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August 16, 2012

By JIM ABRAMS Associated Press

 

The Agriculture Department has come out with new steps to fight fraud in the federal food stamp program, which has taken central stage as Congress struggles to come up with a long-term farm policy bill.

The actions include giving the department new authority to both permanently disqualify and fine retailers who traffic in food stamps and requiring states to make use of federal databases, including prison and death records, to ensure that food stamp benefits go to those who are eligible.

The department says food stamp fraud is already at record lows due to increased oversight. But it is sensitive to any reports of abuse as Congress tries to pass a farm bill that provides almost $80 billion a year for the 46 million receiving food stamp benefits.

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August 09, 2012

Jerome E. Horton, Chairman of the Board of Equalization and Member of the Franchise Tax Board, made the following statement regarding the impact the 2012 Personal Leave Program has on the Board of Equalization (BOE), Franchise Tax Board (FTB) and state budget:

We will continue to do our part during these tough economic times to minimize the negative impact of the reduction of hours.  However, we are not magicians.  Hobbling the BOE and FTB with the Personal Leave Program is like sending farmers home in the middle of harvest season.

As a result of the reduction of work hours, California will experience an estimated annual revenue loss/delay of $88 million generated by the BOE.  It is estimated that although cutting employee pay is projected to save the BOE $13.5 million, it will cost the state $6 to $7 for every dollar saved, not to mention the negative morale it creates.

State employees are regular people who have chosen to serve the public.  They hurt like the rest of California.

This is not in the best interest of the state and decreases the efficiency of our efforts to collect revenue.  The FTB has stated that it loses its ability to maximize revenue production which results in lost opportunity revenue.  While a figure has not been quantified, according to an economic projection based on the 2010 California Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes report FTB loses $7.15 for every dollar it saves.

The BOE and FTB administer numerous tax and fee programs that annually produce approximately $54 billion and $50 billion respectively.  More than one million businesses in nearly every field of commercial activity are registered with the BOE.  Every year, the FTB processes more than 16 million personal income tax returns and more than 1 million business entity tax returns.

The BOE is a leader in efficient tax administration.  We spend less than one percent of each dollar collected – that's only 81 cents for every $100 of revenue collected.

Even though we have been forced to decrease our time spent on tax administration, we remain committed to providing the best customer service possible to our taxpayers.  We know how important the BOE is to the state and how the revenue we collect goes back into our communities to support essential services such as schools, roads, hospitals, and public safety.

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August 02, 2012

By Chida R. Warren-Darby

Special to the NNPA

The San Diego Voice & Viewpoint Newspaper

 

Dr. Lisa Williams is a petite, beautiful brown skinned woman, with a broad endearing smile. She’s genuine, compassionate, soulful, and is the creator of Positively Perfect Dolls.  No this isn’t a story about a woman who all her life desired to make dolls and sell them to little girls, and this isn’t a story about a woman seeking fortune and fame. This is a story about a woman who had the greater desire to fill a need.  “I don’t create dolls. I show the beauty in our children. I see myself as healing generations,” says Williams.

A visionary leader, award winning speaker and author, Dr. Lisa (as she is affectionately known) is the CEO of the World Of Entertainment, Publishing and Inspiration (World of EPI), LLC. The World of EPI was formed with the mission to be an expression of joy. Williams is also known for her ability to motivate executives, future leaders and audiences of all sizes. In addition to winning numerous teaching awards from major universities such as Penn State, Ohio State and the University of Arkansas, Williams is the first female to hold a multimillion dollar endowed chair in her field, the first African American female to graduate from the Ohio State University’s Marketing and Logistics Department, and the second woman in her discipline to become a full professor.

Williams has dedicated her life to educating and developing future and current leaders.  Major corporations and President Clinton’s Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection have sought her advice.  Williams’ research has practical and global implications and as such she has spoken to audiences in the United States, Belgium, Austria, Canada, London and Australia.

With numerous accolades under her wings, Williams has triumphantly created a flight path to success. But while on her journey of enlightening people through education, she realized that God yet required more of her. After publishing her book “Leading Beyond Excellence,” Williams developed a partnership with Walmart, in which her books sold extremely well. It was something in her book that showed Walmart, she could offer something to their customers that they had been longing to do, which was to sell children’s books that reflected multiculturalism.  Williams believed she could tackle the job and was successful at helping to produce “Brandon’s Really Bad, Really Good Day,” and “Amelia Asks Why?,” both books depicting African American children in a manner that young children of color could relate to. In a review of “Amelia Asks Why?,” one parent wrote “This book is perfect for my African-American daughter named Amelia. However not only does it work for her because of her name, she enjoys the story. She is learning about her surroundings and this book has encouraged her curiosity. In addition it gets her to clean her room.” Another parent wrote “The topic is appreciated and timely. My 2 year old daughter loves this book. We have read it often over the last year and at this point, we are using tape to keep it intact. I personally love the illustrations.”  After great sales, and tremendous feedback at this level, Walmart decided to throw Williams another challenge, and that was to create dolls! “Walmart understands and is sensitive to the needs in our community,” she said. When beginning the process to create the dolls, Williams said that she wanted to find value in the project for our community. “I wanted to do something that was respectful to our community and our race. [Walmart] was saying ‘We think you understand the community, and we want you to do a line of multicultural dolls’.”  Williams believes that this venture was an avenue to promote a ministry of positive self-esteem.  

