Securing Online Payment Gateways

If you are like me, you take technology as it comes and you just make adjustments accordingly. I have made the jump from 8 track tapes to cassette tapes to CDs to live-streaming, all in just the past 40 years. I took shorthand in high school and learned to type on a typewriter—I used Wite Out correction fluid and those thin, plastic correction tabs to fix my errors—and this was cutting edge stuff back in the day. I now live in a time where people walk around with small computers in their hands all day and communication with someone half a planet away is possible within seconds. As technology constantly changes, we must adapt and even plan ahead, to ensure these “undiscovered roads” don’t take us down the wrong path. I mean, initially, when we first starting using the Internet, there were all types of potential threats many of us did not anticipate. New threats await us as our use of computers and hand held devices rule the day. To protect yourself, and your information on the internet, it is important to understand the newest technological advancements and how they affect our lives.

With online purchases becoming more and more prevalent in today’s world, the threat of hacking is very real. When you send your information out into the vast internet, whether it be your driver’s license number, your bank account number, or other personal material, the fact remains that it is susceptible to crooks—crooks who know how to hack information you thought was protected. What safeguards do we have when making online purchases or filling out personal forms on websites? Thankfully, revolutionary advancements in shielding sensitive details are protecting you, even if you aren’t aware they’re there.

Take, for example, encryption. Encryption takes an algorithm to transform plain text, like your credit card number, and convert it into a non-readable format called cipher text. To decipher the encrypted information, the party receiving the material must have the algorithm and an encryption key to return it to its original plain text. Built in encryption systems protect the millions of people from sensitive data breaches.

The drawback with encryption is that data can be breached on either end. The security of the data relies on the strength of the encryption. Encryption is also time consuming and somewhat expensive. The trouble is, you just never know how strong the encryption data is at your bank, your local store, or your kid’s school, so your information may be vulnerable to attack, even when you believe it has been safeguarded.

Since encryption has its detractors, tokenization has become a welcome alternative to protection of personal details. Tokenization works differently from encryption, even though they are widely mentioned together. Tokenization requires taking the sensitive data and replacing it with a token, or placeholder. This token is randomly generated and is swapped for the plain text and then it is stored in an offsite database. Essentially, the tokenization process is taking data and turning it into random, meaningless information so that if it is somehow compromised, it cannot be deciphered by criminals looking for raw data. With encryption, if they break the code, they have the desired information. Unlike encryption, tokenization does not use an algorithm to make its replacement token. Instead, data is stored in a secured token vault which stores the link between the actual data and the token. The great part about tokenization is there is no key to change the tokens back to real data, so information is safer in the long run. Tokens can be set up to reflect the actual number, or at least a portion of it, which is why your bank may ask for the last four digits of your social security number or account number. The actual numbers are saved offsite, but the token number might reflect a portion of the real data. So, say you are online and purchasing something from a company from which you have previously purchased something—your data should be saved. In this case, the token is submitted to the token vault when you request to use the card and the index retrieves the real data for use in the authorization process. The company receiving the data feels no lag time—they are given the real data immediately, yet the “switch” was made in the cloud token vault.

Tokenization is now widely used by vendors because the real data is kept off site. With encryption, it is still within their database, even if it is encrypted. The Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council holds merchants to compliance standards to ensure clients’ information is protected. Both encryption and tokenization are accepted under these standards, but the encryption method leaves the merchant more at risk of a breach than tokenization does.

Some key vendors use tokenization for payment, including Visa, MasterCard and American Express. These big three are looking to standardize tokenization in the payment industry’s sector. Their push for tokenization stated this new standard would “help provide the payments community with a consistent, secure and interoperable environment to make digital payments” according to The Motley Fool, an online source. As a matter of fact, MasterCard has teamed with has teamed with Synchrony Financial and Citi Retail Services to use tokenization in their transactions, making it the first payments network to do so. Through MasterCard’s Digital Enablement Services, or MDES, MasterCard can offer tokenization services that can ensure purchases can be made from any internet connected device while also delivering the safety customers expect. Not only does this new technology give consumers the opportunity to make their selections online, revolutionizing the way we shop, but it also alleviates the lingering worry that your credit card information will be stolen online. Since there are more ways to purchase items, including through phone apps, ecommerce, and reoccurring payments, having the information stored in an off-site token vault makes the transactions even safer than ever before.

Consumers today can rest assured their information is protected to its fullest extent when tokenization is used. It’s the wave of the cyber-future, making online purchasing the most practical and convenient way to shop.

Difference Between Your General Dentist And An Orthodontist

Your dentist keeps your mouth clean and your teeth shiny, but what can you do about dental abnormalities like crooked teeth? Seeing a qualified orthodontist may be the answer for you!

An orthodontist is a specialist who focuses on the straightening of teeth and can treat problems pertaining to the upper and lower jaws, gums, and facial muscles. While many people see an orthodontist for purely aesthetic purposes, it is important to know that there are sound medical reasons to straightening your teeth. First of all, crooked teeth can impede your ability to properly bite, chew and even speak! Additionally, crowded or crooked teeth can cause jaw pain, uneven tooth wear and difficulties with oral hygiene, like flossing. To accurately assess your need for orthodontic work, the doctor will work in conjunction with your regular dentist. Once a need for orthodontia has been determined, it is then a matter of selecting the best method to properly align the teeth. Orthodontists have many different options to help you achieve your desired result and make your teeth functional for a lifetime.

So is there a real difference between your general dentist and an orthodontist? While both are dental professionals, they have different specialties, much like your family doctor is different from a foot doctor. After acquiring a doctor of dentistry degree, an orthodontist must complete an additional two to three years of specialized training. Orthodontists invest this additional time into learning how to treat misaligned teeth as well as other dental and orthodontic procedures. They can also treat abnormalities of the jaw, with the assistance of medical prosthetic equipment. The most common procedure that orthodontists perform is the straightening of teeth, generally through various types of braces. For an orthodontist to know how to reposition your teeth, they study the movement of teeth. At times, teeth may require spacers, usually either rubber bands or thin, metal pieces placed to separate or at times, join teeth that are either too close or too far apart. Braces can be used to fix overbites, under bites, cross bites, and open bites. After a patient is finished wearing braces, they usually graduate to a plastic retainer to ensure teeth do not shift back into their original places after the braces are removed. While many people believe that the retainer step is a nuisance or unnecessary, it is a key element is maintaining the straightened smile. In extreme cases, a patient may need the assistance of headgear, which can be worn just at night or all the time, depending upon the doctor’s recommendation. The use of headgear is not as prevalent as it once was, possibly due to the fact it is cumbersome for the patient.

