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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Comedian Patrice O'Neal dead at 41

Patrice O'Neal
Comedian Patrice O'Neal has died at 41 after suffering a serious stroke in October, according to widely published reports.

O'Neal died Monday, according to the hosts of the "Opie and Anthony" radio show, on which the comic was a regular.
Bing: More on Patrice O'Neal
"Yes it's true that our pal Patrice O'Neal has passed away," the show's Opie tweeted Tuesday morning. "The funniest and best thinker I've ever known PERIOD."
Last month, fellow comic Jim Norton broke the news on the radio show that his friend had suffered a stroke.
"We don't know how he is," Norton said. "We don't know how he's going to be. I didn't want to (reveal) this myself. I wish we had more news for you."
O'Neal was also a featured comic on Comedy Central's highly rated "Roast for Charlie Sheen," on which he was the target of savage health-related jokes.
"Patrice O'Neal: Elephant in the Room," the comedian's first hourlong special, aired on Comedy Central in February. A CD and a DVD of the performance were released by the network that same month.
A representative for O'Neal declined to comment.

George W. Bush cancels visit to Swiss charity gala over fears he could be arrested on torture charges

Change of plan: George W. Bush has cancelled a visit to Geneva for a charity gala over fears he could be arrested on torture charges
Former U.S. President George W. Bush has cancelled a visit to Switzerland over fears he could have been arrested on torture charges.

Mr Bush was due to be the keynote speaker at a Jewish charity gala in Geneva on February 12.

But pressure has been building on the Swiss government to arrest him and open a criminal investigation if he enters the country.

Criminal complaints against Mr Bush alleging torture have been lodged in Geneva, court officials said.

Human rights groups said they had intended to submit a 2,500-page case against him in the Swiss city tomorrow for alleged mistreatment of suspected militants at Guantanamo Bay.

Left-wing groups have also called for a protest on the day of his visit, leading organisers at Keren Hayesod's annual dinner to cancel Mr Bush's participation on security grounds.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch and International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) said the cancellation was linked to growing moves told him accountable for the use of torture, including waterboarding.

He had admitted in his memoirs and TV interviews to ordering the use of the interrogation technique which simulates drowning.

Reed Brody, a lawyer for Human Rights Watch, said: 'He's avoiding the handcuffs.'


Protest: Mr Bush was due to be keynote speaker at Keren Hayesod's annual charity dinner, but organisers pulled out over security concerns
Protest: Mr Bush was due to be keynote speaker at Keren Hayesod's annual charity dinner, but organisers pulled out over security concerns

The action in Switzerland showed Mr Bush had reason to fear legal complaints against him if he travelled to countries that have ratified an international treaty banning torture, he said.

Mr Brody is a U.S.-trained lawyer who specialises in pursuing war crimes, including Chile's late dictator Augusto Pinochet and Chad's ousted president Hissene Habre.

Admission: Mr Bush defended the use of waterboarding in his memoir 'Decision Points' as key at avoiding a repeat of the September 11 attacks
Admission: Mr Bush defended the use of waterboarding in his memoir 'Decision Points' as key at avoiding a repeat of the September 11 attacks

Habre has been charged by Belgium with crimes against humanity and torture and is currently exiled in Senegal.

He said: 'President Bush has admitted ordering waterboarding which everyone considers to be a form of torture under international law.

'Under the Convention on Torture, authorities would have been obliged to open an investigation and either prosecute or extradite George Bush.'

Swiss judicial officials have said that the former president would still enjoy a certain diplomatic immunity as a former head of state.

Dominique Baettig, a member of the Swiss parliament from the People's Party, wrote to the Swiss federal government last week calling for his arrest if he came to the neutral country.

In his 'Decision Points' memoirs, Mr Bush strongly defended the use of waterboarding as key to preventing a repeat of the September 11 attacks on the U.S.

Most human rights experts consider the practice a form of torture, banned by the Convention on Torture.

Switzerland and the U.S. are among 147 countries that have ratified

 

Cain 'reassessing' campaign after affair allegation

Cain 'reassessing' campaign after affair allegation
(CNN) -- Embattled Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain told his staff Tuesday he is "reassessing" the viability of his campaign in the wake of a new allegations he engaged in a lengthy extramarital affair, CNN has learned.
One top campaign source told CNN he expects a decision "within a few days," based on whether Cain's fund-raising dries up.
Another source familiar with internal campaign deliberations told CNN the question now is "money and support." The source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the already small campaign operation would likely have to lay off some staffers.
"We just staffed up some, but at a minimum it looks like (there is) no choice but to staff down," the source said. "We are in the period of the campaign where we need to spend to perform, and the question is will donors and Republicans believe" Cain or his newest accuser.
Cain spoke directly to his staff for about 10 minutes in a meeting and conference call Tuesday morning. He said during the meeting that mounting allegations of sexual impropriety "are taking an emotional toll on his family and that this is a very difficult time," according to Cain's Iowa chairman, Steve Grubbs.
The candidate noted, however, that he intends to go forward with a planned speech in Michigan later Tuesday.
On Monday, Atlanta businesswoman Ginger White accused Cain of having had an affair with her that lasted nearly 14 years, a claim Cain immediately denied.
"I was aware that he was married, and I was also aware that I was involved in a very inappropriate situation -- relationship," White told Atlanta television station WAGA.
White also confirmed to CNN affiliate WSB that she had a sexual relationship with Cain, countering Cain's claims that the relationship was just a friendship
"Absolutely," White said when asked by the affiliate if the relationship was sexual. "I can't imagine him confirming. It's the name of the game I guess."
White told WAGA the affair ended about eight months ago, as Cain prepared to announce his presidential bid. But she pointed to mobile phone records she said prove Cain was calling her as late as September, including one call as early as 4:26 a.m.

