Updated: 3 days 19 hours ago
Thu, 02/26/2015 - 09:17
Today marks the third anniversary of Trayvon Martin's death. One of the organizations that grew out of the outrage, after, is called Million Hoodies, and they're calling for supporters to shut protest at their local hall of justice.February 25, 2015
The hashtag #HoodiesUp has also been used widely on Twitter to mark the anniversary. Overall, it's been a particularly difficult week to mark the ocassion. On Monday the Department of Justice announced that it would not bring federal civil rights charges against George Zimmerman, the man accused and then acquitted of killing Martin. That led Martin's father, Tracy, to tell BuzzFeed that he thought the bar for proving hate crimes was too high. "The state tried and failed. The Justice Department didn't feel there was enough evidence, there's nothing left to do but continue to fight for kids like Trayvon," Martin said.
Thu, 02/26/2015 - 07:59
Here's what I'm reading up on this morning:
- The FCC is expected vote for net neutrality today; my colleague Carla Murphy explains why that's important.
- IS's Jihadi John is revealed to be Mohammed Emwazi--a person British security forces had hounded without apparent reason for years.
- Meanwhile, IS captures 220 Assyrian Christians.
- U.S. jobless claims climb to 313,000.
- Apple Watch has a 12-page ad in Vogue.
- A judge orders Lindsay Lohan to redo 125 hours of community service after Lohan tries to pass off things like meeting her fans as a charitable act.
- Hand-washing dishes may prevent children from getting allergies.
- NASA's Dawn observes one or more bright spots on Ceres--and no one's really sure what they are.
Thu, 02/26/2015 - 07:20
Some poor guy knocked on my Brooklyn apartment door the other day shilling for a competing cable-Internet-phone company. He was just an ordinary guy with a clipboard, a spiel and an off-the-boat accent like mine (when I use it). But when he said "deal," that set me off.
"Deal? What deal? Internet connections in the U.S. are slower and more expensive than in Asia or Europe. Why is that?!" He said, "package." I said "Package?! You mean like me paying extra for a home phone line I don't want or use and y'all acting like I'm getting a two-fer?"
By now, my fellow immigrant's clutching his clipboard to his chest and sidling away to my neighbor's door saying, "I don't get into the politics of it all." I felt bad when I closed my door; dude was just doing his job. But the price to communicate, like rent, is too damn high. Every month it's hard not to catch feelings.
That's why the FCC's big vote on net neutrality today matters. On one hand, it's one more skirmish in a decade-long war over whether to keep the Internet as is: open. (Watch John Oliver for players and stakes.) On the other hand, I'm slightly paranoid and thinking these corporate and government suits are fighting over how many extra lines they can someday add to my itemized bill. Here's an overview of where we are:
We may think of the Internet like a public utility but it isn't; that could begin to change today.
After a nudge from President Obama, FCC chair Tom Wheeler's expected to move the Internet a big step closer to regulating it like water or electricity. The big deal is ownership. The FCC could establish the premise that the Internet is an essential good and therefore, first and foremost belongs to the public rather than the free market.
Technically, the whole thing's called Title II regulation, referring to a section of the 1934 Telecommunications Act. Specifically, its language forbids discrimination of the sort that a coalition of media activists and tech companies are warning against: the creation of pricey fast lanes for rich customers and slow lanes for the rest of us. "Pay-to-play prioritization would absolutely raise customer bills," says Malkia Cyril, founding director of the Center for Media Justice. "[Maintaining] net neutrality prevents that."
Title II regulation could keep the Internet open for the next breakout YouTube hit.
"Do you want a blog like Racialicious or a webisode series like "Black Folk Don't" to reach you under the same terms as news and video provided by your broadband company?" asks American University communications professor Patricia Aufderheide. (Comcast, for example, provides broadband and it owns content creator, NBC Universal.) "Do you want a black entrepreneur to have the same ability to start a web-based business as one the broadband company has equity in? Then you want the company providing broadband to have to offer it on the same terms to every end user and treat all the content coming to it with the same terms." Title II gives the FCC more control over behemoth companies that not only own content but the delivery system, too.
But Title II was written long before the Internet was a thought. Can it keep the Internet open?
