A black voter on Trump: What we have to lose

— Donald Trump is making his pitch to African-American voters in these terms: “What the hell do you have to lose?”

Here’s my answer.

Rand Paul, who has spent years unflinchingly detailing the racial disparities found throughout the criminal justice system, how they’ve helped weaken the black family and why reform is urgent, could credibly make the case to people of color that Donald Trump has pretended to try to make this past week.

So could John Kasich, the governor of Ohio who bucked his party to embrace the Medicaid expansion through the Affordable Care Act, which, a New York Times analysis found, has been most beneficial to people of color, immigrants and the poor.

Marco Rubio could stand on the debate stage with Hillary Clinton and speak eloquently about the need to not overlook those on the margins, because he did so even during the heat of the 2016 Republican primary process. And he could show off the scars he received from a heated political battle over immigration reform (though he later repudiated his own bill).

How different would this race be if Hillary Clinton faced a Kasich-Rubio ticket instead of Trump-Pence?

Even Chris Christie showed he could connect to black voters when he embraced President Obama in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy and breezed to re-election as governor in New Jersey with a not insignificant percentage of the black vote.

The Republican Party is not void of other leaders who could credibly speak to the average voter of color — Colin Powell, Mark Sanford, Nikki Haley, Susana Martinez; George W. Bush garnered 40% of the Hispanic vote — it’s just that conservative voters chose the party’s least credible candidate just four short years after rightly diagnosing its disconnect with voters of color.

Trump’s ascension to the Republican presidential nomination disheartened people of color as much as it made white supremacists and white nationalists giddy. That should sadden us because there are millions of voters of color waiting to be courted seriously by the GOP.

Many voters of color are as socially conservative as white Republicans. They also share an over-riding belief in the power of entrepreneurship. They are frustrated by the state of public schools and would embrace school choice programs that are well designed and take into account the fate of students who would be left behind in the public system. Those groups are among the most religious in the nation while the GOP has long claimed faith as one of its pillars.

The ground has been fertile for quite some time for the Republican Party to break through with voters of color. I know — because I’ve voted for Republicans, up and down the ticket. But the elevation of Trump has all but guaranteed I won’t be voting for the party again any time soon.

The GOP had a choice during the Obama era. It could truly become the big-tent party. Or it could double down on its worst instincts. It chose the latter. The party began enacting voter ID laws that rolled back early voting options that people of color were most likely to use and made it harder to register new voters. It adopted the ugly “illegals” term to demean fellow human beings.

It excused racists within the party or pretended they didn’t exist, disrespected the nation’s first black president in multiple ways — and then topped it off by making the country’s most prominent birther their standard bearer. The party seems incapable of treating people of color with a basic level of respect and decency, let alone adjusting policies to make room for such voters.

That’s why we know Trump isn’t trying to reach black voters any more than bombastic right wing talk show hosts are trying to attract more minority listeners by talking about race. He’s using a caricature of minority life to further endear himself to white conservative voters who want an excuse to vote for him despite his documented bigotry.

Minority voters are neither naïve nor unaware. They have been disappointed in some of Obama’s policies, such as the President’s yearslong attempt to provide political cover for moderate congressmen on immigration reform by ramping up immigration enforcement and putting more security personnel on our Southern border than ever. The fact that approach didn’t work became clear when the GOP-led House refused to even debate a bipartisan immigration reform bill that passed the Senate.

And while black voters can point to many successes of the past eight years — black unemployment cut by more than half since it peaked in 2011; the domestic auto industry was saved; manufacturing has stabilized; black teen pregnancy and abortion rates have continued to decline; crime has remained low; the uninsured rate is at its lowest level ever; the federal government is moving away from private prisons; the poor won’t be stuck in jail if they can’t afford bail; tens of thousands of nonviolent prisoners have been released or are now eligible for parole — they know better than anyone that more progress is needed.

But they also know that many of those problems are decades old and rooted in systems the Democratic Party has been fighting to change while the GOP has instead claimed black problems are all or mostly rooted in moral failing and a lack of personal responsibility.

