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Opinion

Will the Senate change Cory Booker?

booker-600WASHINGTON – Cory Booker already had a national identity before he decided to run for senator.

The media-savvy, tweet-happy mayor from Newark – who easily won the New Jersey Democratic primary for Senate last Tuesday – has been known for his man-of-the-people streak, charismatic presence and social media intensity, or as some say, fixation.

But can he make the switch from a nationally popular hands-on mayor to the contentious spotlight of the United States Senate?

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Is Bloomberg racist, sexist or clueless?

michaelbloomberg-400New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg had a tough week. At least, tough compared to most weeks for the white, straight male billionaire who runs one of the world's leading cities, and by most accounts has led a fairly charmed life that usually involves getting his way – even if that means paying for the privilege.

But the Bloomberg who has been praised in progressive circles for his advocacy on gun control is in danger of having his legacy eclipsed by another Bloomberg who does not inspire progressive admiration, but shame. The mayor's obsession with maintaining stop and frisk, a policy that both civil rights activists and a federal judge have deemed discriminatory in execution, a conclusion that all data collected on the subject supports, has cast him as someone who is racially insensitive at best, and subtly racist at worst.

Now his reaction to the recent ruling by federal judge Shira Scheindlin, who found stop and frisk unconstitutional, is renewing questions of whether or not the mayor is not only racially insensitive but also insensitive when it comes to gender issues.

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Why don’t you have any black friends?

Tanner Colby-600(CNN) – "So, how many black friends do you have now?"

It's a question I get asked a lot, ever since I set out five years ago to find out why I, your typical middle-class white person, had no black friends at all.

I do have black friends now, actually. Several. But I rarely offer that information when asked, because to ask white people how many black friends they have is to pose the wrong question.

Recently, a Reuters poll came out showing that 40 percent of white Americans have zero nonwhite friends, and only 20 percent of white Americans have five or more nonwhite friends. People seemed shocked that the numbers were so bad.

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Should Certain Baby Names Be Illegal?

(The Root) -- When reports surfaced that Kim Kardashian and Kanye West had named their new daughter "North 'Nori' West," it was simply assumed that they were following in the footsteps of fellow celebrities with oddly named kids -- kids like Apple Martin (daughter of actress Gwyneth Paltrow and singer Chris Martin) and Pilot Inspektor (son of actor Jason Lee). But while little North West's name has already spawned a number of jokes, the controversy sparked by two other families' proposed baby names is no laughing matter.

Recently a Tennessee judge ordered a mother to change her son's name from "Messiah" to "Martin," citing concerns that the child would face bullying for sharing a name that has such a strong religious connotation. Meanwhile, in June, a couple of self-described Nazis recently announced that they are expecting and plan to name their new child "Eva Braun," the same name as the girlfriend of Adolf Hitler. In some ways, the disturbing name seems fitting, since "Hitler" is the name of the father's older son, of whom the couple is fighting to regain custody.

Little Hitler and his sister, Aryan Nation, along with their other siblings, were removed because of domestic violence allegations. But most observers agree that while the children's names may not have been the official reason they were removed, the names likely played some role in how the couple's parenting skills have been viewed by law enforcement and the courts.

The cases of little Hitler and little Messiah raise a question that rankles legal experts -- namely, should there be explicit laws against what parents can name their children in a country that values free speech?

Laws prohibiting certain names are not entirely far-fetched. In Australia, courts routinely rule that parents must change the names given to their offspring if they would "cause offense to a reasonable person." Names like "Sex Fruit" and "Fish and Chips" have been tossed out. But somehow the name "Violence" managed to make the cut.

In an interview with The Root, Lawrence Walters, an attorney specializing in the First Amendment, explained that it is a misconception that there are no laws restricting what parents can name their children. For instance, many states require that a child be given a last name. But such laws (pdf) are regulated by the state, not at the federal level, and there is absolutely no continuity regarding what is and is not allowed. "Some states restrict things like obscenities, numerals, pictograms and/or diacritical marks. Other states impose no prohibitions at all," he said.

Louisiana and Tennessee require that the father's last name be listed as the surname of the child if a couple is married. Iowa and Massachusetts limit how long names can be. Connecticut and Kentucky have no restrictions, while New Jersey prohibits numerals. It is worth noting that no states restrict names on the basis of meaning. So in New Jersey, where little Hitler lives, his parents would have been restricted from naming him "8," but "Hitler" is OK.

"Since parents have a constitutional right to raise their children in the manner of their choice, any restriction on naming rights would be held to a high standard if challenged in court," said Walters. "Thus far, the U.S. Supreme Court has not considered the constitutionality of a law imposing any restriction on child-naming rights."

Cathy Middleton-Lewis, an attorney specializing in child-custody cases, said, "I have constitutional questions on any laws that would encroach on parents' rights," including their right to decide what to name a child. But, she added, "The standard when it comes to custody and in any court proceedings involving a child is what's in the best interest of the child."

Read more: http://www.theroot.com/views/should-certain-baby-names-be-illegal

The new definition of homelessness

Javier Bailey-160The City of Memphis and its surrounding areas are faced with a real fiscal and social dilemma that promises to get worse before it gets better. Simply, that dilemma is this: how will local government address and serve the growing community of homeless citizens?

To properly address the issue, it is imperative that we first define "homeless." The traditional definition and the images that arise in the minds of most people when referring to the homeless is that of the man or woman living on the street, pan-handling for money, and digging through dumpsters for food. This image no longer fits the contemporary reality of homelessness.