"It's complicated," Lewis Friedland, founding director of the Center for Communication and Democracy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, tells me by e-mail. "In an ideal world we'd construct a new way of regulating an open internet, taking the best from what is known as [Title II] and combining it with some new forms of regulation," he says. But he's a realist: "No new regulation is going to make it through Congress," he says. Title II appears to be the best shot of keeping the Internet open and accessible on equal terms.
But even if the FCC votes yes for Title II, Cyril is prepping for new battles. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the Washington Post reports, is pursuing a GOP net neutrality bill, described as an alternative to Chairman Wheeler's proposal. "[Broadband providers] are threatening to sue. And legacy civil rights groups may step back into the fray as opponents," says Cyril, a Panther baby who's been organizing around access and representation for people of color since she was 15. "Just as we fought for the vote [during Jim Crow], we fight for our voice now."
Can Title II lower any future bills?
No, not directly. What it can do, Aufderheide says, is, "make it more likely that competition of services provided over broadband can benefit startups and entrepreneurs who do not have the provider's blessing or input."
Why not just trust broadband providers to maintain net neutrality without government regulation?
"We have a long history of seeing what happens when companies are not all forced to agree to the same rules of play; it puts the most disreputable of them in an advantaged position. And then it's a race to the bottom," Aufderheide says. "That's why we got common carriage [or, Title II] in the first place, and USDA meat inspection and requirements for standards in milk and so on."
Wed, 02/25/2015 - 14:46
Did Abercrombie & Fitch discriminate against a Muslim woman named Samantha Elauf when a manager denied her a job because of her headscarf? That's, broadly, the question the Supreme Court took up today when it heard Elauf's case against the declining preppy-cool retailer.
Elauf, who was 17 when she applied for a job at a Tulsa, Okla. store in 2008, had a strong interview with a manager, but was denied a job because Elauf didn't fit in with the company's "Look Policy," which dictated that employees ought to conform to the company's preppy aesthetic. Abercrombie company policy actually had allowances for religious head coverings, but no one asked Elauf why she wore a headscarf, and neither did Elauf explicitly ask for an exemption. The question before the Supreme Court is whose responsibility it was to make sure that Elauf's rights weren't being violated.
While there's no way of knowing until the High Court's ruling comes out, questioning at today's oral arguments hints that the justices are sympathetic to Elauf's argument, the BBC reports. "Justice Samuel Alito ... said there was no reason not to hire her unless the firm assumed she would always wear a headscarf to work because of her religion," the BBC reported. "He added employers could avoid such situations by asking prospective employees if they are able to abide by work rules."
For more on the legal back and forth, read SCOTUSblog's preview of today's case.
Wed, 02/25/2015 - 14:00
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, who goes by "Miss Major," has spent her long life at the intersection of struggles around race, gender and sexuality in the U.S. Born in 1940 in Chicago, Griffin-Gracy came out as transgender during the nascent LGBT rights movement in the late 1960s. She was at Stonewall when New York City police raided the bar in 1969, setting off what became known as the Gay Liberation Movement. And she was incarcerated at Attica in 1971 when riots broke out and inmates demanded better living conditions. Those two seminal events inspireddecades of activism. These days Miss Major is executive director of the Gender Variant Intersex Project, which works with imprisoned transgender women.
Griffin-Gracy's life is now the subject of a new documentary film called, "Major!"--and filmmakers Annalise Ophelian and StormMiguel Florez are asking transgender women to participate. They're using one of Griffin-Gracy's favorite sayings -- "I'm still fucking here!" -- and putting out a call for video selfies in which trans women boldly repeat the line (Or, "I'm still here" if you don't curse). Those video selfies will then appear in the film. The deadline to submit is April 15, 2015. You can also read more about the call and the project. Here's a trailer of the film:
The impetus behind the project is clear. Trans women, particularly those of color, have been murdered in cases that have made headlines in recent years. There have already been six documented murders of transgender women in 2015 -- and it's not even March. Last year, the deaths of women like Aniya Parker in Los Angeles and Yaz'min Shancez in Florida led to a national discussion about an epidemic of violence against trans women.
You can also check out an example of what the filmmakers are looking for over on the film's website.
Wed, 02/25/2015 - 11:30
The big news out of Chicago politics today is, of course, the unexpected run-off between incumbent Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Jesus "Chuy" Garcia. Emanuel is former Chief of Staff in the Obama White House and one of the country's best fundraisers, while Garcia is a Cook County commissioner and progressive democrat who's lambasted the mayor for widely publicized school closures and downtown development plans. The run-off election will be held on April 7.
