October 17, 2012

Somewhere over at Fox HQ, Simon Cowell is punching a wall, ordering that several Fox employees be fired, and/or going into cardiac arrest. Because on Wednesday night, a rained-out baseball game delayed, and then suddenly interrupted, then totally preempted, the most important episode of this "X Factor" season so far. This was not the first time that baseball had ruined Simon's plans--last year, an "X Factor" episode was postponed due to a game--but that was just a Judges' Houses episode. This time, it was the all-important reveal of the top 16 contestants (the ones who will compete on the live shows), and it was the series' cliffhanger episode before the show goes on hiatus until November 1 for the World Series. (Wow, Simon must REALLY hate baseball by now.) And the interruption came at the worst moment possible.

So at 8pm on Wednesday, confused fans tuned in and saw a rerun of "Ben & Kate," not "The X Factor" as advertised--because Fox's telecast of the NCLS baseball game had been stopped at the bottom of the seventh inning due to rain, and the network was therefore in a holding pattern. But then, at about 8:40pm, "The X Factor" finally did begin, and the crisis seemed averted. Britney Spears announced her final four team members, followed by L.A. Reid's picks for the Over-25's, and then Demi Lovato began making her choices for the Young Adults. And then there was a commercial break, preceded by a teaser showing fan favorite Jillian Jensen, who had yet to learn her fate, sobbing uncontrollably. It was hard to tell if Jillian was crying out of joy or sorrow, and so viewers waited with baited breath to learn what had become of Jillian and the rest of Demi's contestants.

And then Fox came back from the break and started airing "The Mindy Project," with no explanation. And then Fox switched back to the baseball game. And then came the announcement that the rest of the "X Factor" episode would not be shown, and that the full episode would instead air NEXT Tuesday.

"IS THIS A JOKE?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! It won't be aired until next tuesday!??!!?!??!!? IS THIS A GOD DAMN JOKE?!?!?!?!" tweeted Jillian when this all went down, voicing the shocked sentiments of her many equally irate fans. Jillian's teammate Paige Thomas, whose segment also had yet to be shown, also tweeted: "WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON RIGHT NOW!!! SOMEONE HELP ME B4 I PASS OUT FROM ANXIETY AND BUILT UP ANTICIPATION!! WHERE IS THE SHOW? Ok seriously is this a joke? What is going on? Am I being punk'd? My stomach is literally in a knot!"

But Simon Cowell worded it best on his own Twitter: "Have no idea what is happening to the schedule tonight. Have heard the whole episode will be shown next Tuesday. Sorry. It what's known as a total f up."

F'ing things up even more now is the fact that Tuesday's rescheduled broadcast will go up against rival show "The Voice," which is sure to kill "The X Factor" in the ratings. (With another baseball game airing on Thursday, another presidential debate airing next Monday, the World Series starting next Wednesday, and the weekend apparently not being a good option, next Tuesday--at 7pm, not even 8pm!--was the only timeslot left for the rebroadcast. Personally, I think Sunday night, a night when many people tend to tune in to Fox anyway, would have been a smarter option.)

Making matters much worse was the fact that most of the top 16 announcement episode still aired this Wednesday on Canada's CTV. While CTV did switch in the last few minutes to an "X Factor" repeat, only the fates of three remaining contestants--groups LYLAS, Sister C, and Playback--were still up in the air, and every other result had already been shown. So diehard U.S.-based "X Factor" fans, who may have tuned in to Fox next Tuesday, now already know most of the results. After all, spoilers are impossible to avoid in this digital age.

Speaking of spoilers, thanks to the more baseball-resistant Canada, a nation clearly with its TV priorities in the right place (ha), we do know for sure 14 of the 16 contestants who made it through. (WARNING: DO NOT KEEP READING IF YOU ACTUALLY PLAN TO STAY OFF THE INTERWEB AND WAIT UNTIL NEXT TUESDAY TO FIND OUT THE RESULTS...)


Jillian, sadly and surprisingly, did not make it...but considerably less sadly, neither did Nick Youngerman, a novelty rapper at best whose covers of "Tik Tok" and "Ice Ice Baby" were pure frat-party karaoke. As for the contestants who did make it onto Demi's team of four, it made sense for Demi to keep rocker-girl-next-door (and Jillian's BFF) Jennel Garcia, one of the coolest contestants and most dynamic performers of the season, along with country singer Willie Jones, whose off-the-charts likability (and lack of Season 2 competition within the country genre) could take him very far. And while formerly leopard-faced (some might say two-faced) villainess CeCe Frey certainly doesn't possess the likability of Jennel or Willie (or of Jillian, for that matter), she certainly can sing, and she started to win me over on last week's episode, so I also understood Demi's decision to put CeCe through. But honestly, I would have given Paige Thomas's spot to Jillian instead. Paige started off strong on the show--hers was the first televised audition of the season, and she greatly impressed--but she started losing momentum almost immediately afterwards, to the point where I was kind of surprised that she even advanced to the Judges' Houses at all. If Paige wants to prove to "X Factor" viewers that she deserved a spot in the top 16 more than Jillian did, she is really going to have to bring it on the live shows.