It is true that people of color are open to the GOP. But none of that matters because the party chose Trump and his bigotry to lead them deeper into the 21st century. No amount of political pivoting can obscure that fact.

Editor’s note: Issac Bailey has been a journalist in South Carolina for two decades and was most recently the primary columnist for The Sun News in Myrtle Beach. He was a 2014 Harvard University Nieman fellow. Follow him on Twitter: @ijbailey. The views expressed are his own.

Verizon is once again the best performing mobile carrier

— With its “Better Matters” campaign, Verizon likes to brag it’s the best. Now, a new report suggests those claims are mostly true.

According to a new study conducted by independent wireless company RootMetrics, Verizon is the top performing wireless carrier in the U.S., outpacing rivals Sprint, T-Mobile and AT&T across six categories, including reliability and as well as call, data, text and overall performance.

This is the sixth consecutive year Verizon has topped RootMetrics’ best carrier performance list.

The report, which looked at 3.6 million tests given in the first half of 2016, revealed Verizon blew away its competitors when it came to performance in cities, scoring a 98 (out of 100). AT&T came in second with 51, followed by T-Mobile with 40. Sprint slumped in fourth with a meager six points.

Verizon still topped the list in overall performance across all regions in the U.S. with a score of 93.3, followed by AT&T (89.9), Sprint (85.5) and T-Mobile (82.5).

To earn a high score, RootMetrics’ requires networks to “offer outstanding performance across all of the different spaces where consumers use their smartphones, from cities and towns of all sizes to highways, rural areas, and all the places in between.”

While T-Mobile may be trailing in third in overall U.S. performance, it experienced a score improvement — up from a score of 17 in the second half of 2015 to 40 the latest half of the year — thanks to its rollout of its LTE network. RootMetrics also lauded the carrier’s fast speeds in becoming a stronger competitor against AT&T.

The report comes at a time when carriers continue to fight for customer loyalty. Last week, T-Mobile and Sprint rolled out a package that includes unlimited talk, text and high-speed data to move away from tiered options. AT&T and Verizon recently just updated their data packages and prices to eliminate sneaky overage fees.

Ask Alma: My messy co-worker has no home training

Dear Alma,

I work in a small accounting office of 16 people. We sit in cubicles very close to one another and we have more men than women. This is important to share as I explain my situation. I have a problem with one of my co-workers. She’s a very young woman who insists on sitting with her legs wide open. She will turn away from her desk and what seems to be purposely, prop up one leg so you can see under her dress. I know this sounds crazy, but she does. And every time she does it I think, WTH! When we have meetings in the conference room, she puts her feet in her chair and sits so you can look all the way up her dress. I am sick of it! Some of the other employees talk about her behind her back. They even make jokes about it. I know that it’s immature. She’s a mess, what she’s doing is a mess, the stupid jokes are a mess and I’ve had enough. What should I do?


Tired of the mess

Dear Tired of the Mess,

Help me to clarify, are you mad because she’s trying to show her cookies in the office or are you mad that you don’t have enough nerve to do the same? LOL. Nah, I’m just kidding, I can see the steam coming outta your ears. Truthfully I’m clarifying because, sometimes I get mad about an act someone else is doing that irritates me, but when my nitty checks my gritty, I’m really irritated, because I don’t have enough nerve to do the same. With that being said, in your case I’m sticking to door number one, and be grateful along with your mother, that you aren’t looking to “show all you know” in the next staff meeting.

Trust me when I say that you’re not alone in your exasperation of experiencing an unnecessary glance of ones undies. I’ve seen short dresses giving off a light show that would rival a neighborhood 4th of July fireworks display. And I know there’s gotta be a breeze. You’re right. This form of a sometimes dainty display can make for a very uncomfortable situation in the workplace. Here’s my take, you can choose to do one of two things. Either send an anonymous note to Human Resources or grab your big girl glove and pitch it to her straight. The next time she’s spread eagle at her desk, hand her a note (no, not an e-mail) a note that says, “Girl, adjust yourself. I really don’t feel like looking up your dress right now,” LOL. I think a note is appropriate, because you’re one of many in a small office setting. Follow up with a whisper of “Thanks, I hope we’re cool, no worries.” Allow yourself to be super, super casual and not come across demanding. Kind of like you would in the community room of your dorm. With that acknowledgement, you have laid all her cards on the table, now it’s up to her to win, lose or cover up her drawzz. That’s what my mama use to call ‘em.

