Saturday, December 21, 2013

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A&E Up Against The Mighty Ducks and A Hard Whistle from the Family and Fans

'Duck Dynasty' Clan Warns Show Could End - No Sixth Season

Image: 'Duck Dynasty' Clan Warns Show Could End
Friday, 20 Dec 2013 09:12 AM
By Drew MacKenzie
"Duck Dynasty" is in danger of going off the air after the Robertson clan warned that they "cannot imagine" doing the A&E series without patriarch Phil Robertson who has been suspended indefinitely.

While one million people are supporting a proposed boycott of the show, the family released a statement on their Duck Commander website, saying they are in talks with the A&E cable channel over the future of the reality show blockbuster, Fox News reported Friday.

"We want to thank all of you for your prayers and support," said the Robertsons. "The family has spent much time in prayer since learning of A&E's decision. We want you to know that first and foremost we are a family rooted in our faith in God and our belief that the Bible is His word.

"While some of Phil’s unfiltered comments to the reporter were coarse, his beliefs are grounded in the teachings of the Bible. Phil is a Godly man who follows what the Bible says are the greatest commandments: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart' and 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'

"Phil would never incite or encourage hate. We are disappointed that Phil has been placed on hiatus for expressing his faith, which is his constitutionally protected right.

"We have had a successful working relationship with A&E but, as a family, we cannot imagine the show going forward without our patriarch at the helm. We are in discussions with A&E to see what that means for the future of Duck Dynasty. Again, thank you for your continued support of our family."

The series, one of the most popular on cable, is due to return for its fifth season on Jan. 15, with many episodes already filmed. But now it is not known whether a sixth season will be made.

Robertson was suspended after bluntly expressing his opinion on homosexuality in an interview with GQ magazine.

Asked what he considered sinful behavior, he said, “Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men.”

Paraphrasing a passage from Corinthians, he added, “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers — they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”

A&E quickly decided to pull Robertson from the filming of the fifth season indefinitely while also declaring that his personal views do not represent those of the network, which has always been "strong supporters of the LGBT community."

Robertson's controversial remarks have sparked a national debate over freedom of speech and freedom of religion. His comments were condemned by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), but conservative Republicans, including Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, have come to his defense.

Duck Dynasty viewers have also weighed in. Over one million people have "liked" the Facebook page set up to demand Robertson's return to the show, called "Boycott A&E Until Phil Robertson is Put Back on Duck Dynasty."

"This page is to show support for the freedom of speech of Americans. Unless Phil is reinstated to the show, we refuse to watch the A&E channel," it reads, according to the CBS local affiliate in Houston.

According to CNN, 70,000 people have also signed a petition calling for Robertson to be brought back. The petition reads, "Freedom of speech along with freedom of religion is being attacked every single day in this country. Phil Robertson simply stated what his convictions are. Homosexuals have their convictions and Christians respect them."

But GLAAD takes a different view.

"What’s clear is that such hateful anti-gay comments are unacceptable to fans, viewers, and networks alike," said spokesperson Wilson Cruz. "By taking quick action and removing Robertson from future filming, A&E has sent a strong message that discrimination is neither a Christian nor an American value."

In his GQ interview, Robertson also made incendiary remarks about black people, prompting outrage from the NAACP.

"I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person," Robertson said in the interview, speaking about his state of Louisiana. "Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues."

The NAACP and the Human Rights Campaign have written a joint letter to the president of A&E expressing their "outrage and deep concern about the recent racist, homophobic, and ill-informed remarks made by Phil Robertson."

"Mr. Robertson claims that, from what he saw, African Americans were happier under Jim Crow. What he didn't see were lynching and beatings of black men and women for attempting to vote or simply walking down the street," the letter stated, according to CNN.

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

‘Bonnie & Clyde’ Mini Delivers 9.8 Million Viewers for A&E Networks

‘Bonnie & Clyde’ Mini Delivers 9.8 Million Viewers for A&E Networks

TV | By  on December 9, 2013 @ 10:33 am

‘Bonnie & Clyde’ Mini Delivers 9.8 Million Viewers for A&E Networks
Joseph Viles
Sunday’s premiere also scored 4.2 million viewers in the key 25-54 demo and dominated social media
Simulcast over three cable channels, Sunday’s premiere of A&E’s “Bonnie & Clyde” miniseries earned 9.8 million total viewers.
Additionally, the airing over Lifetime, A&E and History Channel attracted 4.2 million viewers in the networks’ key demographic Adults 25-54. That makes it the third-best miniseries opening ever on cable for total viewers since 2006’s “Broken Trail.” History’s “Hatfields & McCoys” and “The Bible” hold the top two spots.
It also dominated on social media. “Bonnie & Clyde” was the most tweeted program of the day, according to Nielsen SocialGuide (excluding sports programs). It also ranked No. 1 in Google Trends for Sunday, with more than 500,000 searches.
Interest in the series drove more than 420,000 visitors to A+E Networks sites and apps, according to Adobe Analytics.
The two-part miniseries starring “Borgias” actress Holliday Grainger and “Milk’s” Emile Hirsch in the title roles follows the notorious criminals as their lives intersect and then together go on a crime spree that captures America’s fascination in the 1930s.
Produced by Sony Pictures and executive-produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, it also stars Holly Hunter, William Hurt, Sarah Hyland and Lane Garrison.
Part 2 of “Bonnie & Clyde” airs Monday at 9/8c on A&E, Lifetime and History.

