By Steve Almasy, CNN
(CNN) - Forty years after they were convicted by a jury of firebombing a grocery store in Wilmington, North Carolina, civil rights activists who became known as the "Wilmington 10" were pardoned Monday by the state's outgoing governor.
"These convictions were tainted by naked racism and represent an ugly stain on North Carolina's criminal justice system that cannot be allowed to stand any longer," said Gov. Beverly Purdue. "Justice demands that this stain finally be removed."
In 1972, nine black men and one white woman were convicted in the store firebombing in the coastal city despite their claims of innocence and their supporters' vehement argument that the defendants were victims of racially biased prosecutors.
Their sentences were reduced in 1978 by the state's governor then, Jim Hunt, and two years later their convictions were overturned in federal court for reasons of misconduct by the prosecutors.
But until Monday there were no pardons, and the sting of the guilty verdicts still followed the six surviving members of the group that was known nationwide as the Wilmington 10.
Perdue said that among the key evidence that led her to grant pardons of innocence were recently discovered notes from the prosecutor who picked the jury. The notes showed the prosecutor preferred white jurors who might be members of the Ku Klux Klan and one black juror was described as an "Uncle Tom type."
Perdue also pointed to the federal court's ruling that the prosecutor knew his star witness lied on the witness stand. That witness and other witnesses recanted a few years after the trial.
Timothy Taylor, a North Carolina historian and a visiting professor at Duke University, said he was given the notes two years ago and started to go through them recently when the NAACP called again for pardons for the Wilmington 10.
"It was pretty shocking stuff," he told CNN on Monday.
Editor's note: Miriam Defensor Santiago is in her third term as a member of the Philippines Senate and a co-sponsor of the Reproductive Health Bill. She is also the founder of People's Reform Party. Last year she was selected to be a judge in the International Criminal Court, though she has still to take office.
By Miriam Defensor Santiago, Special for CNN
Manila, Philippines (CNN) - We were like David against Goliath. We fought long and hard, and in the end we prevailed.
After 14 long years in the dustbins of Congress, mainly due to strong opposition from the Catholic Church, the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill was approved by both the Senate and the House of Representatives on Monday, 17 December 2012.
Indeed, there is no force more powerful than an idea whose time has come. And the time for a Philippine reproductive health law is now.
The Philippines remains one of the poorest countries in the world because, among other things, for a long time, it refused to acknowledge what could easily be seen when one glances out the window: the country desperately needs a reproductive health law.
Not having a reproductive health law is cruelty to the poor. The poor are miserable because, among other reasons, they have so many children. Providing reproductive knowledge and information through government intervention is the humane thing to do. It can help the poor escape the vicious cycle of poverty by giving them options on how to manage their sexual lives, plan their families and control their procreative activities. The phrase "reproductive rights" includes the idea of being able to make reproductive decisions free from discrimination, coercion or violence.
Watch Gary "Sushi" Marion in Key West, Florida, along with many other New Year's Eve celebrations on CNN with Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin, starting at 10 p.m. ET Monday.
By Kim Segal, CNN
Key West, Florida (CNN) - It started in 1996 as a crazy idea to ring in the new year, but police nearly shut it down.
"They said, 'We have an idea: Let's do a shoe drop. ... We made this shoe for you,'" recalled Gary "Sushi" Marion, the star of a weekly drag queen review in Key West. "'You've got to sit in it for New Year's Eve,' and I said 'OK,' and that is how it started."
So, on New Year's Eve, Marion took center stage inside a massive high-heeled red shoe made out of chicken wire, paper mache and plywood, dangling off the roof of the Bourbon Street Pub along Key West's main street.
Just like the spectacular ball in New York's Times Square, the shoe would be lowered with each final minute of the year until the clock struck midnight.
Crowds started to gather, attracting the attention of police, who tried to shut down the event because the pub owner didn't have a permit.
"(The police) came upstairs to the balcony and told me to get out of the shoe," Marion said. "The owner called the mayor and the mayor was like, 'Leave Sushi alone, close down the street'."
Today, Key West's annual "shoe drop" still stars Marion as Sushi - in a better-constructed shoe - and now attracts attention from around the world.
By Moni Basu, CNN
(CNN) – Ayana Mathis' story seems one of overnight sensation.
It begins like this: She was on vacation in Paris and was expecting a 15-minute call for a couple of quotes about her first novel.
She picked up the telephone to hear the voice of none other than Oprah Winfrey, who'd tapped Mathis' debut work for her book club.
And whoosh! She was off.
Publisher Knopf sped up her publication date by six weeks and increased the initial print run to 125,000.
Mathis' face appeared in magazines and newspapers along with profiles and a glowing review in The New York Times.
It was, she said, stunning.
She felt like a pendulum, swinging from elation one moment to overwhelmed the next. FULL POST
By Moni Basu and Greg Botelho, CNN
Atlanta (CNN) – The Atlanta Braves are reportedly bringing back a controversial screaming Indian logo in their new design for batting practice caps, unveiled in a blog post on ESPN.
Writer Paul Lukas of Uni Watch, who broke the news of the new cap design, said he got a first look at the hat designs from an "industry source."
He gave a failing grade to the Braves logo featuring a Native American wearing a mohawk and a feather in his hair and belting out a tribal yell.