Demi's fellow judge, Britney, faced some especially tough decisions on Wednesday with her Teens, arguably the strongest category on the show. It was a little shocking that Britney opted to eliminate the two most Bieber-esque (read: potentially girl-vote-garnering) boys in the category, cheeky rapper James Tanner and floppy-haired moppet Reed Deming. But it was a relief that she decided that there was room on the show for both Beatrice Miller and Carly Rose Sonenclar, somewhat similar 13-year-olds with old souls, and for at least one boy, Season 1 InTENsity singer-gone-solo Arin Ray, also an amazing young talent. Britney's one (relatively) weak link now is Diamond White--another contestant who started off with a fantastic audition but then backslid in the Boot Camp/Judges' Houses rounds.

However, the in-the-rough Diamond still has a lot of potential, and with a final foursome like this, it could very well be Britney's competition to lose this season.

And then were L.A.'s underdogs, the Over-25's. L.A. never wanted this motley crew in the first place ("It's not a secret that this is not my favorite category," he grumbled Wednesday, rudely), but for a man so seemingly uninvested, he did for the most part make the right calls this week. Much to my delight, he kept Elton-esque, glitter-exploding showboater Jason Brock, who I am sure will make the live shows all the more exciting, and 40-year-old face-tattooed rocker Vino Alan, whose brooding bad-boy persona is sure to court that all-important cougar vote. David Correy was an obvious choice given that, at age 26, he is L.A.'s youngest and therefore, at least hypothetically, "hippest" contestant. (David was actually the first one L.A. put through.) On the other side of that spectrum was 37-year-old country traditionalist Tate Stevens, not hip by any means...but L.A. is a businessman, and he must have realized that America is currently buying what Tate and Epic Records could soon be selling--and that with only one other solo contestant, Willie Jones, representing the country genre in Season 2, Tate could easily corner the country-fan demographic. I personally would have put smooth soul crooner Daryl Black, one of the show's purest voices, in Tate's place. ("I really respect L.A., but today he made a mistake," Daryl said--and I agreed.) But I suppose Daryl is more the type who goes far on "The Voice," not "The X Factor." I'll just count my blessings that the loathsome oversinger Tara Simon, despite all of her aggressive efforts, failed to make L.A.'s cut. She claimed, "He just got rid of someone who could have been a Kelly Clarkson...that's his decision to live with." Oh, I think L.A. will live with it just fine. I know I will.

As for Simon's Groups, before the Canadian broadcast was shut down in a panic, we did find out that trio Lyric 145 (the combination of rapstress extraordinaire Lyric Da Queen and zombie-eyed hip-hop duo ONE4FIVE) and skate-park brats Emblem3 had made it through, and that Dope Crisis had, unsurprisingly, been cut. Simon's prefab girl group LYLAS seem like shoo-ins for one of the two remaining mystery spots, but who will snag the other spot--Season 2's other prefab group, boy band Playback, or country-crooning family act Sister C? I'd prefer the latter, but I think Simon will keep Playback due to his massive ego and inability to admit that he made a mistake when he put those boys together. Plus, we all know that Simon has never been a big fan of country music.

So there you have it. For you south-of-the-Canadian-border superfans who still want to see (not just read about) all of the reveals, or who are particularly keen to find out what happened with the Groups, tune in next Tuesday. Otherwise, "The X Factor" return, live, after the World Series, on November 1. The long break and this week's disaster are sure to hurt the series' momentum, but maybe the time off will give all of the top 16 the time needed to hone their craft (and maybe give Simon some time to cool down, because he must be pretty heated right now). In the meantime, here's a cribsheet of the four teams as we know them, with each team ranked from my personal favorite to least favorite:

TEENS (mentored by Britney)
Beatrice Miller
Carly Rose Sonenclar
Arin Ray
Diamond White

YOUNG ADULTS (mentored by Demi)
Jennel Garcia
Willie Jones
CeCe Frey
Paige Thomas

OVER-25's (mentored by L.A.)
Jason Brock
Vino Alan
David Correy
Tate Stevens

GROUPS (mentored by Simon)
Lyric 145
+ two more TBA

January 24, 2013

Seal of the United States Internal Revenue Service. The design is the same as the Treasury seal with an IRS inscription.

