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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Breaking news: After tornado, stone age conditions exist in Huntsville, Ala.

(Photo courtesy of NASA Earth Observatory - April 27, 2011)

Relatives and friends in Huntsville, Ala. report the tornado which hit the Space Center town, also home of Redstone Arsenal, caused death, destruction, and damage yesterday.

Some have decided to leave the state and not return until electric service is restored. Those traveling to Georgia say traffic lights are not working until you reach Rome, Ga. which is 128 miles away.

Students at A&M University have been told to leave campus, even out-of-state freshman with no gas to reach home or the airport. Other students are calling the local radio station to match them up with households that will take them in.

Times are hard in this part of North Alabama, but many inhabitants are just glad to have a roof over their heads.

"It's like we're back in the Stone Age," said Robert McCoy who lives in North Huntsville. An engineer, McCoy is living without electricity and has no gas for his generator. "The only thing that protected us was the big hill behind our house," McCoy said.

His wife, Alice, who is a nurse at Huntsville Hospital, has been working non-stop. Nine deaths resulting from the storm's fury have been reported. The 2010 census sets the population of the Huntsville Metropolitan area at 417,593.

Mary Billings, a university student counselor, said Pulaski Pike near her home was "just terrible," but she was not leaving her house because of reports of looting. "We're riding it out," said Billings who has enough food and water but no electricity.

Her husband's cousin, who lived in nearby Harvest, Ala., was killed and his two story home destroyed. "His house was completely wiped off the slab, and only three front steps are left," Billings said. "Because of the gas situation, we may not be able to make it to his funeral."

Katie Morris, who works at Albert's Flowers, the family business, said employees and customers found safety in the flower shop's refrigerator until the storm passed. On the way home, Morris stopped at Costco for 30 minutes where customers were herded into the freezer for their safety.

"Landlines are down and cell phone service is sporadic," Morris said. "Bank customers are being allowed to get up to $100 from their accounts, only if bank personnel know them personally."

Most businesses are closed because power supplied by the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Browns Ferry nuclear power plant in northern Alabama has been disrupted. A few banks are working off emergency generators, and some customers have taken all their money out of their accounts.

"If you don't have cash, you can't buy anything, and if you need to get gas, you have to drive to Tennessee because the pumps here are not working," McCoy said. Both McCoy and Morris said city officials have predicted it will be five days before power is restored.

According to Wikipedia, a tornado is described as "a twister, cyclone or violent, dangerous, rotating column of air." A dusk to dawn curfew is in affect until further notice, and police are patrolling the streets.

©2011 Tomi Johnson. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Breaking news: Obama releases birth certificate

After so much controversy over his birth certificate, U.S. President Barack Obama has released it to the world.

The following message from Dan Pfeiffer, White House communications director, plus a copy of the birth certificate have been posted on the White House website.

"In 2008, in response to media inquiries, the President’s campaign requested his birth certificate from the state of Hawaii. The state sent the campaign the President’s birth certificate, the same legal documentation provided to all Hawaiians as proof of birth in state, and the campaign immediately posted it on the internet. That birth certificate can be seen here (PDF).

"When any citizen born in Hawaii requests their birth certificate, they receive exactly what the President received. In fact, the document posted on the campaign website is what Hawaiians use to get a driver’s license from the state and the document recognized by the Federal Government and the courts for all legal purposes. That’s because it is the birth certificate. This is not and should not be an open question.

"The President believed the distraction over his birth certificate wasn’t good for the country. It may have been good politics and good TV, but it was bad for the American people and distracting from the many challenges we face as a country. Therefore, the President directed his counsel to review the legal authority for seeking access to the long form certificate and to request on that basis that the Hawaii State Department of Health make an exception to release a copy of his long form birth certificate. They granted that exception in part because of the tremendous volume of requests they had been getting. President Barack Obama's long form birth certificate can be seen here (PDF).

"At a time of great consequence for this country – when we should be debating how we win the future, reduce our deficit, deal with high gas prices, and bring stability to the Middle East, Washington, DC, was once again distracted by a fake issue. The President’s hope is that with this step, we can move on to debating the bigger issues that matter to the American people and the future of the country."

