican Party has problems, but as we go forward, let’s remember that any party that captures the majority of the middle class must be doing something right.” As a result, “Republican ideals — Mitt Romney — carried the day.”

Carried the day where?

He finished his op-ed by arguing Obama only won the presidency because the press really liked the “charismatic African American” candidate.

“But he was a charismatic African American president with a billion dollars, no primary and a media that often felt morally conflicted about being critical.”

GOP’s Alternative to DREAM Act Has No Path to Citizenship

GOP's Alternative to DREAM Act Has No Path to Citizenship

On Tuesday in Washington, two retiring GOP senators — Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas and Jon Kyl of Arizona — introduced a bill that would allow young undocumented immigrants to stay in the U.S. legally as long as they enroll in college or joined the military. The bill, dubbed the Achieve Act, would extend a new visa to those younger than 28 but would provide no path to citizenship.

The Achieve Act would only provide a pathway for young adults to apply for legal permanent residency — but not citizenship — if they have completed military service or higher education and have worked in the U.S for at least four years.

It would only be available to those who entered the country before the age of 14 and who do not have serious criminal records. Applicants would also have to agree not to seek government benefits, including federal student loans.

Advocates are calling the Achieve Act a watered down DREAM Act with tighter elibility requirements than the DREAM Act itself.

“It doesn’t make sense for Republicans to water down the DREAM Act, especially after we saw in the elections that not only the Latino community but also a large portion of the American people support the DREAM Act and a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants,” Erika Andiola, a DREAMer from Arizona told VOXXI.

Dulce Matuz, the Arizona DREAMer selected by TIME magazine as one of the most influential people in the world, said the Achieve Act “treats DREAMers like second-class citizens.”

“We will not tolerate political games that disrespect immigrant youth,” Matuz said in an e-mailed statement. “We are educated and capable of dealing with important issues that our lives depend on”.

The Huffington Post points after the news conference Kyl told reportersthat there are other ways for undocumented immigrants to gain citizenship, including getting married to a U.S. citizen.

Kyl said that because undocumented immigrants are young it was likely for them to gain citizenship through marriage because “in this country, the biggest marriage pool are U.S. citizens.”

Undocumented Immigrants Rising Quickly on TIME’S ‘Person of the Year’ List

Undocumented Immigrants Rising Quickly on TIME'S 'Person of the Year' List

TIME magazine is letting readers have their say on who should be the 2012 Person of the Year. The list of 40 contenders includes “Undocumented Immigrants” who are currently in ninth place.

Soon after the story was published Monday, “Undocumented Immigrants” rose to the middle of the list with the majority voting “no way” they should be on the cover. At 3pm EST Tuesday the “no ways” were still in the lead with 28,092 votes, compared to 16,187 “definitely” votes for undocumented immigrants.

But sometime in the evening Tuesday the “definitely” votes flipped.

At the time this story was published, the “definitely” votes were at 51 percent (46,024) while the “no way” votes stood at 49 (43,485).

Undocumented immigrants are now in ninth place. Egypt’s new president Mohamed Morsy is currently in first place with 229,409 “definitely” votes.

Voting closes at 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 12, and the winner will be announced on Dec. 14. You can vote on

TIME does clearly point out that “as always TIME’s editors will choose the Person of the Year,” so ultimately they’ll have the final say.

Spanish-Speaker Spends Months Locked Up After Interpreter Dies

Spanish-Speaker Spends Months Locked Up After Interpreter Dies

A man in Mississippi will spend an additional two months behind bars because, according to his attorney, the only available Spanish translator in the area has died.

Yoany Oriel Serrano-Bejarano is one of three men so far indicted for taking part in a May prison riot at a privately-run federal prison in Natchez, Miss. The riot left a 24-year-old prison guard dead. Inmates told the press that they were protesting abusive conditions including a lack of medical care.

Mr. Serrano-Bejarano pleaded not guilty before federal Magistrate Judge F. Keith Ball late last month and jury trial was initially scheduled for December 3. But the case was continued, court documents read, because “the current shortage of interpreters has prevented counsel from communicating with Mr. Serrano-Bejarano in a timely fashion.”

“Mr. Serrano does not speak one lick of English and I don’t speak one lick of Spanish,” the defendant’s appointed public defender, Clarence T. Guthrie, told “The main interpreter that I use passed away this year.”