The Internal Revenue Service plans to appeal a federal district court judge’s surprise ruling last Friday that it lacks the authority from Congress to regulate tax preparers and it has asked that judge to suspend his injunction blocking the regulations while it pursues that appeal. In a motion filed yesterday with Washington D.C. Federal District Court Judge James E. Boasberg, the IRS argued that it has a “reasonable likelihood” of winning its appeal and that the public will suffer “irreparable harm” if his injunction isn’t suspended. With the tax filing season due to begin on Jan. 30th, the filing said, the injunction will cause a “substantial disruption to tax administration” and “massive confusion” for both tax preparers and the public.

On Tuesday, to comply with Boasberg’s ruling, the IRS posted a notice on its web site saying paid tax preparers are not “currently required” to register . But yesterday’s filing makes clear that the IRS will pursue every option to avoid putting its regulatory scheme on hold. If Boasberg doesn’t want to suspend his own injunction for the duration of the appeal, the IRS asked that he at least suspend it for 14 days while it seeks relief from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. On Tuesday, National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson told Forbes that, “If the injunction stands, the taxpayers of the United States will be grievously harmed.”

Federal Judge Shoots Down IRS Attempt To Regulate All Paid Tax Preparers

Back, in 2010, after years of listening to complaints about the problems created by incompetent and dishonest unlicensed tax pros, the IRS decided to require all paid preparers to register with it beginning in 2011 and those who weren’t otherwise subject to national standards to pass a minimum competency test by the end of 2013 and to take 15 hours a year of continuing education. According to an affidavit from Carol A. Campbell, director of the IRS Return Preparer Office, submitted to support the agency’s request for a stay, 744,000 tax preparers registered for IDs last year. Until Boasberg’s ruling, anyone who wanted to prepare returns for pay this year was supposed to pay a $63 fee to renew his or her ID or $64.25 to get a new one. Only about half of the 744,000 who registered would have been required to pass the new test, since lawyers, CPAs and Enrolled Agents (who have already passed a more rigorous IRS test), were exempt from it. The new registration and testing requirements were supported by H & R Block, the nation’s largest tax preparation chain with 11,000 offices open during tax season, and by Jackson Hewitt Tax Service, the second largest, with 6,800 locations, including 2,800 in Wal-Mart stores and 400 in Sears stores.

In her affidavit, Campbell said the IRS has already set up 250 testing centers and spent $54 million on the return preparer program and has received $106 million in preparer registration and testing user fees. If the injunction isn’t suspended and the IRS wins its appeal, Campbell said, the IRS will incur “substantial costs” to restart the program. The IRS also argued in its motion that if the injunction isn’t stayed, “thousands of return preparers who have already submitted their users fees would demand refunds, and the United States would likely face numerous lawsuits—including class action lawsuits.”

Noting that since the start of 2010 more than 500 tax return preparers have been criminally prosecuted, Campbell also argued in her affidavit that putting IRS regulation of preparers on hold would hurt the its enforcement program, and particularly it efforts to curb identity theft and earned income tax credit fraud. The government estimates it loses $13 billion a year to EITC “fraud, abuse, and error” and “almost two-thirds of all returns claiming the earned income tax credit are prepared by tax return preparers,’’ her affidavit said. As for ID theft, she noted that the government’s requires registered tax preparers to pass a criminal records check. (In identity theft refund fraud, a criminal—in some cases a crooked tax preparer–uses stolen Social Security numbers to electronically file bogus returns seeking refunds. As a result, the legitimate owner of the hijacked number often has his or her refund delayed for six months or more. According to a recent report from the National Taxpayer Advocate, at the end of fiscal 2012, the IRS was working on almost 650,000 identity theft cases.)

The suit that lead to Boasberg’s ruling was filed on behalf of three tax preparers by the libertarian Institute for Justice. In granting the injunction, Boasberg noted that two of the three preparers said they would likely shut down their tax businesses if forced to comply with the new registration requirements and thus would suffer irreparable injury without such an injunction. But the IRS argued in its filing that the plaintiffs wouldn’t be “substantially harmed” if the injunction is suspended. To support that assertion, the IRS quoted an article Forbes contributor Kelly Phillips Erb (a.k.a Taxgirl) published on Tuesday. In it, she quoted the preparers’ lawyer as saying that all three had submitted their preparer ID numbers for 2013 “and had planned to continue preparing returns this season.”

