Friday, December 18, 2009

Emmanuel Shahid Watson ben Avraham sniffing out Trenton mayor run

Staff Writer

TRENTON — He’s best known for doing little to get millions of dollars from the state, and publicly changing his name and religion.

But former Baptist Shahid Watson, now a Jew calling himself Emmanuel Avraham, is considering a run for mayor of Trenton.

Yesterday, Avraham said he has created an “exploratory committee” to look into a run for the city’s top spot. He said he tweaked his name a bit again, now going by Emmanuel Shahid Watson ben Avraham, to get recognition from those who knew him under each monicker.

Avraham has been all but invisible to the public eye since 2006, when the state threw out his company’s $1.5 million-per-year contract to teach “life skills” to the state’s inmate population.

He has resurfaced, sensing opportunity and saying there’s a building “buzz” behind his candidacy — while claiming he and his Life Skills Academy did nothing wrong.

“If I had done something as a black man in America and it was wrong or illegal, we would not be having this conversation,” Avraham said yesterday. “It doesn’t take this long for it to be uncovered.”

“If I had done something wrong, I would not be able to run for public office.”

His company’s contract was booted after it came under the scrutiny of a state audit that found it operated with little oversight and showed no evidence of actually helping inmates. The contract was not renewed after the audit, following 13 consecutive years of collecting the $1.5 million sum as the result of a no-bid contract. The yearly payment to his company, for some reason, was counted as its own line item in the state budget, instead of falling under the Department of Corrections total. It was the only contract found to have such a structure in any state department.

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Today's News NJ Book of the Month:There's More to New Jersey than the Sopranos

by Marc Mappen
In this lively romp through history from the primitive past to the present day, Marc Mappen's message resonates—There's More to New Jersey than the Sopranos. Real tales, wise tales, tall tales abound throughout the pages of Mappen's collection, filled with zest, humor, scandal, and occasionally tragedy. Providing a lens into American history through lively prose and more than twenty-five illustrations, this book is as much fun as a trip to the Jersey Shore and definitely more rewarding than a night home watching television— simply stated, this book is one you can't refuse to read.

Dr. Mappen has been described by the New York Times as “the eminent New Jersey historian.” He has five books to his credit and has more than 100 articles and essays in publications that include the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Rutgers Magazine and New Jersey Heritage. He has been interviewed on the History Channel and National Public Radio.

Dr. Richard Veit, Department of History and Anthropology, Monmouth University, has this to say about the book, “So you think you know New Jersey history? Well, think again. In There’s More to New Jersey than the Sopranos, Marc Mappen provides readers with dozens of fascinating Jersey stories. From long-buried mastodons to menacing Martians, it is all here. This book is a must read.”

Drunk toddler dons dress, steals gifts

Police found him sipping a beer and wearing a dress, roaming the streets in the wee hours after breaking into a neighbor’s house, drunk.

Hayden Wright, 4, was apprehended Tuesday night after the drunken spree during which he “pilfered presents” from under a neighbor’s tree and donned one, a brown dress. Wright then wandered around the neighborhood with an open beer ringing doorbells, because clearly this kid knows how to party. Police rushed the boy to the hospital, where he was treated for alcohol consumption.

Wright’s 21-year-old mother April Wright, who is in the middle of a divorce, says the boy was inspired to commit the crime by his dad:

“My biggest concern was him being out there, getting kidnapped, getting run over, the alcohol, having to have his stomach pumped.”

She added: “He runs away trying to find his father, he wants to get in trouble so he can go to jail because that’s where his daddy is.

“You can only do your best as a mother. The doors all had safety locks on them but Hayden broke one off.”

April Wright has since met with child protective services, who have allowed her to keep custody of her son.

Report: Beyoncé’s Mom Files for Divorce

After almost 31 years of marriage, the parents of Beyoncé and Solange, Mathew and Tina Knowles, have reportedly split up.

