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Sat04192014

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Why Frederick Douglass would support ‘selfies’

selfie 600It's no surprise that 2013 was the year of the selfie, with everyone from Kim Kardashian to President Obama making headlines for taking self portraits on their smart phones.

While pictures featuring shirtless septuagenarian Geraldo Rivera might serve as cautionary tale about taking selfies too freely, the practice marks a huge shift in our relationship with the photograph.

Pictures have been around for over 180 years, but the ability of everyday people to take pictures of themselves with the phones that they carry with them all the time has transformed the process. This is a tremendous change. Just two decades ago, none of this selfie-making was really possible.

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The 2014 Black Agenda: 5 things to focus on

5rules 600As we enter into a new year, the black community should remain focused on five key areas that are vital to the promotion of racial justice and economic equality in 2014.

Reducing violence in black communities nationwide

Chicago's violence-plagued communities have received the most national attention, in part because of President Barack Obama's ties to the Windy City, but also due to its prolific number of murders. The latest victim was a 17-year-old pregnant teenager who died of a gunshot wound to the head. The miracle of this tragedy is that her baby survived. Local activists have done heroic work to stave off increased gun violence, efforts that have drawn the participation of national civil rights leaders such as Al Sharpton. Unfortunately, this has not been enough to stanch the bleeding. Obama must prioritize the issue of violence in Chicago and other predominately black, brown and poor communities, as the national crisis that it is.

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Americans’ views on human evolution

evo 600WASHINGTON – (PRNewswire-USNewswire) – Six-in-ten Americans say "humans and other living things have evolved over time," while a third (33 percent) reject the idea of evolution, saying "humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time," according to a new Pew Research Center analysis.

The share of the general public saying that humans have evolved over time is about the same as in 2009, when Pew Research last asked the question.

About half of those who express a belief in human evolution take the view that evolution is "due to natural processes such as natural selection" (32 percent of the American public overall). But many Americans believe God or a supreme being played a role in the process of evolution. Roughly a quarter of adults (24 percent) say "a supreme being guided the evolution of living things for the purpose of creating humans and other life in the form it exists today."

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Melissa Harris-Perry apologizes to the Romneys

mhj 600MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry has apologized to the Romney clan on Twitter for off-color comments she and a panel of comedians made about a family photo in which Kieran Romney, Mitt Romney's adopted black grandchild, is front and center.

On Sunday, Perry hosted a gang of funny men and women for her year-end "A Look Back in Laughter" episode. MHP introduced the Romney family portrait as one of the "photos of the year," and the jokes promptly followed.

Panelist Pia Glenn remixed the lyrics to a popular "Sesame Street: tune and sang, "One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just isn't the same." MHP followed up with her hope that in 2040, Kieren would marry Kanye West and Kim Kardashian's daughter, North West.

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Winners and losers of 2013

raynarrd 600Well, it's that time of year once again for me to pick my biggest winners and losers for 2013. Unlike most of the year-end lists, mine will not be based on polling data, or popularity. Rather, it's from the lens of a businessman. Based on the contribution of time, money, or intangible capital, did the person or group receive an appropriate rate of return on their investment?

I will begin with the three biggest losers and work down from there. By far, the biggest loser of the year and of the Obama presidency was and is the African-American community.

How can a group give a president 96 percent and 94 percent of their vote to him and have little, if anything to show for it. If the white unemployment rate was the same as the African-American unemployment rate, it would be declared a national crisis. No sitting president, regardless of party, would have won reelection with that dynamic at play.

 

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Preserving Nelson Mandela’s legacy

manstatue 600PRETORIA, South Africa – Nearly a month after his death, there is a bitter struggle to define – and, in many instances, re-define – the legacy of Nelson Mandela, South Africa's first democratically elected president.

"There is an attempt to do in his death what they could not do in life – take away his story," Jesse Jackson said in a speech at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg. "... He did not go to jail as some out-of-control youth who needed to be matured. He went in as a freedom fighter and came out as a freedom fighter."

The effort to soften the image of Mandela as a freedom fighter began long before his death.

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White House prepares for Michelle Obama’s Big 5-0!

mo 600(NewsOne) – First Lady Michelle Obama is turning the Fabulous Fifty and the White House is pulling out all of the stops, reports Politico.com.

Obama reaches the birthday milestone on Jan. 17 and the White House is throwing a dance party themed "Snacks & Sips & Dancing & Dessert," according to a Chicago Tribune report.

