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Lawyer Says Allegations B.B. King Was Poisoned ‘Ridiculous’

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Patty King leaves a memorial service for her father B.B. King Saturday, May 23, 2015, in Las Vegas. Friends and family members gathered Saturday at a funeral home in Las Vegas to remember the Blues legend. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Patty King leaves a memorial service for her father B.B. King Saturday, May 23, 2015, in Las Vegas. Friends and family members gathered Saturday at a funeral home in Las Vegas to remember the Blues legend. (AP Photo/John Locher)

KEN RITTER, Associated Press

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Two B.B. King heirs who’ve been most outspoken about the blues legend’s care in his final days have accused King’s two closest aides of poisoning him, but the attorney for King’s estate called the claims ridiculous and police said there was no active homicide investigation.

Three doctors determined that King was appropriately cared-for, and King received 24-hour care and monitoring by medical professionals “up until the time that he peacefully passed away in his sleep,” attorney Brent Bryson told the AP on Monday.

Daughters Karen Williams and Patty King allege that family members were prevented from visiting while King’s business manager, LaVerne Toney, and his personal assistant, Myron Johnson, hastened their father’s death.

Toney is named in King’s will as executor of an estate that, according to court documents filed by lawyers for some of King’s heirs, could total tens of millions of dollars.

Johnson was at B.B. King’s bedside when he died May 14 in hospice care at home in Las Vegas at age 89. No family members were present.

“I believe my father was poisoned and that he was administered foreign substances,” Patty King and Williams say in identically worded sections of affidavits provided to The Associated Press by their lawyer, Larissa Drohobyczer.

“I believe my father was murdered,” they say.

An autopsy was performed Sunday. Test results will take up to eight weeks to obtain and shouldn’t be affected by the fact that King’s body had been embalmed, Clark County Coroner John Fudenberg said.

Fudenberg issued a statement Monday saying there was no immediate evidence supporting the murder allegations, and Las Vegas police Lt. Ray Steiber told the AP that there was no active homicide investigation.

Toney and Johnson each declined to comment on the accusations.

“They’ve been making allegations all along. What’s new?” said Toney, who worked for King for 39 years and had power-of-attorney over his affairs.

A week before King’s death, a judge in Las Vegas dismissed a request from Williams to take over as King’s guardian.

An April 29 petition alleged that Toney had blocked King’s friends from visiting him and had put her family members on King’s payroll. It also alleged that large sums of money had disappeared from King’s bank accounts.

But Clark County Family Court Hearing Master Jon Norheim said on May 7 that police and social services investigations in October and April uncovered no reason to take power-of-attorney from Toney.

Williams, Patty King and another daughter — Rita Washington — vowed to keep fighting.

“We lost the battle, but we haven’t lost the war,” Williams said then.

This week’s allegations come days after a public viewing in Las Vegas drew more than 1,000 fans and mourners and a weekend family-and-friends memorial drew 350. A Beale Street procession and memorial are scheduled Wednesday in Memphis, Tennessee, followed by a Friday viewing and Saturday burial in King’s hometown of Indianola, Mississippi.

Fudenberg said Monday that his office’s investigation shouldn’t delay those services.

Bryson said the allegations were “extremely disrespectful” to King.

“He did not want invasive medical procedures,” he said. “He made the decision to return home for hospice care instead of staying in a hospital. These unfounded allegations have caused Mr. King to undergo an autopsy, which is exactly what he didn’t want.”

Drohobyczer said she represents Williams, Patty King and most of King’s nine other adult children and heirs.

“The family is sticking together … to oust Ms. Toney based on her illegal conduct, conflicts of interest and self-dealing,” she said. She alleged that Toney hastened King’s death by “misconduct, or by failing to properly attend to his medical needs.”

An affidavit from Patty King, who used to live at King’s home, says she saw Johnson administer to King two drops of an unknown substance on his tongue during evenings for several months before his death, and that Toney never told her what the substance was.

Bryson called Drohobyczer’s claims ridiculous.

“I hope they have a factual basis that they can demonstrate for their defamatory and libelous allegations,” he said.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Activism

Through Ads and Advocates, Battle Over Calif. Gambling Propositions Heat Up

A statewide survey by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), conducted between Sept. 2 and 11 and released on Sept. 15, revealed that 54% of California voters would vote “no” for Prop 27, while 34% would vote “yes.” Twelve percent of the respondents were “unsure.” The survey’s authors wrote that a strong majority of Republicans wouldn’t vote for the proposition, compared to half of Democrats and independents.

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The dueling propositions have raised a combined $400 million for advertising leading up to Election Day this November.
The dueling propositions have raised a combined $400 million for advertising leading up to Election Day this November.

