Monthly Archives: January 2008


Live Blogging the L.A. Debate Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton at the Kodak Theatre. (Photo: Monica Almeida/The New York Times)

9:55 p.m. | And Scene: Mr. Obama, again the gentleman, holds Mrs. Clinton’s chair as she gets up, as this debate concludes.

9:53 p.m. | Dream Team: By far the biggest applause of the night come when Mr. Blitzer says that many people say that the two of them look like a “dream ticket.” Would they consider running together?

Stevie Wonder pops out of his seat in excitement!

Mr. Obama: “It’s premature and presumptuous” to say who he would pick for his vice president. Pressed, he adds: “I’m sure Hillary would be on anybody’s short list.”

Mrs. Clinton? “I have to agree with everything Barack just said.” She gets big applause when she says the party will be unified in November. Then makes a boorish plug for her Web site. We’re the ones who do the plugs around here, Mr. Blitzer says.

9:46 p.m. | The Former President : Great transition, Jeanne Cummings! As long as we’re talking about kids, let’s talk about spouses.

“He has a spouse too,” Mrs. Clinton notes a little meekly.

Ms. Cummings continues, some Democrats have been concerned about Bill Clinton’s statements. If you can’t control Bill Clinton on the campaign, she asks, how will you control him in the White House?

But, she says: “I’m running for president and this is my campaign.” Big supportive applause for that answer, and for Bill Clinton, whom many of them love.

9:43 p.m. | That’s Entertainment: There are lots of actors, directors and producers in the audience, and we want to know: is there too much sex and violence from Hollywood? Lots of celebrity cutaways during this question.

Mr. Obama says he rejects the notion of censorship, at which point the camera focuses on Steven Spielberg (who has endorsed Mrs. Clinton). But he adds that he has two young daughters and is concerned about what they see on television.

9:40 p.m. | Commercial Break : This is a very substantive debate and you don’t want to be missing much in these exchanges. Transcript

9:30 p.m. | More on Iraq: On her vote to allow inspectors into Iraq, which led to the invasion, Mrs. Clinton makes the whole thing sound procedural. But she says that if she knew then what she knows now, she would not have given President Bush the authority to go in. Big applause from this California crowd.

Mr. Obama says it’s easier for Democrats to win the argument if we nominate someone who can say we always thought going into Iraq was a bad idea, that it was “a conceptually flawed mission from the start.”

Mr. Blitzer asks why Mrs. Clinton can’t just say her vote was a mistake? She doesn’t address that directly. But does note that she thought that putting inspectors back in was a credible idea. “I believe in coercive diplomacy,” she says. And notes that no one appreciated how “obsessed” Mr. Bush was with this particular mission.

So, Mr. Blitzer says, you’re saying you were naïve?

No, good try, Wolf, she says. Hoots from the audience, which seemed to resent Mr. Blitzer for trying to nail her.

9:25 p.m. | Iraq: On Iraq, is Mrs. Clinton’s position on withdrawal really an open-ended commitment? She “hopes” we’ll have “nearly all” troops out within a year, but cautions that we have to worry not only about bringing out troops and equipment, but 100,000 American civilians who are there and the Iraqis who have been on our side. Bush plans to leave 130,000 troops in Iraq as he exits, which is “irresponsible,” she says.

Mr. Obama says we need to be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in. He says it’s important to set a date for withdrawal, but says he agrees with Mrs. Clinton on protecting our embassy, Iraqi civilians and having a strike force to take out potential terrorist bases. But, he says, don’t get “mission creep.”

Mrs. Clinton, says Mr. Blitzer, that’s a clear swipe at you.

“Really?” she responds, sweetly but sarcastically. “We’re having a wonderful time.” She keeps the focus on Mr. Bush.

9:15 p.m. | Bush-Clinton-Bush… Here comes the dynasty question. How can you be an agent of change, Mrs. Clinton is asked, when we’ve had the same families in the White House for so many years?

“I want to be judged on my own merits,” she says, adding that she doesn’t want to be “advantaged or disadvantaged” because of you-know-who.

9:07 p.m. | Kennedys: The candidates are asked about Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s endorsement of Mr. Obama? Mrs. Clinton deflects the question, pointing out she also has Kennedy family support — Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the daughter of Robert F. Kennedy, for one is supporting Mrs. Clinton. She then moves to idea that having “the first woman president” would be a huge change,

9:06 p.m. | Mitt Mentioned: Funny moment, at the expense of Mitt Romney, who could be the Republican nominee. He ran a business, and neither Mrs. Clinton nor Mr. Obama has been a C.E.O., Mr. Blitzer asks, How do you counter that?

Mrs. Clinton: We tried running the country with a CEO and look what we’ve got.

Mr. Obama: Mitt hasn’t got a good return on his investment during this campaign.

Live Blogging the L.A. Debate Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton at the Kodak Theatre. (Photo: Monica Almeida/The New York Times)

9:04 p.m. | Are You Experienced? Does Mrs. Clinton have more experience, is she better prepared?

Mr. Obama cites his ability to bring people together, overcome special interests and talk “straight.” She has a “terrific” record, he says, but he has the skills needed “right now.”

Mrs. Clinton says she had “a great deal of responsibility” during her eight years in the White House.

8:46 p.m. | Flashback: Mrs. Clinton suddenly seems to drop her usual guard and gets very passionate about immigration, saying she understands the anxiety that people have told her about in town hall meetings. Well then, if you’re so passionate, asks Wolf Blitzer, why not allow immigrants to get licenses? Flashback to a debate in November when Mrs. Clinton was questioned about Gov. Eliot Spitzer of New York’s plan to grant driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, Mrs. Clinton at first seemed to defend it, then suggested she was against it.

Mrs. Clinton says she wanted to support her governor, but she was personally against the plan (Governor Spitzer later dropped the proposal.)

Mr. Obama says that during that November debate, Mrs. Clinton gave a number of different answers and that appeared political, but in fairness, he says, at this point she does have an answer. He says he’s only trying to point out that this is a difficult political issue.

They are both on their best behavior, trying to point out differences, without sounding petty, sniping, or angry, reflecting how much is at stake here before half the states vote on Tuesday….

And we fade to the first commercial break we get celebrities! (what is this, an awards show?).

8:43 p.m. | On Immigration: The candidates are asked, how is immigration hurt inner-city blacks in terms of unemployment and lower wages?

Mr. Obama: To suggest that inner city problems are attributable to immigrants is “a case of scapegoating.”

Mrs. Clinton is asked about drivers’ licenses for illegal immigrants, which she opposes and Mr. Obama favors (and which got her into trouble a few debates back). But first she goes to the same question asked of Mr. Obama about the impact of immigration on blacks, and she disagrees. “There are job losses,” she says, noting that people have been pushed out of plants and factories (and mills?).

Oh, and drivers’ licenses? If you give immigrants drivers’ licenses, “you further undermine the labor market.”

Mr. Obama on drivers’ licenses: I don’t think we’ll have to deal with this if we deal with immigration. People don’t come here to drive, he says, they come to work.

8:33 p.m. | The Health Care Debate Will Be Televised? After Mr. Obama says his health care plan would be drafted in the open, on C-Span, Wolf asks if that’s a “swipe” at Mrs. Clinton because when she was first lady, she tried to come up with a health-care plan in secret. (And in an earlier debate, Mr. Obama had criticized her for just that.) No, says Mr. Obama. Wolf Blitzer asks Mrs. Clinton about drafting her plan in secret. She explained how complicated it would be to have hearings on health-care on C-Span. But she’s clearly on her turf here with health care.

8:28 p.m. | Say You, Say Me: Mr. Obama’s response: Subsidies won’t be sufficient. And he doesn’t want just to cap premiums, he wants to lower them. He notes that Ted Kennedy endorsed him; Mr. Kennedy is, of course, a giant voice in the health care arena. That seems to be his strongest argument. He has to underscore this point: “Anybody in America who needs health care is going to get it.”

8:22 p.m. | Health Care: Mr. Obama, why is your health care plan better if you don’t cover 15 million people? He says it’s not that they don’t want it, they just can’t afford it, and by the way, he doesn’t agree that there will be 15 million who won’t get it. He says she won’t say how to enforce her plan’s mandates, which is something that states like Massachusetts have had trouble doing. “If they cannot afford it, then the question is, what are you going to do about it? Are you going to fine them? Are you going to garnish their wages?” he said.

She says, “This is the passionate cause of my public service,” adopting Mr. Edwards’s language, and also references her husband’s administration, an indication that she still thinks Mr. Clinton is an asset. She says she will make health care affordable by providing subsidies and capping premiums. He’s not against mandatory provisions, she says, he just thinks it’s not politically feasible. If you don’t start with the big goal of universal care she says, “you will be nibbled to death.” Civil so far.

