Phew!! Good Thing I Have a Deep Voice.

The results of a new study have shown that men with deep voice produce more offspring than men with high-pitched voices.

The study was carried out among the Hadza, a group of hunter-gathers in Tanzania, who do not use birth control. Researchers used voice recordings collected from 49 men and 52 women between the ages of 18 and 55.

The results indicated the deeper the man’s voice, the more likely he was to have fathered more children, she said. [One of the researchers] added that voice pitch was not linked to child mortality.”

As interesting as the study is, I think it’s kinda messed up that the researchers organized the “Hadza Olympics” to get their subjects to compete in hunting-related activities like archery, racing, and hunting to see if superior hunting skills were tied to the voice pitch and reproductive performance.

I can’t help but feel a little bad for the Hadza. I wonder if these unwitting tribespeople knew that they were exerting themselves and showing off their hunting prowess just so some Western researchers can learn more about their reproductive patterns.

Read the full article here.

Defying the Tyrant: Burmese Monks Attacked, Killed for Standing up to Military Government

Carnage on the streets of Rangoon, Burma.

The Burmese government made good on it’s threats to “take action” against the Buddhist monks leading peaceful protests throughout the country. The monks are protesting the government’s refusal “to apologise for its actions during an earlier rally in the city of Pakokku, when soldiers and state-backed militia reportedly beat up several monks.” That demonstration was held to protest a sudden rise in fuel prices.  

The news coming out of Burma has been patchy since the ruling junta closed off the country to journalists but some reports are leaking out via the Internet and telephone calls to Burmese living abroad. These are in turn being picked up by major media outlets. The BBC is reporting that in Sittwe, Rangoon, and other areas, the military has been using tear gas to disperse the demonstrators, who number around 100,000. The BBC also published e-mails and other electronic messages from eyewitnesses inside Burma. Reports are also coming out about monks being killed.

First off, words can’t express my respect and admiration for these monks and the other Burmese demonstrators who are standing up to their brutal military government. The last time there was a similar peaceful, nationwide protest against the government, about 3,000 demonstrators paid with their lives. The memory of that massacre does not seem to be deterring today’s demonstrators, whose numbers have continued to swell as more people come out to support the monks.

They are really living up to the slogan of the 1988 demonstrators: Do-aye (“It is our task”). Monks are considered to be the highest moral authority in Burma so at first, the government seemed reluctant to use violence against them. After government warnings were ignored by demonstrators, however, the military moved to violently crush the demonstrations. Most of the international community, with the exception of China (which wields tremendous influence over the junta), has criticized the Burmese junta for its reaction to the demonstrations.

I’m heartened to see that monks, conscious of their respected position in Burmese society, have chosen to use their status to oppose the violence of the government. It’s truly uplifting to see so many Burmese citizens—monks, nuns, and laypeople—coming together peacefully to defy a brutal and repressive government.

I salute the Burmese people! They are setting a shining example for the world and justice-loving people everywhere should stand in solidarity with them.

God Help Rwanda!!!

Paris Hilton. Photo courtesy of http://thesuperficial.com/image.php?path=/2007/09/0926_paris_hilton_amfar_11.jpg

Just kidding!!!

I  thought my days of blogging about Paris Hilton were behind. I guess not. I just couldn’t resist weighing in on the latest news from this Hollywood denizen.

Parish Hilton, hieress and tabloid starlet—not to mention onetime internet pornstar—has announced her intention to travel to Rwanda on a humanitarian mission. I guess Paris figures she’ll get in on the celebrity humanitarianism action too. After all, Angelina Jolie’s been in the spotlight for her humanitarian work, especially since her appointment as UN Goodwill Ambassador.

I won’t pass judgement on Paris. She may genuinely be concerned about the plight of people of Rwanda and interested in lending a hand.