Cain accuser: I was aware he was married

Attorney defends Cain accuser

Cain: I'm not quitting campaign

Frank Rich on Herman Cain affair story
Cain, who lives in suburban Atlanta, told his staff Tuesday that White was "a friend and he helped her financially but that nothing inappropriate took place."
He also upstaged WAGA's report Monday by going on CNN a few minutes before the station broadcast its interview with White.
Cain told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on "The Situation Room" that White is merely "someone that I know who is an acquaintance that I thought was a friend.
"I acknowledge that I have known her for about that period of time," Cain said. "But the accusation that I had a 13-year affair with her, no."
The candidate said his wife's immediate reaction upon hearing of the accusation was, "Here we go again." And he said he had no plans to drop out of the race.
"Not as long as my wife is behind me and as long as my wife believes I should stay in this race," he said.
In a written statement issued after the interview aired, Cain said, "I will not fight false claims as it is not what America needs or wants."
"The American public is tired of dirty politics and smear tactics as evident of their tremendous outpouring of support for me, my family and my campaign this past month," he said. "I am running for president of the United States of America, and the reality is that there are individuals out there that favor the status quo of higher taxes, more government and political cronyism and they are afraid of a Cain presidency."
White's emergence comes after two other women -- Sharon Bialek and Karen Kraushaar -- came forward earlier this month to accuse Cain of sexually harassing them in the 1990s while he was head of the National Restaurant Association. Two other women also have claimed Cain sexually harassed them while they worked at the association, but they have so far declined to be identified.
Cain has denied all accusations against him, but he has slipped in published polls since the allegations first surfaced.
"He's been able to hang in there partly by playing the victim himself, (but) it's going to be very hard for him to hang onto that victim scenario given that he was in constant contact with this woman," argued GOP strategist Karen Hanretty.
White said she was never harassed or poorly treated by Cain, whom she described as "very much confident, and very much sure of himself, very arrogant -- in a playful, sometimes, way."
She said he took her to luxury hotels and flew her to cities where he had speaking engagements.
"He made it very intriguing," White said in the interview. "It was fun. It was something that took me away from my sort-of humdrum life at the time, and it was exciting."
In a statement to WAGA, Cain attorney Lin Wood said reporters had no business asking about the allegation.
"This is not an accusation of harassment in the workplace. This is not an accusation of an assault, which are subject matters of legitimate inquiry to a political candidate," he said. "Rather, this appears to be an accusation of private, alleged consensual conduct between adults -- a subject matter which is not a proper subject of inquiry by the media or the public.
"No individual, whether a private citizen, a candidate for public office or a public official, should be questioned about his or her private sexual life," Wood said. "The public's right to know and the media's right to report has boundaries and most certainly those boundaries end outside of one's bedroom door."
He did not address White's assertion directly and said Cain "has no obligation to discuss these types of accusations publicly with the media.
"Some things are fair game and some aren't," Wood told CNN in a telephone interview, adding that this was one that was off-limits. "You've got to draw the line somewhere."
White told WAGA that she was a reluctant accuser who decided to go public only after her name was circulated among reporters. But she also said she was upset by Cain's responses to the sexual harassment allegations from two women who have been identified publicly.
"It bothered me that they were being demonized, sort of, or were being treated as if they were automatically lying and the burden of proof is on them," White said.
WAGA said it and other news organizations had received a tip from someone who knew White, alleging she had had an affair with Cain.
"I wanted to come out and give my side before it was thrown out there and made to be something, you know, filthy, which some people will look at this and say, that's exactly what it is," White told the station.
She said their on-again, off-again relationship allegedly began in Louisville, Kentucky, in the late 1990s, when Cain gave a National Restaurant Association presentation to a group that included White. Afterward, the two shared drinks and Cain invited her back to his hotel room, where he pulled out a calendar and invited her to meet him in Palm Springs, California, she said.
WAGA said White's work history includes a 2001 sexual harassment claim against an employer that was settled, a 23-year-old bankruptcy in Kentucky and several evictions over the past six years. A former business partner accused her of stalking her with repeated e-mails and texts in a case that was ultimately dismissed, followed by a libel suit White lost because she failed to respond to it, WAGA said.
But White's attorney, Edward Buckley, told CNN's "John King USA" that his client has no apparent financial motive for making the accusation and "everything to lose."
"To tell you candidly, I don't know if she is employed or not, because she was kind of on the ropes because of all this stuff," Buckley said. "The media called her employer before this story came out, and it made it very difficult for her in the workplace."
And prominent feminist attorney Gloria Allred, who represents one of the women who accused Cain of harassment, said White's financial troubles mean "zero, zip, nada."
"There are millions of women in this country and millions of men as well having financial problems," she told CNN's "Piers Morgan Tonight." "The fact that she's had them in the past does not bear on whether or not she's credible on this issue."

