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Bolling tells Rep. Waters: "Step away from the crack pipe"

Bolling tells Rep. Waters: "Step away from the crack pipe"

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Bank Settlement Leaves Much to be Desired

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Bank settlement leaves much to be desired

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10 Facts About Contraception (And How It Changed the World) That Every Man and Woman Should Know

A few years ago at a book signing with fellow congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi shared an anecdote about the sometimes strange experience of being a woman in the still predominantly man's world known as Congress. She recalled how early in her career she and another female elected official found themselves as the only women regularly dining at a table full of male elected officials. The men rarely acknowledged their female counterparts or asked their opinion on any political or policy issue. But one day the subject turned to childbirth. Being that she and the other female official were the only two real authorities on the subject (since they were the only two at the table who had actually given birth), Pelosi presumed that this would present an opportunity for their voices to be heard and valued by their male colleagues. Imagine her surprise when two of the men began speaking over one another to share their stories of "being there" for the birth of their children, before moving on to another topic before the women ever had a chance to speak. I remember chuckling, along with the other women in the room, at how silly men in power used to behave, and being relieved that things have changed so much. Apparently we laughed too soon. Not only has the fight over access to contraception been led entirely by men (President Obama on one side, Sen. Marco Rubio and House Speaker John Boehner on the other), but a recent report has confirmed that the voices that have dominated this debate in media have been overwhelmingly male, as well. By a nearly 2-to-1 margin male guests and commentators outnumbered females in discussions of the contraception controversy on news programs. Sen. Rick Santorum's inaccurate remarks regarding the cost of contraception served as a powerful reminder of the severe handicap our political discourse suffers when women are not permitted to speak for themselves on the issues that directly affect them. Before contraception was widely available, there were far fewer women able to do just that, because of the physical, emotional, and financial demands that giving birth to and raising sometimes more than a dozen children (something my great-grandmother did) required. Maybe that's the point. Maybe some of these elected officials fighting so hard to make contraception as inaccessible as possible want to return to the good old days when contraception was virtually impossible to come by, and therefore men were able to rule the world and, more importantly, their households. Men were able to enjoy absolute power in the legal system and in domestic life without fear that a woman could carve out some semblance of financial and political independence that would enable her to engage in such scandalous behavior as running for office or leaving an abusive relationship. Because after all, where would a woman with six, or seven, or eight small children to care for really go, even if she had a good reason to? With that in mind, below is a list of the most powerful ways contraception has impacted and continues to impact the world, from issues such as literacy to life expectancy rates of women. I'm sure there are more than 10, so please feel free to add to the list in the comments section below. 1. In countries with the highest fertility rates , women have the shortest life expectancies. Women in Sierra Leone live half as long as women in developed countries and 10 years less than their African counterparts in some African countries, and no, this is not merely due to the history of civil unrest. One in eight Sierra Leonean women die in childbirth. In other countries like Chad , where women are likely to give birth to six or more children, women are lucky to live to age 55. 