Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Teacher Suspended for Making Students Dress Up as KKK Members

A teacher in North Georgia may lose her job after asking four of her students to wear Ku Klux Klan outfits as part of a class project. The black students at her school were upset to see the costumes and complained to the administration.

Catherine Ariemma, an award-winning teacher who teaches advanced U.S. history and film education, could be either suspended or fired for the incident and has been placed on administrative leave pending the results of an investigation.

Ariemma teaches in Lumpkin County and has been there for six years. The rural county is 75 miles north of Atlanta. She told the Associated Press that she was trying to cover an important and sensitive topic, but admits that she made a mistake.

"It was poor judgment on my part in allowing them to film at school," Ariemma said. "... That was a hard lesson learned."

She said that the class has 15 students of multiple races, but no African Americans. The goal of the project was to trace the history of racism in America. Five students agreed to take on the subject as part of their class project.

"The kids brought the sheets in, they had SpongeBob party hats underneath to make it shaped like a cone," Ariemma said. "They cut out the eyes, so they could see."

Ariemma led the students through the cafeteria to another location, where the scene was to be shot. She was later approached by another teacher.

"That's when I heard there were a couple of students who were upset," she said.

One of the students described his reaction to seeing hooded students walking through the cafeteria:

"I got mad and stood up and I tried to go handle it," he told a local TV station. A black parent went to the school to complain that night.

When I read about the teacher who asked her students to dress as Klansmen, my first question was, "What was her point?" In many cases, our reactions to certain racial stimuli are quick and Pavlovian, in which we respond without asking appropriate questions. We can't quickly assume that Ariemma is a racist just because she used poor judgment.

But a deeper issue to be brought forth (which I discuss with Lola Adesioye in the audio clip below) is whether the teacher would have done the same thing with Jewish students, re-enacting the Holocaust, or with other students, re-enacting the tragedies of 9/11.

The point here is that there are some cases in which the humanity of black people is not respected in the same way as other ethnic groups. We can make jokes about slavery, act out traumatic experiences or behave as though it should simply be forgotten, while equally abhorrent tragedies among other ethnic groups are only considered for the most solemn and respectful discussions. In other words, this incident (similar to the teacher in North Carolina who told his black students to pick cotton while white students watched) reminds us that there are times when the feelings of black students are not as readily considered as the feelings of others.

The teacher should not be fired, but she should certainly be disciplined and educated on why her behavior was inconsiderate. It's okay to mistakenly hurt someone's feelings, as long as you are willing to understand why they were so negatively affected. The segment I did with Adesioye is below. Enjoy!

By Boyce Watkins, PhD

'Foxy: My Life in Three Acts' review: Pam Grier's memoir sheds light on her career path

By Jenny Shank

What: Pam Grier reads from "Foxy: My Life in Three Acts

There are a couple of reasons people read celebrity memoirs. One is to glean the juicy bits, the scandals, the love affairs, the details of how wealthy, famous people live. In her memoir "Foxy," Pam Grier doesn't skimp on the particulars of her romances with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Freddie Prinze, Sr., Richard Pryor, and others, and shares stories about the time she got thrown out of a club with a rowdy, drunken John Lennon, the time she drove Pryor's injured pony to the vet in the back seat of her yellow Jaguar, and how she escaped the untoward advances of Sammy Davis, Jr.

But "Foxy" is more interesting for the second reason people read celebrity memoirs: to find out how an ordinary person ended up living an extraordinary life. If you didn't know that it had happened, it would hardly be possible to believe that a shy, stuttering, horse-loving black girl growing up in 1950's segregated Denver turned out to be the confident, brash, sexy star of Jack Hill's "blaxploitation" films "Coffy" and "Foxy Brown," Quentin Tarantino's "Jackie Brown," and most recently, the Showtime television series "The L Word." Tarantino once remarked that Pam Grier might have been the first female action movie star.

Grier was born in 1949 into a military family in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and moved to Colorado when she was three weeks old. Grier's family moved frequently as her father, in the Air Force, was transferred from one assignment to another, but they considered Denver home, and moved there permanently when he retired. Grier currently lives in a rural area south of Denver ("Foxy" doesn't specify the town), where she looks after her horses and dogs when she's not working.

Grier's early years were a haphazard mix of security and danger. She was close to her large family, particularly her mother, but one day when Grier was six, her father was away, her mother was at work, and the aunt that was supposed to be watching her was off on a bender, two older boys raped Grier.

"Pretty girls got all the attention, which made them targets," Grier reflects. "At the tender age of six, I'd had enough of being victimized because I was pretty and naive. It never occurred to me to fight back, and I withdrew more and more, becoming a scared, withdrawn, stuttering little girl--except when I was on the back of a horse." She enjoyed riding horses at her extended family's ranch in Wyoming, and she never told anyone what had happened to her.

