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

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    The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences has announced its new Hall of Fame inductees, and a few beloved television figures will soon be honored at its 20th annual ceremony.

    Legendary actresses Diahann Carroll and Cloris Leachman are getting their due from the television world.

    The two women join other inductees, including broadcast journalist Peter Jennings; MTV founder Tom Freston; composer Earle Hagen; writer, producer and creator of 'The Golden Girls' Susan Harris; and the late game show producer Bill Todman, and will be toasted at a posh fete to be held on Jan. 20 at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

    With the 1968 series 'Julia,' Carroll became the first black woman to star in her own television show. In the 1980s, she went on to make a career comeback as Dominique Deveraux on the prime-time soap opera 'Dynasty.' In recent years, the Tony Award-winning actress was a recurring character on 'Grey's Anatomy,' and at 75 years old, she is still appearing on the small screen. Currently, she guest stars in the USA series 'White Collar' as June, an elderly widow.

    Leachman of 'Mary Tyler Moore' fame has won more Primetime Emmy Awards than any other female performer - with eight wins to her name. She also has one Daytime Emmy. The Academy Award-winner was a contestant on 'Dancing With the Stars' in 2008 at the age of 82. For years, she had a recurring role as Lois' mother on 'Malcolm in the Middle,' and now she stars on the Fox comedy 'Raising Hope.'

    Chairman and CEO of the Television Academy, John Shafner, says each of the inductees have significantly contributed to television in vast ways.

    "This year's group of Hall of Fame inductees continues to exemplify and define the accomplishments that we recognize with this honor. Each one of them has contributed enormously to the art of television, and we are proud to induct them into the Television Academy Hall of Fame."

    "We congratulate them on this occasion and thank them for brightening our television universe with passion and talent," he added.

    This year's inductees join past award recipients, including Bill Cosby, Oprah Winfrey, Lucille Ball, Walt Disney, Barbara Walters, Dan Rather, Lorne Michaels, Katie Couric, Bob Barker, Bea Arthur, Regis Philbin and William Shatner.



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    'No Negroes Allowed' Sign Marks Future Wisconsin Business, Mark Prior

    A publicity-seeking businessman in Wisconsin, who has a problem with black people, believes he has the right to serve and not serve whomever he wants.

    So Mark Prior, who is planning to open a gentlemen's club in Abbotsford, Wis., has posted a "No Negroes Allowed" sign outside the site of his future store.

    How many ways is Prior an idiot? Let me count the ways.

    First of all, Prior doesn't even own an operating business on the site. At this point, it's just a vacant office building. That more than anything else shows Prior's true intention: to simply get a little publicity for his pointy-headed view on race.




    Now back in the good ol' pre-Internet days before 24-hour news stations existed, Prior's little publicity stunt would affect only the few hundred people in his community. There might be a little protest, the local NAACP or ACLU might get involved, and that would be it.

    But that was then. Now means that Prior will get coverage across news platforms on the Internet that will live on forever. For the rest of time, as we know it, news stories of Prior's sign will live on thanks to the Internet.

    From there, Prior will likely draw the attention of a FOX or CNN reporter who will do a story and bring some national attention to tiny Abbotsford, Wisconsin, and its most infamous citizen.

    Either way, civil rights law is pretty clear on Prior's gesture:

    If he opens his business to the public, he will be breaking the Civil Rights Act of 1964. If he decides to make his club a private establishment, he might be able to discriminate. But with all the publicity that he has garnered, good luck trying to open that business and keep black people from entering.

    I can only hope that this is the last time we ever hear of Mark Prior and his little racist sign.


     

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    Haiti Elections Could Unlock Billions from Donors


    The United States and other nations who have promised to send earthquake-ravaged Haiti billions of dollars in reconstruction aid funding have been put in a difficult situation by the terrible political situation on the island-nation.

    The overwhelming majority of donor nations want to get the cash into the hands of the one million people displaced from their homes to help alleviate the suffering. But getting the funding into the people's hands means it has to pass through the government's hands. And therein lies the problem.

    For decades, Haiti has had the reputation as one of the most corrupt governments in the world. The administration of outgoing president Rene Preval was no exception.

    The prevailing thought from world capitals was that sending billions of dollars in aid would likely mean that only millions would get to the people. The rest would stick to the hands of greedy politicians and end up in foreign bank accounts.

    Of more than $2 billion in aid pledged, just $900 million has been distributed as of late November. And the U.S. hasn't sent any of the $1.15 billion it promised to Haiti.

    With national elections about to conclude, maybe the international money will begin to flow.

    The elections which began two weeks ago were marked by charges of corruption and balloting improprieties. But a runoff election between the top two primary finishers is scheduled for Jan. 16 and that might signal a new day for Haiti in which donor nations feel their money will be spent properly.

    One thing is certain. If the new president can't win the confidence of international governments, the suffering of everyday Haitians will only get worse.




     

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    Every year for the past 15 years, Stevie Wonder has held his annual House Full of Toys benefit concert, where the likes of Alicia Keys and The Jonas Brothers have joined the legendary singer-songwriter on stage in an effort to encourage concertgoers to bring presents for needy children who otherwise would receive no holiday gifts.

    This month, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority becomes the first national Greek organization to partner with the 'Superstition' crooner. The sorority's International president Sheryl P. Underwood is looking forward to it.