From concept to production, Positively Perfect Dolls took approximately a year to complete.  While the process was extraordinary, Williams shared that by no means was it effortless. “When I tell the story it sounds like it was easy. It wasn’t easy.”  Williams didn’t have distribution, and she didn’t have experience. “I had to create a learning curve overnight. There was no other company I could go to, to get help,” she said. Williams had to negotiate with suppliers, which proved difficult because she didn’t have a reputation or any years in the business.  She also learned that Walmart doesn’t do business with every supplier, so qualifying a supplier also proved arduous. While maintaining her residency in San Diego, Williams set out to develop a relationship with manufacturers in China. “I don’t speak the language, and I got no support from banks,” she said, even though she could prove she had Walmart’s support. “I had to use all of my personal resources,” but finance are not her driving force. Through it all, Williams said it was a labor of love.  While birthing this product, Williams shared that the biggest change she has encountered was having to grow more spiritually.  “I have all these degrees and education, and for a long time I leaned on that. When God brought this to me, it required education, but it also required other traits that I had to develop. It required me to have a meditation and prayer life.” Williams said that she had to tap into God’s infinite knowledge and well of wisdom to see what He’d have her to do. She said she’s also learned to walk by faith and not by sight. “When I started we weren’t making any money. I was doing the books because I believed in literacy in our community. When I did this people thought I was crazy saying ‘you have a doctorate, why are you doing this?’,” she said.  “But I viewed it as a higher calling, in which I could do more and give more.”  In a time when many are looking to change careers, start businesses and do what they love best, Williams understands that you have to do what God is telling you. “You don’t always do what makes sense, but what’s in your heart,” she said.  “When I would take a step, things and information would appear, info I needed would appear.” 

Williams shared that as a youth, there weren’t any African American dolls. All you saw were Barbies. “You go through life thinking that Caucasian girls were the model of beauty,” she said, “and that [African Americans] were somewhere down at the bottom of the totem pole. Our skin is gorgeous, coming in so many deep hues.”  Williams believes if she would’ve had a doll like this as a child, it would have taught her greater confidence.  At many points on this journey, Williams said she wanted to give up, at times thinking it all was too hard, or that she didn’t have enough help.  But at every point when she wanted to call it quits, she was reminded of why she needed to press on. “I saw that Anderson Cooper special, and cried,” she said, referring to “Black and White: Kids on Race.”  Reflecting on the one particular episode, Williams recalled seeing a little girl who thought her skin was ugly and ashy. “She pointed to the white doll and said ‘she’s pretty,’ that was a sign to me.”

Since hitting the shelves, Positively Perfect Dolls have sold out. Consumers thought the dolls were very positive, cute and fun, and enjoyed their joyful expressions. Positive affirmations were printed on the dolls’ clothing, and people loved that.  Williams’ next line of dolls are scheduled to release in August.  The line has expanded from infant dolls, to include a few more, totaling 9 dolls.  New to the family are Angela and her sister Brianna. “I wanted to have older girls and preteen dolls, which is the DIVA Collection.”  DIVA stands for Dignified, Intelligent, Vivacious and Attractive. “That’s how I see these girls. These dolls aren’t sexy. You’ll never see them in a sexy outfit,” asserted Williams.  “Our little girls are growing up too.”

Williams hopes that when she leaves this earth, she’s left something positive, and left a child feeling beautiful. This thought is what drives her to get up every morning, and hope that if one little girl looks in the mirror happy at who she is, because she played with a Positively Perfect Doll, she’s done her work.  Williams is a strong believer that “play” helps to strengthen little girls in regards to dealing with life’s issues. If they can find positive reinforcement in a toy, then hopefully those good thoughts will segue into their day-to-day thinking when it comes to their self-esteem, thoughts toward themselves, and even others.   For more information on the Positively Perfect Doll Collection visit www.positivelyperfectdolls.com and or visit your local Walmart store.