According to TMZ, Tina Knowles filed for divorce from her husband Mathew in Harris County, Tex., last month, in an attempt to end their marriage. The filings say Tina and Mathew “ceased to live together as husband and wife on or about January 5, 2009,” the exact day of their 30th wedding anniversary.

In October, a paternity suit was reportedly filed against Mathew from a woman named Alexsandra Wright, who claimed to be six months pregnant with Knowles’ child. It is uncertain if that led to their separation.

Mathew and Tina have both been instrumental in the careers of their children. Mathew runs the record label Music World Entertainment and manages his daughter Beyoncé. Tina Knowles is a stylist and one of the founders of House of Deréon, a fashion line she helped launch in 2004 with her eldest daughter.

Notable/Quotable: 50 Cent on Tiger Woods' Mistresses

"It's interesting when you pick your women in Perkins. That's why you get told on. What she tells ain't really her fault, especially when you didn't give her nothing and she's in Perkins. ...There's no respect. I guess a fear factor, you need a little bit of fear there. Women need to feel like, 'maybe he's going to snap, so I'm not going to say that.' Cause Tiger, there ain't no fear. They be like, 'yeah he left a message on my phone. He said he loved me and he was going to leave her.'"

-- Hip-hop mogul 50 Cent on Tiger Woods' taste in women ('Lopez Tonight')

Man Exonerated After 35 Years, Court Registers Epic Fail

James Bain is free after a thirty-five year oopsie with the department of corrections. From CNN:

After more than three decades in prison, a Florida man was set free Thursday after a DNA test showed he did not kidnap and rape a 9-year-old boy in 1974.

"I'm not angry," James Bain, 54, told reporters after a brief hearing in Bartow, Florida.

Bain was 19 when he was convicted on charges of kidnapping, burglary and strong-arm rape. He received a life sentence. He's going home for the first time in 35 years.

"I got God in my head," said Bain, surrounded by supporters and wearing a T-shirt with "Not Guilty" across the front. "I knew one day he will reveal me."


In 1974, the 9-year-old Lake Wales, Florida, victim had told police that his attacker had bushy sideburns and a mustache. After being shown five photos of potential suspects, the victim picked out one of Bain, the police report said.

The victim, now 44, lives in Florida and was made aware of Bain's situation, according to multiple sources.

Speaking to reporters Thursday, Bain said he was going home with family. "I'm going to see my mom," he said.

Read more on Bain's release at CNN

35 years? Mr. Bain is a verrrrry patient man.

Big-Time College Sports: A Waste for Many Athletes

It’s disingenuous to act like all student-athletes are created equal. There’s a reason why top top-tier men’s basketball and football athletes languish at the bottom of the NCAA graduation rates. College isn’t for everyone.

Considering the sordid underbelly and gross hypocrisy of major college sports—namely big-time football and men’s basketball—enjoying the action is a guilty pleasure for fans with any conscience.

So many (primarily black) young men … so many of them ignoring academic pursuit in favor of athletic exploits. All while administrators wink and nod, or simply look the other way.

That’s the perception and reality at the biggest and most successful college sports’ programs—programs that routinely populate the Top 25 rankings. And last month’s report from the National Collegiate Athletic Association doesn’t change a thing.

NCAA statistics show that 79 percent of all freshman student-athletes who entered school in 2002-03 graduated within six years. Federal statistics reveal a lower graduation rate, 64 percent, because they don’t include student-athletes who transfer and graduate from another school.

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1. Robert & Kristen’s Private Dinner Date 2. Are Kendra & Hank Already Thinking of Baby #2? 3. Elin Stays Strong for the Kids 4. Sarah Jessica Parker’

Oprah Winfrey was feeling very generous this year! The daytime diva donated $1.5 million to a private middle school in inner-city Atalanta, the Associated Press reports.

The Ron Clark Academy announced the donation on Thursday. Ron Clark Academy has struggled to raise money this year during the difficult economic time in order to pay for its $2.8 million operating bunch, bankrolled by donors.

The school sits in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods and is hoping to expand its campus by building a cafeteria, gymnasium and theater.