Alma Gill’s newsroom experience spans more than 25 years, including various roles at USA Today, Newsday and the Washington Post. Email questions to: alwaysaskalma@gmail.com. Follow her on Facebook at “Ask Alma” and Twitter @almaaskalma.

PHOTO CAPTION: Alma Gill says that when it comes to problems in the workplace, either let Human Resources handle them or have an open-dialogue with the offender.

Choices dwindling for Obamacare customers

— Many consumers may find they have few choices when shopping on the Obamacare exchanges for 2017.

Industry giants Aetna, UnitedHealthcare and Humana are scaling back their presences on the exchanges. And smaller insurers, including more than a dozen co-ops funded by the federal government to foster competition, have gone out of business or are dropping out of the program.

Nearly 36% of markets may have only one insurer participating on the exchanges, up from 4% this year, according to an analysis by Avalere Health, a consulting company. And nearly 55% may have two or fewer choices, up from 33% in 2016.

Most affected by the upheaval in the Obamacare markets are the residents of Pinal County, Arizona. This rural county outside of Phoenix has the dubious distinction of being the first place without any options since the exchanges opened in 2014. Federal and state regulators must now scramble to deal with this unprecedented situation.

Some of these markets are relatively small and rural. Still, about 17% of eligible consumers will have only one carrier in their exchange when open enrollment begins in November, according to the McKinsey Center for U.S. Health System Reform. That’s up from 2% this year.

A healthy insurance market has at least three carriers, said Dan Mendelson, Avalere’s president.

“You want competitive markets,” he said. “Rates are lowest when there is actual competition in a marketplace.

Competition will be non-existent in five entire states. Only one insurer will serve Alabama, Alaska, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Wyoming, according to a recent tally by the Kaiser Family Foundation. This year, only one state — Wyoming — had a single carrier.

Not all insurers are fleeing Obamacare, however. Some carriers are expanding their presence. Cigna, for instance, is expanding into three new markets, including Chicago. Bright Health, a startup founded by a UnitedHealthcare executive, sees an opportunity in Colorado.

Still, even President Obama is concerned about the lack of competition in the exchanges. Last month, he called for Congress to revisit the “public option” for Obamacare in areas where few insurers offer coverage. A public option would mean a government run health insurance plan.

“Some parts of the country have struggled with limited insurance market competition for many years, which is one reason that, in the original debate over health reform, Congress considered and I supported including a Medicare-like public plan,” Obama wrote in an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. “Adding a public plan in such areas would strengthen the marketplace approach, giving consumers more affordable options while also creating savings for the federal government.”

Just over 11 million people are covered by insurance obtained in the Obamacare exchanges in 2016. Some 28.6 million remain uninsured as of 2015, the latest data available. Some 147 million people were insured through work-based policies in 2015.

Why are black Democrats more popular in the GOP than black Republicans

— If Black Republicans ever want to be taken seriously by the Black community, they have to stop accepting the silly ultimatum being offered by the Republican Party. Some in the party think Blacks have to choose between their community and the GOP. The proper thing to do is to be both Black and Republican. This isn’t an ‘either-or’ scenario; Black Republicans must represent their community and the GOP at the same time.

Some Black Republicans that appear on television must be so starved for money that they are willing to sell their souls for 30 pieces of silver. You can always make more money, but you can’t make more integrity.

Republicans obsessive love affair with hiring Black Democrats continues to come back to bite them in the butt. Back in February, ordained minister and reality TV villain Omarosa Manigault appeared on a segment on Fox News to bolster support for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. The former Clinton aide spent more time name-calling and obsessing over another guest’s cleavage than giving strong reasons why the Black community should vote for Trump.

Omarosa should have been barred from anything to do with the Trump campaign after this embarrassing interview. How can Blacks take this campaign seriously with surrogates like this?