Many orthodontic professionals will not start working on children until all of their baby teeth have fallen out. Orthodontics can also be challenging if an adult patient does not have all of his or her teeth, or a patient’s mouth is too crowded to start the process. You may need to have additional dental services before your orthodontia can begin, like dental implants to replace missing teeth or the extraction of wisdom teeth to reduce overcrowding. Your orthodontist will discuss the necessary options and answer any questions you may have. He or she will also discuss your medical history and any pre-existing conditions that may impede your progress. Once the treatment plan is finalized, the braces and a retainer will be used to align the teeth.

The first step in developing your orthodontic treatment is to have the doctor take x-rays of your teeth and gums and take impressions of your teeth. The orthodontist can view the mouth from every angle to put together the best course of action. The overall process to straighten the teeth is not a quick one; it can take months and in some instances, years before the teeth have moved into proper alignment. An orthodontist will see a patient every few weeks to determine the patient’s progress and to adjust the treatment as needed. Sometimes this is as easy as tightening braces and sometimes it is as complicated as taking an entirely new approach.

Taking care of your teeth while wearing braces is an important element in your treatment. Brushing twice a day or preferably, after each meal is of vital importance. Any trapped food left in between your braces or in the brackets can turn into decalcification spots—little white spots on your teeth where the brackets once were. Alignment can be delayed if your teeth and gums are not kept clean, resulting in a longer treatment plan. Flossing is paramount as well and some orthodontists may have you use a fluoride rinse to protect your teeth.

Your orthodontist will keep you apprised of your progression and make adjustments along the way. He or she may have you close gaps by wearing tight rubber bands in your mouth or may surprise you with the news that your teeth have aligned much faster than anticipated. When the braces are removed, you will find yourself licking your teeth and you may want to eat foods that you couldn’t eat while wearing traditional braces. The orthodontist will take another impression of your teeth to compare the before and after. You will probably examine your teeth often in the mirror; it’s hard to picture how great they look while you are wearing braces for so long! Your orthodontist will also give you your retainer with explicit instructions on how to wear it and care for it. Retainers are expensive to replace, so don’t let your dog get it and don’t drop it down the sink and most importantly, remember to wear it! By skipping the retainer step of the orthodontia process, you may find your teeth shifting back into their previous places and you may have to endure braces again to get them to straighten!

Choosing to have your teeth aligned may be a purely aesthetic choice or it may be a medical one. Whichever it is, you will want to follow the instructions of your orthodontist to ensure you achieve a picture-perfect smile.

Hearing Aid Care and Maintenance

Millions of Americans deal every day with some type of hearing loss. Although this this product is tiny, is can be expensive, therefore requiring information to correctly preserve its function and situation. Millions of Americans still depend on these gadgets that are little to create a difference in their own life.

Within the years, some key improvements have been created by hearing products. In reality, it is often noted time, the unit have been created to be smaller and more successful over that the digital hearing-aid was stated in in the 1950s and the littlest one to-day can create outcomes that are huge. To the device, directional microphones were put in the starting in their design to enable the wearer to concentrate on one-on-one conversation as well as the capacity to converse in places. As you can suppose, these versions weren’t as helpful as suppliers and those to day discontinued their production till about the 1990s where engineering actually took a flip for the better.

Hearing-aid technologies provide a range of possibilities, meeting the requirements of variety of folks, today. Some are more complicated or more costly than the others, but these digital or gadgets nonetheless need the assist of an experienced audiologist to select the correct item and proper-fitting. The price of the gadget can surpass $5 and can commence below $2,000. Combined with the installation comes good care, which may help keep it operating precisely and extend the life span of the hearing-aid. They’re an expense for particular.

As an expense, care makes your funds go quite a distance. Understanding repair, clear and the way to store your hearing aids in Oklahoma City will keep it working as it absolutely was meant to and might avoid the need for recurring repairs over time. First, in regards to the shell, the the top of hearing aid ought to be stored clear. Aids typically have particles from oil or dirt in the grooves. Using an absence of treatment, possibly are functioning precisely or perhaps not fitting precisely. Chemical and water cleaners needs to be avoided in your hearing aid. Tissue or a moist fabric needs to be watchfully utilized to wipe down the hearing aid. Many kits contain a brush that will be of good use for earwax buildup. The microphone is acutely fragile also it’s essential never to poke the port. During cleansing, the microphone should constantly be facing the ground as well as the brush that is provided ought to be used. Wax buildup could be prevented by daily cleansing together with the brush .

In the event you have any queries or need further help on the appropriate cleansing techniques, it’s recommended that you simply ask your audiologist. They are the specialists in this area and will gladly evaluate these procedures along with one to ensure effective hearing aid performance. As it pertains to moisture, a hearing aid can lengthen their life and drying container or a support package will assist keep dampness from building-up inside the hearing aids. Be certain before putting them in a great spot so that you can help them as long as they possibly can to consider the batteries from the hearing-aid. This, also, will extend battery life. Signs of batteries are scratchy sounds output, distortion, improved suggestions, intermittence or odd and uncommon sounds like static. As some batteries might only last a week or two proper battery treatment demands program everyday or weekly screening. It’s recommended that a spare battery that ought to also be stored in a great location is usually carried by a person using a hearing aid.