    "This is a wonderful opportunity for us all to unite around the spirit of giving and bring joy to the hearts of some deserving children," the comedienne said.

    Underwood, a former BET 'Comic View' host who appears regularly on 'The Tom Joyner Morning Show,' became the sorority's president in 2008 at the 23rd annual biennial business meeting in Las Vegas. Her election made her the first professional entertainer to hold the highest elected office of any National Pan-Hellenic Council Organization.

    Underwood, a lifetime member, joined Zeta Phi Beta in 1990 and chartered a graduate chapter in Inglewood, California.

    All 850 chapters of Zeta Phi Beta have signed on to collect toys.

    Wonder's very own Inglewood-based radio station KJHL, a longtime partner in the annual event, will facilitate the collection and distribute the toys throughout California.

    Supporters of Stevie Wonder's House Full of Toys who are unable to attend the concert may send toys through Dec.17 to the radio station at 161 North La Brea Ave., Inglewood, CA 90301.

    Stevie Wonder's House of Toys Benefit Concert, will be held Dec.18 at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles



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    In case you didn't know, it's rude to use your cell phone at the movies, at a play and over a meal. And while we're at it, uhm, thank you for not texting during the family dinner.

    This sage and obvious advice is available in 'Is it Just Me? Or is it Nuts Out There,' a new book by Whoopi Goldberg, the Academy Award-winning actress and co-host of 'The View.'

    Goldberg packs a wallop of observations in this hilarious and concise must-read, which also talks about how politics has turned nasty, how complaining should be outlawed if you're not going to do anything to change the problem and how coworkers should think twice about flashing their fashion-police badge.

    "What makes somebody get up in morning and think they can criticize what clothes you put on that day?'' Goldberg writes. "I mean, really. Why do casual coworkers think you and I are fair game for their fashion assessment? 'Hey, second time I've seen those pants this week.' 'That sweater has an interesting texture. What is it, ShamWow?' 'Helen, is that blouse a little young for you?' What?''

    Goldberg goes on to say that such comments create a false sense of intimacy in the workplace. She asks whether you're really close enough to someone to know that your comments aren't hurting their feelings.

    But she offers no advice on what to do when a guest on your talk show ticks you off so much that you walk off your own show. Well, maybe that's because the book already was published when some of the women from 'The View' walked out on Bill O'Reilly, a Fox News talk show host.

    But she offers plenty of other advice and observations:

    1. Politics Has Gotten Nasty: It feels like politics today is not about what's best for the people. Politics today seems to be about what's best for people. Politics today seems to be about my side shoulda won, and we're going to do everything we can do to make you look bad. And, wow, do they ever.

    2. Then Maybe You Should Stop Complaining: If someone's behavior is driving you crazy, here's the thing. Recognize that you have options. Here they are. Ready? You can ignore it, you can bitch about it or you can make an attempt to fix it. It all depends on how badly you want to change the situation.

    3. Places Not to Use a Cell Phone:
    Unless you are a doctor, turn the cell phone off when you are: on a train; driving, unless hands-free; in church; at parents' night in your kid's classroom; in the elevator; in a meeting at work; during a family dinner; at the cash register while someone waits on you; on a hotel or apartment balcony, and during sex, unless it's phone sex.

    'Is It Just Me? Or is it Nuts out There?' is a worthy read chock-full of pointers on how to navigate today's society where "please'' and "thank you'' are like ancient relics.

    Goldberg has won a Tony, an Emmy, an Oscar, and a Grammy. After appearing in scores of films, she is now the moderator and co-host of 'The View.' She lives in New York.

     

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    Ex-K.C. and the Sunshine Band Member Gets 7 Years in Sex Case, Richard Finch


    Former member of the '70s music group KC and the Sunshine Band (pictured below) member Richard Finch (pictured) was sentenced to seven years in prison in an Ohio courtroom Monday for sex charges involving teen boys.

    Finch, who is a bassist and producer, broke down and showed remorse for the criminal acts that he was found guilty of committing. The 56-year-old not only apologized to the judge but also faced the youths, whom he had sexually abused, and told them that he had little memory of the acts because he had been under the influence of alcohol.According to the Associated Press, Finch admitted that he takes "responsibility 100 percent," for what he has done. He also stated that he regrets the way his musical legacy will be tarnished by "stupidity while under the influence of alcohol. I will be remembered for this unfortunate moment. It is my own fault and I will work hard to regain trust and respect from those I let down, including myself." Reportedly, Finch has also written apology letters to each of his victims.
    Ex-K.C. and the Sunshine Band Member Gets 7 Years in Sex Case, Richard Finch
    The multi-Grammy Award winner was arrested last March, when a young boy went to police and told them how he'd had sexual contact with Finch at his Newark, Ohio, home. Finch, who has been quoted as saying that he moved to Newark in order to concentrate on mentoring young musicians, lured his seven victims, ages 13 to 17, under the guise that he would musically coach them at his home-based recording studio.

    One 15-year-old child even revealed to investigators that Finch paid him $100 for sexual acts in a guitar closet at his home.

    According to police records, Finch would typically spout the following company line to his teen victims in order to maintain their silence:

    "The music industry is all about sex and drugs" and "if you tell your parents, they're going to ... freak out, they are older and they are not in the business."

