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Welcome to the Overnight News Digest (OND) for Tuesday, February 18, 2014.

OND is a regular community feature on Daily Kos, consisting of news stories from around the world, sometimes coupled with a daily theme, original research or commentary.  Editors of OND impart their own presentation styles and content choices, typically publishing near 12:00AM Eastern Time.

Creation and early water-bearing of the OND concept came from our very own Magnifico - proper respect is due.

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This diary is named for its "Hump Point" video: Como Ves by Ozomatli

News below Aunt Flossie's hairdo . . .

Please feel free to browse and add your own links, content or thoughts in the Comments section.

Any timestamps shown are relative to each publication.

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Top News
Are We Living in a Post-Constitutional America?

By Peter Van Buren
Through what seems to have been an Obama administration leak to the Associated Press, we recently learned that the president and his top officials believe a US citizen—name unknown to us out here—probably somewhere in the tribal backlands of Pakistan, is reputedly planning attacks against Americans abroad. As a result, the White House has, for the last several months, been considering whether or not to assassinate him by drone without trial or due process.

. . .

Last May, Obama gave a speech on the subject. It was, in part, a response to growing anger in Pakistan, Yemen, and elsewhere over the CIA's ongoing drone assassination campaigns with all their "collateral damage," and to the White House's reported "kill list." In it, he insisted that any target of the drones must pose "a continuing and imminent threat to the American people." At the time, the White House also issued a fact sheet that stated: "Lethal force must only be used to prevent or stop attacks against US persons, and even then, only when capture is not feasible and no other reasonable alternatives exist to address the threat effectively." While that sounds like a pretty imposing set of hurdles to leap, all of the "legal" criteria are determined in secret by the White House with advice from the Justice Department, but with no oversight or accountability.

. . .

Attorney General Eric Holder publicly rewrote the Fifth Amendment in 2012, declaring, in a veiled reference to al-Awlaki, "that a careful and thorough executive branch review of the facts in a case amounts to 'due process' and that the Constitution's Fifth Amendment protection against depriving a citizen of his or her life without due process of law does not mandate a 'judicial process.'" In other words, in a pinch, skip the courts. In this way, Holder gave us a peak behind the White House curtain, making clear that the president's personal and secret decision to kill an American, perhaps made over morning coffee, was, in his opinion, good enough to make everything legal.

. . .

The judge's position was revealing of our moment. The extrajudicial killing of an American citizen seemed to him to be nothing but a political question to be argued out in Congress and the White House, not something intimately woven into the founding documents of our nation. The judge was not alone in his characterization of the problem. Mike Rogers, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, complained that the killing of more terror suspects in a similar manner has been held back by "self-imposed red tape."

NextGen Climate Action plans $100 million spending in 2014 elections

By (UPI)
Retired investor Tom Steyer's political organization, NextGen Climate Action, is preparing to spend more than $100 million during the 2014 election, he said.

. . .

Targets include the Florida gubernatorial race, where incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Scott has claimed he is not convinced science has established climate change is man-made, and the Iowa senatorial race, where a Democratic candidate, Rep. Bruce Braley, is an outspoken proponent of measures to limit climate change.

. . .

To that end, Steyer, a billionaire, gathered leading liberal donors and philanthropists to his Pescadero, Calif., ranch in August to ask them to join in his efforts. People involved in the discussions said Steyer sought $50 million in donations to match $50 million of his own contribution.

G8 New Alliance condemned as new wave of colonialism in Africa

By Claire Provost, Liz Ford and Mark Tran
A landmark G8 initiative to boost agriculture and relieve poverty has been damned as a new form of colonialism after African governments agreed to change seed, land and tax laws to favour private investors over small farmers.

. . .

Olivier de Schutter, the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, said governments had been making promises to investors "completely behind the screen", with "no long-term view about the future of smallholder farmers" and without their participation.

. . .

"By introducing this market, farmers will have to depend on imported seeds. This will definitely affect small farmers. It will also kill innovation at the local level. We have seen this with manufacturing," he said.

"It will be like colonialism. Farmers will not be able to farm until they import, linking farmers to [the] vulnerability of international prices. Big companies will benefit. We should not allow that."

Tanzania's tax commitments would also benefit companies rather than small farmers, he said, adding that the changes proposed would have to go through parliament. "The executive cannot just commit to these changes. These are sensitive issues. There has to be enough debate," he said.

