By Alan Duke, CNN
(CNN) – Before Sheldon Bruck told his orthodox Jewish parents he was gay, the teenager looked for a way out of homosexuality.
His search led him to JONAH - Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing - which claimed on its website to help people "struggling with unwanted same-sex sexual attractions."
JONAH co-director Arthur Goldberg promised Bruck, then 17, that "JONAH could help him change his orientation from gay to straight," according to a consumer fraud lawsuit filed Tuesday against JONAH, Goldberg and a JONAH counselor.
"This is the first time that plaintiffs have sought to hold conversion therapists liable in a court of law," said Samuel Wolfe, a lawyer with the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The defendants did not respond to CNN calls and e-mails for comment on the lawsuit, which was filed Tuesday in Hudson County, New Jersey, Superior Court. A page on the organization's website touts success stories from the program with letters from past participants and their family members.
Bruck and three male plaintiffs contend they were defrauded by JONAH's claim that "being gay is a mental disorder" that could be reversed by conversion therapy - "a position rejected by the American Psychiatric Association four decades ago," the lawsuit said.FULL STORY
Editor's note: Latanya Mapp Frett is a vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and leads its international arm, Planned Parenthood Global.
By Latanya Mapp Frett, Special to CNN
(CNN) - Savita Halappanavar died last month in Ireland after being denied a lifesaving abortion. If she had lived in the United States - where in two months we will mark four decades of safe and legal abortion on the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade ruling - she likely would be alive today.
I was a little girl when this decision overturned state bans across the country that prevented women from access to medically safe procedures. Unlike my mother's generation - when women often died from self-induced abortions or back-alley abortions performed by a person with no skills or training, often under unsanitary conditions - my siblings, friends, classmates and I grew up with the ability to make informed decisions when faced with an unintended or medically problematic pregnancy.
Worldwide, many women are unable to make personal health decisions. The consequences are grave. According to a World Health Organization report, about 47,000 women die each year around the world from unsafe abortions. This accounts for about 13% of all maternal deaths. Most of these women die in developing countries, where severe legal restrictions and lack of access to modern medical care drive women to seek unsafe procedures. By contrast, abortion in the United States is incredibly safe: Fewer than 0.3% of women experience complications that require hospitalization.Read Latanya Mapp Frett's full column
By Rafael Romo, Senior Latin American Affairs Editor
Cananea, Mexico (CNN) - In a remote town in northern Mexico, a 10-year-old-boy is struggling with his homework. His name is Oscar Castellanos, and the fifth-grader is getting extra help from his father because he's having trouble adjusting to his new school.
The student enrolled at Leona Vicario Elementary in the town of Cananea is technically a foreigner in his father's land. Oscar was born in Arizona and is a U.S. citizen. He recites the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance by memory without hesitation. His English accent is that of a boy raised in the American Southwest.
Oscar's family moved back to Mexico after the state of Arizona approved some of the toughest immigration laws in the United States. Now they live in Cananea, a mining town of 30,000, about 35 miles south of the U.S.-Mexico border.
When asked whether it's been difficult to adjust to life in Mexico, his answer is "kind of." Pressed to elaborate, he adds that one of his main challenges is having "to speak another language."
Opinion: To-do list for Obama and Mexico's new president
Oscar says he misses the abundance of books available to him in his American schools. In Mexico, textbooks are free, but finding additional reading material is often a challenge, especially in a provincial town that's a 23-hour drive from Mexico City.FULL STORY
Editor's note: Jeffrey Toobin is a senior legal analyst for CNN and a staff writer at The New Yorker magazine, where he covers legal affairs. He is the author of "The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court."
By Jeffrey Toobin, CNN Senior Legal Analyst
(CNN) – How much has the South changed?
That's the question at the heart of one of the most important cases the Supreme Court will take up this year.
The case weighs the fate of one of the most important laws in American history: the Voting Rights Act of 1965. A century after the Civil War, Congress created that law to give African Americans the right to vote, not just on paper, but in fact.
The key provision was Section 5, which decreed that jurisdictions with histories of discrimination, mostly in the South, had to get Justice Department approval before they changed any aspect of their voting rules, right down to the location of polling places. There is little doubt that, in the years immediately after 1965, the Voting Rights Act achieved a revolution in voting rights for African-Americans in the South. In subsequent years, Congress has reauthorized the law several times, most recently in 2006.
Increasingly, covered jurisdictions have found the process of submitting their changes to the Justice Department, which is known as "pre-clearance," as a demeaning anachronism, and Shelby County, Alabama, went to court to argue that the Voting Rights Act was unconstitutional. The court will hear the case, Shelby County v. Holder, early next year.FULL STORY
Editor's Note: Jenni Monet is a journalist and documentary filmmaker who writes and makes films about Native and indigenous issues. She is a frequent contributor to Indian Country Today Media Network and a tribal citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna. She tweets @jennimonet.