    Ex-K.C. and the Sunshine Band Member Gets 7 Years in Sex Case, Richard Finch


    Finch joined KC and the Sunshine Band in 1974, then left in 1980. The band, started by Harry "KC" Casey in 1973, produced a slew of disco and funk hits, including "Get Down Tonight," "That's the Way (I Like It)" and "I'm Your Boogie Man."

    Casey has been vocal about Finch's distance from the group, which continues to tour:

    "While [Richard's] talent contributed to the early success of the KCSB sound, his involvement ended in 1980," Casey said earlier this year. "The serious allegations confronting Mr. Finch have nothing to do with me nor [the Band]."

    In addition to serving time, Finch will be classified as a sex offender and must register his address with authorities for the next 25 years.

     

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    A few months back, Aretha Franklin cancelled all of her concerts through May 2011 and was said to be recovering from a mystery illness.

    The National Enquirer is reporting that The Queen of Soul is suffering from pancreatic cancer - an incurable disease with a rate of survival is a low 5-10%.

    Several famous people have died of pancreatic cancer over the years, including Patrick Swayze, Joan Crawford, Michael Landon, as well as her friend and famed tenor Luciano Pavarotti, whom she paid tribute to at a 1998 Grammy MusiCares benefit.

    Shortly thereafter at the 1998 Grammy Awards, Franklin also stepped in and performed his signature "Nessun Dorma" in Pavarotti's place and at his request, when the opera star became too ill to perform

    Just last week (Dec.2), The Queen of Soul underwent an undisclosed medical procedure in her hometown of Detroit and sent out an update on her condition to fans through her current media representative, Tracy Jordan.

    "The surgery was highly successful. God is still in control. I had superb doctors and nurses whom were blessed by all the prayers of the city and the country. God bless you all for your prayers," Franklin said.

    A prayer vigil was also held for the 68 year-old 'Respect' singer headed by city councilwoman JoAnn Watson.

    Jordan was unable to offer comment regarding the National Enquirer report by deadline.





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    Bubba the Baby Man


    Five-year-old boxing phenom Bubba the Baby Man (pictured) recently completed 500 push-ups, beating his already established record of 400.

    The kindergartener, who is also an amateur boxer, completed the push-ups in a mere 15 minutes. Just in case there were naysayers who doubted the baby strongboy's ability, 2004 heavyweight Olympian boxer Jason "Big 6″ Estrada trains right alongside the wonder child at his local gym.

    There are some who would rally around and glorify the feat of a small child getting in on the ground floor in order to one day become a champion in the sport.

    But I beg to differ. I think the sport of amateur boxing involving young children is a form of child abuse.

    While the excessive push-ups performed by "Bubba the Baby Man" has been lauded by viewers of YouTube everywhere, Dr. Ari Brown, a renowned pediatrician, spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and co-author of the best-selling book series "Baby 411," "Toddler 411" and (most recently) "Expecting 411" has this to say:

    "Like ultra-marathon runners, the concern is the risk of exercise-induced rhabdomyolysis where muscle injury and death leads to the release of the muscle components into the bloodstream. Some cases can be life-threatening because this can severely alter the body electrolyte balance and cause kidney failure.

    "I'd also be concerned about overuse injuries and stress fractures if he is doing weight training as a 5-year-old. There is a reason why little leaguers have a pitch count and cannot exceed a certain number of throws a week. Growing bodies cannot handle that stress to bones, joints, and muscles."

    As for boxing, the AAP opposes the sport of boxing for children, adolescents and young adults. As a matter of fact, the organization categorizes amateur boxing as a collision sport, because winning is based on the number and force of punches successfully landed on an opponent's head and/or body.

    This deliberately exposes young boxing participants to potentially devastating neurologic and eye injuries. Despite these potential dangers, thousands of boys and girls continue to participate in amateur boxing.

    Sure, anyone can argue that the sport of boxing teaches discipline and builds strength, agility and confidence, but at what cost? A major draw for countless inner-city youths, boxing is oftentimes a ticket out of the ghetto. Far too often, though, the thought of financial gain is placed on the front burner without regard for medical risks.

    Dr. Brown adds:

    "As more light is shed on head injury and concussions in the child athlete, I think there is real potential for life-long health consequences of having a boxing-related head injury at a young age."

    If I were the parents of "Bubba the Baby Man" I would consult with a pediatrician with regards to what types of exercise regimens a child of five can actually undergo safely. And if the doctor red lights the boxing plans, then so be it, afterall, what is more important than the life of your child.

    Watch Bubba the Baby Man do push-ups here:


     

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    President Obama
    Many people on the left see Obama's tax cut deal with the Republicans as the latest in a series of sellout moves by the White House that uselessly pander to the GOP. But the president is finding a surprising ally in a conservative publication, which usually questions his every economic move. Could The Wall Street Journal really be correct in its assertion that the Obama tax deal, which will save money for the rich and middle class while increasing taxes on the poorest, will stimulate the economy by next year? The paper states:

    The tax package heading to Congress could give a noticeable boost to the economy next year, economists said, giving the Obama administration a second, stealth stimulus package without antagonizing lawmakers reluctant to spend more to spur growth.

    Apart from extending Bush-era tax cuts, which were set to expire at year's end, the agreement includes other components pegged at about $200 billion, including a payroll-tax cut for workers and an extension of unemployment benefits, which are likely to boost growth in 2011. The total package could amount to $900 billion worth of spending and tax cuts over two years.