By McKenzie Jackson | California Black Media

Clint Thompson, a Santa Monica resident in his 30s, wouldn’t say he has been inundated with advertisements supporting or denigrating Propositions 26 and 27, but he sees an ad focused on one of the legislations each time he turns on his television.

“I usually watch the news during the day — NBC — and on NBC, Prop 26 or Prop 27 comes on every other commercial break per show,” said Thompson, an actor, who admitted he hasn’t researched the sports gambling propositions. “Both of the props seem to have good things with them. The commercials seem to have reasons why you should say ‘yes,’ or ‘no.’”

Prop 26 would legalize roulette, dice games, and sports betting on Native American tribal lands if approved by voters in the Nov. 8 election. It is backed by over 50 state Native American tribes.

Prop 27, supported by sportsbooks DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, Fanatics, PENN Entertainment, and WynnBet, would give those sports betting companies the reins in sports gambling in the Golden State and allow online gambling.

If people like Thompson feel the advertisements from the campaigns for and against the propositions seem to be flooding the television and radio airwaves — and to be ever-present on social media (Watched a YouTube video lately?) — they might be right.

The dueling propositions have raised a combined $400 million for advertising leading up to Election Day this November. That has led to ads backing and slamming the two propositions to be front and center in all forms of media Californians consume.

Dinah Bachrach of the Racial Justice Allies of Sonoma County, a group supporting Prop 26, said the proliferation of ads supporting Prop 27 is concerning.

“They are all over the place,” Bachrach said. “Gambling is already a pretty big business, but to be able to do sports gambling online is dangerous because it hurts what tribal casinos have been able to do for their communities in the state.”

According to Bachrach, Prop 26 protects the sovereignty of native tribes. “It’s a really important racial justice issue,” she said. “Indian casinos provide a tremendous amount of financial support for the casino tribes and the non-casino tribes, and they contribute a lot locally and to the state.”

Bachrach’s organization is one of several civil rights or African American organizations that have thrown its support behind Prop 26.

Santa Clarita NAACP spokesperson Nati Braunstein said in an email, “The NAACP supports Prop 26, which would legalize retail sports betting at California tribal casinos only and opposes Prop 27 which would allow online sports betting via mobile sportsbooks.”

Kathy Fairbanks, speaking for the Yes on 26/No on 27 coalition, composed of California Indian tribes and tribal organizations, and other partners, said winning the approval of every potential voter, including Black Californians, is their goal.

Yes on 27 – Californians for Solutions to Homelessness, the campaign arm of Prop 27 backers, had not returned California Black Media’s requests for comment for this story as of press time. Prop 27 proponents say in ads and the Yes on 27 website repeats that the initiative would help solve California’s homelessness crisis.

Prop 27 imposes a 10% tax on adjusted gross gaming revenue. Eighty-five percent of the taxes go toward fighting California’s homeless and mental health challenges. Non-gaming tribes get the remaining 15% of tax revenue.

Organizations such as Bay Area Community Services, Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness, San Diego Regional Task Force on Homelessness, and individuals including Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, Bay Area Community Services CEO Jamie Almanza, and Middletown Rancheria of Pomo Indians Chairman Jose “Moke” Simon are listed as Prop 27 supporters on the Yes on 27 website.

On the campaign’s Facebook page, commenter Brandon Gran wrote under an advertisement photo that voting for Prop 27 was a “no brainer.”

“People are already gambling using offshore accounts,” he typed. “Why not allow CA to get a piece of the pie … money that will (hopefully) go to good use.”

However, a statewide survey by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), conducted between Sept. 2 and 11 and released on Sept. 15, revealed that 54% of California voters would vote “no” for Prop 27, while 34% would vote “yes.” Twelve percent of the respondents were “unsure.”

The survey’s authors wrote that a strong majority of Republicans wouldn’t vote for the proposition, compared to half of Democrats and independents.

“Regionally, majorities in the Inland Empire, Orange/San Diego, and the San Francisco Bay Area would vote ‘no,’ while likely voters in the Central Valley and Los Angeles are divided,” they wrote. “At least half across most demographic groups would vote ‘no.’ Likely voters age 18 to 44 (52%) and renters (51%) are the only two demographic groups with a slim majority voting ‘yes.’”

The survey, titled “PPIC Statewide Survey: Californians and Their Government,” did not ask participants about Prop 26. The Yes on 26/No on 27 coalition, said in a news release that the PPIC’s research confirmed what Prop 26 supporters have said for some time.

“Despite raising more than $160 million for a deceptive advertising campaign, California voters are clearly not buying what the out-of-state online gambling corporations behind Prop 27 are selling,” the statement read.

