Coal for your ears: Joe Scarborough releasing Trump-themed Christmas EP

Don’t be jealous, but the folks at Business Insider managed to get their hands on an advance copy of Joe Scarborough’s Christmas EP, “A Very Drumpf Christmas.” If the idea of a Trump-themed Christmas EP sounds too hard to believe, understand this is Joe Scarborough we’re talking about. It’s real, and it’s bound to be spectacularly lame from early accounts.

Maxwell Tani writes:

The EP includes three songs, complete with sleigh-bell jingles, lyrics about reindeer, and a track titled “The Drumpf,” a jazzy, ballad-tempo cut seemingly indebted to “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.”

“Oh you can save our Christmas from going kerplumf, from that orange creep that children call the Drumpf?” the band sings on “The Drumpf,” which also references former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci.

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New Human Trafficking Operation Targets Adoptive Families in the U.S.

If the consumerism of the holiday season tells us anything, it’s that for everything, there is a market.

There’s a market for children’s toys, a market for kitchenware a market for outdoor enthusiasts and a market for video gamers, just to name a few.

These days, as unconventional as it may sound, there’s a greater market than ever before for orphaned children in third-world countries. And with more than one million U.S. families trying to adopt each year, it’s a market that human traffickers have taken notice of.

As someone who feels like God placed international adoption on my heart from a young age, it’s easy to understand why so many Americans, and people all over the globe in developed countries, would open their families and lives to children in need. Adoption isn’t just giving the child a better life, it’s giving a family a better life.

At least, that was the experience for Adam and Jessica Davis, an Ohio couple who adopted 5-year-old Namata from Uganda in 2015.

The family paid $15,000 to European Adoption Consultants (EAC). The agency, which is based in Strongsville, Ohio, has arranged thousands of adoptions and matched the family with a 5-year-old girl, who they called Mata.

The Davises were told that Mata had been abandoned by her mom after the father passed away. She had been placed in an orphanage called God’s Mercy Children’s Home, and the Davises were able to fly to Uganda and meet her. In September 2015, they brought her home to Ohio.

But what most would see as a new life for Mata and the Davises quickly turned into an adoptive parent’s worst nightmare.

As Mata became more fluent in English, she began telling Jessica about her life back home in Uganda. She talked about her mother in ways that made everything the Davises had seen on paper sound like a lie.

That’s because it was.

It turns out Mata and her mother had unknowingly become victims of a new form of human trafficking, in which parents in third-world countries are told their child will be temporarily sent away for a better education with the promise of a later return.

What those parents don’t know is that they’re voluntarily putting their child in the hands of traffickers—con artists who are making a hefty paycheck off of the abduction, then adoption of a Ugandan “orphan.”

Mata’s stories led the Davises to question their adoption agency, as well as their own involvement with what they now believed to be human trafficking.

All too often when we hear the term “human trafficking,” we automatically associate it with sexual violence. But that’s not always the case.

Mata was never sold for sex, but she was exploited. Someone financially benefitted from her being abducted and relocated against her will, and the will of her mother.

Through research and the help of Reunite Uganda, Jessica was able to track down Mata’s mother. The organization arranged a Skype call between the two, and Mata pressed for answers. Why did her mother give her away?

“My mom was tricked,” she says after the call. “My mom was tricked.”

Jessica and Adam now faced an impossible decision.

Do they keep their daughter, who they’ve legally adopted and been granted parental guardianship to, or do they send her back to her biological mother?

“If our child had been taken from us, we would want them back,” Adam says.

The couple agreed that they would return Mata to her mother.

The Davises filed to have the adoption vacated, and one year after being brought home to the United States, Mata and her adoptive parents made their way back to Uganda, to reunite her with her mother.

Since Mata’s story, along with at least three others, has been brought to the attention of the United States as well as Ugandan government, God’s Mercy Children’s Home has been shut down, and the EAC is under FBI investigation.

Of course, the actions of few should not lead to the inaction of many. There are legitimate orphanages in third-world countries who work with legitimate adoption agencies here in the states.

The best advice: Do your research. There were no warning signs that the Davises had chosen to work with an agency who did bad business on one end or another. But there are ways to ensure your adoption agency and the processing of your adoption is ethical.

The U.S. Department of State’s website offers a comprehensive list of accredited agencies, including the more than 75 countries affiliated with Hague Adoption Convention—an international agreement enacted to safeguard intercountry adoptions. suggests asking lots and lots of questions—and not being afraid to ask even more. According to their website, every agency should be willing to share contract information, proof of a valid license, their scheduling fee and estimated adoption expenses, information about their in-country relationships with social services, private orphanages and facilitators, as well as their overall mission concerning the well-being of both children and birth parents they represent.

There are thousands of children in the world who desperately need a loving forever home. The market for orphans in third-world countries has a direct line back to the United States with over one million families trying to adopt each year. That means we don’t stop from fear of scam, but we press on, knowing how to be smart in our pursuit of adopting a child through a legitimate and reputable agency.

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‘SHAMELESS’: Alleged rapist Russell Simmons issues ‘the least apologetic ‘apology’ yet’

Def Jam mogul Russell Simmons was recently accused of sexual assault and harassment by model Keri Claussen Khalighi, who was just 17 when the incident allegedly occurred:

Khalighi said that Simmons, who was then about twice her age, tried to force her to have intercourse. “I fought it wildly,” she said. He eventually relented and coerced her to perform oral sex, she alleged. “I guess I just acquiesced.”

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This popular college major is coming to high schools and preparing kids for any career.

Picture a classroom. In some increasingly modern schools, you might be surprised how things have changed.

Many schools still operate on the old models of textbooks and paper homework. But as we move forward into the future, some more innovative classrooms are adapting with the times.

More and more, educators are realizing that traditional curriculums don’t always prepare kids for the challenges of the modern world.

Photo by StockSnap/Pixabay.

