jeudi, mai 31, 2007

The Constant Gardeners

I'm saddened but no ways surprised. Further proof that Black people are NOT conspiracy theorists. (via America Blog)

By Joe Stephens
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 30, 2007; A10

Officials in Nigeria have brought criminal charges against pharmaceutical giant Pfizer for the company's alleged role in the deaths of children who received an unapproved drug during a meningitis epidemic.

Authorities in Kano, the country's largest state, filed eight charges this month related to the 1996 clinical trial, including counts of criminal conspiracy and voluntarily causing grievous harm. They also filed a civil lawsuit seeking more than $2 billion in damages and restitution from Pfizer, the world's largest drug company.

The move represents a rare -- perhaps unprecedented -- instance in which the developing world's anger at multinational drug companies has boiled over into criminal charges. It also represents the latest in a string of public-relations blows stemming from the decade-old clinical trial, in which Pfizer says it acted ethically.

The government alleges that Pfizer researchers selected 200 children and infants from crowds at a makeshift epidemic camp in Kano and gave about half of the group an untested antibiotic called Trovan. Researchers gave the other children what the lawsuit describes as a dangerously low dose of a comparison drug made by Hoffmann-La Roche. Nigerian officials say Pfizer's actions resulted in the deaths of an unspecified number of children and left others deaf, paralyzed, blind or brain-damaged.

The lawsuit says that the researchers did not obtain consent from the children's families and that the researchers knew Trovan to be an experimental drug with life-threatening side effects that was "unfit for human use." Parents were banned from the ward where the drug trial occurred, the suit says, and the company left no medical records in Nigeria.

Pfizer and its doctors "agreed to do an illegal act," the criminal charges state, and behaved "in a manner so rash and negligent as to endanger human life."

Internal Pfizer records obtained by The Washington Post show that five children died after being treated with the experimental antibiotic, though there is no indication in the documents that the drug was responsible for the deaths. Six children died while taking the comparison drug.

Suspicion stirred by news of the drug trial has been so intense in Kano, the lawsuit says, that parents last year refused to allow their children to be immunized against polio, frustrating a program aimed at wiping out one of the disease's last refuges.

In a statement, Pfizer said it thinks it did nothing wrong and emphasized that children with meningitis have a high fatality rate.

"It is indeed regrettable that, more than a decade after the meningitis epidemic in Kano, the Nigerian government has taken legal action against Pfizer and others for an effort that provided significant benefit to some of Nigeria's youngest citizens," the statement said.

"Pfizer continues to emphasize -- in the strongest terms -- that the 1996 Trovan clinical study was conducted with the full knowledge of the Nigerian government and in a responsible and ethical way consistent with the company's abiding commitment to patient safety. Any allegations in these lawsuits to the contrary are simply untrue -- they weren't valid when they were first raised years ago and they're not valid today."

The criminal charges also name Pfizer's Nigerian subsidiary and eight current or former executives and researchers. The charges could result in fines and prison sentences ranging from six months to seven years per count, according to Aliyu Umar, who served as Kano attorney general until earlier this month.

Umar said he filed the charges with the backing of federal and state authorities. He said it took 11 years to bring the action because officials only learned details in recent years, through a series of investigative reports in The Post. Three months ago, Umar's office obtained a six-year-old Nigerian government report that concluded Pfizer's actions violated international law.

"We realize we are the Third World and we need assistance," Umar said. "But we frown on people who think they can take advantage of us, especially if it's for profit. That's why we decided we needed to take action against Pfizer.

"Those people responsible should be punished, whether in Nigeria or in the United States, for what they did to our people."

Pfizer's drug trial came to public attention in December 2000, when The Post published the results of a year-long investigation into pharmaceutical testing in the developing world. Nigerians met the news with street demonstrations and demands for reform.

