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Black Entertainment, Money, Style and Beauty Blogs - Black Voices

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    NYPD Shifts Focus to Mom in Staten Island Fire That Wiped Out Family

    New evidence has come to light regarding the Staten Island mom and her three children who were killed in a suspicious murder-suicide last week. Police investigators had originally thought that the oldest child, 14-year-old C.J. Jones, might have set a deadly blaze that killed his mother and toddler brother. The youth was then suspected of slashing the throats of two family members, then his own.

    But now, the focus of the ongoing police investigation has shifted to the Mother.


    Investigators found a penned note among the rubble, which read, "Am sorry."

    "We believe that the badly charred note and a diary found in the wreckage of the fire were written by the same person - the Mother," top NYPD spokesman Paul Browne told the New York Daily News on Sunday.

    The children's father, Earlston Raymond, 39, who lives in Kingston, Jamaica, told the Daily News, "If anybody set fire to that house and killed those children, it's their mother. She's got a high temper." Raymond also mentioned that C.J. had been under a lot of pressure to help raise his three younger siblings.

    C.J.'s siblings (Brittany, 10, and Melony, 7) were found with their throats slashed, and the youngest sibling, Jermaine, 2, died later at a nearby hospital of smoke inhalation. Mother, Leisha, 30, was found in a crawling position and apparently also died of smoke inhalation. C.J. was found with his throat slashed, and police discovered a straight razor under his charred body.

    A toxicology report is currently being put together to determine, if C.J. and perhaps his siblings had been drugged before they died. So far, autopsy investigators found undigested pills in Leisha and C.J.'s stomachs. A source said, that police are trying to figure out if Leisha might have drugged her children to make slitting their throats an easier process.

    Another unnamed source added that the found note might be Leisha's handwriting, but because it is so short, police can't say for sure.

    The investigator's focus is definitely moving away from C.J. and more toward his mom. According to psychological experts, the teen's fascination with fire doesn't make him a mass murderer. Psychotics usually start out by torturing small animals or other children, and police discovered that C.J. was not known to demonstrate such violent and deviant behavior. Reportedly, Jones had allegedly told a pal several months ago that she thought about killing the kids and torching the house.

    Leisha's family members, on the other hand, are defending her and insist, that she was not a murderer. Instead, they say, that the mom of four was devoted to her children.

    Meanwhile fire marshals found a butane lighter near the victim's bodies. Police are also examining the family's computer to see if there were any e-mails, which detailed any alleged plans, or if any sites were visited that might have contained information on how to carry out any of the events that occurred.

     

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    D.C. School System Fires 241 Teachers

    The District of Columbia public school system announced on Friday that it will be letting 226 teachers go for poor performance under the education assessment system called "IMPACT."

    The district also announced that it has notified 737 employees that if their performance doesn't improve, they will be terminated after the upcoming school year.
    Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee said in a news release:

    "Every child in a District of Columbia public school has a right to a highly effective teacher -- in every classroom of every school, of every neighborhood or every ward, in this city."


    Under the program, teachers were judged on five classroom observation visits by principals and outside education experts. The system also rates teachers based on their students' achievement.

    In response to the firings, the Washington Teachers Union released the results of a membership study showing that "a large majority of teachers believe that IMPACT is not a fair evaluation system."

    Washington Teachers Union President George Parker said:

    "It is evident from this survey that our members agree that IMPACT is a flawed instrument with many loopholes."

    The union claims that teachers under the IMPACT system need clearer communication on expectations, among other things.

    The teachers union has no say in which evaluation system the D.C. public school system chooses to use, and by contract, teachers can be let go for low evaluations.

    Parker added that the union plans to challenge the firings of about 81 of the teachers.

    Rhee is no stranger to unpopular decision making: She shut down a dozen schools and fired 36 principals amid loud criticism from parents and has said that she is angry over a "system that values job protection for teachers over the interest of the child."

    As an incentive for teachers, though, if they are willing to go on "probation" for a year - giving up their job security - and can successfully prove their talent, they can earn more than $100,000 a year and as much as $130,000 after five years - a huge salary for a teacher.

    Rhee told Newsweek:

    "We do not have a nation right now where every child has an equal chance in life, because poor black kids don't have an equal shot in life, because they go to crappy schools, and the Democratic Party is not tackling this issue, which I think is one of the biggest problems that exist."

    The problem with these wide scale firings is that the success of teachers is really difficult to measure: Are you a good teacher if all of your students receive As? Are you a good teacher if you've finally gotten through to a student with a behavior problem and had the student begin to talk about their problems, though their grades may not be great? Are you a good teacher if students are engaged and excited to be in your classroom, while they test poorly on standardized tests?

    Often the impact of teachers is not realized until years later for students. You often hear celebrities thank one elementary school teacher for making a difference in their life - surely they didn't realize this at the time. A few of my elementary school friends had an argument about how they hated a teacher in elementary school that by almost anyone's standards was a good, but tough, teacher with high expectations for everyone.

    Some students thought her expectations were too high. For anyone who has ever taught, you realize you can't please everyone.

    About a third of parents in D.C., tired of Rhee's heavy-handed policies, have now opted to send their children to charter schools. Many of the charter schools score well because teachers work from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and on Saturday, and carry cell phones, so their students can reach them at any time. Summer vacation lasts only about a month.

    Do you think Rhee has the right idea or should she be implementing the charter school tactic? What is the solution to this problem?

