Activists hold pro-voting-rights placards outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 27, 2013, as the court prepares to hear Shelby County v. Holder. The case centered on a key section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act mandating federal approval for any proposed voting changes in nine states.
MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

Thousands of Color Might be Disenfranchised in ’16

"It’s bad enough that an outrage was perpetrated last week against the voters of Maricopa County, Ariz.," columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. wrote Sunday in the Washington Post.

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"It would be far worse if we ignore the warning that the disenfranchisement of thousands of its citizens offers our nation. In November, one of the most contentious campaigns in our history could end in a catastrophe for our democracy."

Are the media sounding the alarm?

"A major culprit would be the U.S. Supreme Court," Dionne continued, "and specifically the conservative majority that gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013."

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Well, perhaps something that sounds less urgent than an alarm. "The facts of what happened in Arizona’s presidential primary are gradually penetrating the nation’s consciousness," Dionne wrote. "In a move rationalized as an attempt to save money, officials of Maricopa County, the state’s most populous, cut the number of polling places by 70 percent, from 200 in the last presidential election to 60 this time around.

"Maricopa includes Phoenix, the state’s largest city, which happens to have a non-white majority and is a Democratic island in an otherwise Republican county.

"What did the cutbacks mean? As the Arizona Republic reported, the county’s move left one polling place for every 21,000 voters — compared with one polling place for every 2,500 voters in the rest of the state. . . ."

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The media gave the 2013 Supreme Court decision its due, but in the first presidential campaign since then, news organizations have been inconsistent in covering the fallout.

Ari Berman, a senior contributing writer for the Nation and author of "Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America," is convinced that the Arizona cutbacks would not have passed muster with the U.S. Justice Department if the Voting Rights Act were fully intact. The changes had a disproportionate impact on people of color. He also says the news media are "not committed to covering this story." He asks, "How many hours has CNN devoted to Donald Trump? How many on voting rights?"

When billmoyers.com asked reporters and editors in December to name the most undercovered stories of 2015, Berman nominated voting rights. “August 6, 2015, marked the fiftieth anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, the country’s most important civil rights law,” he wrote. “It was also the date of the first Republican presidential debate. Yet the subject of voting rights never came up — and hasn’t been mentioned in seven subsequent presidential debates. . . .” Nor has it come up since.

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In November, voters in 16 states will head to the polls with new voting restrictions in place. "The 2016 election is the first in 50 years without the full protections of the VRA," Berman wrote Wednesday in the Nation. "Widespread voting problems during the primaries in states like Arizona and North Carolina are a disturbing preview of what could happen in November."

And even before. "On April 5, when voters cast ballots in Wisconsin’s Republican and Democratic primaries, the state’s controversial voter ID bill will face its biggest test since Governor Scott Walker signed it into law in 2011," Sarah Smith wrote Thursday for ProPublica.

"For the first time in a major election, citizens will be required to show approved forms of identification in order to vote. The law mandates that the state run a public-service campaign 'in conjunction with the first regularly scheduled primary and election' to educate voters on what forms of ID are acceptable.

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"But Wisconsin has failed to appropriate funds for the public education campaign. The result is that thousands of citizens may be turned away from the polls simply because they did not understand what form of identification they needed to vote. . . ."

Berman spoke with Journal-isms by telephone Monday while traveling to a speaking engagement in Cleveland, Miss. Since his book was published last summer, he has been on the road speaking about voting rights and the damage the Supreme Court has wrought.

"There has been sporadic good coverage," Berman conceded. In July, the New York Times Magazine published "A Dream Undone," a lengthy report by Jim Rutenberg that caught the attention of President Obama, who responded with a letter to the editor.

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But more is needed. "In every state where there's a primary," the networks should spend at least five minutes on what the voting rights are, Berman said. Are there new restrictions? What are critics saying? Interview actual voters.

"Everybody was shocked" by the long lines in Arizona because "nobody prepared people" for what the cuts might mean.

Why are the media coming up short? Berman offered several reasons:

"The media is so focused on the horse race" among the candidates.

"They are afraid of how to handle the partisan dimensions, or of reinforcing the 'liberal-media' stereotypes.

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"They are reluctant to get into matters of race."

They think that voting rights is an issue of the past.

They are unwilling to do the reporting that's required.

"Sometimes you have to dig to figure out who is affected," Berman said. "That's more work than writing about the latest polls."

