Sunday, July 09, 2006

Reggae stars banned after breaking gay hate pledge

(Report from "The Independent")

For a handful of Jamaican reggae stars accused of fomenting homophobia with their violently anti-gay lyrics, they were supposed to be the songs they would never sing again. But a 14-year war of words between gay rights groups and Jamaican "dancehall" performers has erupted once again after campaigners said several artists had reneged on an agreement last year to stop using - and justifying - their gay bashing songs. Concerts by two singers - Buju Banton and Beenie Man - were this week cancelled in Brighton and Bournemouth after complaints from gay rights groups.

Banton, whose 1992 song Boom Bye Bye brought the issue of dancehall homophobia to light by calling for "batty boys" or gay men to be shot in the head, set on fire or have acid poured over them, had been due to perform last night at a club in Brighton's gay district. But the club, Concorde 2, said it was cancelling the concert after being told by the local authority that it risked losing its licence on the grounds that the performance could endanger public safety. In a statement, the club said: "[We] believe that the concert would not have caused a threat to community welfare. Concorde 2 would like to remain a free thinking live music venue, which caters for all areas of the community."

Brighton and Hove Council confirmed it had approached Concorde 2 with a warning that its licence could be revoked. Sussex Police said that it supported the cancellation.

Outrage!, the gay rights group, said it will be seeking to stop performances in Britain by three Jamaican musicians, including Banton and Beenie Man, after compiling evidence that they were still singing songs with anti-gay lyrics. Pressure groups, whose international boycott against homophobic singers resulted in concerts worth 5 million pounds being cancelled in 2004, have dubbed the songs "murder music".

The concert by Beenie Man, whose song Han Up Deh calls for lesbians to be hung, had been booked for the Bournemouth International Centre on 29 July. But the town's council confirmed yesterday that it had rejected the booking. The renewed conflict comes despite a verbal agreement last February. The record companies had pledged not to re-release any existing offensive material or publish new homophobic songs. They agreed to put pressure on the stars to ensure they would not perform the tunes at concerts, or justify them.

But Outrage! said yesterday that Banton has since performed Boom Bye Bye in Jamaica and that Beenie Man and another artist, Bounty Killer, had made anti-gay statements at a festival in Jamaica last April. In an interview with BBC Radio One Xtra three months ago, Banton said he was entitled to his views.

Peter Tatchell, founder of Outrage!, said: "Since I am sure no one would host a singer who called for the lynching of black people, we expect the authorities to take a similar stance against singers who call for the shooting or burning of gay people."

The promoters and record companies representing the three performers declined to comment. But industry sources said Beenie Man and Banton were continuing to make regular appearances around Britain. Both men are due to perform in east London this weekend.

The lyrics:

Buju Banton - Boom Bye Bye

"Anytime Buju Banton come batty boy get up and run ah gunshot in ah head man... Boom, bye bye, in a batty boy head" ("Anytime Buju Banton comes along gays get and up and run. A bullet in the head... Bang, bye, bye, in the gay man's head.")

Beenie Man - Han Up Deh

"Hang chi chi gal wid a long piece of rope" ("Hang lesbians with a long piece of rope")

Bounty Killer - Another Level

"Poop man fi drown an dat a yawd man philosophy" ("Queers must be drowned and that's a yardie man [Jamaican] philosophy.")


For a comment on the above news item, see Tongue Tied


In England, you can have an abortion for just about any reason. But one thing you evidently can't do is talk about what abortion is - or at least show the bloody truth through images.

A 74-year-old man named Edward Atkinson recently spent four weeks in prison for sending an executive at Norfolk's Queen Elizabeth Hospital "very upsetting" images and literature (and they were) in an effort, Atkinson said, "to educate" her about the abortion procedures done at her facility. On the same day Atkinson was sentenced, a wheelchair-bound woman was convicted for sending similar pictures to pharmacies that stock the "morning-after pill."

Now, it's worth mentioning that I'm often the first person to cringe and discourage my fellow abortion opponents from marching with graphic images of dead children - what Mr. Atkinson did, but in his case via the British postal service. Those pictures were, indeed, very upsetting. No one wants to have to look at pictures of death and destruction - and on an issue that's already about as acidic and painful as political issues get, we might all get further with a little less vinegar. But whatever my own rhetorical preferences might be - and whatever your position on abortion is - it's a scandal that a man would be jailed for such an act of free speech. But sending offensive material through the mail is a crime in Merry Old England and so a judge deemed this old man's mail criminal. You don't have to think that abortion is an evil that we need to eradicate to think that that is an outrage.