Pre-Debate Show in Los Angeles
The scene outside the Kodak Theatre. (Photos: Damon Winter/The New York Times)

8:18 p.m. | More on Differences: Mr. Obama says they largely agree on health care, but he wouldn’t “force” people to buy it; he says if we can make health care affordable, everyone would buy it. He has also offered a $10-billion foreclosure prevention fund but would not freeze interest rates, which he says would actually increase those rates. He wants tougher rules against lobbyists (just like John Edwards did). Then he pulls out his trump card, or what started out as his trump card: “I was opposed to Iraq from the start.” She sips some water.

8:13 p.m. | Differences: Mrs. Clinton is asked to enumerate their policy differences. She refers again to Mr. Edwards. They do share a desire for “universal” health care. She wants to freeze interest rates for five years. (Mr. Obama is taking notes.) She refers to an earlier statement by Mr. Obama, saying she would not jeopardize the prestige of the presidency by meeting with leaders of rogue state in her first year in office.

8:09 p.m. | Really, We’re Pals: Mr. Obama starts off with a play for the supporters of John Edwards, who dropped out of the race yesterday. He gets a big round of applause. And he says, “One of us two will end up being the next president of the United States of America,” which also wins big applause. And in case you didn’t get that he was not snubbing her at the State of the Union, he says he was friends with Hillary Clinton before the race started and he will be when it’s over, but they are running “a competitive race.” Hmmm, that means he could go either way during this debate.

Mrs. Clinton, too, says the next president will be either her or “Barack.” But the next president will face a stack of problems, she says, and says we need a president who is ready to start on “Day One.” She also thanks Mr. Edwards and goes Mr. Obama a couple of steps further _ she thanks his popular wife, Elizabeth, and makes explicit Mr. Edwards’s pitch about 37 million people who still live below the poverty line.

8:05 p.m. | Alone at Last: The stage does look a little bare without those other candidates. But this is historic. It means that the Democratic nominee will either be a woman or an African-American.

Mr. Obama reaches behind Mrs. Clinton’s back in a gentlemanly fashion and guides her to seat. This gesture seems to say, no, no, no, he didn’t snub her the other night at the State of the Union.

8:01 p.m. | And the Nominees Are … Well, it’s not Billy Crystal. But CNN knows how to milk a moment. Wolf Blitzer, the moderator, brings out the contenders. Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama stroll out and start applauding the audience. And boy, are they chatty and friendly with each other. The crowd is going berserk.

Pre-Debate Show in Los Angeles The scene outside the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles.

7:48 p.m. | Just the Two of Us: It’s pandemonium in Los Angeles, and we can hear it all the way back in New York.

The crowds are going wild. No, it’s not the Oscars. It’s sheer excitement over the Democratic primary and tonight’s upcoming debate — the first to feature just Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Barack Obama.

It’s the only time they will meet before Tuesday’s big national bake-off, known variously around your TV dial as “Super Duper Tuesday” or “Monster Tuesday.”

“This debate is so hot, we’re getting more requests for tickets than the Oscars are getting,” Bob Mulholland, chairman of the California Democratic Party, told the Hollywood Reporter. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

And this is your opportunity to watch it with us.

The show starts at 8 p.m. on CNN and we’ll be live-blogging it, blow by blow. Come back early and often.



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Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

Herd Extinct: The Ankole cow could disappear within 50 years.

Published: January 27, 2008
GERSHOM MUGIRA COMES from a long line of cattle-keepers. His people, the Bahima, are thought to have migrated into the hilly grasslands of western Uganda more than a thousand years ago, alongside a hardy breed of longhorns known as the Ankole. For centuries, man and beast subsisted there in a tight symbiotic embrace. Mugira’s nomadic ancestors wandered in search of fresh pasture for their cattle, which in turn provided them with milk. It is only within the last few generations that most Bahima have accepted the concept of private property. Mugira’s family lives on a 500-acre ranch, and one sunny day in November, the wiry 26-year-old showed me around, explaining, with some sadness but more pragmatism, why the Ankole breed that sustained his forebears for so many generations is now being driven to extinction.

Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

A first-generation crossbreed: Ankole cow bred with Holstein.

As we walked down the sloped valley path that led to a watering hole, we found a few cows lolling beneath a flat-topped acacia. They looked like the kind of cattle you might encounter in Wisconsin: plump and hornless creatures with dappled black-and-white coats. Mugira, a high-school graduate, was wearing a pair of fashionably baggy jeans and spiffy white sneakers. To a modern African like himself, he said, the most desirable cattle were the American type: the Holsteins.

In recent decades, global trade, sophisticated marketing, artificial insemination and the demands of agricultural economics have transformed the Holstein into the world’s predominant dairy breed. Indigenous animals like East Africa’s sinewy Ankole, the product of centuries of selection for traits adapted to harsh conditions, are struggling to compete with foreign imports bred for maximal production. This worries some scientists. The world’s food supply is increasingly dependent on a small and narrowing list of highly engineered breeds: the Holstein, the Large White pig and the Rhode Island Red and Leghorn chickens. There’s a risk that future diseases could ravage these homogeneous animal populations. Poor countries, which possess much of the world’s vanishing biodiversity, may also be discarding breeds that possess undiscovered genetic advantages. But farmers like Mugira say they can’t afford to wait for science. And so, on the African savanna, a competition for survival is underway.

Mugira was just about to tell me what made the Holsteins so valuable when suddenly, Dr. Grace Asiimwe, a veterinarian and my guide through western Uganda’s ranchlands, shouted, “The Ankoles are coming!”

In the distance, I glimpsed a bobbing line of white horns swooping down the hillside. Without a word, Mugira dashed down the dirt path, hopped over a fallen tree branch and disappeared around the side of a huge weed-covered anthill. “He has to keep them separated,” Asiimwe told me, lest the Ankoles gore the Holsteins. We found Mugira by the watering hole, whistling and waving a wooden switch called an enkoni, frantically trying to keep his Ankoles away. His herdsmen were supposed to bring the two contingents to the water at different times, but someone made a mistake.

“You know, in Uganda, we have to look for survival of the fittest,” Mugira said once he finished sorting out the confusion. “These ones, they are the fittest,” he went on to say, gesturing toward his Holsteins. In physical terms, there was really no contest between the tough Ankoles and the fussy foreign cattle, which were always hungry and often sick. But the foreigners possessed arguably the single most important adaptive trait for livestock: they made money. Holsteins are lactating behemoths. In an African setting, a good one can produce 20 or 30 times as much milk as an Ankole.

Mugira explained that, unlike most of his peers, he was holding onto some longhorns, mostly for sentimental reasons. His father, who died in 2003, loved his Ankoles. One of them wandered over and nuzzled Mugira, who placed his hand gently on its forehead. In the days before Christianity arrived in this part of Africa, the Bahima made offerings of milk to herdsman gods. Their language contains a vast catalog of cattle names, which refer to characteristics like color and hide pattern. This cow was called Kiroko, indicating it had some white patches on its face. The ideal Ankole, Mugira told me, has a lustrous brown coat and gleaming horns that curve out and then inward, forming a shape like a lyre. “They are naturally good,” Mugira said. “They are beautiful. In our culture we preferred these. But then we developed another culture, from Western culture.”

The Food and Agriculture Organization, an agency of the United Nations, recently reported that at least 20 percent of the world’s estimated 7,600 livestock breeds are in danger of extinction. Experts are warning of a potential “meltdown” in global genetic diversity. Yet the plight of the Ankole illustrates the difficulty of balancing the conflicting goals of animal conservation and human prosperity. An estimated 70 percent of the world’s rural poor, some 630 million people, derive a substantial percentage of their income from livestock. Increase the productivity of these animals, development specialists say, and you improve dire living standards. The World Bank recently published a report saying it was time to place farming “afresh at the center of the development agenda.” Highly productive livestock breeds, the World Bank asserts, are playing an important role in alleviating poverty.

Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

Ankoles play an important role among Uganda’s pastoral people, but they produce much less milk than imported breeds.

“You do have local animals with various kinds of disease resistance and whatever other kinds of things you don’t want to do away with,” said Chris Delgado, an agriculture policy adviser at the World Bank. “But there’s a problem: They are kept by very poor people, and they don’t want to stay poor.”

Every cow in the world is the product of some human agency. The extinct feral ancestor of all cattle, the auroch, was a fearsome horned creature that could grow to be six feet tall. There are two theories about the taming of wild aurochs. The traditional view holds that it happened around 6000 B.C. in the Fertile Crescent. But recent archaeological and genetic evidence suggests that domestication may have first occurred in Africa 2,000 years earlier, in the then-lush plains of the eastern Sahara. Then, beginning around 2,000 years ago, Arab merchants introduced humped cattle of Indian origin to East Africa, which were crossed with the indigenous longhorns to produce breeds like the Ankole.

