Oscar Website Glitch Reveals Nominee Page One Week Early

Put this one under the category for award season bloopers. An apparent glitch on the website resulted in a test page going live a week before it was suppose to be published. Vanity Fair broke the news and grabbed a screen capture of the page that reveals “Django Unchained” as one of the first nominees.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is staying quiet and calling it all a “website glitch.”


Vanity Fair reports:

The Academy Awards nominees won’t be announced for another week, but according to an accidentally published test page on, Django Unchained costume designer Sharen Davis has already clinched a slot. “This is the third Academy Award nomination for Sharen Davis. She was previously nominated for Dreamgirls (2006) and Ray (2004)” the site said. While we feel sorry for the poor sap responsible for her inclusion—and while we won’t know whether she’s really nominated until next week—we had to tell Davis. c “Oh my gosh! I haven’t even lost weight!” Davis replied. “I never thought about an Oscar in my life. When they called me for Ray, I thought it was a prank call. I said, ‘Am I going to open the door and see one of those fake, standing Oscars?’”

Davis was similarly incredulous when the Tarantino camp approached her for Django Unchained. “Are you sure you want the girl from The Help and Dreamgirls?” she asked. Although the bold, bloody Western is a departure for Davis—“I don’t even like violent movies,” she admits—her admiration for Quentin Tarantino trumped her sensitivity.

Nominations for the 85th Academy Awards will be announced Thursday by host Seth MacFarlane and actress Emma Stone.

TAGS: Django Oscars

Bill Cosby and ‘Cosby Show’ Daughter Tempestt Bledsoe Reunite After 20 Years

Bill Cosby and 'Cosby Show' Daughter Tempestt Bledsoe Reunite After 20 Years

Jimmy Fallon orchestrated a mini “Cosby Show” reunion on Friday’s episode of ” Late Show with Jimmy Fallon.”

Bill Cosby appeared on the show to talk about his new book alongside actress Tempestt Bledsoe who was promoting her new NBC sitcom, “Guys With Kids.”

Inmate Dies in Arpaio’s Tent City

Inmate Dies in Arpaio's Tent City

The Associated Press is reporting Maricopa County officials say a 60-year-old inmate in Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s tent city has died from cardiac arrest.

Authorities believe the inmate died of natural causes but an investigation has been launched into his death.

Reporter Aurelia Fierros at published the inmates name along with more details of the incident:

Officers found Arthur Madril unresponsive in his bunk, at the Maricopa County jail, on Saturday.

Madril was in custody on a $4,000 child support warrant and had been booked into custody in September. He was on work release status, being able to work during the week and report to jail on nights and weekends.

The prisoner had returned to jail Friday night and was found unresponsive by detention officers in the morning. CPR was performed but a Phoenix Fire crew, pronounced him deceased.

Sheriff Arpaio celebrated Tent City’s 19th anniversary in August 2012. CBS affiliate KPHO reports there have been at least two other deaths in Tent City:

In 2003, Brian Crenshaw died after what was determined to be a beating by jail guards. His family sued and was awarded $2 million.

That same year, Phillip Wilson was serving two months for a non-violent offense and was attacked, beaten and killed by white supremist gang members. A suit was also filed in that death, but MCSO was not held responsible.

In June 2012, more than 1,000 demonstrators gathered at a rally to call for the closure of the sheriff’s complex of canvas jail tents. Organizers claim conditions in Arpaio’s “Tent City” complex are inhumane. Complaints include dangerous temperatures in the tents that rise above 125 degrees during the Summer.

U.S. Spends More On Immigration Enforcement Than FBI, DEA, Secret Service Combined

The federal government spends more on immigration enforcement than it does on the FBI, DEA, Secret Service, US Marshalls, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives combined, a new Migration Policy Institute (MPI) report released today finds. 

The report also found that more people are detained each year in immigration detention facilities than are serving sentences in federal prisons.