    Watch Rhee talk about how she swings the hatchet here:




     

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    Alabama coach Nick Saban compares bad agent to a pimp

    University of Alabama coach Nick Saban has made a serious mistake in terminology. During a recent press conference, Saban was asked to respond to NCAA investigations involving one of his players, Marcell Dareus who allegedly attended a party that was sponsored by a sports agent, which would be an NCAA violation.

    Saban then referred to sports agents as "pimps," complaining that they are determined to undermine the sanctity of college sports by giving the athletes money or expensive gifts. In light of the fact that Saban felt the need to use such harsh language, I thought I might help him assess what it truly means to be a pimp.

    A pimp is someone who does the following:

    1) Allows someone else to do the bulk of the work, while keeping most of the money for himself. The only exception might be expenses that allow the worker to keep working.
    2) Manipulates the minds of those who live under the weight of the pimp's exploitation, convincing the laborer that the pimp is a supporter when in fact, he is an abuser.
    3) Threatens punishment to those who deviate from the system in place.
    4) Keeps a list of rules and regulations designed to control the source of labor


    Nick Saban earns more than $4 million per year while his players are the ones risking life and limb on the football field. Many of those players never get a college degree or a good education under Saban's watch. Saban, who has made himself wealthy off the labor of athletes while demanding that the athletes themselves not be compensated, is engaging in the very same kind of psychological manipulation that a pimp uses to control his prostitutes.

    Most pimps don't identify themselves as malevolent dictators. Instead, they convince the prostitute that they are there to help them. A pimp might say to a prostitute, "Before I came along, you had nothing to eat. Now I'm feeding you because I care about you." The college football coach says, "Without me and the NCAA, you wouldn't have access to an education and would still be stuck in the hood."

    Pointing out the nice things you do for a prostitute allows you to continue to exploit him/her on the back-end, similar to how a Chinese sweatshop can explain that the5-year-olds working in the factory are better off by having jobs. The truth is that the kids in the sweatshop simply deserve labor rights.

    Many college football coaches, like Saban, are very good at convincing the athletes that coaches are better, more loving pimps than sports agents. Saban and others like him are threatened by those who see the multi-billion dollar value of college athletes and allow the athlete and his family to receive some of the massive wealth that they are generating for coaches and administrators. Saban would rather see all of the money go to himself and leave the athletes' families out in the cold.

    Finally, the most important part of "Pimpin 101" is to "keep your pimp hand strong." This means, quite simply, that to maintain control, there must be severe punishment for those who choose to deviate from the rules and regulations you've put in place. A weak pimp can never keep his/her prostitutes in line. The NCAA has a rule book that is thicker than the novel "War and Peace."

    Many of these rules, allegedly designed to protect the athletes, are actually an intricate set of plans and policies to ensure that coaches like Saban get rich by keeping athletes and their families in poverty. Any athlete who breaks even the smallest, most irrational rule is dealt a swift and harsh punishment from the NCAA. This is designed to protect the greatest pimpin' hustle on earth, which is the $10.8 billion dollar TV rights deal that the NCAA has with CBS Sports.

    So, for all of their talk about the beauty of amateurism, none of those speaking this language are actually practicing what they preach in their own paychecks.

    Saban, by vilifying sports agents who are actually willing to pay athletes for their labor, is simply working to keep the athlete from finding a less abusive pimp. In the deep recesses of his mind, Saban likely understands that college athletes should not be controlled like farm animals. Instead, they deserve to have the same labor rights that the rest of us (including Saban) enjoy as Americans. While Saban has lied to recruits and abandoned them for a better gig, none of his athletes have the same right to seek a better job. This is highly unfortunate, incredibly unAmerican and the reason that Saban has never appeared more hypocritical than he looks right now.





    Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and the Athlete Liberation and Academic Reform Movement (ALARM). To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.

     

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    Taye Diggs: Actor Talks Singers & Rappers Acting
    Last year, BV Buzz ran a story called 'Tinseltown Talk: Nia Long Lashes Out at Music Stars Who Act' that featured several quotes from Nia Long's interview with the UK magazine Pride venting about musicians who land movie roles.

    This year, the glossy has an interview with actor Taye Diggs, who worked opposite Long in the movie 'The Best Man.' In the two-page Q&A, writer Joanna Abeyie asked the star of ABC's 'Private Practice' what he thought about Long's comment: "If you're a singer, not an actress, you should sing."

    "Oh, Nia," Diggs lamented. "Like, what was she going to do in 'Dreamgirls?'"

    The 39-year-old actor went on to explain that he doesn't have a problem with singers or rappers acting, as long as they take the craft seriouTaye Diggssly.

    "Common is doing his thing; Tyrese has really kind of made his mark in the industry. LL Cool J - sometimes people forget he didn't start out acting. The industry kind of has its own way of making sure real recognizes real," he expressed.

    Diggs, who has worked alongside music artists like Queen Latifah, Mya and Toni Braxton in film and television roles over the years, added that his only issue is when filmmakers add rappers to movies just because they have a hit record out.

    "When you see someone who is popular as a rapper, sometimes a director will just want a rapper in his or her movie, so that they look cool," he elaborated.

    *****

    For related stories, read: 'Malik Yoba: Acting Up & On His Own Terms'

    & 'Jesse Williams: Actor Lands Full-time Gig On 'Grey's Anatomy.'



