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.

May 21, 2012
G8 pledges to lift 50 million Africans out of poverty

G8 leaders on Saturday pledged to lift millions of Africans out of poverty by promoting investments in sustainable agriculture.

"Today we commit to launch a New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition to accelerate the flow of private capital to African agriculture, take to scale new technologies and other innovations that can increase sustainable agricultural productivity, and reduce the risk borne by vulnerable economies and communities," the Group of Eight major industrial nations said.

"This New Alliance will lift 50 million people out of poverty over the next decade."
The ambitious announcement, contained in a final communique released after a high-profile gathering on a range of topics, came a day after President Barack Obama reached out to the private sector for financial support for the cause.

The initiative also comes as pledges expire from 2009 in L'Aquila, Italy, where the G8 promised more than $20 billion over three years to improve food access to Africans and others hit by the high prices and a global slowdown.
Civil society observers appeared skeptical about the endeavor's success.

"The G8 have offered warm words on food security but have failed to make a specific pledge to simply maintain L'Aquila level financial commitments going forward," said Katie Campbell, senior policy analyst for ActionAid USA. "In failing to deliver this, they have turned their backs on the women smallholder farmers who are so vital to food security in Africa."

Oxfam claimed that input from those directly concerned had not been taken into consideration.
"Poor countries have presented the G8 country-led, sustainable, and coordinated plans for food security and agricultural development, but today the G8 gave them the cold shoulder," Lamine Ndiaye, the group's Pan Africa Head of Economic Justice, said in a statement.

According to the G8 communique, the initiative would, among other things, be guided by "a collective commitment to invest in credible, comprehensive and country-owned plans."

The Norwegian global firm Yara has said it would build Africa's first major fertilizer production facility as part of the initiative. Companies including Pepsi and Dupont have also pledged to invest in Africa's small-scale farmers.

May 21, 2012
Whitney Houston’s Final Recording ‘Celebrate’ Released
By Abena Agyeman-Fisher


The much-beloved pop icon Whitney Houston recorded a duet with fellow actress and singer Jordin Sparks just four days before her untimely demise. Now, Whitney fans can hear the diva show off her rehabilitated voice in her final song.
SEE ALSO: Billboard’s Best Music Moment

Singing alongside Sparks for a tune called “Celebrate,” Houston sounds like her old self. The song is for the upcoming movie “Sparkle,” which is a 1976 remake of the original “Sparkle” that starred Philip Michael Thomas, Irene Cara, and Lonette McKee.

“Sparkle” chronicles the lives of a girl group in the 1960s who struggle with drug abuse and fame. The remake, starring the aforementioned Houston and Sparks, will also star Cee Lo Green, Mike Epps, Carmen Ejogo, and Derek Luke, among others.

For the song, movie producer Harvey Mason Jr. gushed about Houston’s performance of the song, adding that Houston’s recording session was “really positive” and Houston herself was overjoyed by her performance:
“We ended the session dancing around the control room while she said ‘Turn it up! Turn it up!’ She was so fun-loving.”

May 31, 2012
Sierra Leone: Taylor to Spend Rest of His Life in Prison

Al Jazeera television news records the moment Charles Taylor was sentenced to 50 years' jail by the Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague on Wednesday.

Cape Town — The Special Court for Sierra Leone has sentenced former Liberian president Charles Taylor to 50 years' imprisonment for aiding and abetting war crimes in Sierra Leone.

He is expected to serve his sentence in a high security prison in the United Kingdom for his role in the 11-year civil war in Sierra Leone, which claimed about 50,000 lives.

Sentence was passed in The Hague in the Netherlands on Wednesday by a trial chamber of the court comprising Justice Richard Lussick, Justice Teresa Doherty and Justice Julia Sebutinde. Justice Sebutinde, who also serves on the International Court of Justice, is a Ugandan jurist who qualified at Makerere University. The court was set up jointly by the Government of Sierra Leone and the United Nations.

Passing sentence, Justice Lussick recalled testimonies of brutality from witnesses during the trial. In one he cited, a witness said she was forced to carry a bag filled with human heads dripping with blood.

Another witness said she was gang-raped and her mother's eyes were pulled out by rebels.

Amputees who had their limbs cut off in the war will now survive on charity, the judge said. Futhermore, child soldiers and young girls who were raped face stigmatization.

Taylor denied direct involvement in the war crimes and asked the judge to show mercy, since he is 64 years old and can no longer be a threat to society.

Justice Lussick said the court viewed Taylor's crimes with "the utmost gravity". It rejected a number of defence pleas for mitigation, among them that Taylor had played a substantial role in the peace process and had secured the release of peacekeepers and other hostages during the war. The court said that while Taylor publicly professed to work for peace, he was secretly instigating conflict, and his help with hostages was not a significant mitigating factor.

Nor was Taylor's public service a mitigating factor, the court found, and the sympathy he expressed for victims of the war did not constitute "remorse that would merit recognition for sentencing purposes." The court found as an aggravating circumstance the fact that Taylor exploited the conflict for financial gain.

However, Justice Lussick rejected the prosecution plea for an 80-year prison sentence on the grounds that Taylor was not convicted on the most serious charges he faced. When convicting Taylor, the judges did not accept the prosecution's contention that Taylor had effective command and control over the Sierra Leone rebels he supported.

Before announcing sentence, the judge said there was no precedent for sentencing Taylor. Although his conviction was limited to planning, aiding and abetting crimes, as a head of state, he was "in a class of his own," the judge said, and "the gravity of his betrayal of public trust" had weighed with the court.

The case was heard in The Hague for fear that a trial in Sierra Leone could destabilise the region.

May 31, 2012
Black mayors come to Atlanta for 38th annual convention

By Jeremiah McWilliams
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

More than 250 mayors and state and federal officials are scheduled to be in Atlanta through Sunday for the National Conference of Black Mayors' 38th annual national convention.

The gathering is billed as a forum in which rural and urban mayors can exchange ideas. The Atlanta convention is expected to deal with job creation, housing, health, sustainability, green technology, international trade, good governance and ethics and broadband.

"As leaders of large urban cities and rural areas, mayors play a vital role in ensuring the future economic growth and safety of our nation as we address challenges at home and increasing global competition from emerging economies," Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said in a statement. “Crumbling transportation infrastructure, joblessness and failing public schools are issues that mayors tackle on a daily basis."

Reed will serve as official host of the meeting. He plans to welcome the officials on Thursday night with a reception at City Hall.

It's a high-profile event for the 42-year old mayor, who has received doses of national exposure on CNN and Meet the Press and in forums organized by the Aspen Institute and other groups.

Atlanta’s history as the cradle of civil rights and its evolution into an "economic and political powerhouse" led the group to select the city as its meeting place, said Robert L. Bowser, president of the NCBM and mayor of East Orange, New Jersey. The conference will be held at the Marriott hotel in Buckhead.

Founded in 1974, the National Conference of Black Mayors represents more than 650 African-American mayors across the United States.

Valerie B. Jarrett, senior advisor to President Barack Obama, is scheduled to be there. So are Rep. John Conyers and Ambassador Andrew Young, former mayor of Atlanta. Representatives from Senegal, Colombia, Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago are also expected to attend.

