Dec 31, 2012

Personally I am not big on making resolutions every year.  I am of the belief that we can make changes and "hit the reset button" whenever we deem it necessary.  Yet I understand the idea of a fresh new year to wipe the slate clean and start anew.  I imagine that losing weight is a top resolution for most people.  It is for me, although I would not call it a resolution.  It just so happens that I am starting this effort on January 1, 2013. 

Without disclosing the specifics, I weigh more now than I ever have in my life.  Thankfully, I am pretty dense so I do not necessarily look like the number on the scale.  Having said that, I am not happy with the number on the scale or the number that is on the clothes that I wear.  I have felt better about my body previously and I want to regain that confidence.  Injuries had left me fairly inactive and undoubtedly set the stage for me to gain weight.  Then just as I was prepping to have the first of two injuries surgically repaired, my thyroid decided to get out of control and I still do not fully understand the impact of my thyroid condition on my body.  The last 2-3 years were spent addressing those health concerns and now it seems like all of my extraordinary circumstances have been normalized and I know that my weak link is food.  I would say that I have pretty decent/healthy eating and exercising habits.  But I can do better.  I enjoy food and do not particularly like to deny myself.  A while back, I ate really lean, worked out regularly.  My cuts/rips were pretty evident, but I didn't like eating that lean.  I like to cook and try different cuisines.  Moderation was somewhat my philosophy.  Plus my metabolism and exercise regimen back then made up for whatever I ate.  Well that ain't the case anymore and I cannot act like it is.

So I have decided to try Dr. Ian Smith's new 6-week program called Shred.  I need some structure when it comes to food.  I learned about the program on Twitter and became curious.  I am not crazy about fad diets or diets in general.  I need some level of flexibility and Shred seems to provide that flexibility.  The idea of six weeks is not a quick fix but a time frame to establish some new habits as well as experience results.  I am writing not necessarily to endorse the program as I have yet to complete it.  However, I wanted to share my enthusiasm about this new venture and if you are looking for a program to try perhaps Shred might be just what you are looking for.  I am also realizing the benefits of online community support.  Me sharing my plans may be an encouragement to someone.  Putting my plans out there also serves as motivation for me to step up and follow through on what I said I was going to do.  This will be a challenge for sure and I will need every ounce of motivation I can get.  If losing weight is a goal of yours, then maybe we can do this together and support one another.  I will primarily be using Twitter (@AVGJOhanna) to interact with fellow Shredders.

2012 turned out to be a rather interesting year.  I cannot say that I am eager for 2012 to go nor am I super excited about the prospects of 2013.  What I can say is that improving my health bodes well not only for me physically but will also enable me to thrive in other areas of my life.  If weight loss and improved health is your goal, go for it!  Whatever your goals are for 2013 and beyond, go for it!  I wish you well in all of your endeavors.  Happy New Year!

P.S. I want to openly thank Savvy Sista for allowing me to express some of my thoughts through this forum that she has created.  I truly appreciate the opportunity and do not take it for granted.  All the best to you and yours, Savvy Sista, in 2013!!

Lillian Miles Lewis, U.S. Rep. John Lewis’ wife, friend and political adviser, died Monday at Emory University Hospital. She was 73.

Close friend Xernona Clayton said Lillian Lewis had been ill for an extended period of time but encouraged her husband to continue with his career.

“She’d kind of get on him about telling people she was sick,” Clayton said. “She didn’t want that to be the focus. She wanted him to do his work.”

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Lewis met her future husband when he was already a civil rights legend, and she played a key role in his transition to a career in politics. Many thought the couple were a perfect match.

“She was a feisty lady,” said Temi Silver, an event planner and longtime friend. “He was so sweet and gentle; he needed her to take care of his back. And she was the one to do it.”

Lillian Lewis, whose father owned a small contracting business, attended Los Angeles High School with the late Johnny Cochran and received an undergraduate degree in English from then-California State College at Los Angeles and a master’s degree in library science at the University of Southern California.

She developed a lifelong interest in Africa when she taught in a student program in Nigeria in 1960, returning later as a Peace Corps volunteer to teach for two years in Yaba, Nigeria. It was after taking a job as a librarian at Atlanta University that she met her husband at a 1967 New Year’s Eve party at the home of Clayton, a television personality and civil rights activist. Clayton and another movement veteran, Dr. Bernard LaFayette, played matchmaker.

“I figured he needed a partner like Lillian, and Lillian needed someone who was moving into such important areas,” Clayton said. “She was a sober-minded, level-headed intellectual.”

Clayton remembered her friend as a voracious reader with a wide-ranging intellect, who fascinated the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by being able to quote his speeches verbatim.

She and John Lewis began a courtship, often double-dating with Julian and Alice Bond, movement friends who would become bitter rivals when Bond and Lewis opposed each other in a 1986 congressional race.

The Lewises were married in 1968.

Click here to read the entire article.

It will be the child that reality show dreams are made of.  Rapper Kanye West and reality star Kim Kardashian are expecting their first child together.

The rapper confirmed the pregnancy Sunday night while performing at the Revel Resort's Ovation Hall.

During a performance of 'Lost in the World' he had tem stopped the music as he told the crowd to make some noise for his 'Baby's moms.'

Of course Kim started crying, because you know there is nothing more romantic than being called baby momma...SMH!

Okay, let me stop. I'm pretty sure this is probably going to be one of the biggest stories in 2013.

I can promise you this pregnancy is going to be the opposite of Beyonce's. Kim is going to be on ever magazine cover she can get on flaunting her baby bump. You can best believe that.

Shoot, the girl is reportedly only 12 weeks pregnant and their already pimping this pregnancy for everything its worth.

You can't knock that Kardashian Hustle.

Dec 28, 2012

My first impression of Django Unchained after I saw the trailer for the film was that it looked silly.  The idea of  slavery and westerns did not gel with me.  When I started to learn more about the actual plot, I became curious.  When I heard the mixed reviews about the film, I pretty much came down on the side of my initial impression.  One reviewer called the use of the N-word gratuitous.  I was fine with the contextual use of the word.  However I was not interested in being disrespected because the "license" to use the word contextually was abused.  Jamie Foxx as well as others said that the film was cathartic.  I simply could not conceptualize how any slavery film would be cathartic.  Ultimately, I resigned my position to I will see the film eventually.  I was not going to rush out on opening day to see it.  I have never been eager to see a Tarantino film.  As a matter of fact, I do not ever think I have seen any of his films.  I will see it when I see it. 

Well eventually became today.  I must say that I am glad that I saw the film and was able to form my own opinion of it.  It was actually one of the best films I have seen in a long time. I did not find the use of the N-word to be gratuitous.  The derogatory term was used quite appropriately.  My only criticism was the score and the soundtrack.  While it went along with the spaghetti western intent, it irritated me because I saw no reason to "lighten" up the movie.  It was a very violent movie and it depicted some of the most raw images of slavery I have seen on the big screen in a long time.  I am not the biggest hip-hop fan, so the Rick Ross track I could do without.  It just didn't seem to fit with that setting.  But like I said, that is my only criticism of it.