Slowly but surely, classrooms are beginning to change. And the results are interesting, to say the least: Coding is becoming as important as calculus. Environmental justice, sustainability, and intersectional politics have started to be incorporated into history class. Many educators are now looking to update their teaching methods to compensate for how society is changing.

In other words: Innovation in education is the future. And schools are finding lots of ways to work it in.

Some schools have begun innovating their approach by assigning projects that tackle lessons from multiple subjects. Instead of doing math problems and writing biology reports, a teacher might ask kids to plan, design, and execute a sustainable vegetable garden, like at Hyde Leadership Charter School in the Bronx. As students measure out plots of land and pick out the optimal crops for their garden, they learn not just about algebra and biology, but also about nutrition, sustainability, and food justice — all pressing issues in the real world today.

But some educators still struggle with the reality that whatever hard skills they imbue, no matter how cutting-edge they seem at the time, they might be outdated by the time graduation rolls around. How do educators prepare kids to do well in a future that they can’t predict?

For many schools, the answer has been an unusual one: teach entrepreneurship.

You may think of entrepreneurship as the training that students need to open their own businesses, which isn’t necessarily a goal all kids have. But entrepreneurship includes tons of individual lessons and life skills that will help kids adapt to changing environments in any industry.

One such curriculum, launched by the National Federation of Independent Business’ Young Entrepreneur Foundation, is broken into three parts: foundations of business theory, developing business ideas, and the logistics of running a business. However, graduates of similar courses say it taught them much more than that.

“[It] taught me how to create something from nothing,” says Anthony Halmon, a graduate of the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship program. “I learned that I can create my own opportunities and I can be an innovator.”

And when kids use their skills to start their own businesses, everyone benefits.

Though students don’t have to go on to become startup founders, many want to do just that. A 2011 Gallup survey indicated that 45% of pre-college students polled said they planned to start their own business — a decision that has positive effects on the individual and on society as a whole.

This outside-the-box thinking taught in entrepreneurship classes has benefits, especially for students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, where training in overcoming obstacles can benefit them as they’re often granted fewer opportunities than people from more affluent backgrounds.

Photo by Kaique Rocha/Pexels.

It also shows promise when it comes to increasing social justice and stimulating lower-income economies, as high school graduates with entrepreneurship skills are more likely to find and take advantage of local business opportunities.

For those who become entrepreneurs, the flexibility that comes with creating one’s own business could have great implications for women and parents. Not only does an entrepreneurship class stand to benefit kids in the present, it could also equip them for brighter futures.

At schools already implementing entrepreneurship programs, the reviews are glowing.

Some schools might be hesitant to try out a pilot program in entrepreneurship, but the proof is in the positive results that early adopters are already beginning to see.

Kempsville High School in Virginia tried out an entrepreneurship academy, and students, parents, and teachers all agreed that it had positive outcomes for everyone involved, whether or not the kids intended to start a business.

“No matter what you do in life, you have to sell yourself,” academy leader Meghan Timlin told local newspaper The Virginia Pilot. “We’re going to give you that set of skills.”

It might be time for more schools to consider adding entrepreneurship to the course list.

It’s become evident that there’s really no way to predict what the world will look like even a few years down the line. If there’s a subject that can teach kids how to create opportunity out of uncertainty, that’s something worth exploring.

When we educate a class of innovators, we invigorate society with a whole generation of fresh ideas, plans, and solutions to problems. And that’s something we can all look forward to.

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BINGO! Dana Loesch drops a BIG mic on John Conyers & taxpayer-protected DC swamp creatures

One of the latest politicians to have been accused of sexual misconduct is Michigan Democrat Rep. John Conyers. The Conyers story contains an added detail: The person accusing the congressman of wrongdoing was reportedly paid a settlement with taxpayer-funds. Dana Loesch tore that maddening detail to pieces on Fox News last night:

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Uber, Lyft ban far-right activist for anti-Muslim rant

Uber and Lyft banned a far-right activist after she complained about not being able to find a “non Muslim” cab driver.

Laura Loomer, who calls herself an “investigative journalist,” sacrificed her job on Wednesday because she couldn’t find a ride-hailing driver who didn’t look Muslim. That experience sparked a lengthy anti-Muslim Twitter rant.

“I’m late to the NYPD press conference because I couldn’t find a non Muslim cab or @Uber @lyft driver for over 30 min! This is insanity,” Loomer posted.

She then suggested on Twitter that someone create a non-Muslim version of Uber and Lyft because she doesn’t want to “support another Islamic immigrant driver.”

Uber banned her from the app soon after for violating its community guidelines, according to Business Insider. Those guidelines begin with the heading “Respect each other.” Lyft followed suit on Thursday morning by deactivating her account, reports CNET.

Twitter has, unsurprisingly, not deleted any of her abusive posts.

The ban comes days after the Manhattan terror attack allegedly carried out by former Uber driver Sayfullo Saipov, who is accused of killing eight and injuring a dozen others.

This isn’t the first time Uber has banned a far-right activist. The ride-hailing giant deactivated the account of white supremacist James Allsup following the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August. The company vowed to continue cracking down on white nationalists and hate groups.

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Ex-members say church uses power, lies to keep grip on kids

As a court-appointed advocate for two foster boys, it was Nancy Burnette’s job to ensure they were in good hands. So as part of her casework, she visited Word of Faith Fellowship, the evangelical church they attended with the couple seeking to adopt them.

What happened next haunts her: In the middle of the service, the chanting and singing suddenly stopped, Burnette said, and the fiery pastor pointed at Burnette, accusing her of being “wicked.” ”You are here to cause strife!” she recalled Jane Whaley shouting, as she sensed congregants begin to converge upon her. “You don’t think these kids are supposed to be here!”

Terrified, Burnette left, but not before promising the boys, ages 4 and almost 2, that she would return — a promise she ultimately could not keep.

