Monday, July 6, 2009

The Noose: “The Straw that Broke the Camel’s Back”

By Jolanda Jones

The majority of non-Blacks may never understand why the issue of a noose on public display will forever be offensive. This article is not an indictment of the Houston Fire Department. I love and respect the men and women of the Fire Department. In fact, I recently wrote an article which was published in this very publication about that respect and admiration.

In other words, this article is about a larger issue: The Legacy of Nooses and the Importance of Honestly Dealing with this Very Sensitive and Difficult Issue and Why We Must Use this Straw that Broke the Camel’s Back to Ensure Non-Hostile Work Environments in the City of Houston! The noose, a symbol of hatred from America’s dark past, has resurfaced.

But this time, it is not in the east Texas towns of Vidor or Jasper, or the small towns of Mississippi where the Black population could be less than 1%. It has resurfaced in 2009 in our culturally diverse city of Houston. To some, a noose is a symbol used for strength in securing boat lines.
Yet, to many others, it is a disturbing reality accepted by many as the symbol of lynchings in the Old Jim Crow South. The incidence of hanging nooses reveals an ugly truth about race relations in the United States, and this ugly truth was obvious at Houston Fire Station 41. The noose incident has been well documented and widely discussed.

In fact, it has been discussed so much that Mayor Bill White had a Mayor’s Report on the passions and respect related to it on June 24. Furthermore, Council Member Melissa Noriega, Chair of the Public Safety Committee, will have the focus the agenda of her next committee meeting, on this very subject. That Public Safety Committee Meeting is set for Monday, July 27, 2009 at 3p.m. at City Hall.

June 23, was not just another ordinary day of Public Session at City Hall. Although the noose issue was not on the agenda or the regular order of business, community leaders, ministers, concerned citizens, and members of the Houston Black Firefighter’s Association came to City Council in full force and made their opposition known and their voices heard regarding the incident. With respect to the noose, for any individual to act as if there is no legacy associated with it, is insulting.

It is the “ostrich with its head in the sand” effect, a sheer act of willful blindness caused by pure and simple artificial naivety. There is literally no excuse for anyone residing in the Deep South to not be aware of the historical context of this region, especially in Texas, the last state to actually free the slaves.
Malachi Crawford, Assistant Director of the Department for African America Studies at the University of Houston, weighed in on this divisive topic, “No one would act as if someone leaving open the locker and having a swastika symbol in their locker did not carry a historical legacy or tradition that would offend someone of Jewish heritage. Why is it that people of African descent are always positioned or perceived as being historically emotional and supersensitive? [emphasis added]” The swastika originates from Hinduism; however, we have associated this symbol with modern day negative connotations of the Nazi Party, as well it should.
Some believe that Blacks look for racism where racism doesn’t exist; that they have a chip on their shoulders and they need to get over themselves. However, unless one has experienced a “day in the life” of a Black person, one cannot truly fathom the harsh realities. Yes, White’s were hanged with a noose, but Blacks were lynched.

Hanging was a very common form of capitol punishment for heinous crimes. Blacks were lynched just for being Black, an inescapable reality and subjugation by no choice of their own. Onlookers would watch a man being burned and mutilated before he was hung and sometimes pose for pictures with the body.
If people had a grasp of what really happened, they would understand the power of the symbol of the noose. The noose is a blunt instrument of racial intimidation because of what it represent(s)(ed).Having a rope with a knot in it is protected under the First Amendment in some instances although displaying it gives off the implication of a painful past for U.S. citizens of African descent.

The paradigm shifts when the context is in the governing and delivery of services in the City of Houston. It ceases to be a free speech issue and morphs into a hostile work environment. I understand that the issue of discrimination in the workplace may be rather complicated. By way of explanation, some people have made zero tolerance, in other arenas, code word for firing or expelling students from school, etc., disenfranchising people.

While I respect the intent of the proposed ordinance that was drafted June 3, 2009, for the Fire Department, meant as a response to deal with the noose incident, it is not zero tolerance. There is too much subjectivity.
If we can have zero tolerance for smoking a blunt or weed, we need to have zero tolerance for symbols which create a hostile workplace. It is not super-sensitivity to feel uncomfortable or angry or distracted or hurt or whatever word you feel is appropriate when you hear words or phrases like “nigger” or “wet back” or “jew someone down” or “chinks” and so on. In fact, I do not. Instead, I used them for the guttural affect or basic repulsive instinct or shock they have on most humans.
If you had a negative gut reaction to these words; it’s for the same reason that these types of words and symbols are just wrong in the workplace. Whatever ordinance we draft must meet Title XII requirements. I have set up meetings with various groups who have worked in this arena far longer than me: the Anti-Defamation League, NAACP, and LULAC, among others.

With enough diverse heads and legal minds, we can come up with an ordinance which passes constitutional muster and will make this city better. As diverse and culturally-driven as Houston is, we must think twice about what we say and display in the workplace. Hate kills as was seen by the Black security guard killed in the Holocaust Museum by a racist.

Complaints of bigotry within the workplace are nothing new, but I am calling for a zero tolerance policy for words and symbols of hatred for all city departments. Overt racism is a choice, and ignorance is not an excuse to escape discipline.
We value the citizens of Houston input and participation. This issue is not going away. Citizens and city employees are entitled to non-hostile working environments and services.

This is the opportunity for positive change. The noose is not about the Fire Department alone. It is about positive change for the entire City. It is the straw that broke the camel’s back in Houston.