May 31, 2012
Whoa! ‘Taxpayers’ Want Diddy’s Son To Give Back His Scholarship?
May 31, 2012 22 By Dr. Boyce Watkins

There is an article in Yahoo Finance that claims that “taxpayers” are asking that Diddy’s son Justin return his $54,000 scholarship to UCLA so they could give it to students who need the money more than he does. Apparently, Diddy’s massive fortune precludes his son’s right to earn a scholarship like everyone else, even if he has a 3.75 GPA and happens to be a great athlete.

Not everyone agrees that Justin should have to give back the dough, since the scholarship was athletic and not academic.
“He’s done what he needs to do to be successful, and in ‘Ameritocracy,’ we have to accept that no matter who your father is, whether he be rich, poor, or absent, that you can in fact be successful on your own merit,” said educator Steve Perry.

Diddy definitely doesn’t need a scholarship to send his son to college. Just this year, he has earned $45 million from his various endeavors and was on the Forbes list of richest celebs. The $54,000 that Justin received to go to UCLA might be spent by Diddy on one night out at the club or on a new pair of sneakers for his cat. So one can easily understand the frustration of seeing him get any sort of financial aid.

While I can appreciate the sentiment of those who are keenly aware that Diddy doesn’t need the money for his son, the fact is that critics are wrong.

There’s something about being Black that makes others far more aware of when you’re allegedly milking the system in ways that would be overlooked if you were White.

The “outrage” over Justin’s scholarship would make sense if Justin was the first wealthy kid to ever receive an athletic scholarship. It’s not as if Justin got the money based on need or even based on his minority status. He got it for playing football and being pretty good at his sport. Mind you, I wouldn’t be surprised if his father’s connections helped him to jump a bar that he wouldn’t be able to jump if he were some regular kid from the ghetto.

But I guess that’s the benefit of having a Father who’s made millions by feeding bottles of liquor to Black people all over the world and making a lot of mediocre music (Seriously, Diddy hasn’t made hot music since Biggie was alive 15 years ago, and you know it).

With that being said, Justin’s scholarship is a non-issue and a non-conversation topic. When every rich kid in America gets his scholarship taken away, then we can talk. Until then, let the boy go to college like everybody else, he earned it.

June 13, 2012
Homeless man allowed to keep $77,000 he stumbled upon
By Jason Sickles | The Sideshow – 3 hrs ago

A homeless man is $77,000 richer after being awarded the cash and gold coins he stumbled upon in a Texas park earlier this year.

Timothy Yost, 46, reportedly discovered the loot in January while going to wash his feet in the Colorado River. According to the Austin American-Statesman, Yost told police he kicked a bag he'd spotted and it jingled. Inside was a mound of wet cash and South African coins.

A bank teller called police after he tried to swap the damp dough for fresh bills. Yost showed officers where he made the discovery, but the city of Bastrop kept the money so police could investigate whether a crime had occurred and try to find the owner.

"Under common law in Texas, typically if it is buried and we are not able to find the rightful owner for the funds within the prescribed time period, then the finder of the funds can petition to be awarded those funds," Bastrop Police Chief Michael Blake told Austin's Your News Now.

On Tuesday night, the City Council voted unanimously to give the bounty back to Yost.
"It is a great day for Bastrop; it is a great day for Mr. Yost," his attorney, Aleta Peacock, told the American-Statesman.

Yost was not present. The newspaper reports he's since been jailed for public intoxication and criminal trespass.
But he told Austin's Fox 7 last month that his first purchase would be a car.
"I've been walking for so long," he said.

Here's hoping he makes bail and is behind the wheel of a new ride soon.

August 31, 2012
The last remaining original “American Idol” judge, Randy Jackson, is reportedly stepping down from his current gig on the show and will instead serve as a mentor to the contestants, according to TMZ.

As to who will fill Jackson’s judging role, mum’s the word from the show’s officials thus far but tongues are wagging. There will be four judges when the show returns in January 2013 and word has it that one will hail from the world of country music.

But stop the presses! An unnamed source told TMZ that the Idol head honchos are a little worried that Jackson might not have what it takes to fill the mentor role. They do however realize that he is a necessary factor and the tie that binds the show and keeps it together.

The wildly popular primetime show has had quite a bit of shake up recently, starting with judges Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler’s unexpected exits.

Then out of left field, songbird Mariah Carey signed on as a judge for the upcoming season. Fans of the show have been wondering about the much reported search for judges and who would accompany Carey. The names Nicki Minaj and Keith Urban have been popping up as replacements and, reportedly, they are in the final stages of a negotiations deal to become permanent fixtures on the show.

Rumor has it that Carey is not fond of Minaj. So if the hip-hop performer gets the spot, viewers can expect lots of divatude!

August 21, 2012
Black Panther leader dies

Mr Ture was jailed more than 30 times

The Black Panther leader Stokely Carmichael, who made "black power" a rallying cry in America, has died of cancer at the age of 71.
He died at his home in Guinea where he lived under his African name, Kwame Ture.

As leader of the Black Panther Party, Mr Ture was one of the most fiery and visible activists in the American black rights movement in the 1960s.

US civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, who visited Mr Ture last week, described him as a committed opponent of racial apartheid.

"He wanted for his last days to be in Guinea ... amongst the people of Africa,'' Mr Jackson said.

Mr Ture made ''black power'' a rallying cry
"He was one of our generation who was determined to give his life to transforming America and Africa.

"He was committed to ending racial apartheid in our country. He helped to bring those walls down."

Mr Ture was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1996.

An ardent socialist, he was treated in Cuba and received financial help for his treatment from Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.

Freedom ride to prison

Mr Ture was born in Trinidad on 29 June, 1941, but moved to New York with his parents when he was 11 where he moved in middle-class white circles.

In 1960 he enrolled at Howard University in Washington, where he studied philosophy and plunged into the civil rights revolution.

At that time black college students were being beaten and arrested for daring to sit at whites-only Southern lunch counters.

Mr Ture joined the first of the freedom rides - bus trips aimed at desegregating public transport.

And he suffered the first of about three dozen jailings when he reached Mississippi.

He was elected national chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1966.

Mr Ture raised the cry of "black power", meaning political and economic empowerment, as he led a freedom march in Mississippi.

"We want control of the institutions of the communities where we live and we want to stop the exploitation of non white people around the world," he explained.

In 1968, he left the SNCC for the Black Panthers, but broke with that urban-guerrilla movement the following year because it favoured working with radical whites.

He said history showed such alliances had "led to complete subversion of the blacks by the whites''.

Mr Ture moved to Guinea with his then-wife, South African-born singer and activist Miriam Makeba.

There, with a new name taken from the African leaders Kwame Nkrumah and Ahmed Sekou Toure, he organised the All-African People's Revolutionary Party.

He continued preaching black power and championing socialism while condemning America, capitalism and Zionism.

Banned from Trinidad

Mr Ture was banned from Trinidad and Tobago in 1970 by a black-led government which feared he would further the islands' own "Black Power" revolt.

The government eventually quelled the uprising after jailing several black activists.

One of those activists, Khafre Kambon said: "He lived a life of poverty although he raised millions of dollars for his party."

