October 25, 2007 — Vol. 43, No. 11
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Dick Cheney and Barack Obama are eighth cousins

WASHINGTON — Though they may spar across the political aisle, Vice President Dick Cheney is close enough to Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama to call him “cousin.”

Eighth cousin, that is.

Lynne Cheney, the vice president’s wife, revealed this tantalizing bit of political trivia during a television interview last Tuesday.

She said she uncovered the long-ago ties between the two while researching her ancestry for her latest book, “Blue Skies, No Fences,” a memoir about growing up in Wyoming.

“This is such an amazing American story that one ancestor … could be responsible down the family lines for lives that have taken such different and varied paths as Dick’s and Barack Obama,” Lynne Cheney told MSNBC.

According to her spokeswoman, Obama, the junior senator from Illinois, is a descendent of Mareen Duvall. This French Huguenot’s son married the granddaughter of Richard Cheney, who arrived in Maryland in the late 1650s from England, said Ginny Justice, a spokeswoman for Lynne Cheney.

The vice president’s full name is Richard B. Cheney.

A spokesman for Obama, who wants to be the first black U.S. president, offered a tongue-in-cheek response.

“Every family has a black sheep,” said spokesman Bill Burton.

Lynne Cheney did not reference the ancestral ties between her husband and Obama in the book.

Philly black men pledge to fight violence, volunteer in community

PHILADELPHIA — Thousands of black men turned out last Sunday to support a volunteer effort aimed at reducing violence in their community.

Organizers had originally talked of deploying 10,000 volunteers to patrol Philadelphia streets, but they suggested that some would help out established community groups such as youth organizations.

“Nobody else is going to magically come into this community and get it done,” said real estate developer Abdur-Rahim Islam, a lead organizer.

Men lined up for several blocks to register at the kickoff rally at Temple University’s Liacouras Center. Mayor John F. Street, music producer Kenny Gamble and other black community activists joined Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson on stage.

The “Call to Action: 10,000 Men, It’s a New Day” campaign comes as Philadelphia endures a reputation as one of America’s deadliest cities, with about a slaying a day and many more non-fatal shootings.

Johnson sees the volunteer effort as a better way to address violence than hiring more police to lock people up.

“These [volunteers] can prevent people from being arrested. They can go out there and do things for kids to prevent them from getting in trouble with the criminal justice system,” Johnson said.

Non-blacks are welcome to participate, although organizers stress the need for the black community to solve its own problems. Most victims of gun violence in Philadelphia are black.

“I grew up in the streets. I don’t want my son to be subjected to the same thing,” said city resident Christopher Norris, 34, who brought his 15-year-old son, Isaiah Saunders, to the event.

“I want to keep him on the right track and let him know there are more opportunities out there, and he doesn’t have to resort to violence,” Norris said.

He would like to see more funding to keep recreation centers open, although the 10,000 men organizers have not suggested they will seek more public funds for such programs.
Philadelphia, the nation’s sixth-largest city, has nearly 1.5 million residents, 44 percent of them black. It has notched more than 320 homicides this year. More than 80 percent of the slayings involve handguns. Most involve young black males.

Volunteers who join street patrols will not carry weapons or make arrests, but will instead be trained in conflict resolution, organizers said.

Michigan man sentenced to 8 years in fire attack on black family’s home

DETROIT — A man who admitted he conspired to violate the civil rights of a black family whose home was set on fire in 2002 was sentenced to eight years in federal prison.

Michael Richardson, 35, of Taylor, pleaded guilty last year in connection with the blaze and became a key witness in the conviction of two co-defendants.

“He’s extremely remorseful for what he did,” said defense lawyer Barry Resnick. “He intends to serve his time, learn from it and move on with his life. He’s really not a bad person.”

Richardson, who is white, was already serving a four-year sentence for interfering with the investigation when he was sentenced Oct. 16 by U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh.

The fire damaged but did not destroy the family’s house in the Detroit suburb of Taylor. The family — Lori and Reginald Doster and their young child — later moved out.

U.S. Attorney Stephen J. Murphy said he hoped the sentence would deter anyone from similar hate-driven violence.

“The idea that an American family could be driven from its home because of an arson fostered by racial hatred is a chilling throwback to an era of discrimination that rightfully belongs on the ash-heap of history and not in our present-day neighborhoods,” Murphy said.

Richardson testified at the trial of co-defendant Wayland Mullins, who was sentenced to more than 17 years in prison in August. A third defendant, Ricky Cotton, received a 6 1/2-year prison sentence.

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