Repost: The 150 Greatest Albums Made By Women

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I am loving this entire list of the greatest albums made by women by the good folks over at NPR Music. No Doubt, Fiona Apple, Norah Jones, La Lupe… it’s like going down memory lane with so many great albums.

Here’s an excerpt of number 47 by Cuba’s Celia Cruz:

47. Celia Cruz
Son con Guaguanco(Emusica/Fania, 1966)

When Úrsula Hilaria Celia de la Caridad Cruz Alfonso sang, people stopped and listened. Alfonso, known by her stage name Celia Cruz, possessed a full-bodied voice filled with emotion and sincerity that makes you feel viscerally what she’s singing. She took Cuban music out of Cuba, out of Latin America and into the world. And she did it as a black woman in a male dominated field that valued whiteness. On her 1966 album Son con Guaguanco, she sings about daily life—about not having manteca to cook, losing her purse and being deeply in love. As women fought to be taken seriously in the workplace, Celia Cruz tirelessly put out albums and toured the world as a single woman — something many people looked down on. But she was the ultimate example of a woman carving her own path and demanding the respect she merited. Though Son con Guaguanco didn’t have much commercial success, it marks the type of music she popularized from the beginning of her career called pregón, which is a Cuban musical style based on the calls and chants of street vendors. She also popularized the Afro-Cuban sounds filled with the raucous horns and drums that comprise the basis of salsa, which became the music of Latinos in the 1970s. A true legend and superstar, and compared to Ella Fitzgerald by many in the American press for her soneos (improvisational sections of salsa songs more nuanced than jazz scats), Celia Cruz continues to be a shining example for being completely yourself. —Christina Cala (NPR Staff)

Read the whole list here.

Who are America’s homegrown terrorists?

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Excerpts I thought were interesting from an excellent interview with Peter Bergen, a terror expert who actually interviewed Osama Bin Laden many years ago. He is national security analyst for CNN and author of the new book “United States Of Jihad.” Though he appears on CNN quite often, he doesn’t get to speak at length on cable TV the way he did in this interview with Terry Gross of Fresh Air:

“You know what’s interesting, since 9/11, we tend to think that terrorist attacks against the United States must be conducted by foreigners because on 9/11, it was 19 foreign-born Arab hijackers recruited by al-Qaida. In fact, every lethal terrorist attack in the United States since 9/11, whether in Fort Hood or Boston or San Bernardino, has been conducted by American citizens or legal permanent residents. And so some of the hysteria about refugees coming into the country and performing acts of terrorism is very overblown. Certainly about 10 refugees have been involved in relatively minor jihadi terrorism crimes, like material support for a terrorist organization. And – but really, if you were concerned about lethal attacks, it’s been American citizens or American residents.”

“I think the good news is that we’ve really managed the threat, we, the United States. And also the American Muslim community is a largely – pretty well integrated in a way that is not the case in Europe. If you look at the perpetrators of the Paris attacks in November or you look at the Charlie Hebdo attack, I mean, these people who perpetrated these attacks grew up in these rather grim (unintelligible) suburbs, which are like the projects, the French projects. They are – many of them serve time in French prisons. One of the most astonishing statistics is less than 10 percent of the French population is Muslim, yet almost as much as 70 percent of their prison population is Muslim. So we’re looking at a very different problem here in the United States than you’re looking at in Europe.”

“… terrorism is statistically a very minor problem in this country. Yet, you know, you’re – in any given year, you’re somewhere between 3,000 or 5,000 times more likely to be killed a fellow American with a gun than you are to be killed in the United States by a jihadi terrorist. I mean, those numbers speak for themselves.”

On why an American-born person would become a jihadi?

“… there’s a wonderful quote from the philosopher Immanuel Kant – from the crooked timber of humanity, not a straight thing is made. And I think it’s almost the motto for this book because when you really look at why somebody, you know, decides to kill a number of his fellow American citizens – and of course the perpetrators are usually hes – you know, it often becomes a very complicated answer to that question. It’s not, you know, yes, there is some sort of a bin Ladenist ideology in there. But often there’s personal disappointments, a desire for recognition, seeking to belong to something, seeking a cause. But of this three – we looked at 300 cases plus of Americans convicted since 9/11 of some kind of jihadi terrorism crime ranging from the relatively minor to the major, such as murder. And the profile we found was average age 29, a third married, a third kids, as educated as normal Americans, mental problems actually at a lower incidence than the general population. And so you’re looking at middle-class – these are not young hotheads of the popular imagination there. You’re looking at kind of middle-class, married, you know, late 20s. And in fact, when we came to that conclusion, we didn’t know that the San Bernardino attackers, one of them is 27, one is 28. They were married, they had a child. The male perpetrator had a job earning $70,000 a year. They were very much solidly part of the American middle class. And so why did they turn to violence and kill 14 people just arbitrarily? You know, that’s a really big puzzle. I mean, you could try and explain it by they were influenced by al-Qaida’s ideology and ISIS’s ideology, that they objected to American foreign policy. But lots of people object to American foreign policy and don’t go and just arbitrarily kill 14 people attending a Christmas office party. At the end of the day, that’s fundamentally, I think, inexplicable. And it may get to the nature of evil itself, which is it’s often pointless and often inexplicable no matter what the scale, you know – whether we’re looking at the crimes of the 20th century or whether we’re looking at the smaller crimes that we see in our own country.”

