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Story Drives Skin Lighteners From Shelves

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Chicago Tribune Testing Reveals Toxic Substance

"UpFront With Tony Cox" Ends After Five Months

Roland Martin Going After Campbell Brown's CNN Slot

Syndicate Won't Drop Buchanan Over Remarks on Jews

Kagan Familiar With Media Law, Group Finds

Editor of Oklahoma Tribal Paper Says She Was Fired

Horne's Last Film Project Was With Documentarian

Morgan State Wins Grant for Micro-Local News Project

Honoring Winners

Short Takes

Skin lightening is a worldwide phenomenon. An Indian firm produces Fair and Handsome.

Chicago Tribune Testing Reveals Toxic Substance

The Chicago Tribune has found that skin-lightening creams sold in Chicago stores contain toxic mercury, a substance banned by the Food and Drug Administration.

The newspaper sent the products to a certified lab for testing, and when it notified sellers of the results, "the retailers said they would pull the products from shelves, and two distributors said they would stop selling them," Ellen Gabler and Sam Roe reported for the Tribune on Tuesday. 

The Tribune story began, "Some creams promising to lighten skin, eliminate age spots and zap freckles contain high levels of mercury, a toxic metal that can cause severe health problems, a Tribune investigation has found.

"The newspaper sent 50 skin-lightening creams to a certified lab for testing, most of them bought in Chicago stores and a few ordered online. Six were found to contain amounts of mercury banned by federal law.

"Of those, five had more than 6,000 parts per million - enough to potentially cause kidney damage over time, according to a medical expert.

"The Food and Drug Administration banned mercury in skin-bleaching or lightening products in 1990, but the agency rarely tests the products to see if consumers are at risk. The Tribune's tests - among only a handful ever conducted - show that tainted products are still readily available."

Asked how the Tribune came to do the story, Roe told Journal-isms via e-mail, "The Tribune has tested quite a few products in recent years (mercury in fish, lead in toys, undisclosed allergens in food, etc.). Earlier this year I saw a NYT article that mentioned in passing the possibility of mercury in skin creams, so I thought we should test some to see if it was a problem. I had some background in the hazards of mercury, so the story seemed like a good fit." His story quoted a market researcher's estimate that sales of lightening products in the United States were expected to increase nearly 18 percent by 2015, reaching $76 million annually.

The Times story, by Catherine Saint Louis, noted in January that "Dermatologists nationwide are seeing women of Hispanic and African descent, among others, with severe side effects . . . from the misuse of skin-lightening creams, many with prescription-strength ingredients, which are sold in beauty shops and bodegas and online."

The Tribune noted, "Some people of Asian, Hispanic and African heritage use the creams because lighter skin is often considered a status symbol in their cultures. Many consumers, including Caucasians, use the creams to diminish age spots or to even out skin tone, while others want to lighten their entire face or bodies."

In Chicago, "Consumers can't know for sure which creams are tainted. Stores across the city sell dozens of brands, many of them made overseas. The six creams that tested high in the Tribune tests were manufactured in Lebanon, China, India, Pakistan and Taiwan," the story said.

"The creams were bought at a variety of stores: a large beauty-supply store in the Uptown neighborhood, an herbal medicine shop in Chinatown, an Indian beauty salon on Devon Avenue, a grocery store also on Devon, and a small African shop on 79th Street."

" 'I'm shocked and speechless,' said Dr. Jonith Breadon, a Chicago dermatologist who said she sees patients weekly who ask about lightening their skin. 'I just assumed since (mercury) was banned in the U.S., it never got in. But clearly that isn't true.'

"FDA spokesman Ira Allen said that with fewer than 500 inspectors reviewing imports, the agency cannot check all food, drug and cosmetic products under its jurisdiction. 'It is likely that things get past us,' he said."

"UpFront With Tony Cox" Ends After Five Months

Tony Cox"UpFront With Tony Cox," which began Oct. 1 as an offering of the African American Public Radio Consortium, created to offer alternative programming to public radio audiences, went silent on Friday, Cox told his audience via the show's website.

"I had big hopes for this show," the veteran journalist wrote.

"And everything I could possibly have asked for came true . . . except the money."

"UpFront" aired on about 15 public radio stations, mostly run by historically black colleges and universities, the core of the consortium. As reported here in February, the consortium in 2002 created National Public Radio's "The Tavis Smiley Show" and in 2005 the "News & Notes" program, first with Ed Gordon, then Farai Chideya hosting. Cox worked on all three of those shows, and hosted the latter in its final days. The consortium continues to produce "Tell Me More" with Michel Martin on NPR, which is carried by 77 stations.

"We knew it was a gamble and a risk even from the beginning. We were anticipating that the quality of the show would generate that support, and it hasn't happened," Cox told Journal-isms in February.

