Feedback On Teen Sex, Updates On Crack

Tell Me More editor Ammad Omar and host Michel Martin comb through listener feedback from a recent conversation about teen sex, social media and the law. They give updates on new guidelines for crack sentencing and real-life superhero Phoenix Jones. They also pay tribute to Motown music director George Rountree, who died Sunday.

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MICHEL MARTIN, host: And now, it's time for Back Talk where we lift the curtain on what's happening in the TELL ME MORE blogosphere and get to hear from you, our listeners. Ammad Omar is with me. He's an editor here at TELL ME MORE. Welcome back, Ammad. What do you have for us today?

AMMAD OMAR: Thanks, Michel. Well, we got a lot of reaction to a conversation we had earlier this week. We discussed a 14 year old girl in Baltimore who was videotaped performing a sexual act on a teen boy. The Internet was abuzz about this video and it sparked debate about explicit online content, social media and teen sexuality. And I think you've got an email from Lindsey Redmond(ph) in Chicago.

MARTIN: Yes, I do. As you mentioned, we had a lot of feedback on this, but this is one that stood out. Lindsey writes, I'm a 26 year old woman and listening to your show. Being less than a decade out of my teen years, I completely disagree with much of what was said regarding teen sex. The conversation was very much steeped in this idea that young women have no inherent sexuality and that teen sexual discovery is something that is pushed on girls rather than embraced and even initiated by them. I agree that young women are disturbingly sexualized in our society, but this doesn't mean that they aren't, themselves, sexual. I'm not sure what in our culture makes males the arbiter sex.

I thought Lindsey made a good point and many of our colleagues did, too, so we hope we'll get a chance to follow up on this conversation.

Ammad, what else do you have for us?

OMAR: Well, back in June, we talked about a law passed last year by Congress that lowered prison sentences for crack cocaine offenses. The law also affects those people who are already serving time, making about 12,000 inmates eligible for early release.

Critics had argued for years that the longer sentences for crack cocaine versus powder cocaine were unfair and they disproportionately penalized African Americans. This is what Michael Nachmanoff, a public defender in eastern Virginia, told you back in June.

MICHAEL NACHMANOFF: This is about remedying one of the worst stains in the criminal justice system and allowing these people to get out of jail just a little bit earlier. These individuals will have served, on average, at least 10 years in prison, if not longer. And their sentences are now going to be lowered, on average, somewhere in the order of one, two, maybe three years at the most.

OMAR: Well, on Tuesday, those sentencing changes took effect and an estimated 1,900 inmates were eligible for immediate release.

MARTIN: Speaking of crime and punishment, I think we have some news on our so-called real life super hero. You remember Phoenix Jones? We first spoke with him back in March when he joined us from his hometown of Seattle, Ammad.

OMAR: Oh, yes. And last month, we brought you the news that Phoenix Jones was arrested for allegedly using pepper spray on a group of people outside of a nightclub. Jones claims he was just trying to break up a fight and he wasn't committing any sort of assault, but that arrest exposed his true identity.

Benjamin Fodor is his real name. He's been making his living working with autistic children. Well, not anymore, Michel. Jones was let go from his day job this week because of the arrest. Here's what he had to say yesterday when we spoke to him.

BENJAMIN FODOR: Basically, I just came in to work and I got a letter and it just - I couldn't work with children anymore. Well, for their agency. And it said it's because I was, you know - have four counts of assault. Overall, when you make a stand against something, you're going to have to stand behind your choice. You can't just make a stand and basically hide behind the mask. And, at some point, you have to be accountable.

So when someone said, hey, you caused a crime, my response to you is, no, I didn't. I'm going to take this mask off and I'm going to show you who I really am and I'm going to stand accountable for my actions as a man. And I did that and they didn't charge me with a crime.

OMAR: Now, prosecutors have yet to file any formal charges against Jones, by all accounts, but a spokeswoman for Washington's State Department on Social and Health Services tells the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that, if the case is dropped or if he's not convicted, he could get his job back.

And he told us that he's now picking up his crime fighting a little bit. He's taking a little daytime crime fighting now. He says there's a lot of car break-ins and such that he's fighting on the streets of Seattle instead of going to that job.

MARTIN: I still have to wonder. Why doesn't he just apply to be a police officer, but I think I asked him this question. But - OK. To be continued.

OMAR: I'm not sure. I mean, maybe they're not hiring government jobs these days. Who knows?

MARTIN: I don't know. So clearly, that's what's been missing in Washington. A real life super hero. Maybe the president has a cabinet position for him. Anything else?

OMAR: Yeah. Up last, we have a tribute for over 30 years. George Roundtree served as musical director of Motown's soulful quartet, the Four Tops. The group was responsible for hits such as this one.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I CAN'T HELP MYSELF (SUGAR PIE, HONEY BUNCH)")

THE FOUR TOPS: (Singing) Oh, sugar pie, honey bunch, you know that I love you. I can't help myself. I love you and nobody else.

OMAR: That was "I Can't Help Myself" by the Four Tops there. Unfortunately, Roundtree died Sunday at the age of 61. He was born in Detroit and he worked with the Four Tops for more than 30 years. Roundtree also worked with a number of other acts, including The Temptations, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Mary Wilson, Martha Reeves, Frankie Valley and Bill Withers.

MARTIN: Well, he will be missed. Ammad, thank you so much.

OMAR: Thank you, Michel.

MARTIN: And remember, with TELL ME MORE, the conversation never ends. To tell us more, you can call our comment line at 202-842-3522. Please remember to leave us your name. You can also find us on Twitter. Just look for TELL ME MORE, NPR.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I CAN'T HELP MYSELF (SUGAR PIE, HONEY BUNCH)")

TOPS: (Singing) Can't help myself. No, I can't help myself. Oh, sugar pie, honey bunch.

MARTIN: Just ahead, those sexual harassment allegations dogging the campaign of Republican presidential hopeful, Herman Cain. What about Kim Kardashian's quick trip to divorce court after 72 days of marriage? Sounds like a sketch for that vintage comedy show, "In Living Color." Hey, what do you know? It could be making a comeback. The Barber Shop guys give their take on all of the above. That's coming up on TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: As states around the country prepare for next year's elections, more and more of them are requiring government-issued identification cards at the polls. Supporters say it's just common sense in a world where you need to show ID to get cold medicine, but critics say it's an attack on the voting rights of the most vulnerable. We'll talk more about voter ID laws, next time on TELL ME MORE.

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