President Obama’s Three SOTU in Pictures and Wordclouds

President Obama's Three SOTU in Pictures and Wordclouds

A visual look at how the President (and themes) have changed in the past three years.

2010: P012710PS-0598 (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) sotu-2010.png

2011: P012511PS-0738 (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)


2012: obama-sotu-2012.jpg (Photo by Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images)


(Wordclouds created with the help of

Viola Davis Tells Charlize Theron She Doesn’t Know What She’s Talking About

Viola Davis Tells Charlize Theron She Doesn't Know What She's Talking About

Regardless of how you feel about the “The Help,” you gotta give it to Viola Davis for consistently shining light on structural issues in the film industry that make it harder for actors of color to get work.

During Newsweek’s Oscar roundtable, Davis tried to speak about the difficulties of being a black actress in Hollywood—but a well-intentioned reply from Charlize Theron illustrates just how disconnected Hollywood can be.

Theron’s response to Davis makes it look like she’s just never considered that there are less roles for black women in Hollywood.

Watch the video and check out our past coverage of Viola Davis, she’s delivered a few gems before.

Obama’s Big Shift: Let’s Truly Investigate the Banking Sector’s Crimes

Obama's Big Shift: Let's Truly Investigate the Banking Sector's Crimes

President Obama said many things at last night’s State of the Union, but the speech really boils down to two very big statements—one about values, the other about policy.

The values statement is rightly getting lots of play this morning: Obama’s core message between now and November will focus on economic inequality, specifically, and equal opportunity broadly. Obama grabbed hold of the debate over taxes and reframed it as a debate over opportunity and fairness. That’ll be a welcome change for the broad swath of communities from which Democrats are seeking support, not just for Obama, but for congressional races as well.

The policy statement last night is an equally huge deal. Obama announced a new task force to investigate financial industry crimes surrounding the mortgage crisis; the unit is to be led by the New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. That appointment alone is a big deal: Financial reform advocates love Schneiderman because he’s been one of few public officials to insist that someone still must be held accountable for the multiple forms of fraud that large financial players committed during the housing boom. Moreover, he’s insisted that the people who lost their homes and their hard-earned wealth in the process deserve restitution. That’s a conversation the White House has avoided like the plague since the day it took office. Last night’s announcement marks a dramatic shift.

The question remains whether Schneiderman’s unit will be window dressing for a get-out-of-jail-free settlement with banks that are currently facing heat from state attorneys general over fraudulent foreclosures.

Here’s the reaction from the New Bottom Line, a relatively new coalition of homeowner advocates and community groups that had been making this very demand loudly for years:

President Obama has heard the calls of the 99% and announced a full, federal investigation into the fraudulent activities of big banks…. We will continue to make sure that this investigation uncovers the truth about the activities of the big banks. And in order to provide real and meaningful relief to millions of homeowners, the end result must be at least $300 billion in principal reduction and restitution for those who have lost their homes, especially targeted at the most hard hit communities. This will reset the housing market and the economy.

I’ll have more on the unit and what it means later this week.

First Lady’s Box at State of the Union Address and the Model Immigrant Narrative

First Lady's Box at State of the Union Address and the Model Immigrant Narrative

“An auto worker, a mayor, and a teacher—find out who else is sitting with the First Lady tonight at the #SOTU,” First Lady Michelle Obama tweeted hours before Tuesday’s State of the Union.

Turns out a few immigrants sat next to the First Lady including a software engineer, a physicist and a lawyer.

“Being proud of our contributions as immigrants is important, but putting highly-skilled workers on a pedestal reinforces the thinking that some immigrants are better and more worthy than others. That’s dehumanizing,” said Mónica Novoa, coordinator of’s Drop the I-Word campaign which is seeking to get the media to stop using the pejorative “illegals” and related terms to describe undocumented immigrants.

“Framing that heavily-favors merit-based immigration reform for highly skilled workers takes us away from solutions that are about family reunification for all and ending the shattering of families.”

Below is a brief bio of the First Lady’s guest this evening:

Mike Krieger is the co-founder of Instagram, the fastest growing social mobile startup in the U.S. today, with over 15 million registered users. Mike was born in São Paulo, Brazil, and moved to California in 2004 to attend Stanford University, where he studied computer science and cognitive science. After graduation, Mr. Krieger worked for a year on his student F-1 visa, later applying for and receiving an H-1B visa as a high-skill worker. Mr. Krieger wants to permanently stay in the U.S. and has applied for a green card.