November 14, 2012

PHOENIX (Reuters) - Ricardo, an illegal immigrant from Mexico, sets off each day before dawn looking for casual work in construction not knowing if he will return home to his wife and three children or get snared in an immigration sweep. Lately, he feels the pervasive fear slowly lifting.

Ricardo, 46, is among millions of Latino immigrants who, regardless of their immigration status, feel fresh optimism this week over newfound Republican willingness to consider immigration reform to avoid further alienating Hispanic voters who proved key to re-electing President Barack Obama.

Some leading Republicans have signaled a shift away from an enforcement-only approach to illegal immigration, with U.S. House Speaker John Boehner saying that a "comprehensive approach is long overdue."

"When we head out ... it's always with the fear that we might not all make it back home," Ricardo said in Spanish, perched on the couch in his Phoenix apartment with his wife, Alicia, 43. "But now you can see the light at the end of the tunnel."

The Obama administration, in a move that boosted support among Latino voters, said in June it would relax deportation rules so that many young illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children can stay and work.

On Sunday, Democratic Senator Charles Schumer said he and Republican Lindsey Graham had agreed to restart talks on a proposal that includes a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants in the country - who number roughly 11.2 million.
Not since President George W. Bush's 2007 push for broad immigration reform, which ultimately died in the Senate, have Hispanics and other immigrants here heard such promising words.

For Ricardo and Alicia, who have stayed on in Arizona despite a state clamp down on illegal immigration designed to drive them out, comprehensive immigration reform holds out the possibility for a permanent status for themselves and a more secure future for their children.

The couple, who asked not to be identified by their last name, crossed over the desert to Arizona from Mexico 11 years ago and now work as a builder and house cleaner. They first sent the children, now 21, 16 and 13, to the United States by bus with false papers, then walked across the desert themselves.

Now fluent in English and Spanish, the children consider themselves Americans and the oldest is planning to apply for deferred deportation status. They felt threatened by the Arizona crackdown but decided not to flee.

"We've focused on working and bringing up our children honorably," said Alicia, adding that immigration reform "could make it easier for my children to carry on studying."

Latinos are the largest minority and the fastest-growing demographic in the United States, amounting to 10 percent of the voting public in last week's election, up from 8 percent in 2008 according to the Pew Hispanic Center.

They also largely supported Obama, with his backing among Hispanic voters in the election coming in at about 66 percent, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling data, roughly in line with the percentage that voted for him four years ago.

"The conservative movement should have particular appeal to people in minority and immigrant communities who are trying to make it, and Republicans need to work harder than ever to communicate our beliefs to them," Florida Senator Marco Rubio said last week.

For Mexico-born Justino Mora, a student in Los Angeles who won temporary legal status under relaxed deportation rules but whose mother remains undocumented, the new focus on immigration reform left him hopeful but wanting more.

"It's really strange knowing that my two siblings and I ... are protected from deportation and have the ability to work in the U.S., get a Social Security number and apply for a driver's license, but my mom does not," said Mora, 23.

Even as some Republicans have expressed willingness to consider an immigration overhaul, others including Republican Arizona Governor Jan Brewer who has been at odds with the Obama administration on immigration policy, have resisted such calls.

Brewer, whose state requires police to check the immigration status of anyone they stop and suspect is in the country illegally, warned in a statement against rushing "head-long into a ‘solution' that only makes things worse."

With mixed messages from Republicans, some Latino immigrants remain wary about whether they could trust Republicans to represent their interests going forward.

"You can't trust them: They tell you one thing and they do something else ... There's a lot of them who don't like Hispanics," said Mexican day laborer Baltazar Lara, 54, as he risked arrest waiting to be hired outside a Phoenix-area Wal-Mart.

But Mexico-born Edder Diaz, 22, who volunteered to help register Hispanic voters across the Phoenix valley ahead of the election, said he remained open to the possibility of one day voting Republican should he win citizenship.

"For me, personally, I see myself as independent ... If a Republican understands my needs ... I may vote for them," said Diaz. "Up to this point they have only been playing political games to get themselves elected. There may be a possibility."

August 21, 2012
Small Businesses Say Raise The Minimum Wage
Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and business advocates call for renewed focus and legislation to pay Americans wages that they can live on

It’s been three years now since there was a national minimum wage increase. The current federal minimum wage was raised from $6.55 to $7.25 per hour as of July 24, 2009. At $7.25 an hour, that comes to just $15,080 a year for full-time work—a figure still below the official poverty line. Small business owners, congressional leaders, and advocates across the country are calling for renewed focus on sub-poverty earnings that millions of Americans are expected to get by on.

