Only in America
April 28, 2013

A Texas teacher invoked her own racism to dispute allegations that she fondled a black student. Teacher Irene Esther Stokes, who is white, denied the first-grader's accusation that she touched her private parts by claiming that she doesn't even like "touching black students on the hand." Stokes was fired. Samantha Rollins

This just in
3:44 p.m. ET
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America's heroin epidemic has reached new highs. Heroin use in America has increased by more than 150 percent since 2007, and the drug now has at least half a million users, a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found. The gender gap and the race gap in heroin use are also narrowing: Women and white Americans experienced the biggest increases in users, and young adults aged 18-25 were also particularly vulnerable — heroin use in that age group has more than doubled.

Heroin overdose deaths are also on the rise. In 2013, more than 8,200 people died from heroin in the U.S; In 2001, that count was only 1,800. CDC researchers suspect the increase in heroin overdose deaths is linked to the fact that many people using heroin are also using other substances, such as cocaine and painkillers.

More broadly, heroin's resurgence is connected to the growing problem of prescription drug abuse, particularly opioid painkiller use, Dr. Tom Frieden, head of the CDC, told NPR. People addicted to prescription opiates are essentially "primed" for a heroin addiction and are 40 times more likely to become dependent on heroin, and since heroin is far cheaper than prescription painkillers, many users unfortunately end up making the switch. Becca Stanek

Who loves orange soda?
3:37 p.m. ET
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Some former child stars morph into big-name adult comedians. Think Kenan Thompson, a fixture on Saturday Night Live since 2003. Alas, Thompson's counterpart on their eponymous, mid-90s show Kenan & Kel has had a more scattered grown-up career (think bit parts on shows such as Clifford the Big Red Dog, Veggie Tales, and Loiter Squad).

That all will change for Kel Mitchell this September, as Entertainment Weekly reports the actor will appear on Game Shakers, a new show on the network that started Mitchell's career, Nickelodeon. To explain Mitchell's part on the show would rob you of this gem of a description, so here's the actor dishing on his upcoming role:

I get to play a hip-hop mogul who is the comedic version of artists like Kanye, Diddy, Eminem and 50 Cent. Double G is a rapper/singer/dancer/entrepreneur/investor, which gives us great story lines on the show. I love playing such a wild character, because you will see some great physical comedy, but he also has heart; he is a single dad that loves his son, Triple G, played by the very talented Benjamin 'Lil P-Nut' Flores, Jr. There are so many layers to this character that it is one of those dream-come-true roles. [EW]

EW reports that the show will follow seventh-graders Babe (Cree Cicchino) and Kenzie (Madisyn Shipman) as they launch and then navigate the subsequent success of a mobile music app called Sky Whale. Mitchell's character begins the series at odds with the youngsters, before eventually teaming up with them. This may not sound like the greatest gig in the world for a grown actor, but then again Mitchell is a guy who once got 27 seconds into a Nick show during which he does nothing but wax poetic about orange soda.

The world is Kel's good burger. Sarah Eberspacher

welcome to the 21st century
3:05 p.m. ET

Baylor University, the world's largest Baptist school and Texas' oldest university, has dropped a ban on "homosexual acts" from its sexual conduct policy. A spokesperson told the Houston Chronicle that the change would more clearly reflect "Baylor's caring community."

According to the old policy:

Baylor will be guided by the understanding that human sexuality is a gift from the creator God and that the purposes of this gift included (1) the procreation of human life and (2) the uniting and strengthening of the marital bond in self-giving love. These purposes are to be achieved through heterosexual relationships within marriage. Misuses of God's gift will be understood to include, but not be limited to, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, sexual assault, incest, adultery, fornication, and homosexual acts. [Waco Tribune]

The new policy simply reads:

Baylor will be guided by the biblical understanding that human sexuality is a gift from God and that physical sexual intimacy is to be expressed in the context of marital fidelity. Thus, it is expected that Baylor students, faculty, and staff will engage in behaviors consistent with this understanding of human sexuality. [Waco Tribune]

Baylor still imposes bans on alcohol on campus and at university events; its ban on dancing was lifted only in the mid-1990s. Jeva Lange

The Obamas
2:50 p.m. ET

First Lady Michelle Obama was more than a tad skeptical when President Obama told her and Obama confidante Valerie Jarrett that he might sing "Amazing Grace" during his eulogy last month for Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who was killed in the Charleston church shooting.

The New York Times has the scene, which took place aboard Marine One on the way to the funeral.