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August 02, 2012

The National Bar Association (NBA), the largest group of African-American lawyers and judges, showed up in record numbers for their 87th Annual Convention and Exhibits at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, July 14-19.  More than 1,300 guests filled meeting rooms to listen to the best and brightest on various issues including voter empowerment, gaming law, corporate leadership, education and more.  “I am pleased at the display of dedication and commitment from our NBA members,” said Demetris Cheatham, executive director. “Their willingness to share information and work collectively as a body is encouraging and admirable.  With the leadership of our executive team, we will continue to grow and make an impact throughout the nation.”

 

The NBA recognized several leaders for their outstanding work in the legal field and within their communities.  Sixteen awards were presented to deserving members at the annual awards gala by past president Daryl Parks, Esq. The recipients included Benjamin Crump, Esq; Linnes Finney, Jr., Esq.; D. Peter Herbert, Esq. (O.B.E.); John W. Boyd, Jr., Esq.; Greg Francis, Esq. and Toyota.  Other award recipients included The Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA), VAULT, Juliette Pryor, Esq. and Laurie N. Robinson, Esq., who were all presented with the 2012 Pinnacle Award.  In addition, the National Bar teamed with Impact to recognize the Nation’s Best Advocates: Top 40 Lawyers Under 40.  The recipients of the Nation's Best Advocate of the Year, Excellence in Leadership, Service, Activism, and Innovation Awards were also presented.

 

The event welcomed several special guests including panelists Bar­bara Arnwine (Law­y­ers’ Com­mit­tee for Civil Rights Under Law), Donna Bra­zile (Democratic National Com­mit­tee) and Gary Flowers (Black Leader­ship Forum).

 

The three political advocates led the Presidential Showcase Forum on voter empowerment and election protection.  High-profile case attorneys Benjamin Crump, Esq. and President Daryl Parks, Esq. (attorneys for Trayvon Martin’s family) along with Chris Chestnut, Esq. (attorney for Robert Champion’s family in the FAMU hazing case) were featured speakers for the “Update from the Experts” panel and offered details on their respective cases.  The parents of Trayvon Martin, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, were in attendance and shared a few words of thanks to the NBA.  The Lawyers’ Committee also honored the parents for their strength and courageous spirit.

 

The convention members had a chance to go into the community for two of their events including the Young Lawyers Pro-Bono Clinic where they offered free legal advice and answered questions for Las Vegas community residents at First A.M.E. Church. 

 

The 6th Annual Linnes Finney, Jr. NBA Youth Day welcomed teens ages 13-18 at the Boyd School of Law-UNLV.   The daylong program provided Las Vegas students with a chance to learn about careers in the legal profession.  In addition, 12 teens from around the country competed for national titles and $5,000 in the Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. Drum Major for Justice Advocacy Competition.  More than $25,000 was awarded at the national competition.

 

John Page, Esq. was sworn in as the new NBA president, taking over the leadership position for Daryl Parks, Esq.  The 88th Annual Convention is scheduled for July 27-August 1, 2013 at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach Hotel in Miami, Florida.

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August 02, 2012

Cynthia Bridges made history recently as the first African American to be appointed executive director of the nation’s only elected tax commission.

 

Jerome E. Horton, Chair­man of the California State Board of Equalization (BOE) welcomed Bridges as its executive director. Horton announced the appointment after the Board met in closed session during its June 27 Sacramento meeting. Bridges assumed her new role on August 1.

 

“Ms. Bridges is a proactive and visionary executive who brings extensive experience to the BOE,” said Horton. “She offers proven leadership that will help guide the BOE in fulfilling its mission of providing fair, effective and efficient tax administration.”

 

“I am honored and humbled to be appointed Executive Director," said Bridges.  “I look forward to working with the Board and staff to advance BOE's vision and create innovative solutions to help the citizens and businesses of California succeed.”

 

Prior to being selected as BOE’s executive director, Bridges served as secretary of the Louisiana Department of Revenue, a position to which she was appointed by three Louisiana Governors.  During her 12 years in that role, Bridges helped to transform the agency into a recognized leader in customer service; one of many accomplishments during a 30-year career with the LDR.

 

Former Louisiana Gov­ernor Murphy ‘Mike’ Foster noted, “I couldn't be more pleased that the California Board of Equalization has chosen Ms. Cynthia Bridges as their next executive director.  She was an incredibly efficient and principled secretary who brought the Department of Revenue into the 21st Century.”

 

Louisiana Senator Karen Carter Peterson lauded the appointment, saying, “Secre­tary Bridges will undoubtedly serve the people of California with integrity and professionalism as she did here in Louisiana. I know I speak for many others in wishing her much success in her new endeavor.”

 

Various state and national organizations have honored Bridges for her outstanding contributions.  Last year, Bridges was selected as one of the “Top 10 Tax Administrators” by the publication State Tax Notes, and the Baton Rouge Business Reports named her as one of the “Most Influential Women in Business” in 2007.

 

Bridges replaces Ms. Kristine Cazadd who is retiring in the fall after serving the Board for 22 years.

 

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