"I don't battle anymore! I uplift motherfuckers!" - GZA
Thursday, July 31, 2008,3:56 PM
Teaching Law, Testing Ideas, Obama Stood Slightly Apart

CHICAGO — The young law professor stood apart in too many ways to count. At a school where economic analysis was all the rage, he taught rights, race and gender. Other faculty members dreamed of tenured positions; he turned them down. While most colleagues published by the pound, he never completed a single work of legal scholarship.

At a formal institution, Barack Obama was a loose presence, joking with students about their romantic prospects, using first names, referring to case law one moment and “The Godfather” the next. He was also an enigmatic one, often leaving fellow faculty members guessing about his precise views.

Mr. Obama, now the junior senator from Illinois and the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, spent 12 years at the University of Chicago Law School. Most aspiring politicians do not dwell in the halls of academia, and few promising young legal thinkers toil in state legislatures. Mr. Obama planted a foot in each, splitting his weeks between an elite law school and the far less rarefied atmosphere of the Illinois Senate.

Before he outraised every other presidential primary candidate in American history, Mr. Obama marched students through the thickets of campaign finance law. Before he helped redraw his own State Senate district, making it whiter and wealthier, he taught districting as a racially fraught study in how power is secured. And before he posed what may be the ultimate test of racial equality — whether Americans will elect a black president — he led students through African-Americans’ long fight for equal status.

Standing in his favorite classroom in the austere main building, sharp-witted students looming above him, Mr. Obama refined his public speaking style, his debating abilities, his beliefs.

“He tested his ideas in classrooms,” said Dennis Hutchinson, a colleague. Every seminar hour brought a new round of, “Is affirmative action justified? Under what circumstances?” as Mr. Hutchinson put it.

But Mr. Obama’s years at the law school are also another chapter — see United States Senate, c. 2006 — in which he seemed as intently focused on his own political rise as on the institution itself. Mr. Obama, who declined to be interviewed for this article, was well liked at the law school, yet he was always slightly apart from it, leaving some colleagues feeling a little cheated that he did not fully engage. The Chicago faculty is more rightward-leaning than that of other top law schools, but if teaching alongside some of the most formidable conservative minds in the country had any impact on Mr. Obama, no one can quite point to it.

“I don’t think anything that went on in these chambers affected him,” said Richard Epstein, a libertarian colleague who says he longed for Mr. Obama to venture beyond his ideological and topical comfort zones. “His entire life, as best I can tell, is one in which he’s always been a thoughtful listener and questioner, but he’s never stepped up to the plate and taken full swings.”

Mr. Obama had other business on his mind, embarking on five political races during his 12 years at the school. Teaching gave him satisfaction, along with a perch and a paycheck, but he was impatient with academic debates over “whether to drop a footnote or not drop a footnote,” said Abner J. Mikva, a mentor whose own career has spanned Congress, the federal bench and the same law school.

Douglas Baird, another colleague, remembers once asking Mr. Obama to assess potential candidates for governor.

“First of all, I’m not running for governor, “ Mr. Obama told him. “But if I did, I would expect you to support me.”

He was a third-year state senator at the time.

Popular and Enigmatic

Mr. Obama arrived at the law school in 1991 thanks to Michael W. McConnell, a conservative scholar who is now a federal appellate judge. As president of The Harvard Law Review, Mr. Obama had impressed Mr. McConnell with editing suggestions on an article; on little more than that, the law school gave him a fellowship, which amounted to an office and a computer, which he used to write his memoir, “Dreams From My Father.”

The school had almost no black faculty members, a special embarrassment given its location on the South Side. Its sleek halls bordered a neighborhood crumbling with poverty and neglect. In his 2000 Congressional primary race, Representative Bobby L. Rush, a former Black Panther running for re-election, used Mr. Obama’s ties to the school to label him an egghead and an elitist.

At the school, Mr. Obama taught three courses, ascending to senior lecturer, a title otherwise carried only by a few federal judges. His most traditional course was in the due process and equal protection areas of constitutional law. His voting rights class traced the evolution of election law, from the disenfranchisement of blacks to contemporary debates over districting and campaign finance. Mr. Obama was so interested in the subject that he helped Richard Pildes, a professor at New York University, develop a leading casebook in the field.

His most original course, a historical and political seminar as much as a legal one, was on racism and law. Mr. Obama improvised his own textbook, including classic cases like Brown v. Board of Education, and essays by Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. Dubois, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, as well as conservative thinkers like Robert H. Bork.

Mr. Obama was especially eager for his charges to understand the horrors of the past, students say. He assigned a 1919 catalog of lynching victims, including some who were first raped or stripped of their ears and fingers, others who were pregnant or lynched with their children, and some whose charred bodies were sold off, bone fragment by bone fragment, to gawkers.

“Are there legal remedies that alleviate not just existing racism, but racism from the past?” Adam Gross, now a public interest lawyer in Chicago, wrote in his class notes in April 1994.

For all the weighty material, Mr. Obama had a disarming touch. He did not belittle students; instead he drew them out, restating and polishing halting answers, students recall. In one class on race, he imitated the way clueless white people talked. “Why are your friends at the housing projects shooting each other?” he asked in a mock-innocent voice.

A favorite theme, said Salil Mehra, now a law professor at Temple University, were the values and cultural touchstones that Americans share. Mr. Obama’s case in point: his wife, Michelle, a black woman, loved “The Brady Bunch” so much that she could identify every episode by its opening shots.

As his reputation for frank, exciting discussion spread, enrollment in his classes swelled. Most scores on his teaching evaluations were positive to superlative. Some students started referring to themselves as his groupies. (Mr. Obama, in turn, could play the star. In what even some fans saw as self-absorption, Mr. Obama’s hypothetical cases occasionally featured himself. “Take Barack Obama, there’s a good-looking guy,” he would introduce a twisty legal case.)

Challenging Assumptions

Liberals flocked to his classes, seeking refuge. After all, the professor was a progressive politician who backed child care subsidies and laws against racial profiling, and in a 1996 interview with the school newspaper sounded skeptical of President Bill Clinton’s efforts to reach across the aisle.

“On the national level, bipartisanship usually means Democrats ignore the needs of the poor and abandon the idea that government can play a role in issues of poverty, race discrimination, sex discrimination or environmental protection,” Mr. Obama said.

But the liberal students did not necessarily find reassurance. “For people who thought they were getting a doctrinal, rah-rah experience, it wasn’t that kind of class,” said D. Daniel Sokol, a former student who now teaches law at the University of Florida at Gainesville.

For one thing, Mr. Obama’s courses chronicled the failure of liberal policies and court-led efforts at social change: the Reconstruction-era amendments that were rendered meaningless by a century of resistance, the way the triumph of Brown gave way to fights over busing, the voting rights laws that crowded blacks into as few districts as possible. He was wary of noble theories, students say; instead, they call Mr. Obama a contextualist, willing to look past legal niceties to get results.

For another, Mr. Obama liked to provoke. He wanted his charges to try arguing that life was better under segregation, that black people were better athletes than white ones.

“I remember thinking, ‘You’re offending my liberal instincts,’ ” Mary Ellen Callahan, now a privacy lawyer in Washington, recalled.

In his voting rights course, Mr. Obama taught Lani Guinier’s proposals for structuring elections differently to increase minority representation. Opponents attacked those suggestions when Ms. Guinier was nominated as assistant attorney general for civil rights in 1993, costing her the post.

“I think he thought they were good and worth trying,” said David Franklin, who now teaches law at DePaul University in Chicago.

But whether out of professorial reserve or budding political caution, Mr. Obama would not say so directly. “He surfaced all the competing points of view on Guinier’s proposals with total neutrality and equanimity,” Mr. Franklin said. “He just let the class debate the merits of them back and forth.”

While students appreciated Mr. Obama’s evenhandedness, colleagues sometimes wanted him to take a stand. When two fellow faculty members asked him to support a controversial antigang measure, allowing the Chicago police to disperse and eventually arrest loiterers who had no clear reason to gather, Mr. Obama discussed the issue with unusual thoughtfulness, they say, but gave little sign of who should prevail — the American Civil Liberties Union, which opposed the measure, or the community groups that supported it out of concern about crime.

“He just observed it with a kind of interest,” said Daniel Kahan, now a professor at Yale.

Nor could his views be gleaned from scholarship; Mr. Obama has never published any. He was too busy, but also, Mr. Epstein believes, he was unwilling to put his name to anything that could haunt him politically, as Ms. Guinier’s writings had hurt her. “He figured out, you lay low,” Mr. Epstein said.

The Chicago law faculty is full of intellectually fiery friendships that burn across ideological lines. Three times a week, professors do combat over lunch at a special round table in the university’s faculty club, and they share and defend their research in workshop discussions. Mr. Obama rarely attended, even when he was in town.

“I’m not sure he was close to anyone,” Mr. Hutchinson said, except for a few liberal constitutional law professors, like Cass Sunstein, now an occasional adviser to his campaign. Mr. Obama was working two other jobs, after all, in the State Senate and at a civil rights law firm.

Several colleagues say Mr. Obama was surely influenced by the ideas swirling around the law school campus: the prevailing market-friendliness, or economic analysis of the impact of laws. But none could say how. “I’m not sure we changed him,” Mr. Baird said.

Because he never fully engaged, Mr. Obama “doesn’t have the slightest sense of where folks like me are coming from,” Mr. Epstein said. “He was a successful teacher and an absentee tenant on the other issues.”

Leaving the Classroom

As Mr. Obama built his political career, his so-called groupies became an early core of supporters, handing out leaflets and hosting fund-raisers in their modest apartments.

“Maybe we charged an audacious $20?” said Jesse Ruiz, now a corporate lawyer in Chicago. Mr. Obama was sheepish asking for even that, Mr. Ruiz recalls. With no staff, Mr. Obama would come by the day after a fund-raiser to stuff the proceeds into a backpack.

Mr. Obama never mentioned his humiliating, hopeless campaign against Mr. Rush in class (he lost by a two-to-one margin), though colleagues noticed that he seemed exhausted and was smoking more than usual.

Soon after, the faculty saw an opening and made him its best offer yet: Tenure upon hiring. A handsome salary, more than the $60,000 he was making in the State Senate or the $60,000 he earned teaching part time. A job for Michelle Obama directing the legal clinic.

Your political career is dead, Daniel Fischel, then the dean, said he told Mr. Obama, gently. Mr. Obama turned the offer down. Two years later, he decided to run for the Senate. He canceled his course load and has not taught since.

Now, watching the news, it is dawning on Mr. Obama’s former students that he was mining material for his political future even as he taught them.

Byron Rodriguez, a real estate lawyer in San Francisco, recalls his professor’s admiration for the soaring but plainspoken speeches of Frederick Douglass.

“No one speaks this way anymore,” Mr. Obama told his class, wondering aloud what had happened to the art of political oratory. In particular, Mr. Obama admired Douglass’s use of a collective voice that embraced black and white concerns, one that Mr. Obama has now adopted himself.

In class, Mr. Obama sounded many of the same themes he does on the campaign trail, Ms. Callahan said, ticking them off: “self-determinism as opposed to paternalism, strength in numbers, his concept of community development.”

But as a professor, students say, Mr. Obama was in the business of complication, showing that even the best-reasoned rules have unintended consequences, that competing legal interests cannot always be resolved, that a rule that promotes justice in one case can be unfair in the next.

So even some former students who are thrilled at Mr. Obama’s success wince when they hear him speaking like the politician he has so fully become.

“When you hear him talking about issues, it’s at a level so much simpler than the one he’s capable of,” Mr. Rodriguez said. “He was a lot more fun to listen to back then.”


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Monday, July 28, 2008,8:49 PM
Keys N Krates
Keys N Krates : Snoop Dogg Next Episode Live Remix

Keys N Krates : Daft Punk Harder Better Live Rendition

Keys N Krates : Talib Kweli Get By Live Rendition

Keys N Krates : Aaliyah One in a Million Live Remix

Keys N Krates : Fugees - FuGeeLa Live Remix (The best one in my opinion)


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Sunday, July 27, 2008,12:34 PM
Mad Woman
by Willow Duttge

Shelly Lazarus, longtime C.E.O. of ad giant Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, explains the firm's recent management shuffle, its attempts to land new accounts, and what comes next.