"When I get to the second part of referring to 'Amazing Grace,' I think I might sing," he told them, by Ms. Jarrett's account.

"Hmm," Ms. Jarrett recalled responding.

Mrs. Obama was a little more pointed. "Why on earth would that fit in?” she asked.

He tried to explain. "I don't know whether I'm going to do it," he said, according to Ms. Jarrett, "but I just wanted to warn you two that I might sing." He added, "We'll see how it feels at the time." [The New York Times]

Of course, Obama did ultimately break out in song — and it was arguably the most stirring part of his eulogy. Later, he told Jarrett, "I knew I was going to sing. I was just trying to figure out which key to sing it."

Read the entire inside account at The New York Times.

Jeva Lange

2:10 p.m. ET
Jemal Countess/Getty Images

While comedian Amy Schumer will tell you she isn't racist, a pair of university professors disagree — and have gone as far as to say she "inspired" the worldview of alleged Charleston shooter Dylann Roof in a Washington Post op-ed titled, "Don't believe her defenders. Amy Schumer's jokes are racist."

Stacey Patton, a history professor at American University, and David Leonard, a professor in the Critical, Cultural, Gender and Race Studies department at Washington State University, wrote that Schumer's racially insensitive jokes make her no different than Donald Trump, who has come under fire of late for comments calling Mexican migrants rapists and murderers. Patton and Leonard argue that Schumer could run on the same presidential ticket as Trump, citing several stand-up routines, including one in which Schumer said, "I used to date Hispanic guys, but now I prefer consensual."

Patton and Leonard are not the first to call Schumer out for her offensive jokes, however: The Guardian previously ran a piece arguing that Schumer has a "large blind spot around race." But the Washington Post op-ed takes this argument a step further, claiming the comedian's jokes are not merely offensive, but dangerous, and could be to blame for accused Charleston shooter Dylann Roof's "worldview."

"Invoking the 'it's just a joke" defense denies the social, historic, and cultural implications of racial humor," Patton and Leonard write, adding that Schumer's jokes spread racism of the caliber seen in the murder of nine black Americans last month:

This rhetoric isn't just ugly. It contributes to a worldview that justifies a broken immigration system, mass incarceration, divestment from inner city communities, that rationalizes inequality and buttresses persistent segregation and violence. Yet nobody wants to take responsibility for spewing rhetoric that breeds the fear that results in soaring gun purchases, that "inspires" monsters like Dylann Roof to craft a manifesto with deadly consequences. [Washington Post]

Mediaite noted that when criticized for the op-ed, Patton responded in a tweet that "black people can't be racist." Jeva Lange

1:59 p.m. ET
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They'll never stop The Simpsons. Just weeks after announcing he was leaving The Simpsons behind after 26 years, Harry Shearer — who voices Mr. Burns, Ned Flanders, and Principal Skinner, among many other characters — will return to Springfield after all.

Shearer has signed a new contract for The Simpsons, which secures his voice work for four more seasons. Shearer and the other five principal voice actors on The Simpsons, who had already signed on for the new seasons, are each estimated to earn more than $300,000 per episode.

Shearer originally left The Simpsons in May over a dispute during contract negotiations for the show's upcoming 27th season. "I wanted what we've always had: the freedom to do other work," Shearer tweeted at the time. In reply, executive producer James L. Brooks tweeted, "Hey, we tried. We're still trying. Harry, no kidding, let's talk." Scott Meslow

Really? Really.
1:53 p.m. ET

Southern cooking star Paula Deen once again has "a lot of esplainin' to do." This time, it's for a photo that Deen posted on Twitter and Facebook, in which her son Bobby is wearing brownface.

"Lucyyyyyyy! You got a lot of esplainin' to do! #TransformationTuesday," the now-deleted tweet read. A photo of Deen and her son Bobby dressed up as Lucy and Ricky Ricardo from I Love Lucy was attached below it.

Since Bobby Deen's hands are held right up to his face in the photo, it's glaringly obvious that his skin was intentionally darkened with makeup in order for him to depict the Cuban-American Ricardo. It's unclear why Deen would have decided to resurface the photo, which Yahoo reported is actually from a shoot in 2011.

Deen is no stranger to accusations of racism: She first landed herself in a batch of trouble for racism in 2013, when she admitted to using the "n-word" and said she once thought about hiring "black waiters and waitresses to dress up like 'slaves' for her brother Bubba's wedding," Mic reports. These incidents cost Deen most of her business relationships and her reputation, and yet, two years later, she seems to be right back at it. Becca Stanek

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