Hispanic Journalism Group Will Study Racism in Spanish-Language Media

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Univision fired host Rodner Figueroa for comparing First Lady Michelle Obama to a “Planet of the Apes” character. Figueroa did so during a segment with Paolo Ballesteros, a makeup artist who transforms himself to look like female celebrities.

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) commended Univision’s decision to let the host go, it also plans to create a task force this September during its national conference in Orlando to analyze race portrayal in Spanish-language media.

NAHJ president Mekahlo Medina called Figueroa’s comments racist in a statement on the association’s site and expressed his dismay.

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Univision, the fifth largest network in the U.S., took a stand against racism and we are all better for it. But what was Figueroa thinking when those words came out of his mouth? Why was it okay for him, at that moment, to compare the First Lady of the United States or any person to an ape? And why, still today, does he think that was not racist?

In the statement, Medina also touches on the “hierarchy of skin color and race,” perpetuated by the lack of diversity within news media.

How many dark-skin or afro-Latino anchors do you see on Spanish language newscasts? How many indigenous Latinos do you see on any newscast, English or Spanish? There isn’t a single Latino/a anchoring an 11pm English language newscast in Los Angeles, despite the market being 53% Latino and overwhelmingly English speaking or bilingual.

Figueroa has released an apology letter to the First Lady in which he denies being racist and explains that he has biracial roots.

Fire and Ice: Minnesotans Join Orquesta Aragón in Havana

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Kristen Bruya, a Minnesota Orchestra bassist, center, at an Orquesta Aragón show at Habana Café. The American musicians joined the Cubans onstage, too.
Kristen Bruya, a Minnesota Orchestra bassist, center, at an Orquesta Aragón show at Habana Café.
The American musicians joined the Cubans onstage,
too.

It was after midnight here Sunday morning at the Habana Café, and the Orquesta Aragón, a charanga group that was founded in 1939 and which helped popularize the cha-cha, was taking a break when the club’s master of ceremonies announced in English and Spanish that a few of their members would return with some special guests.

Some Minnesota Orchestra musicians, who were drinking mojitos at the club after finishing the last concert of their groundbreaking tour of Cuba, joined them onstage and began playing “Dos Gardenias,” the bolero that Ibrahim Ferrer sang with the Buena Vista Social Club.

“There’s a very iconic trumpet solo at the beginning,” Charles Lazarus, a trumpeter in the orchestra, told the crowd, before explaining that one of his sidemen would play it on the clarinet. “So I thought it would be a great idea to have Osmo play the trumpet solo.”

Osmo was Osmo Vanska, the Minnesota Orchestra’s music director, who has helped make the ensemble famous for Nordic repertoire and Sibelius, which can conjure images of bleak, icy landscapes. But early Sunday morning he was playing clarinet in a decidedly more tropical vein as members of his orchestra and the Orquesta Aragón — think of them as El Conjunto de Minneapolis, perhaps — played a mixture of jazz and Cuban music. For this set some of the conducting duties fell to Orlando Pérez, Orquesta Aragón’s pianist, who would hold up a finger to signal when the players should let a vamp continue, or when they should wrap things up.

Osmo Vanska, near left, the Minnesota Orchestra’s music director who has made the ensemble famous for Nordic repertory, on clarinet with the Orquesta Aragón at Habana Café early Sunday morning. Credit Lisette Poole for The New York Times

It was the kind of back and forth that members of the orchestra were particularly keen to experience on their tour here, which ended Sunday when they flew back to Minneapolis.

Some parts of the exchange were political. The Minnesota Orchestra’s tour was inspired by the improving relations between the United States and Cuba, and the ensemble moved fast to become the first major American symphony orchestra to play here in more than 15 years.

It was also a cultural exchange within the orchestra, which only resumed playing together last year after a bitter 16-month lockout. On this trip musicians, board members, and members of the administration — groups that were bitterly divided — ate together, drank together ,danced together and listened to music together.

After the orchestra took to the stage for its Saturday night concert at the Teatro Nacional, Mr. Vanska strode out to the podium turned and faced the audience and, with a gesture, urged the somewhat confused concertgoers to stand. Then he turned to the orchestra and urged them to stand. Then, to audible gasps, the Minnesota Orchestra played the Cuban national anthem, which the audience sang along to lustily. When it was over they cheered loudly.

The orchestra kept standing and Mr. Vanska signaled the percussion section. A drumroll began. Then the orchestra began playing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” drawing more surprise in the theater, which sits on the Plaza de la Revolución, which for many years was the scene of some of Fidel Castro’s most fiery anti-American speeches. Fewer Cubans seemed to know the lyrics, which were mostly sung by the Americans in the orchestra’s entourage. But when it was over the Cuban members of the audience cheered as well.