Although batteries nowadays are made to last considerably longer lengthier than in the immediate past, drying is advised with all the use of possibly a forced-air blower (no, maybe not a blow dryer) or a can of compressed-air such as the kinds employed to clear a key pad. Moisture can occur from even sweat or rain. Climatic circumstances and your activity level are a couple of the most frequent identified variables impacting dampness buildup. People with people who sweat or high ranges of bodily physical exercise are susceptible to moisture problems as it pertains with their hearing devices. Likewise, residing in locations of large humidity can also irritate its performance. Whether from external or internal sources, moisture ought to be averted as most useful you are able to. Some aids will stand as much as moisture than the others. Consult your audiologist to determine whether they advise drying containers or particular dry help kits and also discuss your particular lifestyle together. Your audiologist can assist you pick the correct aid that’ll support your present lifestyle in the event that you are a bodily individual and danger more perspiration than the others. This, subsequently, will assist you get the most from the hearing aid.

Many folks are interested in the common whole life of a hearing system. Their longevity depends on the sort of help in addition to good care they’ve gotten. Problem fixing care and methods can aid prolong the life span of course, of the gadget. For the most portion, the hearing aids of today’s are excessively trustworthy, long-lasting and powerful. Things might go incorrect, but it is possible to save time plus money in the end by avoiding pricey and serious repairs, when you care for them properly. Information on appropriate treatment is a potent device in this circumstance. Not only are hearing aids heading to boost the standard of life, however they’re worth the additional treatment which they require.


Healthy Eating In Oklahoma City

Restaurants Offer Healthy Alternatives

More and more Oklahoma restaurants are offering healthy alternatives to “Oklahoma comfort food“. As people become more health conscious in this day and age, they are becoming more picky about what they put into their bodies. We traveled to Oklahoma City this past month and ventured out on a foodie excursion to experience the local dishes first hand. I was not disappointed at all, plenty of “stick to your ribs” items on the menus and friendly faces serving. There was a highlight to our trip though that I wanted to share in this post. We found a gem, a place that took as much pride in their food as the Sooners do in their football team.

The Healthy Hearth

healthy hearth chefWe had asked some locals for a hole in the wall gem where we could eat healthy and enjoy Oklahoma cuisine at the same time. The Healthy Heart showed up on our radar and it did not disappoint. In addition to their healthy lunch options, they also had a desert menu to die for. I am not a fan of super sweet desserts, and I am not a fan of processed sugars in general, so I was hesitant to order any dessert. When I spoke to the Chef he said that they only used natural sweeteners in their desserts and stayed clear of anything that rots out the teeth. It was interesting to talk further about the menu because even the sauces were limited on sugars, which is a difficult thing to pull off. The Chef went on to say that with rotten teeth and cavities how can anyone enjoy their meals? I agreed, and I was pleased to taste such an amazing meal without all the sugar. I didn’t finish my dinner and want to rush home to brush my teeth, there just wasn’t that over abundance of sugar in any of the items I enjoyed. The Chef joked that if we ate dessert over at the Dairy Queen down the street that we might have to find an excellent orthodontist in the Oklahoma City metro area to straighten us out like a rotten set of teeth (haha). We laughed at his humor, our teeth were straight and our stomachs were full.

We Will Return

Next time we are out in Oklahoma City we will definitely be returning to indulge in the great food and company. Chef also suggested that we visit Shawnee Oklahoma for  bite to eat at a local caffe where they serve a healthy brunch for a fair price. He suggested that we try the roasted veal bone broth, but again joked that there is  a new orthodontist in Shawnee, Oklahoma if we needed to get a tooth repaired from biting into a bone. I hope he was kidding (haha).


She Won Master Chef Junior. Now She’s Redesigning This Resort’s Menu

Jasmine Stewart says she wants to someday be like TV competition chef Bobby Flay.

She’s already on her way. The 13-year-old won Season 5 on the hit TV show MasterChef Junior thanks to her cooking prowess.

Now the teen is being tasked with a new challenge—she, along with several other young chefs, will be revamping the kid’s menu for Great Wolf Lodge Resorts.

“They were focused on revamping the kid’s menu,” Stewart says. “We definitely think that kids have a wider palate and want more variety.”

Great Wolf Lodge approached Stewart as well as 15-year-old Logan Guleff, who won Master Chef Junior in Season 5; Madeline and Anna Zakarian, the 11-and 9-year old daughters of celebrity Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian; and Conrad and Jed Elliot, the sons of celebrity chef Graham Eliot.

The kids are all part of Great Wolf Lodge’s Junior Chef Council (JCC). The JCC convenes this month to collaborate on the menu, which launches in September.

“We have all been asked to come up with two dishes—one dish that kids could recognize might be chicken nuggets or mac and cheese,” Jasmine explains. However, she says she and the other young chefs will not be afraid to get kids to push their culinary boundaries a bit with the new menu offerings.

Great Wolf Lodge is turning into an indoor water park resort empire with 17 locations across the U.S. The company has launched more upscale food options than are typically found at family-friendly amusement parks such as a farm-to-fork dining experience now at three of its parks.

So from where did Stewart’s passion for the culinary world come and how did she learn to cook at such a young age?

“I learned through my parents. They both have unique and different palates. My dad is from Jamaica and my mom is from Virginia. I asked them if they could teach me the basics. I started making eggs and moved onto pancakes and cupcakes,” she says. “Then I ended up getting into [cooking] as a hobby. The more you practice the more you learn.”

And does she see herself cooking as a career? “I am definitely going into cooking when I get older. I loved being in front of the camera; maybe do a Bobby Flay [style] cooking show.”


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The New York Times Pays Tribute to Overlooked Black Women Who’ve Made History

In an attempt to right its past wrongs, The New York Times launched an obituary series titled “Overlooked” earlier this year to pay tribute to the women and people of color who were not recognized by the publication at the time of their deaths, despite their amazing contributions and strides in society.

“Since 1851, obituaries in ‘The New York Times’ have been dominated by white men. With Overlooked, we’re adding the stories of remarkable people whose deaths went unreported in The Times,” states the Times.

Edmonia Lewis

the new york times

Edmonia Lewis (Wikimedia/Creative Commons)

Included in “Overlooked” is Edmonia Lewis, the first black sculptor to be internationally recognized for her art. Lewis was born circa 1844 in upstate New York to a free black man from Haiti and a mother who was part Chippewa. After her parents died when she was 9 years old, she was adopted and raised by her two maternal aunts. According to the NYT, Lewis attended Oberlin College in Ohio and was mentored by leading activists and abolitionists. She later spent much of her adult life in Rome where she joined a community of American sculptors.