A response from the "birther" movement is expected. Watch Obama's remarks at

Monday, April 25, 2011

Sai Baba, Indian spiritual leader, dead at 84

Sathya Sai Baba, the controversial Indian spiritual leader known as Sai Baba who sported an Afro and was often accused of sexual abuse, died April 24 in a hospital in Prashantigram of respiratory problems and multiple organ failure. His funeral is scheduled for April 27 when thousands of his devotees are expected to attend. He leaves a trust worth billions.

Born Sathyanarayana Raju in Puttaparthi, Andhra Pradesh, India, his birth was said to have been heralded by miracles. Baba, who gave gifts of jewelry, flowers, and candy to his followers, also contended that he never slept. It is said that he performed levitation, bilocation, and bodily healing.

"The body comes and goes, but the Atma (the higher self) is permanent. The body has birth and death, but the spirit does not have any of these," said Baba in an interview with J. S. Hislop in 1968.

Baba believed that the best medicine for humans was meditation and yoga. "For in meditation you first set sense control. And yoga will help you with the body. And when the mind is steady, concentration will come automatically. When you get such concentration, then you get peace of mind."

Baba, who died on Easter, claimed that Jesus was a poor beggar or sanyasi who traveled to India, Tibet, Iran, and Russia. Baba said Jesus taught that animals are taken care of by a divine power regardless of human intervention, therefore, people should be positive at all times.

"Jesus was showing that one can see the best qualities in even the worst situations. People who are saintly look always to the good and do not become intangled in the bad."

©2011 Tomi Johnson. All rights reserved.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Royal fashionistas: where do they shop?

(Photo by Tomi Johnson)

If you are a soon to be princess and wanna-be queen of England like Kate Middleton, you shop at Warehouse, Banana Republic, LK Bennett, and Whistles, according to The Telegraph.

Most folks with money, however, don't go "shopping for fun," and much of what they acquire is given to them or inherited.

They do buy fine jewelry, art, antiques, and real estate at bargain prices during economic downturns and getaway from the drudgery of everyday life by visiting exotic places or staying at faraway islands they own.

According to The Business of Fashion, more rich folks are shopping online, maybe because they don't want to be annoyed by the paparazzi or autograph hounds.

Not giving a breakdown of who spends how much online on apparel, The Business of Fashion says that of the unique monthly visitors earning $100,000 or more, 5.72 million people shopped online in 2010 at Macy's followed by Nordstrom, Zappos, JC Penny, and Kohl's.

And where do Barack and Michele Obama shop?
Donna Rico:
Couture Lab:
Hart Schaffner Marx:

If you're really a fashion hog and want to buy what is featured in W Magazine, Vogue, and GQ Magazine, check out their hard copy ads and go to those company's websites.

Here are some of my favorites for trendy yet outrageously priced items:
Emporio Armani:
Sotheby's Diamonds:
Versace Atelier:

©2011 Tomi Johnson. All rights reserved.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Commencement Challenge winner will host Obama

The White House is asking citizens to participate in a Commencement Challenge - selecting which high school should have the privilege of President Barack Obama giving the speech at their graduation festivities.

The six Commencement Challenge finalists include Booker T. Washington High School, Memphis, Tenn.; Bridgeport High School, Bridgeport, Wash.; High Tech High International, San Diego, Calif.; Pittsburgh CAPA 6-12, School for Creative and Performing Arts, Pittsburgh, Pa.; Science Park High School, Newark, N.J.; and Wayne Early/Middle College High School, Goldsboro, N.C.

For more information on voting criteria and to cast your vote, go to:

©2011 Tomi Johnson. All rights reserved.

Friday, April 22, 2011

U.S. executions up since 2008; Troy Davis could be next

(Photo of Troy Davis, awaiting execution in Georgia for 20 years. Provided by ColorofChange. His mother, Virginia Davis, died while napping earlier this month, some say from a broken heart.)

The death penalty, or capital punishment, was instituted in the Untied States as punishment for crimes and as a societal deterrent for committing crimes.

Since it was established, thousands of criminals have been placed on death row and later executed. Some have been saved by groups working to make sure justice has been fair and prosecutorial accountability has been rendered.

