August 2006 Archives

Cynics mock, charities defend stars aiding Africa

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By Mike Collett-White and Mabvuto Banda

LONDON/MPHANDULA, Malawi (Reuters) - Madonna feels responsible for the children of the world and has found herself a "big, big project" to help orphans in Malawi.

Gwyneth Paltrow declares "I am African" in a new advertisement for a charity working in Africa.

The continent has long been a favorite destination for celebrity campaigners, going back to 1954 when Danny Kaye became UNICEF's goodwill ambassador.

U2's Bono and fellow Irish rocker Bob Geldof are Africa veterans, and more recently Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have brought Hollywood gloss to the continent.

But the latest flood of stars searching for a good cause has prompted a collective groan in the press and among bloggers, as people question their methods and motives.

"We are on the verge of farcical at this point," said Michael Wolff, columnist for Vanity Fair, when asked about Africa's popularity among famous performers.

"This has become just a part of the public relations play book. Everybody has a PR person and every PR person says 'which country do you want to adopt?'."

Aid groups hit back, blaming the media for creating the cult of celebrity in the first place and arguing that by discouraging stars from adopting good causes they are endangering vulnerable people's lives.

MTV Turns 25

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by Brenda Clemons, U2 Station staff writer

MTV is 25! Why, that makes me; never mind how old that makes me. Lets just say I remember that fateful day when MTV first came on the air. Everyone under the age of 30 sat around our sets amazed at the images that flickered upon the screen. Of course, with few exceptions, most videos were cheesy and amateur compared to the ones today. Most were of people with bad hair dos dancing haphazard to (usually bad) electronic music. There were some exceptions of course. I remember Stevie Nicks dancing like a dream in Fleetwood Macs Gypsy. And Michael Jackson defined cool in Thriller.

Oh, yes, those were the days. Michael Jackson hadnt had plastic surgery and was still innocent in the eyes of the public. MTV actually played videos 24/7 and music news was updated every 20 minutes. Thanks to groups like Duran Duran, it was okay for girls to like guys who wore makeup.

Not everyone was in love with the network. Critics complained that videos were killing the integrity of music. Music executives scrambled as they tried to come to terms with the new media. Soon it wasnt as important to sound good, as it was to look good. I think it is true that video killed the radio star. Would we have Britney (Spears) and Ashley (Simpson) if they had to rely solely on their musical ability?

In the midst of the cold war, color and sound were almost as important as air. As we danced with the videos, we could forget that at any second the world might end in a fiery nuclear explosion. The joke at the time was that MTV was really a weapon invented by the communist. They would soon come and invade the West and no one would notice. We would all be too busy watching our MTV.

At its worse; MTV is tacky, and boring. At it's very best it defines a generation. Cheers to MTV and another 25 years.

Higher Than the Sun

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A Southside environmental group says it is trying to obtain documents relating to the planning process surrounding the U2 Tower in a bid to stop the development. The Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA) is currently seeking expressions of interest from 'world-class' development teams to compete for the opportunity to design, construct and finance the new U2 Tower at Grand Canal Dock.

To the chagrin of locals in Ringsend, the development, which would be carried out by the DDDA, is exempt from the normal planning process and there is no means of making an appeal against the proposals.

However, a spokesperson for the Ringsend Environmental Group, Damien Cassidy, said that although he has been informed by the Department of the Environment that there is no appeals process, he still intends appealing the decision to the European Commission.

Last month, the Minister for the Environment, Dick Roche TD, approved an increase in the height of the U2 Tower to 100 metres, after initial proposals for the tower suggested that it be 60 metres.

Mr Cassidy said he is opposing the fact that the height of the tower was extended without any public consultation and that there is no appeals process.

"There is a way of taking it to the European Commission on the grounds that it is overshadowing a village and that it is not in accordance with good planning," he said.

Mr Cassidy said he was also opposed to to the development on the basis that the height of the tower could cut sunlight on the entire village of Ringsend during twilight hours.

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