August 21, 2012
Michael Jordan probably doesn't have to sweat losing $1.5 million in a gym investment -- which is good for him because it could happen soon, reports say.

A Jordan-backed Chicago workout emporium that attracted superstars such as Kobe Bryant and Donovan McNabb is close to foreclosing. A bankruptcy bid by Tim Grover, the owner of Attack Athletics Gym in Chicago, was rejected by a judge last month, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. That means the mortgage holder is free to pursue foreclosure.

A pending appeal by Grover's company, Attack Properties, could take a month or so, wrote the Chicago Tribune.

Another former NBA player, Michael Finley, is also listed as a creditor, the paper said, after he guaranteed a $2 million loan.

The 65,000-square-foot gym, formerly known as Hoops, had four basketball courts and a 10,000-square-foot weight room, according to ESPN. Grover developed relationships with Jordan and other jocks such as Dwayne Wade and Tracy McGrady to build his business.

The entrepreneur, who was Jordan's personal trainer at the star's peak, was credited with attempting to revitalize Chicago's West Side and having a positive influence on hundreds of athletes, Yahoo wrote. But business apparently hasn't been good -- either in the gym or in legal procedure. Outlets say Attack Properties LLC never submitted the required monthly operating reports to seek bankruptcy and faces liens totaling $12 million.

"The record shows no plausible route out of this predicament,” said U.S. Bankruptcy Judge A. Benjamin Goldgar, reported the Sun-Times.

July 10, 2012
After more than 25 years in stand-up comedy, Steve Harvey will take his final bow after his last stand-up performance scheduled for August.

The comedian, best-selling author, radio and TV host said his final stand-up performance will be bittersweet, but necessary to advance his career.

“I’ve learned in life that oftentimes to the next level, you have [to] shed something. Usually, when you’re going to a much higher level, the thing that you shed is going to have to be something that you care very deeply about. The thing that I have to let go of at this point in my life is standup,” he told The Augusta Chronicle in March.

Steve’s final farewell will air live from Las Vegas on Pay-Per-View August 2nd at 11 p.m. EST as part of the 10th Ford Hoodie Awards, which celebrates the nation’s best neighborhood leaders, educators, churches, and local businesses for their service and dedication to their communities.

The four-day, star-studded event will kick off at the MGM Grand Garden Arena and will include events such as the State Farm All White Freedom Friday Party, and Ford VIP After-Party, The Hoodie Awards Interactive Expo, The Steve and Marjorie Harvey Foundation Charity Golf Tournament, and a live broadcast of The Steve Harvey Morning Show prior to the 2012 Ford Hoodie Awards show on August 4.

“Celebrating this 10th anniversary is very special,” Steve said in a statement. “The Hoodie Awards is an awards show for everyday men and women, honoring them as the real stars of their neighborhoods for their beliefs, courage, and commitment pursing their dream and serving their fellow neighbors and youth. I look forward to hosting an unforgettable weekend and seeing who will take home the Hoodie Awards this year!”

July 10, 2012
*Have you ever wondered what Mike Tyson tasted when he bit a chunk of Evander Holyfield’s ear in 1997? Yeah, it’s gross to even think about. Well wonder no more.

The former champion boxer revealed that the ear “wasn’t too tasty.” So don’t go trying it at home folks.
He joked and said it wasn’t good because he was missing a staple condiment.

“I didn’t have any of that Holyfield hot sauce on it,” said Mike. “That would have been a delicacy.”
He’s actually funny y’all.

Tyson has impressively matured since his career took a turn for the worse. He isn’t bitter about anything and has nothing negative to say about his former opponents or fellow boxers, and not even Don King.

“He’s always a good dresser. He had a great hairdo, and he’s very articulate,” said Mike.

He told Andy Cohen of “Watch What Happens Live” that at this point in his life, he has nothing but respect for all of them.

July 7, 2012
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Actress Tempestt Bledsoe says she's thrilled to be returning to network television on a show that portrays "a positive black family" similar to the long-running hit sitcom she was part of for roughly eight years — "The Cosby Show."

"That show was my childhood," said Bledsoe, who played middle child Vanessa Huxtable in the NBC show that also starred Bill Cosby, Phylicia Rashad, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Lisa Bonet and Keshia Knight Pulliam. "It did so many things. It greatly influenced the kinds of projects I did. It helped form my core values, like my work ethic."

Bledsoe and actor Anthony Anderson spoke Friday at the Essence Music Festival about the new show they're starring in, "Guys with Kids," which premieres this fall on NBC.

In an interview after their appearance, the co-stars told The Associated Press they were thrilled the show will spotlight a "positive black family on network television."

"We just don't have that right now, not on network television," said Anderson, who has two children of his own. "Like the Cosby Show, this will be an opportunity to see the love, support, humor and beauty of a black family on TV."

The show, produced by Jimmy Fallon, is about three 30-something new dads trying to hold on to their youth. "Guys With Kids" will also star Jamie-Lynn Sigler of "The Sopranos" and actors Zach Cregger and Jesse Bradford. One of the characters is a single dad, another is a working father and Anderson's character is a stay-at-home dad raising four young sons.

Bledsoe, who plays Anderson's working wife, chuckled as she spoke about his character's daily challenges wrangling the children, including twins under the age of 2.

"There's nothing funnier," Bledsoe said. "This role was tailor-made for Anthony."

Anderson said he was drawn to the role for several reasons, including his strong feelings about the importance of having a father figure and that his character "chooses" to stay at home with his children rather than being forced to do so because he lost his job.

He said he also recognized that in these tough economic times, more dads are choosing to stay home in part because of child care costs.

"A lot of them get funny looks because it's not what people are used to seeing, and this show reflects this new dynamic in the American family," he said.

Other celebrities appearing at the festival included actor Russell Hornsby, who played on "Lincoln Heights" and currently stars in the NBC supernatural drama "Grimm"; Bern Nadette Stanis, who played Thelma on the hit 1970s show "Good Times"; comedian and "Think Like a Man" author Steve Harvey; and Malik Yoba, who stars on the SyFy network's drama "Alphas."

On Saturday, Essence planned to screen Viola Davis' newest film, "Won't Back Down." The movie also stars Marianne Jean-Baptiste, who is known for her role in "Without a Trace."

Later Friday, singer and "Desperate Housewives" actress Vanessa Williams participated in a discussion with her mother, Helen, about relationships. The pair recently released a book, "You Have No Idea," which gives fans insight into the actress' upbringing and touches on her life as Miss America, her marriages and subsequent divorces, her entertainment career and motherhood.

"If anyone can glean anything from my life, I'm willing to share," Williams said. "At this stage of my life, I believe my role is that of teacher. This book is my manual. It's a love story about mothers and daughters and relationships."

Although Williams was not scheduled to sing at Essence, Friday's lineup for its nightly concerts at the Superdome include performances by Charlie Wilson, D'Angelo, Trey Songz, Keyshia Cole and The Pointer Sisters.

Wilson said he was excited about his elevation to the night's closing performance. In previous years, he was among the main stage acts, but had never closed a show.