Among the report’s other key findings:

  • More than 4 million non-citizens, primarily unauthorized immigrants, have been deported from the United States since 1990, with removals rising from 30,039 in FY 1990 to 391,953 in FY 2011.
  • Fewer than half of the non-citizens deported from the United States are removed pursuant to a formal hearing before an immigration judge, with the majority removed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) via its administrative authority.
  • The nearly 430,000 non-citizens detained in the immigration detention system in FY 2011 exceeded the number serving sentences in federal Bureau of Prisons facilities for all other federal crimes.
  • Immigration enforcement spending has totaled nearly $187 billion in the 26 years since IRCA ($219 billion in 2012 dollars).
  • Spending on CBP, ICE and DHS’s primary immigration enforcement technology initiative, the US Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (US-VISIT) program, reached $17.9 billion in FY 2012. In comparison, total spending for all other federal criminal law enforcement agencies (the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Secret Service, U.S. Marshals Service and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) stood at $14.4 billion in FY 2012. 

“There has been an historic transformation of immigration enforcement into a highly resourced, robust infrastructure,” said Muzaffar Chishti, one of the report’s co-authors. “This modern-day system extends well beyond U.S. borders to screen visitors against multiple intelligence and law enforcement databases before they arrive and also reaches into local communities across the country via partnerships with state and local law enforcement, information sharing and other initiatives.”

In response, National Day Laborer Organizing Network attorney Jessica Karp made the following statement:

“With shrinking budgets and increasingly rampant civil rights violations in the name of ‘immigration enforcement’, today’s study is a wake up call to our legislators. That the US spent almost $18 billion last year to detain immigrants and separate families for violating immigration laws that are widely recognized as outdated and impractical shows just how far anti-immigrant fervor has gone in spawning backwards priorities in Congress. 2013 should be the year that the administration invests in public safety and family unity by disinvesting from dead-end programs like Secure Communities.”

The full report can be downloaded by visiting [PDF]

‘Girls’ Spoiler: Donald Glover is Lena Dunham’s Republican Boyfriend

'Girls' Spoiler: Donald Glover is Lena Dunham's Republican Boyfriend

HBO’s “Girls” series got a lot of attention its first season for having an entirely white cast of lead actors. The second season of the show that premieres this coming Sunday is said to include a bit more color.

Before the show premiered in 2012 the reviews raved about the show because “there was nothing else like it on TV.” The twenty-something creator of the show, Lena Dunham, was said to have created an authentic portrayal for and by millennials. New York Magazine said that for young people the show was “FUBU” (for us by us).

But in the end not everyone saw themselves in the show… mostly because it was so white.

According to early reviews of the second season of “Girls,” the series will include a romantic storyline between Dunham’s lead character and actor Donald Glover

The Hollywood Reporter’s Tim Goodman’s review of the new season of provides more details on Glover’s role:

Season two starts with a pretty big — and unexplained — jump. Hannah is now dating a handsome black Republican named Sandy (Donald Glover)… When Sandy calls out Hannah’s knowledge of race and its ramifications, she goes on a self-righteous, defensive rant, and Sandy says, “You just said a Missy Elliott lyric.” There are attacks on fixie bikes, rich white girls dating black men, iPad-using gay DJs, what constitutes a “pretty person’s job,” and the smug cynicism of youthful people who haven’t earned the right to it.

Goodman described Glover’s character storyline as a pretty big unexplained jump… which could mean his role may appear to be the token black guy on the show.

But we’ll have to see because Dunham has actually spoken candidly about the diversity in the cast and specifically spoke to tokenism in casting. Below is a snippet of a May 2012 interview of Dunham speaking to NPR’s Terry Gross:

“I wrote the first season primarily by myself, and I co-wrote a few episodes. But I am a half-Jew, half-WASP, and I wrote two Jews and two WASPs. Something I wanted to avoid was tokenism in casting. If I had one of the four girls, if, for example, she was African-American, I feel like — not that the experience of an African-American girl and a white girl are drastically different, but there has to be specificity to that experience [that] I wasn’t able to speak to. I really wrote the show from a gut-level place, and each character was a piece of me or based on someone close to me. And only later did I realize that it was four white girls. As much as I can say it was an accident, it was only later as the criticism came out, I thought, ‘I hear this and I want to respond to it.’ And this is a hard issue to speak to because all I want to do is sound sensitive and not say anything that will horrify anyone or make them feel more isolated, but I did write something that was super-specific to my experience, and I always want to avoid rendering an experience I can’t speak to accurately.”