If that’s the case, I have some tips for her (I heard she’s a regular reader of this blog):

  1. If you don’t already speak French, it might be useful to learn some French phrases. Rwandans speak a bunch of other languages but you can usually get by with French. 
  2. Work directly with NGOs and people on the ground. Don’t give money to the government becausr a lot of aid money tends to end up in officials’ pockets.
  3. Be skeptical: poverty does not necessarily equate honesty so don’t trust people just because they’re poor. If you plan to directly fund an NGO, have your people look into which services they provide, to whom, and whether the services are actually delivered. Visit facilities, talk to the people being served, ask questions.
  4. Wear sneakers and comfortable clothes. Designer pumps and dresses are not the best combination for touring a tropical country recovering from war.
  5. Eat the food. It’s important to first build rapport with the people you hope to be “helping” and expressing disgust at their diet is no way to build rapport.
  6. What else? Oh, don’t use your planned visit as some kind of publicity stunt or the premise of a new reality show. That’s insensitive and exploitative.

Wouldn’t it be awesome of Paris could use her celebrity status to shine a light on some of the real problems facing Rwanda. Granted, Rwanda’s not as badly off as some other African countries (despite the civil war and genocide) but I’m sure there are plenty of families and children in need who could use some help.

I’ll have to wait and see whether Paris will be their salvation?

Read the full article here.

New Radio Show: September 24, 2007.

Got a brand new show for y’all’s listening pleasure.

The first segment features some Roma (Gypsy), French, and Arabic tracks. Then we move on to Disco, Reggae, and Hip-Hop: one track by Sierra Leonean rapper Problem M (rapping in Krio, a Sierra Leonean dialect) and the other by NY/DC poet/rapper/all-around-entertainer KOMplex, Mr. Keep On Moving. I met him a couple of times at open mic events in DC and he was impressive enough for me to buy his CD both times. I also put in one of my favorite tracks by the Spanish group Macaco who, for those of you who live in the DC area, will be performing at Lisner Auditorium on October 26. The last segment’s pretty much a random mix of everything I couldn’t get into the first two segments.

As usual, you can listen to the show online or download it to an mp3 player and listen later.

Click here to see the playlist. Feel free to click on any of the links to learn more about the artists. You will also find a couple of the featured artists’ videos in “T’ings ‘n Times Videos.”

Feel free to comment and/or request music for the next show.

Listen to the previous show here.

Jena 6: A Question of Equal Protection

A comment from a reader prompted me to write the response below, which I then decided to reproduce as a blog post:

. . . [P]erhaps I am guilty of skimming over the details of the beating Justin Barker received at the hands of Mychal Bell and his friends. I’ll repeat again that I think the practice of a bunch of guys “jumping” one person is pretty despicable. It used to happen at my high school and I always hated it. But like many people in Jena and elsewhere, I think the charges, sentence, and incarceration of Mychal Bell were and are excessive.

Ultimately, the adults in this case have to bear the responsibility. If school and law enforcement officials in Jena were interested in teaching these students—Black as well as White—that taking the law into their own hands is wrong, they would have intervened when the nooses were hung, when the Black student was assaulted by White students at the party, and when the Black students had a gun pulled on them. I failed to mention in my blog that the boys reported the incident to the police after they disarmed their assailant but he was not even questioned. Instead, these Black boys were arrested and charged with assault and theft of a firearm after they did the right thing by going to the police.

The signal sent to these boys was that they could not look to school or law enforcement officials to protect them from overt racism—which is psychological violence—and physical violence. Violence is used to put and keep people in their place, and the nooses were supposed to remind Jena High School’s Black students of their place. When these students defied the racists by peacefully gathering under the “white tree” on which the nooses had been hung, District Attorney Reed Walters arrived at the school surrounded by armed police and threatened to end the students’ lives with a stroke of his pen. Is this not intimidation? Weren’t the nooses themselves symbolic of violence to the Black students? Clearly, they didn’t think it was just a prank. Yet school officials and the legal establishment continued to pooh-pooh the issue until it escalated into the violent confrontation with Justin Barker that resulted in his beating. Was it right or necessary? Of course not! Could it have been avoided? Certainly, if school and law enforment officials had taken the racism directed at the Black students more seriously and intervened sooner.