Monday, December 9, 2013

North Korea's Kim Jong Un ousts his second in command

By Jung-yoon Choi and Barbara Demick December 8, 2013, 8:46 p.m.

 Jang Sung Taek, an uncle of Kim Jong Un, is removed from all his posts and labeled a criminal. He helped groom Kim to lead North Korea and was seen as relatively liberal.

 SEOUL — In a palace intrigue that could shake the foundations of North Korea, 30-year-old leader Kim Jong Un has purged from the leadership the powerful uncle who had been his de facto regent for the last two years, North Korean news media confirmed Monday. Declaring that Jang Sung Taek was "soaked with the capitalist lifestyle," the Korea Central News Agency reported that he had been removed from all his posts and expelled from the governing Workers' Party. Jang, 67, had been seen as a moderating influence on the young Kim. North Korean state news outlets said the political bureau of the Workers' Party met Saturday and "adopted a written decision to dismiss Jang from all of his positions and release him from the party."

Kim reportedly attended the meeting.  South Korea's state spy agency, the National Intelligence Service, reported last week that Jang appeared to have been ousted from his position as vice chairman of the National Defense Commission, citing the recent public execution of two of his close confidants.

 In its report, KCNA said: "Jang Sung Taek's gang has carried out anti-party, anti-revolutionary factional activities that undermine the party's solidarity and sole-leadership system. Their crimes, which are antigovernment and against the people, are enormously harmful." The government news service said Jang had been "leading a corruptive life, abusing his power."

 "The criminal activities Jang Sung Taek and his followers have carried out is beyond imagination," it said. The purge suggests that Kim believes he has sufficiently consolidated his rule to take the gamble of dumping one of the most potent figures in the North Korean leadership. Jang is Kim's uncle by marriage: His wife, Kim Kyong Hui, is the younger sister and the only full sibling of Kim Jong Un's father, Kim Jong Il, who died in December 2011. For more than decade, Jang had been seen as a relative liberal in the hard-line communist government and a possible alternative leader. He visited Seoul in 2002 and impressed South Koreans with his economic savvy. Kim Jong Il purged him in 2004 but later brought him back as an advisor to groom Kim Jong Un, then still in his 20s, to assume the leadership.

 "Regents seldom end well. If they are smart, they know when to retire and they get a nice castle and a beautiful concubine, but they are seldom smart enough to do so," said Andrei Lankov, a Seoul-based North Korea scholar. Jang's influence was also waning because of the poor health of his wife, who is believed to be an alcoholic and suffering from acute liver disease. "Because Kim Jong Un has blood lines with Kim Kyong Hui, Jang's wife, it is unlikely that he will try to get rid of her as well," said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul. But, he said, "the chances of Jang's return to politics are extremely low. The reasons of his dismissal are corruption and anti-state activities, not to forget 'challenging the top leader.'" His downfall lay in the rivalry between two security agencies: the Ministry of People's Security, which was controlled by Jang, and a ministry that reported to the Organization and Guidance Department of the Workers' Party, directly controlled by Kim Jong Un, suggested New Focus International, a website devoted to North Korea news and analysis.

 Jang was "pursuing economic reform and opening" and "attempted personal diplomacy with the outside world," the report said. Jang often circumvented the Foreign Ministry, and he organized a Nov. 7 meeting with retired Japanese wrestler and politician Antonio Inoki. That was his last public appearance. The most immediate beneficiary of Jang's removal appears to be 63-year-old Choe Ryong Hae, a vice marshal, who was the leadership's envoy to meet with Chinese leader Xi Jinping last spring.

 The purge, however, could augur instability in the leadership, as Jang was a popular figure who embodied many people's hopes for economic reform. "He was easy to get along with and took good care of those around him, so some people will be very unhappy or even annoyed at his removal," Choi Jin Yong, a defector and former provincial official, told the online news service Daily NK. "North Korea is a society of fear. So a lot of Jang Sung Taek's people will probably suffer in this round of purges."

 On Saturday, North Korean state TV showed a version of a documentary on Kim Jong Un's military trips; Jang had been removed from all its scenes. Jang had appeared in a version that aired Oct. 28. Special correspondent Choi reported from Seoul and Times staff writer Demick from Beijing. Copyright © 2013, Los Angeles Times  

Monday, November 18, 2013

Michael Karkoc's World War II story stuns Minneapolis, launches global inquiries

Article by: RICHARD MERYHEW , Star Tribune Updated: July 16, 2013 - 1:20 PM

For decades, Michael Karkoc has lived a quiet life in Minneapolis. Now he stands accused of being a Nazi collaborator.

They drive by the house at all hours to gawk or curse.

Some shout out “Nazi lover!” Others circle the block, slowing their car just long enough to snap a photo of the simple single-story house where Michael Karkoc lives.

All want to know — who is this 94-year-old Ukrainian immigrant who has long called northeast Minneapolis his home?

Is he the devoted family man, lifelong carpenter and pillar of the local Ukrainian community who built a new life in the United States after fleeing his homeland and the Communists in the chaos following World War II? Or is he more than that, a former leader in a Ukrainian military unit linked to the Nazi SS and wartime atrocities?