For millennia, changing a breed’s genetics through husbandry required a long trial-and-error process. But today it can happen in an evolutionary eye blink. Multinational breeding companies, many of them based in the United States, collect semen from prime bulls, freeze it and export it to the developing world. Official estimates say there are about three million Ankole cattle in Uganda and smaller populations in bordering nations. An unknown — though by all accounts large — percentage of them are in the process of being turned into something else. After one cross with a Holstein, the brown Ankole cow will produce a black calf with darkened horns. After two, the horns will shrink and a dappled coat will appear. The third generation will basically look like American dairy cattle. With each cross, the offspring will produce more milk. The World Bank estimates that 1.8 million small-scale farmers in East Africa are benefiting from such genetic changes to their cattle and that some 100 million cows and pigs are created through artificial insemination in poor countries each year. Those numbers substantially understate the extent of genetic interchange, because half the offspring produced by artificial insemination are male and spread their genes the old-fashioned way.

To see the evolution in Ugandan dairy cattle, I visited a farmer named Jackson Sezibwa, who lives down a reddish dirt path outside the central Ugandan town of Mukono. A weather-beaten man of 46, Sezibwa greeted me in a torn, muddy shirt. He showed me to the metal-roofed stall where he keeps his Holstein, Kevina.

Before he received the cow, Sezibwa said, he was hungry and destitute. All he owned were some banana trees and a one-room house roofed with thatch. Then he and his wife were given Kevina by a charity called Heifer International. Founded in 1944 by Dan West, an Indiana farmer, Heifer’s mission is to take quality livestock to impoverished places. In Uganda, the cattle breed Heifer prefers is the Holstein. “The American cow,” said Dr. Margaret Makuru, Heifer’s deputy country director, “once you feed it, it is a factory.”

Like any factory owner, Jackson Sezibwa had to think about inputs and outputs. Making milk requires energy, which means eating grass. Holsteins require much more grass than Ankole cattle, but unlike Ankoles, which need to roam, Holsteins can be kept in pens. Sezibwa owned just a small plot of land, so the Holstein was perfect for him. All day long, Sezibwa refilled Kevina’s trough with feed, a mixture of elephant grass and protein-rich leaves and legumes that he grew in his field. Each time he milked the cow, he fed her a store-bought meal full of nutrients. Otherwise, his largest expense was medicine. Holsteins originated in Northern Europe and were taken to America in the 19th century. They don’t have any resistance to tropical diseases like trypanosomiasis — colloquially known as sleeping sickness — and East Coast Fever, which is spread by ticks.

With intense maintenance, Sezibwa’s cow functioned marvelously. Kevina churned out around six and a half gallons of milk a day. (A typical Ankole would have given him between a quarter and a half gallon.) His family drank some of the milk, and he sold the rest, netting around $100 a month after expenses. In a country where an estimated 85 percent of the population lives on less than $1 a day, that’s substantial income. The money finances school for Sezibwa’s six children. There were ancillary benefits too. Kevina was impregnated four times via artificial insemination. Sezibwa gave away her first calf to a neighbor, in keeping with Heifer’s philosophy of “passing the gift.” The next two — both males — he sold to farmers eager to acquire Holstein genetics, making enough profit to build himself a nice brick house. He kept the fourth calf, another female, for the future. Heifer also paid to install an underground system that harnessed methane from the cows’ manure to power gas burners and a light inside his house.

Jackson Sezibwa is just one man, but Uganda’s economy is made up of millions like him. Agriculture accounts for 30 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, and 10 percent of that comes from the livestock sector. The World Bank’s October report claimed that “G.D.P. growth originating in agriculture is at least twice as effective in reducing poverty” as other types of growth. The report pointed out that the industrialization of Europe and North America that began in the late 18th century was preceded by a period of farming innovation, and that the Green Revolution that took place between the 1940s and 1960s catalyzed Asia’s fantastic economic growth.

During the Green Revolution, scientists invented high-yielding strains of corn, wheat and rice and planted them around the third world, and they also promoted the introduction of better livestock. But then, broadly speaking, foreign-aid donors moved away from such interventions, which were viewed as meddling with the free market, and shifted financing priorities to areas like education and AIDS. Today, even after recent increases, the World Bank devotes less than 10 percent of its development assistance to agriculture, down from 30 percent a quarter-century ago. Recently, the notion of helping poor farmers by making farming more lucrative has been dusted off by a new generation of economists. And Bill Gates and the Rockefeller Foundation have promised to finance a second Green Revolution. But governmental aid agencies have been slower to rediscover the importance of agriculture. Farming initiatives now account for just 4 percent of the assistance distributed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a group of the world’s most developed nations.

The U.S. Agency for International Development budgeted $392 million for agricultural programs last year, including a significant proportion to promote milk production. Crossbreeding is an important component of its strategy. In Uganda, where the agency recently completed a five-year, $8 million dairy-modernization project, about half the money went toward artificial insemination. One partner in the program was Land O’Lakes International Development, the aid arm of the Minnesota butter company. “We should be able to do farming as a business, not sentimentally,” said Dr. Paul Kimbugwe, the Land O’Lakes country manager. “Making money means you have to crossbreed. And crossbreeding means that you are doing away with the genetics of that cow,” meaning the Ankole, “which I also encourage.”

Not everyone in Uganda, however, agrees that the foreign breeds are an upgrade. President Yoweri Museveni once imposed a ban on imported semen. Museveni belongs to the Bahima ethnic group. When he was a baby, in a sort of Bahima baptism ritual, his parents placed him on the back of an Ankole cow with a mock bow and arrow, as if to commit him symbolically to the defense of the family’s herd. Museveni, now in his 60s, still owns the descendants of that very cow, and he retains a strong bond to the Ankole breed. Two years ago, I accompanied a group of Ugandan journalists on a daylong trip to one of the president’s private ranches, where he proudly showed us his 4,000-strong herd of Ankole cattle. At one point, a reporter asked if the ranch had any Holsteins. “No, those are pollution,” Museveni replied. “These,” he said, referring to his Ankoles, “the genetic material is superior.”

If the Ankole cattle are able to mount a comeback, it will be because circumstances have endowed them with a unique set of defenses, both evolutionary and political. Members of President Museveni’s ethnic group populate the upper ranks of Uganda’s government. Some prominent Bahima have started an organization devoted to preserving Ankoles, under the patronage of a one-eyed army general who spends his free time painting rapturous portraits of cows. One afternoon, at a pricey restaurant in Kampala, I had lunch with the organization’s chairman, Samuel Mugasi. Dressed in a dapper gray suit and a French-cuffed pale blue shirt, he told me he was a civil servant and part-time rancher.

“They have tasted the money,” Mugasi said of the farmers who switched to Holsteins. “They are excited about having these big earnings, and they are forgetting the cultural aspect.”

Kimbugwe, the Land O’Lakes representative, has a ready reply to such arguments. “Culture — fine, it’s good to have,” he said. “But first, the stomachs.” He views the Ankole as an atavistic indulgence for the country’s elite. Once, cattle were like currency, and the wealthy displayed their status by maintaining huge free-ranging herds. Competition for land is forcing cows onto smaller pastures. Uganda has one of the highest birth rates in the world, and despite its poverty and diseases like AIDS, the population has more than doubled since 1980. There’s a long history of tension between the Bahima and an agriculturalist ethnic group, the Bairu, which coexist in western Uganda, at times less than happily.

This is a common dynamic across Africa. In Rwanda, a similar ethnic conflict between cattle-keeping Tutsis and farming Hutus culminated in genocide in 1994. A number of experts say the “ethnic” war in Darfur is really a fight over grass. Uganda has not experienced that level of conflict, but the local newspapers are filled with stories of violent skirmishes between farmers and encroaching pastoralists. This is one reason that some say Holsteins represent the future. Rwanda, now ruled by longhorn-loving Tutsis but trying to address the causes of the genocide, is enthusiastically encouraging the breed’s introduction, with assistance from the U.S. Agency for International Development.

One of the biggest dairy farmers in western Uganda, Kezekia Rwabuhenda, told me he was the first person in his area to adopt Holsteins, back in the 1970s. At the time, he said, many traditionalists maligned him, saying he was conspiring to “slaughter” the cattle they loved. “Afterwards, when they realized what the cross was producing, they started visiting me, asking for a bull,” he said through a translator. The elderly rancher still kept a hundred Ankoles, but they were for his wife, who was attached to them. He was sure that when he died, his children would dispatch them all to the butcher shop.

