Thursday, January 14, 2010

Wyclef Jean helps Haiti earthquake victims with Yele

Haitian multi-platinum musician, rapper, and record producer Wyclef Jean established the Yéle Haiti Foundation in 2005. In light of the post-earthquake crisis in Haiti on Tuesday, Wyclef Jean is putting his organization into action to help thousands of people who are now homeless or severely injured as a result of the earthquake. From Twitter to CNN, the musician who was born in Haiti is reaching out and asking for support for the people in Haiti.

The Yéle Haiti Foundation

Jean has been active in his support of his native country. He created Yéle Haiti to provide humanitarian aid and assistance to Haiti.

In its first year of operation, the foundation, with funding by Comcel, provided scholarships to 3,600 children in Gonaïves, Haiti, after the devastation by Hurricane Jeanne. In its second year of operation, it is almost doubling the amount of the scholarships and spreading them throughout Haiti, providing tuition in 5 regions. The foundation aims to provide 6,800 scholarships to children in Port-au-Prince, Gonaïves, Les Cayes, Port-de-Paix, and Cap-Haïtien.

Wyclef has most recently been working on raising money to build the Yéle Center, which would be a facility that consists of a sports center, Wyclef Jean School of the Arts, and a cultural center focusing on the environment.

Earthquake in Haiti, January 12, 2010

The earthquake that hit Haiti on Tuesday had a magnitude of 7.3 and was followed by at least two aftershocks. The International Red Cross said some 3 million people may have been affected and there are reports that there may be upwards of 500,000 people who have died in the earthquake.

How Wyclef Jean proposes to help victims

On his blog, Wyclef Jean issued a statement that asks for help in this human disaster.

"Many people have already reached out to see what they can do right now. We are asking those interested to please do one of two things: Either you can use your cell phone to text “Yele” to 501501, which will automatically donate $5 to the Yele Haiti Earthquake Fund (it will be charged to your cell phone bill), or you can visit and click on DONATE."

Woods can get his life back on track: Obama

US President Barack Obama [ Images ] has revealed that he believes ace golfer Tiger Woods [ Images ] can "absolutely" be rehabilitated.

The president said he strongly believed "that anybody can look within themselves, find their flaws and fix them".

"I suspect that he will try to put his life back together again," the Daily Telegraph quoted him as saying in an interview with People magazine.

Woods announced he was taking an indefinite break from professional golf after admitting infidelity following the scandal that linked him to as many as 18 mistresses.

The World No 1 was reported to have checked into an up-market American clinic that specialises in rehabilitation for sexual addiction.

General Motors [ Images ] ends contract with Woods

General Motors has become the latest company to end its endorsement contract with defamed golfer Tiger Woods.

GM has joined the ranks of Gillette, ATnT, Gatorade, Accenture and Tag Heuer, all of which have dropped Woods.

In addition, Woods may no longer drive GM vehicles for free, reports People magazine.

GM's official endorsement contract actually ended in 2008, but the driving deal had been extended until December 31, 2009, Buick spokeswoman Dayna Hart told USA Today.

The end date was set before the infamous car crash and Woods' subsequent "indefinite departure" from golf.

Woods had been allowed to keep several vehicles, including the Cadillac SUV and reportedly a Buick Enclave crossover, for his personal use.

Jeffrey D Barbieri Is Today's News NJ 2009 Male Author Of The Year

Jeffrey D Barbieri Is Today's News NJ 2009 Male Author Of The Year Award
For The Book Lets Find You: The Ben and Ink Series (Paperback)

Today's News NJ highly recommend that you buy a copy of Let's Find You.
Let's Find You chronicles Ben's remarkable upbringing in a singularly unique family, one where a new crisis is always just around the corner.

Rod Blagojevich: "I'm Blacker Than Obama"

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Rod Blagojevich apologized Monday for saying he's "blacker than Barack Obama," but the disgraced former Illinois governor said he probably won't try to make amends directly to the president.

"I'd be happy to but, you know, I don't have the phone number," he told reporters outside his Chicago home.

In the February issue of Esquire magazine, the ousted governor, semi-professional Elvis impersonator and reality TV contestant refers to Obama as "this guy" who was elected based simply on hope, implying that the president isn't genuine.