    Most economic forecasts had already assumed the Obama administration would win support for extending at least the middle-class portion of the Bush tax cuts. Without that, the economy would likely be closer to stalling instead of growing a projected 2.5% to 3.5% next year.

    "This gave us a chance to do what most people thought wasn't going to be possible in this environment, which is to provide a real forward lift to the economy relatively quickly," National Economic Council Director Lawrence Summers said.

    While economists expect the tax cuts to bolster growth, the extent of the impact depends on how much of the money consumers spend rather than save or use to pay down debt.



    Of course, The Wall Street Journal might be biased in its support of the bill as it does create tax savings for the wealthiest Americans. With a name like "The Wall Street Journal," the paper will want to create propaganda with an ulterior motive that enhances the goals of its readership. At the same time, the positive provisions that are outlined above do make the plan out to be slightly better for all than many in the media are describing it. While taxes will rise by literally a few dollars for the very poor, there is a chance that some of the other provisions will increase their economic prospects.

    Only time will tell, but I for one give kudos to The Wall Street Journal for trying to provide a balanced perspective that enhances the discussion. It makes one consider the possibility that Obama's tax deal is not a capitulation to the GOP, but rather a fair and balanced win-win proposal.

    Question:
    -Do you see the Obama tax cut deal as a capitulation to the GOP, or as balanced plan in which everyone wins?

     

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    How to File Unemployment Claim
    From Young Black Professional Guide:

    I am going to let you in on a little-known secret. When you are terminated from your job, whether it's your fault, or a lay-off from your company, the Human Resource department will almost always fight your unemployment claim. No matter the circumstances regarding your departure, your employer does not want you to get unemployment on their watch.

    Even though we all get unemployment insurance taken out of our paychecks when we work, companies must pay into a fund for unemployment insurance as well. And that fund goes up for each former employee that gets unemployment from the state. So it is in the employer's best interest to fight unemployment claims.

    Here are six tips to help you fight for your unemployment claim:

    Always Appeal

    When you receive a denial of unemployment letter, don't give up. Unless you left the position on your own, you probably have grounds to receive unemployment. Make sure you file the appeal following your state's guidelines in the letter you received. Always file within the deadline to make sure that you are able to properly appeal your claim. Taking too much time or not appealing by deadline will make your appeal null and void.


    Get Statements

    It is always a positive when you have statements or a letter on your behalf from other colleagues or coworkers who can back up your story of events. That may be tricky because your employer may discipline the person who has chosen to speak on your behalf, but the more witnesses you have, the better. A coworker can submit a letter for you anonymously as long as the person working on your case from the unemployment office can verify the statement made.

    Submit Facts & Create a Paper Trail


    If you have any correspondence from your employer, always submit that with your appeal. This includes termination letters, discipline warnings, etc. If you were given a 90 day probation to correct an issue and were fired before the 90 days was complete, this could be a solid reason for your claim to be granted.

    Be Diligent

    Continue to file your weekly unemployment paperwork via Internet, mail, or phone via your state's unemployment policy. Doing so will insure that if granted, you get all of the back employment that had been held since you lost your job, and will not cause any additional roadblocks to you getting your money once your claim is won.

    Reply on Time


    While appealing your unemployment claim, you may receive additional paperwork that has to be submitted. Make sure you complete this paperwork even after you have submitted your appeal letter.

    Read the rest on Young Black Professional Guide.

    Questions:
    -Have you ever had troubles collecting unemployment?

    -What steps did you have to take to ensure that your payments started?

    Leave your comments below!

     

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    Coming out this week is Julie Taymor's film adaptation of William Shakespeare's 'The Tempest,' which stars a bevy of talent such as Helen Mirren in the role of Prospera, David Strathairn as King Alonzo, Djimon Hounsou as Caliban, and Russell Brand as Trinculo.

    Also included in the film are Alfred Molina, Felicity Jones, Chris Cooper, and Alan Cumming.

    According to Shakespeare, Caliban (played by Hounsou) is forced into servitude on an island ruled by Prospero. While he is referred to as a calvaluna/mooncalf, a freckled monster, he is the only human inhabitant of the island that is otherwise "not honour'd with a human shape."


    Julie Taymor brings an original dynamic to the story by changing the gender of the sorcerer Prospero into the sorceress Prospera, portrayed by Helen Mirren. Prospera's journey spirals through vengeance to forgiveness as she reigns over a magical island, cares for her young daughter, Miranda, and unleashes her powers against shipwrecked enemies in this exciting, masterly mix of romance, tragicomedy and the supernatural.

    BlackVoices.com spoke with Hounsou as he spoke about doing a Shakespeare film and being away from his family, including his nearly 2 year-old son Kenzo with Kimora Lee Simmons, former president and Creative Director for Phat Fashions.

    How exciting and hard was it to do a Shakespeare film?

    Djimon Hounsou: Well, you can imagine. I guess that people who are born with the English language being their first have a difficult time with it. So you can imagine me after five languages, this is like a foreign language all together. It was fun and definitely challenging and it was very difficult to get around words and then you also had to worry about the makeup, the four or five hours of makeup on a daily basis. That was a lot, too.

    How much did you know about the play and then the character your playing, Caliban?