Conrad Murray sentenced to four years behind bars


Los Angeles (CNN) -- Dr. Conrad Murray was sentenced Tuesday to four years in jail -- the maximum sentence allowed under the law -- in the death of Michael Jackson.
Judge Michael Pastor, in a lengthy statement delivered before sentencing Murray for involuntary manslaughter, said he felt a significant responsibility to determine the appropriate sentence, utilizing his "sense of fairness and decency."
"There are those who feel Dr. Murray is a saint," he said. "There are those who feel Dr. Murray is the devil. He's neither. He's a human being. He stands convicted of the death of another human being."
Pastor said that while he had considered the entire "book" of Murray's life, he also had "read the book of Michael Jackson's life."
"Regrettably, as far as Dr. Murray is concerned, the most significant chapter, as it relates to this case, is the chapter involving the treatment, or lack of treatment, of Michael Jackson."
Jackson died "not because of an isolated one-off occurrence or incident," Pastor said. "He died because of a totality of circumstances which are directly attributable to Dr. Murray ... because of a series of decisions that Dr. Murray made."
Murray, he said, became involved in "a cycle of horrible medicine."
He cited Murray's "pattern of deceit and lies. That pattern was to assist Dr. Murray."
A tape recording of Jackson's slurred voice was Murray's "insurance policy," Pastor said. "It was designed to record his patient surreptitiously at that patient's most vulnerable point. I can't even imagine that happening to any of us because of the horrific violation of trust."
He said he wondered whether that tape would have been offered for sale, had Jackson not died and a rift had developed between the two in the future.
Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter three weeks ago after a trial in which prosecutors successfully argued that Murray's reckless use of the surgical anesthetic propofol to help Jackson sleep, without proper monitoring equipment, led to the singer's death.
Testimony during the trial revealed that Murray gave propofol nearly every night in the two months before the singer's death on June 25, 2009, as Jackson prepared for his comeback concerts set for London the next month.
Prosecutors asked for the maximum four years behind bars, and for Murray to pay Jackson's children more than $100 million in restitution. Defense lawyers requested probation.
In a sentencing memo filed with the judge last week, prosecutors said Murray has "displayed a complete lack of remorse" about Jackson's death, and is, "even worse, failing to accept even the slightest level of responsibility."
Deputy district attorneys David Walgren and Deborah Brazil cited Murray's decision not to testify in his own defense, even while he was giving interviews for a documentary that aired days after the verdict.
"In each of these interviews, the defendant has very clearly stated that he bears no responsibility for Michael Jackson's death," the prosecutors said. "Moreover, the defendant has continued to express concern only for his individual plight and portrays himself, not the decedent, as the victim."
"I don't feel guilty because I did not do anything wrong," Murray said in the documentary quoted by the prosecution.
"Finally, the defendant consistently blames the victim for his own death, even going so far as to characterize himself as being 'entrapped' by the victim and as someone who suffered a 'betrayal' at the hands of the victim," the prosecutors said.
The defense argued that Jackson, fearing the comeback concerts could be canceled if rehearsals did not go well, put intense pressure on Murray to help him sleep.
The prosecutors contended in their sentencing memo that Murray should be ordered to pay Jackson's three children restitution for the "wage and profits lost," as provided under California's "victim's bill of rights" law.
The singer's "estate estimates Michael Jackson's projected earnings for the 50-show O2 concert series to be $100 million," the prosecutors said.
With nearly $2 million in funeral expenses and 10% interest added each year, the prosecution is asking Pastor to order Murray to pay Prince, Paris and Blanket Jackson more than $120 million in restitution.
While it is doubtful that Murray, who is unlikely to ever practice medicine again, could pay very much of that sum, it could prevent him from reaping financial benefits from any books, interviews or film projects in the future.
Defense lawyers, in their sentencing memo, included a biography of Murray that described him as "a self-made man of humble origins," who paid his own way through medical school without scholarships or family funds.
"He was raised in a home that lacked indoor plumbing or electricity, and he walked to school barefoot for his first couple years of school," the defense said.
He worked as a doctor for 20 years, with "no prior contacts with the law," and many of his patients were elderly in low-income, underserved communities, the defense said.
"It seems reasonable that the transgression for which he is to be judged should be viewed within the context of the larger life of which it is a part," it said.
The defense challenges the prosecution's contention that Murray is not remorseful.
"Dr. Murray wishes to make it unmistakenly clear to everyone that he deeply mourns the loss of Michael Jackson's life, and he profoundly regrets any mistakes or oversights on his part that may have contributed to it," the defense said.
The judge should also consider "the manifold collateral consequences that Dr. Murray has sustained as a result of his mistake," the defense said, including the loss of his medical career, the public disgrace and loss of privacy.
"Dr. Murray has been described as a changed, grief-stricken man, who walks around under a pall of sadness since the loss of his patient, Mr. Jackson," the defense said.
The defense memo included a letter from Murray's elderly mother, Milta Rush. She sat in court for much of her son's trial, just a few feet away from Jackson's mother.
"I sympathize with Mrs. Jackson as a mother," Rush wrote in a letter to the judge. "I sense she was very close to her son. I really wanted to approach her personally and tell her I am sorry for the loss of her son, but I was unsure if she would be receptive, and I did not want to take the chance of violating court rules. I am sorry for all her loss."
Murray's mother also told the judge her son is "saddened and remorseful" about Jackson's death.
The defense argued that Murray was trying to help Jackson. "His compassionate intentions should not be overlooked," defense lawyers said.
"The victim was a willing recipient of the medications administered," the defense said. "In fact, Mr. Jackson had repeatedly begged Dr. Murray for propofol to overcome his insomnia so that he could sleep."
Murray does not pose a safety threat to the public, the defense said in filings before the hearing. "The likelihood of recurrence is essentially nonexistent since Conrad Murray's medical license has been suspended."
Aside from the arguments of what Murray deserves, the defense contended that California's prison and jail crowding means that "neither the space nor the public funds exist to continue imprisoning nonviolent, nondangerous offenders who do not need to be incapacitated for the sake of public safety."
"Dr. Murray is clearly such a defendant," the defense said. "He is an individual who remained free on bond for more than two years prior to the jury verdict, adhering assiduously to all of the bond conditions that had been imposed."
If Murray takes up a state prison or county jail cell, it "may mean that someone else with higher potential for violence will be released," the defense said.
Instead, the defense proposed that Murray could be sentenced to community service along with probation.
"Though he will perhaps not again be a doctor qualified to make diagnoses, he could educate and counsel patients about heart care and disease prevention," it said. "There are many nonprofit clinics and organizations that would benefit from his participation, if ordered to perform community service as a condition of his sentence and a means of 'putting some water back into the public well

Monday, November 28, 2011

BEYONCE,MORE BEAUTIFUL THEN EVER.


Ever since she announced her baby news, all eyes have been focused on Beyonce's fierce maternity style. From sequins to minidresses to incredibly high stilettos, Beyonce isn't letting dressing for two slow down her fashion choices. Click through to see the fun and stylish ways Beyonce is dressing up her baby bump.
What could be more fierce than a full-length brown dress with gold wing details framing her growing baby bumps? Only a woman like Beyonce could pull this look off and still look so glam with minimal gold accessories.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Senators Demand the Military Lock Up American Citizens in a “Battlefield” They Define as Being Right Outside Your Window

While nearly all Americans head to family and friends to celebrate Thanksgiving, the Senate is gearing up for a vote on Monday or Tuesday that goes to the very heart of who we are as Americans. The Senate will be voting on a bill that will direct American military resources not at an enemy shooting at our military in a war zone, but at American citizens and other civilians far from any battlefield — even people in the United States itself.
Senators need to hear from you, on whether you think your front yard is part of a “battlefield” and if any president can send the military anywhere in the world to imprison civilians without charge or trial.
The Senate is going to vote on whether Congress will give this president—and every future president — the power to order the military to pick up and imprison without charge or trial civilians anywhere in the world. Even Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) raised his concerns about the NDAA detention provisions during last night’s Republican debate. The power is so broad that even U.S. citizens could be swept up by the military and the military could be used far from any battlefield, even within the United States itself.
The worldwide indefinite detention without charge or trial provision is in S. 1867, the National Defense Authorization Act bill, which will be on the Senate floor on Monday. The bill was drafted in secret by Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) and passed in a closed-door committee meeting, without even a single hearing.
I know it sounds incredible. New powers to use the military worldwide, even within the United States? Hasn’t anyone told the Senate that Osama bin Laden is dead, that the president is pulling all of the combat troops out of Iraq and trying to figure out how to get combat troops out of Afghanistan too? And American citizens and people picked up on American or Canadian or British streets being sent to military prisons indefinitely without even being charged with a crime. Really? Does anyone think this is a good idea? And why now?
The answer on why now is nothing more than election season politics. The White House, the Secretary of Defense, and the Attorney General have all said that the indefinite detention provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act are harmful and counterproductive. The White House has even threatened a veto. But Senate politics has propelled this bad legislation to the Senate floor.
But there is a way to stop this dangerous legislation. Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) is offering the Udall Amendment that will delete the harmful provisions and replace them with a requirement for an orderly Congressional review of detention power. The Udall Amendment will make sure that the bill matches up with American values.
In support of this harmful bill, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) explained that the bill will “basically say in law for the first time that the homeland is part of the battlefield” and people can be imprisoned without charge or trial “American citizen or not.” Another supporter, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) also declared that the bill is needed because “America is part of the battlefield.”
The solution is the Udall Amendment; a way for the Senate to say no to indefinite detention without charge or trial anywhere in the world where any president decides to use the military. Instead of simply going along with a bill that was drafted in secret and is being jammed through the Senate, the Udall Amendment deletes the provisions and sets up an orderly review of detention power. It tries to take the politics out and put American values back in.
In response to proponents of the indefinite detention legislation who contend that the bill “applies to American citizens and designates the world as the battlefield,” and that the “heart of the issue is whether or not the United States is part of the battlefield,” Sen. Udall disagrees, and says that we can win this fight without worldwide war and worldwide indefinite detention.
The senators pushing the indefinite detention proposal have made their goals very clear that they want an okay for a worldwide military battlefield, that even extends to your hometown. That is an extreme position that will forever change our country.
Now is the time to stop this bad idea. Please urge your senators to vote YES on the Udall Amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act.
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Friday, November 25, 2011

