America Ferrera Partners With Voto Latino For Election

America Ferrera Partners With Voto Latino For Election

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Voto Latino launched a campaign last Thursday called “America4America” to encourage young Latinos to vote. The campaign has partnered with the star of “Ugly Betty” America Ferrera.

Unrelated, but, let the record state I think “Ugly Betty” was a really big deal!

TAGS: Latino Vote

Janet Jackson To Produce Transgender ‘Truth’ Film

Janet Jackson To Produce Transgender 'Truth' Film

Janet Jackson is set to executive-produce a documentary that will help “stop the hate and find understanding” toward transgender people.

The documentary is titled Truth and described as “a journey through the lives of trans- and nongendered people around the world and their epic struggle for equality.” The film will be directed by Robert Jason and is expected to begin production this summer.

“All people are very important to me,” Jackson said in a statement released to the media. “I’ve been fortunate to make friends and learn about very different lives. Truth is our small chance to ask that you try and understand someone who lives their life in a way that is a little bit different from yours, even though all of our hearts are the same. We want to stop the hate and find understanding.”

Ramiro Gomez’s Cardboard Cut Outs Make LA Times’ Frontpage

Ramiro Gomez's Cardboard Cut Outs Make LA Times' Frontpage

Ramiro Gomez, the 25-year-old street artist who has been placing cardboard cutouts of domestic workers around Beverly Hills, made the cover of the L.A. Times Tuesday. Gomez and his work that seeks to call attention to the affluent neighborhood’s workers was featured on both the front page of the print edition and at the top of

An excerpt from the LA Times interview:

For the last eight months, Gomez, an artist from West Hollywood, has made the invisible visible by installing life-size cardboard cutouts of nannies, gardeners, valet workers and housekeepers in Beverly Hills, the Hollywood Hills and other wealthy areas.

His acrylic paintings appear unexpectedly around the Westside, like pop-ups from a children’s book. Gomez puts them on display to raise provocative questions.

“We see the beautiful homes. The hedges are trimmed, the gardens are perfect, the children are cared for,” Gomez said. “We’ve come to expect it to be this way. But who maintains all this? Who looks after it? And do we treat the workers with the dignity they deserve? Do we stop and notice them?”

“I like that when people see my cardboard cut outs of real humans they stop and say ‘what is that’ and realize that what their seeing is a cardboard version of a housekeeper or gardener that they’ve just been driving past,” Gomez told last month.

Learn more about Gomez’ work by watching the video below.

U.S. Appeals Court Will Not Hear Prop 8 Case, Clearing the Way For Supreme Court

U.S. Appeals Court Will Not Hear Prop 8 Case, Clearing the Way For Supreme Court

San Francisco’s 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has decided it will not revisit the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 gay marriage ban, which clears the path now for the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the issue.

Human Rights Campaign has more details:

In an announcement that could lead either to a return to marriage equality in California or a historic case before the U.S. Supreme Court, today the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit declined to review a February decision of that court ruling that California’s constitutional amendment stripping loving, committed gay and lesbian couples of marriage violates the U.S. Constitution. With today’s announcement, the proponents of Prop 8 are now likely to seek review by the U.S. Supreme Court and the Ninth Circuit is likely to continue the stay of its decision until that process is complete. In the event that the Supreme Court decides not to hear the case, the lower court ruling would stand and gay and lesbian couples would again be able to marry in California.

Courage Campaign has even more details on the court proceedings:

An en banc rehearing at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is much different from other circuits. Generally, en banc means that the entire court will rehear the case, with all judges in the circuit participating. But the Ninth Circuit has an inordinately large number of judges, so they have a procedure wherein they have an ‘en banc panel’ consisting of eleven judges: ten randomly-chosen judges plus the Chief Judge (at the Ninth Circuit that is Alex Kozinski) presiding. If rehearing had been granted, the randomly selected panel could have heard arguments and issued new briefing in the case or they could have decided to forgo that and issue a new decision without it.

Now that en banc rehearing was denied, the proponents have 90 days to file a petition for certiorari to the Supreme Court, seeking review of the decision striking down Proposition 8. It’s likely that Justices at the Supreme Court would have their conference to take up the petition and decide whether to grant review or not sometime after their summer break in October. Oral argument would follow a few months later, and then a final decision would be issued by June or July 2013.