Some will accuse me of taking one bad interview and going off the deep end. Oh really? Check out Roland Martin’s interview with Ashley Bell, a newly hired Black staffer at the RNC. The train wreck starts at 10:10. I cringed while watching this interview. This is what happens when you hire inexperienced people who make you feel comfortable, versus someone who is a bonified professional.

Need more proof? Okay. My good friend, former Congressman Jack Kingston from Georgia is also a Trump surrogate. Kingston is White. This interview is bordering on insanity and racism. I know Jack very well and he is neither, but when you speak of things which you have no knowledge of, like the Black community, this is what you get.

I have provided media training to some of the biggest names in business, politics, entertainment, and sports and have offered to do the same for the Republican Party, but of course, to no avail.

Some racially-tinged jokes and campaign antics that are funny to White folks are simply not funny to Blacks, and Diamond and Silk are prime examples. Diamond and Silk are two Black women, who are Internet sensations from North Carolina. They also support Trump. So, in usual Republican fashion, they have become “the flavor of the month.” They are Democrats and are now being flown across the country and being paid to “entertain” mostly White audiences.

Memo to White folks: “Blacks don’t think this is funny.” Diamond and Silk give us flashbacks of the minstrel shows of old.

Most Black Republicans complain in private, but don’t have the guts to complain publically. These are the Blacks that this party hires and promotes. You can’t complain about your opponent’s behavior and remain silent when one of your own behaves in a similar manner.

The only Black involved in the election cycle with any professionalism and credibility is Katrina Pierson, Trumps national spokesperson. The rest do not even meet the minimum requirement to be in the role they occupy. They provide nothing more than race insurance for the party (“We hired a few Blacks, therefore we can’t be racist.”).

None of them possess any institutional memory or knowledge of the Republican Party. None of these Blacks would be deemed qualified for similar positions in the private sector.

But these Blacks are simply a reflection of the organizations that hire them. The Republican Party has shown absolutely no interest in engaging with the Black community. As a matter of fact, I find it quite offensive that Trump would give remarkably strong speeches laying out a rationale for Blacks to vote for him, but doesn’t think enough of Blacks to show up in our community.

What Trump is doing is equivalent to a male going before a group of all males to deliver a speech about women’s issues. But Black Republicans are so politically bruised and battered that they are simply thrilled that Trump invokes the Black community’s name, regardless of the offensive manner in which it is done.

As long as the party continues to hire Blacks who think we “need” groups like the NAACP or the National Urban League to validate our existence as Black Republicans, we will continue to lose the Black vote.

Republican candidates and leaders need not speak before these groups to “prove” that they are not racist. They simply need to speak before Black Republican groups to prove that we are valued and a welcomed member of the party.

The bar has been set so low relative to engagement with the Black community that far too often Black Republicans heap praise on Republicans simply for “showing up” or “mentioning us as a group by name.” I find this bigotry of low expectations thoroughly repulsive and it is the fault of Black Republicans for accepting this treatment.

As I am fond of saying, “the best way to get attention in the Republican Party as a Black is to be a Black Democrat.”

Raynard Jackson is founder and chairman of Black Americans for a Better Future (BAFBF), a federally registered 527 Super PAC established to get more Blacks involved in the Republican Party. BAFBF focuses on the Black entrepreneur. For more information about BAFBF, visit www.bafbf.org. You can follow Raynard on Twitter @Raynard1223.

PHOTO CAPTION: Raynard Jackson says that the bar has been set so low relative to engagement with the Black community that far too often Black Republicans heap praise on Republicans simply for “showing up” or “mentioning us as a group by name.”

SEO KEYWORDS: Raynard Jackson, NNPA Newswire Columnist, Black Republicans, the Black vote, GOP, Ashley Bell, Omarosa Manigault, op-ed, commentary, 2016 presidential election

Are police ticketing practices creating a tinder box in black community?

— It’s not just about police killing black men. It’s deeper than that.

Khalif Rainey stares intensely across the police tape marking the burnt out parts of the neighborhood he loves and represents.

Rainey is an Alderman for the 7th district in Milwaukee, which includes the Sherman Park neighborhood. It became the scene of protests and then violent clashes after police shot and killed Sylville Smith who is black and police say was armed.

