Obama to Unveil Debt-Reduction Plan

Zachary A. Goldfarb of the Washington Post reports that President Obama will announce a proposal on Monday to tame the nation’s rocketing federal debt, calling for $1.5 trillion in new revenue as part of a plan to find more than $3 trillion in budget savings over a decade, senior administration officials said.

The proposal draws a sharp contrast with Republicans and amounts more to an opening play in the fall debate over the economy than another attempt to find common ground with the opposing party. It also represents a more populist approach to confronting the nation’s economic travails than the compromises he advocated earlier this summer.

Obama will propose new taxes on the wealthy, a special new tax for millionaires and eliminating or scaling back a variety of loopholes and deductions, officials say. About half of the tax savings would come from the expiration next year of the George W. Bush administration tax cuts for the wealthy. Republicans like Paul Ryan are calling the special new tax for millionaires “class warfare.” The plan will not call for any changes to Social Security.

Well, we’re glad the president is taking a more “populist” approach to handling the debt, because the compromises have not been working for the populace; instead, they have been working for the wealthy. We don’t understand why taxing the wealthy is seen as class warfare but not taxing the wealthy isn’t.

Read more at TheRoot.com.


‘Hole in the Head’: What Happened to Vertus Hardiman?

A promo of the film Hole in the Head is making its way around the Web. The promo features the late Vertus Hardiman, who, along with nine other children, was experimented on with radiation in 1927. The children all attended the same elementary school in Lyles Station, Ind., and were severely irradiated during a medical experiment conducted at the local county hospital.

Narrated by Dennis Haysbert, the documentary reports that the experiment was misrepresented as a newly developed cure for the scalp fungus known as ringworm. In reality the ringworm fungus was merely the lure used to gain access to innocent children whose unsuspecting parents blindly signed permission slips for the treatment.

Vertus was 5 years old and the youngest. Now, after 20 years of friendship with writer-producer Wilbert Smith through their church choir, Vertus unburdens himself to Wilbert with an incredible story, finally exposing the severe physical complication caused by this shocking medical crime. The crime had severe physical complications for Vertus — namely a harshly irradiated and malformed head, with an actual hole in his skull.

Remarkably, not one person in his community had ever been aware of Vertus’ suffering because he always wore a wig and woolen beanie to cover the shame. During filming, Vertus revealed his secret, stating, “For over 80 years, only four individuals outside a few medical specialists have ever seen my condition; I hide it because I look like some monster.”

Over his life, Vertus was criticized, teased and scorned by acquaintances who had no idea what the wig had been hiding for 80 years.

Wilbert’s in-depth research led to his discovering four additional survivors of this horrific event. The promo for this film is unbelievable and literally uncovers the unimaginable and unthinkable results of medical experimentation gone awry. Many are familiar with the Tuskegee experiment and other high-profile cases of medical experimentation, like the case of Henrietta Lacks, but few are able to actually see the results of those experiments.

This promo and film go where others have not, informing and shocking viewers, while demonstrating Hardiman’s capacity for love and forgiveness (NSFW).

Read more about the documentary on the official website of Hole in the Head.

Alveda King: Different Year, Same Lies on MLK’s Stance on Abortion

Can you say angry? If not, read Alveda King’s press release entitled, “Different Year, Same Lies from Planned Parenthood about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” In the press release, Dr. Alveda King, full-time Director of African American Outreach for Priests for Life, objects to Planned Parenthood’s latest statements that imply that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would support the organization’s agenda. “Sometimes I wonder if Planned Parenthood will ever get tired of lying about my Uncle Martin,” said King, “and then I remind myself that a business built on the lie that a baby isn’t a baby is a stranger to the truth.  Just to be clear one more time, there’s no way Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., were he alive today, would support an organization that has helped destroy one-quarter of the African American population.” Alveda King helped contribute to that number since she has admitted to having two abortions herself, which would make her a hypocrite.

Read the story in its entirety on TheRoot.com.

Whoopi and the Limits of Friendship


Whoopi Goldberg has been engaged in a public battle with fans, bloggers and pundits over her comments about Mel Gibson’s rant heard ’round the world. Tapes of Gibson’s tirades against his ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva keep leaking like the BP oil spill and show no signs of stopping. Gibson made a number of abusive and misogynistic comments, one of which involved the way Grigorieva dressed. Funny how many have glossed over his obvious hatred toward this woman and headed straight to his racist comments. You know the comment — the one that follows the misogynistic ranting and includes the verbiage ”raped by a pack of n******.” People went off, calling Gibson everything but a child of God. I thought it was interesting that some felt free to use venomous language when talking about him, while condemning Gibson for using venomous language simultaneously.

