Growing strikes against austerity policies in Italy

From World Socialist Web Site:

By Mike Jobson
1 February 2012

After a wave of strikes and protests by truck drivers and fishermen paralysed Italy early last week, protests continue against the harsh austerity measures the unelected government of Prime Minister Mario Monti is imposing on the Italian working class.

Last Friday, a 24-hour national strike was called by main transportation unions in response to a series of tax and fee increases affecting broad layers of the population: IVA (value-added, or sales, tax) from 21 to 23 percent, taxes on individuals, health care co-pays, fuel taxes and the reinstitution of the tax on first homes (ICI).

According to an estimate by the USB (Federation of Basis Unions) union, 40,000 transportation workers were on strike in Rome, with an average of 70 to 80 percent participation in cities including Bologna and Venice.

Airline workers also went on a 24-hour strike called by the CGIL (General Confederation of Italian Labour) with estimated 100 percent participation. Also on strike were workers of Alitalia maintenance, and of the two main baggage-handling companies, Flightcare and Aviapartner.

Workers of Fiumicino and Ciampino, Rome’s two airports of Rome, are convinced that “without rules this sector is going to collapse, so they ask for the renewal of the collective contract that expired on December 31st,” declared Alessandro Capitani and Stefano Monticelli, two airline union secretaries in Rome.

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Occupy London assault: Bailiff plows car through protesters

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New Airport Screenings Raise Questions for Trans Canadians

From Dented Blue Mercedes:

And Bilerico:

By Mercedes Allen
January 30, 2012

Reposted with permission

Marathon runner Jennifer McCreath has pointed out a recent regulatory change that the Harper Conservatives have made to the Aeronautics Act (i.e. passed by ministerial fiat, rather than shepherded through Parliamentary process) that potentially affects many trans (and cis) Canadians and could even ban some from air travel:

Sec 5.2(1)  An air carrier shall not transport a passenger if

  • (a) the passenger presents a piece of photo identification and does not resemble the photograph;
  • (b) the passenger does not appear to be the age indicated by the date of birth on the identification he or she presents;
  • (c) the passenger does not appear to be of the gender indicated on the identification he or she presents; or
  • (d) the passenger presents more than one form of identification and there is a major discrepancy between those forms of identification.

(2) Despite paragraph (1)(a), an air carrier may transport a passenger who presents a piece of photo identification but does not resemble the photograph if

  • (a) the passenger’s appearance changed for medical reasons after the photograph was taken and the passenger presents the air carrier with a document signed by a health care professional and attesting to that fact; or
  • (b) the passengers’s face is bandaged for medical reasons and the passenger presents the air carrier with a document signed by a health care professional and attesting to that fact.

5.3 (1) If there is a major discrepancy between the name on the identification presented by a passenger and the name on the passenger’s boarding pass, an air carrier shall compare the name, date of birth and gender on the identification with those of persons specified to the air carrier by the Minister under paragraph 4.81(1)(b) of the Act.

(2) If the name, date of birth and gender on the identification are the same as those of a person specified to the air carrier, the air carrier shall immediately so inform the Minister.

This is a regulatory change made on July 29, 2011, and so far, it doesn’t appear that there have been any reports of transsexual or transgender people being refused passage on an airline because of this change. However, regulatory changes aren’t always made instantaneously.

“Papers, Please!”

The medical exemption appears to provide an allowance for specifically transsexual individuals, though not all transsexuals take a medical route, and certainly some will forget, be unaware of the requirement or be unable to afford to pay the fee for a sufficient doctor’s letter (my doctor would charge $100 for such a letter under his current fee structure).  It would almost certainly affect undocumented transsexual individuals (surgery-tracked or otherwise), since most Canadian provinces require evidence of genital reconstruction surgery before allowing the change of gender markers on foundational documents (all of them, when it comes to birth certificates).  This is further complicated by the fact that some provinces have removed coverage for this surgery from their “universal” health coverage — and even when coverage exists, standards of care call for a minimum of one year living as one’s identified gender before surgery can occur (2 years in some provinces, including Ontario).

