Wyclef Jean defends charity; Bragg encourages protesters to stop paying taxes

Trying to help: Wyclef Jean was emotional on Monday while discussing the earthquake and denying his charity's funds were misused.
Trying to help: Wyclef Jean was emotional on Monday while discussing the earthquake and denying his charity's funds were misused. (Diane Bondareff/associated Press)
Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Wyclef denies charity misuse

Singer Wyclef Jean took to the airwaves Monday to tearfully defend himself against reports that he used money raised by his foundation, Yele Haiti, to fund personal projects.

"Did I ever use Yele money for personal benefits? Absolutely not," Jean said at a press conference in New York City. "Yele's books are open and transparent, and we have a clean bill of health by an external auditor every year since we started."

Meanwhile, nonprofit experts weighed in, saying Jean's charity is not guilty of major wrongdoing, reports CNNMoney.com.

The accusations stem from the tax forms from the Haitian-born hip-hop artist's charity that came under scrutiny after being made public by the Smoking Gun Web site.

In the most suspicious transaction, Yele Haiti's 2006 tax filing said it purchased $250,000 worth of TV airtime and production services from Telemax, S.A., which is a for-profit company that Jean owns a controlling interest in.

But tax experts say it's routine for individuals to charge their own charities, so long as services are being provided in return. "The tax rules do not prohibit related party transactions," said Marcus Owen, former chief of the IRS unit that oversees nonprofits.

On both YouTube and at a televised news conference, the singer vehemently defended his foundation. Yele was coined by Jean in a song; he says it means "a cry for freedom."

On Monday, he wept over the loss of life in his homeland. "I do not cry for myself, I cry for them," he said.

Worth a thousand words

Edgar Allan Poe was a pleasure to read, but not much to look at. However, a portrait of Poe that's never been seen in public casts the macabre author in a more flattering light.

The small watercolor by A.C. Smith -- which will be unveiled Saturday in Baltimore as part of the author's birthday celebration -- shows Poe sitting at desk with pen and paper in hand. He's clean-shaven and, apparently, smiling. The portrait's owner, Cliff Krainik, plans to sell it at auction later this year.

Bragg protests bank bonuses

Folksinger Billy Bragg has never been shy about discussing his political, but now he's putting his money where his mouth is. The left-leaning British musician, 52, has threatened to stop paying taxes, and is encouraging his fans to follow suit, unless the government acts to limit bonuses paid by the Royal Bank of Scotland, Reuters reports.

Stead, Pinkney pick up prizes

Rebecca Stead's "When You Reach Me" and Jerry Pinkney's "The Lion and the Mouse," two highly praised books for young people that draw upon famous stories, have received the top prizes in children's literature.

Stead's intricate, time-traveling narrative set in 1970s Manhattan, which was inspired in part by Madeleine L'Engle's "A Wrinkle in Time," won the John Newbery Medal for best children's book. The Caldecott prize for picture books was given to Pinkney's wordless telling of the Aesop fable.

End note . . .

Claudia Schiffer and husband Matthew Vaughn are expecting their third child, People reports. The German model, 39, has two children -- Caspar and Clementine -- with the British film producer, whom she married in 2002.

-- Aaron Leitko, from wire and web reports

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