It is a very violent film.  I covered my eyes quite a bit.  I really did not know much about Mandingo fighting and that was very hard to watch.  They did a good job of getting me angry and setting the stage for catharsis to take place.  The film is just shy of three hours and I did get a little restless. But make no mistake about it, the film held my attention.  There were definitely some award winning performances.  Samuel Jackson...I do not think that I have ever gotten so angry with a fictional black character while watching a movie.  He played the role of the house n**** to tee.   It was indeed a very unique film.  As I mentioned earlier, the slavery images were very profound.  They truly showed how even the most ignorant person with the "right" skin color was given more respect than a slave.  The sadistic behavior of the slave owners and the overseers...let's just say the anger I felt was very real and like Kerry Washington I wondered, "What type of person could have survived this?"    We grapple with the remnants of slavery, Jim Crow, and racial discrimination in our present world.  For some of us it is unimaginable to deal with what we presently deal with.  What is indeed unimaginable is what our ancestors went through and survived.  

I think that it was fitting for this film to come out shortly after the film Lincoln was released.  In this country, Lincoln gets all of the credit for ending slavery.  Yes Lincoln carried the baton across the finish line.  But many slaves were in hot pursuit of their freedom long before Lincoln. Django Unchained has motivated me to learn more about black abolishionists like Nat Turner.   Slaves were oppressed, degraded and beaten into submission but there were many that had enough of a sound mind to muster up the courage to fight and advocate for themselves.  We should not let our history be whitewashed.  Don't get me wrong, there are many whites that contributed to the struggle and played a critical role in the quest for freedom.  However, Django was not merely a figment of Quentin Tarantino's imagination.  To me, the film opens the floor to a larger conversation about other true black heros that remain unsung.

To sum this up, if you were like me, very hesitant about seeing this film, I would encourage you to see it.  It is worth the price of admission.  If you have ruled the film out even before seeing it, I would encourage you to reconsider.  The more positive reviews proved true for me and you may be pleasantly surprised as well.

Dec 21, 2012

This video says it all...

(WSBTV) -- A local megachurch pastor and his brother were indicted on Wednesday, according to the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office.

Gospel Tabernacle Church Pastor Bishop Wiley Jackson and his brother Rodney Jackson are facing eight felony counts for allegedly violating the Georgia Securities Act.

DeKalb District Attorney Robert James said the brothers misled their own church members in investing into Genesis LLC, a securities entity that was not registered by the state.

James told Channel 2's Tom Regan the men recruited members to pitch in thousands of dollars that would be used for ministry-related investments, like inspirational books, tapes and other items. But the investors didn't get a promise on their return and lost their money.

"They met with them, and one of these individuals (who invested in the business) gave as much as $10,000; the other $2,000, they invested with them and they lost their money," James explained.

James said the investment issue dates back several years, but in 2009, the accusers went to the Secretary of State's Office and learned Genesis LLC wasn't registered by the state and then reported the case to the district attorney.

Arrest warrants have been issued for the Jackson brothers.

Channel 2 Action News received the following statement from Pastor Jackson.

"I am surprised to learn of this indictment. I am out of town and cannot respond until I have read the indictment. There has been no wrongdoing," he said.

Over the past week, we as Americans have been united in our grief as Newtown has laid to rest so many beautiful, innocent children, along with the heroic educators who worked every day to help them achieve their dreams.

As a mother of two young daughters, my heart aches for you and your families. Like so many Americans, I wish there were something — anything — I could do or say to ease your anguish.

But I know that I cannot begin to imagine the depths of your grief. I know that for many of you, the pain you are enduring right now seems unbearable; and many of you may be asking yourselves, how can we go on — as families and as a community?

But I also know that we have already begun to see the answer to that question in the countless acts of courage, kindness and love here in Newtown and across America.

Over the past week, I have been awed and inspired by Newtown's heroes: the first responders who risked their lives at a moment's notice; the educators whose devotion to their students shone brightest in one of our nation's darkest hours; the children who comforted each other despite their fear; the families coming together to support each other as they grieve.

Click here to read the entire letter.

After 14 years of being the number 1 morning show in Atlanta, Frank and Wanda told their listeners this morning that they are leaving V-103. Frank Ski has been the morning man at V-103 since 1998 when he came to Atlanta from Baltimore. In his farewell statement which had been promoted as the biggest announcement of his life, Frank thanked Atlanta for embracing him and supporting his community efforts. The Frank Ski Kids Foundation has raised thousands of dollars to help neighborhood football programs and to provide life changing experiences for children through art, science and travel.

Wanda Smith has been with V-103 a year longer than Frank. She was barely able to read her prepared statement through tears that were shared by everyone in the studio and those listening to the station. After thanking her family for sacrificing their time with her while she pursued her radio career, Wanda said she was looking forward to spending much needed time with her number one fans, husband LaMorris, sons Tavares and Giovanni and a host of close friends who were at the station to show their support.

Neither personality announced their next career move, however, Frank Ski said he will continue to run his lounge and restaurant and Wanda said she wants to return to her first love-standup comedy.

Frank and Wanda will end their time on V-103 with their annual Christmas Wish week by granting the Christmas wishes of listeners as only they can do. Their final day on the air will be Thursday, December 20.

Whether its packing the clubs, paying for groceries, sending others children to school or opening the eyes of students to cultures around the world, Atlanta mornings will never be the same now that Frank and Wanda have decided to say goodbye. One text that was repeated to several hundred people this morning said it best “Atlanta is crying today.”

With the new year a new era begins on V-103. Beginning on January 2 current afternoon host Ryan Cameron takes over the morning show and Big Tigger who has worked for CBS Radio in Washington D.C. and BET Television will host afternoons.

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) — When people here speak of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, they use the number 26: the ones killed after Adam Lanza stormed his way into the school.

When the bells of Newtown toll mournfully Friday morning to honor the victims of last week's shooting rampage, they'll do so 26 times, for each child and staff member killed.

Rarely do residents mention the first person police said Lanza killed that morning: his mother, Nancy, who was shot in the head four times while she lay in bed.

That makes 27.

A private funeral was held Thursday in New Hampshire for Nancy Lanza, according to Donald Briggs, the police chief in Kinston, N.H., where her funeral was held. About 25 family members attended the ceremony.

In Newtown, where makeshift memorials of stuffed animals, angels, candles, flowers and balloons have blossomed on patches of grass throughout town, there is only one noticeable tribute to Nancy Lanza. It's a letter written by a friend on yellow paper affixed, screwed and shellacked onto a red piece of wood.

"Others now share pain for choices you faced alone; May the blameless among us throw the first stone," it reads in part.

No one outwardly blames Nancy Lanza for the rampage. But authorities have said the gunman, her 20-year-old son Adam, used the guns she kept at their home to carry out a massacre that became the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history and has stirred lawmakers to call for gun control laws.

Nationwide, churches will ring their bells 26 times at 9:30 Friday morning — exactly a week after the shooting occurred — in memory of the victims. Two gold balloons, one a 2, the other a 6, are tied to a bridge. Handwritten tributes mention 26 snowflakes. "26 angels will guide us," reads one.

The dearth of tributes to Nancy Lanza underscores the complicated mix of emotions surrounding her after the shooting.