When Shelly Lazarus started at Ogilvy & Mather in 1971, there were three television networks, the internet was decades away, and legendary adman David Ogilvy still governed his agency. Today, the media landscape has changed dramatically, and Lazarus is the chairwoman and C.E.O. of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, overseeing more than 15,000 employees in 125 countries. The agency, which takes in an estimated $2 billion a year in revenue, works with massive clients like I.B.M., American Express, and BP, yet must remain agile enough to keep up with the rapid changes in consumer behavior. It's a difficult balance, and the company has recently gone through management shuffles and layoffs (an estimated 4 percent of the New York office was let go). More publicly, it bid for several high-profile new clients, including Wal-Mart, Volvo, and Sprint Nextel, and lost out to competing agencies. Still, O&M won the assignment to introduce Johnson & Johnson to China, including a campaign that will accompany this summer's Beijing Olympics. We interviewed Lazarus in her Manhattan office, surrounded by the dozens of frog tchotchkes that decorate the space.

Condé Nast Portfolio: American Express, a core client, moved part of its account to Crispin Porter & Bogusky in Miami. What could Ogilvy have done to keep that business?

Shelly Lazarus: As strong as the relationships are, clients like to dabble from time to time—you know, they like to see what another agency can do—and we have to be all right with that. I would feel terrible if the work we had done and the results we had achieved were substandard, but they weren't. The work was excellent, and the results were excellent. I have to accept that American Express wants to get an experience with another agency. We've lost bits of American Express before. We have to earn it back.

C.N.P.: Motorola just returned the bulk of its business to O&M, after sending part of its account to another agency. That's an example of something David Ogilvy always strived for: working to keep clients rather than constantly going after new ones.

S.L.: He actually said that all our focus should be on current clients. He felt it was almost dishonest to take your best people and have them chase after clients who weren't paying you. And so we have a very strong bias within Ogilvy toward current clients, and we don't pursue a lot of new business.

C.N.P.: But in the past couple of years, you've unsuccessfully gone after so many big accounts: Wal-Mart twice, Sprint Nextel, Volvo, and the U.S. Census Bureau. Why was there an uptick in the number of new business pitches?

S.L.: I don't actually think there's been an uptick. We went after Wal-Mart because, to me, there was no better example of a client that really needed a brand transformation. Sometimes you just look at something and you say, "This is our sweet spot. We know how to do this." We went after it because we thought we could really make a difference. With Sprint, it was a different reason: We'd had AT&T Wireless for years. It then became part of Cingular as a result of a merger and so we lost it, and we still had this group of people who had been in the wireless wars and were longing to get back into them again. And so Sprint was just, again, a great challenge. We did Volvo because we're a big Ford agency [Ford Motor owns Volvo], and they asked us to participate, and we did. We probably still do a lot less new business than other advertising agencies.

C.N.P.: I'm sure these were massive undertakings, requiring a lot of time and money, and recently Ogilvy announced some layoffs—

S.L.: I think any company has to always stay lean, but it wasn't because of that.

C.N.P.: Then why?

S.L.: Well, we're just always looking to be more productive. It's part of the nimbleness. And if you're lean going in, then you've given yourself the latitude to hire back in those disciplines.

C.N.P.: You won the Johnson & Johnson account largely because of your firm's background in China, which dates back to the mid-1980s. How big is your operation there today?

S.L.: We have more than 2,000 people. At the beginning, there were maybe 50 people in Shanghai and 100 people in Beijing. They're mostly Chinese, and probably the most eclectic group of employees that we have anywhere. We have physicians working for us, people who come out of the government who are population experts, and Ph.D.'s in various subjects. They're just interested in advertising.

C.N.P.: Ogilvy & Mather introduced Maxwell House, Tang, and some GlaxoSmithKline products to the market. What's the biggest difference between communicating with a Chinese consumer as opposed to an American?

S.L.: When I first went to China, I was told by lots of people that the Chinese would not respond to brands. Unlike other people in the world, they were much too rational. They had grown up, all of them, with a set of offerings based on functionality, so you just tell them what the product does and how much it costs, and they can make a choice.

C.N.P.: Almost the communist ideal.

S.L.: Yes. The truth is that from the moment brands were introduced in China, the Chinese responded exactly the same way people do all over the world. They don't have the brand experience, and they don't know all the brands—so much of this is new to them. But it doesn't make them any less responsive.

C.N.P.: Ogilvy & Mather used to have two co-presidents at its headquarters, in New York, but a single executive now oversees it all. Why the change?

S.L.: One of the things happening within Ogilvy North America—and other offices and regions are doing it as well—is that we're trying to bring all the disciplines much closer together. There used to be separate profit-and-loss statements and separate organizations, and we're finding that each month, the clients are asking us to work more closely together. They don't care if it comes from public relations or interactive. They just want to know, What do I do to introduce the new Maxwell House?

C.N.P.: Consumers change the way they get their information so quickly now, and Ogilvy is so large that it can't possibly change as quickly. How do you keep up?

S.L.: Well, I think you have to go in saying that you don't know how consumers are going to respond. We don't know which messages they're going to respond to more strongly or where they're going to find the messages. And so knowing that, you have to be ready to be able to bring the brand to life through all media and then retain the flexibility and the nimbleness to respond fast.

C.N.P.: Can you give me an example?

S.L.: I.B.M. We did these minidocumentaries: One is about how the New York Police Department basically uses data to find a guy who holds up a pizza restaurant. We did one or two of them at the start, and they were so popular and they got so many hits that we've done five or six more. But then we made the concept into advertising too. When we saw the way people responded to the minidocumentaries, we just said, "Okay, we're now riding that horse as fast as it can go. Let's use them as advertising; let's use them for sales meetings; let's use them for seminars." They're doing them all over the world now.

C.N.P.: At the same time, I.B.M. is a core client, and I understand its spending on media is going down. The company spent $1.2 billion in 2006, down 32 percent from the high in 1999.

S.L.: I.B.M. is spending less money on mass-media advertising, but it's moving a lot of that effort into everything it does on its website. And so we do all that work too. It's not less, just different. If we had not, earlier in the history of this company, started to become expert and capable in all the new media and all the new ways people communicate, it would be a problem.

C.N.P.: Last question: I'd love to know if you have a TiVo or any other DVR, and whether you use it.

S.L.: I actually have a DVR. I use it, though I do watch the commercials. Since I rarely watch television in real time, it's the only chance I get to see them.


posted by R J Noriega
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,12:32 PM
'Neglect' of Bletchley condemned
A call to save Bletchley Park has gone out from the UK's computer scientists.

More than 100 academics have signed a letter to The Times saying the code-cracking centre and crucible of the UK computer industry deserves better.

They say Bletchley, Buckinghamshire, should be put on a secure financial basis like other "great museums".

"We cannot allow this crucial and unique piece of both British and World heritage to be neglected in this way," the letter to The Times said.

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Inside Bletchley Park

The academics were brought together by Dr Sue Black, head of the computer science department at the University of Westminster, who was moved to act after visiting Bletchley Park in early July.

"I went up there and felt quite upset by what I saw," she said.

Many of the buildings on the Bletchley estate were in a state of serious disrepair, she said. One building, where code-breakers worked during World War II, was falling apart, said Dr Black, and was protected by a blue tarpaulin that was nailed down over it.

Describing Bletchley as a "gem", Dr Black said it was a "national disgrace" that such a historic site was being allowed to fall into ruin.

"I do not know why they do not have funding as a national museum," she said.

The visit led her to contact other heads of computer science departments at universities up and down the country. Within hours, she had hundreds of responses - all of them backing her call.

Dr Black said she had been "overwhelmed" by the response which showed the depth of feeling about Bletchley and the position it occupies in the history of the computer age.

Bletchley Park is well known as the place where the Enigma codes were broken but it is also the place where Colossus was created - a machine that was the forerunner of many modern computers.

The engineers that worked on Colossus at Bletchley helped define and develop the UK computer industry after WWII ended, said Dr Black.

What was needed, she said, was for Bletchley Park to get secure funding from the government. Until recently the site was deemed ineligible for Lottery funding that would help preserve it.

A change to the rules on who can get funds has led to negotiations with the Lottery Fund. However, said Dr Black, it could still take up to a year for funds to materialise.

In the meantime, said Dr Black, the site was falling into an ever worse state of disrepair.


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Sunday, July 20, 2008,11:53 AM
Inside the Business Mind of Russell Simmons Creating a Business Legacy
By Jean A. Williams

The Rockefellers. The Carnegies. The Mellons. The Pritzkers. The Hiltons. These are among America's most renowned entrepreneurial dynasties. They collectively represent billions of dollars of wealth that was built, often by lowly, bootstrapping, entrepreneurs of yesteryear, and passed down through several generations to their heirs, many of whom have never known a day of financial struggle or need, thanks to their lineage.

Today a new entrepreneurial dynasty could be in the works – this one within an African-American family: the Simmons family. The patriarch of that family – at least in its entrepreneurial ventures – would be Russell "Rush" Simmons, who currently is chairman and CEO of Rush Communications, a conglomerate with interests in fashion, filmed entertainment, finance, music and philanthropy.

Though his business and personal interests are many and varied today, they share a common denominator: their roots in the music and culture known internationally as hip hop. In fact, Simmons' focus on the music in its early history is credited with its evolution into the powerful cultural force that it is today, over a quarter of a century later. He is considered to hip hop what Berry Gordy was to R&B music when he founded Motown Records in Detroit in 1959. In fact, Simmons is recognized as the "godfather" of hip hop. Few would effectively argue against this moniker. However, he has blazed paths that even the storied Gordy did not.

His success begat success, so much so that today not only does he have the proverbial Midas touch with his business dealings, but it has spread through his family, with younger brother Joseph "Run" Simmons, older brother Danny Simmons, Run's children, Vanessa and Angela; and Russell's now estranged wife, Kimora Lee Simmons, joining him in the family businesses.

Simmons may not have seen it all coming, but he is at the core of where it is all going.

Humble Beginnings

Like many earlier captains of industry, Simmons had a rather inauspicious start. Born in 1957, Simmons and his elder brother, Daniel, and baby brother, Joseph, grew up middle class in Queens, N.Y. Their father was a teacher and their mother was a recreation director. When their middle class neighborhood began to experience the effects of the burgeoning street drug trade, young Russell flirted with a career in that illegal, not to mention deadly, industry. In fact, he admits that he sold fake coke on the streets before his run-in with the new sounds of hip hop sent him careening in another direction – that of club and concert promoter.

Spectacular successes followed. In short order, Simmons famously co-founded Def Jam Recordings with Rick Rubin from their dorm room while students at City College of New York in the mid-1980s. He systematically sold his pieces of Def Jam for hundreds of millions of dollars, selling his final stake in 1999. But his entrepreneurial empire had been fast evolving in other, non-music directions since 1990, when he founded Rush Communications, which served as a holding company for various ventures rooted in hip-hop culture. Rush Communications has encompassed Phat Fashions, including the trendsetting Phat Farm clothing for men and boys, Baby Phat for women, and Run Athletics; the Simmons Lathan Media Group; the HBO's "The Def Comedy Jam" and "Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry"; the Tony Award winning stage production "Russell Simmons Def Poetry Jam on Broadway," and in the financial services industry, UniRush and its RushCard and Baby Phat RushCard debit cards.

All in the Family

One of the remarkable things about Simmons' business empire is the involvement of family in his pursuits, from the very beginning with Run DMC, a trio of Joseph, friend Darryl McDaniel and the late Jay "Jam Master Jay" Mizell, as one of Def Jam's founding acts. Today Run is an ordained minister and is co-owner and an executive with Run Athletics, while Danny works with both of his brothers in the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation, established in 1995.

In March 2006, Simmons and wife Kimora Lee separated. However, they remain business associates, as she is the creative force behind Baby Phat, a Phat Farm offspring, as well as parents to their two daughters, Aoki and Ming Lee, who are models for Baby Phat Kids' Collection.

In 2005, MTV debuted "Run's House," a now popular reality TV series based on the interactions between Joseph "Run" Simmons' blended clan of his kids from a previous marriage and current marriage to Justine Simmons, all co-existing in his Saddle River, N.J., home. The show provided a platform for the family to extend its entrepreneurial pursuits, with Run's daughters Vanessa and Angela establishing a wildly successful line of sneakers for women that they named Pastry Footwear. Angela also founded a magazine, and Justine has introduced her Brown Sugar jewelry line. Run's son Joseph "JoJo" Simmons, Jr., is taking a stab at the music side of the family dynasty by trying to establish a career as a hip-hop performer.

