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

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    Tax cuts

    It's the type of bargain that stinks the place up. Like when one criminal accused of a crime is granted immunity to help convict another charged with something more heinous.

    This time, the odor is coming from Washington, where Democrats have compromised with Republicans to extend tax cuts for the wealthy in order to get jobless benefits extended.

    The compromise came after Democrats tried and failed to pass a bill that extended Bush-era tax cuts for the middle class but let them lapse for the wealthy. Democrats also needed help to extend jobless benefits.

    The AP writes:

    Negotiations between the Obama administration and a bipartisan group of lawmakers centered on a two-year extension of current rates.At the same time, a jump in the unemployment rate to 9.8 percent is putting pressure on Republicans to accede to President Barack Obama's demand that Congress extend unemployment insurance for a year. GOP congressional leaders had opposed an extension of benefits without cuts elsewhere in the federal budget.

    "I think most folks believe the recipe would include at least an extension of unemployment benefits for those who are unemployed and an extension of all of the tax rates for all Americans for some period of time," said Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, the Senate's Republican negotiator in the talks.

    Central to the deal, White House officials and Democrats said, is an extension of unemployment benefits. "Without unemployment benefits being extended, personally, this is a nonstarter," said Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking member of the Senate Democratic leadership.

    This debate highlights the failures of the Democratic party while also showing how out of touch the Republican party is with the needs of regular Americans.

    To compare tax cuts for people who already have plenty of money to Americans who have been out of work for almost two years is sad.

    Many of these people have been steadily looking for jobs that simply are not there. Entire industries are being phased out and adults are competing with kids for jobs at McDonald's.

    Families are losing their homes and the prospects for recovery grow more grim every day. Unemployment figures are rising.

    The AP writes:

    About 2 million unemployed workers will run out of benefits this month if they are not renewed, and the administration estimates 7 million will be affected if the payments are not extended for a year.

    Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell on Sunday said discussions are still under way on a variety of unresolved issues.The White House wants to include renewal of several other tax provisions that are expiring. These were initially included in the 2009 economic stimulus bill and include a tax credit for lower- and middle-class wage earners, even if they don't make enough to pay federal income taxes, breaks to offset college tuition and breaks for companies that hire the unemployed.

    Any deal would require the approval of the House and Senate, and the president's signature. Obama told Democratic congressional leaders Saturday that he would oppose any extension of tax rates that did not include jobless benefits and other assistance his administration was seeking.


    Democrats have failed to channel that anger to force Republicans to address this disparity. They have failed to point out that despite Republican obessesion over our massive deficit, which Republicans helped to create with tax cuts for the wealthy, our debt only grows with the continuation of those cuts. We need that money to spur jobs and to help people in desperate need of assistance.

    Despite what Republicans say, most Americans on unemployment are not lazy.

    Instead, the debate has been pushed to the benefit of tax cuts for the wealthy and misinformation about how the wealthy having lower taxes benefits the economy.

    Let's be clear: Lower taxes for rich people only helps rich people. They are not using the money to create jobs because it's not that much money, and they, like many Americans, are sitting on their cash.

    To link the wealthy with the unemployed is a sad comparison.

     

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    The Spark, Amanda Diva, Lloyd Banks

    If you didn't know how funny 'The Spark' is, this week you'll find out!

    In order to celebrate the best of 'The Spark,' we've compiled some of the best moments of our 32 episodes!

    All year we've brought you great guests, such as Mike Epps, John Legend, Quincy Jones and Estelle. We've touched on topics, ranging from politics to music to fashion, all in the name of keeping you current and keeping you laughing!

    Be sure not to miss Cuzn Sassy sit down with Lloyd Banks (pictured) to talk about his recently released "Hunger for More 2"!

    Enjoy!

     

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    2010 Taxes
    Even though the U.S. House of Representatives voted on Thursday to extend most of the tax cuts granted during Bush era, the political wrangling over this topic is far from over. The Senate is now taking up the matter and that means anything could happen. Regardless of what the politicians do, there are some year-end strategies that anyone can take to minimize their 2010 taxes and shore up their overall finances in the coming year.

    Here are 10 such strategies recommended by the California Society of CPAs, the country's largest professional, non-profit state association representing more than 34,000 CPAs in the area of tax, audit, accounting and consulting services such as personal finance.

    1. TRIM YOUR SPENDING
    Yes, it's the holiday season. But that's no reason to completely blow your budget. If you do, you'll have a financial hangover come January 2011. Instead, create and stick to a budget to keep better tabs on your cash flow and avoid over-spending.

    2. ADD MORE DOLLARS TO YOUR RETIREMENT SAVINGS PLANS
    You say you "can't afford" to contribute to your retirement plan on the job, or that you're already doing enough? Think again. You can't afford not to contribute, not when your future retirement security depends on it, and not when Social Security is on such shaky ground. So stretch a little bit. Even if you're already contributing, add some more dollars to your 401(k) or 403(b) plan at work. You'll get a tax benefit for doing so, and your employer may offer you a matching contribution as well.
    3. REDUCE CREDIT-CARD DEBT
    Would you like to have zero debt instead of worrying about those nagging credit card bills all the time? You can become debt free if you make a plan to eliminate credit card debt and stop making minimum payments on your accounts. Instead, get more aggressive about reducing those balances or consider whether it makes sense to do a balance transfer to a lower-interest rate credit card.


