Taylor Swift-Kanye West feud enters political arena

The Taylor Swift and Kanye West on-off feud has made the somewhat unlikely shift from the stage to the political arena. (AFP)
Updated 09 October 2018
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Taylor Swift-Kanye West feud enters political arena

  • West is a vocal — and somewhat improbable — supporter of President Donald Trump and will sit down with him for lunch at the White House this week
  • Swift appealed to her 112 million followers to register to vote and cast their ballots for Democrats running for the Senate and House

WASHINGTON: The bad blood between Taylor Swift and Kanye West goes way back.
At the 2009 MTV Music Video Awards, he famously interrupted an acceptance speech by the then 19-year-old Swift for Best Female Video to say that Beyonce deserved the honor.
“Taylor, I’m really happy for you, I’mma let you finish, but Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time!” he said, leaving Swift in tears.
Now, their on-off feud has made the somewhat unlikely shift from the stage to the political arena.
West is a vocal — and somewhat improbable — supporter of President Donald Trump and will sit down with him for lunch at the White House this week, after meeting his wife Kim Kardashian earlier this year.
Last weekend, the rapper made headlines with an appearance on “Saturday Night Live” that ended with an off-camera defense of Trump — while sporting a red “Make America Great Again” hat.
“There’s so many times I talk to, like, a white person about this and they say ‘How could you like Trump? He’s racist.’” said West, who is 41.
“If someone inspires me and I connect with them, I don’t have to believe in all their policies.”
Swift got press for her politics as well, shedding years of silence on her views just a month ahead of crucial midterm elections to endorse two Democrats running in Tennessee, where she has lived for years.
The 28-year-old pop star is an outspoken feminist and backer of the #MeToo movement, but until she took to Instagram on Sunday, she had been famously apolitical. Not any more.
Swift appealed to her 112 million followers to register to vote and cast their ballots for Democrats running for the Senate and House.
“In the past I’ve been reluctant to publicly voice my political opinions, but due to several events in my life and in the world in the past two years, I feel very differently about that now,” Swift said.
“I always have and always will cast my vote based on which candidate will protect and fight for the human rights I believe we all deserve in this country,” she added.
Trump has been a vocal Swift fan in the past, tweeting her praises on several occasions, but the Republican president has dialed down his affection for her.
“Let’s say that I like Taylor’s music about 25 percent less now, okay?” Trump told reporters on Monday.
Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and Republican presidential hopeful whose daughter Sarah Sanders is the White House spokeswoman, fired off a dismissive tweet.
“So @taylorswift13 has every right to be political but it won’t impact election unless we allow 13 yr old girls to vote,” Huckabee tweeted.
The last laugh may be on Huckabee.
Kamari Guthrie of Vote.org told Buzzfeed News that voter registrations have surged since Swift’s Instagram post.
Vote.org had received 65,000 registrations within the 24 hours after Swift’s message, more than the 56,669 recorded in the entire month of August,” Guthrie said.
“Thank God for Taylor Swift,” Guthrie told Buzzfeed.
The White House meanwhile announced that West would have lunch with Trump on Thursday and would also meet with his son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner.
“Topics of discussions will include manufacturing resurgence in America, prison reform, how to prevent gang violence, and what can be done to reduce violence in Chicago,” Sanders said.
West has taken flak for his support of Trump, who won less than 10 percent of the black vote in 2016.
Despite Trump boasting regularly that black unemployment is at historic lows, only 10 percent of the African-Americans surveyed last month by Quinnipiac University said they like his policies.
That has not stopped West from singing Trump’s praises — and the president returning the favor.
“Republicans are delivering for African-Americans like never before,” Trump said at an election rally last week in Tennessee.
“And you saw that the other night with Kanye West,” Trump said in a reference to the rapper’s “SNL” appearance.
“How good was Kanye West?“


Battle of the bands: Venezuela power struggle turns to music

Updated 1 min 30 sec ago
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Battle of the bands: Venezuela power struggle turns to music

  • The dueling concerts will literally set the stage for a showdown between Venezuela’s beleaguered government and opposition leaders
  • British billionaire Richard Branson is sponsoring a Live Aid-style concert featuring dozens of musicians

