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George Curry

Demonizing the Poor for being Poor

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(NNPA) In the 1960s, we had the War on Poverty. In 2011, we’re now seeing a War on People Who Live in Poverty.

One of the most callous examples of this occurred on – you guessed it – Fox News. Charles Payne, in a business segment, acknowledged that anti-poverty programs, food stamps, and unemployment insurance were “good programs”, but then went on to attack recipients of those programs.

“I think the real narrative here, though, is that people aren’t embarrassed by it,” Payne said. “People aren’t ashamed by it. In other words, there was a time when people were embarrassed to be on food stamps; there was a time when people were embarrassed to be on unemployment for six months, let alone demanding to be on for more than two years… No longer is the man being told to look in the mirror and cast down a judgment on himself; it’s someone else’s fault. So, food stamps, unemployment, all this stuff is something that they probably earned in some indirect way.”

The host of the business show, Stuart Varney, called food stamps, Medicaid, and the Earned Income Tax Credit “a form of welfare, income redistribution” benefiting people with an “entitlement mentality.”

Varney and Payne, in effect, dismissed the findings by the National Bureau of Economic Research that showed that such programs keep 1 in 6 Americans out of poverty, mostly the elderly, the disabled, and the working poor. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, without those programs, the poverty rate would double.

As states continue to struggle to balance their budgets, as required by their constitutions, some state lawmakers are directing their anger at the poor.

In Kentucky, a Republican state representative has introduced a bill that, if passed, would require random drug testing for all adults receiving welfare, food stamps or Medicaid.

Rep. Lonnie Napier, of Lancaster, Ky., introduced Kentucky House Bill 208 that would immediately terminate benefits to recipients who fail a drug test. He told the Huffington Post, “This program is gonna save us a lot of money, because there’s gonna be a lot of people showing up on illegal drugs and they will lose their assistance.”

There is no evidence that people benefiting from anti-poverty programs are any more prone to becoming drug addicts than those who do not receive such aid. Professor Harold Pollack, of the University of Chicago, pointed out that Michigan implemented a mandatory drug testing program 10 years ago at three of its welfare offices. Of the 258 welfare applicants tested, only 21 tested positive for illegal drugs. Of the 21 failing, 18 tested positive for marijuana.

Newt Gingrich, who is testing the GOP presidential waters, has tried to indirectly inject race into his campaign. Speaking to a group of Republicans in his home state of Georgia, he said: “President Obama is the most successful food stamp president in American history. I would like to be the most successful paycheck president in American history.”

When asked about the comment on Meet the Press, Gingrich denied his comment contained racial overtones. He asserted, “…I have never said anything about President Obama which is racist.”

Perhaps not overtly, but certainly covertly. That point was not lost on Adam Serwer of the Washington Post. “I don’t think Gingrich lacks the sophistication to understand how it sounds when he calls for poll tests and refers to the first black president as ‘the food stamp president,’” Serwer wrote. “…He gets to play the victim of a politically correct world where liberals try to stifle all criticism of Obama by characterizing any such criticism as racism.

His dog whistle is thus amplified by enraged liberals, while conservatives get to play up their own form of racial grievance politics.”

Nearly 12 percent of Americans are beneficiaries of the Food Stamp program – 28 percent of Blacks, 15 percent of Latinos, and eight percent of Whites.

Recipients, who are at or below the poverty line, are given a plastic card to purchase food, seeds, and food plants. The card cannot be used to purchase alcohol, tobacco, paper goods or pet food. Despite those restrictions, the users of food stamps are still used as a political football.

“If people buy fresh vegetables or other relatively expensive though nutritious foods, they are considered to be living high on the hog at the taxpayers’ expense,” the New York Times observed in 2009. “But if they buy cheap foods like hot dogs they are criticized for poor health habits.”

Many people who were quick to criticize the Food Stamp program in the past are now embracing it after they have lost their job. More than 36 million people are food stamp recipients, with an additional 15 million eligible for enrollment.