"This is amazing, the best feeling for me," Wilson said. "I'm headlining. All the others times were great, but this one, my fifth, is special. Every year I come back and get such an overwhelming response it just fuels me and gives me energy. I perform as if it's my last, as if I don't have a tomorrow and I know the fans feel that," he said.

Essence Fest is one of the premier music festivals celebrating black culture and music. It's been held every Independence Day weekend since 1995, when it marked the 25th anniversary of Essence magazine. The festival continues through Sunday and also will feature Mary J. Blige, Kevin Hart, Tank, Ledisi, Aretha Franklin, Fantasia, Estelle and others

July 7, 2012
Wimbledon 2012: Serena Williams wins fifth singles title

By Mike Henson

Serena Williams overcame a resurgent Agnieszka Radwanska to clinch a hard-fought 6-1 5-7 6-2 victory and earn her fifth Wimbledon singles title.
The American, a winner in 2002, 2003, 2009 and 2010, had eased through the opener with Radwanska rarely threatening to pierce her defenses.

But the Pole regrouped as rain delayed the second set, and clawed back a break before swooping late to win the second.

Williams broke twice in the decider to finally kill off Radwanska's comeback.
It is the 30-year-old's 14th Grand Slam title and her first since spending almost a year out of action between summer 2010 and 2011 with a leg injury and subsequent pulmonary embolism.

"I can't even describe it. I almost didn't make it a few years ago," she said after her win, referring to her health problems.

"I was in hospital but now I'm here again and it was so worth it. I'm so happy.
"Aggie played so well and that's why she's had such a great career and she's so young."
Such an absorbing finish seemed highly unlikely as Williams demolished Radwanska in the opening set, raising the fear that her opponent was struggling with a respiratory illness that forced her to call off a news conference on Friday.
The world number three seemed to lack the energy to realise her hopes of countering Williams's clubbing baseline power with guile and touch.

A brief rain shower appeared to have opposite effects on the pair however, as Radwanska emerged revitalised and Williams's forehand grew increasingly erratic.
Williams broke to love in the third game with a walloped return winner, but her nerves tightened and Radwanska raised her game just in time to avert a seemingly inevitable straight-sets win.
Radwanska forced break point for the first time in the match to level at 4-4 and the crowd threw their support behind her renaissance.

Suddenly Radwanska's scurrying and fetching was asking questions and Williams, apparently beset by mental demons, crashed into the net from midcourt to send the match into a decider.

The American had lost only four of the previous 194 Grand Slam matches in which she won the opening set however, and reasserted her authority to protect that record and accelerate away from Radwanska.

Radwanska saw off two break points to hold for a 2-1 lead, but Williams served out in less than a minute in the following game and was not to be denied in the next.

A cute drop shot moved her a double break and 5-2 clear and Williams kept any lingering jitters at bay to serve out before dropping to the turf in delight.

Her victory is the first time the title has been won by a woman over 30 since Martina Navratilova's triumph in 1990 and restores Victoria Azarenka, the Belarussian she beat in the semi-final, to the world number one spot.

August 1, 2012
Twin sisters, Shaakira White and Zaakira Mitchell of South Carolina, gave birth just an hour apart on July 24th - and one gave birth to twins. Mitchell was accompanying her sister to her doctor’s appointment, and then suddenly they both went into labor.

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.”

July 25, 2012
Los Angeles (CNN) -- A judge appointed TJ Jackson, the 34-year-old son of Tito Jackson, as temporary guardian of Michael Jackson's three children in the absence of their grandmother, Katherine Jackson.

"We have reason to believe that Mrs. Jackson has been held against her will," Katherine Jackson attorney Sandra Ribera told Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff at a hearing Wednesday.

Immediately after the hearing however, another attorney for Katherine Jackson, Perry Sanders, said he'd been told by Randy Jackson that his mother was on a plane bound for California.

Sanders said he would immediately file a petition to restore her as custodian.

Beckloff suspended Katherine Jackson as custodian for Prince, Paris and Prince Michael II, known as Blanket, because she may be "prevented from acting as a guardian because of the acts of third parties."

He also ordered "that the children not be removed from California without a court order, by any person."

The judge also ordered that Diana Ross, whom Michael Jackson named as backup guardian in his will, and Debbie Rowe, the biological mother of the two oldest children, be given notice of the order.

The order will be reconsidered at a hearing next month, and the judge left open the possibility that custody could be returned sooner if Katherine Jackson returns home.

Katherine Jackson finally called her home Tuesday night after being out of communication for nine days, her lawyer said.

TJ Jackson, whom Katherine Jackson left in charge of the children when she left home on July 15, said he was disturbed by how she sounded.

"I've never heard my grandmother talk like that," he said about that phone call. "She wasn't sharp. Her words were slurred. Her choice of vocabulary, I never heard her use those phrases."

His lawyer said that "maybe she was trying to speak to him in code."

Ribera said one of the children told her it sounded like she was not alone during that call.

Sanders said the call was made after he met with Jermaine and Janet Jackson at a spa near Tucson, Arizona, on Tuesday night to resolve the controversy over Katherine Jackson's whereabouts.

They did not, however, allow him to meet or talk with her, he said.

Katherine Jackson, 82, left the home she shares with Michael Jackson's children on July 15. She had not contacted them before Tuesday, though a Los Angeles County sheriff's investigation concluded she was safe in Arizona.

Katherine Jackson has custody of Michael Jackson's children and a 20% share in her son's huge estate. Her husband, Joe Jackson, and her eight surviving children were completely left out of Michael Jackson's will when the pop star died in 2009.

Authorities got involved when her nephew Trent filed a missing person report with the sheriff's office over the weekend. Security camera video obtained by CNN captured a tense scene at the Calabasas, California, home she shares with her three grandchildren.

Siblings Janet, Jermaine and Randy Jackson attempted to persuade the older children, Prince and Paris, to leave Katherine Jackson's home with them Monday. Paris and Prince resisted, according to three sources with knowledge of the incident, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter.

The video shows Janet Jackson apparently trying to take a cell phone away from Paris and scolding her niece for using her phone to write about family issues on Twitter, according to the three sources.

Paris, Michael Jackson's 14-year-old daughter, posted a Twitter message at about the same time: "gotta love fam." Meanwhile, 15-year-old Prince is seen walking away from his Uncle Randy into the home's security office. Paris soon followed, and Randy and Janet Jackson appeared to be recording the incident with their cell phones.

Minutes later, sheriff's deputies broke up a scuffle involving Randy and Jermaine Jackson and Trent Jackson, who works for their mother, according to several people who witnessed it. No one was arrested, although a battery report was taken and an investigation is ongoing, Los Angeles County sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore said.

September 12, 2012
The Charlotte Bobcats hired GM Rich Cho in June of 2011, knowing full well that owner Michael Jordan would act as one of the strongest supporters of a potentially season-canceling lockout that started a month later. Even though the team enjoyed a brief playoff appearance in 2010, the franchise was bleeding money; a direct result of years worth of win-now moves made by Jordan as both personnel boss and eventual owner. As a long-needed rebuilding process took hold in 2011-12, and Jordan took flak from all manner of once-close friends, teammates and former co-workers, questions lingered as to how much MJ would stand aside if Cho dared to overrule the six-time champion on a decision. Owners overrule GMs all the time, and because Jordan and Cho come from such disparate backgrounds, the few that cared enough to pay attention to the Charlotte Bobcats wondered how things would work out once it came time for expected loggerheads.