Nigeria's health minister appointed a panel of experts to look into Pfizer's actions, but its final report was suppressed without explanation. Last year, The Post obtained a copy, which revealed that the panel had concluded Pfizer's actions violated Nigerian law, the international Declaration of Helsinki and the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The panel said Pfizer administered an oral form of Trovan that apparently had never been given to children with meningitis. It said there were no records documenting that Pfizer told the children or their parents that they were part of a drug trial. And it said an approval letter from a Nigerian ethics committee, which Pfizer used to justify its actions, was a sham concocted long after the trial ended.

"The families of the children who [Pfizer] used as laboratory guinea pigs were led to believe and in fact understood that the Defendants were providing their children with volunteer relief, clearly focused humanitarian medical intervention and nothing more," the lawsuit says.

Parents were not told that alternative treatments were available, it adds.

The suit charges that parents were barred from Pfizer's ward and that the company's own lab tests had shown Trovan's life-threatening side effects. Researchers allegedly administered the comparison drug, Rocephin, in dangerously low doses to make Trovan look more effective.

The lawsuit contends that Pfizer researchers left the area during the epidemic, took all medical records and "obliterated any evidence" of the trial.

"Defendant's illegal conduct was deliberate and solely motivated by financial considerations," it says.

Every surviving child suffered one or more disabilities, the lawsuit says, adding that the state of Kano has incurred major costs caring for the children and otherwise dealing with the drug trial 's repercussions.

In its statement, Pfizer said the drug was in late-stage development and had been tested on 5,000 patients in a number of countries. "Pfizer's doctors had solid scientific evidence that it would provide a safe and effective treatment against the deadly disease," the statement said. The treatment "indisputably helped save the lives of almost 200 children," the company said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration never approved Trovan for use in treating American children. After being cleared for adult use in 1997, the drug quickly became one of the most prescribed antibiotics in the United States. But Trovan was later associated with reports of liver damage and deaths, leading the FDA to restrict its use in 1999. It remains available in the United States, but European regulators have banned it.

Research editor Alice Crites contributed to this report.

mercredi, mai 30, 2007

Rain Delay

So I was planning on sending texts and e-mails yesterday for a birthday/graduation/promotion spectacular at Fort Greene park this weekend but the weather is not cooperating. We've had so many great weekends recently but this coming one it's supposed to rain. Not to mention most everyone I know is in town this weekend (as opposed to Memorial Day weekend when everyone was gone) but as summer progresses that will most definitely change. I basically have to decide today if I'm gonna do something at my apt., which is good sized it's just that having it at my crib will require more work and the park, crabgrass and all, has got so much ambiance. I could theoretically tentatively hold it at my crib and migrate the party 2 blocks over to the park if the weather turned. I don't know. I'm thinking I should hold out but I got to check to see if people will still be around next weekend. I don't know. My dad would call this the paralysis of analysis.

mardi, mai 29, 2007


"The blackness, keep-a-keep on."

On Common at Hello, Babar.

mardi, mai 22, 2007

The New New

So I'm also blogging over at VIBE now. The blog is titled Hello, Babar. Anyone who has seen Coming to America should get it. Anyway, 2 posts are up. The first, written a while ago but recently posted, is on Imus/Rutgers. The second, posted today, is a Beanie Sigel-inspired appreciation of Johnny Gill. Check it out and comment. Thx. Toodles.

lundi, mai 21, 2007

Gravel Pit

Good shit

I don't like to like post-MotownPhilly fans of Boys II Men despite my affinity for Wanya, the cute chubby member of the East Coast Family who notably carried on an R. Kellyish affair with she of broad forehead and unflattering weave. Gibes aside, I was an avid fan of Moesha circa sidekick of short stocky stature and recently remedied asslessness. In fact, I'm looking forward to heading to Leimert Plaza this July and singing the show's theme song around the fountain as I did 5 years ago on my first pilgrimmage ("Mo to-the E to-the...." which suspiciously sounds like source material for Mr. West's nickname). It promises to be fun and the thought of it is welcome respite from my own wierd wranglings on people, places and things. Been away, got tan, and was confronted with all that's missed and miffs about near and dears: that which makes me want to either dial them more frequently or delete their God forsaken numbers out my cracked Razr. There is no torment here just an eagerness for something that means something and the same thing now as before as week after next. Once again, I'm reevaulating my approach to life and the living when not wishing for a crystal stair.

