February 25, 2016
[img][/img] Nigerian pastor David Oyedepo, who is also known as Papa, is the founder of Living Faith Church World Wide, which goes as far back as 1981. The international figure owns a Rolls-Royce Phantom, homes in the U.S. and U.K., as well as an array of private jets. [img][/img] The Israeli-American Evangelist established the Orlando Christian Center in 1983. Broadcasting healing crusades held in stadiums, his ability to ‘cure’ terminal illnesses such as cancer has, however, been a source of controversy, impacting the rise of his name, ministry, and finances simultaneously. [img][/img] Joel Osteen is the senior pastor of Lakewood Church, Texas, which was founded by his late father, John Osteen. Lakewood stands today as the largest and fastest growing church in America with over 38,000 attendees every week. The charismatic preacher is also a best-selling author of over 15 notable titles. [img][/img] Nigerian Pastor Chris Oyakhilome, better known as ‘Pastor Chris,’ is the man behind Christ Embassy, a church and mission organization with offices in United Kingdom, USA, and South Africa. His other endeavors include magazines, newspapers, a TV station, a record label, hotels, satellite TV and real estate. [img][/img] Pastor Dollar’s World Changers International ministry in Georgia commands a huge following with 30,000 followers. He says, “It is the will of God for you to prosper in every way.” That message is of course very hard to ignore with a bank account such as his. [img][/img] The ministry of 95-year-old revered cleric, Billy Graham, dates back to the 1940s, an era that witnessed him serve as advisor to several presidents, including Lyndon Johnson. [img][/img] Rick Warren is the pastor of America’s eight largest church, Saddleback Church. He admittedly gives away 90% of his income and lives off 10%. [img][/img] Charismatic Bishop, author, producer, and actor, T.D. Jakes is the founder and chief pastor of The Potter’s House in Texas. His ministry’s annual revival MegaFest draws more than 100,000 people from all parts of the world. [img][/img] Pastor T.B Joshua founded The Synagogue Church Of All Nations in 1987. He is also the owner of Emmanuel TV, a Christian television network. Making a name for himself as one of the more charitable Nigerian Evangelists, Joshua is consistent in his humanitarian works in education, healthcare and rehabilitation programs. [img][/img] A Muslim until the age of 22, Pastor Ashimolowo converted to Christianity following his father’s death. Aside from producing a media company as well as Christian literature, Ashimolowo is now also the senior pastor of Kingsway International Christian Centre.

January 8, 2016

The Los Angeles District Attorney has declined to file criminal charges against Bill Cosby, officials said Wednesday.

After evaluating two separate allegations of sexual misconduct from 1965 and 2008, the D.A.'s office determined that they could not file charges of forcible rape, misdemeanor sexual battery or misdemeanor indecent exposure because the statute of limitations on those charges had expired, according to court documents.

The D.A.'s office also wrote that they considered filing a felony charge of sexual battery by restraint, but there was insufficient evidence to support it. There was no evidence to support charges of sexual assaults by intoxication or of an unconscious victim, attempts to commit such crimes, or assault with intent to commit a sex offense, they added.

"We are satisfied that the Los Angeles DA's Office fully and fairly evaluated all the facts and evidence, and came to the right conclusion," Cosby's attorney Chris Tayback told ABC News.

According to the paperwork, the office investigated crimes alleged by two Jane Does.

Jane Doe #1 claimed that she was forced by Cosby to have sex with him in 1965 when she was 17 years old. Jane Doe #2 alleged that in 2008, Cosby drugged her and molested her at the Playboy Mansion when she was 18.

Currently, the comedian, 78, is facing a charge of aggravated indecent assault stemming from a 2004 alleged incident in Pennsylvania. He was released on $1 million bail and is due in court later this month.

"The charge by the Montgomery County District Attorney's office came as no surprise, filed 12 years after the alleged incident and coming on the heels of a hotly contested election for this county's DA during which this case was made the focal point," said Cosby's attorney, Monique Pressley, in a statement to ABC News. "Make no mistake, we intend to mount a vigorous defense against this unjustified charge and we expect that Mr. Cosby will be exonerated by a court of law."