    4. RUN FOR COVERAGE
    Carefully consider the employer-based insurance coverage available to you. If you're an entrepreneur, like me, then be sure you have sufficient funds to cover a deductible in the event of a medical emergency. Working couples with insurance coverage from two employers should also evaluate their options, looking at the benefits and premium costs for each plan. The best option may be for one spouse's plan to cover both of you, for each to have separate coverage, or perhaps to maintain duplicate coverage for both. Figure out which scenario would be best for your family. Just remember: even with double coverage, you cannot collect more than 100% on the same claim.

    5. GET A PERSONAL (FINANCIAL) TRAINER
    Are you making a New Year's resolution to get more fiscally fit? If so, a financial trainer can help. Everyone should have a handle on his or her financial condition. Even if your spouse handles the money matters in your household, you should at least know the basics. Make time for your spouse to train you or get up to speed with a financial professional, such as a CPA or Certified Financial Planner.

    6. INVENTORY EVERYTHING YOU OWN
    You're sure to have the digital video camera out at some time over the next month or so to capture holiday memories. In the process, why not take photos of and/or or videotape everything you own? That's a smart way to create a pictorial record of your household items, and such documentation could come in handy with your insurance company in the event of a fire or theft. Just be sure to store the photos or videotapes in a secure place away from your home.

    7. START IMPROVING YOUR CREDIT RATING
    Without good credit, it's tough to get a loan of any kind, including a credit card, mortgage, student loan or car loan. With big changes coming to the FICO credit score and the VantageScore in 2011, now is the time to shore up your credit rating. Haven't seen your FICO score lately? Read this post on how to get your FICO score for free. If you want tips on how to improve your credit, check out my new book, 'Perfect Credit: 7 Steps to a Great Credit Rating.'

    8. POWER UP YOUR LEGAL DOCUMENTS
    Arranging for a durable power of attorney is a simple and inexpensive way to arrange to have someone make financial and legal decisions on your behalf should you be unable to do so. A durable power of attorney remains in effect if you ever become mentally incompetent. It permits someone you trust to conduct important business on your behalf - things like handling your banking transactions, investing money, preparing and signing tax returns and even buying and selling a home. You can make the provisions as broad or as specific as you like, although CPAs recommend that provisions be as broad as possible to address your future needs.

    9. ORGANIZE YOUR FINANCIAL RECORDS
    Keeping financial and family records in an organized manner can save you time, money and trouble in the event of an emergency. Store permanent records, such as birth certificates, property deeds, insurance policies, wills, powers of attorney and other important documents, in a safe, fireproof location, preferably a safe deposit box. Copies of these documents and other records should be kept in a clearly marked filing system in your home. Be sure that your spouse, family and executor are aware of where these documents and records are stored. Getting organized in December 2010 will get you off to a great start for 2011.

    10. DO ADDITIONAL RESEARCH
    For more tips and information, check out the financial literacy section of the California Society of CPAs' web site, where free tools and other resources are available to help you bone up on various personal finance topics.



    Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, an award-winning financial news journalist and former Wall Street Journal reporter for CNBC, has been featured in the Washington Post, USA Today, and the New York Times, as well as magazines ranging from Essence and Redbook to Black Enterprise and Smart Money. Check out her New York Times best seller 'Zero Debt: The Ultimate Guide to Financial Freedom.'

     

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    Mike Epps Gives Papparazzo Beatdown at Wife's Party

    Mike Epps, who is known for his comedic talents in films and onstage, didn't think it was funny when a paparazzo kept annoying his wife at her birthday celebration at a Detroit club last Saturday, so he reportedly took matters in to his own hands, literally!


    The "Hangover" and "Lottery Ticket" co-star hosted a birthday dinner for his wife, Michelle, and after-party for his show at Detroit's famed Key Club. A photographer allegedly kept pestering Epps' wife with questions and pictures while the couple were dining at the establishment, which is touted as "Detroit's most romantic soul food restaurant."

    According to Epps who spoke to TMZ:

    "It was a private celebration for my wife's birthday. I asked the photographer numerous times to not film, but he refused to let up. I then attempted to retrieve the tape from the camera."

    In other words, the photographer got a beatdown. Watch what happened here.

    Epps is no stranger to photographer run-ins. Just two years ago, the celeb went buckwild, when a photographer came a tad too close for comfort at LAX. Epps went on a tirade and verbally attacked the intruder by calling him practically every word for "homosexual."

    Earlier that same year, Epps' fists also had a run-in with a process server.

    Hell hath no fury like the invasion of a funnyman's space!