vendredi, mai 11, 2007

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“I love shrimp—cocktail shrimp, shrimp-fried rice, anything that deals with shrimp.” Photo: Melissa Hom

What is it with Black people (excluding the Hebrews, Muslims and vege's like me) and shrimp?! It's like a universal negro signifier for eating good. My mother couldn't get enough of it, jumbo prawns in particular (the Jamie Foxx/Mike Epps movie Bait quite hilariously incorporated jumbo prawns into it's plot), until her high blood pressure proscribed it and if we take as evidence all the songs mentioning of "lobster 'n shrimp" and/or "steak n shrimp," hip hop's got a serious taste for it. Mims joins the chorus over at New York's Grub Street.

jeudi, mai 10, 2007

Carcasses & Caricatures

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A lot of people have posted it to dig but I like this pic. She looks happy.

Mainstream Black music coverage and consumption can often concern itself with carcasses and caricatures; old Black sounds and subjects that recall more peculiar times- not the institution but its detritus, and impetus for that matter. I will someday attempt to articulate what I have observed and experienced* but at present Kandia Crazy Horse brilliantly elucidates the other C+C music factory via Joss (who I detest), Lily (on whom I have no opinion) and Amy (who I very much enjoy). Here's a teaser:
White artists' love and theft of black expression, as ratified by the Elvis phenomenon, remains the primary cultural battleground in the aughties — don't get it twisted.
For more check the San Francisco Bay Guardian.

Thanks to Larry-bob for the heads up!

*My affinity for Amy is proof that I am not immune to this pattern of consumption just aware.

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lundi, mai 07, 2007

I fully intend to be at the above party. I miss it every year due to being out of town or just oblivious. I heard him live at the Apollo in 2005. It was lifechanging. There's no other music I'd rather dance to.

Edit- Rob Brezsny co-signs:
Gemini (May 21-June 20)
The Yanyuwa aborigines of northwestern Australia believe that music literally has curative properties. In one traditional method, the healer sings a medicine song directly into the top of the head of the patient. The sound circulates through the body, driving out the illness or unease. According to my analysis of the astrological omens, something resembling this approach could help chase away your current malaise. Do you think you could find a shaman or shaman wannabe to perform the musical "surgery"? If not, do the job yourself. Spend 20 minutes a day singing the most potent healing songs you know into your own head.

vendredi, mai 04, 2007

A Black woman trying to get through to a few...

Here is a good--albeit six years old--interview with Nonchalant from Morgan State University's newspaper, The Spokesman*:
Catching Up with Nonchalant
By: Nicole Mosley
Posted: 2/2/01

When people think of Washington, D.C.’s music scene, images of thumping go-go music is the first that comes to mind. But in 1996, a young lady changed all of that. Nonchalant’s gold-selling “5 O’Clock” woke everyone’s conscious up, and also opened hip-hop’s mind to let them know that D.C. music isn’t just about sardines, pork & beans, and putting one leg up with the booty on the floor. For a minute it appeared as though Nonchalant would be the one to open up D.C.’s rap floodgates, and release all of the hidden talent in the city.

Fast forward to the year 2001 and Nonchalant is invisible to the hip-hop nation. She can be found on “Where Are They Now Lists” next to names such as The Boys and Kwame’, and you might’ve caught her mugshot on the side of a milk carton in XXL magazine. Could this mean that Nonchalant was down for the count and through with rap forever? Not a chance.

