By Michael Martinez, Amanda Watts and Deanna Hackney, CNN
(CNN) – A gay California Boy Scout's application for Eagle rank was rejected by a Scout council, an official with the organization said Tuesday.
In response, the Scout's parents pledged to press their son's national campaign for gay Scouts to be eligible for Eagle status.
John Fenoglio, Scout executive for the Mount Diablo-Silverado Boy Scout Council, said the Eagle rank application from Ryan Andresen of Moraga, California, wasn't approved because of "membership standards," specifically "duty to God, avowed homosexuality, and the fact that he is now over 18 years of age."
Contrary to some media accounts, Andresen's application wasn't approved by the local council in Contra Costa County, nor was it submitted to the Boy Scouts' national office, Fenoglio told CNN.
The teen's father, Eric Andresen, said his son, a high school senior, wasn't available for comment Tuesday because he's studying for exams and preparing college applications.
"It's pretty upsetting, and it's wrong," the father said of the council's decision. "The whole thing has been wrong since day one.
"It's politics now, and it's just ridiculous," he continued.
The Boy Scouts of America policy does "not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA," the group's website says.FULL STORY
By Abbey Goodman, CNN
(CNN) – Tavi Gevinson started a blog at age 11, became a front-row fixture at Fashion Week, was called "the future of journalism" by Lady Gaga, delivered a TED talk about feminism and female role models in pop culture, is the founder and editor-in-chief of Rookie,an online magazine for teenage girls and, to commemorate its first anniversary, just published 'Rookie Yearbook One,' a hard-copy scrapbook of the best pieces from the site.
And, oh yeah, she's 16 years old.
In five short years, the wunderkind from Oak Park, Illinois, has gone from self-proclaimed nerd to full-blown media mogul, using her platform to champion important teen girl causes ranging from How to Bitchface - a step-by-step primer to "reacting to varying levels of stupidity" (see her demonstrate on "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon") to organizing a Get Well Soon card drive for Malala Yousafzai, the 14-year-old Pakistani schoolgirl activist who was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen.
Rookie launched in Fall 2011 and broke 1 million page views in under a week. Since then, the site has explored monthly themes likeobsession, drama, play and paradise. Right now, it's mythology. Or, as Gevinson explains in the editor's letter: "lies, exaggerations, legends, the works."
To kick off each theme, Gevinson creates a mood board using fashion photos, film stills and album art as inspiration. Then she and the site's 50 contributors - including fellow teens and more than a handful of celebrities - go about interpreting her vision through articles, interviews, photos, playlists and illustrations. To accommodate kids' schedules, Rookie updates three times a day: after school, around dinner and before bed.
Before she was named one of Huffington Post's most amazing young people of 2012, Gevinson spoke with CNN about the power of teenage girls, making angst romantic and the one secret Jon Hamm must never find out.FULL STORY
By CNN Staff
(CNN) – Jessica Rees was diagnosed with a brain tumor at age 11, and she and her parents would drive to the hospital every day to receive outpatient treatment.
"One day we were leaving, and she just simply asked us, 'When do all the other kids come home?'" said her father, Erik.
When Jessica found out that many of them would have to stay at the hospital, she wanted to help "make them happier, because I know they're going through a lot, too," she said.
So she started making JoyJars - containers full of toys, stickers, crayons, anything that might brighten a child's day.
"She was really particular about what would go in the jars," said her mother, Stacey. "It had to be something cool, it couldn't be cheap or flimsy."
Jessica created 3,000 JoyJars before she passed away this January. But her parents are carrying on her legacy.FULL STORY
Editor's Note: In today’s United States, is being black determined by the color of your skin, by your family, by what society says or something else? Soledad O’Brien reports “Who Is Black in America?” on CNN at 8 p.m. ET/PT Sunday, December 15.
By Michelle Rozsa and Soledad O'Brien, CNN
(CNN) - Seventeen-year-old Nayo Jones has chestnut colored skin and wears her curly hair in a small Afro, but she doesn't "feel black".
“I was raised up with white people, white music, white food, so it’s not something I know,” says Jones.
She sits in a circle talking about black culture and what makes someone black in 2012, surrounded by a group of diverse teens and twenty-somethings. They grew up with a biracial president who identifies as black. They will not have to fill out a census that demands they check just one racial box. And they are part of a generation that has a growing number of mixed-race relationships and people.
In 2010, 15 % of new marriages were between people of different races or ethnicities, double the number from 1980. Also, the number of people who self-identify as mixed race is growing.
For Jones, who has a black mom, but was raised by her white dad, black requires a certain type of experience. She rejects identifying as black because, “It's kind of my lack of the black experience, or what other people would say is my lack of a black experience.”
Many of the 50 or so young adults in the room view race differently from their parents, and from one another. For them, race is fluid, and they get to decide their identity. FULL POST
By Kat Kinsman, CNN
(CNN) - I was always certain that I'd have my life worked out by the time I was 40. I'd somehow magically awake on my 40th birthday filled with the wisdom of the ages: a solid financial plan, inner peace and a tastefully appointed yet attractive wardrobe that wouldn't just make me feel like I was playing dress-up at work.
As it happened, I did wake up that August morning possessed of new insight - mostly about how mortifyingly delicious birthday-cake-flavored vodka turned out to be, and how hangovers come on harder and stronger as the years pass. I shut the blinds and went back to sleep. An old lady needs her rest.
No one under 38 really considers what 40 and beyond is going to look like for them. They plot the ambitious beginning ("I'm going to become a successful ___") and the triumphant denouement ("Then I'll retire with my beloved partner and we'll spend our well-funded free time by ___"). But they gloss over the mushy middle, where all the day-to-day doing happens.