We’ll have to wait till Sunday to see if Glover’s character comes off as the token black guy on the show but what’s clear is he’s definitely the token black republican. There aren’t too many of them in real life—this last election, 90 percent of the black vote went to Obama.

The new season of “Girls” debuts on January 13.

California Teens Respond to Newtown Tragedy in New Video

California Teens Respond to Newtown Tragedy in New Video

Inspired by the “Demand a Plan” video that features more than a dozen of Hollywood luminaries, California youth have come together to demand a “real plan” to keep schools and communities safe.

In the 60-second video, 33 California young people say more guns are not the answer to keeping schools safe. The teens in the video call for a “real plan” to end violence that goes beyond gun control and does not turn schools into fortresses.

“Don’t lock down our schools,” says one teenager in the video produced by The California Endowment.

The youth who took part in the video are leaders in The California Endowment’s Building Healthy Communities initiative, which focuses on improving neighborhood and school environments.

Django Unchained Action Figures Causing Even More Controversy

Django Unchained Action Figures Causing Even More Controversy

Quentin Tarantino’s slave revenge fantasy “Django Unchained” remained at the number two spot this past weekend and is on track to become the director’s top-grossing film in North America.

The film’s release came with a lot of criticism and new actions figures released alongside the movie are causing even more controversy.

Karu F. Daniels has a story on The Daily Beast that looks at the controversy the dolls have started:

“This doll shit is crazy,” talent manager, filmmaker, and fashion industry doyenne Bethann Hardison told The Daily Beast. “But Quentin Tarantino believes in what he’s got and it seems he is not believing anything less.”

After repeated attempts to get someone to go on record about the collection, NECA spokesperson Leonardo Saraceni declined to make anyone available, would not comment and referred all queries to the Weinstein Company. No one at the Weinstein Company was available for comment by deadline and no one responded to questions posed.

Admitting that at first glance he thought the dolls to be just a piece of memorabilia, noted black film critic Tim Gordon, also citing Jamie Foxx unveiling the trailer of the movie during the recent Soul Train Awards telecast, noticed “there were a lot of things that were done for Django that would’ve never been done for Inglourious Basterds … but people don’t speak up. People have gotten so — I don’t know if the word is comfortable or naïve. We just want to go along to get along and it’s very frustrating.”

There are eight-inch action figures with tailored clothing, weaponry, and accessories in the likeness of characters played by Foxx, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Leonardo DiCaprio, James Remar and Christoph Waltz. The dolls are currently on sale via and start at $29.99 and go up to $44.99.

And is exactly were some are taking their frustration with the action figures. Check out the review for the “Stephen” action figure below.

TAGS: Django

Arizona Woman Deported After Winning Casino Jackpot

Arizona Woman Deported After Winning Casino Jackpot

Mirna Valenzuela went to an Arizona casino, hit a $1200 jackpot and then got deported.

Yahoo News’ Odd News has the story:

Mirna Valenzuela took a trip to Tucson, Arizona’s Casino del Sol Resort with her daughter Zamira Osorio, and hit a $1200 jackpot win. But the lucky win turned unlucky very quickly when events led to Valenzuela’s deportation to Mexico. Federal law requires that winners of $1200 or more show identification for tax purposes. When Valenzuela presented her ID, casino officials suspected it was fraudulent, and called the tribal Pascua Yaqui police. After investigating they determined that the ID was valid, but that Valenzuela and her daughter were undocumented immigrants from Mexico. The mother and daughter were turned over to U.S. Border Patrol and arrested. Valenzuela was deported and Osorio was released under the DREAM act. Casino CEO, Wendell Long said, “We’re not here to deport people,” and that this is the first time since the casino’s 2001 opening that an incident of this type has occurred. Regardless, Zamira Osorio said that her family felt discriminated against and that Casino del Sol Resort should put up a sign that they don’t want illegal immigrants playing at their casino. While the situation is sad, Valenzuela is doing all right and her winnings are still at the casino, where she’ll have to claim them in person with a valid id.