Today's homeless often go to work but are unable to keep a roof over their heads. Many are victims of foreclosure and oftentimes are unable to keep the utilities on in their homes. Indeed the new homeless Memphian is one that awaits eviction at any moment and has no idea where the evening meal for the family will come from. Although this person I just described is not out in the streets, effectively, this is a "homeless" citizen.

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A boy named ‘Messiah’?

LZ granderson-160(CNN) – I once met a mother who named her newborn daughter Kia Sophia.

Yes, like the car.

Apparently she had one and liked it so much that she wanted to be reminded of it each time she said her baby's name.

As we stood there, I could tell this was something she was very proud of, and so I tried my best not to look embarrassed for her.

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I don’t have any ‘white’ friends. So what?

nowhitefriendsshe-400Sometime last week, a poll was released by Reuters/Ipsos that found 40 percent of white Americans had no friends of color and 25 percent of people of color had no friends of a different race. Covering a broader circle of acquaintances to include co-workers as well as friends and relatives, the poll showed that 30 percent of Americans are not befriending others of a different race.

That "news" spread quickly, with an emphasis on how so many white people didn't have black friends. There were, of course, Paula Deen jokes and giggles about that elusive "black friend" that nonblack people always allude to when they're denying they're racist, and someone discovered a spoof site (I hope it's a spoof site; you can never be too sure) called BlackFriendConnect, where white people can rent a black friend for the day. There was a delight in chiding this chunk of white folks for, intentionally or not, self-segregating.

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Pardon power and compassionate release

Cohen-Steve-400President Obama and his administration have, at times, made bold use of executive authorities and powers to help the powerless, from granting deferred action to DREAM Act beneficiaries to providing some relief from crushing student loan burdens. Atty Gen. Eric Holder's announcement this week of a smarter, fairer, and more just approach to the prosecution of non-violent offenses, including the possession of small amounts of drugs, is another example of President Obama's willingness to align our nation's policies with our ideals, the goals of our justice system, and our laws.

But the President remains surprisingly reluctant to use his pardon and commutation power. Thankfully, he still has the opportunity to help those who need it most and leave an even larger legacy of justice.

Criminal sentences reflect a society's values but as our values change, many of those sentences unfortunately remain on the books and people still serving them suffer needlessly – and those unjustly long sentences unfairly and unequally harm people of color and minority communities.

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Take the gluten-free challenge and give me a shout

Chef Timothy Moore-160CHEF TIMOTHY We have made the decision to begin and maintain a healthier lifestyle choice. We go to the gym, eat a proper diet and do all the right things to help us get and stay in great physical shape. Still, we face a dilemma – gaining more weight instead of losing it.

We just don't get it. What is going on?

What if the food manufacturers that we have grown to trust have set us up? What if they use an ingredient that's known to create hunger and turn off that part of the brain that regulates if we're satisfied or our stomachs are feeling full?

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Jackie Jackson: A mother’s love

George Curry-160On Wednesday, Aug. 14, former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. is to be sentenced in connection with using campaign funds for personal use. Dozens of letters were sent to the judge on his behalf, but none more touching than the one written by his mother, dated May 28.

She began by noting, "I am Jacqueline Jackson, the mother of five children, one of whom I am writing about, my son Jesse Jackson, Jr."

Her letter shed light not only on her son's problems growing up in his famous father's shadow, but provided a peek into the family's early struggles.

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Politics gets its own Cheerios ad

cheerios-400Earlier this year, Cheerios generated extensive media attention – and countless racist comments online – for becoming the first major American brand to feature a mixed-race family in a television advertisement. Now, an ad for a political campaign is poised to be just as groundbreaking, and potentially controversial.

This (past) weekend, television advertisements began airing starring the teenage son of New York City mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio. De Blasio is white, his wife, Chirlane McCray, is black, and their son, Dante, sports a sizable Afro in the ad, in which he makes the case for why he believes his father is the best candidate for mayor.

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Mo’ Kelly Did Not Expose Crystal Wright Or the GOP Because we Already Knew

conservative_black_chick.jpg

There are some days when I just love #BLACKTWITTER. Only via this creative hodgepodge of bloggers, reporters and internet Benita Butrells can you find out who Whiz Kalifah is dating, what the Obama’s had for dinner and which political celebrities just got called out. In this case it’s the third category that caught my attention, as Mo’Kelly, autho

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Let children cook and learn to see life as never before

Chef Timothy Moore-160CHEF TIMOTHY It's that time again – the beginning of another school year. So many emotions are brewing for parents right now. Some are full of joy and relief, while others feel fear of the unknown as to what each day will bring.

It seems like yesterday that we were off to our own first day of school. We were so excited to be embarking on our first day of a new experience; yet we were also very nervous seeing so many strangers and wondering if they were feeling the same way. Then we hear a voice telling us that everything will be fine, because all those strangers were no different than us. They were all going to the same place, and even though they were nervous too, they were also excited and ready to begin their journey of surprises that awaited them.

Go back in time for a moment and reflect on how you felt your first day of school. Remember how you smiled into the mirror at your reflection of what you were wearing, who you met that day and how you got to school. Some children walked a "country mile," some rode an old school bus, and others were dropped off by their parents. They all had the same feeling though, and that was they did not want to leave the comfort of their parents.

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