     

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    The recent immigration law in Arizona has led to both controversy and immediate, undeniable impact. The law gives authorities in the state the right to check documentation of anyone suspected of being an illegal immigrant. It is now being reported that since the law's creation, over tens of thousands of illegal immigrants have left the state of Arizona.

    Anti-immigration measures enacted over the past several years were designed to push over 400,000 undocumented laborers out of the state of Arizona. This is the latest such measure, after another was passed three years ago requiring companies to check a worker's status against a federal database.

    The state of Arizona is known for being a highway of human trafficking and drug smuggling into the United States. The governor of Arizona, Jan Brewer, signed the bill into law after spikes in violence related to illegal immigration. In spite of massive protests, polls show that the majority of Americans and Arizona citizens are in agreement with the law.

    Those who oppose the law say that it opens the door for serious racial profiling problems. President Obama's administration has filed a suit against the state to oppose the act. Recent events in Arizona have pushed the issue of immigration reform to the top of President Obama's agenda.

    Another complication of the law is that it jeopardizes the freedom of those who are here legally but associated with illegal immigrants. Anyone transporting an undocumented citizen is also subject to arrest. This has put most of the Hispanic community in Arizona on high alert.

    The Arizona immigration law creates a long list of future complications for our country. On one hand, the apparent success of the law is likely going to lead other states to replicate it. Many of the undocumented workers in Arizona are planning to leave for other states across the country, whose leaders might be fearful of the crime that some argue is connected to undocumented residents.

    On the other side of the fence, there are many supporters of the president within the Hispanic community who are expecting him to find a way to stop this law. Protests have been held across the country, and the Latino voting base is not as secure for the president as, say, African Americans. Therefore, when the Latino community makes a demand on Obama, he responds in full force. The same is true for Attorney General Eric Holder.

    African Americans have a mixed perception of the immigration law. Some oppose it, due to the disturbing racial profiling implications. Others, including some African Americans in the state of Arizona, have found that less competition for jobs has made it easier to find employment. Black leadership, including Rev. Al Sharpton and NAACP President Ben Jealous, have been vocal in opposing the law. The direct nature of their opposition must be delicately balanced against some within the African American community who've felt that their job availability and wages have been impacted by the presence of lower cost labor.

    Given that real wages for American workers have remained stagnant over the past 20 years, they might have a strong point. At the very least, everyone agrees that comprehensive immigration reform is an absolute must for Obama. He has to get this done.

    Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and a Scholarship in Action Resident of the Institute for Black Public Policy. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.

     

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    NEW ORLEANS
    - BP's Tony Hayward , whose gaffes added insult to oil-spill injury for the Gulf Coast, is on his way out as CEO, a U.S. government official said Sunday. Many residents found small comfort in that as BP's biggest mistake under Hayward continued to foul their waters, their beaches and their way of life.

    A change in leadership will not change the mammoth tasks ahead of BP, from stopping the offshore oil gusher for good, to cleaning up the millions of gallons that have already leaked, to paying billions in claims - all while defending its stock price and repairing its battered reputation.

    The senior U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because an announcement had not been made, was briefed on the decision by a senior BP official late last week.
    The government official did not know who will replace Hayward or when it will happen.

    One of the most likely successors is BP Managing Director Bob Dudley, who is currently overseeing the British company's spill response and would be BP's first American CEO if he is chosen. It is unclear if he would be juggling leadership of BP with oil-spill duties - just as Hayward once did - or whether he would delegate that duty to someone else.

    Source:
    Associated Press


    Kevin Eason
    is a freelance editorial cartoonist and Illustrator from New Jersey. His brand of satire covers news events in politics, entertainment, sports and much more.

     

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    S. Tia Brown is a sassy, intelligent woman with a lot of interesting opinions. We also tend to fight a lot. Tia, who is a staple for Essence, is one of the most compelling and provocative black female social commentators in America. She graduated from Columbia University and presents a style of analysis that makes you want to hear more about what she has to say.

    Tia and I were fighting, as we usually do, over issues of importance in the black community, primarily those "Mars and Venus" matters of the heart. You can hear more of our conversation by clicking here. You can check out one of our recent chats for Black Voices below.

    PRODUCTION PLAYER! DO NOT DELETE.


    Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and a Scholarship in Action Resident of the Institute for Black Public Policy. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.

     

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    Van Jones on Sherrod: A Teachable Moment‎Van Jones says he knows the feeling of being caught up in the type of media swirl that cost Shirley Sherrod her job and nearly destroyed her reputation.

    Jones resigned as the White House Green Jobs Czar last year, after he, too, was attacked by the conservative media for allegedly signing a petition that blamed the U.S. government for 9/11. Then came the report of him using vulgarity to describe a Republican and his past as a radical in California.

    Jones, in a New York Times op-ed, says that he never signed the petition and the website organizers used his name without permission; however, in the media scrum that followed, none of that information came out. With the downsizing of the U.S. media, stories aren't properly vetted and little tidbits are overblown into scandals because its cheaper than real reporting.

    Jones writes:

    Our situations aren't exactly the same. Ms. Sherrod's comments, in which she, a black woman, appeared to admit to racial discrimination against a white couple, were taken far out of context, while I truly did use a vulgarity.
    But the way we were treated is strikingly similar, and it reveals a lot about the venal nature of Washington politics in the Internet era. In my case, the media rushed to judgment so quickly that I was never able to make clear that the group put my name on its Web site without my permission. The group finally admitted that it never had my signature, but by then it was too late.

