Monthly Archives: February 2013


After Trayvon: Acts of Kindness, Courage and Resistance

Jorge Rivas looks at how people from all walks of life came together to support Trayvon Martin’s family and call for justice.

NFL Teams Are Breaking Their Own Rules by Asking if Manti Te’o Is Gay

Scandal surrounding the former Notre Dame star is stirring all sorts of challenges for the NFL too, from employment bias to the definition of masculinity. Jamilah King reports.

At ‘Shelby v. Holder’ Hearing, Debate Over Southern Racism and Congressional Power

Five major takeaways straight from yesterday’s Supreme Court hearing about Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Brentin Mock reports.

Watch: North Carolina: A Case for the Voting Rights Act’s Modern Relevance

WTF, ICE? A Week’s Worth of Troubling Immigration Revelations
Immigration reform is moving ahead, sort of. But that hasn’t stopped federal immigration enforcers and those who profit off of it from steamrolling everything around.

Florida’s Welfare Drug Testing Law Struck Down by Federal Appeals Court 
A federal appeals court today struck a blow to a 2011 Florida law requiring drug tests for all applicants to the state’s welfare program.

Oscars ‘In Memoriam’ Snubs Lupe Ontiveros, Twice
Ontiveros worked steadily throughout her 35-year career and her credits include films like “Selena,” “Real Women Have Curves,” and “El Norte.”

George Zimmerman Cites Massive Weight Gain in Reason to Postpone Trial
George Zimmerman has gained 105 pounds in the year since he shot Trayvon Martin.

Black Churches Condemn Obama’s Drone Policy as Murder and Evil 
An association of 34,000 churches has come out strongly against drones.

Just in Time for Oscars, Street Artist Gets Hollywood to Think About Its Workers
Artist Ramiro Gomez placed an installation right in the Beverly Hills-West Hollywood border to get those heading to the Oscars to consider who was taking care of their families and homes while they were out making movies.

Let These Adorable Kids Inspire You to Celebrate Black History Every Month
Maryland-based photographer Eunique Jones’ photo series called “Because Of Them, We Can” pays tribute to black leaders whose sacrifices paved the way for younger generations to realize their dreams.

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127844 600 Boehner advises Senate cartoons

Dave Granlund’s cartoons have appeared in the New York Times,Chicago TribuneChristian Science Monitor and Newsweek. ( )

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Published: February 22, 2013

  • Magic Slim, a singer and guitarist acclaimed as a keeper of the flame of electrified Chicago blues, died on Thursday in Philadelphia. He was 75.

Jack Vartoogian/FrontRowPhotos

Magic Slim leading his band, the Teardrops, in 2007.

His death was announced by Blind Pig Records, the label for which he had recorded since 1990. No cause was given, but he was known to have been dealing with a variety of health problems and had been hospitalized a few weeks ago while on tour.

Magic Slim was one of the last in a long line of musicians who grew up in the Deep South and then moved to Chicago, where the blues evolved in the years after World War II from a folk music played primarily on acoustic guitars to a loud, raucous, distinctly urban music, played on electric instruments by the likes of Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, that was a precursor of rock ’n’ roll.

He was known not just for his musicianship but also for the intensity of his live performances. The music magazine No Depression once described his music as “the in-your-face variety” of blues, noting, “Magic Slim doesn’t just play the blues, he body slams his audiences with a vicious guitar attack that pins them to the floor.”

His mentor was Sam Maghett, known professionally as Magic Sam, a Chicago blues star in the 1960s, whom he knew as a child in Mississippi and who offered early encouragement and instruction. “Magic Sam told me don’t try to play like him, don’t try to play like nobody,” he once recalled. “Get a sound of your own.”

It was also Magic Sam who gave a teenager named Morris Holt the stage name Magic Slim when the two performed together in Chicago in the 1950s.

Morris Holt was born in Torrance, Miss., on Aug. 7, 1937, and began playing the guitar as a child. He made his first trip to Chicago in 1955 but was unable to gain a foothold in the competitive local blues scene and returned to Mississippi, where he spent the next several years honing his craft.

Back in Chicago in the 1960s, he began developing a following and formed a group, Magic Slim and the Teardrops, that eventually became the house band at a local nightclub, Florence’s. They went on to tour and record regularly, headlining blues festivals all over the world, and to win numerous awards, including the 2003 Blues Music Award as band of the year.

Magic Slim lived in Lincoln, Neb. Survivors include his wife, Ann; seven children; and four stepchildren. His son Shawn had recently joined his band.