Michael Dyson vs. Barack Obama? Not Quite

By Boyce Watkins

When I heard the controversial and heated comments about President Obama that were made by my respected colleague Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, I felt like a second grader running outside to see the fight between two middle school kids. Both Barack and Michael are men I’ve grown to appreciate, and I love them for their strengths as well as their imperfections. Michael was the reason I became a public scholar during graduate school, as I would watch the words flow out of him like an MC in the booth dropping his hottest album.

The man is good, damn good. President Obama needs to listen to the words of Michael Eric Dyson. In fact, he should give Dyson as much, or more respect than he gives me or any other Black public intellectual in America.

Dr. Dyson, no matter how you perceive his critique of President Obama, represents a form of insight that you are not going to find in politics, the pulpit or anywhere else. At the same time, I will confess that his words may also come from an impure place that lies within the darkest part of our souls. In other words, Dyson, Tavis, Barack, Jesse and every other ambitious man in America is always going to be tempted by the “Demon of Playerhaterology.”

Men are naturally competitive, and no man likes to be disrespected. Obama, as a condition for his employment, is often asked to disrespect other leaders across America who represent the essence of meaningful Black thought. That’s going to create a long list of enemies.

“Dyson was one of the first to publicly
endorse Obama ... ”

But let’s make this point clear: When Tavis Smiley holds President Obama accountable, that doesn’t mean he’s jealous of Barack. In fact, jealousy is an overly simplistic way to marginalize someone’s comments before you even hear what they have to say. We must be more intelligent than that.
The other truth is that even a jealous man may be making a good point. The same thing is true for Dyson’s recent challenge to Barack Obama: He might not like Barack (I can’t confirm or deny his personal relationship), but that doesn’t mean that he’s wrong in his assessments. Dyson was one of the first to publicly endorse Obama, long before many of the “Obama-maniacs” had gained the courage to jump on board his campaign.

To get a more balanced critique on this issue, I did something that we should all do: Remember that there is more to the universe of Black scholarship than Cornel West, Boyce Watkins and Michael Eric Dyson. So, I’ve reached out to an army of Black intellectuals who are committed to serving their communities (please take a look at their comments if you can), and asked for their assessment of Obama’s first 100 days in office.

One sad truth about the Black intellectual in America is that the potential of Black scholars has been muted, socially castrated and distracted from the God-given mandate to help people in the Black community. Our one-dimensional training teaches us to dumb ourselves down in order to accomodate suffocatingly racist bureaucracies, bury our intelligence in abstruse niches and create a long stretch of non-transferable skills with no desire to distribute these skills to a broader audience. Given that intelligence is partially measured by one’s ability to communicate complex ideas to a multitude of audiences, African-American scholars have made ourselves into some of the least intelligent individuals in the Black community. Even rappers like Diddy have more intellectual impact than most professors (remember the “Vote or Die” campaign?), and that’s just plain crazy. With that said, I want people to hear the words of Dyson without pulling out their pitchforks.
We need to understand that during this critical time in Black American history, we should not suck ourselves into the temptations of McCarthyism by shutting down every progressive voice that doesn’t agree with the great Barack Obama. The other truth is that we should not “drink the kool-aid” that makes Obama into an instant sell-out because he doesn’t wear his dashiki to work every day. Barack is an important piece of Black history and we must respect that. Some are tempted to take sides on the Dyson vs. Obama situation, and some are sitting in the middle. I am doing neither, since I wish to do the impossible and support both sides of this important conversation.

You see, racism forces us to make uncomfortable choices, since we are all bottlenecked into the fight to become the HNIC. We are asked, as a condition for our advancement, to denounce those within our culture who make the power structure uncomfortable. We are told that getting Barack Obama elected means we must chop off the political heads of Jeremiah Wright, Jesse Jackson, Tavis Smiley, Louis Farrakhan, Cynthia McKinney and Cornel West. I will never make such a choice, and neither should you.

Dr Boyce: WNBA Financial Problems - We Don't Support the Women

My beautiful daughter Carmen just helped her school win its first state championship. She is the shortest person on team, the quickest and the scrappiest - both a lady and a monster when she has to be. As I sat in the stands cheering like a lunatic, I noticed that there weren't enough parents cheering along with me. The stadium was half empty, and most of the people cheering in the stands were women and children. I wondered how these young women felt, knowing that while their stands were only partially full, the boy's game (which they lost) had been sold out.

I couldn't quite figure out why we don't support women's sport the way we should: The fundamentals of the WNBA are better than the men, and the women are incredibly talented and competitive. But after some long reflection on the disparity of support, I gave myself the answer to my own question.

When planning our trip to New York City. I said to Carmen, "How would you like to see a Knicks game?" Her eyes brightened like Times Square and she shook her head up and down so hard I thought she was going to break her neck in the process. I then realized my mistake: While it was quite natural for me to think about inviting my daughter to a Knicks game, I didn't think for one second to invite her to see the New York Liberty, the women's team in the city.

I am just as sexist as the rest of us and I am embarrassed for it.

But I want to out grow my sexism, in part as a tribute to my mother, sister, and daughters. I want to understand how we as a society process women's sport and why we don't give it the same respect as men. This lack of respect has translated into serious financial woes for the WNBA, as they are struggling much more than other professional sports leagues in this struggling economy. Our girls should get the same encouragement as our boys.

I have brought in women's sport expert Dr. Deborah Stroman, my colleague with the College Sport Research Institute at The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. She is an expert in women's sport, and an excellent source of intellectual light on this important issue. While we are both professors with the institute, I wanted to spend some time being Dr. Stroman's student.

Click the image below to listen!

Do we support women's sports the way we should? I argue that we don't.