    The imperative to immediately and constantly churn out news on even the most minor bit of controversy leads news organizations, and partisans posing as news organizations, to cross the line from responsible reporting to dangerous rumor-mongering. This is exactly what happened to Ms. Sherrod. Andrew Breitbart, a prominent Internet conservative, promoted a misleadingly edited video of her speech; within hours, news outlets of all stripes were promoting it as truth.



    Jones is right. If anyone had bothered to review the original material and not rely on the edited clip provided of Sherrod, they would have seen that the spin put on the material was patently false. Instead, Fox News went all out with the "news" and the Obama Administration buckled and quickly fired Sherrod.

    It's frightening that this story could go national without being properly vetted. Unfortunately, news is becoming more and more slanted. Outlets like Fox News, which should be clearly branded as opinion, declare that they are fair and balanced. Other networks are now trying to do the same thing from a more liberal perspective.

    The "gotcha" news culture is also a problem. The Sherrod story seems like a desperate search for a "gotcha" story. Sherrod was not a high-ranking administrator and her comments were not new.

    Jones writes:

    We have to understand that no one can be defined by a single photograph, open-mike gaffe or sound bite. Not even our greatest leaders could have survived if they had to be taken to task for every poorly conceived utterance or youthful demonstration of immature political views. When it comes to politics in the age of Facebook, the killer app to stop the "gotcha" bullies won't be a technological one - it will be a wiser, more forgiving culture.

    Unfortunately, it seems like we are a long way from that.

     

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    "The world has yet to see the best of Nicki Minaj. What she's delivering to the world now is basically what they want. But I know that she's a super talented superstar who can do anything at a high level-rap, sing, act, whatever she wants to do...In my opinion she is as talented as my other girl Lauryn Hill. They have completely different styles. But as far as the talent is concerned they both can do it all."


    -- Hip Hop mogul and record producer Irv Gotti likens Nicki Minaj's talent to Lauryn Hill. (Vibe)



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    Black Music Notes July 23

    7/23/10: Incognito / Chaka Khan
    The incomparable Chaka Khan has teamed up with pioneering British jazz/funk group Incognito on their latest album, 'Transatlantic R.P.M.' The July 27 release finds the Grammy Award-winner featured on the track, 'We Are The Song.' The release comes on the heels of the band's 30th anniversary and features appearances by Ursula Rucker, Maysa, Leon Ware, guitarist Al McKay of Earth Wind and Fire, among others.

    Black Music Notes July 23

    7/21/10: Beyonce & Jay-Z
    If marriage can bring love, happiness, and financial freedom, more people may want to seek out to Beyonce and Jay-Z for advice. The Carters made the top 10 list of Forbes' top earning musicians. The 'Single Ladies' singer landed at No. 3 netting in over $87 million, while Hov came in at No. 6 earning $63 million.

    Black Music Notes July 23

    7/21/10: John Legend
    On July 25 Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter John Legend will headline Harlem Week's annual 'A Great Day In Harlem' celebration. Dubbed, 'A Concert Under the Stars,' Legend will join the likes of Keith Sweat, Elisabeth Withers, Harold Melvin's Blue Notes, and Ray Chew & The Harlem Week All Star Band to honor the legacies of Teddy Pendergrass, Patti LaBelle, and Gamble & Huff. 'A Concert Under the Stars' will take place at Harlem's Ulysses S. Grant National Memorial Park at 5 PM/ET.

    Black Music Notes July 23

    7/21/10: NE.R.D.
    Over the years N.E.R.D. frontman, Pharrell Williams has carried a reputation for being a heart throb amongst the ladies. All of which has inspired the producer for the group's upcoming Sept. 7 opus, 'Nothing.' "My taste and appetite for women has been clearly evident in my music and my videos," he recently told 'MTV News.' "The audience for [the album] is just like any other film. Like a Sandra Bullock film. The concept may be geared toward a chick-based theme, but of course those audiences are not 100 percent women...If you can find something positive in here that motivates you, then this album is for you."

    Black Music Notes July 23

    7/21/10: 50 Cent
    In between shooting roles for upcoming films and throwing verbal jabs at Diddy, 50 Cent has decided to put his forthcoming album 'Black Magic' on the back burner. The multi-platinum rapper recently revealed to Rolling Stone that he has decided to take a different direction for his next project since returning home from Europe. "I did some things that were a little dance-inspired, the tempo was higher," he said. "Just playing with a lot of things. Since I've made it back to America, I started writing different material that [doesn't] quite fit that concept...[Black Magic] may come out shortly after this album that I'm launching. There are some pieces that are really exciting to me, so I want to put them out as soon as possible."

    Black Music Notes July 23

    7/16/10: Natalie Stewart & Raheem DeVaughn
    Ever wonder what happened to Floetry front-woman Natalie "The Floacist" Stewart? Well, the Grammy Award nominated London native is finally in the studio recording her long-awaited solo debut. According to Monifa Brown at Shanachie Records, the opus will be released Oct. 28 on the New Jersey based label. R&B crooner Raheen DeVaughn will appear on the project. The duo recorded at Baltimore's Bratt Studio this week.

