Friday, September 25, 2009

Usher Donates $1 Million to the Launch of 'Powered by Service' - an International Movement to Seed Youth-Led Service Projects

Usher Raymond IV and Partners Launch International Call to Service at the Clinton Global Initiative Involving 5,000,000 Youth Around the World

Download image NEW YORK, Sept. 24 /PRNewswire/ -- Usher's New Look (UNL), a non-profit organization supporting youth to use their talents and become corporate and community leaders, today announced Powered By Service-a bold new initiative to rebrand service and fundamentally change the role of youth in communities. Powered by Service is designed to get young people in the world over-involved in changing the most pressing problems facing them and their communities --whether it be preventing malaria, stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS, ending gang violence or increasing access to clean water. The goal of Powered By Service is to mobilize over 5,000,000 youth in a global call to service that will ultimately touch the lives of 50 million individuals.

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Jay-Z To Oprah: Rihanna Can Be A 'Voice' For Domestic-Abuse Victims

Rapper also discusses his drug-dealing past, his marriage to Beyoncé and the N-word.

Jay-Z appeared on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" on Thursday (September 24), concluding a whirlwind blitz that's seen the two business titans visit the rapper's old Brooklyn stomping grounds, speak over the airwaves and have their conversation appear in the pages of O magazine.

"Here you go again, smelling good," Winfrey joked as Jay-Z walked on the set. The line was in reference to her call with Gayle King where she remarked after meeting the rapper she discovered how good he smelled.

"That's swagger," an audience member chimed in, drawing Jay's laughter.

The pair appeared at ease with each other as the talk-show queen asked the rapper about his drug-dealing past, his marriage to Beyoncé and his relationship with his father, whom Jay-Z had been estranged from before reuniting with him before his death.

They agreed to disagree over issues with the N-word. Jay-Z said people give words power, and as a culture, we can take that away. Winfrey steadfastly disagreed, saying for her generation, the word is loaded with degradation.

Winfrey also talked business with the legendary rapper, as they visited his Rocawear offices and discussed the careers he's helped mold.

When it came to Rihanna, Jay-Z explained that he had a talk with the "Umbrella" star following her altercation with Chris Brown. "It's one of those situations where she's young, they're both young," he said. " ... There's a contention of young people who are going through the same things, and no one hears their voice. She can be their hero. Or she can choose not to grow from this."

Study says NFL improves diversity hiring practices

A new study found that the NFL has improved its hiring practices to increase diversity.

The league received an overall B grade in the report released Thursday by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida. It earned an A- for racial hiring practices and a C on gender hiring practices. Those are the highest grades the NFL has received from the institute over the years.

"We are making progress, but we are certainly not content," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said. "We know we can do better and we are committed to improving."

The study analyzed data provided by the league on the racial breakdown of players and coaches and the racial and gender breakdown of team and NFL management and other officials.

The institute had not issued the league a grade on gender since it received a D+ in 2004 because the NFL had not provided the data. The league started providing data again this year.

The report cited "sustained progress" in improving racial diversity at the head coach and general manager positions. The 32-team NFL has six African-American head coaches and five African-American general managers.

Those coaches are Chicago's Lovie Smith, Indianapolis' Jim Caldwell, San Francisco's Mike Singletary, Tampa Bay's Raheem Morris, Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin and Cincinnati's Marvin Lewis.

Black lawmakers adjusting to political realities

WASHINGTON — The euphoria over President Barack Obama's inauguration is giving way to political reality for African-American lawmakers as Democrats grapple with stubborn challenges facing a long-awaited domestic agenda.

"There is more recognition that this president has been in quite a political battle this year and it's likely to continue," said a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Artur Davis, D-Ala. "There's certainly a sense of pride and accomplishment, but there's also a sense that gains that were hard-won can be easily lost."

Obama, who is scheduled to address the CBC's annual legislative conference Saturday night, belonged to the all-Democratic, 42-member caucus before winning the White House. The only senator in the group, he wasn't particularly active and isn't especially close to many of its members.

Questions remain about how hard Obama can fight for the anti-poverty, education and health care proposals that helped him win near-universal support from black voters. There also is a growing realization that he will likely face years of criticism — some of it motivated by race — over his administration's response to a sour economy and other issues.

Some in the CBC acknowledge Obama must govern more from the center to be a successful president. However, many of the group's more liberal lawmakers expect him to seize the opportunity created by strong Democratic control of Congress to push through initiatives that have long been blocked by Republicans, such as public health insurance and sharp funding increases for urban development.

This is particularly true as the economic recession takes an outsized toll on black communities.

