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

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    Taraji P. Henson looks like a glowing green goddess in this Elizabeth & James dress. The fab actress rang in the New Year in Las Vegas in the belted green mini dress, which while on the short side, showed off her perfectly toned legs. Taraji's also rocked a bronze clutch, gold YSL Tribute platform sandals, a gold necklace and hoop earrings.

    Hayden Panettiere opted for an edgier style, pairing the sweet ruffled dress with a tough leather jacket and black ankle boots. The actress, who will soon be seen in the latest 'Scream' movie, added gothic black nail polish and a striking red lip to complete the rocker look.

    Both ladies leave us green with envy, but we want to know what you think. Who wore Elizabeth & James best?

     

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    Black Unemployment

    From TheRoot.com:

    In an ideal America, our president would have told us [last] Tuesday night about his plan not only for fixing the jobs crisis but also for making it so that the crisis wasn't twice as bad for black people (15.8 percent unemployment versus 8.5 percent for whites).


    But this isn't an ideal America, and he didn't. But then, who thought he would? The good news is that there is a way to make serious headway with the black unemployment problem, and it's getting more attention by the year.

    The problem is that it doesn't sound very sexy in terms of name. "Prisoner re-entry programs" sounds pretty dull compared with "black agenda" and such. But much of the disproportion in black unemployment is because of how hard it is for ex-cons to get or keep work -- when, as we all know, a grievous disproportion of ex-cons are black.

    Newark, N.J., is an example of what feeds into the kind of statistic that we dream of Obama addressing in a speech. Each year about 1,500 unmarried, semiliterate drug addicts with no job skills come home from prison to Newark.

    Am I stereotyping them? Well, OK, there is a certain diversity among them. Ten percent are not men. A smaller percentage are not black. There are those among them who read above the sixth-grade level. About one in five does not have a drug-addiction problem, and about one in 20 had some vocational training behind bars.
    Three years after they get home, one in three will not have been arrested again, and two out of three will not be back behind bars. Now, extend this picture to all of America's big cities. About 650,000 ex-cons in total return home yearly.


    Yet, thankfully, it is a myth that nobody will hire one. The ex-con needs people who know where to send him -- say, an organization like Newark's Offender Aid and Restoration of Essex County (OAR), specializing in connecting ex-offenders with work. Get this: Finding people work is the least of their challenges. The White Rose Linen Supply Co. has been especially open to hiring ex-cons, while others get work as handymen, janitors, warehouse workers and truck drivers and in sanitation and customer service.

    The immediate task at hand for an ex-offender is becoming able to work. Ex-cons often don't have a Social Security number -- and forget about a birth certificate. As soon as an ex-offender comes in, OAR gets him those documents, plus a driver's license, if he qualifies. Nine in 10 clients need detoxification or rehabilitation.

    The job part is then easy. Each week, OAR holds employment-counseling meetings, during which it drills clients on making eye contact, sitting up straight and asking questions, and then sends them off with three job leads.

    Read more about how to reduce black unemployment on TheRoot.com.

     

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    Langston Hughes

    To say that Langston Hughes (pictured) was one of the greatest poets of all time is devaluing his contributions and his legacy to the world. Today marks the birth date of one of the greatest writers of all time, as a journalist, an essayist, a short story writer, novelist, playwright and ordinary soul who understood the nuances and beauty of the everyday working man and an extraordinary activist who cried "black is beautiful" in a time when no one believed it.

    Most students come across his work - unfortunately only during Black History Month - with two of his most famous poems: "Mother to Son," where a world weary Mother decries, "Life ain't been no crystal stair/It's had tacks in it/And splinters/And boards torn up," to her son who she knows will endure the same obstacles.


    His other most-celebrated poem, "The Negro Speaks Rivers,"evokes images of ancestors around the world and his own place in it:

    "I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young/I danced in the Nile when I was old."

    In truth, Hughes was a man about the world. As a child he lived in Mexico, with his father convincing him to attend Columbia University, where he stayed a few years before embarking on a journey to a different kind of university on the streets of Harlem during the Harlem Renaissance, with its jazz rhythms and blues sensibilities.

    An adventurer, he lived and traveled to the Soviet Union, Europe, Paris, West Africa, Japan, China and did extensive work in the Caribbean, among other places. He graduated from Lincoln University and won a Guggenheim Fellowship.

    He did all of this without losing his touch or affection for the common man - mostly because he himself was one. He once even worked as a bouncer at a nightclub in Paris.


    Born in Missouri, he was bounced between homes in Kansas and Ohio, when his parents separated. His comic character "Jesse B. Semple," the anchor of his "Simple" poems, was first published in his columns in the Chicago Defender.

    Semple was a character that preceded Richard Pryor's "Mudbone" character by several decades. Like Mudbone, Semple was an everyman, the "mayor" of a black neighborhood. In Semple, there were aspects of Hughes himself; Hughes was most comfortable in the working-class arena of neighborhoods like Harlem where he was never judged.

    And he honored them equally, knowing then and saying it loudly, that black is beautiful in all of its human complexities and frailties: we could be brilliant, we could be dumb, attractive, lazy, funny, hard-working and bombastic.
    Well-known for his poetry, Hughes was lesser known as a journalist with an observer's eye that portrayed his subjects and surroundings with vivid detail. The kind of detail that placed the reader right in the middle of canons and deafening crashes of bombs as he covered the Spanish Civil War as a correspondent for the Baltimore Afro American.

    His first collection of short stories, "The Ways of White Folks," a comedic take on interactions between blacks and whites, was published in 1934. He would publish countless novels, anthologies, collections of poems, essays and articles for a variety of publications, including The Nation, for years afterward.
    In May 1967, he died from complications related to cancer. Though he traveled the world, he called his home Harlem - both in geography and spirit. Like all great writers, he was of the people, not above the people. In that spirit, he tells our story.

    Happy Birthday, Langston Hughes!

    Watch this video on Langston Hughes and his life's work:





     

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    Top Recruit C.J. Johnson Blames Facebook For Recruiting

    These should be happy times for top football recruit C.J. Johnson of Philadelphia, Mississippi.