Keys to the Kingdom: Do You!

Just how does Russell Simmons and his family keep their fingers on the pulse of what's hot enough to move markets? No doubt, they draw a page or two from Simmons' book on the topic of success. In early 2007, Gotham Books published Russell Simmons' "Do You: 12 Laws to Access the Power in You to Achieve Happiness and Success." In the book, Simmons espouses the hip-hop idea of doing you, which means follow your heart. Even when faced with peer pressure, you have to hold fast to the concept, Simmons suggested.

"You have to have faith that the only success anybody will ever have is that they listen to their inner voice," Simmons told THE BLACK COLLEGIAN in January. "It doesn't mean to be withdrawn or anything. It only means that you have to have a real appreciation inside for what you're doing. How does that happen? Somebody might say meditation. That might sound like a foreign concept. But really the time alone that you spend and the still time you spend allows you the freedom to make decisions. For example, the world is full of people following like sheep and for the most part the main driving force in their unhappiness is their lack of quiet time, the lack of stillness. The happy experience you have is when you are still or when you are here, the present. The past and the noise from the outside are what make you unhappy."

By being still and quiet, Simmons, a yoga aficionado, was able to tap into the power that he needed to take his initial business pursuits to higher heights. In the process, he also learned that he did not want to harm animals, and he became a vegan and an animal rights activist. "You know, you're selfish then, when you get to look inside," Simmons said. "It's to protect the self. So by doing harmful things to the world, you receive harmful things back."

Advice to College Students

Though Simmons started his business in college and didn't go on to earn his degree, he is adamant that education is key. There are plenty of success stories where entrepreneurs carved out lucrative niches. But launching and maintaining a successful venture is a tougher row to hoe without higher education, Simmons said, so he mostly surrounds himself with people who first proved themselves by accomplishing an academic degree.

"All the young people I work with came out of school," Simmons said. "I don't really end up with people that didn't come out of school. If you're not educated, you're really not useful. You can maybe become an artist, but you can't be a businessperson. It's very difficult."

Having an education doesn't negate your individual value. In fact, done right, education can heighten one's individualism, Simmons suggested. "College students—the most important thing about young people is that they are less followers and they ask more questions than the adults," Simmons said. "So they're more connected. They have a greater opportunity. It's much easier for them to say, ‘Wait a minute. I don't want to go along with that.' They always see the contradiction. They see the adult say one thing and do another. It's up to them to try to make a path."

"You can always find individuals in college. You can't find them at the workplace all the time. But in college you find a lot of independent thinkers and those people are the ones who not only change the world, but they build their own businesses, they start their own way to contribute to the world in a way that sometimes is really good for them, and they receive what they give."

For the Entrepreneurial Collegian

Even – especially, perhaps – if you intend to go into business for yourself, the value of an education cannot be overrated, Simmons says. "I think everybody that's an entrepreneur is enhanced when they have an education," he said. In "Do You" Simmons warns about becoming too docile upon receiving a formal education at the collegiate level.

"The caution about education – I didn't mean that you shouldn't go to school," Simmons said. "I meant that you shouldn't be trained; you shouldn't be put in line. You need to be able to be a cultural hero. In other words, you think inside box – which is inside the heart. The world would say it's outside the box, which is where the whole world exists. The little bit of stuff that's being told to you everyday is a small part of the entire picture. If you live in that little bit of stuff, you'll be stuck out of the big picture. Don't be controlled."

If you want to establish and build a business for the long haul, here's a big tip: know your market and your customer, Simmons said. Really, know them and don't limit yourself with marginal thinking, he suggested. For instance, your customer may not be limited to one demographic category, such as a specific race.

"It depends on your business, but you have to remember that 80 percent of the world is not black," he said. "If you're working on something that's kind of for black people, you have to then look and see the other 80 percent you're usually not marketing to might need it even more."

Passing the Torch

With his own family getting more and more entrenched in the business empire he founded, Simmons said he sees a day when the younger generation of Simmons are founding their own ventures.

"They'd better be!" Simmons said. "Diggy and Russy better run something. What? Mingy and Aoki are going to run the Aoki Lee Foundation and they're going to be like a big foundation that has an endowment and they're going to give, one of them, and the other one's going to run a business. That's what I think. I really do have faith that they're going to be still doing it, of course."

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008,10:08 PM
Breakdown of the Music
Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

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Monday, July 14, 2008,3:45 PM
April 30, 2008

New York City Transit has started putting ads on the exterior of subway cars.

The 42nd Street Shuttle - which is already the system's test line for ad media - is running with Continental Airlines posters on the side of some trains much like the posters on city buses.

The exterior signs are intended to complement the so-called "brand cars" in which nearly the entire interior is wrapped in ads for advertisers.

"We're looking at the potential of that element of advertising on our 'brand cars,' " said Roco Krsulic, the director of real estate for the MTA.

Exterior advertising is one sign of a recent MTA push for ad revenue that has grown to more than $105 million last year - almost three times the $37 million the MTA raised in 1997.

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Sunday, July 13, 2008,2:47 AM
Beauty and Soul
By Cathy Horyn

As some of you may have heard through the grape vine, the July issue of Italian Vogue will have only black models, and all the features are related to black women in the arts and entertainment. Considering the displays of tokenism on the runways last season—Jourdan Dunn at Prada, and in only one look—an entire issue devoted to black models could be seen as making hay of a controversy. I’ll let you be the judge. The issue will be on newsstands in Europe next Thursday, and after in the States. Steven Meisel did the fashion pictures, about 100 in all, and I think they are some of the best he’s done. They are crazily, softly beautiful, plainly the work of someone who knows women and fashion, has looked at both a long time, and when I spoke to Meisel the other day—for a piece in the Times tomorrow—I admitted I didn’t recognize Tyra Banks in one of the portraits. She’s wearing a soft head wrap, and her head is tilted back.

Meisel laughed and, describing the session, said, “That was, like, 10 minutes. She sat at the window. Guido”—Guido Palau, the hairstylist—“wrapped her hair. I’m exaggerating, it took an hour. But, no, that’s Tyra.”

Among the other models in the issue are Iman, Naomi Campbell, Alek Wek, Liya Kebede, Pat Cleveland, Jourdan Dunn, Sessilee Lopez, Chanel Iman, Veronica Webb, and Karen Alexander. Meisel, I think, has worked with all of them before. When you see how he has photographed Lopez, for instance—in a neat brocade turban, in a veiled hat evocative of chic Saint Laurent—you are forced to ask yourself why this beautiful woman isn’t working more than she is. Meisel suggests that the reason, and the answer to the problem of diversity on the runway, is simple: “Because nobody gives her a chance.” Of course, it helps if you can see the potential in Lopez in the first place.

I talked to a number of people for the piece, including Franca Sozzani (a Q & A with her follows), Campbell, Webb, Bethann Hardison, and the casting agent Ashley Brokaw, who had a lot of interesting things to say. Part of the problem, as Brokaw sees it, is that the agencies aren’t taking the time and trouble to develop models, white and nonwhite. And, then, the cycle of new models, especially from Eastern Europe, is cycling faster and faster. Brokaw says she sees 15 new girls every season, compared with maybe two in the past. That automatically makes it difficult for a model to build a career. Hardison, who is a kind of advocate for integration on the runway and in magazines, puts a lot of the blame with the agencies. They are simply not making the effort to find and develop young models. I tried to reach Chanel Iman through Ford, to speak to her about the Italian Vogue shoot, and another model through IMG. But no one at either agency returned my calls.

Last season there were a couple more black models on the runway than usual, which was so wonderful to see. But, then again, I don’t know if this will continue or if it will die as soon as the media stops dedicating attention to this issue. I really hope that we are turning a chapter here.

I also got a wonderful email from Edward Enniful, the stylist, who worked with Campbell and Meisel on the shoot—and with Pat McGrath, who did all the makeup for the issue, and Palau. Enniful is in Milan for the men’s shows. I had asked him what the session, in Los Angeles, was like.

Naomi Campbell is one of my best friends. She is from Streatham in South London. Pat McGrath is also one of my best friends. She comes from Northampton in England. I am from Ladbroke Grove, in London. Put three very vocal black Brits together, add a North London hairdresser, Guido Palau, and stir with New Yorker Steven Meisel, and what do you get? A very, very loud shoot. We laughed, ribbed each other, and talked about the old days, but most of all we created a story that reflected black dreams and aspirations. There was no hip-hop gangsterism, no ghetto fabulousness, no bling-bling clichés. Meisel simply shot a beautiful story with one of the most important icons of this century. His testimony to Naomi, who he first photographed at the age of 15, is both a love story and an ode to creativity, excellence and longevity.
Sozzani herself makes some points about the armies of bland, blond Eastern Europeans. It’s funny, thinking about it now, that they don’t, as a group, inspire dreams. So much of fashion, as we know, is determined by groups. The tribes of fashion. The supermodels—Naomi, Linda, Christy, Cindy, Stephanie—were, after all, a group. They helped set the tone for the period, as did the waifs and the Goths, and their success was not an accident. They fed peoples’ imaginations.

Now we’re in the age of the wall-eyed blond. What is it that they represent to us? What experience? The point of being racially or ethnically representative on the runways or in pictures is, I suppose, to impart a unique experience or desire—something that goes beyond skin color or ethnic background but is not unrelated to it.

Well, I think that’s what you see in Meisel’s pictures of Campbell, Lopez, Kebede and the other models. They are a way of looking, yes—glamourous, cool, ultra-accessorized—but they are also a way of being.
Here’s some of the Sozzani interview:

Q: So how did the black issue come about?

A: I was in New York in early February for the shows. I always notice the black girls in the streets in New York, more than I would in Milan. And it was also the time of the primaries, Super Tuesday. I’m interested in Obama. In the beginning Steven and I were talking about three or four stories, and then it became the entire issue. Steven really tried to reach all the girls who were around—Pat Cleveland, Iman, Naomi, the young girls, like Liya and Alek Wek. We also went back to the pictures that were used in the past of the black models and performers, like Tina Turner.
Q: Diversity on the runways has been the subject of a lot of media attention.

A: We asked Robin Givhan [of The Washington Post] to write a piece. She did a good story. She said that what we were doing was great but—what will happen next month? Will everything go back to where it was before, with all-white models? I think she was right to ask that. I hope the issue will be something that can change things. Anyway, people will talk about it, for sure. Like or dislike, it will be a controversial issue. I think it’s good to keep that tension and focus on this subject.

Q: Everybody complains about the models today, the sameness, the blank faces.

A: Nowadays, at the shows, I turn to my editors and say, ‘What’s the name of the girl, what’s her name?’ I really cannot recognize one from the other. The models in the past, like Linda and Naomi, were immediately recognizable. They had a lot of personality. These new girls have nothing. You can paint everything on their faces in a way because they have no expression. And the girls we used to see on the runway were very elegant. Liya is elegant. To me, she walks like a princess. Now the girls all look the same—from the first to the last.

The problem is partly with the modeling agencies. They have a lot of white girls—it’s easier. To find black girls takes more time. It’s a problem of research and talent, to find the right girls. We’re a little bit back to a period in the 70s, when you didn’t remember the name of a single model. They were not girls making an interpretation of the clothes, the way Linda did. They were just models. In the beginning of the 90s, those models were really celebrities—Christy, Naomi, Cindy, Stephanie.

Q: It’s the follow-the-leader mentality. And it winds up being such a narrow view of the world.

A: When you see the black issue and all the pictures, you realize that these girls in a way have to work much harder than other models. They are more in touch with their own personalities—they’re not simply models in front of a camera. They really try to get the tension.

Q: Do you think the issue will have an impact?

A: Yes, I think it will. I noticed the June issue of French Vogue had a split cover with a black model and white model, though there’s nothing inside.

Q: It’s interesting that you mentioned Obama…

A: Here in Italy, everybody is crazy about Obama, even people who never talk about American politics. It’s the new way to see a country where something can always happen. It’s a young country and modern. The feeling is similar to the Kennedys, but 50 years later. Ultimately, it’s not about race.
Q: It’s strange to be talking about racial diversity today in fashion. We should be further along. Is there a risk the fashion world will just see it as something trendy?