     

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    The always stylish Zoe Saldana stepped out on the red carpet in this wild printed Louis Vuitton dress. We love how the 'Avatar' star rocked the dress at a charity event, opting for bare legs and sexy peep toe ankle booties. We couldn't help but take notice of socialite Paris Hilton's demure take of the same dress when she paired it with black tights and patent leather pumps. We have to ask, who do you thing wore it best? Zoe or Paris?

     

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    Obama Deal With Korea
    From NewsOne:

    WASHINGTON- President Barack Obama on Saturday praised a newly sealed trade deal with South Korea as a landmark agreement that promises to boost the domestic auto industry and support tens of thousands of American jobs.

    "This agreement shows the U.S. is willing to lead and compete in the global economy," the president told reporters at the White House, calling it a triumph for American workers in fields from farming to aerospace.

    The pact, which requires congressional approval, would be the largest since the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico in 1994. Obama said the South Korean deal would support at least 70,000 American jobs - welcome news with the latest unemployment figures showing nearly stagnant job growth. The president said that jobs report showed more needed to be done.

    "Essential to that is opening new markets around the world to products that are made in America," Obama said. "Because we don't simply want to be an economy that consumes other countries' goods."

    He said U.S. automakers would gain greater access to the expanding South Korean market. "It will continue to ensure a level playing field for American automakers here at home," he added.

    Exports of U.S. goods to South Korea could soar to $10 billion under the deal, which won rare praise for Obama from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as well as some Republicans. The pact originally was negotiated under George W. Bush's administration but had stalled.

    Please read the rest
    on NewsOne.

    Question:

    -Do you agree with this proposed trade agreement?


    Leave your comments below!

     

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    Judge Bernice Donald of Memphis Picked for Top Judicial Post

    Praising her "outstanding commitment of public service," President Barack Obama today selected Judge Bernice Bouie Donald to serve on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati. The Sixth Circuit hears appeals from Tennessee, Michigan, Kentucky and Ohio.

    A Mississippi native, Donald, 59, began breaking racial barriers in her youth when she was one of the first black students to integrate Olive Branch High School. And she hasn't stopped since.

    After graduating the University of Memphis, she received her law degree from the law school at Memphis State University and provided legal aid services for poor Memphis residents as a staff lawyer for the Memphis Area Legal Services office.

    In 1982, Donald became judge on the Court of General Sessions making her the first black female to serve as a judge in Tennessee history. Six years later, she became the first black woman to serve in federal bankruptcy court.

    Donald now serves as U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Tennessee and as an officer of the 400,000-member American Bar Association, the first black woman to hold such a position.

    Donald has been praised by those she has worked with, like former U.S. Attorney Veronica Coleman Davis, as a fair, no nonsense decider of the facts.

    "She's a student of the law," Coleman Davis told the Memphis Commercial Appeal in an interview today. "She is a consummate jurist."

    Donald has to be nominated by the U.S. Senate and both senators from her home state, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, are Republicans and hold great influence over whether Donald's nomination will get to a vote before the full Senate.

    Hopefully, Donald's fine record will trump partisan politics and she will find herself serving on the Sixth Circuit before too long.

     

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    Oscar Grant's Killer Johannes Mehserle Denied Bail


    As they anxiously waited in a Los Angeles courtroom on Friday, Oscar Grant's family was finally granted some small measure of justice. After being sentenced to two insignificant years behind bars for murdering Grant on an Oakland subway platform, a judge denied the bail request of former BART officer Johannes Mehserle.

    While on the surface, the decision may seem as if the severity of Mehserle's crime is finally being recognized, it is little more than a salve to a public disgusted with the continued inequality of the judicial system -- especially when it comes to the murder of unarmed black men by white police officers.

    Why? Because with the possibility of Mehserle being released with credit for time served in 7 or 8 months, he will still be home in the bosom of his family before his appeal is heard.

    One would think that Mehserle would accept his punishment, but apparently that's too much like right. Defense attorney Michael Rains said his client was disappointed with the judge's decision and an appeal will be filed next week.

    "He was resigned to the fact that he's going to serve out the rest of his sentence in custody somewhere," Rains said. "He has been grateful, and remains grateful that we came to Los Angeles for this case, that we came to Judge Perry's court for this case and that he feels he got a fair trial."

    But then he realized that this verdict was much larger than himself. According to his attorney, Mehserle now feels that it is his civic duty to ensure that no other officers are faced with this stern punishment for a "mistake."

    "It may send a signal to other district attorneys in this county or in this state that it's OK to prosecute a police officer for making this kind of mistake," Rains said.

    Perry agreed with Rains that if Mehserle was released he wouldn't be a flight risk nor would he be a threat to the public. However, he is also certain that his decision would not be overturned.

    "The overriding issue in this case was that the defendant acted in a grossly negligent manner," Perry said. "The verdict is fully supported by the evidence and is unlikely to be disturbed on appeal."