In a small town where multiple funerals are taking place each day, where black-clad mourners stand in lines waiting to say goodbye to another child, many are incredibly angry at Nancy Lanza for not keeping her guns away from her son.

Some view her as a victim, but one whose guns were used to kill first-graders. And others think Nancy Lanza was an innocent victim, one who should be counted and included at memorials.

"It's a loss of life and, yes, her life mattered," said Christine Lombardi. "Yes, I do believe she should be included."

Others in Newtown are weary of the crush of media and have become reluctant to answer questions after a difficult week. But the subject of marking Nancy Lanza's death, along with those of the children and teachers killed by her son, seemed mainly to surprise two moms who stopped to place flowers at the memorial at Main and Sugar streets with their two grammar-school aged girls.

They paused, appeared bewildered, and looked at each other for a moment. Then one quietly said, "No, no," and they each took a girl's hand and led them away.

Newtown and environs weathered a fourth day of funerals Thursday as mourners laid to rest Catherine Hubbard, Benjamin Wheeler, Jesse Lewis and Allison Wyatt, all 6 years old; and Grace McDonnell, 7.

A service was held in Katonah, N.Y., for teacher Anne Marie Murphy, 52, who authorities believe helped shield some of her students from the rain of bullets. Roman Catholic Cardinal Timothy Dolan compared her to Jesus.

"Like Jesus, Annie laid down her life for her friends," Dolan said. "Like Jesus, Annie's life and death brings light, truth, goodness and love to a world often shrouded in darkness, evil, selfishness and death."

A bell tolled Thursday at Newtown's St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church at the funeral for Catherine, who her family said would be remembered for her passion for animals and her constant smile.

Trinity Episcopal church on Main Street was filled to capacity for the funeral for Benjamin, described as a budding musician and Beatles fan. His service included a rendition of "Here Comes The Sun." About two dozen Boy Scout leaders lined the front pathway to the church in honor of the former Cub Scout.

In downtown Danbury, mourners filed into the ornate white-pillared First Congregational Church for a memorial service for 30-year-old teacher Lauren Rousseau. Friends wept at the altar as they remembered the spirited, hardworking, sunny-natured woman who brightened their lives with silliness and gave them all nicknames.

Gov. Dannel Malloy has asked people across Connecticut to observe a moment of silence at 9:30 a.m. Friday, which will mark a week since the shootings. The White House has said President Barack Obama will privately observe the moment of silence.

Places of worship and buildings with bells have been asked to ring them 26 times, for the victims at the school. Officials and clergy in many other states have said they will participate.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was one of the people to visit Newtown on Thursday, stopping by a firehouse.

The Obama administration will push to tighten gun laws in response to the shooting, Vice President Joe Biden said Thursday, and Speaker John Boehner said the GOP-controlled House would consider the proposals.

Biden, who is overseeing the administration's response to Friday's shooting, said he and Obama are "absolutely committed" to curbing gun violence in the United States.

"Even if we can only save one life, we have to take action," he said.

Gun-control measures have faced fierce resistance in Congress for years, but that may be changing because of the events in Connecticut, which shocked the nation.

After the shooting, Obama signaled for the first time that he's willing to spend significant political capital on the issue. Some prominent gun-rights advocates on Capitol Hill — Democrats and Republicans alike — have expressed willingness to consider new measures.

Investigators have said that Nancy Lanza, a gun enthusiast, visited shooting ranges several times and that her son also visited an area range.

Authorities say Adam Lanza shot his mother at their home and then took her car and some of her guns to the school, where he broke in and opened fire. A Connecticut official said Nancy Lanza was shot four times in the head with a .22-caliber rifle.

Adam Lanza was wearing all black, with an olive-drab utility vest, during the school attack. Investigators have found no letters or diaries that could explain the rampage.

Friends and acquaintances have described him as intelligent, but odd and quiet.

Friends said he would stare down at the floor and not speak when she brought him into a local pizzeria. They knew that he'd switched schools more than once and that she'd tried home schooling him. But while she occasionally expressed concern about his future during evenings at the bar, she never complained.

"I heard her as a parent. I always said that I wouldn't want to be in her shoes. But I thought, 'Wow. She holds it well,'" said Jon Tambascio, son of the pizzeria operator.

Halle Berry and Chaka Khan are among the honorees for BET Honors 2013, it was announced by the cable network Thursday.

Entrepreneur Clarence Avant, T.D. Jakes and basketball star Lisa Leslie will also be feted at the annual event, hosted by Gabrielle Union.

BET Honors, which recognizes distinguished African Americans performing at high levels in music, literature, entertainment media, service and education, is scheduled to air Feb. 11, 2013 on BET at 9 p.m. during Black History Month. The event will be taped Jan. 12 in Washington D.C. at the Warner Theatre.

Previous honorees at BET Honors have included Cicely Tyson, Jamie Foxx, Whitney Houston, Queen Latifah and Sean "Diddy" Combs. Performers have included Jennifer Hudson, Trey Songz, Ne-Yo, Mary J. Blige and Patti LaBelle.

(CBS) Two Texas women say police subjected them to an illegal and humiliating body cavity search, after they were pulled over for allegedly tossing cigarette butts out of the window of their vehicle while on a road trip to Oklahoma.

Angel Dobbs, 38, and her 24-year-old niece, Ashley, have filed a federal lawsuit against Texas State Troopers and the head of their department, CBS DFW reports

The lawsuit states that State Trooper David Farrell claimed he smelled marijuana coming from the vehicle and called in a female trooper to do a cavity search to see if the women were hiding anything illegal. He allegedly made the call prior to establishing any probable cause or suspicion that the women were involved in illegal activity beyond littering.

While waiting for the female trooper, Kelley Helleson, the lawsuit alleges that Farrell searched the women's vehicle without asking their consent.

The lawsuit claims Farrell told Helleson he called her in to do the cavity search because the women were acting strangely.

The women said Helleson proceeded to use her fingers to search their genital areas, using the same latex glove on both women, on the side of the road in full view of other passing vehicles, CBS DFW reports.

The incident was reportedly recorded on a dash-mounted camera in Farrell's police car. In video acquired by the station, the female trooper can be seen feeling around Dobbs' bra. Then, Dobbs says, Helleson opened the back of her jogging pants. "At this point, I'm in clear shock. I can't even believe this is happening."

Without changing her latex glove, Trooper Helleson began searching Ashley Dobbs, reports CBS DFW.

"I was molested, I was violated. I was humiliated," the younger Dobbs reportedly said later of the incident.

Police found nothing on the women and performed a roadside sobriety test, which Angel Dobbs passed. The women were then given a warning for littering and sent on their way.

The women's attorney, Scott Palmer, says the search was a violation. "We believe both troopers Farrell and Helleson displayed a reckless and callous disregard for these women's constitutional rights and their safety."

The Dobbs women reportedly say that when they filed a complaint with DPS supervisors, they were told if they filed an affidavit, DPS would turn around and file charges against them for lying.

The Texas Department of Public Safety said in a statement the Texas Rangers have "onducted an inquiry surrounding the events" and have turned the results over to the Dallas County DA's office.

