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WNBA Star, Brittney Griner, Is Headed Home After Prisoner Swap With Russia

(Source: Russia 24/CNN)

WNBA star Brittney Griner is coming home.

Griner, 32, was arrested at a Moscow airport in February for possessing two vape cartridges with small amounts of cannabis oil.

Last month, after being found guilty of drug possession and drug smuggling by a Russian judge, she was sent to a penal colony to serve a nine-year sentence.

Today, the US and Russia exchanged the basketball star for arms dealer Viktor Bout. 

Nicknamed the "Merchant of Death," the gun-runner has been languishing in an American prison for the past 12 years after being given a 25-year sentence on charges of conspiring to kill Americans, acquire and export anti-aircraft missiles, and provide material support to a terrorist organization.

Speaking from the White House President Joe Biden celebrated the release of the two-time Olympic gold medalist.

"I'm glad to say Brittney's in good spirits... she needs time and space to recover," he said, noting that she was on a flight home from the United Arab Emirates following the prisoner exchange at Abu Dhabi International Airport.

Griner's wife, Cherelle, praised the work of the Biden administration in securing her release.

"Today, I'm just standing here overwhelmed with emotions, but the most important emotion that I have right now is just sincere gratitude for President Biden and his entire administration," she said, standing next to President Biden while speaking from the Oval Office.

She added, "Today my family is whole, but as you all are aware, there's so many other families who are not whole."

Cherelle promised that she and her partner would continue to work to bring every American home, including Paul Whelan, a former Marine who has been detained in Russia on espionage charges since 2018. Then she told the audience of reporters that she was going to do something she had not done in months.

"Thank you everybody for your support, and today's just a happy day for me and my family, so I'm gonna smile right now," she said.

Janis Gaye, Ex-Wife of Marvin Gaye and Mother of Singer Nona Gaye, Dies at 66

Photo Courtesy  "After the Dance: My Life with Marvin Gaye" 
Janis Gaye, the second wife of singer Marvin Gaye and the inspiration for some of his biggest hits, has died at the age of 66.

No cause of death has been given for the stylist and author, who passed away on Saturday in her Rhode Island home, but the couple's daughter Nona confirmed the news.

"I am deeply saddened by the passing of my mother, Janis Gaye. She was the most influential woman in my life and many others," Nona said in a statement.

The 48-year-old singer and actress continued, "From the time she met my father, she was exposed to the way he saw this world was aching, and she did her best to preserve his legacy as he was taken from us far too early."

The marriage between Janis and Marvin was a tumultuous one.

The daughter of noted jazz musician Bulee "Slim" Gaillard, who rose to prominence in the 1930s, she met the two-time Grammy Award winner at a recording session for his classic album "Let's Get It On" in 1973 when she was 17.

A torrid affair began between the two, even though Gaye was still married to the sister of Motown Records founder Berry Gordy, Anna. She served as Gaye's muse through the completion of the record. One of its tracks, "If I Should Die Tonight," was inspired by her.

Nona was born the following year. The couple had a son, Frankie Christian, in 1975, before marrying in 1977, after his divorce from Anna was finalized, when Janis was 21 and Marvin was 38.

Things quickly started to deteriorate between the two.

Marvin, who famously wrote the hit ballad "Jan" about his wife and penned the million-plus selling 1976 album "I Want You" in dedication to her, allegedly abused his new bride. Drug abuse, codependence and affairs by both parties also played a part in the demise of their relationship.

The couple divorced in 1981. In 2013, she wrote a memoir with David Ritz, "After the Dance: My Life with Marvin Gaye," detailing the couple's relationship.

In the book, Janis discloses why she eventually filed for separation and why, while the two remained close until his death, she could not remain in a marriage with the soulful singer.

One chapter reveals that while high on cocaine and magic mushrooms, Marvin went into a "murderous rage."

"His eyes turned red with hatred. I was filled with fear...he took a kitchen knife and put it to my throat. I was petrified, paralyzed. I thought it was all over," she says in the book.

"'I've loved you so much,' he said. 'This love is killing me. I beg you to provoke me. Provoke me right now so I can take us both out of our misery."

Janis added that she was too frightened to say a word or move, but she knew what she had to do when he eventually put the knife away. She moved out of the couple's Los Angeles home with their two children.

Gaye died a day short of his 45th birthday in 1984, after being shot twice by his father, Marvin Gay Sr., when the two got into a physical altercation. Gay Sr., who it was discovered had a brain tumor, was given a suspended six-year sentence and probation for the killing, after having his initial murder charge reduced to voluntary manslaughter.

Ava Du Vernay, Oscar-nominated director and box-office superstar, Gets Her Own Flavor of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream

Oscar-nominated director Ava Du Vernay is getting her own
ice cream flavor from Ben & Jerry's.

Ava Du Vernay is already the highest-grossing Black female director in American box office history, but she may have found another way to get her work in front of even more audiences.

The "Queen Sugar" executive producer has teamed up with popular ice cream maker Ben & Jerry's for her own signature snack.

"Lights! Caramel! Action! will begin shipping across the country in January 2023.

DuVernay said she worked with the company's food scientists to create a flavor with all the ingredients she personally loves. She is hoping that the result — a mixture of vanilla ice cream with salted caramel swirls, graham cracker swirls and gobs of chocolate chip cookie dough — will prove popular with fans and help raise money for her non-profit ARRAY Alliance.

"Ice cream is a simple joy of life. A comfort food that I've turned to on many days - making sunny ones brighter and dark ones sweeter," DuVernay said in a statement announcing the partnership. "Partnering with Ben & Jerry's, a company that I've long admired for their commitment to social justice, has been a thrill ride."

She added, "Beyond being downright delicious, proceeds from Lights! Caramel! Action! will help ARRAY Alliance further its non-profit mission of inclusion and belonging in the film and TV industries. A worthy and delicious endeavor."

Lights! Caramel! Action! is available in both ice cream and non-dairy versions.

DuVernay's mission with the Peabody Award-winning multi-platform arts and social impact collective ARRAY Alliance she founded in 2011 is to amplify and elevate the work of artists of color and women directors, create inclusive film sets, provide grants, mentorship and education for people from underrepresented communities who want to work in the film industry.

"Framing this up as a new flavor for the first Black woman to be a featured partner on our pints doesn't do Ava justice," Matthew McCarthy, Ben & Jerry's CEO, said. "We are humbled by this partnership, impressed by her work sharing not only the struggle but the joy in the justice, and we are inspired by her commitment and vision."

The full-time addition to Ben & Jerry's flavor lineup will be featured across the United States at its franchised Scoop Shops as well as on shelves in pints at a retail price of $6.49.

DuVernay is the first African American woman to be nominated for an Academy Award as a director in any feature category. She is currently writing, directing and producing the narrative film adaptation of Pulitzer Prize winner Isabel Wilkerson's bestseller "Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent."