by Alicia W. Stewart, CNN In America Editor
(CNN) - It's not often that we toot our own horn, so please allow us a moment.
In America's race, identity and politics series won second place in the Series/Project category from the Society for Features Journalism 25th annual Excellence in Feature Writing Contest.
Moni Basu, John Blake, Jen Christensen and Todd Leopold wrote stories that explored race, identity and politics ahead of the 2012 presidential election.
Read their award-winning pieces:
The optics of politics: Seeing campaigns through a multicultural kaleidoscope
Last white House Democratic congressman in the Deep South fights for political survival
Civil rights icon fighting for change one registered voter at a time
Parallels to country's racist past haunt age of Obama
We are honored for the recognition and so grateful to our readers: Thank you.
See the full list of winners here.
By Phil Gast. Greg Botelho and Devon M. Sayers, CNN
(CNN) - Openly gay youths will be allowed to join scouting, a historic decision the Boy Scouts of America says will keep it unclouded by "a single, divisive, and unresolved societal issue."
More than 60% of the group's 1,400-member national council voted Thursday at an annual meeting in Grapevine, Texas, for the change, which takes effect Jan. 1.
"No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone," says the resolution.
The BSA, however, will maintain its ban on gay adult leaders.
"The resolution also reinforces that Scouting is a youth program, and any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting," the 103-year-old organization said in a statement after the vote.
The BSA said there are no plans for further review of the issue.FULL STORY
By Sarah LeTrent, CNN
(CNN) - Jes Baker is cutting retailer Abercrombie & Fitch down to size.
Baker, who blogs under the name "The Militant Baker" and wears a size 22, changed the brand's A&F logo to "Attractive & Fat" in a mock, black-and-white Abercrombie ad to challenge the line's branding efforts.
The photos come as a provocative response to contentious comments Abercrombie CEO Mike Jeffries made in a 2006 Salon article about the multibillion-dollar brand's target audience.
"In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids," Jeffries said. "Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don't belong [in our clothes], and they can't belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely."
The divisive remarks resurfaced earlier this month after a series of protests went viral, from Greg Karber's video of himself giving homeless people Abercrombie clothing to a Change.org petition for larger sizes by a teenage eating disorder survivor.FULL STORY
By Devon M. Sayers and Phil Gast, CNN
(CNN) - The eyes of the country will be upon Texas on Thursday.
That's where 1,400 members of the Boy Scouts of America's national council are expected to vote on whether to end the 103-year-old group's outright ban on gay youths.
The outcome, to be announced late afternoon, follows months of intense debate among interest groups and within the ranks of scouting itself.
It comes down to a single sentence at the end of a resolution.
"No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone."
If the policy change is approved, the BSA will maintain its ban on openly gay adult leaders.FULL STORY
By Alan Silverleib, CNN Congressional Producer
Washington (CNN) - The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" immigration reform bill on Tuesday, sending the measure to the Senate floor for consideration and giving the bill's backers their first major legislative victory.
Members of the Democratic-controlled panel voted 13-5 in favor of the measure.
If enacted, the plan would constitute the first overhaul of the nation's immigration policy since 1986.
"The dysfunction in our current immigration system affects all of us and it is long past time for reform. I hope that our history, our values, and our decency can inspire us finally to take action," Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, said.
Spectators cramming the committee room applauded and cheered loudly following the vote.
The panel's 10 Democrats were joined in supporting the bill by three Republicans: Arizona's Jeff Flake, South Carolina's Lindsey Graham, and Utah's Orrin Hatch. Flake and Graham are two of its four Republican authors.
Both party leaders in the Senate appeared supportive of the effort, a positive sign for backers hoping to win a solid majority in the full chamber.FULL STORY
By Alan Silverleib, CNN Congressional Producer
Washington (CNN) – Advocates for comprehensive immigration reform won their first major legislative victory this week when the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 13-5 to approve the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" plan.
If enacted, the measure will create a 13-year path to citizenship for most of the country's 11 million undocumented immigrants.
It aims to strengthen border security while raising the cap on visas for high-skilled workers and establishing a new visa program for low-skilled workers on America's farms and elsewhere.