Despite the hypocrisy, I understood where his critics were coming from; Gibson is a man who had come under fire for an anti-Semitic rant in 2006 against a police officer who was arresting him for driving under the influence. Once is a mistake, but twice? Houston, we have a problem.

Gibson’s latest tirade — which was abusive, sexist, misogynistic and racist — made headlines and was the talk of the media. I watched the morning shows and actually found the time to catch The View, a show I must admit that I rarely watch, on the day the story leaked. Whoopi Goldberg said a lot of things about Mel Gibson, but a lot of people latched on to her comment that she didn’t think he was racist. Still, she did call him out for his bad behavior. And she talked about alcoholics, whom she referred to as ”drunks” and how, when under the influence, they will say anything. (After his 2006 DUI arrest, Gibson checked into a rehab facility.) Then she muttered something that sounded like ”ass****s” and made her now-famous declaration that he is not a racist. Read more at TheRoot.com.

This article originally appeared on TheRoot.com where Nsenga serves as editor-at-large. She writes the Buzz section and is a regular contributor to the publication.

A Teen Lies Dead, But Who is the Real Killer?

Last week in Charlotte, 16-year-old Tyesha Roberts was charged with the first-degree murder of 18-year-old Laqueda Antoinette Hall. The two had a lot in common. They were young, African-American teen mothers fighting over their baby’s father, who has yet to be identified in the press. I find it interesting that while all of the details about the young girls, their interaction with one another and the horrific details surrounding the incident are becoming known, the identity of the man at the center of the dispute, at press time, remains unknown.

As someone who works with young people, it is not lost on me that a 16-year-old has thrown her life away over some foolishness, and an 18-year-old is dead. Two children are now without mothers essentially because a man didn’t respect them enough to even use protection in this day and age.

While checking message boards, I noticed that people are divided into camps about who was wrong. Team Tyesha is saying that Hall came to Roberts’ home to fight her, so she was asking for trouble. Roberts didn’t mean to kill her, but she was defending herself from a grown woman. Team Laqueda says that even if Hall confronted Roberts, she didn’t have to stab her. After all, Hall was unarmed. Of course there was little to no mention of the “baby’s daddy.” As I read people’s reactions, I thought to myself, who cares? The lives of two young girls are gone forever — one physically from this earth and the other will possibly rot in jail for the rest of hers. What does it matter who was wrong or right?

Someone even had the nerve to suggest that the girls were both wrong for fighting over a man. She postured, “Everyone knows you’re supposed to make men fight over you.”

Therein lies the problem. There isn’t supposed to be violence from anyone in any relationship. The culture of violence in relationships is so normalized that people don’t realize how stupid they sound. We could sit here and blame the media, or violence in television, or celebrities, but I blame us. Adult behavior influences how teenagers behave.

You cannot tell me that these young girls had not witnessed women sharing and fighting over men in their young lives. It is a part of our culture. Even though this behavior is largely attributed to the black community in popular culture, baby’s daddies are all over the place. It goes beyond race and class: John Edwards, Jackie Chan, Mel Gibson, Jesse Jackson, Tom Brady and even the late senator Strom Thurmond are baby’s daddies. I merely use these high-profile examples to demonstrate how unprotected sex, man-sharing and women fighting over men permeate all parts of society. Young people witness this type of inappropriate behavior from friends, family and members of society who should behave better.

It is not surprising that a 16-year-old and an 18-year-old would be fighting over some no-good man. The fact that this “man” is not man enough to face the devastation that he helped cause speaks volumes about this person’s character. Let the two girls take the hit and be dragged through the mud, while he escapes blame and humiliation. Just to be clear, I am clear that Roberts killed Hall. But this unknown man with multiple children by multiple partners does not escape blame. We’ve seen this on talk show after talk show, where women try to destroy each other physically and verbally over some dude, while he sits there in the middle saying and doing nothing. The women are so focused on hating each other that his role in the fiasco goes unchecked.

This is what appears to have happened in this situation. Why would Hall be going over to Roberts’ house anyway to discuss the amount of time the baby’s father was spending with his child? Isn’t that the father’s job? It is his child. How did this discussion turn into a fight? Maybe Hall intended to fight Roberts all along, but over this guy — a man who clearly didn’t care enough about her to not make children with other people while clearly still dating her and who remains silent as she is buried under six feet of dirt.