Magic Slim and the Teardrops’ last album, “Bad Boy,” was released in 2012.




Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

Pat Derby in 2009 at her animal sanctuary in California.


Published: February 22, 2013

  • Pat Derby, a former animal trainer for television shows like “Lassie” and “Flipper” who became a crusader against animal exploitation in entertainment and founded of one of the largest privately operated wildlife sanctuaries in the United States, died last Friday at her home in San Andreas, Calif. She was 69.

The cause was cancer, said Ed Stewart, her companion and only immediate survivor.

Ms. Derby was among the first animal rights advocates to champion performing animals, especially exotic species like elephants, apes, monkeys, lions and tigers. Though trainable, those animals have never been fully domesticated, and often end up abandoned or ill-treated once their usefulness as performers expires, she contended.

In 1984, Ms. Derby and Mr. Stewart founded the Performing Animals Welfare Society (PAWS) and opened their first sanctuary on 30 acres in Galt, Calif., outside Sacramento, which was the first in the United States equipped to care for elephants. In 2002 they opened a second, more sprawling sanctuary called Ark 2000 in San Andreas, about 40 miles away.

Covering 2,300 acres, Ark 2000 has become a sort of retirement community for more than 100 exotic animals, most of them former film or circus performers, survivors of roadside zoos and former pets whose owners could no longer handle them. The facility is supported by private and corporate donations and a membership list said to number 33,000.

Among the animals there is an elephant, Maggie, who developed arthritis and became depressed after spending several years, mainly indoors because of the weather, at the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage. Two bears at the sanctuary — a grizzly bear named Tuffy and a Kodiak bear named Manfried — were featured in the 1994 film “Legends of the Fall,” set in Montana. They had been sold after the filming and were rescued from a poorly ventilated horse trailer during a Southern California heat wave.

Ms. Derby trained animals for television in the 1960s and ’70s and recounted the experience in a 1976 memoir, “The Lady and Her Tiger.” Neglect and abuse, including violence, food deprivation and chained confinement, were routine among her fellow trainers, she wrote. (Domesticated animals like dogs were usually spared mistreatment. Lassie, at least as portrayed by the dogs she knew, she said, was always treated well.)

Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States, said Ms. Derby’s many years as a witness gave her unique credibility as an advocate, and made her “fearless” in confronting animal abuse in the entertainment world.  “Hollywood, Las Vegas casino owners, Ringling Brothers — she took them all on,” he said.

In addition to “Lassie” and “Flipper,” which starred a dolphin, Ms. Derby had worked for shows like “Gunsmoke”; “Gentle Ben,” which was about a bear; and “Daktari,” set in a fictional animal preserve in Africa. In the ’70s she worked on commercials, including a campaign for Lincoln-Mercury featuring the actress Farrah Fawcett and two cougars.

Ms. Derby said she did not find much work as an animal trainer after her memoir was published. “I never ate lunch in that town again,” she told The Los Angeles Times in 1995.

She twice testified before Congress, however, and was appointed to California study commissions whose findings led to state laws restricting private ownership of exotic pets and setting minimum standards for some performing animals.

The laws did not go far enough, she contended. Ms. Derby believed that wild animals should not be in captivity, period — not even in sanctuaries like hers, which she considered a less onerous form of captivity but captivity nonetheless. “All I can do is make their prison as comfortable as possible,” she said.

Ms. Derby was born Patricia Bysshe Shelley on June 7, 1943, in rural Sussex, England, to Charles and Mary Shelley. Her father, a professor of English literature, said he was a descendant of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Patricia, who studied dance, moved to Southern California when she was 19 seeking work in film. From a brief marriage that ended in divorce, she kept the name Derby.

Ms. Derby was a lifelong animal lover who as a child helped her mother with volunteer work for animal rescue groups. She took up animal training as a way to earn money between dancing jobs, Mr. Stewart said. She loved elephants most. In her memoir, she described a near-mystical affinity with them:  “I was born in love with all elephants. Not for a reason that I know. Not because of any of their individual qualities — wisdom, kindness, power, grace, patience, loyalty — but for what they are altogether. For their entire elephantness.”




John Williams/Hulton Archive, via Getty Images

Members of the British group Soft Machine included, from left, Robert Wyatt, Daevid Allen, Kevin Ayers and Mike Ratledge.


Published: February 22, 2013

  • Kevin Ayers, a wayward, witty British rocker who helped shape early psychedelia and was admired throughout his hard-lived life as a musician’s musician with little appetite for stardom, died on Monday at his home in the town of Montolieu, in the South of France. He was 68.