    Even with this statement, the judge's stance is ambiguous. Because while he makes clear that he considers Mehserle "negligent", he softens that blow by revealing that he does not consider him to be a flight risk.

    Not surprisingly, that is a blatant contradiction to the facts presented after Mehserle was apprehended on a fugitive warrant in Lake Tahoe, Nevada -- where he fled during the initial investigation into Grant's murder. Judge Morris Jacobson called Mehserle a "danger to society" with a "character flaw" and a "clear propensity for violence."

    Jacobson also voiced his skepticism that Mehserle could be trusted "about any promises he would make to return to this court" if bail was granted.

    But in the great nation of America, no legal maneuvering is too difficult for a white officer, and Mehserle knows it.

    In a tearful statement during his sentencing, Mehserle said that he was extremely repentant for his actions, and he apologized to the Grant family for their loss. Yet this didn't stop him from winking at his parents in the presence of Grant's mother as he was escorted away by deputies after the hearing.

    Yes, it is true that bail was denied, but this decision is like scraps to a stray dog. It's the judicial system's way of saying it feels sorry for the Grant family, and is weary of public rancor; so it will offer just enough to appease the people, sending them home to lick their wounds instead of standing outside growling with picket signs.

    In short: It is an insult to suggest that this is anything more than a carefully designed strategy to contain public anger, with the ultimate goal being Johannes Mehserle home in 7 months or less for the murder of an unarmed black man.

    They should have just given him probation like they wanted to, instead of this prolonged farce that causes the family of Oscar Grant more pain than comfort. Some observers may applaud the judicial system for their refusal to grant Mehserle bail. However, I simply say, "Well played."


     

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    Oprah
    Oprah is causing a new uproar over her coming trip to Australia, during which she will treat 300 of her fans to a tour of the land "down under" -- including McDonald's as a stop on this great adventure. But would you call McDonald's an authentic part of Australian culture? Or is this brand-specific shout out just a case of blatant product placement gone horrible wrong for a fat fee? These questions and more are being discussed on popular women's site, Jezebel:

    In a preview program for Oprah's upcoming Australia trip, she was told by that country's TV personality, "While you have your diners, we have McCafes. Guys come for business meetings, girls come for a catch-up over coffee. It's all just a little bit fancy."

    You can thank a McDonald's corporate sponsorship for that seamless reference, in which apparently only guys have business meetings.

    The entire Australia trip is, of course, a giant act of sponsorship, in which Oprah takes 300 U.S. viewers to Australia courtesy of the Australian tourism board. So far, the $3 million they're spending for the privilege has been at least partly repaid in boatloads of publicity. But that's apparently not enough to buy authenticity. And actual, local proprietors of "fancy" coffee shops are pissed.



    It would be an embarrassment for McDonald's to be called a central part of American culture, and we are the country that invented the cheap and cheesy franchise. But, if Australia is footing the bill for Oprah's trip then their tourism leaders have the right to have that trip positioned in the best way possible to stimulate their local economy. So if the Australian tourism board wants to make McDonald's a center piece of how they promote Australia to Americans, it's their choice.

    Plus in truth, this move to make McDonald's seem authentically Australian is a lot more tasteful than Oprah giving out free chicken. In both cases, product sponsorship won out over good taste. And that is certainly the American way.

    Perhaps it is now the Australian way as well.

    Question:

    -Do you think it was in poor taste for Oprah to plug an American company like McDonald's as part of "authentic" Australian culture?


    Leave your comments below!

     

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    With 10 films to his credit, comedian/ actor Chris Tucker stopped acting after the release of 2007's 'Rush Hour 3,' which received mixed to negative reviews from critics but managed to gross $255 million dollars worldwide.

    Rumors were floating around that since he received around $20 million plus for 'Rush Hour 3,' Tucker was looking for payment in that area for his next film..

    Warner Brothers has recently bought the new spec script called 'The Rabbit,' written by Micah Barnett and starring Tucker, states Deadline.com. Early word is that the film is similar to the 1988 Robert De Niro/ Charles Grodin blockbuster 'Midnight Run.'

    Coincidentally, Warner Home Video is releasing the Blu-ray disc of 'Rush Hour' on December 7.

    The 38-year old actor hasn't been totally invisible from the media world. Chris is known to attend charity concerts and functions and is dedicated to bringing attention to African poverty and hunger issues in the U.S. Tucker is involved with numerous charities, including BrittiCares International, Chris Tucker Foundation, and Clinton Foundation

     

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    The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in sport issued a report this week claiming that the gap in graduation rates between white and black college athletes has grown. Among the 70 teams playing in bowl games this month, graduation rate for black athletes grew slightly, from 58 percent to 60 percent. For white players, the rate went from 77 percent to 80 percent. Therefore, the gap in graduation rates between white and black players is 20 percent.

    "That the gap increased rather than decreased is particularly disappointing," said Richard Lapchick, who conducted the study. "The fact that the disparity is bigger now than 2009 is cause for trying to figure out what we eed to do to narrow the gap."

