Local: The oldest African American baptist church to be in continuous service in the United States holds mortgage burning ceremony.

Local: The oldest African American baptist church to be in continuous service in the United States holds mortgage burning ceremony. (wfxg)Local: The oldest African American baptist church to be in continuous service in the United States holds mortgage burning ceremony. (wfxg)

AUGUSTA, GA (WFXG) -

On June 11, a local baptist church held a mortgage burning ceremony. Springfield Baptist church is the oldest African American Baptist church to be in continuous service in the United States.

Hardy S. Bennings, III is the pastor of Springfield Baptist Church.  He says that they have dreamed of being debt-free for some time. It took a lot to make it happen. “Today is a climax. It is the mountain top of a journey. It took sacrificial giving and everybody putting resources to the mortgage.”

Pastor Bennings believes it is right to let the senior members do the honors. Among the seniors are couple Harriet and Jullian Greene who have been coming since 1961. “It’s been a long time coming and we really worked hard and I think this is a combination of what really hard work can do.” says Harriet Greene. Her husband agrees. “Obviously God was with us. There is nothing that we did that was so special. We’ve been blessed. We’ve had our problems but we’ve been blessed.”, explains Mr. Greene.

According to Mr. Greene this struggle dates all the way back to the start of the church in 1787. He says the people who came before them would be proud.
And right outside of the front of the church are the graves of previous pastors. Members of the church say that their leadership is why the church is still around today. “We are grateful to God for the road that they have paved for us and the backs they lowered that we could walk on.”, says Pastor Bennings

So what is next for the oldest African Baptist church in America? “Now we have resources that are available to do ministry and do more things in the community to bring about more out reach.”,  explains Pastor Bennings.

Copyright 2017 WFXG. All rights reserved.

The Murdoch Boys and the Future of Fox News

The rewards for the winner of the cable news wars are substantial. According to a 2015 New York Times Magazine profile of Fox News anchor-star Megyn Kelly, who has since jumped to NBC, “During a 10-year span, Fox News’s profits grew six-fold to $1.2 billion in 2014, on total operating revenue of $2 billion, according to the financial analysis firm SNL Kagan.” On April 20, 2017, the Hollywood Reporter noted that 20 percent of the profits for 21st Century Fox in 2016 came from Fox News, “the biggest-earning division in the company.”

The unprecedented success of the Fox News Channel is accountable to billionaire international media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who bankrolled the effort, and Roger Ailes (1940-2017), the legendary TV producer, political consultant, and all around media genius. Ted Turner, the founder of CNN in 1980 and another larger than life personality, believed that “the news is the star.” Ailes discovered and nurtured personalities – attractive ones, at that – and made them the stars of his channel. (Ailes’s 1987 book on how to achieve success is titled You Are The Message: Secrets of the Mass Communicators.) This ethos had a profound impact on the other news channels, which, like FNC, are also now largely personality driven.

The success of FNC at the hands of Ailes was impossible for the hostile mainstream media to overlook, even the New York Times:

Ailes has long argued that Americans alienated by the sensibilities of the “New York-Hollywood elitists” are a valuable demographic, and the past two decades have proved him right. He started Fox News in 1996, led it to first place in the cable-news ratings in 2002 and has widened his lead ever since. At the point it surpassed CNN, Fox News had an average prime-time audience of 1.2 million, while CNN’s was 900,000 and MSNBC’s was around 400,000. By the end of 2012 – a presidential-election year, with higher-than-typical news viewership – its prime-time audience of more than two million was the third-biggest in all of basic cable and larger than those of MSNBC (905,000) and CNN (677,000) combined. By last year [2014], its share of that news pie had climbed to 61 percent, and it had moved to second place in the prime-time rankings for all of basic cable, behind ESPN.

Fox News’s standing actually went up from there. But that was then – 2015 and 2016 – and this is now.

The past year for FNC has witnessed simmering scandals, on-camera talent and executive staff upheavals, bad programming decisions, and a number of successful actions by FNC’s well-funded left wing adversaries – resulting in advertiser boycotts and an unending stream of negative reporting about Fox News by the mainstream media. All of these factors have taken an enormous toll on Fox News – and have upended the entire cable news status quo.

The Murdoch Boys

Many of the recent problems plaguing Fox News have been self-inflicted. With the forced departure of Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes in August 2016, followed by his deputy Bill Shine in May 2017, the control of Fox News officially came under the purview of the aging Rupert Murdoch, 86, and his two sons, Lachlan and James, who are in their 40s. Murdoch the elder, who has hedged his bets in the past by giving campaign contributions to both Democrats and Republicans, has enforced a reliably right of center editorial policy in the diverse news media properties that he controls on both sides of the Atlantic. That is not the case with the younger Murdochs, who are now wielding significant influence on every aspect of Fox News and its parent company. James Murdoch is the CEO of 21st Century Fox and the #1 heir apparent of his father, while Lachlan Murdoch is the executive co-chairman of News Corp (which manages Fox News) and 21st Century Fox.

The Murdochs L. to R. Lachlan, James and Rupert

A number of articles have described the changing landscape at the Murdochs’s businesses in light of the ascent to power of the Murdoch boys. One of them, “Here’s What to Expect with the Changing of the Guard at Fox News” in Fortune, appeared five days after after the ouster of Bill O’Reilly, FNC’s most popular host. O’Reilly’s firing represented a major victory for the enemies of Fox News. His unceremonious exit was reportedly facilitated by pressure instigated by James and Lachlan Murdoch.

Journalist Michael Wolff, who has written extensively about Fox News, wrote about James Murdoch on April 20, 2017:

It would be hard to imagine how James could have been regarded with more contempt by many of the people at Fox News. James was rather exhibit No. 1 of the liberal elite entitlement that Fox had so profitably programmed against.

For the past two decades as they ascended the ladder to power, the Murdoch boys cut their teeth in a variety of jobs at various levels of the far-flung Murdoch media and entertainment empire, which includes the Fox broadcast TV network, the Fox Business Channel, 21st Century Fox, The Wall Street Journal, Harper Collins publishers, the venerable National Geographic – it’s an incredibly lengthy list of businesses worth billions of dollars that could consume an entire article. In fact, it has: “What does Rupert Murdoch own? A little bit of everything,” published in USA Today in 2015.

James and Lachlan Murdoch are married to high profile professional women – both of whom are widely reported to be on the far left side of the political spectrum. James’s wife Kathryn was a marketing executive and is now a dedicated environmental activist. At the Web site of the foundation that she co-founded with her husband, Kathryn Murdoch’s profile notes: “Between 2007-2011, Ms. Murdoch served as Director of Strategy & Communications for the Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI) where she also managed CCI’s partnership with Microsoft in the development of a global greenhouse gas emissions tracking software.” She is also a trustee of the Environmental Defense Fund. Confirming Kathryn Murdoch’s left wing credentials, her personal Twitter account features frequent tweets like the one she posted on June 4, 2017: “I don’t believe in Donald Trump. Will that make him go away?” On

July 27, 2016, Kathryn Murdoch tweeted: “This election is not about left or right. It’s about right or wrong. Reason or insanity. Backwards or forwards. #ImWithHer.” (“Her” being Hillary Clinton.)

Bill Clinton and Kathryn Murdoch

Lachlan Murdoch’s wife Sarah is a former super model who is reportedly a close confidante of her father-in-law, Rupert Murdoch. It was Sarah, according to the British press, who influenced her husband and father-in-law to fire Bill O’Reilly, the most successful host in the history of Fox News, after he was targeted as a sexual harasser following the publication of a New York Times hit piece on April 1, 2017. (O’Reilly has continued to deny the allegations leveled against him – none of which has been subjected to judicial proceedings – by the mainstream media.)

Sarah and Lachlan Murdoch

Since the reports of $13 million in payouts to five female Fox employees to hush up O’Reilly’s alleged bad behavior surfaced on April 1, there has been much debate about whether or not O’Reilly should have been forced to leave Fox News. A thoughtful, concise analysis about this topic was offered by Michael Wolff, writing in The Hollywood Reporter on April 12, 2017, exactly one week before O’Reilly’s ouster:

What has been revealed is not evidence nor an admission of guilt but details of payments settling complaints against O’Reilly – not a small distinction. You can assume maximal guilt, which the Times and other Fox haters do, or you can assume, as many lawyers do, that when there is money to be had, plaintiffs come out of the woodwork (“Coming out of the woodwork” is a virtual term of art in big settlement tort cases).

Michael Wolff weighed in again on April 20, 2017: The ouster of Roger Ailes in 2016 and Bill O’Reilly on April 19, 2017, he wrote, “means most of all that James [Murdoch] is in charge. And, most immediately, this means that Fox News, that constant irritant in James’ view of himself as a progressive and visionary television executive, will begin to change. Virtually overnight.”

An article in Vanity Fair on June 6, 2017 speculated about one possible change in the Fox News hierarchy:

Lachlan [Murdoch] is said to be recruiting possible leaders for the Fox News newsroom. One name that surfaces with regularity is David Rhodes, the president of CBS News, and a former V.P. at the network. Rhodes would appear, on some level, a perfect choice – a pedigreed newsperson with a history at Fox as well as deep connections in liberal political circles. (His brother, Ben Rhodes, was Barack Obama’s foreign policy guru.)

The Changes Begin

The firing of O’Reilly and the abrupt end to his number one show, The O’Reilly Factor, which was on for two decades Monday through Friday at 8 PM ET, upended FNC’s successful prime time schedule. The reassuring, articulate, conservative writer and talk show host Tucker Carlson was moved from his 9 PM time slot to O’Reilly’s former slot at 8 PM. Veteran iconic conservative broadcaster Sean Hannity remained at 10 PM. The weeknight prime time FNC schedule might have continued to work were it not for the program that was put on at 9 PM: The Five. Previously on at 5 PM, The Five is a less-than-heavyweight ensemble debate program that first went to air in July 2011 after Glenn Beck left the channel. It worked – sort of – at 5 PM, bridging the gap between daytime breaking news and prime time news and opinion programming. But in the opinion of many viewers, including this writer, The Five is totally inappropriate for the middle of prime time when an intelligent presentation and discussion of the day’s news should be the focus, rather than five predictable cackling commentators, one or more of them self-described comedians, loudly talking at and over each other.

The Five

The Five has helped to make stars of two veteran liberals, Bob Beckel and Juan Williams. Starting in late January 2017, Beckel, an ill-mannered Democratic Party operative, was in his second run at FNC after being fired in 2015 for taking too long to return from, and being uncooperative after, a lengthy stint in rehab. He was mercifully fired again on May 20, 2017, after reportedly using a racial slur to insult a Fox employee who is African-American.

Juan Williams is another figure who deserves closer scrutiny. Williams was associated with the 1987 six-part PBS series Eyes on the Prize, and he authored the series’s companion book of the same title. A comprehensive chronological review of the Civil Rights Era (1954-1965), the influential program, which continues to be replayed every year or two on PBS, and the book helped to establish the legitimacy, thanks to Williams’s hagiographic and revisionist narrative, of Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael (aka Kwame Ture), H. Rap Brown, the Black Panthers, and other leftist radicals of the period.

On the crest of the success of Eyes on the Prize, Williams got himself hired by the Washington Post. Largely forgotten now is the scandal that engulfed him there. In October 1991, several score women employees at the Post complained to management about alleged verbal sexual harassment by Williams over a period of several years. An article by Howard Kurtz in the Post on November 2, 1991 reported the story. The article quoted a letter by the newspaper’s executive editor Leonard Downie, Jr., that was posted in the paper’s newsroom on November 1, 1991: “The complaints about Juan’s verbal conduct with a number of women in the newsroom were thoroughly investigated. The complaints were found to be serious, and, as Juan acknowledges, he was disciplined for his conduct and intends to apologize to women he offended.”