“This is the most urgent time for our feeding program in our lifetime, with the exception of the Depression,” Under Secretary of Agriculture Kevin Concannon told the New York Times. “It’s time for us to face up to the fact that in this country of plenty, there are hungry people.”

And, those hungry people – many of them facing unemployment for the first time in their adult life – should not be stigmatized by candidates for public office seeking to score cheap political points.

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. He can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com You can also follow him atwww.twitter.com/currygeorge.cessfully take us into the future!

The Frivolous Attacks on Obama and Common

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(NNPA) If you thought nothing could be more frivolous than conservatives questioning whether the President was born in the United States, think again. The recent criticism of Obama’s decisions to worship Easter Sunday at Shiloh Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. and invite poet/rapper Common to participate in a White House celebration of poetry illustrates how far his critics will stoop to manufacture a controversy.

Fox News was hysterical over the Obamas’ decision to worship at the predominantly Black church founded in the 1800s by former slaves. Sean Hannity, co-host of Fox News’ Hannity & Colmes, aired a clip from the speech Rev. Wallace Smith, the pastor of Shiloh, had given at Eastern University, in Davids, Pa.

“It may not be Jim Crow anymore,” said Rev. Smith. “Now, Jim Crow wears blue pinstripes, goes to law school and carries fancy briefs in cases. And now, Jim Crow has become James Crow, esquire. And, he doesn’t have to wear white robes anymore because now he can wear the protective cover of talk radio or can get a regular news program on Fox.”

After the clip aired as part of Hannity’s criticism of the president, Rev. Smith said his church received more than 100 threats via telephone and e-mail.

“We received a fax that had the image of a monkey with a target across its face,” he told the Washington Post. “My secretary has received telephone calls that have been so vulgar until she had to hang up.”

On his show, Fox host Bill O’Reilly tried to dismiss Rev. Smith as a “racial activist” and kept objecting to Smith’s observation on Easter that the original U.S. Constitution was a flawed document that did not count African descendants as full human beings.

O’Reilly made the mistake of inviting Rev. Amos Brown, pastor of Third Baptist Church, in San Francisco and president of the local NAACP chapter, to discuss the Obama decision to worship at Shiloh. Rev. Brown noted that Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton had attended the same church as president without being criticized.

When O’Reilly said they attended under different circumstances, Rev. Brown corrected him: “It was the same church with the same pastor with the same views.”

After Rev. Brown refused to back down, O’Reilly quickly ended the interview. But, Fox did not end its assault on President Obama and his wife, Michelle.

The first lady hosted an event at the White House to celebrate American poetry and prose. Among the performers invited was Lonnie Rashid Lynn, the poet/rapper better known as Common.

Various Fox News personalities criticized Common for his work titled, A Song for Assata written in honor of Assata Shakur, the Black Panther Party member who was convicted of the 1973 murder of New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster. The trooper was shot twice in the head with his own gun. Black Panther Party member Zayd Malik Shakur was also killed in the New Jersey Turnpike shootout. Both Assata Shakur and another state trooper, James Harper, were injured in the exchange of gunfire. Assata Shakur escaped from prison in 1979 and has been living in Cuba in political asylum since 1984.

In his tribute, Common wrote: “Assata had been convicted of a murder she couldna done. Medical evidence shown she couldna shot the gun.” Although Fox led the recent campaign against Common, the network’s Jason Robinson told Common last year: “Your music is very positive. And you’re known as the conscious rapper.”

Fox also sent out birthday greetings to rapper Ice-T whose song, Body Count, celebrated the murder of police officers. And, it never criticized Sarah Palin, who sees nothing wrong with placing shooting targets around photos of liberal Democrats.

On the Aug. 24, 2007 edition of Hannity & Colmes, co-host Sean Hannity introduced video of Ted Nugent, a musician and right-wing activist, calling President Obama “a piece of s---“ and referring to Hillary Clinton as a “worthless b----.”