Some groups against capital punishment include the Moratorium Campaign (, People of Faith Against the Death Penalty (, (, and National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (

History of Executiions in U.S.

The first execution recorded in the British American colonies occurred at Jamestown in 1608. The crime: spying. Method of death: firing squad.

Other methods of execution have involved burning at the stake, hanging, electrocution, cyanide gas, and lethal injection of drugs. Some states have commuted the death penalty to life without chance of parole.

According to Wikipedia, "There were 37 executions in the United States in 2008, the lowest number since 1994...There were 46 executions in 2010, 44 by lethal injection, one by electric chair (in Virginia), and one by firing squad (in Utah)."

Troy Davis Case

Waiting for death by government sanctioned execution today is a long process, involving appeals, one after the other. Such has been the life of 42-year old Troy Davis, a convicted police murderer who was first sentenced to death 20 years ago in Georgia.

Throughout his incarceration, he has maintained his innocence. Former President Jimmy Carter, former FBI Director William Sessions, Pope Benedict XVI, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have asked for a new trial.

On March 28, 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Davis' appeal to prove his "actual innocence", and set aside all appeals. This means a new execution date will be set. Many groups are frantically waging campaigns to help Davis avoid imminent execution and find the real killer.

Do you believe Davis is innocent? Do you believe in the death penalty, and if so, by what method?

For more information on the Troy Davis case, go to

©2011 Tomi Johnson. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

FDA approves costly autoimmune disease drug

Genentech and Biogen Idec announced April 19 that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Rituxan® (rituximab) in combination with corticosteroids as a new medicine for adults with Wegener’s Granulomatosis (WG) and Microscopic Polyangiitis (MPA).

Both WG and MPA, forms of vasculitis, are considered extraordinary, orphan diseases with an estimated prevalence in the United States of approximately three cases per 100,000 people.

Rituxan® already is used to treat arthritis and cancer. The cost of a course of treatment with Rituxan® is approximately $5,000 to $80,000 with some insurance companies covering portions of the medical payments.

According to the Vascular Disease Foundation's website, "Vasculitis is an inflammation of the wall of a blood vessel, a tube that carries blood." This inflammation may result in vessel blockage and weakening of the vessel wall which could lead to an aneurysm and/or to hemorrhage or bleeding.

“For the first time, people with Wegener’s Granulomatosis and Microscopic Polyangiitis have a medicine that the FDA has approved for the treatment of these rare and relapsing diseases,” said Hal Barron, M.D., chief medical officer and head, Global Product Development, in a press release.

“We are committed to following the science and focusing on diseases of high unmet medical need, including orphan conditions. Today’s approval is an important example of how the scientific community can work together to advance science and treatment options for orphan diseases.”

Genentech, a member of the Roche Group (SIX: RO, ROG; OTCQX: RHHBY), was named to Forbes' "400 Best Big Companies in America" List in its January 2008 issue. Biogen Idec stock is traded on the Nasdaq as BIIB.

©2011 Tomi Johnson. All rights reserved.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Why are we killing ourselves?

The recent suicide of 25-year old Lashonda Armstrong and the murder of her three children brings to mind slave stories of black women who sacrificed themselves and family members in violent attempts to escape what they deemed were futile situations.

CNN reported that Armstrong was upset because she found out her lover had been unfaithful. It was also reported that before driving her car off a Hudson River pier, she told her children, "If I'm going to die, we're all going to die together."

Was this an attempt to not enter the unknown alone, or was she trying to shield her children from a male father figure and potential abuse? Or was this the frantic plan of an overwhelmed, delusional, frightened young mother who saw no other way out but death from where there is peaceful safety in the arms of God and no return ticket?

Armstrong probably was overwhelmed. She was in a threatening relationship with a boyfriend, according to her family. Another report said she had an argument with the children's stepfather. At any rate, the family had called police about a domestic dispute before the incident happened.

Armstrong was a student and mother of four: two were toddlers and one was an infant. Attending college is stressful in itself, but having a dysfunctional relationship with a man and four kids to raise is mind boggling! Her suicide proves that women are not superhuman, "I can do anything" divas who are unsnappable.