Her Roman studio was a required stop for the moneyed class on the Grand Tour. Frederick Douglass visited her. Ulysses S. Grant sat for her. She made busts of John Brown, Abraham Lincoln and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (whose 1855 poem, “The Song of Hiawatha,” inspired her to create a series of marble sculptures on Hiawatha and Minnehaha), reads the NYT obituary.

Many of Lewis’ neoclassical-style sculptures are celebrated for their portrayals of black and indigenous people. For example, one of her most acclaimed pieces, The Death of Cleopatra, depicted the iconic Egyptian queen sitting lifelessly on her throne after committing suicide.

Her sculptures sold for thousands of dollars, and she had commissions from wealthy patrons on both sides of the Atlantic. When the United States celebrated its centennial in Philadelphia in 1876, she was invited to submit her work. Her piece, “The Death of Cleopatra” — more than 3,000 pounds of Carrara marble depicting the Egyptian queen with one breast bared and quite dead — created a stir for its commanding realism,  writes the NYT.

Yet, despite her talent and global recognition, Lewis was frustrated by the racial barriers she faced, particularly in the States.

In 1878, she told The New York Times: “I was practically driven to Rome, in order to obtain the opportunities for art culture, and to find a social atmosphere where I was not constantly reminded of my color. The land of liberty had no room for a colored sculptor.”

Sissieretta Jones

the new york times

Sissieretta Jones (Wikimedia)

Another unsung black woman honored in “Overlooked” is Sissieretta Jones, an opera singer who became the first African American woman to headline a concert at Carnegie Hall in 1893. Born circa 1868, she became the star of a touring company called the Black Patti Troubadours. However, to her dismay, she was dubbed “the Black Patti,” which compared her to white diva Adelina Patti.

She sang at the White House, toured the nation and the world, and, in a performance at Madison Square Garden, was conducted by the composer Antonin Dvorak, reads the NYT obit page.


But there were color lines she never managed to break, like the one that kept the nation’s major opera companies segregated, denying her the chance to perform in fully staged operas.


“They tell me my color is against me,” she once lamented to a reporter from The Detroit Tribune.


When another interviewer suggested that she transform herself with makeup and wigs, she dismissed the idea.


“Try to hide my race and deny my own people?” she responded in the interview, which was published by The San Francisco Call in 1896. “Oh, I would never do that.” She added: “I am proud of belonging to them and would not hide what I am even for an evening.”

Ida B. Wells

the new york times

Ida B. Wells Barnett, in a photograph by Mary Garrity from c. 1893. Wikimedia)

The Times kicked off “Overlooked” in March with a tribute to journalist Ida B. Wells, an outspoken civil rights activist and journalist. According to the NYT:

She pioneered reporting techniques that remain central tenets of modern journalism. And as a former slave who stood less than five feet tall, she took on structural racism more than half a century before her strategies were repurposed, often without crediting her, during the 1960s civil rights movement.


Wells was already a 30-year-old newspaper editor living in Memphis when she began her anti-lynching campaign, the work for which she is most famous. 


National Geographic, another publication founded in the 19th century, has also taken action this year to right its wrongs for its history of racist reporting. The April 2018 issue of the magazine included a scathing report detailing how the outlet overlooked and stereotyped people of color.

“[U]ntil the 1970s National Geographic all but ignored people of color who lived in the United States, rarely acknowledging them beyond laborers or domestic workers,” wrote the magazine’s Editor-in-Chief Susan Goldberg in the issue’s editor’s letter. “Meanwhile it pictured ‘natives’ elsewhere as exotics, famously and frequently unclothed, happy hunters, noble savages—every type of cliché.”



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Black-ish Creator Just Signed a Deal with Netflix and Insiders are Saying It’s Worth $100 Million

Black-ish creator Kenya Barris just entered into a multi-year deal to create a new series exclusive to Netflix, according to a press release on Netflix’s website.

Industry-watchers, including those at Variety, estimate the deal to be worth approximately $100 million.

From Variety:

According to a source with knowledge of the negotiations, the deal, which carries an option for an additional two years, is valued at roughly $100 million— putting Barris in the same ballpark as recent Netflix recruits Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy.

Rhimes is slated to have eight original Netflix productions in the works. She left her longtime home at ABC Studios in 2017 and moved her Shondaland production company to Netflix. In return, the TV mogul signed a lucrative nine-figure deal with the streaming giant.

“Kenya Barris is one of our great modern storytellers,” said Cindy Holland, vice president, Original Content at Netflix in a released statement. “Kenya uses his voice to make audiences more aware of the world around them, while simultaneously making them laugh. His honesty, comedic brilliance and singular point of view, combined with the creative freedom he will enjoy at Netflix, promises to create powerful new stories for all our members around the world.”

“When my agents reached out to me about this little garage startup called Netflix, I wasn’t sure what to think,” said Barris via a press release. “But after I talked to Ted and Cindy, I started to believe that maybe this mom-and-pop shop with only 130 million subscribers might just be something… so I decided to take a swing… a leap of faith if you will, and take a chance with the new kids on the block.”

Netflix has been courting big names to produce content as of late. The company even managed to sign on the Obamas.

Oprah Winfrey is another media mogul who scored a massive deal not with Netflix but with Apple. In June, Cupertino announced it had formed” a unique, multi-year content partnership with Oprah Winfrey, the esteemed producer, actress, talk show host, philanthropist and CEO of OWN. Together, Winfrey and Apple will create original programs that embrace her incomparable ability to connect with audiences around the world.”

Winfrey’s projects will be released as part of a lineup of original content from Apple.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, the pact includes everything from film, TV, applications, books and other content that could easily be distributed on Apple’s all-encompassing platform—not including podcasts. They also report that Winfrey’s Harpo Films will own any and all content produced under the Apple partnership, in line with Winfrey’s longtime business model.

