California Voters Will Face Death Penalty Repeal in November

California Voters Will Face Death Penalty Repeal in November

On Monday, the California secretary of state announced a measure to abolish the state’s death penalty qualified for the November ballot. If California voters approve the measure, 725 inmates on Death Row will have their sentences converted to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The measure, dubbed The SAFE California Act, far exceeded the half-million signatures required by the state to qualify and is one of the first initiatives the state cleared for the November ballot.

“Since 1978 we’ve built up the nation’s largest death penalty system, housing a full 20% of the nation’s entire death row population in the most expensive incarceration facility the state has to offer,” Jeanne Woodford, former Warden at San Quentin State Prison and Executive Director at Death Penalty Focus wrote on the SAFE California Act blog.

Sanford Police Chief Resigns Amid Criticism of Trayvon Martin Case

Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee resigned from his position on Monday afternoon. The news comes 57 days after his department declined to arrest neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, according to a city official familiar with the matter.

Orlando Sentinel reports Commissioner Patty Mahany said she received a call from City Manager Norton Bonaparte just after 11 a.m., informing her that Lee has submitted his resignation.

Orlando Sentinel with more details:

“This is absolutely political,” said Mahany, a Lee supporter. “It’s solely political…The city manager felt he had no choice. That there could be no healing with Lee as the police chief.”

Lee, who became Sanford’s police chief in April after 27 years as a Seminole County deputy, stepped down temporarily in March, saying he had become a “distraction.”

“I do this in the hopes of restoring some semblance of calm to a city which has been in turmoil for several weeks,” said Lee, 52, in a brief March 22 news conference.

Lee announced that he was temporarily stepping aside on March 22, a day after Sanford’s city commission expressed a lack of confidence in his handling of the incident.

PHOTO: President Obama Sits In Rosa Parks Bus


President Barack Obama sits on the famed Rosa Parks bus at the Henry Ford Museum following an event in Dearborn, Mich., April 18, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Obama is recreating Park’s famous pose in the image below: Rosa_Parks-bus.jpg

‘Think Like a Man’ Defies Studio Skeptics, But It’s a Bittersweet Celebration


“Think Like a Man,” the No. 1 movie in North America over the weekend came as a shock to the movie industry: the romantic comedy aimed at black audiences grossed $33 million, double what execs predicted. But it’s those same skeptic studio executives who end up winning because the film only cost $13 million to make.

“Think Like a Man,” is based on Steve Harvey’s bestselling book and stars an almost all-black cast.

There’s a common understanding amongst studio executives in Hollywood that films with black protagonists don’t make money and as a result they won’t take risks with films. For reference, Universal’s production budget for the recently released “American Wedding” was $50 million, excluding marketing costs. “The Lucky One” starring Zac Efron which was released last Friday cost about $25 million to make—double the budget of “Think like a man.” (I would argue that “Think Like a Man” had a bigger cast with more recognizable names and it was still a cheaper movie to make than other films opening this weekend…flagging another issue, of course.)

Even highly celebrated director Tyler Perry who consistently rakes in millions at box offices has relatively low budgets for his films. In January, when Perry learned “Star Wars” director George Lucas couldn’t fund his film “Red Tails” he said “movies starring an all African American cast are on the verge of becoming extinct.”

“The first thing they’ll say is that DVD sales have become very soft, so it’s hard for a movie with an all black cast to break-even,” Perry wrote on his website. “Secondly they’ll say, most movies are now dependent on foreign sales to be successful and most “black” movies don’t sell well in foreign markets.”

Is ALEC on the Ropes? As Companies Flee, Critics Target IRS

Is ALEC on the Ropes? As Companies Flee, Critics Target IRS

The hits keep coming for the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. Today, AP reports that Common Cause has filed a complaint with the IRS challenging ALEC’s tax-exempt status. Common Cause points to the obvious lobbying that the conservative organization conducts in state legislatures around the country, to push a mixture of pro-corporate and Tea Party policies.

The complaint comes as big-name companies like Coke, Pepsi and Kraft have been ditching the group. Color of Change and other civil rights advocates began hammering away at those companies for backing ALEC after it became clear the group helped spread the Kill at Will laws that protected George Zimmerman. The pressure led ALEC to announce last week that it’s scrapping its public safety and elections task forces. As Brentin Mock has reported for, the elections task force has helped spread photo ID laws around the country that may disenfranchise millions of voters of color, young people and seniors this year.

Here’s Common Cause on ALEC’s lobbying:

“It tells the IRS in its tax returns that it does no lobbying, yet it exists to pass profit-driven legislation in statehouses all over the country that benefits its corporate members,” said Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause, in a statement. “ALEC is not entitled to abuse its charitable tax status to lobby for private corporate interests, and stick the bill to the American taxpayer.”