A: It could happen, and it would be a pity. Because, you know, it’s easier to do a normal issue. Paolo Roversi does a story, Craig McDean does another, and Steven Meisel another… I would feel very disappointed if this is only a nice moment. We should go forward.

Q: I suppose an all-black issue is something an American magazine might naturally or logically have done, more so than an Italian magazine.

A: In a way, it’s one of those stupid ideas that when everyone sees it, they think, Oh, I should have done that. [Sozzani laughs] It was so easy.
Q: What the black issue a political gesture?

A: I didn’t feel it was a political gesture. Maybe it was political in that when I see all these girls who look alike in a fashion show, they really annoy me. We need to see beautiful clothes on beautiful women.

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,12:19 AM
Mad Marketing Skills - urban marketing
Melba Newsome

WHEN THE MANUFACTURERS OF CONVERSE SNEAKERS wanted to investigate the consumer appeal of entertainment mogul and basketball player Master P (Percy Miller), they hired Jeffrey Meade, 23, and Patrick Walsh, 22, founders of Washington, D.C.-based Mjini Urban Youth Experts, to research what resonated with young, urban consumers. Converse was negotiating with Master P to endorse several lines of sneakers. Linking up with one of the country's hottest rappers had its appeal, but Converse wanted to make sure he would attract urban youth.

Meade and Walsh were paid $1,300 per day plus expenses to find out. Their company subcontracted with Arnold Communications, an advertising firm that help conduct the research. They talked to dozens of young men at malls, basketball courts and community centers in Los Angeles and New York, and recorded these conversations to find out what would spark their interest in Converse. Who better to discover what clicked with the young, black male market than two young, black men?

"We only have a couple of years on the targeted consumer, so they were eager to talk to us," says Meade. "It turned out that kids responded well to Master P." Last February, Converse began marketing "The Smooth," a sneaker endorsed by Master P, and, last summer, it added "The MP" and "Chuck Authentic." A series of print ads for the sneaker lines ran in The Source, Slam and Vibe magazines, publications that are widely read by hip-hop and rap fans.

The Smooth brand has sold out and the other two brands have proven to be successful, particularly in the South. Marketing to the trend-setting urban youth consumer has become big business because of their buying power ($300 billion) and influence over the mainstream consumer market. McDonald's plays hip-hop music, and even Colonel Sanders, the staid, white Southern gentleman, has become a slam-dunking rapper who handles his walking cane more like a Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity brother than a senior citizen. Whether it's shoes or orange juice, this demographic has its finger on the pulse of the mainstream marketplace, which translates into an expanded market base, increased brand awareness and higher sales volume for the companies that produce these products and services.

"What works in urban cities, works in suburbia, but not vice versa," says Roy L. Brannon, president and CEO of the Brannon-Cottrell Group in Dallas, a full-service advertising agency specializing in campaigns targeting urban ethnic markets. "The general market will accept what the urban consumer wears. If you can capture them, you can capture the mainstream market. When rap music first came on the scene, it was in inner-city underground clubs, but when it reached the suburbs, it became commercial." Today, more than 70% of hip-hop albums are sold to whites.

Because the market is young it represents an audience companies can follow and profit from as it ages and builds wealth. Majority companies have targeted millions of dollars at urban youth marketing campaigns because they recognize this market's viability and influence. Even if your business doesn't have the advertising budget of a McDonald's or KFC, there are other techniques for getting your product in front of the urban youth market. In this article, we'll show you how to determine if this market fits your business and what strategies you can use to successfully pursue young urban consumers.


The impact of urban youth can be felt everywhere from fashion to music to sports. This includes an estimated 70 million 12- to 17-year-old (Generation Y) and 18- to 34-year-old (Generation X) African Americans, Latinos, Asians and Caucasians who live in both inner-city and large, upscale urban environments, such as New York Los Angeles and Chicago. This demographic is heavily influenced by the music (rap, R&B, gospel, hip-hop) and fashion that characterize its identity. African Americans drive both of these arenas. Urban youth have their own language, icons and heroes.

"We've found that these kids are very individualistic, and they don't respond to anything outside of their reality," says Brannon. "They don't care about the status quo."

At the same time, this market sets and is influenced by trends in the fashion and music industries that are then followed by the general consumer market, especially affluent white suburban youth.

"If FUBU started advertising to suburban kids, they would lose," says Meade. "Their urban constituents would find something else to wear and suburban kids wouldn't wear it. The best way to get white kids into a product is to get black kids to buy it."

This demographic makes a considerable amount of household purchasing decisions for their families, from what food to eat to what diapers to buy, according to Howard Buford, president and CEO of Prime Access Inc. in New York, an advertising and direct-marketing firm that specializes in marketing to previously overlooked audiences, such as African American and Latino consumers. "If you're a business person, it matters what store they go to and what they buy. In order to accomplish this, you have to create linkages and word-of-mouth advertising."


Clearly, marketing boosts visibility and sales, which translates into healthier profits. However, before shelling out money for prime-time commercials or full-page magazine ads, make sure you've done your homework. A misdirected marketing plan can be worse than no plan at all.

First, you need to assess what your goals and mission are and whether marketing to urban youth consumers fits into your overall business plan. What age group do you currently market to? Does your product or service fit the urban youth market? Is your product or service "life stage" (defined by age)? If so, it would be difficult to transcend this market. How will it impact your bottom line? Elevate brand value? Increase profits? Increase your visibility in the community?

"If this market doesn't identify with your product or service, you can't stretch that brand name. However, you might consider launching a product line geared toward a younger market," says Buford.

When you put together a campaign for a specific audience, you have to evaluate their lifestyle, how and where they live, their likes and dislikes and their spending power.

"There's a real schism between `old school' and `new school,'" says Buford. "People who own businesses tend to be old school. They assert their ideas and opinions over what the new school, or urban youth, believes or values. Old schoolers have to transcend new schoolers' differences, which are expressions of themselves and what they represent."

Before launching Mojo Highway Golden Ale under their company, Mojo Highway Brewing Co. L.L.C., in Washington, D.C., last year, Chairman and CEO Lee Chapman and President and COO Curtis Lewis, both 29, scoured every bit of information they could find to learn about the consumers they hoped to reach.

"We read InfoScan, Competitive Media Reporting, Scarborough Data [marketing research services]," says Chapman. "Anything that would help us understand where and how much the urban demographic spends on beer and why." Because they wanted to reach their peers--20-something, college-educated beer drinkers--Chapman and Curtis relied heavily on their own experience as well as data on this market.

Their most effective marketing strategy: hosting more than 100 onsite promotional events in clubs and bars. "On-site promotions educate, create awareness and allow consumers to sample our product," says Chapman. Today, their beer is sold in 60 bars and liquor stores in New York and Washington, D.C.

In many large advertising agencies, traditional focus groups and surveys account for most of the market research. Such methods are expensive, however. And as Mjini (Swahili for urban environment) demonstrated with its Converse research, the grassroots approach is less expensive and can be equally effective in gathering valuable information.


Savvy consumers that they are, urban youth can quickly sense if a product doesn't fit their needs, experts say. Therefore, you should be able to stand behind what you advertise.

"They can sniff out fakeness and insincerity, so your creative efforts have to be real," says Brannon. "The message is very important too--how you say it and what you say. You have to get input from those who know the market."

Urban youth have to believe your product or service is for them, says Buford. "You have to ask yourself how do I communicate they're welcome in my store or that I want them to do business with my company? You must align yourself with the ways they identify themselves in their choice of clothing, music and icons."

Although being a black-owned microbrewery might initially attract African American consumers, Mojo Highway Brewing Co. L.L.C. has made a concerted effort to build a multi-ethnic following for its $6 (average cost) six-pack of beer. Crafting a message that resonates yet differentiates your company from the competition is a challenge. The tag line for Mojo--"the perfect detour"--plays off the name [Mojo Highway] and appeals to young consumers who want something other than Budweiser or Coors. The company has no national ads, but Mojo's public relations agency, Washington, D.C.-based Starnet Management L.L.C., already knows the kind of ads it won't run. "I can guarantee you there won't be any frogs, dogs or camels," says Vincent Sizer. "Mojo wants to attract those who are legally able to drink and wants them to be responsible drinkers."

Urban youth consumers don't respond to messages that are heavy-handed or condescending. Keep it simple and relevant, says Raymond O'Neal Jr., executive vice president of Vibe-SPIN Ventures in New York and publisher of Blaze magazine, an urban music publication.

"Golf as a brand [sport] wasn't meaningful to blacks years ago," says Buford. "But Tiger's [Tiger Woods] appearance said we're welcome and this is for us. He creates a linkage to young blacks, and now that's happening in tennis with Venus and Serena Williams."

Indeed, this market longs for a sense of belonging, so your message should make them feel that by purchasing your product or service, they are included.


Urban youth consumers tend to be trend and style conscious, which means you must keep pace with their interests and buying habits to formulate a successful marketing strategy. This is particularly tree of fashion.

"These consumers have loyalty for a while, but they'll switch to your competitor in a heartbeat," says Brannon. "Your product or service has to be new and fresh and uniquely for the urban youth consumer. What's hot this week won't be next week. The dilemma becomes how to keep up with their trends. Businesses need to stay in tune with these consumers. Ask for input from teens to understand why they respond or don't respond to your product or service."

Although it may be tempting to use celebrity endorsements, be aware that they can become dated, says Carol Patterson Brooks, president of Correct Communications Inc. in Newark, New Jersey, a marketing and communications firm specializing in providing access to niche markets. Instead, tie in rap, R&B or hip-hop and other music to appeal to this market. Even a local icon, such as a radio personality or local youth sports hero, can be appealing and bring in urban youth consumers.


Because urban consumers identify with their communities, unless your business is part of their work/you are invisible to them.

"Giving back to the community, being involved and being seen at community events says you're one of them and you support them," says Brooks.

For example, if you own a restaurant, you could sponsor a local sports team or, if you can't afford to do so, donate hotdogs and drinks at their games. Create partnerships with schools or community centers to participate in or sponsor events, campaigns or fund-raising drives. Take charge of a community project, such as cleaning up an empty lot so kids can play sports there. Tie in a product promotion with a movie theater chain to drive your company's sales.

Besides wider name recognition, Mojo landed a vending contract when it supplied beer for a Congressional Black Caucus party held at Washington, D.C.'s Velocity Grill in the MCI Center. "The entire evening cost us about $200 and we got an account out of it, too," says Chapman.

Penna De Kelaita, 30, owner of SpiceRax in Los Angeles, discovered that sending press kits to specific media outlets was an inexpensive and effective way to spread the word about a new product. She wanted to let young, multiethnic consumers know about Shout-Outs, her colorful greeting card line that features eight multiethnic cartoon characters. De Kelaita spent $3,000 for slick press kits that she sent to publications with readers she hoped to reach. As a result, Shout-Outs were written up in the six publications. In addition, her Website (www.spicerax.com), which includes an online shopping mall where consumers can purchase her cards for about $2.50 each, receives up to 2,000 hits per week.

The power and influence of the urban youth market represent an opportunity for black businesses to capture a segment of the consumer market that can bring increased brand awareness, profits and an expanded consumer base. By focusing on their communities, keeping pace with the trends they set and formulating a message that speaks directly to them, you can strategize to reach this audience with success.

"There is no question that mainstream marketers have recognized the value of this market," says Brooks. "Black businesses must be engaged as well."



* Partner with an urban radio station to sponsor an event or broadcast live from your office or store.

* Place an ad or have a story written about your company in urban culture magazines and newspapers.

* Design colorful street posters to advertise your business in urban communities.

* Create palm cards: postcard-sized cards that advertise an event or product.

* Dispatch street teams: professionally trained members of your marketing or advertising team who hit the streets to spread the word--through fliers and word-of-mouth--about your company's products or services.

* Distribute coupons or sample products in college dorms or sports venues.


* Minority Markets Alert (publication) 212-941-0099

* EUR (Electronic Urban Report) www.eurweb.com

* Correct Communications 973-242-3305

* Icon Lifestyle Marketing 212-929-3800

* Target Market News Inc. 312-408-1881 or www.targetmarketnews.com

* Multicultural Marketing Resources Inc. 212-242-3351

* Teen Research Unlimited 847-564-3440 or www.teenresearch.com

* Mjini Urban Youth Experts 617-249-0442

* Brannon-Cottrell Group 214-652-8451

* Prime Access Inc. 212-696-5000 or www.primeaccessinc.com

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Thursday, July 10, 2008,11:40 PM
Spike Lee Criticizes Jackson for Obama Remarks
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Spike Lee says the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s crudely phrased criticism of Barack Obama won’t affect the Democrat’s campaign, which the filmmaker expects to succeed at bringing “seismic” change to the world.