“I see devastation,” Rainey says. “I see something I hope we never see again.”

Rainey laments what he sees, but also understands how it happened. He says the destructive reaction by some in the predominantly black neighborhood was not about the police shooting. It is much deeper than that.

One of the many triggers for the unrest is something much more mundane: the targeting and ticketing practices of police.

“Everyone felt it,” Rainey says of the simmering tension. “Everyone knew that it was inevitable.”

But some residents in Milwaukee don’t understand the explosion of anger after a case like this, one where police say they have evidence the man pointed a gun at police.

‘Oh lord,’ it’s the cops

Tawana Bridges has lived in Milwaukee since the 1970’s. She is a single mother of five and having a heck of a time trying to make ends meet. She says just getting to and from her job every day is nerve wrecking, always looking over her shoulder wondering when the police are going to pull her over.

“Every day I see the police and I’m like ‘Oh lord, not today,'” Bridges says.

Bridges says her ticketing nightmare began with a broken taillight. It came with a fine. Not only was she unable to afford to get her taillight fixed immediately, but she couldn’t pay the fine, which just kept growing.

“Sometimes I don’t have the extra $50 that they need me to send in. But if I don’t send it then there’s a warrant out for my arrest,” Bridges says. “They will suspend my license so either way it goes. I’m in a lose-lose situation.”

She is not alone.

A 2011 University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee study found that while blacks make up 19% of registered drivers in Milwaukee County, they received 69% of license suspensions for failing to pay fines. That far outweighs all other ethnicities. African-Americans point to numbers like these to show they are being targeted, which is ruining relations and creating more tension between the black community and police.

“Some of my clients are afraid to call the police for help in an emergency because they have a warrant for unpaid tickets,” says Molly Gena, an attorney for Legal Action of Wisconsin. “Imagine that for a moment.”

The group represents those unable to pay for an attorney. Gena says what she is witnessing every day is black and poor residents bearing the brunt of the city’s ticketing practices.

“My clients, so many of them lose their license for poverty-related reasons,” Gena said.

Others say if you’re breaking the law, there’s no excuse. There have to be consequences and tickets can’t be withheld out of concern a resident cannot pay it.

However, there is proof police ticketing practices do place a role in simmering tensions between African-American communities and police, according to the Department of Justice.

Remember Ferguson, Missouri?

The ticketing and fining practices of the police and courts were what the Department of Justice pointed out as major factors for creating the powder keg that exploded after the police killing of Michael Brown.

While the DOJ did not find reason to charge the officer for the shooting death of Brown, it did find fault with the police department and city for the disproportionate ticketing and fining of black residents.

“The city relies on the police force to serve, essentially, as a collection agency for the municipal court rather than a law enforcement entity,” then-Attorney General Eric Holder said in 2015 when the DOJ investigation of Ferguson was released.

After a consent decree and the threat of a lawsuit, Ferguson has changed its ways. The municipal court now makes just a fraction of what it used to make from fines.

In 2014, the city’s municipal revenues stood at $2.7 million. Halfway through fiscal year 2016 that number has dropped to $250,000, according to the city. Even if the amount doubles by the end of the year, it is still a fraction of what the courts made two years ago.

Cities creating ‘debtor’s prisons?’

A new class action lawsuit accuses 13 cities surrounding Ferguson of the same practice: policing for profit on the backs of black and poor people.

Attorneys for non-profit organization ArchCity Defenders, which filed the suit, call what is happening the equivalent of a debtor’s prison. Traffic violations are not punishable with jail time, yet if fines aren’t paid, a warrant can be issued for an arrest.

ArchCity Defenders attorney Thomas Harvey says at one point in 2015 those 13 cities combined to an issue an average of one warrant for every resident of those cities.

“It’s outrageous and obviously done to increase the city’s revenue,” Harvey says.

The group claims a total of nearly $77 million was collected over a five-year period by the 13 cities from municipal court fines, fees and surcharges in an area with a population of less than 50,000 people.

“You’re essentially asking somebody ‘How much money do you have to buy your freedom?” Harvey says.

The cities have balked at the debtor’s prison accusation.

