Tuesday night’s State of the Union speech was routine in many ways. There’s the president’s long walk to the podium after being announced by the Sergeant at Arms, “Mister Speaker, the President of the United States.” The president then shakes hands with as many lawmakers as possible, which isn’t easy since they’re all elbowing each other in the ribs while jockeying for position on the aisle.
The speech itself, as expected from one of America’s all-time great speechmakers, was brilliantly written and masterfully delivered. It rose in cadence and pace as he went along — first through the foreign policy section, where President Obama promised an end to the war in Afghanistan while shaking his fist at North Korea and Iran - then the domestic policy section where he outlined the path to growth and job creation, including increasing the minimum wage to $9 an hour.
But when he got around to the section on gun control, he pivoted from dignified statesman to fire-and-brimstone preacher. He pointed out the parents of the promising young girl killed by gunfire only a mile from his Chicago home, and the families of the innocent victims in Newtown and Aurora, and gravely wounded former congresswoman Gabby Giffords, and charged congress with dragging its feet on gun control legislation.
“They deserve a vote!” Obama bellowed again and again, pointing to the victims of gun violence and bringing the faithful Democrats to their feet in wild applause. Even Republicans, who had been sitting on their hands through the entire speech, were shamed into a tepid ovation, lest they be seen as unsympathetic to the victims of America’s mad obsession with bigger and more powerful firearms.
Later, after having had time to get their stories straight, Republican pundits and strategists chastised the president for using those victims of violence as a prop - essentially turning tragedy to his advantage by using it for a bit of political theater.
There is, admittedly, some truth to that. Obama did use the moment as political theater, and did indeed highlight those families and victims of tragedy to force a serious national conversation on gun control. But so what? First, he did it masterfully and without the slightest indignity to those families. And second, since when did the GOP suddenly get righteous about using a tragedy to advance a political agenda? The Patriot Act, the casual use of torture, warrantless searches and imprisonment, and a thousand other Republican policies came as a direct result of the GOP playing on the national emotions after 9/11.
Then the president broke it wide open at the end. Obama told the story of a Florida woman who waited in a long line for many hours for the chance to vote, and whose determination inspired those who waited in line with her. That woman, 102-year old Desiline Victor, stole the show.
Even orange-faced John Boehner, who fully supported the various voter suppression policies and initiatives of his fellow Republicans in this election — those policies directly responsible for her pain and inconvenience, was forced to stand and applaud Desiline, who smiled and waved at Obama like he was her grandson.
My favorite part, though, was the Republican response to the State of the Union, delivered by their newest Great Brown Hope, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. Apparently, after Bobby Jindal’s disastrous performance in the role in 2009, they needed another minority face, and Rubio — young, handsome and articulate, fills the bill.
Rubio’s response, though, was sad and amateurish. He accused Obama of hating the free market system, raising taxes and several other sins — none of which were mentioned at all in Obama’s speech. It was as if his GOP bosses just grabbed one of Paul Ryan’s old speeches from last year out of the office trash can and pushed it into Rubio’s hand two minutes before sending him out to deliver it.
Looking uncomfortable and not at all ready for prime time, Rubio wiped his brow, wiped his lips, and wiped the sweat off his face. He even hilariously leaned out of the camera shot to grab a bottle of water, stealing a glance back at the camera as he sipped nervously before continuing.
Rubio’s problem, though, is the same as Jindal’s. The GOP isn’t interested in changing their policies or platform to appeal to minorities — they just assume that we’ll think better of them if those same racist, xenophobic, homophobic, backward policies are delivered by someone with darker skin.
Next year, if Rubio turns out not to be the golden child they’d hoped, maybe the Republican response will just be Justice Clarence Thomas screaming, “You lie!”
Daryl Gale is the city editor of the Philadelphia Tribune.
From sex scandals to revolutions and natural disasters, the top ten national and international stories of 2011 had it all. The Tribune compiled a synopsis of its top ten stories.
9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden killed by U.S.
A Navy SEAL team shot and killed al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden on May 1 at his hideout in Pakistan. He’d been the world’s most-wanted terrorist for nearly a decade, ever since a team of his al-Qaida followers carried out the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The manhunt ended with a nighttime assault by a helicopter-borne special operations squad on his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Bin Laden was shot dead by one of the raiders, and within hours his body was buried at sea.