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Bay Area

Kaplan to WNBA: Bring New Team Here!

Support to bring a WNBA team extends past a solid fanbase, as local regulating agencies have also taken key votes to prepare for a WNBA team in Oakland. With the leadership of Vice-Mayor Rebecca Kaplan, in July 2021, both the Oakland Coliseum Authority and the Oakland City Council unanimously and enthusiastically voted in favor of a term sheet to bring a WNBA team to Oakland.

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@PaulCobbOakland @NNPA_BlackPress @BlackPressUSA @Kaplan4Oakland @WNBA
Ray Bobbitt, President of African American Sports and Entertainment Group, who purchased the Coliseum as part of its East Oakland Development Plan, thanks Rebecca Kaplan for providing the City Council leadership in 2021 for the AASEG to bring a WNBA Franchise along with jobs, housing, businesses and sports enterprises to Oakland. Photo by Jonathan “Fitness” Jones.

By Post Staff

Oakland Vice-Mayor Rebecca Kaplan will introduce a resolution on Sept. 20, 1:30 p.m. to the Oakland City Council urging the Women’s National Basketball Association (“WNBA”) to approve the City of Oakland as the home for a new WNBA Team.

The WNBA has discussed plans to expand the number of WNBA teams on its roster for the past number of years. Kaplan said, “the City of Oakland must make it clear that not only are we supportive of bringing a WNBA Team to Oakland but are excited to be partners and collaborators with the WNBA during the expansion. This resolution, therefore, extends our strong support towards this effort and urges the WNBA to make Oakland the home for a WNBA team.”

When asked by the Post whether she had heard that San Francisco might be a potential WNBA competitor, even though Oakland started first with its bid, Kaplan said, “Oakland is ideally suited for a WNBA team because of our fervent and rooted fanbase, existing arena space and shared core values with the WNBA. The Bay Area has the fourth-highest number of WNBA fans among U.S. markets without a WNBA team — 418,816 WNBA fans, higher than eight current markets with a WNBA team. More than a half million Bay Area market adults play basketball, and the Bay Area ranks in the top 30 markets in household delivery for the WNBA Regular Season.”

In October of 2021, it was announced that WNBA Champion and four-time WNBA All-Star Alana Beard, who spent 15 years playing the WNBA and earned back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year honors, and Attorney Jade Smith-Williams, of the law firm Baily & Glasser, LLP, a local Oakland women’s basketball legend and who played professionally overseas, would join in the leading efforts by the African American Sports and Entertainment Group (“AASEG”) to have an Oakland Black and Women WNBA Team ownership process.

In addition to a strong fan base, Oakland already has a world-class arena at the center of a multimodal corridor ready to house a WNBA team. The Oakland Arena is easily accessible by both highway and public transportation, complete with a pedestrian bridge that allows fans direct access from the Coliseum BART station. The arena sits on 132 acres with 10,000 on-site parking spaces. It is also airport accessible, and a stone’s throw away from the Capitol Corridor rail line. This multimodal connectivity will allow not only Oaklanders to conveniently attend games but also fans from across California. From former Monarchs supporters to women’s basketball enthusiasts, Oakland will draw fans from the Bay Area megaregion and beyond.

Support to bring a WNBA team extends past a solid fanbase, as local regulating agencies have also taken key votes to prepare for a WNBA team in Oakland. With the leadership of Vice-Mayor Rebecca Kaplan, in July 2021, both the Oakland Coliseum Authority and the Oakland City Council unanimously and enthusiastically voted in favor of a term sheet to bring a WNBA team to Oakland.

Kaplan states, “Oakland is a community that values social justice, equality, and women’s rights. These principles align with those of the WNBA, and we are ready to move forward as a partner in advancing those goals as the home for a new WNBA team.”

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Black History

AI-Generated Rapper Controversy Spotlights the Need for More Blacks in Tech

While A.I. technology is making massive strides, it is still limited to processing massive amounts of data based on parameters set by the programmer, according to Josh Lovejoy at Google’s Privacy and Data Protection Office. Consequently, A.I. is not an independent entity but an extension of its creators and thus inherits their biases.

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Media watchers say FN Meka is modeled after rap artists like Lil Pump and Travis Scott and was voiced by real-life rap artist Kyle the Hooligan.
Media watchers say FN Meka is modeled after rap artists like Lil Pump and Travis Scott and was voiced by real-life rap artist Kyle the Hooligan.

Aldon Thomas Stiles | California Black Media

Almost as quickly as it began, the music industry may have seen the end of the infamous Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) rapper referred to as “FN Meka”, a computer-generated character being widely condemned for appropriating Black culture and saying the N-word.