“What I didn’t know was how hard Word of Faith would fight — and the tactics they would use — to keep the kids,” Burnette told The Associated Press.

That was not the only time Word of Faith Fellowship’s leaders and members have used positions of authority, intimidation or deception to bring children into the church’s folds or keep them from leaving — often at Whaley’s behest, according to dozens of interviews and hundreds of pages of court records, police reports and social services documents obtained by the AP.

As a result, children have been introduced to sometimes violent church practices that run counter to the North Carolina laws designed to protect them, the AP found.

The state promotes “family preservation,” designed to prevent the “unnecessary placement of children away from their families.” But the AP found that some young congregants have been separated from their parents for up to a decade — bounced from family to family — as leaders strive to keep them in the church.

In addition, three single mothers told the AP that a longtime Word of Faith Fellowship member who was a county court clerk bypassed the foster system and eventually won permanent custody of their children, even though a judge called the clerk’s conduct inappropriate. Two of the mothers said the clerk approached them and offered to temporarily keep the children while they served their jail time.

The AP interviewed a dozen former congregants who said they had personally witnessed the three children living with the clerk being subjected to intense screaming sessions called “blasting” aimed at casting out demons, or being held down, shaken or beaten.

Even as she battled desperately for her young son, one of the three women had told a judge that, if she could not have him, the boy would be better off in foster care due to the church’s abusive nature.

A lawyer for Whaley, Noell Tin, disputed the AP’s conclusions.

“The notion that church members separate children from their parents at Ms. Whaley’s urging is preposterous,” he said. “The idea that a thriving and diverse church like the Word of Faith Fellowship functions in this manner is an insult to its members.”

Under Whaley’s leadership, Word of Faith Fellowship has grown to about 750 congregants in North Carolina and a total of nearly 2,000 members in its churches in Brazil and Ghana and through affiliations in Sweden, Scotland and other countries.

As part of an ongoing investigation into the church, the AP already has cited dozens of former members as saying congregants were regularly punched and choked in an effort to “purify” sinners. Victims of the violence included pre-teens and toddlers, they said — even crying babies, who were vigorously shaken and sometimes smacked to banish devils.

Now, the AP has uncovered numerous instances in which Word of Faith leaders turned children against their parents, with the children then taken in or adopted by other church families. Ex-members told the AP of at least two dozen such cases, which they attributed to the church trying to keep minors from leaving the congregation.

One former congregant, for example, said Whaley pressured her into lying about her sister being abusive when the woman wanted to depart with her four children, leading to a protracted custody battle that resulted in the kids living with a prominent minister.

Another former follower told the AP he was separated from his biological family as a teenager and locked up for months until he began referring to another church couple as “mom and dad.”

In every case, children’s lives were under the total control of Whaley and the leaders enforcing her rules. They were educated in the church school and largely isolated from the outside world, and prohibited from watching television or celebrating their birthdays or Christmas. Any violations could be met with physical or verbal punishment.

The church has a song: “Happy, happy, happy, happy are the children whose God is the Lord.” It serves as a cue for young congregants to put on a happy face, no matter how they’re feeling.

“One thing that is confusing for people in the community is how these children can be so well-behaved and so well-dressed if things are so bad,” said John Huddle, whose relationship with his kids was severed when he broke with the church. “But the clothing can cover the bruises and the smiles can hide the hurt.”


Pregnant and facing a jail sentence, Keela Blanton said she thought her prayers had been answered when a friendly court clerk offered to care for the child until she was back on her feet.

Blanton was facing about eight months behind bars for various charges, including attempting to obtain controlled substances by fraud, when Laura Bridges — a Word of Faith member who was then a Rutherford County clerk — approached her, she said. Afraid her son would end up in permanent state care, she agreed.

In July 2008, when the boy was 5 days old, Blanton signed an agreement granting Bridges temporary guardianship until her release from jail, when she would resume “full responsibility for my child,” according to a document obtained by the AP.

When she got out two months later, Blanton said Bridges and her husband told her that they now loved the boy and wanted to help care for him. He spent much of his time with the couple, which Blanton said seemed like a blessing until he began seeming anxious and came home with bruises on his face.

In August 2012, Blanton refused to send the boy back to the Bridges and filed child abuse reports with the sheriff’s office and social services authorities.

A clinical assessment conducted by a counselor Blanton hired said the then 4-year-old boy showed “signs of being coerced and brainwashed.” He “became hysterical” about missing church services and seemed afraid of being “dealt with” if he broke church rules, the report said.

The counselor noted that the boy wet his pants twice during the interview, and said Laura Bridges had instructed him to soil himself during visits with Blanton.

Videos of the boy obtained by the AP show him overwrought over seemingly minor things. “They don’t wear blue jeans!” he sobbed in one video, apparently afraid to return to the Bridges in clothes forbidden by the church.

“I felt my son was being brainwashed,” Blanton told a judge during an emergency custody hearing, according to a recording of the proceedings.

A social worker testified that Blanton was a fit mother with a tidy, “safe” home and noted that she had custody of her other children — two older boys and a younger daughter. But the Bridges described Blanton as a criminal who lived with a drug dealer in a filthy house and rarely asked to see the boy.

The judge awarded the Bridges primary custody, saying Blanton had allowed her son to largely live with the couple for four years and that it would be traumatic to remove him. But he also told the couple’s attorney, “You haven’t shown me here that she is not a fit and proper person to at least have some relationship with this child.”

Blanton said she would rather the child be in foster care than with the Bridges, but the judge said he had no grounds to place him in the state’s hands.

Throughout the court battle, Blanton said members of the church followed her and took pictures of her family, and that the pressure finally pushed her over the edge. In October 2012, she attempted suicide and was admitted for psychiatric care for several days, according to court records.

