By Moni Basu, CNN
(CNN) - Writer Mark Trahant guessed the situation was a first: campaign jabs that centered on a candidate's claim of Native American roots.
He was referring to the Senate race in Massachusetts that pits Harvard University law professor Elizabeth Warren against Republican Sen. Scott Brown.
There are many issues of contention in this hotly contested race, but one of them has become Warren's claim to Native American ancestry. After Brown accused her of taking advantage of minority status, Warren fired back in an ad that came out Monday.
"As a kid, I never asked my mom for documentation when she talked about our Native American heritage," Warren says in the spot. "What kid would? But I knew my father's family didn't like that she was part Cherokee and part Delaware, so they had to elope.
"Let me be clear: I never asked for or never got any benefit because of my heritage," she continues, addressing the central concern that Brown has brought up on the campaign trail and at the candidates' first debate last week. "The people who hired me have all said they didn't even know about it."
It's a bit more complicated, said Trahant, a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes.
"The usual standard is citizenship, being a member of a tribe. Elizabeth Warren does not meet that test," he said.
Who's Native American? It's complicated
"It's not right that she would use her self-recalled heritage for any academic advancement ... even if there are no academic standards that define who is legally a Native American (except the citizenship issue). On the other hand, when you see videos like this one, you cringe."
Editor's note: Melanne Verveer is the United States ambassador-at-large for global women's issues and Penny Abeywardena is the head of the Girls and Women program and associate director at the Clinton Global Initiative.
By Melanne Verveer and Penny Abeywardena, Special to CNN
(CNN) - Women have finally arrived.
From Washington to Wall Street to Twitter, writers, academics, and business leaders are pointing to the empowerment of women as key to many of the world's greatest challenges. They're publicizing the research and amplifying hard facts, like the fact that when women have equal access to agricultural resources, 100 million to 150 million fewer people will go hungry.
Or that when women participate equally in the workforce, the GDP in the U.S. the eurozone, and Japan will experience a double-digit spike. And while there's no perfect metric for the popular perception of "girl power," a 2010 Pew study found widespread public support for women's equality in virtually every nation.
The excitement over women's potential and progress is warranted. But there's still a large and disappointing disconnect between research and reality. Girls and women do indeed perform 66% of the work and produce 50% of the world's food. But they earn only 10% of the world's income and own a dismal 1% of its property.
And women everywhere experience less access to credit, training, technology, markets, role models, and protection under the law. Girls and women may keep the world running, but someone else is still running the show.
So if women have indeed "arrived," despite key indicators showing continued widespread inequality, where exactly have they landed? All signs point to girls and women at a tipping point.
Read Melanne Verveer and Penny Abeywardena's full column
By Bill Mears, CNN Supreme Court Producer
Washington (CNN) The divisive issue of same-sex marriage was expected to be discussed privately by the Supreme Court on Monday, and the justices could soon announce if they will hear a constitutional challenge to a federal law denying financial benefits to gay and lesbian couples.
An order from the court announcing whether it will take up either or both of two separate issues could come as early as Tuesday morning. If so, oral arguments and an eventual ruling would not happen until next year, but the current appeals are sure to reignite the hot-button social debate in a presidential election.
At issue is whether guarantees of "equal protection" in the U.S. Constitution should invalidate a California law - and the separate 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which for federal purposes defines marriage as the legal union only between one man and one woman.
Read the full story
What defines you? Maybe it’s the shade of your skin, the place you grew up, the accent in your words, the make up of your family, the gender you were born with, the intimate relationships you chose to have or your generation? As the American identity changes we will be there to report it. In America is a venue for creative and timely sharing of news that explores who we are. Reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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