How does a 21st century suicide of an African American female model slavery suicides? According to a 2006 thesis, "African American suffering and suicide under slavery" written by Linda Kay Kneeland, some people choose suicide when they see no apparent escape from acute and prolonged suffering which may be a result of childbirth, raising children, attending college, etc., all of which Armstrong was undergoing.

Kneeland points out that these "are all forms of suffering individuals consciously and regularly undergo..." and even though slave suicides were rare, they often were the result of a beating. In slavery, "...their situation often had deteriorated below their expectations."

This may be happening more today, with the up tick in suicides among African Americans being fueled by a sense of hopelessness during an economic recession. Added to this is the stigma of mental illness which often goes untreated in the African American community. We must also analyze feelings of abandonment, mistrust, and guilt.

In 2007, the American Association of Suicidology reported that the suicide rate for African American females was the lowest of any racial/gender group. We need to compare these figures with those of today and renew efforts to curtail whatever leads up to self destruction.

©2011 Tomi Johnson. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

On this day in History...

Attack on Fort Sumter, S.C., starts Civil War - 1861

Fort Pillow (Tenn.) Massacre - 1864

Anti-Klan law passed in North Carolina - 1869

Students and grads scrambling for PAID internships and jobs

Summer is fast approaching, and December 2010 college graduates who have not found jobs yet are in competition with university students for available summer jobs. If you don’t network, know hiring managers, or have a good relationships with instructors or recruiters, your chances of finding a summer job or internship are low.

To make matters worse, some companies are offering unpaid positions to those seeking to gain work experience. “Why should we pay an inexperienced, 20-something year old when others will work for free?" said one hotel marketing executive who wished to remain anonymous. These types of unpaid jobs are not deemed "slavery" but are "volunteer" opportunities in exchange for experience - a present day apprenticeship without pay.

This is all happening 150 years after the beginning of the Civil War at Fort Sumter, when it was o.k. to have slaves as property. Now it's o.k. to have unpaid interns, and volunteerism is o.k. because folks looking for jobs MAY get one if they try out the job for free first. Amazing how an issue comes full circle.

Of course, the less your overhead, the more your profits, and some companies are opting to only hire unpaid interns which is very disheartening for enterprising youth who do not have enough money to cover car maintenance, gas expenses, or bus fare to go to unpaid assignments.

Companies and governments must realize that honor students and future entrepreneurs, who sometimes make the best job and internship candidates, are looking at assignments very carefully and are picky when choosing employers.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, "...the share of young people (16-24 year olds) who were employed in July (2010) was 48.9 percent, the lowest July rate on record for the series, which began in 1948. Unemployment among youth increased by 571,000 between April and July, about half as much as in each of the two previous summers."

For students looking for work in the Atlanta metro area, Watershed Management’s Summer Internship Program offers PAID summer jobs and internships; however, children of DWM employees will be given first consideration.

The program, which runs from May 26 to July 22, gives students real world experiences and provides a unique insight into operations in wastewater, drinking water, customer services and administration. Students must have a current transcript or proof of enrollment along with a college ID.

Interested students should review the project descriptions and complete an application online at For more information, contact Keyanna Howard at 404-865-8543.

The Georgia Department of Labor is also hiring college juniors and seniors and technical college students in their final semester. The year-round internship program will provide college students with practical work experience, an opportunity to earn school credit, and a chance to make up to $2,400 during the course of a semester. Interns will be assigned to state labor offices based on student interest and office needs.

For more information, visit the Georgia Department of Labor’s website, or contact Ms. Janice Reaves-Jackson at, or call (404) 656-2683.

©2011 Tomi Johnson. All rights reserved.

Monday, April 11, 2011

U. S. "Working poor" versus the "Super Rich"

The amount of people who are working but are still poor is increasing in the United States, according to the Census Bureau. In 2009, 10.4 million people living in the U.S. were considered "working poor," up 1.5 million from 2008.

One working person living alone and making just over $10,000 per year is considered poor in America. This could include making around $370 a week if a single person has spent 27 weeks working or looking for work.

A family of eight making at or below $37,010 is considered poor, and a family of three making at or below $18,310 is considered poor.

Here are some other characteristics of the "working poor":

* majority work part-time
* Black and Hispanic workers are twice as likely to be poor than Whites and Asians.
* Female heads of households were more likely to be "working poor" than male heads of households.

