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

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    When Star Jones stepped up to the cameras at the Tribute to the Models of Versailles 1973 show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Tuesday, mixed reactions ensued.
    Was it the grey-on-grey-on-grey skirt/stockings/shoes combo, or the pink-beribboned fur shawl on top of it all that had blogs turning their noses up? Fashion is in the eye of the beholder.

    You tell us - chic or weak?


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    Kelley Williams Bolar

    Most of us at BlackVoices are familiar with the case of Kelley Williams-Bolar, the Ohio mother of two who was sent to jail for sending her children to the "wrong" school district. Williams-Bolar was sentenced to 10 days in jail, three years probation and community service for using her father's address to avoid sending her kids to the school she considered to be dangerous and inadequate. At AOL BlackVoices, we were one of the first to hit the issue nationally, and fortunately, other media outlets are starting to take notice.

    In addition to being sent to jail, Williams-Bolar and her father are being charged with fourth-degree grand theft of school services. As a consequence of her conviction, Williams-Bolar will never be allowed to teach in the state of Ohio, which is the profession she was pursing. The judge also made it clear that she was sending Williams-Bolar to jail as an example for other parents thinking about doing the same thing.

    The case sparked a firestorm of national controversy and conversation about educational inequality and the notion that a mother had to break the law in order to give her daughters access to a quality education. Millions of parents expressed support for Williams-Bolar, for they too could recall their own parents making the same sacrifices for them. There have been Facebook groups created to support Williams-Bolar and has created a petition on her behalf to have her record expunged. The petition drew nearly 20,000 signatures over a three-day period and is growing by the second.

    Yesterday, I got a call from CNN's 'AC360,' and it appears that we will get the chance to talk about the Williams-Bolar case on the show tonight. This is in addition to other media outlets from as far as Japan that have called me about the matter. I was happy to see the national media pick up this story because it is far bigger than one person. It is really about addressing the fundamental human rights violations that lead to a two-tiered racialized reality in America when it comes to our economic, educational and criminal justice systems.

    Black family wealth being significantly lower than that of white families (due to slavery and Jim Crow) reminds us that had Williams-Bolar been a wealthy woman from the suburbs, it is highly unlikely that she would have been used as an example by the court. I am compelled to believe that the prosecutor would have used his discretion to keep this incident from permanently staining her record and would not have forced this law-abiding mother to endure the dehumanization of walking around in a dirty jailhouse jump suit for nearly two weeks.

    Most white Americans don't have to break the law to get their children access to a good education. But millions of Americans, disproportionately those of color, are being forced to jump the legal fence to sneak their kids into quality academic programs. Having a decent, safe venue of education should be a fundamental American right, not something we have to break the law to receive. While it might have been illegal for Williams-Bolar to fight for her kids to get into a good school, we must remember that it was also once illegal for slaves to learn how to read. My point is that legality is not always the same as morality, so the argument that she's wrong because she broke the law is simply invalid.

    This case is clearly about more than just one person. I am not here to vouch for Williams-Bolar or her family, for I am just getting to know them personally and we should be careful to keep our minds focused on the broader issues at hand (in case the powers-that-be attempt to slander Kelley to divert the national media attention). It is about thoroughly examining the structure of our legal, educational and economic systems in America. President Barack Obama, more than a year and a half ago, chose to use the Henry Louis Gates case as an opportunity to argue in favor of an awkward conversation on race that never happened. The problem is that an inconvenience being thrust on one of President Obama's Harvard cronies was hardly the venue for the president to talk about what happens to the common black man or woman in America. But if the president or anyone in Washington wants a real opportunity to talk seriously about racial inequality in America, the Williams-Bolar situation is a textbook case of what is racially wrong with our society. I hope that the Congressional Black Caucus, the NAACP, the National Action Network and other major organizations get involved in this case. It is an opportunity to help millions of people.

    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's commentary delivered to your e-mail, please click here.


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    Ed Reed's Brother's Body Found in Mississippi RiverOn January 7, Baltimore Raven safety Ed Reed was in Baltimore preparing for a playoff game against the Kansas City Chiefs, but his younger brother Brian Reed was in Louisiana suffering from some mental issues.

    Brian, 29, left his home early that morning without permission with his younger brother's car. Knowing that Brian was dealing with some mental issues, his family called the police.

    Brian ran out of gas and a St. Charles-Jefferson Parish Sheriff stopped to help him push the car to the side of the road. When they were finished, the sheriff got the call to detain Brian, but when the sheriff called out to Brian, he jogged away. When the sheriff went after him, Brian crossed a levee and jumped in to the Mississippi river.

    "He had some mental stuff going on before, [but] there was truly no sign of this happening," Ed Reed said at a press conference this week, after Brian's body was found, according to the Baltimore Sun. "Like Sheriff [Greg Champagne of St. Charles Parish] said, we don't know what triggered it, we don't know what happened ... between him running from the police officer and the decision he made.

    "We know that there's bigger things in life, principalities, that we have to deal with spiritually. Maybe he was dealing with something and having more pain than we ever [knew] that made him make that decision. My brother was not that type of person to have that mentality of doing anything to himself. He was always real close to us and we were close to him."

    Ed Reed is scheduled to be in Hawaii this week to play at the Pro Bowl but instead will be staying in Louisiana to be with his family in mourning. According to the sheriff, the Mississippi River was very treacherous that day. Brian's body was found this week about 40 yards from where he jumped in and was caught in debris from an old dock.

    "We knew, the parish knew, that day that my brother was having some mental issues and [his parents] contacted the police and had to report the car stolen to try to basically slow my brother down and bring him in, bring him home," Reed said. "Unfortunately, he thought otherwise and the officer was not able to apprehend him and bring him home. ... It was nothing illegal going on or anything like that. It was just an issue where concerned parents were trying to bring their child to safety."