“Driving is a privilege not a right,” Brian Jackson, mayor of Beverly Hills, Missouri says. His city is named in the lawsuit.

The African-American mayor says as a young man he received a traffic ticket from police and found himself in jail. He said it taught him a lesson that he never forgot.

“Be responsible. Don’t break the law and you won’t get a fine,” Jackson says.

None of the other mayors for the cities being sued returned CNN requests for comments. But, Pat Kelly, who represents an association of municipalities in the St. Louis area, commented on behalf of all 13 accused in the lawsuit.

“It’s not the policeman’s fault for enforcing the law,” Kelly says.

While he agrees the system should be scrutinized, Kelly says many of the problems could be solved if residents would simply show up to court and try to work out a plan.

“You know, these are the laws of the state that they’re enforcing,” Kelly says. “Those warrants … are built into the law to try to get people to come to court.”

Milwaukee Alderman Rainey is watching what is happening in Missouri and calling for change in his city. He warns without it, the eruption of anger will reappear.

But Rainey says the ticketing issue is just one piece of the puzzle.

Statistics show his city is one of the most segregated in the nation. And by all measures the racial disparities are stark. Joblessness and despair reign in the black community.

Wisconsin also has another dubious reputation. By percentage, that state imprisons more African-American men than any other in America, at a rate of more than double the national average, according to the study, which cites 2010 U.S. Census data.

Alderman Rainey says the recent events have shed light on some of the serious issues that need not just conversation but action to make change.

“If you want to help, call me. We have to take action now.”

CNN’s Jason Kravarik contributed to this report.

Nip the nail biting habit for your health

— Nail biting, also known as onychophagia, is a common habit that affects people of all ages. Biting your nails usually stems from stress or forms as a nervous habit. Most research says that children and teenagers make up the greatest number of regular nail biters.

On the surface nail biting may seem like a trivial thing in terms of affecting your health. Although it can seem like biting your nails does nothing more than make the hands look less attractive, there are actually other dangers to repeated nail biting that people prone to the habit should consider.

Firstly, biting your nails can be an unsanitary behavior. The fingers can pick up all measures of contaminants, and the nails can be an ideal location for bacteria to thrive since nails are more difficult to keep clean than the surface of the hands. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, bacteria like E. coli can live beneath the tips of your nails. When you bite your nails, those bacteria end up in your gastrointestinal system and can lead to infection. The nails also can harbor fecal matter and many other unsavory microscopic particles, even parasites. Biting your nails gives these tiny invaders easy access to your body.

Nail biting also may lead to infections on the fingers around the nail bed. The infection, called paronychia, causes redness, swelling and pain around the nail. Microorganisms can get into the skin through tiny tears and abrasions that occur while biting the nails and cuticles, says The Mayo Clinic. If the infection damages the nail bed, you can end up affecting nail growth.

Should you have warts on your hands or fingers, they easily can be transfered to your lips and mouth through nail biting.

Nail biting also can cause problems to your teeth. Prolonged nail biting may affect how the teeth form in children. It can interfere with dental occlusion, or the manner in which the upper and lower teeth come together to bite. Eventually teeth can shift out of position. The Academy of General Dentistry estimates that nail biting can result in thousands of dollars of extra dental work.

While biting your nails may seem like a harmless habit, it actually can affect personal health in a number of ways. Explore the different ways to keep from biting your nails to improve the health of your fingers, your teeth and the rest of your body. LS158374

CAPTION: Biting your nails puts you at the risk of infection and other health ailments.

UN: We have ‘moral responsibility’ to help Haitian cholera victims

— In a major shift, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has indicated the United Nations is preparing to compensate for the cholera outbreak in Haiti that killed at least 10,000 people.

UN peacekeepers from Nepal are widely believed to have caused the outbreak from their camp rife with poor sanitation, following the massive 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

Details are sketchy on what kind of aid will be offered. UN officials said things are being worked at a high level.

Ban is “actively working to develop a package that would provide material assistance and support for those Haitians most directly affected by cholera,” a spokesman said, reading a statement from the UN’s top diplomat, who has four months left in his term.