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Ari Berman, the Nation: There Were 5-Hour Lines to Vote in Arizona Because the Supreme Court Gutted the Voting Rights Act

Ari Berman, Carrie Johnson, Jan Baran and Guy-Uriel Charles, "The Diane Rehm Show," WAMU-FM, Washington, D.C.: A Look At Voter Access Across The U.S.

Anne Blythe, News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.: Decision on NC’s voter ID law now rests with federal judge (Feb. 1)

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Bob Christie and Ryan Van Velzer, Associated Press: Arizona Democrats say hours-long poll lines suppressed vote

Jonathan J. Cooper and Kristena Hansen, Associated Press: Automatic voter registration takes hold on West Coast (March 7)

Craig Newmark’s craigconnects & the Brennan Center: Why Is It So Hard to Vote in America? (graphic)

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Editorial, Arizona Republic | az.central: Arizona's epic election fail must have consequences

Editorial, Charlotte (N.C.) Observer: N.C. voting law: Illegal or just bad? (July 13, 2015)

Editorial, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Supreme Court makes a good call on Wisconsin voter ID law (Oct. 9, 2014)

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Editorial, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Judge gets it right: strikes down voter ID law (April 29, 2014)

Editorial, Washington Post: Arizona’s shameful voting delays highlight a wider problem with American elections

Editorial, Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal: Time for our full voting rights to be restored (July 13, 2015)

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David Goodman, News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.: When it comes to voting rights, North Carolina the new Selma (Feb. 12)

Janine Jackson and Ari Berman, "CounterSpin," Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting: 'We Are in a Whole New Struggle Over the Right to Vote Now' (Nov. 18, 2015) (audio)

Suevon Lee and Sarah Smith, ProPublica: Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Voter ID Laws (March 9)

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Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights: Civil and Human Rights Coalition: Voting Disenfranchisement in AZ and NC Primaries “a Canary in the Coal Mine” for Presidential Election

Errol Louis, Daily News, New York: The new attack on voting rights: It's Southern states against their black citizens (Dec. 8, 2015)

John Nichols, Ari Berman and Samara Klar, “The Direction of Democracy,” 2016 Tucson Festival of Books, C-SPAN (March 12-13) (video)

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Barack Obama, New York Times Magazine: President Obama’s Letter to the Editor (Aug. 12, 2015)

Mary Jo Pitzl and Yvonne Wingett Sanchez, The Republic | azcentral.com: ‘Nuts, nuts, nuts’: Anger in Arizona builds over long voter waits

Rudy Ravindra, News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.: My brush with North Carolina voter ID law (March 18)

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Laurie Roberts, The Republic | azcentral.com: Suppressing voters and Arizona’s image

Rebekah L. Sanders, The Republic | azcentral.com: Democrats: Republicans to blame for Maricopa County election disaster

Sarah Smith, ProPublica: Wisconsin’s Voter ID Law Requires an Education Campaign, Which the State Hasn’t Funded

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Obama Urges Political Reporters to Dig More Deeply

"President Obama challenged journalists to maintain high standards and rigorous scrutiny of political figures despite increased competition and the pressures of the smartphone age, warning of the cost to the nation’s democratic system if the press prioritized profit over the public good," Michael A. Memoli reported from Washington Monday for the Los Angeles Times.

“ 'When our elected officials and political campaigns become entirely untethered to reason and facts and analysis, when it doesn’t matter what’s true and what’s not, that makes it all but impossible for us to make good decisions on behalf of future generations,' the president said at a political journalism award ceremony Monday.

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“ 'A well-informed electorate depends on you, and our democracy depends on a well-informed electorate,' he added.

"The speech at an event awarding the Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting, awarded by Syracuse University to honor the late New York Times reporter Robin Toner, offered Obama another opportunity to reflect on the presidential campaign, as he laid some blame on the news industry for what he called the coarsening of the political debate.

"Without naming Donald Trump, the political outsider whose domination of the airwaves preceded his amassing of a delegate lead in the GOP race, Obama again expressed dismay at 'vulgar rhetoric' often targeting women and minorities, and called on journalists to do more to question the feasibility of candidates’ platforms.

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“ 'A job well done is about more than just handing someone a microphone,' he said, challenging reporters 'to probe and to question and to dig deeper.' . . .”

Meanwhile, news organizations continued to reflect on their role in elevating Trump to Republican front-runner status and questioned why they missed his appeal to voters.

