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Friday, January 31, 2020

SUNDANCE 2020: Obamas unveil enlightening, inspiring doc ‘Crip Camp’

When Crip Camp debuted on the opening night of the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, lines of ticket-holders were left without a seat because of the enormous demand. Part of the hype was likely due to the fact that the film was executive produced by Barack and Michelle Obama, making it instantly intriguing if nothing else.

The Netflix film does not disappoint and welcomes viewers into a world they may not have considered before being mesmerized by the dedication, perseverance, and truly remarkable moments it serves up from the first minute.

7 films we can’t wait to see at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival

Check out the official synopsis:

Down the road from Woodstock, a revolution blossomed in a ramshackle summer camp for teenagers with disabilities, transforming their lives and igniting a landmark movement.

In the early 1970s, teenagers with disabilities faced a future shaped by isolation, discrimination and institutionalization. Camp Jened, a ramshackle camp “for the handicapped” in the Catskills, exploded those confines. Jened was their freewheeling Utopia, a place with summertime sports, smoking and makeout sessions awaiting everyone, and campers felt fulfilled as human beings. Their bonds endured as they migrated West to Berkeley, California — a promised land for a growing and diverse disability community — where friends from Camp Jened realized that disruption and unity might secure life-changing accessibility for millions.

Co-directed by Emmy®-winning filmmaker Nicole Newnham and film mixer and former camper Jim LeBrecht, this joyous and exuberant documentary arrives the same year as the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, at a time when the country’s largest minority group still battles daily for the freedom to exist.

It’s nearly impossible to leave this film unchanged or uninspired. Watching kids contend with challenges in the relentless way they do and recognizing how many similarities we share despite major differences is an intense and illuminating experience. Of course, the doc is not all fun and games and the darker aspects of reality for the disabled people of the country are much more alarming than we ever considered.

Crip Camp doesn’t offer any tidy solutions to the ongoing issues, but it certainly ignites a desire to learn and do more.

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from TheGrio

Ludacris surprises Florida students with $75K worth of music equipment

Students from at a South Florida high school got an extra special surprise the week courtesy of rapper Ludacris.

According to NBC Philadelphia, Wednesday, Luda gifted the students at Hialeah-Miami Lakes Senior High School with $75,000 worth of music equipment as part of StubHub’s #TicketForward program; a collaborative with The Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation that plans to invest $3 million in public school music programs nationwide.

READ MORE: Kelis reveals she was ‘blatantly tricked and lied to’ by The Neptunes

“I understand the importance of music education,” the 42-year-old explained to the excited teens. “It’s very important to me.”

During his visit, the entertainer also attended a school-wide assembly where he graciously participated in Q&A session that allowed him to share advice and encourage those in attendance to pursue their passions despite the odds against them.

READ MORE: What Kobe Bryant’s death has taught me about how Black men mourn

“If it weren’t for individuals reaching back and giving me that confidence, I wouldn’t be here today,” he explained. “If you get knocked down nine times, you get up 10. Just keep going.”

As if the new equipment wasn’t enough, Ludacris also surprised the school’s band director, Kevin Segura, with two Super Bowl tickets for this weekend’s game in Miami.

READ MORE: Meghan Markle and Prince Harry reportedly moving to Los Angeles this summer

“We have instruments being held together with tape, they don’t move, they’re banged up,” Segura said. “So these instruments are going to improve our sound and going to motivate kids to want to do band so hopefully I can build up this program to what it once was back in the day … I’m really, really excited that I’m going to the game. I didn’t think I was going so this was a nice surprise for me.”

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from TheGrio

What Kobe Bryant’s death teaches us about living emotionally richer lives

There is never a good time to die.

Still, there are situations that tend to help ease the grieving process because they fit snuggly into “what seems” right and wrong, fair or unfair, just v. unjust when it comes to death. For example, when someone passes away due to old age or after suffering through disease managing emotions around the loss are relatively uncomplicated. The heart feels the loss, but the head reminds that this is to be expected. Alternately, when someone dies at a relatively young age, in a tragic or unexpected way, the heart and head are both scrambling. What happened? And perhaps most important, looking for the why.

Sadly, the tragic helicopter accident that claimed the lives of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven other people on board, is a reminder of how out of control we truly are when it comes to life and death. And it’s been hard.

READ MORE: LeBron James and Anthony Davis both get tatted to pay tribute to Kobe Bryant

It’s been a devastating blow for the families and friends of the victims; people who experienced unimaginable loss and are left to deal with “figuring out” the rest of their lives. It’s been a shocker to Kobe Bryant fans, folks who feel a connection to a man they admired from afar. It’s even posed a challenge to pop culture, as we know it. How do you follow a story, in real-time, with integrity and fairness? How do you edit a society that has thrived on being filter-less?

Death changes everything it touches. The passing of Kobe Bryant has caused many to examine their feelings around tragedy, vulnerability, and healing—and look at trauma in their own lives. Here are a few takeaways to consider:


Make Space for Black Male Vulnerability

People were moved by the emotional outbursts of Shaquille O’Neal, and countless other Black men, who shed sincere tears over the deaths of Kobe Bryant, Gianna Bryant and the others aboard the plane. The emotional displays are a reminder of the importance of encouraging Black men to express feelings, thoughts, and comportment that dispel the crippling burden of hyper-masculinity in our community. Black men need the freedom to emote in authentic ways, without fear of having their masculinity questioned, outside of the confines of tragedy.

Trauma Has No Parameters

The families of the victims are suffering a heart-wrenching loss—there is no comparison or parity between what family and fans are experiencing. That said, it does not mean that fans are not experiencing grief and trauma in their own right. First, many fans felt connected to Kobe Bryant and invested in his career and personal life. It’s natural to experience a sense of sadness due to the death and the tragic manner. Second, for many the tragedy will trigger memories and feelings of loss and or trauma in their personal lives, such as the passing of a loved one or accidents they experienced/witnessed. It’s imperative to identify what you’re feeling and utilize resources, such as counseling, to help.

READ MORE: Roger Goodell confirms NFL will pay tribute to Kobe Bryant at the Super Bowl

The Truth Is Never Disrespectful—But Timing Is

Some people make bigger mistakes than others. There are moments to address those decisions and instances when such topics are best left for later. Whether you’re dealing with a superstar or the headliners in your household, discernment is a must, particularly during tough times. That never means sacrificing your safety, or that of others, but understanding the importance of respect and support during challenging times.

Death Touches Everyone

One of the most bothersome things about devastating events is that they serve as a reminder of our personal vulnerability and that our most loved ones can be taken away from us at any time. It’s scary. It’s painful. It’s out of our control. No one knows the when, why or how. The best ways to manage the anxiety and fear that accompany this lack of control to acknowledge it. Talk to your friends and loved ones about your concerns. Create a plan for your loved ones to ensure their security (ex. wills, adequate life insurance and other supports). Most important, actively pursue your happiness. Tell folks you love them, create distance or end toxic relationships.