Penn State sex abuse scandal topples Joe Pa
Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was charged with sexually abusing 10 boys over a 12-year period. He has been charged with 52 counts related to the abuse and is currently free on bail.
The scandal rocked the university, leading to the firing of iconic coach Joe Paterno and president Graham Spanier. Both men were fired by the board of trustees on Nov. 9.
Paterno led the Penn State Nittany Lions for 46 seasons and had amassed 409 career victories — a Division I record. His dismissal led to riots in State College, as students protested his removal.
Sandusky, 67, who since 1977 headed up a charity for trouble children called the Second Mile, has maintained his innocence.
Occupy Wall Street spread inequity protests to more than 200 cities worldwide
Demonstrators first gathered Sept. 17, in Zuccotti Park, located in New York City’s Wall Street financial district to protest against social and economic inequality, high unemployment, greed, as well as corruption, and the undue influence of corporations — particularly from the financial services sector — on government. Under the slogan “We are the 99 percent,” the protests in New York City have sparked similar protests and movements around the world.
Arab Spring spreads across the Middle East
A wave of protests rolled across the Middle East, leading to revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, and civil war in Libya. In addition, there was major civil unrest in Bahrain, Syria and Yemen along with protests in Algeria, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco and Oman.
Demonstrators shared frustration at growing economic inequity in all of those countries and well as oppressive regimes. The most famous of the protests took place in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Tens of thousands of protestors forced out dictator Hosni Mubarak with largely peaceful demonstrations.
Boxing legend Joe Frazier dies
Former Heavyweight Champion Joe Frazier died from liver cancer at 67 on Nov. 7.
Born in Beaufort, South Carolina, and long a fixture in Philadelphia, Frazier became the only American fighter to win a gold medal in the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo.
Turning pro, he beat Muhammad Ali for the heavyweight title in 1971, the first man to do so. But, Frazier held the title for just four fights.
The two men battled it out three times, twice in the heart of New York City and once in the morning in a steamy arena in the Philippines in an epic battle dubbed “the Thrilla in Manila.” They went 41 rounds together. Neither gave an inch, and both gave it their all.
In their last fight in Manila in 1975, they traded punches with a fervor that seemed unimaginable among heavyweights. Frazier gave as good as he got for 14 rounds, then had to be held back by trainer Eddie Futch as he tried to go out for the final round, unable to see.
In the end, the two sworn enemies forgave each other. Both are members of the Boxing Hall of Fame.
Black Republican Herman Cain flames out as possible Republican nominee
Pizza mogul Herman Cain, briefly considered the likely Republican nominee for president, dropped out of the campaign on Dec. 4, as charges of sexual impropriety grew.
In his announcement, Cain said he decided to drop out to avoid news coverage that was hurtful to his family.
His decision came five days after an Atlanta-area woman claimed she and Cain had an affair for more than a decade, a claim that followed several allegations of sexual harassment against the Georgia businessman.
The businessman had surged in polls until news surfaced in late October that he had been accused of sexual harassment by two women during his time as president of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s.
Casey Anthony declared innocent in death of her daughter
The Florida mom on trial for killing her 2-year-old daughter in 2008 was acquitted July 5 after the jury deliberated for 11 hours. The 25-year-old had been charged with first-degree murder, which could have brought the death penalty if she had been convicted.
Instead, she was convicted of only four counts of lying to investigators looking into the June 2008 disappearance of her daughter Caylee. The tot’s body was found in the woods six months later and a medical examiner was never able to determine how she died.
Jailed since August 2008, Anthony was sentenced to four years but left jail July 17 for time served.
Steve Jobs, Apple founder dies
Apple founder, technological and business guru Steve Jobs died Oct. 5 at the age of 56 from pancreatic cancer. He had been fighting the disease since 2004.
Jobs’ death created a huge outpouring of emotion with mourners who lauded him as a visionary and turned Apple stores across the country into impromptu memorials.
Earthquake strikes Japan
A 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck Japan on March 11, triggering a deadly tsunami that washed far inland, swamping towns, sweeping away a train and sparking massive fires, including one at a major nuclear plant.