When Bob Beckel, a guest on the program, challenged Hannity to disavow Nugent, he declined, saying: “No, I like Ted Nugent. He’s a friend of mine.”

It is unfair to hold Obama responsible for the lyrics of Common and not apply the same standard to other presidents.

Daily Show comedian Jon Stewart drove home that point when he cited the lyrics of Johnny Cash: “Early one mornin’ while makin’ the rounds/I took a shot of cocaine and I shot my woman down.” Cash was invited to the White House by presidents Nixon, Carter, Reagan, and Clinton.

In 1991, President George H.W. Bush invited rapper Easy-E to the White House. His group, NWA, released a song titled, F--- tha Police. Among its lyrics:

A young nigga on a warpath
And when I’m finished, it’s gonna be a bloodbath
Of cops, dyin in LA
…Taking out a police would make my day

Where was the outrage from conservatives then?

Again, there was no public outrage.

By today’s standard, Common’s lyrics are mild. So mild that The Gap featured him in an ad for its 2006 fall collection. He has also appeared in such movies as American Gangster, Terminator Salvation, and Date Night, featuring Tina Fey and Steve Carell.

Lost in the controversy over Common was the purpose of the White House event, which was to honor poetry. As President Obama said at the event, “The power of poetry is everybody experiences it differently. There are no rules on what makes a great poem. Instead, a great poem is one that resonates with us and challenges us and teaches us something about ourselves.”

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. He can be reached through his Web site, http://www.georgecurry.com/ You can also follow him atwww.twitter.com/currygeorge.

Donald Trump is a Celebrity Racist

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(NNPA) There is one area in which Donald Trump is no celebrity apprentice – racism.

After being exposed as a publicity-loving idiot after he questioned the authenticity of President Obama’s birth records, Trump quickly shifted away from the discredited birther attack and began raising wild and unsubstantiated charges about Obama’s academic achievement, a record that includes the future president finishing in the top 10 percent of his class at Harvard Law School and being elected president of the prestigious Harvard Law Review.

Although journalistic lapdogs are willing to parrot Trump’s ridiculous and increasingly outlandish charges about President Obama, few have chronicled his racist behavior and comments.

Trump may have escaped scrutiny partly because he donated free office space to Jesse Jackson once upon a time and frequently makes the rounds with Snoop Dogg and P. Diddy. In one of the few times he has been confronted about his racism, Trump told TMZ.com, “I am the last person that such a thing should be said about.”

No, Donald, you should be one of the first. And, I will tell you why.

One would never know that Trump ever hung out with African-Americans, judging by his language.

In a radio interview with Fred Dicker on Talk 1300 in New York, Trump complained about the difficulty Hillary Clinton had winning over Black voters.

“You’ll hear a political reporter go on and say it had nothing to do with race. But how come she had such a tiny piece of the vote? And you know, it’s a very sad thing,” Trump said. “I have a great relationship with the Blacks. I’ve always had a great relationship with the Blacks. But unfortunately, it seems that, you know, the numbers you cite are very, very frightening numbers.”

The Blacks? Who uses that kind of language? And Trump didn’t just say it once – he said it twice.

Well, let’s see how Trump treated the Blacks that he claims to have such a great relationship with.

In 1973, the United States Justice Department sued Trump Management Corp. for violating the Fair Housing Act by refusing to rent to some potential tenants because of their “race or color.” Trump, who had taken over as president of the family business by then, reacted in typical Donald Trump fashion – he sued the government for $100 million, claiming the family business had been defamed. The judge dismissed the suit, saying Trump and his lawyer, Roy Cohn, former chief counsel to Senator Joseph McCarthy, were “wasting time and paper.”

Trump signed a settlement requiring that vacancies in the 15,000 apartment complex, which was approximately 95 percent White, must first be offered to people of color. He agreed not to engage in further racial discrimination. In a precursor of what was to come after Obama released his long-form birth certificate, Trump described his defeat as a victory and bragged that he was not required to “accept persons on welfare as tenants unless they qualified as any other tenant.”