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Barack and Michelle Obama, Other Notables Mourn Aretha Franklin [VIDEO]

President Obama and Michelle Obama sent out a statement on the passing of the “Queen of Soul,” Aretha Franklin:

America has no royalty. But we do have a chance to earn something more enduring. Born in Memphis and raised in Detroit, Aretha Franklin grew up performing gospel songs in her father’s congregation. For more than six decades since, every time she sang, we were all graced with a glimpse of the divine. Through her compositions and unmatched musicianship, Aretha helped define the American experience. In her voice, we could feel our history, all of it and in every shade—our power and our pain, our darkness and our light, our quest for redemption and our hard-won respect. She helped us feel more connected to each other, more hopeful, more human. And sometimes she helped us just forget about everything else and dance.

Aretha may have passed on to a better place, but the gift of her music remains to inspire us all. May the Queen of Soul rest in eternal peace. Michelle and I send our prayers and warmest sympathies to her family and all those moved by her song.

The Queen of Soul died on Thursday at 76. She was the first woman to ever be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2009, she sang ‘My Country, ‘Tis of Thee’ at Barack Obama’s inauguration.

President Obama also took to Twitter in celebration of Franklin:

“Aretha helped define the American experience. In her voice, we could feel our history, all of it and in every shade—our power and our pain, our darkness and our light, our quest for redemption and our hard-won respect. May the Queen of Soul rest in eternal peace.”

The NAACP also paid tribute:

We remember Aretha for the joy and love she brought into our lives and society via her powerful voice,” said NAACP Chairman Leon W. Russell. “No one can discuss the civil rights movement nor music without paying respect to the Queen of Soul. We’ll miss her dearly.”

Aretha Franklin not only revolutionized the sound of music during her career, she contributed to the changing of our society from a segregated one to one where all people, men and women were equal. Her chart-topping hit Respect became the de facto anthem for a nation struggling to break free from the chains of racism, segregation and a staunch patriarchy. Not only did she lend her voice to the struggle, but at times and in substantial ways, donated money to the Civil Rights Movement, supporting the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the NAACP and others.

“What would our struggle or American society be without the music of Aretha?” asked NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson. “Her unmitigated ‘Blackness’ and contributions to art and national progress places her on the Mt. Everest of American icons who changed this society for the better.”

Hillary Clinton praised Franklin on Twitter, “Mourning the loss today of @ArethaFranklin who shared her spirit and talent with the world. She deserves not only our RESPECT but also our lasting gratitude for opening our eyes, ears and hearts. Rest in eternal peace, my friend, Clinton tweeted.

President Donald Trump tweeted, “The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, is dead. She was a great woman, with a wonderful gift from God, her voice. She will be missed!”

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Cuomo Is Right, America Has Never Been ‘Great’ For Many of Us

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is taking some heat for a statement he made at a conference on Wednesday. His words:

We’re not going to Make America Great Again. It was never that great. We have not reached greatness. We will reach greatness when every American is fully engaged.

Of course, the right-wing (which loathes Cuomo as well as the state he governs) did not hesitate to twist the governor’s words out of context and use them in full-blown attack mode.

“It’s shocking that Andrew Cuomo would make such an offensive remark that insults the people of this country, the ideals upon which she was founded and the countless men and women who have fought and died to protect her,” said New York Republican Committee Chairman Ed Cox.

Cuomo is up for re-election this year. His Republican challenger, Marc Molinaro said that Cuomo “owes the nation an apology.” Unsurprisingly, President Trump weighed in, tweeting that Cuomo was having a “total meltdown.”

All the furor leads me to wonder, at which moment in history did America become great for African Americans?

Was it during the 1700s when our ancestors were kidnapped, shackled, and sold off? Despite Ben Carson’s delusional depiction of slaves as “immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less” the 1700s were kind of horrific for black people.

Perhaps some may think the 1800s were great for African Americans, because, hey, slavery ended. Ending the practice of human beings as chattel is a pretty low bar for achieving “greatness.” Also, slavery’s end was the beginning of decades of hell for black folk in the form of Jim Crow, the Ku Klux Klan, lynchings, voter intimidation, abject poverty, the Black Codes…etcetera, etcetera.

Was the 20th century when America finally became great for people of color? There certainly were moments of greatness. FDR’s New Deal provided unprecedented assistance to African Americans. The NAACP was formed. And, the iconic civil rights movement forever changed the conversation about race in America.

Yet, all of the above-mentioned things had to happen because life still sucked for black people.

National greatness eludes us even today. In the 21st century, prison is the new plantation. African Americans are incarcerated at five times the rate of whites (and in some states, at 10 times the rate).

The racial wealth gap is a subject we cover extensively at Black Enterprise. Although more blacks now own businesses (in fact, black-owned businesses increased by a rate of 400% this year) and are attaining higher education, the racial wealth gap is not narrowing. In 2016, according to the Census Bureau, the median income for white American households was $63,041 in stark contrast to black households at $39,490.

Even when we are gainfully employed, climbing the corporate ladder, African Americans are paid less for doing the same work as whites. Black women are paid approximately 63 cents on the dollar earned by a white man even at an equal educational level.

You would think after all the trials and tribulations African Americans have overcome and faced, they would at least let us protest injustice peacefully. NFL players have been a particular bane of the President’s, even calling those that kneel in protest “sons of b*tches.” His supporters often make the same collective jeer; “They make millions, they have nothing to protest!”

OK, black unemployment is at a historical low. That’s got to be a plus-one for a great America. The black unemployment rate is something Trump and his supporters keep touting as a reason America is great for black Americans.

Yet, whether that faction is screaming that NFL players should ‘just stick to football and enjoy your millions,’ or claiming blacks owe allegiance to Trump because of the unemployment rate, it sounds they are less concerned about this country being great for African Americans, but more that we should be grateful for whatever gains we make here.

I am going to take a hard pass on the suggestion that America is great for everyone. In their indignant pre-midterm election apoplexy, Cuomo’s critics are ignoring the entirety of his statement, “We will reach greatness when every American is fully engaged.”

It’s important we don’t deem America great just yet. Once greatness is achieved, there is no further ascent to be made, nothing more to improve, no reason to keep striving. There is much that is great about our country, but so much more work to be done to truly achieve liberty and justice for all.