"What the (expletive)? Everything he's saying's on the teleprompter," Blagojevich told the magazine. The story hits newsstands on Jan. 19.

"I'm blacker than Barack Obama. I shined shoes. I grew up in a five-room apartment. My father had a little laundromat in a black community not far from where we lived," Blagojevich said. "I saw it all growing up."

On Monday, Blagojevich said the comment was "stupid, stupid, stupid."

He said it was meant as a metaphor for his disappointment with Obama, whom he accused of doing more to help Wall Street than Main Street.

The White House declined to comment.

The response — or lack of response — is in contrast to the reaction Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has received after it was disclosed that he once discussed Obama's presidential prospects in terms of his skin color and whether he had a "Negro dialect." Reid immediately apologized and Obama accepted, though some Republicans are calling for him to step down.

There was no way Obama could avoid acknowledging the statements from Reid, an important Democratic leader and legislative ally, but the president has far more leeway to ignore Blagojevich's latest strange behavior.

The twice-elected Democrat was impeached and removed from office last year after federal prosecutors arrested him on corruption charges that included trying to sell Obama's old U.S. Senate seat. He has pleaded not guilty.

Ahead of his trial, which is expected to start in June, Blagojevich is appearing on NBC's "Celebrity Apprentice."

He also continues to accuse prosecutors of persecuting him for routine political deals.

One of those deals, he said, was the possibility of naming Attorney General Lisa Madigan to Obama's Senate seat in exchange for cooperation on important programs from her powerful father, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.

He used an infamously coarse word to refer to the attorney general.

"If I can get this, how much do I love the people of Illinois to make that (expletive) senator?'" Blagojevich said in the interview.

But on Monday, Blagojevich said, "I don't think I said that."

Protests erupt at Iran professor's funeral

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – The funeral Thursday for an Iranian physics professor killed in a mysterious bomb attack turned into competing demonstrations by pro- and anti-government supporters with hundreds of security forces standing by.

Witnesses said half of about 1,000 people at the funeral for Masoud Ali Mohammadi were opposition supporters and there were some minor scuffles with police during the burial. Some carried green banners, the color symbolizing their movement, and shouted support for the opposition. The other side chanted "Down with the U.S." and "Death to Israel" as mourners carried the body shrouded in an Iranian flag on their shoulders.

Some cameramen and photographers covering the funeral were taken to a police station, where their press IDs were checked. They were later released.

The 50-year-old Tehran University professor was killed when a bomb-rigged motorcycle exploded Tuesday morning outside his home as he was leaving for work. It remains unclear why the researcher with no prominent political voice, no published work with military relevance and no declared links to Iran's nuclear program was targeted for assassination.

Authorities blamed an armed Iranian opposition group acting on behalf of Israel and the U.S. The U.S. government forcefully denied any involvement and Israel did not comment.

Before the disputed June presidential election, Ali Mohammadi had signed a list of 420 Tehran University faculty supporting the leading opposition candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi. In recent weeks, hard-line government supporters have called for the execution of the opposition leaders.

But the professor did not take any known high-profile role in anti-government protests after the election.

Mousavi's supporters claim he was the rightful winner of the election and allege Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared president through fraud.

Two former Iranian presidents who are now both leading opposition figures – Mohammad Khatami and Hashemi Rafsanjani – condemned the killing on Wednesday as an act of terrorism that could deepen unrest and violence. But both hard-line government supporters and the opposition are calling him a "martyr" of terrorism, adding to the murkiness surrounding the killing.

Iran's nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, offered his condolences, state TV reported. Salehi said the professor was a "shining figure" in Iran's prominent Sharif University in the past, when Salehi was a chancellor there.

Google in China: Everybody Wang Chen Tonight

You're probably wondering why you're staring at yet another 80s video at what's purportedly the International Political Economy Zone, not Stuck in the 80s (a superb blog, BTW). Well, let me explain. There was this new wave band named Wang Chung from Britain that made it big in that decade. Their biggest hit was "Everybody Have Fun Tonight" which went to #2 on the US charts. In that song, there is a line which goes "Everybody Wang Chung Tonight." As you'll read below, the cyber-gestapo that the Politburo has sicced on Google is none other than, er, Wang Chen of the State Council Information Office. So it's not Wang Chung, but it's close enough for me.