Ebet Roberts

Kevin Ayers performed at Hurrah’s in New York City in April of 1980.

His death was confirmed by Bernard MacMahon of Lo-Max Records in London, which released his most recent album, “The Unfairground,” in 2007.

Mr. Ayers was a young misfit in Canterbury in the 1960s, with long hair (he would later become fond of eye makeup), arty interests and few friends, when he connected with the musicians, including the drummer and singer Robert Wyatt, with whom he would eventually form the influential band Soft Machine. The band’s first single, “Love Makes Sweet Music,” was released in 1967.

Mr. Ayers, who sang and played electric bass and guitar, wrote songs that could be jazzy, playful or dense, with unusual instrumentation, brooding choruses or spoken lyrics that may or may not have been intended as meaningful. He sang in a melancholy baritone, with clean diction.

“Why Are We Sleeping?,” which he wrote with two other members of the band, for the first Soft Machine album, starts:

It begins with a blessing, it ends with a curse

Making life easy by making it worse

“My mask is my master,” the trumpeter weeps

But his voice is so weak, as he speaks from his sleep

Saying: “Why, why, why, why are we sleeping?”

Authorities on British rock regarded Soft Machine and Mr. Ayers as crucial influences on the avant-garde music that developed in the late 1960s, including the psychedelia of Jimi Hendrix (who gave Mr. Ayers a guitar) and Pink Floyd. Mr. Ayers recorded at least one session with Pink Floyd’s early leader, Syd Barrett.

Soft Machine toured the United States as an opening act for Hendrix in 1968, but Mr. Ayers left the band soon afterward to live on an island off the coast of Spain.

Departure became something of a pattern for him. Just as he would near commercial success, or simply stability, he would display his lack of interest by disappearing. But he kept making music, including solo records throughout the 1970s that were critically acclaimed and beloved by his fans. Those efforts included “Joy of a Toy,” “Bananamour” and “The Confessions of Dr. Dream and Other Stories.”

There would be longer and longer stretches before Mr. Ayers emerged from his Mediterranean beach life. He struggled with drugs and drank heavily, and he was not afraid to mingle with the wives of other musicians. In a 2008 interview with Word magazine, Mr. Ayers said he saw little merit in ambition.

“Honestly, I just assume that whatever is going to happen to me is going to happen,” he said. “There it goes: someone is there, someone isn’t there. This girl is here. This food is here. I think the clever people are the ones who do as little as possible.”

Mr. Ayers was born on Aug. 16, 1944, in Herne Bay, Kent, England. His father, Rowan Ayers, was a BBC producer who helped create “The Old Grey Whistle Test,” a late-night television show that focused on artistically ambitious rock music.

Mr. Ayers’s parents divorced when he was very young, and he spent many of his early years with his mother and her new husband in Malaysia. He returned to England at about 12 and eventually met Mr. Wyatt and Mike Ratledge, another early bandmate. He said in the Word interview that those friendships were “the first experience of intimacy, the first family I ever had.”

His survivors include three daughters, Rachel Ayers, Galen Ayers and Annaliese Ellidge, and a sister.

It had been 15 years since Mr. Ayers released a recording when, in 2007, Lo-Max asked him to make an album based on some home recordings a friend of his had surreptitiously shared with the label. Mr. Ayers needed to be coaxed into doing it.

“He didn’t have any desire to make a big public statement, really,” Mr. MacMahon said. “His main concern was, were the songs good enough to be recorded? I got the impression that he did it for the satisfaction of doing something he was proud of.”




William Eckenberg/The New York Times

A family examined a fallout shelter in 1960 on display at the New York Civil Defense headquarters in Manhattan.


Published: February 18, 2013

  • Steuart Pittman, a Washington lawyer who was appointed by President John F. Kennedy in 1961 to create enough fallout shelters to protect every American in the event of a nuclear attack, and who resigned in frustration three years later amid heated debates over the feasibility, the cost and even the ethics of such a program, died on Feb. 10 at his family farm in Davidsonville, Md. He was 93. The apparent cause was a stroke, said his wife, Barbara.

Oscar Porter/U.S. Army

Steuart Pittman

Mr. Pittman was appointed the nation’s first civil defense chief for nuclear war preparedness at the height of the 1961 Berlin crisis, when words like fallout, megaton and radioactivity became alarmingly familiar to every American schoolchild.

Kennedy’s predecessor, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, had made fallout shelters the responsibility of an agency that managed emergency and natural disaster planning.