“These efforts must include, as a central focus, the victims of the disease and their families,” the statement said.

Spokesman Farhan Haq, speaking at a briefing at the UN in New York, declined to say whether this meant financial payoffs to those families who lost loved ones in the devastating outbreak.

The UN has a “moral responsibility” to the victims of the cholera epidemic, Ban said.

The announcement comes after a US appeals court on Thursday turned down an appeal by Haitian victims of the epidemic. The victims had filed financial claims against the UN.

But the Second Circuit Court of Appeals panel in New York ruled in support of international agreements providing the UN with legal immunity in such cases. The UN is protected from being sued under legal agreements with the US and other member countries.

The ruling brought down supporters of legal action against the UN from the emotional highs of a UN acknowledgment Thursday of involvement in the outbreak.

Activists said the UN should choose other options now to provide relief to those affected by the cholera outbreak.

Reacting to the legal decision, Beatrice Lindstrom of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti said, “the UN has repeatedly used pending litigation as a pretext for avoiding a real discussion of remedies. This decision removes that pretext.”

Lindstrom’s comment came before the announcement of potential support from the UN was made.

In the past, U.N. member countries have feared heavy financial obligations for Haiti and other cases that could arise around the world.

Cholera is an acute gastrointestinal illness caused by ingesting food or drink contaminated with Vibrio cholerae bacteria. It can cause severe diarrhea and vomiting, which leads to extreme dehydration. Patients who are not treated quickly to restore lost fluids can die within hours. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are 3 million to 5 million cases of the illness every year worldwide and 100,000 deaths.

After a leak Thursday to The New York Times of a scathing report by a UN investigator, UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq told CNN that “over the past year, the UN has become convinced that it needs to do much more regarding its own involvement in the initial outbreak and the suffering of those affected by cholera.” The UN says it is considering several options.

The draft report The New York Times obtained, prepared by special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights Philip Alston and commissioned by the UN, says the epidemic “would not have broken out but for the actions of the United Nations.”

The UN is not saying that it caused the epidemic.

Cholera came to Haiti nine months after an earthquake struck, the first known appearance of the disease there in more than 150 years.

800 people donate to save Langston Hughes’ house

— Soon poetry and music will fill the Harlem home of legendary poet Langston Hughes again.

Over 800 people have donated to a nonprofit arts group that plans to turn Hughes’ long-time home into an arts collective. Money and supported flooded in over the weekend after CNNMoney highlighted the effort to save the home from gentrification on Friday.

The story went viral. Journalist Dan Rather and African-American magazine The Root shared the story on Facebook, among others.

“We are so grateful for the outpouring of support. We will be able to sign a three year lease with the option to buy or renew,” says Renee Watson, a writer in Harlem who is leading the campaign.

Hughes lived on 20 E. 127th Street in East Harlem from 1948 until his death in 1967. It was an epicenter of the Harlem Renaissance, with jazz and poetry regularly heard by anyone passing by.

Today, the home sits silent. No one lives there. The current owner has attempted to sell it before. With property values in the area skyrocketing, Watson figured it was only a matter of time.

The owner told Watson she would hold off on putting the home up for sale again and even sign a three-year lease, if Watson could raise $40,000 by September 1 to show the effort had momentum. That goal has now been met — and exceeded.

Before CNNMoney’s story, the “I, too” arts collective (named after one of Hughes’ most famous poems about African-Americans, which ends with the line “I, too, am America”) had raised about $25,000 from 238 people. Now the group has over $52,000, as over 550 more people joined in with donations.

Watson’s goal is to raise $150,000 this year. That would be enough for Watson and her all-volunteer team to rent the home for the full year, renovate it a bit and open it to the community for readings, workshops and other events. Ultimately, the “I, too” non-profit hopes to be able to purchase the home.

Housing prices in Harlem have shot up in recent years. The current owner tried to sell the home as recently as 2011, for a mere $1 million. The deal fell through. Now real estate agents estimate that it’s easily worth over $3 million.

The area is known as the last bastion of affordability on the entire island of Manhattan. It’s just north of Central Park and accessible by several subway trains. There’s even a Whole Foods grocery store opening near the Hughes house soon.