This is in comparison to the Forbes list of the nation's 400 richest Americans who all make over $1 billion each and are considered the "super wealthy." The top twenty billionaire list includes only one female, 91 year old Anne Cox Chambers. African American Oprah Winfrey is number 130 on the billionaire list.

Forbes calculates wealth by including "a price on all assets, including stakes in public and privately held companies, real estate, art, yachts and planes."

For more information, go to: and

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Sisters protest corporate exec's pay and human trafficking

(Photo of Salvatorian Sister Mary Leo - 1963, St. Joseph's Mission School, Huntsville, Ala.)

According to an article in Business Insider, Catholic sisters from four different orders are asking questions of Goldman Sachs: why did it award over $70 million to five top executives in 2010?

Goldman Sachs, a Wall Street investment company, was caught up in a financial scandal and agreed to pay $550 million to the U.S. government and investors in a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in 2010. Despite the debacle, the corporation's top executives were paid close to $4 million each.

The Catholic Sisters included in the inquiry are Benedictine Sisters of Mt. Angel, Sisters of Saint Joseph of Boston, Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, and Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia. The sisters all belong to organizations who are Goldman Sachs shareholders.

The Sisters are requesting Goldman Sachs to explain why the pay was given to the executives and have submitted a proposal through the Nathan Cumming Foundation, an organization "rooted on the Jewish tradition and committed to democratic values and social justice," according to its website.

Sisters are also involved in protests against human trafficking, and on January 9, local Catholic Sisters representing sixteen congregations in the Greater Boston area gathered to commemorate the fourth annual Human Trafficking Awareness Day.

Participants gathered outside the Motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Joseph for a prayer vigil. An estimated 850,000 people are trafficked annually worldwide, according to the U.S. State Department, 20,000 of them into the United States.

It appears that Sisters have come a long way in their campaigns for social justice since this blogger's experience with them as teachers in the 1960's when she attended St. Joseph’s Mission School, founded to serve the African-American community of Madison County, Ala. (Photo of Condredge Holloway, Jr., Joan Moses, Mary and Tomi walking from mass to St. Joseph's Mission School.)

In early fall of 1963, it became a focal point of "reverse" integration when twelve white students were accepted for admission. The event was noted for the initial integration of elementary schools in Alabama.

It was rumored that Father Mark, who was then the priest, and Sister Anthony, who was the principal, were sued over the desegregation of the school.

According to Wikipedia, sisters differ from nuns. A nun is a "religious female who lives a contemplative cloistered life of prayer and meditation, while a sister, in Christian denominations, lives an active vocation of prayer and service, often to the needy, sick, poor, and uneducated."

For more information, go to: and

©2011 Tomi Johnson. All rights reserved.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Professor Manning Marable, historian and political activist, dead at 60

After surviving a double lung transplant last summer, Dr. Manning Marable died April 1 in New York City from pneumonia.

He was a Professor of History and Political Science; Director, Institute for Research in African American Studies; and Professor, Department of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University. (Photos from Columbia University website)

In the early 1980's, Dr. Marable was a featured editorial writer for Reality World Magazine, a quarterly magazine published by Kurk and Tomi Johnson in memory of Evelyn Price Johnson of Lawrenceburg, Ky.

Below is a scanned copy of his remarks, "What is Time," from the first edition of Reality World Magazine published in Spring 1981 when Marable was a professor at Cornell University and a leader in the National Black Independent Political Party.

Although Marable supported Barack Obama in his run for president in 2008, in the 1981 editorial, Marable wrote, "Those who cannot create their own political party to pursue that 'dream deferred' WILL NEVER BECOME FREE."

Marable added: "Malcolm X told us that it was time for us to end our reliance upon the politics of the 'lesser of two evils.' " Before his death, Marable had just completed a book on Malcolm X (El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz) which is due to publish today.

Ironically, April 4 is also the 43rd anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the day President Barack Obama launched his reelection campaign.

Marable is survived by his wife, Leith Mullings, and several children. Our condolences go out to his family, the African-American community which has lost a great voice, and his colleagues at Columbia.

©2011 Tomi Johnson. All rights reserved.