But Mr. Pittman, appointed assistant secretary of defense for civil defense soon after Soviet and American tanks faced off in Berlin and the wall dividing East and West Berlin started going up, had one mission only. It was to give 180 million Americans access to shelters stocked with enough food, water and medical supplies to get them through the first week or two after a nuclear attack, when exposure to radioactive fallout was most perilous.

From the start, it was a controversial undertaking. Mr. Pittman would later call it one of the most “unappetizing, unappealing and unpopular” jobs ever created.

Many members of Congress balked at the estimated $3 billion cost to the federal government. State and local officials cringed at the matching $3 billion they were expected to provide. There was debate in the White House and the Pentagon over the proper balance between public and private, federal and local, and individual and community control of the shelters.

There were also ethical debates about whether it would be justified to use violence to stop a neighbor from forcing his way into someone’s shelter. Peace activists warned that building too many fallout shelters would hurt the cause of disarmament.

Mr. Pittman, an international investment banking lawyer, had been chief counsel for the Marshall Plan after the war, but had no domestic government or political experience. Still, within a year he had dispatched federal workers to every part of the country to inventory subway systems and public buildings that might be converted for shelter use; established specifications for shelter construction; collected vast amounts of information on public attitudes about shelters; and stocked about 100,000 model shelters in 14 cities.

During an Armed Services Committee hearing. Representative F. Edward Hebert, a Democrat from Louisiana, told Mr. Pittman: “I don’t know which way we are going, but if we decide not to go ahead, it will be in spite of your valiant efforts, and if we do go ahead, it will be because of those valiant efforts.”

Yet, hard as it was to combat opposition to the program, Mr. Pittman said, it was harder still to contend with the apathy and resignation he encountered.

“I hate to hear people say that they would prefer to die in a nuclear attack rather than face the horrors of survival,” he told U.P.I. in 1961. “This nation was built by people who left Europe to face the unknown hazards of a wilderness continent. Do we no longer have the courage to face an unknown challenge?”

Steuart Lansing Pittman was born in Albany on June 6, 1919, the second of Ernest and Estelle Pittman’s three children. He grew up on the East Side of Manhattan, graduated from Yale in 1941, and worked for two years in Asia for a subsidiary of Pan American World Airways before joining the Marine Corps in 1943. He was sent to China to train and operate with guerrilla groups behind Japanese lines.

Two days after V-J Day, Mr. Pittman was involved in one of the most unusual naval battles of the war, and possibly the last. Mr. Pittman was commanding two Chinese junks carrying guerrillas when they were fired on by a Japanese junk in the South China Sea. Mr. Pittman’s forces counterattacked, killing 43 and taking 39 Japanese sailors prisoner. He was awarded the Silver Star for valor.

Mr. Pittman received his law degree from Yale in 1948. In 1954, he became a founding partner of the firm Shaw, Pittman, Potts & Trowbridge (now Pillsbury, Winthrop, Shaw & Pittman), where he remained — with a three-year hiatus to serve in the civil defense post — until he retired in the mid-1980s. He later moved to Dodon Farm, a 550-acre estate in Maryland that has been in his family for more than 300 years.

Besides his wife, Mr. Pittman’s survivors include four children from his first marriage — Andrew, Nancy Pittman Pinchot, Rosamond Pittman Casey, and Tamara Pittman; three children from his current marriage, Patricia Pittman, Steuart Jr., and Romey Pittman; and 15 grandchildren.

His first marriage, to the former Antoinette Pinchot, ended in divorce.

Mr. Pittman resigned as assistant secretary of defense in March 1964 after the defeat of a $190 million budget appropriation to subsidize construction of shelters in hospitals, schools and other nonprofit institutions.

Mr. Pittman had always advocated the building of community shelters, rather than individual ones. But after returning to private life, he and his wife decided to build a fallout shelter at their home in Maryland.

“We started it, anyway,” Mrs. Pittman said in an interview Friday. “But after half a day’s digging, we gave it up.”

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: February 22, 2013

An obituary on Thursday about Steuart Pittman, the assistant secretary of defense for civil defense in the Kennedy administration, misidentified the location of a fallout shelter he and his wife decided to build after he returned to private life. It was on his family estate, Dodon Farm, in Davidsonville, Md. — not at their house in the Georgetown area of Washington.





Published: February 18, 2013

  • W. Watts Biggers, who with a partner created the 1960s cartoon “Underdog” as a way to sell cereal and wrote its infectious theme song, died on Feb. 10 at his home in Manomet, Mass. He was 85.

