Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.
Freedom and civil liberties are central to the American experience, and have influenced several big issues that are in the news today. Today we look back at the sometimes-controversial but surely influential life of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Other issues of personal freedom and liberty happen to also be making headlines, and they come down to the central tension between maintaining order and protecting the rights of individuals.
This article discusses the complexities underlying King's legacy, arguing that he has been sanitized over the years. It also refers to the current controversy over the memorial to him in Washington. (There's even a story about what King would think about the gay rights movement, which is itself generating lots of discussion.) Our commenters talked frankly about the many things that have been said about King.
This commenter said King was not perfect, but his legacy stands.
Tajee: "Regardless of Dr. King's skeleton's; ie. accusations of plagiarism and adultery, he still was a pivotal and monumental figure in not only the progression of the civil rights movement, but also American history. Because of his (and others') hard work, this country is more free, equal and just. He risked his life – and lost it – for the sake of a better future for all people, all races. All the while maintaining a nonviolent stance in the face of violent bigotry and oppression. People, we are all not perfect. We all have skeletons in our closet. We need to stop looking for our public leaders to be perfect as well. We must learn to judge a man by the full spectrum of his character. Dr. King's positive contributions to society far outweigh his personal downfalls. He deserves this memorial as it commemorates the life of a man who had the courage and ability to help mend a better nation.
This commenter was upset about how the memorial was built. FULL POST
The Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether Arizona can enforce its controversial immigration law, over the strong objections of the Obama administration.
The justices made the announcement in a brief order Monday.
Federal courts had blocked key parts of the state's Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, known as SB 1070. Arizona had argued illegal immigration was creating financial hardships and safety concerns for its residents and that the federal government has long failed to control the problem.
The administration has countered immigration issues are under its exclusive authority and that state "interference" would only make matters worse.FULL STORY
Oral arguments would probably be held in late February or March, with a ruling by June, assuring the blockbuster issue will become the topic of a hot-button political debate in a presidential election year.
The announcement, made in a brief, was expected as several legal challenges have worked their way through the appeals process.
So now that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case, what does it mean? And what could the political and legal implications be?
One of the key issues to be considered by the high court's nine justices is whether the "individual mandate" section of the law - requiring nearly all Americans to buy health insurance by 2014 or face financial penalties - is an improper exercise of federal authority. Various states have argued that if that linchpin provision is found unconstitutional, the entire law will have to be scrapped.
CNN Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin said that while the challenge is a fairly straightforward legal question, the implications, especially the political ones, are huge.
"The federal government has to abide by the Constitution," Toobin said. "And the Constitution says that the federal government is allowed to regulate interstate commerce."
Under that umbrella fall Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid - some of the issues at the heart of Obama's health care plan, he said.
"The Obama administration says his health care plan is simply a reflection of the way the federal government has been involved in health care for many, many years," Toobin explained.
But many states that have filed the challenges say that Obama's plan is too far-reaching.
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a challenge to President Barack Obama's sweeping health care reform law, the court announced Monday.
Oral arguments will likely be held in late February or March, with a ruling by June.
A key issue to be considered by the high court's nine justices is whether the "individual mandate" section of the law - requiring nearly all Americans to buy health insurance by 2014 or face financial penalties - is an improper exercise of federal authority. Various states have argued that if that linchpin provision is found unconstitutional, the entire law will have to be scrapped.FULL STORY
Editor's note: Jeffrey Toobin, CNN's senior legal analyst, offered his immediate reaction Tuesday to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole's decision to deny clemency to death row inmate Troy Davis.
The creativity of defense attorneys aside, convicted police killer Troy Davis appears "out of options," Toobin said.
Davis' attorneys pleaded with the board, telling it that seven of nine witnesses who testified against their client had recanted or changed their testimony. The board also heard the defense assert that witnesses have come forward to say someone else was responsible for the 1989 murder of Savannah, Georgia, police officer Mark MacPhail.
But the board, which also denied clemency to Davis in 2008, was not swayed.
"This has been an extraordinary legal saga since the murder in 1989, and two years ago the United States Supreme Court did something it almost never does - instructed a District Court in Georgia to take another look at the case, hold a hearing," Toobin said.
A Savannah judge did just that, Toobin said, and issued a 170-page opinion saying that, despite the recanted testimony, "there is no substantial doubt cast on the verdict as far as this judge could tell." In short, Toobin said, the judge sided with the jury that originally found Davis guilty.