Juan Williams

The 1991 Williams affair was largely forgotten until it emerged in 2010 in the wake of his firing by National Public Radio for a supposedly Islamophobic comment he made while appearing on Bill O’Reilly’s Fox News program. After NPR booted him, Williams was immediately rewarded by Roger Ailes with a $2 million, three year contract as a Fox News Contributor. Williams’s star has continued to rise at Fox News ever since then.

Sean Hannity: The Last Conservative/Ailes Loyalist Standing

Sean Hannity has been a mainstay on Fox News in prime time since the day the channel launched in 1996. The rest of the occupants of prime time on FNC – Martha McCallum at 7 PM, Tucker Carlson at 8, and The Five at 9 – are relative newbies to the evening schedule. In the wake of the current chaos at the channel, Hannity has been making on-camera references to his tenuous position at FNC. More than once, he has concluded his nightly program with a sign-off like this one on Monday June 5, 2017: “We’ll see you tomorrow if they’ll have me back.” On April 27, 2017, in response to a New York Magazine article that Fox News co-president Bill Shine, a conservative in the mold of his mentor Roger Ailes, might be on the way out, Hannity tweeted “i pray this is NOT true because if it is, that’s the total end of the FNC as we know it. Done.” Four days later, Shine was out.

Sean Hannity

Two weeks after Shine’s ouster, Hannity was the only host on Fox News who ran with the story of the unsolved Seth Rich murder case. Rich was an information technology specialist at the Democratic National Committee who was murdered in the street – shot in the back – by unknown assailants as he returned to his apartment in Washington, D.C. early in the morning of July 10, 2016. Some journalists, mainly in alternative media, have been attempting to investigate a possible link between Rich’s murder and the release by Wikileaks twelve days later of damaging internal emails purloined from the DNC – an embarrassing scandal that resulted in DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Shultz (D-FL) being forced to quit her position on the eve of the Democratic National Convention that nominated Hillary Clinton.

Independent inquiries into the unsolved murder of Seth Rich started to gain momentum this spring when local media in Washington, D.C. – including Fox’s affiliate in the nation’s capital, Fox5 D.C., and Scott Taylor at ABC7 – as well as the One America News Network – began to look into the case. Articles in World Net Daily have also been instrumental in raising awareness of the story, more recently joined by Jerome Corsi’s three-part series at Infowars.

Lingering questions about Seth Rich’s murder represent a story that is complex and convoluted and the unsolved case, and its possible larger implications, deserves an article of its own. Suffice it to say that when Hannity did some probing reporting on the subject, including inviting retired D.C. homicide detective Rod Wheeler on his May 16 FNC program for a live interview about what he had uncovered, all hell started to break loose. A week after Wheeler’s appearance, Fox News took the unprecedented step of retracting the May 16 story about the Rich murder that quoted Wheeler, which Fox News had published at its Web site. Interestingly, the May 15 report by Fox’s local D.C. affiliate that the May 16 Fox News national story was based on has not been retracted and it is still online.

In the wake of his broadcast segments on the Rich case, most of the mainstream media immediately lined up to attack Hannity for spreading “conspiracy theories” about Rich’s murder, and a boycott of his program’s advertisers was attempted. This move proved to be largely unsuccessful, however, and as of mid-June, Hannity and his nightly program are still on Fox News, with relatively few advertiser defections. But that hasn’t stopped speculation that Hannity is no longer the right ideological fit for the new bosses of Fox News (and their wives).

On June 7, Raw Story, an online venue not exactly favorable to FNC, citing an anonymous source, reported that “The power players at the network are ‘rolling their eyes’ at Hannity. . .  but they know that to lose him at this juncture would be ‘a disaster’ for the network.”

Douglas J. Hagmann

Douglas J. Hagmann, a multi-state licensed investigator and the co-host of the daily, three-hour prime time Internet program The Hagmann and Hagmann Report, has developed a confidential source inside of Fox News. In a telephone interview on June 10, 2017, Hagmann summarized what the contact at Fox News has told him.

My last conversation of substance that I had with my source is consistent with what you have said and is pretty much what the appearances are which is that there is an internal war taking place within Fox News where people have been forced to take sides. It’s a very uncomfortable place to work at the moment, whether you’re a secretary, a runner, or the on-camera talent. And there is a sense that Sean Hannity is on the chopping block and skating on thin ice. They – the Murdoch side as opposed to the Ailes loyalists – are attempting to mitigate the perception of adverse change or changing the mandate of Fox News from a conservative bastion of truth to more of a mainstream network. In the case of Hannity, they want to clean house and reformat the show. And Sean Hannity does not fit the new mold. Sean Hannity, in the words of my source, is a loose cannon that’s hard to control. He’s taking too many chances, he’s pushing the envelope, according to my source. In the words of my source, Hannity is “pissing a lot of people off who make the decisions and write the checks.”

If Hannity continues to be perceived as an embarrassment to Fox, his fate there is probably sealed.

Meanwhile, across the pond, the Murdochs are actively trying to buy the rest of Sky News in the UK to give them control of the valuable and influential news channel. According to Fortune:

[James Murdoch] and his father both want to merge the British broadcaster Sky – which they [sic] trying to acquire the rest of for $14 billion – with 21st Century Fox, to create a truly global media brand.


Some Murdoch-watchers believe that the proposed acquisition of control of Sky, which requires approval from the British broadcast regulator, was one of the motivating factors behind the removal of both Ailes and O’Reilly.


According to this theory, the family didn’t want even the slightest hint of impropriety to affect the Sky bid – especially when there is enough attention already on the Murdochs’s history with News of the World and the hacking of private telephone accounts, an affair that caused them to drop an earlier bid for the company in 2011.

In 2011, Rupert and James Murdoch were hauled before the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee in the UK for a hearing that was part of a lengthy and damaging investigation of their role in the infamous British criminal phone hacking scandal. The hearing was televised live around the world and was a low point for the Murdoch empire.

Commentary and Conclusion

I cautiously enter the realm of punditry here with some personal observations. I have been studying the media for most of my life and have paid close attention to the Fox News Channel since it launched in October 1996. FNC has never been perfect – what mainstream media source ever is? –  but its “fair and balanced” approach to news and political coverage, including a comparatively fair representation of conservative points of view, provided compelling reasons to watch.

In recent years, alternative – and social – media have come into their own, thanks to the expansion of the Internet, the pervasive spread of smart phone technology, and the possibilities for citizen journalists and others who are not part of the mainstream media swamp to step forward and gain an audience. The most obvious example of success in that area is The Drudge Report, but there are thousands of other independent sources available to the public now and their number is growing. In addition, more and more people are relying on social media, including Facebook and Twitter, for their news.

As I said during my appearance on the Hagmann and Hagmann Report on June 6 to discuss my recent reporting about Fox News, the developments that we are seeing – the chaos at Fox News and the potential of its disappearance as a go-to source of news for conservatives – may represent a sign that we have finally achieved critical mass in the long overdue paradigm shift that is influencing how we access information. Finally, an undeniable, potential terminal crack in the MSM castle wall may be opening.

Those of us who follow the news obsessively or professionally have known for years that FNC and most other large mainstream media outlets are increasingly ancillary sources. Trusted and new online news sites, including video and podcast reporting – as well as insights obtained from monitoring previously hard to access international media – are now becoming the primary sources of information for understanding our times.

In terms of what might emerge if Fox News continues to falter, there are indications in a number of recent articles that people with large amounts of money to invest are eyeing the possibility of creating a new conservative news channel to challenge Fox News. Meanwhile, alternatives like One America News Network, available on some satellite TV systems and via Roku, are gaining subscribers. Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns or operates 170 local television stations, most of them outside of the major media markets, recently completed a deal to buy Tribune Media, which would add Tribune’s 42 broadcast TV stations in 33 major markets to Sinclair’s portfolio. Sinclair currently provides Full Measure, a weekly news program to its affiliates, anchored by former CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson who is one of the best investigative journalists in the country. NPR reported that in the expansion of Sinclair “There are what could be the stirrings of plans for a national platform – such as a cable television station. . . Speculation has centered on possible conversion of Tribune’s WGN America as a possible conservative news and opinion channel.”

We are living in interesting times. Stay tuned for developments.

Peter Barry Chowka is a veteran journalist who writes about national politics, media, popular culture, and health care. His bio with links to many of his writings can be accessed here.

The Fake News-inspired perception that existential problems are enveloping the Trump Administration is expanding and deepening. As this questionable meme takes hold, it appears that the current toxic political climate is drawing more anti-Trump viewers to the partisan attack “resistance” programs that are playing out nightly on two of the three cable television news channels. Meanwhile, the new ratings war among the three 24/7 cable news outlets is settling into an ongoing war of attrition.

In recent weeks, the Fox News Channel (FNC), considered the most friendly to President Trump, has lost the commanding ratings lead that it held for the past decade and a half. On most – but not all – weeknights now, FNC is coming in second or third to MSNBC in prime time when the preferred demographic or “the demo” (viewers between the ages of 25 and 54) is the metric. The other anti-Trump channel, CNN, has seen its ratings rise, too, and occasionally it wins an hour or two in prime time. With the future of FNC’s iconic conservative program Hannity in doubt, the outlook for Fox News is, at best, increasingly uncertain.

The rewards for the winner of the cable news wars are substantial. According to a 2015 New York Times Magazine profile of Fox News anchor-star Megyn Kelly, who has since jumped to NBC, “During a 10-year span, Fox News’s profits grew six-fold to $1.2 billion in 2014, on total operating revenue of $2 billion, according to the financial analysis firm SNL Kagan.” On April 20, 2017, the Hollywood Reporter noted that 20 percent of the profits for 21st Century Fox in 2016 came from Fox News, “the biggest-earning division in the company.”

The unprecedented success of the Fox News Channel is accountable to billionaire international media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who bankrolled the effort, and Roger Ailes (1940-2017), the legendary TV producer, political consultant, and all around media genius. Ted Turner, the founder of CNN in 1980 and another larger than life personality, believed that “the news is the star.” Ailes discovered and nurtured personalities – attractive ones, at that – and made them the stars of his channel. (Ailes’s 1987 book on how to achieve success is titled You Are The Message: Secrets of the Mass Communicators.) This ethos had a profound impact on the other news channels, which, like FNC, are also now largely personality driven.

The success of FNC at the hands of Ailes was impossible for the hostile mainstream media to overlook, even the New York Times:

Ailes has long argued that Americans alienated by the sensibilities of the “New York-Hollywood elitists” are a valuable demographic, and the past two decades have proved him right. He started Fox News in 1996, led it to first place in the cable-news ratings in 2002 and has widened his lead ever since. At the point it surpassed CNN, Fox News had an average prime-time audience of 1.2 million, while CNN’s was 900,000 and MSNBC’s was around 400,000. By the end of 2012 – a presidential-election year, with higher-than-typical news viewership – its prime-time audience of more than two million was the third-biggest in all of basic cable and larger than those of MSNBC (905,000) and CNN (677,000) combined. By last year [2014], its share of that news pie had climbed to 61 percent, and it had moved to second place in the prime-time rankings for all of basic cable, behind ESPN.

Fox News’s standing actually went up from there. But that was then – 2015 and 2016 – and this is now.

