Assata Shakur’s autobiography, new book


This video is called Eyes Of The Rainbow – a documentary film with Assata Shakur.

By Carlos Martinez:

Inspiring account of a black activists struggle

Monday 1st August 2014

Assata: An Autobiograhy

by Assata Shakur

(Zed Books, £8.99)

ASSATA SHAKUR remains an essential text for understanding both the prison-industrial complex and the state of race relations in the US, as well as providing a profound insight into the successes and failures of the Black Power movement of the late 1960s and 1970s.

Born in 1947, Shakur — then Joanne Deborah Byron — grew up between North Carolina and New York, experiencing the intense racism that prevailed, and still prevails, on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line.

As a black, working-class woman she became acutely aware of the special oppression she and others like her faced. When a college student, she came across activists — especially from newly liberated Africa –— who challenged her anti-communist prejudices and her internalised stereotypes.

They encouraged her to get involved in the struggle for black power and against capitalism and imperialism. This led to her membership of the Black Panther Party and, later, the Black Liberation Army.

The larger part of the book is devoted to documenting Shakur’s experiences with the US “justice” system in courts and prisons between her arrest in 1971 and her escape eight years later.

Few readers would fail to be shocked at the extent to which this human being, whose real “crime” in the eyes of the state was to be a loud campaigner for justice and equality, was tortured and abused in prison — often at the hands of openly fascistic prison officers.

Her account also serves as a crucial reminder that there remain many political prisoners in the US, languishing behind bars for decades on trumped-up charges and that international pressure must be maintained and intensified until Mumia Abu-Jamal, Sundiata Acoli, Leonard Peltier, Oscar Lopez Rivera, Kenny “Zulu” Whitmore, Albert Woodfox and all political prisoners are freed.

As the book demonstrates, it’s a fight that must be maintained against a phenomenally unjust prison system which disproportionately targets poor and non-white people.

This is not restricted to the US — a recent study showed that black people in Britain are seven times more likely than their white counterparts to be imprisoned.

Shakur’s profound and thought-provoking reflections on the decline of the black power movement deserve to be studied and discussed, as they could help illuminate a path for the current generation of organisers and activists.

Apart from the FBI’s large-scale covert assault on the Panthers and others, she focuses too on subjective elements —adventurism, sectarianism, amateurishness, the failure to consistently raise levels of political consciousness and alienation from the masses — which hampered the movement.

Shakur’s continuing relevance is not lost on the FBI. Last year it added her to its list of “most wanted terrorists” and she is the first woman to enjoy this honour — good to see US imperialism doing its bit for gender equality.

Thankfully, she is safely in exile in Cuba, a country she describes as “one of the largest, most resistant and most courageous palenques (palisades) that has ever existed on the face of this planet.”

Essential reading.

See also here.

Lion film wins Emmy award


This video is called National Geographic’s Wild – Episode 3: Game Of Lions.

From Wildlife Extra:

Lion film wins Irons an Emmy

Actor Jeremy Irons‘ narration of a wildlife film has won him an Emmy. The winning film is Dereck and Beverly Joubert’s Game Of Lions, which follow the journey of young male lions in the African bush, from the birth to exile from a pride.

This was Irons’ seventh project with filmmakers and conservationists, Dereck and Beverly Joubert and the husband and wife’s eighth. Other collaborations between Irons and the Jouberts include: The Unlikely Leopard, Eye Of The Leopard, and The Last Lions.

“What makes our work with Jeremy resonate with authority and understanding is his relentless insistence on understanding each sentence, each word he delivers, says producer Beverly Joubert.

“Jeremy is a big cat expert as a result and that makes a difference, it makes what he reads believable. When you develop a relationship based on trust and professionalism it endures beyond that present piece of work and in many ways Jeremy has become the voice of our films.”

Read a field guide to lions HERE that includes details on their habitat, diet, threats, physiology and where to see them in the wild.