DC Defies Federal Orders to Implement Deportation Program

DC Defies Federal Orders to Implement Deportation Program

District of Columbia council members announced Tuesday they plan to defy federal immigration enforcement orders and not implement Secure Communities as scheduled Tuesday. Council members plan to pass a law instructing local police to ignore requests from federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hold certain people who have been arrested for low-level crimes, according to the Huffington Post.

The Secure Communities program sends fingerprints of anyone who’s booked in a local or county jail to federal immigration officials who can then flag someone for immigration detention. Fingerprint data is shared even if that person is never charged or is ultimately cleared of their crime.

“It’s hard to argue that if a person commits a violent crime and is in this country illegally, that they shouldn’t be deported … and that’s what the federal immigration authorities have said they want,” D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson, who will introduce the bill said on Monday, the Huffington Post reports. “That’s not what they’ve done. What we’ve seen over and over again is that people not convicted of a violent crime are being held, and are being held.”

The Council members cite community trust as one of the reasons for defying the federal orders to implement Secure Communities.

“Police rely on the trust of those community members that their immigration status will not be threatened by their cooperation in local law enforcement investigations,” D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray said. “Secure Communities jeopardizes that trust.”

Hundreds Of Mormons March in Salt Lake City Gay Pride Parade [Photos]

Hundreds Of Mormons March in Salt Lake City Gay Pride Parade [Photos]

Here’s a quick feel good story: More than 300 Mormon church members wearing their Sunday best marched in the Utah Gay Pride Parade in downtown Salt Lake City.

Mormons have played a large role in helping to pass anti-gay legislation across the country with money, institutional support and dedicated volunteers. While their participation in the parade doesn’t mean institutional change it is a step forward.

Their participation marked the first time such a large group of Mormons took part in the parade, organizers told the Associated Press.

“Please come join Latter-day Saints in extending a message of love and support to our LGBT brothers and sisters by marching in the Utah pride parade. Each step we take will be an outward demonstration of our commitment to loving our neighbors,” Erika E.p. Munson wrote on a Facebook Event page inviting Mormons to the parade. “We are marching for the values of empathy and compassion that the Mormon faith teaches. Recognizing that silence (though coupled with good intentions) may leave some LGBT individuals to seriously question their self-worth in their homes, congregations, and before God, we are marching to save lives. “

Parade grand marshal Dustin Lance Black, an Academy Award-winning screenwriter, tweeted: “In tears. Over 300 straight, active Mormons showed up to march with me at the Utah Pride parade in support of LGBT people.”

Black Transgender Woman CeCe McDonald to be Housed in Male Prison

Black Transgender Woman CeCe McDonald to be Housed in Male Prison

CeCe McDonald, the young black transgender woman who accepted a plea deal and pled guilty to second-degree manslaughter last month will be incarcerated by the state of Minnesota as a male. McDonald was arrested after she stabbed a white male who was part of a group of that physically and verbally attacked her with transgender and racial slurs.

The plea agreement calls for a sentence of three years and five months in prison, according to the Star Tribune.

Upon sentencing, McDonald, 24, will be taken into custody by the state Department of Corrections and housed as a male “because he is being housed as a male with Hennepin County,” corrections spokeswoman Sarah Russell told the Star Tribune on Monday. “We will intake him as a male at St. Cloud prison.”

Russell went on to add the state will make its own determination of McDonald’s gender.

“We will assess him as any other offender would be assessed,” Russell said. “The assessments include, but are not limited to, screening for potential vulnerability to sexual assaults, tendencies to act out with sexually aggressive behavior and any disabilities” as defined by federal law.

The Transgender Law Center gathered testimonies from former prisoners, sheriffs, and others, about the risks that many prisoners face and found that sexual violence is an “ever present fact of life for far too many transgender prisoners.” [PDF]

Florida: 73 Percent Who Shoot Blacks and Use ‘Stand Your Ground’ Walk

Florida: 73 Percent Who Shoot Blacks and Use 'Stand Your Ground' Walk

A Tampa Bay Times analysis of almost 200 cases — the first to examine the role of race in Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” or “Kill at Will” laws — found that people who killed a black person walked free 73 percent of the time, while those who killed a white person went free 59 percent of the time.

