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The Duke University Press quarterly Transition, with a circulation of less than 4,000, has a reputation bigger than its readership. This month Utne Reader awarded Transition an Alternative Press Award for International Coverage. The judges commented on "its long tradition of excellence as a venue for international writers covering Africa and the African diaspora." Current editors Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates Jr. honor Transition's 40-year legacy of featuring international writers on a cornucopia of themes (local author and Duke professor Houston Baker is also on the editorial board). The latest issue features a piece on Cuba by Naresh Fernandes, an essay by Maryse Conde about her girlhood in Guadeloupe, and a brilliant conversation about language between Chinua Achebe and Toni Morrison.With Creed, Nickelback, and Linkin Park selling all the CDs these days, hip hop and has taken a hard rock hit. The latest issues of Urb and Vibe address the situation with special reports. But the best piece in the mags is Urb's "Louder Than a Bomb: How Will Hip-Hop be Affected by 9/11 and Its Aftermath?" Mogul Russell Simmons, referring to all the pre-September boasting poses and larger-than-life rhymes, says, "How big your car is is a boring subject right now."

In the always-room-for-more department, local newsstands discovered a new publication on their doorsteps last week. Find a copy of the freebie, The Durham Skywriter, and enjoy Patricia Murray's focused enthusiasm. Activist Murray moved to the Triangle last year from Chicago. Beneath the headline, "What, Another Newspaper?" Murray tells her story, and asks for yours. She has some ambitious plans, too, with columns called "Word," "To Your Health," "School Tools," and even a "Guest Spotlight." Skywriter's "Let's Go!" features three pages of local calendars, contacts and park information.

The same week MJ's wife was asking the courts for a divorce decree, his management was announcing yet another magazine launch, called Jordan. Ouch, the be-like-Mike vote is a bit sensitive these days. Hearst Magazines plans to go ahead and publish six issues of Jordan over the next 2 years with an initial lay down of 300,000 copies. Nike is paying Hearst for the packaging and distribution. Away team cheerleaders Juanita Jordan and Barry Saunders haven't yet had their say on the dubious timing of this glossy.

You can find Transition magazine at transitionmagazine.com; Urb at urb.com; Vibe at vibe.com; and The Durham Skywriter can be contacted at durhamskywriter@hotmail.com.

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