CUCUTA, Colombia: Venezuela’s power struggle is set to become a battle of the bands Friday when musicians demanding President Nicolas Maduro allow in humanitarian aid and those supporting his refusal sing in rival concerts being held at both sides of a border bridge where tons of donated food and medicine are stored.
The dueling concerts will literally set the stage for a showdown between Venezuela’s beleaguered government and opposition leaders who are pledging to draw masses of people to the country’s western border Saturday to try to usher in aid that Maduro has vowed not to accept into the country.
British billionaire Richard Branson is sponsoring a Live Aid-style concert featuring dozens of musicians including Latin rock star Juanes on one side of the border crossing that Colombian officials have renamed the “Unity Bridge,” while Maduro’s socialist government is promising a three-day festival deemed “Hands Off Venezuela” on the other.
“The eyes of the world will be on Venezuela,” opposition leader David Smolansky said in advance of the concert as he spoke with Venezuelan migrants at a soup kitchen in the border city of Cucuta where the aid is being stored. “We hope that everything that has happened these last few weeks is the beginning of the end.”
As Venezuela’s political turmoil drags on, allies of Juan Guaido, who is being recognized by over 50 nations as the country’s rightful president, are hoping the massive concert and aid push mark a turning point from which a transitional government is consolidated. But Maduro has shown no signs of backing down, and analysts warn that whatever happens over the next two days may not yield a conclusive victory for either side.
“I think one of the government’s aims is to confuse the whole thing, possibly to create some kind of chaos that makes the opposition look bad,” Phil Gunson, a senior analyst with the Crisis Group based in Caracas, said of Maduro’s rival concert. “It’s a propaganda war.”
Branson agreed to back a concert in early February after being approached by Guaido, Leopoldo Lopez, an opposition leader under house arrest, and others including Colombian entrepreneur Bruno Ocampo, who said the magnate is now so committed to getting humanitarian aid into Venezuela that he will personally stay until Saturday to help ensure that food and medical supplies make it across the border.
Similar to the original 1985 Live Aid concert, which raised funds to relieve the Ethiopian famine, Branson has set a goal to raise $100 million within 60 days.
“We didn’t know what we were getting into at the time,” Ocampo said Thursday. “But in less than 24 hours we are going to witness something historic.”
Friday’s concert won’t be the first time artists have used music to try and simmer tensions at the restive Colombia-Venezuela border. A concert known as Paz Sin Fronteras — Peace Without Borders — was held in 2008 after a diplomatic flare-up that drew Venezuelan troops to the Colombia border. That event was held on the Simon Bolivar International Bridge, which 33,000 people now use to enter Colombia each day.
“Throughout history, art has had a big role in fostering change,” said Miguel Mendoza, a Venezuelan musician who will be performing Friday and won a Latin Grammy in 2010 as part of the pop duo Chino & Nacho. “Music, above all, has a magnificent power.”
Six hundred tons of aid, largely donated by the US, has been sitting in a storage facility at what is widely known as the Tienditas International Bridge for two weeks. Even as several million Venezuelans flee and those who remain struggle to find basic goods like food and antibiotics, Maduro denies that a crisis exists. He contends the aid is a ploy by the Trump administration to overthrow his government. The military has placed a large tanker and two containers in the middle of the bridge to block it.
“Trump should worry about the poor in his own country,” Maduro said this week.
Days after Branson launched his concert, Maduro’s government announced that not only would they hold a rival festival but that they would also deliver over 20,000 boxes of food for poor Colombians in Cucuta Friday and Saturday.
The sharp rhetoric from both sides has put many in this border city of 700,000 on edge.
Paola Quintero, an activist for Venezuelan migrants, said that while the concert has had a positive, short-term impact on Cucuta’s economy, many are worried about what might happen Saturday when thousands try to move aid across the border.
“What awaits those who will be on the bridge, trying to get aid through?” she said.
Venezuelans like Rosa Mora, 40, said they were still debating whether to heed the opposition’s call for a mass mobilization at three bridges in the Cucuta area Saturday, fearful that they might be met with resistance by the military.
“I’m terrified of what’s going to happen,” she confided.
Still, when she thinks about her children and a sister with diabetes that has gone untreated for the last year, she leans toward participating.
“It won’t be for me,” she said. “But for our children.”
On Thursday afternoon, organizers on the Colombia side of the border bridge were doing sound checks while in Venezuela a dozen workers sat idly in white plastic chairs chatting and listening to Venezuelan folk music on small speakers.
Riding by the bridge on his bike, college student Frander Duenas said he hoped to sneak into Colombia to see Branson’s Venezuela Aid Live because he’s a fan of the musicians performing. The government’s festival didn’t entice him in the least.
“This concert is for old people,” he said. “No one is going to come here.”