Dr. Hiroyuki Fujita is founder, president and chief executive officer of Quality Electrodynamics (QED), in Cleveland, Ohio. Coming to America from Japan in 1988 and after receiving his Ph.D. in physics from Case Western Reserve University in 1998, Dr. Fujita chose to continue his professional training in America. In 2006 he started his own company, QED, which is a developer and manufacturer of highly proprietary state-of-the-art MRI radiofrequency antennas.

Juan Jose Redín was born in Ixtapan de la Sal, Mexico before coming with his mother and younger sister to the United States at the age of 10. After enduring many challenges throughout his journey to achieve his dream of higher education. Juan benefited from California’s Assembly Bill 540 and was able to enroll, and excel, in his studies at UCLA. He received both his undergraduate (with honors) and law degrees from UCLA. Now a US citizen and a practicing attorney, Juan is as passionate as ever about ensuring educational access to all.

Year of the Dragon is Year of the 99%: Mamas & Kids Tell Banks, ‘Timeout! You better share!’

Year of the Dragon is Year of the 99%:  Mamas & Kids Tell Banks, 'Timeout! You better share!'

mamas-photo-by-Vay-Hoang.jpgTo kick off the Lunar New Year, the Colorful Mamas of the 99% held a festive, family-friendly protest in front of a Bank of America branch in Oakland’s Chinatown Saturday. Over 50 children, parents and friends gathered to stand up to corporate greed and voice their vision for a better future.

Two families closed their accounts at Bank of America. Andrea Ibarra-Tacdol with her husband, Benjamin Ibarra , and their two children closed their accounts during the action, stating, “We are tired of corporations like Bank of America refusing to pay their fair share, putting profits over people. We plan to move our money to a community bank that invest directly back into the community.”

The protest included an interactive skit with children dressed as a dragon and lion working with the townspeople of “Oaklandia” to create a healthy community where everyone puts in their fair share. The action ended with children leading a march around Bank of America. Children and families chanted “Timeout! You better share!”

“Moms of color carry the brunt of the financial hardships in today’s economy. Our children are disproportionately at risk of home insecurity, food insecurity, and our schools are either being shut down or overcrowded. We lost our home to foreclosure about a year ago and I am currently unemployed. I am participating because corporations like Bank of America need to pay their fair share. I am here today because I want my children to learn to stand up for what they believe in,” said Prishni Murillo, Oakland resident and mother of two children.

Inspired by the Occupy Movement, Colorful Mamas of the 99% emerged out of a local Bay Area playgroup for mamas of color. “We are mothers of color who work or live in the East Bay concerned about the future of our children and the direction that corporate greed is taking our country,” the mamas said in a statement.

We’re ending the day as often as possible by celebrating love. We welcome your ideas for posts. Send suggestions to, and be sure to put Celebrate Love in the subject line. You can send links to videos, graphics, photos, quotes, whatever. Or just chime in to the comments below and we’ll find you. Be sure to let us know you’ve got the rights to share any media you send.

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Calif. Domestic Workers Celebrate Oscar Nod for “The Help”

Calif. Domestic Workers Celebrate Oscar Nod for

Just before 6am this morning more than 500 domestic workers and children were in buses from around the state of California to march for domestic workers rights at the State Capitol in Sacramento when they learned about the Oscar nominations for ‘The Help.’

“I’m on my way to share my story with legislators in Sacramento,” said Maria Reyes, a caregiver from San Francisco. “Just like the women in ‘The Help,’ I believe in the power of our stories.”

“The Help” earned four Oscar nominations today for Viola Davis (Best Actress), Octavia Spencer (Best Supporting Actress), Jessica Chastain (Best Supporting Actres), and the top category, Best Picture.

During the rally on the capital steps Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) said that his legislation requiring overtime pay and meal breaks for domestic workers continues the struggle depicted in “The Help.”

“Despite the fact that they perform essential duties along with day-to-day care for some of the neediest of Californians, domestic workers lack the basic protections covering the vast majority of people who work in our state,” said Assemblyman Michael Allen earlier. “As a result, many domestic workers face harsh if not cruel conditions on the job, from wage theft to physical or sexual abuse. If we are to uphold the principle that there is dignity in all honest work, we must guarantee that domestic workers are treated with respect, fairness and dignity on the job.”