Presumably, Valenzuela’s daughter is still in the U.S. because she was protected by Deferred Action.

Casino officials say their property is on a Native American land and they don’t enforce immigration laws.

“We strongly embrace our Hispanic visitors as well as all of our visitors and want to make sure they feel safe and welcome in our property,” Wendell Long, a Casino del Sol representative told Arizona’s 12 News.

Frank Ocean, Pot Possession, Black Men and the War on Drugs

Frank Ocean, Pot Possession, Black Men and the War on Drugs

R&B star Frank Ocean was stopped by California Highway Patrol on New Year’s Eve after officers observed his black BMW speeding on U.S. Highway 395. When officers approached the vehicle they found (and smelled) something else to charge him with.

“As the deputy approached the vehicle, a strong odor of marijuana came from inside the car,” said a sheriff’s department statement released Thursday. “Christopher Breaux, aka Frank Ocean, age 25, of Beverly Hills, CA, had a small bag of marijuana on his person. Mr. Breaux was cited for possession of marijuana and released. This incident has been forwarded to the Mono County District Attorney’s Office for review.”

The Associated Press quoted a California Highway Patrol spokesperson who said Ocean’s license was confiscated and a passenger who was traveling with him was allowed to drive the vehicle away.

Ocean didn’t seem too concerned when he took to Twitter yesterday, tweeting, “hi guys, i smoke pot. ok guys, bye.” (I should note he was also pulled over the day before for speeding.)

While Ocean may be making light of the situation, the reality is that men who have the same skin color he does are arrested at much higher rates than whites—even though federal surveys find that young whites use marijuana at higher rates than young blacks.

Ocean’s residence is in Beverly Hills, but next-door, the City of Los Angeles arrested blacks for marijuana possession at seven times the rate of whites, according to a study by the Marijuana Arrest Research Project for the Drug Policy Alliance and the California NAACP.

In June 2011, Akiba Solomon and Stokely Baksh created the infographic below that looks at how the drug war has been waged almost exclusively in communities of color.

Homicides Increase After States Adopt ‘Stand Your Ground’ Laws, Study Finds

Homicides Increase After States Adopt 'Stand Your Ground' Laws, Study Finds

A new study has found a 7 to 9 percent increase in homicides in states that adopt ‘stand your ground’ law. The study by Texas A&M economist Mark Hoekstra also also found the laws have “zero deterrence” effect.

The abstract from “Does Strengthening Self-Defense Law Deter Crime or Escalate Violence? Evidence from Castle Doctrine” is below:

From 2000 to 2010, more than 20 states passed castle doctrine and stand-your-ground laws. These laws expand the legal justification for the use of lethal force in self-defense, thereby lowering the expected cost of using lethal force and increasing the expected cost of committing violent crime. This paper exploits the within-state variation in self-defense law to examine their effect on homicides and violent crime. Results indicate the laws do not deter burglary, robbery, or aggravated assault. In contrast, they lead to a statistically significant 8 percent net increase in the number of reported murders and non-negligent manslaughters.

George Zimmerman, the man who shot and killed Florida teen Trayvon Martin is using the ‘stand your ground law’ as part of his defense.

Stanford law professor John Donohue interview told NPR self defense pleas are common in states with ‘stand your ground’ laws.

“I’ve been hearing from defense lawyers around the country that if they happen to have a criminal defendant in a stand your ground jurisdiction, pretty much no matter what happens, you can say, ‘Well, I shot the guy, but I felt threatened and had a reasonable basis for fearing injury to myself,’” Donohue told NPR.

You can download a PDF of the study from the Texas A&M website.

Fox Nation and Fox News Latino Push Different Spin on Immigration

Fox Nation and Fox News Latino Push Different Spin on Immigration

Media Matters points out Fox Nation and Fox News Latino is once again “selling different versions of the same story to pander to conservative audiences while simultaneously attempting to court Latino readers.”