2. In countries with the highest fertility rates, women have the fewest rights. In countries like Niger and Mali , both of which fall in the top 10 for countries with the greatest number of births per woman, women and young girls can still be forced into marriages. A recent case in Niger documented a 9-year-old girl forced to "marry" a 50-year-old man. 3. Countries with low contraception usage have the lowest number of women who can read. In Afghanistan, which continues to have one of the highest fertility rates in the world , and where contraception knowledge and access remains limited (and women give birth to an average of six children), 87 percent of women cannot read. In Sierra Leone the number is 71 percent . 4. Men who physically abuse their partners fear contraception. (Think about that for a moment.) A national study of more than 3,000 abused women conducted by the National Domestic Violence Hotline found that one in four said their partners sabotaged, hid, or prohibited use of birth control as a form of control in an already abusive relationship. These findings confirmed those of a number of smaller studies . 5. When contraception availability goes down, abortion rates go up. Abortion remains illegal in the Philippines, but for the last decade the nation's capital, Manila, has been at the heart of a battle over contraception. Contraception was stigmatized and difficult to access prior to 2000, when contraception was prohibited altogether by an executive order . (It is not unusual for women who have come of age in the city during the time period of the ban to have more than 10 children .) While the abortion rate in the country has barely changed in recent years, the rate in Manila increased by more than 10 percent . So has the number of women dying of complications from illegal abortions. 6. Countries with the highest fertility rates have the highest poverty rates. Ten of the countries with the world's highest fertility rates are located in Africa. Between 1990 and 2001, the African continent experienced what is deemed "extreme population growth." The number of those on the continent living in "extreme poverty" ballooned from 231 million to 318 million . 7. Before contraception* American women were statistically more likely to die in childbirth than they are today. At the start of the 20th century, the maternal mortality rate in America was approximately 65 times higher than it is today. During the 17th and 18th centuries, long before modern contraception became widely available, the average American woman gave birth to between five and eight children. Her likelihood of dying in childbirth increased with every birth. The number of women who died in childbirth or its immediate aftermath was one in every eight women. *Forms of contraception have been available since ancient times (click here to see ancient forms of contraception), but contraception did not become widely available in the U.S. until the Supreme Court's landmark ruling in Griswold v. Connecticut in 1965. Click here to read about Griswold and other key contraception cases.) 8. Before contraception men greatly outnumbered American women in colleges. Today, women outnumber men. In 1960, just before the Griswold decision, only 35 percent of college students were women. Today women represent at least 57 percent of students on most college campuses. 9. Before contraception there were no female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. Katherine Graham became the first female CEO of a Fortune 500 company when she became Chairman of the Washington Post Company in 1973. She inherited the publication from her husband, who had inherited the role from Graham's father, but Graham succeeded far beyond anyone's expectations. Since her trailblazing ascent, more than a dozen other women have reached the highest rung on the corporate ladder with a record-breaking 18 women serving as CEOs of Fortune 500 companies in 2011, the largest number in history. 10. Before contraception women were virtually invisible in Congress. Just before contraception became officially legal in the U.S. (1965), there were 20 women in the House of Representatives and one female senator, Margaret Chase Smith. None of them were women of color. (Patsy Mink, an Asian American, was elected to her first term the year Griswold was decided by the Supreme Court.) Today there are 76 women in the House. Fourteen of them are African American, four of them are Asian American, and seven are Latina. There are 17 women in the Senate. And for the record, I doubt any of them want to return to the days when men spoke and voted for them, or for any of the rest of us blessed with ovaries. Keli Goff is the author of The GQ Candidate and a Contributing Editor for Loop21.com , where this post originally appeared.

