Category Archives: Dea Shipps

Fukudome doesn’t find racist T-shirts in Wrigleyville funny

Offensive image on hot-selling item doesn’t reflect positively on city

BY GORDON WITTENMYER gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

Kosuke Fukudome didn’t have to wait long for the ugly American part of his welcome to Wrigleyville.

A Fukudome T-shirt with a racist image is the hottest-selling item at a souvenir stand that sells unlicensed Cubs-related merchandise across Addison Street from the ballpark, according to Mark Kolbusz, who’s in his fourth season operating the stand.

On the front of the shirt is the traditional Cubs cartoon bear face but with slanted eyes and wearing oversized Harry Caray-style glasses. It’s accompanied by the words ”Horry Kow,” scrawled in cartoonish ”Japanese” script. Fukudome’s name and number are on the back.

”That’s the No. 1 seller this year, by far,” said Kolbusz, who estimates one in 10 customers complain about being offended.

While Kolbusz was answering questions, two white guys stopped by the stand and pointed at the shirt, with one affecting a 1960s B-movie accent while reading aloud the words on the shirt.

His friend responded in a similar offensive accent, ”Oh, you tink dat funny?”

They walked away laughing.

Nice.

Apparently, it’s not only the Cubs’ World Series form that’s stuck in a 100-year time warp.

For all the innocently mistranslated signs, bows and zealous cheering from right-field bleacher regulars for the franchise’s first Japanese major-leaguer, the mere creation of this shirt — but especially its popularity — sends a raw, vulgar message about Fukudome’s new hometown.

”I don’t know what the creator of the shirt meant this to be, but they should make it right,” Fukudome said through his interpreter after being shown one of the shirts Thursday. ”Maybe the creator created it because he thought it was funny, or maybe he made it to condescend the race. I don’t know.”

Regardless, it’s not funny. The image feeds not only ugly, arrogant and ignorant Japanese stereotypes, but also the stereotype of the obnoxious, profane, drunken, booing, garbage-throwing Cubs fan.

How much truth is there in either image? And how funny is either one?

Kolbusz said he’s ”indifferent” to the image on the shirt.

”I’m making money,” he said. ”It doesn’t offend me. If other people are offended by it, it’s just a silly T-shirt. Nobody is trying to offend anybody.”

Which is probably true — and, if so, sadly ignorant.

Kolbusz went as far as pointing out that the shirt’s creator is ”an Oriental guy” and also pointed out an Asian woman he sold a shirt to.

But the customer in question, Laureen Hom, had no intention of wearing the shirt, she said.

”I bought it for my mom, who has a collection of racist images of Asian Americans,” she said. And, she added, the fact the creator is Asian ”is no excuse.”

Both of Hom’s parents are Asian-American Studies professors at San Francisco State University, and they’re in Chicago this week for the annual conference of the Association for Asian-American Studies. Hom, originally from San Francisco and now living in New York, met them in Chicago and attended the Reds-Cubs game Thursday with her friend Kimberley Ma.

”It’s always weird buying that stuff,” said Hom, who was startled to see the bear image on the shirt with the slanted eyes as she walked toward the ballpark. ”And then I got closer and saw the lettering and thought, ‘Oh, my God.”’

Ma called it ”shocking” and ”insulting.”

Hom compared the shirt to a series of Abercrombie & Fitch T-shirts five years ago that stirred outrage and controversy before quickly being pulled from shelves. One version featured caricature faces with slanted eyes and rice-paddy hats and a slogan that said, ”Wong Brothers Laundry Service — Two Wongs Can Make It White.”

Cubs officials made it clear they have nothing to do with the creation or marketing of the image, which also is being sold on headbands. The team had no official comment.

Fukudome did not seem shocked.

”I knew I was coming to a different country, so I expected something like this,” he said. ”Maybe not necessarily racial, but that anybody could take any context of my words and degrade me if they wanted to. But if I make a big deal out of it, it’s not going to benefit me, so I’m not going to make a big deal of it.”

Scientists target poor to test sludge theory

from the Cape Cod Times.

By JOHN HEILPRIN and KEVIN S. VINEYS

BALTIMORE — Scientists using federal grants spread fertilizer made from human and industrial wastes on yards in poor, black neighborhoods to test whether it might protect children from lead poisoning in the soil.

Families were assured the sludge was safe and were never told about any harmful ingredients.

Nine low-income families in Baltimore row houses agreed to let researchers till the sewage sludge into their yards and plant new grass. In exchange, they were given food coupons as well as the free lawns as part of a study published in 2005 and funded by the Housing and Urban Development Department.