At the Tucson Festival of Books, aired on C-SPAN over the weekend, author John Nichols said that he had attended a conference in Europe with CEOs and "big thinkers," and "I was struck by the fact that everyone was talking about eliminating jobs (video). Everybody was going to make more money in the next stage of our digital advancement by getting rid of immense numbers of workers."

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Nichols, co-author with Robert W. McChesney of "People Get Ready: The Fight Against a Jobless Economy and a Citizenless Democracy" noted a Time magazine cover story on driverless cars, then said that "the number one job for men in America is driving. They drive trucks, they drive cabs, they drive buses. . . . They used to do things like manufacturing and mining and stuff like that but we've pretty much eliminated those jobs. . . .

"We found example after example after example of automation changes that are going to eliminate massive numbers of jobs.

"And, interestingly enough, the media in this campaign — You talk about voting rights not coming up, you're talking about an issue that is huge, that is not just the bells and whistles oh wow of the driverless car or something like that or my new iPhone 17, an issue that is huge that is just discussed by our media, is what everybody in power discusses all the time, that this will be the next major issue in the next 25 years in this country — the critical issue."

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Nichols said his editor told him and McChesney that "When this stuff starts to hit, and people become conscious of it, they may go to very extreme places, politically. In some places in the past, when moments like this have come, you've actually had the possibility of fascism, and people exploring dangerous, rabid, horrific responses. . . you actually have politicians start to blame others, like immigrants or something like that . . ."

He said that at rallies for Trump and Democrat Bernie Sanders, young people are aware of the trend and approach the future with trepidation.

Jonathan Capehart, Washington Post: Paul Ryan got it right in his ‘state of American politics’ speech by admitting a mistake

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Nicholas Confessore, New York Times: How the G.O.P. Elite Lost Its Voters to Donald Trump

Paul Farhi, Washington Post: NPR offers its reporters ‘Trump Training’ to handle safety threats

Josh Feldman, Mediaite: ‘Stop!’ Don Lemon Snaps at Omarosa, Abruptly Ends Segment on Trump

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Josh Feldman, Mediaite: CNN’s Brian Stelter Looks Back at How the Media Got It So Wrong on Trump

Nicholas Kristof, New York Times: My Shared Shame: The Media Helped Make Trump

Allen Johnson, News & Record, Greensboro, N.C.: Trump is succeeding because we’re buying what he sells

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Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune: 'Trumpism': A new blue-collar conservatism

Leonard Pitts Jr., Miami Herald: Trump, Cruz ideas are just plain stupid

Steven Strauss, Detroit Free Press: Don't cry for Fox News

White House: President Obama Delivers Remarks at the Toner Prize Ceremony (video)

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Michael Wolff, USA Today: Trump as the Great White Hope

Obama on Aretha: She 'Just Sounds So Damn Good'

"David Remnick, The New Yorker’s editor since 1982, has profiled Aretha Franklin for the magazine’s Food and Travel issue," Chris O'Shea reported Monday for FishbowlNY.

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"That should be enough to get you interested, but if not, he also emailed President Obama for his thoughts on the Queen of Soul.

“ 'You can hear Aretha’s influence across the landscape of American music, no matter the genre,' Obama told Remnick. 'What other artist had that kind of impact? Dylan.

"Maybe Stevie, Ray Charles. The Beatles and the Stones—but, of course, they’re imports. The jazz giants like Armstrong. But it’s a short list. And if I’m stranded on a desert island, and have ten records to take, I know she’s in the collection. For she’ll remind me of my humanity. What’s essential in all of us. And she just sounds so damn good.' "

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"The New Yorker’s latest issue hits newsstands today."

Harder to Interest Readers in Bombings in Pakistan

"My heart goes out to the families affected by the bombings in the last couple of days in Pakistan and Iraq," Martin Belam, social and new formats editor for the Guardian in London, wrote Monday for Medium.com. "As a father of young children myself, I struggle to comprehend the callous viciousness of deliberately targeting children playing football in Al-Asriya, or out for a day with their families in Lahore.

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"And social media is littered today with people complaining that the media has not been giving these stories the attention they deserve.

"It’s undoubtedly true that there is less coverage, but it is also regretfully true that there seems to be less of an audience.

"It’s a Bank Holiday today in the UK, and I’m not working, but I’m also a complete news geek so obviously started the day with listening to the Radio 4 Today programme and with a quick look at the Guardian’s real-time web stats tool, Ophan.

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"I was struck by the fact that despite leading the site with several stories about the Lahore attacks, it was not our most read story. . . ."