Holocaust survivors oppose Gaza war, get reaction: ‘Hitler didn’t finish the job’


This video about Hitler’s mass murder of Jews is called Shoah part 1 – A Film By Claude Lanzmann, 1985 with subtitles: ENG, SPA, PL, GER, FR.

By Bill van Auken in the USA:

26 August 2014

In a letter published as an advertisement Saturday in the New York Times, over 350 survivors of the Nazi Holocaust and descendants of survivors issued a stinging condemnation of “the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza and the ongoing occupation and colonization of historic Palestine.” …

The correctness of this assessment found speedy confirmation in the form of Facebook postings by Israeli rightists telling those who had signed the declaration to “go back to Auschwitz” or “go die in the gas chambers,” and lamenting that “Hitler didn’t finish the job.”

These disgusting reactions to the Holocaust survivors prove that the extreme Right lunatic fringe in Israel, unfortunately, are not any better than the extreme Right lunatic fringe in some Arab countries, or among ‘white nationalist’ anti-Semites in the USA, in Europe or elsewhere.

Indefinite ceasefire commences in Gaza: here.

An Israeli reservist asks: What did I fight for in Gaza? For now, writes the soldier, the well-brought-up Zionist young people continue to show up dutifully for reserve duty. But they are also filled with despair: here.

British actor Richard Attenborough helped honour Nelson Mandela


This video is called BBC News – Filmmaker Richard Attenborough dies at 90.

By Will Stone in Britain:

Tuesday 26th August 2014

Tributes pour in for progressive actor who died aged 90

BELOVED actor Richard Attenborough was remembered yesterday for his “determination and courage” in helping to erect the statue of Nelson Mandela in Parliament Square.

The award-winning star, described as a “titan of British cinema” by film academy Bafta and famed for his roles in blockbusters Jurassic Park, Gandhi and The Great Escape, died at lunchtime on Sunday at the age of 90.

But left groups remembered his achievements off the screen too.

Jude Woodward, former culture and creative industries advisor at City Hall under Ken Livingstone, told the Star that few have mentioned Attenborough’s “irascible” nature, which she believed helped make sure the bronze statue of South Africa’s former president and anti-apartheid activist was built.

Mr Attenborough helped set up a fund for the statue with the widow of the late anti-apartheid activist Donald Woods, who originally came up with the idea and received approval from Mandela in 2001.

“He was absolutely determined,” she said, recalling that they had initially battled to get the nine-foot statue put up outside the High Commission of South Africa in Trafalgar Square.

However Westminster Council rejected the planning application on the grounds its location would disrupt events in the area.

After much discussion the council finally agreed to erect the £400,000 sculpture, designed by Ian Walters, in Parliament Square alongside the statues of other iconic figures including Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln and Benjamin Disraeli.

This video from London, England is called Nelson Mandela‘s speech at the unveiling of his statue.

Mandela himself attended the unveiling of the sculpture in 2007, six years after it was first approved, and the statue is still the only one of a black person in the square.

Ms Woodward said that it was “a real achievement” and a “right and fitting legacy” to Mandela that the statue was erected in his lifetime.

Describing Mr Attenborough, she added: “If things got in his way he would not brook opposition. He was absolutely determined there would be a tribute to Mandela and that it would be erected while he was living.”

Also paying tribute, Labour leader Ed Miliband said: “The death of Richard Attenborough is a sad day for the film world and the Labour movement. He and his work will be remembered.”

BFI chief executive Amanda Nevill added: “the world has lost a very, very special person.”

Actor Bob Hope’s bigamy, other revelations


This 1972 video is called Bob Hope’s Final Vietnam Christmas Tour.

In this video, everything looked like being alright.

Looked. But is wasn’t alright. Around this military base where Bob Hope performed, the bloody Vietnam war raged.