The Associated Press reviewed grant documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and interviewed researchers. No one involved with the $446,231 grant for the two-year study would identify the participants, citing privacy concerns.

There is no evidence there was ever any medical follow-up.

Comparable research was conducted by the Agriculture Department and Environmental Protection Agency in a similarly poor, black neighborhood in East St. Louis, Ill.

The sludge, researchers said, put the children at less risk of brain or nerve damage from lead, a highly toxic element once widely used in gasoline and paint. Other studies have shown brain damage among children, often in poor neighborhoods, who ate lead-based paint that had flaked off their homes.

The idea that sludge — the leftover semisolid wastes filtered from water pollution at 16,500 treatment plants — can be turned into something harmless, even if swallowed, has been a tenet of federal policy for three decades.

In a 1978 memo, the EPA said sludge “contains nutrients and organic matter which have considerable benefit for land and crops” despite the presence of “low levels of toxic substances.”

But in the late 1990s the government began underwriting studies such as those in Baltimore and East St. Louis using poor neighborhoods as laboratories to make a case that sludge may also directly benefit human health.

Meanwhile, there has been a paucity of research into the possible harmful effects of heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, other chemicals and disease-causing microorganisms often found in sludge.

A series of reports by the EPA’s inspector general and the National Academy of Sciences between 1996 and 2002 faulted the adequacy of the science behind the EPA’s 1993 regulations on sludge.

The chairman of the 2002 academy panel, Thomas Burke, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, says epidemiological studies have never been done to show whether spreading sludge on land is safe.

“There are potential pathogens and chemicals that are not in the realm of safe,” Burke told the AP. “What’s needed are more studies on what’s going on with the pathogens in sludge — are we actually removing them? The commitment to connecting the dots hasn’t been there.”

That’s not what the subjects of the Baltimore and East St. Louis research were told.

Rufus Chaney, an Agriculture Department research agronomist who co-wrote the Baltimore study, said the researchers provided the families with brochures about lead hazards, tested the soil in their yards and gave assurances that the Orgro fertilizer was store-bought and perfectly safe.

“They were told that their lawn, as it stood, before it was treated, was a lead danger to their children,” said Chaney. “So that even if they ate some of the soil, there would not be as much of a risk as there was before. And that’s what the science shows.”

Chaney said the Baltimore neighborhoods were chosen because they were within an economically depressed area qualifying for tax incentives. He acknowledged the families were not told there have been some safety disputes and health complaints over sludge.

“They were told that it was composted biosolids that are available for sale commercially in the state of Maryland. I don’t think there’s any other further disclosure required,” Chaney said. “There was danger before. There wasn’t danger because of the biosolids compost. Composting, of course, kills pathogens.”

The Baltimore study concluded that phosphate and iron in sludge can increase the ability of soil to trap more harmful metals including lead, cadmium and zinc, causing the combination to pass safely through a child’s body if eaten.

It called the fertilizer “a simple low-cost” technology for parents and communities “to reduce risk to their children” who are in danger of lead contamination. The results were published in Science of the Total Environment, an international research journal, in 2005.

Another study investigating whether sludge might inhibit the “bioavailability” of lead — the rate it enters the bloodstream and circulates to organs and tissues — was conducted on a vacant lot in East St. Louis next to an elementary school, all of whose 300 students were black and almost entirely from low-income families.

In a newsletter, the EPA-funded Community Environmental Resource Program assured local residents it was all safe.

“Though the lot will be closed off to the public, if people — particularly children — get some of the lead contaminated dirt in their mouths, the lead will just pass through their bodies and not be absorbed,” the newsletter said. “Without this iron-phosphorus mix, lead poisoning would occur.”

Soil chemist Murray McBride, director of the Cornell Waste Management Institute, said he doesn’t doubt that sludge can bind lead in soil.

But when eaten, “it’s not at all clear that the sludge binding the lead will be preserved in the acidity of the stomach,” he said. “Actually thinking about a child ingesting this, there’s a very good chance that it’s not safe.”

McBride and others also questioned the choice of neighborhoods for the studies and why residents were not told about other, possibly harmful ingredients in sludge.

“If you’re not telling them what kinds of chemicals could be in there, how could they even make an informed decision. If you’re telling them it’s absolutely safe, then it’s not ethical,” McBride said. “In many relatively wealthy people’s neighborhoods, I would think that people would research this a little and see a problem and raise a red flag.”

The Baltimore study used a compost of sludge mixed with sawdust and wood chips packaged as “biosolids,” the term for sludge preferred by government and the waste industry.

“What we did was make the yards greener,” said Pat Tracey, a Johns Hopkins University community relations coordinator who recalled helping with the lawn work. “They were bald, bad yards. It was considered sterile fertilizer.”

