Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Pull Up or Pay Up

Sagging Pants Come With a Price

Do you want to see my underwear? That’s the question a Houston area teacher recently asked a second-grade student who came to class with his jeans sagging well-below his waist. The child’s style of dress is common in cities across the country and many teenagers, as well as some very famous hip-hop artists view the overexposure as trendy and hip.
In a matter of hours, the mayor of an Atlanta suburb is expected to sign an ordinance he hopes leads to a new trend, appropriate fitting pants and skirts. Dublin Mayor Phil Best says the ordinance is necessary because it’s a matter of mutual respect. Under the proposed ordinance, which is sure to draw criticism, anyone wearing sagging pants or skirts more than three inches below the waist that expose their underpants or skin could face fines from $25 to $200.

The ordinance is an amendment to the city’s indecent exposure ordinance, which may puzzle and upset some because that means baggy pants and skirts are in the same classification as masturbation, fornication and urination in public places. Other concerns about ordinance center around the possibility of the measure become a mask for racial profiling.
Duluth is the latest city to take a stand and ban what some view as a disrespectful, distasteful and disturbing fashion statement. Riviera Beach, Florida, and Flint, Michigan, passed bans against sagging pants in recent years, but the Riviera Beach legislation later was declared unconstitutional after a court challenge. New York, Atlanta and Pamlico, S.C. also considered a similar ban.
As for the Houston area student and teacher, the student’s response was “no.” They both agreed it was in his best interest to come to school wearing a belt to class, so his pants no longer sag.
What’s your take on Duluth’s sagging pants ordinance? Is it racial profiling? Do you think high shorts should be included, since you can often see more than just legs? Please forward your comments to Maniko Barthelemy at newsheels@gmail.com.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Katrina’s Anniversary Coverage Aggravates New Orleanians

Happy and tearful reunions, a city on the rebound and an unofficial report card that measured everything that defines New Orleans hit millions of homes on the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. From television and radio to print and online media outlets, everyone had a compelling story to share with viewers or listeners. Where are some of the people left in deplorable conditions outside the New Orleans Convention Center? What happened when evacuees given a fresh start declined to embrace their new homes in different cities? Did New Orleans police officers really kill innocent men, in the hours shortly after Hurricane Katrina? Are the levees strong enough to protect the city?

As much as people across the globe may have wanted to see just how much better or worse New Orleans looks, since being nearly drowned in 2005, some New Orleanians who have since returned and those who’ve relocated were aggravated by the coverage of Katrina’s painful anniversary. “I already know what I lost five years ago,” says Richard Baptiste.

Baptiste and his family returned to New Orleans shortly after living in neighboring Houston, TX for several months. “Life for me now is about making things better for myself and my family. We don’t sit around thinking about what happened when Katrina hit.”

On Facebook, Misty Barthelemy-Antoine who’s since relocated to the Midwest, posted her aggravation with the blanket coverage of what happened to her hometown. “If I see one more story on TV about Hurricane Katrina, I’m going to scream,” she wrote.

What are your thoughts about stories like the Hurricane Katrina follow-up stories? Please e-mail your comments to newsheels@gmail.com.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Mardi Gras Mambo

Beads, Breasts and Beer

Any New Orleanian can attest to the power of the day that beads, bare breasts and beer seem normal together, are all in plain sight, especially on Bourbon Street and create an unforgettable break from stark reality. Four key men in Treme’ find themselves dealing with a very nontraditional Mardi Gras.

Chief Lambreaux his family members and friends all get a crushing blow to their spirits from the New Orleans criminal justice system. Instead of parading through the streets of New Orleans with fellow elaborately dressed local Indians, Lambreaux spends the first Mardi Gras after Hurricane Katrina behind bars. His bond hearing, stemming from his arrest inside an apartment at the Calliope Housing Projects gets rescheduled just hours before Lambreaux expected to walk out of jail. His family and friends believe Lambreaux it’s no coincidence that he’s being held until Mardi Gras is over.

Antoine finds himself recycling emotions he has for his ex-wife. He drinks, catches beads and dances at a parade with his girlfriend. However, when his girlfriend leaves with their daughter, she tells Antoine to enjoy himself. Antoine believes her kind words are a pass to creep. He ends up in his ex-wife’s bar, late Mardi Gras night. She’s depressed about the death of her brother. He gives her a massage and you can guess what happens next.