The school’s founder, Ron Clark, has been on Oprah’s show twice and last December Oprah donated $365,000 to the school.

Oprah should consider a name change to Santa Claus!

NASIRIYAH, Iraq (AFP) - Iranian forces took control of a southern Iraqi oil well in a disputed section of the border on Friday, US and Iraqi officials

"There has been no violence related to this incident and we trust this will be resolved through peaceful diplomacy between the governments of Iraq and Iran," a US military spokesman told AFP at Contingency Operating Base Adder, just outside the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah.

"The oil field is in disputed territory in between Iranian and Iraqi border forts," he said, adding that such incidents occur quite frequently.

An official of the state-owned South Oil Company in the southeastern city of Amara west of the field said: "An Iranian force arrived at the field early this morning (Friday).

"It took control of Well 4 and raised the Iranian flag even though the well lies in Iraqi territory," the official added, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"An oil ministry delegation is to travel to the area on Saturday to assess the situation."

Well 4 lies in the Fauqa Field, part of a cluster of fields Iraq unsuccessfully put up for auction to oil majors in June. The field has estimated reserves of 1.55 million barrels.

Iran has prevented Iraqi oil officials from reaching the well in the past, an oil industry source said. The Iraqis have accused Iran of firing on their people, something Tehran has denied.

There have been a number of meetings in recent years aimed at reaching agreement on border fields, so far without success.

President Clinton on Health Reform: "America Stands at a Historic Crossroads"

President Bill Clinton gave his two cents on the Senate's health care reform bill today. His message: it will be a "colossal blunder" if health reform falls apart amid liberal opposition to the Senate bill.

Clinton, of course, is the last American president to try to overhaul the nation's health care system, and many contrasts have been drawn between his approach and Obama's--most notably, Obama's decision to let Congress hammer out the specifics of reform packages.

Clinton is a centrist Democrat, so his stance is not necessarily surprising: the hue and cry over the Senate bill has come from progressives in Congress and at prominent labor unions and interest groups based in Washington, who are outraged that Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) succeeded in stripping the provision to let 55-64 year-olds buy coverage through Medicare, which was the last remnant of anything resembling public option in the Senate bill.

For Clinton, however, that development is not so terrible that the bill should be abandoned, as former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean has called for

President Bill Clinton adds his voice to the current Health Reform debate:

At last, we are close to making real health insurance reform a reality. We face one critical, final choice, between action and inaction. We know where the path of inaction leads to: more uninsured Americans, more families struggling to keep up with skyrocketing premiums, higher federal budget deficits, and health costs so much higher than any other country’s they will cripple us economically. Our only responsible choice is the path of action.

Does this bill read exactly how I would write it? No. Does it contain everything everyone wants? Of course not. But America can't afford to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. And this is a good bill: it increases the security of those who already have insurance and gives every American access to affordable coverage, and contains comprehensive efforts to control costs and improve quality, with more information on best practices, and comparative costs and results. The bill will shift the power away from the insurance companies and into the hands of consumers.

Take it from someone who knows: these chances don't come around every day. Allowing this effort to fall short now would be a colossal blunder -- both politically for our party and, far more important, for the physical, fiscal, and economic health of our country.”

DC Mayor Adrian Fenty Signs Marriage Equality Bill (In A Church!)

Moments ago, Washington DC Mayor Adrian Fenty signed the city's historic marriage equality bill. Above, Fenty hands openly gay City Councilman David Catania the pen used to sign the bill Catania sponsored.

In a raucous signing ceremony at a northwest Washington church, Mayor Fenty officially legalized same-sex marriage in the District, distributing ceremonial pens among the Council members standing behind him. The law now will go through a period of review consisting of 30 days in which Congress is in session. If the law passes that hurdle -- as is widely expected -- the first gay marriages in the District could take in late winter or early spring of 2010.