Dec 20, 2012

NEW YORK—Cory Booker said Thursday he won’t run against New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in the state’s gubernatorial race next year—choosing to “explore” a run for U.S. Senate instead.

The Democratic mayor of Newark, N.J., announced his decision on Twitter, pointing followers to a YouTube video in which he declared he wanted to serve out his current term at City Hall and “finish" the work he started.

"Let there be no doubt, I will complete my full second term as mayor," said Booker, a rising star in his party. "As for my political future, I will explore the possibility of running for the United States Senate in 2014."

He said he would consult with New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who is widely expected to retire after this term. “It would be a privilege, an honor to continue his legacy,” Booker said.

Booker’s decision is a major blow to New Jersey Democrats, who had viewed the mayor as the party’s best chance to defeat Christie. But Christie, who had been viewed as vulnerable in the race, has enjoyed a bump in popularity for his leadership in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, making him a stronger candidate than expected.

Booker initially said he would announce his decision about his political future just after Election Day, but the mayor delayed that decision after Sandy—telling reporters that he needed more time to weigh his options.

In the video, Booker said he will still be active in the state’s 2013 election, insisting that “nobody is going to fight harder than me for the entire Democratic ticket.” But he also laid the tentative groundwork for his own 2014 Senate bid, addressing several issues he said would be important to the nation’s future, including education, gun control and job creation.

“We must confront a catastrophic debt crisis that could devastate the middle class,” Booker declared.

Booker’s campaign office did not return phone calls seeking comment. But the mayor is expected to file paperwork on Thursday with the U.S. Senate and Federal Election Commission allowing him to start raising cash for the 2014 race.


(Yahoo) -- Lisette Lopez of Oakland Park, Florida, was furious when her 12-year-old son, Erol Faustin, was suspended from school for disobeying and cursing in class. So she designed a punishment that would be as public and as humiliating for him as his behavior had been for his teacher: He had to stand in front of Rickards Middle School every morning and afternoon for the three days he was suspended, holding a sign apologizing for his actions.

"My kids know not to disrespect people, and he's not a bad kid," Lopez told the Associated Press while her son bit his lip and looked away from the camera. "He plays around in class like most all kids do. But he has to know that when you're in school you're there to learn you're not there to play."

He's been in trouble before, Lopez told told WSVN News7, and has been acting like the class clown this year; the sign holding is her last-ditch effort to get through to him, she said. His father is not around and has a criminal record, she told the news station, and she didn't want her son to follow in his footsteps. "He has a younger sister and brother who look up to him," she said. "He needs to be a role model."

When his teacher asked him to move his book back, he refused, saying that he "doesn't give a 'f'," and called her the "b" word, Lopez said. Standing with her hand on her preteen's shoulder, Lopez explained her reasoning behind the public punishment. "He did it with the whole class there, and it would get around the whole school," she said. "And I didn't want people coming up to him being like 'Oh, good job' or 'Oh, we all wanted to do that.' So his apology was public, in front of the whole school."

Erol wore a black suit and tie on Tuesday as he held the large handmade sign for his classmates and their parents to see. As students milled around him, there were tears in his eyes; one kid patted him on the shoulder in a kind way as he walked by.

"I disrespected my teacher," the sign read in part. "I am now suspended for 3 days. I would like to apologize not only to that teacher but to all adults." When a TV news reporter asked him if he thought he had done the wrong thing, he simply said, "Yes."

Erol says that he's learned his lesson.

"I learned that I won't call a teacher or any adults or staff out by that name again," he said, sounding contrite. "Because it's disrespectful."
Do you agree or disagree with Ms. Lopez's method?

Dec 19, 2012

Yesterday, TIME magazine announced that President Barack Obama is Person of the Year (POY) for 2012.  That same afternoon after announcing that Vice President will be leading an inter-agency task force to address gun violence, the press remarkably asked more questions about the fiscal cliff than the topic of gun violence which was the purpose of the press gathering in the first place.  The last question, which many on Twitter said was a rudely and unprofessionally asked, was asked by ABC's Jake Tapper.  Basically he asked why the President after four years was just now addressing gun violence.  So just in a matter of hours, the President is given Person of the Year honors and then basically slammed as if he was lazy and heartless.  People love him and people hate him.  He doesn't complain about the toughness of his job; he signed up for it.  Yet and still it is a tough job.  We are a very demanding, opinionated, and impatient democracy.  Even though our government is not designed for the president to govern alone, the people have very high expectations of the President of the United States.  No one understands that better than President Obama himself and those that have held the office previously. Though I would argue that the previous presidents can not entirely relate to the first African American president and the dynamics that fact alone presents.

Our President has faced numerous historically difficult issues simultaneously with rigid opposition during his first term.  His re-election was quite the feat.  During the 2012 campaign, his weariness was quite apparent.  During his last campaign stop he got quite nostalgic and shed a couple of tears.  When I heard of this, I thought, "oh he is just tired and needs some rest."  When I finally watched his final campaign rally, I realized that physical fatigue probably made it easier for him to be vulnerable enough to cry publicly.  But make no mistake about it, he was overwhelmed by his supporters and the fact that there was a great chance that our country could go backwards if he was not elected to a second term. It was his final campaign rally and he had laid it all on the line.  He had given all he had and it was now up to the voters.  The tears were genuine. Paraphrasing a statement Joy Ann Reid of made after the final rally, Barack Obama fundamentally is a decent man.  His heart is in the right place. He did not seek the presidency for the heck of it. He did not sacrifice an "easier" life because it seemed like the logical career path. Re-election seemed even more improbable than his initial election.  I do not say this to say that previous presidents or other elected officials have other motives. But let's face it, their stories and his story differ on some key fronts such as race, lineage, and privilege.

Undoubtedly, the President's strength is appealing to the American people.  He is forever the community organizer.  His campaign team is in a category all by itself.  Not likely to be replicated even by Democrats.  The day after the 2012 election the President stopped by the main Chicago campaign office where he cried yet again showing much gratitude for their work and sharing how impressed he was with them.  All of his remarks were recorded and later viewed by millions of people.  I don't know about you but the willingness to "go there" and show such emotion told me how much he needs us.  He was clear that he needed our votes to be elected and re-elected.  Now it is clear that he needs us in the governing process.  In yesterday's announcement about the gun-violence task force, he reiterated the point that he cannot do this alone.  Congress, specifically the House of Representatives, is not a reliable governing partner.  Who else is he going to turn to, in order to move this country forward?

After the tragedy at Sandy Hook, Melissa Harris-Perry said on her show this past weekend that she read a little more into the President's tears.  She stated that maybe the tears represented a sense of helplessness because of the extreme dysfunction in Washington.  I do not necessarily agree that that specifically was the case, but it is not a farfetched concept. Undoubtedly, the President feels the burden and is keenly aware of the limits to his influence and authority.  The American people need to be aware of those limits as well, if we in fact want change.  The same energy and effort it took for him to be elected to a first and second term is the same energy and effort it will take for him to have a successful presidency.  Having said that though, this isn't about him.  I am an avid supporter and want him to be successful.  But the President and his family are going to be alright in the next four years and the years that follow.  The question is will we be alright?  To bring about change, it is clear that the President needs us, but the truth is WE NEED US in order to fare well in the next four years and beyond.