Creighton tries his hardest to enjoy the festivities of the greatest free party in the world. He and his family dress up in a costume and march around the city for a few hours. However, the Tulane professor finds it difficult to enjoy himself without being aggravated. He does not last the whole day, leaving his wife and daughter at a parade, while he walks home.

From the beginning of the day until midnight, Davis has a blast. Who else dresses up as Jean Lafitte, bonds with his parents through alcohol, dances in the streets, and smokes marijuana all in a 24-hour period?

How do you feel about the men on Treme?

Send your comments to Maniko at newsheels@gmail.com.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Sound of Music Hurts

The Sound of Music Hurts

For musicians in New Orleans post-Katrina, a job is a job, unless you’re Antoine Batiste. Full of embarrassment, initiative and grief in the most recent episode of “Treme,” the weight of Antoine's unstable music career bears down heavily on the trombone player who desperately wants his big break. An impromptu concert with Antoine and other freelance musicians takes an interesting twist, when award-winning jazz musician Troy “ Trombone Shorty” Andrews joins the group. He plays alongside Antoine. As if the unspoken competition between the two men wasn’t enough to bruise Antoine’s pride, the death of his mentor brings him to tears.

Davis on the other hand has no reason to cry. The joke of a political campaign he sporadically organized gets steam from his popular theme song and carefree approach to possibly being elected. His bid for office ironically develops into an opportunity of a different kind. A judge makes the wannabe city councilman an offer and without hesitation, Davis accepts. However, as anyone knows with politics in New Orleans, Davis's compromise could turn out to be as rewarding as eating nails.

Chief Lambreaux eats more than his ego and pays a painful price for his decision to defy an order to vacate an apartment in the Calliope Housing Projects. His act of civil disobedience leads to an altercation between police and the bullheaded chief. I’m sure you can guess what happened when police entered the apartment and closed the curtains to keep news cameras from capturing the encounter. Lambreaux put himself in the delicate position of breaking the law because he wants the city to open the concrete housing development to residents longing to come home.

Creighton longs for a day when the country will respect New Orleans and its recovery efforts. In what is his routine since the beginning of “Treme,”the Tulane University professor spends his time composing video diaries on YouTube. His content amounts to insults and innuendoes that criticize and strategically targets everyone from president George Bush to New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin, for the Katrina-fatigue the country seems to comprise. Creighton’s disgust jumps off-screen at you as he spews every vicious word he can muster to send his message to anyone who’ll listen. He is still, however, falling further behind on the novel Random House wants.

What are your thoughts? Do you think Creighton will finish the novel? Is Lambreaux doing the right thing? Will Davis regret his decision? What’s Antoine’s future?

For more on “Treme” and to catch up on previous episodes, scroll down and read other blog entries. The show does not air tonight.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Mardi Gras, Politics & Problems

Mayor Ray Nagin made quite the name for himself in the days after Hurricane Katrina. Many may agree, Nagin's words of comfort and encouragement often ended up doing more harm than good to his administration and reputation. To show the mayor just how disappointed and disgusted returning residents are with his administration, Creighton, his wife and the couple’s 15-year-old daughter dress up as sperm cells and parade through the streets of New Orleans with a Mardi Gras Krewe. The float behind Creighton’s family is an oversized Ray Nagin with an erection.

The sperm cell costumes give Creighton the attention and satisfaction he wants but the national attention that’s blanketed New Orleans in wake of Katrina changes what Random House wants from Creighton. A representative of the book publishing powerhouse visits Creighton and informs him that the company is willing to forgive his six year blown deadline, if he agrees to spin the novel, initially created to highlight the 1927 flood in New Orleans and give it a post-Katrina twist. Creighton is livid and stuck because he spent the publisher’s advance and does not want to comply with the new guidelines set by Random House.

Davis springboards his campaign for city council by enlisting the help of scantily clad women, struggling artists and a relative who’s a borderline alcoholic. Local newspaper headlines call into question Davis’ campaign slogan: “Davis Can Save Us.” During a campaign forum on a local television network, his inability to seriously answer questions emphasizes his inexperience at politics but does not diminish his drive to stick with his one-man-band commitment to make New Orleans better.