Henny Ray Abrams/Associated Press

Total Television

Underdog” made its debut on NBC in 1964.

The cause was a heart attack, Nancy Purbeck, his longtime companion, said.

Mr. Biggers was an account manager at the advertising firm Dancer Fitzgerald Sample in the early 1960s when he and Chet Stover, a copywriter, began conceiving a cartoon show to advertise General Mills cereals.

Mr. Biggers and Mr. Stover talked over dozens of ideas, but nothing seemed right. They knew that they would be competing for a morning time slot with Jay Ward and Bill Scott, who had created “Rocky & Bullwinkle.”

“We were going to be the underdog,” Mr. Biggers recalled saying to Mr. Stover. The idea stuck, giving birth to Underdog, a humble shoe shiner who would be  transformed into a superhero, especially whenever the reporter Sweet Polly Purebred was threatened. It won the slot and made its debut on NBC in 1964.

Voiced by the character actor Wally Cox in rhyming couplets, Underdog battled villains like the evil scientist Simon Bar Sinister and the wolf gangster Riff Raff. Underdog’s segments on the show were interspersed with those of other cartoon characters like the Go Go Gophers and Tennessee Tuxedo.

Underdog” proved so popular that Mr. Biggers and Mr. Stover left advertising to start a production company, Total Television, with Joe Harris and Treadwell Covington. They wrote more than 100 episodes of “Underdog,” and Mr. Biggers, the composer of the group, wrote the theme music for the company’s cartoons. (He also credited his partners Mr. Stovers, Mr. Harris and Mr. Covington.)

The show is syndicated worldwide, and an Underdog balloon has appeared in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. A live action movie based on the cartoon, starring Jason Lee as the voice of Underdog, was released in 2007.

The theme song (beginning, “There’s no need to fear! Underdog is here!”) pops up in unexpected places. The Blanks a cappella group performed an extended version of the song on the sitcom “Scrubs,” and the hip-hop artist RZA sampled it on the album “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers.)”

William Watts Biggers was born on June 2, 1927, in Atlanta to Rosemary and Bascom Biggers, a big band leader. In addition to Ms. Purbeck, Mr. Biggers is survived by a daughter, Victoria; a son, W. Watts Jr.; a brother, Bascom III; Ms. Purbeck’s children, Andrea Condon and Jeffrey Turgeon; and Ms. Purbeck’s four grandchildren. His wife of 39 years, Grace, died in 1989.

Mr. Biggers went to work for NBC in the late 1970s and left in 1984 to focus on writing.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: February 18, 2013

An earlier version of this article misstated the date on which William Watts Biggers was born. He was born June 2, 1927, not 1923.


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Moon and Spica from Los Angeles


The Moon Meets (and Hides) Spica

February 22, 2013                                                                | On Thursday, February 28th, late-evening skywatchers in the Americas can see a waning gibbous Moon nestled very close to Virgo’s alpha star. Those in Central and South America might even see the star wink out! > read more

Updates on Comet PanSTARRS

January 4, 2013                                                                  | Long awaited, Comet PanSTARRS now looks to reach only 3rd magnitude at its best in March, when it will be low in the western evening twilight for Northern Hemisphere observers. > read more

Tour February’s Sky by Eye and Ear!

February 1, 2013                                                                  | Evening skies feature two bright planets: Mercury, which lurks low in the west after sunset around the 16th, and Jupiter, which reigns high in the southern sky all month long. > read more

Meteor trail over Chelyabinsk

Uragan.TT / Wikimedia Commons

Info on Russian Meteor Pours In

February 21, 2013                                                                | The fireball that exploded over Russia on February 15th left more than a million square feet of damaged windows, bringing home how fragile life on Earth can be. Here’s what S&T’s staff has managed to piece together about what happened. > read more

Tiniest Exoplanet Around a Sunlike Star

February 21, 2013                                                                | The Kepler mission has discovered an exoplanet smaller than Mercury orbiting a Sun-like star. > read more

“Black Rain” on Callisto and Ganymede

February 20, 2013                                                                | Those distant, dinky irregular moons of Jupiter are likely responsible for deep drifts of dark dirt on the two largest Galilean satellites. > read more

Stellar Senior Citizen

February 19, 2013                                                                | Astronomers have confirmed that the star HD 140283 is nearly as old as the universe. > read more

Baby Black Hole Discovered

February 18, 2013                                                                | Astronomers investigating a supernova remnant see nothi

This Week’s Sky at a Glance
Leo announces spring... .or at least spring's approach.