According to a recent ESPN the Magazine profile, though, it appears as if Jordan truly has handed over the keys. Jordan is off working as the face of the franchise, making up for years of abuse heaped on the city from former NBA owners George Shinn and Robert Johnson, while Cho is behind the scenes and slowly developing the team from the ground up. From a .106 winning percentage-up, actually. From the Mag:

"Every single one of those moves is evidence that Michael is serious about getting out of the way," a rival Eastern Conference GM says. "They are now going to succeed or fail with Rich. And I can guarantee you that Michael has made sure that Rich knows that."

That same executive describes the 47-year-old Cho as a "Moneyball kind of guy," respected around the league for his involvement in the construction of the rosters of both Portland and Oklahoma City. According to Cho, when he left his job as the Trail Blazers GM to come to Charlotte 15 months ago, his marching orders from Jordan were simple and specific -- build through the draft and get free agents to complement the youngsters and put them over the top. The old Jordan, by his own admission, believed that if he cleared enough cap space, he could personally lure the likes of Chris Paul and Dwight Howard. But as he learned last year, even "MJ" appearing on their caller IDs wasn't enough to offset the lure of LA.

It's not so much the lure of Los Angeles as it is the lure of winning. Players like Howard, Paul, Baron Davis, Kevin Garnett and Derrick Rose spend most of their offseason in Los Angeles as it is — it's the fact that the Clippers and Lakers had ready-made winners on hand that was the main selling point. Kowtowing to a star and surrounding him with players he initially wanted, as Howard got in Orlando, isn't enough. You have to build a winner.

And you don't build a winner by drafting off of what ESPN's Ryan McGee called an "MJ March hunch."

That was apparently the case in 2011, just after Cho's hiring, when Jordan was the biggest sway behind drafting Kemba Walker. It certainly was the case in 2006, when Jordan took Adam Morrison. And a February hunch was certainly the reason Jordan let loose with a coveted (and, eventually, unprotected) lottery pick when he dealt for Tyrus Thomas in 2010.

McGee points out that Charlotte's pick in last June's NBA draft, swingman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, is "Cho's kind of guy." That may very well be true, his all-around upside is significant, but he tends to check all the boxes that Jordan likes to pour over. MKG played deep into March on a prominent major program, and he's an athlete with a work ethic that coaches rave over. Work ethic and heart are well and good, but in some cases (and let's be sure here; we're not referring to Kidd-Gilchrist in this instance) that ethic is in place to cover for failings in other NBA-level areas. Adam Morrison practiced hard, too.

In short, it's an easy sell for Cho. So was the rebuilding, something that had to take place for basketball reasons (you need to bottom out, often times, before you start over) but also was essential for the team to survive financially. As we stated when Sam Vincent criticized Jordan, when Charles Barkley complained about his "yes men," and when Larry Brown whined about his former boss from afar, the real stare-down between the two probably has yet to take place.

It's a good start, though. There will be cap space, there will be more lottery picks, and there will be room to grow past the 45-win ceiling Jordan once encouraged.

And, eventually, there will be a showdown between Jordan and Cho. It's only natural, and we can't wait.

September 6, 2012
US President Barack Obama has accepted the nomination of the Democratic party, and delivered a speech saying voters face the "choice of a generation".

He laid out goals for the US, and told voters: "You didn't elect me to tell you what you wanted to hear. You elected me to tell you the truth."

Republican Mitt Romney challenges Mr Obama for the White House in November.

Opinion polls show the two contenders neck-and-neck.

Obama told delegates in the hall and voters watching at home that the nations problems have built up over "decades" and cannot be fixed in a flash.

"I won't pretend the path I'm offering is quick or easy. I never have," he said.

"But when you pick up that ballot to vote - you will face the clearest choice of any time in a generation.

"Over the next few years, big decisions will be made in Washington, on jobs and the economy; taxes and deficits; energy and education; war and peace - decisions that will have a huge impact on our lives and our children's lives for decades to come," he said.

Fired-up Biden
Vice-President Joe Biden took the stage shortly before Mr Obama to accept his own nomination.

In an emotional speech that focused on family and national security, he described Mr Obama's process of dealing with the country's crises.

"Folks, I've watched him. He never wavers. He steps up," Mr Biden said.

"He asks the same thing over and over again: How is this going to work for ordinary families? Will it help them?"

Mr Biden also criticised Mr Romney for not backing the US auto industry bailout, referring to the former Massachusetts governor's time leading private equity firm Bain Capital.

"I just don't think he understood what saving the automobile industry meant, to all of America. I think he saw it the Bain way, in terms of balance sheets and write-offs," he said.

"The Bain way may bring your firm the highest profit. But it's not the way to lead your country from its highest office."

The third and final night of speeches in Charlotte also saw former Florida governor Charlie Crist - who was previously a Republican - and Massachusetts Senator John Kerry address the convention.

Mr Kerry criticised the Mr Romney for surrounding himself with "neo-conservative advisors who know all the wrong things about foreign policy".

"This is not the time to outsource the job of commander in chief," the Massachusetts senator said.

Former Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords, still recovering from a near-fatal shooting on a meeting with her constituents in 2011, appeared on stage to lead the convention in the pledge of allegiance.

Walking slowly and steadying herself to recite the pledge, Ms Giffords brought left many in the crowd dewy-eyed as she smiled through her recital.

Mr Romney said at a campaign stop on Thursday he had not watched any of the convention's speeches so far, and was not planning to do so with Mr Obama's remarks.

He told reporters that Mr Obama should focus on what he had done since the last election and not make new promises.

Venue change
Mr Obama took the stage not in a huge stadium as organisers had hoped, but inside the convention centre after Thursday's speech was moved, with party officials citing weather concerns.

Republicans blamed the prospect of empty seats for the change of venue.

"Our friends at the Republican convention were more than happy to talk about everything they think is wrong with America, but they didn't have much to say about how they'd make it right," Mr Obama said in his Charlotte speech.

"That's because all they have to offer is the same prescription they've had for the last thirty years," he said. "'Have a surplus? Try a tax cut. Deficit too high? Try another. Feel a cold coming on? Take two tax cuts, roll back some regulations, and call us in the morning!'"

Mr Obama also spoke about his energy strategy, saying the US had opened "millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration... and we'll open more."

"But unlike my opponent, I will not let oil companies write this country's energy plan, or endanger our coastlines, or collect another $4bn in corporate welfare from our taxpayers."

The president then described Mr Romney and running-mate Paul Ryan as "new to foreign policy".

"But from all that we've seen and heard, they want to take us back to an era of blustering and blundering that cost America so dearly," he said.

On Wednesday, ex-President Bill Clinton told the convention the economic "mess" Mr Obama inherited from the Republicans needed more than four years to fix.

Mr Clinton's 50-minute speech was strongly critical of Republican economic plans, while offering a staunch defence of Mr Obama, whose remedies he said were working.