Baltimore environmental activist Glenn Ross says choosing poor neighborhoods destined for demolition makes it hard to track a study’s participants. “If you wanted to do something very questionable, you would do it in a neighborhood that’s not going to be there in a few years,” he said.

HUD documents show the study’s lead author, Mark Farfel, has pursued several other studies of lead contamination including the risks of exposure from urban housing demolitions and the vacant lots left behind.

Farfel has since moved to New York, where he directs the World Trade Center Health Registry surveying tens of thousands of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks. He denied repeated requests for interviews and referred questions to Baltimore’s Kennedy Krieger Institute, the children’s research facility that was the recipient of HUD grants with Farfel as project manager.

The institute referred questions to Joann Rodgers, a spokeswoman for Johns Hopkins. She said a review board within its medical school approved the study and the consent forms provided to families that participated. “The study did not test children or other family members living in the homes,” she said.

Some of Farfel’s previous research has been controversial.

In 2001, Maryland’s highest court chastised him, Kennedy Krieger and Johns Hopkins over a study bankrolled by EPA in which researchers testing low-cost ways to control lead hazards exposed more than 75 poor children to lead-based paint in partially renovated houses.

Families of two children alleged to have suffered elevated blood-lead levels and brain damage sued the institute and later settled for an undisclosed amount.

The Maryland Court of Appeals likened the study to Nazi medical research on concentration camp prisoners, the U.S. government’s 40-year Tuskegee study that denied treatment for syphilis to black men in order to study the illness and Japan’s use of “plague bombs” in World War II to infect and study entire villages.

“These programs were somewhat alike in the vulnerability of the subjects: uneducated African-American men, debilitated patients in a charity hospital, prisoners of war, inmates of concentration camps and others falling within the custody and control of the agencies conducting or approving the experiments,” the court said.
———

On the Net:
Baltimore study: http://tinyurl.com/3g2e3q
East St. Louis project: http://tinyurl.com/43s3qx
Maryland lead lawsuit: http://tinyurl.com/4ydssm
National Academy of Sciences’ report: http://tinyurl.com/4esxjv

The Already Big Thing on the Internet: Spying on Users

By ADAM COHEN

In 1993, the dawn of the Internet age, the liberating anonymity of the online world was captured in a well-known New Yorker cartoon. One dog, sitting at a computer, tells another: “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” Fifteen years later, that anonymity is gone.

It’s not paranoia: they really are spying on you.

Technology companies have long used “cookies,” little bits of tracking software slipped onto your computer, and other means, to record the Web sites you visit, the ads you click on, even the words you enter in search engines — information that some hold onto forever. They’re not telling you they’re doing it, and they’re not asking permission. Internet service providers are now getting into the act. Because they control your connection, they can keep track of everything you do online, and there have been reports that I.S.P.’s may have started to sell the information they collect.

The driving force behind this prying is commerce. The big growth area in online advertising right now is “behavioral targeting.” Web sites can charge a premium if they are able to tell the maker of an expensive sports car that its ads will appear on Web pages clicked on by upper-income, middle-aged men.

The information, however, gets a lot more specific than age and gender — and more sensitive. Tech companies can keep track of when a particular Internet user looks up Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, visits adult Web sites, buys cancer drugs online or participates in anti-government discussion groups.

Serving up ads based on behavioral targeting can itself be an invasion of privacy, especially when the information used is personal. (“Hmm … I wonder why I always get those drug-rehab ads when I surf the Internet on Jane’s laptop?”)

The bigger issue is the digital dossiers that tech companies can compile. Some companies have promised to keep data confidential, or to obscure it so it cannot be traced back to individuals. But it’s hard to know what a particular company’s policy is, and there are too many to keep track of. And privacy policies can be changed at any time.

There is also no guarantee that the information will stay with the company that collected it. It can be sold to employers or insurance companies, which have financial motives for wanting to know if their workers and policyholders are alcoholics or have AIDS.

It could also end up with the government, which needs only to serve a subpoena to get it (and these days that formality might be ignored).

If George Orwell had lived in the Internet age, he could have painted a grim picture of how Web monitoring could be used to promote authoritarianism. There is no need for neighborhood informants and paper dossiers if the government can see citizens’ every Web site visit, e-mail and text message.

The public has been slow to express outrage — not, as tech companies like to claim, because they don’t care about privacy, but simply because few people know all that is going on. That is changing. “A lot of people are creeped-out by this,” says Ari Schwartz, a vice president of the Center for Democracy and Technology. He says the government is under increasing pressure to act.