Naked HIV/AIDS Activists Arrested After They Take Over John Boehner’s Office

Naked HIV/AIDS Activists Arrested After They Take Over John Boehner's Office

At least three AIDS activists were arrested on Tuesday after they and other naked demonstrators briefly took over House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) to protest budget cuts to health care services.

There were seven nude activists total, including three women and four men. Several protesters had the word “AIDS” painted on their bodies, according to reports and photos shared on Twitter.

Activists from ACT UP, New York ACT UP, Philadelphia ACT UP, Housing Works and the Student Global AIDS Campaign stripped down in the lobby of the Speakers office and began chanting the famous ACT UP chant: “ACT UP! FIGHT BACK! FIGHT AIDS!”

Other chants made light of the situation (and Speaker Boehner’s name.)

“Boehner, Boehner, don’t be a dick, budget cuts will make us sick,” they chanted. “The budget cuts are really rude, that’s why we have to be so lewd.”

“The reality is that these draconian budget cuts will actually result in the conservative loss of 600,000 people with AIDS’ lives around the world,” one of the protesters, Jennifer Flynn, told Buzzfeed. “We’re talking about killing 600,000 people around the world if we let these budget cuts go into effect. And that’s just one year.”

Flynn may have been referring to $538 million in cuts to HIV/AIDS funding that could occur on January 2 unless Congress and the president find alternative options. points out the protest happened in Boehner’s office in the Longworth House Office Building, not the Speaker’s office where he works in the Capitol. Boehner’s office confirmed that he was not in the office at the time.

World AIDS Day is on Saturday, December 1, 2012.

Walmart Admits Goods Were Made at Bangladesh Factory Before Fire

Walmart Admits Goods Were Made at Bangladesh Factory Before Fire

Walmart has admitted some of its products were made at the Bangladesh garment factory where a weekend fire killed at least 112 people.

“A supplier subcontracted work to this factory without authorization and in direct violation of our policies,” Walmart said in a statement issued on Monday. “Today, we have terminated the relationship with that supplier.

Walmart’s statement comes as no surprise considering a Bangladeshi labor group on Monday released photos of smoked damaged apparel in the burned factory. The Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity provided The Nation images of apparel made for “Faded Glory,” a line sold exclusively at Walmart.

“The fact that this occurred is extremely troubling to us, and we will continue to work across the apparel industry to improve fire safety education and training in Bangladesh.”

Records show the factory that burned down received an “orange” rating from Walmart in a May 2011 site visit. According to the report, Walmart found “violations and/or conditions that were deemed to be high risk.”

Li & Fung, the Hong Kong-based company believed to be the link between the factory and Walmart, said it will conduct its own investigations into the cause of the fire.

The company has pledged 100,000 takas (USD $1,161.27) for the families of each victim. The 100,000 takas matches the financial assistance from the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, according to the South China Morning Post.

Felipe Montes Reunited With His Children, On Trial Basis

Felipe Montes Reunited With His Children, On Trial Basis

Felipe Montes, an immigrant father who lost his three children to foster care when he was deported two years ago, was provisionally reunited with his three young children today in a North Carolina court.

“The court cannot find that the father is unfit,” County Judge Michael Duncan said from the bench in the Alleghany County courtroom shortly after noon. “The permanent plan is reunification with the father.”

The decision marks a major victory for Felipe Montes who faced permanent separation from his kids after local child welfare authorities and the children’s appointed Guardian Ad Litem recommended initially that the kids be adopted by foster families.

Montes is not yet free to take his three U.S. citizen sons, now 2, 3, and 5, to Mexico. After the ruling in court, the judge told the attorneys in chambers that the reunification would be a “trial placement” in Alleghany County, said Donna Shumate, Montes’s attorney. From December 7th until February 19th, the children are scheduled to live with their father in a local hotel.

It’s the same local hotel where Montes and his kids have visited with their father since August when he returned to the country on a rare humanitarian parole from federal immigration authorities. The parole, which was granted after a long application process so that Montes could attend his parental rights hearings, currently expires on December 23rd. Ann Robertson, an immigration attorney hired by the Mexican Consulate to represent Montes, said today she will apply for an extension so that he can remain in the country until the 19th of February. broke the Montes story in February. Soon after, the Latino advocacy group gathered 20,000 signatures on a petition demanding Alleghany County reunify the boys with their father. In recent weeks, the Alleghany County Department of Social Services reversed it’s position and began recommending the children be returned to their father.

