Ex-Chicago Public Schools CEO Indicted on Federal Corruption Charges

Chicago police have reported that Barbara Byrd-Bennett, The former CEO of Chicago Public Schools, was charged in connection with allegedly steering a $20.5 million contract and other jobs, to her former employer.

The Chicago Sun Times reports:

Byrd-Bennett — Mayor Rahm Emanuel's handpicked choice — becomes CPS' first CEO to face criminal charges in connection with her job. Federal authorities have been investigating the contract — the largest no-bid CPS deal in recent memory — for more than a year.

Receiving the contract in 2013 to train principals was The SUPES Academy, owned by former Niles West High School dean Gary Solomon and his former student Thomas Vranas. It generated controversy at the time because SUPES was not known for training principals while many other, respected organizations did that very job. The deal continued to draw criticism as some educators questioned the quality of SUPES' training.

Solomon and Vranas were also charged, as were SUPES and another company they owned, Synesi Associates LLC.

The feds allege that Byrd-Bennett and Solomon set up a kickback scheme, detailed in emails, in which Byrd-Bennett would get money in exchange for steering CPS contracts to SUPES and Synesi.

Byrd-Bennett also had accounts set up for two unnamed relatives, dubbed a “college fund,” where kickbacks could be deposited, the feds allege. While the indictment does not name the relatives, a source familiar with the investigation said they are Byrd-Bennett's twin grandsons who live in Ohio.

The money would be disguised as “a signing bonus” when Byrd-Bennett left CPS and returned to SUPES and Synesi as an employee, the feds say.

In an email that Solomon sent to Byrd-Bennett, he allegedly wrote: “Like we have discussed, we have created accounts that, upon withdrawal, we will pay down the taxes and distribute. You can distribute to [Relative A and Relative B] ...read more

Rupert Murdoch Apologizes For ‘Real Black President’ Tweet

NEW YORK (AP) — The founder of the global News Corp. media empire, Rupert Murdoch, issued an apology Thursday after he faced social media backlash following his suggestion that President Barack Obama isn't a “real black President.”

Murdoch was praising Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson and his wife on Twitter on Wednesday when he wrote: “Ben and Candy Carson terrific. What about a real black President who can properly address the racial divide?”

He also recommended a New York magazine article asking whether Obama has done enough for the African-American community.

Murdoch, who founded Fox News Channel, apologized Thursday and tweeted that he “personally find(s) both men charming.”

The 84-year-old Murdoch has praised Carson on Twitter before, calling him “irreproachable on background, achievements, character, vision.”

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Quvenzhané Wallis Lands 4-Book Deal With Publishing Giant Simon & Schuster

Talented child actress Quvenzhané Wallis is making leaps and bounds in the publishing world by landing a four-book deal with Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

Wallis' deal includes a chapter-book trilogy and a picture book to be released between January 2017 and Summer 2018, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The Golden Globe nominee's picture book will be loosely based on her life. It follows Shai Williams, a spunky third-grader who attends an award show with her mother.

Wallis, 12, was the youngest actress ever to receive a Best Actress Academy Award nomination for her poignant work in the 2012 film Beasts of the Southern Wild. Since then, Quvenzhané has starred in the remake of Annie, Twelve Years a Slave, and the animated film, Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet.

Wallis released a statement about her new project and hopes to encourage readers to tap into their imagination.

From The Hollywood Reporter:

“Reading is very important,” Wallis said. “It allows people to form a visual experience in their minds of what is going on in the story. I hope all readers enjoy using their imaginations along with me and take a journey into my books.”

Dawn Davis, vp and publisher of 37 INK, a division of Atria added, “The characters Quvenzhane has portrayed have an alluring mix of self-possession and vulnerability. We look forward to her bringing that same electric combination to the page. We also hope these books will help expand the diverse array of voices in the children's book space.”

Wallis is currently working on more films. Her next role will be alongside Russell Crowe and Aaron Paul in Fathers and Daughters. The movie is about a widowed Pulitzer-winning writer who struggles to find his voice after a mental breakdown.