Karkoc was thrust into the international spotlight last month when the Associated Press reported that he was a commander in a Nazi SS-led unit accused of burning villages and killing many civilians. The news agency said records did not show Karkoc “had a direct hand” in war crimes, but said statements from men in his unit and other documentation suggest he was at the scene of several atrocities as a company leader.

The story, sourced from witness testimony, his memoirs and records culled from Nazi SS files and archives in Poland, Germany and the United States, immediately prompted a multinational investigation that may well be one of the last of its kind involving a dark chapter of world history.

“There aren’t many of these guys left,” said Gregory Gordon, a former prosecutor for the U.S. Department of Justice on cases involving Nazi war criminals. “But, they committed some horrific crimes. As I always like to say, the evil deeds are frozen in time.”

As German and Polish officials work to determine whether there is evidence to prosecute Karkoc for war crimes, a stunned and largely silent local Ukrainian community struggles to comprehend a complicated storyline that dates back 70 years.

“I don’t know what to do if he stops and talks to me,” said Gordon Gnasdoskey, Karkoc’s next-door neighbor. “But if he does, I’ve got to ask him ‘Did you do what they said you did or not? I’m your neighbor. Tell me the truth.’ ”

A life in boxes

Amid the worldwide media attention and scrutiny of his past, Karkoc isn’t talking.

But over the years, he hasn’t been shy about airing his politics or his passion for his native land.

Tucked away in an underground storage cavern in the Elmer L. Andersen Library on the University of Minnesota’s West Bank are eight cardboard file boxes filled with personal and professional correspondence, newspaper clippings, journals, maps and photographs that ­Karkoc and his wife, Nadia, collected over the years. Nearly all of it ties Karkoc to his war-torn homeland, various Ukrainian political committees and his lifelong mission to help establish an independent and democratic Ukraine.

Most of the materials are in Ukrainian, but a few are in English.

Among them: a 1982 profile of the couple in a University of Minnesota School of Journalism publication titled “Survivors — Political Refugees in the Twin Cities.”

The story tells of how Michael Karkoc became a teenage patriot in the late 1930s “fighting for Ukrainian independence” from Poland and Russia and how World War II, with the Germans to the west and Soviets to the east, became “a dilemma for Ukrainians, who were caught between two nations, both traditional enemies of the Ukraine.”

Karkoc tells of a Soviet agent visiting his school not long after Germany and the Soviet Union signed a nonaggression pact in 1939 and of how the agent encouraged students to report any information they had on Ukrainian patriots.

Nadia Karkoc is quoted as saying that she initially was “glad” when the Germans waged war against the Soviets because “we thought that if Germans come, they would be more human than Soviets.”

That perspective soon changed. “People were glad to see the Germans until they took off mask and show their real face,” said Nadia Karkoc, who lost four brothers in World War II — two of whom were killed by the Germans.

“For us, it was a very bad situation,” Michael Karkoc said in the profile. “We knew that if we fight the Germans, we help the Soviet Union. If we fight the Soviet Union, we help the Germans. There was no other way. We was just defending our people.”

Pillar of the church

The morning sun heats up the quiet streets of northeast Minneapolis as Michael Karkoc drops off his wife out front of St. Michael’s and St. George’s ­Ukrainian ­Orthodox Church. Within minutes, he parks his Chevy Blazer and walks through the front doors to take his regular back-pew aisle seat for the 10 a.m. Sunday service.

More than any place outside Ukraine, this 87-year-old brick building just blocks from the Mississippi River has defined his life.

Family and friends say the church gave him shelter and a future after he and his two oldest sons, not yet school age and motherless following the death of Karkoc’s first wife in a World War II displacement camp, arrived from Europe.

He and Nadia were married here. His sons were altar boys. All six of his kids attended Saturday Ukrainian school downstairs, and nearly all wed here, too. Michael Karkoc, a carpenter by trade, helped build the rectory across the street and the church hall next door “and did not take anything” in payment, said Antin Semeniuk, a 104-year-old Ukrainian immigrant who sponsored Karkoc’s move to Minneapolis in 1949.

He also served several stints as parish president and helped plant the pines, recently cut down and removed, that grew tall and bushy outside the front steps.

“There’s virtually nothing his hands didn’t touch,” his youngest son, Andrij Karkoc, said with pride.

Within a few years of his arrival, Karkoc landed full-time work as a carpenter with Adolfson & Peterson, a local construction firm.

When the daytime shifts ended, he worked odd jobs at night, finishing off family rooms or building porches and garages. He stayed active politically, taking leadership roles in Ukrainian causes, such as the Organization for the Rebirth of Ukraine.

The honors and mementos of years of volunteer work now decorate the den of Karkoc’s three-bedroom home that he shares with Nadia, 90, and a daughter and son-in-law. Among the Ukrainian artwork, Ukrainian Easter eggs and family photos is a photo of President Ronald Reagan — a staunch critic of communism and the former Soviet regime.

“He never did hide. He never changed his name,” Andrij Karkoc said of his father. While declining to make his father available for an interview, he gave a reporter a tour of his father’s home to emphasize his father’s patriotism. “It was always give, give, give. He was a leader. He worked hard. He sacrificed. That’s who he is. That’s what he’s done.”

‘It was opposite’

The facts of Karkoc’s World War II activities remain uncertain and are now the focus of government investigators in the United States and Europe.

Karkoc’s own version is told in his memoirs, which are prominent among the documents collected at the Andersen Library.