    Black Music Notes July 23

    7/12/10: Anthony Hamilton, Hal Linton, Kem, Raheem Devaughn
    Despite taking a 10 year hiatus, the legendary Budweiser Superfest is set to resume its legacy beginning Aug. 5 with an 18-city tour. The Live Nation produced show will include an all-star R&B lineup featuring Anthony Hamilton, Kem, Jaheim, Raheem DeVaughn, Abraham McDonald, Hal Linton among others. "The return of the historic Budweiser Superfest concert series builds on our existing relationship with Budweiser and Anheuser-Busch," said Live Nation President Russell Wallach. "Budweiser Superfest has created a unique place in music history as one of the must-see annual urban concert series of the eighties and nineties by featuring the best in R&B music year after year. We expect to carry on that legacy with a stellar line up of artists already confirmed for the 2010 return." The 2010 Budweiser Superfest wraps up Sept. 5 in Dallas.

    Black Music Notes July 23

    7/12/10: Lil Wayne
    Although Lil Wayne isn't expected to be released from Rikers Island until Nov., the rapper is set to release his next studio project in Sept. According to Wayne's manager, Cortez Bryant, fans can expect the new album to hit the internet virally instead of stores. "I'm putting out a [Wayne EP] called I'm Not a Human Being and I'll probably drop it on his birthday, September 27," Bryant recently told Vibe.com. "We're not about to roll out no three-month setup. I'm not even putting it out in stores. We just gonna put it out virally and maybe package it up for Christmas. Give 'em a hard copy later for fan appreciation."

    Black Music Notes July 23

    7/12/10: Keyshia Cole
    Good news for Keyshia Cole fans! The R&B songstress is back in the studio recording the follow up album to her 2008 opus, 'A Different Me.' And according to one of the album's producers, Donald Alford, the 'I Changed My Mind' singer is currently working on a track with Tank. "We're doing a lot of new records for her," Alford revealed to EurWeb.com. "We got a hot record coming with her and Tank in the future, so ya'll can be on the lookout for that," he said. "I produced 'Trust' so it's somewhere around there. A slow ballad, duet type of record. I guess she comes to me for the duets." At press time, Keyshia Cole's as-yet-untitled album has no set release date.

    Black Music Notes July 23

    7/12/10: Arrested Development
    With their latest opus, 'Strong' currently in stores Atlanta's own Arrested Development is still hard at work promoting the 2009 project. The Grammy Award-winning group recently released the album's newest single 'Greener' to radio outlets across America in addition to the track's video. In addition the album's lead single 'The World is Changing' landed on Japan's top 10 charts earlier this year on MTV International.

    Black Music Notes July 23

     

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    United States Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has hit the campaign trail to push the Obama Administration's recent efforts to let tax cuts expire for those with incomes above $250,000 per year.

    Geithner went onto national television to argue that with the economy slumping and deficit rising, it only makes sense for the rich to increase their contribution to the nation's coffers.


    Specifically, Obama and his economic advisors argue that families earning over $250,000 per year should have their Bush era tax cuts removed, and that these that these tax cuts were part of the reason for our current economic crisis.

    "We're in a transition... from the extraordinary actions the government had to take to break the back of this financial crisis to a recovery led by private demand," Geithner told the NBC program 'Meet the Press.' "That transition is well under way. It's going to continue and it's going to strengthen."

    One of the challenges for the Obama Administration is that some believe that getting rid of tax cuts for the wealthy will hurt small businesses. But the administration has made it clear that this will not be the case.

    Whether you agree with Obama's decision to allow the wealthy to pay more in taxes is primarily an ideological divide. There are some who believe that wealth should be shared, and that a weak distribution of wealth is bad for our nation. There are others who believe that those who have wealth are entitled to keep every penny, including the billionaires who've died this year without paying a single cent in estate taxes (which, for some strange reason, have been completely repealed for one year).

    One thing that's clear about the United States is that we are an incredibly greedy nation. Our distribution of wealth is the worst among all industrialized countries other than Switzerland. The wealthiest 20 percent of Americans have accumulated 94 percent of the non-residential wealth created by our nation over the past 20 years, which some might feel to be appalling. Also, being the richest country in the world, we've somehow become convinced that holding onto our luxury is more important than saving the dying poor in other countries. And we consider ourselves to be a Christian nation?

    Given the reality of such poor wealth distribution, letting the tax break on the wealthiest Americans expire is hardly an issue worth fighting over.

    Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and a Scholarship in Action Resident of the Institute for Black Public Policy. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.

     

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  • 07/26/10--07:30: Hot or Not: Selita Ebanks
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    The lovely Selita Ebanks was out and about this weekend at Russel Simmons 11th annual Life Benefit Party in the East Hamptons. The sexy Victoria Secret model -- who was seen getting quite cozy with singer Maxwell -- donned this beautiful all white dress adorned with a rose-shaped ruffles. She paired the look with these bronze peep-toed heels and matching clutch. So, what do you think? Hot or not?

     

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    A group of black Southern California Edison (SCE) employees recently filed a class action lawsuit against the company, alleging racial discrimination dating back to the '70s. The plaintiffs claim that SCE has routinely passed over black employees for promotion, and discriminates based on race in hiring. The plaintiffs also allege that they contend with a racially-hostile work environment, in addition to unequal pay and job assignments.

    This is not the first time that SCE has been accused of racial discrimination, having faced discrimination class action suits in 1974 and 1994. Consent decrees from both lawsuits required the company to make "good faith efforts to increase the employee population and improve the opportunities for African-Americans ." However, as reported by Southern California Public Radio, the numbers of black employees at SCE has decreased by approximately forty percent since the most recent suit in 1994.