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    After watching a documentary revealing how fur wares are created, Taraji P. Henson decided to shed fur - and her clothes - altogether.
    The actress recently joined celebs like Chad Ochocinco, Nia Long and Eva Mendes in PETA's "I'd rather go naked" anti-fur campaign and plans to unveil her ad in person at PETA'S New York Fashion Week party on February 10.

    "Before I saw that documentary ... I would wear fur," explains Henson in an exclusive PETA interview. "But I saw this documentary, and I was riveted. I cried. I don't think a living being should suffer for the sake of fashion, period. You don't have to kill an animal just because you want to be hot and fly. And I really stand by that."

    To check out the ad and view Henson's full interview with PETA, visit


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  • 01/27/11--04:18: Nelson Mandela Hospitalized
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    Nelson MandelaFormer South African President Nelson Mandela (pictured right), who hasn't been seen in public since last July's World Cup, has been hospitalized for routine testing and is in good spirits, according to a statement from his foundation.

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    The 92 year-old icon, who was flown to a Johannesburg hospital from a vacation in Cape Town on Wednesday, has been described as frail by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

    I wonder what 92-year-old person isn't frail.

    The sad truth is that none of us, not even Mandela, will live forever.

    But I have to feel fortunate that we were given the gift of Nelson Mandela's existence for as long as we've had it.

    Mandela could have been killed a thousand times over by the white apartheid government of South Africa in the early days of the freedom struggle.

    Instead of becoming the beloved father of a nation, Mandela could have been a martyr like Steve Biko, who was killed while in police custody in 1977.

    The fact that former wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela joined family members at the great leader's hospital bedside leads one to believe the illness is grave.

    The bitterness between Winnie and Nelson Mandela is legendary and left portions of South Africa feeling like children in an angry divorce breakup.

    In Mandela's village in Transkei, people are giving prayers for his return to good health.

    For me, prayers of thanks that Mandela touched our lives make more sense.


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    At this point, it's a deadly case of he-said, she-said but a few points aren't being disputed:

    Robert Hudson (pictured right), 72, is dead; Doris (pictured left), his wife of 50 years, is angry and grieving; and officers of the New York City police department in Queens were involved.

    Whether police forced Robert Hudson to walk half a mile in the snow to his death, as Doris claims, will be subject of a wrongful death lawsuit against police.

    Doris Hudson said that she and her husband were sitting in their car in front of a Queens Village pharmacy January 14th, when two officers approached and cited Doris for not wearing her seat belt.

    Doris said she was wearing a seat belt but didn't have her identification. She said the officers wouldn't let Robert drive to get her ID and forced Robert to walk a half-mile back to their house through snow and cold to retrieve the paperwork.

    Though the officers eventually left Doris at the scene, Robert suffered a heart attack behind the wheel of the car as he drove off.

    He later died at a nearby hospital.

    Police say they never ordered anyone to walk home to get ID and said Mr. Hudson decided to walk home on his own.

    Your heart has to go out to Doris Hudson. She and her husband go out to fill a prescription, not bothering anyone, and have their lives shattered because she may (or may not) have been wearing a seat belt.

    But in defense of the police, it's hard to envision them ordering Robert Hudson to walk from the car to his home to pick up her ID. What sounds far more likely is that Robert Hudson was mad, real mad that police stopped him for such a minor transgression.

    He probably was so angry that he stormed off in a huff to get the ID to show the officers they were doing nothing more than harassing two elderly folks who wanted nothing more than to fill a prescription.

    Unfortunately, our interactions with the police are often brutal and tragic. There was the case last fall of college student Danroy Henry, who was shot to death by police in a odd scuffle with his car. Then there was Askia Sabur, who was beaten by police for two minutes until his arm was fractured. And who could forget honor student and violinist Jordan Miles, who had police tear off his dreadlocks while walking home from his grandmother's.

    As for the Robert Hudson case, it will be up to the courts to decide if police walked him to his death.

    Watch the sad story here:



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    The University of Texas just inked a $300 million television rights deal for a 24-hour network that will broadcast Longhorn athletes and games. ESPN is the partner in the deal and will distribute the network via satellite in Texas and other states around the country. The network is expected to launch in September.

    Given that college athletes are serving as the foundation for massive wealth being generated by schools like the University of Texas, it is time that we consider allowing these athletes to have the same labor rights as other workers who generate wealth around the nation. The United Steel Workers Union has actually spoken out on behalf of NCAA athletes, stating that they should have the right to unionize to ensure that their families can benefit from the wealth being created in these massive financial deals.

    African Americans should be concerned about deals like this one for the following reasons: 1) many of the top NCAA athletes in America are black, 2) many of the families of these athletes are in poverty and 3) many athletes are not being educated when they attend football factories like The University of Texas, making them unable to return to their communities as productive husbands and fathers. Systems such as this one serve to undermine the stability of the black family in America and have deep roots in American systemic inequality.

    Texas is not only a state that generates hundreds of millions of dollars off of African American athletes. It also happens to have one of the most well-developed prison industrial complexes in the nation. Both of these realities are correlated with the collective effort to exploit the African American male, consistently supporting legislative principles that serve to deny him access to the very same freedoms enjoyed by other Americans (notice that there isn't much interest in supporting the labor rights of prison inmates either) . If black people do not stand together to confront these very serious problems, then they will never go away. At some point, the families of these athletes should be allowed to benefit from the billions that their children are generating on the field, and I recommend a work stoppage to get the point across.

    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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    "I can't stand Phaedra's ass. I think Kim is crazy as f*ck. Nene has a big-ass mouth. And Sheree's not cute! She thinks she's cute, but she's not cute. And this is on the record. The only one I like is Kandi, and she's too soft. That's why she got played with Kim. And that's how I truly feel."

    --'Real Housewives of Atlanta' husband/entrepreneur Peter Thomas, weighing in on his wife Cynthia Bailey's cast-mates. (Uptown Magazine)

    NEXT: NeNe Talks Star Jones' 'Celebrity Apprentice' Appearance,feedConfig,entry&id=777016&pid=777015&uts=1296152919

    Reality Bites

    Reality Bites
    The reality TV show phenomenon is showing no signs of slowing down -- as long as viewers keep watching the shows. takes a quick look at some of the most notable personalities within the reality series realm. Join us.