The original 170-page memoir, published in 1995 and written in his native language, tells of the civil-war-like political turmoil within Ukraine before and during the war and of how Karkoc fled his homeland in 1939 to escape from the Communists, only to wind up in Nazi-occupied Poland, where he was conscripted into the German army.

He initially took pride at being a uniformed soldier, and he wrote of his excitement when his unit was included in the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941.

That excitement waned, however, after he saw hundreds of his comrades freeze to death in the bitter winter of 1941-42. He wrote of becoming disillusioned with the Germans, saying that “they were no better than the Soviets.”

When a man he met on a ­business trip for the army took him to the outskirts of Kharkiv around Christmas 1941 to show him a POW camp for captured Russians, Karkoc wrote that he became so upset that he was no longer proud to wear the German uniform. Some prisoners were naked and too weak to stand. The bodies of those who had perished were frozen, covered in snow.

“I believed that I was on a side of people who believed in God and honor human dignity — but in reality, it was opposite,” he wrote, according to an interpreter hired by the Star Tribune.

Nine months later, after returning home on leave, Karkoc, a decorated soldier who, according to the memoirs, was awarded the Iron Cross for bravery, deserted. He began working with the Ukrainian national underground, and by 1943, was a founding member and a commander of the Ukrainian Self Defense Legion.

With the Germans losing ground to the Soviets and retreating west across Ukraine, Karkoc and the Legion negotiated an uneasy alliance after a series of meetings, including one in a cemetery: The Ukrainians would help their tormentors fight off the advancing Soviet army, but demanded in return that the Germans stop killing Ukrainian civilians, provide the Legion with arms, ammunition and other supplies and release Ukraine’s political prisoners.

“They wanted an independent country,” said Semeniuk, who wrote the foreward for Karkoc’s memoirs.

The memoirs do not mention the Nazi SS by name, the interpreter said, nor do they address the detail of several attacks on villages and ­civilians cited in the Associated Press report.

According to the AP, one of those attacks took place in the town of Chlaniow shortly after Siegfried Assmuss, a German liaison to the Ukrainian unit, was killed in an ambush by the Polish resistance in 1944. More than 40 people in the city died in the retaliatory attack, the Associated Press reported.

Karkoc wrote of Assmuss’ death, but his memoirs said nothing of the civilian killings.

“We lost an irreplaceable, our friend, Assmuss,” he wrote.

Andrij Karkoc said his father has told him he was not in Chlaniow when the killings took place. He also said that he has asked his father to clarify whether the SS controlled and directed his unit.

The Associated Press report stated that Karkoc was a former SS officer and a commander of a Ukrainian unit that was incorporated into the German armed forces after first serving as a paramilitary Ukrainian Nationalist group that collaborated with and took orders from Nazi authorities.

“He said, ‘We were never under German control,’ ” Andrij Karkoc said.

‘I am not a Nazi’

Tom Lane was standing near his barber chair two Fridays back waiting for his next customer when Michael Karkoc walked through the door for his monthly trim.

“He likes it short — skin tight on the sides,” Lane said of his longtime customer, who he calls one of his favorites.

Karkoc quickly got to the point: “I am not a Nazi,” he told Lane.

Karkoc’s story has made for some lengthy discussions at Lane’s northeast Minneapolis shop, frequented by several local Ukrainian men who know Karkoc personally or attend his church. Most express frustration, Lane said, in part because Karkoc is 94 and the war was long ago.

“My thing is, these are accusations,” Lane said. “Nobody has proved anything yet. To take on a 94-year-old for something you think might have happened, I think is wrong.”

Many describe Karkoc as soft-spoken, meticulous and still fit enough to shovel his walk, climb his roof to clean gutters and fight off a teenage mugger while walking his neighborhood, as he did a few years back.

“He’s a kindly man,” said a longtime church member and friend who took in Karkoc’s oldest son, Peter, when Karkoc first arrived in Minneapolis and struggled to get on his feet.

Semeniuk, who immigrated to the United States two years before Karkoc and said he did not know Karkoc in Ukraine, said the two men have become good friends over the decades, sharing coffee, sweets and small talk in the church hall after Sunday services.

“You get to know people,” Semeniuk said, his accent still thick after more than 60 years in Minneapolis. “I don’t believe he did something bad. … It doesn’t seem possible.”

But Karkoc’s next-door neighbor for more than a decade wonders whether the questions surrounding him can ever be answered.

“If it is true, and the atrocities and all that happened, who would tell anybody?” Gnasdoskey said. “I really believe nobody knows for sure except him.”

Up next

What comes next for Karkoc is uncertain.

Andrij Karkoc, who questions the authenticity of some of the documents used to link his father’s unit to the slaughter of civilians, said his family hopes to hire an immigration attorney to challenge the AP story, which he described as “a witch hunt.”

The Associated Press said ­Friday that it stands by its story.

While German and Polish officials investigate, officials with the U.S. Department of Justice won’t comment on whether they have begun their own probe into the Associated Press assertion that Karkoc lied to U.S. immigration officials when he said he hadn’t fought in World War II.

A researcher with the Simon Wiesenthal Center with knowledge of that postwar period said some immigrants with questionable backgrounds claimed Communist persecution to get into the United States.

If substantiated, Karkoc could lose his citizenship.

Even then, it could take years, with appeals, to deport him. In all likelihood, he probably wouldn’t live long enough to see the case resolved.