In February 2014, another judge gave sole custody to the Bridges, citing Blanton’s “prolonged failure to request, establish and exercise regular contact with the child.” He also noted that she had no stable employment, continued to break the law with offenses such as driving with a suspended license, and moved 19 times over the course of five years.

Blanton said the Bridges lied about how frequently she visited the boy and often prevented her from seeing him. She now has not seen her son in five years and sobbed when she told him via the AP, “Momma didn’t walk away. I love you with all my heart — everything that’s in me.”

In a statement to the AP, Bridges said she met Blanton at the clerk’s office but then developed a friendship with her. She took the boy in at Blanton’s request, she wrote, adding, “She was in a difficult time and I wanted to help.”

In awarding full custody to the Bridges, however, the judge noted that Bridges “while working in the court of clerk’s office, communicated with Ms. Blanton her willingness to help with the unborn child while Blanton was in the courtroom awaiting transfer” to jail. “The court does not condone nor deem appropriate such contact by court officials under such circumstances,” he wrote.

It wasn’t the first time Bridges used her position to procure a child from a troubled woman, another young mother told the AP.

The woman said she was facing drug charges in 2005 when Bridges approached her and offered to care for her daughter, who was not yet a year old. When the woman’s three children were taken away after what she blamed on a failed drug test, the Bridges kept the youngest. The woman — who asked that her name not be used because she feared losing access to her daughter for speaking out — even was ordered to pay child support to the couple, court records show.

And a third young woman with a drug problem and a warrant for her arrest said Bridges called her “out of nowhere” in 2008, identified herself as court employee and offered to take her child when he was born.

Denikka Simpson said in written messages to the AP that she was then in no position to care for the child, but felt manipulated into signing adoption paperwork.

“I was told I could get him back,” said Simpson, who has a history of drug-related charges and other offenses. But when she asked for the boy, she said the Bridges refused, telling her that he would get in touch with her someday if he chose to do so. She has not seen him since he was 6 weeks old, she said.

Bridges also denied approaching the other two women and said they, too, came to her seeking help caring for their children.

“We only became parents to these children after a number of independent persons charged with safeguarding child welfare determined that they should be with us,” she wrote.

She also insisted the children had never been mistreated, writing, “Anyone who says otherwise is not being truthful.”

Benjamin Cooper, one of the ex-members who told the AP they witnessed the children living with the Bridges being abused, said the three women might not have been ideal mothers but that their kids would have been better off in the foster-care system.

“Maybe these weren’t great parents, but that doesn’t mean the kids should have ended up in the church, where abuse is pervasive,” said Cooper, who left the congregation in 2014. “The church is the last place they should have ended up.”


For years, Word of Faith Fellowship has used its muscle — attorneys, money and influence — in custody, foster-care and other cases involving children, the AP found.

Even if it meant lying, former members said, ministry leaders have regularly attacked parents who launched custody battles for their kids when they broke with the church, staunchly taking the side of the remaining parent.

Ex-follower Natasha Cherubino witnessed that firsthand when her family was involved in a bitter custody fight in 2000.

A judge awarded joint custody of Cherubino’s three young step-siblings to their divorcing parents, Ben and Pamela McGee, despite noting in his ruling that Word of Faith had tried to exercise “complete control” over the children and that he believed the church’s practices hurt kids. The judge said the children could not be paddled or blasted — restrictions that Cherubino and other former followers said church leaders flouted.

Cherubino said the leaders coerced the children into throwing fits before weekend visits with their father, who had broken with the church. “And when the children returned, they were “interrogated about what they did at their father’s house,” she said.

Finally, worried about the stress the situation was exerting on his kids after nearly six years of battling for custody, Ben McGee gave up, Cherubino said. “He just couldn’t take what the church was doing to his children — and to him,” she said.

Shana Muse also learned the price of trying to extract children from the church. She became mired in a nasty custody battle with sect leaders when she tried to exit in 2002 with her four children, ranging in age from 8 to 15.

“If you’re thinking about leaving, be prepared,” she said. “They will do everything to personally discredit you and show judges and the public the kids are better off with a church family.”

Muse was persuaded to join Word of Faith by her two sisters, who said their church could help her: She had a drug problem and was facing legal problems in Florida for writing bad checks.

After moving to Spindale, Muse worked for a business owned by Kent Covington, an influential church minister. But she said she reached a breaking point when she saw her children and others being screamed at and beaten in the name of God.

After telling Covington she planned to return to Florida with the children, she arrived home from work that September 2002 night to find her house empty, Muse said. She promptly called the Rutherford County sheriff’s office to report that the kids had been kidnapped.

When deputies arrived, they spoke to church leaders. And much to Muse’s shock, she said, her sister Suzanne Cooper lied to deputies. “She said I had been abusing my children and that they actually had custody of my children,” Muse said.

Suzanne Cooper, who left the church in 2014, told the AP that she was pressured by Whaley and other ministers to lie, adding tearfully, “I live with that guilt every day.”

Through her attorney, Whaley denied ever pressing anyone to lie.

Instead of allowing Muse to take her kids, the sheriff’s office alerted the social services department. Muse said Covington and his wife, Brooke, agreed to her request that the children stay with them until the situation could be resolved. She was granted permission to take the kids after a few days, but they already had been turned against her and threw “a major fit” to stay, she said.

Muse said she then made a decision that torments her still: Because she felt she had no other option, she asked the Covingtons if her children could remain with them for a month or two while she straightened out her life. The couple agreed, but had Muse sign what she said she thought was a temporary custody agreement.

“I did not read the document closely. I trusted them,” she said, adding that she also was intimidated in a room filled with Word of Faith leaders. The document said Muse “gives and conveys all my rights and custody and control” to the Covingtons.

Muse said she returned to Spindale in December 2002 after a stint at a clinic specializing in “cult-deprogramming,” but that the Covingtons refused to hand over her children. So she called social services and said the children — and others inside Word of Faith — were being abused, triggering both an investigation into the church and a legal battle for her kids.