    Reality Bites

    Russell Simmons
    Affiliation: 'Running Russell Simmons' on Oxygen
    Side Note: Before the Def Jam co-founder got his own reality show, he appeared sporadically on his business partner and ex-wife Kimora Lee Simmons' hit E! show 'Kimora: Life in the Fab Lane.'

    Reality Bites

    Melanie Brown
    Affiliation: 'Mel B: It's a Scary World' on The Style Network
    Side Note: Mel B is affectionately known as Scary Spice from the British pop group the Spice Girls, but she made a career comeback on the competition series 'Dancing With the Stars.'

    Reality Bites

    Kandi Burruss
    Affiliation: 'The Real Housewives of Atlanta'
    Side Note: Though she was in her own platinum-selling girl group, Xscape, this Atlanta native won her only Grammy Award for penning 'No Scrubs' for fellow ATL girl group TLC.

    Reality Bites

    Fantasia Barrino
    Affiliation: 'Fantasia For Real' on VH1
    Side note: The 'American Idol' champion (2005) is a best-selling author ('Life is Not a Fairytale') and garnered critical acclaim as Miss Celie in the Broadway musical 'The Color Purple.'

    Reality Bites

    Holly Robinson Peete
    Affiliation: 'The Celebrity Apprentice 3' on NBC
    Side Note: The 'Hanging with Mr. Cooper' actress and her husband/former NFL quarterback Rodney Peete created the HollyRod Foundation in 1997 to honor her late father Matt Robinson who died of Parkinson's Disease and also to raise money for families who are affected by autism.

    Reality Bites

    Al B. Sure
    Affiliation: 'Donald J. Trump Presents: The Ultimate Merger'
    Side note: While vying for Omarosa's love during the show's first season, the former 'Apprentice' star described the R&B crooner as; "the ultimate romantic and perfect gentleman. He sets the tone for all of the bachelors on how to properly court a woman."

    Reality Bites

    Trey Songz
    Affiliation: 'Trey Songz: My Moment' on BET
    Side Note: Born Tremaine Aldon Neverson, this Virginia native, originally put out diss mixtapes aimed at R. Kelly, but quashed his beef with the legendary Chicago crooner when he enlisted Kels help to produce 'Grub On' off his 2007 album 'Trey Day.'

    Reality Bites

    Dwight Eubanks
    Affiliation: 'The Real Housewives of Atlanta'
    Side Note: Although he remains a flamboyant bi-sexual, Eubanks, who owns his own Atlanta hair salon owner, told Essence magazine in 2009 that he was engaged to be married to an Atlanta woman.

    Reality Bites

    Brandi Simpkins
    Affiliation: 'House of Glam' on Oxygen
    Side Note: The Howard University graduate's The B. Lynn Group quickly became the go-to image agency after stylist Crystal Streets nailed Jay-Z as her third client - helping him craft his style persona.

    Reality Bites


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    Earlier this week, news broke that 'Whip My Hair' singer and Roc Nation artist Willow Smith would star in a Jay-Z produced remake of 'Annie' being produced by Columbia Pictures.

    But, there's one person who isn't thrilled about the celebrity of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith's children, Jaden and Willow.

    NAACP Image Award nominee and New York Times Best Selling author Terry McMillan took to Twitter to blast the Hollywood heavyweights for encouraging their entertainment children to follow in their footsteps.

    "The Smith children already act like child stars. There's an arrogance in their demeanor and behavior. I find it incredibly sad," McMillan said on the popular social networking platform on Jan.27. "It feels like the Smith children are being pimped and exploited. Or, they're already hungry for fame. What about 4th grade?"The 'Waiting To Exhale' author continued, "A lot of A-list movie stars shielded their children from the Hollywood-world until they were old enough to decide. Look at those who didn't. Look at Lindsay. Phoenix to name, but a few. They miss out on childhood. It's more important than fame."

    She cited her own experience raising her son and how she relayed to him that she was a popular novelist.

    "In 4th grade, my son came home complaining that the kids in his school said I was famous and rich. I told him that was not true," she said. "That some of my books were popular but not everybody liked them. That we could afford a vacation. 'Oh' he said, and went back & repeated it. I wanted him to think of me. He didn't read any of my novels until he was 15. He only read 26 pages. Was bored."

    The 59 year-old Michigan native also got into a war of words with music critic and television personality, Toure. He countered her, "Willow and Jaden are not being pimped. They want to be out there. They're modeling their parents behavior. And they're good," to which she replied, "Shut up, Toure! You make my point even clearer."

    Fed up with the response from her Twitter followers, McMillan ended the conversation by exclaiming, "I raised my son. I'm not wasting another minute worrying about how Will & Jada are raising their kids."

    But added, "P.S. I loved the 'Karate Kid.'"

    How's that for keeping it real!

    Update: McMillan issued a quasi-apology regardling her earlier statements on Twitter. She wrote, "I apologize for using the word pimp and exploit in referring to the Smith children. It was insensitive of me and wrong. Twitter is not the best forum to express some things. I didn't know folks would take my opinion so personally. It is amazing, though, how fast an unflattering comment gets retreated versus one that's flattering. I'm done with this issue. My opinion isn't going to change anything. There are a lot more important things going on in the world right now. My Mama used to say: 'They'll talk about you if you do. And talk about you if you don't. Let 'em talk.' Some folks look for a reason to criticize you. They're getting off on it and are saying much worse things than I did. I've got work to do. I hope everybody who has something important to do today besides worry about the Smith children, does it. And for those of you who were so offended by what I said or thought I was being disrespectful, unfollow me. So, I'm on blast? Too bad when I talk about what's happening in the government, the GOP, racism, love, etc., doesn't go viral."


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    Michelle Obama Salutes Military Families on Oprah

    First Lady Michelle Obama appeared on 'The Oprah Winfrey Show' on Thursday to salute the families of those people who are bravely serving this country in the military.