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Bank Settlement: $25 Billion Down, $675 Billion to Go

This week a $25 billion settlement was announced in which big banks pay up for a portion of their bad deeds in the home foreclosure crisis. Everyone is trying to determine whether this is a good deal or a bad deal. Here is how I score it. This deal represents small progress on a small problem. Now it's time to make big progress on the big problem. Don't count on finding many good points in the deal itself, because there aren't a lot. In fact, the main win can be found in what's NOT in the deal. A truly horrible deal would have let the banks write a small check and then seal the door on all further investigations and pursuits of accountability. This deal does NOT do that. Because this settlement limits legal immunity for banks, this deal does not automatically let the banks off the hook for all of their wrong-doing. Except for a few issues like robo-signing, state attorneys general can still fight for more compensation and relief for the banks' victims. Government officials can proceed with investigating and prosecuting banks for their role in crashing the economy and the housing market. In other words, the door is still open to solve the much bigger problems we face. Our fight for justice can, and will, continue. That is small comfort, perhaps, but it was hard won. So we should honor the hard work of New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, California Attorney General Kamala Harris and others, including many grassroots progressive organizations like New Bottom Line. They fought courageously to prevent a total sweetheart deal for the banks. This outcome is the result of determined activism, and without this heroic effort, the deal would have been drastically worse. That said, there is a reason why many progressives and housing advocates are furious, and why many struggling homeowners are left wondering, "How does this help me?" Millions of homeowners and families are still suffering under the tremendous weight of a debt blanket that is smothering the economy. This $25 billion settlement helps only a fraction of those homeowners and addresses only a very limited set of fraudulent behaviors. A number of homeowners will get some cash payments, but the amounts are negligible compared to the pain and injustice they have experienced. The actual total cash paid out by the banks is only $5 billion dollars, to be split among the nation's largest banks -- hardly a stiff penalty considering that the six largest banks in the U.S. paid $144 billion in bonuses last year. And enforcement mechanisms remain murky. We must not forget the more than 14 million homeowners (one in five) whose homes are underwater, beneath a crushing total $700 billion in negative equity. We must not forget the more than 4 million families who have lost their homes. We must not forget the millions of families who are in some form of foreclosure proceedings on this very day. These are the Americans who have suffered and continue to suffer. They are worried today, like yesterday, whether they will still have a home to live in tomorrow. They are the ones who must choose every month whether to pay bills or to feed their children. Here are three things that must happen next: 1) The U.S. Department of Justice and state attorneys general must investigate and prosecute banks more aggressively than ever, at a much larger scale than anything that has happened to date. 2) We must force banks to make massive principal reduction of hundreds of billions of dollars, to immediately relieve the 14 million homeowners in the country who have underwater mortgages. 3) We must change laws and regulations to prevent this kind of crisis and fraud from ever happening again. Two weeks ago, I called for hundreds of billions in principal reduction for homeowners. This would free up Americans to start new businesses, spend money on worthwhile products and services, and invest in their children's futures. We still need to address the $700 billion in negative equity, which in turn is only part of the nearly seven trillion dollars in total lost equity created by the banks' irresponsible, and in some cases, illegal practices. We need a solution at the scale of the problem, so that families can get back on their feet, the economy can get working, and people can reach for their American dreams again instead of watching them drown. That is why I say: $25 billion down, $675 billion to go.

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How We Can REALLY Honor the Legacy of Don Cornelius

When the world heard of the tragic passing of Don Cornelius, we had different reactions. Some were in disbelief, others paid homage to the legend with a “Soul Train line” in Times Square, while many reflected on his immense impact on society. SEE ALSO: Is Black History Month Hard On Black Folks? BLACK HISTORY MONTH GAME CHANGER: Meet The First Black Female U.S. Coast Guard Helicopter Pilot But one thing most people either chose not to accept or simply did not want to accept was the fact that Don Cornelius was dealing with serious internal issues; so much so that he took his own life. No matter what the root cause, poor mental health is a dangerous issue that people unfortunately do not address – especially in our community. And yet it continues to destroy the lives of those suffering from it (and of their loved ones). Because mental health and depression are such significant and critical issues, it’s only right to enlist the expertise of someone qualified to speak on the subject. That’s why, this week, I’m honored to have Terrie Williams, clinical therapist and veteran public relations counselor give us her words of wisdom: We are all mourning the loss this week of Soul Train creator and cultural icon, Don Cornelius.  An American success story, Don left us with a 35-year history lesson in business acumen, cultural exportation, and community uplift.  That’s all good. We should take some time to measure and celebrate Don’s legacy.  That’s easy.  What’s not easy is to discuss how and why he died.  Yes, he hid his demons well. But clearly they were there because this 75-year old icon with a body of work most of us will never achieve chose to end his own life with a gunshot to the head. By all accounts, Don was a very private man. True to form, he didn’t leave a note so we don’t know what moved him to end his life. What we do know is that we did not have to lose Don this way. This silence about depression is now killing us.  It is real. It is deadly. And, it does not discriminate. According to the World Health Organizations, by the year 2020, depression will be the second leading cause of death behind heart disease for everyone. As a veteran public relations counselor and clinical therapist who manages her own depression, I know for sure we all need to learn to identify its symptoms – what it looks like, sounds like and feels like — and get help for those that need it. We must take care of our mental health… and get a “check-up from the neck up.” My heartfelt love and prayers go out to Don’s family, friends. Terrie M. Williams is the author of Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting and the co-founder of The Stay Strong Foundation.  You can follow her at twitter.com/terriewilliams or visit http://www.storiesthatheal.samhsa.gov or www.thestaystrongfoundation.org. BLACK HISTORY MONTH GAME CHANGER: Committed Resident Rebuilds New Orleans SEE ALSO: First Lady Hits Road For “Let’s Move” Anniversary

