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The Black Church Matters To Black Lives

The tragedy of the loss of black lives to violent crime ebbs and flows into the nation?s consciousness.

The national media may pay attention to the murder of a celebrity?s relative, such as Dwayne Wade?s cousin being caught in a crossfire while pushing a stroller down the street. Just as a particularly tragic event, such as a toddler being killed by a stray bullet, may also merit extended coverage.

But that news cycle quickly gives way to other outrages, and the ongoing costs of violence in disadvantaged communities in cities such as Chicago recedes from view.

Yet one social institution remained in those neighborhoods when businesses, the middle class, and predominantly white religious communities fled. And that institution is making a significant difference, according to new research.

The black church.

A new study analyzing data from 733 U.S. counties revealed that homicide, robbery, burglary and larceny rates all decreased the more people in the county were active in black Protestant churches.

And where it can do the most good, the black church is doing the most good, the study found.

The protective effect of black Protestant adherence on violence and property crime was higher in areas with conditions such as low education and high rates of poverty and unemployment that are predictors of high crime rates.

Some may question whether the black church still matters, study researchers Casey Harris of the University of Arkansas and Jeffery Ulmer of Pennsylvania State University stated in The Sociological Quarterly.

?Our study suggests that lamenting the decline of the black church is premature,? they wrote. ?Not only does the black church still appear to matter, but it seems especially relevant in the most disadvantaged underclass communities featured prominently in public discourse.?

Faith matters

Harris and Ulmer said their study is the first of its kind to take a comprehensive look at the effect the black Protestant church has on crime rates across large numbers of black communities throughout the U.S.

They analyzed study data from the 2010 Religious Congregations and Membership Study, and county-level crime data from 2009 to 2011. The 733 counties studied encompass 80 percent of the black population and more than 75 percent of the black violent crime arrests in the United States.

The key findings include:

? Counties where black Protestant adherence was more pervasive had lower rates of all forms of crime. After controlling for other key differences across communities, homicides declined by about 2 percent for every 1 percentage point increase in the population of Black Protestant adherents. Robbery, burglary, and larceny declined by about 3 percent.

? The effect was unique to the black church. ?Indeed, our findings suggest not only that black Protestantism matters in black communities, but that other religious groups have few, if any, comparable effects,? the researchers said.

? The protective, negative effect of the black church on both violence and property crime was even stronger in communities with greater degrees of poverty, unemployment, female-headed households and educational disadvantage.

?Not only does black Protestant adherence protect against crime (particularly black crime), it also blunts the deleterious, violence-fostering effect of concentrated poverty,? the researchers noted.

Social bonds

The study methodology did not allow enable researchers to cite specific reasons for the relation between reduced crime and black Protestantism.

But Harris and Ulmer noted the findings were consistent with past research showing the impact the black church can have on the larger social environment of communities.

Several studies and surveys have shown black Americans retain remarkably strong levels of religious beliefs and practices. And that spiritual core is having an impact on community life in areas from health to economic empowerment.

Some recent studies also build on past research in revealing how this special faith continues to be associated with positive outcomes for black Americans amid the realities of discrimination and economic, political and social inequality.

As a crime stopper, faith may be particularly effective in building social ties and support, setting moral norms and investing communities with a sense of meaning and purpose that can reduce cynicism, Harris and Ulmer noted.

What did appear clear in their research is that the black church matters to black lives.

And particularly in inner-city neighborhoods struggling with poverty, crime and unemployment.

Ulmer said the black church might be ?one of the best community institutions? for addressing social problems such as violent crime in the black community.

If the black church moved out of disadvantaged areas, he said, ?things might really go downhill. That community might feel abandoned.?

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Usain Bolt Confirms That Unbelievable Rumor About Chicken McNuggets

Usain Bolt is the fastest man alive. Coincidentally, he also gives the world?s fastest toast. 

HuffPost recently spoke with the Olympian about his Champagne habits, as part of his new role as CEO ? chief entertainment officer ? for G.H. Mumm.

He regaled us with the best tips for Champagne showers, confirmed one of the greatest fast food legends about him and told us about racing a (cheating) Prince Harry. Read below for the highlights of the interview.

HuffPost: Do you have any good toasts that you like to give?

Usain Bolt: One toast that I give out that my friends always remember and laugh about ? ?Just shut up and drink.? [Laughs]. That?s my toast, most of the time for my friend group. It?s something that I always do: ?Shut up and drink!?

What?s the best thing to do with Champagne besides drink it?

I think everybody lives for a Champagne shower. I think that?s one of the biggest things that people enjoy when you?re celebrating. The first time that I actually got to do a big one was in Melbourne when I was at the Nitro Athletics track meet. My team won and after that we sprayed Champagne. I think it was the most fun as an athlete I?ve ever had. 