The post Cuomo Is Right, America Has Never Been ‘Great’ For Many of Us appeared first on Black Enterprise.

New Black Political Force Raises $3.5 Million, Prepares for Midterm Election Battles

A new political force has emerged that may help advance the economic and wealth-building status of African Americans. The Black Economic Alliance, an organization of leading African American entrepreneurs and executives, announced today that it has already raised $3.5 million to impact highly-competitive gubernatorial, U.S. Senate, and House races in states and districts, respectively, with sizable black populations and where such turnout during the midterm election could prove decisive.

During a press briefing via conference call in which BLACK ENTERPRISE joined other members of the national media, the group also revealed endorsements for a group of Democratic gubernatorial candidates in heated, high-profile campaigns: Stacey Abrams, former Minority Leader of the Georgia House of Representatives seeking to become chief executive of that state; Ben Jealous, a former NAACP CEO and tech financier running for the Maryland statehouse; and Richard Cordray, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director during the Obama administration who is seeking to lead Ohio. The group also stated that it will back U.S. Senator and 2016 vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine. BEC members say that it will continue raising funds up until the midterms to support congressional candidates in another 10 to 12 contests.

Midterm Election Strategy: Push Economic Agenda 

The BEC came together to use their collective power and wealth to elect representatives who will vigorously push an economic agenda for African Americans, which as a group continues to lag behind their counterparts in homeownership, wages, and access to capital for business expansion despite a reportedly robust economy. Operating under the banner “Work, Wages and Wealth for Black Americans,” the organization has a board that includes the nation’s most influential business people, including co-chair Tony Coles, chairman and CEO of biotech firm Yumanity Therapeutics; co-chair Charles Phillips, CEO of tech company Infor Inc. and one of BE’s Most Powerful Executives; Bruce Gordon, a former NAACP head and ex-Verizon senior executive; and Marva Smalls, Global Head of Inclusion Strategy for Viacom who can be found of BE’s top diversity executives roster, among others.

Said Coles during the press briefing: “We’re in a unique position to understand both the priorities of the boardroom and far-reaching consequences of existing economic policies that disproportionately exclude black Americans from accessing good-paying jobs and benefiting from programs that help build wealth in our communities. We want to bridge the gap between the political candidates and the people most impacted by their policies, so we can increase work, wages, and wealth for black people in this country.”

“Black communities in America continue to suffer from institutionalized economic disparities. With 6.7 million unfilled jobs in this country, it’s more important than ever that we invest in black workers and businesses to make the economy work better for everyone,” said Akunna Cook, BEC’s executive director. “But the only way we get there is with a government that is accountable and responsive to the needs of the nation’s black communities when it comes to jobs, pay, and economic opportunity.”

Black-Owned Businesses Provide Financial Muscle 

There have been other instances when prominent African American business owners have come together to form political action committees. For example, some 20 years ago BLACK ENTERPRISE Publisher Earl G. Graves Sr. brought together CEOs of some of the nation’s largest black-owned businesses to use their financial muscle to create a PAC to support politicians that would advocate for a larger slice of public contracts and jobs for minorities as well as counter fervent anti-affirmative action measures pushed by conservatives at the time.

At yesterday’s press briefing, Jealous, Abrams, and Cordray told BEC officials that they would tackle today’s issues that hamper the economic progress of people of color. For instance, Jealous, a partner with Kapor Capital, a venture fund that backs diverse startups, maintains that “as a civil rights leader and businessman, I know that building an inclusive economy through broad-based reforms will ensure all working people can provide their families with a better future.” In a tough, contentious battle against Gov. Larry Hogan, an incumbent with a huge war chest, Jealous fully embraces BEC’s backing to gain campaign financing and support voter outreach.

Abrams, who has garnered much national attention and candidly spoken of her roughly $170,000 in credit card and student debt—which she says has helped her identify with a multi-generational constituency that has faced the same struggles of caring for elderly parents and trying to pay off educational expenses—says she’ll use BEC’s support to promote her message to “work to strengthen our economy of all working people across Georgia, but there is no question it will take direct engagement and a strong vision for addressing historic imbalances that have hurt our black communities in particular.”










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Innovator Wins Award for Creating Technology To Help People Raise Bail Money [VIDEO]

At the recent Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Summit in Charlotte, North Carolina, event sponsor Koch Industries and its Georgia Pacific subsidiary presented the inaugural Principled Entrepreneurship Award to a business innovator who is literally helping thousands gain their freedom. Ben McFarlin, founder, chief technology officer, and CEO of Atlanta–based Help Bond Me Inc. has been using technology to drive justice reform through a platform that allows pretrial detainees to connect with family members, friends, and followers via social media to raise bail money.

A core tenet of the Market-Based Management framework developed by Charles G. Koch, CEO of one of the nation’s largest privately held corporations, Principled Entrepreneurship focuses on companies that create products and services to help people improve their lives, and doing so through the application of “the judgment, responsibility, initiative, economic and critical thinking skills, and sense of urgency necessary to generate the greatest contribution, consistent with their organization’s risk philosophy.” As such, it emphasizes that value creation, innovation, self-determination, and integrity helps drive long-term success.

Bearing all of those qualities, McFarlin is the first subject in our special “Profiles of Principled Entrepreneurship” series.

McFarlin founded the company in 2016 after being moved by the tragic case of Sandra Bland, which drew national attention when she died three days after her incarceration at a Waller County, Texas, jail due, in large part, to her inability to obtain $5,000 needed for her release. McFarlin, who holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Southern University A&M College and attended graduate school at the Georgia Institute of Technology developed both the hardware and software for the Help Bond Me system. When he first unveiled the platform, BE designated it as one of our “10 Best Apps From Black Founders.”

raise bail money

To launch his business, he gained guidance from some of the most brilliant minds in the tech space by participating in accelerator programs like Tech Wildcatters in Dallas, NewMe in Miami, and TechSquare Labs in Atlanta. He maintains that the expertise and advice from tech powerhouses such as Angela Benton, Paul Judge, and Rodney Sampson in “those spaces really helped me to grow.”