S. Tia Brown is a journalist and licensed therapist. Follow her on IG @tiabrowntalks.

The post What Kobe Bryant’s death teaches us about living emotionally richer lives appeared first on TheGrio.

from TheGrio

SUNDANCE 2020: Here’s why ‘Charm City Kings’ was our favorite film of the festival

The 2020 Sundance Film Festival featured some fantastic films but nothing had our hearts racing, breaking, or soaring like Charm City Kings. 

Check out the synopsis:

Growing up in West Baltimore, teenage Mouse (Jahi Di’allo Winston) known for roles in Queen & Slim, Proud Mary, and The Upside, feels the fierce pull of different forces: Between notorious ex-con Blax (Meek Mill) and concerned Detective Rivers (William Catlett), and between the straight path set for Mouse by his concerned mother (Teyonah Parris) and the dangers of gang life, which took his brother’s life. The one truth Mouse knows is that he loves the power, artistry and energy of “The Ride” — the exhilarating motorized-dirt-bike scene that is both pastime and passion on the streets of Baltimore. During one eventful summer, Mouse steers his way through two father figures, a first girlfriend, the pull of illegal choices and the thrill of stunt-riding that makes him and his friends feel like CHARM CITY KINGS.

For Mouse, the 13-year-old hero of director Angel Manuel Soto’s Charm City Kings, what he loves is the motorized, urban dirt bike scene that has been a crucial part of Baltimore street life for 50 years. That culture has created its own music genre, its own styles, and local celebrities in the community including DeWayne Davis aka “Wheelie Wayne,” Chino, and Lakeyria Doughty aka“Wheelie Queen.” They ride Yamahas and Hondas which they use to create genuinely incredible tricks, including the “12 O’Clock” move: Popping a wheelie, and as the bike is on its back wheel, turning the handlebars completely vertical as if they were clock hands facing high noon. But the riders’ lives can turn upside-down in unforeseen ways.

PHOTOS: ‘Insecure’ cast spills season 4 secrets at Sundance: “We are examining everybody’s relationship”

There are so many profound elements of the film from producer, Clarence Hammond, and Caleb Pinkett and written by Sherman Payne. Executive produced by Jada Pinkett Smith and her husband, Will Smith for Overbrook Entertainment, it feels like an instant classic. The teen angst of Black boys is a subject rarely captured or examined on the big screen and subjects like toxic masculinity, trauma, family, and poverty are tackled beautifully through mesmerizing performances from Jahi Di’Allo Winston. His mother is perfectly portrayed by Teyonah Parris and Meek Mill delivered an impressive performance in a prominent role.

All of the acting is superb and the film does a delicate dance between excruciating moments and sweet comedic dialogue. In that sense, this movie is all things. A sweet coming-of-age tale complete with a first kiss and crass teenage boy banter;  a grizzly crime drama that makes you watch through split fingers as you cover your eyes. The backdrop of Baltimore’s bike community is equally captivating and the stunts and chase scenes add a unique action element that will have your jaw on the floor and make you wonder why you haven’t seen any of this before. This film will make you laugh and break your heart and when it’s over you’ll be begging for another ride.

Fortunately, Charm City Kings has already secured a theatrical release date of April 10, 2020 and its definitely one you won’t want to miss.



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from TheGrio

The Story of Former Slave-Turned-History-Making Drag Queen, William Dorsey Swann

drag queens

William Dorsey Swann was a former slave who fought for queer freedom decades before the Stonewall riots of 1969. In an article published in The Nation Friday, writer and historian Channing Gerard Joseph tells the little-known story of Swann, a cross-dressing black man born into slavery who was affectionately known as “the Queen.”

“Born in Maryland around 1858, Swann endured slavery, the Civil War, racism, police surveillance, torture behind bars, and many other injustices,” writes Joseph, who is publishing a book on Swann. “Beginning in the 1880s, he not only became the first American activist to lead a queer resistance group; he also became, in the same decade, the first known person to dub himself a ‘queen of drag’—or, more familiarly, a drag queen.”

In addition to making history as the first drag queen noted in history, Swann organized underground drag balls in Washington, DC, in the 1880s. He also asked President Grover Cleveland for a pardon after he was convicted and sentenced to 10 months for running a brothel in 1896. “This, too, was a historic act,” states Joseph. “It made Swann the earliest recorded American to take specific legal and political steps to defend the queer community’s right to gather without the threat of criminalization, suppression, or police violence.”

Joseph says he discovered Swann’s story 15 years ago at Columbia University when he stumbled upon an article published in The Washington Post on April 13, 1888, titled “Negro Dive Raided. Thirteen Black Men Dressed as Women Surprised at Supper and Arrested.” The story details an incident where Swann was arrested during a brawl with police. “The fight was also one of the first known instances of violent resistance in the name of LGBTQ rights,” says Joseph.

Despite run-ins with police and being ostracized in society, Swann continued to resist and held multiple drag balls in Washington, DC, in the 1880s.

Read the full article here.

from Black Enterprise

LeBron James and Anthony Davis both get tatted to pay tribute to Kobe Bryant

LeBron James and Anthony Davis got new tats on Wednesday that pay homage to the late Lakers legend, Kobe Bryant.

Both tattoos were done by Vanessa Aurelia. James’ tattoo appears to be a Black Mamba snake with some words believed to be either “Kobe 4 life” or “Mamba 4 life.” Davis’ body art is Lakers’ purple but the image was hard to decipher, reported TMZ.

READ MORE: Roger Goodell confirms NFL will pay tribute Kobe Bryant at Super Bowl

James’ leg tattoo was visible under a fresh wrap during the Lakers Thursday workout in El Segundo.

News outlets reported Bron may take to his Instagram page with a full picture of the tattoo sometime before the Lakers suit up to take on the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center Friday night. The game will mark the Lakers’ first time playing since Bryant died.

The NBA is still reeling from the helicopter crash on Sunday that claimed the lives of Bryant, 41, his 13-year-old daughter, Gigi, and seven others. Tributes continue to pour in from players, fans, teams, and the NBA league, which recently announced it would change its 2020 All-Star Game format to include several tributes to Bryant, according to

READ MORE: Beyonce shares tribute to Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna: ‘You are deeply missed’

The first three-quarters of the All-Star Game will be played as mini-games for charity. Each quarter will be 12 minutes long and start with a score of 0-0. The team with the most points at the end of each quarter will win $100,000 for a Chicago charity. After the first three quarters, the teams will start the last quarter with all of the points they’ve accumulated in each quarter. The final target score will be reached by adding 24 points (Kobe Bryant’s jersey number) to the leading team’s tally. The fourth quarter will be untimed, with the first team to reach the targeted score declared the winner.

The team captains for the 69th NBA All-Star Game include Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks leading Team Giannis and Team LeBron led by the Los Angeles Lakers’ James.

The post LeBron James and Anthony Davis both get tatted to pay tribute to Kobe Bryant appeared first on TheGrio.

from TheGrio

Aretha Franklin’s niece steps down as executor of estate to ‘calm the rift’ in the family

Aretha Franklin’s niece is stepping down as executor of the late singer’s estate to try and ‘calm the rift in my family.’