During custody hearings in 2003, church members — including Suzanne Cooper and another sister — painted Muse as an abusive mother. Muse, in turn, detailed how children were mistreated inside the church.

After the testimony concluded, Judge Randy Pool said he found “clear and convincing evidence the children were abused and neglected by isolation, excessive corporal punishment and blasting while at WOFF church” and they were placed in foster care. But the case was not over.

The Covingtons and the church spent thousands of dollars helping Muse’s two teenage girls successfully file for emancipation, which enabled them to quickly move back into the couple’s house. And the boys also left a foster home and moved back after Pool’s ruling was overturned by an appeals court over a jurisdictional issue.

The Covingtons did not respond to a request for comment left at Kent Covington’s business.

Three of Muse’s four children have since left the church, and they told the AP that they were physically and verbally abused by the Covingtons and other ministers.

“I can’t tell you how many times I was beaten, how many times I had black eyes or was so physically hurt I couldn’t move,” Patrick Covington said.

They also said they were coerced by Whaley into lying about their mother. “We were told to tell social workers that she beat us,” daughter Rachael Bryant said.

Sitting in the living room of her Charlotte home, Bryant held her mother’s hand as she apologized. “What we did was wrong,” she said.

Muse clutched her daughter’s fingers as she spoke words of forgiveness. And she fought tears as she expressed her fears for the son remaining in the church.

“I’m speaking out for him and all the others,” she said. “Something has to be done.”


When Donna Whitworth showed up for a medical appointment in 2011, she recalls the nurse practitioner commenting on how healthy the foster children who accompanied her looked. Within weeks, Whitworth said, she got a call from a social worker informing her that a potential family had been found for two of the kids.

The nurse? Anne Brock, a longtime Word of Faith member. The family? Church members Werner and Hetty Trachsel. The children? The two boys that Cleveland County court advocate Nancy Burnette ultimately could not honor her promise to.

The Trachsels had been in the process of becoming foster parents but, instead of applying locally, they went to the neighboring county where church member Lori Cornelius was a social worker, according to documents obtained by AP.

Under North Carolina law, social workers must give foster parents adequate notice before removing a child from a foster home “to prepare the child and to prepare themselves for a significant event in their lives.” But despite a few overnight visits with the Trachsels, Whitworth said everything seemed rushed.

She got a call one day from social services telling her to meet the couple in a grocery store parking lot to hand over the kids, Whitworth said. No social worker was present, she said, and the Trachsels left little time for goodbyes.

“I sat in that parking lot for over an hour and cried. I knew in my gut something wasn’t right,” Whitworth said.

Burnette recalled many red flags: She said the Trachsels were not yet officially certified as foster parents when the boys were allowed to move in. The kids were not receiving the proper therapy and regressed emotionally. And the couple gave conflicting accounts of how they would raise the boys.

After her intimidating experience at the church service, Burnette said she and her supervisor decided to remove the boys from the Trachsel home. Instead, Burnette said, she was taken off their case.

In a conversation surreptitiously recorded by a former church member and obtained by the AP, Whaley said she had called Burnette’s supervisor to complain about her, noting that the supervisor “was as precious as can be … she threw her totally off the case.”

Eight former members said they had seen the two boys being blasted or mistreated by church members. Asked by the AP if the boys had ever been abused, Werner Traschel responded, “Never. Never, never, never.” He said he had been certified as a foster parent when the boys moved in and called them “the most happy children.”

Burnette’s former supervisor, Dawn Stover, declined comment, citing confidentiality laws governing foster children.

An attorney for the Cleveland County social services department responded to questions sent to director Karen Pritchard by saying state law prohibited the agency from discussing individual cases.

For church member Tim Cornelius, obtaining a foster child also was a snap. He, too, went to neighboring Cleveland County, where his sister-in-law Lori was a social worker, and said she gave him advice on how to “game the system.”

Cornelius and his wife became foster parents to a 6-month-old boy. Under North Carolina regulations, foster parents are mandated to provide a child with safe home, but Cornelius said he saw his son abused by others — blasted, and violently shaken — and knew it would only get worse.

“I knew he was going to get older and they were going to beat him up. So I started trying to step up,'” Cornelius said.

For pushing back, he said, he was berated and beaten himself. Fed up, he left both his wife and Word of Faith in 2013 after 20 years in the church.

After guilt set in, Cornelius said he told a social worker that he was scared for the boy’s safety due to the church’s violent practices. A week later, he said, he was contacted by a social services attorney who thanked him for being candid. But he said he never heard from the attorney again, and the boy remained with his ex-wife.

“In retrospect, I regret I didn’t do more to protect him. But at the time, I was afraid. I believed that if you defied Jane, you would become a target and you would go to hell,” Cornelius said. “It still haunts me.”

Lori Cornelius left her social services position earlier this year after the AP quoted former church members who said she participated in coaching sessions designed to circumvent investigators looking into abuse allegations.

She denied that she helped her brother-in-law obtain a foster child and told the AP that she had never witnessed any abuse at Word of Faith. “Never would allow a child to be abused or be anywhere where a child was being abused,” she said.


When he was 13, Brent Johnston said, Jane Whaley ripped his family apart: She decreed that he should be taken from his mother and live instead with Bill and Jennifer Creason, a church couple with no children of their own.

Johnston grew up in Word of Faith. Over the years, his mother had struggled with personal problems and the church’s strict ways, breaking with the sect at times, only to return when she ran out of options.

After Johnston and his younger brother went to live with the Creasons in 2008, his mother left the church for good and Whaley told him she had “turned my mom over to Satan,” he recalled.

Jennifer Creason had been Johnston’s principal at the church’s K-12 school and he was terrified at the prospect of living with the couple, who he described as both emotionally and physically abusive.