    His biggest problem these days should be getting ready for life at college and preparing his body to play big-time college football on a national stage.

    Instead, Johnson has become the poster boy for what can go wrong when privacy is invaded, college loyalties run amok and people use social media sites like Facebook to make people look bad.

    Johnson says he was the target of such a campaign that was triggered by a recruiting war between bitter college rivals --the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University -- for the services of Johnson, an all-state linebacker.

    Johnson had decided to attend Mississippi State but changed his mind when defensive coach Manny Diaz left the school. Johnson then decided to attend Mississippi.


    Johnson's decision angered Mississippi State fans and some took to Facebook saying that Johnson's mother worked as a housekeeper for a Mississippi graduate and was getting paid $100,000.

    Johnson took to his Facebook page to deny the charge and said he wasn't going to post on Facebook anymore, presumably because he feels they helped spread the false rumor about his mother's employment.

    In the garbled English common in the online world, Johnson said "...I'm not considering Mississippi state anymore bc you have constantly comment on my page send me crazy inboxes and has made my recruiting experience a living nightmare. Goodbye facebook."

    I hope a few different things come to Johnson in short order.

    The first is that wherever he goes to college, he should spend a good portion of his time in English class to polish his communication skills.

    Second, I hope he develops a better understanding of the world around him and a slightly thicker skin to deal with the slights the world will undoubtedly throw his way over time.

    Johnson is just a kid so he can be forgiven for being a little oversensitive in this case. He has the right to change schools. But he should also know that such a decision will bruise some feelings among those he left at the altar.

    He simply needs to understand that Facebook is not his enemy. Facebook didn't lie about his mom, an anonymous user of Facebook did.

    And Johnson should just wait until he misses a key block or tackle during a big college game versus a hated opponent (Ole Miss vs. Mississippi State perhaps).

    The hate mail he will receive on his Facebook page will make him long for the good old days when the only bad posting he saw was a lie about what his mom earned.

    I wish C.J. Johnson lots of luck and hope his immense talent on the field helps people forget his little misstep off the field.




     

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    After receiving a slew of negative criticism for featuring only white women in last year's magazine issue, Vanity Fair added two blacks in their upcoming 17th annual Hollywood Issue.

    Anthony Mackie and Rashida Jones, star of hit TV comedy 'Parks and Recreation,' were among the chosen few to make the cover page, although their photos are in the insert.

    Also included in the issue is Willow Smith, daughter of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith.


    From left to right: Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, James Franco, Jennifer Lawrence, Anthony Mackie, Olivia Wilde, Jesse Eisenberg, Mila Kunis, Robert Duvall, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Andrew Garfield, Rashida Jones, Garrett Hedlund and Noomi Rapace.

    Mackie, who starred in 2010's Oscar Best Picture winner 'The Hurt Locker,' will next be seen in 'The Adjustment Bureau' with Matt Damon; while Jones, who was featured in this year's Oscar nominated film, 'The Social Network,' has a slew of films slated for release in 2011, including 'Friends with Benefits' with Justin Timberlake, and 'The Muppets.'

    Last year's cover was the second consecutive year in which no blacks were included.



     

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    This week on "The Spark," legendary emcee/producer Q-Tip (pictured left) and journalist/reporter Lola Ogunnaike (pictured right) stop by to talk Oprah; the teen pregnancy boom at a Memphis, Tenn., high school; and Aretha Franklin seeing Halle Berry as her look-alike!

    Plus, we give the T-Pain microphone a run for its money with a new product from Q-Tip on "Things I Learned This Week," and Amanda tells one of her hilarious stories and more!

     

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    Spike Lee

    Spike Lee has always been an activist in his own way. Whether he is chronicling our history in films like 'Malcolm X,' or speaking out about our omission from history in public debates with fellow film icon Clint Eastwood, Lee always has something to say about the black experience and how to make it better. Now Spike has a new message, and is using his platform to ask more African American men to become teachers:

    Filmmaker Spike Lee joined Education Secretary Arne Duncan in issuing a call Monday for more black men to become teachers, making their plea at the country's only all-male historically black college.

    The two took part in a town hall meeting at Atlanta's private Morehouse College just a week after President Barack Obama urged more people nationwide to become teachers.

    Duncan told an audience that more than 1 million educators are expected to retire in the coming decade and that federal officials are hoping to harness that opportunity to create a more diverse teaching work force, noting that less than 2 percent of the nation's 3 million teachers are black men.

    "Everybody can't be a business major," Lee told the auditorium packed with male high school and college students. "We have to educate ourselves. We have to educate our young black men."

    Lee, a Morehouse graduate, said he was influenced most -- outside of his own family -- by two of his Morehouse professors. Both educators attended Monday's gathering and were asked to stand up to be honored.

    Duncan used the occasion to promote the federal TEACH campaign. The program was launched in the fall to persuade more minorities -- particularly males -- to enter education. The federal government has launched the teach.gov website, a one-stop-shop for anyone wanting to enter teaching, including professionals hoping to switch careers.

    "If you want to make a difference in the life of our nation, if you want to make a difference in the life of a child, become a teacher," Obama said in a video address taped for Monday's event. "Our country needs you."

    Read more about Spike Lee's call for more black men to become teachers on The Grio. As young black men are now experiencing a crisis in education, Spike's message comes at an important time. Teaching is a wonderful profession. There is not a teacher in the world who has not expressed the sense of personal satisfaction that comes from this career. What a great field for black men -- who are often emotionally stymied by society -- to get into. The issue of black male unemployment could be addressed with programs that help African American males claim this social role while providing our underachieving young men with role models, killing two social ills with the positive arrow of education.


    The only obvious drawback to encouraging more black men to enter teaching is the current environment in education. Severe budget cut fever has already swept through the public sector -- and the call for more cuts is spreading nationwide. School systems across the country have been hobbled by the shrinking tax base caused by unemployment. Educators have been laid off in 80% of America's school systems because the money is not there to pay them. In all, this is not the best era to get into teaching for the sake of creating personal financial stability.