Persian America Goes Hollywood: See Preview of ‘Shahs of Sunset’ [Video]

Persian America Goes Hollywood: See Preview of 'Shahs of Sunset' [Video]

Ryan Seacrest, executive producer of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” has teamed up with “Real Housewives” franchise creator Andy Cohen for “Shahs of Sunset.”

The docu-soap is said to follow a group of young Persian-American friends who juggle living and working in Los Angeles while balancing the demands of their families and traditions.

And it looks like it’s equal parts “Jersey Shore” and “Real Housewives” with maybe a dash of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.”

Ryan Seacrest’s ‘Shahs of Sunset’ Will Debut March 11 on Bravo.

Public viewing for Etta James in Los Angeles

Public viewing for Etta James in Los Angeles

A public viewing for the late Etta James will be held at Inglewood Cemetery Mortuary on Friday, a family representative told the LA Times.

The viewing will be held at Inglewood Cemetery Mortuary from 5 to 10 p.m. in the Manchester Chapel.

James’ family said donations in the singer’s memory may be sent to the the Rhythm and Blues Foundation. Flowers also will be welcomed.

James died last week at age 73. “A Political Obituary of Etta James” was published earlier today on

Homelessness on the Rise for Female Veterans, African-Americans Hit Hardest

Last month the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report that found the number of women veterans that are homeless has grown substantially and the majority are black women.

“As more women serve in the military, the number of women veterans has grown substantially, doubling from 4 percent of all veterans in 1990 to 8 percent, or an estimated 1.8 million today,” Daniel Bertoni, Director of Education, Workforce, and Income Security Issues at the GAO, writes in the report. (PDF)

And like their male counterparts, sometimes these women face challenges readjusting to civilian life. According to the report the most at risk are women veterans who have disabling psychological conditions resulting from military sexual trauma and those who are single mothers.

According to the report 45% of homeless veterans they identified were black women, 41% white, 7.6% Latinas, and 1.3% were API. The majority of those homeless are veterans who fought in the Persian Gulf Period or after (8/90-present)—including conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The report makes several recommendations including allocating more funds for outreach to prevent veterans being homeless. The report also makes sets a goal of ending veteran homelessness by 2015

Romney’s ‘Self-Deportation’ Plans Already in Place in Arizona, Alabama

Romney's 'Self-Deportation' Plans Already in Place in Arizona, Alabama

At Monday night’s Republican presidential debate in Florida, Mitt Romney said his plan for reducing the number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S was “self-deportation.”

“The answer is self-deportation, which is people decide they can do better by going home because they can’t find work here because they don’t have legal documentation to allow them to work here,” Romney said. “And so we’re not going to round people up.”

Some members of the audience at the debate laughed when Romney explained his deportation plan but’s immigration blogger Julianne Hing says the former Massachusetts Governor’s plans are nothing new.

“It’s at the heart of Arizona’s SB 1070 and Alabama’s HB 56, as well as dozens of local anti-immigrant ordinances that have popped up through the years,” Hing says.

“The concept of ‘self-deportation,’ which is what the right-wing calls ‘attrition through enforcement,’ is a strategy for dealing with the country’s undocumented immigrant population that says: let’s make life as difficult as possible for immigrants so they’re forced to leave. Let’s make looking for work, working, driving a car, renting a house a crime for undocumented immigrants, and then they’ll leave on their own,” Hing explained.

“The thing is immediately after Arizona and Alabama’s laws passed, there were reports that undocumented immigrants did leave in droves. In a sense, it works. But the exodus, in Alabama in particular, hurt the state’s agriculture business, and the boycott of Arizona deeply damaged the state’s reputation,” Hing said.

“The strategy comes at a deep political and economic cost.”

Latinos See Strong Presence in 2012 Oscar Nominees List

Latinos See Strong Presence in 2012 Oscar Nominees List

Latinos, the fastest growing ethnic group in the United States, are seeing themselves in several Oscar categories including best actor and best cinematographer.

A big surprise in today’s nominations was Mexican actor Demián Bichir getting a Best Actor in a Leading Role nod for his role in “A Better Life.” Bichir plays an undocumented gardener living in East L.A. who struggles to keep his son away from gangs and immigration agents while trying to give his son the opportunities he never had.

Bichir is the second Mexican-born actor in history to be nominated in the Leading actor category. Anthony Quinn is the only other Mexican-born actor to be nominated in the Leading and supporting role categories.