Over the past three decades, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Special Investigations, created in 1979 for the primary purpose of identifying and exposing Nazis or Nazi collaborators living in the United States, has won 107 of 137 civil suits aimed at stripping them of their U.S. citizenship.

But with the World War II generation rapidly dying off, the number of open cases has diminished so greatly that the office was folded into a broader investigative unit several years ago.

Still, given the brutal legacy of the Nazi regime, people around the world remain committed to holding it and its collaborators accountable.

“It’s hard to imagine horrors worse than that,” said Gordon, the former DOJ prosecutor. “It doesn’t matter how much time passes, they are just as bad, and they should be brought to justice.”

Richard Meryhew • 612-673-4425

Saturday, November 16, 2013

How a black first lady will change New York City (Commentary)


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Bill de Blasio was elected the mayor-elect of New York City last Tuesday. But even more exciting for some of us New Yorkers, Chirlane McCray became the first lady-elect.
When history looks back at what led to de Blasio’s landslide, some will credit the missteps of his primary opponents, particularly sexting-prone Anthony Weiner, and Bloomberg clone Christine Quinn, but much of the credit will ultimately go to his family.
Here was the groundbreaking ad starring de Blasio’s teenage son, Dante, and Dante’s Afro, which became so famous that Jon Stewart dedicated an homage to it on “The Daily Show.”
While some say behind every great man is a great woman, in de Blasio’s case, beside him has long been a great woman. De Blasio’s wife, McCray, who is African-American, is a well-respected writer and political operative in her own right. A Wellesley graduate, she met de Blasio while both were working in City Hall during the Dinkins administration.
Many are already speculating on how de Blasio’s administration will transform New York, but a more interesting question may be how his wife will transform New York.
The Big Apple has been without an official first lady for more than a decade. Donna Hanover, former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s wife, was the last first lady of the city. (The duo ended up in court over whether or not Giuliani’s then-mistress Judi Nathan would be permitted in the official mayoral residence, Gracie Mansion, where Hanover and some of Giuliani’s children were still residing.)
The city’s next mayor, Michael Bloomberg, has been divorced for a long time, and though he has been in a long-term relationship, he has never remarried.
And now there is McCray. Though she will not be the first black first lady (that honor goes to Joyce Dinkins, wife of former Mayor David Dinkins), McCray will be the first first lady like her.
An outspoken feminist and progressive activist, she previously identified as a lesbian before meeting and beginning a love affair with de Blasio.
In a previous interview, he described their early meeting as love at first sight, recalling he felt like he was jolted by a thunderbolt. He also recalled the level of hostility and harassment they occasionally faced as an interracial couple two decades before multiracial families would become an American norm.
But the couple endured, and now they are set to become the first couple of America’s most famous city.
While many first ladies take pains to say they are not involved in their husband’s decision-making and will not be involved in the work of the administration, McCray has consistently been her husband’s most trusted advisor.
It has long been reported aides make sure to copy her on speeches or other major campaign documents. This means that unlike first ladies who traditionally choose noncontroversial duties and issues, such as attending openings and reading to children, McCray is likely to roll up her sleeves and stake out a major policy issue or two.
While some say behind every great man is a great woman, in de Blasio's case, beside him has long been a great woman.
The most probable issues are education or economic inequality, the issues de Blasio made a hallmark of his campaign.
But there are other smaller but equally significant ways McCray can have an impact.
Take an issue like diversity (or lack thereof) on fashion runways. New York Fashion Week is a major financial boon to the New York economy, meaning fashion is not a superficial subject but serious business.
Yet it is hard to get those who do not follow fashion, or have never experienced the politics of being invisible, to appreciate why an issue like runway diversity matters.
As far as priorities go, trying to convince a mayoral administration that thinks stop and frisk is fair to care about the color of fashion models is a tough sell. But trying to convince a black feminist first lady that it is an issue worth talking about and trying to address isn’t.
Just consider what would happen if the city’s first lady said she was encouraging her friends and supporters to rethink attending the shows of designers viewed as discriminatory?
But also consider the types of events that might become the norm at Gracie Mansion. The worldview and experiences of the McCray-de Blasio clan are so different from their predecessors’ that it is a given that more diverse artists, events and perspectives will be welcomed there.
Then of course there is the visual image.
I have previously written about how Michelle Obama has fundamentally transformed the way we define the feminine ideal in this country thanks to her mere presence as first lady. (Not to mention her multiple Vogue covers.)
For little girls who have grown up seeing Cinderella and Snow White, McCray will provide yet another image of what a queen looks like — dreds and all.
But besides her image there are the many other attributes that make her an ideal role model. As her husband said of her on election night, “She is brilliant and every bit as compassionate as she is tough.”
He ended by calling her “the love of my life.”
Now we get to call her first lady.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Jay Brown - Soul to Soul

Band Name: Jay Brown
Album Name: Soul to Soul
Email Address:
Website Address:

Music Style: Folk Rock Original
Influences: Bob Dylan

Geographic City: Asheville
State: NC
Zip Code: 28778

Band Description

American Roots musician and One-Man-Band from Asheville, NC, Jay Brown creates original music with poetic lyrics, acoustic and electric guitar, harmonica, piano, and percussion.