(TIME) -- Twenty-seven years after driving from New York City to Chicago in a $2,000 Honda Civic for a job that probably wouldn’t amount to much, Barack Obama, in better shape but with grayer hair, stood in the presidential suite on the top floor of the Fairmont Millennium Park hotel as flat screens announced his re-election as President of the United States. The networks called Ohio earlier than predicted, so his aides had to hightail it down the hall to join his family and friends. They encountered a room of high fives and fist pumps, hugs and relief.

The final days of any campaign can alter the psyches of even the most experienced political pros. At some point, there is nothing to do but wait. Members of Obama’s team responded in the only rational way available to them — by acting irrationally. They turned neckties into magic charms and facial hair into a talisman and compulsively repeated past behaviors so as not to jinx what seemed to be working. In Boca Raton, Fla., before the last debate, they dispatched advance staff to find a greasy-spoon diner because they had eaten at a similar joint before the second debate, on New York’s Long Island. They sent senior strategist David Axelrod a photograph of the tie he had to find to wear on election night: the same one he wore in 2008. Several staffers on Air Force One stopped shaving, like big-league hitters in the playoffs. Even the President succumbed, playing basketball on Election Day at the same court he played on before winning in 2008.

But now it was done, and reason had returned. Ever since the campaign computers started raising the odds of victory from near even to something like surefire, Obama had been thinking a lot about what it meant to win without the lightning-in-a-bottle quality of that first national campaign. The Obama effect was not ephemeral anymore, no longer reducible to what had once been mocked as “that hopey-changey stuff.” It could be measured — in wars stopped and started; industries saved, restructured or reregulated; tax cuts extended; debt levels inflated; terrorists killed; the health-insurance system reimagined; and gay service members who could walk in uniform with their partners. It could be seen in the new faces who waited hours to vote and in the new ways campaigns are run. America debated and decided this year: history would not record Obama’s presidency as a fluke.

So after his staff arrived, he left his family in the main room of the suite and stepped out to talk with his three top advisers, Axelrod, political strategist David Plouffe and Jim Messina, his campaign manager. He wanted to tell them what this victory meant, because it was very different the second time. “This one’s more satisfying than ’08,” he said. “It wasn’t just about what I was going to do as President. It’s what I’ve done.” In the end, the outcome would not even be very close, and this realization was sinking in, unleashing something, dropping a shield he had been carrying for a long time. Over three days in November, the man known for his preternatural cool won re-election and cried twice in public. And then, trying to find meaning in a tragedy in Connecticut, he did it again, all but breaking down in the White House Briefing Room.

Read more:

The senselessness alone would have been sufficient.

So too the sheer horror.

The devastated families, the tapestry of their lives ripped apart, would have been more than enough to make the events at Sandy Hook Elementary almost too weighty to bear.

Much as they were more than a decade before at Columbine, or in any number of other mass or spree shootings — over five dozen by one count, more than 150 by another — that have played out over the past few decades.*

There is nothing, one would hope (and even suspect) that could make the present moment any worse.

And yet sadly, there is, and it is something that one hears almost every time one of these tragedies transpires. Over and again, no matter how frequently they happen, and no matter how often the specifics of the latest event eerily mirror the last one and the one before that — the high capacity weaponry, the apparent mental and emotional instability of the shooter, and the relatively bucolic surroundings of the locale where the deed is done — it is said again and again with no sense of irony or misgiving.

And it is maddening.

“This wasn’t supposed to happen here.”

Or perhaps, “No one could have imagined something like this happening in our community.”

Or even worse, “This is a nice, safe place,” which of course was the same thing said about Springfield, Oregon, Pearl, Mississippi, Littleton and Aurora, Colorado, Moses Lake, Washington, Jonesboro, Arkansas, Santee, California, Edinboro, Pennsylvania, Paduchah, Kentucky, and pretty much every one of the dozens of places where the things that never happen appear to happen regularly enough to constitute something well North of never; indeed quite a bit up from rare.

To have said merely that these things are not supposed to happen, at all, anywhere, to anyone’s children would have been both appropriate and more to the point, true. Six year old children are not supposed to die, whether from gunfire or untreated asthma, whether from violence or inadequate nutrition and medical care. Parents are not supposed to bury their children. Period. And yet every year millions upon millions around the world do, including untold tens of thousands across the United States.

But it is not enough, apparently, to simply remark that there is something tragic and unexpected and uniquely unacceptable about childhood mortality, and to leave it at that, to punctuate this most obvious and banal truism with a period and be done. No, it is that additional four letters, that one hanging syllable, that modifier of our shock and amazement, which localizes its unacceptability in a particular space — here. Not there, but here.

Still, after all these years, and all these sanguinary calamities, there remains the utter surprise that yes, evil can visit the “nice” places too. What’s that you say? Childhood death isn’t just for the brown and poor anymore? Not merely a special burden to be borne by the residents of South Chicago, West Philadelphia, or Central City New Orleans? There is dysfunction and pathology and general awfulness where some of the beautiful people too reside? Yes precious, yes indeed. This time would you please write it down? Perhaps make it your Facebook status forever, so you won’t forget?

Click here to read the entire essay.
I’m not one of those people who believes in the so-called Mayan Prophecy, but I may be changing my mind after finding out that Rush Limbaugh and I actually agree on something. I know, can you believe it? The devil and I actually agree on something. But then again, a broke clock is correct twice a day.

Rush Limbaugh was on his popular syndicated radio show spouting off as he normally does when some truth actually came out of his mouth. He was going after the so-called ‘anti-gun media’ for not caring about gun violence when it affects urban neighborhoods like Chicago and Oakland.

Here is what he said:

“You guys ever been to Chicago? Do you know what happens in Chicago every night?” Limbaugh rhetorically asked the pro-gun politicians like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) who’ve now become pro-gun control in the wake of last week’s massacre. “What happens in Chicago in a week dwarfs what happened in Connecticut. Just nobody’s reporting it. There’s no cameras up there. You don’t see it. All you see is the mayor warning the gangbangers to kill each other instead of other people. That’s all you ever see.”

Limbaugh continued: “Have you ever heard any politician go on an anti-gun rant when you’ve heard about urban violence? Does it ever happen? I’m asking. Those stories out of Chicago were happening daily. Drudge was highlighting them. But take your pick. The Rodney King incident, whatever, the Watts riots, pick one. Post-Katrina looting in New Orleans, was the anti-gun control out in force there? They never are, are they? I wonder why that is? Why is it the anti-gun people never use violence in urban neighborhoods as an example of why we have to get rid of guns?” he asked.
He concluded: “There are more than 41 murders a month in Chicago. The lion’s share of them are taking place in poor black neighborhoods.” source

He makes a valid point that coincides with what a lot of people I know have been saying in private. I even received a very interesting email from a reader who expressed similar sentiments.