Actavis to buy Forest Labs for $25bn

By (BBC)
The world's second-largest generic drugmaker Actavis is buying Forest Laboratories for about $25bn (£15bn) in its biggest-ever acquisition.

Shares of Forest surged by nearly 30%, while Actavis stock rose by 5% after the equity and cash deal was revealed.

. . .

"With this strategic combination, we create an innovative new model in specialty pharmaceuticals leadership, with size and scale, a balanced offering of strong brands and generics, a focus on strategic, lower-risk drug development, and - most important - the ability to drive sustainable organic growth," he said in a statement.

. . .

Billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn is the company's second-largest shareholder.
 

International
Close civil service gender pay gap, Labour urges government

By (BBC)
The government should close the gap between salaries paid to men and women for equivalent civil service jobs, Labour has said.

. . .

More than half of all civil servants are women but their average salaries are almost 10% beneath those of their male colleagues, according to Labour's research - which is based on a series of parliamentary questions.

While this might reflect a lack of seniority, the analysis suggests that even at the top of the civil service, women are paid around 5% less than men on average - the BBC's political correspondent Iain Watson said.

China rejects 'unfair criticism' in UN North Korea report

By (BBC)
A UN report on Monday said that the countries must act on evidence that such crimes were being committed.

A panel of experts said that China might be aiding and abetting the crimes by forcibly repatriating North Koreans.

But a Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman in Beijing said China saw them as illegal migrants.

. . .

The panel of experts mandated by the UN's Human Rights Council said North Koreans had suffered "unspeakable atrocities", and that those responsible, including leader Kim Jong-un, must face justice.

. . .

The "gravity, scale and nature" of the allegations "reveal a state that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world", it says.

Ban Ki-moon backs campaign to tackle FGM through education

By Alexandra Topping
The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, has backed Fahma Mohamed's campaign – which is supported by the Guardian and anti-FGM campaigners – to put education at the heart of tackling female genital mutilation. Ban praised the 17-year-old's campaign – which has now attracted more than 212,000 signatures on change.org  - calling it "deeply inspiring", and applauded her call to enlist headteachers to help reach every girl who is at risk of FGM.

As a result of the campaign – which calls on the education secretary, Michael Gove, to write to every headteacher in the country asking them to inform teachers and parents about the horrors of FGM – the Scottish government has already said that it will write to heads throughout Scotland, and following sustained public pressure Michael Gove agreed to meet with Mohamed to discuss the issue.

. . .

He stressed that there was no developmental, religious or health reason to cut or mutilate girls and women, writing: "Although some would argue that this is a 'tradition', we must recall that slavery, so-called honour killings and other inhumane practices have been defended with the same weak argument. Just because a harmful practice has long existed does not justify its continuation […] FGM causes grave harm. The health consequences include depression, insecurity, pain, infections, incontinence and sometimes deadly complications in pregnancy and childbirth. Mothers shouldn't be terrified of giving birth to daughters."

The UN secretary general pointed to progress being made in Uganda, Kenya and Guinea-Bissau, which have recently adopted laws to end FGM. Arrests have been made in Ethiopia, in Sudan a campaign has been launched against FGM, while in Kenya elders have imposed a fine on anyone carrying out or abetting the practice.

Militias' ultimatum heightens Libya tensions

By (Al Jazeera)
Two Libyan militias have called for the country's legislators to step down or be detained, but the head of the interim parliament has refused and called the ultimatum an impending coup.

. . .

The ultimatum came a day after Libyans marked the third anniversary of the start of their revolution that toppled longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi but left the country with no strong central government or military.

Successive governments have relied on former rebels who fought Gaddafi to fill the security vacuum, but the fighters formed armed groups that have gradually turned the country into fiefdoms independent from government authority.

. . .

Many Libyans blame militias and infighting inside parliament for a lack of progress in the transition towards democracy since the revolution.

Oil production, Libya's lifeline, has slowed to a trickle as armed protesters and tribesmen have seized oil ports and fields across the vast desert nation to press political and financial demands.

USA Politics, Economy, Major Events
Graphic cow abuse video released as Idaho advances 'ag-gag' bill

By Paresh Dave
Striking back at a proposed Idaho law that would ban undercover filming at farms, an animal rights group released video Tuesday of a dairy worker sexually abusing a cow.