“I don’t think his (Jackson’s) comments help anybody. It’s just unfortunate,” Lee said after taking part in a Television Critics Association panel.

Lee predicted Obama would be elected in November.

“When that happens, it will change everything. … You’ll have to measure time by `Before Obama’ and `After Obama,”‘ Lee said during the panel. “It’s an exciting time to be alive now.”

The presidency of the first African-American will ripple throughout arts, sports and more, said Lee, whose films include “Malclom X” and “Do the Right Thing.”

“Everything’s going to be affected by this seismic change in the universe,” he said.

Lee attended the TV group’s annual summer session to discuss documentaries he’s making for ESPN Films, including one about Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers.

Jackson’s comment about Obama came last Sunday during a break in Jackson’s appearance on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends.” Unaware his microphone was on, Jackson told a fellow guest that Obama was “talking down” to blacks in speeches on morality at black churches; he also used a slang reference for wanting to sever Obama’s testicles.

Jackson apologized Wednesday for “hurtful and wrong” remarks. Obama’s campaign offered a low-key response, accepting the apology and defending against the notion that he neglected issues important to blacks.

Lee was more pointed when speaking of Jackson’s remarks.

Asked if there was any validity to the criticism of Obama, Lee replied: “No. Here’s the thing: I don’t know why people are questioning whether Barack Obama is black enough. For me, that’s an ignorant statement.”

“There are middle-class, educated black people who speak the way he does. … We have to try to move away from this so-called image of what black is, which is largely influenced by rap and that type of stuff,” Lee said.

“I’m for Mr. Obama,” Lee said. “I think he’s gonna win. And it’s going to be a better day not only for the United States but for the world.”

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Monday, July 07, 2008,11:12 AM
Mann sentenced for E Guinea plot
Former British soldier Simon Mann has been sentenced to 34 years and four months in jail by an Equatorial Guinea court for his role in a 2004 coup plot.

The verdict followed Mann's trial in the capital Malabo last month in which he admitted conspiring to oust President Teodoro Obiang Nguema.

The former special forces officer, 56, had expressed remorse, saying he was not the most senior coup plotter.

Mann was held in 2004 with 64 others in Zimbabwe before being extradited.

He served four years in a prison in Zimbabwe for trying to purchase weapons without a licence.

Eleven other men, including South African arms dealer Nick Du Toit - who testified that he had been recruited by Mann - are already serving sentences in Equatorial Guinea in connection with the coup attempt.

Equatorial Guinea, an oil-rich former Spanish colony, has been ruled by President Teodoro Obiang Nguema since he seized power from his uncle in 1979.

Pardon hint

Mann, wearing a grey prison uniform, stood impassively as the verdict was read out by presiding judge Carlos Mangue in the heavily-guarded courtroom in Malabo, according to Reuters news agency.

During the trial, prosecutors had asked for about 31 years in prison - but in the end a three-judge panel gave him an even longer sentence.

Mann's lawyer had asked for leniency, saying his client was a pawn of powerful international businessmen and saying he had been "not a co-author" of the coup plot but "an accomplice".

President Nguema has not ruled out the possibility of Mann serving part of his sentence in a British jail, the BBC's West Africa correspondent Will Ross.

He adds that Mann's best hope of freedom is a presidential pardon.


Mann has implicated Sir Mark Thatcher, son of UK former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and London-based millionaire Eli Calil as organisers of the plot.

Sir Mark was fined and received a suspended sentence in South Africa in 2005 for unknowingly helping to finance the plot. He strongly denies any direct involvement. Mr Calil also denies involvement.

Du Toit has said that he was told they were trying to install an exiled opposition politician, Severo Moto, as president.

Mr Moto, who is currently in Spain, has denied involvement in the failed coup.


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Friday, July 04, 2008,11:18 PM
Perception management
Perception management is a term originated by the U. S. military. The U. S. Department of Defense (DOD) gives this definition:

perception management—Actions to convey and/or deny selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, and objective reasoning as well as to intelligence systems and leaders at all levels to influence official estimates, ultimately resulting in foreign behaviors and official actions favorable to the originator’s objectives. In various ways, perception management combines truth projection, operations security, cover and deception, and psychological operations.

Emily Goldman characterizes the phrase "perception management" as a "euphemism" for "an aspect of information warfare." She notes a distinction between "perception management" and public diplomacy, which "does not, as a rule, involve falsehood and deception, whereas these are important ingredients of perception management; the purpose is to get the other side to believe what one wishes it to believe, whatever the truth may be."[2] Although perception management is specifically defined as being limited to foreign audiences, critics of the DOD charge that it also engages in domestic perception management. An example cited is the prohibition of viewing or photographing the flag draped caskets of dead military as they are unloaded in bulk upon arrival in the U.S. for further distribution, a policy only recently implemented. The phrase "perception management" is filtering into civilian use as a synonym for "persuasion." Public relations firms now offer "perception management" as one of their services. Similarly, officials who are being accused of shading the truth are now frequently charged with engaging in "perception management." Although perception management operations are typically carried out within the international arena between governments, civilian use of perception management techniques have been carried out by some practitioners.


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,10:20 PM
By Chris Faraone

The New York Times rarely refers to rock stars such as Alice Cooper, Moby, and Elton John by their birth names. With few exceptions, Vincent Furnier, Richard Melville Hall, and Reginald Dwight get free passes on their alter egos, as do the likes of American Idol icon Clay Aiken (Clayton Grissom) and anti-Christ
superstar Marilyn Manson (Brian Warner). For some reason, though, the unofficial guideline that once compelled former Times critic Donal Henahan to make subsequent reference to Iggy Pop and Sid Vicious as Mr. Pop and Mr. Vicious (instead of Mr. [James] Osterberg and Mr. [Simon John] Beverly, or even Pop and Vicious) does not apply, apparently, to hip-hop artists. At the Times, the penalty for being a rapper is twofold: you are routinely called out on your birth name (no matter how nerdy and ironic it might be), and you rarely are addressed as “Mr.” This nominal double standard surfaces from time to time in hip-hop articles throughout the mainstream press, but due to the Times’s extensive urban-music coverage and its eternal struggle with honorific conformity, rap handles seem to inspire more copy dilemmas there.

Despite having sold several million discs and served as president of Def Jam Recordings under his alias, Jay-Z still gets pegged as Shawn Carter. The Times’s David M. Halbfinger and Jeff Leeds did so in reporting on the Brooklyn rap entrepreneur’s 2007 comeback, as did Los Angeles Times staff writer Richard Cromelin and the Boston Globe’s Sarah Rodman. No hip-hop artist is immune—Wu-Tang Clan ringleader RZA (Robert Diggs), Queens heavyweight 50 Cent (Curtis Jackson), and urban mogul Diddy (Sean Combs) are all routinely birth-named in the mainstream press.

Sam Sifton, the Times’s culture editor, says that while such decisions are handled on a case-by-case basis, rap artists often get special treatment. “There’s a big difference between [Houston rapper] Bun B and Tony Bennett,” Sifton says, referring to Bernard Freeman and Anthony Dominick Benedetto, respectively. “Tony Bennett took a stage name, which I think is a little different from taking an alias. Someone like Jay-Z can be Mr. Carter, certainly, or he can just be Jay-Z, but he’s never going to be Mr. Z.”

But is there a meaningful distinction between a “stage name” and an “alias”? That Sifton made an example of Jay-Z—rather than someone like, say, Ghostface Killah, whose chosen moniker is further outside the mainstream nomenclature—suggests that at the Times, at least, there is, and that rappers are in a class by themselves. Why else would Alicia Keys, a performer from beyond the rap realm—who took a stage name (or devised an alias) based on the instrument she plays—have never been outed as Alicia Augello-Cook? In Kelefa Sanneh’s October 5, 2003, Times CD roundup, Outkast rappers André 3000 (André Benjamin) and Big Boi (Antwan Patton) got name-dropped, while Erykah Badu’s birth name (Erica Wright) was never mentioned.

Even more confusing are articles that seem to follow no logic whatsoever: a December 3, 2006, Times profile on celebrity Sirius Radio hosts refers to rap personality Ludacris as Christopher Bridges (and as “Mr. Bridges” in subsequent references), but allows Eminem (Marshall Mathers), Snoop Dogg (Calvin Broadus), and Bob Dylan (Robert Zimmerman) to use their stage names. On second reference, though, Bob Dylan is “Mr. Dylan,” while Eminem remains Eminem; Snoop is only mentioned once, but judging by former Times treatments he would have been called “Snoop” or “Snoop Dogg” had his name come up again.

“If you look in our archives, which we famously refer to as our compendium of past errors, you’ll see plenty of examples of us looking ridiculous,” Sifton says. “One of the difficulties that the Times has in addressing contemporary culture, and certainly hip-hop culture, is that we risk looking stupid all the time.”

Since it doesn’t look like it will be abandoning honorifics any time soon, blanket uniformity might be the best bet for the Times to look less foolish, or at least more consistent. After all, if they can call Brian Warner “Mr. Manson,” then surely America’s finest newsrooms can honor Calvin Broadus as Mr. Dogg.

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posted by R J Noriega
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,10:01 PM
The Quest for Hegemony
Words By: Raymundo Monell Figueroa

Greatness is what many have tried to achieve but have failed to do so. Several can call themselves “good” at what they do. Others are little more than average. But then there is a select group who posses a reservoir of God given talent. Such allows them to set themselves apart from the rest by emerging victorious in the struggle to get the doubters and skeptics to fully understand the genius behind their actions. For the Carolina, Puerto Rico native William Omar Landron Garces, that battle resulted in a lopsided conquest in his favor. And much like what New York City traffic looks like from atop a skyscraper, those who lost that fight look like ants from where he currently resides.

ULM caught up with Don Omar to discuss his upcoming album, the new acting career, additions to his label roster, and the path that got him here.

“The best thing about [reggaeton] music,” he said from his home in Puerto Rico, “is that it only permits the best to be present.” Looking to raise the bar in the latest addition to his impressive discography, Non Plus Ultra (Latin for Nothing Further Beyond), the ambitious endeavor aims at “nothing less than straight up perfection.” “To me [Non Plus Ultra] means that there ain’t nothing better,” he said about the album,
“and I want this project to be that way. You have to work very, very hard in order for your album to be the Non Plus Ultra of reggaeton music. But I look forward to that challenge.”

In his view, being the top artist in the genre has given him the opportunity to speak “from the perspective of a president,” which warrants him bringing up highly divisive issues like politics and religion. Furthermore, the Don is looking to achieve this without abandoning his roots as a reggaeton artist but attracting a broader audience by working
with people outside of the genre.

“I think within the responsibility of being who I am, and the independence that I want for myself,” he said. “The door has opened for me so that I could show people a different facet of myself and show who I am nowadays. I’m looking for all genres of music. I’m looking for Swizz Beatz ‘cause I wanna do a real banger. I’m looking for Kat Deluna ‘cause I really respect her and what she’s doing. Me and her could work within reggaeton but I really like dancehall the way she was doing it. That feminine voice is what the music industry is respecting right now.”

The 30-year-old music veteran also went on to confirm producer Wyclef Jean and singer Julieta Venega as collaborators on the project. It’s scheduled for a June/July release. “You have to respect the summer time,” he said. “I like that season because it gives all these youngsters who are just coming out of school looking to have a good time a chance to enjoy music. You have families together at the beach, people at the
clubs, the youth... They can come outside and focus more on enjoying their youth with friends.”


Throughout the years, Don Omar has effectively shown a great amount of versatility as an entertainer but 2008 promises to illustrate his talents outside the realm of music. During a concert at an amusement park in 2006, he announced his intentions to get into acting. By then of course, he had been in talks with major producers for possible
roles and just like that, he was Hollywood bound.

Never one to take anything for granted, he began his tutelage under the acclaimed Puerto Rican theater/film actress Miriam Colon. Best known to younger audiences as Tony Montana’s mother in the cult classic film, Scarface (1983), Colon has appeared in more than 50 television, theater, and film productions combined dating back to 1953.