"I know lawyers can be very creative, but I think Troy Davis is really out of options. ... I never can underestimate the creativity of lawyers, but certainly, based on what I can see, based on my familiarity with the law, I think he will be executed (Wednesday)."
The Supreme Court on Monday put the brakes on a massive job discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart. The suit was the largest class-action suit in U.S. history - and, says Jeffrey Toobin, CNN's senior legal analyst, therein lies the problem.
Toobin, who was in the courtroom for opening arguments in March, spoke on "CNN Newsroom" after the high court's ruling was announced. He shared his initial impressions of the ruling and noted that he was still reading the "complicated" decision.
He said the class-action status - potentially involving hundreds of thousands of female workers - was too large.
The budget battle doesn't appear to be ending anytime soon in Washington. Watch CNN.com Live for continuing coverage on this developing story.
Today's programming highlights...
10:00 am ET - House to vote on budget deal - A spending plan for the rest of this fiscal year was reached late last week, but the House is expected to vote on said plan today following final debate.
The Supreme Court's conservative majority didn't appear impressed Tuesday with plaintiffs' arguments that more than 1 million female Wal-Mart workers, past and present, should be able to accuse the retailer of discrimination in one class-action lawsuit, CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said.
Though a ruling isn't expected until late June, the justices' reactions during oral arguments might portend a defeat for six plaintiffs who want to band with employees from across the country and make their accusations in a single, massive trial, Toobin said.
"I thought it was a very good day in court for Wal-Mart, and I would not be at all surprised if the whole case were thrown out after listening to the justices today,” Toobin said on "CNN Newsroom."
Libya - Forces loyal to Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi blocked the westward advance of rebels, who have been aided by air power provided by the U.S., NATO and their allies. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will meet in London today with other world leaders to try to strengthen the coalition's efforts.
Syria - Thousands of demonstrators marched in Amman in support of President Bashar al-Assad, who has been the target of protests. Confrontations between anti-government protesters and police have been bloody at times; at least 37 people have been killed since last week, according to the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Security forces flooded the restive cities of Daraa and Latakia on Monday, patrolling the streets, protecting government buildings and in at least one case clashing with protesters, according to witnesses..
Japan - Engineers and workers are carrying out a dangerous balancing act as they try to cool the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor with water, but not so much water that it spills over, presenting an additional hazard. Radioactive isotopes from the damaged reactor are being detected in more places in the United States, though the Environmental Protection Agency says they pose no threat to human health. A Senate committee will hold a hearing today to gather information on the accident in Japan.
Wal-Mart - The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments today in a huge sex-discrimination lawsuit brought by female workers against Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the nation's largest retailer. The arguments will not be on the merits of the case, but on whether to allow as many as 1.6 million potential plaintiffs to join a single lawsuit. Billions of dollars and many thousands of career paths are at stake.
Immigration - Emily Ruiz, a 4-year-old U.S. citizen, was denied entry to the United States on March 11 when she returned with her grandfather to Dulles International Airport near Washington after an extended stay in Guatemala. The girl's parents are undocumented workers in New York; her grandfather had an old immigration violation, which prompted border agents to send him and the girl back to Guatemala. Emily will try to enter through New York today, a lawyer for the family says.
A Kansas church that attracted nationwide attention for its angry, anti-gay protests at the funerals of U.S. military members has won its appeal at the Supreme Court, an issue testing the competing constitutional limits of free speech and privacy.
The justices by a 8-1 vote on Wednesday said members of the Westboro Baptist Church had a right to promote what they call a broad-based message on public matters such as wars.
The father of a fallen Marine had sued the small church, saying those protests amounted to targeted harassment and an intentional infliction of emotional distress.
"Speech is powerful. It can stir people to action, move them to tears of both joy and sorrow, and– as it did here– inflict great pain," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote. "On the facts before us, we cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker."FULL STORY
[Updated at 10:28 p.m.] The fight over the health care reform law ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge on Monday will eventually be decided by the Supreme Court, said CNN senior legal analyst Jeff Toobin.
"This Supreme Court is very evenly divided between liberals and conservatives. Anthony Kennedy tends to be the swing vote. I would not be at all surprised that he would be the swing vote in this case as well," Toobin said.
"When you consider that this is the signature achievement of the Obama administration, and that it is hanging by a legal thread right now, it's a cause of great concern to supporters of the law."
Because the Florida judge ruled that the individual mandate, the part of the law that says everyone has to buy health insurance, is unconstitutional, “he says the whole law has to go out the window,” Toobin said.
Toobin said it is important to note that several federal judges have found the law constitutional.