The past year for FNC has witnessed simmering scandals, on-camera talent and executive staff upheavals, bad programming decisions, and a number of successful actions by FNC’s well-funded left wing adversaries – resulting in advertiser boycotts and an unending stream of negative reporting about Fox News by the mainstream media. All of these factors have taken an enormous toll on Fox News – and have upended the entire cable news status quo.

The Murdoch Boys

Many of the recent problems plaguing Fox News have been self-inflicted. With the forced departure of Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes in August 2016, followed by his deputy Bill Shine in May 2017, the control of Fox News officially came under the purview of the aging Rupert Murdoch, 86, and his two sons, Lachlan and James, who are in their 40s. Murdoch the elder, who has hedged his bets in the past by giving campaign contributions to both Democrats and Republicans, has enforced a reliably right of center editorial policy in the diverse news media properties that he controls on both sides of the Atlantic. That is not the case with the younger Murdochs, who are now wielding significant influence on every aspect of Fox News and its parent company. James Murdoch is the CEO of 21st Century Fox and the #1 heir apparent of his father, while Lachlan Murdoch is the executive co-chairman of News Corp (which manages Fox News) and 21st Century Fox.

The Murdochs L. to R. Lachlan, James and Rupert

A number of articles have described the changing landscape at the Murdochs’s businesses in light of the ascent to power of the Murdoch boys. One of them, “Here’s What to Expect with the Changing of the Guard at Fox News” in Fortune, appeared five days after after the ouster of Bill O’Reilly, FNC’s most popular host. O’Reilly’s firing represented a major victory for the enemies of Fox News. His unceremonious exit was reportedly facilitated by pressure instigated by James and Lachlan Murdoch.

Journalist Michael Wolff, who has written extensively about Fox News, wrote about James Murdoch on April 20, 2017:

It would be hard to imagine how James could have been regarded with more contempt by many of the people at Fox News. James was rather exhibit No. 1 of the liberal elite entitlement that Fox had so profitably programmed against.

For the past two decades as they ascended the ladder to power, the Murdoch boys cut their teeth in a variety of jobs at various levels of the far-flung Murdoch media and entertainment empire, which includes the Fox broadcast TV network, the Fox Business Channel, 21st Century Fox, The Wall Street Journal, Harper Collins publishers, the venerable National Geographic – it’s an incredibly lengthy list of businesses worth billions of dollars that could consume an entire article. In fact, it has: “What does Rupert Murdoch own? A little bit of everything,” published in USA Today in 2015.

James and Lachlan Murdoch are married to high profile professional women – both of whom are widely reported to be on the far left side of the political spectrum. James’s wife Kathryn was a marketing executive and is now a dedicated environmental activist. At the Web site of the foundation that she co-founded with her husband, Kathryn Murdoch’s profile notes: “Between 2007-2011, Ms. Murdoch served as Director of Strategy & Communications for the Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI) where she also managed CCI’s partnership with Microsoft in the development of a global greenhouse gas emissions tracking software.” She is also a trustee of the Environmental Defense Fund. Confirming Kathryn Murdoch’s left wing credentials, her personal Twitter account features frequent tweets like the one she posted on June 4, 2017: “I don’t believe in Donald Trump. Will that make him go away?” On

July 27, 2016, Kathryn Murdoch tweeted: “This election is not about left or right. It’s about right or wrong. Reason or insanity. Backwards or forwards. #ImWithHer.” (“Her” being Hillary Clinton.)

Bill Clinton and Kathryn Murdoch

Lachlan Murdoch’s wife Sarah is a former super model who is reportedly a close confidante of her father-in-law, Rupert Murdoch. It was Sarah, according to the British press, who influenced her husband and father-in-law to fire Bill O’Reilly, the most successful host in the history of Fox News, after he was targeted as a sexual harasser following the publication of a New York Times hit piece on April 1, 2017. (O’Reilly has continued to deny the allegations leveled against him – none of which has been subjected to judicial proceedings – by the mainstream media.)

Sarah and Lachlan Murdoch

Since the reports of $13 million in payouts to five female Fox employees to hush up O’Reilly’s alleged bad behavior surfaced on April 1, there has been much debate about whether or not O’Reilly should have been forced to leave Fox News. A thoughtful, concise analysis about this topic was offered by Michael Wolff, writing in The Hollywood Reporter on April 12, 2017, exactly one week before O’Reilly’s ouster:

What has been revealed is not evidence nor an admission of guilt but details of payments settling complaints against O’Reilly – not a small distinction. You can assume maximal guilt, which the Times and other Fox haters do, or you can assume, as many lawyers do, that when there is money to be had, plaintiffs come out of the woodwork (“Coming out of the woodwork” is a virtual term of art in big settlement tort cases).

Michael Wolff weighed in again on April 20, 2017: The ouster of Roger Ailes in 2016 and Bill O’Reilly on April 19, 2017, he wrote, “means most of all that James [Murdoch] is in charge. And, most immediately, this means that Fox News, that constant irritant in James’ view of himself as a progressive and visionary television executive, will begin to change. Virtually overnight.”

An article in Vanity Fair on June 6, 2017 speculated about one possible change in the Fox News hierarchy:

Lachlan [Murdoch] is said to be recruiting possible leaders for the Fox News newsroom. One name that surfaces with regularity is David Rhodes, the president of CBS News, and a former V.P. at the network. Rhodes would appear, on some level, a perfect choice – a pedigreed newsperson with a history at Fox as well as deep connections in liberal political circles. (His brother, Ben Rhodes, was Barack Obama’s foreign policy guru.)

The Changes Begin

The firing of O’Reilly and the abrupt end to his number one show, The O’Reilly Factor, which was on for two decades Monday through Friday at 8 PM ET, upended FNC’s successful prime time schedule. The reassuring, articulate, conservative writer and talk show host Tucker Carlson was moved from his 9 PM time slot to O’Reilly’s former slot at 8 PM. Veteran iconic conservative broadcaster Sean Hannity remained at 10 PM. The weeknight prime time FNC schedule might have continued to work were it not for the program that was put on at 9 PM: The Five. Previously on at 5 PM, The Five is a less-than-heavyweight ensemble debate program that first went to air in July 2011 after Glenn Beck left the channel. It worked – sort of – at 5 PM, bridging the gap between daytime breaking news and prime time news and opinion programming. But in the opinion of many viewers, including this writer, The Five is totally inappropriate for the middle of prime time when an intelligent presentation and discussion of the day’s news should be the focus, rather than five predictable cackling commentators, one or more of them self-described comedians, loudly talking at and over each other.

The Five

The Five has helped to make stars of two veteran liberals, Bob Beckel and Juan Williams. Starting in late January 2017, Beckel, an ill-mannered Democratic Party operative, was in his second run at FNC after being fired in 2015 for taking too long to return from, and being uncooperative after, a lengthy stint in rehab. He was mercifully fired again on May 20, 2017, after reportedly using a racial slur to insult a Fox employee who is African-American.

Juan Williams is another figure who deserves closer scrutiny. Williams was associated with the 1987 six-part PBS series Eyes on the Prize, and he authored the series’s companion book of the same title. A comprehensive chronological review of the Civil Rights Era (1954-1965), the influential program, which continues to be replayed every year or two on PBS, and the book helped to establish the legitimacy, thanks to Williams’s hagiographic and revisionist narrative, of Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael (aka Kwame Ture), H. Rap Brown, the Black Panthers, and other leftist radicals of the period.

On the crest of the success of Eyes on the Prize, Williams got himself hired by the Washington Post. Largely forgotten now is the scandal that engulfed him there. In October 1991, several score women employees at the Post complained to management about alleged verbal sexual harassment by Williams over a period of several years. An article by Howard Kurtz in the Post on November 2, 1991 reported the story. The article quoted a letter by the newspaper’s executive editor Leonard Downie, Jr., that was posted in the paper’s newsroom on November 1, 1991: “The complaints about Juan’s verbal conduct with a number of women in the newsroom were thoroughly investigated. The complaints were found to be serious, and, as Juan acknowledges, he was disciplined for his conduct and intends to apologize to women he offended.”

Juan Williams

The 1991 Williams affair was largely forgotten until it emerged in 2010 in the wake of his firing by National Public Radio for a supposedly Islamophobic comment he made while appearing on Bill O’Reilly’s Fox News program. After NPR booted him, Williams was immediately rewarded by Roger Ailes with a $2 million, three year contract as a Fox News Contributor. Williams’s star has continued to rise at Fox News ever since then.

Sean Hannity: The Last Conservative/Ailes Loyalist Standing

Sean Hannity has been a mainstay on Fox News in prime time since the day the channel launched in 1996. The rest of the occupants of prime time on FNC – Martha McCallum at 7 PM, Tucker Carlson at 8, and The Five at 9 – are relative newbies to the evening schedule. In the wake of the current chaos at the channel, Hannity has been making on-camera references to his tenuous position at FNC. More than once, he has concluded his nightly program with a sign-off like this one on Monday June 5, 2017: “We’ll see you tomorrow if they’ll have me back.” On April 27, 2017, in response to a New York Magazine article that Fox News co-president Bill Shine, a conservative in the mold of his mentor Roger Ailes, might be on the way out, Hannity tweeted “i pray this is NOT true because if it is, that’s the total end of the FNC as we know it. Done.” Four days later, Shine was out.

Sean Hannity

Two weeks after Shine’s ouster, Hannity was the only host on Fox News who ran with the story of the unsolved Seth Rich murder case. Rich was an information technology specialist at the Democratic National Committee who was murdered in the street – shot in the back – by unknown assailants as he returned to his apartment in Washington, D.C. early in the morning of July 10, 2016. Some journalists, mainly in alternative media, have been attempting to investigate a possible link between Rich’s murder and the release by Wikileaks twelve days later of damaging internal emails purloined from the DNC – an embarrassing scandal that resulted in DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Shultz (D-FL) being forced to quit her position on the eve of the Democratic National Convention that nominated Hillary Clinton.

Independent inquiries into the unsolved murder of Seth Rich started to gain momentum this spring when local media in Washington, D.C. – including Fox’s affiliate in the nation’s capital, Fox5 D.C., and Scott Taylor at ABC7 – as well as the One America News Network – began to look into the case. Articles in World Net Daily have also been instrumental in raising awareness of the story, more recently joined by Jerome Corsi’s three-part series at Infowars.

Lingering questions about Seth Rich’s murder represent a story that is complex and convoluted and the unsolved case, and its possible larger implications, deserves an article of its own. Suffice it to say that when Hannity did some probing reporting on the subject, including inviting retired D.C. homicide detective Rod Wheeler on his May 16 FNC program for a live interview about what he had uncovered, all hell started to break loose. A week after Wheeler’s appearance, Fox News took the unprecedented step of retracting the May 16 story about the Rich murder that quoted Wheeler, which Fox News had published at its Web site. Interestingly, the May 15 report by Fox’s local D.C. affiliate that the May 16 Fox News national story was based on has not been retracted and it is still online.

In the wake of his broadcast segments on the Rich case, most of the mainstream media immediately lined up to attack Hannity for spreading “conspiracy theories” about Rich’s murder, and a boycott of his program’s advertisers was attempted. This move proved to be largely unsuccessful, however, and as of mid-June, Hannity and his nightly program are still on Fox News, with relatively few advertiser defections. But that hasn’t stopped speculation that Hannity is no longer the right ideological fit for the new bosses of Fox News (and their wives).

On June 7, Raw Story, an online venue not exactly favorable to FNC, citing an anonymous source, reported that “The power players at the network are ‘rolling their eyes’ at Hannity. . .  but they know that to lose him at this juncture would be ‘a disaster’ for the network.”