When not performing with Lazybirds, Shantavaani, or Swing Guitars, Jay Brown still finds some time to play with his other band, The Jay Brown One-Man-Band. Formed in 2007, The Jay Brown One-Man-Band includes Jay Brown on vocals, guitar, harmonica, and percussion. In 2010 the band added a new member, Jay Brown, on piano.

An American roots musician, Jay has hundreds of classic songs in his repertoire, as well as another hundred or so originals. Jay can often be found playing in pubs around Asheville, but he has also studied and performed music across the far reaches of the world, including New Orleans, California, India, Ghana, Peru, and Swannanoa.

Jay Brown is a roots-orientated, one-man band from Boone, North Carolina, who has been playing guitar since the age of 7 and writing songs since high school. A prolific songwriter, Jay's performance repertoire contains more than 50 original songs, as well as various covers from a wide spectrum of genres.

His eclectic musical tastes found expression when he became a founding member of the old time, swing band Lazybirds, a band that blends a wide variety of musical styles, including jazz and blues, to create a fresh and soul stirring sound.

Jay has spent years traveling and playing around the U.S.,absorbing our rich musical heritage and performing with artists such as Doc Watson, Old Crow Medicine Show, and Etta Baker. In addition to these experiences, Jay has also taken multiple trips to Ghana, West Africa, where he studied, taught and performed traditional African music with the native Ghanaians. A versatile musician, Jay is as much at home playing the blues in New Orleans as he is playing jazz or classical in New York City.

The level of improvement that singer/songwriter Jay Brown reveals with each new release hints at a talent that just might bust the walls open of the mainstream soon. Soul to Soul is among the year’s best, easily.

On “Soul to Soul,” Brown proves why other musicians look to him for inspiration

At a point in time when so many folks rely more on technology than talent, we have to admire the people out there in the world who are making real music the good old fashioned way.Jay Brown's music is instantly appealing...and we can tell that this talented fellow writes and records for all the right reasons. Brown's soul and spirit may remind many listeners ofJames Taylor way back when he was just getting started. Recorded in both Birmingham, Alabama and Asheville, North Carolina, this album has nice warm vibes...and is virtually impossible to dislike. Brown's honest friendly voice is welcoming and real...and his music is bound to please those who yearn for something personal. With the right timing and a bit of luck...this guy could become hugely popular.

“Singer/songwriter Jay Brown is not only a one-man band he is one man who is also in several bands. In addition to the Americana focus of his solo act, Brown plays ragtime and blues with the Lazybirds; world music with Shantavaani; and early jazz with Swing Guitars. Such wild versatility is indeed impressive; however, on a single album you’d expect an artist to retain focus. Thankfully, Brown reels in his eclectic tastes on his newest album, The Jester. “ (No Depression)

“The music is appropriately raw and rootsy but not unrefined. There is some striking musicianship here… Brown has a smooth, handsome voice that is equally at home dropping funny lines and poetic observations a la Paul Simon.” (Whisperin and Hollerin, UK)

”the leader of the renowned jazz act the Lazybirds reestablishes his folk roots without limiting himself to it. In other words, the intellectual curiosity that fueled his trips to Africa and India continues to percolate. Instead of producing a straightforward roots record Brown delves into psychedelia, country, and even political satire.” (Jazz Corner)

“Just because Jay Brown is in the Lazybirds doesn't mean he is one. On the contrary, Brown is probably one of the busiest young musicians in the scene” (All about jazz)

“And if there is a more inventive country blues harpist currently recording than Jay Brown, I need and Introduction.” (Rock n Reel Magazine, UK)

Listening to Jay Brown's debut disc might possibly make you a believer in time travel. The first listen could have you thinking you're somewhere in the Appalachian Mountains right around the turn of the century. (Performing Songwriter, 1996)

Protest Songs, Folk Songs & Spirituals, is a revelation. It shows the many-faceted abilities of a serious musician who doesn’t particularly pay much attention to the current trends in the music industry. As such, it is a breath of musical fresh air. (The Mtn Times)

No Depression Magazine

The level of improvement that singer/songwriter Jay Brown reveals with each new release hints at a talent that just might bust the walls open of the mainstream soon. On his latest effort, Soul to Soul, Brown has written his best songs yet; the lyrics are more focused and accessible, delivered with newly found swagger and knife-sharp musicianship. Brown doesn’t sound like he is aiming for a small audience anymore; while the words are still personal and injected with quirks – “Fire in the Sky” is about the famous UFO crash at Roswell – the music and production breathe commercial sensibilities that could not be found with his previous work.

Echoes of vintage Neil Young and Crosby, Stills and Nash can be heard throughout the record. In fact, the whole album has an early ‘70s vibe. Brown captures the wind-swept melancholy of Young’s balladry on the title track, and his lyrics sting like Jackson Browne in his prime: “It’s just the ones I love who ever hurt me.”

Brown’s affection for American roots music is no secret; experimenting with folk, country, and jazz has been part of his menu since the beginning. Nevertheless, on Soul to Soul those influences blend more smoothly than they ever had before. “Down Spiral Blues” is just as bluesy as its title suggests, with sweltering, jamming guitar. “Carmella” is folk filtered through the Fab Four. “Moonflower” reflects the lush beauty of CSN’s finest harmony-drenched classics. Then there’s the aforementioned oddity “Fire in the Sky,” which rocks raggedly like the Velvet Underground, proving that Brown is capable of anything. Soul to Soul is among the year’s best, easily.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Chris Brown Not in Serious Trouble, Again?