Though it was Christmas, and Bob Hope in the video sang a Christmas song, at the same time the biggest ever bombing campaign by US B-52 aircraft took place. The United States Air Force dropped at least 20,000 tonnes of explosives on North Vietnam, mostly Hanoi. More than 1,000 Vietnamese died.

And everything wasn’t alright with Bob Hope either.

From the Daily Express in Britain:

The shocking truth about Bob Hope the bigamist actor

A SECRET first marriage, countless affairs and a childhood spent behind bars an explosive new book reveals the shocking truth about the Hollywood star.

By: Peter Sheridan

Saturday, August 16, 2014

When Bob Hope celebrated his 50th anniversary with wife Dolores, the legendary entertainer explained the longevity of their union: “I’ve only been home for three weeks in 50 years.” The marriage endured 69 years until Hope’s death at 100 but his quip was painfully close to the truth, according to an explosive new biography.

The British-born star of film, TV and stage kept his marriage alive despite a lifetime of clandestine affairs and was an often-absent husband and father to his four adopted children, claims author Richard Zoglin in Hope: Entertainer Of The Century.

“Bob Hope had affairs with chorus girls, beauty queens, singers and showbiz wannabes up into his 70s,” reveals Zoglin, “He had a different girl on his arm every night. He was still having affairs into his 80s.”

The writer exposes the shocking private life Hope spent decades concealing: his childhood behind bars in reform school, his secret first marriage to a Vaudeville star and his aloof relationship with frequent screen co-star Bing Crosby.

“He was a narcissistic, self-centred man who put career before family,” says Zoglin. “He craved applause and desperately needed to be loved. He could sleep with anyone he wanted, and he did.”

Hope found fame in films including The Cat And The Canary, The Paleface, and opposite Bing Crosby in The Road To Singapore and its five sequels. His TV specials topped ratings for many years and he entertained US troops through the Second World War and conflicts in Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf. He has been commemorated on stamps and had ships, bridges, museums, villages, streets and an airport named in his honour.

His marriage to nightclub singer Dolores Reade was considered one of Hollywood’s most successful and enduring, yet it was founded on a lie and may never have even been a legal marriage, the author discovered.

“Bob and Dolores always claimed that they married in February 1934 in Erie, Pennsylvania. But at that time he was secretly married to his Vaudeville partner Louise Troxell, after three years together on and off,” says Zoglin. “I found divorce papers for Bob and Louise dated November 1934, so either Bob Hope was a bigamist or he lied about marrying Dolores in February that year.

“He’d actually married Louise in January 1933 in Erie when they were travelling on the Vaudeville circuit. When he claimed he had married Dolores in Erie he was actually miles away in New York, on Broadway.

“More intriguing, there is no record anywhere of his marriage to Dolores, if it happened. And there are no wedding photos, either. But he never forgot Louise and quietly sent her money in her later years.”

Hope found fame in films often playing a wise-cracking, girl-chasing, blustering coward: a character bearing more than a passing resemblance to the real Hope.

“He had women in every port,” says Zoglin “He had affairs with Ethel Merman and Doris Day but usually it was not his co-stars but starlets that he bedded. His team of writers remember an orgy in his New York hotel room one night, with naked bodies everywhere. But some lovers were more long-term. Marilyn Maxwell became his lover in the 1950s and was with him so often people called her Mrs Hope. She wanted to marry him but Dolores wouldn’t give Bob a divorce.

“In the 1960s his lover was Welsh beauty queen Rosemarie Frankland, Britain’s first Miss World. He moved her to Hollywood, paid for her apartment and told friends she was the love of his life. Their affair lasted more than 30 years. Even in his 80s he had a long-term affair which must have been serious because his lover later sued for breach of contract claiming that Hope had promised to support her for life. The case was settled out of court.

“Dolores came to an understanding with Hope. He could play around as long as he never brought his mistresses home and never embarrassed her publicly.