Congressmen Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.), John Conyers (D-Mich.), and Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) are among those leading the charge to increase the minimum wage. In June, they introduced the “Catching Up To 1968 Act of 2012,” legislation which would raise the federal hourly minimum wage to $10. The $10-an-hour rate “may sound like a hefty wage increase but it doesn’t fully equal the purchasing power of the minimum wage in 1968, which today would be closer to $11 per hour,” Jackson said at a press conference. Minimum wage has not kept up with inflation since 1968, its historical high point. Raising wages would allow American workers a degree of catching up. But in a Republican controlled House, the bill has been stagnant. President Obama also has proposed raising the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour.

Holy Sklar, director of the Business for a Fair Minimum Wage project, says that though “worker productivity grew 80% from 1973 to 2011,” the average worker’s wages—adjusted for inflation fell 7%. Advocates also claim that today’s low-wage workers are older and better educated than in the past. Minimum wage has not risen in step with low-wage workers’ age and educational attainment since 1968.

Opponents of minimum wage increases have argued that it would negatively impact hiring. “Increases have not produced the loss of jobs in the ways opponents of these types of proposals predict,” says Jeanette Wicks-Lim, an assistant research professor at the University of Massachusetts’ Political Economy Research Institute. Recent research shows minimum wage laws enacted in the past “have not had a negative impact on workers’ job opportunities.”

Critics also make the case that raising the minimum wage will hurt small businesses. However, low minimum wages do not help small businesses, says Darius Ross, a managing partner with D Alexander Ross Real Estate Capital Partners, a New York real estate and construction company with about 200 employees on average. The company rehabs and develops multiunit family dwellings, mostly in low-income areas, in major cities like New York, Detroit, Chicago, and Birmingham.

Ross says the benefits of a higher minimum wage for businesses boils down to three areas: profit, productivity and prosperity. In terms of prosperity, “you want wages raised to the level where workers can afford rent, health care, and food for their families,” he says. “When rent increases greater than wages, workers will feel why bother coming to work.” By raising wages you get decreased absenteeism, higher worker morale, and greater productivity, he explains.

Ross concedes it is a balancing act for businesses between offering an ideal wage and keeping production costs low or not having increasingly high prices for goods and services. The 47-year-old African American businessman says he knows firsthand what it is like to barely make ends meet, growing up and watching his parents work hard every day only to find themselves struggling to put food on the table and relying on government assistance programs.

Ross says raising the minimum wage also increases consumer buying power and in turn profits for business owners, managers, and shareholders. People who experience a rise in income spend more money. An increase in consumer consumption means an increase in demand for goods and services.

“Businesses don’t expect the costs of energy, rent, transportation and other expenses to remain constant, yet some want to keep the minimum wage the same year after year, despite increases in the cost of living,” says David Bolotsky, founder and CEO of online retailer and mail-order house Uncommon Goods in Brooklyn, New York, and a member of Business for a Fair Minimum Wage. “That kind of business model traps workers in poverty and undermines our economy. The minimum wage should require that all businesses pay employees a wage people can live on.”

December 8, 2012
Cowboys nose tackle Joshua Brent charged with intoxication manslaughter

According to the Dallas Morning News, Dallas Cowboys nose tackle Joshua Brent has been arrested and charged with intoxicated vehicular manslaughter by the Irving Police Department following an accident on East State Highway 114 early Saturday morning that claimed the life of Cowboys practice squad linebacker Jerry Brown.

Brent and Brown were teammates at the University of Illinois.

According to the report, Brent was traveling at a high rate of speed when his vehicle "hit the outside curb", causing it to flip over and come to rest in the middle of the road. Brent was given a field sobriety test, which he failed, and had blood drawn at a local hospital before booked on the second-degree felony by the Irving PD.

Brown was transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The Cowboys have issued the following statement (via ESPN Dallas):

"We are deeply saddened by the news of this accident and the passing of Jerry Brown," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. "At this time, our hearts and prayers and deepest sympathies are with the members of Jerry's family and all of those who knew him and loved him."

Brown, 25, went undrafted in 2011 and began his professional career in the arena league before playing for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League. Brown went to training camp in 2012 with the Indianapolis Colts and posted 10 tackles before he was waived and re-signed to the practice squad. Brown appeared in one game for the Colts, logging 11 special teams plays in a 35-9 loss to the New York Jets.

The Colts would waive Brown the following week and re-sign him to their practice squad. One week later, Brown's practice squad was terminated and he was signed by the Cowboys.

Cowboys nose tackle Josh Brent was arrested on Saturday morning

Brent entered the NFL in 2010 when the Cowboys selected him in the seventh round of the 2010 Supplemental Draft. Brent served time in jail for misdemeanor DUI while a student-athlete at Illinois.