No one knows how many Ankole cattle exist. “We’ve been saying the Ankoles are 50 percent of the national herd, but I don’t think that’s true anymore,” said Dr. Denis Mpairwe, an animal scientist at Uganda’s Makerere University. “The crossbreeding the last five years has been so intense.” The International Livestock Research Institute predicts that if present trends continue, the Ankoles could go extinct within 50 years. But Mpairwe says he believes it could happen much sooner.

I went with Mpairwe to visit Uganda’s cattle country earlier this fall, along with Dr. Okeyo Mwai, a Kenyan biotechnology specialist who works for the livestock institute. I lived in Uganda between 2002 and 2004, and I couldn’t believe the change. Hillsides where graceful brown Ankoles once grazed by the hundreds were now dotted black and white. “Look at the calves,” Mwai said, as our pickup truck passed a herd. “Almost 100 percent are crosses.” He pointed up toward the hilltops, normally gently rounded and green, but now sandy in large patches from overgrazing. The two scientists are studying how high-producing cattle interact with the African ecosystem. If cows are like factories, you could say an Ankole is powered by a water wheel, while the Holstein requires a nuclear reactor.

The principle of the “tragedy of the commons,” perhaps the most famous metaphor in ecology, is a cattle parable. It was first described by a 19th-century British economist and popularized by the biologist Garrett Hardin in a 1968 Science magazine essay about human overpopulation. Hardin was trying to refute the view that an unregulated free market invariably produces beneficial outcomes. “Picture a pasture open to all,” Hardin wrote. The benefit of adding a single calf went to each individual farmer, while the cost of adding that calf (the grass it would consume) would be distributed to all pasture users. “Each man is locked into a system that compels him to increase his herd without limit — in a world that is limited,” he wrote. The commons, he predicted, would inevitably be picked clean.

With the introduction of the Holsteins, something similar seems to be happening in Uganda. Farmers aren’t literally increasing the sizes of their herds, but they are creating herds that consume unsustainable amounts of dwindling resources. And something else is being obliterated: genes. Each time a farmer crossbreeds his Ankoles, a little of the country’s stockpile of adaptive traits disappears. It isn’t easy to measure genetic “dilution.” What is evident, however, is that the Ankoles possess much worth saving. For instance, their horns, often seen as ornaments, actually disperse excess body heat.

Holsteins don’t like heat. While a poorly adapted animal can survive for years in a harsh ecosystem, even a slight worsening of their conditions can have devastating effects. One rancher I met, John Kamiisi, told me that he’d lost his herd of Holsteins in a 1999 drought. He only avoided ruin because he kept some Ankoles, which could live on less water. Kamiisi told me he loved his sturdy Ankole bull “like my own life” but said he was starting to crossbreed again for financial reasons. Another elderly rancher said his whole Holstein herd died during Idi Amin’s dictatorship, when chaos and inflation made it difficult to buy the imported medicines the cattle needed. He started again with a few Ankoles his neighbors gave him out of pity.

“For countries on the equator, I think in almost all cases the Holstein is very poorly suited — maybe the least-suited breed,” says Dr. Les Hansen, a professor at the University of Minnesota and a leading expert in cattle genetics. Often farmers are making decisions that are informed not by science, he said, but by sales pitches devised by multinational breeding concerns. “As I travel the world,” Hansen adds, “my biggest challenge is countering all of the misleading marketing propaganda.”

The world market in cattle breeding is controlled by a handful of companies, several of them based in the United States. The companies maintain facilities where they extract semen from bulls, keep genetic databases, publish rankings and cultivate a sort of bovine star system. Two legendary Holsteins, Chief, born in California in 1962, and Elevation, born in Virginia in 1965, fathered tens of thousands of offspring in their lifetimes — and beyond, since their sperm was cryogenically frozen for future use.

Hansen’s research suggests that every Holstein is descended from Chief and Elevation, and that 30 percent of all the Holstein genes in the world are traceable to those two bulls. That has created a serious problem with inbreeding, which has adverse effects on fertility and mortality. But overseas markets like Africa are, so to speak, virgin territory. According to industry figures, American companies exported 10 million “doses” of cattle semen in 2006. In Uganda, a company called World-Wide Sires, the international marketing arm of two American breeding cooperatives, is working with aid agencies to increase dairy production.

“The proof is in the bucket,” said George Nuwagira, a dairy farmer who is also the World-Wide Sires sales representative for western Uganda. I met him one morning in the market town of Kabwohe. A stout, garrulous fellow, he was wearing a yellow baseball cap with a smiling cartoon cow on it. He ushered me into his insemination center, a narrow tumbledown storefront that also sold sodas. At one end stood a wooden counter that was decorated with a flier advertising a bull named Earl, “the Dairyman’s Dream,” which pictured Earl’s daughters posed in such a way as to accentuate their enormous milk-swollen udders. Behind the counter sat a metal tank filled with liquid nitrogen. Nuwagira unscrewed its cap, and a thick cloud of white vapor billowed out. He retrieved a cluster of brightly colored plastic straws filled with premium semen.

We were at the far end of the global semen supply chain. Nuwagira handed me an empty green straw. It was marked with the name “Theseus” and a long serial number, which indicated that the semen it had contained was collected at a facility near Plain City, Ohio, on Dec. 30, 2004. Three weeks before, he used Theseus’ semen to impregnate one of his own Holsteins.

Nuwagira took me to see the expectant mother. On the bumpy ride to his farmland in a breathtaking green valley, he told me that he was from the west’s agriculturalist ethnic group, not the Bahima. He didn’t care about the Ankole. “To me as a modern farmer, the horns don’t mean anything,” Nuwagira said. He didn’t name his cows like the Bahima but instead referred to them by numbers. He told me he owned just 35. “You know, it was used as a status symbol in the past, to have so many head of cattle,” he said. “Those who had hundreds wouldn’t sit with those who had less than 30. But these days, things have changed. When you talk of animals they don’t ask you the numbers. They ask you the production.”

Nuwagira’s biggest problem was getting his product to market. “You feed them, they will give you the volumes, but there are times when we find we are stuck having nowhere to sell it,” he explained. Milk is perishable, and Uganda is a country where roads are bad and refrigeration is rare. The dairy trade in rural areas is largely controlled by bicycle vendors who sell raw milk from aluminum jugs. There used to be a more sophisticated network of government-affiliated dairy cooperatives, but most of these were dismantled in the 1990s, during a World Bank push for market liberalization. The private sector was supposed to fill the gap but never did. Anyway, some Ugandan tribes don’t drink milk. They’re lactose-intolerant.

Crossbreeding follows the logic of the arms race. All the ranchers I met complained that Holsteins required expensive upkeep, and many didn’t want to abandon tradition. But they’ve had to change because their neighbors are changing. The volume of milk produced in Uganda doubled between 1993 and 2003, but in the absence of a surge in demand or improved delivery systems, the product has literally flooded the market. As the price per liter has fallen, dairy farmers have had to rearm with Holsteins just to maintain their usual profit margins. International organizations realize that increased productivity means little if it’s not accompanied by market growth. That’s why the U.S. Agency for International Development is spending millions across Africa to promote dairy cooperatives and pay for advertisements inspired by America’s famous “Got Milk?” campaign. But changing distribution and diets isn’t as easy as changing breeds. “A lot of consumers don’t understand how important milk is,” says Jim Yazman, a livestock specialist with the agency.

Economic forces can push a breed to extinction with frightening swiftness. In Vietnam, where pigs are the most important livestock species and the government has encouraged leaner foreign breeds, the percentage of indigenous sows has fallen to 28 percent from 72 percent since 1994, and 13 of the 15 local breeds are classified as either extinct or in danger. There were several million Red Maasai sheep in Kenya until the 1970s. Then, in just 15 years, indiscriminate crossbreeding with woollier imported sheep nearly drove them out of existence. But the wool sheep fared poorly in the Kenyan environment, in part because of intestinal parasites to which the Red Maasai were resistant. By the time that was discovered, though, purebred Red Maasai were almost impossible to find.

Many tropical breeds may possess unique adaptive traits. The problem is, we don’t know what is being lost. Earlier this year, the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization released its first-ever global assessment of biodiversity in livestock. While data on many breeds are scant, the report found that over the last six years, an average of one breed a month has gone extinct. “The threat is imminent,” says Danielle Nierenberg, senior researcher at the Worldwatch Institute, an environmental group. “Just getting milk and meat into people’s mouths is not the answer.”