    Lapchick argues that much of the gap in graduation rates between white and black players can be attributed to many of them coming from underfunded inner city schools. He found that roughly one-quarter of all schools participating in bowl games graduated less than half their African American players, and that one-fifth of the schools have graduation rates for black players that are at least 30 percentage points lower than the rate for white players.

    The results of Lapchick's study are not surprising, and reflect the constant state of the black athlete in this disturbing system called collegiate athletics. The money has become so great in college sports that the goal of educating students has become subjugated to the greater ambition of getting rich by stealing the labor rights of other human beings.

    If the NCAA wanted to fix the graduation gap, they could easily do that. You could start by not taking players out of classes to make long road trips to play in sporting events. You could allow students to actually choose their own majors instead of allowing universities to cluster the athletes into the same classes granting them worthless academic degrees. You could also open the door for independent oversight by outside entities to ensure that athletes are not having their academic priorities deliberately pushed aside by 50-year old men seeking multi-million dollar bonuses for winning a bowl game.

    When it comes to determining the NCAA's priorities on graduation rates, the proof is in the potato salad: While many coaches are given multi-million dollar incentives for winning games, their contractual incentives for academic performance are virtually non-existent. If a coach graduates players and wins just a few games every season, he will never receive the same number of university job offers as a coach who wins games and doesn't graduate a soul. The NCAA knows exactly what it's doing when black athletes aren't graduating, and aren't being compensated. Exploitation rarely happens by accident.

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

     

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    Steve Harvey was once largely known as one of the Original Kings of Comedy. But with a top-rated syndicated radio show, Harvey, who is also seen daily (three to four times in some regions) as the new host of the long-running game show 'Family Feud,' and nightly on BET's new Centric channel via 'The Steve Harvey Project' featuring the best of what he and his radio cohorts (which is comprised of Shirley Strawberry, Carla Ferrell and Nephew Tommy), is increasingly becoming the King of All Media.

    In just a few weeks, the 53-year old married father of seven will turn 54. And by the time the Welch, West Virginia native's birthday rolls around, Harvey will most likely hit the New York Times Bestseller's list with his brew of no-holds-barred relationship advice found in this week's publishing of his second tome, 'Straight Talk, No Chaser; : How to Find, Keep and Understand a Man' (Amistad/HarperCollinsPublishers)

    The Essence magazine columnist's first attempt at doling out valuable vittles about love was no fluke - 'Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man' was an overnight hit and spent 60 weeks on the coveted list. According to the book's publisher, more than two million copies are in print.

    Powerhouse movie producer Will Packer ('Stomp The Yard,' 'Obsessed') has snapped up the rights for the beloved book to become a motion picture.

    During an exclusive interview with BlackVoices.com recently, the philanthropist born as Broderick Steven Harvey talked candidly about a range of topics seldom spoken about before like his humble beginnings dropping out of Kent Stage University, working at the Ford Motor Company; his first failed marriage; breaking into comedy; being homeless; the best lessons learned; launching the Kings of comedy; his third marriage to the beautiful Marjorie Bridges-Harvey; keeping the bloggers busy; being considered a 'relationship expert'; not being a movie star and the state of black radio.

    Watch the video below to get to know Steve Harvey like never before.


     

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  • 12/06/10--22:00: 5 Ways to Style Your Locs
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    Locs are just like any other hairstyle in that every so often you may feel the need to switch up the look. And by switching up, we don't mean completely shaving them off. Unless, of course you've been itching to do that. If your locs have been boring you and you've been looking to spice 'em up a bit, here are five gorgeous ways to step up your loc styling game.

    1. Color

    Now now, no one is saying you have to go as bright red a Rihanna or as blonde as Mary J. Blige. But you'd be surprised at what a little bit of color can do your face. Not to mention, when it comes to hair color, the options are endless. You can dye the front, highlight a few locs, dye the tips or toss in a couple of colors.



    2. Cut

    A short do can look good on anyone, even a loc rocker. If you find that your shoulder to waist -ength locs are becoming more cumbersome with each each day, try chopping them off. You can take your look back and rock an asymmetrical bob a la the 1980s, or a pixie cut. Not liking the idea of going shorter all over? Try a bang. Or if you're really feeling like you need something completely different, why not shave off half of your locs for a more edgy look?


    3. Curl

    Curly locs aren't just for fancy shmancy occasions. Depending on the length and thickness of your locs, you can use perm rod rollers or even pipe cleaners to go from my straight locs to a head full of curls. Best thing about the curls? They can withstand virtually any kind of weather element. From Florida's humidity to Colorado's sub-zero temps, you can trust that your curly locs will stay in tact.

    4. Braid


    Braiding your locs to get a crinkly effect is really two styles in one. The braids themselves can go up into a ponytail and donned with a flower. After taking the braids down, you're left with super tight crinkly locs that can be styled any way you like. Did we mention that this style can last for weeks at a time?

    5. Style it up


    Locs are strands of hair rolled together. So there's no reason for you not to have a "messy" bun, that gives your look an editorial edge.