Dr Boyce: Yes, The Transformers Movie Was Quite Racist

I came to the latest release of "The Transformers" looking for what I saw in the first film: Jaw-dropping special effects and a story just interesting enough to hold you over until the next explosion. I didn't go to the film looking for racism or embarrassing minstrel shows. My "racial bias glasses" are designed to weed out harmless, inadvertent racism, which comes with living in a society that spent 400 years thinking that black people were less than human. But when racism is thrown in my face repeatedly in the form of ridiculous and disgusting stereotypes, that's when I start to get mad.

Michael Bay is one of my favorite directors, next to the Hughes Brothers (where are they by the way?). He's damn good at what he does. But on this occasion, Bay simply missed his creative target and I'm not the only one who's noticing.

Meet Skids and Mudflap, two Transformers who may as well have been called Lil Wayne and Random Black Male idiot. One of them actually has a gold grill, and neither of them can read. They are bungling buffoons and cowards with barely an ounce of intelligence. One of them rides around as an Ice cream truck with the words "suck my popsicle" on the side, yelling "get your ice cream bitches" to those who might want to buy from his dirty little truck. They also remind you in every other sentence that you are a "punk ass bitch" and that they want to "bust a cap in your ass."
Now meet Optimus Prime. Optimus is a brave, principled leader who speaks with proper English and stands tall in the face of adversity. He protects the cowardly idiots in spite of the fact that they are too stupid to take care of themselves. I can't say whether Optimus is white or black, but he doesn't talk like Skids and Mudflap. His diction is perfect and he doesn't curse. He would never offer to put a "cap in your ass", and he doesn't seem to have any gold teeth. Even dressed in red, white and blue, he looks and sounds a lot like a Republican. Everyone wants to be Optimus Prime. No one wants to be Skids or Mudflap.

Every time Skids and Mudflap opened their mouths, I sank a little further down in my seat. I could almost stomach it all, until the characters backed away in fear when being asked to read. After watching how Bay used these two to provide much of the comic relief in the film, I wanted to find the screen writers, slap them one by one, and force them to take a class on historical images of blacks in media. Hollywood is home to the most sophisticated technological advancements, the most accurate marketing data, and precise, multi-year script analysis. In the face of all of this research, how could they do something so asinine? What's worse is that they absolutely ruined my favorite film by insulting me. Steven Spielberg, the Executive Producer who will also be responsible for making the Martin Luther King film, should have noticed these problems after viewing the Director's cut. Anyone marketing movies for black dollars should have greater racial sensitivity.

Michael Bay, I'm disappointed. The truth is that Skids and Mudflap were unnecessary and had very little to do with the story line (I noticed that they disappeared during the climactic battle at the end, other than the scream, "I don't wanna die" as they were being destroyed by the enemy). Did you also notice that the other urbanized character in your first film, Jazz, was the first to die and came into the movie with the words, "What's happenin lil bitches"? I won't say that I am no longer a fan, because I want to take the high road and use this as an opportunity for communication. I appreciate your willingness to inject edgy humor into a strong and consistent corporate brand. I have no doubt that "the suits" in the industry squirm every time you allow for a sex joke or use a curse word in your films – I usually love it, and appreciate your willingness to take creative risks. But if I go to the next film and see anything even resembling the buffoonery you've put in this movie, I will transform myself into someone who never sees another one of your films again.

Caffeine May Improve Alzheimer’s Disease

by Peggy Rowland

It seems too good to be true that something as simple as caffeine could improve Alzheimer’s disease, but that may be the case.

New study findings reveal that caffeine could be a viable treatment for established Alzheimer’s disease. According to University of South Florida researchers at the Florida Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (ADRC), memory impairment was reversed when aged mice bred to develop Alzheimer’s disease were given the equivalent of five cups of coffee a day (500 mg caffeine).

Researchers hope to begin human trials to evaluate if people with mild cognitive impairment or early Alzheimer’s disease may benefit from caffeine.

“These are some of the most promising Alzheimer’s mouse experiments ever done showing that caffeine rapidly reduces beta amyloid protein in the blood, an effect that is mirrored in the brain, and this reduction is linked to cognitive benefit,” said Huntington Potter, PhD, director of the Florida ADRC.

Please note that caffeine isn’t yet an improved therapy for Alzheimer’s disease. While most patients could tolerate caffeine, some individuals, such as people with high blood pressure, could be sensitive to it. Further research is needed, but these findings, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, are still very noteworthy!

Joe Biden: 'We Misread' the Economy

In an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos this weekend, Vice President Joe Biden gave a candid assessment of the administration's initial diagnosis of the nation's economic problems, stating, "We misread how bad the economy was." Watch:

To the right of the administration, Republican critics argue that the stimulus hasn't worked and that the government never should have spent the money. To the left, detractors like New York Times columnist Paul Krugman argue that President Obama and Biden didn't spend nearly enough. With the jobs picture worsening in June, there is plenty of blame to go around, but no consensus has formed as to the best way forward.

To see just how the stimulus money is being spent, you can visit And The Wall Street Journal has a wonderful interactive map so you can see just how much money your state will receive over the coming months.

But what's your opinion? Has the administration spent too much, too little, or do they have it just about right?

Madonna & Beyonce Pay Tribute To Michael Jackson

This past weekend saw two of music's biggest acts pay tribute to the late King of Pop, Michael Jackson. During Madonna's show at London's 02 last night, the 50 year old and her dancers gave an uptempo nod to MJ (which you can watch above), while Beyonce gave a touching rendition of 'Halo' (which you can see below), changing the words in honour of Michael. Good stuff.