The gist of Wang Chen's message is that China will not change its censorship practices--"self-discipline," they call it--in response to Google's antics. It's China's way or the highway. If you don't like it, then get the hell out of Dodge--I mean, Dalian. From the FT:

China’s government demands self-censorship – which it calls “self-discipline” – from internet companies. Although Mr Wang did not mention Google by name, his remarks were being seen as Beijing’s first response to the US internet company’s threat to exit the country...

Mr Wang also addressed concerns over cyberattacks but depicted China as a “victim” rather than a perpetrator as alleged by Google. “China is a victim of hackers and resolutely opposes hacking,” he said. “To maintain internet security, we need international co-operation and close co-ordination...”

Since late 2008, Beijing has been cracking down on online content in a campaign it says is aimed at erasing pornographic “and other harmful” content. Over this period, thousands of websites and blogs, including many featuring criticism of the government rather than pornographic material, were closed and thousands arrested. Several Chinese social media sites were shut and foreign ones such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter blocked.

“The importance different countries attach to internet security is different,” Mr Wang said. “We must …, from the angle of national security, information security and cultural security, actively respond to the challenges in internet security and … find a path of internet development with Chinese characteristics.”
Google probably expected this response anyhow. I believe it's three main options now are as follows

•Close down its China operations as per the melodramatic statement;
•Maintain a reduced presence that can still be re-expanded in the future (don't burn your bridges--this is most likely to happen IMHO)
•Ask Uncle Sam to mediate by threatening China with a trade case over censorship
I'm of the opinion that diplomatic avenues will be tried before Google makes its decision on continuing operations. Whatever it chooses, you can bet that everybody will Wang Chen tonight.

US targets Taliban leader responsible for CIA attack

NY Times:

At least 10 people were killed in an American drone attack in northwest Pakistan on Thursday morning, Pakistani security officials said.
The leader of the Pakistani Taliban, which took credit for the suicide attack that killed eight people at a C.I.A. base in Afghanistan late last month, was one of the targets, Pakistani officials said. A Taliban spokesman, however, denied that the leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, was among the casualties.

Several Pakistani security officials said there was no word on the Taliban leader. “The important thing for us is whether Hakimullah is among those killed,” said a Pakistani official in South Waziristan. A Pakistani intelligence official added that he believed Mr. Mehsud was “definitely targeted” on Thursday.

American officials have been trying to kill Mr. Mehsud with drone strikes, but there was no immediate confirmation from American authorities that he had been the target of this attack, which struck a compound in a remote region near the border of the South Waziristan and North Waziristan tribal areas about 7 a.m. on Thursday. A United States intelligence official said he could not confirm that Mr. Mehsud had been killed.

This guy has been dodging Hellfire missiles for some time. He escaped an attack in April last year and I think there have been more recent attempts. He is certainly someone deserving of the attention. The video of the CIA bomber shows him in the background. Before the video, it was believed the Haqqani network was responsible for the CIA attack, but it seems pretty clear that the Mehsud tribe and their leader were behind it. This raises some interesting questions about the previous intelligence the double agent was providing. Was he feeding the CIA information to attack the Haqqanis?

Haiti earthquake relief: simple ways to help

As a picture of the devastation in Haiti begins to emerge (a complete assessment is not expected for the next day or so) people across the world are seeking ways to aid Haiti in its time of immense need.

Even in dire economic times, Googlers are seeking ways to direct aid to Haiti, a famously poor and corruption-plagued country. One of the most publicized ways to donate to Haiti earthquake relief efforts is via text message. Texting “HAITI” to 90999 will charge a $10 donation to the Red Cross on your next phone bill. Texting “yele” to 510 510 is also being tweeted and re-tweeted as a way to donate $5 to relief efforts via Wyclef Jean’s Yele Haiti Earthquake Fund. (Jean is currently en route to Haiti via the Dominican Republic to join Anderson Cooper.)

President Barack Obama recently addressed the situation in Haiti with a press conference, and urged people concerned about loved ones in Haiti to call the State Department at 1-888-407-4747. On Twitter, #helphaiti has been trending all morning with users suggesting ways to donate and spread news about the conditions in Haiti. There is no estimated death toll in Haiti, with news organizations speculating it may be in the “hundreds” or “thousands.”