"Last year the Braves conspicuously avoided using their 'screaming Indian' logo as a sleeve patch on their retro alternate jersey - a welcome move for those of us who oppose the appropriation of Native American imagery in sports," Lukas wrote. "Unfortunately, it turns out that the logo hasn't been permanently mothballed. Disappointing. Grade: F."
Braves officials deferred comment to Major League Baseball, which told CNN that the new batting practice cap designs for several MLB clubs, including the Braves, were still in development and may never end up on the diamond.
"We will unveil the program when it is finalized," the MLB statement said. "We do not know where (ESPN) obtained the designs. We can not make them available to CNN because they are not finalized or approved." FULL POST
(CNN) – 315,091,138.
That's what the Census Bureau projects will be the population of the United States on New Year's Day. The number of people increased by 2,272,462 or 0.73% since the last time a population snapshot was taken – April 1, 2010.
In January, America can expect one birth every eight seconds and one death every 12 seconds.
America's population is growing at a slower pace than was previously projected, the Census Bureau said. One reason is lower birth rates starting in 2008, when the economy soured. Lower immigration numbers have also affected the population.
The U.S. population is now projected to be around 399.8 million by 2050, far short of the 439 million that was projected four years ago.
"When we add up the numbers, 24.4 million fewer migrants plus 17.8 million fewer births minus 4.6 million fewer deaths plus 1.6 million difference in the estimates of the population for the population in 2011, we arrive at the total difference of 39.2 million," the Census Bureau said.
That's a whole lotta numbers. But we get the picture. We won't be catching up with China anytime soon.
(CNN) – The American Psychiatric Association announced this month approved changes in its official guide to classifying mental illnesses.
Among the major announced revisions to the manual, known as DSM-5, is that Asperger's syndrome will now be included in the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder "to help more accurately and consistently diagnose children with autism," the association said in a statement.
But the group made another big change that did not make as many headlines, though it is considered by many to be important.
The new DSM eliminates the term "gender identity disorder," long considered stigmatizing by mental health specialists and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists.
That old diagnosis meant that a man who believed he was destined to be a woman was considered mentally ill.
No longer so.
Editor's note: Bassam Gergi is studying for a master's degree in comparative government at St. Antony's College, Oxford, where he is also a Dahrendorf Scholar. Ali Breland studies philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin.
By Bassam Gergi and Ali Breland, Special to CNN
(CNN) - On the Sunday after the Newtown massacre, President Barack Obama traveled to Connecticut to comfort the grieving community. As the president offered what he could to the town, other American communities, in less visible ways, were grappling with their own menace of violence.
In Camden, New Jersey - a city that has already suffered 65 violent deaths in 2012 , surpassing the previous record of 58 violent deaths set in 1995 - 50 people turned out, some bearing white crosses, to mourn a homeless woman known affectionately as the "cat lady" who was stabbed to death (50 of the deaths so far this year resulted from gunshot wounds.)
In Philadelphia, on the same Sunday, city leaders came together at a roundtable to discuss their own epidemic of gun violence; the year-to-date total of homicides is 322. Last year, 324 were killed. Of those victims, 154 were 25 or younger. A councilman at the roundtable asked, "How come as a city we're not in an outrage? How come we're not approaching this from a crisis standpoint?"
By Sarah Edwards, CNN
(CNN) – The maker of a Google app thinks it's fun to make yourself look Asian by changing the shape of your eyes and wearing a Fu Manchu mustache and rice paddy hat.
Another app - "Make Me Indian" - makes you a Native American with brown skin, war paint and a feather headband.
“This is just a fun app (that) lets you indulge you and your friends," says the description of the "Make Me Asian" app created by user KimberyDeiss and available on Google Play.
"You can for a few seconds to make (yourself) a Chinese, Japanese, Korean or any other Asians," the description says.
Not amusing or cute, say Asian-American organizations that launched a petition to get Google to remove both apps. FULL POST
Editor's note: Salamishah Tillet is an assistant professor of English and Africana studies at the University of Pennsylvania and author of "Sites of Slavery: Citizenship and Racial Democracy in the Post-Civil Rights Imagination." She is co-founder of the charity, A Long Walk Home Inc., which strives to end violence against girls and women.
By Salamishah Tillet, Special to CNN
(CNN) – Quentin Tarantino set out to make his newest film, “Django Unchained,” to avenge Hollywood’s amnesia of slavery.
“How can you ignore such a huge part of American history?” the director recently told Newsweek magazine. “Hollywood didn’t want to deal with it because it was too ugly and too messy.”
On this point, he is right.
Unlike the preponderance of movies on other historical atrocities – including the Holocaust, which Tarantino tackled in "Inglorious Basterds" – there have only been a handful of Hollywood films made on American slavery. And none were directed by an African-American.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of those movies were racist.
Dating back to D.W. Griffith’s “The Birth of a Nation” in 1915, white slave masters were heroes and formerly enslaved African-Americans were villains.
“Gone With the Wind,” the 1939 box-office smash, did no better as slave characters like Prissy, Mammy and Uncle Peter appeared as docile and happy servants.
These two films alone dominated all subsequent Hollywood representations of slavery until late 20th-century movies such as “Glory,” “Amistad” and “Beloved” depicted African-Americans as resistors.
But films on slavery have never been about the past alone. FULL POST
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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