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Contraception Isn’t a PR Game; It’s a Woman’s Right

In public relations, 'spin' is the term people use when they would like a topic or story covered in a specific manner, in a certain light. In the realm of politics, unfortunately, some elected officials and their mouthpieces like to apply the same tactics while masking the truth from everyone. Case in point: contraception and the Catholic Church. Before falling victim to the hype, let's get one thing clear, this issue isn't about religious freedom or the federal government; it is about the rights of women all across this country to have access to appropriate care. It is about protecting the rights of those workers at religious institutions who may not be of that faith (and have no choice but to find work there), but deserve the same health care that a woman in corporate America does. This is about the notion that some religiously affiliated hospitals and schools receive federal money and therefore cannot deny a woman a federal guarantee. Let's get one thing straight, this is real 'class warfare' from the right and this time the victims are the most vulnerable -- women from lower-income neighborhoods. Everyday, women from all corners of this nation head to work in religious Catholic hospitals and universities providing the necessary services so many of us rely on. Even in my hometown of New York City, many of the finest hospitals are religiously affiliated, and simultaneously staffed by an overwhelming number of women from the outer boroughs of Manhattan or from poorer neighborhoods within the city. In the unfortunate circumstance that you fall gravely ill in the Big Apple, chances are pretty high that a nurse, secretary, orderly, etc. helping to save your life works at this institution not because of her unyielding faith to religion, but because of her dedication to helping others. And though we may not want to face reality, often times, this woman is working at this facility because there simply are no other options available for her to provide for her family. Don't these women deserve the same rights as those on Wall St.? Why should they be denied access to contraception because their employer may be religiously opposed to the idea? If an institution is employing women from all sectors of society, how can they possibly dictate what these women can and cannot do when it comes to their own bodies? As pundits and legislators scream about the federal government infringing on the religious rights of people, they might want to remember that many of these religious facilities have no trouble accepting federal aid. From Medicare to Medicaid and more, these institutions are taking taxpayer money to provide services, and should therefore provide appropriate coverage for their own employees. You cannot accept money from the federal government and then turn around and say 'federal government, you must do what I say'. This is hypocrisy at its highest and a coy attempt at slowly stripping away the liberties of all women. First, they will attack those without a voice; tomorrow, they will attack you. There's a reason why most women -- including Catholic women -- use birth control and have no objection to its widespread usage. Unlike what the spin-doctors would have you believe, birth control pills aren't only utilized to prevent pregnancies, but rather a multitude of women use them for other health care needs. From regulating a woman's menstrual cycle to preventing ovarian problems, women everywhere take birth control as a means of protecting their own health, their bodies and the health of their future children. No one should be denied that right. As Republicans realize more and more everyday that their potential candidate (whoever that may be) doesn't present a real challenge to the President, they will continue to fabricate these sorts of social wedge issues. Playing games with people's beliefs, they will try to make us think that President Obama is somehow infringing on our religious freedoms, when he in fact already exempted over 300,000 Churches from this rule. But when a religious institution employs people of all faiths and services people from all faiths, they have no right to obstruct women from having access to vital services. If it's women today, tomorrow they could just as easily decide to stop offering coverage to homosexuals, divorced individuals or any other group. Where would you draw the line? Don't believe the spin, this isn't about religious freedom, this isn't about the President, this isn't about states' rights; it's about women -- all women -- having the ability to control their own health and well-being. And no man, hospital or university should ever be allowed to tell them otherwise.

