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NOW IN RACIAL JUSTICE

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.com.

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 Colorlines.com. “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.

TheHill.com 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.

Colorlines.com broke the Montes story in February. Soon after, the Latino advocacy group Presente.org 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 Colorlines.com 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

judge-quinones-alejandro1.jpg

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.

J

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 HollywoodReporter.com. 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.

Two Minnesota Students Record a Terribly Racist Rant in Blackface

Two Minnesota Students Record a Terribly Racist Rant in Blackface

[Update 11/21/12 8:15pm EST: YouTube has removed the video as a violation of policy that prohibits hate speech.  The students have also issued a statement.]

According to the YouTube description of this video the two stars of this terribly racist blackface rant are University of Minnesota Duluth students. 

The two young women go through a variety of stereotypes in the 5-minute video—they touch on gangs and gun violence, slavery, fried chicken, collard greens, apes… the list goes on. 

According to the university’s website,11,806 students were enrolled in the Fall 2011 semester. 1.2 percent or 139 of them are black.

The percentage of blacks in the Duluth community is just slightly higher at 2 percent. [PDF]

[Update: The two students have identified themselves and issued an apology. They spoke to the university newspaper The Statesmen:

Both women in the video, Rachel Cooper and Jessica Heid, responded to the video.

“We were doing facials and it happened to have been a brown facial mask,” Cooper said in an email. “We had to leave it on for 12 minutes. During that 12 minutes, we horribly decided to make a video that we regret and are not happy about. This was made over a year ago.”

Cooper continued her email in an apologetic manner.

“I am saddened and sick to my stomach and sorry for anybody it offends. It was not mine or hers intention at all and we are embarrassed about it. We understand we cannot do anything about it now but apologize and inform people we did not paint our faces or put that on to purposely make a video. It was something that just happened after putting the facial cream on and we are so deeply sorry. This video does not define our true selves at all.”

Jessica Heid also replied to the video.

“That video does not define who we are… it was accidental… we did not intend to hurt anyone with it.”

According to The Statesmen, the administration refused to comment any further beyond the Nov. 15 email that stated, “We take appropriate action in instances like this… we can affirm our disapproval of the video, and reaffirm our goal of providing an environment where students live, study, and learn from and about each other in an inclusive and supportive way. We hope that out of this distressing incident will at least come some broader understanding and personal growth.”

Perhaps the University should contact Ohio University’s student group “Students Teaching About Racism in Society”  to license the image below and put it all over campus.



L.A. Mexican-American Man Arrested in Alleged Al-Qaeda Plot

L.A. Mexican-American Man Arrested in Alleged Al-Qaeda Plot

After months of investigation, the FBI arrested four California men accused of a terror plot. The arrest came just day before the men were allegedly going to board a plane to Afghanistan.

The arrests are raising serious questions on what methods the federal government uses to search for domestic terrorists in communities of color.

The Associated Press has details of four men arrested:

The defendants, including a man who served in the U.S. Air Force, were arrested for plotting to bomb military bases and government facilities, and for planning to engage in “violent jihad,” FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said in a release.

A federal complaint unsealed Monday says 34-year-old Sohiel Omar Kabir of Pomona introduced two of the other men to the radical Islamist doctrine of Anwar al-Awlaki, a deceased al-Qaida leader. Kabir served in the Air Force from 2000 to 2001.

The other two — 23-year-old Ralph Deleon and 21-year-old Miguel Alejandro Santana Vidriales— converted to Islam in 2010 and began engaging with Kabir and others online in discussions about jihad, including posting radical content to Facebook and expressing extremist views in comments. They later recruited 21-year-old Arifeen David Gojali.

Among those arrested was 21-year-old Miguel Alejandro Santana who was born in Mexico. Santana lived with his parents who are devout Catholics, the L.A. Times reported Tuesday.

“Though we know little about the case at this point, early local news reports suggest that it resembles many other federal and local domestic anti-terrorism investigations: the plot may never have developed without the involvement of a paid government informant,” said Seth Freed Wessler, Colorlines.com’s investigative reporter.

“As FBI Special Agent David Bowdich said, ‘There was no way they were going to get on that plane.’ The comment suggests that the plot may always have been in the FBI’s control. If that’s the case and this case turns out to be like similar ones in which paid informants instigated and facilitated terrorism plots that the government concocted, it raises serious questions about the federal government’s search for domestic terrorists in communities of color,” Wessler went on to say.

The suspects were detained inside the informant’s Honda Civic, according to a witness interviewed by KTLA.

The FBI informant, who has worked as a confidential source for four-and-a-half years, had received a total of $250,000 in payments through October. The source was previously convicted of trafficking in pseudoephedrine, according to a footnote in the criminal complaint.

The four men arrested are facing a maximum of fifteen years in federal prison.

TAGS: FBI

Full Text of Jesse Jackson Jr.’s Resignation Letter

Rep. Jesse Jackson resigned from Congress Wednesday, saying in a letter that he is cooperating with a federal investigation “into my activities” but blaming his health problems for his decision to step down just two weeks after his re-election.

“I am doing my best to address the situation responsibly, cooperate with the investigators, and accept responsibility for my mistakes, for they are my mistakes and mine alone,” Jackson said in the two-page letter dated Nov. 21. “None of us is immune from our share of shortcomings or human frailties and I pray that I will be remembered for what I did right.”

The announcement comes two weeks after Jackson won re-election without campaigning.

The 47-year-old Jackson had not been on Capitol Hill since late May. He has been on medical leave for bipolar depression.

GMA’s Robin Roberts’ Interview with Sister Sally-Ann on MDS-Bone Marrow Treatment

robin-roberts-obama.jpgRobin Roberts of ABC’s Good Morning America interviews President Barack Obama on May 9, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

In May 2012 “Good Morning America” host Robin Roberts got the interview of her life when President Obama announced his support for gay marriage in front of her.

But just a month later Roberts would have her own major announcement: Her cancer was back.

And it was every cancer survivors’ worse nightmare. The treatment that helped her beat breast cancer years before had now led her to a more serious health problem. 

“Sometimes treatment for cancer can lead to other serious medical issues and that’s what I’m facing right now,” she told viewers. “The reason I am sharing this with everybody right now is because later today I begin what’s known as pre-treatment.”

Roberts was referring to treatment for a bone marrow transplant to treat her blood related cancer. She’s been off the air since June.

In a new interview that aired Monday on New Orleans’ WWL-TV Roberts tells her sister and donor, Sally-Ann, about her setback following recovery from the bone marrow transplant.

Robin described the hospital stay as “just a little tune-up, check under the hood, kick the tires a little bit. And uh, it’s not a journey that goes like this, it’s a journey that zig-zags and there are complications and things like that. But I feel good, I feel stronger every day, I’m past the halfway mark for the hundred days, which is the most critical portion of the time, so I am blessed.”

Bone marrow transplants are often the only treatment for blood-related cancers.

But African-Americans are least likely to find at least one potential match compared to other race groups, according to Black Bone Marrow group. Blacks only have an estimated 66% likelihood of having a donor on the national registry who is willing and able to donate. For whites its 93%

Visit Marrow.org to find out more about bone marrow donation and sign up for a registration kit.

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