Which leads me back to what I was saying: There is a culture of violence in relationships that stems from dysfunctional behavior. Most people cannot handle sharing partners. In this day and age with sexually transmitted diseases like HIV and the number of crazy people walking around, why would anyone want to be a part of that? Young girls having babies with guys to try to keep them only trap themselves. Who needs the stress of a raging baby’s mother in one’s life? I’ve never met a man worth enduring verbal and physical abuse at the hands of anyone, let alone someone he used to date. If adults don’t think more of themselves than to engage in this type of risky behavior, why would teenagers?

Again, I know that these two girls created their awful situation, but there is blame all around. If we adults don’t stop putting our hands on each other in a perverted version of love, young people won’t stop either. If we don’t stop having ridiculous relationships, young people won’t either. If we don’t stop fighting over men (or women for that matter), young people won’t either. People are not possessions. When will we learn that — and when will we teach it?

This article originally appeared in Creative Loafing, where Nsenga serves as cultural critic. She is also a regular contributor to TheRoot.com.

Kicked While Down: Unemployed and Uninsured

While America is fixated on the BP oil spill, another crisis has been brewing under the radar: the denial of insurance coverage to the unemployed. Talk about being kicked when you’re down.

According to a June 12 Associated Press article: “Congress allowed emergency health care assistance for unemployed workers to expire May 31, and seems unwilling to renew it despite pleas from President Barack Obama.”

If you talk to most unemployed people, you will find that they do not want to be unemployed. In fact, they want jobs. Unless you’ve been living in an alternate reality (like some of our wealthier citizens), jobs have been few and far in between since before the government and free world admitted that we were in an actual recession.

Speaking of that recession, which was caused by the economic policies of the Bush administration and a Republican-controlled Congress, it’s repulsive for them to now say that they do not want to extend this benefit because it will add to the deficit. And I am disgusted with Democrats who won’t press the issue for fear of not being re-elected. The same politicians who spent countless months trying to get health care reform passed in order to be elected are now turning away from extending this benefit. With representatives like this, who needs enemies?

Lawmakers want to pretend that this deficit and this recession came out of thin air, but it didn’t, and it has impacted North Carolina in a horrible way. Last year, North Carolina’s unemployment rate was the highest it had ever been in 30 years. We won’t even mention the thousands who actually managed to keep jobs, but had to let go of insurance because they couldn’t afford it — or their small businesses couldn’t afford to offer it.

For the unemployed, insurance premiums are more of an issue because they are cost-prohibitive for anyone without a trust fund. The North Carolina/South Carolina jobless rate was at its highest level in 20 years, hitting 12.8 just in January. The unemployment rate remained above 12 percent for some time in Charlotte, prompting President Obama to make a visit in March to discuss job creation, small businesses and a green economy. As of this printing, the unemployment rate has actually been dropping for the last three months, which is good news; however, even though unemployment has dropped to 10.3 percent, 472,614 people are still currently unemployed in the Queen City. So, what happens when these folks and their families get sick?

Under President Obama’s economic stimulus plan, the government provided a 65 percent COBRA subsidy to ensure that those newly unemployed would have health insurance coverage while they looked for a job. It’s one thing to be unemployed, but unemployed and uninsured? Crazy things happen when people are under that type of stress.

Take for example Kathy Myers, the unemployed and uninsured Michigan woman who shot herself in the shoulder in order to get medical attention that she needed for a shoulder injury. It is illegal to deny emergency medical treatment to someone because they lack health insurance. Myers took advantage of that law so that she could get medical attention. That’s extreme (and hopefully Myers got some psychiatric help, too), but this incident is an example of what people should not have to do to get medical care.

Charlotte hasn’t had a “Kathy Myers” yet, but — with almost half a million people out of work and presumably uninsured — how long will it be before we have one? How much can people take? Myers reached her breaking point. What will be ours?

Not all of our elected officials have turned their backs on the uninsured unemployed. According to the AP report, “Democratic Sens. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Sherrod Brown of Ohio have introduced a measure that would allow the program to continue helping people who get laid off through Nov. 30.” Now if only Congress would entertain it.

May 31 has come and gone, and millions of people don’t know whether they will have subsidized insurance coverage. Some people are calling it welfare. Call it what you want, but when people are desperate, they do desperate things — to themselves and to others. It’s not rocket science. Most people obtain insurance through their jobs. When they’re jobless, they don’t have insurance and this measure helped them to have something to offer their families.

I once met an Australian man who told me that he didn’t understand why Americans were up in arms over universal health care. He said that society is only as strong as its weakest members, so it is imperative that you take care of them or your country will not thrive. With more than 10 percent of Charlotteans out of work and even more without health care coverage, it’s a sure bet that we are not thriving.