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7 Lessons From Komen-Gate: What the Komen Controversy Taught Us About Race, Class and Cancer

All of us have survived the awkwardness of a friend's breakup or divorce and having to endure the inevitable social pressure to choose sides. Perhaps the only thing more awkward than telling one friend that you won't be attending his upcoming wedding to the woman he left your other friend for is choosing sides only to find out that against all odds, your friends are actually reconciling, and every horrible thing you said to one about the other, like, "I always thought you were too good for him anyway," the formerly soon-to-be-ex now knows. Welcome to the world of those of us who care about women's health. It's been a whirlwind week for the Susan G. Komen Foundation, Planned Parenthood and any woman or man who cares about both organizations. The Komen Foundation's initial withdrawal of funding from Planned Parenthood, the ensuing backlash and subsequent reversal and reconciliation has left many reeling. For some, the end result means the matter is resolved and it is simply time to move on. Others feel as though healing is not that easy, and they've been left with post-traumatic stress disorder, philanthropic edition. Regardless of where you stand on the issue -- and which member of the couple you took sides with during this trial separation -- there are lessons all of us who care about women's health and social change can glean from this saga. A few of them are below. Feel free to weigh in with your own in the comments section. 7. Despite a complicated history, wealthy white women and poor minority women know that we are all in this together. Wealthy white women and poor women of color have a complex history. Since our nation's inception, white women of means have relied on poor women of color to help them keep their homes and care for their families. (Some of my own family members did just that.) As stories like The Help have reminded us, such relationships have bred empathy and unbreakable bonds across barriers of race and class among some, while fueling resentment among others. These resentments burst into the open during the feminist movement when many women of color, who had struggled to find a place within the civil rights movement where they encountered sexism, felt equally excluded from the mainstream feminist movement because of racism and classism. Komen-gate briefly reopened old wounds. Watching Komen founder Nancy Brinker , a former ambassador with the Bush administration, trying desperately to undo one of the worst philanthropic PR implosions in recent memory while decked out in her crisp suits, expensive jewelry and perfectly coifed hair, it was hard not see a woman who has probably never thought about how her maid pays for her breast exams. Luckily, there were plenty of other powerful, educated women who do think about such things, and who recognized that when it comes to women's health we're all in this together. Those women made their voices heard, online and with their wallets, and because of them more low-income women -- many of them of color -- will continue to receive the lifesaving healthcare that they need. 6. Women's health is not a women's issue. Women's health issues are often talked about in the media and in the world of politics as if they only matter to women. But for every female activist, legislator and voter whose life has been touched by a gender specific health scare, be it breast cancer or a high-risk pregnancy, there is a man whose life they have touched. Many of those men came out in full force this week, among them Mayor Michael Bloomberg whose $250,000 matching pledge to Planned Parenthood inspired the Livestrong Foundation, founded by cycling legend and cancer-survivor Lance Anrmstrong, to pledge $100,000 to the organization. 5. Cancer doesn't care what color you are, or how much money you have, but plenty of politicians do. The timing was oddly apropos. The same week that Mitt Romney declared that he's " not concerned about the very poor ," because they enjoy "safety nets," the Komen controversy reminded us that those so-called safety nets don't catch everybody when they fall. Black women are statistically more likely to die from breast cancer than other women due to the disease often being caught later. Early detection is key, but when you are poor preventative medical care is a luxury, and race is still very much intertwined with the politics of poverty in our country. What I find confusing is that many of the same politicians who oppose funding for Planned Parenthood also oppose universal healthcare reform. I thought part of the rationale for opposing universal healthcare was the belief that private organizations should step in to fill the void of government when it comes to addressing the needs of the needy. Isn't that precisely what Planned Parenthood was doing by providing breast cancer screenings to low income-women? Groups like Planned Parenthood literally save lives, which brings me to number 4... 4. Planned Parenthood is not an abortion group. Planned Parenthood and it's supporters will likely look back on the last few days as among the most important -- and empowering -- in the nearly century old organization's existence. Not only has the Komen controversy provided Planned Parenthood with a fundraising bonanza (it raised $3 million dollars since the Komen news first became public) but it provided the group with something much more valuable: the kind of public relations money can't buy. For years, Planned Parenthood has been losing the messaging war to conservatives, intent on depicting it as nothing more than a well-oiled killing machine. (Sen. Jon Kyl famously, or rather infamously, accused Planned Parenthood of spending 90 percent of its services on abortion. The real figure is 3 percent but that fact didn't matter to many.) I had family members who thought that Planned Parenthood was synonymous with abortion. Not any more. Now thanks to Komen-gate everyone and their mother -- literally -- know that Planned Parenthood is just what it has always proclaimed itself to be: a women's health organization, helping women to address their reproductive needs, and to receive lifesaving exams to help protect them from breast cancer. 3. Men in power that use birth control when they need it see nothing wrong with using their power to deprive women in need from using it. When I found out that Sen. David Vitter was among the elected officials spearheading the investigation into Planned Parenthood that was blamed for the Komen Foundation's initial plans to terminate grants to the organization, I thought I was reading a headline from The Onion . In case you have forgotten, Sen. Vitter was enmeshed in a sex scandal involving a prostitute (at least I think it was "a prostitute," for all I know it could have been several) and let's just say firsthand accounts, courtesy of the escort service, make it clear that Vitter very much believes in using contraception. Apparently men in power trying to avoid political scandal should have easy access to contraception. It's just poor women, reliant on groups like Planned Parenthood, who shouldn't. Vitter is not alone in his thinking. Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich condemned the Obama administration's ruling to make contraception available to all women, regardless of who their employer is, under the new healthcare law. Of course, the obvious question that leaves many of us with is, did he feel that way years ago, when his current wife/then-girlfriend Callista was in childbearing years, he was married to someone else and leading the charge to investigate the president for a scandal stemming from an affair. I don't know the answer but he or his campaign representatives are welcome to weigh in with a response in the comments below. Click here to see the top two lessons. Keli Goff www.keligoff.com is the author of The GQ Candidate and a Contributing Editor to Loop21.com where this piece originally appeared.