The quake ultimately claimed nearly 20,000 lives and caused an estimated $218 billion in damage. The tsunami triggered the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl, after waves knocked out the cooling system at the Fukushima nuclear plant, causing it to spew radiation that turned up in local produce. About 100,000 people evacuated from the area have not returned to their homes. Traces of radioactive materials linked to the accident were detected as far away as Massachusetts.
The offshore quake struck at 2:46 p.m. local time at a depth of 24 kilometers about 125 kilometers off the coast, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Shooting of Gabrielle Giffords, U.S. representative from Arizona
Forty-one-year-old Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot on Jan. 8 while meeting with constituents in Tucson, Ariz. Six people were killed and 13 wounded in the attack, including the lawmaker and members of her staff. Giffords was shot by Jared Loughner, who was quickly captured and imprisoned while being evaluated to determine if was mentally incapable of participating in his defense.
It took more than seven months for her recovery. She returned to Congress on Aug. 1.
This story has been compiled from Associated reports.
As with other mass shootings, the killings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., triggered a familiar chain of reactions: horror, remorse, rage and a call for new restrictions on guns.
And in the recent past, at least, that call for action has been followed by little or no legislative action at all.
For example, after the January 2011 shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Ariz., that left six people dead and 13 others injured, President Barack Obama delivered a moving nationally televised address but a call for new gun laws was conspicuous in its absence.
Instead, in an Arizona Daily Star op-ed he repeated his support for the Second Amendment and called for stricter enforcement of gun laws that are already on the books. That stance perfectly matches the position of the National Rifle Association, the nation’s leading gun owners’ advocacy group. But if NRA leaders were pleased, they are not about to show it.
Quite the opposite, there are too many votes to be won, money to be raised and new members to be enlisted by tagging Obama as “anti-gun” for the NRA or other gun lobbyists to be deterred by mere facts.
Remember the dramatic surge in gun and ammunition sales that immediately followed Obama’s election? They’re surging again, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a firearms industry trade group, as owners fear the weapons won’t be available if Obama is re-elected.
“He’s his own stimulus plan for the gun industry,” said Arkansas Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor, according to Politico.
Fear of what Obama might do is being fed by NRA leaders like Wayne LaPierre, who warned in February that Obama’s plan is to “get re-elected and, with no more elections to worry about, get busy dismantling and destroying our firearms freedom.”
The organization’s 2008 website, gunbanobama.com, is up and running with its headline, “Obama Would Be The Most Anti-Gun President in History” and a link touting, “If Obama Is Pro-Gun, Why Are Leading Anti-Gun and Anti-Hunting Groups Endorsing Him?”
One might just as easily ask, if Obama is so anti-gun, why did one of those endorsers, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, give Obama an “F” for his gun record the following year? The Brady Campaign and other gun control advocates continue to express frustration over actions and inaction by Obama that should bring the NRA delight.
Obama has signed a law that permits Amtrak passengers to carry guns in their checked baggage and another that allows visitors to national parks and wildlife refuges to possess concealed guns. He has not pushed for actions he supported in his 2008 campaign, including closing the so-called “gun show loophole” that allows unlicensed private firearm sellers to sell weapons at gun shows without conducting the background checks and reporting required of registered gun dealers.
Yet the NRA, which went after Obama with a $40 million advertising and direct-mail campaign last time around, has set aside at least that much for this go-round, Politico reports. Their biggest hot-button issue is Fast and Furious, the Republican-promoted controversy in which Obama invoked executive privilege to block the disclosure of some Justice Department documents to a House committee involving a botched gun-running investigation. If the operation was really part of an Obama plot to ban guns, as some of his critics charge, it would be a far-fetched way to do it.
In this way, the NRA, which likes to call itself the nation’s oldest “oldest continuously operating civil rights organization,” exhibits one of the worst attributes that critics often attribute to conventional civil rights organizations: manufactured outrage. If they don’t have a real enemy of gun rights in the White House, they hammer the administration with inflated accusations and unfounded predictions anyway.
But activist gun owners tend to come from the same demographic that gives the least support to Obama: older white men from rural or outer suburban communities. Even unfounded accusations carry convincing weight with people who already are inclined to believe them.