Here is what she wrote:

But I reside in Chicago, born and raised; and wondered if anyone would be brave enough to make the comparison, let alone speak of the "mass murdering" of children that take place here year after year. Consistently, across this country, we keep telling black And brown children that they're lives are worthless. We even have the president of the u.s. running to sandy h to shout to the world how we should endear ourselves to This particular group of children. A child dying is a child dying. Senseless. All parents weep in the same fashion over having to burying his/her child. (seemingly unbearable pain) We all need to stop acting so ugly by trying to differentiate Who gets consoled and who gets condemned

Dec 18, 2012

NEW YORK (AP) — When Harry Belafonte asked Common to participate in a benefit concert in support of freeing Native American activist Leonard Peltier, who is serving two life sentences for the 1975 execution-style deaths of two FBI agents, he did some research before giving his answer.

“I did my own due diligence,” Common said in a telephone interview Thursday with The Associated Press.

He decided to participate Friday in the “Bring Leonard Peltier Home Concert” at New York’s Beacon Theatre, joining a lineup that includes Belafonte, Jackson Browne, Pete Seeger and others.

“If I can really help a man be free from something he was accused of and is innocent and wants to be with his family, I can’t get up there and say I can’t do this because I may have a chance to get more record sales, or this film company is not going to decide to use me,” the 40-year-old rapper-actor said of his decision.

The concert is being held to raise awareness of Peltier’s plea for clemency. Peltier has maintained that he was framed by the FBI for the deaths of Jack Coler and Ronald Williams, shot execution-style during a standoff on a South Dakota Indian reservation. He has appealed his conviction several times but has been denied. The 68-year-old was last denied parole in 2009 and won’t be eligible again until 2024. His advocates say he has been in poor health in recent years.

Common is no stranger to standing up for what he believes, even when it’s controversial. In 2000, he recorded “A Song for Assata” on behalf of Assata Shakur, formerly JoAnne Chesimard. She was convicted in the 1973 slaying of a New Jersey State trooper but escaped from prison and is believed to be living in Cuba.

The recording artist says he’s not soft on crime and feels that convicted criminals should serve their time “in respect to the system.” But he also feels that when someone is unjustly convicted “it’s up to all of us to find the truth.”

Peltier’s story has been the subject of several films, most notably the Michael Apted documentary, “Incident at Oglala,” narrated by Robert Redford. Songs about him include “Native Son” by U2 and “Freedom” by Rage Against the Machine.

Peltier is an author and artist, and has continued his activism behind bars.


Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

Maybe it's just me, but I swear Alicia Keys' new album, 'Girl On Fire,' is one of my favorite albums to come out this year.  It's definitely one of those albums you can just let play through without skipping any tracks (we all know that is a miraculous feat given the state of today's music).

One of my favorite tracks on the album is a song she has called 'Brand New Me' and I'm so happy she gave it the video treatment.

Check out the video and let me know what you think.

Dec 17, 2012

On April 20, 1999, I answered the phone in my dorm room and heard my friend on the other end crying uncontrollably while sharing with me about the shooting that had occurred at Columbine in Colorado.  I remember intellectually understanding that this was a tragedy but emotionally I was perplexed. I remember questioning why my friend was so upset.  After all, we were safe and sound in the state of Michigan and events like this were not new.  Maybe the scale of that particular incident was not normal, but gun violence most definitely was not new.  I later shared my observation with a mutual friend and learned that my friend had lost one of her brothers to gun violence in the streets of Detroit.  Yet again, intellectually I knew it was a tragedy but still emotionally it did not register with me.  Fast forward about three years and I get a call from my mother telling me that one of my cousins was murdered in the streets of my hometown of Gary, Indiana.  I felt numb.  It wasn't until I learned of my brother shedding tears that emotionally I began to wake up.  I became flooded with memories of young boys that I went to middle school with but who did not live to complete 9th and 10th grade.  I started to recall that one week after I graduated from high school, I was attending the funeral of a friend that I fondly remember as my grade school "boyfriend."  I remembered when I was in 10th grade, my school being on lock down because fights had broken out and school officials thought that if we changed class periods then more fights would break out.  I started to recall in my 11th grade U.S. History class listening to the NPR headlines and learning that my city was given the title of murder capital of the country.  I started to recall times in college where I got the call saying "Jo are you sitting down?" only to learn of yet another classmate being shot or murdered.  Emotionally I had shut down.  I gave in to the idea that I was strong and that these acts of violence didn't get to me.  The murder of my cousin started to wake me up.  Yet again a few years later I recall not having much empathy after hearing about a friend losing her oldest son to gun violence.  This time, however, I started to question why I wasn't broken up about it.  I didn't like it and knew something had to change in me.  Once again my brain downloaded those same memories and then I finally just let my heart ache.

Like many people I like thrilling action movies.  Somehow I convinced myself once again that I was strong and I could tolerate the images.  Then finally one movie pushed the boundaries for me.  Finally one of the tv crime shows pushed the boundaries for me and I decided I couldn't take it.  I will still see certain movies, but I allow myself to get squeemish and I cover my eyes.  Call me a punk, lightweight, or what have you but I can't act like digesting these images is good for my psyche.  I cannot allow myself to be further desensitized to acts of violence and incivility.

Seems like we have become accustomed to the occasional mass shooting.  Shocking enough at the time of incidence but infrequent enough to be tolerable and not challenge the status quo.  And those of us that lived or live with the more frequent and regular occurrences of violence become numb and alienate affection as a means to survive.  I do not know if it is human nature or an aspect of our culture in this country to take things all the way to the brink and reach the point of no return before we take action.  The unthinkable murder of 6-7 year-old children at Sandy Hook seems to be our point of no return when it comes to gun violence in this country.  There seems to be  collective agreement with what President Obama has said, "We cannot tolerate this anymore...We cannot accept events like this as routine.  Are we really prepared to say that we're powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard?" 

After the Kansas City tragedy, NBC sportscaster, Peter King, reported that many NFL players turned in their guns.  Longtime gun owner, Goldie Taylor, shared that she was turning in her gun recognizing that it was more likely that her gun would be used on her.  The gun control debate is passionate on both sides.  I appreciate both arguments.  Also, I fully understand that such mass tragedy is not entirely preventable.  The problems that lead to such tragedies are rooted in causes that are not gun-related.  We have to address all aspects that lead to mass and individual incidents of violence.  Are we ready to take this on?  From my vantage point and based on all of the reporting that I have heard, we seem to be ready.  Those of us that were numb and desensitized are no longer. Perhaps we are realizing that we indeed are not powerless; that we can harness the same power we exhibited this past November. Perhaps this time we will be more unified. Perhaps we will now be the change that we seek.

(AJC) -- Jesse Hill Jr., former head of Atlanta Life Insurance Co., has died.

A native of St. Louis, Hill was first black president of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and the first black member of the university system’s Board of Regents. He never held public office, but he counseled nearly everyone who served in high positions in Georgia, from Jimmy Carter to city councilmen — making Hill, at times, a sort-of one-man shadow government.

In a period of historic ferment over civil rights and the changing dynamics of Atlanta, Hill showed uncommon leadership. He helped finance and advise civil-rights leaders, including the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.; served as confidant to the city’s first black mayor, Maynard Jackson; and tackled assignments as diverse as the launch of MARTA and the integration of the Atlanta public schools and the University of Georgia. He played an especially important role in forging understanding and alliances between local black and white leaders.

Arrangements are pending.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) announced Monday that Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) will replace outgoing Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) in Congress.