And what are those 15 stations doing now? "I tell you what we're doing — missing Tony," Station Manager Candy Capel of WVAS-FM at Alabama State University in Montgomery told Journal-isms. "A lot of the African American stations, we're still looking for ways to produce programs of interest to us and our constituents." The demise of "UpFront" "really left a hole for us. We're just in a different economy. The consortium is going to look for innovative funding," she said. For now, the space is being filled with jazz, she said, but "If it were available tomorrow, we'd put it right back on." 

Capel said the consortium members are meeting in Atlanta on Friday and this issue will be on the agenda.

Social critic Michael Eric Dyson, whom Cox replaced on many of those stations, was to return with his own show in March, based at WEAA-FM, the Morgan State University station in Baltimore.

Dyson's producer, LaFontaine F. Oliver, general manager of WEAA-FM, secured a $505,000 grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to resume production of the Dyson program, which aired from April to July 2009. It was then under the consortium's auspices.

[Cox, who also teaches at California State University in Los Angeles, told Journal-isms on Thursday that he was heading to Washington to guest host NPR's "Tell Me More" next week. He also plans to guest host "Talk of the Nation" two weeks later in Washington, and to return in August to guest host "TOTN" again.] [Updated May 20]

Roland Martin Going After Campbell Brown's CNN Slot

Roland MartinRoland Martin, the CNN contributor who filled in for host Campbell Brown when she took maternity leave last year, will be angling to replace her in the time slot, Martin's agent, Marc Watts, told Journal-isms on Wednesday.

"It's always been a goal of mine, to place Roland in a prime time hosting role," said Watts, a former CNN correspondent himself.

"Once again, a star anchor is leaving CNN. This time it is Campbell Brown, and she is leaving with an extraordinary amount of candor," Brian Stelter wrote Tuesday for the New York Times.

"In a heartfelt statement on Tuesday afternoon, Ms. Brown said she was leaving on her own accord, having concluded that she was unable to compete with the opinion-mongers that dominate cable news in prime time.

“ 'The simple fact is that not enough people want to watch my program, and I owe it to myself and to CNN to get out of the way so that CNN can try something else,' she wrote. 'CNN will have to figure out what that is.' "

". . . In a separate statement, the CNN/U.S. president Jonathan Klein gave no indication about what program or what host would take over Ms. Brown’s time slot.

“ 'Today is about Campbell,' he said in the statement. 'We want to wish her well as she begins the next phase of her life. We respect her decision to leave. We will announce our programming plans in the coming weeks.' ”

In addition to his CNN duties, Martin contributes to radio's syndicated "Tom Joyner Morning Show," writes a column for Creators Syndicate and hosts "Washington Watch," a Sunday public affairs show, on TV One.

Commentator Pat Buchanan writes that Elena Kagan's confirmation would give Jews 33 percent of the seats on the Supreme Court. Here, President Obama and Vice President Biden at her nomination announcement. (Credit: White House)

Syndicate Won't Drop Buchanan Over Remarks on Jews

Conservative commentator Pat Buchanan wrote last week that the confirmation of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court would mean that "Jews, who represent less than 2 percent of the U.S. population, will have 33 percent of the Supreme Court seats," asking, "Is this the Democrats' idea of diversity?"

Creators Syndicate has no intention of honoring a Jewish group's request that it "stop publishing his over-the-top, conspiratorial screeds," David Yontz, senior editor of the syndicate, told Journal-isms.

"We have no comment and have no intentions of dropping Pat's column," Yontz said.

Buchanan wrote that, "While leaders in the black community may be upset, the folks who look more like the real targets of liberal bias are white Protestants and Catholics, who still constitute well over half of the U.S. population.

"Not in living memory has a Democratic president nominated an Irish, Italian or Polish Catholic, though these ethnic communities once gave the party its greatest victories in the cities and states of the North.

"What happened to the party of the Daleys, Rizzos and Rostenkowskis?"

In a letter to the syndicate, the National Jewish Democratic Council said, "Pat Buchanan has a history of Jewish obsession and anti-Israel rhetoric  . . .  Religion should never be a prerequisite for picking a Supreme Court nominee. Publishing Buchanan’s fringe column gives him and his ideas validity. It’s time to take a stand against this sort of intolerance in our country’s political discourse."

The National Association of Black Journalists gave Buchanan its 2008 Thumbs Down Award after he wrote a column titled "The Way Our World Ends," concluding that "the Caucasian race is going the way of the Mohicans" because of a "baby boom among these black and brown peoples" that will bring an end to Western Man in the 21st Century.

Kagan Familiar With Media Law, Group Finds

"The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press released a report on Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan's background with media law issues, from her time as an associate at a Washington law firm with a well-respected media law practice to her current role as the solicitor general," the committee said last week.

"The report finds that 'Elena Kagan has worked on free-speech and free-press issues more than any recent high court nominee, but her writings tend to explore the underpinnings of current doctrines and standards, rather than argue for or against any particular approach. She has also expressed skepticism with how workable the 'actual malice' libel standard and a reporter’s privilege are, and whether those standards need to be reworked.