Chief Lambreaux gets an offer he vehemently refuses because he sees it as an insult. When a city housing representative tells Lambreaux a councilman pulled strings to get Lambreaux a FEMA-issued trailer, he wastes no time rejecting the trailer and gives the representative a piercing stare. The trailer was supposed to be the answer to Lambreaux’s request for temporary housing to help displaced members of his Indian tribe come home. As annoyed as Lambreaux is with the city’s refusal to reopen the Calliope Housing Projects, his son, a well-respected jazz musician is equally perturbed with his father. Lambreaux is so wrapped into ensuring his tribe comes home, he disregards the father-son bond his son aches to build.

Life continues to play a long, loud and sour note in Antoine’s life. After he finds out he got stiffed by a loose-knit group of band members on an impromptu tour, he gets a tip about a local event. Kermit Ruffins tells Antoine about a debutante ball, where he can fill-in as a trombone player. The problem with the act of kindness from Ruffins is Antoine needs a tuxedo for the event. His live-in girlfriend, ignorant to the care a tuxedo requires, washes the tuxedo. Let’s just say Antoine looks young in the too short tuxedo.

What did you think of the plot and characters in this episode? Send your comments to Maniko Barthelemy at newsheels@gmail.com.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


Who shot two people at the end of a traditional second-line parade in New Orleans, shortly after Katrina? That question and many others may get answered tonight in the sixth episode of Treme. In the latest episode of HBO's drama that takes an in-depth look into the lives of families who returned to New Orleans, despite the city’s despair, the main characters and their lives open up to a long-awaited steamy and spicy gumbo of controversy, confusion and consequences.

Antoine gets a break he couldn’t anticipate but it’s one he certainly appreciates. As he struggles to get some sort of normalcy in his chaotic life, the stressed-out, trombone freelance player, beaten by New Orleans police has been out of steady work and out of luck for months.

His predicament takes a turn for the better with the help of a Japanese businessman who’s an avid jazz fan. The stranger buys Antoine a brand new trombone. His original horn was mysteriously misplaced by officers who beat Antoine for bumping their cruiser with the horn, as he walked through the French Quarter. As a parting gift, the jazz fan hands Antoine a fistful of cash and did not ask for anything in return.

Meanwhile, Davis is running for a city council seat because he wants to cease the corruption he sees in New Orleans. If he’s to win, or even seriously compete, Davis must first figure out the politics of the streets, in addition to effectively managing a shoestring campaign. The loafer and wannabe politician finds out quickly that using the N-word, even casually, is dangerous in the company of African-Americans. Seconds after he voices his disgust with thugs who shoot innocent people, Davis gets punched in the mouth, despite trying to explain to a man that he lives in the Treme, so it’s okay for him to use the racially offensive word. No one helps Davis to his feet. Ironically, he wakes up on the couch of his two gay neighbors.

Chief Lambreaux gets closer to a woman who’s conveniently available to help him stitch his Indian costume, in preparation for Mardi Gras. Lambreaux, however, is more concerned with finding out why the city refuses to reopen the Calliope Housing Projects, despite there being no obvious structural damage to the apartments. If Lambreaux can get the city to reopen the concrete apartment complex, it serves as an opportunity for displaced members of his Indian tribe to have a place to live and a reason to return.

Creighton pours himself into making plans with his Krewe for the first Mardi Gras in New Orleans, since Katrina. However, his time may be better spent catching up on a six-year-old deadline. Creighton’s novel on New Orleans and it weak levee system pre-Katrina took a hiatus years ago. A phone call from the book publisher based in New York may confirm Creighton’s fears. How will he repay the publisher the book advance? Creighton used the money to restore his Garden District home.

Treme repeats on HBO throughout today, starting with the very first episode. To read my Treme entry for last week scroll below.

Please forward all of your comments to Maniko at newsheels@gmail.com. Thanks for logging onto this site.

Monday, May 3, 2010



The first Christmas in New Orleans after Katrina is anything but a happy holiday. In the latest episode of Treme, one of the central characters believes he’s the answer to the mounting challenges in The Big Easy. Full of liquid courage, rising frustration and an uncertain future, Davis announces in of all places, a neighborhood bar, that he plans to run for city council. His decision comes as a result of hitting a crater of a pothole in the city, having his instruments stolen out of his car and failing to get his part-time girlfriend and fraught restaurant owner to have sex.