Louis Farrakhan and Cathy Hughes Interview on TV One (May 9, 2010) - Par...

Louis Farrakhan and Cathy Hughes Interview on TV One (May 9, 2010) - Par...

Louis Farrakhan and Cathy Hughes Interview on TV One (May 9, 2010) - Part 9

Louis Farrakhan and Cathy Hughes Interview on TV One (May 9, 2010) - Part 8

Louis Farrakhan and Cathy Hughes Interview on TV One (May 9, 2010) - Part 7

Louis Farrakhan and Cathy Hughes Interview on TV One (May 9, 2010) - Part 6

Louis Farrakhan and Cathy Hughes Interview on TV One (May 9, 2010) - Part 5

Louis Farrakhan and Cathy Hughes Interview on TV One (May 9, 2010) - Part 4

Louis Farrakhan and Cathy Hughes Interview on TV One (May 9, 2010) - Part 3

Louis Farrakhan and Cathy Hughes Interview on TV One (May 9, 2010) - Part 2

Farrakhan Speaks on The Importance of a Virtuous Woman

Gangster film goes global, puts Congo on the movie map

 A Congolese gangster drama is kick starting the war-torn country's movie business after operations shut down following decades of conflict.
It's the first movie produced in The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for over 20 years and it's thrusting the central African nation into the spotlight for all the right reasons.

But not only is the feature film "Viva Riva" a milestone for the DRC, it's also won the newly created MTV award for Best African Movie, as well as a string of other awards at festivals from Berlin to Toronto.

The fast-paced crime story is set in the capital city of Kinshasa. It follows the adventures of a charming gangster, Riva, who's trying to make a living selling black-market gasoline and ends up falling for the local crime boss's girlfriend.
For one of the actors it was also a chance to return to Africa after fleeing civil war in neighboring Angola.

"It was special," said actor Hoji Fortuna. "It was very, very, very special. I, for the longest time, had issues about going back to Africa.

"I had a lot of traumatic situations over there. A lot of traumatic experiences that somehow were one of the reasons why I left the continent in the first place," he continued.

Fortuna left Angola in 1994 after being shaken by its conflict and the death of his mother. He moved to Portugal aged 20, and then to New York, where he landed the role of Cesar in Viva Riva, a smartly dressed foreigner who is also trying to make money in the capital's lawless streets..

I think we are actually making history here.
--Hoji Fortuna, actor


    Critics have described the film as "gritty" and "real" and Fortuna says it really manages to capture the spirit of Kinshasa.

    "It's visceral; it's a very strong film. I think it is very strong because it captures the energy of the place where it was shot. Kinshasa is a very strong place," he said.

    Fortuna's role won him best supporting actor at the African Movie Academy Awards -- the "African Oscars" -- but he didn't always know he wanted to go into acting. Originally studying law at a university in Portugal he got his first chance to tread the boards at the age of 26 in an amateur college play.

    He said: "The culture where I come from always goes in the sense where a guy has to take a more serious kind of professional approach.

    "You have to either become a lawyer, or an engineer, or a doctor or something like that. Becoming an artist or a musician or an actor wasn't really an option."

    Those behind the film hope its success will now spark a revival among the local movie business caught up in years of conflict and unrest.

    "I think we are actually making history here," Fortuna said. "We have broken kind of the walls and allowing our films to be accessible to a wider audience."

    "You know, the fact that the movie was picked up and distributed in the United States and most of the countries of the world are already a result of that. So, I think it can only bring good things for African cinema," he added.

    For Fortuna, the film has also allowed him to return to Africa, and make peace with his home country.

    "Viva Riva was actually the opportunity to do it," he said. "I am grateful that it happened that way; I felt that I was doing the right thing. You know, I felt like this is what I wanted to do

    Why eastern DR Congo is 'rape capital of the world'

    Masika says that some survivors are so traumatized she has to look after them in her own home until they are emotionally stronger. This year she has helped 140 women, 10 men and over 20 children. Masika is a survivor of the conflict in the DRC and a rape victim. She has set up a center where other survivors can come for sanctuary when they have nowhere else to go.
     From the first time you step into Eastern Congo, you find yourself surrounded by the exotic and extraordinary, be it flora and fauna or the just plain incongruous -- the severed wing of a Russian aircraft stored on the side of the road, or a boy with a gun.
    The place is pulsating with the heat and energy of a population of people fighting to survive just one more day. But the violence here is as intense as this intoxicating, heady mix of Africa at its best and worst.
     