The ceremony at All Souls Unitarian Church -- one of many in the city that supported the legislation -- opened with comments by Fenty, Council chairman Vincent Gray, and Council members Phil Mendelson, David Catania and Jim Graham. In his opening remarks, Fenty recalled that when his own parents were married, many states would have refused to recognize their bonds. Fenty's father is black, while his mother is white. "Today an era of struggle ends for thousands of D.C. residents," he said. "Our city is taking a leap forward." Sponsoring Council member David Catania (I-At Large) opened his comments with a little family history recalling how his ancestors had moved from Massachusetts to Kansas to try and swing an election and prevent it from becoming a slave state. "So there's a tradition of troublemaking in my family, and a deep and abiding understanding of civil rights," Catania said.

Chris Henry's Death: Loleini Tonga, The 911 Calls & The Regret

In April 2008 an Ohio judge called Chris Henry a "one man crime wave." It turned out the talented football player was innocent of the charges alluded to by the overeager judge. Henry was guilty of many other breaches of the law. But the public was always quick to attack the troubled wide receiver, regardless of how he behaved. Nobody is attacking Henry today, and for good reason. The 26-year-old phenom appeared to be turning his life around before he was thrown from his fiancee's truck on Wednesday. "Just at the time he was running to daylight," Bengals president Mike Brown said today, "his life was snuffed out."

Chris Henry – The 6'4" Louisiana native might have been too good for his own good. He was too talented to graduate, entering the NFL draft after only his second season on the college field. He was too fast for his frame, injuring his knee on a 66 yard catch during the Bengals first playoff game in 15 years. And he was too valuable to keep off the field, as Brown invited Henry back onto the Bengals just months after kicking him off for bad behavior.

Reaction – Everyone has something to say about Chris Henry. He was a special and oft misunderstood young man. Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer told reporters, "There was a lot of speculation about who he was, but the only guys that knew Chris and knew how good of a heart he had, how kind he was, how gentle he was... were the guys in our locker room, the guys who were close to him, his family." Bengals guard Bobbie Williams said, "Chris was responsible, dependable, loved football. He had made the changes he needed to make." Star wide receiver Chad Ochocinco, whose stats Henry padded by opening up the field and diverting defenders' attention, choked back tears in the Bengals locker room today. "He was doing everything right. He's been doing everything right," Ochocinco said. "I don't see how Chris was supposed to go already. Especially when you're on the right path."

Loleini Tonga
– Loleiini Tonga, or "Mrs. C. Henry" as she calls herself on MySpace, is the 25-year-old mother to 3 of Henry's children and the woman alleged to be at the wheel of the pickup that threw him into a North Carolina street on Wednesday. On Tuesday Tonga posted a message on MySpace claiming she and Henry had just paid for their wedding pictures and rings. A day earlier she wrote that her "WeDding dreSs is oFF da ChaiN." Today she is being investigated for inadvertently killing the man she planned to marry.

Chris Henry 911 Call – Two 911 calls were made in connection with Chris Henry's death. An unidentified woman following the yellow pickup allegedly driven by Tonga was the first to call. She described the situation as "a black man on it with no shirt on, and he's got his arm in a cast and black pants on." She continued, "He's beating on the back of this truck window... I don't know if he's trying to break in or something. It just looks crazy. It's a girl driving it." The truck then turned off the street and was lost. Moments later another call came in claiming a man in his 20s was lying in the street. He was "definitely unconscious" said the concerned citizen. Chris Henry was picked up by an ambulance shortly thereafter and rushed to the hospital. He was pronounced dead at 6:36 a.m. Thursday morning.

Obama Urges World to Unite Behind Climate Pact as Talks Falter

U.S. President Barack Obama joined world leaders from over 100 countries for the final sessions of the U.N. Climate Change conference in Copenhagen. As negotiations drew to a close, no new compromise proposals were evident and talk turned to forging a political commitment with details of measures to be taken left for future negotiations.

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the morning plenary session of the United Nations Climate Change Conference at the Bella Center in Copenhagen, Denmark, 18 Dec 2009

Addressing the gathering of world leaders President Obama urged them to put aside differences and agree on a plan of action.

"After months of talk, after two weeks of negotiations, after innumerable side meetings, bilateral meetings, endless hours of discussion among negotiators, I believe that the pieces of that accord should now be clear," he said.