Questions of race have surrounded Florida’s controversial “Kill at Will” law since George Zimmerman killed unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin in February. The law made national headlines because it was part of a system of laws that helped keep Zimmerman out of jail for more than a month.

The study found that regardless of what race the killer was, if the victim was black they were more likely to walk free.

“I don’t think judges or prosecutors or whoever works in the field of criminal justice is consciously saying black life is worth less than that of other ethnicities,” Kareem Jordan, a criminologist at the University of Central Florida told the Times. “But at the end of the day, it could be something that’s subconscious going on if you look at how the media depicts black life.”

Others say “Kill at Will” laws are nothing new and they’re now just allowing ordinary citizens to do something police officers have no done fore years.

“Stand your ground laws shouldn’t be called that,” Victor Rios, a sociologist at the University of California at Santa Barbara, told in March. “It’s essentially giving citizens permission to do what cops have been doing forever to black and brown men: shoot first.”

George Zimmerman’s Lawyers Expected to Ask for New Bond Hearing

George Zimmerman's Lawyers Expected to Ask for New Bond Hearing

George Zimmerman, the man charged with fatally shooting Trayvon Martin surrendered to Florida authorities on Sunday after a judge revoked his bond. Zimmerman, 28, will remain at the Sanford facility until Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester decides if he should be free again, pending his second-degree murder trial.

Judge Lester revoked bail on Friday after he learned Zimmerman had more money to his name than he initially reported and that he failed to give up one of his valid passports.

Zimmerman is confined by himself in a single cell — 67 square feet — for his own protection, equipped with a toilet and two beds, according to the Miami Herald. He has $500 in his jail account.

Producer of Controversial Anti-Obama Video Will Remain at Fox News

Producer of Controversial Anti-Obama Video Will Remain at Fox News

Chris White, the producer behind a provocative four-minute anti-Obama video that aired on Fox News will keep his job at the network. The news comes just a day after CNN News retracted a job offer they offered White before the scandal.

The video, which aired twice on the morning show “Fox & Friends,” was widely criticized as as attack ad against Obama. In it, President Obama is depicted as a failed leader who has not delivered on his 2008 campaign theme of hope and change.

TAGS: Fox News TV

Judge Revokes Bail for George Zimmerman in Trayvon Martin Case

Judge Revokes Bail for George Zimmerman in Trayvon Martin Case

A Florida judge on Friday revoked the bail for George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin case, saying he had misled the court about his finances, and ordered him to present himself to the court within 48 hours. Prosecutors also say he failed to surrender a second passport.

Orlando Sentinel with more details:

In a new motion, prosecutors accused Zimmerman and his wife of lying to the judge during a bond hearing about money they collected for his defense.

Prosecutors allege Zimmerman’s wife knew about the donations her husband had collected through a PayPal account, but didn’t mention the money at his bond hearing.

The account ultimately collected about $200,000, his attorney later revealed.

“Defendant has intentionally deceived the court with the assistance of his wife,” the motion says. “During the jail phone calls both of them spoke in code to hide what they were doing.”

Prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda told the judge today that “this court was led to believe that they didn’t have a single penny” at the earlier bond hearing.

At a press conference Friday the Martin family attorney said Zimmerman’s “credibility is greatly in question” and we’ll likely become a significant part of legal proceedings.

Jay Smooth: Leave Michelle Obama Alone With Your Random Opinions

Jay Smooth: Leave Michelle Obama Alone With Your Random Opinions

Jay Smooth, host of New York’s WBAI-FM hip-hop show “Underground Railroad,” has something to say to a writer (who shall remain nameless so we don’t give him anymore clicks) that argued Michelle Obama hurt her husband’s re-election campaign when she said that if she could be anyone in the world she’d want to be Beyoncé.

The video comes via Animal New York who will be premiering two new Jay Smooth videos a week.

Diane Tran, Jailed Texas Honor Student, Turns Down 100K

Diane Tran, Jailed Texas Honor Student, Turns Down 100K

Earlier this week Diane Tran made national headlines after a Texas judge threw 17-year-old teen in jail for missing school. Now she’s in the headlines again for turning down a 100K check that a website started in her name fundraised for her.

ABC News reports:

“We saw her trying to work and trying to go to school and trying to do all these things and then to have the judge put her in jail for missing school just seemed a little harsh,” said Paul Dietzel, who helped raise the money for Diane Tran. is a project of the Louisiana Children’s Education Alliance.