If all goes well for Montes during the trial placement, the Judge will close the child welfare case and grant Montes full rights over his children. The father plans to bring his children with him in Tamaulipas, Mexico, where he’s lived since he was deported for driving violations in 2010.

“I am happy, but I am waiting,” Montes said just after the hearing. “I have learned to be patient.”

Since his return, Felipe Montes has attended regular parenting classes and shared parenting responsibilities with the kid’s foster care providers.

Montes’s children were removed from the custody of his U.S. citizen wife Marie Montes shortly after he was deported. Mrs. Montes, who is now pregnant, is currently incarcerated for parole violations related to driving violations. She has long struggled with drug addiction and mental health issues and could not continue taking care of their children, including a newborn baby, after her husband was deported. The county child welfare department initially refused to place the boys with their father in Mexico, instead, arguing that they should be adopted by foster parents.

The foster parents, Brian and Marcie Galyean, who have cared for the two older boys Isaiah and Adrian, and Bob and Patricia Westlund, who have raised Angel since the baby was born, sat quietly in the second row of benches as the judge spoke. Mrs. Galyean and Mrs. Westlund began to cry when the judge ordered the boys move toward reunification. They have previously declined to speak with and left the court room quickly after the hearing today.

In February, if the judge rules as expected to restore Montes’s parental rights and close the child welfare case, the children’s attorney advocate could appeal the decision.

Report: Immigration Status and Race Affect Domestic Workers’ Pay

Report: Immigration Status and Race Affect Domestic Workers' Pay

Home work is professional work for domestic workers. But there, as in the rest of the world, a domestic worker’s race and immigration status impact how well she’s paid and what kind of working environment she lives with. Undocumented domestic workers are paid roughly 20 percent less than their U.S.-citizen counterparts, according to a groundbreaking new report offering the first national look at domestic workers’ world—one where unforgiving work, a high incidence of abuse and differential pay depending on race is the standard. More than 2,000 nannies, house cleaners and caregivers in 14 U.S. cities were surveyed for the study (PDF), released today by the National Domestic Workers Alliance.

Domestic work is treated as women’s work—94 percent of such workers are women. And domestic work is low-paying work. Domestic workers earn 23 percent less than their state’s minimum wage. But within the industry, U.S.-born and U.S.-citizen nannies, caregivers and housecleaners make roughly a dollar more an hour than their counterparts who have legal status, and around two dollars more an hour than undocumented domestic workers. The median hourly wage for U.S.-citizen domestic workers is $12 an hour, but is $10 an hour for those who are undocumented.

As in the rest of the working world, a domestic worker’s immigration status impacts her pay and her worklife. Undocumented domestic workers are more likely than workers with legal status or citizenship to report being assigned work beyond their job descriptions. They’re also more likely to be required to do “heavy, strenuous” work, get injured on the job, and then have to work while injured. Some 77 percent of undocumented domestic workers reported working while sick, injured or in pain, compared to 66 percent of all domestic workers surveyed, and just 56 of U.S.-born domestic workers. Those who are are foreign-born make up 46 percent of the domestic worker workforce.

Obama Nominates First Openly Gay Latina Federal Judge


President Obama nominated three new federal judges yesterday, including openly gay Judge Nitza I. Quiñones Alejandro, who currently serves on the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas.

If confirmed by the Senate, Judge Quiñones would be the first openly gay Latina to serve on the federal bench.

A Puerto Rico native, Judge Quiñones received her law degree in 1975 from the University of Puerto Rico School of Law and graduated with honors in 1972 from the University of Puerto Rico with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

The Pennsylvania Association for Justice has more details on Judge Quiñones’ history: 

Upon graduation from law school, Judge Quiñones relocated to Philadelphia to work as a staff attorney for Community Legal Services, Inc.

In May 1990, the Honorable Robert P. Casey, Governor of Pennsylvania, nominated Judge Quiñones Alejandro for a judicial appointment. The Senate hesitated in its confirmation, and on November 5, 1991, Judge Quiñones Alejandro was elected the first Hispanic female judge of the Court of Common Pleas for the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania.