As the world’s climate warms, and the environment becomes more inhospitable to the major breeds, humanity might need the genes that allow animals like the Ankoles to flourish in the African heat. The challenge is to safeguard the resource. There are two possible approaches: putting the animals in cold storage, or changing the economic equation. Proponents of the first option desire something like the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a doomsday depository for plant species that an international consortium is building in the Arctic Circle. But storing sperm and embryos is far more expensive and technically difficult. Biodiversity advocates say that it would be preferable, anyway, for breeds like the Ankole to go on living in their pastures. The most obvious way to do that would be to create incentives to entice farmers to keep them. But even those who want to save endangered breeds recognize that subsidizing unproductive livestock in hungry countries is problematic. In November, at a conference sponsored by the International Livestock Research Institute in Nairobi, Kenya, Dr. Edward Rege, the organization’s biotechnology director, gave a speech listing several “inconvenient facts” about conventional wisdom in the field, adding that conservation approaches can effectively amount to “saying that farmers should remain poor.”

The best hope for the Ankoles may reside at a modest, terraced complex on a breezy hillside in Uganda overlooking Lake Victoria in the old colonial town of Entebbe. It was constructed by the British in 1960, at the height of the Green Revolution, as an artificial-insemination center and a staging ground for introducing new breeds — animals that mostly died off during the subsequent wars and dictatorships. Now called the National Animal Genetic Resources Center and Databank, the facility’s new mission is to save indigenous animals like the Ankoles by giving them better care and selectively breeding them to compete in production. The center keeps a dozen bulls of different breeds, including two immense Ankoles that once belonged to President Museveni. Twice a week, technicians collect semen, which is used to inseminate cows at government farms or else packaged and sold directly to farmers. If it’s successful, the program could offer a model to other developing nations. If, on the other hand, the Ankole cattle can’t be saved even with such government support, it’s difficult to imagine how any threatened breed will survive.

“They can produce milk and they put on meat,” said Dr. Dan Semambo, the center’s executive director. “People don’t know what they have.”

Ugandans rave about the fresh milk out west, and every rancher I visited there served me a cup. It has a delicious sweet thickness. No matter how well nourished they are, though, the Ankoles probably can’t produce as much milk as the Holsteins. Instead, the breed’s salvation could lie in the slaughterhouse. President Museveni says he believes that Ankoles make exceptional beef cattle and wants to export their meat. Some studies suggest that Ankole beef is unusually lean and low in cholesterol. Mpairwe and his colleagues at Makerere University are completing a study in which Ankoles and crossbreeds were kept on nutrient-rich diets. In early December, the cattle were slaughtered and an “expert panel” of faculty and students conducted a taste test, with encouraging results.

Shortly before I left Uganda, I convened an expert panel of my own. We met one evening at Le Petit Bistro, a European-owned restaurant that serves Kampala’s best steak. While we waited for our orders, I went back to the kitchen to meet the cook, Everest Neretse, who was wearing a white chef’s jacket and flip-flops. He told me he came from the west. “Ankole cattle, they are the best,” he said. “I can tell in the tenderness.” I had my filet with a little garlic butter. When I cut into it, rich reddish juices spilled out, and the texture was so soft that I hardly needed to chew. It was almost as if you could taste the contentment of an unbounded life on the open range. The panel agreed: it was extraordinary, it was beautiful and in no time every trace of the Ankole was gone.

(Article courtesy of The New York Times: )

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Published: January 31, 2008
WASHINGTON — The Messenger spacecraft that zipped past Mercury two weeks ago found more evidence of the innermost planet’s turbulent past, including ridges that run hundreds of miles and a unique feature made up of more than 100 troughs radiating in all directions, scientists said Wednesday.

NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

This false-color image, taken as Messenger approached Mercury, combined three black-and-white images taken through different color filters More Photos »

A preliminary look at data from the flyby, including 1,213 images, shows a small, cratered planet that superficially looks like Earth’s moon but is very different in reality, they said.

The robot spacecraft, the first to visit the planet in more than three decades, passed 124 miles above Mercury’s surface on Jan. 14 before continuing on a path that is to bring it back three more times in the next three years before settling into orbit.

During the encounter, the Messenger’s seven scientific instruments scanned the planet, its magnetic field and its wispy atmosphere in great detail.

“Our little craft has returned a gold mine of exciting data,” said Dr. Sean C. Solomon of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, the mission’s lead investigator.

“We were continually surprised,” Dr. Solomon said at a NASA news conference. “It was not the planet we expected. It was not the moon.”

Mercury remains a very dynamic planet and is a key to understanding the evolution of the inner solar system and its four rocky planets, including Earth, he said.

NASA’s Mariner 10 spacecraft, which made three flybys of Mercury in 1974 and 1975, mapped about 45 percent of the planet’s surface. The Messenger craft took pictures of another 30 percent during its first visit and should complete the portrait when it returns on its next flyby in October, scientists said.

After that visit and another in September 2009 to slow the craft, the Messenger is to settle into orbit around Mercury on March 18, 2011, for at least a year of studies.

Among the features spotted by the Messenger — short for the $446 million mission’s formal name, Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and Ranging — is one informally called “the spider.” It appears to be an impact crater 25 miles in diameter from which more than 100 flat-bottomed troughs shoot out in all directions, said Louise Prockter, an imaging instrument scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., which built and operates the spacecraft.

“It’s a real mystery, a very unexpected find,” Ms. Prockter said, unlike anything ever observed in the solar system. It is unclear if the impact crater caused the shattered-looking feature or came later, after the troughs formed for another reason, she said.

(Article courtesy of The New York Times: )



Mercury in color - Prockter07.jpg
MESSENGER’S first photo of the unseen side of Mercury.

MESSENGER’s Wide Angle Camera (WAC), part of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS), is equipped with 11 narrow-band color filters. As the spacecraft receded from Mercury after making its closest approach on January 14, 2008, the WAC recorded a 3×3 mosaic covering part of the planet not previously seen by spacecraft. The color image shown here was generated by combining the mosaics taken through the WAC filters that transmit light at wavelengths of 1000 nanometers (infrared), 700 nanometers (far red), and 430 nanometers (violet). These three images were placed in the red, green, and blue channels, respectively, to create the visualization presented here. The human eye is sensitive only across the wavelength range from about 400 to 700 nanometers. Creating a false-color image in this way accentuates color differences on Mercury’s surface that cannot be seen in black-and-white (single-color) images.

Color differences on Mercury are subtle, but they reveal important information about the nature of the planet’s surface material. A number of bright spots with a bluish tinge are visible in this image. These are relatively recent impact craters. Some of the bright craters have bright streaks (called “rays” by planetary scientists) emanating from them. Bright features such as these are caused by the presence of freshly crushed rock material that was excavated and deposited during the highly energetic collision of a meteoroid with Mercury to form an impact crater. The large circular light-colored area in the upper right of the image is the interior of the Caloris basin. Mariner 10 viewed only the eastern (right) portion of this enormous impact basin, under lighting conditions that emphasized shadows and elevation differences rather than brightness and color differences. MESSENGER has revealed that Caloris is filled with smooth plains that are brighter than the surrounding terrain, hinting at a compositional contrast between these geologic units. The interior of Caloris also harbors several unusual dark-rimmed craters, which are visible in this image. The MESSENGER science team is working with the 11-color images in order to gain a better understanding of what minerals are present in these rocks of Mercury’s crust.

The diameter of Mercury is about 4880 kilometers (3030 miles). The image spatial resolution is about 2.5 kilometers per pixel (1.6 miles/pixel). The WAC departure mosaic sequence was executed by the spacecraft from approximately 19:45 to 19:56 UTC on January 14, 2008, when the spacecraft was moving from a distance of roughly 12,800 to 16,700 km (7954 to 10377 miles) from the surface of Mercury.


Caloris basin labeled.png
Mariner 10’s photomosaic of the Caloris Basin on Mercury, with labels. 


Mercury's 'Weird Terrain'.jpg
The so-called ‘Weird terrain’ on Mercury, at the antipodal point of the en:Caloris Basin. From


Merc fig2sm.jpg

Radar image of Mercury’s North Pole.



Terrestrial planet size comparisons.jpg

This diagram shows the approximate relative sizes of the terrestrial planets, from left to right: Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars. Distances are not to scale. A terrestrial planet is a planet that is primarily composed of silicate rocks. The term is derived from the Latin word for Earth, “Terra”, so an alternate definition would be that these are planets which are, in some notable fashion, “Earth-like”. Terrestrial planets are substantially different from gas giants, which might not have solid surfaces and are composed mostly of some combination of hydrogen, helium, and water existing in various physical states. Terrestrial planets all have roughly the same structure: a central metallic core, mostly iron, with a surrounding silicate mantle. Terrestrial planets have canyons, craters, mountains, volcanoes and secondary atmospheres.

(Photos courtesy of Wikipedia.)