Congrats to Wallis on spreading more Black Girl Magic!

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New Michael Brown Documentary Attempts To Find The Truth Behind Teen’s Slaying [VIDEO]

Ferguson, Missouri teenager Michael Brown was killed by police officer Darren Wilson on August 9, 2014, but everything else about his death has been in dispute ever since. On the eve of the wrongful death civil suit filed by his family, a filmmaker is attempting to come up with something that amy prove close to the truth.

In a new Michael Brown documentary Ferguson Cover-Up Jason Pollock, who is doing the film, says he hopes to find news answers as to what really happened on that fateful, hot day in August. Brown's death lead to the #BlackLivesMatter movement but many believe his family has yet to find justice.

The Huffington Post reports:

“As much as it has been dissected, I feel that it hasn't really been dissected. Everybody just talked about this case with just a few headlines and kind of ran with those. And then when the DOJ report came out, everyone just kind of closed the book on it,” Pollock told host HuffPo Live host Alyona Minkovski.

Pollock speculated that details surrounding the case had been misrepresented, some of which he says have caused a misunderstanding of Brown's character.

“If America starts to see what a beautiful young man Michael Brown was and how much we've been lied to about that and how everybody judged this guy based on a five-second video that they saw … that will help win the hearts and minds of people,” Pollock said.

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NBA Player’s Leg Was Broken In Confrontation With NYPD, But He’s On Trial

NEW YORK (AP) — A professional basketball player testified Wednesday that he was trying to give money to a beggar after a testy verbal exchange with a police officer when he was kicked in the leg and taken to the ground by the police.

The Atlanta Hawks' Thabo Sefolosha, whose right leg was fractured in the struggle, said he had been following police orders to clear the area after the stabbing of another NBA player outside a New York City nightclub but was singled out by a particularly confrontational and vulgar officer.

“I said: ‘If you saw me in a different place, you wouldn't say that. You're a midget,'” the 6-foot-6-inch guard-forward said of the officer, JohnPaul Giacona, who is 5 feet 7 inches tall.

Shortly thereafter, cellphone video shows multiple officers, including at least one with a baton in hand, surrounding Sefolosha and taking him to the ground before placing him in handcuffs and hauling him away.

Sefolosha, 31, is charged with misdemeanor obstructing government administration, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest after prosecutors said the Swiss national, his then-teammate Pero Antic and two other women repeatedly ignored orders to move away from the crime scene and off the block. He also was seen lunging at one of the officers before he was intercepted and arrested, according to court papers.

He has pleaded not guilty and declined at least two plea offers.

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Officers Involved In James Blake Arrest To Face NYPD Trial

NEW YORK (AP) — Two police officers involved in the mistaken arrest of James Blake, including one who allegedly tackled the former professional tennis player, will face an administrative trial after the city's police watchdog substantiated Blake's excessive force complaint.

Mina Malik, the executive director of the New York City's Civilian Complaint Review Board, said in a letter sent to Blake on Tuesday that investigators had substantiated complaints he made after his Sept. 9 arrest alleging that Officer James Frascatore used excessive force and Detective Daniel Herzog abused his authority.

Surveillance video showed Frascatore approaching Blake in front of the Grand Hyatt New York Hotel in Manhattan and grabbing his arm and roughly taking him to the ground. Police said Blake, who had ranked as high as No. 4 in the world before retiring after the 2013 U.S. Open, had been mistakenly identified as being part of a cellphone fraud scheme. Frascatore had mistaken Blake for a suspect who looked like him, police said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner William Bratton have both apologized to Blake, who has said he believes Frascatore should be fired.

The officer, who has been with the New York Police Department for about four years, had been named in several civil rights lawsuits alleging excessive force. He was placed on desk duty after the encounter with Blake.

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Obama Administration Takes Steps To Defeat Chronic Absenteeism

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration is appealing to schools to help cut chronic absenteeism by providing mentors and other support for students who miss too much classroom time — instead of suspending or expelling them.