Julianne Hing reports for this morning on another area in which ALEC is working hard: Education “reform.” ALEC has drawn up a playbook for state legislators to overwhelm opponents with bills that privatize public education. Hing profiles the way in which Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal—an ALEC star—used that playbook in the most recent legislative session to give his state the nation’s most expansive school voucher program.

(h/t Huffington Post)

Obama Launches Latinos for Obama, Romney Releases Anto-Obama Infographic

Obama Launches Latinos for Obama, Romney Releases Anto-Obama Infographic

On Wednesday the Obama campaign announced the launch of Latinos for Obama along with increased outreach to Latino voters, including phone-banking and knocking on doors. But on Friday, GOP rival Mitt Romney released an infographic illustrating how the Obama administration has allegedly “brought hard times to Hispanics in America”

“It’s no secret that Latinos will be a deciding factor in this election,” Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said in a statement, and the outcome will affect Latinos “for years to come.”

Romney made similar comments earlier this week.

A poll released by the Pew Research Center on Tuesday shows Obama beating former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney 67% to 27% among Latino voters. In 2008, Obama defeated Sen. John McCain 67% to 31% among Latinos.

“We have to get Hispanic voters to vote for our party,” warning that recent polling showing Hispanics breaking in huge percentages for President Obama “spells doom for us,” Romney said at a campaign stop in Florida earlier this week.

On Friday, the Romney campaign released an infographic that he hopes will get him more Latinos.

“Under President Obama, more Hispanics have struggled to find work than at any other time on record,” Team Romney posted on the campaign site. “Hispanics account for nearly 30 percent of Americans living in poverty, an increase under Obama of 2.256 million.”

Adorable Kid Photos by Creative Dad

Adorable Kid Photos by Creative Dad

Here are some of the most original family photos I have ever seen. Wedding photographer Jason Lee captures his adorable two daughters in the most creative scenes, from taping each other to walls to making Thanksgiving dinner. It started when his mom was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Having two young daughters who were constantly sick, Lee wanted a germ-free way for a grandmother to see her granddaughters. I wish I could be this creative with photos of my little one. 

George Zimmerman’s Bail Set at $150K, Apologizes to Martin Family

George Zimmerman's Bail Set at $150K, Apologizes to Martin Family

George Zimmerman apologized to Trayvon Martin’s family Friday morning in a surprise witness stand appearance and moments later a judge agreed he could be released on $150,000 bail in the racially charged case that has captivated the United States.

“I wanted to say I am sorry for the loss of your son,” Zimmerman told the parents of Trayvon Martin, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, who were in the Sanford, Florida, court.

“I did not know how old he was. I thought he was a little bit younger than I am. And I did not know if he was armed or not,” said Zimmerman who 28-years old.

ABC’s Matt Gutman who was at the court house tweeted Zimmerman could leave jail tomorrow. No word on secret location of future housing.

Shocking Video Shows Border Agents Brutally Beating Immigrant Man

Did border agents use excessive force in a deadly effort to clamp down on immigration? That’s the question that will be posed tonight on PBS when “Need to Know” premieres its investigation into the violent death of Anastasio Hernandez-Rojas, a 42-year-old immigrant who beaten and tasered by San Diego-area border agents in 2010. Hernandez-Rojas later was taken to a local hospital where he lated died of his injuries.

The death has resurfaced into the public spotlight now that shocking new video of the beating has emerged. On the tape, more than a dozen border agents can be seen standing over Hernandez-Rojas as the man pleads for his life, yelling, “¡Nooo! ¡Nooo! ¡Déjenme! [Leave me alone!] ¡Nooo! ¡Señores!”

Why the Light Skinned Black Guy Acura Casting Call? Whoopi Goldberg Explains [Video]

Why the Light Skinned Black Guy Acura Casting Call? Whoopi Goldberg Explains [Video]

LGBT Students Tell Their Future Selves How Much Better It Will Get

If you’re looking for a little late afternoon pick-me-up, check no further than “Dear 40-Year-Old Me”, a beautifully moving video put together by the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance. It’s not easy, and certainly not always fun, in most schools for queer kids who have to wage a daily battle with homophobia and gender bias. But these students make it clear that there’s lots of amazingly fun life to live after high school. Watch the whole thing after the jump.


John McCain Just Made a Joke About President Obama Eating his Son’s Dog

John McCain Just Made a Joke About President Obama Eating his Son's Dog

The Mitt Romney campaign has tried to deflect criticism that in 1983 he rode from Boston to Canada with his family dog Seamus in a kennel on top of his roof and driving from Boston to Canada by reminding folks Obama ate dog once. President Obama’s memoir, “Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance,” included a story about him being fed dog meat as a young boy in Indonesia with his stepfather, Lolo Soetoro.

The Obama campaign shot back, with a spokesman suggesting the Romney team was attacking a child, since the Obama act in question took place when he was a kid.