    Although we should not jump to conclusions or presume guilt based on previous behavior, the allegations made by the plaintiffs in the SCE class action suit are disturbing. If true, these allegations show a pattern of racial discrimination against black employees embedded so deeply in the culture of SCE that two previous lawsuits weren't enough to get the company to change its management style. It appears that SCE does not even want to make the slightest attempt at treating black employees fairly.


    A story like this one should be like cold water in the face of those who want to deny that there is still racism in this country.

    From the Shirley Sherrod firing, to the NAACP resolution asking the Tea Party to address the racism in its membership, race issues are really coming to the forefront in America in a divisive way. Now we have Senator Jim Webb of Virginia claiming that white privilege is a myth, and that affirmative action in all its forms should be disbanded. These events and more show how important it is that we remain aware of the racial reality in this country, no matter what people try to claim. The reality is that racial injustice still exists, regardless of the objections of ignorant people who want to ignore it.

    Blacks and other non-whites still face systematic and ongoing discrimination such as what these black employees at Southern California Edison are claiming. Some black people have been scared into silence because they have been shamed by conservatives against "playing the race card." Yet, it would be the epitome of foolishness for black people to allow our attention to be distracted from the issues that significantly impact us by accepting the false arguments of those who have the most to gain from distorting reality.

    I commend the employees of Southern California Edison for taking a stand in the midst of our culture of denial.

     

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    At last week's San Diego Comic Con, Disney announced and showed a teaser trailer for the fourth adventure involving Jack Sparrow in 'Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,' which stars Johnny Depp, Penélope Cruz, Ian McShane, Geoffrey Rush, Óscar Jaenada, Kevin R. McNally, Astrid Berges-Frisbey and Sam Claflin.

    'Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides' captures the fun, adventure and humor that ignited the hit franchise-this time in Disney Digital 3D.

    Johnny Depp returns to his iconic role of Captain Jack Sparrow in an action-packed tale of truth, betrayal, youth and demise. When Jack crosses paths with a woman from his past (played by Cruz), he's not sure if it's love-or if she's a ruthless con artist who's using him to find the fabled Fountain of Youth. When she forces him aboard the Queen Anne's Revenge, the ship of the formidable pirate Blackbeard (played by McShane), Jack finds himself on an unexpected adventure in which he doesn't know who to fear more: Blackbeard or the woman from his past.

    The film hits theaters on Memorial Day weekend 2011.

     

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    Bush  DOJ decided New Black Panthers no major case

    A Bush appointee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is calling charges that the Justice Department ignores the civil rights of whites ridiculous.

    Abigail Thernstrom, Vice Chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, said allegations that the Obama Administration failed to prosecute a voter intimidation case, involving the New Black Panther Party, have no merit:

    "We have no direct evidence that [the NBP activists] actually intimidated anybody, stopped them from voting," Thernstrom said on CBS' Face the Nation. In an earlier column, she called the case "small potatoes."

    "I think the evidence is extremely weak," Thernstrom said. "If the Justice Department chooses - and I would be delighted if it did so - to send to us, for instance, somebody who is at that alleged brown bag meeting in which [Deputy Assistant Attorney General] Julie Fernandez said, 'We don't prosecute cases [against] blacks ...' fine. I'm an evidence girl, really. I want evidence."

    It's what most people with common sense said after hearing the facts surrounding the case. The first warning sign that this entire case is questionable is that it is being pushed by former Justice Department lawyer J. Christian Adams, who is now a conservative Republican activist. One New York Post columnist called him a "Republican activist posing as a whistleblower."



    No voters in the predominately black voting district had been prevented from voting, civil charges were brought against one New Black Panther Party member and it was the Bush administration, not the Obama administration, who decided not to pursue criminal charges.

    A MediaMatters investigation found that "Adams is a right-wing activist tied to the Bush-era politicization of the Justice Department who has admitted he lacks first-hand knowledge of the events he is discussing, and his claims fall apart given the fact that the Obama DOJ obtained judgment against one defendant, while the Bush DOJ declined to pursue similar allegations in 2006."

    Instead, this case is the part of a larger trend of the far Right using pseudo-racist episodes as political fodder to inspire paranoia. Using the demographic changes in our country and the election of the first black president, the far right is making a concerted effort to scare white people in to believing they are or will be the victims of racism.

    The case of Shirley Sherrod is the most recent example, with media outlets like Fox News helping to spread the story line.

    "The Obama administration has been intimidated by the far-right wing, which is addicted to a kind of paranoia of race that then leads to paralyzing racial conversation," Michael Eric Dyson, a professor of sociology at Georgetown University, said on Face the Nation.

    Instead of the election of the first black president opening up an honest conversation about race in this country, we seem to be sliding backward with more fear and untruths than ever before.

    What do you think?

     

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    Lynitta Bouvier Hargray, Black and MissingLynitta Bouvier Hargray

    Case Type: Endangered
    Date of Birth: October 9, 1964
    Missing Date: February 1, 2005
    Age Now: 45
    Missing City: Tallulah
    Missing State: Louisiana
    Gender: Female
    Race: Black
    Complexion: Dark
    Height: 5-8
    Weight: 285
    Hair Color: Black
    Hair Length: Medium
    Eye Color: Brown

    Location Last Seen: Hargray was last seen at her residence in the vicinity of the 400 block of Askew St. in Tallulah, La.

    Circumstances of Disappearance:
    She may be in the Miami, Fla. area. Lynitta has a medical condition.