According to documents obtained by the Detroit Free Press, Sabrina Owens filed a petition Thursday in Oakland County Probate Court giving two weeks’ notice that she is resigning. Owens has handled business and probate matters since the Queen of Soul died in August 2018. It is unknown who will take her place. Judge Jennifer Callaghan scheduled a hearing on March 3.

READ MORE: Aretha Franklin’s youngest son is asking people not to support the MGM-produced biopic, ‘Respect’

In a letter to the court, Owens said she took on the responsibilities to “honor my aunt” but that the job had become particularly problematic and she thinks it best she leaves.

“My primary goal was to honor my aunt by handling her business professionally, fairly and within the law,” Owens wrote. “She trusted me and was always confident I would exercise good judgment and try to make the best decisions on her behalf. She often said that I was ‘worth my weight in gold.’”

“In spite of my best efforts, my role with the estate has become more contentious with the heirs. Given my aunt’s deep love of family and desire for privacy, this is not what she would have wanted for us, nor is it what I want,” Owens added, according to the Detroit Free Press.

In the past, Franklin’s youngest son, 49-year-old Kecalf Franklin has expressed interest in handling his mom’s affairs, but two of his brothers, Ted White and Clarence Franklin, have been against the idea.

The family drama came to a head after three handwritten wills were discovered in May 2019 in Franklin’s home. Each of those documents contained different instructions and since then, the family has been in court to try and hash out whether the wills were actually written by Franklin, leaving Judge Callaghan to bring on handwriting experts to assess the validity of the documents.

“This is when relationships began to deteriorate with the heirs,” Owens wrote.

Now Owens says she hopes her departure helps heal the family rifts.

“I hope that my departure will allow the business of the estate to continue, calm the rift in my family and allow me to return to my personal life,” Owens wrote, according to the Free Press. “I love my cousins, hold no animosity towards them, and wish them the best.”

As executor of Franklin’s estate, Owens has handled quite a few business transactions, from music licensing to negotiations for three film projects. One movie project, the gospel documentary Amazing Grace, premiered last year and brought the estate $1.1 million. Owens also was handling negotiations for the upcoming Jennifer Hudson biopic Respect as well as the National Geographic’s eight-part Genius: Aretha series.

READ MORE: Aretha Franklin’s sister-in-law wants compensation for caring for singer before her death

On Wednesday, National Geographic announced that Raphael Saadiq would be the executive music producer for the series and Terence Blanchard will compose original music for the series. Cynthia Erivo, who played the lead role in Harriet, will portray Aretha Franklin.

“It’s an honor to share Aretha’s genius with the world alongside the incredibly talented Cynthia Erivo and Terence Blanchard,” Saadiq tells Billboard. “We’ll hit the keys, play the parts and sing the lyrics that helped pave the way for musicians like myself to trust our artistry and challenge ourselves to be bold.”

The post Aretha Franklin’s niece steps down as executor of estate to ‘calm the rift’ in the family appeared first on TheGrio.

from TheGrio

Pennsylvania dad goes viral for buying his daughter a vending machine

A Pennsylvania dad’s Christmas gift to his 10-year-old daughter went viral for helping her develop an entrepreneurial mindset and setting her up for financial success.

READ MORE: Three brothers open first Black-owned bourbon company in Louisville

Instead of the typical toys, electronics and clothes, Reco Oxendine, 28, bought his daughter her very own vending machine and now she’s learning the fundamentals of wealth building, reported Atlanta Black Star. Oxendine announced the unique gift on Facebook and the post has since been shared more than 18,000 times with roughly 2,000 comments from people who were eager to learn how they too could start their own vending business.

“I want her to be a boss,” Oxendine told Atlanta Black Star. “I want her to understand (the) value of being a business owner at a young age. So, when it comes to her growing up … and she has to make decisions about how she can earn money, she knows that a job isn’t the only way.”

Oxendine said he started his daughter down this path in 2016 when they began selling candy in their local community. Their business, “Candy Lovers,” would drop by barbershops, salons and community sporting events, where they would sell their concessions.

“I grabbed a cart from Walmart and some candy, and we just started selling (candy),” Oxendine told Atlanta Black Star. “The community fully embraced it, like they loved what we were doing.”

From there, Oxendine used the profits to start buying vending machines. He currently owns a dozen vending machines.

READ MORE: Hasbro toy company announces Death Row Records ownership after Suge Knight appoints Ray J to run it

According to, the cost of vending machines range from $1,500 to $3,000, depending on how many features it has and whether it also sells refrigerated treats.

Oxendine is using this moment to not only pass on his knowledge, lessons learned and entrepreneurial mindset to his daughter, but he is also now educating other children on the importance of building generational wealth through a new video series called Next Uplifted.

That’s what’s up.

The post Pennsylvania dad goes viral for buying his daughter a vending machine appeared first on TheGrio.

from TheGrio

Female genital mutilation: Parents arrested after death of girl in Egypt

An aunt and a doctor who allegedly carried out the illegal procedure are also detained in Asyut.

from BBC News - Africa

Want To Be A Boss? Here’s How Your Job Can Prepare You for Entrepreneurship


Living in a digitized world, it’s easy to become fascinated with the thought of becoming an entrepreneur. If becoming an entrepreneur is a dream of yours, I highly suggest you read this full article before you make that jump.

People often tell me how inspired they are by watching my 8-year entrepreneurial journey. At times when I hear these compliments, I’m not sure how to receive them because my bank account is low, or I’m dealing with a dissatisfied client who I only booked for the money, knowing they weren’t a great fit.

Truth be told, there is a dark side to entrepreneurship—and working a 9-to-5 can help you handle these difficult situations.

My entrepreneurial journey as a wedding and event planner would not be as successful without the experience of serving others. Prior to launching my business, I worked as a social worker for many years. And a number of my first clients were fellow co-workers and classmates from college who recognized my strong work ethic. Those long and challenging days prepared me for entrepreneurship.

Related: Jobs Wouldn’t Hire Me So I Created My Own Six-Figure Business

I know how amazing it feels when you leave your job to pursue your dream. There is freedom, a sense of satisfaction, and many other great opportunities. But today we are not going to focus on that. Today, I want to share the darker side. I want to share the main two challenges and problems I wish I knew before beginning my entrepreneurial journey.

Build the grit you need in the workplace

Remember that time you were in a company staff meeting and you knew that marketing plan wouldn’t speak to your clientele? So you voiced your opinion and a logical alternative plan?

As an entrepreneur, you will face many situations that always make you wonder if you made the right decision or not. Especially if your income doesn’t reflect your expectations.

Related: 5 Successful Black Founders Share Expert Tips on Starting a Business

Self- doubt can influence your decisions as an entrepreneur.

Focus and Prioritization Are Key

As an entrepreneur, time management is key to your overall success. Self-discipline is also important because you have no boss checking your timesheets or productivity sheets to ensure work is completed.

Old habits die hard. Therefore, it is important to practice being your own boss while you work for someone else as preparation for when you take that leap.