I?ve never done a champagne shower before. What?s it like and what are some tips?

You have to do it. Spraying people with Champagne when they?re running around is a really good feeling. Sneak up on them ? that?s the key thing ? don?t let them see you coming.

Do you ever get hangovers?
No ? not right now. When I was younger.

Do you have any hangover cures?

Just eat as much food as possible. That?s what somebody told me to help soak up that alcohol, so when I was younger that?s what I usually did. As soon as you wake up, just keep having food and drinking water.

G.H. Mumm is all about the motto ?dare, win, celebrate.? What?s the best dare you ever done?

One time me and my friends we went to a villa. I remember it was at night and we couldn?t see the water over a dock ? the owners built [a dock] out into the water and we couldn?t see the water. And my friends yelled, ?Yo, I dare you to jump head first into the water.? And I was like, ?Ah!!? because there was no light out there you couldn?t see anything. We were kinda drinking so? [laughs].

Did you get anything for doing that?

Naw, it was just men so we were just ?Uh ? if you don?t do it….? I was like, ?Alright alright alright.? I don?t think they would build a dock into stones, you know what I mean? That was the only thing that I had to go on.

Do you have a certain meal you eat after winning gold?

As long as it?s fast food, I?m fine. I think that?s the only time I get [it], because most of the time it?s always late [when we finish] so we always stop at a fast food place.

Is it true at the Beijing Olympics you ate around 1,000 chicken nuggets?

I ate a lot. I don?t know how much I had, but it was a lot. A thousand is probably right. If I think about it, it?s probably a thousand.

You?ve raced against Prince Harry. Who is your fave celebrity that?s challenged you to a race?

Micky Rourke. I?ll never forget, it was so funny. I was actually in London, I was coming out of the club. He was in the club and he saw me and was like, ?Ahhh Aren?t you the fastest man ever?? And I said, ?Yeah? and he said, ?Let?s go. We have to race.? He took his shoes off and we raced in the streets. It was pretty funny and cool.

What was it like racing against Prince Harry?

He cheated [laughs], but it was pretty fun ? he?s really laid back and he was pretty fun to just hang out with. And I remember when he came to Jamaica he had a horse that they called ?Usain Colt.? And then when I saw him a year after he was like, ?Ah [the horse] was a bust, he was no good.?

Your retirement is coming up, so what are you looking forward to doing the most?

Doing nothing.

What about trying out for a soccer team

I?m definitely gonna try out, we?ll see what happens. But just looking forward to doing nothing, absolutely.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. 

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Texas Governor Greg Abbott Jokes About Shooting Reporters

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) appears to be a pretty good shot ? and a horrible comedian.

A Texas Tribune reporter snapped a photo of Abbott showing off his target sheet on Friday, after which the governor ?jokingly? pointed to the bullet holes and threatened the media.

?I?m gonna carry this around in case I see any reporters,? Abbott said, according to reporter Patrick Svitek.

Abbott was on a victory lap at a shooting range after signing a bill on Friday that significantly reduces the fee for a license to carry a handgun in Texas. His office says the new law ?strengthens the 2nd Amendment,? but critics worry that the state is going too far with various gun measures.

Texas is trying to drastically ease requirements for gun ownership. In April, a House committee greenlighted a bill that would make it legal to carry a gun without a license. Another bill would nix a requirement that gun owners take a training course.

The Texas Tribune reports:

House Bill 375 ? authored by State Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford ? is known as ?constitutional carry? and it would make the licensing process and classes to obtain a permit optional. The idea, according to Stickland, is that Texans shouldn?t be forced to take a course and pay a fee to exercise their Second Amendment rights. If passed, Texas would be the 11th state to allow constitutional carry.

A number of Texas Democrats oppose the proposal. State Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, a critic of both the campus carry and open carry laws, said constitutional carry ?seems to be an unnecessary thing.? 

It?s no secret that Texas loves its guns. But Abbott?s quote is, at the very least, tone deaf. After all, Republican Greg Gianforte was charged with assault after allegedly body-slamming a Guardian reporter in Montana on Wednesday. He was elected to Congress the next day. 

Everyone saw that story ? media outlets pulled their endorsements of the candidate and the GOP appeared to keep its distance from him after the news broke. As it turns out, threatening or attacking reporters isn?t a good idea, although there appears to be a trajectory of anti-media rhetoric under President Donald Trump?s administration.

But it doesn?t matter whether these incidents are directly related to Trump?s campaign against the media or simply outliers ? the toxic environment is there. Trump has railed against all media so often and with such vitriol that press freedom has already taken a dive.

Trump called the press the ?enemy of the American people,? possibly asked then-FBI Director James Comey to imprison reporters, and joked with his head of Homeland Security that the department should consider using a ceremonial sword on the press.

Needless to say, journalists aren?t laughing along.  