Lawyer Monique Pressley accompanied Bill Cosby and lawyer Brian McMonagle at a criminal court appearance in Elkins Park, Pa., last month.

BlacksNetwork Note
The Mr. Bill Cosby accusations were staged to damage his reputation, it's ridiculous.

If the accusation was true while do they waited for that long (10-20 years) before voicing out. You see something is wrong here. Someone is behind the movement to destroy Mr. Bill Cosby reputation, and being one of the blacks figure that achieved highly in our society, they want all means to bring him down and destroy history just as they did to Michael Jackson (may his soul rest in peace) if you remember his case.

January 1, 2016
Natalie Cole has passed away at the age of 65. The daughter of Nat King Cole, the singer was known for her strong voice with hits like "This Will Be."

"We are very saddened to learn of the passing of one of music’s most celebrated and iconic women, Natalie Cole, " Recording Academy President Neil Portnow said in a statement. "...We’ve lost a wonderful, highly cherished artist and our heartfelt condolences go out to Natalie’s family, friends, her many collaborators, as well as to all who have been entertained by her exceptional talent."

Born Feb. 6, 1950, in Los Angeles, Cole had music in her genes. Her father was legendary crooner Nat King Cole, and her mother, Maria Cole, sang with the Duke Ellington Orchestra.

At age 6, Cole recorded a duet with her father, I’m Good Will, You’re Christmas Spirit. By age 11, she was performing alongside him on his television show.

When Cole was 15 and attending boarding school across the country, her father died of lung cancer. As she grew up without her father’s guidance, Cole never abandoned music. She studied Psychology in college at the University of Massachusetts and sang in clubs on weekends, where she was billed as Nat King Cole’s daughter. Yet she was about to find her own voice.

While performing at a club called Mr. Kelley’s, she was discovered by R&B producers Chuck Jackson and Marvin Yancy (whom she married in 1976 and with whom she had her son, Robbie, in 1977). In 1974, she had her first hit, This Will Be, from her debut album, Inseparable. The song won her the Best New Artist Grammy in 1975, the first of nine she would win throughout her career.

Hits and awards kept pouring in as Cole released two more platinum albums (Unpredictable and Thankful, both in 1977). On the outside, Cole was fulfilling her father’s legacy and drawing comparisons to Aretha Franklin. On the inside, she was battling drug addiction. In her 2000 autobiography, Angel on my Shoulder, she wrote that her addiction incapacitated her so severely that she was barely able to escape a fire in her Las Vegas hotel in 1981.

In 1983, she spent several months at the Hazelden Clinic in Minnesota and, with her health intact, released her come-back album, Dangerous, in 1985.

As her career progressed, Cole began to drift away from the pop and R&B styles that had defined her early music and gravitated toward a more jazz-oriented style that drew from the likes of Ella Fitzgerald — and her own father. Her best-known album to date, Unforgettable ... With Love, featured a technology-assisted duet for the song Unforgettable with her father’s original recording.

Years after reclaiming her life from drug addiction, Cole was diagnosed with hepatitis C in 2008. Exhausted, she continued performing until her rapidly declining health was tied to kidney disease, likely a result of the medication she was using to treat her hepatitis C.

Cole continued to tour, receiving dialysis three times per week between performances. During a March 2009 appearance on Larry King Live, her fans’ love for her was apparent. The show received dozens of emails from fans offering her replacement kidneys.

While fighting her own battles, Cole was helping her sister, Cookie, battle cancer. Her sister died the morning Cole got a successful kidney transplant in May 2009.

Her own life saved, Cole was devastated at the loss of her sister, but grateful to the family of the woman whose kidney she received.

"To have your life saved by someone you don’t even know — oh, God. God bless them," Cole told AARP Magazine in 2009.

Just months later, she was itching to get back onstage.

"The volume of work that I’ve had before, I can’t do it," she told USA TODAY in 2009. "Instead of 90-minute shows, maybe I’ll only do 60. Instead of dancing around the stage, maybe I’ll just walk elegantly."

Cole released a second memoir in 2010 titled Love Brought Me Back, a chronicle of her quest for a kidney transplant.

In recent months Cole had cancelled many appearances citing a medical procedure and subsequent stay at the hospital.