The Federal Trade Commission has proposed self-regulatory guidelines for companies that do behavioral targeting. Anything that highlights the problem is good, but self-regulation is not enough. One idea starting to gain traction in Congress is a do-not-track list, similar to the federal do-not-call list, which would allow Internet users to opt out of being spied on. That would be a clear improvement over the status quo, but the operating principle should be “opt in” — companies should not be allowed to track Internet activities unless they get the user’s expressed consent.

The founders wrote the Fourth Amendment — guaranteeing protection against illegal search and seizure — at a time when people were most concerned about protecting the privacy of their homes and bodies. The amendment, and more recent federal laws, have been extended to cover telephone communications. Now work has to be done to give Internet activities the same level of privacy protection.

Who Are We? New Dialogue on Mixed Race

By MIREYA NAVARRO

Jenifer Bratter once wore a T-shirt in college that read “100 percent black woman.” Her African-American friends would not have it.

“I remember getting a lot of flak because of the fact I wasn’t 100 percent black,” said Ms. Bratter, 34, recalling her years at Penn State.

“I was very hurt by that,” said Ms. Bratter, whose mother is black and whose father is white. “I remember feeling like, Isn’t this what everybody expects me to think?”

Being accepted. Proving loyalty. Navigating the tight space between racial divides. Americans of mixed race say these are issues they have long confronted, and when Senator Barack Obama recently delivered a speech about race in Philadelphia, it rang with a special significance in their ears. They saw parallels between the path trod by Mr. Obama and their own.

They recalled the friends, as in Ms. Bratter’s case, who thought they were not black enough. Or the people who challenged them to label themselves by innocently asking, “What are you?” Or the relatives of different races who can sometimes be insensitive to one another.

“I think Barack Obama is going to bring these deeply American stories to the forefront,” said Esther John, 56, an administrator at Northwest Indian College in Washington, who identifies herself as African-American, American Indian and white.

“Maybe we’ll get a little bit further in the dialogue on race,” Ms. John said. “The guilt factor may be lowered a little bit because Obama made it right to be white and still love your black relatives, and to be black and still love your white relatives: to love despite another person’s racial appearance.”

Americans of mixed race say that questions about whether Mr. Obama, with a white mother from Kansas and a black father from Kenya, is “too black” or “not black enough,” as the candidate himself brought up in his speech on March 18, show the extent to which the nation is still fixated on old categories.

“There’s this notion that there’s an authentic race and you must fit it,” said Ms. Bratter, an assistant professor of sociology at Rice University in Houston who researches interracial families. “We’re confronted with the lack of fit.”

The old categories are weakening, however, as immigration and the advancing age of marriage in the United States fuel a steady rise in the number of interracial marriages. The 2000 Census counted 3.1 million interracial couples, or about 6 percent of married couples. For the first time, the Census that year allowed respondents to identify themselves as being two or more races, a category that now includes 7.3 million Americans, or about 3 percent of the population.

Many people still stick to a one-race label, even if they are of mixed descent, researchers say, sometimes because of strong identification with one racial group, and occasionally because of a conscious effort not to dilute the numbers of the group they most identify with.

In interviews, people of mixed race said their decision about how to identify themselves was deeply personal, not political; it is influenced by how and where they were reared, how others perceive them, what they look like and how they themselves come to embrace their identity.

James McBride, 50, who described growing up in a Brooklyn housing project with his white mother in a memoir, “The Color of Water,” said that, like Mr. Obama, he identified himself primarily as a black man of mixed race. As a child whose father was black, he said: “I really wanted to be like all the other black kids. It was the larger group around me.” And through life, because of his brown skin, society has imposed its own label. “If cops see me, they see a black man sitting in a car,” he said.

But being proud to call himself African-American, Mr. McBride said, does not negate his connection to his “Jewish part,” his mother’s heritage. Asked which part of him was dominant, he said, “It’s like grabbing Jell-O.”

“But what difference does it make?” he added. “When you’re mixed, you see how absurd this business of race is.”

Mr. McBride and other mixed-race Americans said they took pride that Mr. Obama was presenting his biracial identity as an asset for the presidency. Even if he calls himself black, and has made a central element of his campaign biography the quest to claim that identity after his father left him, Mr. Obama is seen as giving equal weight in his story to his white mother and grandparents.

“He’s really having to play the field and know his audience really well,” said Phillip Handy, 21, a junior at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., whose mother is white and father is black. “In the end, when I hear his message, I don’t think he’s bailing out on any of us.”

While many mixed-race people say they see their heritage as a plus, they also say they often face pressure from others who want to pigeonhole them. Mr. McBride said his books invariably were shelved in the African-American sections of bookstores. “Why can’t I be a white author?” he said. “I’m half white.”

