Richard Prince's Journal-isms™

It Takes a Sharp Tongue

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

In her trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton snapped at a student, visited victims of violent gang rapes and announced $7 million in aid to combat sexual violence. 

Clinton Exchange Should Draw Attention to Atrocities

It was just in May that the progressive media-watch group Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting complained that scant public attention was being paid to the fact that more than 5 million people had been killed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 1996 - "in what may be the deadliest conflict since World War II."

But thanks to a miffed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Congo and the atrocities committed there rose this week to many people's radar screens. At least to those who were paying attention.

Clinton lashed out at a student in the central African nation Monday who asked her, through a translator, for husband Bill Clinton's opinion on China's role there. The secretary snapped, "My husband is not the secretary of state, I am! So you ask my opinion, I will tell you my opinion. I am not going to be channeling my husband."

The New York Post found its front-page story.The retort made the front page of the New York tabloids. A State Department spokesman later said the translator had gotten it wrong: The student was asking about President Obama's views.

No matter, it called attention - or should - to the reason Clinton was in the DRC in the first place.

"Clinton announced a new package of $17 million in American aid to respond to an epidemic of rape and other sexual crimes directed mainly at women and girls by government troops and rebel groups fighting in the region," as the Associated Press reported.

"Her offer came after a harrowing meeting with victims of violent gang rapes in a crowded refugee camp on the outskirts of Goma where 18,000 men, women and children have sought shelter from revenge attacks raging in the countryside.

"One of the two victims Clinton met had been gang-raped after her husband and four children were killed. The other, eight months pregnant at the time, lost her baby and was found by hospital workers in a forest where she had stumbled."

On Pacifica Radio's "Democracy Now!" host Amy Goodman on Wednesday replayed a 2007 interview with Congolese human rights activist Christine Schuler Deschryver, who was graphic in her description of the sexual violence.

"The operation - today we are talking about repair surgery, because these women have to be repaired. They are not just raped like usual rape, but they put hot plastics inside the organs. They put woods, they put bamboos, they put everything," she said.

Goodman asked, "Guns?"

Deschryver replied, "Yeah, guns. They shot inside the women, so they're completely destroyed. We have some survivors in these hospitals since more than three years, so every two months or every three months they have to be re-operated again. And it's impossible, you know, to keep all these women in this hospital. We don't have room anymore."

In a front-page story last week in the New York Times, Jeffrey Gettleman, who has been traveling with Clinton on her Africa trip, also described a sudden spike in male-on-male rape cases. Aid workers, seeking to explain the phenomenon, said "The best answer . . . is that the sexual violence against men is yet another way for armed groups to humiliate and demoralize Congolese communities into submission."

Maggie Fick, a researcher with the Enough Project, a Washington-based initiative to end genocide and crimes against humanity, pointed to Gettleman's pieces and one by the Washington Post's Stephanie McCrummen, whose "Congo's Women Treated as Spoils of War" ran on the Post's front page on Tuesday. Fick said the stories heightened consciousness of the atrocities, particularly by quoting soldiers who sought to justify their actions by pointing to their economic destitution as the root of the problem.

She also praised Clinton for outlining the problem clearly.

" have just come from a meeting with two survivors of sexual attacks. The atrocities that these women have suffered, which stands for the atrocities that so many have suffered, distills evil into its basest form," Clinton said Tuesday at a roundtable with nongovernmental organizations and activists.

"This problem is too big for one country to solve alone."

President Obama updates Latino media workers last week on issues of concern to Hispanics. (Credit: New America Media)

Obama Talks Health Care With Latino Media Outlets

"Ten Latino news media outlets were invited last week to a roundtable discussion with Pres. Barack Obama at the White House. During the meeting, the president provided an update on health care and immigration reforms, the economic recovery efforts, education, H1N1 flu and his trip to Mexico," Cristina Fernandez-Pereda of New America Media reported Tuesday.

She did not name the 10 outlets, and Luis Miranda, White House director of Hispanic media, did not respond to a request for further information.

The "roundtable," however, follows a July 16 session on Air Force One with seven journalists from the black press, who rode from Washington to New York for Obama's address to the 100th anniversary conference of the NAACP.

Fernandez-Pereda wrote, "The president covered various issues affecting the country with specific details about the impact they've had in the Latino community. But he put particular stress on health care reform.

"'Latinos are by far the largest group of uninsured,' Obama said. 'Passing reform that addresses the vulnerability of this community is a critical pillar for a new economy.' Given delays the legislation has faced and Congress’ summer recess, Obama explained to New America Media that it will take at least two months before any legislation is approved. After that, uninsured Americans might not enjoy the results of the reform for another two years."

Latinos Endure Racial Profiling "With a Twist"

"If you think it's embarrassing for an African-American to have to identify himself to the police while in his own house, imagine how humiliating it is for U.S.-born Hispanics to have to prove their citizenship in their own country," Ruben Navarrette Jr. wrote on Sunday in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

"With racial profiling in the news lately, it's worth noting that America's largest minority has to endure the practice too — with a twist.

"Not only, according to several studies, do Hispanics get pulled over by police and have their cars searched at a higher rate than whites. They also sometimes suffer the indignity of having to prove that they have the legal right to even be in the United States."

Longtime San Diego Opinion Editors Let Go

Bernie Jones The San Diego Union-Tribune Tuesday let go Editorial Page Editor Bob Kittles and Bernie Jones, longtime op-ed editor, as the company said it was eliminating 112 positions.