. . .

Idaho lawmakers have proposed legislation to punish people who cause damage or videotape farm work after entering through force, threat, misrepresentation or trespass. It would be a misdemeanor punishable by a year in jail or a $5,000 fine -- the same as convicted animal abusers.

The dairy industry says the law is needed to protect dairies from animal rights advocates who lie about their backgrounds on job applications so they can gain access to sites for filming. The bill's sponsor has compared the animal rights groups to terrorists, alleging that they seek economic damages as much as reforms by demanding that the dairies' corporate customers sever ties.

. . .

A handful of states have laws regarding filming animal abuse on farms. Iowa is one, as is Utah, whose law is being challenged in court.

Justice Dept. Asks For Help Finding Prisoners Who Deserve Clemency

By Carrie Johnson
The second-in-command at the Justice Department met Tuesday with defense lawyers and interest groups to identify the cases of worthy prisoners who could qualify for clemency.

The initiative by Deputy Attorney General James Cole follows a speech he gave last month suggesting the White House intends to make more use of the president's power to shorten prison sentences for inmates who have clean records, no significant ties to gangs or violence, and who are serving decades behind bars for relatively low-level offenses.

. . .

Longtime followers of the pardon power have criticized President Obama's relatively stingy approach over five years in office. They also suggest that backlogs in the Justice Department's Office of Pardon Attorney might get worse if the call for more prisoner petitions takes hold.

. . .

Representatives from the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Federal public defender program and Families Against Mandatory Minimums had been scheduled to attend the meeting at Justice Department headquarters.

Welcome to the "Hump Point" of this OND.

News can be sobering and engrossing - at this point in the diary, an offering of brief escapism:

Random notes related to this video:
Although they won a Grammy for . . . 2004's Street Signs, the ten-piece multicultural music collective known as Ozomatli have always been first and foremost a live act, and experiencing the group's explosive, energetic stage show, which mixes salsa, punk, reggae, funk, hip-hop, and touches of jazz into a barrio gumbo block party with leftist leanings, is like watching a renegade Gypsy street circus come to life, complete with massive percussion and massed horns. . . . it is the visual representation . . . that really shows the full force of this incredible group, which has built a new template for what an American band can be in the 21st century. Passionate, diverse, fiercely independent, and ardently political, Ozomatli have an ace in the hole: they're one of the best dance bands in recent memory.
Back to what's happening:
Environment and Greening
Obama rolls out plan to tighten fuel efficiency standards for large trucks

By (theguardian.com)
. . .

Speaking from a grocery store distribution center in Maryland on Tuesday, Obama said fuel savings by truck fleets would result in savings to consumers. He highlighted improvements already undertaken by companies such as Safeway to cut back on gasoline costs for their fleet of trucks.

. . .

The new rules will build on standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles that the Obama administration imposed on model years 2014-18 and will reach well into the next decade, according to details of the new plan released by the White House ahead of the announcement.

. . .

By ordering federal agencies to develop new standards, Obama is able to act on his own and sidestep Congress, which remains divided about what to do about a warming planet.

Cows make more milk when listening to R.E.M.

By Holly Richmond
Stressed cows produce less milk. The solution? R.E.M.’s hit “Everybody Hurts,” at least according to a study by the University of Leicester. It’s not just the perfect song for an angsty ’90s montage; it helps cows relax and release more oxytocin, which is central to milk production. Slow jams boosted milk output by 3 percent, researchers found, which might not sound like a lot — but every little bit helps, right?

. . .

When creating your own moo-worthy mixtape, keep in mind that genre is less important than beat, according to Leanne Alworth of the University of Georgia. (She suggests easy listening or new age.) Cows are NOT fond of throbbing dance hits — or Willie Nelson, for some reason.

U.S. tries to have it both ways with solar trade policy

By John Upton
. . .

The U.S. International Trade Commission ruled on Friday that Chinese solar panels made with cells manufactured in Taiwan may harm the American solar industry, bringing it closer to adding to the duties it slapped on products from China in 2012.

. . .

American solar-installation companies have denounced the move to slap new duties on Taiwanese-manufactured components. That’s because they rely on cheap Asian manufacturers to help keep the price of solar arrays low.

. . .

American solar-panel manufacturers have a different perspective, as you might expect. The dispute puts the U.S. government in a tight spot — is it best to protect panel installers or panel manufacturers? . . .

