By Moni Basu, CNN
(CNN) - Mark Krolikowski has shoulder-length brown hair. He likes to wear multiple earrings and French manicure his nails. Students call him Mr. K.
Krolikowski, 59, taught for 32 years at St. Francis Preparatory School, a 150-year-old Catholic institution in Queens, New York.
Until August. That's when the school laid him off.
He alleges that he was discriminated against because he is transgender and that the school's attitude toward him changed in the eight months after he came out.
He recently filed a lawsuit saying the school and its principal, Leonard Conway, broke the law with his termination and that as a result, Krolikowski has been distressed.
"Teaching - it's my life," Krolikowski said Friday. "I feel that has been taken away from me."
His lawyer Andrew Kimler said Krolikowski's case has "significant ramifications for the LGBT community and is a wakeup call to employers in terms of employment practices."
Conway would not comment but referred questions to his lawyer, Philip C. Semprevivo Jr.
Semprevivo said he could not discuss details of the case since it was in litigation but said Krolikowski was terminated legally.
"We deny all the allegations," he said. FULL POST
By Moni Basu, CNN
(CNN) - Richard Blanco, the poet who likes to describe himself as being made in Cuba, assembled in Spain and imported to the United States, will serve as the inaugural poet when President Barack Obama takes the oath of office for a second term this month.
Blanco will be the first Latino, the first openly gay person and the youngest poet chosen for the coveted role.
A statement from the inaugural committee said Blanco was chosen because the power of his poetry is rooted in American identity.
"Richard’s writing will be wonderfully fitting for an inaugural that will celebrate the strength of the American people and our nation’s great diversity," Obama said in a statement Wednesday that announced his selection.
With that announcement, Blanco will surely be catapulted to fame in the vein of Natasha Trethewey, 46, who this year was chosen to become the nation's poet laureate.
"I’m beside myself, bestowed with this great honor, brimming over with excitement, awe, and gratitude,” Blanco, 44, said in a statement. FULL POST
By Moni Basu, CNN
(CNN) - Who in Congress doesn't want to pass a bill that helps protect women against acts of violence? No one, of course.
But the Violence Against Women Act, first passed in 1994 and reauthorized previously without fanfare, hit a snag this time around.
The hiccup in the bill involved groups of vulnerable people: Native Americans, immigrants and those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, or LGBT.
That’s the reason there was no consensus over a law that primarily provides support for organizations that serve domestic violence victims, said Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wisconsin, herself a rape victim.
"The violence Against Women Act has always been bipartisan, but this time, because of best practices from advocates, from people in law enforcement, they saw the need to expand this to communities of color, to Native Americans, to the LGBT community and young women who needed protection on campuses," Moore said.
The differences over provisions affecting native, immigrant and LGBT women led to separate bills in the House and Senate. No compromise was reached. Time ran out and the Violence Against Women Act was not reauthorized.
"It’s a shame that we’re at this point," Moore said. "Certainly we’re very concerned about whether or not we’re going to have these particular communities ignored."
The National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women said it was deeply disappointed that a final bill could not be agreed upon.
"The U.S. House of Representatives continued to voice strong opposition to offering basic protections to certain vulnerable populations," the task force said.
What happened? FULL POST
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
By Moni Basu, CNN
(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.
By Moni Basu, CNN
(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?"FULL STORY
By Moni Basu, CNN
(CNN) - Buried on page 45 of the 2010 Defense Appropriations Act, after pages on the maintenance and operation of the U.S. military, is an official apology to Native American people.
Mark Charles, a member of the Navajo Nation, stumbled onto the apology about a year ago after he heard GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney say that he would never apologize for America. That comment didn't sit well with Charles - nobody is perfect, he thought.
He wrote a blog post that cited several situations in which he believed it was prudent for America to say sorry. One of them was to native people.
A reader responded that such an apology had already been issued. Charles went online and found the 2010 Defense Act.
The United States, acting through Congress ... recognizes that there have been years of official depredations, ill-conceived policies, and the breaking of covenants by the federal government regarding Indian tribes; apologizes on behalf of the people of the United States to all native peoples for the many instances of violence, maltreatment, and neglect inflicted on native peoples by citizens of the United States ...
It went on to urge the president to acknowledge the wrongs.
Charles wondered why he had never heard President Barack Obama publicly issue this apology. And if he had never heard it, then most certainly native people who lived isolated lives on reservations had not either.
He set himself on a path to rectify that.
By Katti Gray, Special to CNN
Memphis, Tennessee (CNN) - Diagnosed last year with diabetes, the Rev. Dan Henley point-blank refused the medicine his physician initially suggested to regulate his out-of-whack blood sugar.
"When I got the diagnosis, I said 'I don't receive that.' My doctor said, 'I don't care if you receive or not, you've got diabetes. ... I'll give you 90 days to control it on your own," recounts Henley, 50, pastor of Journey Christian Church in Memphis, Tennessee.
The city is home to more obese people than any other American city, according to the Gallup Well-Being Index.
At the start of that 90-day countdown, Henley, his two daughters and, marginally, his wife devised their own "biggest loser" contest. They nixed a whole slew of comparatively high-calorie, low-nutrient favorite foods from their grocery list, ramped up their exercise - and started talking, more candidly than ever, about how overconsumption of certain fare causes illness, injury and premature death.
"I used to have this slogan: 'I'm 280 pounds of cornbread-, collard green-eating man,'" says the 6-foot-2 Henley. "And the bigger I got, the more I laughed it off. Then, I got this wake-up call."
Now 27 pounds lighter than he was a year ago - and with his blood sugar levels now normal - Henley also is founder and lead facilitator of Church Developers Network, one in an arsenal of organizations immersed in a community-wide campaign to move Memphis out of that notorious No. 1 slot.FULL STORY