And even if had he asked me, I would have advised Atkinson to approach matters - and the hospital official - differently. But I do know about the undeniable power of images. Anyone who is pregnant right now or has been pregnant in recent years knows, in an intimate way, the visual power of the miracle of life seen through "windows on the womb." And although I've made my general hesitance to opt for the show end of show-and-tell known when it comes to abortion, I would never want to see that option eliminated.

Take the partial-birth-abortion debate back home in the United States as one example why. Images here help. There's been much media dismissal of the description I just used - "partial-birth abortion." But the National Right to Life Committee has a crystal-clear diagram on its website, and once you see it, you realize that "partial-birth abortion" really is the perfect wording for this barbaric procedure. (Unless you want to use the word "infanticide," as one late prominent pro-choice Democratic senator did not so long ago; I certainly won't discourage you.) Not only should a citizen be free to show such disturbing images - that illustrate a legal procedure offensive to our very humanity - used wisely, those images can be a public service.

That's why the United Kingdom's treatment of Mr. Atkinson has been so reprehensible. And it gets even worse. In writing - not spur of the moment - an official of Queen Elizabeth Hospital informed him that the hospital would no longer treat him for problems that are not life-threatening, "and as such you have been removed from our replacement hip waiting list." As a British taxpayer, Mr. Atkinson deserves better than that.

A judge told Atkinson that "it is clear that you intended to shock and I am certain your purpose was to cause distress and anxiety." Well, I for one am shocked, distressed, and anxious - not just because abortion is legal there, and here across the pond, but because of this apparent governmentally enforced conspiracy of silence. The Atkinson files reveal a real case of aborting free speech. Abortion defenders may not agree on the underlying issue - but can't we all muster outrage over attempts to avoid discussing the details of the issue?



An editorial from "The Australian" newspaper

Anyone who doubts that the road to hell is paved with good intentions has not spent enough time in Australia's remote Aboriginal communities. Policy after well-intentioned policy put forth by the country's progressives has forced Aborigines into remote, economically unviable communities with nothing to sustain them but sit-down money and grog. Worse, they have allowed a minority of criminals within those communities to turn them into Hobbesian nightmares where life is nasty, brutish and, on average, 21 years shorter than that enjoyed by white Australians. In short, Australia's progressives have been literally killing Aborigines with kindness.

This is seen in the damning reports that show a fear of incarcerating Aboriginal criminals, stemming from a misplaced respect for customary law and the royal commission into deaths in custody, routinely unleashes monsters of the worst sort to prey on the weakest members of their communities. According to the National Indigenous Council and other Aboriginal leaders, the legal system's "softly-softly" approach on indigenous crime has let sexual and other predators back into their communities to continue to prey on women, children and even infants.

Last August, The Australian reported the horrifying case of the 14-year-old "promised bride" who was kidnapped and raped by a 55-year-old elder, who initially received just a month behind bars for the crime. On ABC's Lateline last week, Melbourne University professor Marcia Langton said that in the Northern Territory, men who kill their wives and girlfriends routinely receive sentences as light as 18 months in prison per death. Yet the customary-law defence makes a mockery of the Australian legal system, which should apply equally to everyone across the land. And a proper analysis of the royal commission report reveals that Aboriginal men were not dying in custody at a higher rate than the general prison population, even though Aborigines were, and remain, over-represented in the system. Justice is denied to Australia's indigenous population thanks to an insidious soft racism that would rather romanticise Aboriginal culture and force its members to live in Rousseauian fantasy in remote bush communities, rather than be full participants in the life of the nation.

There is no question but that the 1967 referendum, which effectively ended constitutional discrimination against Aborigines, was an unqualified good for the nation. In the weeks leading up to the vote, The Australian repeatedly urged citizens to vote in favour of the referendum and called for its "unanimous approval", saying "if it is not carried the nation should be ashamed of itself". Yet in properly, if belatedly, granting indigenous Australians full citizenship and rights as Australians, little thought was given to what would happen next.

Equal pay laws had the unintended consequence of causing thousands of indigenous Australians who had been living with their families on cattle stations or other agricultural businesses to lose their jobs and their connection to working communities. As politically incorrect and, to borrow a word from Tony Abbott, paternalistic as it sounds today, this relationship sometimes led to indigenous children being sent to boarding schools by wealthy graziers. There is also evidence that many pastoralists sought to provide a decent living for their Aboriginal drovers and their families.