Media Matter’s Hilary Tone unravels the latest Fox Nation/Fox News Latino contradiction:

Fox News Latino reported the story with the headline, “US Eases Path to Legalization for Some Immigrants, Keeps Families Together,” accompanied by a photo of individuals at a rally for immigration reform: FNL-2012-immigration.jpg

The anti-immigrant Fox Nation, on the other hand, posted the Los Angeles Times article with the headline “Obama Begins Amnesty Push” and the following photo:


When Fox Nation launched the Fox News Latino website in 2010, its leadership seemed optimistic about both websites playing nicely alongside each other.

“The launch of Fox News Latino creates an unprecedented opportunity to expand our reach by engaging the fastest growing minority audience and providing a unique platform for compelling and original content focused on the Latino community and the American dream,” said Fox News senior vice president Michael Clemente in a statement.

In an interview with Reuters Clemente downplayed difference in opinions on both sites.

“I don’t think there’ll be conflict,” Clemente told Reuters in a 2010 interview. “We will do what we always do on the news side which is to be very fair and balanced on all sides of the issue in our reporting.”

But the truth is when it comes to immigration issues both websites often have different takes on on the issue. Another common contradiction over coverage is use of the word “illegal” to identify undocumented immigrants. 

The word illegal is an accurate description for actions, but not individuals,” explained  former Fox News Latino Managing Editor Alberto Vourvoulias-Bush in a story last year. “We don’t use it to describe people who commit other crimes. We write about unlicensed drivers, for example, not illegal drivers.”

Fox Nation on the other hand, has a completely different take:

Youth Unemployment 11.5 Percent, 22.1 percent for Young Blacks

Youth Unemployment 11.5 Percent, 22.1 percent for Young Blacks

U.S. employers added 155,000 jobs in December and the unemployment rate held steady at 7.8%.

However, the jobs outlook for young people especially young black teens is bleak.

According to Generation Opportunity, which charts unemployment for Millennials aged 18-29, the general jobless rate for teens is 11.5 percent and a shocking 22.1 percent for younger black Americans.

According to a Generation Opportunity analysis, the unemployment rate for 18-29 year old African-Americans for December 2012 is 22.1 percent (non-seasonally adjusted - NSA); the unemployment rate for 18-29 year old Hispanics for December 2012 is 12.2 percent (NSA); and the unemployment rate for 18-29 year old women for December 2012 is 10.4 percent (NSA).

The declining labor force participation rate has created an additional 1.7 million young adults that are not counted as “unemployed” by the U.S. Department of Labor because they are not in the labor force, meaning that those young people have given up looking for work due to the lack of jobs.

If you factor in those young people who have simply given up looking for work, the jobless rate for teens would jump from 11.5 percent to 16.3%.

“Our leaders in Washington can continue to make it seem like things are getting better, but the fact remains that way too many young people are scraping by, falling further behind on their student loan payments, still living at home with their Mom and Dad, sending out hundreds of resumes, and filling out numerous job applications, all with little or no result,” said Generation Opportunity’s Terence Grado in a statement. “While seasonal hiring for the holidays has given some Millennials a job, these temporary positions are far from ideal as young people look to get into the game and get started in life.”

TAGS: Jobs

Philadelphia New Year’s Parade Mocks Indians, Native Americans, Blackface

Philadelphia New Year's Parade Mocks Indians, Native Americans, Blackface

The Philly Mummers New Year’s Day parade held in Philadelphia earlier this week featured thousands of performers dressed in costumes. The parade, which organizers believe is the nation’s oldest folk festival is now in it’s 113th year—and every year it seems to come with new controversy.

Making headlines this year are two performances: one performance mocked Indians and Native Americans and, another group performed in black face.’s Aisha Harris offers more context on the performance at the top of the page that Indians and Native Americans:

If you’ve never lived in Philadelphia, you may not know that every New Year’s Day—going back, in some form, for centuries—the city holds a carnival-esque event with roots in European and minstrelsy traditions. It’s called the Mummers Parade. And the 2013 edition, like many before it, has generated controversy. This year, the primary target for criticism (though certainly not the only target) was a musical skit featuring an apparently all-white group advocating against the outsourcing of jobs by dressing in stereotypical Native American and Indian garb. As Philadelphian Dan McQuade wrote yesterday, the event has always been deliberately subversive and provocative. But, as he himself asked, does that make this sort of thing OK?