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Published: November 17, 2007
Step aside Moore and Taylor. Welcome Garcia and Rodriguez.Smith remains the most common surname in the United States, according to a new analysis released yesterday by the Census Bureau. But for the first time, two Hispanic surnames — Garcia and Rodriguez — are among the top 10 most common in the nation, and Martinez nearly edged out Wilson for 10th place.

The number of Hispanics living in the United States grew by 58 percent in the 1990s to nearly 13 percent of the total population, and cracking the list of top 10 names suggests just how pervasively the Latino migration has permeated everyday American culture.

Garcia moved to No. 8 in 2000, up from No. 18, and Rodriguez jumped to No. 9 from 22nd place. The number of Hispanic surnames among the top 25 doubled, to 6.

Compiling the rankings is a cumbersome task, in part because of confidentiality and accuracy issues, according to the Census Bureau, and it is only the second time it has prepared such a list. While the historical record is sketchy, several demographers said it was probably the first time that any non-Anglo name was among the 10 most common in the nation. “It’s difficult to say, but it’s probably likely,” said Robert A. Kominski, assistant chief of social characteristics for the census.

Luis Padilla, 48, a banker who has lived in Miami since he arrived from Colombia 14 years ago, greeted the ascendance of Hispanic surnames enthusiastically.

“It shows we’re getting stronger,” Mr. Padilla said. “If there’s that many of us to outnumber the Anglo names, it’s a great thing.”

Reinaldo M. Valdes, a board member of the Miami-based Spanish American League Against Discrimination, said the milestone “gives the Hispanic community a standing within the social structure of the country.”

“People of Hispanic descent who hardly speak Spanish are more eager to take their Hispanic last names,” he said. “Today, kids identify more with their roots than they did before.”

Demographers pointed to more than one factor in explaining the increase in Hispanic surnames.

Generations ago, immigration officials sometimes arbitrarily Anglicized or simplified names when foreigners arrived from Europe.

“The movie studios used to demand that their employees have standard Waspy names,” said Justin Kaplan, an historian and co-author of “The Language of Names.”

“Now, look at Renée Zellweger,” Mr. Kaplan said.

And because recent Hispanic and Asian immigrants might consider themselves more identifiable by their physical characteristics than Europeans do, they are less likely to change their surnames, though they often choose Anglicized first names for their children.

The latest surname count also signaled the growing number of Asians in America. The surname Lee ranked No. 22, with the number of Lees about equally divided between whites and Asians. Lee is a familiar name in China and Korea and in all its variations is described as the most common surname in the world.

Altogether, the census found six million surnames in the United States. Among those, 151,000 were shared by a hundred or more Americans. Four million were held by only one person.

“The names tell us that we’re a richly diverse culture,” Mr. Kominski said.

But the fact that about 1 in every 25 Americans is named Smith, Johnson, Williams, Brown, Jones, Miller or Davis “suggests that there’s a durability in the family of man,” Mr. Kaplan, the author, said. A million Americans share each of those seven names. An additional 268 last names are common to 10,000 or more people. Together, those 275 names account for one in four Americans.

As the population of the United States ballooned by more than 30 million in the 1990s, more Murphys and Cohens were counted when the decade ended than when it began.

Smith — which would be even more common if all its variations, like Schmidt and Schmitt, were tallied — is among the names derived from occupations (Miller, which ranks No. 7, is another). Among the most famous early bearers of the name was Capt. John Smith, who helped establish the first permanent English settlement in North America at Jamestown, Va., 400 years ago. As recently as 1950, more Americans were employed as blacksmiths than as psychotherapists.

In 1984, according to the Social Security Administration, nearly 3.4 million Smiths lived in the United States. In 1990, the census counted 2.5 million. By 2000, the Smith population had declined to fewer than 2.4 million. The durability of some of the most common names in American history may also have been perpetuated because slaves either adopted or retained the surnames of their owners. About one in five Smiths are black, as are about one in three Johnsons, Browns, and Joneses and nearly half the people named Williams.

The Census Bureau’s analysis found that some surnames were especially associated with race and ethnicity.

More than 96 percent of Yoders, Kruegers, Muellers, Kochs, Schwartzes, Schmitts and Novaks were white. Nearly 90 percent of the Washingtons were black, as were 75 percent of the Jeffersons, 66 percent of the Bookers, 54 percent of the Banks and 53 percent of the Mosleys.

Terry Aguayo contributed reporting from Miami.

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This comment was left on my “About Me” page of my blog, from Blanche Williams.

Follow the links to get acquainted with the upcoming production of the February 8 film screenings of “THE SOULS OF BLACK GIRLS”:

“Greatness By Design, LLC & Blanche Williams cordianlly invites all my sisters to the February film screenings of “THE SOULS OF BLACK GIRLS” at the National Council of Negro Women on Feb 8 and Morgan State University on Feb 9. The film explores media’s influence on the self-image of our black girls and women. Buy tickets online at and watch a trailer of the film at We must reclaim the souls and the future of our black girls!”

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This comment was left on my post,  “Race,  Gender…and ‘Honorary Whiteness”,    today.

Anyone interested in filling out the survey may click on the link provided to take the survey.


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Your participation is greatly appreciated. You will find the survey at the following link.
This group has already done another study on Weblogs effects on “Social Interactions” and “Trust”. To obtain a copy of the previous study brief report of findings you can email Reza Vaezi at”

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new york, new jersey, connecticut

Will Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s endorsement of Senator Barack Obama sway Irish-Americans? What about The Irish Voice’s endorsement of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton? Could Mr. Obama become a household name among Chinese-American voters? Will American relations with Russia and Pakistan affect immigrant voters here? And can any Republican contender distance himself from Bush administration policies in the eyes of Arab-Americans?

These questions have not figured high — or figured at all — on televised debates and in the mainstream media coverage of the 2008 presidential campaign. But they are being asked in New York City, which is not only a media capital, but also the ethnic media capital, host to about 200 periodicals and broadcast outlets in dozens of languages — including Bengali, Tagalog, Dari, Latvian, Yiddish, Malayalam and Hungarian.

These ethnic media outlets have been intensely attentive to the presidential competition, not only because it is the most competitive presidential race in decades, but also because American foreign policy and immigration reform are also headline issues that resonate with their audiences. With an eye cast here and another overseas, a group of ethnic media reporters participated in a radio project called Feet in Two Worlds and went to New Hampshire last month to cover the primaries. City Room interviewed five of those journalists ­ as well as other ethnic media journalists on how the campaign is being covered in their communities.

Perhaps the most impressive effort is being put out by the Spanish-language ImpreMedia chain, which was freshly formed during the last campaign cycle from a merger and now expanded to a combined circulation of 10 million weekly. This election cycle, the media chain is embedding six reporters with various campaigns, covering Super Tuesday from seven battleground states, and doing its own extensive polling of Hispanic voters.

“In the history of ethnic media, there has been no comparable level of coverage as what we are providing for this election,” said Alberto Vourvoulias Bush, editor of El Diario/La Prensa, one of the publications in the 11-newspaper chain.

Arguably, ImpreMedia is devoting more resources to the election than many mainstream English publications. In December, ImpreMedia conducted a poll of Hispanic voters and identified the war in Iraq, immigration and the economy as the top issues. “Because of those three things, we realized that sometime back this election would take place under a heightened awareness and heightened interest,” Mr. Vourvoulias said. “We decided to commit to commit extra resources to campaign coverage and to provide world class coverage of their readers.”

Among topics that the chain is paying close attention to: the drug war in Mexico and the question of driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants, which caused Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton to stumble in October, when she clarified her position. But above all, perhaps the major concern in the ethnic press is immigration reform. “For us, it’s not a border security or national security issue. It’s a daily life issue,” Mr. Vourvoulias said.

Taisheng Won, editor in chief of the Chinese-language World Journal, which has a circulation of 70,000 in the New York metropolitan region and 300,000 nationwide, agreed. “Immigration is our priority, our top concern,” he said. He said the newspaper was following candidates’ position on immigration policy very closely. “If they say something on the immigration issue, we will take it from A.P., Reuters or A.F.P.,” he said, referring to The Associated Press and Agence France-Presse, two leading wire services.

Kazi Shamsul Hoque, the editor of Akhon Samoy, a Bangladeshi newspaper based in New York City, said his readers, many who are undocumented, are following the candidates closely on the issue. “We actually studied their positions on the Internet,” he said. “We are listening to their speeches. We are in favor of giving some kind of legality to undocumented people.”

As Mr. Hoque’s comments suggest, the line between news coverage and editorial advocacy is not always sharply drawn in the immigrant press. And not all ethnic news outlets necessarily favor leniency for undocumented workers.