    The pressures of deployment are difficult for families. So often, Mrs. Obama says, people see a happy homecoming between military families on TV but do not see the other "ramifications" to the deployment that are not talked out. "And these families need some help and support to get through it."

    The first lady spoke about how these folks rarely ask for help and are always willing to sacrifice without uttering a complaint. She views these families as inspirational and stressed how impressed she is by their strength and fortitude. Mrs. Obama mentioned that whenever her self-pity mode comes on, she "sucks it up" and thinks of Americans who are sacrificing much more.

    On Monday, President Barack Obama announced initiatives that will help support the loved ones of military personnel. He mentioned that the government is now upping its game with these new support efforts.

    Since her husband's 2008 presidential campaign, Mrs. Obama has placed a spotlight on helping military families. She has been made privy to stories that have fueled her to take action.

    The initiatives will focus on the quality of life for military families, enhance the education and development of military children, increase all efforts to help military spouses further their career choices and educational goals, and put into place more child care options for military personnel with young children.

    According to President Obama, the initiatives, "are lasting commitments by the government to address your needs and concerns for years to come. And my hope is that these recommendations will live on no matter the president, no matter the party."

    Mrs. Obama, who also appeared on Oprah's show with Tom Brokaw and Bob Woodward, urges anyone who can help these families to pitch in. "There are a lot of simple things that people can do to help - if you're an accountant, help a military family prepare their taxes, for example," she said. "A lot of these women can use a girl's night out, a manicure, a pedicure, a break. There are things we can do as a nation big and small."


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    President ObamaA writer at finance news site Business Insider has re-published a missive comparing the statements made by President Obama in his State of the Union address to statements made by President Hoover during the Great Depression. Some interesting parallels include statements such as:

    Obama's State of the Union:
    "But now that the worst of the recession is over..."

    Herbert Hoover, June 1930, to a delegation requesting a public works project:
    "Gentlemen, you have come sixty days too late. The depression is over."

    Obama's State of the Union:
    "The steps we've taken over the last two years may have broken the back of this recession..."

    Herbert Hoover, State of the Union, December 6, 1932:
    "The unprecedented emergency measures enacted and policies adopted undoubtedly saved the country from economic disaster..."

    Business Insider certainly stirred the pot of controversy with this post, inspiring both right wing Obama haters and liberal supporters of the president to go back and forth about the validity of these comparisons. The funny thing is that if you look at the comments, the right wingnuts who persist in attacking the president because they think he is Kenyan, or because his middle name is Hussein come off as just that -- nutty as hell. It's incredible that the most vociferous opponents of President Obama's economic policies don't have any logical criticisms to offer other than the unfounded accusation that he got where he is "through affirmative action." The very act of Republican supporters expressing their opinions on the economy undermines the image of the GOP as fiscally responsible leaders if this is the type of member they attract.

    The Obama supporters on the other hand could not have come off as more eloquent. They make an excellent case for President Obama, to the point that any person with a brain would be soothed by their sensible statements after being shaken by his comparison to the Great Depression president. One person in particular explains the apparent reflection of Obama's words in Hoover's statements very well:

    Hoover genuinely thought the recession and recovery were over. Obama has repeatedly maintained his stance that, while we may be past the worst of the slump, we still have a long way to go and a lot of work to do to recover. ...

    Part of a president's job is to constantly express optimism about the future of the economy. Imagine, for a moment, what would happen to economies throughout the world if a president went on TV and said, "well, the economy is basically a garbage dump for the next decade. Whatever you do, don't invest in anything, because you're going to get screwed." It would immediately become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    What do Obama's Republican opponents offer in response? Take a look:

    Ahem, let me counter your points one at a time in a reasoned manner: BARRY SOETERO Obama Bin Lyin' SOROS hopey changey birf certifcate TelePromPTeRZ socialist communist fascist kenya!

    Well now. That makes a lot of sense! But in a roundabout way, it does. When you have Tea Party candidates who believe that the founding fathers ended slavery, and a GOP leadership in Congress that did not even know that their fiscal campaign promises were impossible to implement -- so they are reneging on them -- seeing their supporters attack the president with statements that look like evidence of a brain disease makes perfect sense.

    Hopefully, if more evidence of possible brain disease in the GOP and Tea Party is exposed, then more American citizens will realize that most of the opposition against Obama is not coming from people with superior fiscal acumen. People with no knowledge of history, who don't know House procedures and who can't put a sentence together usually can't come up with good economic ideas. When Americans start being more realistic about the economy, rather than listening to anything out of frustration, they may stop being swayed by obvious GOP manipulation. Then maybe, as a unified nation, we can give the president's financial plans a chance.


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    Mike Evans, a radio personality on KQRS-FM in Minnesota made a claim on Jan. 20 that Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie admitted to him that no record existed of President Barack Obama being born in Hawaii. Evans and Abercrombie have reportedly been friends for several years, with Evans claiming, "Neil promised me that when he became governor he was going to cut through all the red tape. He was going to get Obama's birth certificate, once and for all, and end this stupid controversy."

    Abercrombie had to back off of his promise to reveal President Obama's birth certificate, primarily because Hawaii law doesn't allow officials to release personal birth records. The controversy began when Evans went on the radio claiming to have spoken with someone in Abercrombie's office and "that he's searched everywhere using his power as governor" at two separate hospitals, finding no record of Obama having been born at either one.

    "There is no Barack Obama birth certificate in Hawaii. Absolutely no proof that he was born in Hawaii... now [Abercrombie] admits, publicly, that there is no birth certificate."

    Interestingly enough, Evans has changed his story completely since the statement about the birth certificate made national news. He's backpedaled a bit, saying that he misspoke about the information.

    "This I can you tell you is 100 percent fact," he said to Fox News. "Neil never told me there was no birth certificate. ... I never talked to him."