Douglas J. Hagmann

Douglas J. Hagmann, a multi-state licensed investigator and the co-host of the daily, three-hour prime time Internet program The Hagmann and Hagmann Report, has developed a confidential source inside of Fox News. In a telephone interview on June 10, 2017, Hagmann summarized what the contact at Fox News has told him.

My last conversation of substance that I had with my source is consistent with what you have said and is pretty much what the appearances are which is that there is an internal war taking place within Fox News where people have been forced to take sides. It’s a very uncomfortable place to work at the moment, whether you’re a secretary, a runner, or the on-camera talent. And there is a sense that Sean Hannity is on the chopping block and skating on thin ice. They – the Murdoch side as opposed to the Ailes loyalists – are attempting to mitigate the perception of adverse change or changing the mandate of Fox News from a conservative bastion of truth to more of a mainstream network. In the case of Hannity, they want to clean house and reformat the show. And Sean Hannity does not fit the new mold. Sean Hannity, in the words of my source, is a loose cannon that’s hard to control. He’s taking too many chances, he’s pushing the envelope, according to my source. In the words of my source, Hannity is “pissing a lot of people off who make the decisions and write the checks.”

If Hannity continues to be perceived as an embarrassment to Fox, his fate there is probably sealed.

Meanwhile, across the pond, the Murdochs are actively trying to buy the rest of Sky News in the UK to give them control of the valuable and influential news channel. According to Fortune:

[James Murdoch] and his father both want to merge the British broadcaster Sky – which they [sic] trying to acquire the rest of for $14 billion – with 21st Century Fox, to create a truly global media brand.


Some Murdoch-watchers believe that the proposed acquisition of control of Sky, which requires approval from the British broadcast regulator, was one of the motivating factors behind the removal of both Ailes and O’Reilly.


According to this theory, the family didn’t want even the slightest hint of impropriety to affect the Sky bid – especially when there is enough attention already on the Murdochs’s history with News of the World and the hacking of private telephone accounts, an affair that caused them to drop an earlier bid for the company in 2011.

In 2011, Rupert and James Murdoch were hauled before the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee in the UK for a hearing that was part of a lengthy and damaging investigation of their role in the infamous British criminal phone hacking scandal. The hearing was televised live around the world and was a low point for the Murdoch empire.

Commentary and Conclusion

I cautiously enter the realm of punditry here with some personal observations. I have been studying the media for most of my life and have paid close attention to the Fox News Channel since it launched in October 1996. FNC has never been perfect – what mainstream media source ever is? –  but its “fair and balanced” approach to news and political coverage, including a comparatively fair representation of conservative points of view, provided compelling reasons to watch.

In recent years, alternative – and social – media have come into their own, thanks to the expansion of the Internet, the pervasive spread of smart phone technology, and the possibilities for citizen journalists and others who are not part of the mainstream media swamp to step forward and gain an audience. The most obvious example of success in that area is The Drudge Report, but there are thousands of other independent sources available to the public now and their number is growing. In addition, more and more people are relying on social media, including Facebook and Twitter, for their news.

As I said during my appearance on the Hagmann and Hagmann Report on June 6 to discuss my recent reporting about Fox News, the developments that we are seeing – the chaos at Fox News and the potential of its disappearance as a go-to source of news for conservatives – may represent a sign that we have finally achieved critical mass in the long overdue paradigm shift that is influencing how we access information. Finally, an undeniable, potential terminal crack in the MSM castle wall may be opening.

Those of us who follow the news obsessively or professionally have known for years that FNC and most other large mainstream media outlets are increasingly ancillary sources. Trusted and new online news sites, including video and podcast reporting – as well as insights obtained from monitoring previously hard to access international media – are now becoming the primary sources of information for understanding our times.

In terms of what might emerge if Fox News continues to falter, there are indications in a number of recent articles that people with large amounts of money to invest are eyeing the possibility of creating a new conservative news channel to challenge Fox News. Meanwhile, alternatives like One America News Network, available on some satellite TV systems and via Roku, are gaining subscribers. Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns or operates 170 local television stations, most of them outside of the major media markets, recently completed a deal to buy Tribune Media, which would add Tribune’s 42 broadcast TV stations in 33 major markets to Sinclair’s portfolio. Sinclair currently provides Full Measure, a weekly news program to its affiliates, anchored by former CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson who is one of the best investigative journalists in the country. NPR reported that in the expansion of Sinclair “There are what could be the stirrings of plans for a national platform – such as a cable television station. . . Speculation has centered on possible conversion of Tribune’s WGN America as a possible conservative news and opinion channel.”

We are living in interesting times. Stay tuned for developments.

Peter Barry Chowka is a veteran journalist who writes about national politics, media, popular culture, and health care. His bio with links to many of his writings can be accessed here.

Lawsuit claims man was denied gas station restroom use because he was African American

Neighbors in North Charleston woke up to emergency crews on their street Thursday and the terrible news that a man was found dead in a house fire.

Investigators tell us the first call came in around 4:45 a.m. at a home in the 2200 block of Bailey Drive. When firefighters arrived they found flames and smoke pouring from the home.

Investigators say it took around 10 minutes to put out the fire and when they went inside the body of a man was found.

We talked to many people who live nearby and said they were asleep when the fire started.

Alfred Coaxum Jr. said he woke up to a knock at the door.

“Neighbor came and got me, when I look out, the house was in a blaze on fire”, Coaxum said.

Coaxum Jr. lives across the street and knew the man who died.

“It hurts, you know. I am going to miss him and that dog — always be barking. Miss him from riding his bicycle at night,” Coaxum said.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Tucson woman pushes for better mental health care after losing family in murder-suicide

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

It’s been two years since 37-year-old Leilani Carrillo suffered a devastating blow after five of her family members were killed in an apparent murder-suicide on Tucson’s south side.

Now, she wants to use this tragedy as a way to spread awareness about the seriousness of mental health.

“It still brings me to tears when someone says something about him,” Carillo said. “I can’t even fathom the thought of how it really went down but, I picture it so vividly.”

Police said Carrillo’s brother, Christopher, killed four of their family members including their mom, dad, brother and Leilani Carillo’s daughter before turning the gun on himself at their home in May 2015.

READ MORE: Police: 5 people found dead in Tucson home

Carillo said her brother suffered from a series of mental health issues leading up to the shooting and claims that day, he just snapped.

“I said I have a feeling he’s going to do something back in February just because of the state that he was in,” recalled Carillo.

READ MORE: Tucson PD confirms murder-suicide, IDs victims, shooter.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Southern Arizona, 1 in 5, or 200,000 adults and youth experience a mental illness in a given year in Pima County. Of those people, 57,000 are Hispanic, 4,800 are Asians and 7,600 are African Americans.

READ MORE: Friend of shooter in murder-suicide speaks

“I would love for people to really support their family members with mental illness,” Carillo said. “Don’t be in denial. Speak about it.”

Carillo, who said she’s been suffering with serious anxiety since the shooting, hopes to start a community based group to help other families of loved ones with a mental illness.

READ MORE: Residents react to news of bodies discovered on south side

“They didn’t see what I’ve seen and I wouldn’t want them to see what I’ve saw,” Carillo said. “It was not normal and it wasn’t right. Cherish your children because, I cherish my child but you never know. It’s not even about a stranger taking your child, your own family member can take your child.”

If you’d like to help Carillo and her family, CLICK HERE.

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Copyright 2017 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.

Here’s how Trump has undermined LGBT rights (so far)

Trump LGBT, gay news, Washington Blade

President Donald Trump (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Critics of President Trump claim he’s a disaster for LGBT equality. The White House asserts Trump is “respectful and supportive of LGBTQ rights.” So, who’s right?

To the surprise of many, the start of the administration saw limited support for LGBT rights. The White House within days of the new administration issued a statement declaring Trump is “respectful and supportive of LGBTQ rights” and would keep in place an executive order signed by President Obama in 2014 that barred federal contractors from engaging in anti-LGBT workplace discrimination.

The Trump administration also defied the wishes of anti-LGBT advocates seeking to purge the State Department of LGBT rights supporters by keeping in place Randy Berry in his role as special envoy for global international LGBT rights.

In terms of anti-LGBT actions, the most concrete actions have undermined transgender rights. Most prominently, that came in form of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos revoking Obama-era guidance instructing schools that discrimination targeting trans kids, such as denying them access to the restroom consistent with their gender identity, is unlawful.

Under Sessions, the Justice Department also withdrew litigation against North Carolina’s anti-LGBT law after it was replaced despite assertions from civil rights groups the new law is discriminatory. The department also missed a deadline to appeal a court injunction barring enforcement of an Obama-era regulation assuring trans people have access to health care, including gender reassignment surgery.

Another metric for presidential commitment to LGBT rights has been making openly LGBT appointments, an effort Obama undertook, which led to a record number of openly LGBT appointees.

By contrast, Trump has yet to make a single high-profile, openly LGBT appointment.

Meanwhile, Trump appointments include Roger Severino as assistant secretary of civil rights at the Department of Health & Human Services, which essentially places an anti-transgender activist in charge of defending trans health. LGBT advocates helped derail the confirmation of Trump’s first choice for Army secretary, Mark Green, who has taken anti-LGBT positions during his career as a state legislator and said being trans is a “disease.”

Many LGBT advocates breathed a sigh of relief after learning that a long-awaited “religious freedom” executive order issued by President Trump in May did not include specific anti-LGBT provisions that media reports said were included in an earlier draft of the order.

But officials with several national LGBT advocacy organizations expressed concern that the two-page executive order, called “Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty,” gives U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions authority to interpret existing federal laws and regulations in a way that could result in discrimination against LGBT people.

“In essence, the executive order punts the question of how and where the administration will permit discrimination against LGBT people to Jeff Sessions, a man who has consistently denied LGBTQ people equality under the law,” the Human Rights Campaign said in a statement.

“This sweeping approach could result in an unprecedented expansion of religious exemptions affecting employment, services and programs,” the HRC statement says.

But Gregory Angelo, president of Log Cabin Republicans, disputed that assessment, saying the text of the order makes “absolutely no mention of anything to do with the LGBT community.”

“Not only is the text of the executive order completely agnostic on LGBT-related matters, the Trump administration has now explicitly asserted that ‘there were no plans for a separate order that addressed LGBT issues,’” said Angelo.

The main provision of the order directs the IRS to use “maximum enforcement discretion” to ease restrictions on churches and religious organizations with a tax-exempt status that would allow them to engage partisan politics, including possible endorsement of candidates running for public office.

In addition, President Trump declined to issue a proclamation designating June as Pride month, breaking with a tradition started under the Obama administration. Trump on the last day of May issued five separate proclamations recognizing June as National Caribbean-American Heritage Month, African-American Music Appreciation Month, National Homeownership Month, Great Outdoors Month and National Ocean Month. Absent from the list was anything related to Pride.

Trump’s budget proposal is another source of concern for LGBT advocates. Proponents of funding to combat HIV/AIDS continue to express alarm over cuts to federal programs, which in some cases are massive, in the budget proposal that President Trump unveiled last month amid questions of whether Congress will agree to the reductions.

Carl Schmid, deputy director of the AIDS Institute, said the decrease in funding for HIV/AIDS proposed in the Trump administration’s $4.1 trillion budget request was “pretty shocking” after years of bipartisan agreement to confront the disease.

“We always think there are ways to improve, ways to change things, we’re open to that,” Schmid said. “We’re not one of the people that say, ‘No, no, no.’ But I don’t think cutting the budget this drastically is a way to change things.”