The possibility of sex grows to a fever pitch for Indian Chief Lambreaux. His opportunity to mentor an at-risk neighborhood teen gives the teen’s aunt the opening to invite Lambreaux to dinner. If a woman could melt herself into a bottle of syrup and pour the contents over a man, Lambreaux would be drenched and the boy’s aunt, significantly sexually satisfied. The woman steals glances at Lambreaux throughout dinner and slyly moves the conversation about his construction skills to a crack in her bedroom wall that needs his attention.

The mental high Lambreaux experiences on a personal level doesn’t match the low blow he receives just days before the funeral of a beloved friend. At the request of the dead man’s mother, the Indian-styled funeral service Lambreaux planned, complete with Indian chanting and customary dancing as a tribute to the life of a tribe member is banned. It crushes Lambreaux, although he complies with the family’s wishes.

If Creighton doesn’t get a handle on his pestering obsession with the unpopular opinions of others regarding the future of New Orleans, his holiday break from Tulane may send the professor into a series of seizures. As he contemplates finishing a novel about the sketchy preparedness of the city’s infrastructure pre and post-Katrina, Creighton finds his way to YouTube for a full blast venting session. Throughout his electronic verbal mooning and crass salute to cities like Atlanta and Houston, where many displaced New Orleanians felt like the welcome mat quickly wore thin, Creighton blasts everyone for their misunderstanding of New Orleans. Creighton’s commentary earns him a free cup of coffee by a fan, who’s also a coffee shop employee. It also gives him street credibility because he says what many displaced residents couldn’t or wouldn’t say, albeit rather vulgar and vicious at a boiling temperature.

Antoine is on a quest, since he recovered from an atrocious beating, courtesy of city police. He gets an alarming awakening, when his two sons who live less than an hour away are hesitant to reconnect with their stereotypical deadbeat dad. In addition to the delicate repositioning of Antoine in his sons drama-free lives, he eats his pride and accepts free dental care from his ex-wife’s husband, as well as the use of the man’s vehicle to take Antoine’s sons to dinner. When, where and how the trombone player will ever renew his solid footing in the New Orleans musician’s inner-circle, become a model father to all of his children, and lose his thirst for sporadic sex are all questions that are as thorny as the answers.

Will you stay tuned? What did you like or dislike about this week’s episode of Treme’?
Please forward all comments to Maniko Barthelemy at newsheels@gmail.com

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Death, Sex and Police Brutality

He begins his day having sex with a stripper in a FEMA-issued trailer. By the end of the day, Antoine Batiste’s (Wendell Pierce) life is upside down. His live-in girlfriend suspects he’s cheating on her, which leads to an argument. Batiste weasels out of the house to play his trombone with a few other struggling jazz musicians another night at the same bar where he met the stripper. When he leaves the club, Antoine accidently bumps into a parked New Orleans Police cruiser, officers respond by profusely beating Antoine and leaving his trombone on the street. He ends up sitting on a cement floor with other random men arrested by police.
In the third episode of what continues to put a microscope on a contagious string of complicated lives post-Katrina in New Orleans, David Simon’s Treme picks up the pace with unpredictable but satisfying drama. This week, every key character that anchors the show experienced a substantial life-changing crisis.

Shortly after losing his job as a hotel clerk, Davis McAlvary (Steve Zahn) finds himself in a confrontation with National Guard members. Davis, like Antoine ends up in a place no one wants to spend any time, the Orleans Parish jail. In an effort to repay the city’s overworked and underpaid public defender who frees him, Toni Bernette (Melissa Leo), Davis offers to give Bernette’s teenage daughter complimentary piano lessons. The problem for Davis is convincing Creighton Bernette (John Goodman) the lessons won’t go beyond a professional relationship. The implication in the scenes is that Davis may attempt to do a lot more than just teach.
A trip to the Lower 9th Ward brings local Indian Chief Albert Lambreaux (Clarke Peters) to the discovery of a decomposed body covered by a canoe. Within seconds of Albert and Lorenzo (Ameer Baraka) taking a walkthrough of the home full of mold and mildew, the two enter the backyard and lift up a canoe. The skeletal remains are those of Jesse, Albert's lifelong friend and symbolic member of Albert’s Indian tribe. You can catch all of the recently aired Treme episodes on HBO, April 29, 7 p.m. eastern time.
Who’s your favorite Treme character and why?
Please forward your comments about this story to Maniko Barthelemy at newsheels@gmail.com.