On why someone with an infant [such as the San Bernardino shooters] would want to martyr themselves:

“… what is quite unusual is that the, you know, that the wife was involved in murdering other people. We are beginning to see some kind of a weird form of this Islamist extremist feminism in which these Islamist extremist groups are recruiting females. And I’ve also assembled – myself and my research team have assembled another database where we look at every named foreign fighter who’s gone to Syria to participate with ISIS or one of the other jihadi groups. And we’ve found that about a fifth are women, which is unprecedented. When you look at the past jihads, whether it was the Afghan war against the Soviets in the ’80s or the fighting – the Bosnian Muslims fighting against the Serbs in the ’90s or (unintelligible) jihad, women were fundamentally not involved at all. But here, we’re seeing women volunteering to go to Syria and sort of embed themselves with ISIS.”

Listen to or read the rest of the interview here.


Teen pregnancy rates drop thanks to … MTV’s Teen Mom?

Two of Teen Mom's stars. One has already starred in porn.
Two of Teen Mom’s stars. One (Farrah, left) has already starred in porn.

I was that girl in high school who rolled her eyes any time a friend declared she and her boyfriend were so “in love,” they’ve already discussed having a baby, and if it happened by mistake, they would raise that baby and be a happy little family. If that girl started picking out names, chances are I said, “Eww. Gross. Who wants a baby?”

I’m no Grinch-like baby-hater. I think babies are fine, some of them are even cute, but I just figured that a baby would get in the way of cheerleading and yearbook, or the cool college parties of my future. Why add messy diapers or a screaming toddler into that mix?

Which is why I thought MTV‘s “16 and Pregnant” and it’s more successful spinoff, “Teen Mom” were a brilliant idea. Once they showed the hardships of parenting, teens all over the United States would commit to abstinence, right?

I watched from time to time and saw the show didn’t pull any punches. Parenting was hard, expensive, and in many cases, school (high school or college) would have to be put on hold, not to mention a social life. Often, the parents of these teen moms and dads, would judge how the young parents were (or were not) parenting, and (I’m pretty sure) almost always, the new parents would break up, and tears were a plenty.

That birth rate was going to plummet.

But as the show gained immense popularity, I panicked. (And so did pro-abstinence Fox News, of course!) Teen Mom was so buzzworthy, that the show’s stars were constantly gracing the tabloids (or the monologues of late night TV), and not always in a bad way. Sometimes they got makeovers, complete with free plastic surgery. I wondered: ‘Is this going to inspire pregnancies?’

Well, apparently not. Phew!

According to NPR’s “All Things Consdiered,” a new study attributes a portion of the decline to these shows!

Melissa Kearney, an associate professor of economics at the University of Maryland, talked to NPR’s Audie Cornish about the findings. (Listen to the segment here.)

Using birth rate data in the show’s media markets, and combining that with historical data on Google searches and Twitter data, they found some patterns:

“The day that an episode airs and the next day we see large spikes in the rate at which people are searching for how to get birth control and we see higher volumes of searches in places where more teens are watching MTV,” Kearney told Cornish on “All Things Considered.

“The Twitter data was astounding. In the Twitter data we can actually see what teens are tweeting and there are literally thousands of tweets that say things like: “Watching 16 and Pregnant reminds me to take my birth control.” [And] “16 and Pregnant is the best form of birth control.” So getting that insight into what teenagers were thinking about while and right after they watched the show was really informative.”

The numbers are impressive. Kearney and her team estimate that “teen birth rates as a result of this show fell by 5.7 percentage points over this 18-month period. To put that in perspective, that is a third of the overall decline in teen birth rates over that time.”

That’s impressive. And I hope the trend continues.

(Listen to the NPR segment, or read about it, here.)

MTV should come up with more reality shows that may help youth in this country. Perhaps a more regular look at drug addiction, binge drinking, sexting and social media privacy, or rape, for instance.

Who knows? Perhaps “Catfish,” MTV’s show about the “truths and lies” of long distance online dating is inspiring young people to be cautious about who they carry on with on the internet.

Would you pay a higher price for ‘ethical’ clothing?


The horrific building collapse in Bangladesh has thrust ethics as is relates to lower priced clothing back into the spotlight. I’m glad NPR’s Morning Edition covered the topic. Here is an excerpt:

At the Joe Fresh store on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, customers are bombarded with pastel polo shirts, button-down shirts and chino pants. On one shelf, you might find clothes made in Peru, Vietnam and China. Toward the back, there are piles and piles of shorts, just $19 each, and each made in Bangladesh.

Outside the store, Reene Schiaffo emerged with a bag full of Joe Fresh merchandise. She says she knew about the Bangladesh factory collapse but gives the company the benefit of the doubt.

“It didn’t affect my sale, because I know a lot of times these retailers don’t exactly know where the stuff is being made,” she says, “but they have to pay attention more because that’s not acceptable.”

Listen to the segment here.

Public Radio International’s (PRI) and WNYC’s The Takeaway also covered the topic. Novelist M.T. Anderson was a guest on the show and he made a comment that made me wonder. He said the dangerous working conditions in these factories are obvious–not only to the workers, but, to “those of us who in particular are demanding to have a pair of jeans for $15, as opposed to $16 and $17 dollars.”

But are those prices realistic?

I could be wrong (Please note: I am NOT a shop-o-holic), but I’ve never seen a pair of jeans made in America for anything less than $58. For instance, Glenn Beck’s “100% Made in America” jeans line, named 1791 Jeans, start at $129. His t-shirts start at $30.

Yes, it may be more ethical to shop 1791 Jeans, or Levi’s (also starting at about $129 in some cases), but is it realistic for everyone? I’m coming at this from a perspective of a child of immigrants who worked for low wages at factory jobs. (Never mind the $16 jeans. Most of the time, we wore hand-me-downs.)

Sometimes, it seems that many topics covered in the media are for those executives who own or invest in these (in this instance, garment) companies and the college graduates with white collar jobs (and salaries) who can afford to pay the “100% Made in America” prices.

How can those who would NEVER be able to buy a $129 pair of jeans being be more ethical? Has anyone considered that?