Three years later, the Justice Department hauled Trump back into court for violating the settlement by telling the Blacks they had no vacancies when, in fact, there were openings.

After a group of four African-Americans and one Latino, aged 14 to 16 years old, were arrested in 1989 for allegedly raping a White female jogger in Central Park, Trump took out a full-page ad in the New York Times calling for the death penalty. That would have been a terrible mistake – all five teenagers were later exonerated.

John R. O’Donnell, former president of Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino, cited racist and anti-Semitic remarks made by his former boss. In his book, Trumped, the former company official said Trump disparaged a Black accountant at Trump Plaza by asserting “laziness is a trait in blacks.” According to O’Donnell’s book, Trump also said, “Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.”

In an interview with Playboy magazine in 1999, Trump tried to dismiss O’Donnell as a loser, but acknowledged, “The stuff O’Donnell wrote about me is probably true.”

Evidently not content stereotyping of Blacks and Jews who worked for him, Trump was inclined to reduce the president to being a Black athlete.

“If you look at what he’s doing in Libya, which is a total disaster, nobody even knows what’s going on in Libya,” Trump asserted. “If you look at what’s happening with gasoline prices where he said he has no control over prices, which he does. If he gets on the phone or gets off his basketball court or whatever he is doing at the time.”

It turns out that while Trump was attacking Obama on Libya, for playing basketball, and raising false charges about Obama’s birth certificate, the president was thoroughly engaged in planning a top-secret operation that would lead to the killing of Osama bin Laden. It was Trump who didn’t know what was going on.

In view of Trump’s record, it is difficult to believe him when he says if he could do it all over, he would come back as an African-American.

He told Bryant Gumble as part of a two-hour television special on race: “If I was starting off today, I would love to be a well-educated Black because I really do believe they have the actual advantage today.”

Not as much of the advantage enjoyed by a run-of-the-mill White male who inherited his wealth from his father. By the way, Donald, there is a well-educated African-American in the White House. And, look how you and those of your ilk are treating him.

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. He can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com You can also follow him atwww.twitter.com/currygeorge.

Donald Trump's Baseless Challenge to Obama's U.S. Citizenship

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(NNPA) Donald Trump, who is again flirting with the possibility of running for president on the Republican ticket, has garnered widespread publicity by repeating thoroughly discredited claims that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States and therefore is ineligible to be president of the United States. He has hired private investigators to look into whether Obama was born in Hawaii.

Trump should save his money. There is no doubt that Obama was born in the United States. The only people who refuse to accept this truth are ignorant, brain dead or decline to let facts get in way of their right-wing politics. In this case, Donald Trump might fit all three categories.

In a letter to the New York Times, Trump wrote, “There is a very large segment of our society who believe [sic] that Barack Obama, indeed, was not born in the United States.”

For the record, Barack Hussein Obama was born at 7:24 p.m. on August 4, 1961 in Honolulu. His parents were Stanley Ann Dunham and Barack Hussein Obama, Sr.

What is the source of this information?

Obama’s official birth certificate that was issued by Hawaii’s Department of Health. The birth was registered August 8, 1961 and the “Certification of Live Birth” notes that Obama’s mother was Caucasian and his father was African.

In addition to the official birth document, Obama’s entrance into the world was recorded in both local newspapaers, the August 13 Honolulu Advertiser and the August 14 Honolulu Star-Bulletin.

On MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Trump said on April 7: “Well, guess what? His grandparents probably put in a thing because everybody wanted to become a United States citizen, more so than today to be honest with you, because they were more proud in those days. But for purposes of hospitalization and welfare, you want to become an American citizen. So, the grandparents living in Honolulu, living in Hawaii, probably put it in. It’s a very simple explanation.”

It may be a simple explanation, but it is a wrong one.

The Honolulu Advertiser noted, “In November 2008, the Advertiser reported that the first mention of the future president appeared in a Sunday Advertiser birth announcement that ran on Aug. 13, 1961:

‘Mr. and Mrs. Barack H. Obama, 6085 Kalanianaole Hgy., son, Aug.4.’