When Grier's father was assigned to a base in England, she thrived, finding the British people she interacted with had less racial prejudice than did white people at home. A few years after they returned to Colorado, Grier's father left her mother. Grier became determined to save for her education so that she wouldn't have to depend on anyone. While Grier took classes at Metropolitan State College of Denver, she worked a job as a receptionist at the KHOW radio station office. A coworker convinced her to enter the "Miss KHOW" beauty pageant.

Success in this pageant encouraged Grier to enter the Miss Colorado Universe Beauty Pageant, in which she finished as the first runner-up. But the agent David Baumgarten spotted Grier and suggested she move to L.A. and try to start a film career. She did so, still aiming to save money and enroll in UCLA. For several years, no film roles materialized as Grier worked as the receptionist at American International Pictures along with two other jobs, took acting lessons, and dated Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who was then known as Lew Alcindor.

When Grier was at a crossroads with Abdul-Jabbar, who wanted her to convert to Islam so they could marry, she accepted an offer to fly to the Philippines and act in a movie that an agent explained was "about women in prison in the jungle. Bondage, torture, attempted escape, punishment, drug addiction, machine guns, sex. The usual."

The movie, 1971's "The Big Doll House," became Grier's first speaking role, and although her fame rose and fell over the years, she essentially has never been without acting work for a long stretch since then. Grier has no regrets about making her name in a genre that became known as "blaxploitation." "To me," she writes, "what really stood out in the genre was women of color acting like heroes rather than depicting nannies or maids."

Grier, who didn't indulge in drugs, alcohol, or the celebrity excesses of the men she dated, survived cervical cancer, and has never been anybody's nanny or maid, continues to lead a singular life on her own terms, flying from one project to another and returning home to her ranch in Colorado, where she entertains the occasional notable guest (such as Snoop Dogg, who became lost with his entourage when trying to locate Grier's modest house). "Foxy: My Life in Three Acts" shows that when a character described Foxy Brown as "a whole lot of woman," he didn't know the half of the story behind the woman who portrayed her.

Jenny Shank's first novel, "The Ringer," will be published by The Permanent Press in May 2011. She lives in Boulder.

Legendary Pictures picks up film rights to Mass Effect

SCI-FI game Mass Effect is heading to the big screen.

By David Bentley

Electronic Arts, which publishes the video game series for developers BioWare, today announced that Legendary Pictures has acquired the film rights.

Legendary will produce the project for Warner Bros, who will release it worldwide, and is in discussions with Mark Protosevich (I Am Legend, Thor) to draft a screenplay. Legendary also co-produced The Dark Knight, 300, Clash of The Titans, The Hangover and Watchmen.

Mass Effect takes place in the year 2183 and follows Commander Shepard of the SS Normandy who leads a team on a mission to defeat an ancient alien race that invades the galaxy every 50,000 years, wiping out all organic life. The most recent game in the series, Mass Effect 2, was released in January.

Thomas Tull, chairman and CEO of Legendary Pictures, said: "Mass Effect is a tremendous property ripe for translation to the big screen. It is a prime example of the kind of source material we at Legendary like to develop; it has depth, compelling characters and an engaging back story."

Producer Avi Arad described the game as "a brilliant piece of fiction with a universe filled with amazing aliens and technology" and "a parable whose conflicts mirror the ones we face in our own world."

He added: "This story emphasises the need for all cultures to learn to work together. All this magic is presented in a fast paced action-adventure that makes for the best kind of movie experience."

BioWare's Casey Hudson said: "At BioWare, we've always thought of Mass Effect as having the depth, emotion and plot twists perfectly suited for an adaptation to a motion picture. We believe that the Mass Effect movie will be an extraordinary entertainment event that realises our vision for the franchise and thrills fans."

BioWare's other titles include Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire and Dragon Age: Origins, with Mass Effect 3 in development for release in 2011. The company was acquired by Electronic Arts in 2008.

Mars Phoenix will not rise again

The Phoenix Mars lander is officially dead.

NASA has ended Phoenix operations after repeat attempts to contact the spacecraft met with only silence and a new photo revealed “severe ice damage” to the solar panels that formerly powered the craft.

Initially, the lander was supposed to operate for three months after its May 2008 landing on the Red Planet. It lasted another two months after this before finally shutting down in the cold, Martian winter.

Some hoped it could be resurrected after sunlight again began hitting its solar panels. However, it has not come back to life and new images show that build up of carbon-dioxide ice may have snapped off these vital energy collectors (image, right).

“Before and after images are dramatically different,” says Michael Mellon, of the University of Colorado in Boulder (press release). “The lander looks smaller, and only a portion of the difference can be explained by accumulation of dust on the lander, which makes its surfaces less distinguishable from surrounding ground.”

America’s space agency flew the Odyssey orbiter over Phoenix 61 times before giving up on the long-serving lander. Previous attempts involving 150 flights earlier this year also failed to elicit any response, it says.