    For more style ideas, visit Khamitkinks.com and Hairbynedejetti.com.

    If you have a fly way to rock your locs, post it our our Facebook page and you might win a special hair gift!

     

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    TV Talk: Al Roker & Shaun Robinson To Host Rose Parade Broadcast
    NBC has announced that 'Today Show' weatherman Al Roker and 'Access Hollywood' anchor Shaun Robinson will co-host their coverage of the '122nd Tournament of Roses Parade' from Pasadena, California on Saturday, Jan. 1, 2011.

    Roker, who also hosts 'Roker on the Road' and 'Tricked-Out Tailgating' for The Food Network, has co-hosted the '122nd Tournament of Roses Parade' thirteen previous times.

    Robinson, who released the self-help tome, 'Exactly As I Am' (Ballantine Books) last year, hosted the parade once before.

    The theme of this year's paPaula Deenrade is "Building Dreams, Friendships and Memories" and Food Network star Paula Deen will serve as grand marshal.

    NBC has been broadcasting the New Year's Day parade for 84 years, beginning on radio in 1927 and then televising the event beginning in 1954.

    The parade, which will be live from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. ET, can also be seen on ABC, HGTV, Hallmark Channel and other local affiliates.


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    Virginia Thomas Calls Voice Mail to Anita Hill a 'Mistake'

    In a voice mail message left at 7:31 a.m. on Oct. 9th, a Saturday, Virginia Thomas (pictured above with husband, Clarence Thomas) asked her husband's former aide-turned-enemy for an apology. Ms. Hill played the recording at Brandeis University and for The New York Times, and soon the wacky voice mail was the talk of the town.

    In an an interview with The Daily Caller, Thomas said that making contact with Hill "was probably a mistake on my part."

    "Probably a mistake"?Now, a "mistake" is putting on black socks that you thought were navy blue. A "mistake" is that third tequila shot or paying $10 to see a Wayans Brothers movie.

    If your husband is a sitting Supreme Court Justice, calling his ex on a Saturday morning and leaving a crazy-lady voice mail is no mistake. That's just nuts.

    In case you forgot, Thomas left the following message for Anita Hill on her office phone first thing one Saturday morning:

    "Good morning, Anita Hill, it's Ginni Thomas. I just wanted to reach across the airwaves and the years and ask you to consider something. I would love you to consider an apology sometime and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband.... So give it some thought. And certainly pray about this and hope that one day you will help us understand why you did what you did. OK, have a good day."

    Look, Ginni, let's just call a spade a spade. You probably had one bloody mary too many that morning or took more than the prescribed dose of Xanax. It's OK, it happens to all of us.

    Considering that Anita Hill's testimony has been substantiated by other women - not to mention this happened TWENTY YEARS AGO - your message was outrageous, embarrassing and completely loony. One thing it wasn't, though, was a "mistake."

     

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    Man gets 33 months for threatening Obama in poem, Johnny Logan Spencer Jr.

    A white supremacist Louisville, Ky., man who wrote a poem threatening to assasinate President Barack Obama with a rifle was sentenced to 33 months in prison.


    The self-described "poet" Johnny Logan Spencer Jr. (pictured) apologized Monday in a federal court for the loaded words he used for the poem he authored and printed on a website that promotes white separation, NewSaxon.org. The 28-year-old claims that he wrote the poem because he was upset over his mother's death and he had just been indoctrinated as a white supremacist.

    Spencer pleaded guilty to a charge of threatening the life of the president, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

    The poem, entitled "The Sniper," describes a sniper killing a "tyrant," later identified as President Obama, and setting off panic in the wake of the fatal shot. The work was first posted before Obama took office, then immediately re-posted after his inauguration in 2009.

    "The bullet that he has chambered is one of the purest pride, And the inspiration on the casing reads DIE negro DIE," the four-stanza poem reads. "The bullet screams toward its mark bringing with it death, and where there was once a face there is nothing left...."

    A few of Spencer's family members were present in the courtroom and cried when the judge announced his sentence. Spencer has already served 10 months in prison, and more than four of those months have been in solitary confinement. Spencer will also be on supervised release for three years after he completes the sentence.



     

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    After months of fighting, posturing and making threats, the people on Capitol Hill have finally figured out what they are going to do about the Bush tax cuts. Millions of Americans are jobless, but most can agree that the people in Washington are the ones who deserve their jobs the least.

    President Obama, in a very intelligent and politically savvy move, compromised with the Republicans, who've fought like crazy to have the Bush tax cuts extended for the wealthiest two percent of our population. Obama has argued, quite reasonably, that with the economy struggling the way that it is, it makes no sense to keep giving tax breaks to those who need it the least. Even billionaires like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates have expressed their agreement with this sentiment. But the Republican Party, determined to brand itself as the party of the rich, has laid it all on the line to make sure the wealthiest Americans are taken care of.