This Week’s Sky at a Glance

February 22, 2013                                                                  | Mercury fades from sight in the west. Saturn rises ever earlier in the east. And the Moon aligns with Regulus, Spica, and then Saturn. > read more

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Watch SkyWeekAs seen on PBS television stations nationwide

Sponsors: Meade Instruments Woodland Hills Camera & Telescope

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ng but swirls of gas. The lack of stellar remains means the explosion must have birthed a black hole only 1,000 years ago. > read more

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From Selma to the Roberts Court: Reflections on Voting Rights History

Civil rights leaders who led and joined the March 1965 demonstrations that created the Voting Rights Act speak with Colorlines a week before the Supreme Court reviews the legislation.

What’s ‘Sequestration’ Mean in Real Life?

Economic Justice contributor Imara Jones explains the trillion-dollar budget cuts that are set to begin in a matter of days.

5 Ways the ‘Harlem Shake’ Meme Is (Slightly) More Complicated Than It Seems

The inescapable dance craze is drawing criticism from folks who say it’s just cultural appropriation. Channing Kennedy offers some meaningful context.

Watch: Harlem Residents React to ‘Harlem Shake’ Videos

Denver Takes Bold Step Toward Eliminating Its School-to-Prison Pipeline In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre, elected officials, pundits and gun lobbyists have been calling for more police in schools. So why is Denver doing its own thing?

Obama’s Fatherhood Meme Ruffles Otherwise Ardent Supporters Critics are asking why the president sees family structure as the gun problem in Chicago, but not in Newtown.

A Black History Month Comic Nia King illustrates her journey through Black History Month.

‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Actor Jesse Williams Offers Tarantino Tips on How to Portray Slavery Williams asks why “Django Unchained” included stereotypical and graphic images of black slaves while “Inglorious Basterds” avoided much of that imagery.

Deported Father’s Case Ends as Congress Debates Immigration Changes Felipe Montes, who lost his three U.S.-citizen sons when he was deported to Mexico in December 2010, will now be allowed to take his children with him to Mexico.

San Francisco Jail Inmates Dance to Stop Sexual Violence [Video] As part of the One Billion Rising movement a group of choreographers visited San Francisco County jails to make sure inmates were able to participate in the global actions.

ACLU Obtains Emails That Prove ICE Officials Set Deportation Quotas Federal immigration authorities have claimed to target people who pose a threat to public safety but these emails show officials targeted immigrants convicted of minor crimes.

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Neo-Nazi Threat-Maker Bill White Gets More Prison Time

by Mark Potok  on February 21, 2013

Bill White, the imprisoned neo-Nazi leader who spent years pushing the boundaries of the First Amendment, has been sentenced to another 3½ years in federal prison — even as he awaits a trial in yet another of the cases in which he is accused of criminally threatening his enemies.

Two years after being convicted of threatening the foreman of a Chicago jury that sent another neo-Nazi to prison for soliciting the murder of a federal judge, White was sentenced yesterday by U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman after offering a half-hearted apology for “communicating in a way that was subject to misunderstanding,” the Chicago Tribune reported.

The sentence related to a Sept. 11, 2008, blog posting by White that accused former jury foreman Mark Hoffman of being a “gay Jewish anti-racist” who helped convict Matt Hale, the one-time leader of the neo-Nazi World Church of the Creator, in 2005, and also published personal details about Hoffman including his home address and phone numbers. White didn’t directly threaten Hoffman in that post, but wrote in a separate post on his website that all those who helped convict Hale deserved to be assassinated.

White has a long history of making threats over the Internet, by telephone and through the mails. He was already in federal prison when he was sentenced in the latest case, where he was serving time for violating his parole in yet another threat case by fleeing to Mexico. And just last week, White, a one-time anarchist who went on to found and lead the Virginia-based American National Socialist Workers Party, was indicted in still another case, this time for threatening to have his ex-wife beaten and “hospitalized” for not sending him money while he was on the lam.

For years, White skirted criminal responsibility for his threats, avoiding directly calling on followers to kill even as he seemed to encourage precisely that. In the latest case, in fact, Judge Adelman initially dismissed the indictment against White, ruling that his comments were protected free speech. But that ruling was reversed on appeal. Later, Adelman reversed the jury’s guilty verdict for the same reason, but was again overturned.

Yesterday, the judge described the experiences of Hoffman — who did not attend the sentencing hearing because, prosecutors reported, “he cannot endure the thought of further contact with the defendant and this case” — as having “no doubt” been “extremely frightening.”