Visit the website and you’ll witness that expansion, McFarlin and his dedicated team share the company’s current and upcoming services, including:

  • Construction of hardware kiosks and tablets for county jails. Such devices enable pretrial detainees to send hundreds of arrest notifications to friends, family, and followers through social media, text messaging, and e-mail—all which have higher response rates than phone calls.
  • Creation of “a blockchain-based fundraising platform for bail.” Friends and family can obtain bail in cryptocurrency and managed by a smart contract. “All transactions will be recorded to the Ethereum Blockchain to ensure immutability and transparency,” McFarlin told BE at the Entrepreneurs Summit. “We are building a financial system for deposit bail. Processing credit card payments for bail has traditionally been considered high risk. Our funds are guaranteed with zero chargebacks and instantly available to county clerks using the Help Bond Me Ethereum debit card.”
  • Developing “an angel network” tied to community bail funds in major cities nationwide that gain financial contributions from local philanthropists to post bail for destitute pretrial detainees.

Thus far, McFarlin has made inroads into the Cook County, Illinois, jail system as well as explored the jail system in Cobb County, Georgia.

This service is especially vital to African Americans. The 2018 Report To The United Nations on Racial Disparities in the U.S. Criminal Justice System from The Sentencing Project, a justice reform advocacy group, revealed that African Americans were incarcerated in local jails at a rate 3.5 times that of non-Hispanic whites in 2016. Moreover, roughly 70% of pretrial releases require money bond, “an especially high hurdle for low-income defendants, who are disproportionately people of color,” according to that report.

As an African American who knows all too well that a traffic stop can turn into a life-derailing event,  McFarlin says the development of Help Bond Me has been a deeply personal mission for him. “It has taken quite a bit of time, money, and effort to get to this point. We started out with just an idea that could help someone in their time of need. Since then, we have spoken with hundreds of people. That includes the person who was arrested, the jail commander that held him, the judge who set the bail, the family members that raised the bail and the bond agent that posted it,” McFarlin wrote on the Help Bond Me Facebook page. “We’ve traveled the country, gone to jail conferences, presented to sheriffs, spoken with non-profits about bail reform and collaborated with local bail funds. We’ve hit the streets with Help Bond Me, in the malls, flea markets, barber shops, beauty salons, trains, and bus stations. There’s no hype, gimmick or ‘hook’ to what we do. Quite frankly, it can sometimes be an ugly business. But, it’s important work that needs to be done.”

In our video interview, discover how McFarlin transformed his passion for justice reform into a disruptive venture, serving thousands of detainees and their families. He represents a true principled entrepreneur.

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From Assistant to CEO of Record Label Putting Out Positive Music by Young Talent

Lena Jenkins-Smith, CEO of Young Millennium Records, knows more than a thing or two about paying dues. Starting her career as an executive assistant to the stars, her path to becoming the founder of her own record label that emphasizes positive music, has been one filled with roller-coaster-like career transitions. Jenkins-Smith worked closely with celebrities including Teddy Riley, Paula Abdul, and Katt Williams by the age of 30, and served as a tour manager and wardrobe stylist. She even left the entertainment industry behind to pursue higher education and become a teacher.

Despite taking a break, her love of the entertainment business and making an impact continued to grow, bringing her back to realize her dream of providing audiences with what she describes as “good, clean” music, all while empowering up-and-comers—including her three children—to be groomed and developed for success in an industry that can be dog-eat-dog. In just two years, artists have already been creating a buzz including Jenkins-Smith’s 17-year-old son, Cyrus, who has worked with heavy-hitting producers (“some of the same producers the Migos, Gucci, and T.I. use,” she added proudly)—and opened for Cardi B late last year.

Black Enterprise talked with Jenkins-Smith on how being an assistant prepared her to fill CEO shoes, how millennials play a major role in keeping her on top of her game, and how she rode the waves of professional change toward entrepreneurship.

You have a pretty diverse career journey. How were you able to successfully transition between the roles you’ve played in entertainment and business?

Organizational skills would be No. 1. You would not be able to transition between everything I have without being organized. Because I’m so creative when it comes to the things I do—I’ve done set design and things like that as well—so having a creative mind and having to step out of that role, it’s hard sometimes. Staying organized helps.

Also, [developing] a thick skin [is important]. You’re trying things, not sure if they’re going to work, and you also have everyday things that you have to do. Being in entertainment [can involve] high [levels of] stress, and because I wore a lot of hats, I’d be responsible for a lot of things. [Self-accountability] is also key.

positive music

(Photo credit: Young Millennium Records)

How did being an executive assistant prep you for the CEO role?

Having [the assistant] role allowed me to learn the business side more. You have to know scheduling, marketing, promotion, accounting-—you learn [about] all of that being in that role. It’s your job to connect all of those [elements] and make sure things are done correctly.

You also begin to learn the likes and dislikes of [who you’re assisting], and they become like family. That prepares you for when you become the boss because then you’re dealing with people who become emotionally attached to you. [You begin to think] about what you’re [doing] for them so that they can successfully give you what you need.

You also learn a lot of what not to do [from observing] and you get to know an executive. You get to see [business functions]—what works and what doesn’t. You have to be able to make decisions and judgments based on knowing the executive because you won’t always be able to go to them for every little thing.

Your label’s name is telling. What’s the role of young talent and millennials at the label, and how have they impacted your life as a leader who has continued to grow and pivot in your career?

Keith Sweat serves as president and his son, Justin, is on the label. There’s only youth [talent]—no one over 22 and the youngest is 15. We’re really focused on giving them a platform. A lot of our music is clean and [we’re] looking to put out a positive image. Our young boys are getting killed and caught up in drugs—all kind of things [are happening] that are not a positive image for our young men. I wanted to provide a place where they can grow.

My son’s music is about kids having fun and doing cool things… [There’s] no cursing, and it’s not derogatory to women and other young men. We’re trying to bring that [positivity] to music. Also, it’s an opportunity to bring back real A&R. With the world of social media and the way the industry right now just wants you to come packaged, we’re trying to train the kids, make sure they go to school, learn etiquette, and know how to sit down at a table and have a business meeting—how to dress appropriately and speak appropriately.