Judge Quiñones is the eighth openly gay life-tenured federal court judicial nominee named by President Obama, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Prior to the Obama Administration, only one openly gay individual had been confirmed to serve with lifetime tenure on our federal judiciary.

President Obama nominated a total of three judges to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania today, the White House announced Tuesday. Judges Luis Felipe Restrepo, and Jeffrey L. Schmehl were also nominated.

“These nominees are emblematic of the president’s commitment to nominating qualified, diverse nominees to the federal bench,” said Marge Baker of People For the American Way. “They are also a sign of the president’s commitment to solving the vacancy crisis in our federal courts without delay. One week after his reelection, the president nominated seven Americans to fill district and circuit court vacancies. Today, he has taken an important step in tackling the longstanding vacancy crisis in Pennsylvania.”

Pennsylvania’s federal courts currently have eight vacancies. Two nominees for seats considered “judicial emergencies” have been waiting over four months for confirmation votes from the Senate, despite the stated support of their home-state senators.

Hip-Hop Legend Afrika Bambaataa Begins Lecturing at Cornell

Hip-Hop Legend Afrika Bambaataa Begins Lecturing at Cornell

Hip-hop founding father, electro-funk pioneer and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominee DJ Afrika Bambaataa has been appointed to a three-year term as a visiting scholar at Cornell.

The pioneering South Bronx DJ will visit the Ivy League school’s campus in Ithaca, New York, several times per year to speak in classes, meet with students and community groups and perform. Bambaataa will lecture at the university for the first time this week.

The appointment was made by Cornell University Library’s Hip Hop Collection in conjunction with Cornell’s Department of Music. According to the Cornell University Library website, they have largest national archive on hip-hop culture, documenting its birth and growth by preserving thousands of recordings, flyers, photographs and other artifacts.

Bambaataa joins a list of other Hip-hop pioneers who have recently become visiting scholars at Ivy League institutions.

In 2010, NYU appointed Swizz Beatz as the new Producer in Residence in the Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music at the Tisch School of the Arts. Last month NYU also announced The Roots’ drummer Ahmir ‘?uestlove’ Thompson will join faculty to teach a “classic albums” course next Spring.

Hip-hop producer 9th Wonder also taught an African-American Studies course at Duke University alongside Professor Mark Anthony Neal. 9th Wonder taught “Sampling Soul,” a course that focuses on music from the Civil Rights and Black Power movements.

Duke University worked with producer Ninth Wonder. Also, there’s GZA working with Columbia professor David Emdin to teach NY middle schoolers science.

Wu-Tang Clan’s GZA is currently collaborating with Columbia University professor Christopher Emdin to help teach science through hip hop in New York City schools.

Walmart Ignored Deadly ‘High Risks’ at Bangladeshi Factory

Walmart Ignored Deadly 'High Risks' at Bangladeshi Factory

More than 100 people died Saturday and Sunday in a fire at a garment factory outside Dhaka, Bangladesh, in one of the worst industrial tragedies in that country.

Thousands of workers and relatives of those who died in the blaze at Tazreen Fashion factory took to the streets to vent their anger on Monday, demanding better protection. They said that many people were trapped after the fire broke out late on Saturday - the building reportedly lacked fire exits, the BBC reports.

The Nation discovered a document on the factory’s owners website, Tuba Group, that showed the factory received an “orange” rating from Walmart in May 2011, because of “violations and/or conditions that were deemed to be high risk.”

The Associated Press reports investigators suspect that a short circuit caused the fire.

But Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina says she thinks the fire had been started on purpose.

“It is not an accident, [it was] planned,” the prime minister said in parliament. She said two people had been detained for trying to burn down a second garment factory on Sunday night.

What’s clear is the conditions in the factory were deadly for workers.

The International Labor Rights Forum reports the fire department operations director, Maj. Mohammad Mahbub said factory had no emergency exits. The Associated Press also confirmed those allegations.

“We hope the tragic fire at Tazreen will serve as an urgent call to action for all major brands that rely on Bangladesh’s low wages to make a profit. Their voluntary and confidential monitoring programs have failed; now it is time to come together and make a contractual commitment to workers and to involve workers and their organizations in the solution,” said Judy Gearhart, the executive director of International Labor Rights Forum.