In celebration of its ninth anniversary, local organization Mothers in Charge recently held the “Commemoration of Peace, Mothers Still Standing” event at Penn’s Landing Caterers, located at 1301 S. Christopher Columbus Blvd. in South Philadelphia.
Dorothy Johnson-Speight, whose 24-year-old son was murdered in 2001, founded Mothers in Charge. The organization’s mission is aimed for violence prevention, education and intervention and community advocacy.
On May 15, Mothers in Charge gathered to reflect on accomplishments, and honor and recognize various individuals and organizations and welcome Roxanna Green.
Green is the mother of slain 9-year-old Christina TaylorGreen, who was killed at the shooting at a political rally involving Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords on January 8, 2011. Green was honored by her invitation from Johnson-Speight to attend the Mothers in Charge event.
“I knew it was going to be a great thing because we have the same values and mission,” Green said. “Our foundation is focused on youth and it’s all the same — stopping violence; we hope to do things in the future together and somehow partner.”
She started a foundation called, “The Christina-Taylor Green Memorial Foundation,” to honor the life of her daughter through charitable and educational projects.
Green, author of “As Good as She Imagined: The Redeeming Story of the Angel of Tucson,” wrote this book as an inspirational piece for anyone who is going through a difficult time. Writing her book became a part of her grieving process.
“It was so therapeutic,” she said.
Johnson-Speight and Mothers in Charge was pleased to have Green in attendance and available for book signings.
“She and I made it a pledge we would work together in the future,” Johnson-Speight said. “I think the key is going to be, to organize those efforts on a national basis — our goal next year is to have a national platform for our 10th anniversary.”
Of those honored at the event was, Commissioner Dr. Arthur Evans and Bill Hart, executive director of the R.I.S.E (Reintegration Services for Ex-offenders).
“We do a lot of programs in the prisons,” Johnson-Speight said.
Both Johnson-Speight and Green agree it is important to build relationships and have community members involved in these efforts.
“I would encourage women and men to find people in your community and city — it has been therapeutic and powerful,” Green said. “I think about how Christina was such a happy child; she wouldn’t want me to be moping.”
To get involved with Mothers in Charge or the Christina-Taylor Green Memorial Foundation, visit mothersincharge.org and www.christina-taylorgreen.org.
When Adam Lanza blasted round after round of high velocity bullets into the 26 victims at the Sandy Hook Elementary School last Friday, his demented actions touched off a national outrage and a call for stricter gun laws.
What was unexpected was the overwhelming number of Americans — not only on the grassroots level, but federal, state and local lawmakers — stepping up to have their voices heard. Included in that number are those who have noted that the national outrage was sparked by the deaths of mostly white children — not the almost daily shooting deaths of hundreds of young Black and Hispanic men, women and children from coast to coast.
“Those are the victims whose voices have gone unheard,” said Bilal Qayyum, Executive Director of the Father’s Day Rally Committee. “Everyone is understandably angry and heartbroken over the mass murders at the Sandy Hook School, but since it happened, ten people were shot in Chicago. I think the timing to push for this will never be better. Let white America push through these laws, because God works in mysterious ways — and maybe the murders in Newtown, Connecticut are a message to white America that gun violence is not a Black American problem, but an American problem. It’s often said that when white America gets a cold, Black America gets pneumonia. White America has pneumonia now, but all of America will benefit from these senseless deaths in the form of stronger gun laws.”
Qayyum said the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords wasn’t enough; or the hundreds of courageous police officers, or the hundreds of young Black males who are gunned down in America’s cities everyday, or even the Black mothers and children caught in thugs’ crossfire. Mass shootings in movie theatres or shopping malls or college campuses or even high schools wasn’t enough bloodshed to produce the national outrage to spur the American people to finally say enough — the gun violence is going to stop.
Lanza, 20, who killed himself after murdering his mother, Nancy, and then 26 children and adults inside the Sandy Hook Elementary School, used a semiautomatic .223 caliber assault rifle to kill his victims. Investigators said he carried several high-capacity clips for the military-grade weapon. Police also recovered a shotgun and two handguns at the scene.
Since the mass murders, federal, state and local lawmakers have seized the opportunity to not just talk about what has been termed “common sense gun laws,” but to do so with a sense of urgency, knowing that serious action has to be taken. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has promised to introduce a bill to reauthorize the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, a President Bill Clinton era legislation that was allowed to lapse in 2004.