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New York files massive bank fraud lawsuit

New York files massive bank fraud lawsuit

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Why They Keep Attacking Michelle Obama

When we think of a First Lady, any First Lady, we often reflect on how distinct, prestigious or significant her role is. As the virtual Ambassador for the President, the First Lady usually provides a more human side for the highest office in the land. She is an extension of the Commander-in-Chief, while still carving out her own vital role whether it be in politics, education, nutrition, health care or any other realm. MORE STRONG, BLACK WOMEN: Black Woman Leads Crusade For LGBT Rights Harlem Mom Loses Sons To Guns, Becomes Anti-Violence Crusader But never has a First Lady been so disrespected, ridiculed, demeaned or vilified in the manner that Michelle Obama has. With such high approval ratings (at times even higher than her husband), there’s a clear explanation for the continual attacks against Mrs. Obama – her race – and come to think of it, his race. During the Presidential campaign of ’08, many Black women like myself were beyond excited to see a strong Black woman as the next potential First Lady. An educated, extremely intelligent female who dedicated much of her efforts towards working in the community and uplifting others, Michelle Obama represented what many of us either strive to be, or already regard ourselves as. And the fact that President Obama, a biracial man, married an independently minded and strong-willed woman like Michelle, only solidified our appreciation and support for this couple. It’s exactly that admiration and love for Michelle Obama that conservatives and those with an ax to grind hate so much. And they’ve proved over and over again that they will try to do anything to tarnish her image. When Barack Obama was on the campaign trail, the verbal assaults against Michelle already began. First, they attempted to turn her comments about being proud of her country into a negative, as if she was somehow unpatriotic her entire life. During the rest of the that period and throughout Barack Obama’s Presidency, the right continued throwing insults against Michelle for everything from the clothes she wears to her fight against obesity, to supposed lavish vacations. Following in conservative footsteps, now everyone appears to think it’s appropriate to make outrageous claims against the First Lady. The latest example: British publications printing stories of Michelle spending $50,000 on undergarments. The fact that White House press secretary Jay Carney had to take time on Monday to denounce the  underwear rumor is proof that the allegations against the First Lady are out of control. And now that we’re in an election year, things are likely to get worse. Because Michelle Obama represents so much of what we love, they will do everything they can to smear her image and that of the President. It’s our duty to make sure that they don’t succeed. Make no mistake: smearing them is an attempt to diminish our own self-esteem. I asked my mother the other day if she’s ever seen any First Lady repeatedly insulted like Michelle Obama has been. The answer, not surprisingly, was a definite “NO.” Throughout it all, Mrs. Obama has taken the barrage of attacks with grace and dignity, while disproving everything with her actions – just like a strong Black woman would. And I should know, a strong Black woman is me; she is you and we cannot allow her to be slandered. MORE STRONG, BLACK WOMEN: Unbelievable! Meet The 88-Year-Old Marathoner Diagnosed With HIV, Concert Promoter Becomes AIDS Activist

