By Devon M. Sayers and Phil Gast, CNN
(CNN) - The eyes of the country will be upon Texas on Thursday.
That's where 1,400 members of the Boy Scouts of America's national council are expected to vote on whether to end the 103-year-old group's outright ban on gay youths.
The outcome, to be announced late afternoon, follows months of intense debate among interest groups and within the ranks of scouting itself.
It comes down to a single sentence at the end of a resolution.
"No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone."
If the policy change is approved, the BSA will maintain its ban on openly gay adult leaders.FULL STORY
By Alan Silverleib, CNN Congressional Producer
Washington (CNN) - The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" immigration reform bill on Tuesday, sending the measure to the Senate floor for consideration and giving the bill's backers their first major legislative victory.
Members of the Democratic-controlled panel voted 13-5 in favor of the measure.
If enacted, the plan would constitute the first overhaul of the nation's immigration policy since 1986.
"The dysfunction in our current immigration system affects all of us and it is long past time for reform. I hope that our history, our values, and our decency can inspire us finally to take action," Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, said.
Spectators cramming the committee room applauded and cheered loudly following the vote.
The panel's 10 Democrats were joined in supporting the bill by three Republicans: Arizona's Jeff Flake, South Carolina's Lindsey Graham, and Utah's Orrin Hatch. Flake and Graham are two of its four Republican authors.
Both party leaders in the Senate appeared supportive of the effort, a positive sign for backers hoping to win a solid majority in the full chamber.FULL STORY
By Alan Silverleib, CNN Congressional Producer
Washington (CNN) - Advocates for comprehensive immigration reform won their first major legislative victory this week when the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 13-5 to approve the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" plan.
If enacted, the measure will create a 13-year path to citizenship for most of the country's 11 million undocumented immigrants.
It aims to strengthen border security while raising the cap on visas for high-skilled workers and establishing a new visa program for low-skilled workers on America's farms and elsewhere.
Here are five key things to know about the state of play on this issue:
1) There's still a long way to go
The Judiciary Committee's 13-5 vote was significant partly because three Republicans - Arizona's Jeff Flake, South Carolina's Lindsey Graham, and Utah's Orrin Hatch - joined the panel's Democrats in backing the measure. Now, however, attention turns to the full Senate, where the level of GOP support remains an open question.
Assuming every member of the Democratic caucus backs the bill, five Republicans will be needed to ensure it receives the 60 votes needed to pass the 100-member chamber. The bill's backers have been hoping for as many as 70 votes, in order to give the proposal significant bipartisan momentum heading into the tougher GOP-controlled House.
And make no mistake - serious momentum will be needed in the House, where conservatives remain deeply skeptical about any measure offering a path to citizenship. A lot of conservatives consider that to be amnesty, which may as well be a four-letter word in this debate.FULL STORY
Editor's note: Nathan Gunter is the managing editor of Oklahoma Today magazine, the state's official magazine. A graduate of Westmoore High School in Moore, Oklahoma, he holds degrees from Wake Forest University and the University of Oklahoma.
By Nathan Gunter, Special to CNN
(CNN) - Oklahomans have a special relationship with the sky. We know how to look up. On the prairies of western Oklahoma, the skies are so big, and so full, it is easy to feel you may begin to fall upward, or even fly. To live underneath this unbroken expanse of heaven can be at once inspiring and terrifying.
Every Okie has seen those skies turn scary, and every Okie accepts that atmospheric instability is a part of our legacy. In school and from our trusted local meteorologists, we learn from an early age what to look for in a sky, in a radar map and in a safe place.
Green-tinted clouds are never a good sign; a hook echo on a radar - the telltale swirl at the edge of a storm pattern indicating strong rotation - means take cover. Underground is best, in a basement or storm shelter. But a small, ground-floor room with no exterior walls will do if the tornado isn't too strong. Cover up with a mattress or thick blanket to avoid debris; don't open all the windows in the house, contrary to now discredited advice; don't hide under an overpass.
By Chris Boyette, CNN
New York (CNN) - Police are investigating the slaying of a 32-year-old man in the Greenwich Village neighborhood early Saturday as a hate crime because the gunman made multiple anti-gay comments, they said.
It is at least the fourth violent attack in two weeks believed to be motivated by anti-gay bias, police said.
The suspect's anti-gay remarks were noted before the shooting took place, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said. The man was seen urinating on the street outside a bar before going inside and making anti-gay comments to the bartender and brandishing a silver handgun.
A little after midnight, the gunman and two other companions confronted the victim, Marc Carson, and another man he was with on the street. The suspect reportedly made anti-gay remarks and asked them whether they were "gay wrestlers," Kelly said.
Carson and the other man turned toward the taunts, but backed down and kept walking away. They didn't know it, Kelly said, but the suspect followed them.
The gunman confronted the two men again, before shooting Carson in the face, police said.
Carson was pronounced dead on arrival at Beth Israel Hospital.FULL STORY
By Matt Peckham, TIME
(TIME) - Skim the zoomed-out surface of Humboldt State University’s alarming “Hate Map” and you’ll encounter angry clouds of bright red framed by smears of gloomy blue, as if some giant freak storm were raining down hell across the the United States.
What you’re looking at is actually a map created by pairing Google‘s Maps API with a hailstorm of homophobic, racist and other prejudicial tweets. It’s part of a project overseen by Humboldt State University professor Dr. Monica Stephens, who, along with a team of undergraduate researchers, wanted to test for geographic relationships to hate speech.
Above the map, the words “homophobic,” “racist” and “disability” define alternate “hate storm” views, each describing a range of highly offensive terms. Click on the keywords or any of their subcategories and the map shifts, the splotches reorganizing to reflect occurrences of the selected term: Bright red areas describe the “most hate,” while light blue ones describe “some hate.”