I know that to some people, my advice might come off as a bit pessimistic, but, my goal is to help you think strategically before you pivot!


from Black Enterprise

The 8 Best Smartwatches (2020): Apple Watch, Samsung, Wear OS

Which smartwatch should you buy? From the Apple Watch to the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2, here are our favorites.

from Wired

Debbie Allen and Phylicia Rashad to Celebrate Sisterhood at Women of Power

Women of Power

It’s nearly impossible to attend Women of Power and leave without making one sisterly connection with someone you don’t know. There’s no greater feeling than meeting up with your sistah-friends at the summit to reconnect, recharge, and encourage one another as you pursue your goals.

Speaking of sisters, we are excited to announce that we will be honoring Debbie Allen, award-winning director and choreographer, as a 2020 Legacy Award recipient. And get this, her sister, Phylicia Rashad, a 2017 Legacy Award Honoree and award-winning actress will be at the summit, too! Talk about a moment in time.


Related: Black Enterprise Celebrates 15 Years of Honoring the Power and Legacies of Black Women

We are looking forward to a powerful time in Vegas. And we encourage you to bring a sistah with you. Or in the words of past Legacy Award winner, Cynt Marshall, “Help a Sistah out!”

Until then, be sure to join the Women of Power Facebook group to commune with powerful women.

Meet a Sistah!

  • Introduce yourself and share what you’re up to. – There are over 2,000 women killing it in their respective fields in the group. Let them know who you are and what you’re about!
  • Share what you’re looking forward to this year at the Summit. – Have you taken a look at the agenda yet? We have over 40 scheduled events planned for your pleasure. Let everyone know which ones you’re excited about and find out which ones people are going to. You can connect and meet them there!
  • Share your expertise, motivational content, and relevant articles. — This year’s Summit theme is: “Undivided: Power on Our Own Terms.” We encourage you to share information that is empowering, can help someone in their career, or elicits a conversation on how women can remain undivided. We’ve already got the ball rolling and we’re waiting to hear from you.
  • Ask questions about the event. – Do you have a question that you can’t find the answer to on the Women of Power event website? Feel free to ask. We’ll respond.

We hope that you will join us! 


from Black Enterprise

Litter-Robot 3 Connect Review: A Worthwhile But Pricey Cat Toilet

The tricked-out litter box answers one of life's great questions: What if my kitty's toilet was a robot?

from Wired

Wyclef Jean Raises $25 Million To Support and Empower Artists in Africa and other Developing Countries

Wyclef Jean

International artist and producer Wyclef Jean is using his business acumen to empower and invest in songwriters and producers in African countries and other emerging markets. Earlier this week, his company, Carnival World Music Group, revealed that it raised $25 million in capital funding that will be allocated toward providing creative artists with music publishing and distribution resources to promote their music and earn royalties. According to Jean, artists need this type of publishing and distribution support especially in light of the rise of Afrobeats and the growing expansion of digital streaming.

“The demand for music from Africa and other developing regions is growing and these creatives deserve to be part of the international marketplace,” said The Fugees founder, according to Forbes. “There is a need for them to have open access to global publishing and distribution options that protect their rights and ensure that they are fairly paid. This initiative not only introduces and launches new talent but helps creatives around the world thrive in their careers.”

After decades in the music business, the hip-hop veteran says he’s learned that producing, rapping, and singing will only earn so much cash. The real money is generated from publishing rights, which are often awarded to the songwriters, composers, and the publishing companies behind the music. For example, he and the Fugees only saw a fraction of the money earned from their iconic cover of Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly.” Much of that money, he says, went to the song’s composer Charles Fox.

“When I produced ‘Killing Me Softly’ for The Fugees, we were making money, but I made somebody like $3 or $4 million that had nothing to do with us or Roberta Flack,” Jean told Fast Company. “The person that I made the money for was the composer. I understood then that I was on the wrong side of the business. I can’t just be on the side of the curtain cutting samples and doing a remix. I have to be part of the songwriting, and so for me, I also encourage kids that writing music is very important right now—not just for putting music out right now, but so that you can build your publishing catalog. In order for you to survive in this industry, we encourage kids to understand that their publishing is real estate.”

Last month, Carnival World Music Group received financing backing from Sound Royalties, an entertainment finance firm that provides creatives with funding for personal and professional projects without taking ownership of their copyrights. Jean’s burgeoning company also partnered with Heads Music, a distribution company founded by music industry vet Madeline Nelson, which will handle global music distribution.

Jean says the goal of his new joint venture is to groom fiscally informed and responsible artists. “[This is] a label that’s actually going to care; a distribution company where kids can go and look at the back end of what they’re actually making,” said the Haitian musician. “If they don’t understand what they see on the dashboard, they could pick up the phone and actually call people that will care about explaining to them parts of the analytics. It turns them into businesspeople overnight.”

from Black Enterprise

Animals Need Digital Privacy, Too

Humans are not the only living things beset by hidden cameras and tracked by portable devices.

from Wired

Not to Ruin the Super Bowl, But the Sea Is Consuming Miami

*Huzzah* for overeating and watching athletes brutalize each other. *Boo* the fact that climate change is an existential threat to Miami.

from Wired

Climate Change Is Netflix's *Ragnarok*

The newest superhero coming-of-age drama updates—and infantilizes—Nordic mythology for our age of environmental disaster.

from Wired

Huduma Namba: Kenya court halts biometric ID over data fears

Judges says data protection laws need to be enacted to safeguard a wealth of sensitive information.

from BBC News - Africa

Alphabet Has a Second, Secretive Quantum Computing Team

Google's parent touted its quantum supremacy achievement last year. It doesn't talk about a group at X working on software.

from Wired

Super Bowl 2020: Watch the Best Ads Here

Hate football but love Squarespace? Watch all the ads now so you can skip the Big Game.

from Wired

Gadget Lab Podcast: Byte Video Sharing, and Motorola’s Razr Reboot

On this week’s show, we talk about Vine's rebirth as Byte, and the new Razr reboot, which now comes with (of course) a folding screen.

from Wired

Gaetan Bong: Nottingham Forest sign Brighton defender for undisclosed fee

Brighton defender Gaetan Bong has joined Nottingham Forest until the summer of 2022 for an undisclosed fee.

from BBC News - Africa

Thursday, January 30, 2020

MIT helps first-time entrepreneur build food hospitality company

Christine Marcus MBA ’12 was an unlikely entrepreneur in 2011. That year, after spending her entire, 17-year career in government, most recently as the deputy chief financial officer for the U.S. Department of Energy, she entered the MIT Sloan School of Management Fellows MBA Program.

Moreover, Marcus didn’t think of herself as an entrepreneur.

“That was the furthest thing from my mind,” she says. “I knew it was time to think about the private sector, but my plan was to leave Sloan and get a job in finance. The thought of entrepreneurship was nowhere in my mind. I wasn’t one of those people who came with a business idea.”

By the end of Sloan’s intensive, 12-month program, however, Marcus was running a startup helping local organizations and companies serve food from some of Boston’s best restaurants to hundreds of people. Upon graduation, in addition to her degree, Marcus had 40 recurring customers and had sold about $50,000 worth of food from her classmates’ Italian restaurant.

What happened to spark such a dramatic change?

“MIT happened,” Marcus says. “Being in that ecosystem and listening to all the people share their stories of starting companies, listening to CEOs talk about their successes and failures, the mistakes they’ve made along the way, that was super-inspiring. What I realized at MIT was that I’ve always been an entrepreneur.”