“The identical announcement ran the following day in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.

“Birthers wave off those birth announcements, saying that Obama family members 48 years ago could have phoned in false information to both newspapers.

“Such vital statistics, however, were not sent to the newspaper by the general public but by the Health Department, which received the information directly from hospitals, [Health Department spokeswoman Janice] Okubo said.”

Trump was also wrong about relatives on the father’s side.

He asserted in his letter to the New York Times, “His grandmother from Kenya stated on tape, that he was born in Kenya and she was there to watch the birth. His family is fighting over which hospital in Hawaii he was born in – they just don’t know.”

Not true, according to FactCheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania whose goal is to “reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics.” It noted, “He [Trump] claims the president’s grandmother says Obama was born in Kenya. In fact, the recording to which he refers shows Sarah Obama repeatedly saying through a translator: ‘He was born in America.’” The site further confirmed that the future president was born in Honolulu’s Kapiolani Maternity & Gynecological Hospital.

In an April 7th interview on The Today Show, Trump charged, “He [Obama] doesn’t have a birth certificate or he hasn’t shown it. He has what’s called a certificate of live birth. That’s something easy to get…A certificate of live birth is not even signed by anybody. I saw his. I read it very carefully. It doesn’t have a serial number, doesn’t have a signature…”

Again, any apprentice should have known better.

FactCheck.org stated, “Had Trump looked at our 2008 article, he would see the signature stamp of Alvin Onaka, certifying the document is ‘a true copy or abstract of the record on file,’ issued to Obama June 7, 2007 as he was preparing to run for president. Furthermore, the serial number (actually a ‘certificate’ number) shows quite clearly in our photos. The number is 151 1961-010641, for whatever that’s worth.”

It added, “Trump is also mistaken about what legally qualifies as a ‘birth certificate,’ which is actually a broad generic term with no specific legal meaning. The U.S. Department of State uses the term ‘certified birth certificate’ to refer to exactly what Obama produced, which Hawaii calls a ‘Certification of Live Birth.’ The State Department accepts a state-certified photocopy of a hospital-generated document, as was commonly used in the past. But Hawaii, like many states, now uses computer-printed documents instead, and Hawaii’s form also meets State Department standards for establishing citizenship.”

Ironically, when pressed for a copy of his birth certificate, Trump also produced a “Certificate of Birth.” It shows that Donald John Trump was born at 10:54 a.m. on June 14, 1947 at Jamaica Hospital in Queens, N.Y.

In an interview on Good Morning America, Trump claimed, “…He [Obama] grew up and nobody knew him…Nobody ever comes forward. Nobody knows who he is until later in life. It’s very strange. The whole thing is very strange.”

What is strange is that Trump never saw the many television programs and newspaper articles about Obama’s early years in Hawaii.

For example, the Maui News published a story January 21, 2009 in which it quoted Aimee Yatsushiro, who was a student teacher in Obama’s kindergarten class. She remembered 5-year-old Obama as a “cute, likable, heavy build child.” Katherine Nakamoto, who retired as a teacher at Noelani Elementary School, said, “We called him Barack…He was very well mannered, respectful, confident and independent.”

Trump struck out at every turn.

FactCheck.org stated, “If Donald worked for us, we’d have to say: ‘Donald, you’re fired – for incompetence.’”

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. He can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.

Reverend Al Sampson: An Uncelebrated Warrior

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(NNPA) This is the first major civil rights organization of our culture that has given me an honorary opportunity with this particular gift.

The speaker was Reverend Al Sampson, a longtime civil rights activist and pastor of Fenwood United Methodist Church in Chicago. The gift he was referring to was Reverend Al Sharpton’s National Action Network’s decision to honor Rev. Sampson along with former Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) President Charles Steele, Jr.; Barbara Shaw, board chair of the National Council of Negro Women, and me with a Rev. Dr. William A. Jones Justice Award. The awards were presented by the Social Justice Initiative of NAN.