Monday, April 19, 2010



Why did New Orleans natives want to go back so badly, after Hurricane Katrina? What happened to the millions of dollars in donations and government funds that poured into the city shortly after one of America’s worst natural disasters? Is the criminal justice system in Louisiana really as shady as rumored?

Why is it taking so long for the Big Easy to make a respectable comeback? Is it even worth rebuilding or investing in a city where levees are still reportedly not up to withstanding another Katrina? Why do New Orleans natives publicly mourn the dead with a street parade?

 With more than 1.4 million people tuned-in to its premiere, HBO’s Treme (pronounced treh-May) hinted at its unspoken promise to answer all those pestering questions about New Orleans post and pre-Katrina. The show and its substance were so impressive that HBO execs did not wait long for hard numbers to come out before renewing its brand new series for a second season.

The premium cable network’s early salute to David Simon and Eric Overmyer is a move many believe is bold. The duo best known for their work on the HBO series “The Wire,” which lasted five seasons and peeled away layers of corruption, chaos and cruelty in Baltimore, seems likely to do the same and get even more in-depth in New Orleans with “Treme.”

Treme’s characters are complex and comical. John Goodman’s character is a Tulane University professor, who’s fed up with misconceptions about the city and its residents. He routinely disgorges media outlets a verbal gumbo full of spicy and confrontational language. Clarke Peters, a cast member many may remember from “The Wire,” plays a local Indian chief. His return to the Lower 9th Ward neighborhood brings him heartbreak, hope and happiness, despite the obvious obstacles he faces personally and professionally. Steve Zahn’s character is a local eclectic down-on-his-luck radio DJ. He lives in the Treme neighborhood, is obsessed with New Orleans music and moves through life dancing to his interesting, innovative beat.

To keep true to the sound of the city, Simon and Overmyer tapped several local musicians and bands. Kermit Ruffins, a former member of the world-renowned Rebirth Brass Band, plays himself in the drama. Ruffins, with his amazing talent, raspy voice, Southern accent and New Orleans drawl, adds a necessary revealing twist on the significance of the city’s authentic music. New Orleans native Wendell Pierce, whose resume is extensive in film and television, plays a struggling musician whose professional and personal life is unraveling into an emotional and financial cesspool.

The city’s unique jazz funerals, with a brass band playing the type of music full a flavor distinctly New Orleans opens a book that’s been rather confusing for some, regarding the way African-Americans in The Big Easy traditionally bury their loved ones.

The elements of the show are compelling and give viewers a healthy balance of intriguing storytelling, drama and facts. While the setting, plot and cast are all crucial components to making “Treme” a top-rated show, as much as “The Wire,” Simon and Overmyer intentionally make New Orleans the center of attention. Writers creatively zoom- in and wrap the show around the city’s rough edges. Every bit of New Orleans that is entertaining, informative and saddening is on full display.

At its core, the drama fills a void for those who still call New Orleans home, even though their zip code is different post-Katrina. For skeptics and tourists wondering if New Orleans is worth the time, effort and resources needed to recover; “Treme” dishes the answer, one episode at a time. There are eight episodes left in this first season of “Treme.” What do you think about “Treme?” “What do you think HBO is getting right or wrong?

Please forward all comments to Maniko Barthelemy at newsheels@gmail.com or you can post your comment directly.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Become the CEO of You

The question, although grammatically incorrect, commands your attention. “Are you living or are you existing?” It comes from a movie I recently watched, “The Family that Preys.” Sure I know I’m late because the movie was released in 2008 and I just watched it earlier this week. However, the question posed by Kathy Bates in the movie to Alfre Woodard, who plays her best friend, is profound.

As the job market weaves in and out of good and bad news like a see-saw now may be the perfect time to take stock of yourself and priorities and answer the question. If you conclude you exist, that life equals not necessarily carving out your place in the world but surviving on autopilot. In short, it’s dull and you are passion-deficient. Your days are full of focusing on the challenge of the obstacle, not the opportunity beat the odds.

Truly living your life, on the other hand, is exemplified by the continuous drive to improve yourself on an emotional, physical, spiritual and financial level that equals satisfaction that can feel unbelievable. Whether you are unemployed or have a job that just pays the bills but robs you of pleasure and excitement, every day you get up, you can get closer to where you truly need and want to be. Don’t waste time. Become the CEO of you.