“The Phoenix spacecraft succeeded in its investigations and exceeded its planned lifetime,” says Fuk Li, of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. “Although its work is finished, analysis of information from Phoenix's science activities will continue for some time to come.”


Iran releases director Jafar Panahi on bail

by Keith Phipps May 25, 2010 In good news for great filmmakers (and bad news for repressive regimes), director Jafar Panahi has been released on bail. Director of such notable, and increasingly status-challenging, films as The White Balloon, The Mirror, Offside, The Circle, and Crimson Gold, Panahi has been in prison since his home was raided on March 1st. Recently, Panahi began a hunger strike. Coupled with the attention brought to his plight at Cannes—where a seat was left empty on the jury and where fellow Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami expressed his support—it looks like Panahi's continued imprisonment began to provide too much bad publicity even for the government of Iran.

Critic Godfrey Chesire, an expert on Iranian filmmaking, has detailed analysis of the situation over at Salon that's a must-read for those looking to understand the situation better, explaining the relatively moderate political stances that got Panahi and trouble and the love/hate relationship Iran has with its vibrant filmmaking culture.

Bloomberg announces $22M fund for tech startups, urges tech companies to put down roots in NYC

NYC mayor announces $22M fund for tech startups

By Beth Fouhy, AP

NEW YORK — New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has a message for computer geeks everywhere: Forget sunny Silicon Valley and launch your company here.

Bloomberg made his pitch Tuesday at a gathering of technology entrepreneurs, announcing the creation of a city-sponsored $22 million venture fund that will invest in promising tech companies headquartered in New York.

The city’s Economic Development Corporation will invest $3 million in the fund while FirstMark Capital, a New York-based venture capital fund will provide up to $19 million more.

The backdrop for Bloomberg’s announcement was TechCrunch Disrupt, a media and technology conference that draws tech entrepreneurs from across the country.

Bloomberg, 68, is a multibillionaire who made his fortune starting Bloomberg LP, a financial data and news company. He reminded the crowd that he was a tech pioneer long before the Internet existed and offered up some of his other high-tech credentials as well.

“Before this morning’s conference I updated my Facebook page, sent a Tweet, browsed my Digg feed and checked in at Foursquare,” he said. “I even posted a personal ad on Craigslist: Cleveland basketball star to play basketball in the Big Apple.”

It was a joking reference to the city’s efforts to woo LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Asked why a tech startup should choose New York over the warmer West Coast climes, Bloomberg said that venture capital funding of companies in New York was up 19 percent last year even as it fell elsewhere amid the poor economy. He said the creativity and talent in New York was unmatched anywhere.

“It’s a great place where intellectual capital is important. If you want to compete in the big pond, if you want a breadth of cultural opportunities … this is the place to come,” Bloomberg said.

He said New York should be particularly attractive to tech companies because it is “the most immigrant-friendly city in America.” He said that both the tech economy and the larger U.S. economy thrived with more immigrants, not less.

Video Clinton: World must act on SKorean ship sinking

SEOUL, South Korea — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Wednesday the world must respond to sinking of a South Korean warship that has been blamed on North Korea.

"This was an unacceptable provocation by North Korea and the international community has a responsibility and a duty to respond," Clinton told reporters after talks with South Korean leaders.

The ship sinking "requires a strong but measured response," she said, although she did not elaborate.

Clinton said the United States would be consulting with South Korea and members of the U.N. Security Council on what the appropriate action would be, but she declined to offer a timeline for action.

"We're very confident in the South Korean leadership, and their decision about how and when to move forward is one that we respect and will support," she said.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says the world has a duty to respond to sinking of a South Korean warship that has been blamed on North Korea.

After talks with South Korean leaders Wednesday, Clinton told reporters the attack, which killed 46 sailors, was an "unacceptable provocation" by the North and the "international community has a responsibility and a duty to respond."

Clinton is spending just a few hours in Seoul discussing possible international responses to the crisis. The North denies it was responsible and has threatened to retaliate if action is taken against it.

Clinton touched down in the South Korean capital Wednesday after intense discussions on the deteriorating situation with Chinese officials in Beijing.

Finally, weary Detroit can move on without Kwame Kilpatrick

ormer Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick offered a passionate oration in court Tuesday on why he didn't follow the law: He wanted to woo his wife with expensive gifts to make up for cheating on her.

Israel launches air raids on Gaza

Israeli air strikes on Gaza has left more than a dozen people wounded.

The overnight raid was in response to cross-border attacks by Palestinian fighters, and targeted tunnels used by them, an Israeli military spokesman said on Wednesday.
The two strikes hit an abandoned airport in Rafah in the south, where there were no injuries, and a Hamas training camp in Beit Hanoun in the north, where 15 people were lightly injured, Hamas security sources said.

Hamas, which seized the Gaza Strip from forces loyal to Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, in 2007, says it has reached an understanding with other groups to halt rocket fire.
But smaller groups have carried on sporadic firing at Israel, which holds Hamas responsible for any attacks carried out from the coastal territory.