But there was other news out of Chicago politics that could have big implications: the election of 25-year-old Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, the city's first openly gay alderman.
Rosa is a 25-year-old activist who beat out incumbent Ald. Rey Colon to represent the city's 35th ward, which includes the city's Logan Square neighborhood, home to one of its biggest Latino populations.
Rosa, born and raised in Chicago, was a staffer for Congressman Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL). He earned an endorsement from the Chicago Tribune and is now the youngest alderman in the city. And -- as is smart to do these days, though expected -- has painted himself as a politician who's against Big Money influences. "There's money in this city," Rosa said at his campaign kick-off rally on Sept. 6. "If you look at the decisions City Hall is making, if you look at the way our aldermen vote, you would think that Chicago belongs to corporations buying our public institutions. You would think that Chicago belongs to politicians selling out our schools and developers evicting our families."
Wed, 02/25/2015 - 11:17
First there was Spencer Ackerman's bombshell report in the Guardian connecting the dots between a longtime Chicago police officer's torturous reign against that city's black residents and the subsequent abuse experienced by U.S. detainees at Guantánamo. Now, there's more: news that the Chicago police department has long maintained an off-the-books compound called Homan Square used to torture city residents, one that's being called the domestic equivalent of a CIA black site. The facility, which has allegedly been run for 40 years, held people as young as 15 years old.
"Homan Square is definitely an unusual place," Church told the Guardian on Friday. "It brings to mind the interrogation facilities they use in the Middle East. The CIA calls them black sites. It's a domestic black site. When you go in, no one knows what's happened to you."
The secretive warehouse is the latest example of Chicago police practices that echo the much-criticized detention abuses of the US war on terrorism. While those abuses impacted people overseas, Homan Square - said to house military-style vehicles, interrogation cells and even a cage - trains its focus on Americans, most often poor, black and brown.
Read more at the Guardian.
Wed, 02/25/2015 - 11:09
Dori Maynard, president of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education and one of the nation's most effective advocates for representative media and excellent journalism, died on Tuesday at her California home. She was 56; the cause was lung cancer. Tributes are pouring in today from at least two generations of journalists (See #DoriMaynard to follow on Twitter). Many had been touched by Maynard in some way, if not by her personal kindness or hand in their careers then by the nearly 40-year-old Maynard Institute, an institutional beacon for black, Latino, Native, and Asian-American journalists in a predominantly white and "color-blind" media landscape.
"You can hardly put into words how important the work Dori and the Maynard Institute did to train young people of color for careers in journalism and how the Institute trained the media to write fair stories about communities of color," Bob Butler, president of the National Association of Black Journalists, wrote on the MIJE site. Maynard, he said, was a founding member of the Chauncey Bailey Project. Bailey, an Oakland journalist who edited several African-American newspapers covering the Bay Area, was gunned down in 2007 for seeking to expose crime and violence in the community.
"We cannot stand for a reporter to be murdered while working on behalf of the public. Chauncey's death is a threat to democracy," Maynard is reported to have said. "We will not be bullied."
Maynard reportedly said that her middle initial, "J" stood for Journalism. She is the daughter of Robert C. Maynard, the African-American owner and publisher of The Oakland Tribune and co-founder of MIJE.
I met Maynard once. She was warm and welcoming to me, then, a cub journalist, and I'll remember that. But most of all, I will remember her for helping to create spaces in newsrooms throughout this country for journalists of color and for continually insisting that representative media is the foundation of excellent journalism.
Dori J. Maynard's Passing. Announcements:
Dori's DC Memorial Service:
The Washington DC memorial service for Dori Maynard is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Monday, May 4,
Evelyn Hsu, Acting Executive Director
The Washington DC memorial service for Dori Maynard is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Monday, May 4,
at the Newseum in the Knight Conference Center.
Please RSVP so the Institute can ensure adequate seating.
Dori's memorial service, Chapel of the Chimes:
Link to view the entire service at Chapel of the Chimes (1:00:56): http://youtu.be/2oL1IkAnCEU
Link to view highlights from the service (05:24): http://youtu.be/tqoAxZ-ZoN4Please direct your inquiries to:
Evelyn Hsu, Acting Executive Director
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@JamilSmith The distorted #media depiction of African American men & boys has real life consequences, again. #mediadiversity #Tremaine