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Quick Facts

The United Nations’ (UN) International Mother Language Day is annually held on February 21 to celebrate languages spoken worldwide. It also observes the human right to use these languages.

Local names

Name Language
International Mother Language Day English
Día Internacional de la Lengua Materna Spanish

International Mother Language Day 2013 Theme: “Books for Mother Tongue Education”

Thursday, February 21, 2013

International Mother Language Day 2014

Friday, February 21, 2014

The United Nations’ (UN) International Mother Language Day annually celebrates language diversity and variety worldwide on February 21. It also remembers events such as the killing of four students on February 21, 1952, because they campaigned to officially use their mother language, Bengali, in Bangladesh.

The fight for language diversity has a history, especially in countries such as Bangladesh. This illustration is based on artwork from © Unsworth and © Daniel St.Pierre

What do people do?

On International Mother Language Day the UN’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and UN agencies participate in events that promote linguistic and cultural diversity. They also encourage people to maintain their knowledge of their mother language while learning and using more than one language. Governments and non-governmental organizations may use the day to announce policies to encourage language learning and support.

In Bangladesh, February 21 is the anniversary of a pivotal day in the country’s history. People lay flowers at a Shaheed Minar (martyr’s monument). They also: purchase glass bangles for themselves or female relatives; eat a festive meal and organize parties; and award prizes or host literary competitions. It is a time to celebrate Bangladesh’s culture and the Bengali language.

The Linguapax Institute, in Barcelona, Spain, aims to preserve and promote linguistic diversity globally. The institute presents the Linguapax Prize on International Mother Language Day each year. The prize is for those who have made outstanding work in linguistic diversity or multilingual education.

Public life

International Mother Language Day is a public holiday in Bangladesh, where it is also known as Shohid Dibôsh, or Shaheed Day. It is a global observance but not a public holiday in other parts of the world.


At the partition of India in 1947, the Bengal province was divided according to the predominant religions of the inhabitants. The western part became part of India and the eastern part became a province of Pakistan known as East Bengal and later East Pakistan. However, there was economic, cultural and lingual friction between East and West Pakistan.

These tensions were apparent in 1948 when Pakistan’s government declared that Urdu was the sole national language. This sparked protests amongst the Bengali-speaking majority in East Pakistan. The government outlawed the protests but on February 21, 1952, students at the University of Dhaka and other activists organized a protest. Later that day, the police opened fire at the demonstrators and killed four students. These students’ deaths in fighting for the right to use their mother language are now remembered on International Mother Language Day.

The unrest continued as Bengali speakers campaigned for the right to use their mother language. Bengali became an official language in Pakistan on February 29, 1956. Following the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971, Bangladesh became an independent country with Bengali as its official language.

On November 17, 1999, UNESCO proclaimed February 21 to be International Mother Language Day and it was first observed on February 21, 2000. Each year the celebrations around International Mother Language Day concentrate on a particular theme.


The Shaheed Minar (martyr’s monument) in Dhaka, Bangladesh, pays homage to the four demonstrators killed in 1952. There have been three versions of the monument. The first version was built on February 22-23 in 1952 but the police and army destroyed it within a few days. Construction on the second version started in November 1957, but the introduction of martial law stopped construction work and it was destroyed during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971.

The third version of the Shaheed Minar was built to similar plans as the second version. It consists of four standing marble frames and a larger double marble frame with a slanted top portion. The frames are constructed from marble and stand on a stage, which is raised about four meters (14 feet) above the ground. The four frames represent the four men who died on February 21, 1952, and the double frame represents their mothers and country. Replicas of the Shaheed Minar have been constructed worldwide where people from Bangladesh have settled, particularly in London and Oldham in the United Kingdom.

An International Mother Language Day monument was erected at Ashfield Park in Sydney, Australia, on February 19, 2006.  It consists of a slab of slate mounted vertically on a raised platform. There are stylized images of the Shaheed Minar and the globe on the face of the stone. There are also the words “we will remember the martyrs of 21st February” in English and Bengali and words in five alphabets to represent mother languages on five continents where people live.