People in the D.C. area can catch her every weekday on the radio from 6 to 10 .p.m. on WPGC 95.5. As for the music scene, this lady straight out of Northeast Washington has her business mind state set perfectly and is ready to make some major moves in the industry.

Where have you been all of this time? XXL magazine even went as far as to put your picture on the side of a milk carton.

Basically, I’ve been home. I’ve really been trying to find myself as a writer, because I’ve had my publishing deal ever since I had my record deal. I got it at the same time and I really didn’t explore writing like I should have. I was writing for myself, but I wasn’t writing for anybody else. So I had to prove myself as a writer of other music. That’s what I’ve been doing. After I was here at the station I learned how to DJ, I went and got me some turntables, learned that and just stayed in my basement and got a whole bunch of production equipment. Learned how to do that and how to engineer, and stayed home and wrote and had people voice my songs. Just really exploring the writing side for publishing. Tonya Blount and myself formed a little writing team, and that’s basically where I’ve been.

In 1998 you dropped the single “Take It There” featuring the Roots, and that created a buzz in the industry. And there were also ads for a second album. How come that second album was never released?

Because I left the record company. We weren’t seeing eye to eye as to wear I wanted to go on this record. I told them I wanted to leave, and they obliged me with that. I was lucky enough to get off like I wanted to. So that’s predominantly what happened with that. We didn’t put the record out; we didn’t go any further.

What is it that you wanted to do that MCA Records felt didn’t agree with them?

I think what it was is that…the person I was on Until the Day and the person that I am now…I’ve grown. To me, I feel like people didn’t know who Nonchalant was. People were really expecting another “5 O’Clock” from me. “5 O’Clock” was a beautiful record, and that’s just a small part of who I am. I felt like on the second record people really had to embrace who I am to really feel everything else I was bringing. It was kind of some creative differences, what have you. I felt like they weren’t really ready to compete in the marketplace. With every other female, and every other artist that was coming out. You had to be monetarily ready to compete. Creatively ready to compete. I just didn’t feel that. We weren’t seeing eye to eye, so we just rolled out.

You came out at a time that was right before the entire sex talking female rapper craze that we are witnessing now. How do you feel about this new industry standard that says in order to be a successful female rapper, you have to dress provocatively and talk about sex?

I can’t even front, on the next album that I was coming with, which was going to be For All Non Believers, in the video “Take It There” you could see the softer side of Nonchalant. It wasn’t the extreme to where Kim and Foxy was. It wasn’t to the extreme of that, but before women felt like they had to look like a man. They felt like they had to put the big clothes on and compete. But then after awhile they saw that “I can still be me and still do my thing.” It was a situation where I feel good about the fact that they feel liberated enough to express themselves how they want to express themselves. Lyrically as well as the visionary situation.

Do you think there’s a double standard in rap, whereas males can talk about anything they want, but if a female talks about the same thing she is given a negative label?

Definitely. In rap, hip-hop music, all of that. It’s true to life and that’s how it is in life for women, and in other situations of life. In jobs and standards of life we’re second-guessed. We’re questioned for things that we would do where men wouldn’t be questioned. So I don’t see why it would be any different in the music business where we’re put under this microscope, and if we’re doing something its blown out of proportion, or “Why is she doing that? She don’t need to be doing that?” Whereas a male can do the same thing.

For awhile it was appearing as though D.C. was ready to blow up nationally in the rap scene. Questionmark Asylum had a successful single, and later you would came along with another hit. But after that, D.C. rap faded from the national eye. What do you think happened as far as D.C. missing out on claiming a major spot on the hip-hop map?

It’s really hard to say because D.C. does have so much talent. When people think of D.C., they automatically think of go-go and [think] that’s the only thing that we do. We’re second-guessed. Even sometimes a lot of rappers that come out of D.C., they sound like go-go rappers. It’s really hard. Outside of D.C., meaning once you hit Philadelphia and V.A. and Atlanta and all of that, it’s just like “Ya’ll doing that go-go thing.” And that’s what we’re known for. People really don’t look to us. It’s unfortunate that I had the big record and then didn’t have that big push by the record company to keep me visible to keep a light shined on D.C. long enough for somebody else to come out and really take the baton in hip-hop and keep it going.