He said the Republican campaign argument is "pretty simple: 'We left him a total mess, he hasn't cleaned it up yet, so fire him and put us back in.'"

September 6, 2012
CHARLOTTE -- Former President Bill Clinton, once a political foe of President Barack Obama, made a strong case that he's one of the nominee's best surrogates Wednesday, especially when it comes to bringing independents into the Democratic re-election effort.

In a speech that was repeatedly interrupted by standing ovations and often veered from the prepared remarks on his Teleprompter, Clinton took on nearly every criticism that Republicans leveled at Obama last week at their party convention in Tampa. Clinton's wide-ranging speech defended several aspects of Obama's record, including his health care law, the controversial Recovery Act, the restructuring of cash-strapped American auto companies and even his choice of Joe Biden as vice president.

"We believe 'we're all in this together' is a far better philosophy than 'you're on your own,'" Clinton said in a speech that went on for nearly an hour. "I want to nominate a man who's cool on the outside but burns for America on the inside."

Clinton even took on the question that Republicans have used in their convention counter-programming this week, arguing that the country is better off than it was when Obama first took office.

"Are we better off than we were when he took office? Listen to this, listen to this," he said, clearly enjoying an audience hanging on his every word. "When President Obama took office, the economy was in a free fall, we were losing 750,000 jobs a month. Are we doing better than that today? The answer is yes."

Speaking from experience, Clinton defended Obama from critics who blame him for overseeing what many have felt is a painstakingly slow recovery from the 2008 recession.

"No president, not me or any of my predecessors, could have repaired all the damage in just four years," he said, going on to suggest that Obama's work was only half finished.

The theme--that electing Republicans would stall the progress of an administration still struggling to turn around the economy--is one that has been repeated throughout the week. On Wednesday, Clinton hammered the point home.

"He inherited a deeply damaged economy," Clinton said of Obama, "put a floor under the crash, began the long, hard road to recovery and laid the foundation for a more modern, more well-balanced economy that will produce millions of good new jobs, vibrant new businesses, and lots of new wealth for the innovators."

The biggest problem for Democrats, Republicans point out, is that the country is still on that road--and looking for a fast way off.

But during a Democratic convention that up until this point appeared to be geared toward the liberal wing of the party, Clinton's remarks were tailored to independents who might tune in during prime time. He made his arguments comprehensively, weaving personal stories in and out of his pitch for the president.

"Conditions are improving, and if you'll renew the president's contract you will feel it," Clinton said. "Whether the American people believe that or not might decide the whole election. I just want you to know that I believe it."

When Clinton finished, he bowed to Obama, who joined him on the stage. The two embraced before walking offstage together.

September 10, 2012
The latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report, shows that black and Latino unemployment remain critically elevated and may present a political challenge for President Barack Obama as he seeks reelection.

While overall unemployment fell slightly in July to 8.1 percent from 8.3 percent the month before, black and Latino unemployment did not follow the same course. Latino unemployment climbed slight to 10.2 percent in July from 10 percent in June. And, the share of black workers seeking jobs but unable to find remained stagnant at 14.1 percent.

The economy did manage to create 96,000 in July. However, that figure is smaller than the number of new workers who entered the workforce. In short, July’s job market did not keep pace with population growth and left large shares of Latino and black job seekers without jobs and while also stranding other major groups of workers, according to federal data.

"Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult men of all races and ethnicities (7.6 percent), adult women (7.3 percent), teenagers (24.6 percent), whites (7.2 percent), blacks (14.1 percent), and Hispanics (10.2 percent) showed little or no change in August. The jobless rate for Asians was 5.9 percent (not seasonally adjusted), little changed from a year earlier."

Beyond the unemployment rate, there are other indicators of growing economic distress for black and Latino households. It seems men are dropping out of the labor force faster than women, and more black and Latino men are without work than others. The twin phenomenon have pushed the male workforce participation rate to a new low unseen since the federal government began reporting this data in 1948 .

Though unemployment is a concern amongst most Americans, the situation is dire for black and Latino families and should be acknowledged and addressed by the President, Colorlines reported .

"Communities of color are mired in an economic depression. Yet the president struggles to publicly acknowledge it. The choice not to do so presents Obama with a political problem when he can least afford it," Colorlines’ Imara Jones wrote.

In order to claim a significant share of Latino votes in November, the Obama campaign must provide economic reasons to support the President, Colorlines reported.

Multiple polls have found that most Latino voters indicate that they plan to support Obama in November but are less eager to vote than they were in 2008 when Obama carried nearly 70 percent of the Latino vote.

"The bottom line is that in order to remain in the White House, the president needs to give this community a reason to show up at the polls. The number one issue for Latinos, like all Americans, is jobs and the economy," Jones reported.

August 31, 2012
Following the Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Clint Eastwood’s speeches during the 2012 Republican National Convention last night, President Barack Obama sent out a tweet from his Twitter account (@BarackObama) that caused a lot of attention.

During his speech to the RNC audience, Eastwood spoke to an empty seat as if it were the President. The action caused a lot of mixed emotions, but it gained a lot of attention. Romney gave his candidate speech soon thereafter.

Moments after the television coverage ended for the RNC, the Obama campaign sent out a tweet in reference to Eastwood’s speech: “This seat’s taken”. A picture from behind of the President sitting in a monogrammed chair that read “The President: January 20, 2009″. The photo went viral in social media, such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

September 3, 2012
Lucimarian Roberts, the mother of GMA co-host Robin Roberts, died over the weekend - just one day after the anchor announced she was taking a medical leave for a bone marrow transplant. Her 88-year-old mom died in Gulfport, Mississippi by her side.

Over the years, Lucimarian Roberts made numerous appearances with her daughter on "Good Morning America". She was a Gulf Coast icon for more than four decades, best known as the first African American to serve as chairman of the Mississippi State Board of Education in the 1980's.

September 3, 2012
LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — The roasted chickens had an unusual stuffing — $150,000 worth of cocaine, according to Nigerian police.

A Nigerian mechanic who struggled in Brazil for more than six years had hoped the drugs would buy him a life of luxury in his native land, Nigerian authorities said Monday.
"This was like a retirement plan for him," said Mitchell Ofoyeju, spokesman for the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency.

The accused was arrested over the weekend at the airport in Lagos after he came in from Sao Paolo with 2.6 kilograms (5.7 pounds) of cocaine, Ofoyeju said. Photos from the agency showed egg-shaped packages wrapped in gold aluminum foil and tucked into the browned chickens.
The suspect, Vincent Chegini Chinweuwa, could not immediately be reached for comment as he remained in custody Monday.

Nigeria is a major transit point for drugs coming from Latin America and going to Europe or the United States but recent security improvements are cutting into that dubious distinction.
After a Nigerian man allegedly attempted to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner in 2009, Nigeria started installing airport scanners and sought training for its agents. Ofoyeju says the scanners helped authorities identify more than 100 drug carriers last year, leading to the seizure of about 410 kilograms (904 pounds) of cocaine, among other illicit drugs.

Authorities have found drugs sandwiched inside the fabric of suitcases, sewn into wigs worn by female passengers, tucked into underwear or hidden in phone chargers and even in a stethoscope, Ofoyeju said.
"The list is endless," he said.