If the administration doesn’t ratchet up tariffs on Chinese solar makers, it will be accused of speeding the demise of what little solar-panel manufacturing remains in the U.S. That will further erode the administration’s claims that clean energy would bring the country lots of “green” manufacturing jobs. But if the administration ultimately imposes hefty new tariffs on imported Chinese panels … the price of solar power across the country could rise, slowing the advance of a fast-growing, though still niche, green energy source. And that would hurt the firms that are succeeding best in the U.S. solar business today — not those making the panels, but those bolting them onto American rooftops.
Finland: Reflective reindeer horns aim to stop accidents

By (YLE via bbc.co.uk)
Herders in Lapland are spraying their reindeer with reflective paint to help drivers see them in the dark, it appears.

The special spray is being tested on their fur and antlers to see how it holds up in different weather conditions, Finnish national broadcaster YLE reports.

. . .

As many as 4,000 reindeer die in traffic accidents every year in Finland, the Finnish Game and Fisheries Research Institute says. Most incidents occur in the dark months of November and December, when roads are prone to becoming icy, the Helsingen Sanomat newspaper reports.

Science and Health
Going with the wind

By Matthew England
For a long time now climatologists have been tracking the global average air temperature as a measure of planetary climate variability and trends, even though this metric reflects just a tiny fraction of Earth’s net energy or heat content. But it’s used widely because it’s the metric that enjoys the densest array of in situ observations. The problem of course is that this quantity has so many bumps and kinks, pauses and accelerations that predicting its year-to-year path is a big challenge. Over the last century, no single forcing agent is clearer than anthropogenic greenhouse gases, yet zooming into years or decades, modes of variability become the signal, not the noise. Yet despite these basics of climate physics, any slowdown in the overall temperature trend sees lobby groups falsely claim that global warming is over. Never mind that the globe – our planet – spans the oceans, atmosphere, land and ice systems in their entirety.

. . .

The study also points to the length of the wind trend as being crucial to the hiatus; arguing that anything much shorter, like a decadal wind trend, would not have resulted in nearly as much heat uptake by the ocean. This is related to the time-scale for ocean adjustment to wind forcing in the subtropics: in short it takes time to spin-up the ocean circulation response, and then more time to see this circulation inject a significant amount of heat into the ocean thermocline. Given the ocean inertia to change, what happens when the trade winds next weaken back to average values?  Does the subducted heat get mixed away before this can resurface, or does the heat find a way to return to the surface when the winds reverse?  Our initial work suggests the latter: as when we forced the wind anomalies to abate, warming out of the hiatus can be rapid, eventually recovering the warming that paused during the hiatus. So this suggests that whenever the current wind trends reverse, warming will resume as projected, and in time the present “pause” will be long forgotten by the climate system. [Ed: see again Mike's piece for a discussion of an alternative hypothesis--namely, the possibility that a La Niña-like state is part of the response to anthropogenic forcing itself].

Of course, other factors could have also contributed to part of the recent slowdown in the globally averaged air temperature metric: increased aerosols, a solar minimum, and problems with missing data in the Arctic. Summing up all of the documented contributions to the hiatus, spanning ocean heat uptake, reduced radiation reaching Earth’s surface, and data gaps, climate scientists have probably accounted for the hiatus twice over. Of course each effect is not linearly additive, but even so, many experts are now asking why hasn’t the past decade been one of considerable cooling in global mean air-temperatures?  Or put another way, why isn’t the model-observed gap even wider?  One way to explain this is that the current generation of climate models may be too low in their climate sensitivity – an argument made recently by Sherwood et al in relation to unresolved cloud physics. A perhaps completely unexpected conclusion when analysts first noticed the model-observed divergence progressing over the past decade.

Years after bullying, negative impact on health may remain

By (UPI)
The longer the time a child is bullied, the more severe and lasting the impact on a child's health, researchers at Boston Children's Hospital say.

. . .

The study, published online in the journal Pediatrics, found bullying at any age was associated with worse mental and physical health, increased depressive symptoms and lower self-worth. However, those who experienced bullying both in the past and present showed the lowest health scores.

. . .

"It reinforces the notion that more bullying intervention is needed, because the sooner we stop a child from being bullied, the less likely bullying is to have a lasting, damaging effect on his or her health down the road."