In the years since graduation, Marcus has used her new perspective to build Alchemista, a “high-touch” hospitality company that helps businesses, commercial real estate developers, and property owners provide meals to employees and tenants. Today, Alchemista has clients in Boston, New York City, and Washington, and serves more than 60,000 meals each month.

The company’s services go beyond simply curating restaraunts on a website: Each one of Alchemista’s clients has its own representative that customizes menus each month, and Alchemista employees are on the scene setting up every meal to ensure everything goes smoothly.

“We work with companies that focus on employee culture and invest in their employees, and we incorporate ourselves into that culture,” Marcus says.

Finding inspiration, then confidence

At first, all Marcus wanted from MIT were some bright new employees for the Department of Energy. During a recruiting trip for that agency in 2011, she met Bill Aulet, the managing director of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship and professor of the practice at Sloan.

“I mentioned to Bill that I was thinking of doing an MBA,” Marcus remembers. “He said, ‘You need to come to MIT. It will transform your life.’ Those were his exact words. Then basically, ‘And you need to do it now.’”

Soon after that conversation, Marcus applied for the Sloan Fellows Program, which crams an MBA into one year of full-time, hands on work. A few weeks after being accepted, she left her lifelong career in government for good.

But Marcus still had no plans to become an entrepreneur. That came more gradually at Sloan, as she listened to experts describe entrepreneurship as a learnable craft, received encouragement and advice from professors, and heard from dozens of successful first-time entrepreneurs about their own early doubts and failures.

“A lot of these founders had backgrounds in things that had nothing to do with their industry,” Marcus says. “My question was always, ‘How do you become successful in an industry you don’t know anything about?’ Their answer was always the same: ‘It’s all about learning and being curious.’”

During one typically long day in the MBA program, a classmate brought in food from his Italian restaurant. Marcus was blown away and wondered why MIT didn’t cater from nice restaurants like that all the time.

The thought set in motion a process that has never really stopped for Marcus. She began speaking with office secretaries, club presidents, and other event organizers at MIT. She learned it was a nightmare ordering food for hundreds of people, and that many of Boston’s best restaurants had no means of connecting with such organizers.

“I made myself known on campus just hustling,” Marcus remembers. “First I had to spend time figuring out who orders food. … I made it my mission to talk to all of them, understand their pain points, and understand what would get them to change their processes at that point. It was a lot of legwork.”

Marcus moved into the entrepreneurial track at Sloan, and says one of her most helpful classes was tech sales, taught by Lou Shipley, who’s now an advisor for Alchemista. She also says it was helpful that professors focused on real-world problems, at some points even using Alchemista as a case study, allowing Marcus’s entire class to weigh in on problems she was grappling with.

“That was super-helpful, to have all these smart MIT students working on my company,” she says.

As she neared gradation, Marcus spent a lot of time in the Trust Center, and leaned heavily on MIT’s support system.

“That’s the best thing about MIT: the ecosystem,” Marcus says. “Everybody genuinely wants to help however they can.”

Leaving that ecosystem, which Marcus described as a “challenging yet safe environment,” presented Marcus with her biggest test yet.

Taking the plunge

At some point, every entrepreneur must decide if they’re passionate and confident enough in their business to fully commit to it. Over the course of a whirlwind year, MIT gave Marcus a crash course in entrepreneurship, but it couldn’t make that decision for her.

Marcus responded unequivocally. She started by selling her house in Washington and renting a one-bedroom apartment in Boston. She also says she used up her retirement savings as she worked to expand Alchemista’s customer base in the early days.

“I’m not sure I would recommend it to anyone without a strong stomach, but I jumped in with both feet,” Marcus says.

And MIT never stopped lending support. At the time, Sloan was planning to renovate a building on campus, so in the interim, Aulet started a coworking space called the MIT Beehive. Marcus worked out of there for more than a year, collaborating with other MIT startup founders and establishing a supportive network of peers.

Her commitment paid off. By 2014, Marcus had a growing customer base and a strong business model based on recurring revenue from large customer accounts. Alchemista soon expanded to Washington and New York City.

Last year, the company brought on a culinary team and opened its own kitchens. It also expanded its services to commercial property owners and managers who don’t want to give up leasing space for a traditional cafeteria or don’t have restaurants nearby.

Marcus has also incorporated her passion for sustainability into Alchemista’s operations. After using palm leaf plates for years, the company recently switched over to reusable plates and utensils, saving over 100,000 tons of waste annually, she says.

Ultimately, Marcus thinks Alchemista’s success is a result of its human-centered approach to helping customers.

“It’s not this massive website where you place an order and have no contact,” Marcus says. “We’re the opposite of that. We’re high-touch because everyone else is a website or app. Simply put, we take all the headaches away from ordering for hundreds of people. Food is very personal; breaking bread is one of the most fundamental ways to connect with others. We provide that experience in a premium, elevated way.”

from MIT News

Hospital rankings hold up

Given the complexities of health care, do basic statistics used to rank hospitals really work well? A study co-authored by MIT economists indicates that some fundamental metrics do, in fact, provide real insight about hospital quality.

“The results suggest a substantial improvement in health if you go to a hospital where the quality scores are higher,” says Joseph Doyle, an MIT economist and co-author of a new paper detailing the study’s results.

The study was designed to work around a difficult problem in evaluating hospital quality: Some high-performing hospitals may receive an above-average number of very sick patients. Accepting those difficult cases could, on the surface, worsen the aggregate outcomes of a given hospital’s patients and make such hospitals seem less effective than they are.

However, the scholars found a way to study equivalent pools of patients, thus allowing them to judge the hospitals in level terms. Overall, the study shows, when patient sickness levels are accounted for, hospitals that score well on quality measures have 30-day readmission rates that are 15 percent lower than a set of lesser-rated hospitals, and 30-day mortality rates that are 17 percent lower.

“It wasn’t clear going in whether these quality measures do a good job of sorting hospitals out,” Doyle adds. “These results suggest that they have predictive power.”

The paper, “Evaluating Measures of Hospital Quality: Evidence from Hospital Referral Patterns,” was written by Doyle, the Erwin H. Schell Professor of Management and Applied Economics at the MIT Sloan School of Management; John Graves, an assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy at Vanderbilt University; and Jonathan Gruber, the Ford Professor of Economics and associate department head of MIT’s Department of Economics. It appears in the latest issue of the Review of Economics and Statistics.

Randomized evaluations

To conduct the study, the researchers used a method that eliminates the issue of studying a skewed sample of admissions. They studied areas across the country where dispatchers’ calls are assigned randomly to different ambulance companies. Those ambulance companies tend to deliver patients to particular hospitals. Thus, otherwise similar groups of patients are admitted to different hospitals in what is essentially a random pattern; this allows outcomes to be compared among hospitals.

The patient data came primarily from Medicare claims made across the country during the period 2008-2012, and covered over 170,000 hospital admissions for patients who had just suffered a health event requiring “nondiscretionary” hospital admission. The patients also fit some basic criteria, such as not having previously been admitted recently for the same condition.