    Hopefully our public school systems will be adequately funded in the near future. Increasing the diversity of our teaching pool with black men who can inspire troubled youth is a viable plan to improve our school systems while providing vital jobs -- but only if government agencies really step up to the plate. They must invest in the public school system overall. Otherwise, Spike Lee is encouraging black men to enter a field that is sadly doomed.

    If we as a nation do not invest in education overall, we are ultimately dooming our future.

     

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    In December, Nick Cannon shared with the world that he and wife Mariah Carey are expecting twins. Now, comes news that the couple is expecting a boy and a girl.

    The 'We Belong Together' singer told Life & Style magazine, "Even before we announced it was twins, I was trying to keep everything gender-neutral because I didn't want to impose an identity on them too soon."

    Carey added, "There were fan contests on Twitter about what gender they are and rumors about them being two boys or two girls -- but nobody guessed this!"

    Until the twins due date of April is here, the 40 year-old Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter has been cooking up a storm, Cannon, 30, revealed to People magazine.

    "She cooks it, tastes it, but instead of laying up and eating it, I end up eating it. I think she craves it, but once she cooks it and smells it then the cravings go away," the 'Drumline' actor, revealed.

    Cannon, who shoots his first live stand-up special at the Palms in Las Vegas on March 5, says that in his spare time, he's been helping his wife build nurseries in their homes in both Los Angeles and New York. They've even narrowed down names.

    "They won't be crazy names like Carburetor or something," he says. "But they're definitely unique."



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    Mariah: The Men In Her Life

    The Men In Her Life

    For Mariah Carey, having more #1 songs than any American solo artist has been a credit to the company she keeps. From her power wielding ex-husband Tommy Mottola and superstar slugger Derek Jeter to super-producer Jermaine Dupri and new hubby Nick Cannon, each man has played a significant role in the five-time Grammy winner's life. Blackvoices.com takes a look at the men behind the diva.

    Mariah: The Men In Her Life

    Tommy Mottola - Husband
    No one is more responsible for Mariah Carey's success than former Columbia Records head Tommy Mottola. After receiving Carey's demo from artist Brenda K. Starr, for whom Carey sang backup, he signed her on the spot. While recording her 1990 debut, the two became romantically involved and tied the knot in a lavish ceremony in 1993. Just three short years later, they split, and a divorce was finalized in 1998.

    Mariah: The Men In Her Life

    Trey Lorenz - Backup Singer
    In 1992, Carey performed an MTV 'Unplugged' special to show nonbelievers that she was not a studio singer. Her cover of the Jackson 5's 'I'll Be There' with her longtime backup singer Trey Lorenz was later released as a single and became a number-one hit in the United States. Lorenz was able to score a record deal from the duet, and Carey co-produced his debut. On July 7 of this year, the two performed the song at the Michael Jackson memorial, which was held at the Los Angeles Staples Center.

    Mariah: The Men In Her Life

    Jermaine Dupri - Producer
    It's not a well-known fact that Jermaine Dupri has been working with Carey for nearly 15 years. In 1995, Carey worked with the So So Def Records founder on 'Always Be My Baby,' from her 'Daydream' album. It became the most successful record on U.S. radio that year. And though these two worked on several remixes together over the years, their magic came a decade later when J.D. produced four songs on 'The Emancipation of Mimi,' Carey's 10th studio album and most successful to date.

    Mariah: The Men In Her Life

    ODB - Musical Collaborator
    Since rapping 'Me and Mariah go back like babies and pacifiers,' Ol' Dirty Bastard, the late Wu Tang Clan MC, helped solidify Carey in the world of hip-hop and R&B. The 1995 remix to 'Fantasy' became a number-one hit. The friendship between Carey and ODB lasted throughout the years. The songstress even met the rapper upon his release from jail in 2003.

    Mariah: The Men In Her Life

    Diddy - Musical Collaborator
    Carey has Sean 'Diddy' Combs to thank for helping to reinvent her image as a sexy, more hip-hop friendly artist. The Bad Boy Records founder produced her 1997 Grammy-nominated song 'Honey,' which, ironically, replaced 'Mo Money, Mo Problems,' featuring Diddy and his star artist, the Notorious B.I.G. , on the Billboard charts.

    Mariah: The Men In Her Life

    Mase - Musical Collaborator
    'Honey' was Carey's 12th number-one song. Before turning his life over to God and becoming a minister, Bad Boy rapper Mase appeared on the popular remix of the record, alongside the Lox and Diddy. The song, which also had its own video, was featured on Carey's 2003 remix compilations, aptly titled 'The Remixes.'

    Mariah: The Men In Her Life

    Boyz II Men - Musical Collaborator
    'One Sweet Day' remains the longest-running number-one song on the Billboard Hot 100, spending 16 weeks on the chart. The Philly quartet co-wrote the song with Carey as a tribute to their slain manager, while Carey was inspired to memorialize Def Leppard guitarist Steve Clark.

    Mariah: The Men In Her Life

    Mobb Deep - Musical Collaborator
    For 'The Roof,' from Carey's 1997 album 'Butterfly,' producers Trackmasters sampled Mobb Deep's 'Shook Ones (Pt.2).' The single was not released commercially in the United States, but it was the third release from her European album. The Queens rap duo remixed the record as well.

    Mariah: The Men In Her Life

    Dru Hill - Musical Collaborator
    Prince produced, arranged, composed and performed 'The Beautiful Ones' for the epic movie soundtrack 'Purple Rain,' but Carey covered the song on her 1997 'Butterfly' album with Baltimore R&B group Dru Hill.

    Mariah: The Men In Her Life

     

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    Nun Falsely Blames Black Man for Rape, Later Recants Whole Story

    The Mysterious Unknown Black Man has struck again!! This time he raped a nun in New York City. This guy sure gets around.

    The New York Daily News is reporting that a Brooklyn nun called police last week claiming she had been sexually assaulted by a 6'4", 250 pound black man who was around 40... no wait 50, yeah that's the ticket, he was 50 years old.

    The 26-year-old white woman claimed she was headed back to her convent (pictured above), just minding her own business, when a hulking black man ambushed her, choked her and then dragged her eight blocks (all while in her full nun's habit), before raping her and leaving her unconscious in a snow bank. In New York, it's been snowing a lot!