Rev. Sampson, who was ordained by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. two years prior to the civil rights leader’s assassination, was a movement stalwart. If you pick up any authoritative book on the modern civil rights movement, there will be at least one reference to Sampson, usually more.

Throughout his acceptance speech at the NAN convention that ended over the weekend, Sampson joked about all of the civil rights organizations that have never recognized his contributions. Beneath the laughter, however, there was deep pain. Not pain out of any need for public accolades, but pain that grew out of being ignored while others with lesser roles in the movement were allowed to take bows in public.

Jesse Jackson and I came out of North Carolina, Sampon noted. He was a transfer student [from the University of Illinois to North Carolina A&T University]. We were part of the Black State Legislature for a week. We passed a public accommodations bill. But PUSH never gave me an award.

In her book, My Life with Martin Luther King, Jr., Coretta Scott King recalled an incident in Chicago when a teenage gang member who had come to visit Dr. King complained about SCLC allowing whites to participate in the movement. She wrote, “Al told them that there were a lot of white people who were helping our Cause and that some had even died for us.”

Bearing the Cross, the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by David A. Garrow, recounted how outspoken Sampson was as a young civil rights organizer with SCLC. Writing about tension between local residents of Natchez, Miss. and SCLC organizers, Garrow wrote: “The breach had become more irreparable when SCLC’s Al Sampson ‘had denounced the local leadership in general and the NAACP by name, as unreliable, untrustworthy, and incapable’ at an October 18 mass meeting.”

Before joining SCLC, Sampson had been executive secretary of the Atlanta branch of the NAACP. “The NAACP, I’m the only person, along with Albert Dunn and Charles Wells, that got arrested in Atlanta, Ga.,” Sampson said. Constance Baker Motley [who wrote the original complaint in Brown v. Board of Education and later became the first Black woman judge appointed to the federal bench] was my attorney. Burke Marshall was the special counsel for the Justice Department and I’m the first person in America to testify for the United States Civil Rights Bill on the [segregationist restaurant owner and later Georgia governor] Lester Maddox Pickrick Restaurant case... But the NAACP ain’t never gave me no award.” Sampson did more than take on Maddox, who closed his restaurant after passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to avoid serving African-American customers.

Taylor Branch, author of a civil rights trilogy that won a Pulitzer Prize, wrote about the imprisonment of Sampson in Mississippi’s notorious Parchman Prison Farm, 200 miles north of the Mississippi Delta. In one of his books, At Canaan’s Edge, Branch wrote, “Prisoners smuggled out word that guards were beating the known leaders including SCLC’s Rev. Al Sampson and that the 409 Natchez inmates were stripped, force-fed laxatives, and chilled by night fans.” Later in the book, Branch described how Sampson, Rev. Archie Hargraves and Bill Clark formed “a human shield around three terrified Puerto Rican men” in Chicago who had been cornered by a street gang.

In Coretta’s book – she got a book, My Life with Martin Luther King – she mentions James Orange, James Bevel and myself living with Dr. King on the West Side of Chicago, on 16th and Hamlin, Sampson said. I’m all up in the book. But they built a development for him last week and flew Marty King in – that’s alright. But I was on the property, in the building, documented by the mama but they didn’t invite me.

SNCC was formed at a meeting on the campus of Shaw University while Sampson was enrolled there. I gave SNCC the keys to Tucker Hall at Shaw University because they didn’t have no meeting place, Sampson said. I would have been a member of SNCC but I was already president of the NAACP on campus. They had a reunion last summer. They didn’t invite me and they didn’t give me no award.

Once NAN made the decision to honor Sampson, he took extra precaution.

I didn’t sleep much last night, he told the audience in New York. I’ve been behaving myself the last two days because I didn’t want Brother Richardson [Board Chairman W. Franklyn Richardson] or Al Sharpton to take my award from me.

Although Sampson kept everyone at the ceremony laughing, ignoring his role in the movement was no joke.

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. He can be reached through his website, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.

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