This article originally appeared on Creative Loafing, where Nsenga serves as cultural critic. She also serves as editor-at-large for TheRoot.com where she writes the Buzz section and contributes features.

Chris Henry’s Death Exposes Double Standard

Toxicology reports are back for NFL wide receiver Chris Henry. The results show that Henry died in Charlotte last December from a fractured skull and other head injuries, which occurred when he jumped or fell from a moving truck; his fiancée Loleini Tonga was behind the wheel. The story made national headlines and kicked off a media frenzy about Tonga’s innocence or guilt.

High-profile domestic disputes, especially those involving NFL players, aren’t new in Charlotte. Former Carolina Panther Ray Carruth murdered the mother of his child more than 10 years ago. And in 2003, Deidra Lane killed Carolina Panthers running back Fred Lane, alleging domestic abuse.

Folks took a particular interest in the Henry case because the athlete, who experienced some problems early in his career, had supposedly turned his life around, winning his spot back on the Cincinnati Bengals — a team that had previously dismissed him for bad behavior.

According to witnesses, Tonga was fleeing a domestic dispute with Henry at the couple’s home. Henry jumped into the back of the pick-up truck when Tonga drove off and, somehow, he was ejected from the vehicle. Authorities ruled the incident an accident, declining to press charges against Tonga.

When the accident first happened, comment threads surfaced on the Web calling Tonga a murderer. Some people said: “Had she just pulled over, he would be alive.” I thought to myself, “Had he been able to control his emotions and not chased her out of the house and jumped on the back of the truck when she left, he would be alive.”

I heard and read that Tonga was driving at breakneck speed, purposely making him fall off of the truck. Investigators found that Tonga was not traveling more than 19 mph. I thought perhaps Henry’s anger, adrenaline or superior physical condition contributed to his “jumping” from the truck. I remember trying to reserve judgment until more facts became available, even though in my mind it was clear that it was a dispute gone wrong.

But when trying to chat about it with friends, male and female, the same tone crept into the conversation: Tonga, who was called every name but a child of God (including “bitch,” “whore” and “gold digger”), was supposedly this venomous woman who plotted to trap Henry and purposely kill him. Really? It’s always interesting that people think athletes are so much better than the women they date. But I digress.

When I asked folks who spoke so harshly about Tonga what was driving their anger, many simply stated that they were giving Henry the benefit of the doubt. I thought to myself: “Why weren’t they willing to give Tonga the benefit of the doubt?” One friend said Tonga left him on the side of the road, which shows that she knew what she was doing. But Henry, who ran out of his house and jumped in the back of her truck, didn’t know what he was doing? Another colleague stated that if Tonga had stayed in the house or not driven off, Henry would be alive. I wondered aloud, “But would Tonga be alive?”

It was clear that very few people cared about this woman because she wasn’t an NFL player. In their minds, she was some “groupie” who bagged a professional athlete and killed him for no reason. Folks were blind to the facts that were coming out about the case. With all of that selective hearing and reading, it was determined that Tonga was a horrible person. I suppose if a woman isn’t a pop superstar, then it doesn’t matter if she’s involved in a volatile or abusive romantic relationship. But that’s another article.

The irony of the situation is that this type of thinking about women informs domestic violence. Women as evil temptresses who lead men to do dubious things is part of the world’s historical narrative in all aspects of society including religion, education and popular culture. It is communicated to us every day that women are objects of desire who cannot be trusted. When women try to escape this way of thinking, they are usually punished … much like Tonga. And it is not just men who think like this — it is also women, many of whom raise batterers.

With the recent findings that Henry was not intoxicated or on drugs during the incident, the hating on Tonga has resumed. The failure to address Henry’s role in the domestic dispute that cost him his life has resumed as well. While domestic violence incidents are present, real conversations about the problem are nonexistent.

This incident made me think about the countless number of domestic disputes that happen in Charlotte that don’t get national news coverage. Last year 617 women were admitted to Charlotte’s Shelter for Battered Women. More than 2,000 were turned away. So what are victims to do if there is nowhere for them to run?

A campaign is currently underway to build a larger battered women’s shelter, which is good and bad for obvious reasons. Unless we get a handle on this epidemic, clearly there will be plenty of high- and no-profile cases. As evidenced by the Henry case, no one wins when it comes to domestic violence.

Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D. is serves as cultural critic for Creative Loafing. She is also an editor-at-large for TheRoot.com, where she writes the Buzz Section and feature stories.