The budget blueprint unveiled in March by the White House Office of Management & Budget indicated proposed cuts for HIV screening and research, but Schmid said the extent of cuts in the budget was a surprise.

Among the more drastic cuts is a $186 million reduction in Centers for Disease Control funding for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STIs, and TB prevention. A full $150 million of the reduction would come from HIV/AIDS prevention programs.

For research, on the chopping block is the National Institutes for Health, which handles HIV/AIDS research for the federal government and was working on a cure under President Obama. The budget seeks a massive $7.2 billion reduction to NIH generally and a $550 million reduction to HIV/AIDS research specifically, according to the AIDS Institute.

On international LGBT rights, the Trump administration has already seen a human rights crisis after the emergence of reports of arrests and torture of gay and bisexual men in Russia’s semi-autonomous Republic of Chechnya. More than 100 men have been tortured and at least four killed in what media reports are calling “concentration camps.”

After some prodding, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley has said the U.S. government is “disturbed by reports of kidnapping, torture and murder of people in Chechnya,” although Trump himself has remained silent.

When asked by the Blade at the 100-day mark of the administration to grade Trump’s performance, all major LGBT rights organizations — with the exception of Log Cabin Republicans — gave Trump an ‘F.’

Random thoughts about the record album – part 5: they want their MTV

“It made the record industry a one-trick pony. It became only about a three-minute single and a visual image, and if you didn’t have the three minutes you were over. The corner was turned at that point, I think, away from believing in the power of the music, and [to] believing in the power of the market. Once that corner was turned, we started on the path that has led us to this moment here, where kids are treating music as disposable.” – Michael Guido, entertainment lawyer

“I think that there’s always been two different kinds — at least two different kinds of music fans. There are people that just are into songs, and there are people that are into artists.” – Danny Goldberg, record executive

(Read part 1, part, 2, part 3, part 4)

Madonna and Michael Jackson, MTV’s biggest stars (image courtesy Fanpop)

During the era of the record album’s dominance, from 1967-1981, audiences listened to music. For young listeners it was more often a solitary rather than social experience, often taking place in a teenager’s room, sometimes made even more solitary by the use of headphones. It was easy to lose oneself in the experience of interrelated songs telling a story, as the concept album sought to present, or share in the intimate experience of the singer/songwriter’s soul baring compositions. If a fan went to college, the experience might become more social, though still in a fairly intimate way, sharing favorite albums with a roommate or a couple of suite mates, sometimes the experience enhanced by a few beers or a joint. And such listening became part of the mating rituals of countless romantic relationships formed during one’s college years.

If a music fan watched television during this period at all, it was perhaps a concert show like ABC’s excellent, short-lived In Concert or NBC’s long-lived, less excellent faux concert show Midnight Special. One listened to music; one watched TV.

That changed August 1, 1981.

MTV changed a number of things about the music business but two are worth commenting upon in relation  to the record album. Both are mentioned in the quotes above: one is the triumph of the individual song (or “track,” as it is more commonly termed); the second is the concept that music is disposable, a concept that has proven more enduring than many older music fans have been able to comprehend.

Though album oriented artists certainly made successful videos in support of their releases (notable examples: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, U2, REM), the triumph of MTV is that, because the formula for music videos is one video = one song, MTV decidedly privileged the individual track over the album. Those familiar with the channel in its American heyday well remember that it proliferated the (seeming) one-hit wonder. A few names should jog memories: A-ha, Toni Basil, Flock of Seagulls, Thomas Dolby, Gary Numan, Dexy’s Midnight Runners. (Special mention should be made of Modern English who kept re-releasing their hit “I Melt With You” and charting with it, a sort of wonderful/terribly sad feat in itself.)

The masters of the single track game are the king and queen of MTV, the above pictured Michael Jackson and Madonna. Their success, enormous as it was, was certainly enhanced by their enormously successful videos.

Madonna, who had worked as a dancer and model, focused on making her songs visually appealing by referencing other videos, classic movies, and fashion magazines. Songs such as “Holiday” (though clearly a pinch visually on the estimable Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”), “Like a Virgin,” “Material Girl,” “Vogue,” and “Express Yourself” allowed a visually oriented artist like Madonna to make fashion sense more important than music. These videos were enormously influential culturally in influencing the style/appearance choices of young women. Musically? They are infectious, ultimately forgettable dance pop. Her albums, eponymous collections of these single tracks, resemble play lists more than artistic statements.

The same is true of Michael Jackson. MTV’s failure to acknowledge the work of black artists was finally resolved with its airing of Jackson’s monster success “Billie Jean.” Its signature style (remember seeing kids aping his wearing of that single white glove?), and Jackson’s even more theatrical staging of subsequent tracks from the ultimate eponymous album (which is as much a greatest hits collection as a cohesive album), Thriller, especially “Beat It” and “Thriller” (which is a movie short and an homage to horror films and even more memorable than the song) upped the ante on video making and many memorable videos were shot (I think immediately of the Petty/Heartbreakers video based on Mad Max for “You Got Lucky” and of REM’s fascinating homage to Fellini’s 8 1/2 for “Everybody Hurts.”) . Jackson continued producing memorable videos even as his songwriting skills eroded and he became more (in)famous as a deeply troubled celebrity than as a musical artist.

There is much great work from the MTV years. However, the work, as is, I hope, evinced by these examples, is more about picture and less about sound. The album as statement’s reign was over. It would have one last resurgence (as would rock music), but if one wants to argue for a date when the album lost it primacy as mode of musical expression, one could date it to the playing of this video, the first ever aired on MTV:

[embedded content]

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

10 Big Ideas to Solve Philly’s Looming Jobs Crisis

Illustration by Alex Nabaum

There is in this city a coming-of-age narrative — the Story of Philadelphia’s Rise — and unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know this story well. It’s been told and retold by everyone from realtors to corporate recruiters to this magazine to the New York Times, and the basic plot goes like this: Once upon a time, Philly sucked. Laid low by the death of manufacturing and urban flight after WWII, the city by the 1970s was a pretty dismal place — a ghost town, all empty storefronts and streets. And then, a shift. Ed Rendell kicked us out of near-bankruptcy. The economy started growing; so did the city’s appeal. John Street focused on neighborhood improvement; the Center City District cleaned the place up. Now? It’s a whole new Philly. Center City booms, as does University City. We’re green, clean, walkable and bikeable, with a thriving hospitality industry and vivacious neighborhoods. There’s Comcast, the Navy Yard, the emerging start-up scene, all those millennials flooding the place. But you already know all of this.

There’s another story, too, though it’s not as well known. It’s certainly not as cheery as the first. It’s about economic growth, or the lack thereof, and it goes like this: For years — decades, actually — we’ve grown new jobs too slowly. Other major cities are attracting more companies, more talent, more money, at much faster rates. And this problem, roiling against the backdrop of revival, is more than a dark cloud in an otherwise sunny landscape: It’s a direct threat to all of Philly’s progress.

Truth is, Philly’s remarkable resurgence is less a product of innovative long-term planning and more the result of, well … happy accident. Over the past decade, especially, we’ve benefited immensely from a renewed national interest in cities (especially among millennials and boomers), a handful of major players hitting their stride (thanks, meds, eds, Comcast), and an unexpected population boom (more births than deaths, those enthusiastic millennials, and a steady flow of immigrants).

And sure, we have to give credit to the leaders who knew how to make the most of our upswing. But the circumstances of our growth still raise the question: What happens to our resurgence when Philly’s population boom slows? According to census numbers, it already has. More people are moving out of Philly than are moving in, and we were approaching “peak millennial” back in 2015, at least according to real estate research firm JLL Research. The forecast for immigrants isn’t looking super-sunny these days, either. As strong as they are, meds, eds and Comcast can’t carry a whole city. Are we poised to keep up our momentum? Are we ready for the future?

The simple answer is no. And if we don’t change that now — if we don’t treat our slow growth like the crisis it actually is — we could find ourselves headed back to the bad old days, back to the struggle. Back to decline.

I know all of this crisis talk sounds improbable. Hyperbolic. After all, nobody’s talking about shutting down libraries or declaring bankruptcy. In fact, part of the problem of this jobs problem — aside from its inherent unsexiness — is that “slow growth” is still growth. And everything looks pretty okay. Isn’t that a new park right there? Isn’t my home value climbing? Can’t you count a dozen or more cranes around the city at this very moment?

All the progress we see is real, but it’s just part of the truth. The other part is that some 39 percent of working Philadelphians are currently commuting out of the city for their jobs. And according to a 2014 Pew survey, millennials — you know, that vaunted group that makes up more than a quarter of Philly residents right now — cite job opportunities as the number one reason they’d pack up and leave the city. (Schools are second.) “A promising but fragile boom,” Pew called the Philly millennial phenomenon. The suburbs, meantime, are ready to answer the call: Construction there — office, residential, mixed-use — is booming, and developers are targeting a younger, more citified demographic.

Companies, too, feel the pull of other towns and cities, weighing everything from lower taxes to closer proximity to various centers of industry not in Philly. “Center City is losing its position as a corporate metropolis,” lamented the Inky a few years back, pointing to the fact that even as jobs in some sectors grew, headquarters — those magnets for outside money and business opportunities — were leaving, including Cigna, Sunoco and Destination Maternity (and, since then, Monetate, with Equus Capital Partners to follow when its lease expires next year). And it’s not just the headquarters — a handful of factories have also packed up and left town in recent years.

Also true: The 25 biggest cities in America added jobs at the average rate of 2.8 percent a year between 2010 and 2015. Philly lagged behind at 1.1 percent. And while the most recent Pew report (released in April) notes that Philly job growth outpaced the nation’s in 2016 for the first time since the Great Recession, it’s the initial city-to-city comparison that was a focal point of the Center City District’s latest report — tellingly titled “An Incomplete Revival.” And it’s that comparison that’s got CCD president Paul Levy all riled up. “Look at all the cities growing faster than us,” he tells me, pointing emphatically to a bar chart that shows Philly dead last on a list that includes New York, Chicago and L.A., yes, but also Jacksonville, Baltimore and Detroit. “It’s embarrassing.”

His point isn’t really that he’s embarrassed, but that comparison actually matters. In a global world, we’re competing with other cities — for talent, for businesses, for money. And on this front, we’re not winning.

If the notion of fighting for global dominance sounds uncomfortably Trumpian, consider one way slow economic growth hits closer to home: As more of the middle class leaves the city, the CCD notes, the percentage of Philadelphians who live in poverty rises — a larger portion of a smaller whole. And right now, Philadelphia claims the highest poverty rate of America’s 10 largest cities, with one quarter of us living below the poverty line. Aside from being morally unacceptable, our poverty problem cripples our schools, which drives out still more middle-class families (and their tax dollars), which cripples the city’s budget, which cripples the city’s ability to serve its constituents and plan long-term. And all of this, of course, cripples our shot at growing jobs. You see the problem here.

And yet: This is less a doom-and-gloom story than it is a call to action. This spring, I talked to stakeholders, politicos, thought leaders and business owners in this city about growing jobs here. And while few of them agree about much of anything, two sentiments held true, almost to a person. One is that Philly is, at this moment, better than it’s ever been, with more potential for growth than ever. The second: We must mobilize that potential now — and we must do it faster and with more intent.

“I think what we need now is a fresh approach,” says Councilman Allan Domb, who emphasizes the necessity of long-term planning. “We need to look at every process, everything we do, and say: If we didn’t do it this way, if we started fresh today, how would we do it now? Otherwise, everything is just a Band-Aid. And 60 years of Band-Aids doesn’t work.”