The home is landmark protected, so the current owner — or any future owners — would have trouble simply tearing it down and putting in a modern condo.

But for Watson and many donors to the project, the goal isn’t just to keep the home from going to the highest bidder, it’s to revive the house as a place as a cultural center. With donations pouring it, it will no longer be a “dream deferred,” like the first line in one of Hughes’ poems.

From ‘crack baby’ to mentor, Shawn Blanchard defies the odds

The San Diego Voice and Viewpoint

The term ‘crack baby’ emerged into the social consciousness in the 80’s and 90’s during the crack epidemic sweeping minority communities. It referred to children who had been exposed to the drug because of their mother’s usage during pregnancy. It picked up additional stereotypical connotations that labeled people with a lack of intelligence or propensity for failure in life. Shawn Blanchard is all too familiar with this term. His mother abused crack cocaine while she was pregnant with him. The physical side effects were minimal, however, the emotional toll was a significant barrier to overcome. Blanchard faced these challenges head-on, through hard work, faith, and passion for his purpose of mentorship. These traits lead him to success in education, business and authorship. His book “How About that for a Crack Baby” chronicles his journey towards success and empowers others with the confidence to do the same.

Blanchard was born in Detroit, Michigan and spent his developmental years living with his grandmother because his parents couldn’t decide who was going to keep him. Blanchard’s mother was a professional shoplifter and didn’t have much contact with his father. There wasn’t much of a support system around him either. Of his 7 brothers, most ended up dead or in jail and when his Grandmother passed away when Blanchard was 12, he took most of the responsibility for his younger siblings.

“I learned some pretty interesting things about hustling,” said Blanchard. “I sold weed and other drugs. I did what I thought I had to do in order to make ends meet.”

Blanchard went to a school with 40 percent graduation rate, but excelled in academics and was active in student government. He went on to study at the University of Michigan but his duel life eventually caught up with him. Blanchard continued to hustle on the side while he was at school in order to support himself and his family. He got caught selling drugs at school, and he spent three days and three nights in jail his sophomore year.

“I felt like I let a lot of people down,” said Blanchard. “I felt like I was the one who was supposed to make sure I show people how to pave the way so you can be great no matter where you came from. I wasn’t doing that at the time. I needed to make a pivot.”

During his time in jail, Blanchard found a Bible in his cell and gave his life to God. From that moment, he promised if he was able to be delivered from this situation he would develop his life and make sure young people didn’t go the same route he chose. Because of his good standing at school and relationships he built, Blanchard’s professors helped to bail him out and he was able to continue his education without expulsion. He graduated with his degree in math and economics in 2005 and went on to get his masters in secondary math education in New York.

“I thought I was going to get kicked out, that’s when God kicked in,” said Blanchard.

In New York, Blanchard co-founded a mentoring program to reach out to young men with similar backgrounds as his growing up. He even temporarily adopted one of the young men in the program who was in particularly bad shape at the time. When he graduated, however, the young man had become class president, touted a 3.8 GPA and was accepted to every college he applied to.

News coverage from the temporary adoption prompted a publishing company to reach out to learn more about the story. When they heard about Blanchard’s background, they asked him to write a book for them. His book entitled, “How About that for a Crack Baby,” delves into the details of his past and how he overcame everything that was in his way.

“People can expect an emotional roller coaster,” said Blanchard. “It’s going to entertain you, it’s going to show you how you can do anything you want to do, it’s going to challenge you to mentor and be mentored.”

The young author moved back to Detroit to go to law school and the book came out five years later. He spent time teaching math at this alma mater, started a fitness company and became a co-owner of a custom suit company. Blanchard continued his work as a mentor in the mayor’s office as the director of youth services. He’s helping ignite President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative in the city of Detroit.

Today, Blanchard is the CEO of Shawn Blanchard Productions, which focuses on public speaking, publishing mentorship, entrepreneurship and the image of excellence.

“I’m excited about duplicating greatness,” said Blanchard. “I want to keep making sure I raise the bar, so more people start falling into the rule instead of the exception.”

To learn more about Blanchard and his company visit www.iamshawnblanchard.com/