Even though by today's standards the removal of Aboriginal children into white homes looks like an exercise in eugenics, some Aboriginal lawyers were produced in the process. Maroochy Barambah, the first Aboriginal to professionally sing opera on an Australian stage, received her training living with a white family in Melbourne. Today, the fear of the term "stolen generation" ties the hands of politicians and officials and leaves indigenous children in circumstances in which no other Australian child would be allowed to languish. It has taken the courage of Noel Pearson to raise the possibility that some remote Aboriginal children should be educated in city boarding schools.

Any solution to the crisis gripping the Aboriginal community must respect the original ethic of the 1967 referendum. At the same time, Aborigines must not be told that their historical experience can be waved before authorities as, quite literally, a get out of jail free card. Nor is this about race or culture. Any group of people forced to live in the middle of nowhere - disconnected from the wider world save for weekly welfare payments and alcohol deliveries and largely insulated from the criminal consequences of bad behaviour - will develop a "Big Man" culture, if only to put a stop to the even worse scenario of internecine gang warfare.

It is absolutely understandable that the Freedom Bus and other 1960s-era Aboriginal rights movements were concerned with rights above all else. These had been cruelly denied to Aborigines for too long. But the 1967 referendum, as well as the necessary and well-intentioned reports into deaths in custody and the "stolen generation" did not help Aboriginal communities take up the responsibilities that went along with those rights.

Today, Aborigines are many times more likely to die or be hurt at the hands of a fellow Aborigine than by anybody else, while in dysfunctional communities across the central deserts and northern Australia virtually every single resident is on the dole. Just as 40 years ago Aborigines and their allies in white society fought for indigenous rights, today the fight is to get Aborigines off the dole, away from the grog and into responsible workaday lives. It is a battle every bit as worthy as those fought in the 1960s and, for many Aborigines, even more critical.



Exercise will be compulsory in every New South Wales daycare centre and junk food will be phased out under a NSW Health Department plan to fight childhood obesity. Regulation foods and fitness programs will be rolled out across every childcare centre and pre-school under new guidelines recommended by a government working party. The authors of the government-commissioned report also recommended junk foods such as chocolate, chips, soft drinks and biscuits be eliminated.

The recommendations follow revelations overweight toddlers are being sent to dieticians while babies are sucking from soft drink bottles. The NSW report investigating obesity levels in two to five-year-olds is the biggest study of its kind in the country. It found eating habits in young children were setting them on an path to obesity. The Weight of Opinion survey is a three-part report commissioned by the State Government to investigate ways of tackling the obesity crisis in early childhood.

In the 10-year period from 1985 to 1995 the level of obesity among Australian children more than doubled - and tripled in all age groups and for both sexes. "The period from two to five is such a critical time in children development and you can really set good eating habits," report author Deanna Pagnini said. There are currently no guidelines on physical activity for young children across the country and childcare and preschools set their own rules on what foods are allowed. A government working party is now determining how much physical activity young children need and the kinds of healthy foods that are acceptable.

Co-author, obesity expert Dr Michael Booth, said drastic measures were needed: "You go to the beach and see tiny kids with soft drink in their bottles - that is the most extreme but I've seen it. It sends a shiver up the spine." Professor Booth said children as young as two needed to be educated about healthy foods. "The earlier you start the better. You even want to start before two because at the age they develop a taste for a wide variety of foods. Many kids refuse to eat vegetables because they have never developed the taste," he said.

The Weight of Opinion report detailed alarming incidents, including an event with a toddler who had weight issues and had to be referred to a dietician. "We sent her off to see a local doctor, the doctor referred her to a dietitian, and this child was about three," the report said.

The early childhood findings are the first part of the three part report which will also look at general practitioners as well as school teachers and parents, to be released over the next six months. The toddler section - released to The Saturday Daily Telegraph - said young children in formal care were a "captive audience that can be targeted with specific foods and required daily exercise. "(Efforts) need to concentrate on ... changing the structural, economic, cultural and environmental factors that make it difficult to eat healthy foods and get adequate amounts of physical activity," the report read.

Food Watch nutritionist Catherine Saxelby said it was tempting for time-poor parents to give their children pre-packaged foods. "It is quicker, self-wrapped and you know the child will eat it." Ms Saxelby said modern mums and dads found it tough to battle the avalanche of snack food marketing directed at children. "We want them to love us so we buy them things they love. Generations ago if you were a fussy eater you went to bed without any supper," she said.


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