    Eastern Congo has been called the "rape capital of the world" by U.N. Special Representative Margot Wallstrom. Reports record that 48 women are raped every hour. I have been working in the region for 10 years and have seen a tragic development in this unpunished crime against the heart of society.
    I first went to a town called Shabunda, deep in the forest. It was October 2001 and circumstances brought me to Congo rather than Afghanistan. A small twin-engined plane was the only way in. And out.
    It was the height of the war and I was with a returning team from the medical NGO Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF). They had pulled out because of the regular attacks on the town, but had decided it was safe to bring their team of three back: there was such a need for medical help here.
    As the plane taxied its way precariously down the grass airstrip, we knew we were waving goodbye to the only escape route we had. I was there for a week.
    Stay at home and face starvation. Or, go out to the fields for food and be raped. Most women chose the latter.
    A week hearing terrifying stories of torture and rape. Multiple rapes. Violent, brutal rape. Rape with sticks and guns, even bayonets.
    Women told me of their daily choice -- to stay at home and face starvation. Or, go out to the fields for food and be raped. Most women chose the latter. It had become the norm.
    The war continued until 2003, when a peace treaty was signed. Officially, the fighting came to an end, but it didn't stop. Nor did the rape.
    I returned to Shabunda in 2005 to find the women I had interviewed and photograph four years earlier. It was an unsettling search, for most of those women had died or disappeared in the forest after an attack, never to be seen again.
    The new women I met had similar tales of horror. But there was a twist. The people I spoke to this time related organized rape camps, with daily roll-calls. There was a new efficiency in the rape, it had become an integrated part of the rebel forces lives.
    Women told me how they expected to be raped. Not once but many times. The women I met, spoke of gang rapes, three or four times. Sometimes it was "only" two soldiers, more often gangs of men,10, 20, over and over again.
    Many had conceived children and the girl children, some just babies only a few months old, were being raped as well.
    Many had conceived children and the girl children, some just babies only a few months old, were being raped as well.
    Rape has now become generational.
    In Panzi hospital, Bukavu, Dr. Mukwege, a general surgeon continues to work tirelessly to repair these damaged women. I met one of his patients. She was a cheerful little girl, it was impossible not to be drawn to her smile.
    The nurse saw me playing with her said: "You know she's HIV-positive." She was just three years old. Her twin sister had been killed when she and her mother had been raped. This little girl had been conceived from rape.
    It makes difficult reading, but not nearly as difficult as it is for the women survivors, who are living with the consequences and stigma of rape.
    Not least one particular woman, Masika Katsuva. She's tiny, barely five foot tall but is a giant of a personality. Her story has inspired many of us, it is so bleak but also hopeful because she's providing an answer to these women.
    Like so many women survivors, she too was rejected when she and her two teenage daughters were raped by militia men. Her husband was murdered in front of her, chopped up and she was forced to eat his private parts.
    Her two daughters Rachel and Yvette were 15 and 13 years old, and both of them conceived children. Masika's husband's family rejected them and she brought her daughters and their babies to a market town hugging the shore of Lake Kivu to try and rebuild their lives.
    This year I made a film about her and her work. She's taking care of 170 women at the moment, they call her Mama Masika. Over the past 10 years she's helped more than 6,000 victims of rape, providing them with a wide range of care -- practical, medical and psychological.
    She has created a community in an area that is not regularly attacked, providing support to anyone who wants it, and she uses a farm to bring them together.
    That field is their hope, their therapy and their source of food and income. They come to this refuge as victims, punished by the violation of rape, blamed and rejected by their families and the local community.
    Masika has become a mother figure to the women and their children -- the results of rape -- and as they plant, tend, harvest and finally sell their crops they begin to heal together.
    Masika tries to dream of a better future, but she's also realistic. She wants her women to be able to stop doing manual labor in the fields and learn skills like sewing. But for that to happen, she believes, the fighting and the rape must stop.
    She looks me in the eye, and with a sigh, says: "But I don't see either the rape or the fighting ending today

    Did the Anglos steal Thanksgiving?

    Did Spanish settlers and the Timucua natives sit down to a Thanksgiving feast in Florida long before Jamestown settlers had theirs?Thanksgiving is a deeply meaningful annual ritual for Americans. It is singled out as the day to recall a gathering nearly 400 years ago when two clashing cultures -- the Pilgrims and Native Americans -- came together in feast and prayer. That's the history every American kindergartener making a construction-paper turkey is taught; that's the history of cultural cooperation, acceptance and gratitude we celebrate each November.
    Today, two distinct cultures, Anglo-Protestant and Hispanic, are on the brink of profound and irrevocable change in America, with immigration a perennially and increasingly thorny political issue.
    There is President Barack Obama's promise of comprehensive immigration reform in the first year of his administration, "a priority I will pursue from my very first day," which has not come to pass. Instead, he has deported 1.2 million Latinos, including 46,000 parents of American citizens. His draconian actions have left tens of thousands of frightened children, whose moms and dads suddenly vanished, living in foster care or as wards of the state.
    Then there's the inflammatory rhetoric from GOP presidential candidates, topped by Herman Cain's suggestion to build an electrified fence on the border and deploy troops to attack those who try to enter the country illegally.
     
    What we are witnessing is a clash of cultures in America that is as excessive as it is pointless.
    The late Samuel P. Huntington, a renowned Harvard political scientist, illustrated it in a 2004 essay for Foreign Policy magazine titled the "The Hispanic Challenge," in which he wrote: "Profound cultural differences clearly separate Mexicans and Americans, and the high level of immigration from Mexico sustains and reinforces the prevalence of Mexican values among Mexican-Americans. Continuation of this large immigration (without improved assimilation) could divide the United States into a country of two languages and two cultures."
    Huntington concluded his essay by discounting Latino author Lionel Sosa, author of "The Americano Dream," who wrote that the Americano dream "exists, it is realistic, and it is there for all of us to share." Huntington declares, "There is no Americano dream. There is only the American dream created by an Anglo-Protestant society. Mexican Americans will share in that dream and in that society only if they dream in English."
    Who are the Americanos? We are the 50 million U.S. citizens of all skin colors, nationalities and religions who descend from a rich Spanish culture -- a culture that Anglophile academics like Huntington have erased from our history books.
    I observed this firsthand while serving on Florida's State Board of Education, overseeing the approval of statewide textbooks. American history books typically ignore the epic northward advance by Spanish pioneers into the southern tier of the United States and fail to discuss the far-reaching contributions of Americanos from our country's inception to its present day.
    For example:
    -- Forty-two years before the English colony at Jamestown, explorer Pedro Menendez founded St. Augustine as our first North American city in 1565, granting Florida the longest recorded history of any state. The Spanish flag flew over St. Augustine for nearly 200 years.
    -- When the Continental Army was nearly bankrupt, they sent a representative to seek funds in Cuba, and the money they needed was collected from the public treasury and from private Americano citizens to finance the Battle of Yorktown, the decisive battle of the Revolutionary War.
    -- The patriotism of Americanos cannot be questioned. Americano soldiers have served in the U.S. Armed Forces dating back from the American Revolution to the war in Afghanistan with 44 Medal of Honor recipients. About half a million Americanos fought the Axis powers during World War II. Lance Cpl. Jose Gutierrez was the first person to die in the Iraq War, and more than 25% of the 58,195 names on the Vietnam War Memorial are Americanos.
    -- Spanish, not English, was the first European language spoken in North America. There are more than 1,000 U.S. cities with Spanish names, as well as the states of California, Arizona, Texas, Utah, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, Montana and Florida. The U.S. is the second-largest Spanish-speaking country in the world. Most Americanos are bilingual, which is a plus since our exports to Latin America are nearly three times larger than our exports to China. Americano language skills and cultural affinity give our country a competitive advantage in doing business with a rapidly growing $6.4 trillion market of 579 million people in 21 countries plus Puerto Rico.
    Oh, and about that first Thanksgiving? Here are a couple of other things our children's history books fail to mention:
    -- In St. Augustine on September 8, 1565, the Spanish and the native Timucua celebrated what could arguably be called the first feast of Thanksgiving. That was 56 years before Plymouth.
    -- Near El Paso on April 20, 1598, some 500 colonists led by Juan de OƱate celebrated the end of a grueling expedition across Mexico's Chihuahua Desert. That was 23 years before Plymouth. Their Thanksgiving celebration with Native Americans is recognized in resolutions by the Texas legislature.
    Perhaps if the four million children in U.S. kindergartens this year -- 25% of whom are Americanos -- were taught the truth, not only about the rich history of Americanos in helping make this country so great, but also about Thanksgiving, this most American of holidays, then maybe we would have a healthier attitude on immigration reform and Americanos in general.
    The truth. Surely that's something for which we can all be thankful.