What do you think it would take for D.C. to make that next move in gaining national recognition for its rap scene?

Honestly speaking, I don’t know really. Well, number one, Nonchalant needs to do her thing definitely. But, to make that next move its going to take a huge record like a “5 O’Clock to get that. It’s not going to take a mediocre record, it’s going to take a Ludacris to just blow out the water. Or it’s going to take a family, like a No Limit or Cash Money family of several rappers that’s hot. It’s going to take something like that, but what you’re really going to need is to showcase the fact that they’re from D.C.

Do you have any plans to release another album?

Definitely. I’m working on it right now. To go back to the first question, one thing I was doing was, I had to sit back because record companies change so much. With the millennium there were a lot of shake-ups and break ups within record companies, and a lot of females coming. I really wanted to sit back, focus on the writing, but sit back and watch what other record companies was doing and see where it was stable, because you had mergers and Seagram’s buying up everything. You never know what record company is going to be liquidated tomorrow. So I said “Let me sit back and watch and see what’s going to happen and see what record companies would be good for Nonchalant based upon what they’re doing with their other artists.” I don’t want to be on a label with a bunch of other females where I’m just another apple in the crew. I want to be that one apple. I’m definitely working on something right now and I see two record companies. We’re having conversations and hopefully one will be home for Nonchalant where I can put out some more “5 O’Clock”s. Not “5 O’Clock,” but something of that magnitude.
© Copyright 2007 Spokesman

* They really should change the paper's name to The Spokesperson.

jeudi, mai 03, 2007


Betty Mabry/Davis pic swiped from here.

+I like good TV criticism and Law & Order: SVU so I loved this incredibly well-written John Leonard piece in this week's New York Magazine:
I am sorry to say that John Munch (Richard Belzer) and Odafin “Fin” Tutuola (Ice-T) have no part to play in either of these hours, although it’s easy enough to imagine what they’d do and say if called upon, since both of them are so frozen into temperamental tics—the Ramsey Clark conspiracy rant, Miles Davis mercury-cooled—that they might as well be Popsicle shticks. I’m also sorry to say that Dr. George Huang (B. D. Wong) does have a part, opening his mouth to explain to Stabler that “family annihilators are the ultimate narcissists.” Thanks, Doc. It’s always been hard to decide whether Wong’s Huang is more insulting to Asians or to psychiatrists. And some other time we will ask ourselves just why so many television medical examiners, like Tamara Tunie on L&O: SVU and Khandi Alexander on CSI: Miami, happen to be gorgeous black women. Angels of death? The morgue as Bat Cave?
+I, like many, am intrigued by Betty Mabry/Betty Davis. The Seattle Weekly looks at her career on the occasion of Light in the Attic's upcoming reissues of Betty Davis (1973) and They Say I'm Different (1974). I don't understand why--other than Davis--it seems the author only quoted men in the article with the exception of one descriptive quote by Jennifer Herrema. I really don't care what Saul Williams thinks of Davis or even Santana, for that matter, if the latter's voice is not paired with those of knowledgeable female musicians. What does Joi think? What did/do her background singers, the Pointer Sisters, think (June's passed but I believe Anita's still alive)? What did her female contemporaries think? Aren't there female music critics, historians, ethnomusicologists that could have chimed in? It was great to read about her but it was disconcerting how she, of all people, was approached from a wholly male purview. Also, bootleg psychologist that I am, I am wondering if it would be more productive to not approach her with assumptions about who she is/was ("I'm surprised...") and what is normal behavior for a musician who had her sphere of influence. That way of thinking and talking to people doesn't elucidate much. I try not to act surprised in professional interviews or personal conversations. I've had people tell me a lot of so-called jaw dropping things but I remain serene because just the act of being shocked is judgement and judgement often stifles and silences.