By Connor Simpson
12:03 PM ET

Staying out of trouble isn't in Chris Brown's playbook. The R&B singer was arrested, along with one other person, Sunday morning for felony assault after an altercation outside a D.C. hotel.

TMZ, of course, first reported the 24-year-old Brown was arrested after getting into an argument and punching another man around 4:30 a.m. outside the W Hotel on Washington's K Street. The victim is being treated for injuries at a local hospital. The Metropolitan Police Department confirmed Brown's arrest with Buzzfeed and other Washington reporters. TMZ reports the fight started after Brown allegedly hurled a gay slur at two men:

Two woman approached Brown in front of the W Hotel and asked to take a picture with him. As the pic was about to be taken, 2 men rushed over to get in the photo. We're told Chris then said, "I'm not into this gay s**t, I'm into boxing," and threw a punch at the alleged victim. The fight was then taken to the ground.

This isn't the first time Brown's been accused of hurling homophobic comments during a fight. Fellow R&B singer Frank Ocean accused Brown, or someone in his crew, of using homophobic slurs when Brown jumped Ocean in a parking lot earlier this year.

MPD also told Buzzfeed that 35-year-old Christopher Hollosy, who TMZ believes is Brown's bodyguard, was also arrested Sunday morning in connection with the same incident. Brown was in town for a Howard University homecoming after party, where he was spotted earlier that evening on Instagram. Many will be pleased to know he's not receiving special celebrity treatment behind bars, according MPD spokesperson Anthony Clay:

Brown will likely be in jail all day, Clay said, because courts do not generally operate on Sundays. The singer will also be in a cell with another detainee, as the jail has no separate accommodation for celebrities.

“We don’t have VIP cells or anything, any special treatment, unless they’re a hazard,” Clay said. “We would only segregate if we believe something could be wrong.”

Brown could face up to four years in prison if convicted. The singer is still on probation for his 2009 assault against then-girlfriend Rihanna. After a messy alleged hit and run in Los Angeles earlier this year, Brown bargained an extended probation period instead of doing jail time for those charges. Brown plans to release a new album, X, on November 19, after which he once mentioned retiring. He might have an extended absence on the pop charts, though it may not be voluntary.

Want to add to this story? Let us know in comments or send an email to the author at You can share ideas for stories on the Open Wire.



Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Dolly Parton tired, sore and resting after traffic crash

By Alan Duke
updated 5:51 PM EDT, Mon October 21, 2013

(CNN) -- Dolly Parton suffered minor injuries in a traffic crash at a Nashville intersection on Monday, according to the singer and police.

"I was in a fender bender this morning, here in Nashville," Parton, 67, said in a Twitter posting. "But I am all good. Just a little tired and sore, resting at home."

A Nashville police statement blamed the driver of another vehicle with failing to yield to the SUV in which Parton was riding as a front-seat passenger.

Parton and the driver of her Nissan Xterra, 68-year-old Judy Ogle, were taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center for treatment of minor injuries, the police report said.

Parton and Ogle have been close friends since elementary school, according to previous interviews.

Diane Lish, 64, of Old Hickory, Tennessee, was taken to another hospital for treatment. Lish was behind the wheel of the Mitsubishi Diamante that crashed into Parton's vehicle, police said.

None of the injuries appeared serious, police said.

CNN's Joe Sutton contributed to this report.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Theodore Alexander Smith's new grand son Elijemi

Erika Whatley
Sherry Smith3:59pm Oct 15
Hi Family, Meet Elijemi (Eli - jemi) our new baby boy. He was born Sep 17th at 9:11am, 5lbs and 3ozs, and 17 1/2 inches. This is Eli today in the green and gray.
Erika Whatley
Sandra L Williams4:07pm Oct 15
What a beautiful boy! Congrats to you and Jimmy and the fam/bam 
Erika Whatley
Keith Williams4:15pm Oct 15
Erika Whatley
Erika Whatley7:04pm Oct 15
Wow!! How cute is he?!? Congrats cousin

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Yikes! Brandy Performs to an Empty Stadium


Brandy performs in South Africa (Getty Images)In retrospect, it seems like someone should have said something sooner.

Brandy was secretly slated to be the surprise grand finale at the Nelson Mandela Sports and Culture Day, but since fans had no idea the singer would be the final act at the end of a packed schedule, almost all of them had left the building by the time she stepped on stage. Oops.
To put it in perspective, the FNB stadium in Soweto, South Africa, holds 90,000 guests and had been packed the entire day. When Brandy came out for her big moment, however, only 40 people remained. Oh, and reportedly, the lights were on (which was probably one of the reasons guests thought this shindig was done).
"Brandy performed to an empty stadium. With the stadium lights on," local musician Kabomo tweeted.
Other event-goers shared Kabomo's shock. Twitter user Crazy Girl Tutu (how we love that name), shared, "I gave up the min I saw the empty stadium. Brandy performing for the chairs!"
The empty stadium (AP Photo)
But Dawn Ngwenya thought Brandy had at least one fan left, tweeting, "Well Brandy is going to perform for herself and Mbaks only. Stadium now empty." Mbacks refers to Fikile Mbacks, South Africa's minister of sport, who likely had advance warning that the star would be showing up.
Faced with an empty stadium awash in light, Brandy didn't stick around long either. "People didn't know there was a concert after the games. No one knew Brandy was around. Maybe a 40 people audience," Kabomo shared on the social media site. "She sulked after two songs and walked off."
To be honest, we can't really blame her. And while we're fairly certain Brandy won't be running back to perform in South Africa again anytime soon, we also have a hunch that next time she does, people will know about it.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Adventures of Paso Jack Starring RG Ingersoll