    An article in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser also brings additional ammunition to the table of those who wish to see President Obama disqualified due to his place of birth. It says:

    "Tim Adams, a former senior elections clerk for the city and county of Honolulu in 2008, has maintained that there is no long-form, hospital-generated birth certificate on file with the Hawaii Department of Health and that neither Honolulu hospital - Queens Medical Center or Kapiolani Medical Center - has any record that Obama was born there."

    I don't like the Birther Movement. It's fueled by racism against America's first black president, with a concerted effort to find any infraction, loophole or legality that will get him removed from office. They are the political step-brother of the Tea Party movement, which relies on racially-inflammatory and ignorant rhetoric that uses the Constitution to somehow signify that African Americans are not "real" Americans, and therefore undeserving of the highest office in the land. These extremists are so entrenched in their racist ideology that their lynch mob behavior threatens to destroy the nation they love and to also disrespect the office of the presidency.

    With that said, I can also honestly say that I have no idea where Barack Obama was born. I am not here to pretend that there is no validity to claims that he was born in Kenya because I have not seen his official birth certificate. I can also say that public officials only make themselves look that much more suspicious by marginalizing those with legitimate claims about Obama's birthplace and keeping them out of mainstream media. It appears that if it is the case that Obama was not born here in the United States, there are some who are simply hopeful that these facts won't be unearthed until 20 years after his presidency has come to an end. The marginalization of the Birthers might also be due to the "who cares?" complex that most Americans have when it comes to those looking for any reason they can find to invalidate him. President Obama is experiencing the same thing that happens to African Americans in power all across the country, and I hardly suspect that all of this would be happening if he were not black.

    Regardless of where President Obama was born, we must have proper perspective on the selective outrage being shown by his political opponents. Their anger toward Obama about his birth certificate was not matched by equally zealous outrage toward former President George W. Bush for killing thousands with unjust wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The point here is that in the world of politics, there's no such thing as anyone who is squeaky clean or unconditionally dirty. The truth is that each side supports their own point of view by pointing out the political blemishes of the other team's players, while trying to convince the world that their side has a monopoly on ethical behavior. At the end of the day, the team you choose determines the angle of your ethics, and evil is in the eye of the beholder. That's why I don't expect to ever become a politician.

    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's commentary delivered to your e-mail, please click here.


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    Police Looking for Former

    Seventh season 'American Idol' contestant Chikezie Ndubuisi Eze is a wanted man. There is a bench warrant out for the 25-year-old, who is on probation for an arrest stemming from a purchase he made with a fraudulent credit card.

    Apparently, Eze was at Beverly Hills luxe retailer Neiman Marcus last February. The Nigerian-born singer attempted to buy two bottles of cologne and used a bogus credit card to pay for the items. He was arrested and sentenced to three years probation after pleading no contest to misdemeanor identity theft. The 'Idol' alum was also required to perform 45 days of community labor and ordered to stay away from the department store under the terms of the deal.

    Now, since Eze failed to appear before a judge for a Jan. 14 hearing related to the arrest last year, a bench warrant has been issued for his arrest. The no-nonsense Los Angeles Judge Marsha Revel, who took actress Lindsay Lohan to task for failing to appear at a mandatory court hearing, issued the warrant and also revoked Eze's probation.

    Hmmm. I don't smell good times ahead for Eze.


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    Ugandan Gay Rights Activist Beaten to Death

    Gay bashing has real consequences.

    And in Uganda, where gay bashing is common sport, it can be blamed for taking the life of activist David Kato who had his name and photo appear in an anti-gay newspaper under the headline "Hang Them."

    Kato was beaten to death with a hammer by an intruder who entered his home.

    Though police said robbery appeared to be the motive since some items were taken, gay activists say that Kato's outspoken defense of gays was more likely the reason he was targeted for death.

    I think they are right.

    The gay activists are blaming U.S. evangelical leaders including Scott Lively, Caleb Lee Brundidge and Don Schmierer, for fostering a climate of hate against gays when during a lecture series in Uganda in 2009.

    A month after the conference held by the evangelical leaders, David Bahati, a Ugandan politician and religious leader, introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009, which threatened to execute gays and drew the condemnation of the civilized world.

    In an interview on the 'Rachel Maddow Show' in December, Bahati said that while gay rights might fall under human rights in many parts of the world, gays will find no such protection of their rights in Uganda where conservative Christian organizations hold great political power.

    Bahati also said that gays had an organized effort to recruit children into the lifestyle but offered no proof of his claim when pressed by Maddow, who is gay.

    While American anti-gay crusaders may have planted some seeds of hatred among the people of Uganda, it is Bahati and his comrades in Uganda who have blood on their hands in the death of Kato.

    Is it that surprising that the bigoted words of some so-called religious leaders in Uganda led to violence?

    As a straight man, I have never understood why some other straight men like the evangelicals are so concerned about what goes on in the bedrooms of gay men.

    If gay men, of proper legal age, want to have sex, is it anyone else's business?


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    Teach for America Gets $100 Million Funding

    Teach For America, the educational organization founded by Wendy Kopp, as a result of her senior thesis at Princeton, has been moderately successful since its founding in 1989. The organization hires recent college graduates from prestigious institutions, training them for the summer in a dorm-like setting and then placing them into low-income, traditionally underserved schools.

    I say it has been moderately successful because the teachers are required to only commit for two years. The program has been successful in getting the brightest, most talented and energetic teachers into the classroom -- receiving 46,000 applicants for just 4,400 teaching slots last year -- but the problem is keeping them.

    Perhaps they will address this issue with the $100 million they just received, according to the AP, to launch their first-ever endowment in hopes of making the grassroots organization a permanent fixture in education.

    Teach for America has many vocal opponents -- particularly teachers' unions -- who are critical of the lack of experience of these new teachers who are put into classrooms without going through the traditional certification that requires years of training and advanced degrees.

    Others offer more philosophical criticism: can recent Ivy League grads respond to the cultural differences of low-income, often inner-city or rural, largely African American student populations?