The best way to get on track is to really sit, think and write about your passion. I’m certain we’d all like to hit the lottery and live happily ever after but the chance of that happening is pretty obvious. As you outline your path to your true purpose, consider the impact and balance it with the reality of your dream.

What’s your dream? How do you plan to change your life? Share your thoughts with me at newsheels@gmail.com or leave a comment on the site.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Celebrate Women’s History Month

What happens emotionally to a U.S. military bomb technician, when his Iraq deployment is over and he comes home to his family in America? The question is answered throughout one of the most talked about and initially dismissed box office hits, “The Hurt Locker.” In a few days, a woman could make history in the world of film for the way she directed “The Hurt Locker.”

If movie director and producer Kathryn Bigelow wins the Oscar for best director, she’ll be the first woman to crack the academy’s 82-year-old glass-ceiling in the best director category. Bigelow’s win would have perfect timing, as March is Women’s History Month.

Without question, we can all name at least five women on a personal or professional level who broke barriers. Whether it was just a woman’s intuition, triumph out of tragedy or an unexplainable thirst to defy odds, history shows us that women are capable of pushing past prejudices, preconceived notions and chauvinistic attitudes.

Long before Rosa Parks silently rebelled against discrimination, journalist Ida B. Wells known for her literary work that challenged anti-lynching in America, chipped away at bigotry. In 1887, Wells lost her legal fight against the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad. Wells filed suit against the company because she was forcibly removed from her seat onboard a train, after refusing to sit in the “colored only” section.

The loss became a lightening-rod for Wells. She took the lessons learned from the loss and her experience as a fired school teacher to spring board her career as a respected journalist. Wells became part-owner of the “Memphis Free Speech” newspaper.

Where would the world of medicine be without the groundbreaking work of Alice Hamilton? Hamilton’s studies and reports about the harmful effects of lead, munitions and rubber fostered nationwide improvements in safety standards. As the first woman to become a faculty member of Harvard University in 1919, we can all imagine some of the pain and frustration Hamilton had to endure. However, her determination to excel lead to her also becoming the university’s first professor of public health.

You don’t normally think of a woman when you hear the word ‘sanitation.’ Yet, the accomplishments of Ellen Richards prove we should rethink our word association patterns. As a chemist, educator, and sanitation engineer, Richards was a trailblazer. She was one of the first women admitted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where she graduated in 1873. Richards used her education and experience to pioneer a science program for young women in Boston public schools.

Just as the history-makers of yesterday balanced their roles as homemaker/manager; mother, caregiver, professional, coach, teacher, guardian and disciplinarian, thousands of women continue to carry the torch of success. The purpose of Women’s History Month, adopted in 1987 nationwide, is to highlight and salute the accomplishments of women across the world. Their accomplishments serve as inspiration and motivation.

In the words of James Brown, “this is a man’s world but it would be nothing without a woman or a girl.” I am the first woman in my family to graduate college. What’s your story? I invite you to share your stories about yourself or women in your family who have made history. Please e-mail me your fascinating and inspiring stories at newsheels@gmail.com or you can comment on this page.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day

Thank you for logging on to the site. I appreciate your generosity and wish you a Valentine's Day full of all the love you imagine, sweetness you desire and satisfaction you anticipate. Remember, however, it is just as important to give as it is to receive something special from someone special.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Update: Baseball Fans Support Haiti

Fans of a Minor League Baseball Team in Maryland donated more than $2,000 to help with relief efforts in Haiti. The Bowie Baysox held a two-week raffle for a pack of season tickets at a cost of $10 per raffle. The team announced today that Tony Miller of  Annapolis, MD was the lucky winner. More than 100 fans participated in the fundraiser. One-hundred percent of every raffle ticket sold went to the relief efforts and were given to the U.S. Fund for UNICEF.

Biggest Loser Gives Big Picture

The Weight of the Weight

From the career woman to the couch potato there is no doubt many women are struggling to hold on to a notorious New Year’s resolution. How do you lose weight and keep it off? Celebrities make it look pretty easy. Marie Osmond is 50 pounds thinner, since joining the Nutrisystem program. Valerie Bertinelli recently showed off her sleek, curvier figure, in a two-piece bathing suit. Bertinelli’s dramatic weight loss comes courtesy of Jenny Craig. Now on the quest to shape up and slim down is respected, adored and admired actress Phylicia Rashad, also a Jenny Craig client.