    When speaking about the Bush tax cuts this weekend with Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Al Sharpton, my consistent opinion was that President Obama had no choice but to give the Republicans what they want. The president was faced with the ethically-bankrupt decision of the Republicans to allow unemployment insurance to expire for millions of jobless Americans, right near the holiday season. I explained that if a man is holding your child hostage and wants you to pay him $5,000 to save your baby, you should give the man what he wants. He will pay the price later for his evil deed.

    One would expect that the Republicans will surely pay a price for taking such a bold and public stand for the rich. They took over Congress on the backs of a populist push, consisting of Tea Partiers and Americans who call themselves patriots. The problem is that there is almost nothing patriotic about allowing the wealth gap to grow to the point that America becomes an aristocracy. There is no justification for giving tax cuts to the rich, since they are not the ones who are creating jobs (less than two percent of all tax returns for small businesses are filed by those earning over $250,000 per year) and the rest of us can't afford to make them richer than they already are.

    Another victory for President Obama in this compromise is that he has allowed Americans to see that the Republicans have little desire to control the deficit. By refusing an opportunity to save money by taking a gift back from those who don't even need it, they are effectively saying that they only want to save money by undermining the essential needs of America's poor. Tea Partiers who complain about the growing deficit must realize that if they are not in the wealthiest two percent of the country, they are being bamboozled by those with big money who are controlling their minds to get political power for themselves.

    Here are a few quotes from President Obama's statement about the tax cuts. Although I've sometimes critiqued Obama in the past, I must agree with him whole heartedly on this particular issue. There is no excuse for Republican behavior on this one, and the party is likely to pay publicly for this debacle.

    "Republicans believe that we should also make permanent the tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% of Americans. I completely disagree with this. A permanent extension of these tax cuts would cost us $700 billion at a time when we need to focus on bringing down our deficit. "

    Obama also went on to say the following:

    *...Republicans will block a permanent tax cut for the middle class unless they also get a permanent tax cut for the wealthiest Americans, regardless of the cost. We saw that in two different votes that were taken this weekend. And without a willingness to give on both sides, there's no reason to believe this stalemate won't continue well into next year. This would be a chilling prospect for the American people, whose taxes are currently scheduled to go up on January 1st. "

    I fully expect that as time goes on, Americans will take note that the Republican Party's first item of business after their victory in the mid-term elections was to fight for tax cuts for the rich. There is almost no logical reason for them to hold the other 98 percent of Americans hostage over the wealthiest two percent. This leads to questions regarding how they obtained their power, and whether the vast Tea Party movement that swept the nation was actually funded by wealthy individuals seeking to control their minds. Obama made the right decision to compromise, and sometimes having values can be a liability when dealing with those who have no compassion. This was a long-term moral and political victory for President Obama, and I say, "Good job."

    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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    When attending the 2010 Kennedy Center Honors this weekend, Michelle Obama just may have outshone honoree Oprah Winfrey and guests Diana Ross and Jennifer Hudson. Dressed in a dynamic deep red dress, accented with tulle and floral sequins by Naem Khaan.

    The First Lady absolutely radiated beauty and sophistication. Always one for formal dress, Michelle kept her hair simple and accessorized the gown with bold earrings by Bochic, which were made of brown diamonds and white gold. Of course, she was sure to bring her favorite accessory; her loving husband President Obama!

     

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    Wesley Snipes
    As actor Wesley Snipes prepares to serve a three-year jail sentence for failing to file income tax returns, the government is gearing up to potentially pore over any tax returns he may file while he's in prison too. In fact, the feds will be more closely scrutinizing not just Snipes' tax returns, but also the tax returns of many U.S. prisoners if the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) has its way.

    TIGTA is recommending that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) step up its monitoring of prisoners' tax filings in an effort to prevent fraudulent returns and fraudulent refunds. The IRS is already combating such fraud, which officials say has recently exploded. According to a recently-released audit report from TIGTA, the IRS identified 249,185 fraudulent tax returns and prevented the issuance of $1.48 billion in fraudulent refunds during the 2010 tax-filing season. That represented a whopping 50% increase over the number of fraudulent tax returns identified during the 2009 filing season, the report found.

    However, the report also concluded that the tax returns of individuals deemed "most likely" to engage in fraud are seldom screened by the IRS. TIGTA's analysis found that the majority of tax returns the IRS identifies as being filed by prisoners are not being screened to assess their fraud potential.Specifically, TIGTA says that 253,929, or 88%, of the 287,918 returns filed by prisoners as of March 24, 2010 were not selected for screening. Of those, 48,887 who claimed refunds totaling more than $130 million had no wage information reported to the IRS by employers. As a result, TIGTA wants the IRS to take its screening efforts to the next level - going after prisoners who may be hitting up the government for fraudulent tax refund checks.


    TIGTA says that with better access to wage and withholding information, the IRS could catch and prevent more tax fraud. "While the IRS is identifying larger numbers of fraudulent returns, improvements must be made to its screening processes to ensure that returns filed by prisoners get adequate scrutiny," said J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. "Unscrupulous individuals, including prisoners, continue to submit tax returns with false income documents to the IRS for the sole purpose of receiving a fraudulent refund," he added.