theGrio’s Brittany Tom describes another performance that was a tribute to the “Minstrel Days”:

Joseph A. Ferko’s string band performance, titled “Ferko’s Bringin’ Back the Minstrel Days”, features a troupe of white men dressed lavishly in purple and pink clown-like costumes with red-painted faces and drawn-on exaggerated white lips. Both the performance’s title and the actors’ appearances not so subtly references blackface minstrelsy, a 19th century performance art where white actors would don makeup to portray offensive caricatures of African-Americans.

“What they’re doing is irresponsible and that it’s unquestionably inappropriate for contemporary audiences,” Guthrie Ramsey, an Africana Studies professor at University of Pennsylvania, told theGrio. “Ignorance is no reason to allow them to do those kinds of things.”

Junot Díaz: ‘You Need to Cultivate the Martí Mind’ [Video]

Junot Díaz: 'You Need to Cultivate the Martí Mind' [Video]

Pulitzer Prize-Winning author Junot Díaz was Bill Moyer’s last guest of 2012 and sat down for an hour-long conversation on the current state of affairs in the U.S.

Díaz discussed his personal history and straddling two cultures and discussed the United States’ past and future.

Moyer’s showed a clip of Díaz’s appearance at Facing Race 2012—the national racial justice conference organized by’s publisher, the Applied Research Center. He shared short clip of Díaz arguing we should all be more like José Martí, the revolutionary poet and hero of Cuba’s independence from Spain.

“You need to cultivate the Martí mind—the Martí mind is simply that as much love as I have for my own group I have for every other group. To take possessive investment in each other’s struggle, where whatever is happening to the gay community is happening to us, whatever is happening to the Asian community, that’s us, instead of commodified possessive in our identities we need to take possessive investment in our other community’s struggles.

You can watch the full interview in the video embedded at the top of the page or shorter promo clips below.

FCC Proposal: Limit Burden on Families From $1.2B Prison Phone Biz

FCC Proposal: Limit Burden on Families From $1.2B Prison Phone Biz

On December 28th, 2012, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed rules that could result in lower phone rates for prisoners and their friends and family members. The proposed rules would expand regulation of a roughly $1.2 billion market dominated by just two companies.

The agency unveiled the proposed rules to seek comment to establish interstate rate benchmarks, caps on rates and the end of exclusivity agreements with prisons.

In a report released in September 2012 FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn noted that in some states one fifteen-minute interstate phone call from a prison can cost $17.

In the latest update, Clyburn said those rates aren’t helping prisoners keep family ties.

“With seven hundred thousand individuals released every year from these institutions, it is crucial that we do whatever we can to strengthen family ties before these individuals return home,” Clyburn said in a statement posted on the FCC’s website. “One sure way to realize this is through the provisioning of affordable phone service. The overall costs of not doing so are too great, for those who re-offend place a substantially higher economic burden on taxpayers than any lost proceeds that would result from lower prison phone rates.”

Rebecca J. Rosen adds more context to the story at The Atlantic:

Nearly 10 years passed with no answer from the Commission, but on Christmas Eve a hopeful sign was produced: a “Notice of Proposed Rulemaking,” (pdf) the official declaration of a the opening of a period for comment before handing down a decision.

As plain as the injustice of these rates may be, the question of how to address them is not straightforward. How do you decide what constitutes a fair price outside of a market system? How do you then achieve that price? The Commission’s Notice lays out nearly 20 separate concerns related to just the rate-cap proposal, and then floats several other potential tools for bringing costs down (such as requiring some amount of free calls, with higher rates going into effect after the free minutes are exhausted), all with their own additional set of questions. The Commission asks for comments and data on each point.

“This is a first, but very important, step in addressing an issue that slowly made its way onto the national media’s radar over the past several months,” said Jamilah King, who’s written extensively about prison phone rates for “This is in large part thanks to the work of advocates, inmates, and their families who’ve said loud and clear: people behind bars are already doing their time, and their families shouldn’t be saddled with extra costs — especially when family contact is so crucial to rehabilitation.”