The weekend seizure may even redeem the agency's image after the controversial arrest last year of a popular Nigerian comedian known as Baba Suwe. The agency held him for more than three weeks to monitor his bowel movements after a scanner detected what investigators believed to be drugs — but no drugs were ever found.

His ordeal turned the comedian's life into a potty-humor joke. The agency was later ordered to pay him $165,000 in damages — a court decision it is appealing

September 3, 2012
Michael Clarke Duncan -- best known for his Oscar-nominated role as a death row inmate who possessed magical healing powers in the 1999 film "The Green Mile" -- died on Monday at the age of 54, according to his fiancee Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth.

Duncan had been in a Los Angeles hospital since July 13 following a heart attack and died on Monday morning after close to two months of treatment.

At 6-feet, 5-inches tall and approximately 300 pounds, Duncan was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for his role as gentle giant prisoner John Coffey in "The Green Mile," also starring Tom Hanks. Duncan won the role, in part, due to a recommendation by Bruce Willis, who he worked with on 1998's "Armageddon." Duncan went on to appear with Willis in three more films -- "Breakfast of Champions," "The Whole Nine Yards" and "Sin City."

Duncan's career spanned three decades and included roles in other television and film titles including "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," "Married with Children," "The Jamie Foxx Show," "Living Single," "Bulworth," "Arli$$," "A Night at the Roxbury," "Sister, Sister," "Cats & Dogs," "Planet of the Apes," "King of the Hill," "CSI: NY," "Talladega Nights," "Kung Fu Panda," "Two and a Half Men," "Bones," and most recently "The Challenger," which is yet to be released. The African American actor also played The Kingpin in 2003's "Daredevil," starring Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner -- a notable achievement seeing as the character in the comics, on which the film is based, was always depicted as being white.

"The Green Mile" was nominated for four Oscars in 2000 and won 15 other awards including best supporting actor trophies for Duncan from the Black Reel Awards and the Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards.

Born and raised on Chicago's South Side and brought up by a single mother, Duncan is said to have resisted temptations of drugs and alcohol, instead focusing on school and acting. He worked digging ditches after attending community college, according to his biography on, then quit his job and moved to Hollywood, launching his acting career while in his thirties. More than three years ago, Duncan is said to have become a vegetarian, and appeared in a video for animal rights organization PETA earlier this year.

September 14, 2012
By now, most everyone knows "Cloud Atlas" is a mind-bending, epic tale spanning centuries -- within which individual characters are reborn. Many of the leading actors in the film portray several different people in different eras, with different hair color, and sometimes appearing as a different race, even gender.

Halle Berry, who is biracial, and Chinese actress Xun Zhou do some race-bending in the film. Both of them portray white women at two different points in the epically long 2-hour, 44-minute cinematic journey, made by the creators of "The Matrix" and "Run Lola run" (the Wakowski siblings, and Tom Tykwer, respectively). Incidentally, South Korean actress Doona Bae -- who is getting a lot of buzz for her performance in "Atlas" -- also transforms into a white woman at a certain point.

Berry plays a litany of characters in the film, but the white woman she portrays is Jocasta Ayrs, a not-so-true, rather kinky wife of a composer (Jim Broadbent).

And Berry takes it even a step further: She plays an old Korean male doctor at one point in the film.

September 5, 2012
Six years ago Dr. Dre was walking along the beach with Interscope Records chief Jimmy Iovine, pondering whether or not he should launch his own shoe line. "[Forget] sneakers," said Iovine. "Let's sell speakers!"

It might have been the best piece of advice the rapper-producer ever received. In 2008 he teamed with Iovine and a handful of other partners to launch Beats By Dr. Dre, which now sells more than half of the country's premium headphones ($100 and up). That's music to the ears of Dr. Dre, who collected $100 million pretax when handset maker HTC paid $300 million for a 51% stake in the company last year.

With $110 million in pretax earnings, Dr. Dre is this year's Hip-Hop Cash King—despite the fact that his long-awaited album, Detox, remains on the shelf. He's not the only one on the list who banks the bulk of his bucks outside the recording studio. Diddy ranks No. 2 with $45 million, thanks mostly to a share of profits from Diageo's Ciroc vodka; Jay-Z ranks third with $38 million, pulling in more than half his annual earnings from ventures including ownership stakes in cosmetics company Carol's Daughter, the Brookyln Nets and a joint venture with battery maker Duracell. Last year, Jay-Z topped the list with $37 million.

"The reality of it is, you want to do something that you own," says frequent Jay-Z collaborator Timbaland, who ranks No. 20 on the list with $6 million. "You want to own what you put your heart into. That's how you make money."
Kanye West ranks fourth on the list with $35 million, fueled by his Watch the Throne album with Jay-Z and the ensuing tour, followed by Lil Wayne at $27 million. The diminutive rhymester's latest album, Tha Carter IV, sold a million copies in its first week; he also launched clothing line Trukfit and a partnership with Pepsi's Mountain Dew, the first major product endorsement in the veteran rapper's career.

Lil Wayne is joined on the Cash Kings list by labelmates Drake (No. 6) and Nicki Minaj (No. 8), who banked $20.5 million and $15.5 million, respectively, thanks to new albums, tours and product endorsements with companies like Kodak and Pepsi. Their boss, Cash Money co-founder Bryan "Birdman" Williams, ranks seventh with $20 million. Even lower down on the list, artists are getting paid considerable sums to shill products.

"We've received a lot of income based around endorsements," says former Def Jam President Kevin Liles, who now manages a host of artists including No. 18 Young Jeezy. "A lot of brands are saying, 'Hey, there's a value proposition, instead of this freewheeling spending … I have some guaranteed curators and travel agents that can help me reach the consumer in a better way.'"

Yet for a few artists, music alone is a viable path to earning millions. No. 9 Eminem sold more albums last decade than any artist in the world, and continues to cash in from his extensive back catalog and occasional tour dates, pulling in $15 million.

Ludacris rounds out the top ten with earnings of $12 million. The multihyphenate mogul's non-musical ventures include Conjure cognac, headphone line Soul, voiceovers for RadioShack and roles in movies such as Fast Five and New Year's Eve.

"We work so hard that we never get a real chance to stop and reflect on what we've done sometimes," says Ludacris. "So the FORBES list is a great representation of, 'You know what, wow, we are out here working as hard as hell!'"

To compile the Cash Kings list, which charts pretax earnings for all living artists whose work is primarily classified as hip-hop or rap, we looked at income from touring, record sales, publishing, films, merchandise sales, endorsements and other ventures. Management, agent and attorney fees are not deducted; earnings are tabulated from May 2011 to May 2012 and based on data from Pollstar, the Recording Industry Association of America and Nielsen SoundScan, and from interviews with numerous managers, lawyers, record executives and some of the artists themselves.

All in all, hip-hop's top 20 earners pulled in $415 million last year, the most since 2008's $515 million. The more recent total got a heavy boost from Dr. Dre's impressive haul, but it doesn't mean he's resting on his financial laurels. Earlier this summer, he and his partners bought back half of the 51% stake in Beats that they sold to HTC nearly a year ago—meaning that fans waiting for his new album might have to hold out a little longer.