Posted By InterNetics eMagazine at KDTN RADIO ONE RG’s ALL NITE FUNK BAND – Thousand Shadows – Single spurs SOS National search for missing singer

MEMPHIS TN (IFS) – The new unreleased dance single by RG’s All Nite Funk Band “Thousand Shadows” has started to race up the National and Global charts for the singer, Diane Anderson who has been missing for over twenty years. Anderson, one of the last recording artists with the Gordy Family empire disappeared after signing a long term contract. She has been musically silenced for over twenty-five years. Ingersoll along with longtime Platinum Sound Records president, Debby Clinton; Prentiss Anderson, longtime record producer and artist are helping in the hunt of Diane. The project is taking on a life on its own, and a television campaign is in the works for her whereabouts. The Single is being used as an S.O.S. - E.T. Call Home Moment. Ingersoll prays that the outcome is a positive outcome. We will deal with the outcome at the time of discovery. If you have any information on the whereabouts of Diane Anderson of Motown Records and HOTRAX Productions, please give him a post at The last know photographs of Diane Anderson is with Merrell Fankhauser and Cindy Bandes doing the "Some Of Them Escaped It All" Sessions at Emerald City Recording Studios, in Pismo Beach, California around June 1985.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Using DNA To Trace Michelle Obama’s Past  |  09/12/2012

First Lady Michelle Obama always suspected that she had white ancestors. But she had no idea who they were. With DNA testing and research, I was able to solve that mystery and finally identify the white forbears who had remained hidden in her family tree for more than a century.
All across the country, growing numbers of people are turning to DNA testing as a tool to help unlock the secrets of their roots, using companies such as, among others. When I started researching my new book, “American Tapestry: The Story of the Black, White and Multiracial Ancestors of Michelle Obama,’’ I pored over historical documents that I found in local archives, courthouses and libraries as well as records that I found online on and other state and local databases. But I knew that DNA testing would be the only way to unearth the truth.

I suspected that Mrs. Obama’s white ancestors belonged to the white Shields family that had owned her great-great-great grandmother, Melvinia Shields. So I persuaded several descendants of the black and white Shields to do DNA testing.

The results showed that the two families were related. The DNA testing indicated that Melvinia’s owner’s son was the likely father of Melvinia’s biracial child, Dolphus Shields. (Dolphus Shields is the first lady’s great-great grandfather.)
This was painful news for many of the Shields descendants. They knew that that Melvinia might have been raped and that their kinship originated during slavery, one of the darkest chapters of our history.
But last month, members of both sides of the family – black and white — put aside the pain of the past. They got together for the very first time in Rex, Georgia at a ceremony to commemorate Melvinia’s life. They swapped family stories, posed for photographs, exchanged phone numbers and had a meal together.

It was something to see.

David Applin, who is Melvinia’s great-grandson, said the reunion was “wonderful.” And Jarrod Shields, who is the great-great-great grandson of Melvinia’s owner, described it as a day “my family will never forget.”

Get your AncestryDNA kit today!

This story was contributed by guest blog author Rachel L. Swarns

Rachel L. Swarns has been a reporter for the New York Times since 1995. She has written about domestic policy and national politics, reporting on immigration, the presidential campaigns of 2004 and 2008, and First Lady Michelle Obama and her role in the Obama White House. She has also worked overseas for the New York Times, reporting from Russia, Cuba, and southern Africa, where she served as the Johannesburg bureau chief. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and two children.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Lisa Jackson - This lawsuit has never been about the N-word

Lisa Jackson, a former manager at restaurants owned by Paula Deen and her brother Bubba Hiers, has spoken through her attorneys about the racism controversy surrounding Deen. In a statement provided to CNN, White said that the attention over Deen’s use of the “n-word”, brought to light in her deposition in the civil suit brought by White, is missing the greater point of her charges.

“This lawsuit has never been about the N-word,” Jackson says in the statement. “It is to address Ms. Deen’s patterns of disrespect and degradation of people that she deems to be inferior.”

Deen has challenged White’s charges of racial discrimination and her right to bring them in a civil suit due to the fact that White herself never experienced any racial discrimination. She is white. Deen’s attorneys have referenced the principle of “standing” – that a plaintiff in a civil case must demonstrate that they were personally injured by the defendants behavior, not just witness to others’ injuries. They cite the recent SCOTUS decision to not even hear arguments relating to California’s Prop 8 appeal due to lack of standing on the part of the challengers.

White’s statement addressed her position regarding the racial discrimination, saying, “I may be a white woman, but I could no longer tolerate her abuse of power as a business owner, nor her condonation of Mr. Hier’s despicable behavior on a day-to-day basis. I am what I am, and I am a human being that cares about all races, and that is why I feel it is important to be the voice for those who are too afraid to use theirs.”

Whether a civil court determines that being the voice for others is enough to constitute standing remains to be seen. What is sure is that Paula Deen has lost millions of dollars in business, endorsement deals and publishing since her statements in deposition became public. Lisa Jackson may or may not ever see any money from the case, but her charges have hit their target right where it hurts nonetheless.