Editor's note: Ruben Navarrette Jr. is a CNN contributor and a nationally syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group. Follow him on Twitter: @rubennavarrette
San Diego (CNN) - The breathtakingly incompetent way that Disney handled the introduction of what was thought to be the Magic Kingdom's first Hispanic princess has me wondering: What kind of Mickey Mouse operation is this?
Given that Hispanics spending power is worth $1.2 trillion, it's not surprising the media and entertainment behemoth wants a slice of it. But Disney's attempt has turned into a case study of how not to market a product to any group, let alone Hispanics.
Talk about magic. Apparently, Disney has the power to take Hispanics and "de-Hispanicize" them. You start off chocolate, or cafe con leche. Then, suddenly, abracadabra, you're vanilla!
The first casualty is Princess Sofia.
By Cindy Y. Rodriguez, CNN
(CNN) - After unveiling its "first Latina" princess last week, Disney now says Jamie Mitchell, the producer of the TV show "Sofia the First," "misspoke" during a press tour and that the title character is not a Latina.
The word comes after questions arose about what made "Sofia the First" culturally relevant and why the media wasn't informed when the show was first announced in 2011.
The National Hispanic Media Coalition, a Latino media advocacy organization, met with Nancy Kanter, Disney Junior Worldwide's senior vice president of original programming a general manager, to discuss the impact of "Sofia the First" in the Latino community.
"She shared that Sofia the First is in fact not a Latina character and that the producer of the television program misspoke," NHMC president and CEO Alex Nogales said in a statement. "We accept the clarification and celebrate the good news that Disney Junior has an exciting project in early development that does have a Latina as the heroine of the show."
Editor's note: This interview is part of In America's occasional series "How I Got Here," which looks at the life journeys of notable Americans.
By Alicia W. Stewart, CNN
(CNN) - Ava DuVernay this year became the first African-American woman to win a best directing award at the Sundance Film Festival. She won for "Middle of Nowhere," a drama about a young black woman named Ruby who puts her life on hold while her husband is in prison. The movie opened in theaters this month.
The former aspiring broadcast journalist-turned-publicist overcame fear and ridicule to become an independent filmmaker. Here's the story of how she got there:
CNN: What does it mean to be a black woman filmmaker in 2012?
Ava DuVernay: The films that I make are, you know, directly related to my gaze, which is specifically through the eyes of a black woman. So the framing of the shots in my films, the choices of music, the cadence and rhythm of the editing, all of that I’m very aware is coming through who I am, and I’m a sister.
In saying I’m a black woman; I include all the legacy of my family and all the people that I love.
CNN: You went from being a publicist in the entertainment industry to an acclaimed filmmaker. What drives you?
DuVernay: I think the only thing that drove me is just this idea of forward movement, like never to stay still. I think there’s something very powerful and something amazing to be said (for) momentum. That one thing leads to another.
I think when we sit too long in one place, we get stagnant, and if we just keep moving, even if we don’t know where we’re going, we’ll get somewhere.
CNN: Did you always want to be a filmmaker?
DuVernay: When I was young, I wanted to be a broadcast journalist. I wanted to be like Connie Chung.
Maybe in some ways, we kind of are truth-telling, trying to tell stories and news in a different way through the films, but after UCLA, I got an internship at CBS News with Dan Rather and Connie Chung. It was a huge, huge deal. I was on the O.J. Simpson unit. And I was so proud. I had my first little suit, showed up and they said: “OK, this is your assignment.” (They) handed me a package and inside the package was the address of one of the jurors. And they wanted me to sit outside that person’s house and look through the trash.
And I was like: You know, no. I’m not going to do this. So I didn’t. I started looking for another side of the news and fell into publicity. It allowed me to be close to journalists and work with the media but also connect journalists to artists and to films.
By Blake Ellis, CNNMoney
New York (CNNMoney) - A year after graduating from college, women are earning thousands of dollars less per year than their male peers.
Women who worked full-time jobs one year after receiving their diplomas earned 82 cents for every dollar men earned. That's according to a report from the American Association of University Women, which analyzed data from a Department of Education survey of 15,000 graduates conducted in 2009, the most recent data available.
While men earned average salaries of $42,918, women earned $35,296 - a nearly $8,000 difference, the report found.
"You hear in the news that [millennial] women are now out-earning their male peers, but what we found in looking at those emerging from college is that there is still a gender pay gap," said Catherine Hill, director of research at AAUW.
By Moni Basu, CNN
(CNN) - On a September day this year, Courtney Pearson stood anxiously on the steps of the Lyceum, the famed old Greek Revival building on the University of Mississippi campus.
There, she learned she was elected homecoming queen. There, she stood as the first black woman to hold that title at Ole Miss.
Five decades before, James Meredith had entered the Lyceum as the university's first black student. He risked his life as he walked inside, his admission a milestone in the struggle for integration that sparked deadly riots on campus.