Randomness: I must have randomly been walking through London Bridge today, stumbling upon a dance showcase (presented by Scoop). After the performances the hosts gave a speech about Michael and went on to give a master class in the classic 'Beat It' routine. I was so surprised to see hundreds of people of all races, ages (young - elderly), genders etc join in honoring Michael. This really brought a smile to my face and put me in a celebratory mindset about Michael's legacy for the first time since his untimely passing. Only he could bring together such a diverse mix of people, who united in their love for his music and dance. Definitely brightened up my day. The vid below doesn't really do the event much justice, many folk were in the house, and everyone from toddlers to pensioners got in on the 'Beat It' routine:

What's more, there's not been a time that I've been out since 'that' sad day, that I've not heard someone blaring out MJ in their car. I literally mean everyday, multiple people. Anyone else noticed the same thing?

Long live the King!

Your thoughts?

NFL Quarterback Steve McNair & Sahel Kazemi Murder Suicide (Photos)

Nashville, Tennessee police have ruled Steve McNair’s death a homicide, but have not reached a conclusion on Sahel Kazemi, the woman found with him also shot. Read more on McNair and Kazemi deaths below.

Police spokesman, Don Aaron, said McNair, 36, and Sahel Kazemi, 20, had been dating for the past several months. But McNair is actually married to Mechelle McNair, and they have four sons together.

The bodies of Steve McNair and Sahel Kazemi were found Saturday afternoon in a condo in downtown Nashville. McNair had four gunshot wounds, two to the head while Kazemi had a single gunshot to the head.

Boh bodies were found in the living room.. McNair on the couch and Kazemi on the floor near him. There was a semiautomatic pistol found under Kazemi’s body. Could this have been a murder suicide?

The police will be conducting more interviews with friends of Kazemi and McNair before they rule her death as a suicide, Aaron said.

Aaron was asked if the deaths could be the result of a lover’s quarrel and stated, “That’s a very important part of the investigation as we work to ultimately classify Miss Kazemi’s death.”

A witness revealed to police that McNair entered the condominium he rented around 1:30 on Saturday. Sahel Kazemi’s Cadillac Escalade was there at the condo when McNair arrived.

Kazemi and McNair were together when Sahel was arrested and charged with driving under the influence in the Escalade early Thursday morning. McNair was in the vehicle but not charged.

Wayne Neeley, a friend and co-renter of the condo, discovered the bodies on Saturday. He arrived at around 1 p.m. and saw McNair on the couch and Kazemi on the floor. He didn’t notice they were dead at first but then found blood near the bodies. He called Robert Gaddy, another friend of McNair’s, and Gaddy called the police.

McNair has played for the Tennessee Titans for 11 years. He retired before the 2008 season after playing two years in Baltimore.

Police stated they were not looking for any suspects and do not believe McNair’s wife is involved. Mechelle McNair, mother of two of his four sons, was expected to collect her husband’s belongings from authorities. Funeral arrangements were not expected to be finalized until Monday afternoon at the earliest.

“She’s still very upset, very distraught,” agent Bus Cook said.

Our condolences to the families.

Michael Jackson Funeral Vouchers on eBay!!!!


That didn't take long!

As soon winners were announced on Sunday to receive tickets for Michael Jackson's memorial service on tomorrow, tickets have appeared on eBay and Craigslist for one hefty price tag!

A recent listing on eBay had a Buy It Now price of $20,000!!!!!

Attendees for the funeral held at the Staples Center must act fast, as they have some major hoops to jump through!

Ticket winners received a special code and instructions to pick up their tickets at Dodger Stadium on Monday, today.

When they get their tickets, they will receive a wristband necessary to enter the venue, but if they become ripped, taped or tampered, they are no longer valid.

The tickets will admit 11,000 people to the Staples Center and 6,500 to the Nokia Theater next door, but don't waste your time in the area if you don't have a ticket!

The ceremony will not be shown on Staples' giant outdoor TV screen and there will be no funeral procession through the city.

All streets surrounding the stadium will be closed!

If you want to watch the service and could not score a ticket, it will be broadcast on five television networks: NBC, ABC, CNN, MSNBC and E!.

McNamara, defense chief during Vietnam War, dies

FILE - In a March 16, 1961 file photo, U.S. President John F. Kennedy sits in his favorite rocking chair in his office during a meeting with Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, right, at the White House in Washington. Former Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara died Monday, July, 6, 2009, according to his wife. He was 93. (AP Photo/Henry Burroughs, File)

Robert S. McNamara, the cerebral secretary of defense who was vilified for carrying out the Vietnam War, then devoted himself to helping the world's poorest nations, died Monday. He was 93.

McNamara died at 5:30 a.m. at his home, his wife Diana told The Associated Press. She said he had been in failing health for some time.

For all his healing efforts, McNamara was fundamentally associated with the Vietnam War, "McNamara's war," the country's most disastrous foreign venture, the only American war to end in abject withdrawal rather than victory.

Known as a policymaker with a fixation for statistical analysis, McNamara was recruited to run the Pentagon by President John F. Kennedy in 1961 from the presidency of the Ford Motor Co. He stayed seven years, longer than anyone since the job's creation in 1947.

His association with Vietnam became intensely personal. Even his son, as a Stanford University student, protested against the war while his father was running it. At Harvard, McNamara once had to flee a student mob through underground utility tunnels. Critics mocked McNamara mercilessly; they made much of the fact that his middle name was "Strange."

After leaving the Pentagon on the verge of a nervous breakdown, McNamara became president of the World Bank and devoted evangelical energies to the belief that improving life in rural communities in developing countries was a more promising path to peace than the buildup of arms and armies.

A private person, McNamara for many years declined to write his memoirs, to lay out his view of the war and his side in his quarrels with his generals. In the early 1990s he began to open up. He told Time magazine in 1991 that he did not think the bombing of North Vietnam — the biggest bombing campaign in history up to that time — would work but he went along with it "because we had to try to prove it would not work, number one, and (because) other people thought it would work."