    But Teach for America alums say the criticism is both unfounded and inaccurate. Ayanna Taylor, a Teach for America alum, and graduate of The University of Pennsylvania, worked for 10 years in the classroom, and continues to work as a consultant for public and charter schools around the country. Other alums she said went through the program continue to teach and work in other areas of education reform.

    Have critics compiled statistics on the number of traditionally trained teachers who stay on after two years? Or elect to work in traditionally underfunded schools?

    "Teach for America changed the concept of what a teacher could be," says Taylor. "Teachers were put into classrooms with extensive knowledge of their content area. It also gave the teaching profession some cachet -- to have Ivy League grads decide to earn $25,000 a year and many of them stayed with the profession after the two year requirement."

    According to statistics from Teach for America, 10 percent of alumni are still teaching or are working in the trenches for education reform. It points to studies that show its teachers are at least as effective as those who enter the teaching profession in more traditional ways.

    The idea of an endowment started with philanthropist Eli Broad, who pledged $25 million from his Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and encouraged others to commit to the project. Three more foundations stepped up with matching funds: the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, the Robertson Foundation and philanthropists Steve and Sue Mandel.

    Right now the organization gets its budget from nonprofits, corporations and federal grants, but it's a shaky way to depend on funding each year. With the increased funding, the organization hopes to double the number of teachers and increase the amount of communities they serve from 39 to 60.

    What critics often miss in talking about Teach for America is that it offers some poorly underserved schools some of the brightest minds in the country. If Teach for America combines that with proper training, the increased funding will likely keep the program around for a while and it will be a force to be reckoned with.


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    After premiering at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, Rashaad Ernesto Green's debut Film, 'Gun Hill Road,' has landed a distribution deal, states

    Motion Film Group has paid low seven-figures for worldwide sales and distribution rights. The plan is for a summer theatrical release and to sell offshore rights at Cannes.

    The coming of age drama is set in the Bronx and stars Esai Morales, Judy Reyes, Harmony Santana, Vanessa Aspillaga and Isiah Whitlock.

    Morales plays a macho ex-con who returns to the Bronx after his latest prison stretch. He discovers the world has knew has turned upside down while he was gone. His wife (Reyes) tries to hide an emotional affair, and his teen son is exploring a sexual transformation beyond his father's grasp. It's time for the ex-con to take some responsibility and become a parent.


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    Gladys Horton, whose powerful voice earned her group-- The Marvelettes-- the distinction of being the first girl group signed to Motown, died Wednesday in Sherman Oaks, CA from complications related to a stroke.

    Horton's work with the fellow members of her group and their smash hit "Please Mr. Postman," with Marvin Gaye on the drums, opened the door for other girl groups such as The Ronettes and The Supremes.

    My mother died peacefully," Horton's son, Vaughn Thornton, said in a statement from the Motown Alumni Association. "She fought as long as she could."

    Horton co-founded the group with other members of her Glee Club in Michigan. Their original name was "The Casinyets," which stood for "can't sing yet."

    Despite the ironic name, Horton's teacher noticed the group's talents and arranged an audition with Berry Gordy. The soon to be classic label was just two years old at the time and had never worked with an all-girl group.

    It was Horton's strong voice that helped the label take the chance at signing an all-girl singing group.

    Horton eventually and reluctantly became the lead singer and was only 15 when Motown released "Please Mr. Postman." The song shot to the lead spot on Billboard's Hot 100 and was Motown's first number one record.

    "Gladys was a very, very special lady, and I loved the way she sang with her raspy, soulful voice," Gordy said through a spokesperson. "We will all miss her, and she will always be a part of the Motown family."

    Over the years, The Marvelettes had 23 singles on Billboard's Hot 100. Some of the group's hits include: "Playboy," "Beechwood 4-5789," "Too Many Fish in the Sea," and "Don't Mess With Bill." Horton was replaced as leader singer in 1965 and left the group two years later.

    She continued to travel and perform as "Gladys Horton of the Marvelettes" because she did not own The Marvelettes' name. Horton fought for many years to win back the name because she had sang lead on most of the group's biggest hits.

    Horton traveled and performed regularly until she suffered a stroke last year.

    "Love comes in two directions, from your hearts to us and from our hearts to you, and it has always been that way!" Horton wrote in a statement when she made the decision to stop touring.

    Horton is survived by her two sons.

    This ground-breaking group has yet to win election to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Since Horton died before the group was able to receive the honor, doing so in the near future would seem like a fitting tribute.


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    Gina Ramcharan

    Many of us are all too familiar with the image of the blinged-out rapper wearing 20 pounds of jewelry in order to make a statement about what hood he's claiming or how many records he sold last year. For some reason, some have concluded that this form of buffoonish behavior reflects what it means to be black in America. Well, I have another theory. Perhaps we can wear our jewelry in a way that empowers ourselves and our children to pursue educational excellence. Perhaps their jewelry can reconnect them with their roots, tell them who they are and build their self-esteem. Well, that's what Gina Blalock Ramcharan does, and it's exciting black folks everywhere. It is for her commitment to showing us how to wear jewelry the right way that Gina is today's Dr. Boyce Watkins Spotlight on AOL Black Voices.

    What is your full name and what do you do?
    My name is Gina Blalock Ramcharan and I'm a luxury consumer goods executive. Although I have experience in a wide variety of consumer goods, it is fine jewelry that fires up my passion when it comes to the world of retail.

    Tell us about your company, how you started it and how people can buy your products. is just the beginning of my love letter to express my fondness of history, art and culture with a deep bow to the African Diaspora. The concept started in 2001 when I opened a small boutique in Harlem that offered a selection of unique items in not only fine jewelry, but high end gift items within an atmosphere that transported 57th Street to 125th Street. In 2002, the HarlemCharmed collection debuted and was a hit. The collection was the first step in creating an exclusive in-house product. Unfortunately, a number of factors contributed to shutting the doors in 2004 and I stepped away from entrepreneurship all together.