"We want him to stand strong," said Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich.

In a conference call recently, Obama reminded CBC members that most of them represent politically safe districts, and that Democrats must look out for the interests of vulnerable moderates to maintain majorities and achieve their goals.

The CBC conference draws thousands of elected officials, business leaders and other professionals from around the country.

So far this week, the White House has gone out of its way to reassure them that it is committed to generating new opportunities for minorities. Along with Obama's Saturday address, the administration dispatched a team of Cabinet secretaries to earlier panel discussions to highlight initiatives for creating jobs, improving education and preventing home foreclosures.

"It's still very early and people are hopeful that things will get done," said Valerie Maholmes, a behavioral scientist from Washington who was attending a Thursday session on rebuilding the economy.

Many attendees said they remain incredibly proud that the nation elected a black president and are optimistic about the future, despite the economy.

"I think for the first time probably in the history of America the black community feels they are in a position of power," said James Bryant, a union leader from San Francisco. "I think African-Americans think there is no more wall."

Bryant and others said they anticipated that Obama would face fierce resistance from the right. But some said they don't understand the intensity and sometimes personal nature of the opposition.

Is Honduras Heading Toward a Civil War?

Well, Carl, I'm afraid Act 5 is here.

When you and I wrote about the whole Honduras debacle back when it began in June, we both teased out the humorous aspects of this tragi-comedy: the midnight exile of the Latin American president in his pajamas . . . his little-engine-that-could vow to return from Costa Rica . . . Hugo Chavez stepping in as the heavy. Add to the mix all the racism, matrimonial dysfunction, big oil and imperialism circulating behind the scenes. As you said then, there was something for everyone.

But in the past few days, the situation in Honduras has gone from the absurd to the flat-out tragic. On Monday, exiled President Manuel Zelaya returned to his home country and took up residency in the Brazilian Embassy. By Tuesday, Honduran security forces had barricaded the embassy and cut off all of its power. By Wednesday there were widespread anti-"coup" demonstrations outside the embassy, with allegations of torture and even killings by the Honduran Armed Forces.

Although the curfew was lifted on Thursday, the conflict has already taken a huge toll. Economically, there are reports of looting and food shortages. Business elites estimated that the curfew cost the country $50 million a day. And then there are the alleged human rights abuses.

I think that two things are making this conflict particularly difficult for the American public to interpret.

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50,000 Muslims to Pray on Capitol Hill: Guess Who's Not Happy?

The event sounds like yet another Tea Party protest, or perhaps an encore of last weekend's Values Voter Summit: Devout believers joining together this Friday to pray on Capitol Hill for the soul of America.

Who could argue with that? Well, when the believers happen to be Muslims, and there could be as many as 50,000 of them kneeling to pray in Arabic, yes, you could see how there might be some blowback from the usual suspects.

Indeed, the online publication from David Horowitz,, sounded the alarm in an article Monday titled "Taking Islamism to the Streets," and the title of the "9/12 Project" post is simply, "OUTRAGED!" The writers at "Bare Naked Islam" are calling the event "disgusting" and "treasonous" and warn that "50,000 Muslims, terrorists, and terrorist sympathizers" will turn the Capitol into "a giant outdoor mosque." And Charisma magazine, a mainstream Pentecostal publication, quoted Christians in its account saying things like, "It is warfare time."

The most organized pushback so far is from a new organization of a nativist bent called Stop Islamization of America, or SIOA. It describes itself as a group of "scholar warriors/ideological warriors in the cause of American freedom and Constitutional government"-- and defines Islam as against those things. SIOA is using Friday's event, "Islam on Capitol Hill," as a launchpad for the group and to stage a counterprotest.

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How Internet surveillance, IT sleuth work helped indict suspected terrorist Zazi

The indictment of suspected terrorist Najibullah Zazi, who is charged with acquiring and preparing bombs similar to the ones deployed in the 2005 London subway attacks, rides substantially on Zazi’s Internet surfing habits.

Federal prosecutors say that Zazi was trained in Pakistan and shuttled between Queens, N.Y. and Denver in an attempt to prepare bombs. The Feds allege that Zazi was involved in an Al Qaeda conspiracy to attack the U.S.

As you read the indictment and order for permanent detention (also see FBI statement, CBS News) you can almost picture the various connected databases and monitoring techniques at work. Simply put, Internet surveillance and information technology sleuthing played a big role in the Zazi case. FBI agents arrested Zazi in Colorado.

Jeffrey Knox, an assistant U.S. attorney, tells the tale in the permanent detention document. Here’s a look at the key linchpins where IT crossed paths with detective work.