December 14, 2015

Bill Cosby is fighting back against several of the women who have accused him of sexual assault, misconduct, and rape.

via TMZ:

Cosby just countersued the women, claiming they have made “malicious, opportunistic, false and defamatory accusations of sexual misconduct against him.”

The comedian is claiming emotional distress against Tamara Green, Therese Serignese, Linda Traitz, Louisa Moritz, Barbara Bowman, Joan Tarshis and Angela Leslie … claiming the allegations of drugging and then sexually assaulting them is flatly untrue.

Cosby claims the motivation of the women was to torpedo his television return. Cosby had signed with NBC to star in a new family comedy series, and he says when the women got wind of it they trumped up phony allegations. He also says they’re just in it for the money.

The countersuit says the claims of the women have caused him shame and mortification by their “morally repugnant conduct.”

Cosby says the women are out to assassinate his character.

August 21, 2015

Forbes has released its list of best-paid actresses, and it will come as no surprise at all that 25-year-old J.Law is crushing it at the very top. Lawrence raked in $52 million pre-tax during Forbes’ 12-month time frame — nearly $20 million more than in 2014. She stole the top spot from Sandra Bullock (who went from $51 million to $8 million).

Not so close on J.Law’s heels are Scarlett Johansson and Melissa McCarthy, who bagged $35.5 million and $23 million, respectively, for the second and third spots.

Forbes notes this is its first "global" index — though only one non-American, Chinese star Bingbing Fan, made the cut. The numbers reportedly come from box-office data and reflect the earnings before management fees and taxes; they also include endorsement deals.

#2 - Scarlett Johansson

#3 - Melissa McCarthy

#4 - Bingbing Fan

#5 - Jennifer Aniston

Here are your leading women:

1. Jennifer Lawrence: $52 million
2. Scarlett Johansson: $35.5 million
3. Melissa McCarthy: $23 million
4. Bingbing Fan: $21 million
5. Jennifer Aniston: $16.5 million
6. Julia Roberts: $16 million
7. Angelina Jolie: $15 million
8. Reese Witherspoon: $15 million
9. Anne Hathaway: $12 million
10. Kristen Stewart: $12 million
11. Cameron Diaz: $11 million
12. Gwyneth Paltrow: $9 million
13. Meryl Streep: $8 million
14. Amanda Seyfried: $8 million
15. Sandra Bullock: $8 million
16. Emma Stone: $6.5 million
17. Mila Kunis: $6.5 million
18. Natalie Portman: $6 million

Forbes also points out that although the figures at the top might look large, the findings underscore that Hollywood’s gender pay-gap is still a veritable chasm. The magazine published its leading-men list earlier this month, which included 34 people earning a total of $941 million. The cutoff to make the women’s list was $6 million, while the men’s was $13 million.

Four women notched more than $20 million; 21 men did the same. The move toward wage equality is proceeding glacially.

April 12, 2015

After years of often-breathless speculation about her future, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s team confirmed one of the worst-kept secrets in politics: She’s running for president. The former first lady and secretary of state officially entered the 2016 presidential race with an announcement to supporters from her campaign chairman Sunday, which is set to be followed by an email from Clinton herself, followed by visits in coming days to key early-voting states including Iowa.

It’s an intentionally low-key kick-off plotted by a campaign seeking to avoid the mistakes of Clinton’s failed 2008 presidential bid. In 2007, the then-New York senator entered the race as the overwhelming favorite but ultimately lost ground to an insurgent candidate named Barack Obama amid the perception of an unwieldy campaign apparatus and her inability to personally connect with voters.

Eight years later, Clinton again enters the race as the overwhelming front-runner—albeit this time with no real challenger, as of yet. But instead of mounting the same shock-and-awe campaign aimed at scaring away potential opponents, Clinton’s strategists are said to be plotting a more humble approach to 2016 in hopes of winning over voters who complained eight years ago that she was inaccessible and distant.

Formal confirmation of her candidacy first came in the form of emails from John Podesta, the presumptive chairman of her 2016 campaign, to donors, 2008 campaign staffers and and members of Congress on Sunday. “I wanted to make sure you heard it first from me — it’s official: Hillary’s running for president,” he wrote in one missive. In another, he noted: “There will be a formal kickoff event next month.”