International Mother Language Day Observances

Weekday Date Year Name Holiday type Where it is observed
Mon Feb 21 2000 International Mother Language Day United Nations observance
Wed Feb 21 2001 International Mother Language Day United Nations observance
Thu Feb 21 2002 International Mother Language Day United Nations observance
Fri Feb 21 2003 International Mother Language Day United Nations observance
Sat Feb 21 2004 International Mother Language Day United Nations observance
Mon Feb 21 2005 International Mother Language Day United Nations observance
Tue Feb 21 2006 International Mother Language Day United Nations observance
Wed Feb 21 2007 International Mother Language Day United Nations observance
Thu Feb 21 2008 International Mother Language Day United Nations observance
Sat Feb 21 2009 International Mother Language Day United Nations observance
Sun Feb 21 2010 International Mother Language Day United Nations observance
Mon Feb 21 2011 International Mother Language Day United Nations observance
Tue Feb 21 2012 International Mother Language Day United Nations observance
Thu Feb 21 2013 International Mother Language Day United Nations observance
Fri Feb 21 2014 International Mother Language Day United Nations observance
Sat Feb 21 2015 International Mother Language Day United Nations observance

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K is for Kate Who was Struck with an Axe, from The Gashlycrumb Tinies: Or, After the Outing, by Edward Gorey.

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Quick Facts

The United Nations’ (UN) World Day of Social Justice promotes poverty eradication, full employment and social integration. It is on February 20 each year.

Local names

Name Language
World Day of Social Justice English
Día Mundial de la Justicia Social Spanish

World Day of Social Justice 2013

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

World Day of Social Justice 2014

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The United Nations’ (UN) World Day of Social Justice is annually observed on February 20 to encourage people to look at how social justice affects poverty eradication. It also focuses on the goal of achieving full employment and support for social integration.

The World Summit for Social Development, which promoted social justice, was held in Copenhagen (pictured above) in 1995. ©

What do people do?

Many organizations, including the UN and the International Labour Office, make statements on the importance of social justice for people. Many organizations also present plans for greater social justice by tackling poverty, social and economic exclusion and unemployment. Trade unions and campaign groups are invited to call on their members and supporters to mark the day. The Russian General Confederation of Trade Unions declared that the common slogan would be “Social Justice and Decent Life for All!”.

Schools, colleges and universities may prepare special activities for the day or plan a week of events around a theme related to poverty, social and economic exclusion or unemployment. Different media, including radio and television stations, newspapers and Internet sites, may give attention to the issues around the World Day of Social Justice.

It is hoped that particular coverage is given to the links between the illicit trade in diamonds and armed conflicts, particularly in Africa, and the importance of the International Criminal Court. This is an independent court that conducts trials of people accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Public life

The World Day of Social Justice is a global observance and not a public holiday.


The World Summit for Social Development was held in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1995 and resulted in the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action. At this summit, more than 100 political leaders pledged to make the conquest of poverty and full employment, as well as stable, safe and just societies, their overriding objectives. They also agreed on the need to put people at the center of development plans.

Nearly 10 years later, the UN’s member states reviewed the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action when they gathered at a session of the Commission for Social Development in New York in February 2005. They also agreed to commit to advance social development. On November 26, 2007, the UN General Assembly named February 20 as the annual World Day of Social Justice. The day was scheduled to be first observed in 2009.

World Day of Social Justice Observances

Weekday Date Year Name Holiday type Where it is observed
Fri Feb 20 2009 World Day of Social Justice United Nations observance
Sat Feb 20 2010 World Day of Social Justice United Nations observance
Sun Feb 20 2011 World Day of Social Justice United Nations observance
Mon Feb 20 2012 World Day of Social Justice United Nations observance
Wed Feb 20 2013 World Day of Social Justice United Nations observance
Thu Feb 20 2014 World Day of Social Justice United Nations observance
Fri Feb 20 2015 World Day of Social Justice United Nations observance

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I am not too much into comedians (the only two comedians I have considered as keeping it real were the late Richard Pryor and the late George Carlin).

But, Mr. C.K. had some interesting things to say about race in America and how its denial still shapes the lives of both Blacks and Whites even into the 21ST Century. He talks about how many Whites complain about slavery during Black History Month (but, strangely, very few complaints are heard about Jane Crow segregation which on paper ended a mere 45 years ago).

He is spot on in how slavery is considered as something that happened centuries ago when at the end of slavery life for recently freed enslaves became a living hell on earth (during Reconstruction and the era known as segregation.)

“Every year white people add 100 years to how long ago slavery was.  I’ve heard educated white people say, ‘slavery was 400 years ago.’  No it wasn’t.  It was 140 years ago…that’s two 70-year-old ladies living and dying back to back.  That’s how recently you could buy a guy.” Comedian Louis C.K., Tonight Show with Jay Leno

Today his little daughters are given much recognition for their humanity because they are white.

Black Americans, on the other hand, are often afforded very little acceptance of their humanity.

Oh, and the uncomfortable jittery behaviour of Jay Leno’s responses. . . . .priceless.

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