Here are five key things to know about the state of play on this issue:
1) There's still a long way to go
The Judiciary Committee's 13-5 vote was significant partly because three Republicans - Arizona's Jeff Flake, South Carolina's Lindsey Graham, and Utah's Orrin Hatch - joined the panel's Democrats in backing the measure. Now, however, attention turns to the full Senate, where the level of GOP support remains an open question.
Assuming every member of the Democratic caucus backs the bill, five Republicans will be needed to ensure it receives the 60 votes needed to pass the 100-member chamber. The bill's backers have been hoping for as many as 70 votes, in order to give the proposal significant bipartisan momentum heading into the tougher GOP-controlled House.
And make no mistake - serious momentum will be needed in the House, where conservatives remain deeply skeptical about any measure offering a path to citizenship. A lot of conservatives consider that to be amnesty, which may as well be a four-letter word in this debate.FULL STORY
Editor's note: Nathan Gunter is the managing editor of Oklahoma Today magazine, the state's official magazine. A graduate of Westmoore High School in Moore, Oklahoma, he holds degrees from Wake Forest University and the University of Oklahoma.
By Nathan Gunter, Special to CNN
(CNN) - Oklahomans have a special relationship with the sky. We know how to look up. On the prairies of western Oklahoma, the skies are so big, and so full, it is easy to feel you may begin to fall upward, or even fly. To live underneath this unbroken expanse of heaven can be at once inspiring and terrifying.
Every Okie has seen those skies turn scary, and every Okie accepts that atmospheric instability is a part of our legacy. In school and from our trusted local meteorologists, we learn from an early age what to look for in a sky, in a radar map and in a safe place.
Green-tinted clouds are never a good sign; a hook echo on a radar - the telltale swirl at the edge of a storm pattern indicating strong rotation - means take cover. Underground is best, in a basement or storm shelter. But a small, ground-floor room with no exterior walls will do if the tornado isn't too strong. Cover up with a mattress or thick blanket to avoid debris; don't open all the windows in the house, contrary to now discredited advice; don't hide under an overpass.
By Chris Boyette, CNN
New York (CNN) - Police are investigating the slaying of a 32-year-old man in the Greenwich Village neighborhood early Saturday as a hate crime because the gunman made multiple anti-gay comments, they said.
It is at least the fourth violent attack in two weeks believed to be motivated by anti-gay bias, police said.
The suspect's anti-gay remarks were noted before the shooting took place, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said. The man was seen urinating on the street outside a bar before going inside and making anti-gay comments to the bartender and brandishing a silver handgun.
A little after midnight, the gunman and two other companions confronted the victim, Marc Carson, and another man he was with on the street. The suspect reportedly made anti-gay remarks and asked them whether they were "gay wrestlers," Kelly said.
Carson and the other man turned toward the taunts, but backed down and kept walking away. They didn't know it, Kelly said, but the suspect followed them.
The gunman confronted the two men again, before shooting Carson in the face, police said.
Carson was pronounced dead on arrival at Beth Israel Hospital.FULL STORY
By Matt Peckham, TIME
(TIME) - Skim the zoomed-out surface of Humboldt State University’s alarming “Hate Map” and you’ll encounter angry clouds of bright red framed by smears of gloomy blue, as if some giant freak storm were raining down hell across the the United States.
What you’re looking at is actually a map created by pairing Google‘s Maps API with a hailstorm of homophobic, racist and other prejudicial tweets. It’s part of a project overseen by Humboldt State University professor Dr. Monica Stephens, who, along with a team of undergraduate researchers, wanted to test for geographic relationships to hate speech.
Above the map, the words “homophobic,” “racist” and “disability” define alternate “hate storm” views, each describing a range of highly offensive terms. Click on the keywords or any of their subcategories and the map shifts, the splotches reorganizing to reflect occurrences of the selected term: Bright red areas describe the “most hate,” while light blue ones describe “some hate.”
Creating a map like this is essentially about data-plotting: In this case, HSU says the data was derived from “every geocoded tweet in the United States from June 2012 – April 2013″ that contained keywords related to hate speech. How’d HSU collect all of that Twitter data? Through DOLLY, a University of Kentucky project that maps social media according to geography, allowing researchers to then comb through the data for patterns or correlations. But what about tweets that used the keywords in a positive (that is, “critical of them”) sense? HSU’s researchers read through the tweets manually, categorizing each as positive, neutral or negative — the map only displays the tweets categorized as negative.FULL STORY