"All of her non-academic experience was on behalf of a client — whether that was the United States or the National Enquirer — and should not be taken as an insight into her own beliefs. However, the cases do demonstrate her familiarity with the media law issues."

Editor of Oklahoma Tribal Paper Says She Was Fired

"Dana Attocknie sent out the e-mail with the news on April 10: she had been fired from her job as the editor of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribal Tribune," Lisa Snell wrote Monday in the Native American Times.

" 'The new administration fired me yesterday for publishing information they did not like,' she wrote.

"She said she has the executive director of her former department, Eddie Hamilton, on tape confirming this. However, the official reason for her job loss was 'reduction in force.'

"Lisa Martin, the tribe’s public relations representative, said that Attocknie was removed due to reorganization and that a new job description, pay scale and title was created.

"Also, Ms. Attocknie published false information in the Tribal Tribune regarding a resolution, Martin said.

". . . Attocknie, who had been with the tribe for more than two years, said she had butted heads with the new administration since it took office in January."

Ida Hoffman, "the new administration’s chief of staff, informed Attocknie in an e-mail on Jan. 4 that the administration would like to review the newspaper before it was printed.

"Surprised, Attocknie said she asked if the move was censorship. 'We have a new admin. If it is your intent to call our request for information "censorship" then that is entirely up to you,' Hoffman replied via e-mail.

"Attocknie said neither the former governor nor his administration ever reviewed the newspaper. She said to review and approve the newspaper prior to publication was censorship, so she sought advice from Jeff Harjo, the executive director of the Native American Journalists Association. He had no reassuring words."

“'Here is the bad news,' he wrote in an e-mail. 'Until the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribal council approves free press legislation similar to the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and Osage tribe, you will have to provide a proof to the administration prior to printing.' ”

Horne's Last Film Project Was With Documentarian

Lena Horne told Eric V. Tait that she would wait as long as necessary for him to raise funds for his film.“Then I’ll Be Free To Travel Home,” a 1996 film by veteran journalist and documentarian Eric V. Tait about the history of a Colonial-era African burial ground in Lower Manhattan, was Lena Horne's last film project.

Tait, longtime Media Watch chairman of the New York Association of Black Journalists, explains how Horne came to be involved:

". . . I made a bid for the government-funded documentary project on the rediscovery of the African Burial Ground . . . The General Services Administration people wanted a well-known 'person of color' as the talent for the project. Among the many high-profile persons I approached, Lena Horne and Avery Brooks were the only ones who seemed interested. Unfortunately (actually, on hindsight, quite fortunately), my company did not get the government contract. I relayed that info to Lena’s agent, a great gentleman named Sherman Sneed, and told him I was doing my own documentary anyway and really wanted her. He reassured me, saying she liked the project and wanted to do it, no matter how long it took to raise the money.

"Can’t begin to describe the feeling of elation I had on hearing that one of my longtime idols was more than willing to wait to collaborate on such a project with me. I kept Sherman Sneed apprised of my progress, but it took me almost four years to raise enough capital to make a stab at doing an initial attempt at what had grown into 'Then I’ll Be Free To Travel Home' — not just a burial ground documentary, but a major historical project on the African American struggle for freedom and first-class citizenship in North America.

"When I again contacted Sherman Sneed about finalizing everything, there was no hesitation. Lena Horne was ready, willing and needless to say, more than able. BUT, she almost withdrew when she saw the final size and scope of the project. Mr. Sneed and I convinced her to remain as the on-camera host, and it was her brilliant suggestion to bring her daughter, Gail Lumet Buckley, onto the project as the narrator. What a great collaborative effort it turned out to be. They truly complemented each other. When she shared the fact that one of her forebears had been with the all-black Massachusetts 54th in the Fort Wagner Civil War battle that closes Part One of the documentary, it only confirmed my sense that those ancestral spirits had brought all the right people together to pay tribute to their sacrifices and contributions to the making of this nation."

The New York Times wrote of Tait's effort at the time.

Morgan State Wins Grant for Micro-Local News Project

Morgan State University submitted one of the nine winning community news projects receiving New Voices grants in a program designed to help fund the start-up of 56 micro-local news projects.

"Students at Baltimore’s historically black Morgan State University will serve as mobile digital journalists, using video and audio podcasts to focus on community issues in Northeast Baltimore. The university will also conduct, for a fee, training workshops to help community residents contribute. Content will be offered to local newspaper and television stations," according to a New Voices announcement Tuesday.

Another winner was "Lincoln’s New Voices": "Lincoln, Neb., has witnessed 24 percent growth in ethnic minorities and immigrants in recent years. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Journalism College will explore the information needs of these new ethnic communities and work with mobile technology and web design teams to develop a news initiative to reach them. Content will come from students, community members and high school students from immigrant families. Future support is expected from the university and foundation grants," the announcement said.

"Grant winners are eligible to receive $17,000 in the first year to launch their projects and $8,000 in matching support in the second year. The goal is to experiment with new models for sustainability. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation funds the New Voices program.

Short Takes

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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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