    A few years later friend of mine said, "you might want to let the HarlemCharmed collection die a natural death, but people keep asking about it so let me sell it in my shop." First I resurrected the collection as an exclusive for The Brownstone on 125th street in Harlem, NY; fueled by their success with the collection, I decided to put it online and was born.

    I didn't want to just make jewelry for the sake of making jewelry, but also to use the medium to highlight our history and culture. SimplyGifted was triggered by an encounter with some young people in the neighborhood (Harlem) who are often regarded as a menace to society, but it just takes one conversation to see there is a lot of untapped potential. This was compounded by constant negative press regarding children of color and poor test scores, children of color and crime, children of color and single mothers etc., etc. If someone tells you you are worthless long enough, you might start to believe it.

    Every time I saw one of these so called "statistics," I just wanted to hang a sign around them as a reminder they are Young, Gifted and Black. Eventually I followed through on the thought and created the SimplyGifted collection in sterling silver with a permanent engraving that reads, "Young, Gifted & Black." By no means does a piece of jewelry substitute for the hands on encouragement young people need, but this serves as a reminder of what is expected. This is a Superman-like crest that declares your intellectual strength.

    You mentioned that this year represents a special holiday as it pertains to people of color. Can you describe that and why it is important?
    As chaotic and unpredictable as the world seems, it is a great time to be alive and a time to renew. Great things are born out of the need to correct and eliminate chaos. This is a time to CREATE.

    The United Nations General Assembly declared 2011 The International Year for People of African Descent. As per UNESCO, the year aims at strengthening national actions, and regional and international cooperation, for the benefit of people of African descent in relation to their full enjoyment of economic, cultural, social, civil and political rights, their participation and integration in all political, economic, social and cultural aspects of society, and the promotion of a greater knowledge of, and respect for, their diverse heritage and culture.

    The reach is global and may bring opportunities to strengthen ties between people of the African Diaspora across borders. We need to be open to receive these opportunities and thrive. Our people are known for being resilient and this is the time to use those talents to teach, build and strengthen our communities. Make this year the beginning of the renewal process. While the spotlight is on let's take this opportunity to shine.

    Tell us about your educational and professional background and how you got to where you are today.
    I'm a proud product of the Catholic education system which commenced with kindergarten. After attending Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx, I went on to Syracuse University to graduate with a bachelor's in Public Relations. I knew I wanted a career in retail and I had my eye on the apparel industry. After a series of coincidences, I landed my first buying position at Tiffany & Company. At the time I had no idea I was about to start an odyssey in a much unexpected industry. My training at T & Co. in jewelry production, precious metals and gemstones then led to attaining certifications from the Gemological Institute of America. At GIA one of the first lessons includes history of the Diamond Exchange in Israel; years later I would find myself standing in the middle of it. While most of my career has been spent in fine jewelry, I did take a detour into luxury ready to wear, handbags, shoes and accessories, but found my way back home to fine jewelry. Along my successful journey I have held various positions in buying and merchandising, sales and merchandise planning, business development and marketing. Most recently I embarked on a unique experience working on a celebrity jewelry project. Now I share my time between my corporate and entrepreneurial ambitions.

    Do you have any advice for young people who aspire to do what you're doing right now?
    I have three key points for young people who aspire to have careers in retail and other industries:

    1) Drill down to understand how your desired industry works below what you see on the surface: If you desire a career in buying, find out how that connects to all the other veins of the company. It is through that research that you might find an interest in an area you did not know existed. I had a colleague that specialized in buying paper for catalogue production, for instance.

    2). Always search for the entrepreneur in you: If you are working in corporate America make yourself an intraprenuer and show how you can contribute to and build the segment of business for which you are responsible. This lesson started early for me when my first direct report told me I was solely responsible for precious metal wedding bands so that the rest of the team could focus on the larger business of the department. While my senior teammates grew the gold business, I grew the precious metal wedding band business alongside them. The high double digit growth I contributed to the pie was quickly rewarded with a promotion and additional responsibility for another segment of business that needed special attention.

    3) Find out if the company you wish to work for offers a cross-functional experience: It is important to get inter-department/divisional exposure and understand how one fragment of business affects another. This is imperative for budding entrepreneurs. If you have spent time designing shoes and want to step out on your own, it helps to understand the overall process from development to finance to marketing and so on.

    Is there anything else you'd like to share with our AOL Black Voices audience?
    Follow your dreams and turn lemons into lemonade. Always honor your ancestry and remember you are a testament to the will of the human spirit. Every year is important, but 2011 is extra special as it is ours; own it and make it the beginning of a successful interval in the history of the African Diaspora. Lastly, don't forget to inspire or reward someone with an item from SimplyGifted at

    Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and the author of the bookBlack American Money To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here. To suggest a subject for a Dr. Boyce Watkins Spotlight, please click here.


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    For centuries, long, lush locks have been seen as a symbol of great beauty. We frequently perm, curl, and weave in strands to help enhance our appearance, oftentimes without much thought about what life would be like without a perfectly coiffed crown. Now imagine the shock and surprise of suddenly losing it all.

    37-year-old Sonya Weekes found herself holding back tears as her dermatologist explained that her thinning hair was a condition called alopecia, and that it would likely never grow back. Six years later, she's educated herself and others on her emotionally and physically distressing condition and has gained a different outlook on what beauty really means.

    As told to Nykia Spradley

    About 6 years ago, I was experiencing hair loss and slow growth in the center of my scalp. That area has always been weak, but I kept perming my hair. Then, about 7 years ago, the thinning got really bad. I read an article that said you should visit a dermatologist if you are experiencing hair loss, but it had never occurred to me before that I should visit a doctor.

    When I found out why I was losing my hair, I thought I was going to cry in the doctor's office, but I didn't. However, I was very depressed. Women look to their hair for beauty, and I didn't feel attractive. I thought I wouldn't find a husband with short hair, but then I decided that I didn't want someone who can't see past my hair and not see my heart.

