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June 26th, 2009
11:25 AM ET

Michael Jackson: The man who wasn't there

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John McWhorter
The New Republic

I have been telling friends for fifteen years that Michael Jackson would not live past fifty, although I didn't expect to be so precisely on the mark. An overdose, a botched medical procedure, or maybe just something as fortuitous as a car accident.

That is, I sensed nothing as mundane as a death wish or as common as self-destructive tendencies. It just always seemed to me that there was something unreachably and definitively absent about the man. For all of the eclat, there seemed to be nothing actually there – surely, before long he would just blow away.

I was no more immune than anyone else to feeling a loss oddly incommensurate with the fundamental evanescence. I grew up hearing the boy-child version of Michael crooning the Jackson Five's hits in that creamy falsetto, and in college, he helped me cope with the drudgery of my dining hall job as one cut after another from Thriller became a hit and played endlessly on the P.A. system. Almost every song on that album had the precious quality of bearing hundreds of listens – to this day, who in America doesn't jump to the dance floor upon hearing the opening vamp of "Billie Jean"?

Apparently even Iraqis do: the New Yorker told us recently that Michael Jackson is preferred music among Iraqi prisoners. How many other American pop songs of 1983 get them moving? People not born in 1983 can do snippets of the dance Michael did in the marvelous Thriller video. Ever try to do a moonwalk? Even if you got kind of good at it, Michael Jackson doing it can still take your breath away.

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Filed under: Michael Jackson
June 26th, 2009
11:15 AM ET

Michael Jackson, the greatest star

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Danyel Smith
Special to CNN

It falls to me to prepare a statement on behalf of Vibe magazine when someone is promoted, when there is trouble, or when something major happens in the world of pop.

It occasionally falls to me to write an obituary or a tribute when an entertainer dies. It's a part of my job. One has to do it quickly, and I've never been prepared. Yet I've been prepping for this one my whole life. Michael Jackson has died at the age of 50.

The sorrow at his passing is palpable, and wet, and illogical - in my 20 years of being a critic and an editor, I've never met him. But this is a death in the family. I've known Jackson's work since I was 5 years old and was given The Jackson 5's "ABC" as a gift.

He was on the surface the most uncomplicated of all boys - beautiful, emotional, untouchable, ours.

Michael has bruised my heart many times - his antics and the accusations, his seeming desire not to be, at least physically, who he'd been. Which is who I am. But as his funeral is prepared, I, like the Jackson brothers sang with optimistic melancholy in 1976, think about the good times.

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Filed under: Michael Jackson
June 26th, 2009
11:14 AM ET
June 26th, 2009
11:08 AM ET

Dear President Obama #158: "ABC ... 1, 2, 3 ..."

Reporter's Note: The President of the United States has asked for input from Americans. I continue with my daily letters to the White House.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/SHOWBIZ/Music/06/25/jackson/art.michael.jackson.gi.jpg caption="Michael Jackson, shown in 2008, was one of the biggest pop stars in history."]

Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

On the first morning of school every year of their lives, my children have been greeted by the stereo pounding out the Jackson Five singing “ABC.” It is an annual ritual in our house that has survived misplaced backpacks, half-made lunches, late runs for breakfast and the car. They might miss the opening bell, but they’ve never missed that song.

I grew up with Michael Jackson. When he lived in Indiana, I lived next door in Illinois. He was only a year older than me, but I knew from almost the beginning that he would be bigger than almost any other entertainer of any age. You could hear it. My brother, sister, and I wore out our Jackson Five albums.

When the Michael and his brothers got a TV show, I watched faithfully every week; from the opening sequence to the end, which was always Michael crooning a few bars of “I’ll Be There.” When one of the networks ran a primetime special on a homecoming concert called “Goin’ Back to Indiana” I was riveted. The flashbulbs, the roaring crowd, the sheer explosive entertainment of that one kid was mindblowing.

FULL POST

June 26th, 2009
08:00 AM ET

Why so quiet about Muslim outreach?

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/06/04/art.2bocairo0604.cnn.jpg caption="President Obama states the importance he places on interfaith cooperation in Cairo"]

Elise Labott
CNN State Department Producer

One might think that hiring an envoy to handle outreach to the Muslim world would be something the State Department would want to tout.

Instead, the move was apparently no news for diplomats at Foggy Bottom, who failed to make the appointment public.

This week Secretary of State Clinton tapped Farah Pandith, who previously worked on Muslim outreach in Europe, to the post, which will deal with the wider Muslim world.

But State Department Spokesman Ian Kelly only confirmed in Indian news reports - only after being asked - that Pandith, a Kashmiri-American, had been selected for the job.

"Yes," he said. "She's actually a friend of mine. I worked with her very closely in the European Bureau, Farah Pandith... The secretary has appointed her to more of a global role."

During his inaugural speech President Barack Obama pledged to seek a "new way forward" with the Muslim world "based on mutual interest and respect," after eight years of tense relations between Muslims and the Bush Administration. During his speech in Cairo earlier this month, Obama again said he would "seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect."

Still, Kelly was unclear on when Clinton tapped Pandith, saying he believed it was within the past few days. Asked why the post had not been made public, Kelly said an announcement was sent out to the "State Department community," but promised more information.


Filed under: Barack Obama • Islam
June 26th, 2009
07:12 AM ET

Sound Off: Your Comments 6/25/09

Editor's Note: Thursday night’s AC360° viewers voiced their opinions on our coverage of Michael Jackson’s death. Complaints were heard about the amount of coverage Michael Jackson received compared to Farrah Fawcett, who also died on Thursday. Many viewers felt that the use of the photo of Jackson receiving treatment from paramedics was over the top and inappropriate. While many complained about the coverage, there were also some that wrote in with their condolences and memories of Jackson and his music. Several viewers inquired about when the Roxana Saberi interview would air, since it wasn’t broadcast due to the Michael Jackson coverage. Here is some of what we heard, and we’d love to hear more from you:

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You are over doing it with Michael tributes. He is dead let’s get on with the news like N. Korea & Iran please.

It would be great if you would, in addition to remembering Michael Jackson, would also remember Farrah Fawcett on your show. We lost two amazing icons tonight, not just one.

It is disgusting that you are devoting two hours on Michael Jackson's death but are not acknowledging Farah Fawcett's death. This is not what a news show should do. You should not be biased!

FULL POST


Filed under: Behind The Scenes
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