In 2011, Johnston said, he was accused of “unclean” thoughts and locked up for more than five months in the Lower Building, a cramped, four-room structure reserved for those deemed the worst sinners.

If he wanted out, he said, Whaley insisted he start calling the Creasons “mom and dad.”

“Basically, we were their way to have a family, but taking someone else’s kids away is not the right way to do it,” he said.

The Creasons did not respond to the AP’s request for comment.

Johnston said Whaley called a meeting of top ministers and lawyers in which he was pressured to tell his mother he wanted to stay with the Creasons.

His younger brother said he wanted to be adopted by the couple, Johnston recalled. Under intense pressure, he said his mother — who declined to be interviewed — “was basically forced to sign over her rights” to the boy. Court documents show the Creasons filed paperwork to adopt Johnston’s brother on May 29, 2012.

Johnston was told to change his last name to Creason, which he did, in a process finalized in July 2015. But after leaving the church early the next year, he informally started using Johnston again.

Johnston hasn’t had a relationship with his brother since fleeing Word of Faith. Sometimes, he drives by the Creasons’ house, hoping to catch a glimpse of his sibling. But he doesn’t dare linger.

“The last time I saw him, he was playing basketball outside,” Johnston said.

He allowed himself a fleeting hope that someday, somehow, they would be a family again. Then he drove away.


AP researcher Rhonda Shafner and AP reporter Allen Breed contributed to this report.


The AP National Investigative Team can be reached at


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NYC terror attack brings out terrible media bias; and other journalism failures

The media have a playbook to downplay any connection between terrorist attacks and Muslims.

First, journalists avoid the politically incorrect phrase “radical Islamic terrorism,” sometimes blaming the weapon, not the attacker for the terrorist strike. Then they move into defensive mode for the Muslim community. Lastly, they blame Republicans and conservatives for politicizing a deadly attack, often while politicizing the attack themselves.

Journalists ran all of those plays when an Uzbeki Muslim man was accused of running down and killing eight people and injuring a dozen others in New York City on Halloween. Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov was charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office with one count of material support of a terrorist organization and one count of violence and destruction of a motor vehicle.

The journalistic response was predictably awful. Several outlets – ABC News, CBS News, CNN and HuffPost among them – used headlines about “truck rampage” or something similar to a truck attacking the victims. This was after news outlets were reporting the attacker had shouted “Allahu Akbar” (Arabic for “God is greater”) as he exited his vehicle.

Then the PR effort shifted into high gear. The New York Times ran two separate pieces defending the use of “Allahu Akbar,” including: “I Want ‘Allahu Akbar’ Back.”  The Times did all it could to downplay the Muslim connection to terror, asking “When is an attack terrorism?” The paper tried desperately to make the terrorist seem to be a deranged man like the gunman in Las Vegas, even noting how he had “monsters inside.”

NBC ran a much-mocked piece warning how “some Muslim Americans and community leaders expressed concerns over how their religion would be perceived and whether Muslims would become targets of violence.”

CNN’s Chris Cuomo (D-Less Famous Cuomo) pretended Trump was attacking a Muslim simply because he was a “brown guy with a beard.”

MSNBC terrorism analyst Malcolm Nance did much the same. He claimed that “what you’re seeing is not Islam, whatsoever.”

Then the media shifted into the gun debate. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof was skewered online for tweeting: “The NYC terrorist had a pellet gun and a paintball gun. Good thing that in NYC he couldn’t buy assault rifles, or the toll would be higher.” Kristof added that truck licenses were “the model for gun safety.”

Soufan Group CEO and MSNBC guest Ali Soufan told “Morning Joe” that the terrorists “want to divide us.” He added, shockingly, that President Donald Trump concurred that the terrorists had a powerful message. “President Trump agreed with them in that by dividing our country further today.”

2. More Sex Scandals: Media sex scandals are increasing. New allegations against actor Kevin Spacey include what described as a “sexual relationship” with a 14-year-old boy that ended in attempted rape. This is only the most serious of the new allegations. The Advocate actually knew about the allegations against Spacey in 2001 but refused to report them following its “no outing” policy of anyone who was gay. Spacey has already lost his starring vehicle  “House of Cards” on Netflix.

Other allegations against Hollywood celebrities include actors Dustin Hoffman, Jeremy Piven and Andy Dick, as well as filmmaker Brett Ratner and Billboard Chief Strategy Officer Stephen Blackwell.

That wasn’t all. “NPR’s Senior Vice President for News, Michael Oreskes, has resigned following allegations of sexual harassment from several women,” announced NPR. That followed claims he kissed two women on the lips while discussing job prospects. “An NPR employee has also come forward publicly about harassment that allegedly occurred during a business meeting-turned-dinner in 2015,” added NPR.

3. Former DNC Head Blasts Clinton Deal: One of the biggest media stories of the week came from an article by former Interim Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Donna Brazile for Politico. Brazile blasted a deal the party cut with Hillary Clinton long before she ever defeated her opponent for the Democratic president nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Brazile said an agreement between the party and the Clinton camp “was not illegal, but it sure looked unethical.” Vox called it a “bombshell.” Several outlets keyed off of a comment by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., agreeing that the campaign had been rigged.

This was an incredible example of Democrats tearing each other apart, though Brazile conveniently forgot to mention her own efforts to leak debate questions to Clinton. The result was almost guaranteed. ABC, CBS and NBC all ignored  the story Thursday night when it broke.

4. Sins Of Omission Are Worse Than Commission: It’s not just what journalists report, it’s what they don’t. This week featured the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, perhaps the biggest religion story in 500 years – especially for Catholics and Protestants. It also set the stage for wars, discovery and alliances for centuries.

Thankfully, the broadcast networks covered an anniversary that day – the 10th anniversary of the iPhone. They loved it so much it got nearly 5 minutes of coverage. They set aside nothing for the Reformation anniversary. It’s hard to make the disconnect between journalists and people of faith more obvious.