"This man loves South Carolina," Haley said during a press conference at the state capitol. "It was with that that I knew that he was the right person. I have no doubt that he will fly through 2014."

Both Scott and DeMint appeared with Haley at the news conference, along with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and the rest of the state's Republican congressional delegation.

Scott, who has represented South Carolina's 1st congressional district since 2011, will become the first black Republican to serve in the U.S. Senate since Edward Brooke (R-Mass.) left his seat in 1979. He will also be the state's first African American senator since the 19th century, as well as the only African American in the Senate.

Friday’s horrific national tragedy—the murder of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in New Town, Connecticut—has ignited a new discussion on violence in America. In kitchens and coffee shops across the country, we tearfully debate the many faces of violence in America: gun culture, media violence, lack of mental health services, overt and covert wars abroad, religion, politics and the way we raise our children. Liza Long, a writer based in Boise, says it’s easy to talk about guns. But it’s time to talk about mental illness.

Three days before 20 year-old Adam Lanza killed his mother, then opened fire on a classroom full of Connecticut kindergartners, my 13-year old son Michael (name changed) missed his bus because he was wearing the wrong color pants.

“I can wear these pants,” he said, his tone increasingly belligerent, the black-hole pupils of his eyes swallowing the blue irises.

“They are navy blue,” I told him. “Your school’s dress code says black or khaki pants only.”

“They told me I could wear these,” he insisted. “You’re a stupid bitch. I can wear whatever pants I want to. This is America. I have rights!”

“You can’t wear whatever pants you want to,” I said, my tone affable, reasonable. “And you definitely cannot call me a stupid bitch. You’re grounded from electronics for the rest of the day. Now get in the car, and I will take you to school.”

I live with a son who is mentally ill. I love my son. But he terrifies me.

A few weeks ago, Michael pulled a knife and threatened to kill me and then himself after I asked him to return his overdue library books. His 7 and 9 year old siblings knew the safety plan—they ran to the car and locked the doors before I even asked them to. I managed to get the knife from Michael, then methodically collected all the sharp objects in the house into a single Tupperware container that now travels with me. Through it all, he continued to scream insults at me and threaten to kill or hurt me.

That conflict ended with three burly police officers and a paramedic wrestling my son onto a gurney for an expensive ambulance ride to the local emergency room. The mental hospital didn’t have any beds that day, and Michael calmed down nicely in the ER, so they sent us home with a prescription for Zyprexa and a follow-up visit with a local pediatric psychiatrist.

We still don’t know what’s wrong with Michael. Autism spectrum, ADHD, Oppositional Defiant or Intermittent Explosive Disorder have all been tossed around at various meetings with probation officers and social workers and counselors and teachers and school administrators. He’s been on a slew of antipsychotic and mood altering pharmaceuticals, a Russian novel of behavioral plans. Nothing seems to work.

At the start of seventh grade, Michael was accepted to an accelerated program for highly gifted math and science students. His IQ is off the charts. When he’s in a good mood, he will gladly bend your ear on subjects ranging from Greek mythology to the differences between Einsteinian and Newtonian physics to Doctor Who. He’s in a good mood most of the time. But when he’s not, watch out. And it’s impossible to predict what will set him off.

Several weeks into his new junior high school, Michael began exhibiting increasingly odd and threatening behaviors at school. We decided to transfer him to the district’s most restrictive behavioral program, a contained school environment where children who can’t function in normal classrooms can access their right to free public babysitting from 7:30-1:50 Monday through Friday until they turn 18.

The morning of the pants incident, Michael continued to argue with me on the drive. He would occasionally apologize and seem remorseful. Right before we turned into his school parking lot, he said, “Look, Mom, I’m really sorry. Can I have video games back today?”

“No way,” I told him. “You cannot act the way you acted this morning and think you can get your electronic privileges back that quickly.”

His face turned cold, and his eyes were full of calculated rage. “Then I’m going to kill myself,” he said. “I’m going to jump out of this car right now and kill myself.”

Click here to read the entire article.

Since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary that claimed 26 innocent lives, there has been a raging debate going on as to what should be done to prevent something like this from every happening again.  There are those that say we should ban guns all together; whereas, there are others on the other side that say we should get rid of gun-free zones and allow teachers to carry weapons.

Regardless of what side of the debate you fall on, you have to admit there has to be something done.  We can just look at Chicago as an example.  How is it possible that 300 kids can be killed in one calendar year and we not think we have a problem in this country as it relates to violence?

What do you think we should do?  I want hear from you.  SPEAK ON IT!

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you, Governor. To all the families, first responders, to the community of Newtown, clergy, guests -- Scripture tells us: “…do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away…inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.”

We gather here in memory of twenty beautiful children and six remarkable adults. They lost their lives in a school that could have been any school; in a quiet town full of good and decent people that could be any town in America.

Here in Newtown, I come to offer the love and prayers of a nation. I am very mindful that mere words cannot match the depths of your sorrow, nor can they heal your wounded hearts. I can only hope it helps for you to know that you’re not alone in your grief; that our world too has been torn apart; that all across this land of ours, we have wept with you, we’ve pulled our children tight. And you must know that whatever measure of comfort we can provide, we will provide; whatever portion of sadness that we can share with you to ease this heavy load, we will gladly bear it. Newtown -- you are not alone.

As these difficult days have unfolded, you’ve also inspired us with stories of strength and resolve and sacrifice. We know that when danger arrived in the halls of Sandy Hook Elementary, the school’s staff did not flinch, they did not hesitate. Dawn Hochsprung and Mary Sherlach, Vicki Soto, Lauren Rousseau, Rachel Davino and Anne Marie Murphy -- they responded as we all hope we might respond in such terrifying circumstances -- with courage and with love, giving their lives to protect the children in their care.

We know that there were other teachers who barricaded themselves inside classrooms, and kept steady through it all, and reassured their students by saying “wait for the good guys, they’re coming”; “show me your smile.”

And we know that good guys came. The first responders who raced to the scene, helping to guide those in harm’s way to safety, and comfort those in need, holding at bay their own shock and trauma because they had a job to do, and others needed them more.

And then there were the scenes of the schoolchildren, helping one another, holding each other, dutifully following instructions in the way that young children sometimes do; one child even trying to encourage a grown-up by saying, “I know karate. So it’s okay. I’ll lead the way out.” (Laughter.)

As a community, you’ve inspired us, Newtown. In the face of indescribable violence, in the face of unconscionable evil, you’ve looked out for each other, and you’ve cared for one another, and you’ve loved one another. This is how Newtown will be remembered. And with time, and God’s grace, that love will see you through.

But we, as a nation, we are left with some hard questions. Someone once described the joy and anxiety of parenthood as the equivalent of having your heart outside of your body all the time, walking around. With their very first cry, this most precious, vital part of ourselves -- our child -- is suddenly exposed to the world, to possible mishap or malice. And every parent knows there is nothing we will not do to shield our children from harm. And yet, we also know that with that child’s very first step, and each step after that, they are separating from us; that we won’t -- that we can’t always be there for them. They’ll suffer sickness and setbacks and broken hearts and disappointments. And we learn that our most important job is to give them what they need to become self-reliant and capable and resilient, ready to face the world without fear.