Chemicals leaching into food from packaging raise safety concerns

By Sarah Boseley
Synthetic chemicals which are used in the processing, packaging and storing of the food we eat could be doing long-term damage to our health, environmental scientists warn.

. . .

The writers, who include Jane Muncke, from the Food Packaging Forum Foundation, in Zurich, say there is cause for concern on several grounds. Chemicals known to be toxic, such as formaldehyde, a cancer causing substance, are legally used in these materials. Formaldehyde is widely present, albeit at low levels, in plastic fizzy drinks bottles and melamine tableware.

. . .

They warn that potential cellular changes caused by food contact materials, and in particular, those with the capacity to disrupt hormones, are not even being considered in routine toxicology analysis. They suggest this "casts serious doubts on the adequacy of chemical regulatory procedures".

It will not be easy to monitor and assess the effects over decades of exposure to these chemicals, they say. There are no large groups of people who are not exposed to wrapped and processed and stored food

Technology
Space station SPHERES run circles around ordinary satellites

By (ScienceDaily)
These are, in fact, the droids that NASA and its research partners are looking for. Inspired by a floating droid battling Luke Skywalker in the film Star Wars, the free-flying satellites known as Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites (SPHERES) have been flying aboard the International Space Station since Expedition 8 in 2003. Although there have been numerous SPHERES investigations held on the orbiting laboratory, four current and upcoming SPHERES projects are of particular significance to robotics engineers, rocket launch companies, NASA exploration and anyone who uses communications systems on Earth.

. . .

"Using electrically-generated forces and torques is preferable to using fuel, since electricity can be generated by solar panels, but once fuel is expended, the mission is generally over," explained Kathleen Riesing, a graduate student with the MIT Space Systems Laboratory. The software used to control the rings will also demonstrate wireless power transfer, where one satellite sends power to another.

Research goals for SPHERES-Rings include enhanced attitude control performance between separate satellites and the possibility of more efficient power transfer at a distance. Adding an efficient way to transfer power between SPHERES may alleviate the need for alternate power sources. The wireless power transfer experiment establishes the hardware necessary for potential future powering of space and urban robotics and enhanced communications systems in space, on land or underwater.

Flood hack: UK's top developers join forces to build flood-relief apps

By Alex Hern
. . .

A Twitter account that spreads information about volunteering for flood relief efforts, a web service that lets people find out who to call when they have a power cut, and a data visualisation tool that presents flood information were among the applications shortlisted at #floodhack. The event was hosted by Tech City UK in Google’s startup-focused office space, Campus.

Throughout the day developers worked on 18 different apps, of which eight were shortlisted by a judging team from the Cabinet Office. As well as the three above – @FludBud, “Who do I call when I have a power cut?”, and Flood Feeder – other shortlisted projects included:
Don’t Panic, a system for centralising online and offline requests for help, while recording data for real-time response planning.
UKFloodAlerts, which lets people set up alerts for specific issues like power loss, flooded roads or burst river banks and then be notified by text message or app notifications.

. . .

Following the UK floods, Twitter signed up 38 fire brigades to its alert system, which notifies users with a text or twitter message whenever an account they’ve signed up with needs to send out an emergency warning. The Environment Agency already uses the system to send out flood warnings to affected areas.

Cultural
Pregnant teenager alleging gang-rape charged with adultery in Sudan

By David Smith
A pregnant teenager who says she was gang-raped has been charged with adultery in Sudan, and faces a possible sentence of death by stoning. The country's judiciary has received millions of pounds in aid from the UK.

. . .

According to SIHA, the attack was filmed by one of the men on his phone and circulated on social media six months later, leading to the arrest of both the alleged perpetrators and victim. The case came to court earlier this month. Five men, understood to be between 18 to 22, are accused of adultery; a sixth, who says he did not have sex with the woman, is accused of gross indecency.

The woman is charged with adultery, although she denied the charges and is pleading not guilty on the basis that the sexual act was against her will. Her attempt to make a complaint of rape has been denied on the technicality that she is under investigation on other charges and she should have complained at the time of the incident. Her request for bail has been denied by the attorney general.

. . .

Hala Alkarib, regional director of the SIHA network, said: "Impunity and silence on crimes of sexual violence committed against IDPs [internally displaced persons], migrants and impoverished women in Sudan has been a pattern for years.