Belam also wrote, "But what you will probably see over the next few days is that there will be a lot less follow up coverage from the media as a whole than there was follow up coverage of Brussels.

"In part, for us in Western Europe, that will be about logistics. It is a lot easier — and cheaper — to send a couple of reporters over to Brussels than it would be to get a team into Lahore.

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"I find it a bit depressing really, but unsurprising.

"It’s harder to get mainstream reader empathy and interest in terrorism attacks that occur further from our shores. Many, many of our readers will have visited Brussels or Paris. Far fewer will have ever ventured to Pakistan. . . ."

Separately, Dunya News, which covers Pakistan, reported, "The figurative yet very literal heart of the country was drenched in blood as a suicide bomber blew himself up, taking away 74 innocent lives and injuring at least 300 people, who were at the Gulshan-Iqbal park celebrating the Easter holiday and for general recreational purposes.

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"The jovial background froze into itself and a carnage erupted; dead bodies and rubble, the injured writhing in pain and a sight of utter chaos. . . ."

The Dunya News report also said, "Multiple Anjuman Tulba Islam (ATI) protestors were arrested as they attacked the Karachi press club. These miscreants resorted to aerial firing, assaulting journalists and also set a vehicle belonging to a private television channel on fire. . . ."

Leo Barraclough, Variety: Brussels Attacks: How Well Did Broadcasters Cover the Bombings in Belgium?

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The Union of Catholic Asian News: Pakistani press club faces threats over Christian journalists (Feb. 18)

OWN Lineup Resonating With Blacks, Women

"When Oprah Winfrey invited director Ava DuVernay to her Hawaii home in the summer of 2014, after the two had completed filming the movie 'Selma,' they got to talking on her porch about the novel 'Queen Sugar,' " Nick Niedzwiadek reported March 20 for the Wall Street Journal.

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"Then and there, Ms. Winfrey decided to turn the book — about a mother and daughter who leave Los Angeles for a Louisiana sugar-cane farm they inherit — into a TV series for her OWN cable network.

"The series, which is expected to premiere later this year, reflects the transformation of OWN’s programming over the past few years. The network, a joint venture with Discovery Communications Inc., was built around self-improvement talk shows, but has shifted toward increasingly ambitious dramas, with Ms. Winfrey taking a bigger role in its creative decisions.

"The overhaul coincided with a ratings surge, as the network’s new lineup resonated with women and black audiences. OWN’s average prime-time viewership has grown roughly 30% in the past two years to 537,000, according to Nielsen, even as many cable networks have suffered declines.

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"Those figures represent a remarkable turnaround for OWN, which made its debut in 2011 and initially struggled to attract an audience. . . ."

Although Niedzwiadek reported that "OWN is now the highest-rated cable network among African-American women, and in the top 20 among all women, according to Discovery," an OWN spokeswoman told Journal-isms she could not confirm that. Citing Nielsen, spokeswoman Chelsea Hettrick said, "This year to date, OWN is the #25 ad-supported cable network among W18+ (0.38 rtg) [ratings points]. OWN is a close second among A.A. W18+ (1.74), narrowly trailing BET (1.78)."

Meredith Blake, Los Angeles Times: WGA West report finds that progress for female and minority writers remains slow 'at best'

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TVNewsCheck: Comcast Blasted For Lack Of Black Networks

Short Takes

"What could’ve been a great initial movement for women in Mexico to stand up for their right to defend themselves and to finally obtain justice for all rape and femicide victims in the country, turned out to be just another inconclusive and unpunished nightmare," Janel Saldana reported Friday for Latin Times. "Freelance reporter Andrea Noel announced she was returning to the U.S. after Mexican authorities deliberately neglected her case. . . ." Noel wanted "justice for the more than 3 million women who have been victims of sexual violence since 2011, the more than 1,400 women who are assaulted, beaten, raped, or murdered every day in the country . . . " and said that violence against women in Mexico/LatAm is a cultural problem that is systemic and unlikely to improve, Saldana wrote.

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National Geographic’s Jill Hudson and the Bleacher Report’s Vincent Thomas are among the latest additions to the Undefeated, ESPN's website on sports, race and culture. Hudson will be senior writer, athletes’ style and fashion and Thomas, senior editor, sports, ESPN announced on Monday. Other additions include Aaron Dodson as assistant editor; Kelley Evans as general editor; Ashley Melfi and Rhiannon Walker as associate editors.