“It was actually a very good marriage, except for his serial infidelity.” Yet Hope’s womanising may have been a result of a love-starved, impoverished childhood with a boozing absentee father and a mother struggling to cope with seven sons.

“His father was a neglectful alcoholic who wasn’t there much and money was tight,” says Zoglin. “He was born Leslie Townes Hope in Eltham in south-east London but the family moved to Weston-super-Mare, then Bristol, to smaller and smaller houses, until they moved to America when Bob was four.”

It was a troubled upbringing. He sleepwalked through city streets, so his mother tied his feet to his older brother each night. After brushes with the law, Hope dropped out of school at 15.

“He had a tough childhood, was arrested for shoplifting, branded a ‘delinquent’ and sent to reform school for seven months. He got out but broke his probation and was sent back for another year. Yet he never mentioned it in his memoirs. At 19 he was stabbed in a fight, supposedly defending a local girl from a gang. He needed a blood transfusion and stitches but never spoke about it.”

After doing a series of jobs, ranging from shoe salesman to butcher and boxer to dance instructor, Hope landed in Vaudeville, dancing with Siamese twins and in hard times on street corners for pennies, before winning his big Hollywood break in 1938. Yet with fame came more travel, keeping him from his four adopted children.

Hope’s nephew Tom Malatesta told the author: “Everything else in his life was not as important as what he was doing for a living.”

Says Zoglin: “It was hard for all his children. They felt his absence. He just wasn’t home much. And when he was home, it felt like a star visiting, rather than a loving father. He was always emotionally detached and insular. He’d never admit a mistake or say he was sorry. Fame and travel made him even more distant.”

Despite Hope making six movies with Bing Crosby, Zoglin reveals: “They were not close friends and even when living nearby they rarely socialised. Bob told a friend he simply didn’t like Bing very much.”

Dorothy Lamour, who got second billing after Crosby and above Hope in their first Road movie in 1940, came to detest both co-stars, who reduced her role in each successive film.

“Bob and Bing formed a production company in 1947 to produce sub sequent Road movies and didn’t include Lamour in the deal,” says Zoglin. “She was very upset. When the last Road movie was filmed in 1961, Bob and Bing decided Lamour was too old, even though she was younger than both of them, and hired Joan Collins instead, giving Dorothy just a small cameo. She was outraged.”

And Hope was a tough boss. “His team of writers loved him but they were on call 24/7 and had no lives of their own,” says Zoglin.

One writer had to give up his home on occasions to allow for Hope’s illicit trysts. His co star Katharine Hepburn called him “the biggest egomaniac”.

A shrewd investor, Hope owned vast land holdings, television stations, ranches, oil wells, and his own production company, making him one of America’s wealthiest men.

However, Zoglin explains: “Growing up in the Depression left him extremely tight fisted. He watched every cent. When relatives stayed at his home he sometimes charged them for using his phone.”

Hope hit his movie heyday in the 1950s and ruled over American TV for another three decades but by the 1980s his act was looking dated. Hope’s unquestioning patriotism that had won millions of American hearts when he was entertaining troops during the 1940s and 1950s earned him a legion of enemies in the 1970s as he supported the Vietnam War and poked fun at hippies and anti war protesters.

“Bob lingered too long in the limelight, continuing to make TV specials in his 80s even as his eye sight and hearing faded and he became doddery,” says Zoglin.

“He showed signs of dementia, repeating himself and asking the same question over and over. It damaged his reputation and his family had to persuade him to step down.

“But he found it hard to let go of the applause and adulation. He felt his life had no meaning without it. He’d grown up insecure in an unstable home and needed public affirmation to survive. Perhaps his womanising was a reflection of that need to be loved.”

If Hope’s infidelities were a weight on his wife’s mind, you wouldn’t know it from her golden anniversary gift to him – though it may have contained a subtle barb. Dolores gave Hope a paperweight, with the inscription: “Don’t think these three weeks haven’t been fun!”