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Muslim Terrorism comes to Texas: Jihadist sought to bring down Dallas Skyscraper with Car Bomb

From Eric Dondero, Houston:

In what may be the first attempted Islamic Terrorist attack in the State of Texas, self-proclaimed Jihadist Hosam Maher Husein Smadi was arrested by the FBI today in downtown Dallas. According to various sources, Smadi was "attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction." His target was the Fountain Place skyscraper, headquarters for Wells Fargo Bank.

The arrest comes amid increased threat levels for a possible terrorist attack issued by DHS for New York City and other major US cities. It also comes one week after a major bust of a suspected Terrorist ring out of Denver, headed by Afghani Najibullah Zazi. The Denver suspect, an airport worker, had traveled to New York City the day before 9/11 2009.

From the Dallas Morning News:

Hosam Maher Husein Smadi was arrested in Dallas after authorities said he planned to commit "violent Jihad" in support of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. Federal authorities confirmed that Smadi had been under surveillance, after voicing his interest in "self Jihad" activities.

The FBI had been in communication with Smadi through extremist chat rooms, and police officials said in statements that Smadi had scoped numerous targets throughout Dallas.

“In the name of God, the Gracious and the Merciful, this is my vow to you, my brother, that I am ready,” Smadi allegedly told undercover FBI agents, according to The Dallas Morning News. “And if you were a lover of Jihad as I am, then, by God, I am ready for the Jihadi life.”
Smadi lived in the small town of Italy, Texas, 40 miles directly south of Dallas.

More information From WFAA Dallas:

Smadi planned on using a vehicle improvised explosive device (VBIED) to bomb Fountain Place at the end of Ramadan, which is September 20, authorities said.

With 60 floors, Fountain Place is the fifth tallest building in Dallas and the 15th tallest building in Texas.

Iranian Regime Admits to Second Secret Nuclear Facility

Yesterday, President Obama and leaders of the United Nations Security Council signed an agreement. They demanded a serious response from Iran over their nuclear program.
Today, the Iranian regime announced that they have a second secret nuclear facility under construction.
Reuters reported:

Iran has told the U.N. nuclear watchdog it has a second uranium enrichment plant under construction, a belated disclosure sure to heighten Western fears of an Iranian bid for atom bombs.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said on Friday Iran had revealed the existence of the plant to IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei on Monday, just as six world powers and Iran prepare to discuss its disputed nuclear drive on October 1.

The IAEA said Iran had told ElBaradei in a letter that the plant would enrich uranium only to a level needed to generate electricity.

"The agency also understands from Iran that no nuclear material has been introduced into the facility," International Atomic Energy Agency spokesman Marc Vidricaire said.

The agency requested specific information and an immediate inspection of the plant to ensure it was for peaceful purposes.
Today at the G20 Meetings President Obama and the leaders of France and Great Britain were going to accuse Iran of a secret nuclear facility.
It looks like Iran beat them to the punch.

Ginsburg released from hospital, back to work

WASHINGTON—Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who had cancer surgery earlier this year, planned a quick return to work Friday after feeling ill at the office and spending the night in a Washington hospital as a precaution.
The 76-year-old justice was released from Washington Hospital Center in the morning and said she would be at her desk by the afternoon, the court said in a statement.

Ginsburg became light-headed in her office Thursday afternoon after receiving treatment for anemia. Although she was found to be stable after an examination, the court said she was taken to the hospital as a precautionary measure. Ginsburg underwent surgery for pancreatic cancer in February followed by a round of chemotherapy.

A common side effect of chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer is anemia.

The latest health episode apparently began with an iron sucrose infusion that Ginsburg received to treat an iron deficiency anemia that had been discovered in July.

About an hour later, she "developed lightheadedness and fatigue," a court statement said. She was found to have a slightly low blood pressure, which the court said can occur after the type of treatment she received.

The July evaluation found "that she was in completely normal health with the exception of a low red blood cell count caused by deficiency of iron. Intravenous iron therapy was administered in a standard fashion," the court statement said.

Doctors on Feb. 5 removed a



small, malignant growth from Ginsburg's pancreas. Doctors found no spread of it elsewhere, the court said at the time. Her spleen also was removed.
She returned to work quickly and hasn't missed a day of work since. In March she said the operation had been "a complete, successful, surgical removal" of the cancer. However, she also said she was to undergo chemotherapy treatment.

Two months after her surgery, Ginsburg told law students at a symposium at Ohio State University that serving on the Supreme Court was "the best and the hardest job I've ever had." She said she wanted to match the tenure of Justice Louis Brandeis, who served for more than two decades and retired at age 82.