Finally, in 1993, after the Cold War ended, he undertook to write his memoirs because some of the lessons of Vietnam were applicable to the post-Cold War period "odd as though it may seem."

"In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam" appeared in 1995. McNamara disclosed that by 1967 he had deep misgivings about Vietnam — by then he had lost faith in America's capacity to prevail over a guerrilla insurgency that had driven the French from the same jungled countryside.

Despite those doubts, he had continued to express public confidence that the application of enough American firepower would cause the Communists to make peace. In that period, the number of U.S. casualties — dead, missing and wounded — went from 7,466 to over 100,000.

"We of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations acted according to what we thought were the principles and traditions of our country. But we were wrong. We were terribly wrong," McNamara, then 78, told The Associated Press in an interview ahead of the book's release.

The best-selling mea culpa renewed the national debate about the war and prompted bitter criticism against its author. "Where was he when we needed him?" a Boston Globe editorial asked. A New York Times editorial referred to McNamara as offering the war's dead only a "prime-time apology and stale tears, three decades late."

McNamara wrote that he and others had not asked the five most basic questions: "Was it true that the fall of South Vietnam would trigger the fall of all Southeast Asia? Would that constitute a grave threat to the West's security? What kind of war — conventional or guerrilla — might develop? Could we win it with U.S. troops fighting alongside the South Vietnamese? Should we not know the answers to all these questions before deciding whether to commit troops?

He discussed similar themes in the 2003 documentary "The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara." With the U.S. in the first year of the war in Iraq, it became a popular and timely art-house attraction and won the Oscar for best documentary feature.

The Iraq war, with its similarities to Vietnam, at times brought up McNamara's name, in many cases in comparison with another unpopular defense secretary, Donald H. Rumsfeld. McNamara was among former secretaries of defense and state who met twice with President Bush in 2006 to discuss Iraq war policies.

In the Kennedy administration, McNamara was a key figure in both the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion of April 1961 and the Cuban missile crisis 18 months later. The crisis was the closest the world came to a nuclear confrontation between the Soviet Union and the United States.

McNamara served as the World Bank president for 12 years. He tripled its loans to developing countries and changed its emphasis from grandiose industrial projects to rural development.

After retiring in 1981, he championed the causes of nuclear disarmament and aid by the richest nation for the world's poorest. He became a global elder statesman.

McNamara's trademarks were his rimless glasses and slicked down hair and his reliance on quantitative analysis to reach conclusions, calmly promulgated in a husky voice.

Shooting unveils very different sides of McNair

Steve McNair earned the respect of his fellow NFL players for shaking off defenders and injuries. That same blue-collar playing style won the love of fans amazed at how the quarterback kept showing up for work — and winning.

He endeared himself more with his charity work. Not just from the checks he handed out, but for throwing himself into the efforts, like he did when loading boxes onto tractor-trailers bound for Hurricane Katrina victims.

Publicly, McNair was a happily married man and proud father of four sons who split his time between his Mississippi farm and a home in Music City, where celebrities are cherished, not hassled.

But when he was found shot to death on the Fourth of July with his 20-year-old girlfriend dead nearby, a darker side of his private life was suddenly thrust into the spotlight.

"People have certain things that they do in life," said McNair's longtime friend Robert Gaddy, who called 911. "We don't need to look on the situation at this time (but) on the fact we just lost a great member of society."

Even McNair's longtime agent said he didn't know about the former quarterback's relationship with Saleh Kazemi until news broke of the deaths. Now police call McNair the victim of homicide, though they aren't yet ready to label Kazemi's death a suicide despite her single bullet wound to the head.

"As good as he was on the football field, that couldn't touch the person," agent Bus Cook said Sunday, still shaken by McNair's death. "I mean it just couldn't."

Hints of a problem with alcohol surfaced in May 2003 when a Nashville cop pulled McNair over on suspicion of drunk driving. Police said the quarterback's blood alcohol content was .18 percent — well over Tennessee's legal limit. He also was charged for having a 9mm weapon with him, but all the charges were later dropped.

McNair was charged with drunken driving in 2007 because he let his brother-in-law drive his pickup truck. Those charges were later dropped when the DUI charge against the brother-in-law was reduced to reckless driving.

And McNair could have been charged again Thursday night when the same officer who arrested him in 2003 stopped a 2007 Cadillac Escalade driven by Kazemi and registered to both her and McNair. Kazemi was arrested on a DUI charge, and he was allowed to leave in a taxi.

Dr. Sherry Blake, a clinical psychologist who practices in the Atlanta area, has counseled athletes and entertainers about the temptations of easy drugs, alcohol and women. She talked Sunday about the challenges even for those with strong family ties, though not about the McNair case specifically.

"Individuals can't get enough of the limelight. It's easy to have people telling you how great and wonderful you are rather than otherwise," Blake said.

"The sad part is many times the public likes to be close to you not because of who you are but what you do."

Police labeled his death homicide Sunday, revealing McNair had been shot four times — twice in the head, twice in the chest when found in a rented condominium he shared with a longtime friend, Walter Neeley. Police found a semiautomatic pistol under Kazemi's body.

But police spokesman Don Aaron said they were reviewing every possibility, interviewing friends of both and an ex-boyfriend before labeling Kazemi's death.

On the football field, he simply was "Air McNair," a winner.

McNair still holds the NCAA's Football Championship Series (formerly Division I-AA) records for career yards passing (14,496) and total offense (16,823) from his days at tiny Alcorn State in Mississippi.