In addition to analyzing 30-day readmission and mortality rates, the researchers looked at patient satisfaction levels. All these criteria, and more, are commonly used in hospital assessments.

The researchers also found a 37 percent difference in one-year mortality, among highly-rated and lower-rated hospitals.

“I thought our results were reasonable,” says Doyle . “They’re not too big to be believed, but they suggest a substantial improvement in health if you go to a hospital where the quality scores are much higher.”

As the authors note in the paper, the subject is topical in the health policy world. Some lawmakers and experts want the hospital payment system to evolve in the direction of reimbursement for quality and oucomes, rather than treatment. As such, it is important to be able to tell if those quality measures are sturdy. 

“There’s been a lot of interest in whether these quality measures are informative or not, because there is a shift away from paying for the quantity of care provided to the quality of care provided,” Doyle says. “Most of the policymakers I’ve talked to want to use these quality measures.”

Management matters

Further research will be needed to help illuminate issues surrounding hospital quality in further depth. For instance, the current study is more focused on emergency care and not on care for chronic conditions; Doyle says that analysis of chronic care is “a fascinating question” that merits further investigation.

Doyle also acknowledges the need for further study to explain why certain hospitals fare better than others on basic quality measures. He notes that some were historically quicker than others to adopt what are now almost universal practices — the allotment of blood-thinning drugs to heart patients, for instance — and suggests the rate of adoption of new practices is an important factor in this area.

“Coming from a management school, we see that a lot of the variation in outcomes stems in large part from differences in management,” Doyle says. “Do you have the right procedures in places so that it’s easy for providers to do what the guidelines suggest? Improving management could yield big improvements in patient health.”

The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

from MIT News

Journalist Gwen Ifill Honored with USPS Forever Stamp

Gwen Ifill stamp

On Thursday, the trailblazing journalist Gwen Ifill was honored with a commemorative Forever stamp.

“These miniature works of art offer something for everyone interested in American history and culture,” said U.S. Postal Service Stamp Services Acting Executive Director William Gicker. “From notable figures such as golf legend Arnold Palmer and esteemed journalist Gwen Ifill to the cultural phenomenon of hip-hop to a celebration of the great outdoors, this program is wide-ranging and adds to the history of our great nation as recorded through the U.S. stamp program.”

As posted on the United States Postal Service website, the 43rd stamp in the Black Heritage series honors Gwen Ifill (1955–2016), one of America’s most esteemed journalists. The stamp features a photo of Ifill taken in 2008 by photographer Robert Severi. Among the first African Americans to hold prominent positions in both broadcast and print journalism, Ifill was a trailblazer in the profession. Art director Derry Noyes designed the stamp.

Also being honored with Forever Stamps are:

Voices of the Harlem Renaissance
These stamps celebrate one of the great artistic and literary movements in American history, the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, which firmly established African Americans as a vital force in literature and the arts. Twenty stamps showcase four stylized pastel portraits of these literary figures: writer, philosopher, educator, and arts advocate Alain Locke; novelist Nella Larsen; bibliophile and historian Arturo Alfonso Schomburg; and poet Anne Spencer. African-inspired motifs are used as background elements of each portrait. The pane header shows a cityscape in silhouette with a sun in its midst and the title “Voices of the Harlem Renaissance.” The artist for these stamps was Gary Kelley. Art director Greg Breeding designed the stamps.

The Postal Service celebrates hip-hop with four new stamps in a pane of 20. Since its inception more than four decades ago, the electrifying music, dance, and art movement has profoundly influenced American and global popular culture. The stamp art features photographs taken by Cade Martin that depict four elements of hip-hop: MCing (rapping), b-boying (breakdancing), DJing, and graffiti art. The bold, digitally tinted images are intended to appear in motion. The words “Forever” and “USA,” “Hip Hop,” and the name of the element featured appear across the top of each stamp. Art director Antonio Alcalá designed the stamps, which are highlighted with a vivid yellow, green, red and black color scheme. The title of the stamps, printed in red and black, is centered on the top of the pane.


19th Amendment: Women Vote
With this stamp, the Postal Service commemorates the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees women the right to vote. Inspired by historic photographs, the stamp features a stylized illustration of suffragists marching in a parade or other public demonstration. The clothes they wear and the banners they bear display the official colors of the National Woman’s Party — purple, white and gold. Art director Ethel Kessler designed the stamp with original art by Nancy Stahl.


from Black Enterprise

The DOJ Is Finally Suing US Telecom Providers for Robocalls

The defendants have allegedly connected hundreds of millions of fraudulent robocalls to US residents.

from Wired

Medicare Part D | All You Need to Know About its Coverage

Medicare Part D are often called Prescription Drug plans.

A Brief Overview of Medicare 

Medicare is the federal health care insurance program primarily for those of retirement age. The program was signed into law in 1965 and today covers over 60 million Americans. Medicare is divided into four parts—Part A, Part B, Part C, and Part D. In this article we will cover information about Medicare Part D. 

What is Medicare Part D?

Medicare Part D, also known as Medicare prescription drug coverage, is an optional program to help you cover the cost of prescription drugs. The Medicare prescription drug plan (PDP) was officially enacted in 2003 under the Medicare Modernization Act and went into effect on January 1, 2006. Under this act, Medicare Part D provided prescription drug coverage through private companies to Medicare beneficiaries.

What Does Medicare Part D Coverage Entail?

There are a variety of plans to choose from under Medicare D. Each plan offering has their own list of covered drugs. This list of drugs is called a formulary. A formulary includes both brand-name prescription drugs and generic drugs. All plans must cover at least two drugs per drug category. 

Using the drugs listed on the plan will save you money because the insurance coverage provider negotiated a lower price. If you choose a drug not listed on your plan you will have to pay full price for the drug instead of a copayment or coinsurance. Generally if your specific drug is not listed on the plan, there will be a comparable alternative available through your coverage. You can also apply for a formulary exception to have your drug approved through your insurance provider.

Each plan’s formulary will list drugs under different tiers. The higher the tier, the more expensive the drug will be to you. A breakdown of Medicare Part D’s cost structure is listed below under copay tiers.

What are the Costs of Medicare Part D Plans?

Medicare will cover a portion of your prescription drug costs. The costs that you cover for prescription drugs is considered your out-of-pocket costs. Your out-of-pocket costs will depend on the following factors:

  • The drugs you use
  • The plan you choose
  • Whether you go to a pharmacy in your plan’s network
  • Whether the drugs you use are on your plan’s formulary  
  • Whether you get Extra Help paying your Medicare Part D costs

Extra Help is an assistance program to help cover some of the Medicare costs. To qualify for Extra Help, a person must be receiving Medicare, have limited resources and income, and reside in one of the 50 states or the District of Columbia.

The following are the payments associated with Medicare Part D plans: 

Premium: Your monthly premium will depend on the area in which you live and the plan you choose. When reviewing your premium cost be sure to weigh it against the overall cost per year and the cost of the drugs you take. In other words, a lower monthly premium may or may not be the best choice for you if the other payments are much higher. Weigh all of the options before making a decision. 