In that spirit, and in an effort to not let a crisis go to waste, we consider 10 fresh approaches — 10 ideas about fostering job growth coming from a range of viewpoints and agendas. Some are widely supported, some are not; none are obvious silver bullets. But all aim to tackle in a real way what’s been broken in our city for a long time now … and get us started fixing it while we still can.

Illustration by Alex Nabaum

Idea One: Treat the jobs issue like the crisis it is.

One of the popular complaints from the non-government sector is that Philly hasn’t had a sense of urgency when it comes to economic growth. “It’s not a crisis of survival like the crisis of the early ’90s,” Drexel president and Chamber of Commerce chairman John Fry told that group last fall. Instead, he said, it’s a “crisis of opportunity,” propelled in part by “complacency, perhaps bred from recent successes.”

As we’ve said, it’s become apparent there’s no time to rest on the laurels of, say, a glut of millennials (promising but fragile, remember?), a revitalized Center City, or the immense strength of meds and eds (vital, but it’s worth noting that they don’t pay taxes). “No matter how well we’ve done, we’ve got more work to do, and so does the rest of the region,” says city commerce director Harold Epps. “We’re being outpaced by the Sun Belt and right-to-work states, and we are going to lose Congressional seats. We all have to find new ways to stay relevant and competitive.”

A great first step: a concerted campaign from the Kenney administration that highlights the urgent need for new jobs. Per his campaign promise, the Mayor spent his first year focused on pre-K and Rebuild (whose mission is revitalizing parks, rec centers and libraries) and the soda tax to fund them. He showed he can be pointed, dogged and intentional. According to Commerce Department communications manager Lauren Cox, that department is, at this moment, working on a larger strategic plan. But 18 months in, we’re in dire need of a message from the top — We have a problem here — followed by a plan of attack that mobilizes us in a common cause. Nothing brings people together or spurs innovation faster than a crisis, so let’s get busy ringing some alarm bells.

Idea Two: Be friendlier to business (on a micro level).

“Maybe this is just perception,” restaurateur Stephen Starr says, “but I don’t think there’s been leadership that makes businesses feel warm-and-fuzzy and welcome since Rendell left.” (Starr currently runs 20 restaurants in Philly, employing 2,177 people.) Back then, he says, there was a sense that business was a good thing. “Maybe that was just good PR. But I think now there’s an underlying sentiment among the bureaucracy that business is bad. Greedy. Only looking out for itself. It doesn’t seem like a good attitude to have if you want to grow business. It’s like getting married thinking of all the bad stuff your spouse might do instead of the good.”

It’s not just perception, says David L. Cohen, senior executive VP of Comcast, longtime Democratic honcho, and co-chair of the Chamber of Commerce’s “Roadmap to Growth” plan for the city. “Over the last four to eight years, Philadelphia has developed a reputation as one of the most anti-business cities in America,” he says. “I travel the country for Comcast and my nonprofit work. I’m not exaggerating when I say I get asked all the time: What’s going on in Philadelphia?”

What’s going on is that a series of small inefficiencies and larger obstacles paints a picture of a city that if not hostile to businesses isn’t so hospitable, either. Consider David Bookspan, the founder of tech accelerator Dreamit who just launched the adtech start-up Curren-C, which he and partner Will Luttrell headquartered in Philly, flouting advice from their lawyers and accountants. “They said, ‘Are you sure you want to be in Philly?’” Bookspan says with a laugh.

“Will and I are both committed to Philly for a number of reasons. We think it’s a great city that has lots of advantages — location, quality of life and talent pool, to name a few, plus a lower cost of living.” Mayors Kenney and Nutter and a handful of other city players have also been “extremely committed” to helping the start-up community, he adds.

But, Bookspan says, on the con list was Philadelphia’s high city wage tax. (We’ll get there in a minute.) He also recounts the comedy of errors that was the day he tried to follow state and city new business registration protocol: dead ends on email, a 35-minute phone hold time followed by a disconnection, a Philly “help line” where every option was broken. Not exactly a welcome mat for entrepreneurs — especially considering the pair had an easy time with the same chores in other states.

Bookspan isn’t alone in his call for more updated processes to ease doing business — other people called out everything from incomprehensible tax codes (“You need a Philadelphia lawyer to get through it all!” says one business leader) to a lack of technology. In his February speech to the Chamber of Commerce, Mayor Kenney noted improvements to L&I in particular, but it’s still a long haul toward modern-day efficiency. It’s 2017. Let’s get at it.

Idea Three: Be friendlier to business (on a macro level).

When it comes to that warm, fuzzy feeling Starr talks about (well, the lack of it), one of the biggest culprits has been an active city government — one that has, according to Cohen, unwittingly created an “anti-competitive stance.”

An anti-competitive stance? I ask for specific examples, and Cohen spends the next several minutes rattling off eight years’ worth of new taxes and bills — a list I’m seriously condensing here — that include a bumped-up sales tax, a parking tax and the new soda tax, plus a whole slew of city ordinances regarding, for example, mandatory paid sick leave, “ban the box” rules for ex-offenders on job applications, requirements for city-hired contractors to disclose the percentage of female officers and managers, gender-neutral bathrooms, and wage history prohibition. For starters.

“When someone says, ‘Look, we’re not anti-business, we’re pro-employee,’ what they don’t understand is that as employers, we’re pro-employee, too,” Cohen says. Nobody, he adds, is coming down on the side of, say, discrimination. “But if the net effect of all this is to cost 20,000 jobs, for example, how are you pro-employee?”

It’s a valid if ideologically tricky point to make in a city that likes its progressive values — a tension Cohen is keenly aware of (as are, I might add, many others. Starr says: “God, I cringe at sounding like a Republican. I’m a lifelong Democrat who vigorously supports Democratic ideals. But I think there’s got to be a balance between protecting people and protecting small business.”).

Taken one by one, Cohen offers, “These are all reasonable things. But there have been 20 actions by the city government in the last eight years, independent of state and federal regulations, and no matter how well-intentioned it is from a progressive, Democratic perspective, cumulatively it sends the message that this is not a city open for business.”

It does seem that people are coming on board with this line of thinking. In March, Council President Darrell Clarke created a Special Committee on Regulatory Review and Reform — co-chaired by Councilman Derek Green, commerce director Epps, and Chamber of Commerce president Rob Wonderling — to review all regulations on the books and recommend fixing (or killing) the overcomplicated or outdated.

Idea Four: Fix the freaking taxes already.

Eyeball-glazing as any talk of tax reform may be, there’s no bigger plan in place right now than the one aiming to revise a tax structure that gives Philadelphians good reason to live and work anywhere but Philadelphia. (That reason is cash in their pockets.)

There’s a long, convoluted history here, but the CliffsNotes version goes like this: As far back as 2003, a city tax commission concluded what many people had suspected for a while: Our city relied too much on taxing what could move (jobs and people) and not enough on what can’t (property and land). This hurt Philly from both a revenue and a job-growth perspective. Philadelphia’s wage tax — levied on people who live or work in the city — is 3.9 percent for residents and 3.47 percent for non-residents, or almost four times the regional median, according to the CCD. The upshot is that people who move out of the city get pay raises. Conversely, if a city company wants to recruit an outsider for a job, the employee or the company eats that 3.9 percent.

On the flip side, only 19 percent of the city’s budget comes from property taxes — a puny slice compared to D.C.’s 36 percent and New York’s 43 percent. Sixty-five percent of our budget comes from wage and business taxes. And speaking of business taxes: Philly’s business income and receipts tax (BIRT) raises the cost of doing business here 20 to 30 percent over suburban costs, according to the Philadelphia Jobs Growth Coalition.

About that coalition: It’s a mix of labor leaders and business and civic groups that the CCD’s Levy and Brandywine Realty Trust CEO Jerry Sweeney corralled in 2011 with the goal of, yes, growing jobs by flipping the city’s tax structure. The idea is to increase commercial property taxes by 15 percent (from 1.39 to 1.61 percent, more in line with other cities), then lower the wage and BIRT taxes in return. “What this is,” Levy says, “is businesses in the city saying we’re willing to pay more on property to finance wage and business tax reduction.”

In addition to the big-picture benefits the coalition touts — more incentive for businesses (and workers) to stay, a wider revenue base for the city — projections over 10 years include 79,000 new jobs created (from high-wage positions to janitorial jobs and beyond) and an extra $362 million for the Philly school district. And while the city’s been lowering the wage tax slowly over the past 20 years, more aggressive slashing would provide a noticeable pay raise for every worker in the city, Levy says — without costing the city a cent.

Given all of this (plus years of lobbying), it’s not surprising that the so-called Levy-Sweeney plan has won support, including from the Mayor and a handful of state legislators. The last bit is vital, because for the city to raise commercial property rates above residential rates, Harrisburg has to agree to change the state constitution — an arduous haul, to say the least. But the amendment passed in the House and Senate last summer; now it’s up for a second vote in both legislative bodies. Then, should it pass, it’s on to a Commonwealth-wide referendum. Only after it wins there would Council have the option of raising commercial taxes (and then, only if the raise is matched by a reduction of the other taxes, and only if they stay within 15 percent of the residential tax rate).

Still, Sweeney says, just the option of raising commercial rates is a tool for growth. Not everyone agrees. Council president Clarke is for amending property taxes but isn’t on board with the amendment’s requirements to lower wage and business taxes or with the 15 percent cap for commercial taxes. The Chamber of Commerce — trying to work through its own five-year tax reform plan with Kenney and Council before the vote — worries that taking local tax reform to the state stage, where mandatory schedules will be set, creates bad precedent.

Both sets of concerns have merit, but after decades of dallying and debate and small tax cuts and still-straggling growth, a substantive, data-driven plan with supporters ranging from the African-American Chamber of Commerce to Local 98 is well worth a shot.

Idea Five: Zero in on transit and infrastructure.

As big, bold plans go, this may feel a smidge … pedestrian, but between the federal windfall that we miiiiight get for infrastructure, the state money already pledged to it, and a true, desperate need for updated roads and bridges, investing in infrastructure is a no-brainer, particularly because — as Epps notes — the significant amount of work that needs to be done is a pretty good match for our labor-heavy workforce, and every investment yields a boost in jobs and in the competitiveness (and livability) of the region.

There are some projects in the works, including the massive $225 million plan to cap I-95, the airport rehab plan, and the eventual transformation of 30th Street Station, but leaders need to keep big and small projects moving along.

Illustration by Alex Nabaum

Idea Six: Have public-private partnerships focus on schools.

When you talk about growing the economy, business-and-government collaboration comes up a lot. But nowhere is there more potential for businesses to make an impact on Philly’s future than in our schools.

Approaching our flailing public schools from a purely economic standpoint might feel socially tone-deaf, but for the sake of brevity, let’s stick to the jobs lens. Businesses have two major reasons to get heavily involved in a school turnaround. The first is talent attraction and retention: If skilled, educated workers don’t want to be here or stay here because they don’t want to send their kids to school here, why would businesses stay here? The second compelling argument involves the longtime complaint in the business world about Philly’s undertrained, undereducated workforce. On one hand, we have a clutch of world-class universities pumping educated workers right onto our stoop. On the other hand, we have a high-school graduation rate of 65 percent (compared to the state’s 84.8 percent) and a city in which nearly half the adults lack the education and work-ready skills for what the city’s Office of Adult Education calls “family-sustaining jobs.”