But Tran didn’t want the money: “There’s some other kid out there struggling more … than me,” she said.

According to KHOU, Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace Lanny Moriarty, at the Montgomery County District Attorney’s request, signed an order that vacates the contempt of court conviction that sent Diane Tran to jail last week.

Dad Who Fears Heights Rides Ferris Wheel for 25 Hours to Raise Money

martinez-family.jpgThe Martinez Family. (Pacific Parks)

On Friday morning Gus Martinez broke the world record for the longest time spent on a Ferris wheel. The Los Angeles police detective rode a Santa Monica, Calif. ferris wheel for 25-hours to raise funds and awareness for Special Olympics Southern California.

Martinez’s 23-year-old son, Jason, is a Special Olympics athlete with Down syndrome.

“I am trying to do this for the organization and to put the word out there to recognize people with disabilities,” Martinez told ABC News. “There is nothing but goodness in them and we need to do whatever is in our means to help them.”

“I cannot deal with heights — absolutely not — but as long as I don’t look down I will be fine, I just look at the view,” Martinez went on to say.

Guinness World Records’ strict guidelines for the “Longest Ride On A Fair Ground / Theme Park Attraction” attempts allow a 5-minute break per hour and the contender can never fall asleep.

“Special Olympics athletes are real athletes… no endorsements… no scholarships… just pure joy to train and compete. Being in this SOSC world of athletes, parents, volunteers… it’s a bit of change from working with the crime-related activity I typically focus on day in and day out,” Martinez said in a press release.

California Senate Votes Against Lowering Penalties for Drug Possession

California Senate Votes Against Lowering Penalties for Drug Possession

On Thursday, California State senators rejected a bill that would have downgraded charges for simple possession of heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine from a felony to a misdemeanor.

Senate Bill 1506, by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Fransisco, would have changed the penalty for simple possession of drugs under state law from a felony, which is punishable by up to three years behind bars, to a misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to one year behind bars.

The measure garnered only 11 votes, 10 votes short in the 40-member Senate.

SB 1506 would have made the criminal justice system fairer for blacks and Latinos, who are arrested and sentenced disproportionately for low level drug offenses, according to the bill’s co-sponsors who include the ACLU of California, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, and the California NAACP.

“No data begins to suggest that putting felonies on these mostly young people and incarcerating them for longer periods of time in any way benefits their recovery from drug use,” Leno told the Sacramento Bee.

The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights issued a statement saying the defeat of SB1506 flies in the face of a recent poll finding that 70% of Californians support such a law.

“California Senators had an unprecedented opportunity to create a much needed solution that would save California $200 million per year and make our communities safer. While many state leaders lacked to courage to support reform, Californians continue to watch schools close and vital services end,” read a statement from the Ella Baker Center sent to

NYC Budget Cuts Could Displace 10,800 Low-Income Kids

NYC Budget Cuts Could Displace 10,800 Low-Income Kids

The parents of 10,800 New York City kids are in danger of losing their subsidized child care as early as the end of June due to budget cuts and Mayor Michael Bloomberg restructuring the funding system for day care programs. Day care centers in the city’s Latino, Asian and black communities are the hardest hit.

The Epoch Times breaks down the numbers:

Ronald Richter, commissioner of the New York City ACS, explained 6,500 spots in city-funded centers would lose their funding unless a $71.5 million shortfall is filled.

In addition, 4,300 vouchers, which allow parents to receive subsidized child care at non-city funded centers, would also lose their funding unless an $11.8 million shortfall was filled.

When asked what parents are supposed to do with their children, who no longer have subsidized child care, when they go to work, Richter replied, “We, for families who are losing ACS, are going to work with them to try to answer person by person that question. We will obviously, based on what you are looking at, not have a satisfactory answer for each individual and that is painful.”

Washington Heights, which is predominantly black and Latino could be one of the areas hardest hit by the budgets cuts and restructuring, according to the Manhattan Times:

“The 10033 zip code is wiped out,” explained Nereida Hill, Executive Director of the Washington Heights Day Care Center, located on 175th Street between Broadway and St. Nicholas Avenue.

Hill was referring what amounts to an eradication of most of the early childhood education programs in the 10033 zip code.

