September 3rd, 2012
08:31 PM ET

'Green Mile' actor Michael Clarke Duncan dead at age 54, family rep says

By the CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) - Michael Clarke Duncan, nominated for an Academy Award for his role in the 1999 film "The Green Mile," died Monday morning at age 54, according to a representative for his family.

Duncan "suffered a myocardial infarction on July 13 and never fully recovered," a written statement from Joy Fehily said.

Clarke died at a Los Angeles hospital where he had been since having the heart attack more than seven weeks ago.

According to TMZ, it was Duncan's girlfriend Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth, a reality star and former contestant on "The Apprentice," who had acted quickly and provided lifesaving efforts when he had the heart attack.

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Filed under: Pop culture • Who we are
September 3rd, 2012
01:58 PM ET

From detention cells to the stage

By Jamie Gumbrecht, CNN

(CNN) - It starts at the mall, with a girl in a pink dress, browsing alone.

"Why is she at the mall?" a teen behind her sputters. "She ain't got no money."

Mona Lisa hears it. It's not the first time she's been picked on. She argues a little, tries to ignore them, but they bump into her and call her names. She wants to run, wants to be strong, wants all this to just go away.

At home later, the phone rings: "I just wanted to tell you, you should kill yourself," a voice cackles. "You're ugly and nobody will ever love you."

After a day like this, Mona Lisa believes what she's hearing. She grabs a handful of pills and climbs out the window. With voices in her head yelling louder and louder, she jumps.

Actress Alexis Lee crumples to the floor. The jump isn't real, the dress is a costume, the play is fiction, at least at the moment. But Mona Lisa and Alexis aren't so different. At 17, Alexis has been bullied and teased, been made to feel ugly, like she's nothing. She moved to escape terrible situations, only to be delivered into worse circumstances. She's got scars from where she cut herself, memories from when she tried to kill herself.

"The only way to have some peace for me is to not be here," she remembers thinking.

Alexis didn't write the play, called "Deep Within." That work was done by Noemi, Sabrina and Velicia, girls who lived, at least for a little while, in a juvenile detention center in Georgia. They participated in Playmaking for Girls, a theater workshop created by Atlanta nonprofit Synchronicity Theatre to encourage incarcerated girls to tell their stories and find their own voices.

Alexis knows only their first names, but she knows kids in detention centers do not usually talk about bullying, or suicide, what they were feeling at their worst or how they're going to get better.

"The majority of them probably don't have that outlet to speak and express on how they feel based on what's been going on in their lives, who did them wrong, and this is their chance," Alexis says.

She knows because she's been there, too.

'Not a 30-second sound bite'

A few times a year, Rachel May and Susie Spear Purcell walk into a room of 20 girls who won't talk, won't make eye contact and can't be bothered with theater games or fairy tales. The directors have two days to cajole them to write short plays and act them out.

Their message is consistent: We care about you, and it's important for people to hear what you have to say. Your story matters.

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Filed under: Age • Girls • How we live • Social justice • Who we are
September 3rd, 2012
08:20 AM ET

Arizona Sheriff Arpaio cleared of financial improprieties

By Mariano Castillo, CNN

(CNN) - Federal investigators have cleared controversial Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio's office of criminal wrongdoing regarding allegations of financial improprieties.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Arizona declined to file charges against the Maricopa County Sheriff's office after an investigation into claims of abuse of county credit cards, misuse of funds and other financial matters.

The investigation is separate from a federal civil rights lawsuit accusing Arpaio's office of racial profiling.

The federal financial probe stems from a 2010 request from Maricopa County officials for help in investigating the claims of misuse of county funds. Federal authorities acted as "special deputy county attorneys" tasked with finding possible state charges.

Last year, federal investigators declined to press charges on several of the allegations. In a letter to the Maricopa County officials Friday, the U.S. Attorney's Office announced it will not initiate charges on two remaining claims.

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Filed under: Immigration • Where we live • Who we are