The United States has spelled out its proposals for a plan to include decisive national action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, transparent standards to verify compliance and funding to help the most affected and poor countries adapt.

Mr. Obama offered no new proposals beyond those already on the table, including a U.S. commitment to reduce emissions by 17 percent by 2020 and by more than 80 percent by 2050 and a commitment to work with others to mobilize a global fund of $100 billion a year by 2020 to help developing countries.

President Obama acknowledged the plan will not please everyone, but would be a move in the right direction.

"We can embrace this accord, take a substantial step forward, continue to refine it and build upon its foundation," he said.

There was no immediate indication of further compromises, including from China on allowing outside monitoring of its emission curbs. The issue has put it at odds with the United States at this conference.

As they stepped to the podium, many other world leaders focused on steps their governments had already taken to combat climate change and stressed their commitment to continuing those efforts.

Some expressed disappointment that not more had been achieved. Among them Lesotho's Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisilli, who spoke on behalf of the least developed nations.

"To say that we are disappointed is indeed an understatement, in particular that after 24 months of hard negotiations and the intensive deliberations of this conference, an agreement could not be reached on a legally binding regime," he said.

After the initial session, opportunities for further discussions remained through the afternoon.

There was widespread doubt all along that this conference would be able to fulfill the hopes of those who wanted a global, binding agreement to succeed the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. There's been increasing talk of a political framework agreement here and tacit acknowledgment that further negotiations will be necessary to get beyond that.

African leaders Renew Call for Binding Climate Deal

On the final day of UN climate talks in Copenhagen, African leaders have renewed calls for a legally binding deal to fight climate change.

Sweden's PM Fredrik Reinfeldt (L), European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso (2ndR), Ethiopia's PM Meles Zenawi and AU Commission Chairperson Jean Ping (R) give a news conference in Copenhagen, 16 Dec 2009

Speaking on behalf of the G77 group of developing countries, Sudanese presidential assistant Nafi Ali Nafi pressed for world leaders to sign a legally binding deal to fight climate change.

"The developing countries have the most to lose if there are no concrete result of our discussions. We are therefore the most concerned that we arrive at a successful outcome," he said.

A legal deal would see binding cuts in greenhouse gas emissions for developed countries and a concrete financial plan on how to help poor countries deal with climate change.

But in the final day of the Copenhagen summit, most observers say a legally binding deal is an unlikely outcome of these talks.

Instead, they say, a more likely outcome would be a political agreement that would include targets for reductions in carbon emissions by 2020.

Friday a draft for such a text was leaked to the media. In it, one of the major issues was addressed - how to help poor countries deal financially with climate change.

According to the draft, rich countries will provide $100 billion a year by 2020 to help developing nations cut their emissions and adapt to climate change.

Speaking Friday, Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zinawi confirmed a message he made earlier in the week - that this sum is a fair one.

"We have the proposal that I made on behalf of Africa, a proposal that I believe is fair and just and do-able, a proposal that I'm convinced has the support not only of Africa and the developing countries as a whole, but also of many developed countries," he said.

But some African delegates and activists warn that a $100 billion annual fund won't be enough to help poor countries cope with the chaos climate change is already bringing to parts of Africa.

Robert Bailey, a spokesman for the aid group Oxfam International, says $200 billion a year is the minimum needed to ensure poor countries can deal with rapid environmental change.

And he adds that no commitments have so far been made about where the $100 billion being discussed will be found.

"There is not a clear commitment that this money is going to be public money that is going to predictable money that is paid from one government into a fund that can then be dispersed in an equitable and balanced way," he said.

The two key stumbling blocks at Copenhagen are climate finance and the extent to which countries will cut their green house gas emissions.

In 2007 a panel of U.N. climate scientists suggested emissions would have to fall by a minimum of 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 to avert the worst affects of climate change including extreme drought and flooding.

The offers of industrialized countries are right now falling well below that target, with the United States committing to around a 4 percent cut.