Hill noted that while the discussion in light of Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed cuts on recent budget cuts has focused on after-school programs, three daycare service providers - the Washington Heights Day Care Center, Quo Vadis Daycare, and La Familia Day Care - may be forced to close.

Tea Partier Rep. Joe Walsh, (R-Ill) Says Democrats Got Blacks ‘Dependent Upon Government’

Tea Partier Rep. Joe Walsh, (R-Ill) Says Democrats Got Blacks 'Dependent Upon Government'

Won’t spend too much time on this story because Illinois Tea Party Rep. Joe Walsh has an ongoing list of racist remarks against everyone who isn’t white.

Just last month Walsh said President Obama only got elected because he’s black, in March he called the President a ‘sexy messiah’, and last year he accused the media of protecting Obama just because he was black.

And now this, from a town hall meeting in Schaumburg, Illinois on Sunday:

“The Democratic Party promises groups of people everything. They want the Hispanic vote, they want Hispanics to be dependent upon government, just like they got African-Americans dependent upon government. That’s their game. Jesse Jackson would be out of work if they weren’t dependent upon government. There’d be no work for him.”

Racist attacks on poor people are nothing new though. Check out Seth Freed Wessler’s analysis piece on the old familiar ploy.

SunTrust Settles Lending Discrimination Suit for $21 Million‎

On Thursday, the Justice Department announced SunTrust Banks Inc.’s mortgage-lending division would pay $21 million to settle charges that borrowers were charged higher fees based on their race or national origin between 2005 and 2009.

The settlement comes after a two-and-a-half-year investigation by the DOJ which included reviewing internal company documents and data on more than 850,000 residential mortgage loans SunTrust Mortgage originated between 2005 and 2009. The DOJ found SunTrust Mortgage’s regional retail offices and national network of mortgage brokers engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination that increased loan prices for many black and Latino borrowers.

Legal Experts Say Gay Marriage Question Will Hit Supreme Court Before End of 2012

On Thursday, a Boston federal appeals court ruled the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional because it denies equal benefits to gay and lesbian couples. Legal experts believe the gay marriage question will come to the U.S. Supreme Court sometime before the end of the year.

The unanimous three-judge decision marks the first time an appeals court has declared the federal law unconstitutional.

Florida Judge Blocks Restrictive Voter Registration Law

Florida Judge Blocks Restrictive Voter Registration Law

Today, a federal judge blocked key parts of Florida’s restrictive HB 1355 voting law, which after it was passed last year placed onerous demands on organizations wishing to register voters and stage voter registration drives. The Brennan Center for Justice is calling this a “a breakthrough victory for Florida voters and voting rights advocates nationwide.” The mandates placed upon voter registration organizations were so maddeningly difficult to navigate that it caused The League of Women Voters to shut down their registration operations.

The Florida chapter president Deirdre McNab told Al Sharpton on his show, “These new laws frighten people from registering voters.”

It was League of Women Voters’ lawsuit against former Secretary of State Kurt Browning that brought U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle’s injunction.

Said Judge Hinkle: “Together speech and voting are constitutional rights of special significance; they are the rights most protective of all others, joined in this respect by the ability to vindicate one’s rights in a federal court … [W]hen a plaintiff loses an opportunity to register a voter, the opportunity is gone forever, … And allowing responsible organizations to conduct voter-registration drives — thus making it easier for citizens to register and vote — promotes democracy.”

According to the Brennan Center for Justice (PDF), black and Latino Floridians are more than twice as likely to register to vote through community-based voter registration drives than white voters. According to the New York Times, 81,471 fewer Floridians have registered to vote as of May 2012 than during the same period before the 2008 elections.

The voter registraion restrictions were one of just many problems with Florida’s HB 1355 law. The law also impacts early voting, particularly on the Sunday before Election Day, which for at least the last three major elections, thousands of African American churches used for the “Souls to the Polls” campaign. That campaign was largely instrumental in helping President Obama get elected and bringing record voter turnout among Floridians of color. I hope that Judge Hinkle’s decision today is just the first step in knocking down the many other provisions in this bill that place unfair burdens on people of color from trying to participate in democracy freely and fairly.

For more information on registration numbers in Florida among black and Latino voters, see my previous blog, ”Is Black and Latino Voter Registration Threatened or Not?” Also, here’s a press release from the Brennan Center for Justice and a copy of the judge’s decision (PDF).

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