"This is why we have a United States Supreme Court, to settle when judges disagree with each other," Toobin said.
The nine justices "have the last word," Toobin said. "Nobody can tell them what to do or when to do it."
[Updated at 5:37 p.m.] The U.S. Department of Justice says it plans to appeal the ruling of a federal judge in Florida, who earlier today struck down as unconstitutional key parts of the sweeping health care reform bill championed by President Obama.
[Updated at 3:47 p.m.] A federal judge in Florida has ruled unconstitutional the sweeping health care reform law championed by President Barack Obama, setting up what is likely to be a contentious Supreme Court challenge in coming months over the legislation.
Monday's ruling came in the most closely watched of the two dozen challenges to the law. Florida along with 25 states had filed a lawsuit last spring, seeking to dismiss a law critics had labeled "Obamacare."
Judge Roger Vinson, in a 78-page ruling, dismissed the key provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act - the so-called "individual mandate" requiring most Americans to purchase health insurance by 2014 or face
"I must reluctantly conclude that Congress exceeded the bounds of its authority in passing the Act with the individual mandate. That is not to say, of course, that Congress is without power to address the problems and
Inequities in our health care system," Vinson wrote.
"Because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire Act must be declared void. This has been a difficult decision to reach, and I am aware that it will have indeterminable implications. At a time
when there is virtually unanimous agreement that health care reform is needed in this country, it is hard to invalidate and strike down a statute titled 'The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.' "
The 8-year-old son of soccer superstar David Beckham and former Spice Girl (Posh) Victoria Beckham is one of Britain’s most stylish men, according GQ magazine in the UK.
The youngster came in No. 26 in GQ’s annual ranking of Britain’s 50 most stylish men. That puts Romeo one spot in front of the recently engaged Prince William but 10 spots behind his L.A. Galaxy midfielder father.
GQ calls the Beckhams' middle child “a frighteningly tuned-in (and well-connected) eight-year-old.” Not shocking for a boy who last year signed a deal to design his own line of sunglasses.
Top on the list is “Kick-Ass” and “Nowhere Boy” actor Aaron Johnson.
Other notables include Prince Harry at No. 5, British Prime Minister David Cameron at No. 20, singer Elton John at No. 21 and actor Daniel Day-Lewis at No. 50.
Supreme Court report: The U.S. Supreme Court will release Chief Justice John Roberts' year-end report at 6 p.m. ET.
Roberts may comment on judges' salaries, judicial nominations, security concerns in the courts and other issues.
Weather watch: The Northern Plains will endure blizzard conditions for another day as a powerful upper-level storm moves east from Colorado, the National Weather Service says.
Wind chills of 15 to 30 degrees below zero are likely to put the kibosh on outdoor New Year's Eve celebrations across the Midwest.
Falling objects: As many as 1 million revelers are expected to pack New York's Times Square area for the annual ball drop, but that's not the only place where people will be counting backward and watching things fall at midnight.
Here are some of the planned celebrations:
Bowl games: The college football bowl season shifts into high gear, with four New Year's Eve games (all times Eastern):
The British heavy metal icon and former Black Sabbath frontman had a good reason for having his full genome sequenced and analyzed: He wanted to know why he was still alive.
“I was curious,” he wrote in a column this week for London’s The Sunday Times. "Given the swimming pools of booze I've guzzled over the years—not to mention all of the cocaine, morphine, sleeping pills, cough syrup, LSD, Rohypnol … you name it - there's really no plausible medical reason why I should still be alive. Maybe my DNA could say why."
The St. Louis, Missouri-based Cofactor Genomics sequenced his genome and Knome Inc. analyzed the data, putting the Prince of Darkness in the same company as DNA co-discoverer James Watson and Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates, who also have submitted to the process, Scientific American reported.
People are increasing using genome analysis “to uncover information about their ancestral histories, impending health risks and disorders of potential progeny,” the magazine reported in June.
“Despite the completion of the generalized human genome draft a decade ago, connections between diseases and genetic variations have proved to be evermore complex and elusive,” it said.
Knome co-founder Jorge Conde said Osbourne was interested in his ancestry and in recently being diagnosed with a Parkinson’s-like condition. The test revealed some Neanderthal lineage as well as “novel variants” in genes associated with addiction and metabolism.
The company didn’t divulge the full results of Osbourne’s test. The rocker and his wife, Sharon, are appearing at TEDMED 2010 in San Diego, California, on Friday to discuss the results. His speech is titled, “What will the unveiling of a full Osbourne genome reveal?”