"This case brings to light the obstacles in bringing complaints of rape, let alone negotiating the legal system through to prosecution. There is an urgent need for article 149 of the criminal code referring to rape to be reformed to protect victims and pursue justice."

North Korea's Horrors, as Shown by One Defector's Drawings

By Matt Ford
On Monday, the United Nations' Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea published a wide-ranging report on what it described as "systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations [that] have been and are being committed by [North Korea], its institutions and officials." The panel recommended that North Korea and its leader, 31-year-old Kim Jong Un, be referred to the International Criminal Court by the UN Security Council. Michael Kirby, the panel's chairman, said that the atrocities taking place in North Korea were "strikingly similar" to the crimes of Nazi Germany during World War II.

Among the 300 North Koreans who testified about regime abuses was Kim Kwang-Il, a 48-year-old defector who spent almost three years in a North Korean gulag for smuggling pine nuts across the border. After escaping to South Korea, Kim published a book about his experiences that included professional illustrations of the crimes he witnessed. The drawings provide a rare look into a vast constellation of prisons and concentration camps in which more than 200,000 North Koreans languish, according to Amnesty International.

. . .

Kim is not the only defector to have visualized his experiences in the camps. In 2012, graphic drawings surfaced on Reddit, apparently from Korean-language websites, depicting similar atrocities that also allegedly took place in North Korean gulags.

Irish grapple with gay rights in New York and Ireland

By Anthony Zurcher
Gay rights has become a subject of intense debate in Irish communities on both sides of the Atlantic this month. It is perhaps a reflection of the Catholic Church's position on homosexuality and the rapidly changing perceptions of gay equality in the West.

We'll start in New York City, where Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that he will be sitting out the city's massive St Patrick's Day parade next month because the event organisers do not allow gay Irish-American groups to openly participate.

. . .

The parade controversy is making waves across the Atlantic, as well, where Irish government officials are split on whether to participate or join Mr de Blasio's boycott. Irish Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton, who will be in New York on St Patrick's Day, has announced she will not march. Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, on the other hand, has said he will travel to New York to attend.

The parade is just a blip compared to the larger debate going on in Ireland over gay rights, as a national referendum on same-sex marriage is scheduled for next year. The issue caught fire earlier this month after prominent Irish drag queen Panti Bliss called two journalists and a Catholic lobby group "homophobic" during a television interview.

. . .

It's good that most of those who oppose gay marriage love and respect and cherish individual gay people, though they should hardly expect a pat on the back for not hating their fellow citizens. But they need to recognise that that's not enough. The whole point of the law is that it's not about giving people equal status because you like them. It's about freeing people from subjection to the arbitrariness of other people's benevolence.
Why black models are rarely in fashion

By Hadley Freeman
Obviously black as a clothing colour is de rigueur – so slimming! – but as a skin colour it has, shall we say, struggled to be accepted by the fashion mainstream. Asian models have grown in prominence over the past decade to appeal to the Asian market (and we'll come back to this shortly) but black models are still too often relegated to token status, even though one of the most successful models in the world now, Joan Smalls, is black. If you are confused by this, don't worry, the fashion industry is, too.

. . .

Stories of industry racism are now so well known it's easy to become blase about them, and many come from the few successful black models in the business. Dunn has spoken out repeatedly and bravely about how she is often turned away because the client "doesn't want any more black girls" and is rejected for being "coloured". Similarly, Chanel Iman told the Times last year that designers have rejected her from shows because: "We already found one black girl. We don't need you any more." Smalls told Elle last year that she's been told: "You're a black model. It's a challenge."

. . .

Many have suggested that the reason catwalks and magazines are so white is because designers and editors are often white, but I suspect the phrase "follow the money" is more relevant. As I said earlier, Asian models have become more prominent with the rise of the Asian market for luxury goods. Same with Russian models. The fashion industry simply doesn't envisage its goods being bought by black customers – even Oprah Winfrey has been dissed by Hermès – and therefore doesn't bother trying to relate to them. So it's not (always) that the fashion industry thinks that only white people are beautiful, as many have understandably assumed. It thinks that only white – and some Asian – people have money.

The stupidity of all this surely does not need stating, not least because fashion fans of all colours have proven to be far more colourblind than designers and casting directors, as the popularity of Smalls and Dunn proves. But until the fashion industry stops thinking of black people as cliches that would have looked outdated in Alabama in the 1960s, white is still the new white.

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