He played 13 NFL seasons starting with the then-Houston Oilers, led Tennessee to its famous last-second 2000 Super Bowl loss to the St. Louis Rams. He ended his career in Baltimore last season, after being traded away by the Titans after they drafted Vince Young as a replacement to the aching and expensive veteran.

A four-time Pro Bowler, he shared the NFL's MVP award with Peyton Manning in 2003.

"Many of our defensive players talked about what a huge challenge it was playing against him," Manning said in a statement. "He and I had some great battles against each other."

McNair never acknowledged any of his numerous injuries on the field, even in one game when the painkilling shot wore off before he drove the Titans to a touchdown and ran in for the tying 2-point conversion. Then he led them to the winning field goal.

Young called McNair, a father figure since Young was a teenager, "Pops."

"I hear his advice in my head with everything I do. Life will be very different without him," Young said in a statement.

McNair's friends want the quarterback to be remembered for his generosity. He gave away turkeys and checks in Tennessee, toys in Baltimore and paid for three football camps himself this year. Cook talked to someone Saturday who saw McNair cleaning up the field after one camp at Southern Mississippi.

"That was Steve McNair. That's who he is. And who he was," an emotional Cook recalled.

Cook described Mechelle, who married McNair in 1997, as "very upset, very distraught." Funeral arrangements could be completed Monday with some of McNair's family coming to Nashville to assist planning.

McNair met Kazemi at the Dave & Buster's restaurant where she worked as a server and where when his family ate often. The two began dating a few months ago in a relationship that included a vacation with parasailing. Photos posted on showed McNair gazing and smiling at the young Kazemi.

"She pretty obviously got mixed up way over her head with folks," said Reagan Howard, a neighbor of Kazemi's.

A man who answered the door at a house in the Jacksonville, Fla., suburb of Orange Park said it was the home of Kazemi's family, but said her relatives did not want to comment.

"We don't have anything to say, please leave us alone," he said.

The victim's sister, Soheyla Kazemi, told the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville that the young woman had expected McNair to get a divorce. "She said they were planning to get married."

Nashville courts had no record of a McNair divorce case, but a home he owned in Nashville is on the market for $3 million.

The real estate agent declined to comment. Her online listing for property described it as a "gigantic house" of more than 14,000 square feet and photos showed a pool, home theater, baby grand piano and ornate furnishings throughout.

Kimberly Hardy visited a restaurant McNair recently opened near Tennessee State University to provide healthy, affordable food for college students. The Nashville woman said McNair had been nice to her the handful of times she met him. She said she hated what had happened to him.

"But I do think that all the greatness he accomplished will endure forever," Hardy said.

Savvy Internet users defy China's censors on riot

Independent information about deadly riots in China's remote northwest filtered out on Twitter, YouTube and other Internet forums on Monday, frustrating government efforts to control the news.

The communist authorities who built the so-called Great Firewall of China raced to stamp out video, images and words posted by Internet users about the unrest on Sunday which, officials said, left at least 140 people dead.

Twitter and YouTube appeared to be blocked in China late on Monday afternoon, while leading Chinese search engines would not give results for "Urumqi", the city in Xinjiang where the riots occurred.

Traditional press also carried only the official version of events, which blamed the unrest on ethnic Muslim Uighurs.

But similar to the phenomenon seen last month during Iran's political turmoil, pictures, videos and updates from Urumqi poured onto social networking and image sharing websites such as Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.

In many cases, items were reposted by other Internet users on sites outside China to preserve the content, while Twitter helped link people around the globe to images Chinese authorities did not want seen.

A US academic in Urumqi appeared to break news about the unrest via Twitter, saying hours before the mainstream news organisations on Sunday night that security forces were blocking off streets in the city.

State-run China Central Television showed its first images of the violence just before midday Monday -- more than 12 hours after footage began circulating on the Internet.

CCTV broadcast images of a woman apparently being kicked as she lay on the ground, protesters throwing stones at police, vehicles on fire, and two young girls with bloodied hands comforting each other.

But its footage gave a different impression to some of the clips on YouTube that Uighur exile groups said backed their case the protesters were largely peaceful.

Footage posted on YouTube showed what appeared to be, at least initially, a peaceful protest, with men and women marching, chatting on mobile phones, sipping bottled water and raising their arms as they cheered.

Another video on the site apparently taken by low-grade video technology in Urumqi showed police in black helmets leading away handcuffed protesters.

Meanwhile some Chinese Internet users were able to express frustration at having their postings on the violence deleted. In one case, Chinese blogger Wen Ni'er reposted an entry on a Google site.

"Chinese mainland websites repeatedly deleted my post, which seriously violated China's law and violated my freedom and rights. I hereby want to express my strong disgust and condemnation," she wrote.

She had help from other anonymous sites based outside of China that were aggregating and saving both official and non-official materials about the incident, such as

"I saved them primarily because once the Chinese censors order a take-down, they might not be seen again. Indeed, since I saved them, many of these pictures were 'harmonised' and can no longer be accessed," the site's operator wrote.

Andreessen making leap from entrepreneur to VC

Having built and sold two technology startups for a combined $11.7 billion, Marc Andreessen is ready to take a stab at, well, finding the next Marc Andreessen.

The co-founder of Web browsing pioneer Netscape Communications Corp. and software maker Opsware Inc. is starting a new career as a venture capitalist with his longtime business partner, Ben Horowitz.

Their venture capital firm, Andreessen Horowitz, opens Monday with a $300 million fund earmarked primarily for startups involved in the Internet, software, consumer gadgets and data storage.

Like most venture capitalists, Andreessen and Horowitz are betting they will be able to connect with hard-driving entrepreneurs determined to shake up the status quo.

"We tend to be pro-megalomania," Andreessen said. "We are big fans of an inexperienced person who has great technology and wants to build a company while staying on as CEO."