Chad Dion Lassiter, MSW, president of Black Men at Penn, said that despite the continuing rising body count of Blacks and Hispanics due to gun violence; the inclusion of those deaths into the call for sensible gun laws didn’t register because it brings to the forefront issues about which America is not ready to have a meaningful discussion.
“Our nation prides itself on creating narratives or dialogs that are safe. The dialog of Black males being shot to death calls America to the carpet about white supremacy and racism and the way people of color have been treated in this nation. That’s a narrative America is not comfortable with,” Lassiter said. “Now, you take the massacres at Columbine, or Aurora and there is a ready dialog over the mental health issues of the white males who committed these crimes. But what about the mental health issues of Black males who have been abandoned by their fathers, or who suffered abuse and neglect while growing up and lack the coping skills needed to step beyond pulling out a gun to solve their problems? Those lives aren’t seen in the same light.”
Lawmakers have called for three major gun laws to be pushed to the front of the ongoing talks over the issue. A ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, the need to strengthen the national background checking system and eliminate the loopholes, and enforcing stiffer penalties for straw purchasers. On Wednesday, President Barack Obama gave his administration a January deadline to create solid proposals to reduce gun violence. Tasking Vice President Joe Biden, who has long championed the cause for stronger gun laws, the president has ordered the creation of a special panel to spearhead the effort. Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey will be a part of that panel.
Judge Renee Cardwell Hughes, who spent thirteen years on the bench trying murder cases, said she thinks Obama’s decision to have Ramsey on the panel is a brilliant move. Hughes, who is now CEO of the American Red Cross of Southeastern PA, spoke to the Tribune in her capacity as a former judge with the Court of Common Pleas, and a law professor who teaches at Drexel University and Villanova Law School.
“I think putting Commissioner Ramsey on the panel is a brilliant decision by President Obama and I am so grateful that he’s taking decisive action on this,” said Hughes who was appointed to the bench in 1995. “I have witnessed the devastation caused by assault weapons. I’ve seen the devastation caused by people who lack good judgment and use firearms to resolve conflicts. I founded Philadelphia’s Mental Health Court and I know the senselessness of gun violence. This is not about the right to bear arms, but the right of Americans to be safe — to not be afraid of people with mental health issues or other emotional issues with guns. I’ve seen what happens when our police officers are slaughtered and people are murdered because we did not have the backbone to stand up and say we do not need these weapons on our streets.”
One week of news tell an alarming story of gun violence in America.
Last Friday thousands of mourners paid their final respects to six worshippers gunned down by white supremacists at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.
The day before defense lawyers disclosed their beliefs that they suspect mental illness in the man accused of opening fire in a Colorado movie theater, killing 12 people and injuring 58 in July.
The same week, Jared Loughner, pleaded guilty to a 2011 shooting in Arizona that killed six people and wounded 13 others, including then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
Despite these horrific crimes there is little hope that anything will actually happen to seriously address gun violence.
Our elected officials lack the courage to do anything for fear of the National Rifle Association, the powerful pro-gun lobby.
America’s politicians will ask for a moment of silence and mourn the senseless loss of life but will not take action for fear of the NRA.
There is action that can be taken that will protect the rights of lawful gun ownership, a right protected by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey supports a ban on assault weapons and large capacity magazines, a registry of guns and mandatory reporting of all sales of guns.
This is a reasonable commonsense approach that many in law enforcement support said Ramsey, who leads two national law enforcement associations: the Police Executive Research Forum and the Major City Chief’s Association.
Mayors Against Illegal Guns is asking President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney to create a plan to address gun violence.
The groups says more than 48,000 Americans will be murdered with guns during the next president’s term. “How can President Obama and Governor Romney face that chilling fact without a plan?”
The fact is that America’s politicians will not offer substantive legislation on gun control until voters demand it.
Crozer-Keystone’s Chester Youth Collaborative (CYC) was named the winner of a national award from Amerinet, a leading health care solutions organization, in the category of Community Impact and Innovation at the organization’s annual Healthcare Achievement Awards.
The initiative was one of three health systems presented with this award.