Ginsburg spent part of this past summer the way she usually does, teaching in Europe. This year's class was in Rome.

After the retirement in January 2006 of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Ginsburg was the only woman on the nine-member court until Sonia Sotomayor joined the court last August.

Nominated by President Bill Clinton, Ginsburg took her seat on the Supreme Court on Aug. 10, 1993. She had been a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit since 1980.

Mrs. Obama treats G-20 spouses to dinner on a farm

PITTSBURGH — First lady Michelle Obama shared her passion for eating fresh, healthy and locally grown food with the spouses of world leaders at a dinner Thursday on a working farm.

Rosemont Farm, just outside the city in Fox Chapel, belongs to Teresa Heinz Kerry, a local philanthropist and wife of Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. She is the widow of Sen. John Heinz, R-Pa., of the ketchup family.

The farm grows produce and raises chicken and cows. Some of that was on the menu for the private affair, which marks the first time the spouses of leaders of the world's 20 largest and emerging economies have met on U.S. soil.

It's also Mrs. Obama's first turn in the role of international hostess.

White House social secretary Desiree Rogers greeted each guest at the door of the home, then led them to a patio where Mrs. Obama and Heinz Kerry also greeted them.

The ladies ate at a long, rectangular table and were joined by Heinz Kerry, Rogers and Susan Sher, Mrs. Obama's chief of staff. Mrs. Obama sat between the spouses from Indonesia and Brazil.

Salad greens and apples from the farm were served during the dinner, although a detailed menu could not be immediately released for security reasons.

Mrs. Obama wore a sleeveless cocktail dress by Thakoon, one of her favorite designers, and patterned in taupe, pink and green. She accented it with a long strand of pearls, pearl earrings and pink patent leather heels. She swept her hair up into a fluffy ponytail.

In remarks before the group, Mrs. Obama complimented Heinz Kerry for providing friendship and mentoring during the long presidential campaign. Heinz Kerry was in the same position during the 2004 election cycle when her husband was the Democratic presidential nominee. He fell short of being elected.

Musicians from the Pittsburgh Philharmonic Orchestra's Jazz Trio performed throughout the dinner, exposing Mrs. Obama's guests to another of her passions, jazz music.

Mrs. Obama has been promoting locally grown food and healthier eating through a popular produce garden she planted on the White House lawn. Last week, she helped open a farmers' market near the Executive Mansion.

Mrs. Obama and her counterparts dined after she and President Barack Obama greeted their guests during a reception at the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Garden in Pittsburgh.

Dinner could provide the ladies with some sustenance for a more hands-on day of events on Friday.

The schedule includes a tour of the Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts School, where the group will visit classrooms to watch student rehearsals and take in a star-studded show featuring performances by students and such notable artists as cellist Yo-Yo Ma, country superstar Trisha Yearwood and singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles.

There's also a visit to the Andy Warhol Museum for a private tour and luncheon.

The spouses will get to try the silk-screen printing technique popularized by the late 20th century pop artist and Pittsburgh native, and peruse items pulled from one of more than 600 cardboard "time-capsule" boxes Warhol — who threw away little — used to store all kinds of papers, documents and other items.

Archivists already have found $17,000 in cash in one box, and, in another, a crusty piece of cake from Caroline Kennedy's 1986 wedding to Edwin Schlossberg.

Obama condemns Iran over secret nuclear plant

Tehran must let in UN inspectors, says US president, as pressure mounts for tough sanctions

Barack Obama has issued a strongly worded ultimatum to Iran after it admitted having a secret uranium plant that was revealed earlier today by US officials.

Obama demanded that the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) be allowed access to the secret site, which according to US officials is built inside a mountain near the ancient city of Qom, one of the holiest Shia cities in the Middle East.

"We expect the IAEA to immediately investigate this disturbing revelation," Obama said during a hastily arranged press conference at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh.

Obama, flanked by Gordon Brown and the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, spoke about a growing sense of urgency. "This is not the first time that Iran has concealed information about its nuclear programme."

Obama accused Iran of breaking UN rules and called on it to comply immediately.

Obama, Sarkozy and Brown all used tougher language than before, adding momentum to the prospect of new economic sanctions against Iran.

Sarkozy said Iran would have until December to comply or face sanctions. "This is for peace and stability," he said. If there was no change in Iran's stance "sanctions will have to be taken", he said.

Brown said Iran was guilty of "serial deception" and it was time for the international community to draw a line in the sand.

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