Josh Brent at the Irving Police Department

The 6-foot-2, 320-pound nose tackle totaled 16 tackles while playing in just under 25 percent of the Cowboys' defensive snaps in 2010, but was limited to 11 games and 13 percent of the defensive snaps in 2011. With starting nose tackle Jay Ratliff battling injuries throughout the season, Brent has started five of 12 games and played in over 41 percent of the Cowboys' defensive snaps, setting career-highs with 22 tackles and 1.5 sacks.

In an unrelated transaction, the Cowboys added defensive tackle Rob Callaway to the 53-man roster, placing cornerback Orlando Scandrick on injured reserve.

January 4, 2013

The controversial stars of "All My Babies' Mamas" show.

Have we gone too far?
It's a question we ask at the outset of every outrageous new reality series—be it "Survivor" or "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo." It's also usually an early sign of a show's success.

How reality TV hurts girls
But response to a new show teased as part of Oxygen Media's spring lineup, seems to mark a momentous moment when reality has truly jumped the shark. Collective and largely unchallenged outrage over the network's upcoming show "All My Babies' Mamas" is the unusual case of a show sparking enough controversy to potentially kill it.

"All My Babies' Mamas," a one-hour reality special slated to air in the spring of 2013, features Carlos "Shawty Lo" Walker, an Atlanta-based hip-hop artist with 11 children by 10 different women. Oh, he's also got a 19-year-old girlfriend, who's a year shy of his oldest child.

By the looks of the leaked sneak peak and an early press release, the show's take on this challenging family dynamic is more "Brady Bunch" than "An American Family."

"As the household grows, sometimes so does the dysfunction, leaving the man of the house to split his affection multiple ways while trying to create order," reads the goofy-sitcom-style description, in a press release posted the Oxygen's website late December. "Will there be a conflict over a family holiday, who needs school supplies and who holds the household finance purse strings, or can these feisty babies' mamas band together and live peacefully as one family unit?"

Since the show was publicized, the conflict has been primarily off-camera. Calls for a boycott of the network and a petition to pull the special from the network's lineup have risen to a fever pitch in the past week.

"By pushing these degrading images, your company seeks to profit from the humiliation of girls and women and the blatant stereotyping of African-Americans," writes, Sabrina Lamb, the woman behind the petition.

Lamb first noticed the press release on Oxygen's website, and after watching a 13-minute sample reel of the series on YouTube—which at one point features Shawty Lo unsuccessfully naming his 11 kids as quiz show music plays—she wrote an open letter to the present of Oxygen calling for the cancellation of the show before it goes to air.

"The focus of our outrage is that they would dare exploit the pain of these children and that Oxygen would promote this toxic situation to its young, impressionable female audience," Lamb, an author and cultural commentator, tells Yahoo! Shine. "There's no way this can go forward. We're going all the way to the end with this."

As of Friday, her plea to the network's president had received well over 13,000 signatures and countless support from bloggers, journalists, and activists, including the NAACP.

But network executives may be just as hellbent on attracting those young, impressionable women Lamb is talking about. In the show's press release, Cori Abraham, senior vice president of development for Oxygen Media promises, "All My Babies' Mamas" will be filled with outrageous and authentic over-the-top moments that our young, diverse female audience can tweet and gossip about."

Jennifer Lawrence weighs in on reality TV
Cat-fights, questionable parenting, and unregulated households have become the bread-and-butter of cable TV ratings. The soaring success of "Honey Boo Boo," "The Real Housewives" franchise, and the Kardashian conglomerate all hinge on those three voyeuristic elements for success. But it seems Oxygen has officially gone too far for viewers—if those 13,000 signatures are any indication.

Chicago Tribune editor Clarence Page likens the premise of "Mamas" to slavery. Huffington Post contributor and Syracuse University professor Dr. Boyce Watkins calls the show a "platform for ignorance."

"As a respected African-American media professional I can not in good conscience allow this program to move forward," writes radio personality Morris O'Kelly in an open letter to Oxygen.

Lamb and her fellow critics take particular offense to the press release's suggestion of scuffles between women for entertainment purposes, and the fact that each woman is given a pithy nickname to describe their flattened, TV-friendly personalities ("Jealous Baby Mama" and "Shady Baby Mama" are two of the moms). Shawty Lo's teenage girlfriend as the can-it-get-more-outrageous X factor doesn't help.

"You've got a network with international reach telling a young female audience it's okay to have unprotected sex, that other women are enemies, that they're not valued by men, that their financial sustenance should come from a man, and that babies are just spectators in all of this," Lamb tells Shine. Still she wants to be clear: "This is not just a women's issue."