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Silence Is Not an Option

After a decisive win in the state of Florida, you would think GOP hopeful Willard Mitt Romney would be more careful in his approach towards serious subject matters. But somehow, the self-proclaimed rich guy still manages to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Proudly showing his disdain and disregard for the poor in an interview yesterday, Romney once again ridiculed and demeaned the most vulnerable among us. Meanwhile, Newt Gingrich (coming in second place yet again), continually wastes no opportunity openly disrespecting African Americans and blaming us for the ills of society. Couple this outrageous behavior with an entire Republican Party that is so entrenched in suppressing the vote, that they don't even realize how far from reality they have veered. Watching these so-called candidates and this party continually disrespect Blacks, Latinos, the poor and other minority groups, I've come to one definitive conclusion: silence is not an option. By now everyone is familiar with Gingrich's statements referring to Barack Obama as a 'food stamp president' and accusing him of placing more people on food stamps than any president in American history. It doesn't take a genius to know that this use of coded racial language is the same verbiage Gingrich used when he was Speaker and the same that was used by Republicans for years -- including during Reagan's 'welfare queen' saga. Same old tactics; same purpose. Not only is it patently false to juxtapose Black people with welfare and food stamps when the majority (36%) of those on food stamps are White, it's also reprehensible to state that President Obama has placed more people on the program when we know the facts show that there were 14.7 million more food stamp recipients added under Bush as compared to 14.2 million recipients added under Obama. But then again, these are facts -- something the extreme right has problems recognizing. The most troubling aspect of this GOP race perhaps is the notion that people like Gingrich and Romney suddenly think it's OK to make offensive statements and mistruths openly about Blacks and others. When did it suddenly become acceptable for them to say Black people shouldn't be satisfied with food stamps and handouts? Or that Black people just don't have any role models? Who anointed them as the spokespeople for Blacks in this country? And how dare they have the audacity to make such baseless lies in the first place. Yet if we defend ourselves and speak the truth, we're somehow bringing race into the conversation -- I don't think so. As each debate and each primary continues, it's becoming evident that these sorts of outrageous claims will continue -- if not grow. We cannot allow them to intimidate us into silence and inactivity. While they pollute the public's mind with fabrications and misinformation, we will readily remind them of the immense progress that we managed to achieve in this nation. From March 4th - March 9th, my organization, National Action Network (NAN), will be conducting a re-enactment of the infamous Selma to Montgomery march. Camping in tents and walking along the same route as was done in '65, we will call attention to voter ID laws, draconian immigration legislation and voter suppression schemes taking place at this very moment all across the country. It was this, the Selma to Montgomery march, and all of the attention it garnered that ultimately pushed Congress to enact the Voting Rights Act. Today, when we see those very rights that many sacrificed their lives for being stripped away, we will take action. Then on March 27th, NAN will convene a massive rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. as they begin hearings on the health care reform bill. After millions of Americans have already benefited from reform to our broken health care system, some would like nothing more than to repeal progress. In partnership with AFSCME, the AFT, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, NOW and other leaders from the civil rights community, we will collectively show our solidarity and support for the Affordable Care Act and the right for all Americans to receive health insurance. NAN is only getting started. For information on the Selma to Montgomery march and our Supreme Court rally, please visit nationalactionnetwork.net. And stay tuned throughout the year as we galvanize, mobilize and bring power back to the people. While Romney, Gingrich and the other GOP candidates continue to attack people of color, the poor, the elderly, the working class and others, we will remind them who holds the majority. We've fought too hard and come too far to let complacency take over; it's time for a national movement.

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