NAACP Checks Iowa on Felony Disenfranchisement Credit Check Rule

The NAACP made progress on the felony disenfranchisement front when it convinced Iowa’s governor Terry Brandstad to lighten up his requirements for voting rights restoration for the formerly incarcerated.

Iowa is one of three states that permanently removes voting rights from people formerly incarcerated for felonies. Each has a process for restoring rights to citizens returning from prison, but Iowa’s credit check provision — where former inmates must submit a credit history report for restoration consideration — was one of the most forbidding policies of any state’s restoration requirements.

After meeting with NAACP leaders late last year, Gov. Brandstad has agreed to streamline the restoration process, including removing the credit check policy. Brandstad also committed to simplifying restoration instructions and streamlining the application process.

“We are pleased that Governor Brandstad has responded to our request and the and the requests of his constituency to review the policy and make the necessary changes, ” said Arnold Woods, President of the NAACP Iowa and Nebraska State Conference.

“A streamlined application is a good first step. We will continue fighting for every Iowan’s right to vote to be fully respected,” said Benjamin Todd Jealous, President & CEO of the NAACP. “Any American who has committed a crime and served their time behind bars should be allowed to vote upon their release. It is a step in the right direction for them, and for our country.”

The NAACP is still pushing for automatic voting rights restoration for those released from prison, as it is in Virginia and Florida. But Iowa still isn’t hearing that right now.

“When an individual commits a felony, it is fair they earn their rights back by paying restitution to their victim, court costs, and fines,” said Gov. Branstad. “Iowa has a good and fair policy on the restoration of rights for convicted felons, and to automatically restore the right to vote without requiring the completion of the responsibilities associated with the criminal conviction would damage the balance between the rights and responsibility of citizens.”

Al Jazeera Acquires Current TV; Time Warner Cable Drops Network

Al Jazeera Acquires Current TV; Time Warner Cable Drops Network

Current TV, the struggling cable news network co-founded by former Vice President Al Gore, has been sold to Qatar-based Al Jazeera. The sale is reportedly valued at close to $500 million.

“By acquiring Current TV, Al Jazeera will significantly expand our existing distribution footprint in the U.S., as well as increase our newsgathering and reporting efforts in America,” Ahmed bin Jassim Al Thani, director general of Al Jazeera, said in a statement.

Al Jazeera said it will shutter Current and create a New York-based network. Al Jazeera, which is financed by the government of Qatar, said it plans to expand its presence in the U.S., opening new bureaus and doubling its staff to 300 employees.

As HuffPo’s Michael Calderone reported:

Joel Hyatt, who co-founded Current TV with former Vice President Al Gore, told staff in a Wednesday night memo that Time Warner Cable “did not consent to the sale to Al Jazeera.”

“Consequently, Current will no longer be carried on TWC,” Hyatt wrote. “This is unfortunate, but I am confident that Al Jazeera America will earn significant additional carriage in the months and years ahead.”

“Our agreement with Current has been terminated and we will no longer be carrying the service,” TWC said in a statement. “We are removing the service as quickly as possible.”

The Hollywood Reporter notes other operators are said to be exploring options to drop the channel.

The new channel dubbed Al Jazeera America will soon be available in 40 million households. The network could have reached an additional 12 million homes with the Time Warner Cable.

Yes, ‘All My Babies’ Mamas’ Looks Awful — But That’s Not the Whole Point

Yes, 'All My Babies' Mamas' Looks Awful -- But That's Not the Whole Point

Just in case you needed a new reality TV show to loathe, there’s this: Oxygen Network’s “All My Babies’ Mamas.” The show is set to debut later this spring and stars the rapper Shawty Lo (of ‘Laffy Taffy’ fame) and his encounters with the various mothers of ten children. Folks are pissed — and now there’s an online petition aimed to stopping the show before it starts.

An online petition started by has gathered close to 4,000 signatures. According to Sabrina Lamb, the petition’s author, the effort’s focus is clear: “By pushing these degrading images, your company seeks to profit from the humiliation of girls and women and the blatant stereotyping of African-Americans,” Lamb writes in the petition.