"Former Detroit News staff writer Angelo Henderson is to be inducted into the 2016 Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame," Kyla Smith reported Friday for the Detroit News. Henderson, who died in 2014, will be inducted with seven other journalists.

"On Tuesday, the FCC will take its latest step toward using multimillion-dollar payoffs to urge broadcasters to give up their airwaves, which in many cases would force them off the air," Jim Puzzanghera reported Thursday for the Los Angeles Times. "The spectrum then would be auctioned to telecommunications companies to be used to deliver mobile broadband and Wi-Fi services for America's fast-growing wireless appetite. The biggest winners in the first-of-its-kind auction could be a handful of the nation's newest — and most anonymous — station owners. . . ."

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"Charles Thomas Coates, a PBS and member station employee for 34 years, died March 15," Dru Sefton reported Friday for current.org

On The Root.com Thursday, Lauren Victoria Burke listed "23 Black Political Pundits You Should Know." They are Van Jones, Nia-Malika Henderson, Michael Steele, Bakari Sellers, Donna Brazile, Joy-Ann Reid, Eugene Robinson, Roland Martin, April Ryan, Perry Bacon, Marc Lamont Hill, Angela Rye, Francesca Chambers, Heather McGhee, Errol Louis, Cornell Belcher, Jamal Simmons, Crystal Wright, Clarence Page, Helene Cooper, Jason Johnson, Wilmer Leon and David Swerdlick.

"Michelle Lee has added another senior name to Allure's evolving editorial team: According to a representative for the beauty title, Simone Oliver of The New York Times will join as digital director in mid-April," Chantal Fernandez reported Monday for fashionista.com

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Jube Shiver Jr., retired reporter for the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, USA Today and the old Washington Star, was among those testifying Monday at a hearing in Alexandria, Va., before the Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Confederate Memorials and Street Names. Shiver said that 89 streets in Europe were named after Adolf Hitler before 1950, but that today none is. Shiver said that "most civilized people" would realize that the Alexandria city government should "do what the Europeans did" in confronting its "legacy of slavery and oppression." Previous.

"The exodus continues from D-FW television newsrooms, with another surge in recent days," Ed Bark reported Saturday for his Uncle Barky's Bytes blog, covering Dallas-Fort Worth. "The latest to leave is NBC5’s Amanda Guerra, who co-anchors the station’s weekend nighttime newscast and also reports on weekdays. Her last day will be March 30th, several sources confirm to unclebarky.com

"Earlier this month Chicago voters decisively ousted Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez," Cynthia Gordy wroteMonday for ProPublica. "The prosecutor was at the center of controversy after the release of video showing the fatal police shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald — a video that Alvarez tried to keep from public view for 13 months. Alvarez didn’t charge the officer until just before the video was released. Brandon Smith, an independent journalist, forced public disclosure of the video (which sharply contradicted police’s recounting of events) by suing the city after his Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request was denied. On this week’s podcast, Smith speaks with ProPublica senior reporter Julia Angwin about how he was the only journalist in Chicago to sue for the video, the challenges and benefits of practicing journalism independently in his free time, and his thoughts on what 'counts' as journalism. . . ."

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"A reporter and deputy news director at a national newspaper in Mexico have quit over allegations of government censorship, a reaction to the latest in a series of attempts to sweep negative coverage out of sight during Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration," Karla Zabludovsky reported Friday for BuzzFeed News. "The newspaper, Milenio, had published a five month-long investigation into an expensive anti-hunger government program on March 7. . . . " The team was led by reporter Karen Cota, "who analyzed more than 300,000 databases and concluded that the program funds were used haphazardly, leaving more than 60% of people in the poorest states without coverage." Néstor Ojeda, Milenio’s deputy director and Cota’s husband, also quit.

Cartoonists Rights Network International compiled international reaction Monday to the news that world-renowned cartoonist Gado had been fired by the Kenya-based Nation Media Group newspaper syndicate.

"On Friday morning, the security authorities at Khartoum International Airport prevented journalist Faisal Mohamed Saleh from travelling to London; the second action of its kind within two days," Radio Dabanga reported Sunday from Amsterdam. Saleh reported on his Facebook page on Friday that government agents "told him that his name is on the list of people banned from travelling abroad, and confiscated his passport. . . .The 56-year-old Saleh has worked for various Sudanese newspapers for 25 years. . . ."

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Richard Prince's Journal-isms originates from Washington. It began in print before most of us knew what the Internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a "column.”Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.

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