That was only one of several prominent stories the broadcast networks chose to skip this week. There was no network coverage of how Alexandria, Va.’s historic Christ Church was removing two plaques that had been in the church for nearly 150 years. The plaques honored President George Washington and Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. It’s worth noting that Trump had predicted the left would go after the founders like Washington. He was entirely accurate.

The networks love political scandals – until Democrats get charged. None of the broadcast evening news shows have reported on U.S. Senator Bob Menendez’s corruption trial since it began Sept. 6. 

And over at ABC’s “The View,” censors inexplicably censored the word “Jesus” two times in one discussion. Co-host Paula Faris mentioned “Jesus” twice – or at least she tried to do so, before someone intervened. Sometimes journalists are exactly the stereotypes we believe they are.

Hurray For Hollywood: Entertainment is a reminder just how liberals really feel. Rapper Snoop Dogg posted a photo to Instagram that he later deleted showing him next to a supposed corpse with a toe tag reading “Trump.” The play on words invokes one of America’s most notorious gangs: “Make America Crip Again.”

“Ferguson,” journalist and playwright Phelim McAleer’s play about the incidents in Ferguson, Mo., sadly is closing its New York run this Sunday. McAleer was highly critical of the media narrative. So his “verbatim theater” play featured only the dialogue from the trial. The drama was taken “from the 25-day grand-jury proceedings that resulted in a decision not to charge” Officer Darren Wilson, according to National Review

Dan Gainor is the Media Research Center’s Vice President for Business and Culture. He writes frequently about media for Fox News Opinion. He can also be contacted on Facebook and Twitter as dangainor.

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FCC Plans to Gut Net Neutrality, Allow Internet ‘Fast Lanes’

The Federal Communications Commission will publish on Wednesday its plan to reverse Obama-era net neutrality rules that banned internet service providers from blocking or slowing down content, or creating so-called "fast lanes" for companies willing to pay extra to deliver their content more quickly.

The new FCC order will throw out almost all of the agency's 2015 net-neutrality rules, including the prohibitions on blocking and throttling content, senior FCC staff said during a conference call with reporters Tuesday. The order will also ban states from imposing their own net-neutrality rules to replace the federal regulations.

The order also reverses the decision to classify both mobile and home broadband internet services as "common carriers" like telephone services. That change will allow the Federal Trade Commission to enforce antitrust laws against broadband providers should they engage in anticompetitive behavior. The order will also require broadband providers to publicly disclose if they block or slow content, or accept payments from companies for preferential treatment.

"Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the internet," FCC chair Ajit Pai said in a statement Tuesday. "Instead, the FCC would simply require internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that consumers can buy the service plan that’s best for them and entrepreneurs and other small businesses can have the technical information they need to innovate."

The FCC's two Democratic members blasted the proposal. "Following actions earlier this year to erase consumer privacy protections, the Commission now wants to wipe out court-tested rules and a decade’s work in order to favor cable and telephone companies," Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement. "This is ridiculous and offensive to the millions of Americans who use the Internet every day."

But the GOP has a majority on the commission. Barring a last-minute change of heart by one of the three Republican commissioners, the order will likely be approved during the agency's next open meeting on December 14.

Jettisoning net-neutrality rules would make it easier for companies like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon to give their own streaming video services priority over others, such as Amazon Prime or Netflix. It could also make it easier for companies to impede voice and messaging tools like Skype and WhatsApp.

Of course, well-established services from deep-pocketed companies like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft will likely remain widely available. But net-neutrality advocates argue that smaller companies that don’t have the money to pay for fast lanes could suffer. In other words, protecting net neutrality isn't about saving Netflix but about saving the next Netflix.

Previous FCCs have largely agreed. The agency first moved to protect net neutrality in a 2005 policy statement declaring that internet users had a right to access the content and services of their choosing. Under that policy, the FCC in 2008 ordered Comcast to stop slowing BitTorrent connections; the cable giant challenged the ruling, arguing that the agency had overstepped its authority, and won. The Obama-era FCC passed a more robust set of rules in 2010, but those were struck down in 2014 following a lawsuit filed by Verizon.

Under then chair Tom Wheeler, the FCC then decided that the best way to ensure its authority to enforce net-neutrality rules was to reclassify broadband internet providers as common carriers.

Despite broad support for net neutrality among both Democratic and Republican voters, Republican politicians rallied against Wheeler's net-neutrality rules before they even passed. US senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) called net neutrality "Obamacare for the internet," and Donald Trump warned, nonsensically, that it would "target conservative media." The FCC ultimately passed the rules along a party-line vote.

Narrowing the rules

Pai has narrowed the scope of the rules since taking over as chair in January. In February, for example, he ended an investigation into whether AT&T and Verizon used data limits for anticompetitive purposes, effectively ruling that the two companies could exempt their own video services from customers' data caps but still charge for data used by their competitors’ services.

If the FCC approves the plan next month, it likely would take effect early next year. Comcast, the nation's largest home internet provider, is banned from blocking or throttling content under the terms of its 2011 merger with NBCUniversal, but that ban expires next year. Charter faces similar rules as the result of its merger with Time-Warner Cable that don't expire until 2023.

Before it is even approved, consumer groups are already preparing to challenge the new order in court. The Administrative Procedure Act act bars federal agencies from making "arbitrary and capricious" decisions, in part to prevent federal regulations from yo-yoing every time a new administration is in court. Given that the agency just defended the original net neutrality order in court last year, consumer groups may have a case that Pai's new order is capricious.

Congress also could intervene. Despite earlier lawsuits by Comcast and Verizon, the broadband industry now says it would welcome laws banning blocking and throttling content so long as providers aren't classified as common carriers. Whether Congress would or could actually draft a robust net neutrality order is another question entirely.