Jones, a black journalist, had been with the paper since it was created in a 1992 merger. He had been news editor at the old San Diego Union, and three months ago was switched to letters editor.

The latest cuts follow a cutback in May that saw at least eight journalists of color leave, including Henry Fuentes, a veteran journalist and the previous letters editor.

The newspaper cut 192 employees just after being sold to Beverly Hills investment firm Platinum Equity by longtime owner the Copley Press. The company said at the time that it had about 850 remaining employees, as Thomas Kupper reported.

on Wednesday, "The company also said that as part of an effort to retain top performers, it will partially reverse pay cuts for remaining employees that were implemented in February," Kupper reported.

In 2001, as editor of the opinion pages, Jones wrote about growing up in a family of landowners on a farm in eastern North Carolina in the 1950s and '60s. There, "a wall of tradition separated black folk and white folk."

After watching the late Sen. Jesse Helms rail against integration, Jones wrote, "I was determined to go to the University of North Carolina, the nation's oldest and still one of its most prestigious public universities, and someday sit across the conference table from people like Jesse Helms and the generation that followed him. Despite everything I saw, I was going to be an equal." Jones accomplished his goal, attending UNC-Chapel Hill from 1970 to 1974.

"So, to Jesse Helms, the once arch-segregationist, many of us owe you our success. You, and those who share a similar perspective, may not have intended it this way, but we owe you our thanks."

William Osborne remains senior editor of the Union-Tribune's editorial and opinion department.

With 640 Registered, AAJA Must Pay for Those Missing

Some 640 people are registered for the Asian American Journalists Association convention that opened Wednesday in Boston, Executive Director Maya Blackmun told Journal-isms, "a drop that meant AAJA had to pay out up to $30,000 because convention-goers didn’t reserve enough hotel rooms," according to Carolyn Chin, writing in AAJA Voices, the student convention newspaper.

“Unfortunately, the downturn in the economy and the dramatic changes in the media industry were not something AAJA was able to anticipate so far in advance,” Janice Lee, deputy executive director, said in the story.

Blackmun told Journal-isms that the 640 figure exceeds the projected 600, but is less than the final tally of 968 for 2007, the last convention held without the boost of the Unity: Journalists of Color banner. Blackmun said she expected more to register as the week proceeds.

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, fresh from the National Association of Black Journalists convention last week in Tampa, Fla., was scheduled to speak Wednesday night.

Laura Ling and Euna Lee deliver "thank you" message. (Credit: Current TV) (Video)

Freed U.S. Journalists Deliver Thanks in Pixels, Video

Laura Ling and Euna Lee, two American journalists who were released from North Korea last week nearly five months after being arrested for crossing onto North Korean territory, have thanked their supporters in a video and on a blog.

"Euna and I are two of the lucky ones whose story of captivity resulted in a happy ending. But there are so many journalists imprisoned around the world whose fate is still undecided. It is my sincere hope that the energy ignited around bringing us home will be harnessed into raising awareness around these fellow journalists and their struggle for freedom," Ling said in the blog.

Supremes Broke Little-Noticed Barrier: "TV Week" Insert

The Supremes, the Diana Ross-led trio credited with being the biggest American musical act of the 1960s, were known for "crossing over" into venues where few if any blacks had gone before.

The Supremes — Mary Wilson, left, Diana Ross and Florence Ballard — faced a color barrier few today would imagine.But according to a new biography of the group, "The Supremes: A Saga of Motown Dreams, Success, and Beyond" by Mark Ribowsky (Da Capo Press), one of those venues was a hometown newspaper's Sunday magazine of TV listings.

"Even the black press had little to do with Motown, save for some passing mention of a hit song here and there in the pocket-sized Jet," Ribowsky writes of the Detroit-based group circa 1965. "The black Michigan Chronicle, its offices on nearby St. Antoine Street, virtually ignored one of the most significant exemplars of black capitalism right down the street on West Grand Boulevard.

"Motown PR man Al Abrams remembered that even when the Supremes were to do the [Ed] Sullivan show and he believed it would be a snap to get them on the cover of the News's Sunday 'TV Week' insert, the editor told him, 'We can't put black people on the cover of a TV magazine.' That kind of neglect could be measured nationwide, with very few papers' TV listings bothering to include the Supremes as one of the acts on that Sullivan episode (most, however, found room for the Czechoslovakian Folk Dance troupe.) By mid-'65, it still was not a sure thing. Abrams was finally able to get that 'TV Week' cover for the Supremes, an important step since regional editions of the section were published by the New York Journal-American, the Houston Chronicle and the Washington Evening Star.

"'I believe when that happened, the Supremes became the first African-Americans to be on the cover of a TV magazine,' Abrams said. At about that time, the same News editor was doing a big story on Motown and wanted to meet Berry Gordy," the Motown founder. "When Abrams introduced them, the guy gushed, 'I've wanted to meet you. I've heard so much about you.' Gordy replied, 'You have?' 'Yeah,' he said, 'my maid listens to your music all the time.'"

Abrams gives his own account in this interview with the Living Music project of the University of Michigan.

Richard Prince's Journal-isms originates from Washington and is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It began in print before most of us knew what the Internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a "column." For newcomers: The words in blue (on most computers) are links leading to more information. The Web site provides passwords and user names to some registration-only news sites, but use may be illegal in some states. Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.

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Hillary Clinton in the Congo

Thanks Mr. Prince for referencing my blog. Much appreciated.

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