The upper-hand all possess over the average woman is 24-hour access to personal trainers, personal chefs and the cash to trim the fat, after the fact. Despite that reality, when a celebrity goes from obese to awesome, the before and after photos are inspirational and unforgettable. The photos we don’t see are the ones that document the battle of the bulge.

One television series that appears to fill in the blanks left by celebrities who privately slim down but openly share the end results, is NBC’s “The Biggest Loser.” The show, now in its sixth year is a raw and real spin on what it takes and how it feels to change your body from fat to fit. “I find it motivational and entertaining,” says Deidra Sampson.

Sampson is a faithful fan and is on a personal quest to lose 40 pounds. She is one of millions who tune in every week. Contestants sweat, scream and succeed on a number of levels at shaking a very powerful health hazard, obesity. “The Biggest Loser” serves as entertainment and the images of everyday people have a lasting impact. There are moments when contestants laugh and have fun as they exercise. However, there’s also the harsh reality of their weight.

Every week they hit the scale. Some of the men and women are more than 400 pounds. The amount of weight loss per week by each contestant keeps the person on or off the show. “It has scared me into action. The health risks and physical limitations associated with obesity are too great,” says Sampson. To motivate and educate the contestants and the general public, fitness trainers Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels team up and workout with the contestants. “Because of the show I am getting a personal trainer to push me toward my goals. I need a Bob or Jillian who is educated on the body and how it works and to push me beyond the limits I set for myself.”
Unlike some weight loss reality shows where the prize may be a man proposing to a woman at the end or where celebrity judges rate contestants on their overall weekly weight-loss and their dance routine, “The Biggest Loser” stands out. The grand prize is $250,000 and a slimmer look. “I like it because it’s amazing to see the amount of weight the contestants lose and to follow their journey throughout the season,” says LeAnne Morman.

As bold as the average person appears on “The Biggest Loser” facing some of the biggest critics, millions of people every week, at least one celebrity is scheduled to turn the mirror of the world onto her image transition. Later this year Kirstie Alley, is scheduled to premier her show on the A & E network. Alley has lost and won several times a very public battle with weight. Two years after dropping down to her ideal weight, the celebrity picked up all 85 pounds she’d lost. The show is about how she’s going to keep it off this time around.

Please forward all comments to Maniko Barthelemy at newsheels@gmail.com

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Baseball Team and Fans Help Haiti

Season Tickets Raffle Raises Funds and Awareness

A sense of normalcy is taking shape in Haiti, as government officials sort out the best logistical way to relocate the estimated 400,000 evacuees in the country, to a number of areas on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. Volunteers are making strides as they clean up debris and human feces that clutter many streets in the devastated capital city. Food and supplies from across the world is making its way at a considerable pace to some of the most needy survivors.

Eight days after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake destroyed the place nearly two million people called home, sporadic good news brings about a minute sigh of relief. Late Wednesday, after a 5.9-magnitude quake aftershock sent survivors and soldiers scrambling for shelter, a relative walked into a makeshift hospital with his five-year-old nephew. The boy had been trapped beneath rubble since the Jan. 12 quake. The boy needed immediate medical care, like thousands wounded or exhausted, as a result of the natural disaster.

Volunteer doctors are performing surgical procedures in some of the worst conditions imaginable. Looting is a growing safety concern, as some survivors take drastic and dangerous methods, in an attempt to get food or water. In the midst of all the suffering, sorrow and shockingly squalid conditions is an international relief effort that includes monetary, military and medical support. Even with the nearly $1 billion in foreign aid and the $170 million the White House recently pledged to help Haiti recover, the need is still substantial. While the need is great, the general consensus is that every little bit helps. You can text a donation to the Red Cross, volunteer as a translator or help sort donated food bound for Haiti being collected at many non-profits, depending on your hometown.

A Minor League baseball team in Bowie, MD, just outside of Washington, DC is giving fans a chance to donate by taking a chance on season tickets. “We are very optimistic that our fans will come through,” says Tom Sedlacek, communications manager for the Bowie Baysox.

The team is partnering with U.S. Fund for UNICEF and gives fans the chance to win season tickets by purchasing a $10 raffle ticket. UNICEF’s global humanitarian efforts focus mainly on providing children with health care, clean water, nutrition, education, and emergency relief. “One of the reasons we picked UNICEF is because 100 percent of the money raised will go to support the organization’s relief efforts that benefit the children of Haiti,” says Sedlacek. While the natural disaster may go on record as one of the worst quakes in history, the outpouring of logistical and physical support, national military forces and millions in monetary donations show us all that the best can come from the worst.