That is to say, the medical exemption appears to provide an allowance for specifically transsexual individuals at first.  The way it’s worded in the new language of the law, the exemption applies only to a discrepancy between the photograph and appearance — discrepancies involving the gender marker on documentation are not addressed.

Still, it’s not explained what circumstances would be necessary to determine whether a person appears to be of the gender indicated on their identification, so people of diverse gender expressions (including some cis / non-trans Canadians) could be potentially affected, and scan-or-search procedures could also unfairly single out visibly intersexed people.  By the letter of the law, a major change in hair length or colour since having an ID photo taken could even be a basis for refusing a person from boarding, though that’s likely stretching it.  But by not clarifying how this value judgment on a person’s gender is to be made, lookism has potentially entered the equation.

And if an airline allowed such a person to board, they would actually be in violation of Federal Law.  From a reply that Catherine Mateo received from Air Canada:

… Air Canada is bound by federal law and as such we must comply with the regulations that if a passenger’s face or gender does not match the government-issued photo identification, we are prohibited from carrying that passenger. Again, if you have a concern regarding this, we respectfully ask that you pursue this with Transport Canada….

Canada’s Parliament passed human rights legislation to include transsexual and transgender Canadians, but it died at the election call, before the bill could be given Royal Assent by the Senate.  An identical bill has been reintroduced into Parliament and could be coming up for Second Reading in 1-2 months (people have been indicating support to their Member of Parliament, right?).  This change comes as trans issues are becoming better known to the federal government and in mainstream society.

The nation has been under pressure from the U.S. government to tighten screening and restrictions on Canadian travelers, including the introduction of full-body scanners, which also single out transsexual and transgender people for special scrutiny.  In September 2003, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued the first of several warnings that potential Al Qaeda terrorists might be changing tactics to avoid scrutiny, such as departing from airports in Canada and Mexico, or dressing as women.  Even before the regulation change, trans people — including McCreath — have experienced difficulty travelling to the U.S. and internationally, although not all of that has been at the hands of specifically Canadian border security or travel screening.

Some have speculated that the stress on appearance was also intended to target women who wear the niqab and hijab, making such an assessment impossible, and potentially also banning Muslim women who adhere to this tradition from boarding a plane.  Traditional coverings of this sort have already been flashpoints of controversy regarding citizenship ceremonies and court testimonies.  Although one of the motivations for these bans is supposed to be the status of women, punitive legislation targeting full face and body coverings have a horrible tendency to target women, rather than provide any viable solutions informed by them.

Anyone wishing to do so is welcome to contact the Minister.  Copy to your Member of Parliament as well, and remember to keep it civil but clear that the amended wording of the Aeronautics Act is a serious concern:

Hon. Denis Lebel, Ministre des Transports | Minister of Transport
Courriel | E-mail:
Phone: 613-996-6236
Fax: 613-996-6252
Adresse postale (sans timbre) | Mailing Address (postage free) : Hon. Denis Lebel, Chambre des communes/House of Commons, Ottawa ON K1A 0A6

Transport Canada
Courriel | Email:
Phone: 613-990-2309
Sans frais | Toll Free: 1-866-995-9737
TTY: 1-888-675-6863
Fax: 613-954-4731
Adresse postale | Mailing Address: Transport Canada, 330 rue Sparks Street, Ottawa, ON, K1A 0N5

h/t Matt McLauchlin for some of this info.

(crossposted to The Bilerico Project, and DentedBlueMercedes)

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Iran and the US: from words to war

The Oil Corporations so have a hard on to go to war with Iran so they can exploit Iran’s oil.  Then they expect working people to suffer even more austerity to pay for it.