And we know we can’t do this by ourselves. It comes as a shock at a certain point where you realize, no matter how much you love these kids, you can’t do it by yourself. That this job of keeping our children safe, and teaching them well, is something we can only do together, with the help of friends and neighbors, the help of a community, and the help of a nation. And in that way, we come to realize that we bear a responsibility for every child because we’re counting on everybody else to help look after ours; that we’re all parents; that they’re all our children.

This is our first task -- caring for our children. It’s our first job. If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right. That’s how, as a society, we will be judged.

And by that measure, can we truly say, as a nation, that we are meeting our obligations? Can we honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep our children -- all of them -- safe from harm? Can we claim, as a nation, that we’re all together there, letting them know that they are loved, and teaching them to love in return? Can we say that we’re truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they deserve to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose?

I’ve been reflecting on this the last few days, and if we’re honest with ourselves, the answer is no. We’re not doing enough. And we will have to change.

Since I’ve been President, this is the fourth time we have come together to comfort a grieving community torn apart by a mass shooting. The fourth time we’ve hugged survivors. The fourth time we’ve consoled the families of victims. And in between, there have been an endless series of deadly shootings across the country, almost daily reports of victims, many of them children, in small towns and big cities all across America -- victims whose -- much of the time, their only fault was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change. We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true. No single law -- no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world, or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society.

But that can’t be an excuse for inaction. Surely, we can do better than this. If there is even one step we can take to save another child, or another parent, or another town, from the grief that has visited Tucson, and Aurora, and Oak Creek, and Newtown, and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that -- then surely we have an obligation to try.

In the coming weeks, I will use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens -- from law enforcement to mental health professionals to parents and educators -- in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this. Because what choice do we have? We can’t accept events like this as routine. Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard? Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?

All the world’s religions -- so many of them represented here today -- start with a simple question: Why are we here? What gives our life meaning? What gives our acts purpose? We know our time on this Earth is fleeting. We know that we will each have our share of pleasure and pain; that even after we chase after some earthly goal, whether it’s wealth or power or fame, or just simple comfort, we will, in some fashion, fall short of what we had hoped. We know that no matter how good our intentions, we will all stumble sometimes, in some way. We will make mistakes, we will experience hardships. And even when we’re trying to do the right thing, we know that much of our time will be spent groping through the darkness, so often unable to discern God’s heavenly plans.

There’s only one thing we can be sure of, and that is the love that we have -- for our children, for our families, for each other. The warmth of a small child’s embrace -- that is true. The memories we have of them, the joy that they bring, the wonder we see through their eyes, that fierce and boundless love we feel for them, a love that takes us out of ourselves, and binds us to something larger -- we know that’s what matters. We know we’re always doing right when we’re taking care of them, when we’re teaching them well, when we’re showing acts of kindness. We don’t go wrong when we do that.

That’s what we can be sure of. And that’s what you, the people of Newtown, have reminded us. That’s how you’ve inspired us. You remind us what matters. And that’s what should drive us forward in everything we do, for as long as God sees fit to keep us on this Earth.

“Let the little children come to me,” Jesus said, “and do not hinder them -- for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

Charlotte. Daniel. Olivia. Josephine. Ana. Dylan. Madeleine. Catherine. Chase. Jesse. James. Grace. Emilie. Jack. Noah. Caroline. Jessica. Benjamin. Avielle. Allison.

God has called them all home. For those of us who remain, let us find the strength to carry on, and make our country worthy of their memory.

May God bless and keep those we’ve lost in His heavenly place. May He grace those we still have with His holy comfort. And may He bless and watch over this community, and the United States of America. (Applause.)

Well known saxophonist Jimmy Greene's 7 year old daughter Ana Marquez-Greene was among the victims killed during the Sandy Hook massacre that claimed the lives of 26 victims.  Greene had reportedly moved his family to Newtown this past July after living in Canada.

Greene took to Facebook to express his grief as well as to express his gratitude to everyone for their continuing outpour of support.  Here is what he wrote:

Thank you for all of your prayers and kind words of support. As we work through this nightmare, we’re reminded how much we’re loved and supported on this earth and by our Father in heaven. As much as she’s needed here and missed by her mother, brother and me, Ana beat us all to paradise. I love you sweetie girl.

Dec 14, 2012

(AJC) --- ESPN quickly responded to racially charged comments by commentator Rob Parker about Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, calling them “inappropriate” and hinting the network may take some action against him.

“The comments were inappropriate and we are evaluating our next steps,” David Scott, ESPN’s director of communications, said on Twitter.

During a segment of ESPN’s “First Take” on Thursday, Parker said:
“Is he a brother, or is he a cornball brother?
“He’s not really. He’s black, he kind of does his thing, but he’s not really down with the cause. He’s not one of us. He’s kind of black, but he’s not really like the guy you really want to hang out with, because he’s off to something else.
“… I want to find about about him. I don’t know because I keep hearing these things. We all know he has a white fiancĂ©e, then there was all this talk about he’s a Republican. … I’m just trying to dig deeper into why he has an issue because we did find out with Tiger Woods — Tiger Woods was like ‘I have black skin but don’t call me black.’”
Parker’s comments came in the wake of remarks Griffin made after practice Wednesday — in response to reporters’ questions about race — and reported in USA Today:
“For me, you don’t ever want to be defined by the color of your skin. You want to be defined by your work ethic, the person that you are, your character, your personality. That’s what I’ve tried to go out and do.
“I am an African-American in America. That will never change. But I don’t have to be defined by that.”

The TV station involved in the controversy surrounding the firing of a Shreveport, Louisiana meteorologist has decided to speak out about the firing. 
Rhonda Lee was the meteorologist on KTBS in Shreveport when she says she was fired because she defended her afro on Facebook after a commenter made what she deemed to be a racist statement about it.
The TV station insists that the reason Lee was fired was because she violated the company’s social media policy as it relates to employees commenting to viewers.  Lee insists she never seen such a policy.
The TV station has subsequently sent out a letter to give their side of what happened.  Here is what they wrote:
On November 28, 2012, KTBS dismissed two employees for repeated violation of the station’s written procedure. We can confirm that Rhonda Lee was one of the employees. Another employee was a white male reporter who was an eight year veteran of the station. The policy they violated provided a specific procedure for responding to viewer comments on the official KTBS Facebook page. Included is an email that was sent to all news department employees informing them of this procedure. This procedure is based on advice from national experts and commonly used by national broadcast and cable networks and local television stations across the country. Unfortunately, television personalities have long been subject to harsh criticism and negative viewer comments about their appearance and performance. If harsh viewer comments are posted on the station’s official website, there is a specific procedure to follow. Ms. Rhonda Lee was let go for repeatedly violating that procedure and after being warned multiple times of the consequences if her behavior continued. Rhonda Lee was not dismissed for her appearance or defending her appearance. She was fired for continuing to violate company procedure.
Lee insists she asked the station for a copy of the policy as late as last Friday, but her request was still denied.  The station however did provide the Huffington Post with a copy of the email that was sent out warning employees about how they must conduct themselves on social media.
Lee insists that she never saw the email.
Here's the email: