NEWS STAND: D.C. OKs Same-Sex, Yes to Bananas, Non to Racism, Soft Radio

DC OKs Same-Sex Marriage

Just days after black voters helped put Houston's first openly gay mayor into office, the Washington, D.C. city council struck its own blow for gay rights. The federal district's local lawmakers voted Tuesday night to allow same-sex marriage, making it the sixth jurisdiction in the U.S. to pass such a law.


Mayor Adrian Fenty is expected to sign the bill by the end of the week but opponents said they would appeal to the courts or to Congress, which has a 30-day period to review any legislation passed by the DC city council. The bill passed by an 11-2 margin after a year-long debate that pitted gay rights activists and liberals against conservative clergy, according to the Washington Post.

City officials estimate that 10,000 same-sex couples could flock to Washington to get married over the next three years if the measure becomes law. The marriage could pour as much as $22 million into the city's coffers, according to estimates done in the run-up to the vote. Washington's vote further dismantles the perception that African-American voters are reflexively anti-gay, a view that gained traction after last year's failure of a same-sex marriage proposition in California.

Yes to Bananas

The world's longest trade dispute is finally over. The "banana wars" started before the creation of the World Trade Organization in 1995 and involved preferences given to former Caribbean and African colonies by members of the European Union. American corporate giant Chiquita Brands and Latin American growers had objected.

The agreement will reduce tariffs against imported bananas in the European Union over seven years and U.S. and Latin American growers will drop their litigation efforts. The EU will provide 200 million euros in development aid to the former colonies such as Martinique and Guadeloupe to help them restructure their banana industries.

Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the interim European trade commissioner, called the settlement "a very historic moment", saying: "This dispute has soured global trade relations for too long," reported the Financial Times. Officials hope the deal on bananas is a first step toward resolving a series of prickly trade issues involving rich and poor nations.


Non to Racism

The French, who used to lecture Americans on race relations, are finding out that practicing what you preach is a lot harder. A series of flaps this year has exposed the fault line on race in France and politicians aren't doing a good job of managing the problem.


In the fall, President Francois Sarkozy launched a project to define the French identity this fall to mixed results.This week, the minister for families, Nadine Moreno, a close ally of Sarkozy, set off a firestorm when she suggested that young Arabs needed to dress properly, find jobs and stop speaking in slang. "I want them to love France when they live here, to find work and not speak in slang," Moreno declared. "They shouldn't put their caps on back to front."  Her comments at one of the many meetings around the country on the issue of identity triggered outrage and accusations of racism from her opponents on the left.

As the New York Times pointed out today, the style of baggy clothes, turned back caps -borrowed from urban America -  and a special slang called " verlan," has long spread from the tough rings of suburbs where most poor immigrants live to youth at all levels of French society.


About five million Muslims live in France, many from North and West Africa. Discrimination in employment is common despite periodic investigations by the major media that expose the practice. Sarkozy appointed a prominent French-Arab businessman to tackle the issue of diversity, but he was stymied by Parliament's refusal to collect statistics on race and ethnicity, which are barred by law.

Soft Radio

Hard-core hip-hopper? Don't get caught humming along to a Lionel Richie ballad. A study of radio listening habits reveals that people don't always tell the truth about the music they tune in.   A study by Research Director, a ratings consultant, found that a lot more men listen to light rock than they admitted and that fewer listen to classical music and jazz.


The study focused on cities that use the Personal People Meters, pager-like devices that track what radio consumers actually use. In the past, radio ratings were based on hand-written diaries but the new digital technology set off a tempest in radio circles when they first appeared in 2007. Urban and Hispanic stations saw their ratings downgraded and complained of discrimination. Arbitron, which runs the rating system, says it is adding more listeners who only use cell phones, presumably adding more young and urban listeners to the ratings mix.

Analysts say that stations serving niches like jazz and classical music may suffer most under the new system because the ratings services are not sampling enough of their listeners. Clear Channel dropped soft jazz formats on eight of its stations after they received low ratings. Meanwhile, men with soft music tastes will likely stay in the closet.