    She said that when she woke up, her underwear was down and her breasts were exposed for all of God's children to see. She called the police and told them all about what this mean black man had done to her.

    Police released a sketch and put out an alert asking for the public's help in locating this sinister, black nun-raper. The sketch looked a lot like Satan!

    However, police became suspicious, finding it very hard to believe that some big black dude carrying a white unconscious nun in a full habit, would have gone unnoticed for eight blocks. Even in New York.

    Meanwhile, the victim was treated at a local hospital and ultimately returned to her convent to seek counsel from her Mother Superior.

    Well, Mother Superior must have dropped some serious religion on the young woman because before you could say "thou shalt not lie" the nun contacted police and recanted the entire story.

    She explained that she had made up the whole thing in an effort to cover up a sexual relationship she was having with a local bodega worker that she sneaked into the back door of the convent for sexytime. This is just like Trapped in the Closet!

    When the New York Daily News attempted to contact the young nun, a woman in religious garb answered the door and identified the nun as "Mary Turcotte." She went on to state that the young woman had suffered an "emotional break" and just made everything up. She even claims that her bodega boyfriend was a figment of the nun's imagination, as well.

    "Nothing happened, none of it... it was all proven to be false... she is going to move out and we are going to get her some help," said the woman who refused to give her name. Hell, I'd refuse to give my name too.

    Reports indicate that the nun belongs to a fringe Christian sect called the "Apostles of Infinite Love." It is said to be linked to a Canadian religious order founded in the 1960s by a defrocked Catholic priest who then ordained himself Pope. They have been described as a cult-like group and have successfully fended off sexual allegations in the past. In other words, they sound like a bunch of nuts.

    Police have not charged Turcotte (if that is her real name) with a crime. Yet.

    This is no way to start Black History Month.

    On the bright side, this is another victory for the Mysterious Unknown Black Man! He is vindicated yet again.


     

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    Let's face it, plastic surgery is a bit of a staple amongst our favorite Hollywood types. Whether it's something as minor as botox to keep the wrinkles away or as major as a nose job, we have seen some of the faces we know and love fall prey to the call of the surgeon's table. The most common of these surgeries is no doubt breast augmentation. With beauties such as Kelly Rowland and Lil' Kim going under the knife with what appears to be minimal consequence, the idea of putting silicone or saline bags seems like nothing. New research from the FDA, however, is bound to make us all take this a little more seriously.

    According to a recent AOL News article, health officials are researching a possible connection between breast implants and a rare form of cancer. Anaplastic large cell lymphoma has been found in at least 60 women with implants, leading to concerns that the two could be related. This cancer "attacks lymph nodes and skin and has been reported in the scar tissue which grows around an implant." It is of such concern that the FDA is having doctors report any cases of this unique disease that comes across their tables.

    While any cancer-causing agent is something to worry about, this does not seem to be reason to run to your doctor and have your set removed. Researchers from the agency say "a definitive study would need to collect data on hundreds of thousands of women for more than 10 years. Even then, causality may not be conclusively established." This, however, is not the first time the FDA has questioned the safety of implants. In 1992, silicone implants were removed from the market due to the lack of data on their effectiveness. However, they were allowed back in 2006 after they could not conclusively connect them with any sort of disease. This new cancer information can only make one wonder just how correct they were in allowing these implants to be used again. One woman's family found out the hard way just how serious this surgery can be.

    German reality and porn star Carolin "Sexy Cora" Berger (above) lost her life at the tender age of 23 after breast enhancement number six. Yes, six. In a move to take her already ample breasts up another cup size, the young woman suffered a cardiac arrest during surgery which unfortunately went unnoticed by doctors. She was eventually placed into a coma and died nine days later. Though this newly discovered cancer was not to blame for Carolin's death, it does beg the question - how much is too much? With an estimated five to ten million women with breast implants, how many of them have complications we were never made aware of? Is a larger cup size worth chemotherapy? Death?

    We here at Black Voices are neither advocating or discouraging the usage of silicone or saline implants in breast enhancement. What little advice we can give is, talk to your doctor and do your research. It is important to make sure when making a decision of this magnitude that you have all the facts you can possibly have. Just as your mom always told you, better safe than sorry.

    Ladies, does this new possible cancer link make you any more concerned about the idea of implants, or is this just another unfounded scare?

     

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    The Super Bowl is a financial bonanza for anyone selling nearly anything to the thousands of spectators who come to town looking to spend money. But one thing that also sells heavily at this time of the year is sex. Even more unfortunately, many of those being sold for sex are underage men and women.

    Texas authorities and advocacy groups are doubly committed this year to slowing down the sex trade, especially as it pertains to children.

    "Most people don't know that our children are being brutalized this way, and we have to stop it," said Deena Graves, founder of Traffick911, a website designed to stop human trafficking of all forms. "We need to get mad. We need to get angry about what's happening to our kids right here."

    Various groups have been hanging out fliers in different neighborhoods to promote their campaign. They've also put out public service announcements using NFL players. Before the Super Bowl in 2008, a large child prostitution ring was broken up in Phoenix. Two men were advertising sex with a 14-year old girl as a "Super Bowl Special." They were both sent to federal prison when they were caught.

    According to the International Organization for Migration, most human trafficking victims are between 18 and 24 years old. Out of those who are trafficked, 43 percent are used for sex and 98 percent of those used for sex are women and girls. The drive for sex not only fuels multi-billion dollar industries, it leads to some of the most egregious behavior imaginable.

    The black community is affected by underage sex in numerous ways. Many of the young girls walking around "the hood" with pregnant stomachs obtained their condition by having sex with a much older man. Unfortunately, fathers not being in the home causes many of these young women to be forced to navigate the world without the protections that would normally be provided by a dad.

    For those who are concerned about this kind of thing, firm action must be taken. I am honestly not one to judge whether two adults agree to trade sex for money (a lot of women chase rich guys anyway, so who am I to judge?). But when it comes to those who are determined to exploit and abuse young children, we should all take a stand to protect kids, whether they are our children or someone else's. The impact of child abuse lasts a lifetime, so we shouldn't tolerate sexual abuse in any context.