A Halloween treat, no doubt.
Who is Anita Hill and what does Justice Clarence Thomas' wife want her to apologize for?
Before Thomas became a federal judge, he worked in the Department of Education and later was chairman of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission from 1982 to 1990.
After President George H.W. Bush nominated Thomas to replace Justice Thurgood Marshall on the Supreme Court, Thomas underwent nomination hearings in the U.S. Senate and a vote was scheduled.
Two days before the scheduled vote, Hill, a law professor at the University of Oklahoma, told the Senate Judiciary Committee that Thomas had sexually harassed her when he was her boss at the Education Department and the EEOC.
Time magazine described what followed as an "ugly circus" in which both Thomas and Hill were "eviscerated."
The wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas said Tuesday that she reached out to Anita Hill, whose accusations of sexual harassment almost derailed Thomas' high court nomination 19 years ago.
In a statement to CNN, Virginia "Ginni" Thomas said: "I did place a call to Ms. Hill at her office extending an olive branch to her after all these years, in hopes that we could ultimately get passed what happened so long ago. That offer still stands, I would be very happy to meet and talk with her if she would be willing to do the same. Certainly no offense was ever intended."
Hill, a law professor at Brandeis University, turned the message over to campus security, a university spokesman said.
It is an emotional battle at the Supreme Court of the United States, pitting free speech, no matter how vile and hate-filled against the right to privacy.
Al Snyder is suing Pastor Fred Phelps for protesting at his son’s funeral, Lance Cpl. Mathew Snyder. Al was inside the supreme court when arguments were made and talks to John Roberts on American Morning.
John Roberts: So take us into the Supreme Court. What's your sense of the arguments that you heard? Many people who were there believe that it looks like the justices sort of would like to help you out, but their hands may be tied by the first amendment?
Albert Snyder: Well, I don't think their hands are tied by the first amendment because there's no such thing as absolute free speech. As far as in the courtroom, you know, the big thing that they went over was pride of a public figure. Well, there's no way I was a public figure at the time.
When the Phelps get up there and talk and says I gave all of these interviews before they did this to me and I talked about the war. And I called and talked to John Murtha, well, they're all wrong. I gave a couple interviews to my local paper. And I called John Murtha to see if he could find out for me what happened in that vehicle accident. I didn't call him to protest the war or anything else. And one of the articles they may have asked me, you know, what I thought about the war. And I said, I thought it was senseless. But, you know every parent that loses a child, somebody from that family gives a statement because your local papers want to know.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday denied an appeal by Teresa Lewis to halt her execution in the state of Virginia. The execution is scheduled for Thursday night.
Lewis pleaded guilty to her role in the 2002 slayings of her husband and stepson in their rural home near Danville, about 145 miles from Richmond, Virginia. Two male co-conspirators - the triggermen - were given life in prison without parole.
Lewis and her lawyers had formally asked Gov. Bob McDonnell to spare her life, arguing she has an IQ that is borderline mentally retarded and that she was manipulated to commit the crimes by a dominant male co-defendant.
McDonnell on Friday rejected the request, and Lewis' lawyers appealed to the Supreme Court.
The former Senate majority leader and current U.S. envoy to the Middle East may not only get Israel and the Palestinians talking, but he also led the special investigation over steroid use in Major League Baseball that contributed to the indictment of Roger Clemens.
According to an extensive profile from The Washington Post’s Whorunsgov website, Mitchell stepped down as Senate majority leader in 1995 to secure universal health care. Previously he had turned down an offer for a Supreme Court nomination from President Clinton. He did, however, accept Clinton’s offer to be a special envoy to Northern Ireland in 1996. He later described the process as “700 days of failure, and one day of success.”
Mitchell was then asked to lead the special investigation into performance-enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball. The 400-plus-page report cast light on the so-called epidemic among players and led to Senate hearings that included testimony by Clemens, who was indicted Thursday.
Elena Kagan was sworn in Saturday afternoon as a U.S. Supreme Court justice.
Chief Justice John Roberts administered the oath at the Supreme Court building in Washington. Kagan beamed as a small invited audience cheered loudly.
The Supreme Court will meet in a special session on October 1 to hold an investiture ceremony for Kagan, Roberts said.
Kagan, the former solicitor general of the United States and former dean of the Harvard School of Law, is the fourth woman ever to serve on the nation's highest court.
The U.S. Senate confirmed Kagan on Thursday with a 63-37 vote.
She replaces retired Justice John Paul Stevens, leaving the court's liberal-conservative balance unchanged.