It's one of the steps the administration outlined in a new effort announced Wednesday to keep kids from habitually missing school.

An estimated 5 million to 7.5 million students are chronically absent each year. Students are considered chronically absent if they missed at least 18 days in a school year — so nearly a month of school, or about 10 percent of the school year.

The Education Department says frequent absences can lead to school children falling behind academically and failing to graduation on time. To fight that, the department joined the departments of Justice, Health and Human Services and Housing Urban Development as part of a multi-agency effort that's offering guidance to schools and will see new statistics on the scope of the problem in early 2016.

Among some of the steps that schools should take, the agencies said, is to revise discipline policies to remove punitive consequences such as suspensions and expulsions for chronically absent students.

Instead, they recommend that officials take a deep dive at the school-level to see why these kids are absent so often.

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Win a pair of tickets to this year’s Steppin Out

Win a pair of tickets to this year's Dimock Community Health Center's popular Steppin Out on November 7th. These tickets are for general admission and include the headliner show with Chaka Chan. ...read more

SAY WHAT?! South Carolina Man Drunkenly Calls 911 On Girlfriend For Not Having Sex With Him

A South Carolina man was arrested for calling 911 on his girlfriend after she refused to have consensual sex with him.

The incident happened shortly after midnight on Tuesday, when Patrick Doggett, 53, began drinking outside of his home in Spartanburg, the New York Daily News reports. His girlfriend and her grandchild were in the home. When Doggett came back inside to demand sex from the woman, she refused, prompting him to call the authorities.

Man Arrested for Calling 911 Because Girlfriend Wouldn't Hookup: Patrick Doggett of Spartanburg, SC, was arres… http://t.co/bcQazcDy6u

— Elida Gorny (@ElidaGorny) October 7, 2015

Via New York Daily News:

As rising waters ravaged most of South Carolina, a love scorned South Carolina man found himself behind bars for a superfluous 911 call complaining “his girlfriend … would not give him any a–.” “F— that b—-,” Doggett allegedly told officers.

The woman wasn't physically harmed, but it's clear her refusal to have sex did expose the fragility of his masculinity…and a culture that often supports the idea that when men ask for sex, it should be given.

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Alabama Councilman Arrested For Assaulting Reporter [VIDEO]

An Alabama reporter was struck in the face after asking a Dothan City Commissioner about voter-fraud allegations relating to his 2013 election.

The Dothan Eagle reports:

Amos Newsome, 82, was taken into custody Tuesday afternoon at a residence on East Burdeshaw Street and transported to the Dothan City Jail for booking. He was released from jail Tuesday night on a signature bond.

Newsome struck WTVY reporter Ken Curtis in the face following Tuesday's Dothan City Commission meeting as Newsome was leaving to get in his van.

Video shot by another WTVY reporter showed Curtis approaching Newsome to ask him about voter fraud allegations connected to his 2013 election. When Curtis asked Newsome if he planned to resign, Newsome struck him with an open hand, causing Curtis to bleed on his right cheek.

Third degree assault is a Class A misdemeanor.

WTVY Vice President and General Manager Spencer Bienvenu released the following statement Tuesday afternoon:

“WTVY is extremely disappointed and horrified by the actions of Dothan City Commissioner Amos Newsome for his unwarranted physical attack on one of our employees. We understand that holding political office can be stressful, but that never warrants unwanted physical contact, let alone an open, public assault. Our employee was attacked in the course of doing their job, which they are entitled to do without the fear of physical violence. Freedom of the press is a guaranteed right, one that should allow us to do our jobs in a safe, non-threatening environment. WTVY intends to press charges against Commissioner Newsome, to ensure that no one else will be attacked in the course of doing their job. We're grateful for the relationship that we continue to have with the Dothan City Commission and our elected officials.”

Security camera footage from outside the Dothan Civic Center shows Newsome exiting the Civic Center at the ...read more