By Ashley Killough, CNN
(CNN) – As President Barack Obama finalizes his cabinet picks heading into his second term, some are pointing to a noted lack of diversity among the select group.
And Democratic Rep. Charlie Rangel says "it's embarrassing as hell." The congressman from New York pulled no punches Thursday when he chided the White House for not picking more women and minorities for the top level positions.
"The questions I've heard are fair," he said on MSNBC. "The record does speak for itself."
Obama will nominate Jack Lew, his chief of staff, for Treasury Secretary on Thursday, and CNN has learned the likely contenders for his replacement at the White House are all men. This comes days after the president nominated former Sen. Chuck Hagel for Defense Secretary, Sen. John Kerry for Secretary of State, and John Brennan, chief homeland security and counterterrorism adviser, to lead the CIA.Read the full post on CNN's Political Ticker blog
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 Jim Acosta, CNN National Political Correspondent
Washington (CNN) - The newly sworn-in 113th Congress is the most diverse group of representatives in history, reflecting changing demographics and changing public attitudes.
98 women, 43 African-Americans, 31 Latinos, 12 Asian-American and Pacific Islanders, and seven gay and bisexual members are now new members of the House and Senate. Plus, there is the first Buddhist member in the Senate and Hindu member in the House of Representatives.
“It means that we reflect America more,” said newly elected Rep. Tammy Duckwork, an Illinois Democrat. “And it is good to see Congress starting to look more like the rest of America.” FULL POST
By Cindy Y. Rodriguez, CNN
(CNN) - Just two weeks after Chi Omega’s controversial party photo surfaced on Facebook, students at Penn State are planning a silent march today, hoping to increase Latino recruitment and retention.
The sorority members celebrated Halloween with a Mexican-themed party wearing sombreros and ponchos and pasted fake mustaches on their faces. They held signs that said: "Will mow lawn for weed + beer." Another sign said: "I don't cut grass. I smoke it."
The university president, the president of the board of trustees and other officials expressed deep disappointment and Chi Omega put its Penn State chapter on probation.
Members of the Latino community were outraged by the photo with comments like this one from Liz Martinez on Twitter: “So many frats and sororities think it's ok to perpetuate stereotypes. It isn't.”
March organizer Manuel Figueroa said the march is not being organized in response to the Chi Omega photo. The march will be led by the Penn State University For All Student Equality, a student organization whose goal it is denounce all forms of racism, sexism, classism and homophobia and seeks to draw attention to social inequality.
“The incident definitely served as a catalyst for all this but it’s not the reason we are doing it,” said Figueroa. “There are grievances to a larger issue that we believe the university should take up.”
The Mexican American Student Association (MASA) will not be participating in the march and instead plans to work with Penn State President Rodney Erickson and university officials to bring awareness and change to the campus environment.
The organization would rather "not make this issue a larger one,” said Roberto Hernandez, president of the Mexican student group. “We are hoping to expand the Latino Studies program into a department. We are working with faculty on that.”
In a statement, MASA said: “We ... urge the university to reassert its commitment to ethnic and racial diversity. We hope that the university exercises its stated commitment to diversity. We look forward to working with the campus community in reaching these goals."
Students who are marching plan to peacefully walk through the campus in a silent, single-line manner.
Hispanic students make up 5% of the 45,351 undergraduate and graduate population on campus, according to the fall 2012 enrollment data.
Figueroa said they expect at least 50 students to participate.
Erickson commended the student movement to combat the issue, reported the The Daily Collegian.
By Moni Basu, CNN
(CNN) - Officials at Penn State published an open letter this week about an incident that has brought the university under scrutiny once more.
Members of the university's Chi Omega sorority chapter celebrated Halloween at a Mexican-themed party. They wore sombreros and ponchos and pasted fake mustaches on their faces. They held signs that said: "Will mow lawn for weed + beer." Another sign said: "I don't cut grass. I smoke it."
Then they took a photo and posted it online. Outrage spread over the insensitive nature of the photo. Some said it perpetrated stereotypes and were culturally insensitive. Latino students on the Penn State campus demanded a direct apology from Chi Omega, which issued a statement of regret to the college newspaper.
The university president, the president of the board of trustees and other officials expressed their own feelings of deep disappointment.
"How any constituent groups or individuals in the university could behave with such insensitivity or unawareness is a question we must both ask and answer," they said in a letter Thursday.
"Our university is a place of learning and discovery, and there certainly are lessons to be relearned, or even discovered for the first time, from these incidents," the letter said. "The simplest of those lessons is that costumes that include blackface, or that parody or imitate a person or groups of people, are always offensive to someone. They convey either a lack of awareness about the human condition and human sensitivities or, worse yet, disdain for the thoughts, feelings, histories and experiences of others. They suggest a failure to empathize or even a failure to think. They make all of us small."
The incident comes in the wake of this year's conviction of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky for sexually abusing 10 boys over a period of 15 years. He was sentenced to a minimum of 30 years in prison. The scandal led to the dismissal of legendary head coach Joe Paterno, who died only weeks later, and severe NCAA penalties against the school's storied football program.
Reaction to the Chi Omega story, however, has not all been of dismay or outrage. FULL POST