But it goes both ways. In states like Texas and Montana, which have ?Stand Your Ground? laws, a reporter would have every right to shoot back in self-defense.

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Mom’s Rant About End-Of-The-Year Half Days Goes Viral

The end of the school year can be a chaotic time between the teacher gifts, report cards, special events and summer planning. And then there are those half days…

This mom is not having it.

On May 23, blogger Susannah B. Lewis, aka Whoa Susannah, posted a video rant on Facebook

 ?What?s the point of the end-of-the-year half day?? she asks in the video. ?That just means I ?half? to get up at 6:30, drag these kids out of bed, send them to school for three hours to get hyped up on sugar, high fructose corn syrup, Pixie Stix and doughnuts and cupcakes, and then I ?half? to go get them before the sugar high has even worn off.? 

Lewis? video has reached over 3.6 million views. Educators and fellow parents flooded the comments section to share their same woes.

The following day, Lewis shared a photo of her son during his final half day at school. 

Best of luck, mama!


H/T Today

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Toxic Masculinity And The Unsurprising ‘Body-Slamming’ Of A Reporter

Precisely one month before the presidential election, The Washington Post released audio of then-candidate Donald Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women.

As the shocking tape spread rapidly across the internet, the media largely assumed the race was over ? that admitting to sexual assault would be disqualifying, that we could never elect a man who jokes about violence. It wasn?t, and we did. 

Trump chalked his comments up to ?locker room talk,? and his supporters followed suit. They insisted this is just the type of banter we should expect of boys and men, this is just the normal stuff guys talk about when girls are not around. Many Republican officials did condemn the tape, but most did not abandon him. 

The message sent to the American public was clear: Abuse isn?t fantastic, but it?s not that big of a deal, either.

The expectation of basic respect for other human beings diminishes when harmful values are valorized from the top down.

Fast forward seven months, and a GOP House candidate is dealing with the aftermath of reportedly body-slamming a reporter. According to an audio recording and eyewitness reports, The Guardian?s Ben Jacobs attempted to ask Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte, who is running in Montana?s special election, a question about his stance on the GOP health care bill in light of the Congressional Budget Office score

Fox News? Alicia Acuna, who was in the room, had this to say about what happened next: ?Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him. Faith, Keith and I watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the reporter.? 

?I?m sick and tired of you guys!? Gianforte yelled at Jacobs.

The incident is horrifying, yet given the current political climate, the negative rhetoric about the press, and the attitudes of the man who now sits in the White House, it?s not totally surprising. Americans placed a vessel of toxic masculinity into the highest office in the nation, and now we?re watching the inevitable trickle down.

Montana?s Billings Gazette rescinded their endorsement of Gianforte Thursday morning, noting how his past behavior must be looked at differently now.

?We?d point out that all the other questionable interactions Gianforte had with reporters, including one case where he joked about ganging up on a reporter, must now be seen through a much more sinister lens. What he passed off as a joke at the time now becomes much more serious,? wrote the Gazette?s editorial board. 

Of course, Gianforte?s previous ?joke? about wringing a reporter?s neck was no cause for alarm. Because this is what happens when the country rejects a zero tolerance policy when it comes to physical violence. This is what happens when we give abuse a pass. This is what happens when the President of the United States repeatedly calls journalists ?enemies of the American people? and encourages his supporters to harass them. 

Americans placed a vessel of toxic masculinity into the highest office in the nation, and now we?re watching the inevitable trickle down.

No, Donald Trump did not singlehandedly cause Gianforte to become violent, and Gianforte may have lashed out in the same way if someone else were President of the United States. But Trump has undoubtedly encouraged an atmosphere in which groups he targets become victims of violence.

?In the past three weeks, political reporters have described being arrested, pinned against a wall, slapped, and now body-slammed,? HuffPost?s Michael Calderone notes. 

It remains to be seen whether Gianforte or his Democratic opponent, Rob Quist, will win the race. What we do know, is that the conversation surrounding the acceptability of physical violence has shifted since 2015.

A reporter was trying to hold a candidate accountable by asking questions ? an action that?s both routine to the function of journalism and necessary for democracy ? and somehow his assault has become a partisan issue, something to debate, something to ?take a side? on. Supporters and pundits aren?t rejecting Gianforte?s behavior wholesale, and that?s because the culture our president and his leadership team enforce has given them permission not to.

BuzzFeed?s Charlie Warzel noted the praise he?s seeing on Twitter from Trump supporters:

Fox News? Laura Ingraham went so far as to compare Jacobs to a tattle-tale child, and asked what other Montana men would do if body-slammed, implying that ?real men? fight back:

And as the Associated Press? Mary Clare Jalonick reports, a GOP Congressman from California had this to say: 

The notion that being a man requires using brute force to get what you want, what you believe you deserve ? whether that be a woman?s pussy or the ability to dodge a tough policy question ? is all part of one toxic masculine package. These ideas existed before Trump and they will outlast him, but the expectation of basic respect for other human beings diminishes when harmful values are valorized from the top down. 