Shafia Zaloom, 36, a teacher in San Francisco who is Asian and white, said she was often asked if her two children, who look like her white husband, were adopted. “Sometimes, when I’m at the playground, people think I’m the nanny,” she said.

Ms. Zaloom, who gets her looks from her Chinese mother, said she had been on the receiving end of insensitive racial remarks and gestures about Asians. But she fully identifies as mixed race.

“It’s really unfair to expect people to choose,” she said. “It’s like asking to be loyal to one parent or the other.”

Although still small, the mixed-race population is increasingly visible among the young. The 2000 Census found that 41 percent of the mixed-race population was under 18. Multiracial advocacy groups like the Mavin Foundation in Seattle say that mixed race people now find themselves better reflected in books, in college courses, in school brochures and in teacher’s training in public schools than they did in the past. Carmen Van Kerckhove, a diversity consultant who runs a blog on race and popular culture, racialicious.com, said she doubted that the uproar that greeted Tiger Woods when he described himself as “Cablinasian” (for heritage that includes Caucasian, black, American Indian and Asian) in 1997 would be as strong today.

“When you’re multiracial, you can be several things at the same time,” said Ms. Van Kerckhove, 30, who is white and Asian and has endorsed Mr. Obama on her blog for moving the race debate away from “who’s black and who’s white, or who’s a victim and who’s an oppressor.”

Unfortunately, Ms. Van Kerckhove added, suspicions persist about the motivation of people who identify themselves as mixed race. Many people, she said, wonder, “Are multiracial people trying to be multiracial as a way to escape racism?”

The mixed-race terrain is full of such bumps and tricky balances. But at least, many multiracial Americans say, they are no longer seen as oddities. Ms. Zaloom expects that her 6-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son will experience a different journey to self-identity than she did. At times while growing up, Ms. Zaloom recalled, she struggled with questions about whether she was white enough or attractive. She rebelled against Chinese language lessons, her mother’s Chinese food and eating with chopsticks.

But when her daughter was born, she named her Mei Lan, like her maternal grandmother, to honor her Chinese roots. Then she named her son Kyle in deference to her paternal Irish side. Her wish for her children, she said, is that they realize that the benefits of a mixed identity outweigh any challenges.

“Ultimately,” she said, the goal is “to not have to check a box.”

What Love means to a 4-8 year old . . .

Slow down for three minutes to read this. It is so worth it. Touching words from the mouth of babes.

A group of professional people posed this question to a group of 4 to 8 year-olds, “What does love mean?”

The answers they got were broader and deeper than anyone could have imagined. See what you think:

“When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That’s love.”

Rebecca – age 8

“When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different.
You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.”

Billy – age 4

“Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other.”

Karl – age 5

“Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs.”

Chrissy – age 6

“Love is what makes you smile when you’re tired.”

Terri – age 4

“Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK.”

Danny – age 7

“Love is when you kiss all the time. Then when you get tired of kissing, you still want to be together and you talk more. My Mommy and Daddy are like that. They look gross when they kiss.”

Emily – age 8

“Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.”

Bobby – age 7

“If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate.”

Nikka – age 6

“Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it everyday.”

Noelle – age 7

“Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well.”

Tommy – age 6

“During my piano recital, I was on a stage and I was scared. I looked at all the people watching me and saw my daddy waving and smiling. He was the only one doing that. I wasn’t scared anymore.”

Cindy – age 8

“My mommy loves me more than anybody. You don’t see anyone else kissing me to sleep at night.”

Clare – age 6

“Love is when Mommy gives Daddy the best piece of chicken.”

Elaine – age 5

“Love is when Mommy sees Daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than Robert Redford.”

Chris – age 7

“Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day.”

Mary Ann – age 4

“I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones.”

Lauren – age 4

“When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you.”

Karen – age 7

“Love is when Mommy sees Daddy on the toilet and she doesn’t think it’s gross.”

Mark – age 6

“You really shouldn’t say ‘I love you’ unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget.”

Jessica – age 8

The winner was a four year old child whose next door neighbor was an elderly gentleman who had recently lost his wife.

Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman’s yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there.

When his Mother asked what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy said,

“Nothing, I just helped him cry.”

How the fight started…

I rear-ended a car this morning.

So there we are alongside the road and slowly the driver gets out
of the car, and you know how you just-get-sooo-stressed and life-stuff
seems to get funny?

Yeah, well, I could NOT believe it . . . he was a DWARF!

He storms over to my car, looks up at me and says, “I AM NOT
HAPPY!”

So, I look down at him and say, “Well, which one are you then?”

And that’s when the fight started.