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The power of ‘Prison Stories’

The power of ‘Prison Stories’

Four years ago a theater actress and storyteller was allowed into the women's prison, the Shelby County Detention Center. She began teaching inmates how to write the true stories of their lives up to the point they were incarcerated. The women bonded with their visitor as if she were the first person who truly had listened to them, which in many cases she was.

Viewers will journey through this outreach program, called "Prison Stories," with a special half-hour documentary airing on WKNO/Channel 10 on Thursday, May 15 at 9 p.m. "Inside Story," produced by local award-winning filmmaker Craig Leake, follows storyteller, writer, and actor Elaine Blanchard and her twelve students through the sixteen-week course. It was funded, in part, by the Department of Communication at the University of Memphis.

Although she is an ordained minister, Blanchard doesn't lecture her captive audience about Jesus. Most of her inmates/students already have been exposed to prison ministries. Some of the "Prison Stories" participants have been baptized as many as four times. Instead of praying over the women, Elaine listens to them and becomes a friend who helps them analyze their pasts and plan for their futures out of jail.

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Meet one of the GOP’s ‘rising stars’

Meet one of the GOP’s ‘rising stars’

This week, during its Annual Spring Meeting, the GOP is rolling out an impressive roster of young, fresh "rising stars," who will be entrusted with moving the party forward into a creative innovative future of minority inclusion and conciliation.

Perhaps the most impressive of these is an African-American teenager, Lee Jackson. He appears pretty much like a typical 19 year old. That is, until you begin talking with him. There is then espoused a wisdom far beyond his years.

The political science student at the University of Maine wanted to change some things in Old Town, Maine, where he lives. The predominantly Democratic area is where Jackson has lived most of his life. No Republican candidate had a prayer running for public office.

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College grad meets U.S. senator, big deal?

College grad meets U.S. senator, big deal?

PHILADELPHIA, PA. – U.S. Sen. Robert P. Casey (D-Pa.) visited Community College of Philadelphia on April 25th to accept the Judge Edward R. Becker Citizenship Award, which is named for a respected jurist noted for his humanity, humility and powerful decisions.

Casey used the occasion to discuss food insecurity, an issue that often remains hidden from public view. Just last year, U.S. Sens. Casey, Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) introduced the Good Samaritan Hunger Relief Tax Incentive Act, which would expand and create permanent tax incentives for businesses that donate to food banks.

At the award ceremony, Casey called food security, among children especially, an issue of justice. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) budget plan includes cuts in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program) of $137 billion – 18 percent – over the next ten years.

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Q&A: Nigeria kidnappings

Q&A: Nigeria kidnappings

Professor Michael Watts teaches geography at UC Berkeley and is the author of many books, including "Silent Violence: Food, Famine, and Peasantry in Northern Nigeria" and "Curse of the Black Gold: 50 Years of Oil in the Niger Delta." He spoke to NAM editor Andrew Lam about the recent kidnappings of more than 300 schoolgirls in Nigeria by the radical group known as Boko Haram, and the apparent inability of the Nigerian government to either prevent or respond to their crimes. At the time of this writing, 276 of the girls that were kidnapped three weeks ago remain in captivity while 53 have escaped. On Tuesday, Nigerian officials reported that the group had struck again, abducting 11 more schoolgirls in the country's northeast region.

Who are the Boko Haram and what should we know about them?

First of all, those individuals who are identified with Boko Haram do not refer to themselves as Boko Haram. Boko Haram, in the local Hausa language, means something along the line of, "Western education is forbidden." It's a term applied to them by residents in the communities in which the movement arose in the early 2000's, in the northeast of Nigeria. They refer to themselves differently, as Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati Wal-Jihad (People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet's Teachings and Jihad). I'm raising all of this because I think it's very important that Boko Haram is not [a name] they deployed, and it's not something that describes what they're movement is about.

 

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Meet the 16 year old who graduated from college before high school

Meet the 16 year old who graduated from college before high school

Grace Bush has already graduated from college.

That may not be fascinating in and of itself, but the 16-year-old has yet to receive her high school diploma. That graduation ceremony will happen this Friday, the Sun Sentinel reports.

The clever teenager attends Florida Atlantic University High School, which has a special program with FAU that allows young students to earn college credit at no cost while in high school.

 

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Can the U.S. play a role in rescuing the missing nigerian schoolgirls?

Can the U.S. play a role in rescuing the missing nigerian schoolgirls?

When the bizarre disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 captured the global imagination like missed episodes of "Lost," an international military search and rescue response was swift. Two months and a dying black box ping later, no expense has been spared in the effort to find 240 passengers now presumed dead.

Weeks going on a month after the horrific mass kidnapping of 275 Nigerian schoolgirls by Boko Haram militants, and critics charge a milquetoast worldwide response that can't get much past the news ticker. While the reactions range from Twitter feeds accompanied by #BringOurGirlsBack to bubbling hate for the perpetrators, the perceived inability of Nigerian armed forces to match the passion comes at a time when conflict in the country's north is turning a grisly corner.

The tragic kidnappings have put a renewed spotlight on Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan. Nigeria's leadership finds itself in a tough spot, not at all helped by authorities who seem powerless since Jonathan imposed states of emergency over the northeastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa.

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Wisconsin ruling proves Voting Rights Act can still be effective

Wisconsin ruling proves Voting Rights Act can still be effective

WASHINGTON – After suffering a major setback last year in the Supreme Court, voting rights advocates are buoyed by a decision last week by a federal judge in Wisconsin striking down the state's voter ID law as racially discriminatory.

John Ulin, a partner at Arnold & Porter LLP and trial counsel, said that U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman's opinion in the case made clear that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 still has teeth, even after the United States Supreme Court's decision in the Shelby County case, which sharply limited application of the landmark law.

"The court understands the reach of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act to extend beyond challenges to legislative redistricting and to apply to both denial and practices that prevent people from registering and casting their ballot," said Ulin. "The evidence in the case was critical and the opinion makes that clear."

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