Obama to collect $90 billion from banks thru 'financial crisis responsibility fee'

At 11:50 a.m., the President is going to announce a new fee on banks, designed to recoup losses from the TARP program. Here's what the “financial crisis responsibility fee" is and does:

President Obama plans to call on Thursday for taxing about 50 big banks and major financial institutions for at least the next decade to recoup all taxpayer losses from the bailout of Wall Street.

The tax on banks, insurance companies and brokerages with more than $50 billion in assets would start after June 30 and seek to collect $90 billion over 10 years, according to a senior administration official who briefed reporters late Wednesday.

But the levy but would remain in force longer if all losses to the bailout fund, the Troubled Asset Relief Program, are not recovered after a decade.
Not sure what safeguards exist to insure that the fee is paid by the banks and not the rest of us. But, this is a political move, too. There's great anger in the country towards Wall Street and the big banks. It's easy to understand why.

For example, yesterday, a number of top bankers testified before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC). ABC's Jon Karl reports that while the bankers appeared contrite during the hearing, that wasn't the case after they left the hearing room:
When they came before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, the leaders of the nation's top banks were contrite about their role in the financial meltdown. But when ABC News caught up with them after the hearing, they expressed no regret whatsoever for the big bonuses now going to bank executives.
Karl has video to prove it.

R&B Star Teddy Pendergrass Dead at Age 59

R&B singer Teddy Pendergrass, who had been one of the most electric and successful figures in music until a car crash 28 years ago left him in a wheelchair, has died of colon cancer. He was 59.

Before the crash, Pendergrass established a new era of R&B with an explosive, raw voice that symbolized masculinity, passion and the joys and sorrow of romance in songs such as "Close the Door," "It Don't Hurt Now," "Love T.K.O." and other hits that have since become classics. He was an international superstar and sex symbol.

His career was at its apex - and still climbing.

Friend and longtime collaborator Kenny Gamble, of the renowned production duo Gamble & Huff, teamed with Pendergrass on his biggest hits and recalled how the singer was even working on a movie.

"He had about 10 platinum albums in a row, so he was a very, very successful recording artist and as a performing artist," Gamble said Thursday. "He had a tremendous career ahead of him, and the accident sort of got in the way of many of those plans."

Pendergrass, who was born in Philadelphia in 1950, suffered a spinal cord injury in a 1982 car accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down - still able to sing but without his signature power. The image of the strong, virile lover was replaced with one that drew sympathy.

But instead of becoming bitter or depressed, Pendergrass created a new identity - that as a role model, Gamble said.

"He never showed me that he was angry at all about his accident," Gamble said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "In fact, he was very courageous."

Pendergrass died Wednesday in suburban Philadelphia, where he had been hospitalized for months.

The singer's son, Teddy Pendergrass II, said his father underwent colon cancer surgery eight months ago and had "a difficult recovery."

"To all his fans who loved his music, thank you," his son said. "He will live on through his music."

Pendergrass left a remarkable imprint on the music world as he ushered in a new era in R&B with his fiery, sensual and forceful brand of soul and his ladies' man image, burnished by his strikingly handsome looks.

Gamble said Pendergrass was one of a kind as an artist and boasted a powerful voice and "a great magnetism."

"He was a great baritone singer, and he had a real smooth sound, but he had a real rough sound, too, when he wanted to exert power in his voice," Gamble said.

But it wasn't Pendergrass' voice that got him his break in the music business - it was his drum playing abilities. He met Harold Melvin, who was looking for replacement members for his group, the Blue Notes, and signed on to be the drummer. Later, he became the lead singer of the group, which became known as Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes.

The band started working with Gamble and Leon Huff and had signature hits in the early 1970s with "Wake Up Everybody" and "If You Don't Know Me by Now."

But Pendergrass had creative differences with Melvin and soon left for a solo career, according to his Web site. It was then he would become a sex symbol for the R&B genre, working women into a frenzy with hits such as "Only You" and concerts dedicated for ladies only.

"The females," Gamble said, "loved Teddy Pendergrass. The females were very attracted to him and his music."

Unlike the songs of many of today's male R&B crooners, Pendergrass' music bordered on eroticism without explicit lyrics or coarse language - just through the raw emotion in his voice. "Turn Off the Lights" was a tune that perhaps best represented the many moods of Pendergrass - tender and coaxing yet strong as the song reaches its climax.