The depiction of a disjointed African-American family, with an ill-suited father, is also a sticking point.

"To someone committed to the black family, who has spent a good part of his career fighting to improve the image and perception of black men, this all feels like a sticky gob of spit in my face," writes My Brown Baby's Nick Chiles in a post titled "If We Let Shawty Lo's Show Get On Air We Will Have All Failed Ourselves."

Chiles also notes the irony of the network's history. "Painfully, Oxygen is the network that was started by, among others, Oprah Winfrey in 1998, with the brilliant idea of—wait for it—empowering women," he writes. "But 1998 was a loooong time ago. Since then, it was purchased by NBC Universal in 2007 for $925 million and any kind of mission about female empowerment was long ago abandoned."

Oxygen is not the first network to face backlash for exploiting the tribulations of troubled family dynamics. In fact "Mamas" co-creators and former MTV honchos, Tony DiSanto and Liz Gately, faced similar outrage with the launch of their hit series "Teen Mom" a few years back. But this may be the first time a show has been boycotted before it has even completed production.

"What we have here is a show that's not even on air," says Lamb, who also runs World of Money, a nonprofit dedicated to the financial education of children. "We can fight this. We can say to advertisers if this show, about kids watching their mothers fight each other for crumbs, is what you value, then we don't support your brand."

Shine's request for a statement from Oxygen was not returned by press time. However, we did obtain correspondence between Oxygen President Jason Klarman and the New York Chapter of the NAACP, after a representative from the organization requested the show be dropped from the network.

In his emailed response, Klarman claimed "the show is still in early development" and the footage leaked was "not representative of the final special, which is still being cast and developed." He also responded to the accusations of racial stereotyping. "While we are seeking to chronicle a true story, it is not meant to be a stereotypical representation of everyday life for any one demographic or cross section of society…That said, we are highly attuned and sensitive to your concerns and our diverse team of creative executives will continue their involvement as the special is developed."

Klarman's email is unlikely to quiet the growing campaign against the show and the network. Lamb, for her part, is making it her personal mission to thwart Shawty Lo's debut. "I don't want him on TV," she says. "He needs therapy and condoms, he doesn't need a TV show."

By Piper Weiss, Shine Staff | Parenting

October 17, 2012

When the evening began, one observation dominated the conversation: “If President Barack Obama has another debate like the last one, the election’s over.”

When the evening ended, I was struck by a different thought: If Obama had performed this way at the first debate, the election would have been over.

In every debate, whatever the format, whatever the questions, there is one and only one way to identify the winner: Who commands the room? Who drives the narrative? Who is in charge? More often than not on Tuesday night, I think, Obama had the better of it.

From a substantive view, there was one argument that the president was seeking to make over and over: Don’t let Mitt Romney fool you; he’s a rich guy out to protect the interests of the well-off, not the middle-class.

That’s why he referenced not just Romney’s tax plan, but Romney’s taxes, the fact that the Republican presidential nominee paid a lower rate on his millions than ordinary working-class folks do on theirs, the fact that Romney has invested heavily in China. And when Romney went at Obama with almost the exact same argument he used so devastatingly against Newt Gingrich—“have you checked your pension?”—Obama came back with, “I haven’t looked at my pension; it’s not as big as yours. (For super-wonks it harked back to a 1982 debate between Mario Cuomo and the super-wealthy Lew Lehrman, when Cuomo reached over, grabbed Lehrman’s hand, and said, “Nice watch, Lou!”)

As a tactical matter, Obama executed one of the toughest of maneuvers: the counterpunch. When Romney attacked Obama for hindering the use of coal, the President recalled an appearance of Romney as governor of Massachusetts, where he vowed to shut down a coal-fired power plant. (The fact that Romney was probably right about the danger will be the subject of earnest substantive post-debate analyses that have no place here!)

And in talking about an area where the Obama administration has clear vulnerabilities—the attack on the American consulate in Libya—Obama summoned the inherent high ground of the presidency to condemn the “politicization” of the attack.

To be clear: There was nothing particularly off about Romney. He had several strong moments, most especially contrasting what Obama said he would do in 2008 with what in fact had happened over the past four years. This was, and is, the single most powerful argument against returning Obama to the White House, and Romney deployed it effectively.

It’s just that Obama found what he could not find in Denver—a coherent thread to make the case that he understands the middle-class in a way Romney does not. For those Democratic partisans wondering where “the 47 percent” argument was, Obama was saving it for the close which—because of a pre-debate coin flip—Romney could not answer. In this sense, it was like Reagan’s famous “are you better off?” question from 1980.