Creating a map like this is essentially about data-plotting: In this case, HSU says the data was derived from “every geocoded tweet in the United States from June 2012 – April 2013″ that contained keywords related to hate speech. How’d HSU collect all of that Twitter data? Through DOLLY, a University of Kentucky project that maps social media according to geography, allowing researchers to then comb through the data for patterns or correlations. But what about tweets that used the keywords in a positive (that is, “critical of them”) sense? HSU’s researchers read through the tweets manually, categorizing each as positive, neutral or negative — the map only displays the tweets categorized as negative.FULL STORY
By Mariano Castillo, CNN
Birmingham, Alabama (CNN) - The class of 1963 crowded in a rectangle on the dance floor, the memories of high school fresh on their minds as the band played in a sea of pink and blue hues.
Aretha Franklin. Etta James. The Temptations. Just what you would expect to be playing at a 1960s prom. Yet the song that drew the most bodies to the dance floor was "The Wobble."
Until this hip-hop song emptied the chairs, it felt as if the auditorium had been transported back 50 years.
But it's 2013, and despite the full-court nostalgia for the 1960s, that decade was one of the most difficult times in Birmingham's history.
Societal tensions over race were so high in 1963 that the city canceled senior prom for five of the city's segregated high schools for blacks.
Today, a half century has passed since the seminal civil rights protests that changed Birmingham and plotted a path for the nation away from segregation and toward equal rights.
Just like that path, the healing process has been a long one.
The Historic 1963 Prom, held Friday and hosted by the city of Birmingham, closed one chapter for these Alabamans.FULL STORY
(CNN) - Zoe Saldana is one of Hollywood's leading actresses, and she's making headlines as Uhura in "Star Trek Into Darkness." She crossed barriers as the lead in "Avatar," the highest grossing movie of all time. But how does being a woman of color impact her career choices and options? The actress, who is of Puerto Rican and Dominican descent, spoke about it in an interview with Ebony magazine's Kelley L. Carter:
EBONY: Speaking of color, it doesn’t seem to limit you. And it almost appears seamless. Is that true? Or have there been bumps along the way because you’re a woman of color?
Zoe Saldana: Nothing in life is just one layer. It’s one-layered (but) it’s multifaceted, and there are various factors that take place into making a decision or something happening. So the one thing I will say is, what has not changed is what I feel and think of myself and how I interact with the world, how I handle myself. I feel like I’m very confident. I’m going to have my moments of weakness, but I like who I am and I don’t want to be anybody else. I don’t want anybody to tell me to change when I don’t want to change.
So that’s just who I am. And when I approach something—whether I’m fighting for a role or I’m being offered a role—I’m not thinking whether or not anybody is doing me a favor or if I’m doing somebody else a favor. I’m just thinking, as an artist and as a woman, “is this something that best represents the craft that I want to be known for?” Or is this an accurate representation of what a woman is supposed to be?
And do I like this story? Do I like this director? Do I think the studio is going to manage and sell it properly. That’s where my head is at. I’m not thinking, “Oh, I’m a woman of color, are they gonna want me?” I don’t give too much energy to that, because my time is very valuable, and something that exists to others is not going to exist in my world. That’s how I think I get by, by not giving it any validation by wasting more time investing into thinking about it. FULL POST
By Moni Basu, CNN
(CNN) - Here's something to consider as Congress debates overhauling America's immigration system: For the first time since at least 1850, immigrants will be the primary driver of U.S. population.
Births have been the leading cause of population growth since the U.S. Census Bureau began collecting data in 1850. That may change within the next 14 years.
The population growth shifts could happen as early as 2027 or as late as 2038, depending, of course, on the numbers of international arrivals over the next few years.
Not that immigration levels are at their highest, cautioned Thomas Mesenbourg, the Census Bureau's senior adviser. The rates were much higher during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
"This projected milestone reflects the mix of our nation's declining fertility rates, the aging of the baby boomer population and continued immigration," Mesenbourg said.
The Census Bureau issued three projections of population growth shifts based on different immigration levels. A high immigration projection showed that the nation's non-white population would jump from 37% in 2012 to 58.8% in 2060. Hispanics would make up 29.9% of the population, compared with 17% in 2012, and Asians would climb from 5.1% to 9%.
Non-Latino whites are projected to no longer be a majority by 2046, even if immigration levels stay the same.
By Alex Castellanos, CNN Contributor
(CNN) - The images still inspire. Children sitting on their parents' shoulders amid a sea of American flags, fluttering on a cool Chicago night. A young black woman running to get as close as possible to the stage.
On November 4, 2008, Grant Park absorbed the world's focus: Barack Obama was elected president of the United States.
His victory speech stopped the Earth from spinning, if only for an evening, and drew the world's attention to an America where anything was again possible. Obama's victory energized a pulsing crowd of a hundred-thousand, their dream deferred no longer. Journalist Lois Wille called it "a great big huge happy evening" that would perhaps "wipe the memory" of a more divided America away.
Still, the podium was wrapped in bulletproof glass. Chicago charged all its 13,500 police officers with protecting America's great hope. It sent firefighters home wearing their uniforms so they would be ready to respond. We were not sure the promise and possibility of that moment was shared by every American. Yet that clear night, we celebrated the peaceful transition of power and the dawn of a different day.
This is a good country, full of good and great people, dedicated to an extraordinary American promise, our commitment to equal opportunity for everyone. That evening, even the most hardened partisan hearts could feel it. Our country had taken a step forward in racial relations, a big step, something that spoke of what our nation might yet become. A good nation had become an even better one, where the scars of some old wounds had healed and the pain of intense divisions, though not forgotten, had receded farther into memory.
Now the world is stopped no longer. How did we get from that America to this?FULL STORY