But most of the exchanges on this trip were musical, not political. In addition to performing, the Minnesota Orchestra musicians listened — hearing traditional Cuban songs played by Septeto Habanero at an outdoor dinner in the square in front of the cathedral in Old Havana, being serenaded at the Hotel Nacional by Coro Entrevoces, a Cuban choir that will perform with the orchestra in Minnesota in July, and working with students in several settings.

Several players said that one of the most memorable parts of the trip was a side-by-side rehearsal they had on Friday at the Teatro Nacional with teenage musicians in the Amadeo Roldán Youth Orchestra. The Minnesotans were hugely impressed with their musicianship, and the sounds they are able to produce on poor instruments, since spare parts can be hard to find here.

At the rehearsal the students — in uniforms of brown pants and skirts and short-sleeved white shirts — sat beside their counterparts in the Minnesota Orchestra. In the first half Mr. Vanska led them in Tchaikovsky’s overture-fantasy “Romeo and Juliet” and Borodin’s “Polovtsian Dances.” Despite the language barrier, the professionals gave the students tips by example.

After the break, Guido López-Gavilán, the conductor of the Youth Orchestra, took to the podium to lead the two orchestras in one of his own compositions, “Guaguancó,” a symphonic rumba. This time it was the students who taught the Minnesotans a thing or two.

At first the rhythmic foundation of the piece — the five-beat repeated pattern called the clave, the basic building block of Cuban music — confounded some of the American players. They had all played clave rhythms before, explained Sam Bergman, a viola player in the orchestra, but the Cubans played it a little differently — delaying the third beat a bit.

Mr. Bergman said that at first the Minnesotans were off. “The kids were looking at us like, what’s the problem here?” he recalled. But the Minnesotans were able to follow the youth players and soon got it.

Wendy Williams, a flute player in the orchestra, said that she loved the piece so much that she hoped the orchestra would play it at some point when it returns to Minneapolis. “I just want to share it with our audiences back home,” she said.

Trump vs. Amazon: So Much for the Businessman President

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by Paul R. La Monica

Donald Trump fashions himself as a CEO president. But he’s feuding with one of America’s most famous, most respected and wealthiest business leaders — Amazon’s Jeff Bezos — mainly because the company is so successful.

In his latest attack on Amazon, Trump said on Twitter early Wednesday that Amazon “is doing great damage to tax paying retailers. Towns, cities and states throughout the U.S. are being hurt – many jobs being lost.”

While it is true that Amazon (AMZNTech30) has wreaked havoc on the traditional retail industry. Macy’s (M), Kohl’s (KSS) and JCPenney (JCP) are among the many big department stores that recently reported lousy results.

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Trump’s tweet about Amazon came several hours before he disbanded two advisory groups that included the CEOs of many big U.S. companies — a decision that followed Corporate America’s criticism of Trump’s response to the violence in Charlottesville.

Bezos was not a member of either of those councils, which had a particular focus on how to create more jobs for American workers. But Amazon is thriving. And hiring.

According to the most recent data on retail sales from the U.S. Census Bureau, sales at “nonstore retailers” — a category that includes Amazon and other e-commerce sites — surged 11.5% last month from a year ago.

The president is also correct to note that the changing landscape of retail is hurting some American workers.

According to the most recent figures on layoffs from Challenger, Gray & Christmas, retailers have announced nearly 64,000 job cuts through July — up 46.7% from a year ago.

But Trump is going overboard by saying that the country is suffering because of Amazon’s dominance. Layoffs are just one part of the story. Many other retailers are doing extremely well — and they are hiring.

Overall retail sales were up a healthy 4.3% from July 2016. Consumers are still shopping until they drop — and not just at Amazon.

For one, the rise of Amazon has appeared to reinvigorate Walmart (WMT), the nation’s biggest private employer. The company has more than 1.5 million workers in the United States and 2.3 million around the world.

Walmart has made a bigger push into online retail in recent years through acquisitions, and it’s been rewarded by Wall Street.

And Target, which has struggled lately, might finally be showing signs of a turnaround, too. It reported surprisingly strong results Wednesday morning, led in large part by digital sales growth.

What’s more, Amazon is a big job creator. The company employed 382,400 people worldwide as of the end of July, up from 268,900 a year ago. That’s a 42% increase. And its workforce will grow more when it completes the acquisition of Whole Foods (WFM).

Amazon was not immediately available for comment about how many jobs it has added in the United States in the past year.