    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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    Most of us think that slavery was abolished with the Emancipation Proclamation, signed by Abraham Lincoln roughly 150 years ago. Unfortunately, that's not the truth. The United States Constition, in the 13th Amendment, actually states that slavery is legal for those who've been convicted of a crime.

    It is no coincidence that those who were enslaved over 150 years ago (African Americans) are also those who are most likely to be incarcerated today. One person who can help us understand this relationship is Dr. Byron Price, Associate Professor of Political Science at Texas Southern University. Byron studies the Prison Industrial Complex for a living and helps us to understand why our community must take a stand and be outraged over what is happening in our prisons.

    When prisons are full of black men, that means that fathers are being taken away from their children and potential husbands are being taken away from black women. In fact, economists have drawn a clear and consistent link between mass incarceration and the proportion of black women who never walk down the isle. Making matters worse is the fact that these individuals are marginalized from society for life after doing time, even if they committed their crimes at an early age: they can't vote in most states, they have a difficult time getting access to an education, and they can't find jobs. So, by thinking that we are tough on crime, we are actually making crime worse by increasing the risk of recidivism.

    So, if you want to know why I've remained involved with the prison inmate strike in Georgia and created an organization to help create opportunities for formerly incarcerated Americans, you now know why. The truth is that although many of us may never serve time in prison, the prison industrial complex affects almost all of us in some significant way. Our boys are being led down a trail of death and misery and we must find ways as a community to shut this thing down by any means necessary.

    The interview with Byron is below -- enjoy!

    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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    Is North African Political Strife More Important Than Sub-Saharan Africa?


    The flags of civil disobedience are waving across North Africa. In Tunisia, mass demonstrations went on for weeks and included acts as extreme as self-immolation. Nearly a dozen protesters were injured in Algeria after they clashed with authorities. And in Egypt, one of the cradles of civilization, they have taken to the streets to shout their disapproval of President Hosni Mubarak.

    It's making international news and drumming up support for people who would dare question their government's overbearing role in their lives. Meanwhile in places like Angola, police crack skulls on a daily basis and the spread of long-eradicated diseases cause epidemics. In Uganda, the newspaper outs a man as gay and he's later found bludgeoned to death. In Ivory Coast, the people democratically voted out the president who allowed the election and now he won't relinquish power.

    Things like this happen in Sub-Saharan (read: black) Africa all the time. There is a constant struggle for democracy and freedom in these countries and you hardly hear about it unless you listen to the BBC World Service. But let things jump off in Northern Africa, and everybody's acting brand new.

    So the question is, with the exception of South Africa, why is it so hard for people struggling to live a life of freedom from oppression and despotism to make news in Congo and Namibia, once powerful independent nations, but it is so easy it to garner world attention in desert sands once ruled by the Roman Empire?

    To be sure, news constantly comes out of Sub-Saharan Africa, and often. War, poverty and violence are typically what western news audiences are used to, but there is also economic development, entertainment, and politics happening there each day. In fact, Western Africa is one of the fastest growing regions in the world thanks to Latin American and Chinese investment.

    But there are also political struggles, too. Just a year ago, Umaru Yar'Adua, Nigeria's then-president faced demonstrations from all sides demanding that he cede power. Thousands hit the streets in Abuja for that purpose. He died last May and Goodluck Jonathan took his place.

    In Tanzania, a similar number of people demonstrated against Jakaya Kikwete's re-election and police killed at least two, something considered rare for that nation. Of course Sudan is worth watching all over the world because the country recently voted over whether or not it would split in two. Leaders there are watching to see if democracy takes hold or if the bloody violence of recent years returns.

    There are dozens of examples like these coming out of non-Arab speaking Africa. Truth is, many, including people in Northern Africa make a marked distinction between that region and Sub-Saharan Africa, despite them being one continent. Historians erroneously argued for years that Egypt wasn't even part of Africa!

    Thanks to geography, we know better now. There's really no reason to differentiate or favor one African political conflict over another. But what media seems to be missing is that since European powers began shedding their official holds on nations there, the entire continent has been politically volatile from Ghana to Libya.


     

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    Chicago Mayoral Candidate Carol Moseley Braun Issues Apology After Calling Opponent A Crack Head

    Under the glare of intense media scrutiny and criticism from her own supporters, a beleaguered Carol Moseley Braun issued an apology late Tuesday after calling opponent Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins a crack head during a Chicago mayoral forum on Sunday.

    "Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins said she does not expect an apology from me,'' Braun said in a prepared statement. "She is wrong. I want to apologize to her, to the congregations and members of Trinity United Church and of New Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church and to all the families and friends of those who are, or who have been caught up in the tragedy of drug use. I meant no disrespect of the sanctuaries in which the campaign tensions spilled over, nor to the pastors of those churches, nor to the people for whom those safe havens of hope are so important.''

    Watkins drew a hard line in accepting the apology, and while she has admitted to drug use as a teen, she has been clean for decades and denied ever using crack.

    "Though I accept Carol's media-issued apology, I believe she should seek sensitivity counseling and make restitution by volunteering at a recovery house as soon as possible.'' Watkins said in a prepared statement. "Carol's reckless comments reveal her detachment from the experiences of the majority of Chicago families who just need a second chance."



    The name-calling occurred on Sunday, which was bad timing for Braun because it was the day before early voting began for the election scheduled to take place on February 22.

    Watkins, a 53-year-old community organizer, chided Braun for returning to politics after "being missing in action'' while the city struggled economically and socially, according to a video provided by Trinity United Church on the South Side, where the forum occurred.

    Braun, former U.S. State Senator of Illinois and ambassador to New Zealand, hit back, saying: "Patricia, the reason you didn't know who I was for the last 20 years is because you were strung out on crack. I was not strung out on crack. I don't have a record.''

    The comment backfired on Braun and ignited a blaze of controversy that swept the nation. Watkins immediately called for an apology, adding that she didn't really expect one from Braun.