A Walmart spokesperson told The New York Times that the retail giant had been “unable to confirm” the veracity of Tuba Group document, or whether Tazreen Fashions, the Tuba Group subsidiary running the factory, was supplying any Walmart goods.

But photos taken after the fire taken the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity, provided to The Nation by the International Labor Rights Forum, show clothing with Walmart’s exclusive Faded Glory label (photos above).

In addition to finding evidence that the factory produced Walmart’s Faded Glory brand, researchers found over a dozen other brand logos on clothing and documents in the factory, including Ace, C&A, Dickies, Fashion Basics, Sean Combs Co.’s Enyce brand, Edinburgh Woollen Mill’s brands P.G. field and Country Rose, Hippo, Infinity Woman, Karl Rieker GMBH & Co., Kebo Raw, Kik, Piaza Italia, Soffe, and True Desire.

This is the most deadly factory fire in the history of the apparel industry in Bangladesh, which is the world’s second largest apparel exporter after China. Export data indicates that Walmart is the second largest buyer of garments from Bangladesh, after H&M, according to International Labor Rights Forum.

Clothes account for up to 80% of Bangladesh’s annual exports.

Comedian Fakes ‘Mexican Accent’ For Entire Semester of Spanish Class

Comedian Fakes 'Mexican Accent' For Entire Semester of Spanish Class

Jose Barrientos began his comedy career in Baghdad Iraq, while Serving in the ARMY. He says he became a comedian after realizing he was a better clown than he was a soldier.

He’s now based in Los Angeles and somehow managed to trick his college Spanish class in to believing he had that ridiculous accent for an entire semester.

NY’s Rikers Island Inmates Paid 39 Cents Per Hour to Work in Sandy Recovery

NY's Rikers Island Inmates Paid 39 Cents Per Hour to Work in Sandy Recovery

There was no Hurricane Sandy evacuation plan for inmates inside New York City’s main jail complex on Riker’s Island but they were certainly put to work in the recovery efforts. 

The New York Times is reporting Riker’s Island prisoners who worked in post-Sandy recovery efforts were paid 39 cents an hour.

The New York Times has more details on the recovery efforts inmates were part of:

Capt. Richard Polak, who helps oversee the laundry at Rikers, accompanied other correction officers to pick up sheets, blankets, towels and clothes from a dozen shelters in storm-struck parts of the city. The items were returned laundered within hours. It was the first time Rikers’s laundry was used to help in a citywide emergency, the correction agency said.

The laundry, on the north side of Rikers, serves the island and most of the city’s other jails. It already handles enormous loads and, in what turned out to be a stroke of good timing, a huge new washing machine was installed there in July. The machine, a long tube that looks like a rocket lying on its side, can do 2,000 pounds of wash every 90 minutes. The jail’s inmates were able to add extra loads from the shelters during their shifts, for which they are paid 39 cents per hour.

Rikers houses an estimated 11,000 inmates. It’s estimated 92 to 95 percent of the Rikers population is black or Latino.

Jada on Willow’s Hair Cut: ‘Girls Have the Right to Own Themselves’

Jada on Willow's Hair Cut: 'Girls Have the Right to Own Themselves'

In an open letter published on her Facebook wall last week Jada Pinkett-Smith declared her daughter Willow Smith is “not her hair.”

The open letter is published in its entirety below: >

A letter to a friend…

This subject is old but I have never answered it in its entirety. And even with this post it will remain incomplete.

The question why I would LET Willow cut her hair. First the LET must be challenged. This is a world where women,girls are constantly reminded that they don’t belong to themselves; that their bodies are not their own, nor their power or self determinati on. I made a promise to endow my little girl with the power to always know that her body, spirit and her mind are HER domain. Willow cut her hair because her beauty, her value, her worth is not measured by the length of her hair. It’s also a statement that claims that even little girls have the RIGHT to own themselves and should not be a slave to even their mother’s deepest insecurities, hopes and desires. Even little girls should not be a slave to the preconceived ideas of what a culture believes a little girl should be. More to come. Another day.