UPDATED, Nov. 21, 3:30 PM: This article has been updated to include details of the planned policy from FCC staffers and commissioners.

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Questlove gets pulled over 6 times a year. Sadly, his experience is not unique.

Questlove, the multi-talented, affable percussionist for The Roots, took to Instagram to share his experiences as a black man behind the wheel.

In the early morning of Nov. 17, possibly after getting pulled over, Questlove posted a video with a lengthy caption detailing some of the experiences he’s had “driving while black.”

Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Fast Company.

“Getting pulled over is like one of the most degrading things that can happen to you, when you look like me. You see the fingers are on the trigger, and these lights are blinding you, these flashlights. There’s a lot of coded questions, ’cause they’re basically trying to figure out how can you afford the vehicle that you have.”

Questlove’s success and celebrity do not insulate him from inappropriate, alarming, or potentially dangerous interactions with the police.

After a traumatic experience getting pulled over at 16 for a case of “mistaken identity,” Questlove lost his interest in driving and didn’t get a car of his own until he was 33. His first wheels? A Scion XB, an affordable, lunchbox shaped car that almost looks like a pint-sized delivery truck. (After the model was retired in 2015, Jalopnik penned a loving obituary to the “goofy little box” they “loved.”) Officers would joke to him, “It looks like you stole a college student’s car” — an offensive statement on multiple levels.

But really: Why the XB? It was the least-threatening car on the road, and Questlove was a successful, internationally renowned musician at the time. This wasn’t about looks or speed. It was about coming home alive.

“[O]ne can’t find the words to describe to the feeling of panic, guilt, anxiety & trauma one feels when they won’t know the outcome of this getting pulled over scenario. This is not an exaggeration folks.”

Questlove’s fears are not misplaced. Statistically, a black driver is around 30% more likely to be pulled over than a white driver. And while the number of deaths caused by law enforcement officers declined a bit in 2016, young black men aged 15 to 34 were nine times more likely to be killed by police than other American demographic groups.

Pallbearers carrying the casket of Philando Castile after his funeral. Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images.

And it’s not limited to once or twice every few years. For Questlove, these moments happen every few months.

As many as six times a year. The panic. The fear. The degrading feeling of powerlessness. Six. Times. A. Year.

While Questlove is sometimes recognized and let go without incident, what of the people of color pulled over, harassed, roughed up, or arrested because they aren’t celebrities? Where is the justice for them?

“This has been going on for 8 years now. 6 times a year. Without fail. Results are always the same: search for the (literal? preverbal?) smoking gun because I’m NOT supposed to be in a car THIS nice.If they know it’s me they lemme go w/o fail. But what about those without the benefit of a doubt? they ain’t getting off so easy. something has GOT to give folks.”

Questlove is not the only black celebrity speaking up about their experiences and calling for equal justice.

Police officers raised their weapons at, handcuffed, and forcibly detained NFL star Michael Bennett after gun shots were heard on the Las Vegas strip. He shared his story in an open letter on Twitter.

“I felt helpless as I lay there on the ground handcuffed facing the real-life threat of being killed. All I could think of was ‘I’m going to die for no other reason than I am black and my skin color is somehow a threat.'”

In 2015, comedian Chris Rock had a series of tweets with selfies detailing his three traffic stops in seven weeks, each one with the outcome, “Wish me luck.” Rock’s tongue-in-cheek caption has a grain of truth — yes, he came out the other side, but not everyone is that lucky.

If you want to be an ally in the struggle for equality, there’s an easy way to start.

People of color are not asking for special privileges or treatment. We’re simply asking to be treated fairly with decency and respect. For too long, these demands haven’t been taken seriously, or somehow mischaracterized as “unpatriotic.” But is it too much to simply be seen as human beings?

To be a strong ally, the best thing you can do is listen. Our stories are real. So is our pain and fear. As Questlove put it: “Listen & Believe us when we tell you what’s goin on out here. next time y’all feel like reminding me life Is different cause im on tv.”

Watch Questlove’s video and read his heartfelt post in full.

I was a late bloomer in driving because I had a traumatic experience getting pulled over when I was 16 (“mistaken identity”) I was so traumatized I never even told my parents because they woulda just made me always stay in house even on weekends. As a teen i shied away from getting my license because I automatically assumed that would make me a prime target for an ass whuppin. b4 the “well, if you have nothing to be guilty of, then you’ll have nothing to worry about” just stop it. I finally got my first car at 33. A #ScionXB. why? It was too silly to even be a threat. It was a goofy breadbox on wheels. I mean it was charming somewhat. but one can’t find the words to describe to the feeling of panic, guilt, anxiety & trauma one feels when they won’t know the outcome of this getting pulled over scenario. This is not an exaggeration folks. I’ve been let go plenty of times, but why should one have to work w jay z, or do that funny bit w chappelle to be given the benefit of the doubt? (back when I was in the music making business my car was the judge/jury: make a gang of beats or maybe just having mastered the new Roots album and I drive/listen to it for 3-4 hours near Temple/Drexel/UPenn which i learned was bad news.) examine that one: A life where one has to compress & re adjust to make others feel safe. I mean yes, be considerate and aware of other people’s surroundings. But man…me writing this rant is like Tre punching the air in #BoyzInTheHood. That’s how mad I am. This has been going on for 8 years now. 6 times a year. Without fail. Results are always the same: search for the (literal? preverbal?) smoking gun because I’m NOT supposed to be in a car THIS nice. If they know it’s me they lemme go w/o fail. But what about those without the benefit of a doubt? they ain’t getting off so easy. something has GOT to give folks. I was shaking earlier & typing this out is calming me down. Listen & Believe us when we tell you what’s goin on out here. next time y’all feel like reminding me life Is different cause im on tv. I’m tagging you. Next time you lecture me cause I’m explaining why peaceful protest in needed, I’m tagging you. goodnight. peace.

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