NEWS STAND: Reshaping California, Reed on Precious, Toyota Apology and more..

A quick roundup of today's biggest stories.

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MINORITIES WARY OF CALIFORNIA REDISTRICTING For the first time, voting districts for California's Legislature will not be drawn behind closed doors in the backrooms of the state Capitol. Instead, a first-in-the-nation citizen commission will do the job, and thousands of everyday Californians are jostling to serve on the panel, reports the Los Angeles Times. But hopes of taking politics out of the process are fading. Ethnic groups charge that the pool of applicants is too white and too male to reflect the state's diversity. Others are raising questions about $1.3 million in taxpayer money being spent on a public relations contract to woo minority applicants. And an effort is afoot to repeal the commission, which voters created by passing a 2008 ballot initiative. http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-redistricting4-2010feb04,0,4978584.story
ISHMAEL REED HEATS UP OVER “PRECIOUS” JUDGING from the mail I’ve received, the conversations I’ve had and all that I’ve read, the responses to “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” fall largely along racial lines, says critic Ishmael Reed on the op-ed page of the New York Times. Among black men and women, there is widespread revulsion and anger over the Oscar-nominated film about an illiterate, obese black teenager who has two children by her father. The author Jill Nelson wrote: “I don’t eat at the table of self-hatred, inferiority or victimization. I haven’t bought into notions of rampant black pathology or embraced the overwrought, dishonest and black-people-hating pseudo-analysis too often passing as post-racial cold hard truths.” One black radio broadcaster said that he felt under psychological assault for two hours. So did I. The blacks who are enraged by “Precious” have probably figured out that this film wasn’t meant for them. It was the enthusiastic response from white audiences and critics that culminated in the film being nominated for six Oscars by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, an outfit whose 43 governors are all white and whose membership in terms of diversity is about 40 years behind Mississippi. In fact, the director, Lee Daniels, said that the honor would bring even more “middle-class white Americans” to his film. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/05/opinion/05reed.html?ref=opinion
TOYOTA PRESIDENT APOLOGIZES NAGOYA, JAPAN — The president of Toyota apologized at a hastily arranged hers conference Friday night for the quality problems that led to the recall of more than nine million vehicles worldwide, and pledged the Japanese automaker would soon announce steps to address brake problems on the 2010 Prius. Akio Toyoda, grandson of Toyota’s founder, spoke in his first formal remarks since the uproar enveloping his company, the world’s largest automaker, and took personal responsibility for the problems. “I deeply regret that I caused concern among so many people,” Mr. Toyoda said. “We will do our utmost to regain the trust of our customers.” Asked whether Toyota had underestimated the situation, Mr. Toyoda said, “I believe what is happening now is a very big problem. We are in a crisis.” http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/06/business/global/06toyota.html?hp
FORMER MISTRESS OF DETROIT'S EX-MAYOR MOVING TO ATLANTA Looking for a fresh start, the former top aide and mistress of ex-Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is reportedly moving to Atlanta, according to various media outlets, including the Atlanta Journal. Christine Beatty and Kilpatrick both lied under oath about their extra-marital affair, which included thousands of explicit text messages Beatty is still on probation following her perjury conviction and she will be reporting to Georgia authorities, Judge Timothy Kenny told USA Today. Kenny is the presiding judge of the criminal division of the Wayne County Circuit Court. Beatty served 70 days in prison and owes the city of Detroit $100,000 in restitution. She served as Kilpatrick's chief of staff from 2002 to 2008. http://www.ajc.com/news/former-mistress-of-detroit-291696.html
AFTER 28 YEARS FOR FALSE RAPE CHARGE, NY MAN GETS NO APOLOGY On Thursday, sitting stoically in the same courthouse where long ago he was convicted of a rape he did not commit, Freddie Peacock, 60, received the exoneration he so passionately sought after 28 years in prison. With barely a comment, Judge David D. Egan of the State Supreme Court in Rochester, NY vacated the 1977 conviction in the face of new DNA testing that proved Mr. Peacock’s innocence. Neither the judge nor the prosecutor directly addressed Mr. Peacock during the five-minute procedure, and neither offered an apology. Mr. Peacock spoke only once, at the end. “Thank you, Your Honor,” he said, according to the New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/05/nyregion/05dna.html?hpw
FOOTBALL LEGEND MICHAEL IRVIN ACCUSED OF RAPE A woman who says she was raped by football star Michael Irvin at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino filed a civil lawsuit against him Thursday in Broward Circuit Court. Although no criminal charges have been filed, the Broward State Attorney's Office has been looking into the case and is expected to reach a conclusion next week, said spokesman Ron Ishoy, in a story in the Miami Herald. The woman said the attack happened in 2007, in the late hours of July 4 or early July 5. The suit doesn't name the woman, referring to her as Jane Doe. Irvin's lawyer, Larry Friedman, called the accusations ``totally untrue.'' When asked to describe her contact with Irvin, Friedman said, ``Beyond, perhaps, meeting her, there was nothing.'' http://www.miamiherald.com/news/breaking-news/story/1463608.html
10 AMERICANS IN HAITI CHARGED WITH ABDUCTION PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Ten Americans who tried to take 33 Haitian children out of the country last week without the government’s consent have been charged with child abduction and criminal conspiracy, as Haitian officials sought to reassert judicial control after the Jan. 12 earthquake. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/05/world/americas/05orphans.html?hp
A TRIBE – AND A LANGUAGE -- DISAPPEAR The last member of a unique tribe that inhabited the Andaman Islands for as long as 65,000 years has died of old age — taking to the grave with her one of the country’s many endangered languages. Boa Sr, who died last week aged about 85, was the last member of the Bo — one of the ten Great Andamanese tribes that are considered indigenous inhabitants of the islands, which lie 750 miles off the east coast of India. Genetic studies suggest that the islands’ indigenous tribes are the descendants of early humans who migrated from Africa to the sub-continent and then to South East Asia about 70,000 years ago. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article7015540.ece
VIDEO EMERGES OF CIA SHOOTING U.S. MISSIONARIES A video has emerged showing a bungled CIA operation that led to the shooting down of a light plane carrying American missionaries in Peru, says the Times of London. The dramatic footage, taken from a CIA surveillance aircraft and shown on America's ABC News, shows Peruvian fighter jets opening fire on the missionaries' seaplane even as its pilot screamed for help. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article7014620.ece
THE BIG SPENDERS ARE BACK Luxury shoppers in New York and Florida are back. Neiman Marcus Inc. reported Thursday a 6.8 percent increase it January same-store sales, the second consecutive month that the luxury chain has posted higher sales from a year ago, according to the Dallas Morning News. And for the first time since the downturn, the Dallas-based retailer said its stores in the Southeast, which have been among its weakest, showed strength. Stores in the Northeast, which include Bergdorf Goodman in New York, also had a strong January. Best-selling categories were precious jewelry, women’s couture apparel and dresses, shoes, handbags and men’s. http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/bus/stories/020510dnbusneimansales.e4f5a141.html

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