Jada Pinkett Smith’s comments come after her husband Will Smith made similar comments to Parade Magazine in May:

“We let Willow cut her hair. When you have a little girl, it’s like how can you teach her that you’re in control of her body? If I teach her that I’m in charge of whether or not she can touch her hair, she’s going to replace me with some other man when she goes out in the world. She can’t cut my hair but that’s her hair. She has got to have command of her body. So when she goes out into the world, she’s going out with a command that is hers. She is used to making those decisions herself. We try to keep giving them those decisions until they can hold the full weight of their lives.”

Jada Pinkett Smith had 2,744,242 “likes” on Facebook at the time this this story was published. Her note has been shared 2,131.

Readers Blast ‘Hollywood Reporter’ for ‘Blindingly Pale Group of Women’

Readers Blast 'Hollywood Reporter' for 'Blindingly Pale Group of Women'

About a week ago the entertainment trade magazine “The Hollywood Reporter” published its annual “The Actresses Roundtable” cover story that featured leading actresses discussing the state of the industry. Now, a week later, any mention of the story on magazine’s website is followed with comments criticizing the editors for only including white actresses.

This year’s cover story featured Naomi Watts, Helen Hunt, Anne Hathaway, Amy Adams, Rachel Weisz, Marion Cotillard and Sally Field. All white actresses.

The controversy shouldn’t come as a surprise considering the majority of roles in Hollywood go to white actors. According to a UCLA study conducted in 2006, actors of color were limited to 0.5 percent to 8.1 percent of roles, depending on their racial background, and could compete with white actors for the 8.5 percent of roles available to whites and nonwhites alike. [PDF]

What’s striking in “The Hollywood Reporter’s” case though is that diversity in the industry is an issue that makes it in to their stories regularly. They also understand the importance of the Latino market, and print stories ranging from Univision’s record breaking ratings to Colombian actress Sofia Vergara being named the highest paid woman in television. But still she was nowhere to be found in “The Actresses Roundtable.” Neither was Eva Longoria who came in at number three on the Forbes list of highest paid women in Hollywood.

“I love all of these women but the lack of women of color in this interview is really obvious. I would have really liked to have seen Kerry Washington included so that she could give her perspective on her upcoming role in Dejango Unchained,” wrote one commenter on the That comment has been liked 22 times since it was published six days ago.

“Naomi Watts on years of rejection, Sally Field on fighting to play opposite a man 20 years younger and what it feels like to be told you don’t have a ‘shelf life.’ - yet no actress of color to talk about those challenges?” another commenter pondered. 

One commenter went as far as offering up a list of suggested questions for actresses of color.

“It’s not just a ‘token’ thing - I actually want to hear from these women, I want to hear their ideas and suggestions. Here are some questions the interviewer could ask - How can we can get more young women of color into the big tent pole films, like Skyfall? The Brits can manage it, why can’t Hollywood?” the reader wrote in the comments section, referring to Naomie Harris who is currently starring in the latest James Bond series update “Skyfall.”

“The Hollywood Reporter” also didn’t include the only black actress who has Oscar buzz attached to her name: Quvenzhané Wallis who starred in “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”

Or Mindy Kaling, who stars in “The Mindy Project,” the first U.S. television series starring a South Asian American lead.

In September, the same day Kaling’s show “The Mindy Project” premiered the Hollywood Reporter published a story titled “Race, Weight and Beauty: How ‘The Mindy Project’ Is Both Funny and Important.” The author noted “there are so few women of color (or anyone of color) in lead roles on television,”

Surely the Hollywood Reporter’s editorial director Janice Min who is Korean-American knows “there are so few women of color (or anyone of color) in lead roles on television.”

She must also be aware that Univision has more than 52 million viewers and that they regularly beat out the big four English language broadcast networks. A simple search query on “The Hollywood Reporter” website results in a list of links that show Univision is mentioned in a story at least once every other day.

“The Actors Roundtable” which was published two weeks before did include two men of color. Denzel Washington and Jamie Foxx were interviewed alongside Alan Arkin, John Hawkes, Matt Damon, and Richard Gere.

During the interview Washington shared advice he gives to his daughter who recently started acting. “I say, ‘You’re black, you’re a woman, and you’re dark-skinned at that, so you have to be a triple/quadruple threat.’

A week later “The Hollywood Reporter” proved Washington’s point: You can be the highest paid actress in television but still not get any attention in their pages.

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