From The Guardian UK:

As US intelligence chiefs ratchet up the rhetoric against Iran and our ships patrol the Gulf, the danger of war increases
, Tuesday 31 January 2012

Judging by recent rhetoric, and implied threats, from Washington, predictably echoed in London, anyone would think they wanted any excuse for a military conflict with Iran.

Philip Hammond, the defence secretary, dispatched the frigate HMS Argyll to joined the US-led convoy of warships led by the carrier Abraham Lincoln. HMS Daring, the navy’s newest destroyer, is on the way to the Indian Ocean, and the frigate Westminster is on standby.

(And we are constantly told the navy is desperately short of ships.)

Now, the US director of national intelligence James Clapper has told Congress that an alleged Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington uncovered last year suggested that shows that some Iranian officials had “changed their calculus … in response to real or perceived US actions that threaten the regime”.

The Iranians have accused the US (and Israel) for the assassination of Iranian scientists (four have been killed in the past two years) connected to the country’s nuclear and missile programmes. The bomb plot and the assassinations (whoever was responsible for them; the US strongly denied any involvement) increase the tension that is already dangerously high.

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Christo-Fascist Propagandist Bryan Fischer Hails Roger Ailes for Running Fox News with ‘Exactly the Style that Jesus Taught’

Because We all Know Jesus was a lying Nazi Scumbag.

Do these Nazi propagandists ever consider how offensive their bullshit is to real Christians?  I’m an atheist and I’m offended by their abuse of the Jesus of the Bible who was a hippie socialist who hung out with the under class and was probably crucified by the Roman because they considered this carpenter/mystic rabble-rouser  the equivalent of a modern day left wing trouble maker.

I’m offended by this bullshit because I am literate and have actually read the Bible cover to cover, both old and new Testaments.  I’ve also read theologians like Merton.  In fact an awful lot of atheists have probably read more theology than most freaking “Born Again” Christians.

These Dominionists are not Christian.  If anything they are Anti-Christians who follow pure Evil.

From Right Wing Watch:

Submitted by Brian Tashman
February 1, 2012

In a column, “Jesus explains the success of Fox News,” American Family Association spokesman Bryan Fischer claims that Fox News president Roger Ailes’s “leadership style is exactly the style that Jesus taught.” Fischer credits Ailes’s Jesus-like behavior for Fox’s success and says “the key to success in a capitalistic system is to do things Jesus’ way.”

For Fischer, it is “Jesus’ way” to encourage someone to lie under oath, threaten the elderly publisher of a small newspaper, introduce a series of political dirty tricks, including racially charged campaign strategies and television ads, and manage a media outlet which lies and foments extremism on a routine basis.

An interesting story on Politico this morning, explaining the success of Fox News, which has double the audience of CNN and MSNBC. The brainchild of Fox is Roger Ailes, and the Politico piece quotes Shepard Smith about his leadership style:

“We have one dad in this family,” said Shepard Smith, a star anchor who was a correspondent in the Los Angeles bureau at launch. “He makes all the decisions, and you know exactly who you have to go to, and you know when to stop asking. If you get an answer from Mr. Ailes’s office, that’s the answer; it’s time to move on.”

Smith said that when he leaves Ailes’s office, “the last thing he asks me is, ‘What can I do for you?’ And the last thing he tells me is he loves me. That’s not going to work everywhere, and most people will hear that and go, ‘You are full of crap.’ That’s exactly how it is here, and I love it.”

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Shit Republicans Say

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Canada transportation rules: Could they prevent transgender people from flying?

I have had some one launch into the transvestites get what they deserve and this is only for reasons of security and safety fascist line in the comments on the post I put up yesterday about this.

Thing is I don’t have to love transvestites to say this is just plain fucked up.  Yadda, yadda.. .  See I’ve been fucked with by the fascist enforcers of conformity for being a hippie, I’ve been fucked with by them for being transsexual and I’ve been fucked with by them for being punk and wearing a leather jacket.

It’s a bunch of bullshit from Barney Fife wannabee Nazi Storm Troopers issuing orders and enforcing Christo-Nazi discipline.