    Wednesday, November 23, 2011

    When it comes to being president, which is more important: the ability to solve the country's problems or personal character?

    When it comes to being president, which is more important: the ability to solve the country's problems or personal character?
    As Newt Gingrich continues his meteoric rise in the polls, there's one key issue that could hold him back: Character. Or will it?
    A new Quinnipiac Poll shows the former House Speaker scores higher than Mitt Romney on most key leadership traits - except for personal character.
    For example: Republican voters say Newt Gingrich is a stronger leader than Romney - by 34% to 24%.
    They say he's stronger on foreign policy... 46% to 16%.
    And they say Gingrich has the right "knowledge and experience" to be president - by 48% to 22%. These are huge margins.
    But Gingrich trails Romney 32% to 9% when it comes to who has a "strong moral character."
    A lot of that likely goes back to Gingrich's personal baggage, including his three marriages and his infidelity.
    Overall, Gingrich places at the top of the Republican pack in this survey, with 26% compared to Romney's 22%. In a head-to-head match-up, Gingrich does even better, topping Romney by 10 points.
    But it might not matter. Even though Republicans find Gingrich competent and ready to deal with the nation's problems, they worry about his character.
    And this is at least part of the reason why: By a double-digit margin, Republicans say Romney has the best chance of beating President Obama; and by an overwhelming margin, they say Romney is most likely to be the Republican nominee.
    It's interesting that at a time when our nation is facing a boatload of very serious problems - from the national debt to the economy, unemployment, ongoing wars, etc. - a lot of people are more hung up on personal character than about the ability to lead.
    Here’s my question to you: When it comes to being president, which is more important: the ability to solve the country's problems or personal character?

    Do members of the super committee deserve to be re-elected?
    Super committee member John Kerry talks to reporters on Capitol Hill.
     

    Do members of the super committee deserve to be re-elected?

    The super committee is a disgrace, and there should be a price to pay for their negligence. Their failure will cost all of us. The national debt continues to spiral out of control, and they did nothing. They knew the consequences of their actions and still chose to do nothing.
    They were charged with agreeing on $1.2 trillion in cuts to the national debt over 10 years. Congress borrowed $1.3 trillion just this year alone. It wasn't too much to ask.
    Actions are supposed to have consequences. Most of the time they do, unless you're a member of the federal government.
    The super committee is just the latest group of politicians to lie to us about reducing government spending. The Simpson-Bowles commission put forth a program for cutting the debt. It was ignored. Likewise the Gang of Six.
    Even before the super committee failed, one poll showed Congress' approval rating at an all-time low of 9%. It was the first time Congress scored in the single digits in this poll since the question was first asked in the 1970s.
    This same survey shows Americans have less trust than ever in government to do the right thing. And with good reason.
    The members of the super committee didn't even have the guts to face the public and tell us they failed. They handed reporters a piece of paper announcing their failure and then disappeared into the woodwork like so many cockroaches.
    But the real crime in all this is that most of these 12 people on the committee will probably be re-elected the next time they run for office. And that's something of which we should all be ashamed.
    If you or I failed so miserably at our jobs, we would be out on the street. And that's exactly where these folks belong along with the rest of their colleagues who make up our broken government.
    Here’s my question to you: Do members of the super committee deserve to be re-elected?

    Should Pres. Obama hand the reins of the Democratic Party to Hillary Clinton? 

    Should Pres. Obama hand the reins of the Democratic Party to Hillary Clinton?

    It's time for President Obama to step aside and hand the reins of the Democratic Party to Hillary Clinton.
    This rather radical idea is coming from two Democratic pollsters in a Wall Street Journal piece called "The Hillary Moment."
    Patrick Caddell and Douglas Schoen argue that Obama should follow in the footsteps of Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson. Both presidents "took the moral high road" and abandoned a run for a second term when they realized they could not effectively govern.
    Caddell and Schoen say that never before has there been such an "obvious potential successor" as Hillary Clinton. They say she would save the Democratic Party and be able to get things done in Washington. They think Clinton is the only leader capable of uniting the country around a bipartisan economic and foreign policy.
    They point to Clinton's experience as first lady, senator and now secretary of state - suggesting she is more qualified than any presidential candidate in recent memory, including her husband.
    Although Clinton says she's not interested in running, polls suggest she might do pretty well:
    In September, her approval rating was at an all-time high of 69%. Another poll shows Clinton leading Mitt Romney by 17 points in a hypothetical matchup.
    Caddell and Schoen say Obama could still win re-election in 2012, but only by waging a negative campaign, which would ultimately make the gridlock in Washington even worse.
    If Obama isn't willing to step aside, they think Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi should urge him to do so.
    The pollsters say they're writing as "patriots and Democrats," have had no contact with Clinton's people, and don't expect to play a direct role in any potential campaign.
    Here’s my question to you: Should President Obama step aside and hand the reins of the Democratic Party to Hillary Clinton?


    Should Ron Paul launch a third party run if he doesn't win the Republican nomination? 

    Should Ron Paul launch a third party run if he doesn't win the Republican nomination?