In a larger sense, however, Obama’s success is unlikely to have anything like the impact of that 1980 debate, nor will it likely alter the terrain of the campaign as the first debate of 2012 did. Had the Obama of this debate showed up two weeks ago, he might well have ended Romney’s effort to present himself as a credible alternative to the president.

That opportunity vanished that night. While it’s clear that Obama’s performance will revive the enthusiasm of his supporters, it seems unlikely that it will cause those impressed by Romney to reconsider. Like they say in show business, timing is everything.

June 30, 2013

The housing bust wrecked the finances of a lot of families, but it hit minorities especially hard. And now, those minority families are missing out on the housing recovery.

Hispanic households on average lost nearly half of their home equity between 2007 and 2010, according to a paper by the Urban Institute. Black households lost 28% and white households lost just 24%.

The housing bust hit minorities harder partly because they came to the home ownership party later, according to Caroline Ratcliffe, a co-author of the Urban Institute paper.

"Hispanics in particular did a lot of home buying just before the recession hit," she said.
That meant that many bought at or near the top of the market. And when their home equity vanished, it made them more vulnerable than other groups to foreclosure.

Now that home values are rebounding, it will benefit white households much more. Their home ownership rate is close to 75%. Black home ownership is about 45% and for Hispanics, it's 47%.

"Due to disproportionate loss of home ownership among people of color, the racial wealth gap is likely to grow further as families that have lost their homes will see no benefit from the recovering home prices," said James Carr, senior fellow with the Center for Economic Progress.

Minorities also haven't been able to get back into the housing market because banks have made it tougher and costlier for risky borrowers to get mortgages.

Minority families are facing several barriers to becoming home buyers again.

Most home loans are now backed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Administration. All have made loans more expensive for borrowers with low credit scores.

Additional fees for buyers with low credit scores can add up -- more than $100 a month when compared to someone with a high credit score getting a conventional loan.

Even worse, FHA borrowers now have to pay mortgage insurance premiums for the entire term of the loans, even during the last few years when the risk of default is very small.

Government programs favor the well off over the poor, said Ratcliffe.

"The federal government spends billions in tax credits to promote long-term asset growth," she said. "Tax-free retirement savings, the mortgage interest deduction and other programs primarily benefit high income Americans.

The wealth gap could widen if the pathway to home ownership is blocked for too many minorities, said Lewis Ranieri, founder of Ranieri Partners.

"We need a system that funds first time homeowners and trade up buyers and it shouldn't be only for middle class whites," he said.

By: Les Christie @CNNMoney

May 17, 2012
PlayDisco Queen Donna Summer Dead At Age 63
By Wendy Geller

Donna Summer, whom millions of fans revered as "the Queen of Disco," has died at the age of 63 in Florida after a battle with cancer, the Associated Press confirmed with the singer's family Thursday morning.

The news comes as a surprise to those who were not aware that she was ill. The legendary superstar was publicly active as recently as last June, when she appeared as a guest panelist on Bravo's music reality show Platinum Hit.

However, a report by TMZ, which initially broke the story, notes that those close to the singer--known for mega-hits including "Last Dance" and "Bad Girls"--revealed she had been trying to hide how sick she was. A source said that Summer did not seem to be in that bad of shape two weeks ago.
[Related: No More Tears: Remembering Donna Summer's 10 Greatest Tracks]
She is survived by her adult daughters Mimi (by her first husband, actor Helmuth Sommer), Brooklyn and Amanda (by second husband Bruce Sudano)

In addition to her status as a pioneer in the dance music genre, Summer was a five-time Grammy Award winner, the first artist ever to score three back-to-back No. 1 double albums, and was nominated--but not chosen--for induction into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame in 2010. She is credited with influencing stars ranging from Madonna and Michael Jackson, to Beyonce and Rihanna. Her last album, Crayons, was released in 2008.

November 14, 2012
US President Obama has reiterated his call for high earners in the US to pay more in taxes, in his first news conference since winning re-election.

He called for quick legislation to rule out tax rises on the first $250,000 (£158,000) of income, but refused to extend cuts for the wealthiest 2%.

"We should not hold the middle class hostage while we debate tax cuts for the wealthy," Mr Obama said.

The US faces a so-called "fiscal cliff" of spending cuts and tax rises.

The fiscal cliff, looming at the end of 2012, would see the George W Bush-era tax cuts expire in combination with automatic, across-the-board reductions to military and domestic spending.

The automatic cuts are set to occur because Congress failed to reach a deal on deficit reduction after a stand-off over the US debt ceiling in mid-2011.

Congressional Republicans have said since last week's US elections that they are open to raising revenue thought tax reform and closure of loopholes, but oppose tax rises on the wealthy.