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: Vincent DiCaro is vice president of development and communication for the National Fatherhood Initiative, where he has worked for more than 10 years to promote involved, responsible and committed fatherhood. He lives in Maryland with his wife and toddler-age son.
By Vincent DiCaro, Special to CNN
(CNN) – I’ll always remember the first time my son spontaneously said, “Thank you,” to me. It was only a few months ago. He has Type 1 diabetes and was having a low blood sugar episode. I brought him his favorite juice to get his blood sugar up, and when I handed him the juice he said, “Thank you, daddy” in his adorable toddler voice.
I melted of course, but I was also grateful that my son was picking up one of the most important character traits he will need as he grows up: thankfulness. But as the father of a 2½-year-old, I can say with confidence that thankfulness does not come naturally to children, mine included.
While my son is starting to say “thank you” on his own, it was only after making him say it over and over again; the first few hundred times he said those magical words, he didn’t even know what they meant. But somehow, he knew what “no” and “mine” meant right away – funny how that works.
So raising thankful children is an uphill battle against the generally selfish tendencies of children. But not all hope is lost. Parenting, like having a good jump shot, is a skill that can be learned through the right techniques and practice.
To get you started, here are five things you can start to do right away that will build a character of thankfulness in your children.
1. Model thankfulness. It is difficult for children to be what they don’t see. Therefore it is critical that you live out thankfulness in your own life.Read the full post on CNN's Schools of Thought blog
By Ashley Killough and Kevin Bohn, CNN
(CNN) – Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana fiercely shot back at Mitt Romney’s claim Wednesday that President Barack Obama outmatched the 2012 Republican presidential nominee by offering "gifts" to African-Americans, Hispanics and young voters.
“I absolutely reject that notion,” Jindal, who was a surrogate for Romney’s campaign, said at the Republican Governors Association conference in Las Vegas. “I think that's absolutely wrong.”
“I don't think that represents where we are as a party and where we're going as a party,” he continued. “That has got to be one of the most fundamental takeaways from this election.”
Romney made the comments on a call with top donors Wednesday afternoon, various news outlets have reported. The former Massachusetts governor also made similar arguments on a separate call earlier in the morning, CNN confirmed.
"What the president, president's campaign did was focus on certain members of his base coalition, give them extraordinary financial gifts from the government, and then work very aggressively to turn them out to vote," Romney said in the afternoon call, according to audio aired on ABC News.
Romney, who lost to Obama by 126 electoral votes, said the president courted voters by offering policies – some of them this election year – that appealed to key constituencies.
"With regards to the young people, for instance, a forgiveness of college loan interest, was a big gift," Romney said, according to The New York Times.
"Free contraceptives were very big with young college-aged women," he continued. "And then, finally, Obamacare also made a difference for them, because as you know, anybody now 26 years of age and younger was now going to be part of their parents' plan, and that was a big gift to young people. They turned out in large numbers, a larger share in this election even than in 2008."
The president's health care reform plan, he added, also brought out support from African Americans and Hispanic voters.FULL STORY
(CNN) - A senior with a big smile is wearing an even bigger smile after this weekend’s Homecoming at St. Lucie West Centennial High School in Port St.Lucie, Florida.
Hakam Daley has not had it easy. He has cerebral palsy and has been in and out of foster homes most of his life. But he has many friends at school who nominated him for homecoming king.
“When I heard the message, I had no words to describe,” Daley said. “I was so happy.”
Kayla Donohue, a cheerleader and friend of Daley’s, secretly got the other seniors to nominate him for the court. Donohue said it was important to give Daley this “special experience that he’d remember the rest of his life.”
As they called his name, Daley did something he had never done before: With the help of caregivers, he walked in public.
When they announced that he was chosen king, Daley’s smile beamed brighter than ever.
Surrounded by teary-eyed students and flashing cameras, the kid with the big smile became the most popular guy in school. (Video Courtesy of WPBF)
Editor’s note: CNN's Azadeh Ansari wrote this article as part of the MetLife Foundation Journalists in Aging Fellowship, a project of New America Media and the Gerontological Society of America.
By Azadeh Ansari, CNN
West Bloomfield, Michigan (CNN) – At 3 a.m., the ring of the phone jolts Sabri Shuker out of bed.
It’s not a typical wake-up call for most, but he’s come to expect them. His gut tells him the news he’s about to receive will keep him up for days. Shuker’s heart beats faster. Short of breath, he answers anxiously.
The voice on the other end is familiar, calling from overseas, but the message is disheartening: Yet another member of his family is “missing.” This time, it’s his cousin.
Back in Iraq, he slept through artillery and bombs. But since he came to the United States in 2002, a ring of the phone can feel like an explosion.
Whenever a call comes late at night, Shuker's mind races back to the people he knew back home and the people who disappeared or died. Many were professors or doctors, educated people who made good homes for their families.
He paces his house in suburban Detroit, runs his hands through his thinning white hair, overwhelmed by memories and emotion, the helpless feeling that comes from being far away.
During the past couple decades, Iraqis escaped conflicts in their homeland and settled in America to start over. They joined a burgeoning Arab community that has grown to 500,000 strong in the Detroit area, according to ACCESS, the most prominent help center for Arabs in Dearborn, Michigan.
As many as 3.5 million people of Arab descent live in the United States, according to the Arab American Institute, a nonprofit organization that encourages Arab-American participation in political and civic life. Some have lived in the United States for generations, some arrived as refugees, and some, like the Shuker family, emigrated here.
Older Iraqis like Shuker, 76, come to this country with a life’s worth of memories. The number of older refugees living in the United States is uncertain, but their struggles are clear. Often, they find themselves living in two worlds, community activists say.
For them, the transition and culture shock are difficult to bear. Shuker represents thousands of well-educated Iraqi immigrants who not only left their belongings behind but lost their identities in the process. FULL POST