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North Carolina governor pardons 'Wilmington 10'
Benjamin Chavis speaks at a news conference in 1978 the day after Gov. Jim Hunt reduced the sentences of the Wilmington 10.
December 31st, 2012
08:03 PM ET

North Carolina governor pardons 'Wilmington 10'

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.

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Opinion: Leave no woman behind: Why we fought for Reproductive Health Bill
Supporters of the RH Bill celebrate, as lawmakers pass the landmark birth control legislation on December 17.
December 31st, 2012
12:30 PM ET

Opinion: Leave no woman behind: Why we fought for Reproductive Health Bill

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.

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Filed under: Poverty • What we think • Women
New Year's Eve with 'Sushi'
December 31st, 2012
09:45 AM ET

Meet the star of Key West's 'drag queen drop'

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.

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Filed under: Gender • How we look • Who we are