Deductible: The deductible is the amount of money you must pay out of pocket before Medicare will cover costs. For example, a $300 deductible means that you will need to pay $300 before your insurance plan covers the remaining costs. A lower deductible may be a good option, however you should also compare the premium and other costs to ensure that it is the best financial fit for your situation.

Copay: A copay is a fixed dollar amount for your prescriptions. For example, you may have to pay $10 for a generic drug and Medicare will cost the remainder of the costs. 

Copay tiers: Each Medicare Part D plan places drugs in different tiers. These tiers determine how much your copay amount will be for each drug. The lower the tier, the lower the cost will be to you. Generic drugs are typically labeled as Tier 1 drugs.

Tier Type Tier 1 Tier 2 Tier 3 Tier 4 Tier 5
Drug Type Preferred Generic Drugs Non-PreferredGeneric Drugs Preferred Generic and Brand Name Drugs Non-Preferred Generic and Brand Name Drugs Specialty Drugs
Copay Cost $ $$ $$$ $$$$ $$$$$

Coinsurance: Coinsurance is the percentage of the prescription cost that you are responsible for covering. Typically plans require coinsurance for drugs in higher tiers.  

Coverage gaps: With Medicare, there is a threshold where the insurance coverage no longer covers the costs of drugs and you are required to pay out of pocket. The point where Medicare Part D stops paying is called the “donut hole.” The cost between the donut hole and catastrophic coverage is known as the coverage gap, and a percentage of it will need to be covered by you. This year, it is expected that you will not have to pay more than 25% for covered brand-name and generic drugs during the gap. In previous years, the percentage you had to cover was much higher. Now the insurance companies will be responsible for more of the cost.

Catastrophic coverage: In 2020, catastrophic coverage will kick in when your out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs reaches $6,350. This is an increase from 2019 when the dollar amount was set at $5,100. At this dollar amount, Medicare will cover the majority of the remaining cost of the drugs. The amount you will be responsible for will be under 5%.

Late enrollment penalty: The late enrollment penalty is an amount added to your monthly premium. You may owe this amount if, for any continuous period of 63 days or more after your Initial Enrollment Period is over, you go without one of the following:

  • A Medicare prescription drug plan (Part D)
  • A Medicare Advantage plan (Part C) 
  • Creditable prescription drug coverage

Should You Consider Medicare Part D?

You may wish to enroll in a Medicare Part D plan if:

  • You use prescription drugs on a regular basis
  • You think you may need prescription drugs in the future
  • You do not have prescription drug coverage
  • You are worried about increasing prescription drug costs
  • You are having trouble paying for your prescription drugs

How To Enroll In Medicare Part D

In order to enroll, you must be eligible for Medicare. You are eligible for Medicare if you meet one of the following qualifications:

  • You are age 65 or older
  • You have a qualifying disability for which you have been receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) for more than 24 months
  • You have been diagnosed with end-stage renal disease
  • You are entitled to Medicare Part A and/or enrolled in Medicare Part B

The Initial Enrollment Period is a seven-month timeframe that begins three months before the month you turn 65 and ends three months afterward. During this period you can enroll into Medicare Part D. If you miss the initial enrollment period then you can sign up during the general enrollment period which runs every year from January 1-March 31.

Once you are eligible, the first step to enrolling is to review the private plan offers available in your location. You can call 1-800-MEDICARE or visit the Medicare’s Plan Finder tool on to compare plans and enroll. To learn about Medicare Advantage, Supplement, and Prescription Drug plans, request a free quote.

from Black Enterprise

Africa's week in pictures: 24-30 January 2020

A selection of the best photos from across the continent this week.

from BBC News - Africa

Researchers discover a new way to control infrared light

In the 1950s, the field of electronics began to change when the transistor replaced vacuum tubes in computers. The change, which entailed replacing large and slow components with small and fast ones, was a catalyst for the enduring trend of miniaturization in computer design. No such revolution has yet hit the field of infrared optics, which remains reliant on bulky moving parts that preclude building small systems.

However, a team of researchers at MIT Lincoln Laboratory, together with Professor Juejun Hu and graduate students from MIT's Department of Materials Science and Engineering, is devising a way to control infrared light by using phase-change materials instead of moving parts. These materials have the ability to change their optical properties when energy is added to them.

“There are multiple possible ways where this material can enable new photonic devices that impact people’s lives,” says Hu. “For example, it can be useful for energy-efficient optical switches, which can improve network speed and reduce power consumption of internet data centers. It can enable reconfigurable meta-optical devices, such as compact, flat infrared zoom lenses without mechanical moving parts. It can also lead to new computing systems, which can make machine learning faster and more power-efficient compared to current solutions.”

A fundamental property of phase-change materials is that they can change how fast light travels through them (the refractive index). “There are already ways to modulate light using a refractive index change, but phase-change materials can change almost 1,000 times better,” says Jeffrey Chou, a team member formerly in the laboratory's Advanced Materials and Microsystems Group.

The team successfully controlled infrared light in multiple systems by using a new class of phase-change material containing the elements germanium, antimony, selenium, and tellurium, collectively known as GSST. This work is discussed in a paper published in Nature Communications.

A phase-change material's magic occurs in the chemical bonds that tie its atoms together. In one phase state, the material is crystalline, with its atoms arranged in an organized pattern. This state can be changed by applying a short, high-temperature spike of thermal energy to the material, causing the bonds in the crystal to break down and then reform in a more random, or amorphous, pattern. To change the material back to the crystalline state, a long- and medium-temperature pulse of thermal energy is applied.

“This changing of the chemical bonds allows for different optical properties to emerge, similar to the differences between coal (amorphous) and diamond (crystalline),” says Christopher Roberts, another Lincoln Laboratory member of the research team. “While both materials are mostly carbon, they have vastly different optical properties.”

Currently, phase-change materials are used for industry applications, such as Blu-ray technology and rewritable DVDs, because their properties are useful for storing and erasing a large amount of information. But so far, no one has used them in infrared optics because they tend to be transparent in one state and opaque in the other. (Think of the diamond, which light can pass through, and coal, which light cannot penetrate.) If light cannot pass through one of the states, then that light cannot be adequately controlled for a range of uses; instead, a system would only be able to work like an on/off switch, allowing light to either pass through the material or not pass through at all.

However, the research team found that that by adding the element selenium to the original material (called GST), the material's absorption of infrared light in the crystalline phase decreased dramatically — in essence, changing it from an opaque coal-like material to a more transparent diamond-like one. What's more, the large difference in the refractive index of the two states affects the propagation of light through them.

“This change in refractive index, without introducing optical loss, allows for the design of devices that control infrared light without the need for mechanical parts,” Roberts says.

As an example, imagine a laser beam that is pointing in one direction and needs to be changed to another. In current systems, a large mechanical gimbal would physically move a lens to steer the beam to another position. A thin-film lens made of GSST would be able change positions by electrically reprogramming the phase-change materials, enabling beam steering with no moving parts.

The team has already tested the material successfully in a moving lens. They have also demonstrated its use in infrared hyperspectral imaging, which is used to analyze images for hidden objects or information, and in a fast optical shutter that was able to close in nanoseconds.