Andreessen, who turns 38 on Thursday, should know the personality type. He shares some of those traits. He helped change the way people used the Internet by developing a graphical Web browser called Mosaic in the early 1990s and went on to co-found Netscape before he had turned 25.

After Netscape was sold to AOL for $10 billion in 1999, Andreessen had the audacity to start Opsware right around the collapse of the dot-com bubble in 2000. Opsware suffered through some rocky times, but it eventually paid off too when Hewlett-Packard Co. bought the company for $1.7 billion in 2007.

Horowitz, 43, played key roles at both Netscape and Opsware.

Those past successes made it easier for Andreessen and Horowitz to raise money during bleak times for the venture capital industry. With the stock market in turmoil most of the past year, few startups have been able to find buyers or complete initial public offerings. The adverse conditions have made it difficult for venture capitalists to make money from their past investments and discouraged them from financing some new ideas.

Andreessen and Horowitz, though, are unfazed because they believe promising technology faces less competition during recessions.

Their message apparently resonated with the college endowments, wealthy individuals and other funds that are investors in Andreessen and Horowitz's new firm.

It also helped that Andreessen and Horowitz have done well with their personal investments since they struck it rich at Netscape. They have invested in 45 startups, including the rapidly growing Internet messaging service Twitter Inc. Other companies in their personal portfolio include LinkedIn Corp., an online career-networking site, and Digg Inc., a service that enables people to rate news stories.

While co-managing the new venture capital fund, Andreessen will remain active in Ning Inc., which provides online communities for people with common interests. Andreessen, who has personally invested more than $10 million in Ning, is the company's chairman, leaving the CEO job to co-founder Gina Bianchini.

As venture capitalists, Andreessen and Horowitz expect to invest anywhere from $300,000 in incubating ideas to $15 million in companies that have been around for a while. They say they will advise entrepreneurs when asked, but won't make their decisions for them.

"We have done it before so we know a lot about the things that can go wrong" for startups, Horowitz said.

Amber Alert Activated for 4 California Children

An Amber Alert has been issued for four children in southern California

An Amber Alert was issued on Saturday after a 29-year-old man allegedly abducted four children at 10 p.m.

According to, the suspect allegedly abducted the children in Los Angeles. His name is Angel Samos who measures at 5 feet 11 inches tall, 220 pounds, has black hair and brown eyes and has multiple tattoos. The children are 1, 5, 6 and 11 years old.

CBS 2 reports that the man is Hispanic. He is also accused of raping his ex-girlfriend on Saturday before taking her and two children to a gas station. There, he tried to carjack a vehicle and reportedly shot the female driver.

Police say Samos allegedly abducted the two children and went to pick up two of his own, KNX 1070 reports. He is believed to be driving a 1991 gold and brown Toyota Previa with license number 5SEF614. If anyone has more information, they are asked to call L.A. police at (213) 359-8720.

Jackson family seeks delay in naming will executor

Michael Jackson's family wants a judge to delay a hearing Monday to designate two men listed in the pop superstar's will as temporary administrators of his estate so that they can look deeper into his affairs, a person close to the family said.

The family also wants the additional time to wait and see if another will emerges, as well as to accommodate Jackson's memorial service Tuesday, said the person, who was not authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity.

The person said Sunday that the family wants the delay in naming two men, attorney John Branca and music executive John McClain, who are designated in a five-page will filed Wednesday as administrators to shepherd Jackson's estate into a private trust.

Jackson's mother, Katherine Jackson, was granted some limited powers over the singer's estate days after his death. But because Branca and McClain are named as executors in the 2002 will, it's expected that they would be granted more authority to oversee Jackson's estate, estimated in court filings as being worth more than $500 million, in Monday's scheduled hearing.

Jackson's mother and those close to her want "time to further investigate the circumstances and individuals that were surrounding Michael Jackson during his final days," the person close to the family said.

In court filings, attorneys for Katherine Jackson ask Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff to delay naming Branca and McClain as the estate's administrators. Attorneys for the two men argue their appointment is crucial to controlling Jackson's diverse financial interests and its liabilities, which include refunds due on a series of London concerts that have been canceled, and several lawsuits.

The person close to the Jackson family said late Sunday that Katherine Jackson also wants the delay to see if any, newer wills emerge. An older will had already been presented, the person said.

"She wants to know what happened to her son before appointing individuals to take over his estate worth over a billion dollars," the person said.

In court filings, Katherine Jackson's attorneys state it would be "premature" to contest the 2002 will, but they also note that several wills may have been filed. The 2002 will stated that Jackson wanted his three children entrusted to his mother, Katherine, who has been named a temporary guardian until July 13.

Attorneys for Branca and McClain said last week they do not expect any other wills to emerge.

Monday's hearing will be crucial in deciding who takes control of Jackson's financial empire, which includes an estimated $400 million in debt. A judge on Thursday delayed a hearing on who should have custody of Jackson's three children, making Monday's hearing entirely about the singer's fortune.

"This is going to be a very important hearing in the sense of giving the public an indication of where the case is heading and what the judge is thinking about," said Lawrence Heller, an estate planning attorney for the Santa Monica, Calif., office of the firm Bryan Cave LLP.

Jackson's memorial service was planned for Tuesday, a day after the hearing over his financial affairs. Thousands of fans were expected to attend the service in Los Angeles, even though more than 1.6 million people registered to win the coveted free tickets.

Downtown hotels were quickly filling Monday and police warned those without tickets to the memorial to stay away. There was no funeral procession planned and the service will not be shown on outdoor screens.

