THE BLOG
01/17/2013 12:03 pm ET | Updated Mar 19, 2013

Midday Diversity News And Notes

In November, the power of the fast-growing Latino electorate seemed to be conversation topic one for those interested in politics. This week, Latino Decisions, a polling firm that specializes in tracking and gauging the opinions of Hispanics, brings us an interesting reminder that the real power of the Latino vote has not yet been tapped. "The National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO) estimates that 12.2 million Latinos voted this past election, representing approximately 10% of the national electorate. That number is much too low when we consider that an estimated 2.5 million Latinos who were registered to vote did not cast a ballot in the presidential election. And, an additional 8.6 million Latinos are eligible to register to vote (18 years old or older, and American citizens) but are not registered. There are almost as many potential Latino voters (registered and not voting, or eligible but not registered to vote) 11.1 million, as there are actual Latino voters (12.2 million)," according to the polling firm's blog. This brings to mind something I heard the actress America Ferrera say at the Democratic National Convention. "People should not assume that demographics are destiny. If population growth is not married with increased political participation, then nothing changes."

Given the myriad ways in which President Barack Obama's critics have described him as somehow illegitimate or inappropriate for office, I suppose that we should not be surprised that the NRA launched an "ad" (it's not clear that the NRA has paid for actual air time) attacking Obama, his parenting and his daughters. The ad implies that since Obama's daughters have armed Secret Service protection, Obama's opposition to placing armed guards and other armed adults in schools represents a sort of elitist hypocrisy. "Are the president's kids more important than yours?" the ad asks. The White House has called the ad cowardly and described the mention of the president's daughters as out of bounds, Slate reports.

If you have any doubts about the power and influence of the National Riffle Association (NRA), please note that it's not clear that even a Presidential executive order will override a bit of the group's lobbying handiwork. For the last 17 years, the CDC (and other state-level health and welfare agencies) has been barred from conducting certain types of gun-violence related research. The last time the CDC examined whether gun owners are safer or avoid injury more often than households that are unarmed in the mid 1990s, the data produced and answer the NRA did not like: no. Yesterday, one of the many executive orders issued by Obama called on the CDC to take up a variety of gun-related research. But, the funding for said research would likely need to come from Congress. It will be interesting to see if funding is at least approved to examine gun violence in communities -- many of them home to mostly black and Latino residents -- where the deaths of young people remain tragically frequent.

Erika Andiola, an Arizona-based DREAM Activist and undocumented immigrant, has had quite the month. First, ICE agents detained her family in a surprise visit. Now, a recently elected member of Congress, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, has decided to put Andiola on staff as a regional office outreach staffer, ABC Univision reports. Sinema said she hired Andiola because as an experienced activist she has a set of useful skills.

For those who have doubts about the continued significance of race in the United States, please note that a new study found that residential segregation not only continues but can prove hazardous to one's health. "African-Americans who live in highly segregated counties are considerably more likely to die from lung cancer than those in counties that are less segregated, a new study has found. Its authors said they could not fully explain why it worsens the odds of survival for African-Americans, but hypothesized that blacks in more segregated areas may be less likely to have health insurance or access to health care and specialty doctors. It is also possible that lower levels of education mean they are less likely to seek care early, when medical treatment could make a big difference. Racial bias in the health care system might also be a factor," The New York Times reported. Need I say it? Disturbing. The picture gets really dark when you think about how many smokers are black or Latino. Click here to see data for your state.

After surviving allegations that she used her post to secure funding to shore up a black-owned Internet-based bank with which her husband was connected, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Ca.) has just been appointed the ranking member o the U.S. House Financial Services Committee. Waters is the most senior black woman in Congress and is serving her 12th term, according to Politics 365. Waters was accused of using her position to help OneUnited Bank secure $12 million in Troubled Asset Relief Funds (TARP). Waters husband had been on of the bank's directors and was a stock holder at the time that Water's efforts began. In 2010 she was investigated by the House Ethics Committee for potential violations and cleared in September.

On the good news front, the Pew Research Center's daily number reveals that there has been an 11 percent drop in the number of adults who say they overhear loud and annoying cell phone conversations since 2006. Wonder if they measure how many times people have missed a train, been bumped into or just plain knocked down by someone who is too busy texting to talk loudly into their phone or be aware of the world around them?