Amerinet created its Healthcare Achievement Award program to recognize organizations that make efforts to reduce costs, improve quality and serve the community.
This year, Amerinet received the largest number of entries in company history. The awards event was held in St. Louis.
“Entries for this award are carefully evaluated by a panel of expert judges, and superior member performance was identified in a variety of categories — from improvement in financial management and operational efficiencies to patient quality and community impact,” said Janet S. Riley-Ford, director of CYC. “All Amerinet members are eligible, and projects are received from many types of acute and non-acute care facilities, large and small, rural and urban.”
The CYC was launched in 2005 with a start-up grant from the William Penn Foundation. The CYC’s mission is to foster a neighborhood-based youth development network that enhances the quality of life and increases opportunities for youth between the ages of 12 and 22 in the city of Chester.
The CYC is divided into four councils, with each council responsible for specific areas of work to advance the mission of the Collaborative. A steering committee, comprised of representatives from all four groups, provides oversight for the efforts of the Collaborative.
“I have watched the CYC grow and develop into a nationally recognized program and I am very proud of the work they do,” said Gwen Smith, president of Springfield Hospital and vice president of Crozer-Keystone. “These dedicated men and women work tirelessly to improve the lives of young people in the community and give them goals and a plan for the future.”
Each winning facility receives two complimentary trips to the 2012 Amerinet Member Conference in Las Vegas and scheduled to be honored at a special awards dinner — preceded by an address by the keynote speaker, Mark Kelly, NASA commander and husband of U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
“It’s wonderful to have the work we do recognized nationally by Amerinet,” said administrative director of the Wellness Center, Kate Blackburn. “The Chester Youth Collaborative’s efforts are designed to impact the community on multiple levels: to improve outcomes among youth, to improve the quality and number of resources available to help youth develop skills for work and life, and to inform local policy to support youth. The work we do is complex and challenging, and it wouldn’t be possible without our network of committed partners. This award is a tribute to the staff of the CYC and to our partners as well.”
NEW YORK — His wife couldn’t be there herself to accept her honor. So Mark Kelly, husband of recovering congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, spoke on her behalf. But, he made clear, his wife was still running the show.
“We went over my remarks very carefully,” Kelly said at Glamour’s Women of the Year awards on Monday. “She’s still in charge.”
Giffords was one of 11 women honored at the Carnegie Hall ceremony, the 21st time the awards have been presented. As always, the assembled group was a formidable mix of brains, guts, entrepreneurship, and yes, glamour.
On that last count, Jennifer Lopez was there, dressed to the nines in a high-slit Versace gown — her award presented by designer friend Donatella Versace, in fact. She talked about the year’s “ups, and not-so-ups,” the latter a reference to her split with husband Marc Anthony.
“It’s the women in my life that helped me,” she said, tearfully. “The most important thing they taught me is to support other women.”
Lopez’s stardom could be described as supernova-like — only that word was best reserved for 10-year-old Kathryn Gray, of Canada, one of 21 girls and young women honored at the ceremony by actress Emma Stone. Her achievement? Discovering a real supernova.
Another high point came from an unexpected place, with the appearance of a woman named simply T, who was forced into prostitution as a child and now is an activist trying to stamp out sexual slavery in this country.
“I am just one of many,” said T, or Withelma “T’’ Ortiz-Macy. She advised the young girls in the audience to “Think about your personal influence.”
The tone for the evening — solidarity among women — was set by Glamour’s editor-in-chief, Cindi Leive. “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women,” she said, to applause. “We didn’t let any of them in tonight.”
Each honoree was presented with her award by someone of equal or often greater fame: Late-night host Chelsea Handler was given her award by friend Jennifer Aniston, who misted up as she praised Handler, even while noting that “Half her life, she is drunk.”
Handler was as direct as she is on TV.
“You really can do what you want. Just get out there and do it,” she said — expletive removed here.
The world of fashion had a strong presence, naturally.
Tory Burch, a go-to designer for upscale professional women, was introduced by actress Jessica Alba. Burch declared proudly that 80 percent of her employees were women. “Women are our best investment,” she said.
And designer Marc Jacobs wasn’t getting an award — wrong chromosome — but he presented one to artist Cindy Sherman, known for conceptual photographs of herself, one of which recently sold for $3.9 million — a record for a photo.