    Identifying Marks or Characteristics: Known to wear braids, big toes are hammer toes, small scar on middle of forehead, pierced ears.

    If you have information, regarding the whereabouts of Lynitta Bouvier Hargray, please contact the Black and Missing Foundation's tip line.

     

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    Spike Lee has made a video on Facebook inviting the public to the second annual 'Brooklyn Loves Michael Jackson Birthday Celebration' in The Nethermead Field - Prospect Park, Brooklyn, on Aug. 29.

    DJ Spinna (aka Vincent Williams) will once again provide the music from 12:00pm - 5:00pm.

    The late, great King of Pop, who died June 25, 2009, would've been 52 years old.

    Lee, the Academy Award nominated director of movies such as 'School Daze,' 'Malcolm X,' 'Miracle at St. Anna' and 'Do The Right Thing,' collaborated with Jackson for the 1996 music video for the song 'They Don't Care About Us.'

     

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    The Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism conducted a study on the way African Americans are featured in news coverage. The study focused on the first year of Barack Obama's presidency. The study found that relatively little mainstream media attention was focused on African American issues, and that most of the coverage was reactionary in nature, rather than substantive.


    The news story that received the most coverage was the summer 2009 arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates. This study received nearly 20 percent of all African American related news coverage for the entire year. This was nearly four times the amount of African-American coverage on important issues such as the economy and health care.

    The study also found that nine percent of the coverage of the Obama Administration focused on issues that related to race. But most of that was also in reaction to specific incidents, rather than broader issues or themes. The study analyzed over 67,000 national news stories between February 16, 2009 and February 15, 2010 and included newspapers, cable news, network television, radio and news websites.

    African Americans weren't the only ethnic group ignored by mainstream media. Hispanics and Asians were covered even less. Nearly half of all coverage of African Americans in media was related to the arrest of Professor Gates, the Obama Presidency, the attempted hijacking of a flight by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and the death of Michael Jackson.

    American media is far behind the eight ball when it comes to the way African Americans are portrayed and covered in media. Our most critical issues tend to be ignored, and most major media outlets have no African American news anchors. CNN, for example, has several news personalities branded for their night time shows, but none of them are African American. The network deserves some credit for having African American news personalities during their daily segments.

    The fact that the bulk of black news coverage for 2009 focused on the arrest of Henry Louis Gates should be appalling to us all. I am not sure when we decided that the inconvenience experienced by a professor on his front porch should supersede the shooting deaths of Oscar Grant and Sean Bell. I am not here to say that Gates was at fault for what happened to him, but the truth is that there may not have been an ounce of racial injustice served during this incident, and I would imagine that Gates having a good publicist played a role in the reasons that his story received far more coverage than it deserved. CNN added fuel to the fire by over-covering the story, perhaps because the timing coincided with the release of their special, "Black in America 2." The racial controversy surrounding the Gates case likely improved ratings for the special, which was heavily advertised during their coverage of the Gates/Obama debacle. In some ways, it was the perfect storm of non-sense to captivate the attention of our nation.

    Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and a Scholarship in Action Resident of the Institute for Black Public Policy. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.

     

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    A 23-year-old Michigan woman was arraigned, after being charged with second-degree murder. Police said that she caused another woman to have an accident that led to her death in a fight that started on Facebook. Torrie Lynn Emery is also charged with child abuse, since the woman had a baby in the car at the time. Torrie was chasing after Danielle Booth, a 20-year old woman with whom she'd been feuding over the love of a prison inmate.

    Alesha Abernathy
    was the woman driving the car, and Boothe was in the passenger seat. Emery chased the women down the highway at speeds as high as 100 miles per hour, ramming the car on multiple occasions. The accident occurred when Abernathy ran a red light to get away from Emery and was hit by a refrigeration truck at an intersection. Boothe was critically injured in the accident.

    From the scene that was described in the courtroom, there were quite a few tears being shed, both by the families of the victims and by the alleged perpetrator. No one feels sorry for Emery, since it was her irrational behavior that allegedly caused this entire mess. Also, quite a few of my Facebook friends were turning their heads sideways trying to understand why two women were fighting over a man who is in prison.

    One of the most intriguing shows on all of television is a show called "Snapped." The series describes how even the most rational, normal people can do horrible things when they are caught in a fit of jealousy. Obviously, Emery's actions were driven by some type of jealousy or resentment she had toward the woman she felt to be her rival in this love triangle. What's saddest is that sometimes when we love that much, we forget that there are other fish in the sea. As a result of this incident, Emery will have to live with the guilt of her actions for the rest of her life and may never again know her own freedom.

    Here is a link that has tips on how to deal with jealousy. While most of us wouldn't try to ram someone off the road, we've all felt the sting of jealousy in our hearts. But jealousy is a short-term psychological disease, and while the effects can be crippling for several weeks or even months, you do eventually overcome and find that there is more to live for than that one person who received far too much of your attention.

    Love is a crazy thing: people sing about it, cry about it, talk about it and always remember it. The beauty of love is contrasted by the ugliness of incidents like this one, and some might even compare love to a very scary addiction. At the very least, it says that we should be careful about who we trust our hearts to and make sure that we find our way back to sanity when we feel that we've been betrayed. It's never easy for anyone.





    Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and a Scholarship in Action Resident of the Institute for Black Public Policy. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.