Many Armenian-Americans are second- or fourth-generation, and thus, “Armenians generally vote just like any Americans,” said Chris Zakian, the managing editor of the English-language Armenian Reporter. (In fact, Mark Krikorian, the head of the Center for Immigration Studies, a research organization that promotes stricter immigration enforcement, is of Armenian descent.)

But one issue that resonates with the Armenian-American community is the long-running fight to obtain Congressional recognition of the Armenian genocide in Turkey, which many presidential candidates have take positions on — whatever that may mean later on. “They are reassuring, friendly and certainly encouraging, but I think Armenians has become skeptical of the translation of a candidate policy later on,” Mr. Zakian said.

Foreign policy positions can take on an stronger resonance for ethnic communities that still maintain ties to home. For example, when Mr. Obama said in a major foreign policy speech in August that he would take a harder stance on Pakistan — and suggested a willingness to bomb the country — it became the lead story in the Pakistani press, both overseas and locally.

“The moment he gave these remarks about Pakistan, it was reported by the U.S. media and electronic media — those reports were picked up immediately by Pakistani media in Pakistan,” said Mohsin Zaheer, editor of The Weekly Sada-e-Pakistan, a Pakistani periodical based out of New York. Thanks to satellite television, those channels were also broadcast back in the United States. “Those words spread immediately. Within one hour, everyone knew,” he said.

“After these remarks, we covered the reaction of the Pakistani community,” he said. “There was a demonstration outside a fund-raising event of Barack Obama in Chicago. We got widespread coverage of these demonstrations on our front page.”

“The American policy has immediate consequences on the very existence of the Arab and Muslim community,” said Mohrez El Hussini, publisher of Al-Manassah Al-Arabeyah, an Arabic language publication based in New Jersey.

“The community that are most concerned with the war on terror is not the Chinese or the Greeks; it’s the Middle Easterners,” said Antoine Faisal, the publisher of Aramaica, an Arab-language biweekly with a circulation of 30,000. “Even though we are still in the primaries, many from our community are trying to tune in to find out what kind of message,what kind of communication are the candidates doing toward the Arab world.”

Fairly or not, Mrs. Clinton is strongly associated with the foreign policies of her husband’s eight-year presidency in the minds of many immigrants. That helped her draw the endorsement from The Irish Voice, which noted she “was with her husband every step of the way during his intervention in the Irish peace process, without which there would never have been the successful resolution that we’re currently witnessing in Northern Ireland.”

And the Clinton administration’s support of Jean-Bertrand Aristide to Haiti, to reclaim his presidency in 1994, is still remembered by the Haitian immigrant community in New York. “Some of them are very pro-Clinton and some of them are very anti-Clinton,” said Ricot Dupuy, the general manager of Radio Soleil, a Haitian radio station with about 200,000 listeners. “The Aristide factor is the determining factor for that.”

And among other groups, Mrs. Clinton’s association with her president is even more simple: name recognition.

“Americans are loyal to political parties. Chinese are not. They vote for the candidate they know,” said Lotus Chau, reporter for the Chinese-language newspaper Sing Tao Daily. “Between Hillary Clinton and Obama, they’ll definitely vote for Hillary Clinton.” Why? “Because she was first lady. And she went to China.”

The Bush administration’s foreign policies will likely affect whichever Republican candidate wins the nomination. The war on terror isi “an exodus from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party” among Arab-Americans, both Muslim and Christian, “and that has to do with the guilt-by-association mentality that has taken hold in the past years,” said Mr. Faisal, publisher of Aramaica.

The feeling also permeates New York’s Pakistanis, who “feel as if they have been unjustly victimized since 9/11,” said Jehangir Khattak, a contributor for the English-language newspapers Pakistan News, which is published in New York, and Dawn, which is based in Pakistan. Because of President Bush’s close support of the Pakistani president, Pervez Musharraf, “the general consensus among the Pakistani communities of this country is that if a Republican candidate is elected, there will be more years of Musharraf, which means more years of an undemocratic democracy,” Mr. Khattak said.

Under the same notion, Russian-Americans are paying close attention to what the candidates say about President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and, for different reasons, about Israel, since many of the Russians who live in New York are Jewish, said Ari Kagan, senior editor of Vecherniy New York, a weekly Russian-language newspaper in Brooklyn.

“I recall in 2004 that one of the reasons the Russian community voted for George Bush over John Kerry was that they perceived George Bush as a much closer friend of Israel,” he said. “But if the candidates praise Putin, like Bush has done, they will not be very popular with most of the Russians here.”

Major issues in the race — like the Iraq war, the economy and health care — are scrutinized through different prisms. The war in Iraq has greater, more personal significance among Hispanics voters than the overall population because of the large number of Latinos in the armed forces, said Mr. Vourvoulias of El Diario/La Prensa. The poll found that about half of Hispanic voters wanted the troops to come back now and just under half knew someone who is serving in Iraq. “This is an issue that affects Hispanics in a life and death sort of way,” he said.

The Haitian community pays especially close attention to the health care policies, since many of them are among the 47 million uninsured Americans, said Mr. Dupuy or Radio Soleil, the radio station.

And Russians are unhappy about how expensive the food imported from Europe and sold in local stores has become since the dollar has dropped in value against the euro, Vecherniy New York said.

One topic that unites nearly all the ethnic media outlets, no matter what political outlook, is the importance of getting their audiences to vote in the most contested American presidential election in over a generation. And ethnic media outlets are playing a much more service-oriented role in the lives of their audiences.

The Polish Daily News published a voter registration guide with dates, addresses and Web sites, said Czeslaw Karkowski, its editor. “We just inserted it into our newspaper.”

The Korean Central Daily News has done a number of articles explaining why they should vote on this primary and general election. “Even a vote from immigrants can count,” said Steve Chong, a reporter there.

The immigration debates have helped galvanize the ethnic communities around the election, Mr. Vourvoulias said. “It heightened awareness of the political process and the importance of the political process.”

Jennifer 8. Lee contributed reporting. Read more Primary Journal blog entries from the New York region.

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Published: January 31, 2008
A police detective and his female companion kidnapped a 13-year-old runaway girl and forced her into prostitution with 20 men at private parties, the authorities said on Wednesday.The detective, Wayne Taylor, 35, and his companion, Zalika Brown, 29, of 173-37 Vaswani Avenue in Jamaica, were charged with kidnapping, unlawful imprisonment, endangering the welfare of a child and promoting prostitution, said the Queens district attorney, Richard A. Brown. They were arraigned in Queens Criminal Court on Wednesday night and pleaded not guilty.

The girl left her home in Brooklyn on Jan. 10 and encountered someone identified only as Drama who offered to find her a job dancing at parties and introduced her to Ms. Brown, the police said.

Ms. Brown told the girl that she had been “purchased” for $500 for use as a prostitute and introduced Detective Taylor as her husband, the police said, although they described the couple as boyfriend and girlfriend.

Detective Taylor, a 14-year-member of the Police Department assigned to the Housing Bureau, who was suspended without pay upon his arrest, set prices of $40 for oral sex and $80 for intercourse and instructed the girl to give her age as 19, investigators said.

The girl was taken to a party in a barbershop, where she was forced to have sex for money that was then turned over to the suspects, the police said. That routine was repeated in the following days as the couple drove her and other prostitutes to other parties in Queens, Manhattan and Brooklyn, investigators said.

At one point, the suspects complained that the girl was not earning enough money, the police said, and Ms. Brown slammed the girl’s head to the floor and other prostitutes hit her. Detective Taylor threatened the girl that if she did not earn more, he would force her into streetwalking, the police said.

The girl escaped from the couple a few days ago and went to a police station, investigators said. She was able to provide the address where she said she was held, they added. She has since returned to her family, they said.

(Article courtesy of The New York Times: )

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Updated 09.57 Thu Jan 31 2008
A dance school has been causing controversy in Brazil with a carnival float commemorating the Holocaust.The float, made by the Viradouro Samba School, is part of a “shockers” theme and features a pile of emaciated dead bodies.
“I consider it an extremely successful float, because it will go down the parade avenue with the function of alerting people, so that this never happens again” – Paul Barros

The Israelite Federation of Rio de Janeiro has taken a stand against the float but Viradouro artistic director Paul Barros insists it will be a success.

“I consider it an extremely successful float, because it will go down the parade avenue with the function of alerting people, so that this never happens again,” he said.

Viradouro’s parade entry also includes floats depicting the shock of birth, the shock of horror and the shock of cold.

“These eight sensations that were chosen, were placed in the school’s theme in order to provoke a collective shock,” said Mr Baros.

“The majority of them are certainly shocking and will have this effect on the public.”

The Holocaust float will be the only one without dancers on top.