    DH: Well, I knew very little about it before I engaged myself. All I know is that my manager sort of called one day and said, 'Julie Taymor would like to talk to you about this project called 'The Tempest.' So my immediate reaction was, "No. I think not," because I had auditioned for her before, previously, for 'Titus' and that was such a headache that I didn't want to repeat it again. So, this time was much better in my understanding and I left myself alone and really intrigued by the material.

    Can you talk to me about working with Julie Taymor and Helen Mirren?

    DH: It was a great experience working with Julie Taymor. Your experience is also somewhat defined by the people that you're working with, the other cast members. So that really helps you see a director and where they're coming from, what your director is trying to accomplish. So the collaboration was beautiful. Nevertheless it left me a little intimidated in the sense that in going to the first rehearsal I heard that Helen Mirren had done the part before and that sort of stressed me a little bit, but was a beautiful collaboration.

    Your character is supposed to be like a monster in the play, so did you have any say in terms of the makeup?

    DH: Of course. When you spend four and a half hours standing, doing the makeup, by the time that you come out you're ready to take somebody's head off. The experience of going through such an arduous makeup session, I guess it adds to the role I was playing and it really adds to the personality of Caliban in a story.

    You've been traveling lately. You shot this film in Hawaii. You also just got back from Afghanistan from shooting your next film 'Special Forces' and filmed 'Elephant White' at another location. Is that harder to travel when you know your family is back home?

    DH: Yeah, it is. That's the only hard part about making movies. I wish some of those movies to allow my family to come on some of those locations so that I wouldn't be so lonely and so left out and so, you know, away from my family. So that part of it makes me think twice. Before I take another film I have to find out the location and find out the money and all of that has to come together because it's really tough.

    How are you planning on spending your holidays?

    DH: I'm going to spend holidays with the family because I've missed them so much. I've been gone a long time and I miss my kids. So the goal is to enjoy my family before they tell me, 'Oh, every time we see you with a script we know you're ready to go again.' That doesn't feel too good, when your kids start to tell you that.

    Your son is almost two years old. Do you have any good gift ideas?

    DH: Oh, you know it. He's a boy. There are so many toys to talk about, to play with. The cars. We'll see.

    Do you think at some point you'll ever do a family film?

    DH: Yeah, that would be lovely. If I could stay in town and do a family film, that would be great. Shit. I'm dreaming for that.

     

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    Michael Jackson
    The sad death of Elizabeth Edwards calls to mind the tragic passing of other luminaries in a way that only the death of another tremendously influential person can do. As a woman who died leaving behind dependent children, her passing also gives us reasons to think about our own estate planning in the case of our untimely death. As sad as such a situation may be to think about in depth, it critically important to be prepared for the grim event. The alternative is to leave behind heirs or organizations that could be placed in dire circumstances if one's financial wishes after death are not clearly outlined.

    Elizabeth Edwards was known for being a wealthy woman, but a wealthy woman with a heart dedicated to helping those who were less fortunate. We can safely assume that Elizabeth Edwards certainly had her affairs in order, as the difficult struggle she endured with cancer gave her time to do proper estate planning. But you would surprised at the rich and famous people in history who did not properly plan for their untimely death. We can learn financial lessons from the famous people who did not engage in this task that is critical for all, as death is inevitable.

    Business Insider put together a list of stars who did not engage in proper estate planning, describing what they did in error. This list includes:

    1. Jimi Hendrix
    2. Justice Warren Burger
    3. Heath Ledger
    4. Princess Diana
    5. Florence Griffith-Joyner (Flo Jo)
    6. Michael Jackson
    7. Marlon Brando
    8. Sonny Bono
    9. John Houston (Whitney Houston's father)
    10. Famed Tobacco Heiress Doris Duke


    Please read the full story in detail on Business Insider.

    The main lesson here is that no matter who you are, or how much or how little money you have, it is important to make sure your affairs are in order in case you die prematurely. In the wake of your death, you can at least spare loved ones the difficulties of wrangling over money details as they deal with the grief of loss. This is another way of loving your loved ones, even after you leave the earth.

    Question:
    -Have you done your estate planning?

     

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    Divorce is Latest Investment VehicleNearly 10 years into my (very happy) marriage, I know very little about divorce attorneys, and hope I never find out more. But even I know that in addition to being emotionally taxing, the process of getting divorced itself can be very expensive.

    Forbes.com says the average cost of a divorce in the United States ranges from $15,000 to $30,000. Most of this goes directly to divorce attorneys, who make fortunes off other peoples' misery. And unlike many legal proceedings and lawsuits, divorce attorneys demand their money whether you win or you lose. In short, a man could get raked over the proverbial coals in court and still have a staggering bill awaiting him, just to add insult to injury -- unlike other types of law suits in which lawyers only get paid if you win. It is, to say the least, cheaper to keep her.

    Of course, with the economy in its current sad state, fewer and fewer unhappily married people are finding the funds necessary to get rid of each other. And lawyers' fees aside, the simple cost of living apart while you try to get rid of a spouse is also prohibitive. So what can one do if your husband's getting on your last nerves, but you're too broke to leave? A new, innovative form of divorce financing might help you roll out before you catch a case:

    Michelle Pont and her husband amassed millions of dollars in properties and investments from a freight-hauling business that they started with a single stake-bed truck in 1991. They bought a four-bedroom home, then a second home, a vacation home, a motor home and half a dozen cars.

    But when Ms. Pont decided to seek a divorce last year, she quickly ran out of money. She had no job. Her husband controlled the family's investments. A few months of legal bills maxed out her credit cards and drained her retirement account.