As her apprentice, Don Omar deeply appreciates the knowledge he’s gained thus far. “I think it is an honor to get to know a woman,” he said, “who made me discover such an impressionable world that was so new and real like this passion I feel for the art of acting. She is simply brilliant.”

By the end of January 08’, he was already slated to join the cast of a highly anticipated movie. “I’ll be entering the cast of The Fast and the Furious 4,” he said of his first major role. “At the end of February I should have a script, go do photography, and from there I’ll be waiting for that new adventure. I’m getting a chance to put my training to use. This is definitely an opportunity that has been presented to me so I am certainly looking forward to making the most of it.”

Most of you may or may not know that Don is no stranger to the Fast/Furious franchise. At the end of The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, his song “Bandoleros” (featuring Tego) comes on when Vin Diesel’s character is about to race the protagonist of the film just before the credits appear.


After the platinum success of 2004’s The Last Don (both standard and live/dvd editions), he founded All Star Records in 2005. To his delight, the singer turned actor/entrepreneur has seen the depth of his label
roster increase. That roster of talent now embodies Omar’s new label El Orfanato [The Orphanage], which replaces the old imprint and is made up of both women and men. “They are a super-talented group who have
all impressed me,” says Don.

While there are several different groups within the label Don comments on, “Marcy Place, who sing bachata. Their music is among those downloaded on the Internet most frequently. And that’s without even
having an album out. So as far as future projects are concerned, I can tell you about Marcy Place and El Orfanato. And our projects are always going to receive all the necessary attention because our top priority is
the success of the company.”

During the interview, Don Omar credited collaborations with Aventura as being one of the earliest factors that helped him gain recognition in New York City after arriving in 2002. It was an experience both parties enjoyed as “it was mutually beneficial.” So with a strong existing market for that music, it’s no wonder he made such acquisitions. Fans
should expect una descarga de bachata urbana in the coming months from his label.


The peace and tranquility he’s found upon reaching stardom are symbols of a long journey he’s traveled from the time he was coming up in the pueblo of Carolina where images of broken families, murder, and drugs were and still are a reality.

“You know that it’s hard,” he said of his childhood. “We live in a beautiful place but it’s hard to grow up here. Poverty is the order of the day. We are poor and us poor people never used to help each other. It was difficult because there were a lot of things that I saw that I’ll never forget. I can tell you that I can do bad but I can also do good. I prefer doing good but I learned everything from my barrio. I learned about good actions that can be done from the heart and about bad ones that have to be done out of necessity.”

With that said, it’s amazing to see how many have made it in reggaeton music from that area. Don Omar’s family hails from a part of Vistamar - a working class urbanizacion in Carolina that lies just outside of La Ceramica, which is viewed as the poorer of the two. About a block away, inside the boundaries of the latter, is where the siblings Lennox (from Zion y Lennox) and Mackie (From Yaga y Mackie) are from. Zion himself is also from Vistamar. Other notables outside of that immediate area who are also from Carolina include Tito El Bambino, Hector El Father, and Voltio.

declared, “we wouldn’t form salsa parties because we weren’t into it in those days but still we’ve always revered people like Gilberto [Santa Rosa], Hector Lavoe, and Ismael Rivera. Our thing was parties de marquecina [garage/front porch jams].

“Those were the type of things that at least to me and a lot of artists in this genre who also came from Carolina that made us continue this movement that is something we’ve experienced at a very young age.”

These parties provided local MCs and DJs with a platform to display their skills during the early stages of reggaeton. Of course, this was all the result of the innovations of a Panamanian music legend. “The impact that El General had when he came out with his music was worldwide,” Don said of the man who is considered the patriarch
of Spanish reggae. “That was global for all Latinos. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him. He changed me completely. For me it changed my life entirely because it’s music that affected what everybody is doing today.”

After working with Hector El Father in the late 90’s, Don Omar’s first taste of success came after the hit “Dale Don Dale”. He recanted an interesting story about the song and how it landed him his first professional gig at The Noise in Old San Juan.

“I remember when the song came out about 7 1/2 years ago,” said Omar. “I never thought I’d go in there to actually perform. They told me, ‘they’re calling you because they want you to perform at a club.’ And I said, ‘Wooowwww! How can this be?!’ I’ll never forget. I only got paid $150 to perform. I swear to God! Y tube que cantar Dale Don Dale 5 times because it was the only song I had. But believe me - that’s the moment that I thought to myself ‘wow I think people like me.’ I sung it 5 times and they didn’t want to let me leave the club!

“You had to meet certain standards to perform there and make it as an artist. The people who performed and went there regularly were the elite of the urban culture of Puerto Rico and they all welcomed me. Earlier that day I told myself, ‘pay great attention to what’s about to take place today because this is going to change your life.’”

Indeed it did. After that right of passage, the rest as they say, is history. He followed The Last Don with King of Kings (2006), which sold over 2.5 million albums worldwide. Last year, he headlined La Kalle’s Bling Blineo at Shea Stadium before 30,000 plus fans. Needless to say it was a night to make a statement.

“That was crazy bro,” he said about ending the concert. “It’s all about being the best. For some artists maybe - they get afraid of performing in front of so many people. I like it. Because you can prove, in front of the thousands of people who were at Shea Stadium that night who the real “King of Reggaeton” is.

“I’m always going to be addicted to performing in front of a screaming crowd. Even if its a place where there’s only 20 people, if there’s 5,000 or 10,000 I’m gonna sing wherever they allow me. Those are the types of things that keep me having a thirst for that; satisfying the people who love your music.”


Outside of his professional life, the Don makes time for his two sons and daughter with whom he is anything but his onstage persona. “With them I’m William,” he said, “Not Don. William. Papi. I’m trying to be a
hero to my kids. I’m trying to be the best father in the world. When daddy is working he’s still there even though he’s not present. And when he’s present it’s papi 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”

For the last year, he’s been dating Puerto Rican journalist Jackie Guerrido from Despierta America. “It’s better for me,” said Don Omar about the convenience of being with someone in the business. “She can understand. She knows I’m flying around the world and that today I can be here and tomorrow I can be in Japan. And its good cause’ she can do that as well. I’m in a good situation and I feel happy in that atmosphere of emotion, love, and romance. It’s been great.”


Over the years, Don Omar’s strong relationship with his fans is something he’s always appreciated. But while his fame has coincided with the rise of reggaeton in general, what if the music were to suddenly suffer a drop in popularity?

“You have to think about that,” he said about the genre’s hypothetical decline. “Reggaeton is not only in Puerto Rico, it’s all over the world. It’s in Rome, Italy. London, England. South Korea. Egypt. Venezuela, Colombia, Nicaragua.... I can’t really say when reggaeton is going to end because every day it’s born in some part of the world. I have always been a musician, a singer. I love what I do. But my fans who mean so much to me, they allow me to do other things.

“My fans allow me to sing salsa, they allow me to sing merengue, bachata, a love song, to be an actor, and I thank God for it. But I want to be clear, if reggaeton disappears tomorrow, I’d probably be the only artist who could do something different.”

And that brings us full circle - straight to Don’s approach with the new album, his desire to expand El Orfanato’s market share, and finally, the fact that he’s setting his sights on the Hollywood film industry. All will test his limits as both an entertainer and businessman. You can interpret this as a show of foresight on his part prudently designed towards adapting to the environment and staying ahead of the curb. It’s the oldest known survival technique.

What’s at stake here in 2008 is not merely the continuation of his success story but rather Don Omar’s bid to become a powerful entity within the entertainment industry as a whole. Reggaeton dominance is all but assured but only time will tell if William Landron will be able to duplicate what he’s done in music in other arenas of the business.

But in the end, beneath all the glory and material success one can attain from achieving greatness, it still comes down to one simple thing. “Dedication,” he simply put. “Hard work and dedication gets you good
things. It gets you to good positions. In life, those who work hard will be compensated. I would love to always work in music. I don’t know how to do anything else. This is what I was born to do.”


posted by R J Noriega
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Thursday, July 03, 2008,11:46 AM
The Color of Blood
Race, memory, and a killing in the suburbs.
by Calvin Trillin

What happened at the foot of the driveway at 40 Independence Way that hot August night in 2006 took less than three minutes. The police later managed to time it precisely, using a surveillance camera that points directly at the street from a house a couple of doors to the north. The readout on the surveillance tape said that it was 23:06:11 when two cars whizzed by going south, toward the cul-de-sac at the end of the street. At 23:09:06, the first car passed back in front of the camera, going north. A minute later, a second car passed in the same direction. In the back seat of that second car—a black Mustang Cobra convertible—was a seventeen-year-old boy named Daniel Cicciaro, Jr., known to his friends as Dano. He was unconscious and bleeding profusely. He had been shot through the cheek. A .32-calibre bullet was lodged in his head.

Normally, at that time of night, not many cars are seen on Independence Way, a quiet street in a town called Miller Place. Just east of Port Jefferson, on the North Shore of Long Island, Miller Place is in the part of Suffolk County where the commuters have begun to thin out. To the east is a large swatch of the county that doesn’t seem strongly connected to the huge city in one direction or to the high-priced summer resorts and North Fork wineries in the other. The house at 40 Independence Way is part of a development, Talmadge Woods, that five or six years ago was a peach orchard; it’s now a collection of substantial two-story, four-bedroom houses that the developer started offering in 2003 for about half a million dollars each. The houses vary in design, but they all have an arched front door topped by the arched glass transom known in the trade as a Palladian window—a way to bring light into the double-height entry hall. When people are asked to describe the neighborhood, they tend to say “upper middle class.” The homeowner with the surveillance system is an orthodontist.

Miller Place could also be described as overwhelmingly white. According to a study released a few years ago, Long Island is the single most segregated suburban area in the United States. The residents of 40 Independence Way—John and Sonia White and their youngest son, Aaron—are African-American and so are their next-door neighbors, but the black population of Miller Place is less than one-half of one per cent. The Whites, who began married life in Brooklyn in the early seventies, had moved to Miller Place after ten years in North Babylon, which is forty minutes or so closer to the city. “You want to raise your family in a safe environment,” John White, a tall, very thin man in his early fifties, has said, explaining why he was willing to spend three hours a day in his car commuting. “The educational standards are higher. You want to live a comfortable life, which is the American dream.” One of the Whites’ sons is married, with children of his own, and a second is in college in the South. But Aaron was able to spend his senior year at Miller Place High School, which takes pride in such statistics as how many of its students are in Advanced Placement history courses. Aaron, an erect young man who is likely to say “sir” when addressing one of his elders, graduated in June of 2005. He was one of four black students in the class.

In an area where home maintenance is a priority, 40 Independence Way could hold its own. John White is a serious gardener—a nurturer of daylilies and clematis, a planter of peel-bark birch trees—and someone who had always been proud, maybe even touchy, about his property. People who have been neighbors of the Whites tend to use the word “meticulous” in describing John White; so do people who have worked with him. He has described himself as “a doer”—someone too restless to sit around reading a book or watching television. He says that he’s fished from Nova Scotia to the Bahamas. He’s done a lot of hunting—a pastime he was taught by his grandfather Napoleon White, whose family’s migration from Alabama apparently took place after a murderous attack by the Ku Klux Klan. At the Faith Baptist Church, in Coram, Long Island, John White sang in both the men’s choir and the mixed Celebration Choir. A couple of polished-wood tables in the Whites’ house were made by him. He’s a broadly accomplished man, and proud of it. His wife, who was born in Panama, works as a manager in a department store and has that Caribbean accent which, maybe because it’s close to the accent of West Indian nurses, conveys both competence and the firm intention to brook no nonsense. The Whites’ furniture tastes lean toward Stickley, Audi. Their sons dress in a style that’s preppy. Sitting in his well-appointed family room, John White could be taken for middle management.