     

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    Maureen Dowd of the New York Times is a white woman. She is also a woman who feels that President Obama isn't black enough. Well, at least his cabinet isn't. Dowd made an interesting argument recently that when it comes to race, Obama and his crew are simply screwing up the issue left and right. "We may not have a 'nation of cowards' on race," Dowd said. "But we may have a West Wing of cowards on race."

    Dowd's position can be understood and is certainly accurate. On racial matters, the Obama Administration has been like a monkey throwing darts at a wall. They address the issue so sloppily that you sometimes wish they wouldn't touch it all. But not touching the issue has now become the default strategy for an administration that positions itself to patronize the racists of our nation. Obama has convinced himself that he can be a "stealthy black man," convincing white folks that he's not really as black as the rest of us. The truth is that a stealthier black man might have been a white woman named Hillary Clinton.

    Black America has not, as of yet, seen many direct benefits to having our first black president. The symbolism of Obama's achievement has been muted by virtually no substantive progress on issues that matter to African Americans, including unemployment and mass incarceration. We've seen our concerns put to the side, and the president has only stepped out of his shell on a racial matter when it affected one of his Ivy League cronies, Henry Louis Gates.

    In all fairness to President Obama, the question becomes the following: How much more could he do and still have a chance to be re-elected? It must be considered that the size of the black voting base may not be strong enough for the president to do more on matters of race. Additionally, his approval ratings continue to plummet across the board. If Obama were to alienate white, female and Latino voters, he surely wouldn't be re-elected. But an alternative question is whether or not he should silence himself on matters that affect our community just to get something he may never obtain in the first place. Additionally, what good is it to have power if you aren't going to use it for a productive purpose?

    Obama's problem is the same challenge experienced by millions of black corporate managers, professors, lawyers and doctors every single day. Black people are told to "play the game" and be quiet on issues that relate to race, all so we can achieve the status symbols that make us feel validated. Those of us who behave as the "good slave" and do what we are told are sometimes rewarded with promotions that make our mamas proud, high salaries to feed our addictive consumption habits and the "good black person" label that is so valuable within many organizations (Syracuse University identified me as a bad black man long ago). On the other hand, many of us sell our souls and get nothing in return. When it's all said and done, however, the majority of those who've made this selfish sacrifice end up feeling like the two-dollar prostitute who wasn't even paid at the end of the night. You give away your integrity and your enemies attack you for being weak. You find that your own personal gain comes at a huge price relative to what you didn't do for your community. Your life of promise becomes effectively meaningless and the world never knows you were here.

    The simple point here is that if President Obama sees his election as being important for African Americans in any light, he must be willing to make some kind of sacrifice. He must also realize that sometimes, sacrifice comes at a cost. Trying to appease Right Wing conservatives while still benefiting the black community is like having one foot in New York and the other one in California. Obama simply can't be a good enough politician to believe that he can make everyone happy at the same time, which is what he's been trying to do thus far.

    The black community must encourage President Obama to make this sacrifice by not only showing up to vote, but also by setting higher standards for ourselves and what we expect from our elected officials. Right now, Barack Obama has tremendous and unwavering black support and an auto-saved position in every black history book to ever be written. In fact, in many black living rooms across America, Obama's picture is on the wall right next to Martin Luther King and Jesus. The descendants of slaves can sometimes have self-esteem so low that we will trade White House validation for almost anything. With black folks in his corner and not holding him accountable in any way, does the Obama Administration have any incentive whatsoever to do anything for the African American community? The answer is a resounding "no."

    Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and a Scholarship in Action Resident of the Institute for Black Public Policy. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.

     

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    After being treated for blood clots in his lungs and legs over the course of the past month, gospel recording artist Darwin Hobbs was released from St. Joseph's Hospital in Atlanta last weekend.

    According to his spokesperson, the chart-topping singer and worship leader was initially admitted into St. Joseph's Hospital on June 15 following concerns from his wife, Traci Hobbs (with whom he is pictured with on the left).

    "While traveling to the airport for a performance in the Mid-west with his close friend Yolanda Adams, he became really short of breath," she revealed to Jamie Foster Brown's Sister 2 Sister magazine.

    "Something just didn't seem right, and I decided that we had better get this checked before we go any further."
    Hobbs was released July 23. His unforeseen health scare is believed to stem from a recent gastric bypass surgery in which doctors believe segmented from a larger blood clot.

    Looking forward to the future, the 'Beautiful To Me' crooner is planning on restoring his music career by resuming promotion of his latest project 'Champion' by conducting a series of phone interviews.

    "This was in no way something Traci and I expected to walk through, but indeed we are walking through it," he said. "We would like to thank everyone for the outpouring of prayers, calls, emails, tweets, flowers and visits. The fact is I developed blood clots; the truth is that the blood of Jesus never loses its power and it never clots."

    "I am so excited about all God has planned for my future," he continued. "The lyrics of many of the songs I sing have new meaning today. 'God Restores' is not only a song I sing, but it is the story of my life. He has restored my life to me. This temporary pain was the hallway to the door of my next dimension of powerful ministry."

    On the heels of the release of his 2008 album, 'Free,' the Cincinnati native revealed that he was finally able to come to terms with the sexual abuse he experienced as a child.

    "For years, I've been bound by the haunting reality of the past," he said at the time. "It's almost as if I'd been under the restriction of a gag order placed on me - as if I was walking through an earthly version of hell... But God's been faithful, He never left me. And just as He promised, 'If I walked in truth, He'll set me free.'"

     

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