The potential uses for GSST are vast, and an ultimate goal for the team is to design reconfigurable optical chips, lenses, and filters, which currently must be rebuilt from scratch each time a change is required. Once the team is ready to move the material beyond the research phase, it should be fairly easy to transition it into the commercial space. Because it's already compatible with standard microelectronic fabrication processes, GSST components could be made at a low cost and in large numbers.

Recently, the laboratory obtained a combinatorial sputtering chamber — a state-of-the-art machine that allows researchers to create custom materials out of individual elements. The team will use this chamber to further optimize the materials for improved reliability and switching speeds, as well as for low-power applications. They also plan to experiment with other materials that may prove useful in controlling visible light.

The next steps for the team are to look closely into real-world applications of GSST and understand what those systems need in terms of power, size, switching speed, and optical contrast.

“The impact [of this research] is twofold,” Hu says. "Phase-change materials offer a dramatically enhanced refractive index change compared to other physical effects — induced by electric field or temperature change, for instance — thereby enabling extremely compact reprogrammable optical devices and circuits. Our demonstration of bistate optical transparency in these materials is also significant in that we can now create high-performance infrared components with minimal optical loss.” The new material, Hu continues, is expected to open up an entirely new design space in the field of infrared optics.

This research was supported with funding from the laboratory's Technology Office and the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

from MIT News

Lil Nas X responds in hilarious fashion to Pastor Troy’s homophobic tweet

Pastor Troy of the rap group “Down South Georgia Boys” came for Lil Nas X and gay people on Twitter and the cowboy rapper’s fans quickly collected him.

READ MORE: Lil Nas X shares 2 identical (and inspiring) videos of him one year apart

“Welp, Guess I won’t be winning a GRAMMY…If this what I gotta wear,” he tweeted, referring to the ‘Old Town Road” singer’s pink Grammy outfit. “They love to push this sh– on our kids!!”

He continued his homophobic rant, telling his followers that he and his son had recently seen a gay couple “kissing and laughing eating mozzarella sticks” at Applebee’s and his son made him proud with his response “First Thing My 14 yr old Son said was, ‘F**** Applebee’s’ And It Brought Joy to My Heart!!” Pastor Troy wrote. “He sees it…their agenda to take the masculinity from Men, Black Men Especially. Some may say, ‘He Making Money!!’ Rupaul do too, but I ain’t bumping his CD!!! Integrity is Priceless. Y’all Better open that 3rd Eye and let your Sons Know What Is Real…Or They Ass Gone Be Headed Down That Old Town Road Foreal!!”

Lil Nas X seemed to brush the comment off his shoulders in hilarious fashion. “Damn I look good in that pic on god,” X wrote.

The country rapper’s fans also read Pastor Troy for his remarks.

“I question your parenting skills and your intelligence. #simplemind P.S. You’ll never have a #Grammy because you nor your music deserve one,” wrote TheTwistedLeo.

“What is real is homophobic punks like you create a world where young lgbtq commit suicide at higher rates or go to the streets … pastor? Stop with that name cuz you preach GARBAGE & HATE.. I feel bad for your son,” tweeted DEADLEE.

READ MORE: Lil Nas X becomes 1st openly gay Black man on Forbes ‘Highest-Paid Country Acts’ list

“You won’t be winning a Grammy because your music career is nonexistent,” tweeted _tylerwyatt.

Who knew wearing pink, eating mozzarella sticks and being happy could incite such hate.

The post Lil Nas X responds in hilarious fashion to Pastor Troy’s homophobic tweet appeared first on TheGrio.

from TheGrio

R. Kelly’s ex-girlfriend claims the singer has “hundreds of victims” in cities across America

Embattled R&B singer R. Kelly has hundreds of victims across America, but he allegedly filmed them engaging in acts of child pornography and blackmailed them into remaining silent, according to his one-time girlfriend.

READ MORE: R. Kelly’s live-in girlfriends get into apparent brawl on video, police called to his condo

In an exclusive interview with The U.S. Sun, Azriel Clary alleges that Kelly filmed women sexually molesting children or performing other sexual acts and held it over their heads as his assurance that they would not report him to authorities. His rationale was if they implicate him, they’d also implicate themselves.

“I think that there’s hundreds of victims out there. Robert has his live-in girlfriends; he has girlfriends in every city. He has flings in every city. There’s usually three main cities in every state. So, three times 50 —that lets you know how many women are probably out there and that’s probably not even hitting it on the nail,” Clary, 22, told The U.S. Sun. “For the most part, he blackmails everyone. He makes everyone do very degrading stuff, whether on film or writing it down, he makes them sign it. And I think a lot of women are ashamed or embarrassed to come out because of stuff like that because it’ll be incriminating them —there’s so much stuff.”

“He has letters from people saying that they’ve been molested or touched by their parents or their brothers or a family member,” Clary added. “He even has people on film molesting their younger nieces or younger brothers. And so, I know a lot of women out there are too embarrassed, humiliated, and ashamed to come out because this man had that much power to control them, to make them molest their younger niece or to molest their younger brother. Personally, had I ever done anything like that, I would be entirely too ashamed to come forward. Thankfully, I’ve never been in that situation. But have I seen it done to other women? Yes, I have.”

Kelly has been in prison since last year. He faces numerous sexual assault charges as well as federal child pornography and racketeering charges.

Steve Greenberg, a lawyer for R. Kelly, said Azriel’s allegations are not only false but that they contradict many earlier statements from her.

“We are surprised to learn that Ms. Clary is now making these allegations. Restricted by the protective orders the prosecution requested, we are not able to litigate these matters in the press. However, the information provided is directly contrary to facts that have been brought forward by Ms. Clary in the past,” Greenberg said to The U.S. Sun. “The facts she is now reciting are directly contrary to her numerous other accounts, as well as —in certain instances— what we expect to be the documentary proof from sources not involved in any of the pending cases. In sum, Ms. Clary had a long-term consensual relationship with Mr. Kelly. It continued after he was arrested when she was free to do as she wished. It is clear that she now seeks to benefit from their relationship. The allegations are not true.”

“Still, Mr. Kelly bears only goodwill towards Ms. Clary,” Greenberg added.

Clary also accused Kelly of verbally, physically and emotionally abusing her. She said she met him at a concert when she was 17 and that she quickly became one of his live-in girlfriends.

READ MORE: Witnesses reveal R. Kelly only married Aaliyah to avoid prosecution, feds say

She recalled one incident in which she said Kelly got enraged with her and beat her with his size 12 shoe for hours while she was naked. Her offense? Clary alleges, he beat her for talking on the phone to high school friends.

“I was talking to my friends from high school and he didn’t like that I was still talking to them …he thought that I was keeping things from him,” Clary told The U.S. Sun. “I was just in communication with two of my girlfriends and he made me text them a very long lie, basically saying why I no longer wanted to be friends with them. And then he beat me with a shoe —a size 12, Nike Air Force One shoe. And he beat me all over, it felt like hours and I was covered in welts all the way from my neck down.”

She said Kelly had another girl bathe her afterwards.

The post R. Kelly’s ex-girlfriend claims the singer has “hundreds of victims” in cities across America appeared first on TheGrio.

from TheGrio