Fans were devastated when, at age 31, Pendergrass was critically injured after his Rolls-Royce hit a tree. He spent six months in a hospital and returned to recording the next year with the album "Love Language."

He continued to sing and recorded several albums, receiving Grammy nominations; perhaps his best-known hit after his crash was the inspirational song "Life is a Song Worth Singing."

It was 19 years before Pendergrass resumed performing at his own concerts. He made his return on Memorial Day weekend in 2001, with two sold-out shows in Atlantic City, N.J.

Gamble noted Pendergrass' charitable work for people with spinal cord injuries, his performances despite pain and his focus on the positive in the face of great challenges.

"He used to say something in his act in the wheelchair, 'Don't let the wheelchair fool you,' because he still proclaimed he was a lover," Gamble said.

But his career was never the same. Gamble said it was difficult for Pendergrass to project vocally like he once did: "The breathing aspect of it, he wasn't really able to deal with it."

And while he had albums, he was no longer seen as the sex symbol but more of a sympathetic, tragic figure, even though he still had a strong following among his core female fans.

After the accident, he dedicated much of his life to helping others with spinal cord injuries and founded the Teddy Pendergrass Alliance to do just that. Gamble said he wanted to help others.

Robertson Blames Haitian Earthquake On "Pact With The Devil"

Via Daily Kos, we find Pat Robertson discussing the tragedy in Haiti, saying that the nation has been cursed ever since it "swore a pact to the Devil":

And you know Kristi, something happened a long time ago in Haiti and people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French, uh you know Napoleon the third and whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the Devil. They said we will serve you if you'll get us free from the French. True Story. And so the Devil said "OK, it's a deal." And they kicked the French out. You know, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free. But ever since they have been cursed by one thing after the other, desperately poor. That island is Hispaniola is one island. It's cut down the middle. On one side is Haiti, on the other side is the Dominican republic. Dominican Republic is prosperous, healthy, full of resorts, etc.. Haiti is in desperate poverty. Same island. Uh, they need to have, and we need to pray for them, a great turning to God and out of this tragedy. I'm optimistic something good may come.

International Relief Operations Under Way in Haiti

International aid agencies report emergency operations for earthquake victims in Haiti are slowly gathering steam. But, they say they are working under severe constraints and it will take time before essential, critical needs are met.

The United Nations reports the airport is open, but is congested and good coordination will be necessary to move relief goods to affected areas.

They say the main roads from the airport to the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, are being cleared of rubble and other debris, so vehicles can get through.

The director of the World Food Program office in Geneva, Charles Vincent, says most people have had no food for a couple of days, except for 3,000 people living in Jacmel near the airport who received some food Wednesday.

He says the agency will start distributing food to 2,400 beneficiaries in the capital Port-au-Prince.

"Compared to the needs, this is just a drop in the sea, as I just said," he explained. "But, it is a start and we will be ramping up very quickly our distribution with the stocks that we have available in Port-au-Prince and possibly bringing some stocks from Gonaive if they are required. We also are trying to identify partners to distribute. Obviously all agencies have been very badly affected. This will be a serious problem over the coming days."

The United Nations says more than 100 of its staff workers are still missing. Many may have been killed. It says between 50 and 100 staff also are trapped in the U.N. compound in the capital, Port-au-Prince. In addition, aid agencies say they do not know what has happened to their local staff.

Search and rescue missions are still ongoing. Aid agencies say immediate priorities include food, clean water and sanitation, emergency shelter and medical services and supplies.

The World Health Organization reports at least eight hospitals have been damaged or destroyed in Haiti and two hospitals in neighboring Dominican Republic have been severely damaged.

A WHO spokesman, Paul Garwood, says this is hampering the ability for people to receive urgent life-saving treatment.

"We feel that the impact of this earthquake will be particularly devastating due to the already existing vulnerability of these people, the society and economy," he said. "In some facilities we have seen more than 600 people sent, receiving treatment in the first 24-36 hours. The major health conditions that we are seeing are, of course, trauma injuries-severe compound fractures, internal injuries, normally associated with being inside of dwellings that have collapsed down upon them, upon these people."

Garwood says the WHO main priority will be to prevent communicable diseases from spreading. He says under disaster conditions, there is a high risk of people getting respiratory infections and diarrheal diseases.