“I’ll just let my work speak for itself,” Sherman said, concisely.
Arianna Huffington, whose Huffington Post has become a media force, received her award from Barbara Walters. She cheekily urged women to “sleep their way to the top” — by enriching their sleep-deprived lives with some more shuteye.
She also regaled the crowd with the story of a failed relationship that set her career on an upward path. “Everything good that happened to me happened because a man wouldn’t marry me,” she said.
The lifetime achievement winner was Gloria Steinem, whose award was presented by Anita Hill, 20 years after the Clarence Thomas hearings.
“There’s no one on earth I’d be more honored to get an award from than Anita Hill,” said Steinem, 77, who credited Hill with “changing the consciousness of our country.”
“I can’t wait to see what you all do,” Steinem called up to the balcony, filled by girls from youth groups from across the city. She told them to remember that “Life is one big surprise. You can prepare, but you can’t plan.”
Also honored: Lea Michele of “Glee,” who recalled how just a few years back, she’d been struggling, and hearing “No” a lot. She told the young girls to forget that word — and to “Use your voice, in positive ways.”
Esraa Abdel Fattah of Egypt was given the Women of the Year fund award, for her key role in mobilizing Egyptians on Facebook during that country’s Arab Spring revolt. “I will see a woman as leader of my country one day,” she declared.
And speaking of international relations, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was there, to present an award to the wife of her former boss, Laura Bush, and the Bush daughters, Jenna and Barbara.
Making a cameo in a video was former President George W. Bush. “The truth of the matter is that Laura Bush was the greatest first lady ever,” he said with a grin. — (AP)
WASHINGTON — In a body occasionally known for untoward exits, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords stood among cheering, crying colleagues to say goodbye Wednesday, over a year after she was gravely wounded by a would-be assassin.
Giffords had come to the well of the House to resign, a formality since she'd signaled her intention earlier, as she recovers from a gunshot wound to the head during a shooting rampage in her home district in Arizona. It was one of the longer House goodbyes in recent times, as Democrats and Republicans lined up to see her off. A prolonged standing ovation followed a fusion of tributes and tears as colleagues praised her dignity and perseverance.
Surrounded by friends and colleagues and holding Rep. Jeff Flake's hand, Giffords heard her close friend, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, read her resignation letter to the chamber. In it, Giffords said she had "more work to do on my recovery before I can again serve in elected office."
Last January, a gunman opened fire at Giffords' "Congress on Your Corner" event in Tucson, killing six people and wounding 13, including Giffords who suffered the gunshot wound.
"I don't remember much from that terrible day, but I have never forgotten my constituents, my colleagues or the millions of Americans with whom I share great hopes for this nation," Giffords said in the letter to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.
After reading it, Wasserman Schultz helped Giffords slowly make her way to the podium where she handed the letter to a teary-eyed Boehner.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Giffords had become "an inspiring symbol of determination and courage to millions of Americans ... Her message of bipartisanship and civility is one that all in Washington and in the nation should emulate."
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said Giffords' "strength against all odds serves and will continue to serve as a daily inspiration to all of us."
Whoops, cheers and sustained standing ovations greeted Giffords' arrival in the chamber. Holding Wasserman Shultz' arm, the congresswoman moved down the center aisle, receiving kisses and hugs from her colleagues.
Her mother, Gloria, and husband, retired Navy Capt. Mark Kelly, watched from the gallery. Giffords had announced on Sunday in a Web video that she would resign her seat.
"She realized she was not going to run for re-election and this point the right thing to do was for her to step down," Kelly said after the emotional event on the House floor. "But I'm more optimistic than anybody else about her future. She just needs some more time, whether it's a year or two years or three years, I'm very confident she's going to have a long and effective career as a public servant."
Asked about her daughter's future, Gloria Giffords said, "I kind of think she's transcended Congress. I don't know where she's going to end up."
"She's remembered every boy she's ever kissed, every song she's ever sang, every bill she's ever passed," she said. "So upward and onward." -- (AP)
By week’s end, the nation seemed more transfixed by the orange-dyed hair of shooting suspect James Holmes than with a freshly recharged debate on gun control. Notably absent from the shock of watching Holmes’ homicidal rampage, opening fire on a crowded Aurora, Colo., theater killing 12 and injuring 58, was a national conversation about guns. Lawmakers from Washington, D.C., to state houses around the country made every effort not to have that conversation, even as gun control advocates pounded their way into the national discourse.