“We think Oxygen and the show’s creators and producers have gone too far and if this show is aired, we will, without hesitation, boycott any and all companies that advertise during this minstrel show.”

Controversy over the show has been swirling in recent weeks. Some of the most damning criticism came just after the New Year from Nick Chiles over at My Brown Baby:

It must be so easy, sitting in a cushy office somewhere in Los Angeles or Manhattan, to glibly nod yes on the decision to profit off the exploitation of the ignorance that poverty and oppression produced. Of course it’s even easier when it’s some unfortunate black wretches, whose lives are so far from the good-white-folks gentility of these producers, Liz Gateley and Tony DiSanto, and the executive Cori Abraham. So far away, so grotesque, so different, so damn entertaining—and if it happens to once again proffer to the world the handy image of black pathology as entertainment? Oh well.

New White House Rule Will Cut Extended Separations of Immigrant Families

New White House Rule Will Cut Extended Separations of Immigrant Families

The Obama administration kicked off the new year with new rules for undocumented immigrants applying for green cards. The updated rules, which don’t offer any new benefits to undocumented immigrants, are nonetheless expected to significantly cut down on the long-term separation of immigrant families.

Starting on March 4, undocumented immigrants applying for visas who can prove that separation from their U.S.-based family would cause “extreme hardship” can apply for a waiver to a three and ten-year re-entry ban and start their application process without leaving the country.

Prior to the announcement of the new Department of Homeland Security rules, undocumented immigrants applying for legal status who entered the country without inspection—migrants from Latin America who crossed the border into the U.S. without going through a checkpoint, for instance—had to leave the U.S. in order to take care of their visa application, and such trips would trigger a three and ten-year re-entry ban. Only after they had left the U.S. and were back in their home country applicants could apply for a waiver to those re-entry bans, but they would have to wait, outside the U.S. and away from their families, for that waiver to be approved. The waits could last over a year, according to the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

With the new changes, which will only apply to the spouses or parents of U.S. citizens, or, separately, minor children, applicants can begin their visa application process from within the U.S. Applicants returning to their home countries to finish their visa application process will be able to leave the U.S. without risking long-term separation from their U.S.-based family.

The move, praised by immigrant communities and those who advocate for immigrant rights, could affect some 1 million undocumented immigrants currently in the U.S., the Los Angeles Times reported. The updates were first announced last spring but were made official Wednesday.

Meet The Funeral Director Who Says He Can Make Your Worst Moments ‘Extremely Happy’

Meet The Funeral Director Who Says He Can Make Your Worst Moments 'Extremely Happy'

TLC is unveiling a new unscripted show this coming Sunday that follows a Dallas funeral home director that takes “home-goings” to a different level. The network will premiere the pilot episode of “Best Funeral Ever” this week and if the ratings are good they’ll order more episodes and turn it in to a regular series.

Entertainment Weekly has a description of the show:

At the Golden Gate Funeral Home, Dallas-based funeral director John Beckwith, with the families to create a central theme for a memorial and then throws a wild party.

Examples include a Christmas-inspired funeral complete with reindeer, elves and snow, and a singer known for his famous rib sauce jingle remembered at a BBQ-themed funeral — including live pigs, praise dancers, and a BBQ sauce fountain where loved ones dip a ceremonious rib to say goodbye. “We’re going to make these families extremely happy at the worst moments of their lives,” Beckman says.

One of the show’s producers told the L.A. Times the show is on brand with other TLC series that peek into religious cults, enormous families, unusual pastimes and examine little-known subcultures throughout the country. The network is home to other unscripted shows like “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” “Breaking Amish” and “Sister Wives.”

“We’re documenting what they do, and what they do so well is throw amazing home-going ceremonies,” Mike Kane, a TLC executive producer told the Times. “We love the fact that they’re bringing closure to these families. We don’t think there’s anything morbid about it.”

TLC’s “Best Funeral Ever” was originally scheduled to air on December 26, 2012 month but the network re-scheduled the broadcast in wake of the school shootings in Newtown, Conn.

The special will now air on January 6th, 2013.

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