The new pre-K program is a step in the right direction, but in the meantime, we have kids, points out Bob Moul, CEO of Cloudamize and former board chair of Philly Startup Leaders, who aren’t being taught technology as part of their core curriculum. “It’s 2017!” he says. “Even mechanics today are hooking cars up to computers. And there are somewhere between half a million to a million unfilled IT jobs in this country.” In fact, the Economy League recently reported that a quarter of the 100,000 new jobs created in the Philly area since the early 2000s are tech jobs, but employers can’t find candidates with the right skills. Meantime, Moul adds, even vocational schools aren’t focusing on tech enough. “We’re putting them on [career] tracks at SEPTA and PECO, but how about we create more internships in the tech and business community, putting them on paths to those jobs? To me, it’s a win-win.” And this doesn’t just hold true for tech.

Many examples of such partnerships already exist throughout the city, Cohen points out. They can and should be expanded and scaled up with the business community at the helm, whether we’re talking adopt-a-school programs or company-sponsored mentorships or even deeper investments like the oft-touted example of North Philly’s Cristo Rey, based on a model out of Chicago. At Cristo Rey, high-school kids work five days a month at corporate internships with partner companies (Beneficial, Glaxo, Cozen O’Connor, Wawa and the Philly Zoo, to name a few). The students get paid $7,500 for their work (it goes toward school tuition) and gain on-the-job education. The first two graduating classes, in 2016 and 2017, have had a 100 percent college acceptance rate. Businesses, meantime, get reliable, affordable help and the chance to put some money where their mouths are in terms of training the workforce. Win-win-win.

Idea Seven: Talk to each other.

Speaking of workforce development, there’s an interesting project afoot right now: a partnership between the Commerce Department and the Managing Director’s Office that aims at growing a stronger population of trained workers. What’s compelling here isn’t just the focus, but the scope of what they’re trying to do. Come fall, the workforce development committee (led by Epps and managing director Mike DiBerardinis, with involvement from nonprofits, organized labor, philanthropy, government and many more entities) will unveil a citywide strategy that identifies the manpower needs of our private and public sectors — who needs workers that they can’t easily find? — and aims to train a workforce with those specific skill sets.

“We are trying to be very intentional,” says Maari Porter, director of policy and strategic initiatives in the Managing Director’s Office. “We want to train into open positions, train people into a job, really embrace partnerships with employers.” They found inspiration, she says, in a similar initiative in New York for which businesses, organized labor, philanthropy, government, educational institutions and service providers sat together over five months of discussions that produced a strategic partnership between employers, trainers and the city.

If anything, a program like this shows the immense power the city has to bring together different perspectives and new collaborations — and not just as it relates to workforce training, but as it could relate to any of the city’s challenges. “Let me tell you, I see more and more business people who want to get involved,” Domb says. “They want to take on a role. They approach me. They know that without a healthy city, you have no business.”

Idea Eight: Sell, sell, sell.

The highlight reel of Philly attributes puts other cities, even faster-growing cities, to shame. Now we just need to sell the hell out of it all.

Think about how successfully Philly has marketed itself to visitors and tourists, says John Grady, president of the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation. (True: 41 million people visited the city in 2015 alone.) “More and more people from outside the region are hearing good things about Philadelphia, and that’s the result of hard work and a conscious investment of resources in developing a brand for Philly as a place to come and visit,” he says. “I think we need to do the same thing for jobs.”

So what’s stopping us from promoting our innovation, diversity and talent the same way Visit Philadelphia has promoted restaurants and neighborhoods? Really not much more than a branding effort. And that branding should be focused, for one thing, on talent. “Employers follow talent,” Grady says. “The more talent you have, the more you can recruit. And more students in the region are staying here because of our value proposition — so we’ve got quality of place and quality of workforce.”

According to Epps, the Commerce Department is collaborating with Visit Philly, the Philadelphia Airport, the Chamber of Commerce and the Convention & Visitors Bureau, among others, to create more consistent messaging. But why not go bigger? Let’s loop in the big recruiters, the state government, Citizen Diplomacy International, the universities, the tech community, the big regional players. Just imagine the selling might of all of those powerhouses on board, together, on message.

Idea Nine: Leverage those eds and meds.

When it comes to building jobs and companies, says David Bookspan, “You need to be able to leverage the natural resources of that community.” And Philly? “Well, this is where health care happens.” Dreamit, Bookspan says, launches 20 or 30 healthcare companies a year — but he posits that Philly as a city could see more like 100 new health-care start-ups a year, with the vision and the cash. The city already has the facilities, talent and institutions, and that makes Philly a right fit for health-care-focused firms-to-be, he says — not to mention the capacity and the proven methodology. “In my view, we’re just underperforming in the investment,” he says. “And for that, we need major business leaders and corporations to make it happen.”

It’s this type of ambitious, synergistic vision — not totally rare, but not nearly as predominant as you’d think in a city that has such enormous “natural resources” — that could launch the next Comcast, or Aramark, or Dreamit. As Cohen points out, it’s not easy to lure big companies to a new market. We need to grow them here.

Idea Ten: Steal what works.

In Nashville, the city and the Chamber of Commerce partnered to launch Opportunity NOW, an initiative intended to create 10,000 paid summer jobs and internships for unemployed teenagers. In Boston, the city lured big fish GE from its longtime home base in Connecticut, beating out New York with an aggressive months-long, bipartisan, cross-sector city-state effort that focused on touting the city’s talent pool and offering massive tax breaks. Pittsburgh leveraged Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute and eager government cooperation to enthusiastically welcome Uber’s research facility for self-driving cars, which — along with a thriving meds/eds scene — has helped spur a tech revolution.

You see where this is going. In a global economy, we shouldn’t just take cues from the competition. We should take ideas — and attitudes, and perspectives — that work and incorporate them into our city where we can. Who said innovation has to be homegrown? Nobody. And in a fight for our future, nothing’s off limits.

Published as “Philly’s Coming Job Crisis” in the June 2017 issue of Philadelphia magazine.

UPI Horse Racing Weekend Preview: Belmont Stakes wide open

Irish War Cry, ruled out of consideration for the race a month ago, has been installed as the favorite for Saturday’s Belmont Stakes, the centerpiece of a massive four-day racing extravaganza at Belmont Park.

Even though there is no Triple Crown winner in sight, the New York track put together a program as compelling as any non-Breeders’ Cup event in North America, lacking only the Queen arriving in a carriage to rival Royal Ascot.

Songbird is in action. So is Kentucky Oaks winner Abel Tasman. Some tough Europeans invade Long Island to take on American Turf runners. There might even be a peek at some 2018 Kentucky Derby contenders.

Churchill Downs and Santa Anita have lesser but important contributions to the weekend’s festivities. And Woodbine provides an international flair with the Woodbine Oaks and the Plate Trial, which points to next month’s Queen’s Plate.

Speaking of the Queen and/or Royal Ascot, that glittering event is just over the horizon, with the first races on June 20 and plenty of quality international competition.

And looking a little farther down the road, hopefuls for South Africa’s greatest race, the Group 1 Vodacom Durban July, have a final audition chance Saturday in the Group 3 Cup Trial at Greyville.

Here’s a quick first look, plus a few early results:

Classic

Irish War Cry, all but ruled out of the race after a poor showing in the Kentucky Derby, suddenly finds himself the morning-line favorite for Saturday’s $1.5 million Grade I Belmont Stakes.

The colt was a disappointing 10th in Louisville and trainer Graham Motion admitted Wednesday he was ready at that point to junk the Triple Crown, “which is what the Derby does to you when you don’t run well.”

But, Motion said, Derby winner Always Dreaming flamed out in the Preakness, Irish War Cry started training like a dynamo and, “I felt he needed to be here.”

Irish War Cry drew post position No. 7 in a 12-horse field for the 1 1/2-miles classic — one lap around the sweeping Belmont Park main track. Japanese raider Epicharis, who stands to win a $1 million bonus with a victory Saturday, is the second pick on the morning line at 4-1. He has not raced since finishing second by a short head to Thunder Snow in the Group II UAE Derby on Dubai World Cup night and that was his first loss in five starts. As of Friday, however, he was reported wearing a glue-on shoe to protect a sore foot.

Classic Empire, fourth in the Kentucky Derby and second in the Preakness, was scratched Wednesday with a foot abscess, leaving Lookin At Lee as the only participant in all three legs of the 2017 Triple Crown. Oddly, Lookin At Lee was second in the Derby and fourth in the Preakness. He drew gate No. 6, just inside Irish War Cry, and is the third choice on the morning line at 5-1.

There’s a “B Squad” race Saturday at Belmont Park for 3-year-olds and Send It In and Tu Brutus are the early picks for that $400,000 Grade II Brooklyn Invitational, also at 1 1/2 miles. They finished 1-2 in the Grade II Excelsior April 8 and Tu Brutus came back to win an intervening start by 11 lengths. On paper, the other six are overmatched.

Sunday’s $125,000 (Canadian) Plate Trial at Woodbine got six takers including State of Honor, a bay colt by To Honor and Serve, who finished second in both the Grade II Tampa Bay Derby and the Grade I Florida Derby, then tired from the lead in the Kentucky Derby to finish 19th. He has run well over the Woodbine all-weather surface. King and His Court is the winner of his last three Woodbine starts but has fared much less well south of the border.

Distaff

Songbird is the main attraction in Saturday’s $750,000 Grade I Ogden Phipps Handicap at Belmont. It’s her first start since Beholder snapped her 11-race winning streak in last November’s dramatic Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Santa Anita. Jockey Mike Smith says he likes what he got when he worked her for the race and she is odds-on choice on the morning line. The race is the anchor leg of a $250,000 guaranteed Pick 3 and Songbird likely will be a “single” on most tickets, making that bet basically a daily double. Any of the six rivals, however, is capable of an upset if the star is rusty. The race also is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge event offering a free pass into this year’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Del Mar.

Kentucky Oaks winner Abel Tasman returns going 1 mile in Saturday’s $700,000 Grade I Acorn for 3-year-old fillies. The Quality Road filly is the morning-line favorite in a field of eight which also includes Grade II Eight Belles winner Benner Island, Grade III Beaumont winner Sweet Loretta and Grade II Gulfstream Park Oaks winner Salty.

Saturday’s $100,000 Obeah Stakes at Delaware Park attracted a field of 11 fillies and mares headed by Mo’ Green, third in the Grade III Allaire DuPont at Pimlico in her last outing. Lady Fog Horn, Curlish Figure and possibly the upwardly mobile Martini Glass fit the bill here, too. The 9-furlongs event points to the $750,000 Grade I Delaware Handicap July 15.

Sunday’s $500,000 (Canadian) Woodbine Oaks has a highly competitive field of 12 going 9 furlongs on the all-weather course. Several are stakes winners, a few come off maiden wins and one enters still a maiden. Stallion Heiress was 3-for-3 on the Fair Grounds turf but faded badly in her last start at Churchill Downs. Mike Smith is in to ride Financial Recovery for trainer Catherine Day Smith.

Turf Sprint

Pure Sensation and Green Mask are the early picks for Saturday’s $300,000 Grade III Jaipur Invitational at Belmont. Green Mask won the Grade III Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs on Oaks Day going a furlong shorter than this 6 furlongs. Pure Sensation was fourth in that race after a long layoff but is 2-for-2 at the trip and 2-for-2 over the Belmont Park greensward. Others with claims include California-based Stormy Liberal, Disco Partner and the speedy Loose on the Town, who steps up in class but will ensure a rapid clip.