But he doesn’t have the sort of education or occupation that would seem to go along with the house he lives in. After graduating from a technical program at Samuel Gompers High School, he worked as an electrician for seven or eight years and then, during a slow time for electricians, he began working in the paving industry. For the past twenty-five years, he has worked for an asphalt company in Queens, patching the potholes left by utility repair crews. He is often described as a foreman, which he once was, but he says that, partly because of an aversion to paperwork, he didn’t try to reclaim that job after it evaporated during a reduction in the workforce. (“I’m actually a laborer.”) On August 9, 2006, a Wednesday, he had, as usual, awakened at three-thirty in the morning for the drive to Queens, spent the day at work, and, after a stop to pick up some bargain peony plants, returned to what he calls his “dream house” or his “castle.” He retired early, so that he could do the same thing the next day. A couple of hours later, according to his testimony, he was awakened by Aaron, who, with a level of terror John White had never heard in his son’s voice, shouted, “Dad, these guys are coming here to kill me!” Instead, as it turned out, John White killed Daniel Cicciaro, Jr.

There had been a birthday party that evening for Craig Martin, Jr., a recent Miller Place High School graduate. Craig lives with his parents and his younger sister, Jennifer, in Sound Beach—a town just to the east that grew into a year-round neighborhood from what had begun as beach lots purchased in the twenties as part of a Daily Mirror circulation-promotion scheme. The party was mostly in the Martins’ back yard, where there was an aboveground pool, a lot of cold beer, and a succession of beer-pong games. This was not the A.P.-history crowd. Craig was connected to a number of the boys at the party through an interest in cars. Some of them were members of the Blackout car club, a loose organization of teen-agers who, in good weather, gather in the parking lot of the Stop & Shop mall in Miller Place on Thursday nights for an informal car show—displaying cars whose lights and windows are likely to have been tinted in pursuit of sleekness. Dano Cicciaro (pronounced Danno Cicero) was a regular at Stop & Shop, driving a white Mustang Mach 1 with two black stripes. Dano had grown up in Selden, a blue-collar town to the south, and finished at Newfield High School there after his family moved in his senior year to one of a half-dozen houses clustered around a cul-de-sac called Old Town Estates, in Port Jefferson Station.

His father, Daniel Cicciaro, Sr., runs an automobile-repair shop in Port Jeff Station called Dano’s Auto Clinic—a two-bay operation that also has some used cars parked in its lot, their prices marked on the windshields. Dano’s Auto Clinic is where Dano, Jr., spent a lot of his spare time. As a boy, he had the usual range of interests, his father has recalled, but “as he turned into a teen-ager it was all cars.” Even as a teen-ager, he ran a car-detailing business out of the shop, and he’d planned to keep that up when he started at Suffolk County Community College in the fall. Dano, Jr.,’s long-term plan was to take over Dano’s Auto Clinic someday and expand its services. “He did exactly as I did, in that he set goals for himself and conquered them, never sitting idle,” a Newsday reporter was told by Daniel Cicciaro, Sr., a father who’d felt the validation of having a son who was eager to follow his calling and work by his side.

Aaron White, who had finished his first year at Suffolk County Community College, was having dinner that evening in Port Jefferson with Michael Longo, his best friend from Miller Place High School. From having attended a few of the Stop & Shop gatherings, Aaron knew some of the car crowd, and, while phoning around for something to do, he learned about the birthday party at the Martins’. Craig greeted Aaron cheerfully enough, but a few minutes later Jennifer, who was then fifteen, told her brother that, because of a past incident, she felt frightened in Aaron’s presence. Dano Cicciaro was assigned to ask Aaron to leave. It isn’t clear why he was given that task. It couldn’t have been his size: Dano was five feet four and weighed a hundred and twenty-nine pounds. It certainly wasn’t his sobriety. Dano was drunk. When his blood-alcohol content was checked later at the hospital, it was almost twice the level required to prove intoxication. Still, Dano, who thought of himself as a protective older brother to Jennifer, handled the situation smoothly, saying to Aaron something like “It’s nothing personal, but you’ll have to leave.” Aaron later said that he was puzzled (“I never get kicked out of parties”), but he got into his car and drove back to Miller Place.

When Dano learned exactly why Jennifer felt uncomfortable around Aaron, she later testified, “he freaked out.” While in an Internet chat room with a couple of other boys, Jennifer told Dano, Aaron had posted a message saying that he wanted to rape her. Obtaining Aaron’s cell-phone number from Michael Longo, Dano touched off what became a series of heated calls involving several people at the party. Dano wanted to confront Aaron immediately. It didn’t matter that Aaron denied having posted the message. It didn’t matter that the posting had taken place nine months before and that Jennifer’s real older brother, Craig, had actually forgotten about it. In court many months later, Jennifer Martin was asked if she’d eventually learned that the offending message had not, in fact, been sent by Aaron—it had grown out of something said on a MySpace account set up in Aaron’s name as a prank—and she answered in the affirmative. That didn’t matter, either, because by then it was much too late. On the evening of August 9th, when Jennifer told Dano about the rape posting, there were other elements involved. A lot of beer had been consumed. It was late in the evening, a time when the teen-age penchant for melodrama tends to be in full flower. Dano was filled with what Paul Gianelli, one of John White’s defense attorneys, called “a warped sense of chivalry” and Dano’s godfather, Gregg Sarra, preferred to characterize as “valor, protecting a woman, honor.” For whatever reason, Dano Cicciaro and four of his friends were soon heading toward the Whites’ house in two beautifully painted and carefully polished cars that passed the orthodontist’s surveillance camera when its readout said 23:06:11.

What happened when they got there remains a matter of sharp dispute. There is no doubt that the boys were displaying no weapons when they got out of their cars, although one of them, Joseph Serrano, had brought along a baseball bat that remained in the back seat of the Mustang. There is no doubt that John White emerged from his garage carrying a pre-Second World War Beretta pistol that he kept there—part of an inheritance from his grandfather that had also included, White later said, “rifles and shotguns and a lot of advice.” Aaron was a few steps behind him, carrying a 20-gauge shotgun. There is no doubt that Dano “slapped” or “whacked” or “grabbed” the Beretta. There is no doubt that, before the shot was fired, there had been shouting and foul language from both sides. The tenor of the conversation, the defense team eventually maintained, could be surmised from the tape of a 911 line that the boys did not realize was open as they rushed their friend to a Port Jefferson hospital in the black Mustang Cobra. The 911 operator can be heard saying, “Sir . . . hello . . . hello . . . sir, pick up the phone.” The boys, their muffled voices almost hysterical, can be heard shouting directions to one another and giving assurances that Dano is still breathing. The operator keeps saying, “Hello . . . sir.” Then the voice of Joseph Serrano, sitting in the back seat with his bleeding friend and his baseball bat, comes through clearly: “Fucking niggers! Dano, I’ll get ’em for you, Dano.”

Back at 40 Independence Way, John White and his son were sitting in front of their house, hugging. Sonia White was screaming, “What happened? What happened?” In the trial testimony and police reports and newspaper accounts and grand-jury minutes dealing with what occurred in the meticulous front yard of 40 Independence Way after the cars had sped away, three statements attributed to John White stand out. One was in the testimony of Officer David Murray, the first Suffolk County policeman to reach the scene, who said that John White approached him with his arms extended, saying, “I did what I had to do. You might as well put the cuffs on me.” Another is what Officer Murray said he heard John White say to his son: “I told you those friends of yours would turn on you.” The third is what Sonia White testified that her husband said to her as he walked back into their castle: “We lost the house. We lost it all.”

A week after the death of Daniel Cicciaro, Jr., several hundred people turned out for his funeral, held at St. Sylvester’s Roman Catholic Church, in Medford, Long Island. The gathering was heavy with symbolism. Some of the younger mourners displayed “Dano Jr.” tattoos. Dano, Jr.,’s main car was there—the white Mustang that was familiar from Stop & Shop and had won Best Mach 1 Mustang in a competition at McCarville Ford. Gregg Sarra, a boyhood friend of Daniel Cicciaro, Sr., and a local-sports columnist for Newsday, gave the eulogy, praising his godson’s loyalty and his diligence and his gift for friendship. After the burial, some of Dano, Jr.,’s car-club friends revved their engines and chanted, “Dan-o, Dan-o, Dan-o.” As a tribute to his son, Daniel Cicciaro, Sr., attended the service in a Dano’s Auto Clinic tank top. The Stop & Shop car show that Thursday, according to a Newsday piece, turned into a sort of vigil for Dano, Jr., with Jennifer Martin helping to light a ring of candles—red and white candles, for the colors of Newfield High—around his Mustang and his first car, a Mercedes E55 AMG.

The sadness was accompanied by a good deal of anger. John White found that understandable. “I know how I would feel if someone hurt my kid,” he said in a Times interview some weeks later. “There wouldn’t be a rock left to crawl under.” Speaking to one reporter, Daniel Cicciaro, Sr., had referred to White as an “animal.” For a while after the shooting, Michael Longo—the friend who had accompanied Aaron White to the birthday party and had, as it turned out, telephoned to warn him that there were plans to jump him if he returned—slept with a baseball bat next to his bed. Sonia White later testified that after some particularly menacing instant messages (“i need ur adreass you dumb nigger”), to which Aaron replied in what sounded like a suburban teenager’s notion of gangster talk (“u da bitch tlaking big n bad like u gonna come down to my crib n do sumthin”), the Whites decided that he was no longer safe in the house, and they sent him to live outside the area.

The mourners who talked to reporters after the service rejected the notion, brought up by a lawyer for the White family shortly after the shooting, that Dano Cicciaro and his friends had used racial epithets during the argument in front of 40 Independence Way. Daniel Cicciaro, Sr.—a short man with a shaved head and a Fu Manchu mustache and an assertive manner and a lifelong involvement in martial arts—had called any connection of his son with racism “absurd.” But by the time a grand jury met, a month or so after the shooting, even the prosecutor, who would presumably need the boys as witnesses against John White, was saying that racial epithets had indeed been used. The district attorney said, though, that if John White had simply remained in his house and dialled 911, he wouldn’t be in any trouble and Daniel Cicciaro, Jr., would still be alive. The grand jury was asked to indict White for murder. Grand juries ordinarily go along with district attorneys, but this one didn’t. When the trial finally began, in Riverhead, fifteen months after the shooting, the charge was second-degree manslaughter.

The grand-jury decision may have reflected public opinion in Suffolk County, where there are strong feelings about a homeowner’s right to protect his property and his family. Suffolk County is a place where a good number of residents are active or retired law-enforcement officers, and where even a lot of residents who aren’t own guns—a place where it is not surprising to come across a plaque that bears the picture of a pistol and the phrase “We Don’t Dial 911.” James Chalifoux, the assistant district attorney who was assigned to try the case against John White, apparently had that in mind when, during jury selection, he asked jurors if they would be able to distinguish between what might be considered morally right—what could cause you to say, “I might have done the same thing”—and what was permissible under the law. He asked jurors if they could put aside sympathy when they were considering the case—meaning sympathy for John White. Judging by comments posted online in response to Newsday articles, public opinion seemed muddled by the conflict between two underpinnings of life in Suffolk County—a devotion to the sanctity of private property, particularly one’s home, and an assumption that the owner of the property is white.

Dano’s mother—Joanne Cicciaro, a primary-school E.S.L. teacher who had grown up in Suffolk County—said she was extremely disappointed that the grand jury had declined to indict John White for murder. Daniel Cicciaro, Sr., told a reporter, “Here this man points his gun at the boys and says, ‘I’m going to shoot.’ He says it three times. Then he shoots my son. To me, that’s intentional murder.” On the other hand, some of White’s strongest supporters—people like Lucius Ware, the president of the Eastern Long Island branch of the N.A.A.C.P., and Marie Michel, a black attorney who joined the defense team—believed that if a white homeowner in Miller Place had been confronted late at night by five hostile black teen-agers there would have been, in Marie Michel’s words, “no arrests, no indictment, and no trial.” The homeowner would have been judged to have had “a well-founded fear,” they thought, and if the justice system dealt with the incident in any way it would have been to charge the boys with something like breach of the peace or aggravated harassment (“What were they doing in that neighborhood at that time of night?”). For that matter, these supporters would argue, would Dano have “freaked out” if the male accused of wanting to rape Jenny Martin hadn’t been black? Wouldn’t teen-agers spoiling for a fight have dispersed if a white father walked out of the house, with or without a gun, and told them in no uncertain terms to go home? In other words, before a word of testimony had been heard, some people attending the trial of John White believed that in a just world he would have been on trial for murder instead of only manslaughter, and some believed that in a just world he wouldn’t have been on trial at all.