Rio’s Carnival is famed for the parades by samba schools with glitzy floats and costumes and street parties where costumed revellers drink and dance all night.

The use of religious references has often caused last-minute problems for samba schools and in the past, the Roman Catholic Church has barred floats with figures of Christ and the Virgin Mary and samba schools had to cover or modify them.

© Independent Television News Limited 2008. All rights reserved.


RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP)—Jewish groups in Brazil have expressed disgust over a controversial float to appear in Brazil’s upcoming carnival parade that depicts dead victims of the Nazi Holocaust.The display, by the Unidos da Viradouro school, will be sandwiched among 11 others that are to parade along the city’s carnival avenue on Sunday.

In dramatic contrast to the floats carrying sequined, scantily clad dancers smiling and gyrating, and followed by drum bands, the Holocaust entry will show only motionless, skeletal figures piled on top of each other.
Its creator defended the float, which will move along under the theme “It’s Horrifying.”
“It’s a very respectful float. It’s going to depict it (the Holocaust) as a sort of alarm, so that it never be repeated,” the creator, Paulo Barros, told AFP.
“I believe the carnival is also a way of showing what happens in the world,” he said.
But Brazilian Jewish groups are not seeing it that way.
Sergio Niskier, the president of the Israelite Federation of Rio de Janerio, said it was “inappropriate” to punctuate the festival atmosphere of carnival with a scene symbolizing the systematic murder of six million people in Nazi concentration camps between 1938 and 1945.
“Really, it makes no sense to highlight this issue with drums and dancing girls when there are still survivors of that horror and many of their descendants who carry the mark of that tragedy in their skin,” he told reporters.
Barros, however, said he informed the Jewish group of his plans months ago.
“They were anxious about putting this float in a carnival atmosphere,” he admitted.
But, he predicted, “When the float goes by, people will feel respect.”
A counterpart at the rival Grande Rio samba school, Roberto Szaniecki, himself of Polish Jew descent, disagreed.
“It’s insensitive. The parade is going to be broadcast in Europe. I don’t have grandparents because of the Holocaust,” he told the newspaper O Dia.
UPDATE 2/1/2008:

Thu Jan 31, 2008 12:12pm EST

By Pedro Fonseca

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – A Brazilian judge barred a samba group on Thursday from featuring a Holocaust display and a dancer dressed as Adolf Hitler in its Carnival parade after fierce complaints from Jewish groups.

State judge Juliana Kalichszteim ruled the Viradouro samba group, or school, would be subject to a $110,000 fine for the float and $28,000 for the Hitler impersonation if it went ahead with its original parade plan.

“Carnival should not be used as an instrument of hatred, any kind of racism and clear trivialization or barbaric and unjustified acts against minorities,” the judge said.

Viradouro planned to feature a tableau of a pile of dead model bodies when it marches in the Sambadrome stadium on Sunday night.

The globally televised parades, led by virtually naked Carnival queens and featuring thousands of dancers and drummers, are the highlight of the celebrations in Rio de Janeiro.

The official script also said an actor would pose as Nazi leader Hitler on the float.

Viradouro officials said they have not yet received the judge’s ruling and would decide later whether to appeal.

The Israelite Federation in Rio de Janeiro state was the first to object earlier this week and was later joined by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a prominent international Jewish human rights group. 

Some six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, an extermination program carried out in World War Two by Nazi Germany.

“A guy dressed as Hitler atop a pile of dead Jews, that’s too much. It’s beyond the limits of common sense. There is no way we could accept that,” said Sergio Niskier, president of the Rio federation, hailing the judge’s decision.

Viradouro officials have said the float was “extremely respectful” and was meant as a warning about the horrors of the past so that they never happen again.

The school’s parade theme is “Shockers” and it includes floats depicting the shock of birth, the shock of horror and the shock of cold.

On Wednesday, another samba group agreed to remove the swastika symbol from uniforms that its dancers planned to wear in its Carnival parade about the predictions of Nostradamus after complaints from the Jewish federation. The Estacio de Sa group also said it would drop a section of the parade named after Hitler.

(Writing by Andrei Khalip; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Alan Elsner)

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David N. Dinkins Hillary Rodham ClintonMayor David N. Dinkins campaigned with Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and Representative Charles B. Rangel at Benedict College in Columbia, S.C., on Jan. 25. (Photo: Todd Heisler for The New York Times)
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On rare occasions, David N. Dinkins says, he is approached by New Yorkers who ask him how he could possibly support Hillary Rodham Clinton in her quest to become president rather than Barack Obama.

“In fact, every now and then, a black person will ask me that,” said Mr. Dinkins, who was elected New York City’s first black mayor in 1989. “They wonder how I can be in support of a white woman running against this black man. And, sometimes, a white person will come to me and somehow make the assumption that I’m with Obama.”

Mr. Dinkins, who served from 1990 through 1993, is running to be a delegate for Senator Clinton. He said he periodically laments how the race for the Democratic nomination has been viewed by some voters purely through the prism of race and gender. Nonetheless, he said, his enthusiastic support for Ms. Clinton should be surprising to no one.

“It starts with friendship and loyalty,” Mr. Dinkins said. “The Clintons helped me and they have been supportive of me. She has been an outstanding United States senator. To be honest, I don’t know Obama. I’ve met him just once, when he made that great speech at the convention. He is a bright young man. I’m not against him — I’m for Hillary.”

In particular, Mr. Dinkins said, he has been impressed with her performance as a senator. “She didn’t come with an attitude of being the former first lady,” he said. “She came into the Senate with the perspective that she was one of 100 senators and she did everything but fetch coffee for the Republican senators. She did the hard work and learned how to do the job well.”

Nonetheless, against the backdrop of Senator Obama’s historic campaign to become the nation’s first black president, Mr. Dinkins said he is occasionally questioned by black New Yorkers about his decision.

“Some will question my bona fides in blackness,” Mr. Dinkins said. “And I point out that I supported Jesse Jackson in 1984 and that there were very few people for him at that time. In 1988, I was a co-chair of his campaign.”

Mr. Dinkins added: “My record is clear. And every now and then, I ask them, ‘Where were you in 1988 when I was supporting Jesse Jackson?’ Then I explain that it’s not a racial thing or a gender thing with me. I just happen to think that the lady is very smart, very good and will make a heck of a president.”

As a former mayor and highly recognized New York City politician, Mr. Dinkins is just one of a large number of prominent New York officials and former officials who are seeking to be Clinton delegates. It is a group that includes members of the Assembly, State Senate and City Council, as well as union leaders and borough presidents.

Since leaving Gracie Mansion, Mr. Dinkins has remained politically active, principally by endorsing various candidates in local, citywide and statewide races. Since leaving office, he has also worked as a professor at Columbia University and a radio host.

Most of the state’s Democratic establishment is supporting Mrs. Clinton over Mr. Obama. Among the many Democrat office-holders running on Mrs. Clinton’s delegate slates in Tuesday’s primary are:

  • United States Representative José E. Serrano of the Bronx.
  • Assemblywoman Deborah J. Glick of Manhattan.
  • Assemblymen Jonathan L. Bing, Adriano Espaillat and Keith L. T. Wright of Manhattan.
  • Assemblywomen Barbara M. Clark, Aurelia Greene, Audrey I. Pheffer and Catherine T. Nolan of Queens.
  • Assemblywoman Annette M. Robinson of Brooklyn.
  • Assemblyman Michael N. Gianaris of Queens.
  • Assemblymen Jeffrey Dinowitz and Carl Heastie of the Bronx.
  • Assemblywoman Naomi Rivera of the Bronx.
  • Assemblymen Peter J. Abbate, N. Nick Perry and Darryl Towns of Brooklyn.
  • State Senator Diane J. Savino of Brooklyn and Staten Island.
  • State Senator Martin Malave Dilan of Brooklyn.
  • State Senator Liz Krueger of Manhattan.
  • State Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson of the Bronx.
  • City Councilman Bill de Blasio of Brooklyn.
  • City Councilmen Hiram Monserrate and Thomas White Jr. of Queens.
  • City Councilwoman Melinda Katz of Queens.
  • City Councilwomen Inez Dickens and Melissa Mark-Viverito of Manhattan.
  • City Councilman Miguel Martinez of Manhattan.
  • City Councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo of the Bronx.
  • City Councilman Joel Rivera of the Bronx.
  • Helen M. Marshall, the Queens borough president.
  • Scott M. Stringer, the Manhattan borough president.

Other delegate candidates for Mrs. Clinton include John Gulino, the Staten Island Democratic chairman; Mayor Byron W. Brown of Buffalo; and Lillian Roberts, executive director of District Council 37, the city’s largest public workers’ union.

Read more Primary Journal blog entries from the New York region.

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