    She wrestled with accepting a smaller settlement than she considered fair. Then a lawyer referred her to Balance Point Divorce Funding, a new Beverly Hills lender that offers to cover the cost of breaking up - paying a lawyer, searching for hidden assets, maintaining a lifestyle - in exchange for a share of the winnings. In October, Balance Point agreed to invest more than $200,000 in Ms. Pont's case.


    With some in the financial world willing to bet on almost anything, it should be no surprise that a few would see the potential to profit from the often contentious and emotional process of ending a marriage.

    Lawsuit lenders initially focused on personal injury cases, but over time they have sought new frontiers, including securities fraud cases brought by disgruntled investors, whistle blower claims against corporations and property development disputes.

    Divorce cases may be a promising niche for lenders because costs can mount quickly - some top lawyers in Los Angeles charge more than $500 an hour - and because state laws uniformly require plaintiffs to pay lawyers upfront, rather than promising them a contingency fee, or a share of any winnings, as is common in other civil cases.

    The state laws were written to make people think twice before pursuing a divorce.


    In all fairness, the divorce cases mentioned in this article involve very wealthy couples, typically with several million dollars in marital assets. I doubt any firm is going to finance such a case if the guy (or lady) being sued works at Sizzler. This is, after all, about money. Eff' the institution of marriage, or good taste for that matter. Still, it's a pretty sad sign of the times when you can actually get a loan to help end your marriage. But from the standpoint of a financial investment, it does certainly appear to be one of the safer investment vehicles out there.

    Questions:
    -Do you think it's ethical for companies to fund investments in return for a share of the "profit" -- in this case a divorce settlement?
    -Should the laws be changed so that lawyers are able to take a percentage of the "winnings" in divorce proceedings, as they are in other types of legal disputes?

    Leave your questions below!

     

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    She may not have taken the top prize on 'American Idol', but Jennifer Hudson has won us over with her fashionable transformation. After becoming a spokesperson for Weight Watchers, the 'Dreamgirls' star dropped five dress sizes and has been stepping out with a mature new look, like this luxe Lanvin wrap dress. She kept warm in opaque black tights, added sexy round toe pumps and made her lips pop with a raisin colored lipstick. She rounded out the look with a silver bangle and sparkly ring.

    Academy Award winning actress Cate Blanchett also fell for the flattering dress, which she wore while on the red carpet in September. Always refined, Cate opted for a chic look with simple black heels, a chunky gold bracelet and soft, pulled back hair. Both actresses looked ravishing in red, but who wore Lanvin best? Let us know BV fashionistas!

     

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    President Obama Defends Tax Break & Unemployment Benefits Extensions

    President Barack Obama is defending his decision to compromise with congressional Republicans and agree to extend tax cuts for the wealthy in exchange for an extension of unemployment benefits.

    Obama put out a video message and said that he refuses to play politics with the lives of millions of unemployed Americans.

    "Because of this agreement, 2 million Americans who lost their jobs and are looking for work will be able to pay their rent and put food on their table. And in exchange for a temporary extension of the high-income tax breaks -- not a permanent but a temporary extension -- a policy that I opposed but that Republicans are unwilling to budge on, this agreement preserves additional tax cuts for the middle class that I fought for and that Republicans opposed two years ago," Obama said during a press conference.

    Among the benefits of the agreement, according to the White House, is that working families would not see their taxes rise about $3,000 as they would have without an agreement; a payroll tax relief will provide about $120 billion for families and the deficit will not be affected.

    "Now, I know there are some who would have preferred a protracted political fight, even if it had meant higher taxes for all Americans, even if it had meant an end to unemployment insurance for those who are desperately looking for work. And I understand the desire for a fight. I'm sympathetic to that," Obama said.

    The president's logic makes sense. He should be applauded for being willing to take the criticism that will come with his decision to compromise with Republicans, although Obama still has to convince his fellow Democrats to vote for the plan.

    However, Democrats seem to be consistently losing strategic battles even when they appear to have the advantage.


    Democrats must find a way to unite behind the issues. Instead of coming together on this issue at a time when they need to demonstrate unity, they are looking like a fractured party with liberal Democrats leading the way.

    I'm not sure why Democrats allowed the issue of whether to extend tax cuts for the wealthy to linger until an extension of unemployment benefits became a liability. And Democrats should have been out explaining to the public what the Republican position on tax cuts for the wealthy means to the majority of the people in this country.

    The same thing happened during the health care debate. Instead of the debate being about providing millions of Americans with health coverage, it became a debate about whether this country was headed toward socialism.

    "A long political fight that carried over into next year might have been good politics, but it would be a bad deal for the economy and it would be a bad deal for the American people. And my responsibility as President is to do what's right for the American people. That's a responsibility I intend to uphold as long as I am in this office," Obama said.


     

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    President Barack Obama is at a unique point in his presidency. This is a place where no one thought he'd be, but then again, no presidency ever turns out the way we would expect. The president is finding that in addition to the burden of dealing with unrelenting Republicans, many of whom can't stand seeing a black man in power, he now has to deal with Democrats who are angry at him for compromising on the latest tax agreement.