Already in: Mississippi Delta stalked the pace in Thursday’s $250,000 Grade III Intercontinental for fillies and mares at Belmont Park, worked to the lead well inside the sixteenth pole and survived the late run of Conquests Babayaga to win by a head. The pacesetter, Portmagee, finished third and the favorite, Take These Chains, was a non-factor, finishing eighth of 10. Mississippi Delta, a 5-year-old Giant’s Causeway mare, ran 7 furlongs on firm turf in 1:20.05, missing the course record by 0.82 seconds. “Last time, she got very soft turf,” said winning rider Jose Lezcano. “I know she’s a nice filly and she’s better than what she showed last time. Today, the grass was perfect for her and she ran her race.”

Sunday’s $150,000 (Canadian) Alywow Stakes over the Woodbine all-weather is for 3-year-old fillies.

Filly & Mare Turf

Sea Calisi and Dacita are the morning-line picks for Friday’s $500,000 Grade II New York Stakes for fillies and mares at Belmont. Dacita won the 10 furlongs over the inner turf last year and went on to win the Grade I Diana at Saratoga. Since then, the 6-year-old Scat Daddy mare has raced twice and been second twice — by a nose and a head. Sea Calisi, a 5-year-old French-bred mare, was second to Dacita last year and went on to win the Grade I Beverly D. at Arlington later in the summer. She comes off a win in last month’s Grade II Sheepshead Bay at Belmont. This is a deep field with a lot of potential and some tempting odds, at least on the morning line.

Believe in Bertie will leave from the inside gate in Saturday’s $100,000 Grade III Old Forester Mint Julep at Churchill Downs, chasing her first graded stakes win. The 4-year-old Langfuhr filly won three consecutive stakes on the turf during Fair Grounds season, then finished second, behind only Roca Rojo, in the Grade II Churchill Distaff Turf Mile on Derby Day. Linda, Donna Bruja and Sky My Sky are among the six rivals in the 1 1/16-miles event.

In the books: New Money Honey, the even-money favorite, led all the way to a 2-lengths victory in Thursday’s $200,000 Grade III Wonder Again for 3-year-old fillies at Belmont Park. Fifty Five and Dream Dancing filled the trifecta slots. New Money Honey, a Medaglia d’Oro filly, finished 9 furlongs on the firm inner turf course in 1:48.01 with Javier Castellano up. “I just enjoyed the ride,” Castellano said. She won last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf but was sixth in her only previous start this year, the Grade III Appalachian at Keeneland.

Turf

The best of the American entrants for Saturday’s $1 million Grade I Woodford Reserve Manhattan at Belmont Park have been running against each other for some time now. Beach Patrol, Wake Forest, Divisidero, World Approval and Sadler’s Joy pop up frequently in each others’ past-performance lines and all are likely to make their presence known in this 1 1/2-miles affair. But they have overseas visitors in the form of Potempkin, a group winner in Germany and Italy; and Time Test, a multiple group winner in England who just missed in his first U.S. race for trainer Chad Brown.

You don’t often see them going 2 miles over U.S. tracks so it’s no surprise Friday’s $400,000 Grade III Belmont Gold Cup Invitational is full of runners with European credentials. The lukewarm morning-line favorite is Red Cardinal, who qualified for this with a victory in the Group 2 Comer Group International Oleander-Rennen at Hoppegarten in Germany in his last outing. Also note the presence of last year’s runner-up, Now We Can, owned by Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, CEO of the Hong Kong Jockey Club.

Sunday’s Group 1 Gran Premio de Brazil is Breeders’ Cup Challenge race with a berth in the Turf available to the winner.

Turf Mile

Roca Rojo, Dickinson and Celestine are the standouts among seven in for Saturday’s $700,000 Grade Longines Just a Game for fillies and mares at Belmont. Roca Rojo won the Grade II Distaff Turf Mile at Churchill Downs in her last appearance. Dickinson has won three straight, most recently the Grade I Jenny Wiley at Keeneland. Celestine won this last year and most recently won the Grade II Honey Fox at Gulfstream Park. Do not overlook Antonoe, a French import who won her first U.S. start for trainer Chad Brown in April at Keeneland.

Sprint

Friday’s $250,000 Grade II True North Stakes at Belmont has a lot of talent packed into a nine-horse field. The morning-line picks for the 6 furlongs around one sweeping turn are Whitmore, undefeated in five starts since he was set sprinting; dependable 7-year-old Stallwalkin’ Dude, and Noholdingback Bear, third in last year’s Grade I King’s Bishop at Saratoga. Green Gratto, winner of the Grade I Carter at Aqueduct in April, looks the best of the early speed and is 10-1 on the morning line.

American Anthem, at one time a Triple Crown hope for trainer Bob Baffert, has been reinvented as a sprinter and comes from California as the 5-2 favorite for Saturday’s $500,000 Grade II Woody Stephens at Belmont. He won the Grade III Laz Barrera at Santa Anita, going the same 7 furlongs as this race, in his last start. Among 10 he will face is Wild Shot, winner of the Grade III Pat Day Mile at Churchill Downs in his last outing. Long Haul Bay makes his first start since taking the Grade III Bay Shore at Aqueduct April 8 in just his second career outing. Recruiting Ready has won three straight and Petrov shortens up after flopping in the Arkansas Derby.

Filly & Mare Sprint

Ten fillies and mares signed up for Friday’s $250,000 Grade III Bed o’ Roses Handicap at Belmont. By the Moon is the solid morning-line favorite after winning the Grade III Vagrancy in her last outing. The 5-year-old Indian Charlie mare has three wins and a second from four tours of the Belmont oval, including a victory in last year’s edition of this in which she defeated the reigning Breeders’ Cup champ.

Dirt Mile

It’s hard to imagine the favorite for the $1.2 million, Grade I Mohegan Sun Metropolitan Handicap (Met Mile) at Belmont would come out of a race in Texas. But that’s how it is for Saturday’s renewal of this important fixture as Mor Spirit sits at 5-2 on the morning line after winning the Steve Sexton Mile at Lone Star in his last start. The second pick — Sharp Azteca — last raced in Dubai, finishing a close third in the Group 2 Godolphin Mile. The field also includes the second, third and fourth finishers from the Grade II Churchill Downs on Derby Day — Awesome Slew, Tom’s Ready and Solid Wager. It’s a tough race, worthy of its status as an entry for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile though the Breeders’ Cup Challenge program.

Saturday’s $150,000 Easy Goer is 1 1/16 miles for 3-year-olds on the Belmont main track with a field of 10. It’s a wide-open affair with half the field at single-digit odds on the morning line. Nine were nominated to the Triple Crown and the early pick is West Coast, a Bob Baffert charge who was second in the Grade III Lexington at Keeneland two starts back.

Juvenile

Trainer Todd Pletcher saddles four of the eight 2-year-old entered for Friday’s $150,000 Tremont at Belmont. Each of the eight has one previous race and each won that initial outing.

Already run: I Still Miss You shot out of the gate and was never headed in Thursday’s $150,000 Astoria for 2-year-old fillies at Belmont. The Majestic Warrior filly won by 2 1/4 lengths and is 2-for-2 in her brief career.

A brief detour overseas:

South Africa

The Group 1 Vodacom Durban July looms in just three weeks’ time and nine runners hopeful of making that field will go in Saturday’s Group 3 Cup Trial. Several of them have shown flashes of ability that would make them competitive on July 1 but each has questions to answer, whether it be class, consistency or stamina. Many will be watching the Justin Snaith-trained Black Arthur, who was seventh in last year’s July with traffic issues. Nebula, Crowd Pleaser and Black Arthur’s stablemate, Elusive Silva, also are fancied.

News and Notes

We sadly note the passing Wednesday of Holy Bull, a Hall of Famer and both Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old in 1994 despite finishing 12th in that year’s Kentucky Derby. Holy Bull was euthanized at Jonabell Farm due to old age. He was 26. The son of Great Above won both the Florida Derby and Blue Grass before his puzzling performance as the heavy favorite at Churchill Downs, then won six straight races, including four Grade I events. He was pulled up early on the backstretch run in the 1995 Donn Handicap — his last race and the fourth leg of Cigar’s record 16 straight wins.

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Captain America takes the salute at Greyville Challenge

Trainer Brett Crawford is having the winter of his life and the dream may not have ended at Greyville on Saturday when Captain America powered home in the R1m, Grade 1 WFA Rising Sun Gold Challenge (1600m).

Crawford saddled the winners of both the Grade 1 Daily News 2000 and the Grade 1 Woolavington 2000 last weekend. Captain America’s victory took him to three Grade 1 victories in the space of just two weeks and he has the R4.25m, Grade 1 Vodacom Durban July (2200m) on the horizon at Greyville on July 1st.

Captain America is an accomplished miler and in the absence of his nemesis Legal Eagle, who had his measure in both the Grade 1 HF Oppenheimer Horse Chestnut Stakes last term and the Grade 1 L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate in January, he made short work of a high-class field on Saturday.

“When he quickens he gets a good couple of lengths on his field,” said regular pilot Corne Orffer. “He’s a very honest horse.”

Always handy from a wide draw, Captain America quickened up the inside rail in a matter of strides and had the race in the bag crossing the subway. Trip To Heaven and Bela-Bela chased hard in the minor placings but the winner was never seriously challenged.

Captain America and Corne Orffer come down the rails, picture Nikosi Hlophe




Trip To Heaven, denied in the stewards room last year and a notoriously slow starter, ran true to form missing the break by a good couple of lengths but rattling home for second.

The filly Bela-Bela was also doing her best work late. Justin Snaith was more than happy with the showing of his filly but confirmed that she will not be taking her chances in the Vodacom Durban July.

“Garden Province” he said, adding that, “Unfortunately we will have to take on Just Sensual.”

Just Sensual an hour earlier had run out a comfortable winner of the R400,000, Grade 2 Tibouchina Stakes (1400m)

“A pity she’s not in the July,” Snaith added wryly.

The disappointment of the race was favourite Marinaresco who was up with the pace for much of the race but failed to fire and finished with just one behind him.

The result of the R250,000, Grade 3 Cup Trial (1800m) will have given the July selection panel further headaches although winner Elusive Silva did cement his place in the line-up with a courageous victory over Crowd Pleaser and stable companion Black Arthur.

A touch worrying was the way Elusive Silva had his head turned to the side and drifting in under pressure before being straightened by Richard Fourie, but he did enough to get up on the line to collar pacemaker Crowd Pleaser.

“He ran green and was hanging in,” commented Snaith. “He is a big strong horse and was always going to quicken even though they didn’t go a good pace.”

Snaith was batting for third-placed Black Arthur, close to the top of the betting boards for the Vodacom Durban July, but until yesterday not certain of a place.

“You do not want to leave it this late,” he said. “But you cannot leave him out.”

Anthony Delpech, aboard Black Arthur, was up-beat. “I thought I was going to win it. He just lacked that little bit at the end. This was his second run after a long lay-off and he ran a great race.”

Crowd Pleaser did everything but win it. Keagan de Melo dictated the pace to a nicety on the instruction of Johan Janse van Vuuren and although giving the winner 4.5kg he was only collared one jump from the line. Master Switch, Nebula and Trophy Wife may well have seen their chances of making the July field out of the window.

Cape Fillies Guineas winner Just Sensual sharpened her pencil for the Grade 1 Garden Province Stakes (1600m) at the Durban July meeting with a cracking win in the Tibouchina Stakes, although Anton Marcus was not altogether impressed with the performance of Joey Ramsden’s filly.

“Halfway up the straight I gave her one and she shot away, but having said that I was a little disappointed. I thought that she would win a little easier than that. But she’s ready for the Garden Province. In the end I’m just happy to have a winner,” he said.

Second-placed Nightingale finished best of the rest with Anna Pavlova running on nicely up the inside fence for third.

Just Sensual and Anton Marcus, picture Nikosi Hlophe


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