As anniversary observances of that pivotal day came to a close on the Oxford campus, Pearson, 21, took her place as queen. She had met Meredith just a few days before. He told her he was proud.
If it weren't for him, she would not even be a student at Ole Miss, Pearson thought.
If she did not accomplish anything else in life, she would be satisfied: She had made a civil rights icon proud.
"We unfortunately cannot change a dark and difficult past," she said. "But we can absolutely change the future."
By Emanuella Grinberg, CNN
(CNN) - Parents of children with special needs are demanding an apology from conservative political pundit Ann Coulter for tweeting after Tuesday's foreign policy debate that she approved of "Romney's decision to be kind and gentle to the retard," in an apparent response to critiques of Mitt Romney's performance.
It wasn't the first time Coulter used the "the r-word" during this election season, and it's not the first time blogger Ellen Seidman has called her out on it.
"At this point, I'm thinking the woman must surely be aware that the word is offensive, and she chooses not to care. That's pretty vile and heartless," said Seidman, the mother of a special needs child who shares her world on the blog "Love that Max."
"You want to slam the president, go ahead. But you can't think of any other word to use? Come on."
The word "retard" demeans Max and millions more with intellectual disabilities, Seidman tweeted at Coulter. Still, the comment was favorited 1,215 times and earned 2,993 retweets as of this writing, presumably by a number of people who didn't find it offensive.
By Cindy Y. Rodriguez, CNN
(CNN) - During last night's foreign policy debate, President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney argued over the war in Afghanistan, nuclear crisis with Iran, tension with Israel, the rise of China and America’s role in the world.
But Latin America hardly came up and Twitter users, especially the Latino community, were not pleased.
Romney mentioned Latin America during talk about a plan to increase trade.
“We can do better than that, particularly in Latin America," he said. "The opportunities for us in Latin America we have just not taken advantage of fully. Latin America's economy is almost as big as the economy of China. We're all focused on China. Latin America is a huge opportunity for us — time zone, language opportunities."
Obama did not respond to Romney's comment on Latin America.
By Rose Arce and Carol Costello, CNN
Baltimore, Maryland (CNN) - From her Baltimore kitchen, Rebecca Murphy is lobbying legislators, crafting signs and making phone calls as she wages a battle to allow gays and lesbians to marry in her state.
The married mother of two doesn't have a personal stake in the fight. Rather, Murphy represents the growing number of people nationwide who support gay rights regardless of their own sexual orientation.
"I have gay and lesbian friends and family who are raising children and creating lives, and they deserve to be treated fairly," she says.
As national polls show a shift in attitudes about same-sex marriage, Murphy's state of Maryland is one of three poised to put the issue to an up-or-down popular vote for the first time next month.
While support has grown, there are still many who oppose allowing gays to marry and are doing their part to strike the measure down. The Rev. Frank Reid and his wife, Marlaa, of Bethel AME Church in Baltimore run workshops for single African-Americans in an effort to encourage strong marriages and discourage sexual behaviors that can lead to HIV/AIDS.
"I do understand and accept that there are other patterns for families," Marlaa Reid says. "However, the basic prescription for marriage, I embrace it as a biblical prescription. A man and a woman."
By Moni Basu, CNN
(CNN) - Two things you should know about South Asians: They are one of the fastest-growing populations in the United States and they win spelling bees.
Put the two together in an election year and what you get is a series of public service videos aimed at drawing South Asians to the polls. And they do it by poking fun at their own spelling prowess - nine of the last 13 Scripps National Spelling Bee winners have been South Asian.
The "Bee a Winner" videos feature six South Asian actors - including Parvesh Cheena of "Outsourced" and Sonal Shal of "Scrubs" - in a mock “14th Annual Desi Spelling Bee.” Each word they have to spell tackles an issue of civic engagement like "undecided" or "caucus."
"We came up with the idea of the spelling bee because it speaks to the aspect of the model South Asian," producer Sohini Sengupta said.
She said getting out the vote was the first step to political empowerment for South Asians.
Directed by indie filmmaker Tanuj Chopra, the videos were funded by 18 Million Rising, a social media campaign encouraging Asian-Americans to get more politically involved.
The spelling bee videos were posted on actress Kosha Patel's YouTube channel.
By Mallory Simon, CNN
(CNN) - Native American activist Russell Means died early Monday from throat cancer, an Oglala Lakota Sioux nation representative said.
Means led a 71-day uprising on the sacred grounds of Wounded Knee in South Dakota in 1973.
"Means has devoted his life to eliminating racism of any kind, and in so doing he leaves a historical imprint as the most revolutionary Indian leader of the late twentieth century," his website said. "An inspirational visionary, Russell Means remains one of the most magnetic voices in America today.
"Whether leading a protest, fighting for constitutional rights, starring in a motion picture, or performing his rap-ajo music, the message he delivers is consistent with the philosophy he lives by."