Instead of massive campaign rallies and big policy speeches designed to show political muscle, Clinton initially aims to make her case in more intimate, small-scale events, including town halls and living room visits where she can reach voters one-on-one. Clinton’s goal—at least in the early days of her bid—is to run her campaign just as Obama did eight years ago, as if she is the unknown insurgent candidate in the race. Like Obama before her, Clinton hopes to show that she is approachable and empathetic to the struggle of average Americans—and above all, willing to fight for their votes even if she is far ahead in the polls.

“The forums are designed to highlight her humor, common touch, smarts in a more intimate and personal setting that is especially conducive to showcasing her personality,” said Chris Lehane, a longtime Democratic operative who previously worked in Bill Clinton’s White House. “Like when Michael Jordan played his best at Madison Square Garden, she really shines in these kind of more personal venues.”

But the strategy raises an interesting challenge for Clinton and her campaign: Can the biggest rock star in the Democratic Party really go small?

Clinton is not in any realm a typical political candidate. She travels with an entourage wherever she goes—including a Secret Service detail and a massive press corps that will seek to follow her everywhere. There’s also the issue of her Republican opponents, who will have trackers on her tail aiming to film any public interaction she has in hopes of capturing a gaffe or misstep they could use against her campaign.

It’s not yet clear exactly how her team plans to balance the often circus-like atmosphere that trails Clinton with their goal of showcasing the candidate in more intimate settings. It’s something they never quite figured out eight years ago.

In early reports, unnamed Clinton associates have likened her 2016 approach to the “listening tour” that preceded her successful run for New York’s Senate seat in 2000 when she was still living in the White House. It’s easy to forget that she initially tried the same approach when she decided to run for the 2008 Democratic nomination. She announced her bid on YouTube with promises that her campaign would be driven by “conversations” with voters.

That was followed by her first official event as a candidate: a visit to a small community clinic in New York City to discuss health-care reform. It was an intimate event, aimed at showcasing one of Clinton’s signature issues. But her talk was overshadowed by a mob scene of reporters and curious onlookers who pushed and shoved trying to get close to the candidate, as she tried to talk to families who had been invited to meet her. In the end, the disastrous optics became the story, and her campaign cut back on similar events. A few days later, Clinton traveled to Des Moines for what her campaign had billed as a “town hall.” More than 1,000 people showed up—along with more than 100 reporters. It would set the standard for most of Clinton’s events for the next year.

Voters in Iowa and New Hampshire subsequently complained that Clinton was not accessible enough. Her events were too big, her entourage too unruly. As she begins her second presidential bid in earnest, Clinton also has to strike a balance between the demand for up-close-and-personal campaigning with voters who also like to complain if they can’t get into events to see the candidates—which seems likely given the excitement and anticipation around her 2016 bid.

Still, the biggest unknown is whether Clinton really can go low-key. Several Democratic strategists demurred on the question, but all agreed that any strategy trying to show what one called “the real Hillary” would be a winning strategy in early primary states where impressions matter.

Of course, not having any serious competition helps, too. Only a handful of Democrats have announced that they are exploring potential runs. That includes Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, who is touting his foreign policy credentials in the race, and Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, who has attacked Clinton’s support for the war in Iraq and her ties to Wall Street. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has also been campaigning, but he’s barely a blip in the polls.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has been courted by the left to run, has so far rejected a bid for the White House. Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden, who runs a distant second to Clinton in many swing state polls, has not announced whether he’ll run in 2016.

For Clinton, not having a serious opponent raises another interesting question for her campaign: How to run a primary campaign that is much more about the general election already.

In Iowa, Clinton’s strategists have a tentative answer to that question. According to the Washington Post, Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager, told party leaders there last month the Clinton campaign would not only focus on electing her president but also building up the party there and in other states.

To that end, her campaign is reportedly planning to raise at least $2.5 billion for the eventual direct contest against a Republican opponent.

By: Holly Bailey (National Correspondent)

March 19, 2015
They didn't arrive together, but potential Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush and rapper/actor Ludacris crossed paths in the Georgia Capitol on Thursday, delivering similar messages to state lawmakers to focus on the state's children.