“In a political version of Stockholm syndrome, even those who claim to disagree with the National Rifle Association’s absolutist permissiveness on firearms lulled themselves into accepting the status quo by reciting a script of gutless resignation dictated by the merchants of death,” wrote columnist E.J. Dionne, clearly perturbed by lethargy on the left as conservatives appeared to damage control the debate.
Few on Capitol Hill seemed either eager or prepared for a gun control battle. Members are focused on wrapping up last-minute odds and ends before the August recess. Most will be out on the fundraising circuit, digging in for bloody general election battles and raising money for hungry campaigns. The last thing on Washington’s appetite is a renewed fight on an emotional policy topic. Democrats are trying to maintain the White House while hoping to keep a majority in the Senate and the remote possibility of retaking the House. Republicans are hoping for a triple-win of House, Senate and White House.
“I think that what’s appropriate at this point is to look at all of the laws that we already have on the books to make sure that they’re working as they’re intended to work, that they’re being enforced the way they’re intended to be enforced,” said House Speaker John Boehner.
Media hounds then scurried to the other side of Capitol Hill, hoping for some classic candor from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who is well known for his gritty, rhetorical hooks and jabs.
“Nice try,” quipped Reid when asked if Senate Democrats would be pushing for a gun control measure. Blaming it on a packed schedule, Reid took a cue from Boehner, staying cool in the sweaty D.C. heat and looking forward to a busy pace on the fundraising trail.
Later in the week, President Barack Obama injected timely comments during a keynote at the National Urban League’s conference in New Orleans. The remarks, however, seemed more calibrated toward controlling the users rather than the guns. “I believe the majority of gun owners would agree that we should do everything possible to prevent criminals and fugitives from purchasing weapons; that we should check someone’s criminal record before they can check out a gun seller … that a mentally unbalanced individual should not be able to get his hands on a gun so easily,” said the president.
White House press secretary Jay Carney reiterated the president’s stand on the issue the next day. “There are things we can do short of legislation and short of gun laws that can reduce violence in our society.”
The messaging stayed on form with the president’s general reluctance to say anything about the violence that has not only terrorized Aurora, but other cities such as Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Flint and elsewhere. Critics blasted the president for not saying a word about violence in his home city of Chicago, where the number of homicides is just shy of the 300 mark for 2012.
“Some South side Chicago residents would have liked to have gotten a bit of feedback from their president about the recent spate of violence in the Windy City,” said CNN commentator and political strategist Lenny McAllister about the president’s hometown visit in June. “It would have been appropriate after the stroll through his old neighborhood.” McAllister recently moved away from Chicago to escape the rising violence, transplanting his family to Washington, D.C.
Cautious against re-entering the debate over his “clinging to guns and religion” comment from 2008, Obama could fear rattling that tree anytime soon in an election this close. Why give more ammunition to gun-owning white working class voters to vote against you?
Recent polling numbers suggest politically treacherous waters on the gun control issue, and the presidential campaigns may be watching that closely. A YouGov/Economist poll taken shortly after the Aurora shooting shows 43 percent of Americans feel gun control laws should be stricter — compared to 32 percent who want no change to the laws, and 18 percent who believe they should be less strict.
The 43 percent share is a 5 percent drop from January 2011, when 48 percent of Americans supported stricter gun laws. That was after then-U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., was critically wounded by lone gunman Jared Loughner.
Still, a large majority, 81 percent, say they want to prevent those with mental illness from owning a gun, in addition to 71 percent who support a five-day waiting period for the purchase of a gun.
The divide on gun control is just as wide between Blacks and whites. Nearly a quarter of whites support gun ownership, compared to only 12 percent of African Americans — and 14 percent of whites say they have someone in their household who owns guns. And 33 percent of voters 65 years of age and older own a gun.
“Americans have been divided politically when it comes to gun control laws for a long time, and the latest poll, conducted in the days following the shootings finds that little has changed after what has been called one of the deadliest shootings in U.S. history,” observes YouGov’s Thom Riehle.