    Keep your eyes on Ron Paul...
    Because the Texas Congressman could have a major effect on the 2012 presidential race - whether or not he's the nominee.
    Paul - who probably has the most passionate supporters of all the Republican candidates - is not ruling out a third party run.
    He says he has no intention of mounting a third party bid for the White House, but - and it's a big but - he's not ruling it out.
    A recent poll shows Paul getting 18% of the vote in a three-way contest against President Obama and Mitt Romney. And most of Paul's support would come at the expense of Mitt Romney.
    That's why some Republicans call it a "nightmare scenario." They worry that a Ron Paul run would benefit President Obama - maybe even securing him a second term.
    We've seen it before: When Ross Perot ran as a third party candidate in 1992 - the conventional wisdom was he handed Bill Clinton the election. Without Perot in the race, President Bush would have likely won re-election. Ralph Nader has also made several third party runs.
    Plus, it's worth pointing out that our electoral system is stacked against a third party ever winning the White House.
    Meanwhile - don't count Ron Paul out of the race for the Republican nomination quite yet.
    Some say he could be a real threat in the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire.
    One poll shows Paul in a virtual four-way tie for first place in Iowa... and he's polling in the top three in New Hampshire.
    Some experts say they wouldn't be surprised if Paul wins the Iowa caucuses and then shakes up the race even further in New Hampshire.
    Ron Paul has been talking sense for a long time.... with the country now circling the drain, maybe more people are ready to listen.
    Here’s my question to you: Should Ron Paul launch a third party run if he doesn't win the Republican nomination?


    What does it mean when a quarter of middle class Americans plan to work until 80, longer than most people live?

    What does it mean when a quarter of middle class Americans plan to work until 80, longer than most people live?

    So much for the golden years. A new survey shows one fourth, 25% of middle-class Americans, say they plan to delay retirement until at least 80.
    That's two years longer than most people in this country live.
    It's just another depressing effect of this economy - where unemployment, stock market swings and plunging home prices have taken a huge toll on many Americans' savings.
    The Wells Fargo retirement survey shows on average, Americans have only saved 7% of the retirement money they hoped to put aside.
    Survey respondents had a median savings of $25,000 while their median retirement savings goal was $350,000.
    It gets worse.
    About one-third of those surveyed in their 60s had saved less than $25,000 for retirement. Easy to see why retiring at the traditional 65 is a pipe dream for millions of Americans.
    Experts say having large numbers of middle class Americans working past 65 raises many questions. Like, will people be physically and mentally able to work as they age? And what will it mean for young people entering the workforce?
    Meanwhile another new study on the vanishing middle class helps explain why many Americans plan to work into their 80s.
    Consider this: In 2007, 44% of families lived in middle class neighborhoods - that's down from 65% in 1970.
    And almost a third of families lived in either rich or poor neighborhoods in 2007... that number is up from 15% in 1970.
    In other words, the great middle class neighborhoods that used to define this country are disappearing.
    Here’s my question to you: What does it mean when a quarter of middle class Americans plan to work until 80, longer than most people live?



    What should Occupy Wall Street's next move be?

    What should Occupy Wall Street's next move be

    As Occupy Wall Street marks two months of protests, there are questions about exactly what the activists want and more importantly, how they plan to get it.
    Patience is wearing thin in cities around the country as officials begin to move against the demonstrators in places such as New York; Oakland and Berkeley, California; Portland, Oregon; and Salt Lake City.
    While getting an "A" for perseverance, the occupiers' tent cities are starting to get on people's nerves, which is part of the idea. But some of the tent cities have spawned drugs, crime and violence, things that are not conducive to generating sympathy for their cause.
    And speaking of their cause, what exactly is it? With the protesters so widely dispersed, you have to wonder how focused and concentrated their message is. After two months, a lot of us remain unsure of what exactly the message is. More is needed than a vague complaint against corporate greed if they are to remain relevant.
    That brings us to something else the movement has been lacking so far: Leaders. Putting a head on this group would perhaps allow them to crystallize their message a little more.
    Finally you could make a very strong argument that the major source of our country's problems is Washington. So why are these folks content to wander around places such as New York, Denver, Seattle, Oakland and other places outside the real scene of the crimes.
    If you want to fight a fire, you have to go to where the fire is.
    Here’s my question to you: What should Occupy Wall Street's next move be?


    Can President Obama win re-election if almost two-thirds of whites are opposed to him?

    Can President Obama win re-election if almost two-thirds of whites are opposed to him

    With just about a year to ago until Election Day, the U.S. is a racially divided nation when it comes to President Barack Obama.
    Consider this: A new CNN/Opinion Research Poll shows 61% of whites disapprove of the way Obama is handling his job vs. 36% who don’t – that’s almost two-to-one. For non-whites, it's almost the mirror image. Only 32% disapprove while 67% approve.
    For a president who was supposed to symbolize a post-racial America, this is not good news. When Obama defeated John McCain in 2008, he did it with significant support from white Americans.
    Exit polls showed Obama won 43% of white voters. That was the largest share of white support in a two-man race since 1976. Among young white voters, Obama did even better, getting 54% of their support. If Obama wants a second term, he needs to win back support from more white Americans in the coming months.
    Meanwhile our new poll shows other results that could spell trouble for Obama. Overall, he gets a 46% approval rating, with 52% saying they disapprove.
    When you compare that rating with recent incumbents running for re-election, the president ranks only above Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford. They both lost their re-election bids. Most incumbents who win re-election had an approval rating above 50% a year before the election.
    Finally, the poll shows 54% of the crucial independent voters disapprove of the job Obama is doing.
    The president has got his work cut out for him.
    Here’s my question to you: Can President Obama win re-election if almost two-thirds of whites are opposed to him?

    How much will Newt Gingrich's personal baggage affect his run for the White House? 

    How much will Newt Gingrich's personal baggage affect his run for the White Hou

    It was only a matter of time. It always is.
    With Newt Gingrich suddenly rising big time in the polls, his opponents are starting to make an issue of his personal baggage. The tabloid stuff - like the fact that the former house speaker is on his third marriage and is an adulterer.
    Politico reports that there's a flyer circulating in Iowa from a group called Christian Leaders in Government.
    Among other things, it asks: If Newt Gingrich can't be faithful to his wife, how can we trust him to be faithful to conservative voters?"
    Airing a candidate's dirty laundry is nothing new... especially in the primaries in early voting states.
    The Christian Science Monitor reports that while there have been several presidents unfaithful to their wives, Ronald Reagan has been the only divorced president. Gingrich has both strikes against him.
    Experts say Gingrich will have to address his personal past, but some believe voters won't dwell on it. Like him or not, Gingrich is a smart guy who might be the most capable of the current GOP batch of dealing with the critical issues we face. The bar isn't exactly high.
    Plus half of Americans get divorced these days. And if every politician who has been unfaithful left office, Washington would be a ghost town.
    But not everyone thinks it's not that big a deal. A columnist at Salon.com writes that Gingrich "committed so many political and ethical transgressions that his baggage has baggage."
    Gingrich is twice divorced. He left his first wife after her cancer treatment and he left his second wife for a staffer.
    UPDATE: We heard from Newt Gingrich’s daughter, Jackie Gingrich Cushman. She says that Newt Gingrich and her mother (his first wife) were in the process of dissolving their marriage weeks before her mom went into the hospital to have a tumor removed. She says the tumor was benign; there was no cancer. Gingrich Cushman suggests that time and the media have created an inaccurate impression of what really happened.
    Gingrich says he expects questions about his three marriages and infidelity. But he insists he's happily married and has reconciled all this with God.
    Here’s my question to you: How much will Newt Gingrich's personal baggage affect his run for the White House?