The A.I. rapper was developed by Anthony Martini and Brandon Le, co-founders of Factory New, a Metaverse media company. Some critics claim that the creators who are not Black are trivializing Black art and the Black experience, tantamount to what some are calling “digital Blackface.”

“In many ways, digital Blackface is an example of … the ‘digital afterlife of slavery’ and Jim Crow, where you have real people and virtual characters engaging in a kind of machine-automated minstrelsy that disrespects and disregards the artistry and production value that goes into the creation of Black culture,” Dr. Faithe J. Day, Assistant Professor of Black Studies at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB), told California Black Media.

Media watchers say FN Meka is modeled after rap artists like Lil Pump and Travis Scott and was voiced by real-life rap artist Kyle the Hooligan.

Kyle the Hooligan says that he will be suing the company responsible for the A.I. rapper. The Houston-based artist says he had not been paid for his work and he wasn’t aware that his voice had been sold to Capitol Music Group (CMG) until he saw it in the news.

CMG terminated its contract with Factory New less than two weeks after they signed it amid the controversy surrounding the A.I. artist’s lyrical content and depiction of rap culture.

One of the A.I. rapper’s questionable lyrics is in the song ‘Moonwalkin’. It says “boom, police on my back, hot pursuit (Skrr)/ Know that they mad that this A.I. gettin’ [inaudible],” along with several uses of the N-word.

The A.I. project attracted more criticism when Factory New posted on its Instagram account an animated video depicting the program’s avatar on the ground being assaulted by police.

The post’s caption read: “POLICE BRUTALITY?? What Should I Do ?!?! This Guard keeps beating me w/ his BATON because I won’t snitch. I ain’t no RAT. Life in Prison is so Depressing…. I wish I could get out so I could start making music again.”

CMG issued a formal apology for its involvement with Factory New saying, “CMG has severed ties with the FN Meka project, effective immediately. We offer our deepest apologies to the Black community for our insensitivity in signing this project without asking enough questions about equity and the creative process behind it.”

Martini suggested that critics of his A.I. rapper have taken a hypocritical stance.

“If you’re mad about the lyrical content because it supposedly was A.I., why not be mad about the lyrical content in general?” Martini was quoted saying to the New York Times.

Prof. Day found that comparison grossly oversimplifies what some people are concerned about.

“In the case of FN Meka, comparing what an A.I. [character] does to what an artist does is a false equivalency and misses the point of why so many people are upset about the representation of this A.I. rapper,” Day said. “The real issue is that FN Meka is an example of what Adam Clayton Powell called ‘high-tech Blackface’ and what more recently has been called ‘Digital Blackface’, a phenomenon that we have seen for decades in video games, chat rooms, and social media.”

Day said there is an extensive history in music and entertainment of appropriating Black culture without compensating the African American originators of various art forms.

“Due to the fact that within America and the Western world, there is a history of those in power freely benefitting from the cultural and material production of BIPOC individuals, it only makes sense that the same ethos would continue in the digital realm,” Day said.

“And, in this case, the popularity of FN Meka and other virtual artists might make it easier for creative industries to forgo actually increasing the diversity and inclusion of their artists’ roster and production teams in favor of creating their own caricatures of Blackness, or any other combination of identities,” Day continued.

Martini is no longer associated with the FN Meka project and Factory New. In his announcement, he sided with Kyle the Hooligan.

“In the past few days, I’ve learned of Kyle the Hooligan’s experience with Meka which is deeply at odds with my core values. I believe that artists must always be at the center of the creative process and must be compensated fairly,” Martini stated.

While A.I. technology is making massive strides, it is still limited to processing massive amounts of data based on parameters set by the programmer, according to Josh Lovejoy at Google’s Privacy and Data Protection Office. Consequently, A.I. is not an independent entity but an extension of its creators and thus inherits their biases.

“In addition, while it is important to stay aware of racist A.I., we also have to think about intersectionality and the fact that A.I. isn’t just racist, it can also be sexist, homophobic, transphobic, classist, and many other things that speak to the fact that oppression acts in a matrix,” Day said.

Day is still optimistic about the future of artificial intelligence as more Black and other minority-led projects become a reality, such as NeuroSpeculative AfroFeminism (NSAF) from Hyphen Labs, a global team of women of color doing pioneering work encompassing art, technology, and science.

“By drawing on both speculative and liberatory approaches to art and design, I believe that there are many artists that are poised to build a more diverse and justice-oriented future within, and outside of, the creative industries by using technology and artificial intelligence for social good,” Day emphasized.

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