"I understand why Dre didn't finish Detox," says Liles, with a laugh. "It's called Beats."

September 3, 2012
Internet search statistics yield valuable insights into the things people are thinking about, and the questions they most want answered. I recently posted a blog about female celebrities with the most Googled hair in the world. The winner was Lady GaGa, with 40,500 global monthly searches.

Next, I thought it might be interesting to check out the global monthly search stats on the hairstyles of black celebrities, to see whose was the most popular. The top ten list is a diverse group, consisting of seven recording artists, two actresses, one television presenter, one supermodel and one First Lady; (you can guess who). The list is almost exclusively African American, with just two black Brits -- Leona Lewis and Naomi Campbell -- in the top ten. Overall, two names dominate the table -- Rihanna and Beyoncé -- whose rankings are as much to do with their overall popularity as singing stars as it is to do with the particulars of their hair choices. The top ten also yields a few surprises -- Michelle Obama's hair is more popular than Naomi Campbell's for example, while Halle Berry's short crop beats Nicki Minaj's restless plethora of multi-coloured weaves. In the battle of the television personalities, Tyra Banks is in at number five, while Oprah doesn't make the list at all.

Check out the full listing to see who scores highest:

1. Lady GaGa -- 40,500
2. Kim Kardashian -- 22,200
3. Jennifer Aniston -- 18,100
4. Rihanna -- 12,100
5. Victoria Beckham -- 9,900
5. Miley Cyrus -- 9,900
6. Kate Middleton -- 8,100
6. Taylor Swift -- 8,100
6. Blake Lively -- 8,100
6. Jessica Alba -- 8,100
7. Beyoncé -- 6,600
7. Jennifer Lopez -- 6,600
7. Reese Witherspoon -- 6,600
7. Cheryl Cole -- 6,600
7. Katy Perry -- 6,600
8. Megan Fox -- 5,400
8. Eva Longoria -- 5,400
8. Jessica Simpson -- 5,400
8. Keira Knightley -- 5,400
9. Nicki Minaj -- 4,400
9. Katie Holmes -- 4,400
9. Nicole Richie -- 4,400
10. Halle Berry -- 3,600
10. Meg Ryan -- 3,600
10. Sienna Miller -- 3,600
10. Eva Mendes -- 3,600

1. Rihanna -- 12,100
2. Beyoncé -- 6,600
3. Nicki Minaj -- 4,400
4. Halle Berry -- 3,600
5. Tyra Banks -- 1,600

*Statistics supplied by Google

October 19, 2012

It's no secret that President Obama and the First Lady have a pretty solid relationship with Jay-Z and Beyoncé, but while we've heard plenty about their interactions, fans are still curious what a conversation between the Obamas and the Carters sound like.

Well, according to Obama, it's actually nothing out of the ordinary.

"I've gotten to know these guys over the first several years. They're good people," the president said during an interview with Cleveland radio station Z107.9. "Beyonc— could not be sweeter to Michelle and the girls. So they're good friends. We talk about the same things I talk about with all my friends."

And what exactly does the president to talk all of his friends about? Family, of course.

"I made sure that Jay-Z was helping Beyoncé out [with the baby], and not leaving it all with Beyonc&8212; and the mother-in-law," he added. Who better to give Jay-Z advice about being raising a little girl while balancing a hectic work schedule?

In September, Jay-Z and Beyonc— co-hosted a fundraiser for the POTUS at the 40/40 club in New York City, charging $40,000 a plate and raising $4 million to support Obama's re-election campaign. Just last week, the Brooklyn-bred rapper appeared in a new campaign ad for Obama.

"For so long, there was a voice that was silenced out there as far as exercising the right to vote," Jay says in the video, going on to emphasize Obama's accomplishments as the first African American president. "I think it was a voice that was silenced because people had lost hope. They didn't believe that their voice mattered or counted. Now people are exercising their right, and you're starting to see the power of our vote. He made it mean something for the first time, for a lot of people."

In Tuesday night's presidential debate, Mitt Romney and Obama butted heads over the job market and auto industry bailout in Detroit, and the two have dedicated extra time campaigning in swing state Ohio. During his interview, the president emphasized the things he's accomplished over the past four years, and promised that he'll only continue to push forward, in Ohio and beyond.

"Think about all the things we've already gotten done," he said. "We saved an auto industry, saved a million jobs throughout Ohio and Michigan, we've gotten health care reform, we have made sure that we expanded student loan programs and Pell Grant programs; so a lot of stuff has gotten done, but we have a lot more to do. My hope is we have a decisive victory in this election, that Republicans, who spent a lot of time worry about trying to beat me, will start focusing on trying to improve the country."

October 9, 2012
NEW YORK -- The U.S. attorney in Manhattan has accused Wells Fargo of defrauding a government-backed mortgage insurance program, in another major civil case brought in the wake of the housing bust and financial crisis.

The mortgage-fraud suit, filed by U.S. attorney Preet Bharara, seeks "hundreds of millions of dollars" in damages for claims the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has paid for defaulted loans "wrongfully certified" by Wells Fargo.

The suit alleges the San Francisco banking giant falsely certified loans insured by the government's Federal Housing Administration.

“As the complaint alleges, yet another major bank has engaged in a longstanding and reckless trifecta of deficient training, deficient underwriting and deficient disclosure, all while relying on the convenient backstop of government insurance," Bharara said in a statement.

Adding "accelerant to a fire," Bharara said, was Wells Fargo's bonus system that rewarded employees based on the number of loans it approved.

The lawsuit alleges the bank failed to properly underwrite more than 100,000 loans it certified to be eligible for FHA insurance. When Wells Fargo discovered problems with the loans, it failed to notify HUD, which administers the FHA program, as required, the suit said. The action alleges more than 10 years of misconduct.

"The extremely poor quality of Wells Fargo's loans was a function of management’s nearly singular focus on increasing the volume of FHA originations -- and the bank’s profits -- rather than on the quality of the loans being originated," Bharara's office said in a statement.

Wells Fargo denied the lawsuit's allegations, saying it acted in good faith and in compliance with government regulations.

"Many of the issues in the lawsuit had been previously addressed with HUD," Wells Fargo said in an emailed statement. "Wells Fargo is the leading FHA lender and has acted as a prudent and responsible lender with FHA delinquency rates that have been as low as half the industry average. The Bank will present facts to vigorously defend itself against this action. Wells Fargo is proud of its long involvement in the FHA program, which has helped so many people obtain affordable mortgages and become homeowners."

The Wells Fargo case is the fifth such mortgage-fraud case against a major lender brought by Bharara's office.

Three of those cases settled this year: CitiMortgage Inc. for $158.3 million, Flagstar Bank F.S.B. for $132.8 million, and Deutsche Bank and MortgageIT for $202.3million. A lawsuit against Allied Home Mortgage Corp. is pending.

A separate mortgage-fraud task force led by the New York attorney general brought an unrelated lawsuit against JPMorgan Chase & Co. last week.

Wells Fargo stock fell on news of the lawsuit. The bank's share's lost 70 cents, or 2%, to $35.10 in Tuesday trading.