    Braun hunkered down and avoided addressing the issue for two days before releasing a statement. The delay could hurt her second place lead behind Rahm Emanuel. The latest Tribune poll shows that she enjoys 21 percent of voter's support, compared to 1 percent held by Watkins. Emanuel maintains 44 percent of voter's support, while Gery Chico holds 16 percent and Miguel Del Valle holds 7 percent. William "Dock'' Walls holds 2 percent.

    So bad was the backlash against Braun that retiring Mayor Richard M. Daley was forced to chime in on the incident during a televised new conference. He said, "You have to be very careful - not only a public official, but any citizen, to make comments about someone's substance abuse problem. Everybody in every family has been touched by substance abuse problems."

    Watkins used the moment to reach out to voters for support, saying people should not be labeled or pushed aside because of their addictions.

    Emanuel, known for his hardcore verbal style, has stayed above the political fray during the election mostly because he was mired in a court battle over whether he was a viable candidate in the election. He came under fire for failing to live in the city for a year before running for office when he moved to Washington, D.C. to serve as chief of staff for President Barack Obama. He won the battle last week when the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that he met residency requirements.

    Meanwhile, Braun tried to talk her way out of the blistering verbal assault on Watkins by releasing the story of a student who asked her at a political forum about what the city could do about the flood of drugs in the community. The student also revealed that her brother was trapped in a revolving door of drug abuse himself.

    At the same time, Braun talked about losing her brother to a drug overdose. She also released a strategy to help rid communities of the scourge of drugs, and the violence and despair they bring.

    "My focus is on rebuilding our neighborhoods, but a central part of that effort depends on public safety, and where there is an illegal drug market and economy, there is no peace,'' she stated. "The guns and violence that follow competition to supply drugs frustrates our efforts to make communities secure and livable places.

    "But even as we try to stem the flood of drugs, and deal with the consequences of a drug fueled economy, we have to address the question that little girl put to me. What can be done for the families, what can be done for the unfortunates who get caught up in drug use? That is the immediate challenge we face, that is the personal issue we must address as an entire community.''

    But the big question for Braun is can she maintain her lead after bollixing a political forum that was supposed to showcase her leadership skills just weeks before the election? If Emanuel fails to capture 50 percent of the vote, he could face a runoff against the second place candidate. The other question is could Watkins or another candidate replace Braun as his runoff mate, if such a thing should occur?

    To be sure, Braun can answer these questions and more in the next three weeks by displaying the strong leadership skills that led her to become the first African-American woman elected to the United States Senate.


     

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    Louisiana Newspaper Accuses Klansman of Brutal 1964 Murder

    Many things can be said of the small southern town of Ferriday, La., where I attended high school.

    The people are welcoming, the Trojan band is legendary and cousins Jerry Lee Lewis, Mickey Gilley and Jimmy Swaggart all call the "Sportsman Paradise" home. Tucked away in an isolated corner of Highway 15, the locals often speak of the talent and rich history of Ferriday with the defensive pride of southerners accustomed to the condscending ridicule of some of their more urban counterparts.

    But not many people talk about the Civil Rights Era murders that haunt the town to this day.

    Stanley Nelson, editor of weekly newspaper The Concordia Sentinel, is on a mission to change that, using the power of media to hopefully bring Ku Klux Klan member Authur Leonard Spencer (pictured below) to justice for the 1964 slaying of black shoe repair shop owner Frank Morris.

    Nelson has fearlessly written more than 100 articles on Frank Morris, who was 51 years old when his shop was doused with gasoline and set on fire by three white men. Morris ran out of the back door in flames and died 4 days later, but not before giving authorities vague descriptions of his murderers, saying he thought the men were his "friends."

    "I feel sorry for his family, but I didn't have nothing to do with it," the now-71-year-old Spencer said.

    With the assistance of the Civil Rights Cold Case Project, a organization of investigative reporters, academics, documentary filmmakers and others who want to tell the stories of unsolved cases from the Civil Rights Era, the latest article to explode across the pages include Spencer's ex-wife, brother-in-law and son admitting that the Klansman confessed to taking part in the crime.

    In the sleepy town of Ferriday, Morris was well-liked and known to have both white-and-black patrons, and also for his refusal to provide free service to the corrupt Concordia Parish sheriff's office.

    Though no official motive has surfaced for the attack, in an era where whistling at a white woman is cause for mutilation, many believe that Nelson, with his progressive business practices and color-blind friendships, signed his own death certificate.

    Louisiana Newspaper Accuses Klansman of Brutal 1964 Murder


    Bill Frasier, Leonard's former brother-in-law and sherriff's deputy, told The Associated Press that the suspect admitted to the murder decades ago while reminiscing about the glory days of the KKK:

    "I asked him, `Did y'all ever kill anybody?'" Frasier said in an interview. "He said, `We did one time by accident.'"

    Leonard then describes the scene of Morris's murder, but insisted he stayed in the car the entire time.

    "We are aware of these allegations, but allegations alone are not proof," the FBI said in a statement. "As with any case, [we are] committed to a thorough investigation of all information we receive."

    Spencer, now living in Rayville, La., "The White Gold of the South," due to the abundance of cotton fields that populate the area, says resentment at his lack of family involvement is fueling his clan's claim:

    "It's like a fatal attraction - you know, like that movie. They won't leave me alone. And now they're trying to put a murder on me that I don't know nothing about," he said.

    Leonard's son, Boo Spencer, reportedly reveals portions of a conversation with his father, and the graphic images of a burning man covered in gasoline emerging to chants of "run, ni**er, run" are recurring in all testimony against Mr. Leonard.

    "Only the bottom of his feet weren't burned," said the Rev. Robert Lee Jr. of Clayton, La., age 96, who visited Morris in the hospital. "He was horrible to look at."

    As more evidence surfaces, it is becoming apparent that the murder of Mr. Morris was a premeditated act spawned from the evil minds of a corrupt sheriff's office and a racist organization -- all because a black man dared to run a business and had the audacity to converse with white women while he was doing it.