Bush, 62, joked about the chance encounter with the 37-year-old musician, telling the Senate
  • I actually came here because I heard Ludacris was gonna be here.”
    Former Governor Jeb Bush

Bush, speaking just a few minutes to both chambers, asking lawmakers to "be big and to be bold" by creating "child-centered" education systems that will ensure high school graduates are career and college ready.

There are newborn children who, Bush said, "will never have chance to get job, given disruptive nature of innovation, the globalization of our economy."

"These are trends that are happening irrespective of what people in the political system believe," Bush said. "It's happening at warp speed."

Ludacris, a Georgia native, was recognized in the House for his work through the Ludacris Foundation, a non-profit that describes itself as "helping youth help themselves" The group has donated more than $1.5 million to youth organizations and more than 10,000 hours on service to youth across the nation.

When he took the rostrum, he picked up the gavel and hammered it down, claiming that he "always wanted to do that."

"You all have a special responsibility to provide a voice for the voiceless and to help guide all the residents of Georgia to a better tomorrow," Ludacris said.

"The task is not so much to see what no one yet has seen, but to think what no one yet has thought about which everybody sees," he added. "We have to have a paradigm shift regarding issues and possible solutions."

Bush followed Ludacris on the House floor and quipped that he'd be brief. "I came to see Ludacris," Bush said. "I've already done that".

By: Michael C Bender

January 18, 2015

President Obama is keen to set the agenda for the remainder of his presidency

President Obama is to use Tuesday's State of the Union speech to call for tax increases on the wealthy to help the middle class, officials say.

The proposals would raise $320 billion (£211 billion) over a decade, to fund benefits such as tax credits.

The speech is the centrepiece of the US political diary and may shape both Mr Obama's legacy and the 2016 election.

But the president faces resistance to his proposals, with Republicans controlling both Houses of Congress.

With the US economy growing, President Obama will stress that it is time for ordinary US families to feel the benefits.

According to US officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, the plans include:

  • Closing a loophole allowing the wealthiest Americans to pass on certain assets tax free
  • Raising capital gains tax on the richest earners from 23.8% to 28%
  • New fees on US financial firms with more than $50 billion (£33 billion) in assets

The revenues would raise more than enough to fund the proposed benefits for the middle class, according to the officials.

These include tripling child tax credits, help for families with two working spouses and extra incentives to save for retirement.

Latest figures showed the US economy growing at its fastest rate for eight years

Analysis: Naomi Grimley, BBC News, Washington
There's growing confidence in the White House about the strength of America's economic recovery - as President Obama told the UK Prime Minister David Cameron last week, "we must be doing something right".

But there's also an awareness that for many middle class Americans wages still feel stagnant.

A growing theme in US politics is the need to make sure the economic recovery extends to all and that there's social mobility for those with aspirations.

Of course, as well as the freedom afforded him by the improving economic picture, there's also the fact that the president isn't seeking re-election himself.

It means Mr Obama can help set the political weather for the 2016 election, even though he knows these new tax rises will provoke opposition in the new Republican Congress.

Still, there's a desire not to frighten the horses too much. The White House is stressing 99% of these increases will fall on the richest 1%.

The president's plans are set to be resisted by the Republicans, who took control of both Houses of Congress in November elections

The speech is also set to include a plan to expanding free community college education and proposals on cyber-security.

The State of the Union speech will be President Obama's first since the Republicans seized control of the two Houses of Congress at elections last November.

'Tax hike'

His proposals have already been dismissed by some in the party.

"Slapping American small businesses, savers, and investors with more tax hikes only negates the benefits of the tax policies that have been successful in helping to expand the economy, promote savings, and create jobs," Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin G Hatch said.

Administration officials hope to find some common ground with their opponents.

They also say the increase in capitals gains taxes, likely to be resisted by many Republicans, returns the rate to what it was under President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.

The New York Times said the decision to present the tax plan during Tuesday's speech marked the start of a debate over taxes and the economy that will shape both the president's legacy and the 2016 presidential campaign.