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A war on broke people erupted in 2013

poorpeople 600America has always been a tough country if you're starting from zero. Sure, we praise and salute rags-to-riches stories because they make us feel better about the gross inequities in our society, but the reality is much bleaker. Systemic poverty is real. One job loss or serious health scare can take you from being solidly middle class to couch-surfing destitute.

Maybe, if you're lucky, you can move into your mother's basement, if your mother didn't lose her basement and the house it was attached to during the housing crisis of 2008.

You'd think that the myriad of job and financial crises would have forced our government – namely our Congress – to band together to get America "back to work" or whatever slogan they're using these days, but you'd be wrong. In fact, you could argue the opposite happened.

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Removing the punch bowl too fast

FEDS 600Last week the Federal Reserve's Federal Open Market Committee announced it will ease back on its "pedal to the metal" monetary easing policy. The Fed will remain in an expansionary mode, just slower.

To an optimist, this is a sign from an independent authority that the economy is stabilized and on a sustained path forward. Unemployment rates are falling, job creation over the last few months is averaging more than 200,000 net new jobs a month, the Gross Domestic Product (the value of all goods and services made in America in a year) rose 4.1 percent last quarter, led by investment, and housing starts increased to a five-year high in November. Those are good signs. President Obama could take a bow. Republicans, who have conceded nothing to the president on economic policy, would be left with more whining. But it may be too early to remove the punch bowl.

The Fed believes the good signs in the economy prove its policy is moving the economy forward. It is obviously true that with Congress locking the president into endless debates on shrinking the government and slowing the economy that the Fed is the only economic policymaker trying to expand the economy. Clearly, if the Fed did not take action, things would be worse. But that is different than whether the policy actually is moving the economy. Here the story is more difficult.

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The biggest stories of 2013 in Black America

zimmerman 600Although the economy showed improvement, the setbacks of Obamacare and the government shutdown overshadowed the post-2012 election euphoria.

There were some promising developments in pop culture, with African Americans making great strides in film and music.

We also recognized some important milestones: the anniversaries of 'I Have a Dream' and the death of Medgar Evers.

 

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White teacher to black student: ‘We don’t need another black president’

obamachin 600A white Cincinnati-area teacher has been suspended for allegedly telling an African-American student that "we do not need another black president" after the student said he would like to become president, the Cincinnati Inquirer reports.

The Fairfield Board of Education suspended Fairfield Freshman School science teacher Gil Voigt after he allegedly made the comments with several students present earlier this month, according to a report from Assistant Superintendent Roger Martin, who conducted a disciplinary hearing on the matter, the Inquirer reports.

Voigt, who has been teaching at the school since 2000, has 10 days to request a hearing before the school board, but this isn't the first time he has been disciplined.

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’Tis the season for African-American nonprofits to suffer

aa 600For Thembi Duncan, it seemed like the kind of opportunity best described as golden.

A popular Washington, D.C., radio talk show wanted Duncan – the new producing artistic director of the African Continuum Theatre Company – for an interview on the air. As recently as 2011, the African Continuum, once billed as D.C.'s only professional black theater company, had a six-figure production budget. Then, leadership changes and a general malaise around donations hit. Production stopped. Now, Duncan is working to rebuild, and the radio show was needed visibility at a critical time of year for giving.

But some of the radio callers offered biting commentary. The African Continuum might break even, perhaps even turn a "profit," if it would move away from snooty plays written by long-dead African-American literary giants. Put a Tyler Perry play on the stage, a caller said. And a good show about a woman wronged or a man scorned and then saved by the blood of Jesus always sells tickets, several callers suggested.

 

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Remains of African-American soldier in Korean War returned

soldier 600NEW YORK – Clara Gantt, 94, has waited more than 60 years for her husband to come home from Korea, and last Friday his remains were returned in a flag-draped casket to the Los Angeles International Airport.

Her husband, Sgt. First Class Joseph E. Gantt, was a field medic with the 2nD Infantry Division when he was reported missing in action on Nov. 30, 1950 after his unit was overwhelmed by Chinese forces near the town of Kunu-ri, North Korea.

"He told me if anything happened to him he wanted me to remarry," Gantt told reporters at the airport. "I told him no, no. Here I am, still his wife." She said just receiving his remains was a blessing. "I am so happy that I'm living to accept them," she said.

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