Also I thought this was an interesting exchange:

Q: Do your songs today sound like your old ones, or has your approach changed?

A: I don't know really.

Q: Are they...

A: They're sex-oriented.

Q: They're about sex?

A: Yeah. All my songs are about sex.

As a reader, it's unclear if she's being sarcastic or not but what is clear is that she knows where this interviewer is going. I'd argue that she immediately knew what the author meant by "approach" but just blew it off. I'm sure many of us have ignored a question a poser was too timid to articulate. Obviously, she quickly decides to just fill in the prescribed blank without elaboration, "They're sex-oriented." The act of withholding can be quite transgressive. So what if we read her narrative not as the behavior of a crazy or traumatized woman but as a lucid empowered woman? If as bell hooks long ago wrote, looking is power, then so is refusing to be looked at.

+I have got a Google Alert for Black Middle Class since it's an area of study, which is how I stumbled upon this piece by Wendy Cook of Accuracy in Media, a conservative and incredibly suspect organization. In an article titled, "Rosie O’Donnell Misses Big With Her Rap on Rap" Cook called into question Rosie's comments on rap music in the wake of the Imus' broadcast of racist/sexist repartee:
She claimed, "There’s something different about young black artists living their reality…and using the clay of their life to form the art that becomes their vessel."

But Rosie didn’t do her research. Not all rappers are “living their reality” that their music portrays. For example, T-Pain, a popular rapper, was born and raised in Tallahassee, Florida, to a regular middle-class family. His parents own a chain of local seafood restaurants.

Rich Boy (born Maurice Richards), who uses defamatory or racist remarks, was a student enrolled as a mechanical engineering major at Tuskegee University before he caught the eye of Interscope Records. His song, “Throw Some D’s,” includes the following lyrics:

"Rich Boy sellin' crack f- n- wanna jack S- tight no slack just bought a Cadillac Took it to the chop shop Got the top dropped two colored flip flopped Candy red lollipop There’s hoes in the parking lot.”
I don't listen to T-Pain so I don't know to what extent he engages in 'hood rhetoric and Rich Boy's college enrollment doesn't speak to his childhood environment (if in fact the article got the facts right on both). Moreover, Mary Pattillo-McCoy's Black Picket Fences evidenced that some black middle class neighborhoods (in her study's case, a middle class haunt in the Chi) are often in close proximity to blighted black neighborhoods making for a more complex classed experience than is often assumed. Still, I am very much interested in commercial rappers' backgrounds, to what extent these backgrounds inform their music or are obfuscated in it, and to what end(s). Also, I just think that the whole concept of reality rap is inutile. I'm not even sure if it ever served much of a function (but my vision could be hazed by time) since what is understood and received as real, is so fucking limited not to mention the host of artists who self-designate as reality rappers, in order to better hustle fans and critics.

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mardi, mai 01, 2007

National Mobilization to Support Immigrant Workers!


On May Day 2007, National Immigrant Solidarity Network is calling for a multi-ethnic, decentralized, multi-topic and multi-tactic national day of mobilization to support immigrant workers rights.

New York City
Tuesday May 1
4:00 pm - Rally & March
Union Square Park, 14 St. & Broadway
Marching to Federal Plaza/ Foley Square
(Site of the African Burial Ground)

Our ten points of unity (based on our Jan 29, 2007 open letter to the Congress):

1) No to anti-immigrant legislation, and the criminalization of the immigrant communities.

2) No to militarization of the border.

3) No to the immigrant detention and deportation.

4) No to the guest worker program.

5) No to employer sanction and "no match" letters.

6) Yes to a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

7) Yes to speedy family reunification.

8) Yes to civil rights and humane immigration law.

9) Yes to labor rights and living wages for all workers.

10) Yes to the education and LGBT immigrant legislation.