.
January 21st, 2013
09:52 AM ET

Big steps made, many to go, Rep. Clyburn says

Democrat Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina reflects with CNN's Soledad O'Brien on the changes in America over the last 50 years and what he hopes for the second term of the United States' first black president.

January 14th, 2013
11:01 AM ET

Tarantino: Why I used 'N-word' in film

(CNN) - The film "Django Unchained" has stirred a race debate for weeks, and Sunday night,  its writer and director Quentin Tarantino won the Golden Globe for best motion picture screenplay. Backstage, Tarantino used the controversial N-word, which peppers his movie, explaining that critics were not accusing him of using it "more than it was used in the South in 1858," when his film is set. Instead, they were "saying I should soften it. ... and I never do that when it comes to my characters."

January 9th, 2013
09:18 AM ET

Gay Scout's request for Eagle rank rejected

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.

Scouting goes through a rough patch

"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
Opinion: Big deal: You can be fat and fit
An activist at a National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance rally in New York wears a T-shirt to promote self-image.
January 3rd, 2013
12:30 PM ET

Opinion: Big deal: You can be fat and fit

Editor's note: Marilyn Wann is author of "FAT!SO?" and a weight diversity speaker internationally. She is the creator of Yay! Scales, which give compliments instead of numbers.

(CNN) - After a careful review of all relevant research worldwide, the U.S. government's leading analyst of weight data just confirmed what I've long known: Being fat might not be a death sentence.

That this study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association seems at all shocking is a measure of the intensity and pervasiveness of weight prejudice in our society and in our sciences.

I take an interest in the topic because I'm fat and because I don't have a death wish. I'm also interested because, like so many fat people, I've encountered weight discrimination when I seek routine medical care. I was 26 years old when I was denied the right to purchase health insurance. I had no significant history of illness or injury. I was just fat. That day, I became a fat rights activist.

In the intervening years, I've heard from so many people who fear for their lives when they encounter weight discrimination in our health care system.

 As a fat activist, I help as much as I can, but I'm no federal agency.
Read Marilyn Wann's full column
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Filed under: Health • How we live • What we think • Women
Samuel L. Jackson dares interviewer to say the n-word
Samuel L. Jackson arrives at the FitFlop benefit ball to raise money for the Make-A-Wish foundation in London on August 5, 2011.
January 2nd, 2013
07:15 PM ET

Samuel L. Jackson dares interviewer to say the n-word

By Josh Stillman, EW

(EW.com) - No one knows how to make white men squirm quite like Samuel L. Jackson.

A post on Reddit last night has unearthed a prime example. Two weeks ago, the "Django Unchained" cast sat down with Jake Hamilton, host of Houston's Emmy-winning film show Jake's Takes, at a press junket.

Things went smoothly enough until Hamilton approached Jackson with a question about the movie's controversial use of the "n-word." Jackson insisted that Hamilton, who is white, say the word out loud; after Hamilton repeatedly refused, they moved on. It was uncomfortable.

"The most awkward moment was just seeing everyone in the room freeze, and waiting to see what my reaction was going to be," Hamilton says today.

The internet reaction has been mixed. Many commenters claim that Hamilton should have simply said the word, while others applaud the reporter for not caving to Jackson's demand. Hamilton says that his decision was in the best interest of the show and the network.

FULL STORY
January 2nd, 2013
01:00 PM ET

Opinion: End culture of rape in 2013

Editor's note: Lauren Wolfe is an award-winning journalist and the director of Women Under Siege, a Women's Media Center initiative on sexualized violence in conflict. She is the former senior editor of the Committee to Protect Journalists, and blogs at laurenmwolfe.com. Follow her on Twitter, @Wolfe321.

By Lauren Wolfe, Special to CNN

(CNN) - On December 16, a young medical student in one of India's major cities was gang-raped, her body destroyed by the bodies of the men who allegedly assaulted her and also by the rusting metal bar doctors say they used to penetrate her. The bar removed part of her intestines. The rest were removed in a hospital far from home where she struggled for her life for just a few days.

It has taken an attack that lies nearly outside of comprehension to prompt demonstrations, but the outcry has begun.

Over the weekend, women rose up in Nepal, protesting outside the prime minister's house against gender-based violence.

What are your experiences of being a woman in India? Send us your stories

Egyptian women have faced ceaseless sexualized violence since the start of that country's revolution, but are now protesting to stop the ever-present sexual harassment and assault.

According to Eve Ensler, the head of V-Day and One Billion Rising, a movement calling for women to rise up on February 14, 2013, and demand an end to violence, women in Somalia are planning what may be their first-ever major demonstrations against rape and violence.

This groundswell - what Ensler calls "a catalytic moment" - is the perfect chance for us to consider how we think about subjugation, rape, and degradation of women globally.

Read Lauren Wolfe's full column
Opinion: GOP, time to rebrand in the image of the 'Great Emancipator'
Wade Henderson thinks the modern Republican Party should look to Abraham Lincoln for some inspiration.
January 1st, 2013
09:38 AM ET

Opinion: GOP, time to rebrand in the image of the 'Great Emancipator'

Editor's note: Wade Henderson is the president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and The Leadership Conference Education Fund.

By Wade Henderson, Special to CNN

(CNN) - On January 1, the nation will commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, which legally freed slaves in the secessionist Southern states. Meanwhile, thousands of theaters will still be presenting the film "Lincoln," portraying the soon-to-be-martyred president's efforts in January 1865 to persuade the House of Representatives to pass the 13th Amendment, outlawing slavery throughout the nation.

Coming at a time when many Republicans are seeking to rebrand their party, these commemorations of the first Republican president raise this question: Why not refashion the Grand Old Party in the image of the Great Emancipator?

Steven Spielberg's historical drama, as well as the biography upon which it is based, Doris Kearns Goodwin's "Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln," both remind today's Americans that Lincoln was not only a moral leader but also a practical politician. The political identity that Lincoln forged for the fledgling Republican Party - uniting the nation while defending individual rights - was a winning formula for half a century, with the GOP winning 11 of 13 presidential elections from 1860 through 1908.

Moreover, support for civil rights persisted in the party throughout the last century. Among the Republican presidents of the 20th century, Theodore Roosevelt famously hosted Booker T. Washington at the White House. Dwight Eisenhower ordered federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas, to enforce school desegregation. Richard Nixon expanded affirmative action. And George H. W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law.

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Filed under: History • Politics • What we think
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.

FULL STORY
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.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Poverty • What we think • Women
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.

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