    Under current law, the IRS has limited access to wage information submitted by federal agencies and state workforce agencies to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Only individuals claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit have their wage information submitted to the IRS. In addition, the IRS could benefit from expediting the use of wage and withholding information it receives from the Social Security Administration (SSA), the TIGTA report suggested.

    TIGTA made several recommendations to the IRS:
    -seeking increased access to HHS data, which would be done via legislative changes
    -verifying whether the 48,887 tax returns with tax refunds that were filed by prisoners with no reported wages were fraudulent
    -identifying revisions that could be made data systems to better identify fraudulent tax returns filed by prisoners
    -expediting the use of Social Security Administration data

    Interestingly, the IRS isn't fully on board with TIGTA's recommendations. While it agreed with most of TIGTA's suggestions, the IRS disagreed with the amount of potential savings from expanded and expedited access to SSA data and improving verification of prisoner tax returns. So officials are trying to decide the best, most cost-effective ways to handle those areas.

    This isn't the first-time that TIGTA has recommended a crackdown of prisoner tax returns. Five years ago, based on a September 2005 audit, TIGTA also produced a report concluding that the the Internal Revenue Service needs to do more to stop the millions of dollars in fraudulent refunds paid to prisoners.

    Either way, the hand-writing is on the wall and the message is clear: If you're locked up, don't try filing a bogus income tax return. It just might cost you even more time in the slammer.



    Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, an award-winning financial news journalist and former Wall Street Journal reporter for CNBC, has been featured in the Washington Post, USA Today, and the New York Times, as well as magazines ranging from Essence and Redbook to Black Enterprise and Smart Money. Check out her New York Times best seller 'Zero Debt: The Ultimate Guide to Financial Freedom.'

     

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    Black Hair Care
    The Washington Post has reported on a growing trend in integration that many in the black community never thought would happen -- the blending of African American hair stylists and black hair care customers into businesses that traditionally have served the mainstream. How could this surprising evolution have come to pass? Was it some form of empathetic activism that bridged the historical divide between black and white women when it comes to beauty? No. It was something as simple as the constraints caused by businesses facing the power of the almighty dollar. The scarcity of beauty dollars being spent, that is. Jezebel.com offers an interesting summary of the events creating a world in which black and white hair care collide:

    In Sunday's Washington Post, Elizabeth Wellington writes that the recession "closed hundreds of African-American salons nationwide and stylists and business owners had to find jobs in mainstream salons."

    A black stylist named Seline Braswell - who previously had her own salon - now works at a salon in Saks Fifth Avenue, where the clientele had been mostly white. She, her two stylists and two assistants have brought more than 1,000 new clients - mostly black - to the new location. Win-win, right?


    Not according to Charles Gallagher, a white professor of sociology, criminal justice and social work at La Salle University: "You are erasing culture, you are erasing history and you are erasing a way African Americans have socialized with each other for decades," he says. "These J.C. Penneys and Saks are culturally spaceless. You don't learn about culture, gender or experience, and the lessons about the politics of the community, that's all gone."

    While a cultural experience may be lost, is a sense of understanding gained? Brandy Davila, a black stylist who owns a multicultural salon in North Philadelphia, thinks so. "I'm finding it's a learning experience for everyone," Davila says.


    Read the rest on Jezebel.com.

    I would have to agree that the loss of black salons as cultural spaces where black women feel safe is a blow that our community might not be ready for. There are few places in American society in which a black woman can feel totally at ease and not judged -- letting her hair down so to speak in a communal environment where all sorts of feminine secrets are shared, that other groups just don't understand and can't take in without a judgmental eye. Our secret insecurities about our appearance as women is soothed and mended by other women who understand and listen, as others recreate our hair in ways that renew us -- on both physical and spiritual levels.

    That wall between that world and the real one came down briefly during screenings of Chris Rock's film, 'Good Hair,' to a predictable wave of amused scorn from mainstream audiences who openly laughed at black women's attempts at self-love through our grooming culture. While the economically forced integration of hair care might create greater social understanding, this exposure of black women even further to uncomprehending elements will further undermine the capacity for self-care that we are forced to painstakingly create. Without these safe spaces for self-care in a communal environment, an essential system of joy and support will be lost.

    Of further consideration is the evaporation of black wealth taking place with the loss of these African American owned businesses nationwide. We have reported here about the loss of black wealth that occurred during the sub-prime mortgage crisis, as African Americans en masse lost homes that represented the bulk of their financial security. Now it appears that one of the most enduring structures of the black business community, the black hair salon, is also falling victim to the crisis of black wealth destruction occurring.

    Between the loss of black salons as a safe cultural space for African American women, and the sad demise of black economic power these business losses represent, it's hard to determine which is worse. I am all for greater cultural understanding between the races, but not at this cost. Our economic and social independence is priceless.

     

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