Joni Ernst has been picked to respond to the speech by the Republicans

January 16, 2015

Today sees the nationwide release of The Wedding Ringer from Sony Pictures. As of this writing, the $23 million comedy is tracking at around over/under $25 million over the four-day holiday, or about what About Last Night opened with over President’s Day 2014. Sony was skimpy with press screenings but was played heavy in terms of social media and word-of-mouth screenings, as I noted a few months back when discussing a trailer filled with tweets from random audience members from preview screenings.

Anyway, what is interesting about The Wedding Ringer is that it is the first Kevin Hart post-stardom vehicle that surrounds him with mostly white actors. That’s neither good nor bad, but it makes this as good a time as any to briefly discussing the notion of “crossing over” in terms of racial demographics, because it is something that may-well be discussed when the film’s opening weekend and/or final grosses are analyzed.

So consider this a preemptive strike of sorts. To wit, Kevin Hart doesn’t need to cross over at all in order to continue to be a box office draw/movie star making precisely the kind of films he seems set on making. He didn’t need white audiences to become a movie star. He doesn’t need them to continue being a movie star.

Last year’s hits, Ride Along, About Last Night, and Think Like A Man Too were explicitly black-centric vehicles that featured primarily black casts. The Wedding Ringer features Hart as a glorified straight man in a film featuring the likes of Josh Gad (from Frozen), Kaley Cuoco (from The Big Bang Theory), and Olivia Thirlby (from Juno).

This March brings us Get Hard from Warner Bros./Time Warner Inc., which is a comedy co-starring Will Ferrell in a premise oddly similar to the Rob Schneider/David Carradine farce Big Stan, although I imagine few saw that direct-to-DVD vehicle back in 2007. Point being, Kevin Hart has become a breakout comedy movie star in the last three years by making films that black audiences really wanted to see and keeping the budgets at a point where it didn’t really matter if other racial demographics chose to sample them or not.

With big openings like Think Like A Man ($33.6 million), Ride Along ($48.6m over Fri-Mon), About Last Night ($27.8m over four days in February 2014), and Think Like A Man Too ($29.2m in June 2014), Kevin Hart is an out-and-out movie star. He is bringing it $25m, $30m+, and $40m+ debut weekends as a matter of course while making lower-budgeted films that are designed to appeal exclusively to the underserved African American community.

When the numbers for The Wedding Ringer are tabulated on Sunday and Monday, I’m sure we’ll see demographic stats regarding age, gender, and race in regards to who made up The Wedding Ringer‘s opening weekend. Maybe the inclusion of white actors in a story line where Kevin Hart plays a leading role will cause an increase in white demographics this weekend. There is nothing wrong with that. Kevin Hart has the absolute right, privilege, and (arguably) ability to make mainstream movies that target audiences of any and all genders and ethnicities if he so chooses.

But just because he might want such a thing doesn’t mean he needs such a thing and it doesn’t mean his ongoing success should be defined by it. Mr. Hart’s long term success should not be judged by his ability to rope in white audiences. He has achieved this success without explicitly “crossing over” by making films that would theoretically be targeted to white audiences as well as black audiences. His success personifies a most optimistic trend over the last few years.

What we have seen, in varying degrees of box office glory, are mainstream multiplex releases that were cheap enough to not remotely require any real cross-over in terms of (whatever the case may be) gender or racial lines in order to be big hits. We’ve seen The Heat, a $43 million comedy that played like a female-skewing event movie to the tune of $159m domestic off a $41m weekend that was 65% female and we’ve seen a $57m debut weekend for the $65m Sex and the City movie that played 85% female back in 2008. We have seen any number of mid-budgeted (or low budgeted) romantic dramas like The Vow and Dear John pulling in $30m+ and $40m+ debuts off of a 70-75% female audience.

We saw Pantelion Films and Lions Gate Entertainment’s Instructions Not Included earn $44.4m domestic playing heavily toward Hispanic audiences (they have another film, the inspirational “kids make a science club” drama Spare Parts, opening today). And we saw the $48.6m debut of Ride Along which played 12% Caucasian. These (arguably) wholly mainstream big-studio releases were cheap enough to not have to be global blockbusters in order to be profitable. They don’t necessarily exclude audiences outside their explicit demographic targeting, but nor to they feel obliged to pander to them.