“Hopefully more and more people will jump into iTunes and Netflix to see our film,” Bichir told US Weekly this morning. “That will be the biggest reward we could get. I dedicate this nomination to those 11 million human beings who make our lives easier and better in the U.S.”

Mexican cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki is in the Best Cinematography category for his work in “The Tree of Life.”

Also recognized in the Animated Feature Film category is “Chico & Rita, by Spanish filmmakers Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal.

“Real in Rio,” a song by Brazilian musician Sérgio Mendes (with lyrics by Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” co-songwriter Siedah Garrett) is a nominee for Best Song.

Bérénice Bejo, got a nod in the Best Supporting Actress category for her role in “The Artist” was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Spanish composer Alberto Iglesias is also in the Original Score competition for the music of “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.”

The Oscar awards ceremony will air on Sunday February 26 on ABC.

TAGS: Latino Oscars

Meryl Streep’s 17th Oscar Nomination for Her Role in a Movie Some Say We Didn’t Need

Meryl Streep's 17th Oscar Nomination for Her Role in a Movie Some Say We Didn't Need

Meryl Streep continues her streak as the most nominated performer in academy history. Monday’s nomination for her role as Margaret Thatcher, the United Kingdom’s first female British prime minister, in “The Iron Lady” was her 17th nomination. She’s widely considered to be the greatest living actress. And from speech patterns to mannerism to posture, Streep’s impersonation of Thatcher was flawless.

But some critics argue that the filmmakers presented Thatcher more as a “grocer’s daughter from Grantham” and less as a prime minister who left thousands hungry when she decided decided nuclear power was a better energy source than unionized coalfields. The film also ignored the families in Toxteth (inner city Liverpool) and Brixton (a largely black neighborhood in London) whom Thatcher agreed were living in a “concentration of hopelessness” that was “very largely self-inflicted” and not worth government repair, explains British-American journalist Laura Flanders in “The Nation.”

“The Iron Lady” is “the last thing we need, ever, and especially at this point,” Flanders, who hosts GRITtv, went on to say.

In an opinion piece for the The Nation, Flander’s explains why she believes “The Iron Lady” is the “Margaret Thatcher movie we don’t need.”

Think of Thatcher and I think of the hungry people who started showing up in villages in Yorkshire and Scotland and Wales where work was scarce because Thatcher’s experts decided nuclear power was a better energy source than unionized coalfields. Miners went on strike — for a year. Their wives and children collected soup-kitchen money from their churches and their neighbors and when they ran out, they went down to London where they tried to tell their story of helmeted horsemen charging the ranks of union strikers and police bashing men’s heads in. But Londoners didn’t believe them. They’d heard the miners were greedy and dangerous and a threat to their jobs. After all, “trade union power is the true cause of unemployment,” said Thatcher. The 1984 strike by the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) gets a couple of seconds on screen in Lloyd’s film, but there’s no explanation, no follow-up and no consideration: does anyone wish now that they’d listened to the miners then?

“There is no such thing as society. Only individuals.” Thatcher also said. With more spending by successive Thatcher governments on police (so-called “law and order”) and less on just about everything else, “no society” became true soon enough. The Iron Lady shows Prime Minister Thatcher overruling her “wet” male colleagues over waging war with Argentina. A few hundred far-off Falkland Islanders were worth fighting for, she famously decided. A take-control feminist? The film ignores the families in Toxteth (inner city Liverpool) and Brixton (a largely black neighborhood in London) whom Thatcher found it quite acceptable to sacrifice. Cabinet papers released by the National Archives just now under a 30-year rule reveal Thatcher’s closest advisers told her that the “concentration of hopelessness” on Merseyside was “very largely self-inflicted” and not worth government repair.

Flanders goes on to say depiction of draconian cuts as feminist guts in the “The Iron Lady” is “chilling.”

“What Thatcher called “harsh medicine” meant one thing for the poor and another for the very powerful then, and it still does. In both instances, there is hell to pay in social fabric.”

Ringing in the Year of the Dragon, With Love


A Chinese performer dressed in dragon costumes prepares to perform at a temple fair to celebrate the Lunar New Year of Dragon on January 22, 2012 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)

We’re ending the day as often as possible by celebrating love. We welcome your ideas for posts. Send suggestions to, and be sure to put Celebrate Love in the subject line. You can send links to videos, graphics, photos, quotes, whatever. Or just chime in to the comments below and we’ll find you. Be sure to let us know you’ve got the rights to share any media you send.