    I wasn't at all familiar with alopecia, so I looked online for more information about my condition. I also started seeing a doctor that was conducting research on my specific disease. The most surprising thing that I learned about alopecia is that there is no cure, and doctors aren't sure what causes it. There are guesses that braids, over-processing from relaxers and weaves contribute to it. I have stopped perming my hair, but my scalp in some areas is permanently damaged, so now I wear my hair in a short Caesar cut.

    There are many African American women that suffer from alopecia. Hair thinning and hair loss affects as many as two-thirds of African-American women by age 50, according to R. Martin Earles, M.D., a Chicago-based dermatologist who specializes in hair-loss treatment.

    The effects vary, some worse than others. The earlier you diagnose it, the better, because you can take measures to maintain the portions of the scalp that are still healthy. It's key to catch it before the scalp is permanently scarred.

    After my diagnosis, I tried several treatments to stop my hair from falling out, like extra-strength Rogaine and steroids shots. The Rogaine dried my scalp and I experienced itching and flaking, so I discontinued using it. The steroid shot helped stop the spreading, but didn't heal the affected area where hair was already completely gone.

    The treatments available for alopecia depend on when you get them. Early treatment is best; however, right now my only option is surgery to replace the scarred scalp with healthy scalp, and unfortunately this treatment isn't covered by my insurance company.

    I've adjusted to my hair loss by wearing it short. I am grateful that I can rock it well. But even though I do get many complements on it, I still miss my hair. I've connected with other African American women who also have alopecia. It's good to talk to someone who understands.

    It is important for cosmologists to be educated in alopecia - know the signs, what it looks like, and suggest that clients who are experiencing hair loss go see a dermatologist. When my hair started thinning, my hairdresser suggested different products, hairstyles, and ways to take care of my hair, but I really needed to see a medical doctor. Many African American women don't think to see a doctor and the condition gets worse. Unfortunately the answers aren't found at our hairdressers.


    There are several types of alopecia, a few of which are preventable and can be treated if detected early:

    Alopecia areata is a variation of the disease that affects the scalp from the inside. The immune system, which is supposed to protect the body from viruses and bacteria, mistakenly attacks the hair follicles. Hair loss occurs in small round patches and typically doesn't spread beyond that.

    Traction alopecia is the most common form of this condition amongst African American women. When hair is consistently pulled too tight into ponytails or braids, stress is put on the strands and they fall out. If caught early enough, a topical minoidil treatment like Rogaine can help restore hair. However, repeated pulling at the scalp can cause scarring and root damage that will prevent your hair from growing back. The best bet for preventing this type of hair loss is to remove braids and weaves, and avoid relaxers if possible.

    Cicatricial alopecia - this skin condition cases inflammation in the scalp that destroys the hair follicles and replaces them with scar tissue. The residual damage from the scarring is permanent.

    Androgenic alopecia - this occurs when the normal hair growth phase shortens, making strands more fragile and prone to breakage. Over time, hairs falls out easily, leaving bald patches and thin areas.


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    Let Rahm Emanuel Run for Mayor, Illinois High Court Rules!

    Ending days of suspense and speculation, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that Rahm Emanuel can continue his bid for mayor of the nation's third largest city.

    The ruling came in a 7-0 decision that was handed down late Thursday, paving the way for Emanuel to replace longtime Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley in a Feb. 22 election. The ruling came just in time for his name to be printed on the ballot for early voting, which begins Monday.

    Emanuel is the leading contender, with double-digit poll numbers and a war chest of more than $10 million. He's running against city clerk Miguel del Valle, former Illinois state Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, Gery Chico, Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins and William Walls.

    Thursday's 25-page Illinois Supreme Court decision overturned Monday's Appellate Court decision, which ruled that Emanuel did not meet residency requirements. The decision was based on his lawyers' argument that he was qualified to run under an area of the state's election code that grants residency status to servicemen and women who leave their home state to serve the country. They contended that he moved to Washington, D.C., to work as chief of staff for President Barack Obama, a federal position. The appellate court disagreed but was overturned by the Supreme Court.

    Supreme Court justices argued that Emanuel was born in Chicago and, in December 1998, purchased a Chicago home (the Hermitage House), which he still owns. The candidate lived with his family in that home from 1998 through January 2009. He moved to work for the president.

    Meanwhile, Emanuel paid property taxes on the Hermitage House, while continuing to hold an Illinois driver's license. He also listed the Hermitage House as his address on his personal checks and continued to vote with the Hermitage House as his registered voter's address. He paid income taxes, however, in 2009 and 2010 to both Washington, D.C., and Illinois, the court said.

    "The preponderance of this evidence establishes that the candidate never formed an intention to terminate his residence in Chicago,'' the ruling says, "never formed an intention to establish is residence in Washington, D.C. , or any place other than Chicago, and never formed an intention to change his residence.''

    Emanuel's campaign immediately sent out a celebratory text over the ruling: "The IL Supreme Court just ruled that Rahm will stay on the ballot. Thx for your support & let's get ready to vote!'' He also received a call from the president.

    During earlier news conferences, he said: "I do believe the people of the city of Chicago deserve the right to make a decision on who they want to be their next mayor, which is everything I've contended since the very beginning. Fundamentally when a president asks you to serve the country as his chief of staff that counts as serving your country. I have no doubt that we will prevail in this effort."

    The ruling ended nearly a week of back-and-forth court decisions. The appellate lobbed the first serve on Monday, saying Emanuel did not meet mandatory election residency requirements. His attorneys appealed the decision on Tuesday, arguing that he never lost residency. By late afternoon, the high court agreed to expedite the case, with justices deciding to only review legal briefs without conducting a hearing.

    At least one of his competitors, Chico, applauded the decision, saying that Emanuel's residency drama has turned the election into a circus rather than a serious debate about the future of Chicago.

    "Now that the Supreme Court has made their decision, the residents will choose their next mayor based on the candidates' track records and their vision for Chicago,'' Chico continued. "I remain the most qualified candidate to be the next mayor and take our city in a new direction. With less than 30 days to go until Election Day, there is no time to waste. Game on."


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