Now Senator John McCain has gotten in to the mix:

Of course, this all started because a conservative blogger decided read Obama’s book again.

Swedish Culture Minister in Cake Stunt: ‘Art Must Be Allowed to Provoke’

Swedish Culture Minister in Cake Stunt: 'Art Must Be Allowed to Provoke'

Sweden’s culture minister Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth said Wednesday that she has no intention of resigning over the cake cutting scandal. A Swedish organization promoting the rights of people of African origin on Tuesday called for the minister to resign for participating in a “tasteless, racist spectacle” that has made international headlines.

“According to Moderna Museet, the cake eating party was intended to highlight the problem of female circumcision, but how this is supposed to be done with a cake depicting a racist caricature of a black woman … is unclear,” said Kitimbwa Sabuni, head of the African Swedish National Association.

HBO’s ‘Girls’ Writer: Defecating is ‘Taking Obama to the White House’

I’ve been avoiding writing about the lack of diversity in HBO’s new series “Girls” because it’s not really news. But the time has come, thanks to the show’s story editor Lesley Arfin.

I really didn’t care much about the “Girls” pilot episode being all white because most TV is all white. In fact, initially I thought it was unfair the show was getting the backlash considering all the white dudes on the most popular sitcom of the decade “Two and a Half Men” never got called out for putting on such a white show.

lesley-arfin-tweet.pngBut on Monday Arfin responded to critics that said “Girls” was too white by tweeting “What really bothered me most about Precious was that there was no representation of ME.” The tweet disappeared Wednesday after some controversy.

That’s not the least bit controversial if you consider some of the other things she’s written.

In an August 2010 post on her blog titled ‘When the shit hits the fan,” Arfin referred to defecating as “dropping off the kids” or “taking Obama to the White House.”

Arfin, a former Vice Magazine columnist, started out as a writer for “Girls” and is now a story editor on the show. “For every season in TV writing (usually) you go up a title, but I’m still pretty low-level so my responsibilities aren’t that concentrated,” Arfin told Vice.

But now that she’s been fanning her own controversies she’s perhaps the most recognized writer after the show’s creator and star Lena Dunham.

Dunham, 24, developed the show that’s centered around her character Hannah and a group of girls in New York City navigating love and careers. The NY Times called it “Sex and the City without Manolos,” a young Carrie Bradshaw in the recession years, if you will.

The show has received a lot of criticism for being all white when it takes place in one of the most diverse places in the world.


UCLA DREAMers Walk Out on Napolitano [Video]

UCLA DREAMers Walk Out on Napolitano [Video]

Janet Napolitano, US Secretary of Homeland Security and the former governor of Arizona, guest lectured at UCLA on Monday and when she praised the controversial Secure Communities program more than a dozen students walked out.

The Daily Bruin with more details: 

About 20 demonstrators walked out of the lecture hall during the speech to protest immigration laws in Arizona and deportations of undocumented students and their families by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, organizers said. The agency is headed by the Department of Homeland Security, which runs under Napolitano’s supervision. As they left the hall, some demonstrators chanted phrases such as “Education, not deportation.”

A number of protesters also chanted the same phrase and “Right to Dream” from outside the building. Their echoes could be heard from inside the lecture hall.

Police officers stood by and monitored the situation, but no confrontations occurred.

“We were trying to make sure that Janet Napolitano addressed the issue of immigration that is so prevalent within the greater L.A. area and within the UCLA community,” said Carlos Castellanos, the external policy chair of IDEAS at UCLA and a third-year political science and philosophy student.

Secure Communities allows federal authorities to peer into the databases of local and county jails to check the finger prints of every person who’s booked. You can read more of’s coverage on the secure communities program by visiting the category page.

Muslim-American Comedians Want to Give Americans a Big Muslim Hug with this Movie [Video]

Muslim-American Comedians Want to Give Americans a Big Muslim Hug with this Movie [Video]

The Muslims are Coming! is a feature documentary film that follows a group of Muslim-American comedians as they go on a tour of Middle America, perform shows, and meet folks who have never met a Muslim before!

Check out the Kickstarter for “The Muslims are Coming” to get the film to a theater near you.

Michelle Obama Calls Trayvon Martin Death ‘Tremendous Loss’ [Audio]

Michelle Obama Calls Trayvon Martin Death 'Tremendous Loss' [Audio]

First lady Michelle Obama says the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida is a “tremendous loss” and that all Americans “have to rally around that piece of it.”

Obama made her first public comments on the case in an interview NPR’s “Tell Me More” host Michel Martin that aired Tuesday. Transcript below:

MRS. OBAMA: Well, you know, first, I — all I can say is that, you know, my heart goes out to the parents, because we all as parents understand the tragedy of that kind of loss, and I think that’s really the thing that most people connect to. And it’s important for us not to lose sight of the fact that this is a family that’s grieving and there’s been a tremendous loss. And we all have to rally around that piece of it.