Last week, Katherine Jackson was given authority over some of her son's possessions, including items taken from his Neverland Ranch that were slated for auction earlier this year, but not his finances. She had sought to control Jackson's finances and the estate of his children, but that was before Branca and McClain filed the will.

Beckloff, perhaps sensing a rift between the two sides, urged attorneys for Katherine Jackson and the two men to meet before Monday's hearing and try to reach a compromise.

No agreement between the two sides had been announced as of Sunday. Katherine Jackson's temporary control of the Neverland items expires Monday.

Experts say the Branca and McClain have an upper hand going into Monday's court hearing because they were designated by Jackson. In Branca's case, he helped organize one of the singer's smartest financial moves — acquiring a stake in the Sony-ATV Music Publishing Catalog, which includes music by the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond, Lady Gaga and the Jonas Brothers.

Branca also helped Jackson acquire the rights to his own master recordings, which include ample material for new music to be released posthumously.

Gaining even temporary control of Jackson's estate is key, attorneys for Branca and McClain argue in court filings, because they can begin tapping into the singer's earning potential by licensing "records, music, TV, publishing, pay-per-view, theatrical" properties.

Attorney Jeryll S. Cohen told Beckloff on Wednesday that the men also could minimize the loss of an estimated $85 million in ticket refunds required for Jackson's canceled London concerts. Randy Phillips, president and CEO of concert promoter AEG Live, said Thursday that the company has ample material for a possible movie, live album and other media that will likely allow them to break even on their Jackson investment.

A temporary administrator would also have the power to take over numerous lawsuits pending against Jackson, including a $44 million federal claim filed by former publicist Raymone Bain, two lawsuits filed by "Thriller" director John Landis, and another one filed by "Thriller" co-star Ola Ray.

Temporary administrators would also control 2,000 items taken from Neverland Ranch that were slated for an auction halted by the singer this year. The items, which include awards, clothing and numerous other unique items taken from Jackson's former home, were expected to fetch at least $12 million.

Obama's diplomacy to be tested in Russia

President Barack Obama's diplomacy is about to get a stern test in Russia, home of a wary public, a two-headed leadership and a lingering bit of hard feelings.

The president arrives in Moscow on Monday for a full-scale two-day summit, the first of its kind since the early part of the George W. Bush presidency. He is sure to emerge with tangible signs of progress — including another step toward the world's two largest nuclear powers reducing their arsenals — thanks to agreements negotiated before he shows up.

But what much of the world will watch for are signs of Obama's relationship with Russia's two leaders, President Dmitry Medvedev and his mentor, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Both sides are talking of improving their ties and wanting to show some early results.

The foundation set now could affect how much cooperation Obama gets in areas in which the U.S. needs help from Russia — chiefly pressuring Iran and North Korea to give up their nuclear weapons ambitions, but also in tackling terrorism, global warming and the economy.

"At the moment I think we are all moderately optimistic, both the Russian side and the American side, so far as I know," Medvedev said ahead of Obama's arrival in an interview with Italian news outlets. "I have heard what my colleague President Obama has been saying. And so we are very much looking forward to the visit of the president of the United States."

What Obama has been saying is that the United States needs to reset its basic relationship with Russia. As he told a Russian-language news channel in the days before the summit: "America respects Russia. We want to build relations where we deal as equals."

Yet he also caused a stir in Russia by telling The Associated Press last week that Putin has to learn that "the old Cold War approaches to U.S.-Russian relations is outdated." That only elevated the stakes of Obama's first meeting with Putin, which is set for Tuesday.

Russia and the United States have been allies and adversaries. Obama inherited more of the latter, with relations having tanked in 2008 over Russia's war with neighboring Georgia.

Obama got off to a solid start, though, with Medvedev during an April meeting in London.

The summit starts a weeklong trip for Obama that also features G-8 meetings and a visit with the pope in Italy, and a speech in Ghana.

He will be traveling throughout with first lady Michelle Obama and their two daughters.

Obama's mission in Moscow is two-pronged, divided over two days. Building ties and inking security and cultural deals with the leadership comes first. He will also devote a prominent amount of time to leaders of Russia's civil society to help those relationships, too.

There is plenty of room for improvement. Obama, who has enjoyed adoring crowds in travels across Europe so far, will face a skeptical Russian population, polling out Sunday shows.

Only 23 percent of Russians have confidence in Obama to do the right thing in international affairs, according to the University of Maryland's

Just 15 percent of the Russians polled said the U.S. is playing a positive role in the world; most said the United States abuses it power and makes Russia do what the U.S. wants.

Aiming to change attitudes, Obama will outline his vision for U.S.-Russian relations at a speech at the New Economic School. It is unclear how many people will see it. Russian leaders control the television outlets.

The dominant theme of the summit is security, and Obama and Medvedev are set to announce progress toward renewing a strategic arms reduction pact that expires in December. The eventual deal could cut warheads from more than 2,000 each to as low as 1,500 apiece.

Russia is also agreeing to let the United States use its territory and air space to move arms into Afghanistan for the forces fighting extremists there. That deal, a big breakthrough for Obama in dealing with a widening war, was announced before Obama's arrival.

The two sides remain in a stalemate over the U.S. pursuit of a missile-defense system in Europe. Obama's administration is reviewing the efficacy of plan, which Bush had pushed hard.

U.S. leaders have expressed hope of getting Russian cooperation on missile defense. But both sides have also shown signs of hardening their positions ahead of the summit.

The basic problem is unchanged: The U.S. contends the program is designed to protect U.S. allies in Europe from a potential nuclear attack by Iran, but the Russians see it as a first step toward a system that could weaken their offensive nuclear strike potential.

"We're going to have to work our way through that," Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told "Fox News Sunday."