Related: Amazon takes on the corner store

The president’s comment about Amazon hurting taxpaying retailers seemed to be yet another suggestion that Amazon does not pay taxes — an assertion he has made, incorrectly, for more than a year.

Amazon paid $879 million in income taxes in the 12 months that ended in June, according to its latest quarterly filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. In that filing, Amazon also indicated that it expected its future taxes to increase.

Bezos was one of several tech CEOs to meet with Trump at the White House in June to talk about jobs and other big issues important to the industry.

Nevertheless, Trump pursues the feud with Bezos. He tweeted in December 2015 that Amazon was a “no profit” company that would “crumple like a paper bag” if it had to pay fair taxes.

This also is not true. Amazon does pay taxes, and it posted a profit (not a loss) of nearly $2 billion for the 12 months ending in June.

Trump added that he thought Bezos was using his ownership of The Washington Post as a “big tax shelter” for Amazon. That, too, is wrong. Bezos owns the paper as a personal investment. It’s not an Amazon subsidiary.

Bezos, who is currently worth about $84 billion according to Forbes and Bloomberg, responded by jokingly offering to send Trump into orbit on a rocket owned by his space exploration company, Blue Origin.

 Your Editor Promises: We’ll keep following Bezos closely. Whether he accepts or not, he IS Hispanic

Recipe For Forgetting Fidel Castro

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Posted on August 13, 2016, by Yoani-Sánchez

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Former president Fidel Castro with a “Queen” brand pressure cooker, made in China. (EFE)

By Yoani Sanchez, 14ymedio, Havana, 13 August 2016 –

Turn on the radio and the announcer reads a brief headline: “Fidel Castro, The Great Builder.” The man goes on to explain that the most important works of the country have come from this head that for decades has been covered by an olive-green cap. Weary of so much personality cult, I decided to watch television, but on the main channel a lawyer was detailing the legal legacy of the Maximum Leader and at the end of the program they announced a documentary about “The Invincible Guerrilla.”

For weeks, we Cubans have lived under a veritable bombardment of references to Fidel Castro, which has increased in proportion to the closeness of the date of his 90th birthday, this 13 August. There is no shame nor nuance in this avalanche of images and epithets.

This whole excess of tributes and reminders is, undoubtedly, a desperate attempt to save the former Cuban president from oblivion, to pull him out of that zone of media abandonment in which he has fallen since announcing his departure from power a decade ago.

We have left the man born in the eastern town of Biran, in 1926, in the past, condemning him to the 20th century, burying him alive.

Children now in elementary school have never seen the once loquacious orator speak for hours at a public event. Farmers have breathed a sigh of relief on not having to receive constant recommendations from the “Farmer in Chief” and even housewives are thankful that he does not appear at a congress of the Federation of Cuban Women to teach them how to use a pressure cooker.

The official propaganda knows that people often appeal to short-term memory as a way of protecting themselves. For many young people, Fidel Castro is already as remote as, for my mother in her day, was the dictator Gerardo Machado, a man who so adversely marked the life of my grandmother’s generation.
Followers of the figure of Fidel Castro are taking advantage of the celebrations for his nine decades of life to try to erect a statue of immortality in the heart of the nation. They deify him, forgive him his systematic errors and convert him into the most visible head of a creed. The new religion takes as its premises stubbornness, intolerance for differences, and a visceral hatred – almost like a personal battle – against the United States.

The detractors of “Él,” as many Cubans simply call him, are preparing the arguments to dismantle his myth. They await the moment when the history books no longer equate him with José Martí, but offer a stark, cold and objective analysis of his career. They are the ones who dream of the post-Castro era, of the end of Fidelismo and of the diatribe that will fall on his controversial figure.

Most, however, simply turn the page and shrug their shoulders in a sign of disgust when they hear his name. They are the ones who, right now, turn off the TV and focus on a daily existence that negates every word Fidel Castro ever said in his incendiary speeches, in those times when he planned to build a Utopia and turn us into New Men.

Tired of his omnipresence, they are the ones who will deal the final blow to the myth. And they will do it without hullabaloo or heroic acts. They will simply stop talking to their children about him, there will be no photos in the rooms of their homes showing him with a rifle and epaulettes, they will not confer on their grandchildren the five letters of his name.

The celebration for the 90th birthday of Fidel Castro is, in reality, his farewell: as excessive and exhausting as was his political life

Your Editor Explains: This farewell to Castro is three months old, published on August 13, 2016, in the newspaper O Globo of Brazil. The author lives and works in Havana. We just felt it was perfect for Castro´s necro.

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