By Jenni Monet, Special to CNN
(CNN) – As another Native American Heritage Month comes to an end, I have to stop and ask, did anybody other than Native folks even know it was taking place?
Since 1990, the federal government has declared the month of November a time to pay tribute to the achievements of the nation’s estimated 2.9 million American Indians and Alaska Natives (PDF).
But little recognition has been paid to the original inhabitants who represent 1% of the U.S. population. Instead, this November, there has been a series of cultural gaffes made by celebrities, journalists and large companies during a time set aside to acknowledge and honor Native people. FULL POST
Editor's note: Paul Begala, a Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor, was a political consultant for Bill Clinton's presidential campaign in 1992 and was counselor to Clinton in the White House.
By Paul Begala, CNN Contributor
(CNN) – Every parent loves his or her child; it's the prime directive of the species. Twenty years ago, when my wife was pregnant with our first baby, Hillary Clinton told me that having a child is like taking your heart out of your body and letting it walk around.
For some parents, however, their beloved child takes their heart on a long, wild ride that careers from joyous and generous to dark and dangerous. So it was with John Schwartz and Jeanne Mixon. Joseph, their third child, was a precocious reader, a super-sensitive old soul, fiercely defiant when he believed the teacher was too autocratic, hyper-quick on the trigger. Or, as his father put it, a squirrelly kid.
He's also gay. Fabulously gay. From early childhood he preferred feather boas to football; pink shoes to playing soccer. No problem; his parents are enlightened, intelligent, educated, urbane and progressive. Their community in suburban New Jersey was welcoming and inclusive. Their rabbi is gay.
And yet shortly after he came out of the closet at age 13, Joe attempted suicide.Read Paul Begala's full column
Food says so much about where you’ve come from, where you’ve decided to go, and the lessons you’ve learned. It’s geography, politics, tradition, belief and so much more and we invite you to dig in and discover the rich, ever-evolving taste of America. Catch up on past coverage.
In Spanish, it’s known as “Feliz Dia de Accion de Gracias” or el “Dia de Las Gracias.” Although it’s not a holiday celebrated in Latin America, Thanksgiving has resonated with Hispanics in the United States because of two vital components in Latino culture: family and food.
Latino households across the country will serve Hispanic dishes alongside Thanksgiving classics like mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce, blending their own culture into the “traditional” American holiday.
“Last year, I spent it at my sister’s house and we had ham, pasteles, yam, stuffing and Mexican rice alongside the turkey,” says Baltimore, Maryland resident Elianne Ramos. She works as the Vice-Chair of Marketing and PR for Latinos in Social Media.FULL STORY
By Elizabeth Landau, CNN
(CNN) - Judy Warzenski didn't realize how bad her father, Donald's, memory had gotten until he turned to her sister Joyce and asked, "Where's the girl who was sitting next to you?" He did not recognize Joyce as his own daughter.
This Thanksgiving, Warzenski and her younger siblings will eat Thanksgiving dinner with their father in a private dining room at a nursing home in Pennsylvania. Moving her father there in October was an agonizing decision.
"It's really very upsetting to me," said Warzenski, 62, of central New Jersey. "I promised him I would never do this. I promised him I would never put him in a nursing home, which I've come to realize is an unrealistic promise."
Warzenski, who had commented on a previous CNN dementia story, is one of many baby boomers who must watch their loved ones suffer from Alzheimer's, the most common form of dementia. The condition, which robs people of their memory and thinking skills, necessitates tough decisions about caring for people as their minds slowly slip away.FULL STORY
Editor’s Note: Jesse Abernathy, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe in South Dakota, is the editor of Native Sun News, South Dakota’s largest weekly newspaper, which covers issues of local and national interest and concern within Indian country.
By Jesse Abernathy, Special to CNN
(CNN) - Americans will gather together for food and give thanks for their good fortune on Thursday.
But we should not forget the country’s indigenous peoples, those who are less fortunate and the forgotten history of how we came to celebrate this day.
There are some who will visit loved ones who are unjustly incarcerated in prison, who will “tie one on” at the local dive bar in an effort to forget their troubles, or humbly bed down for the night under the cover and comfort of a downtown city bridge, tucked quietly and safely just out of view of mainstream America.
Since initial contact with Europeans, indigenous peoples have had their lands, freedom, culture, identity and even their children legally stripped from them through destructive policies and practices in the name of progress, faith and country.
A community whose ancestors once proudly and freely roamed this continent and provided for their children from the bounty that was “Maka Unci” (Grandmother Earth), are now left wondering why they live in the richest land on the globe, but many have been forced to live in grinding, inter-generational poverty.
It is a history many in America are uncomfortable talking about, or even acknowledging at all. FULL POST