We’ll see how films like The Wedding Ringer and the two-hander that is Get Hard play on opening weekend and beyond compared to Hart’s previous “black-centric” star vehicles. But the notion that Kevin Hart needs white audiences in order to validate his stardom is false. It implies that amassing blockbuster audiences via your popularity among audiences other than white males is somehow less legitimate.

Second, it implies that films starring Hart alongside white actors, be they movie stars like Farrell or merely known entities like Josh Gad, are inherently more “mainstream” than the likes of Ride Along. Third, Kevin Hart doesn’t need any so-called crossover success if he merely wants to keep making the kind of films, films that by-the-way are varied in terms of plot, genre, and content, that made him a movie star in the first place.

Kevin Hart doesn’t need cross-over appeal to white audiences to continue to be a movie star because Kevin Hart didn’t need cross-over appeal to white audiences to become a movie star. I’m not the first person to say this, if only because Chris Rock didn’t get my psychic memo that I was waiting until this very week to discuss this. But something that should be this obvious and is arguably this important deserves to be repeated ad-nauseum until it becomes conventional wisdom.

By: Scott Mendelson - Forbes Contributor

January 14, 2015
Congress has handed the IRS more work and less funding, leading to a decline in taxpayer service, the tax agency’s independent in-house critic said in a new report.

The agency’s inability to provide clear, timely assistance to the public is the most serious issue facing the nation’s taxpayers, according to the annual report released today by Nina Olson, the national taxpayer advocate.

“Many taxpayers will be frustrated, some will make potentially costly mistakes, others will incur higher compliance costs when forced to seek information and assistance from tax professionals that the IRS previously provided for free,” Olson wrote in the report. “And still others will simply give up and not file returns at all.”

The woes at the Internal Revenue Service will be on display starting Jan. 20, when the individual tax-filing season begins. Obamacare’s mandate to purchase health insurance and the tax-credit subsidies for insurance took effect in 2014, and both issues are creating complications and questions for taxpayers.

About half of taxpayers who call the IRS this year won’t reach a person to answer their questions and those who do could wait 30 minutes, the IRS projects. That’s the worst forecast since the IRS began tracking such data in 2001, Olson writes.

The IRS has closed some walk-in assistance centers, limited employee training and made it harder for tax preparers to get their calls answered.

Poor Treatment

“If the government treats its taxpayers poorly, voluntary compliance almost certainly will erode over time,” the report says, noting that only 2 percent of tax revenue comes from enforcement. “There is a strong business case for the government to provide sufficient funds for taxpayer service to ensure that taxpayer needs are adequately met.”

In addition, the IRS is closing the last of its overseas taxpayer-assistance centers, saying that years of budget cuts have forced it to end a popular program designed to help U.S. citizens living or traveling abroad.

The closing of IRS offices attached to U.S. Embassies in London and Paris, as well as the consulate in Frankfurt, will allow the agency to reassign about a dozen employees to its domestic offices and save about $4 million a year, the IRS said in a statement.

Since fiscal 2010, Congress has reduced the IRS budget by 17 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars, according to Olson’s report.

The most recent 3 percent cut was part of the spending bill that Congress passed in December.

Republicans, who now control both chambers of Congress, have used budget cuts to penalize the tax agency for giving extra scrutiny to Tea Party groups seeking tax-exempt status.

Hiring Freeze

To cope with the budget cut, the IRS has a hiring freeze and is delaying information-technology projects, Commissioner John Koskinen wrote to employees yesterday.

Those cuts will mean that at least 46,000 audits won’t get closed and that the government will miss out on collecting at least $2 billion, Koskinen wrote. That’s about $6 lost for every $1 of budget cuts.

The IRS is planning for up to two furlough days between now and Sept. 30, which would mean closing the agency to the public. A final decision hasn’t been made.

“Refunds will be delayed, especially for taxpayers who file paper returns or for taxpayers with errors or questions on their returns,” Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents IRS workers, said in a statement yesterday. “Tax cheats will have an easier time evading what they owe.”

By: Richard Rubin