The raffle lasts until 5 p.m., Jan. 29.The winner will have a baseball fan’s perfect view of the game because the tickets are for the lower reserved section of the stadium. Team officials estimate the value of the season tickets at more than $1,100.00. For more information and to take a chance on the tickets, while making a difference, log on to http://www.baysox.com/.

The winner will be announced on Friday, Feb. 5.

For more information about UNICEF, log on to www.unicefusa.org.

Please forward all questions, comments or concerns about this article to Maniko Barthelemy at newheels@gmail.com.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Resolution to Quit Needs Support

Cigarettes More Addictive than Cocaine or Heroin

In some circles, quit is a bad word. However, around this time of the year as people look within to improve their lives, it’s the perfect way to define a means to a healthy end. High on the list of better choices and upgrades to one’s life throughout the year, sits a very popular New Year’s resolution. Millions across the country undoubtedly took a vow to take back their health by dropping a health hazard, cigarettes. Now with less than two weeks into the battle against cigarettes a significant number of smokers may relapse.

Through the eyes of a nonsmoker, the habit seems simple enough to kick. However, Dr. Elmer Huerta, director of the Cancer Preventorium at the Washington Hospital Center, says the general perception is misguided. “It takes a smoker at least 11 tries before he or she is successful at quitting,” says Huerta. Cigarettes are 10 times more addictive than cocaine and it’s easier to quit heroin than cigarettes. So why is it so difficult?

The threat of cancer and other health problems like heart disease and emphysema although prevalent in a profusion of commercials fail to drastically scare millions of smokers straight. “Smokers have a way of thinking that that kind of stuff only happens to other people,” says Dr. Huerta. “It’s not until someone gets a life changing diagnosis from a doctor that they usually take quitting seriously,” he adds. Even with the threat of life and death, there’s a level of extreme difficulty attached to the desire and need to quit.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 43 million people smoke cigarettes. At around $6 a pack, depending on where you live, cigarettes are a cheap thrill. While cities across the country have banned smoking in public areas, there is a steady Hollywood glossing over of the damaging effects of cigarettes. In less than 30 seconds, you could name at least one popular actor who lights up a cigarette and makes it look cool. Hollywood gives the impression that smoking has no ramifications. The television or movie star who puffs with pizazz or makes interesting designs with the smoke that leaves his or her mouth is routinely portrayed as the smartest, hippest or coolest protagonist anyone would ever want to meet.

The reality is the Hollywood curtain skews what happens, if the smoker decides to quit. Of the 4,000 toxic ingredients smokers inhale with every puff, nicotine, carbon monoxide and tar have reportedly the most devastating consequences. Research shows, within the first 24 hours of quitting, all the nicotine leaves the smoker’s body, his heart rate and blood pressure drops, as well as the extremely high levels of carbon monoxide in the blood.
However, the next few days are crucial. The body reacts to the loss of nicotine, which is the highly addictive drug component in cigarettes. “You become irritable, nervous and depressed,” says Dr. Huerta. “If you stick it out, three days later your body is better but you still have the tar and that stays on your lungs at least 15 to 20 years,” he adds.

The flood of immediate complications associated with quitting smoking cause a number of smokers to relapse. Surprisingly, it’s part of what it takes to beat the odds and should not serve as a deterrent. When it happens, however, Dr. Huerta says it's the perfect time for the smoker’s support system to go to work. “It’s a step by step process. The first step is the commitment level of the smoker and family members should not laugh if the person relapses.”
While some smokers possess an amazing ability to quit cold turkey, they are the exception and not the rule. Every year, nearly estimated 443,000 smokers die prematurely because of illnesses caused by smoking.

Experts encourage anyone serious about a pursuing smoke free life to combine their promise with a cessation program, over the counter medication and positive reinforcement. “It means changing your routine, just like if you were on a diet,” says Dr. Huerta.

For help, contact the following organizations:

 American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345
 American Legacy Foundation at http://www.becomeanex.org/

Please forward all story comments, suggestions or questions to Maniko Barthelemy at newsheels@gmail.com. Thanks for logging onto the site. Please encourage others to visit.