    I admit that I was shocked to see such strong Democratic opposition to Obama's tax deal with the Republicans. Effectively, the Republicans were holding the nation's unemployed hostage in exchange for having Bush tax cuts extended for the rich. This was a prime opportunity for the Democrats, given that the Republicans were revealing themselves to be working on behalf of the wealthy, at the expense of middle class Americans. Additionally, their push to give tax cuts to those who needed them the least was in stark contrast to their proclaimed objective of embracing fiscal discipline as it pertains to the federal debt.

    Obama made a deal with the Republicans that seems pretty good on the surface. Among other things, Obama agreed to extend the Bush tax cuts for another two years for all Americans, including those earning more than $250,000 per year. In exchange, Obama gets a one-year extension on unemployment insurance for those who've been out of work for at least 26 weeks, but less than 99 weeks. Republicans also get, among other things, an estate tax of 35 percent for estates worth $5 million or more, while Democrats wanted 45 percent.

    Many leading Democrats are angry at President Obama for making this agreement.

    "Everything President Obama has done has signaled weakness and has sent a signal to Republicans that if they block tax cuts long enough, at the end of the day he will pass whatever comes across his desk. That is not how you negotiate," said Adam Green of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.

    Green may have a point. Some Democrats argue that had Obama pushed harder when negotiating with Republicans, he could have allowed them to appear to be the party fighting for the rich, which could yield benefits in the 2012 elections. But the White House had to balance these benefits with the gains that could be made by showing that they worked across the aisle to avoid tax hikes that would likely slow down the economy. There is the added benefit that by making this deal, Obama helped to secure the financial future of millions of out of work Americans right before Christmas.

    The great challenge for President Obama is that he is perceived by neither Democrats nor Republicans to be a strong leader or effective negotiator. Unlike solid negotiating presidents of the past, like Ronald Reagan, Obama has lost some of the trust initially invested in him by his liberal base. Additionally, while Reagan struck quite a few deals during his presidency, he also took opportunities to show strength and stand toe-to-toe with his enemies. Obama has yet to do much of anything other than bend like a rubber band.

    A greater problem for Obama is that while he seems to understand that compromise is the way to get things done in polarized Washington, he's not getting credit from Republicans for his willingness to work with them. The Republican Party is insistent upon seeing Obama out of office, the racists in their party don't want a black president, and they are spreading some of the most vicious and irresponsible lies imaginable in the kind of political lynch mob that we haven't seen since Reconstruction. Liberals, on the other hand, are irritated that Obama has not been as idealistic as they are. All the while, many of them don't have the first bit of understanding of what it takes to actually get results on Capitol Hill. When you try to please everyone, you usually end up in no-man's land. That's where President Obama lives right now.

    While Obama needs to show that compromise doesn't imply weakness, we must choose our battles carefully. Becoming engaged in political chest thumping with unemployment insurance on the line would be both politically irresponsible and devoid of human compassion. Leaving families hungry in exchange for a political victory would only serve to remind us of just how far apart our leaders in Washington are from the rest of America. One thing that does hold true for the president is that he needs to find an opportunity in 2012 to draw his line in the sand and show the world that he's not a punk. No one wants to support a weak leader.

    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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    The rumors have been around for years. She even made light about them recently. But Oprah Winfrey has once again stated flatly: "I'm not a lesbian."

    "I'm not even kind of a lesbian," the talk-show queen, 56, tells Barbara Walters in an upcoming interview on ABC. "And the reason why [the rumor] irritates me is because it means that somebody must think I'm lying. That's number one. Number two ... why would you want to hide it? That is not the way I run my life."

    The rumors have focused on Winfrey's friend Gayle King. But Winfrey says that relationship is extremely close in a whole different way.

    "She is ... the mother I never had. She is ... the sister everybody would want. She is the friend that everybody deserves. I don't know a better person. I don't know a better person," Winfrey says while choking up.

    "It's making me cry because I'm thinking about ... how much ... I probably have never told her that. Tissue, please. I now need tissue. I've never told her that."

    The occasion for the interview, airing Thursday at 9 p.m. ET on ABC, is the end of Winfrey's syndicated show next May and the beginning of her new cable network - OWN, The Oprah Winfrey Network.

    Source: People



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

     

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    The jury didn't deliberate for more than half an hour, but in that time, a 15-year old boy was convicted in the beating death of 16-year old honor student Derrion Albert. The boy was convicted of first-degree murder when it was determined that he laid a punch to the face of Albert as he tried to stand up. The jury decided that the punch played a significant role in Albert's death.

    "I am pleased. Justice was served," Norman Golliday, Albert's grandfather told the Associated Press. "The facts were there from the start, they stared you right in the face. The jury saw that."

    The teen's lawyer, Richard Kloak, admitted that his client punched Albert, but said that the crime was not as serious as the conviction.

    "I wish the jury had been given a third option. They had to decide two choices, guilty or not guilty," he said. "I thought if I could give them a lesser crime that was proportionate to what he had done, it would be more palatable, but I didn't get to do that."

    After the boy is sentenced on January 18, he may end up spending the rest of his adolescence in prison. The greater challenge for him is that if he violates the terms of his sentence, he could get another 20 - 60 years behind bars.

    The beating of Derrion Albert was caught on video and shared around the world. A mob of teens in Chicago chose to attack Albert, kicking and punching him, and hitting him in the head with a board. President Barack Obama sent Attorney General Eric Holder and Education Secretary Arne Duncan to Chicago in response to the incident.