The whole incident reminds me of Simpsons character Chief Wiggum’s response to Marge when she said, as she was being arrested: “I thought you said the law is powerless?” Wiggum replies, “Powerless to protect you, not to punish you.” Clearly, when it came to protecting Black Students, Jena’s law enforcement officials were asleep at the wheel. When it comes to punishing them, however, they’re operating in overdrive.

If that’s not racism, what is it?

Jena 6 Redux: Free Mychal Bell!!!!!!!!!

A Louisiana appeals court has vacated the second conviction that sent Mychal Bell, one of the Jena 6, to jail. Earlier this month, a district judge threw out Bell’s conviction for conspiracy to commit second-degree battery, agreeing with Bell’s supporters that the case should have been heard in juvenile court. On Friday, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Lake Charles vacated Bell’s battery conviction, but he remains in jail, where he has been since December, 2006.

This has been a classic case of discriminatory sentencing in which six Black teenagers are charged as adults and sentenced to long prison terms for a schoolyard fight. Certainly, it’s despicable that these six boys ganged up to beat up one student, and they should definitely have been punished for that. But they should have been treated as juvenile offenders and punished as juveniles.

There should also be equality in how the entire case is reported. The story starts back in September, 2006 after Justin Purvis, a Black student at Jena High School, got permission from his principal to sit under the “white tree” in the schoolyard. The tree got its name from the fact that it was a popular hangout for the school’s White students, a custom sufficiently entrenched to make a Black student feel the need to ask permission to sit under it. A day later, three nooses were hanging from the branches of the tree. Everyone who lives in the United States knows that nooses were used to lynch (publicly hang) Black men. Most often, the people who organized the lynchings were not even arrested. After the passage of civil and equal rights legislation, lynchings became rarer but the noose still remains—for Black people—a painful reminder of a very dark and violent time in US history. It has also become a symbol of hate that has been adopted by racist groups.

Jena High School’s Black students gathered under the tree to protest the nooses. Afterwards, District Attorney Reed Walters came to the school and told the demonstrating Black students that he “could end their lives with the stroke of a pen.” Three White students were suspended for hanging the nooses but the incident was generally written of as a prank. Tensions continued to escalate, eventually leading to a number of violent encounters. In one instance, a group of Black students was accosted outside a convenicence store by a White man who pulled a gun on them. The boys tussled with their assailant and eventually disarmed him before running away. The incident concluded with the Black boys being arrested and charged with the theft of a firearm. The White man who drew the gun on them was not prosecuted.

In another incident, a Black student was beaten up by White students at a party. Back at Jena High, a White student allegedly taunted this Black student with racial insults and references to the beating he had recieved at the party. This led a group of Black students, including the one who had been taunted, to gang up on the White student, who was punched, kicked, and stomped after he was knocked out. He was taken to hospital—for injuries sustained to his eyes, ears, and face. He was treated and discharged the same day. The Black students who beat him up were charged as adults and Mychal Bell—the only one incarcerated so far—was convicted of attempted second-degree murder and conspiracy. He was a star football player who was looking at college scholarships and a possible professional football career, but his conviction left him facing the prospect of coming out of prison at the age of 40.

Popular outrage against the convictions and support from diverse groups—including most recently music legend David Bowie—led to the charges gradually being reduced from attempted second degree murder to simple assault and battery. Mychal Bell, however, remains behind bars despite all his convictions being vacated. Yesterday, a three-judge panel decided that Bell would not be released from jail pending his November trial.

Thankfully, it seems that people are waking up and calling a spade a spade and hopefully, Mychal Bell will be out of jail soon and back on track to rebuilding his life.