    Jailed Afghan rape victim has sentence reduced, remains in jail


    Kabul, Afghanistan ,Afghan prosecutors announced Wednesday that a young rape victim, jailed for adultery after reporting the crime and pushed into marrying her attacker, would have her sentence reduced from twelve to three years. The prosecutor said she would, for now, remain in jail -- with her child -- for not reporting her attack fast enough.
    In a remarkable case that is all too common in Afghanistan but has drawn international attention, 21-year-old Gulnaz was attacked by a relative two years ago, but sentenced to 12 years in jail for adultery.
    She has since given birth to a girl from the attack. Because of the dishonor of sex outside of wedlock, she had been given the choice of marrying her attacker to get out of jail and legitimize her infant daughter in the eyes of Afghanistan's conservative society.
    The child is imprisoned with her at Badambagh Prison on the outskirts of Kabul.

    Jawad: Afghan system failed rape victim

    Woman being forced to marry her rapist
    Gulnaz says she at first tried to hide the attack against her because she could be killed for bringing shame on her community. Only her pregnancy exposed the attack and began criminal investigations that led to her conviction for adultery.
    On Wednesday a spokesman for the Afghan attorney general said her sentence had been reduced by another court hearing to three years and that the main remaining charge against her was not reporting her attack early enough. A lawyer for Gulnaz, Kim Motley, said her client was only on Tuesday made aware of the reduced sentence and there had been no official notification of it.
    The attorney general spokesman, Rahmatullah Nazari, said their investigation had concluded there was no rape, but instead sex outside of wedlock, resulting in both the male attacker and Gulnaz being convicted of adultery.
    "Gulnaz claims that she has been raped. But because she reported the crime four months later, we couldn't find any evidence [of an attack]," Nazari said. "She was convicted for not reporting a crime on time."
    Gulnaz's attacker denied having sex with her. He told CNN he was serving jail time because he had been accused of rape. His conviction records show he is in jail for "zina", a Dari word that directly translates as "adultery." Human rights workers note that rape cases are often handled as adultery in Afghanistan's court system.
    The spokesman for the prosecutor added, however, that Gulnaz might soon receive a presidential pardon.
    "There is a strong possibility that she would be pardoned under a presidential decree in the upcoming important dates like Prophet's birthday or Afghan new year," said Nazari.
    Nazari said the Afghan prosecutor's investigation had concluded that Gulnaz and her attacker had had consensual sex several times. Months later, when it emerged she was pregnant he said, their families met to try and settle the issue through a financial payment. When those discussions broke down, Nazari said, the accusation of rape was made.
    The courts ultimately found both parties guilty of adultery, Gulnaz receiving two years, and her attacker seven. A later court ruling then increased her sentence to twelve years. A third court hearing, which happened in the past month but about which Gulnaz heard little until Tuesday, decided that she should serve a total of three years -- not for adultery but instead for failing to report a crime quickly enough.
    Throughout her interview with CNN, Gulnaz was emotional but consistent and clear in telling her story of a single incident of rape by one attacker, the husband of her cousin, when her mother left her alone to make a hospital visit.

    In Loving Memory of Tupac

    badu_tupac07-12-2011.jpg
    Erykah Badu performs at event in memory of Tupac Shakur and fundraiser for arts program for Atlantaarea students. Photos: www.freddyO.com
                           Tupac Shakur was alive and well within the walls of Atlanta Symphony Hall recently. The late great rapper/ actor would have been celebrating his 40th birthday and although he was not there physically his spirit was bursting from the seams.

    The audience swayed to jubilating music, were wowed by the star studded line up, and overwhelmed by the super nova performer called Tupac.
    Afeni Shakur looked on as any proud mother could as the likes of Jasmine Guy, Warren G, Bun B, 8 ball, Rick Ross, and Erykah Badu paid tribute to her son with their presence and kind words. Her partner in the event, comedian Mike Epps, was a hilarious host as always and brought many smiles as he presented Afeni Shakur and the Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation with a big check in the amount of $10,000. The event was a fundraiser for the foundation and drew support for its arts programs that are provided to students in Atlanta-area public schools.

    mike_epps.jpf.jpg
    Mike Epps
    It was truly inspiring to not only cover the June 16 event and bask in its ambiance but to also perform as well.

    With up and coming rap artist Rico Staxx and the title track “Celebrate,” we rocked the stage and the heads of the solidified and legendary artists backstage.
    I had an opportunity to catch up with the young MC and talk about what Tupac and music meant to him.
    How has Tupac influenced your music?
    Tupac has not only influenced my music, he motivates my ambition. The man was fearless, talented, and very true to himself.
    What inspired you to become involved in music?

    tupac_foundation07-12-2011_1.jpg
    Afeini Shakur smiles and receives check for $10,000 to help fund youth programming.
    I have always been a fan of hip hop music. I could remember being a little boy listening to albums like All Eyez On Me, The Chronic, Reasonable Doubt, Doggystyle and a whole bunch of other classics. My family has also been a big inspiration, just watching my older brother spend all day and all night in the studio made me want to try it, so I jumped on the mic and the rest is history. I wrote my first rhyme at age 13.

    What do you think the rap game would be like if Tupac were still alive and well?
    I think the rap game would be more or less the same even if Tupac was still alive, 'cause even though he is dead his legacy lives on and he is still very relevant in the music industry til this day. He put his mark down and can't nobody take that from him.
    What do you hope to accomplish with your music?
    I want my music to open doors, not just for me but for everyone who is striving to survive in this day in age. Music is not just instruments and melodies, its therapy for the soul. A good song can really uplift ya spirits and that's what I wanna do, give the people something to be happy about. “I live life and I love god, every step of the way I gotta take charge.”
    Regardless of the songs performed at the event, they were all performed with Tupac in mind. So to take a page from Rico Staxx everyone stood up to “Celebrate” a true innovator. It was wonderful to see that real hip hop is alive and well and true soul lifting music was available for the ears of listeners.