    I grew up in Natchez, Miss., about 13 miles from Ferriday, and the remnants of slavery and Jim Crow are tangible throughout the Miss-Lou. From streets and hospitals named after slave owners to antebellum homes and confederate flags dotting the landscape, the subtle stench of forced inferiority weighs on the psyches of its black citizens like an invisible noose.

    So, for me, the sad part is not only the tragic, painful death of Mr. Morris, but the fact that our society is reluctantly willing to dredge up a 46-year-old murder and refuses to tackle the hate crimes occurring all across this country on a daily basis.

    While the family of Mr. Morris deserves peace, so do the families of Joe Edwards, Wharlest Jackson, Frederick Carter, Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo, Danroy Henry, Timothy Stansbury Jr., Oscar Grant and the many other faceless black men murdered for simply existing.

    As Leonard Spencer takes his rightful place in the lengthy line of elderly Klansmen pulled from the brink of obscurity, let's not be so quick to applaud the wheels of justice and become complacent.

    There is always one more battle fight.

    Watch Arnold Leonard Spencer discuss how the KKK created "wrecking crews" in order to terrorized blacks:


     

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    Cheap Valentine's Day

    Well, gentlemen, it's officially that time of year again. Nope, not time for the Super Bowl (Go Steelers!), it's time for the female equivalent of the Super Bowl. That's right, Valentine's Day is just around the corner. And I've got your cheap Valentine's day ideas to get you through.

    Assuming you're not one of those cheap and trifling brothers who routinely breaks up with a woman just before major holidays to avoid the inevitable financial outlay, you're gonna have to spend some money and you might be searching for some ideas. In this economy, every dollar counts, and since we can't all lavish our women with a pair of Louboutins, here's a few recession-friendly ideas to help you out. Cheap Valentine's Day presents can still be thoughtful and romantic.

    1. Break Out The Pen - Fellas, when's the last time you actually wrote something for your lady? I don't mean signing a birthday card, I'm talking about actually putting together a series of genuine, heartfelt thoughts on paper? Tell her why you love her, how much she means to you, and why your life is so much better with her in it. Make a playlist to go along with it (this is 2011, does anyone listen to mixtapes anymore?) of your favorite songs. This costs practically nothing but time and creativity. It's a cheap Valentine's Day gift that she will love, because it shows you know her soul.

    2. Cook Something - Let's face it. Going out to eat for Valentine's Day is the ultimate hustle. Most restaurants charge a premium for meals and assorted libations, just because they can. Why not flip the script and cook your woman her favorite meal instead? If you don't cook, make an effort to figure out how. If this is still too daunting a task, order her favorite carryout, but serve it like a formal dinner. Set the mood with nice candles and music. Again, it's the thought (and effort) that counts most. That intimacy that you will share at home won't compare to anything you'd feel out in public. This is a cheap Valentine's Day gift that is more emotionally rich than the gift of eating out.


    3. Buy Some Inexpensive Wine - The operative word here is inexpensive, not cheap. No, I'm not talking Boone's Farm Strawberry Wine, which is something you really should be done with after age 21. Pink by Yellowglen is a classy sparkling wine that's very affordable (about $10) and easy to find. Ménage à Trois Red is good stuff at just $12 a bottle. Sometimes a cheap Valentine's Day is a more romantic Valentine's Day if it means staying home and getting tipsy with the one you love.

    4. Give a Cheap Yet Thoughtful Gift - Non-perishable items with sentimental value always give you the most bang for your buck, so why not get creative and make a gift that will actually last past the end of the month? With a little money and ingenuity, you can put together a nicely bound book of your most precious photos, create a custom calendar, or a make a mug featuring your mug at either KodakGallery or CafePress. You can also buy a customized, romantic Valentine's Day present on the classy site Red Envelope for as little at $25. The keyword is longevity in this case of giving a cheap Valentine's Day gift. Creating a momento of your loving memories will outlast perishable Valentine's Day gifts like candy.

    5. Give a (Sorta) Pricey Gift - With the realization that people are po' these days, designers like Tory Burch, BCBG, Marc Jacobs, and Gucci now offer an array of affordable Valentine's Day gifts that will impress your loved one with the designer name sans designer price. You can buy trend accessories like toggle bracelets, cosmetic bags, statement rings, perfume, costume jewelry, and perfume for well under $100. If all else fails, lingerie is the gift that keeps on giving, and you can both reap the benefits. Sorta cheap Valentine's Day lingerie can be found at outlets like Lingerie Diva and Overstock.com.

    These are merely suggestions, not a one-size-fits all list, of cheap Valentine's Day ideas. No two women (or men) are the same, so you should obviously give some thought to what your loved one likes best. With a little creativity and a lot of thought, you can treat your significant other to a memorable holiday, and save money for your Super Bowl bets or upcoming birthdays at the same time. Remember, it's the emotion, the romance and the intimacy that count on Valentine's Day -- not the money.

    Got any other cost-conscious ideas for a great, cheap Valentine's Day?

     

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    Carlina White Thought Mom Was a Drug Addict



    Carlina White (pictured above), the woman taken from a New York hospital as an infant and raised by her kidnapper for 23 years, thought that her birth mother was a drug addict who had given her up, according to a child welfare official in Connecticut.

    White said the woman who kidnapped and raised her, Ann Pettway (pictured below), told her that a drug-addicted Mother had given her to Pettway as a baby in 1987.

    Pettway surrendered to police last month and faces kidnapping charges. She has confessed to taking White from the Harlem Hospital as an infant in August 1987, according to the FBI.

    White, who is now 23, has reconnected with her biological family.


    Carlina White Thought Mom Was a Drug Addict


    It is no suprise that Pettway told White the lie about her birth Mother as part of her criminal plan to disconnect the girl from her true past; Pettway did everything possible to keep the girl from learning that her birth parents, Joy White and Carl Tyson, were in fact searching for her.

    A $10,000 reward offered for the return of the baby went uncollected.

    Luckily for White, who was raised by Pettway in Atlanta under the name of Nejdra Nance, suspicions grew that something wasn't right when Pettway couldn't provide her with a copy of her birth certificate. White also noticed she didn't look like anyone else in Pettway's family.