    Five teens have been charged in the murder, and the other four are being tried as adults. The next trial is set to occur on January 7. Important testimony in the trial came from a pathologist who said that the punch contributed to Albert's death. The boy reportedly hit Albert so hard that he couldn't even use his hands to break his fall.

    Roughly two dozen students left Fenger High School after the Chicago Public School system gave them the option to transfer. Police have also created a database that tracks violent incidents in the school system. The school system has also pursued initiatives related to student safety, as well as conflict resolution.

    I become saddened every time I am asked to write about the death of Derrion Albert. I am not only sad for Derrion and his family, I am also sad for the boys on trial. Nearly every boy, at some point during his teenage life, gets into a fight. The idea that this child could get 20 - 60 years in prison for throwing a punch is certainly problematic. I can't imagine serving that much time in prison for a punch I might have thrown at the age of 15. The criminal justice system, as it pertains to African American males, is in serious need of significant repair.

    With that said, there is obviously the greater tragedy that a young boy is dead. Stronger adult intervention could have protected this young man from the bullying he might have faced at school. Additionally, high teen unemployment rates, in conjunction with very few after school activities, served as significant contributors to Derrion Albert's death. So, by not providing healthy outlets for these boys to express the anger within their souls, we all played a role in killing Derrion Albert. This case represents one of a million tragedies in the experience of black males in America.

    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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    Dreamworks Pictures released the teaser trailer to 'Transformers: Dark of the Moon,' the third installment of the 'Transformers' franchise.

    Directed by Michael Bay, the film stars Shia LaBeouf, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, Kevin Dunn, Julie White, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, Ken Jeong, Patrick Dempsey, Alan Tudyk, John Turturro, and introducing Rosie Huntington-Whiteley.

    Opening in 3D, 2D and IMAX theaters on July 1, 'Transformers: Dark of the Moon' features Sam Witwicky (LaBeouf) taking his first tenuous steps into adulthood while remaining a reluctant human ally of Optimus Prime. The film centers around the space race between the U.S.S.R. and the USA, suggesting there was a hidden Transformers role in it all that remains one of the planet's most dangerous secrets.

     

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    I was on the phone the other day with a friend of mine who is far more well-known than I'll ever be. We talk about nearly everything under the sun and I find that our friendship bears a great deal of intellectual fruit. One of the interesting things about my friend is that she has a famous body, known specifically for having the kinds of curves that only a black woman can possess. I asked her if all the attention ever bothered her, and she said "No. What bothers me is that I can't find any clothes that fit!"

    This conversation re-opened my eyes to the struggles that women of color have when it comes to finding clothes that work with the beautiful look God gave them. I then decided to do a Dr. Boyce AOL Black Voices Profile on Monif C. Clarke, one of the brilliant minds behind Monif C. Plus Sizes, a company that specializes in selling contemporary plus size clothing. Here is what she had to say:

    What is your name and what do you do?

    My name is Monif Clarke, and I am the co-founder and CEO of Monif C. Plus Sizes. I founded the company in 2005 with my mother Elaine Clarke who passed away in 2009.

    What inspired you to pursue the business that you run today?
    I started this business out of my own frustration with not being able to find sexy, sophisticated fashion forward clothing for plus size women like myself. I knew that if I was having difficulty finding beautiful clothing, there had to be many other women like me with the same problem, so I decided to design my own collection.

    What have been some of your ups and downs as a business woman?
    Some of the challenges I've come across as a business woman are just having to blaze my own trail in the fashion industry. There was no blueprint for to how to run a successful clothing line that caters to the plus size fashionista. If I created a line that was the usual drab work wear or casual clothing that is prevalent in the stores for larger sized women, it would probably have been easier, but what we are doing is not just about clothing but also about a lifestyle that is connected to a confident sexy full-figured woman. It has been difficult to sell that image and lifestyle to major retailers and have them buy into it. The great thing though is that our customers have found us through us being featured in many different media outlets and are extremely loyal to our brand. We've built quite a large business strictly through online retailing, a few specialty boutiques and our stand alone boutique in NYC.


    What challenges do plus size women have when it comes to finding clothes that fit?
    Fit and style are actually becoming less of an issue for plus size consumers. There are more and more designers such as myself that cater specifically to this customer. The challenge this customer does has is access. Many women want to go into a store and touch and feel and try on clothing but yet many of the more fashion forward clothing companies like Monif C. are primarily sold online which is one of the reasons I opened the NYC boutique. I wanted my customers to be able to enjoy a personal hands-on shopping experience with myself and my staff.

    Do you have any advice for plus size women out there who are inspired by your success?
    My success really is attributed to my faith and taking every opportunity that comes my way even when I didn't know what the outcome would be. I believe it is really important to use our lives for a purpose and I encourage women to seek out what their passion is, go for it, and trust that what you are doing will not only benefit you, but will also be beneficial for women everywhere. Being brave is where it starts.

    What are your plans for the future?
    My future plans are to continue to grow Monif C. into a household brand, secure strategic partnerships with the larger retailers and design capsule collections to be sold in their stores. I want to set a new industry standard and be an inspiration to young girls that look like me.

    Is there anything else you'd like to share with our AOL Black Voices audience?
    Thank you so much for interviewing me. We'd love for the Black Voices audience to come shop with us at www.monifc.com, in our New York City boutique located at 325 West 38th St., Suite 207, New York, NY 10018, or call 212.842.1641 to order.

    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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