To see other Love posts visit our Celebrate Love page.

New Jersey Gov. Christie Nominates Openly Gay African-American Man to Supreme Court

On Monday, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie nominated an openly gay African-American Republican mayor and a Korean-American assistant attorney general to the state’s highest court.

Kwon would be the first Asian-American to sit on the state Supreme Court, and Harris would be the first openly gay justice.

Last year he also appointed Muslim-American lawyer Sohail Mohammed to the state’s superior court.

Christie, who’s a Republican, has been known to spread a conservative agenda across the state. In 2010 he sparked outrage when he refused to reappoint a key Democrat-affiliated justice that would have maintained a partisan balance on the bench.

President Obama Wishes Everyone a Happy Lunar New Year! [Video]

President Obama Wishes Everyone a Happy Lunar New Year! [Video]
TAGS: celebrations

Aretha Franklin Calls off Her Wedding

aretha-franklin-2012.jpgOn January 2nd Aretha Franklin announced she and her long time partner William ‘Willie’ Wilkerson were engaged to be married but on Monday the Queen of Soul announced the engagement is off.

“Will and I have decided we were moving a little too fast, and there were a number of things that had not been thought through thoroughly. There will be no wedding at this time,” Franklin said in a statement to the Associated Press. “We will not comment on it any further because of the very personal and sensitive nature of it. We appreciate all of the many well wishes from friends.”

“We’re very compatible, and he supports me and I support him a lot, and he has given me specialized attention that I don’t think I’ve received from anyone else,” she went on to say.

It’s unclear if the Franklin and Wilkerson are still together. 

(Photo: Aretha Franklin and “longtime friend” Willie Wilkerson arrive at Aretha Franklin’s Birthday Dinner at Park Lane Hotel on March 25, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Monica Morgan/WireImage)

Alabama Students Prep Week Long Actions Against HB56 [Video]

Alabama Students Prep Week Long Actions Against HB56 [Video]

A group of college students in Birmingham, Alabama are organizing “A Week of Direct Action Against HB 56” that will run from Jan. 30 through Feb. 3.

The actions will include students from University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham Southern College, Samford University, the University of Montevallo and Jefferson State Community College.

“The fact we’re a multi-campus group shows we’re starting to unify and ready to show how against this bill we are,” A.T. Helix, a UAB student and one of co-organizers of the event, told WBRC.

Caller Confuses Sherri Shepherd and Yvette Nicole Brown for Octavia Spencer On Live TV [Video]

Caller Confuses Sherri Shepherd and Yvette Nicole Brown for Octavia Spencer On Live TV [Video]

Yvette Nicole Brown who stars in “Community” and Sherri Shepherd of the “The View” were guests on “Watch What Happens Live” last night and according to the two African-American actresses they get mixed up for stars of “The Help” all the time. And there’s proof…because it happened on live tv.

‘Mosquita y Mari’ World Premiere at Sundance a ‘Smashing Sucess’

'Mosquita y Mari' World Premiere at Sundance a 'Smashing Sucess'

“Mosquita y Mari” had its world premiere Sunday at the Sundance Film Festival to a packed house. The show was sold out online days before the premiere and it was a “smashing success,” according to one of the film’s representatives.

The film “Mosquita y Mari” explores the complexities of a blossoming friendship between two Chicana high schoolers in Los Angeles’ Huntington Park as they navigate through life when they realize they see each other as more than just friends.

Director Aurora Guerrero says she’s been inspired queer, women of color feminist writers, in particular Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa.

‘Red Tails’ Comes in Second, Scores $19 Mil. at Weekend Box Office

'Red Tails' Comes in Second, Scores $19 Mil. at Weekend Box Office

It took 23 years to make and George Lucas had to fund production, advertising and distribution himself but ‘Red Tails’ had a strong opening this weekend.

Lucas’ film that chronicles WWII’s African-American Tuskegee airmen was rejected by all seven major film studios because they said they didn’t know how to advertise a film with an entire cast of all black leads and that it wouldn’t make money abroad. But so far box office numbers are proving there is an audience for a film in which all the protagonists are black.

“The strong debut came out of 2,512 theaters, which gave Red Tails a hefty $7,604 per theater average, the second-best in the Top 20,” reports Entertainment Weekly.

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