    Periodic checks of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children website by White revealed a baby photo that looked a lot like her. By some miracle, she was able to contact Joy White, and Mother and Daughter were reunited after DNA tests were conducted.

    The Carlina White saga of solving her own kidnapping, with its uplifting conclusion, has all the makings of a Hollywood movie.

     



     

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    America I Am: Black Achievement Explored in Groundbreaking Exhibit with Tavis Smiley

    Broadcaster Tavis Smiley doesn't mince words to describe the "America I Am" touring exhibit that opened in Washington D.C. Tueday to kick off Black History Month.

    "It is the biggest, baddest, boldest exhibit ever conceived to tell the story of the African-American contribution to our country," Smiley said in an interview Tuesday before The African American Imprint exhibit opened at the National Geographic Museum with more than 200 artifacts that celebrate black achievement.

    "I understand that might sound like hyperbole or hype," Smiley said. "But it takes four theaters and 12 galleries to show all of the pieces. It takes a couple of hours to go see it all and I promise that visitors won't be the same once they do."


    Items on display reach back into history and include "The Door of No Return" from the Cape Coast Castle in Ghana, shackles used in the American slave trade, letters of abolitionists and the door key from the Birmingham jail cell that held Dr. Martin Luther King.

    Artifacts in the exhibit also highlight the cultural contributions of black people like a trumpet played by Louis Armstrong, handwritten notes from Langston Hughes, a boxing robe worn by Muhammad Ali and a model of the first traffic signal which was built by Garrett Morgan.

    Smiley has parlayed his visibility and influence as host of the nationally televised Tavis Smiley Show into the chief inspiration behind the "America I Am" project.

    "I didn't want to explore just a slice of our contributions because that has been done before," Smiley said. "I wanted an amalgam of our contribution so that is wide the the items on display are so wide ranging."

    Smiley said a central question about the relevance of black people in America, originally posed by historian W.E.B Du Bois more than 100 years ago, acts as the inspiration for the exhibit.

    "Du Bois asked "Would America have been America without her Negro people," Smiley said. "I told our partners that this is the question I want answered when people visited the exhibit. We answer that question in a resounding way without demonizing anybody else."





    The exhibit, underwritten by Walmart, is midway through its four-year, 10-city run. But Smiley said the tour that debuted in Los Angeles around the time of President Barack Obama's inauguration continues to grow and change from city to city.

    For example, while promoting the Washington D.C. leg of the tour in several local churches last week, Smiley met a pastor who had possession of a writing desk used by Frederick Douglass. The inclusion of the Douglass artifact in the exhibit was too good to resist.


    "I spoke with the pastor and we are picking up the desk today so it can be part of the Washington D.C. experience," Smiley said. "We had a similar experience with Ernie Green (one of the Little Rock Nine). He had some items that we were lucky enough to get included in the exhibit."

    Smiley said despite the large number of items of display, organizers have to the leeway to swap out certain artifacts when special items that might be of greater interest to local viewers are made available.

    Smiley said his new found appreciation for just how precious historical artifacts are has colored how he has viewed the recent political uprising in Egypt against the government.

    Though he understands the anger of the demonstrators, Smiley said he was dismayed that some people entered the national museum and destroyed artifacts dating back centuries.

    "It broke my heart seeing people destroying their own history," Smiley said. "No matter how upset they were at the government, I see no value of destroying items that are so important to the world. Why do they have to destroy their past? They should be concerned with creating a new future."

    The unrest and destruction of history in Egypt has clearly given Smiley a greater appreciation of his accomplishment in regard to "America I Am."

    "When you see this exhibit you simply fall more in love with black people," Smiley said. "When you consider where we started started out from 400 hundred years ago against all odds, you see an amazing story. You walk out of the exhibit feeling like you are walking on clouds."




     

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    Tony Parker, Eva Longoria Divorce Made Final


    For those of you waiting for Tony Parker and Eva Longoria to become officially available, now is your chance. According to various reports, the Parker/Longoria divorce became official over the weekend. Publicists for Longoria confirmed the divorce to the San Antonio Express-News.

    "Anderson Group Public Relations confirms that Eva and Tony's divorce has been finalized," said the statement to the paper.

    Longoria originally filed for divorce in Los Angeles and asked for spousal support. But she dropped that filing and moved it to Texas where the business could be handled much quicker and without the interference of the paparazzi. There's no word if the spousal support request remained in the filing, but the couple did sign a prenuptial agreement when they married three years ago.

    Longoria decided to file for divorce after she discovered Parker had hundreds of inappropriate texts with another woman. We're pretty sure there's more to it than that, but the behavior was the last straw.


     

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    Haitian Deported by U.S. Dies in Homeland Jail


    It's sad that Wildrick Guerrier, 34, committed a crime that forced his deportation from the United States to Haiti.

    And its even sadder that Guerrier died in a Haitian jail after suffering from cholera-like symptoms.

    But I will scream if I hear immigration rights activists turn Guerrier into some kind of hero or martyr to promote relaxed immigration rules in the U.S.

    It's bad enough that legal U.S. citizens commit crimes here and turn huge parts of our country into hellholes unfit for decent people to live.


    When people who aren't legal citizens of this country violate laws, they know they are toying with their privilege of living here. When they get caught, they should be shown the door, as Guerrier was shown last January.

    At the time he was sent home, no one knew for sure that Haiti were devolve so quickly and completely. No one knew a leadership crisis would cause international donors to withhold promised reconstruction funds. No one knew international peacekeepers would bring cholera to the island-nation and see the disease kill thousands.



    Since the situation in Haiti has fallen apart, our government has stopped the deportation of criminals from Haiti back to their homeland, according to a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement official.

    While I'm far from thrilled they get to stay in this country and continue to prey on American citizens, I understand that sending them back to Haiti would be equal to a possible death sentence.

    That would not be right.

    But in the case of Wildrick Guerrier, the deportation was correct - even though it ended in his death.

    A woman identified as Guerrier's finance was quoted as blaming the U.S. government for his death in a Haitian jail cell. I know she is in pain but she has it all wrong.

    It is Guerrier's crimes committed here that caused his death.




     

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