As the narrative surrounding the election goes: It?s not that Trump?s supporters voted for him because he was an abuser, they voted for him despite that. But the unfortunate truth is that intent doesn?t matter. The result is still the same, and a man who brags about sexual violence and calls the press an ?enemy? is now running the country. A legitimization of dangerous ideas about what it means to be a man was always going to be part of the package deal. 

Greg Gianforte?s assault of a reporter is one more manifestation of Trump culture. This is the country we live in now. 

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Trump Uses NATO Unity Ceremony To Bash European Allies on Military Spending

BRUSSELS ? President Donald Trump on Thursday publicly scolded European allies for taking advantage of U.S. taxpayers by failing to spend enough on defense ? while in private reportedly breaking with them over how to treat Russia, the country that worked to help get him elected.

?NATO members must fully contribute their fair share and meet their financial obligations,?? he said at a ceremony intended to mark the alliance?s solidarity in responding to the 9/11 attacks on America.

?Twenty-three of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they?re supposed to be paying for their defense,? Trump said. ?This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States. And many of these nations owe massive amounts of money from past years.?

Trump spoke at NATO?s sparkling new headquarters building at the dedication of a memorial to the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks ? the only time in the alliance?s 68-year history that it invoked the ?Article 5? promise that an attack on one was the same as an attack on all. has ever been invoked.

Trump briefly acknowledged the military assistance NATO has provided in the war in Afghanistan, but spent more than a quarter of his eight-minute speech criticizing the alliance?s nations as several of their elected leaders stood by with uncomfortable looks on their faces.

Trump said he has been ?very, very direct?? with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and alliance members in saying that the they ?must finally contribute their fair share and meet their financial obligations.?

?Over the past eight years, the United States spent more on defense than all other NATO countries combined,? he said.

By referring to countries owing ?massive amounts of money,? though, Trump incorrectly described the nature of the organization. NATO does collect relatively modest due for the operation of its headquarters and other largely administrative functions. But the collective defense component comes through the member nations collecting taxes from their own citizens to pay for their own militaries, which then work together.

The concept of ?burden-sharing,? where other NATO members would increase their own defense spending, has been a U.S. priority long before Trump took office, and in fact became formalized in 2014.

That year, following the declaration of a ?caliphate? by the Islamic State terrorist group in Syria, immediately adjacent to NATO member Turkey, NATO agreed that each nation would ramp up its defense spending to 2 percent of its economy over the coming decade.

Trump termed the 2 percent figure ?insufficient to close he gaps in modernizing readiness and the size of forces.?

During his presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly criticized NATO and went so far as to suggest it could be dissolved as ?obsolete? because the Cold War had ended ? a view aligned with Russian leader Vladimir Putin?s criticisms of the alliance through the years.

Indeed, if Russia had hoped to drive a wedge between the U.S. and western Europe with its support of Trump?s candidacy, that strategy appears to be paying off.

European Council President Donald Tusk told reporters after a private meeting with Trump earlier Thursday that Russia appears to be an issue that will divide the U.S. and its traditional European allies.

?I?m not 100 percent sure we can say that we have a common position, a common opinion on Russia,? Tusk said, according to a report by the BBC. ?Although when it comes to the conflict on Ukraine, we were on the same line.?

In his remarks at the memorial dedication, Trump only in passing mentioned Russia. ?The NATO of the future must include a great focus on terrorism and immigration as well as threats from Russia and on NATO?s eastern and southern borders,? he said.

The bulk of the rest of his remarks focused on combatting Islamist terrorism.

The White House?s three-paragraph readout of Trump?s meeting with Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the three discussed ISIS, North Korea and trade, but did not mention Russia. The White House press office did not immediately respond to a query regarding Tusk?s reported statements.

U.S. intelligence services agree that their Russian counterparts covertly worked to harm the candidacy of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and to support Trump. Their tactics included stealing emails from Democrats and releasing embarrassing ones through WikiLeaks, the intelligence services have concluded.

Trump denies he knew anything about the assistance or that he colluded with Russians during the campaign. He did, however, fire FBI Director James Comey and cited the FBI?s probe into Russian meddling as a reason. And Comey in an internal memo said that Trump during a private meeting asked him to drop the FBI?s investigation into the president?s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, over his contacts with Russia. Flynn was forced to resign after less than a month in his post after he misled Vice President Mike Pence about those contacts.

Trump is scheduled to meet with the most prominent of the NATO allies he just criticized at Friday and Saturday?s meeting in Sicily of the G7, the world?s largest democracies. Germany, France, the United Kingdom and Italy are all G7 members.

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