Talking is good. Conversations have to be forever. You know, they can’t come in spits and starts when there’s an incident. I think we all need, as a country, to continue to talk about these issues, to understand our communities and the challenges that we face, which are different and unique depending upon where you live. It’s all about, you know, continuing to get to know ourselves in a very diverse and complicated country that is America. It is a wonderful place to live. But because it is so diverse, our challenges are complex. So there isn’t, you know, a one-shot solution to this. It is complicated. It takes time. It takes openness. It takes compassion. It takes patience. And it takes a lot of work. So we should all be ready to roll up our sleeves and keep doing that work.

Official Who Banned Mexican-American Studies in Tucson Targets Colleges

Official Who Banned Mexican-American Studies in Tucson Targets Colleges
Huppenthal.jpg John Huppenthal, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction. (Photo: Arizona Department of Education)

First Arizona introduced the anti-immigrant law SB1070 then the Mexican-American studies program was banned at Tucson Unified School District and now Mexican-studies programs at the university level might be next.

InsideHigher ED is reporting John Huppenthal, a state official who spearheaded the attack on the Tucson program appears to have a new target: the department of Mexican-American studies at the university and other such college-level programs in the state.

InsideHigher ED has more details:

John Huppenthal, the superintendent of public instruction in the state and a member of the Arizona Board of Regents, told FOX News Latino last month that the university produced teachers who then taught in programs such as the Tucson school district, where, he said, the curriculum teaches students to hate Anglos. “I think that’s where this toxic thing starts from, the universities,” Huppenthal told Fox News Latino. “To me, the pervasive problem was the lack of balance going on in these classes.”

Huppenthal, who did not respond to requests for an interview, is a controversial figure in Arizona, and his  latest comments have set off another firestorm and added fresh fuel to a debate in the state about how ethnic studies should be taught in the classroom.  Faculty members at the university see his comments as an escalation of the battle that led to the closing of the Tcson program.

Antonio Estrada, who heads the department of Mexican-American studies at the University of Arizona, declined to comment. “Mr. Huppenthal is a member of ABOR [the Arizona Board of Regents] and it would be inappropriate to discuss these issues in the press before they have had a chance to be discussed within the University of Arizona community, beginning with the president,” Estrada said in an e-mail.

Ai-jen Poo, Activist Leading CA Domestic Workers, Makes Time 100

Ai-jen Poo, Activist Leading CA Domestic Workers, Makes Time 100

TIME named Ai-jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, to the 2012 TIME 100, the magazine’s annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Nannies, housekeepers and care workers are excluded from almost every major labor law with the exception of minimun wage laws. Ai-Jen has been fighting to change that.

Ai-jen’s organizing of domestic workers, including a decade long push for the groundbreaking Domestic Workers Bill of Rights in New York State, earned her the epithet “the Nannies’ Norma Ray” from the New York Times. In 2007 she co-founded the National Domestic Workers Alliance to bring dignity and respect to this growing, yet undervalued, workforce nationally. She is also the co-director of Caring Across Generations (CAG), a national campaign including over 200 advocacy organizations working together for quality jobs and a dignified quality of life for all Americans.

The full list appears in the April 30 issue of TIME, available on newsstands on Thursday, April 19, and now at

Racist Cake-Cutting Scandal: Afro-Swedes Call for Action, Artist Speaks

Racist Cake-Cutting Scandal: Afro-Swedes Call for Action, Artist Speaks

A Swedish organization promoting the rights of people of African origin on Tuesday called for the minister to resign for participating in a “tasteless, racist spectacle” that’s made international headlines.

“According to Moderna Museet, the cake eating party was intended to highlight the problem of female circumcision, but how this is supposed to be done with a cake depicting a racist caricature of a black woman … is unclear,” said Kitimbwa Sabuni, head of the African Swedish National Association.

The artist is speaking out and says this is all a misunderstanding.

“A lot of people saw the images online and took them out of context and they accused me and the culture minister to be racist,” the artist Makode Linde said in a video interview with Al Jazeera. He says he’s criticizing aspects of just this subject and think “the people who have been upset about the art piece or about the images they;ve seen I think is all misunderstood the intention or agenda of me as an artist.”

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the museum emphasized that it was against “any form or racism” and that the event featuring the controversial installation was organized by the Swedish Artists’ National Organisation (KRO) to highlight “the fight against censorship and for freedom of expression”.

“Moderna Museet understands and respects that people find the pictures and video clips from World Art Day upsetting, especially when they are shown out of context. The intention of KRO and Makode Linde was to draw attention to and discuss today’s racism, not to reinforce it,” the museum said.

The museum was evacuated Tuesday after they received a bomb threat from an english speaker that accused the museum of being racist.

TAGS: art Sweeden
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