It is very important to keep the youth around and on top. It’s not only [about] teaching them, but they also teach us. They’re cutting-edge and the risk-takers. … If there’s a disconnect, you’re not going to find out what you need to know. They’re hungry, and today it’s all about the youth.

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45 GREAT MOMENTS IN BLACK BUSINESS – No. 6: Maynard Jackson Becomes Atlanta’s First Black Mayor

BLACK ENTERPRISE celebrates the 45th anniversary of its roster of the nation’s most successful black businesses—The BE 100s. To commemorate the significance of this collective’s widespread impact on black business and economic development as well as American industry over four decades, we have presented 45 milestone moments. As part of this tribute, we continue our yearlong countdown.  

Maynard Jackson Becomes a Disrupter as Atlanta’s First Black Mayor 

1974: Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson establishes first Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) program, which “sets aside” a percentage of government contracts for minority businesses and encourages major corporations to follow suit. That act creates legions of African American millionaires and expands scores of BE 100s companies, including H.J. Russell & Co., the nation’s largest black construction firm. Jackson would eventually launch two BE 100s companies: T.G.I Friday’s franchisee Jackmont Hospitality and investment bank Jackson Securities.

Confronting the ‘Old Boy’s Network’ 

maynard jackson

(Black Enterprise Magazine, November 1975)

Jackson’s plan surfaced when he informed city leaders he was proceeding with the expansion of the then-named Hartsfield Airport. He shook up Atlanta’s old boy’s network with this: 25% of all contracts were allotted for minority firms. That those firms could land a big chunk of the project first valued at $450 million.

But some influential men in the South revolted, claiming the act was illegal. They urged the governor and state legislators to seize control of the airport expansion project from the Jackson regime. Yet Jackson did not flinch, reportedly stating: “We simply won’t build [the airport] if you don’t agree to this. You can have 75% of the project or you can have 100% of nothing. What is your choice?”

After a two-year battle, both sides agreed to a re-adjusted set-aside plan: a participation stake of 20% to 25% for minority-owned firms. Jackson action’s also set a benchmark for affirmative action programs nationally, including in big cities with large black populations.

In Atlanta, Jackson boosted the portion of contracts to minorities from under 1% in 1973 to roughly 39% five years later. Jackson’s efforts empowered the black middle-class, helped create many black millionaires and produce many BE 100s companies. Among them: H. J. Russell & Co., the nation’s largest black construction firm and No. 14 on the 2018 Top 100 list with $253 million in revenue.

“Jackson was like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when it came to ensuring African Americans got a chance to participate in the nation’s economic marketplace,” the late Herman Russell, chairman/CEO of the construction company, told Black Enterprise in 2009.

Russell added that his then $300 million company would not have been that size if not for Jackson’s policy. Russell added Jackson helped spur black development not only in Atlanta, but also nationally in cities including Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, and Boston.

Another victory for minority firms under Jackson’s watch came when he helped bring the 1990 Olympics to Atlanta. For instance, $10.7 million went to minority suppliers, and over 60% of the minority firms were black. Some BE 100 firms tasted the gold, including construction firms H.J. Russell and C.D. Moody, part of the team that won the $209 million Olympic Stadium project.

maynard jackson

Mayor Jackson meeting with the International Olympic Committee. (Black Enterprise Magazine, January 1991)

Illustrating his acumen in business, Jackson in 1987 started Jackson Securities L.L.C. It once was (No. 7 on the BE INVESTMENT BANKS list with $1.466 billion in senior/co-senior managed issues). In 1994, Jackson, and his daughter, Brooke Jackson Edmond, and food industry veteran Daniel Halpern, launched Jackmont Hospitality Inc., “He had a passion for being in business with his daughter. It was something he really cared about and enjoyed,” Jackmont President Halpern stated.

Based in Atlanta, Jackmont is a food-service management company and one of the fastest growing TGI Friday’s franchisees. It was No. 19 on the 2018 Top 100s list with $200 million in revenue.

In 2003, the same year Jackson died, one of the world’s busiest airports was renamed Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport as a tribute to him.

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Kim Kardashian to Discuss Kylie’s Entrepreneurial Success on Big Boy’s Show

Kim Kardashian will appear on Big Boy’s show Big Boy’s Neighborhood to talk about Kylie Jenner’s phenomenal success with her Kylie Cosmetics makeup company.

The two will also chat about North handling life as a big sister, embarrassing moments, and her feelings about Kourtney.

The conversation delves into her relationship with Kanye West including how they met, who pays when the couple goes out to dinner, and addresses break-up rumors. Of course, Kardashian will also dish on the new season of Keeping Up With the Kardashians.

The episode airs today. The first of two new episodes will run at 6 PM ET on FM-Fuse Music.

Big Boy’s Neighborhood is a televised version of his iHeartMedia nationally syndicated radio show. The show’s host made headlines in 2012 when he lost more than 200 pounds after undergoing gastric bypass surgery.

Kim Kardashian and the Family’s Midas Touch

The Kardashian clan has formed what can only be described as a money-making empire. Recently, mobile game maker Glu Mobile, reported a 20% increase in revenue thanks to its “Kim Kardashian: Hollywood” app, reports Variety. The app accounts for $8 million of the company’s in-app revenue.

Forbes also recently reported that Kylie Jenner is on track to build a billionaire fortune with her successful makeup line. She became the buzz of the business world after she appeared on the latest cover of Forbes. However, the magazine received backlash after asserting Jenner was “self-made,” a description critics said should not apply to one born into a wealthy family.

There were also some eyebrows raised over the fact that a black-woman owned cosmetics company, Pat McGrath Labs, secured a $60 million deal from New York-based investment firm Eurazeo Brands at nearly the same time the Forbes article went live. Some beauty industry insiders speculated that Pat McGrath Labs’ valuation hit $1 billion perhaps surpassing that of Kylie Jenner’s company (valued at $800 million). That news did not receive as much wide-spread coverage as the Forbes’ article on Jenner.

Here’s a clip of the upcoming episode:


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