The Arthur M. Cromarty Court Complex is set apart from Riverhead, the seat of Suffolk County, on a campus that seems to be mostly parking lots—a judicial version of Long Island shopping malls. Those who were there to attend John White’s trial, which began just after Thanksgiving, seemed to be roughly separated by race, on opposite sides of the aisle that ran down the center of the courtroom’s spectator section. That may have been partly because the room was small and on many days the prosecution’s supporters, mostly Cicciaro relatives and young friends of Dano’s, nearly filled half of it. Dano, Jr.,’s parents did not sit next to each other—they had separated before their son’s death—but they came together as a family in hallway huddles of supporters and in speaking to the press. The people who stood out on their side of the courtroom were a couple of friends of Daniel Cicciaro, Sr., who also had shaved heads, but with modifications that included a scalp tattoo saying “Dano Jr.” Although they looked menacing, both of them could be described as designers: one is a detailer, specializing in the fancy painting of motorcycles; the other does graphic design, specializing in sports uniforms.

People on the Cicciaro side might have felt some menace emanating from the phalanx of black men, all of them in suits and ties and many of them offensive-tackle size, who escorted Aaron White (wearing a bulletproof vest) through the courthouse on the first day of his testimony and then took seats across the aisle, near some women from John White’s church choir. The escorts were from an organization called 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care. On that first day, their ranks were augmented by members of the Fruit of Islam, wearing their trademark bow ties, although the black leader called to mind by John White’s life would probably be Booker T. Washington rather than Louis Farrakhan. As it turned out, there was no overt hostility between those on either side of the courtroom aisle, and, at the end of testimony, the Cicciaros made it clear that they would accept any decision the jury brought in—none of which, Joanne Cicciaro pointed out, would bring their son back. Talking to a Newsday reporter after the trial about prejudice, Daniel Cicciaro, Sr., maintained that bias existed toward what some people called skinheads. “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” he said.

The four boys who accompanied Dano Cicciaro to Aaron White’s house that night are all car enthusiasts who now hold jobs that echo their high-school hobby. Alex Delgado does maintenance on race cars. Joseph Serrano is a motorcycle mechanic. Tom Maloney, who drove the Mustang Cobra, sells Volkswagens. Anthony Simeone works for his father’s auto-salvage business. Among those who testified that they’d tried to prevent Dano from going to the Whites’ house were Alex Delgado, who drove him there, and Joseph Serrano, who brought along a baseball bat. (“He’s stubborn,” Anthony Simeone had explained to the grand jury. “When he wants to do something, he wants to do it.”) Although there had been testimony that Dano Cicciaro used the word “nigger” once or twice in the cell-phone exchange with Aaron White, his friends denied using racial slurs at 40 Independence Way. (With the jury out of the courtroom, Paul Gianelli brought up an incident that had been investigated by the police but not included in the notes and reports that they are required to turn over to the defense: according to two or three witnesses, Daniel Cicciaro had gone to Sayville Ford with a complaint a few weeks before he was shot and, when approached by a black salesman, had said, “I don’t talk to niggers.” The judge wouldn’t admit that into evidence, but the headline of the next day’s Newsday story was “ATTORNEY: COPS HID MILLER PLACE VICTIM’S RACISM.”) The friends who’d gone with Dano, Jr., to the Whites’ house that night testified that after John White’s gun was slapped away, he raised it again and shot Dano in the face. As they described how Dano Cicciaro fell and how he’d been lifted from the street by Tom Maloney and rushed to the hospital, there were occasional sobs from both Joanne and Daniel Cicciaro.

Dano’s friends had said that both of their cars were in the street facing north, but the Whites testified that one was in their driveway, with the lights shining up into the house—a contention that the defense bolstered by analyzing the headlight reflections on the orthodontist’s mailbox in the surveillance tape. The boys testified that they’d never set foot on the Whites’ property—that contention was bolstered by pictures showing Dano’s blood and his cell phone in the street rather than in the driveway—but the Whites claimed that the boys had been advancing toward the house. “They came to my home as if they owned it,” Sonia White said on the stand. “What gall!”

John White testified that, believing the young men had come to harm his family, he backed them off his property with Napoleon White’s old pistol. In the frenzy that followed his abrupt awakening, he said, he had yelled, “Call the cops!” to his wife as he raced into the garage, but she hadn’t heard him. He described Dano Cicciaro and his friends as a lynch mob shouting, among other things, “We could take that skinny nigger motherfucker.” Recalling that evening, White said, “In my family history, that’s how the Klan comes. They pull up to your house, blind you with their lights, burn your house down. That’s how they come.” In White’s telling, the confrontation had seemed over and he was turning to go back into the house when Dano Cicciaro grabbed the gun, causing it to fire. “I didn’t mean to shoot this young man,” John White said. “This young man was another child of God.” This time, it was John White who broke down, and the court had to take a recess. One of the jurors was also wiping away tears.

To convict someone of second-degree manslaughter in the state of New York, the prosecution has to prove that he recklessly caused the death of the victim—“recklessly” being defined as creating a risk so substantial that disregarding it constitutes “a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable person would observe”—and that he had no justification. In its decision in the case of Bernard Goetz, the white man who in 1984 shot four young black men who had approached him on the subway demanding money, the New York Court of Appeals, the highest court in the state, ruled that justification could have a subjective as well as an objective component—fears raised by the defendant’s past experiences, for instance. By bringing up the history that White’s family had with the Klan, the defense team raised a subjective component of justification, along with the objective component of home protection. “We are all products of our past,” Paul Gianelli said of his client during one of the breaks in the trial. “He brought to that particular evening who he is.” The defense was making a case for, among other things, the power of race memory.

The racial divide is obviously less overt in John White’s Long Island than it was in Napoleon White’s Alabama. Tom Maloney, who’d also graduated from Miller Place High School, had apparently thought of Aaron White as a friend. Alex Delgado, who drove Dano Cicciaro to Aaron’s house on August 9th, had been there before as a guest. In John White’s testimony, Delgado was described as Hispanic. Joanne Cicciaro, who by name and appearance and accent might be assumed to have come from one of the many Italian-American families that moved to Suffolk County in recent decades from the boroughs, is actually Puerto Rican—a fact brought up to reporters by the Cicciaros in countering any implications of racism in Dano’s upbringing. (“Our family is multicultural.”) Even without those complications, the case for race memory would be harder to make to white people than to black people. White people are likely to say that times have changed: these days, after all, a real-estate agent who tried to steer John White away from buying a house in an overwhelmingly white Long Island neighborhood would be risking her license.

If times have changed, black people might ask in response, how come Long Island is still so segregated? In his summation, the prosecutor asked a series of questions as a way to illustrate how White’s behavior had deviated from the behavior of a reasonable person. Two of the huge black men who had been part of Aaron White’s escort were sitting in the courtroom at the time, and when the D.A. asked whether a reasonable person would really be guided partly by the memory of a Ku Klux Klan attack that happened years before he was born, they both began to nod their heads.

In that closing statement, James Chalifoux said that it wasn’t until the trial began that John White started talking about a lynch mob. (It’s true that in a newspaper interview in September of 2006 White seemed to downplay race, but it’s also true that in his grand-jury testimony, less than a month after the shooting, he spoke about a “lynch mob.”) Race, Chalifoux said, was being used to distract the jurors from the simple fact that by walking down the driveway with a loaded pistol John White, a man intimately familiar with firearms, had engaged in conduct that had recklessly caused the death of Dano Cicciaro. Matching up testimony with cell-phone logs, Chalifoux argued that the Whites had more time before the arrival of the cars than their story of a panicky few minutes implied. Chalifoux acknowledged that Dano and his friends were wrong to go to the Whites’ that night, that Dano was wrong to use a racial epithet when he phoned Aaron White, and that John White had found himself “in a very bad situation that night and a situation that was not his fault.” But how White responded to that situation, Chalifoux said, was his fault.

Chalifoux’s summation followed that of Frederick K. Brewington, a black attorney, active in black causes on Long Island, who was Paul Gianelli’s co-counsel. “Race has so much to do with this case, ladies and gentlemen, that it’s painful,” Brewington told the jury: Dano Cicciaro and his friends thought they had a right to go to John White’s house and “terrorize his family with impunity and arrogance” because of “the false racial privilege they felt empowered by.” In Brewington’s argument, John White thought, “ ‘Once they see I have a gun they’ll back off’ . . . but they did not take ‘the skinny old nigger’ seriously.” While Chalifoux presented Joseph Serrano’s slur on the 911 tape as, however deplorable, an indication that the argument at the foot of the driveway didn’t include the barrage of insults that the Whites had testified to—if it had, he said, “you would have heard racial epithet after racial epithet after racial epithet”—Brewington saw it as a mirror of the boys’ true feelings. “What we do under cover of darkness sometimes comes to light,” he said.

Shortly after the beginning of deliberations, ten jurors, including the sole African-American, were prepared to convict John White of having recklessly caused Dano Cicciaro’s death. Two jurors resisted that verdict for four days. Then they capitulated. They later told reporters that they felt bullied and pressured by jurors who were impatient to be liberated as Christmas approached. In a courtroom crowded with court officers, the jury reported that it had found John White guilty of manslaughter and a weapons charge. The Cicciaros and their supporters were ecstatic. Dano’s parents seemed to take John White’s conviction principally as proof that the accusations of racism against their son had been shown to be false. “My son is finally vindicated,” a tearful Joanne Cicciaro said, outside the courtroom. Daniel Cicciaro, Sr., said, “Maybe now they’ll stop slinging my son’s name and accusing him of all this racism.” Outside the courthouse, friends of Dano, Jr., honked their horns and revved their engines and chanted, “Dan-o, Dan-o, Dan-o.” The next day, Sunday, the celebration continued with a sort of open house at Dano’s Auto Clinic, which bore a sign saying “Thank You Jurors. Thank God. Dano Jr. Rest in Peace.” In Miller Place, John White briefly spoke to the reporters who were waiting in front of his house. “I’m not inhuman,” he said. “I have very deep feelings for this young man.” But before that he went to the Faith Baptist Church, in Coram, and sang in the choir.

ohn White is a hero,” Frederick Brewington said two weeks later, addressing a crowd of several hundred people, almost all of them black, who had gathered on a cold Saturday afternoon in front of the criminal-court building in Riverhead. He repeated, “John White is a hero.” The guilty verdict had made White the sort of hero all too familiar in the race memory of African-Americans—someone held up as an example of the unjustly treated black man. On the podium were black officeholders, speakers from the spectrum of black organizations on Long Island, and two people who had come from Manhattan—Kevin Muhammad, of Muhammad Mosque No. 7, and Al Sharpton. A lot of N.A.A.C.P. people were in the audience, and so were a lot of people from Faith Baptist Church. Various speakers demanded a retrial, or called for the resignation of the district attorney, or pointed out the difference in how white homeowners in similar situations have been treated, or called for the young white men involved to be indicted. (“We will raise this to a level of national attention until these young men are brought to justice,” Sharpton said.) There were chants like “No Justice—No Peace” and, loudest of all, “Free John White.”

That chant was not meant literally. For the time being, John White is free—he addressed the rally briefly, mainly to thank his supporters—and his attorneys hope that, while an appeal is pending, he will be allowed to remain free after his sentencing, scheduled for March 19th. (“I think he should get as much time as possible,” a Post reporter was told by Jennifer Martin, whose response to Aaron White’s arrival at her house set the events of August 9th in motion. “I really do.”) Until the sentencing, White is back to rising at three-thirty every morning to go into the city and patch utility holes. Everything he was quoted as saying in the aftermath of the shooting that night turned out to be true. The fatalism reflected in his statement to Officer Murray as he held out his hands to be cuffed was well founded. Aaron White accepted the fact that those friends of his had indeed turned on him. In his testimony, he said, “They have no respect for me or my family or my mother or my father. . . . They have no respect for life whatsoever. They’re scum.” And, of course, John White had understood the situation well when he told his wife that they had lost their dream house—a comment that, as it turned out, particularly incensed Joanne Cicciaro. (His sorrow, she said to reporters after testimony had ended, “was all for themselves—sorrow about losing their house, about their life changing. He never said, ‘Oh, my God! What did I do to that boy? Oh, my God. This kid is bleeding on the driveway. What did I do to him?’ He had no sympathy, no sorrow for shooting a child.”) Even before the trial, 40 Independence Way was listed with a real-estate broker. Its description began, “Stately 2 year young post-modern colonial in prestigious neighborhood.” ♦


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