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
Benjamin Franklin

From The Washington Post:


It’s always in the fine print.

An Air Canada Jazz airplane. (Brent Lewin – BLOOMBERG) An airport security screening regulation put into place in Canada in July is drawing attention from some critics who fear it could prevent transgender people from being able to fly.

The regulation, noticed by blogger Christin Scarlett Milloy, reads:

5.2 (1) An air carrier shall not transport a passenger if …
(c) the passenger does not appear to be of the gender indicated on the identification he or she presents.

The regulation is part of a wider set of rules, equivalent to the U.S.’s “no-fly” list, that was put into place by Canada’s Conservative Minister of Transportation, Denis Lebel.

While the regulation is likely intended to prevent people from using fake or stolen IDs, Millroy contends the regulation could also be problematic for some fliers:

For non-operative transgender persons, for gender nonconforming (genderqueer) persons, and for the vast majority of pre-operative transsexual persons, it is literally impossible to obtain proper travel documentation marked with the sex designation which “matches” the gender identity in which they live.

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Calories count, but not where they come from: study

There is no magic formula for losing weight and/or controlling weight except burning more calories than you take in.

This is why living in suburbia and driving everywhere is a major cause of obesity.

From Raw Story:

By Reuters
Tuesday, January 31, 2012

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Sticking to diets with strict proportions of fat, carbs and protein may not be more effective for people who want to lose weight and fat mass than simply cutting back on calories, according to a new comparison of four diets.

The results suggest that it doesn’t matter where the calories come from, as long as dieters reduce them.

“If you’re happier doing it low fat, or happier doing it low carb, this paper says it’s OK to do it either way. They were equally successful,” said Christopher Gardner, a Stanford University professor who was not involved in the study.

 Dr. George Bray, who worked on the new study, said earlier research had found certain diets — in particular, those with very little carbohydrate — work better than others. Diet books also often guide consumers to adopt a particular type of meal plan, such as low-fat or low-carb-high-protein diets.
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Organic Farmers Challenge Monsanto in Landmark Suit

From In These Times:

By Rebecca Burns
Tuesday Jan 31, 2012

Today in New York, a U.S. district court heard arguments to determine whether a landmark suit against agricultural giant Monsanto will be allowed to go forward.

Last March, the Public Patent Foundation filed claims challenging the validity of 23 of Monsanto’s patents on behalf of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGTA) and 82 other farming associations. Monsanto filed to dismiss the case, but a judge agreed to hear oral arguments from both sides. The claimants’ suit said that they were bringing the action “to protect [farmers] from ever being accused of infringing patents on transgenic seed.”

This refers to the Monsanto’s longstanding practice of suing small and organic farmers who are accused of using its patented seed varieties. The agro-giant acknowledges that since 1997, it has filed suit against farmers 145 times and has settled another 700 alleged infringements out of court.

Those targeted by lawsuits include farmers who purchased seeds from Monsanto and then violated their contracts by saving seeds for the next year’s planting—in a 2003 case, a farmer who purchased $24,000 of seeds from Monsanto was forced to pay $780,000 for such a violation, sending him into bankruptcy. But contamination of non-GMO seed also occurs naturally as a result of wind and animal activity, leaving organic farmers open to allegations that they are also infringing on Monsanto patents.

Ninety percent of genetically modified crops are varieties patented by Monsanto, leading critics to accuse the company of creating a highly-profitable “seed monopoly.” In 2005, the Center for Food Safety found that Monsanto had “a budget of $10 million and a staff of 75 devoted solely to investigating and prosecuting farmers.”

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Self-steering bullet researched by US weapons experts

Can We just say, “Hell No!” to some of this incredibly wasteful war spending.

How about a fucking austerity program coupled with a major tax increase on the rich to pay for some of this goddamn murder machinery?

From The BBC:

31 January 2012

A self-guiding bullet that can steer itself towards its target is being developed for use by the US military.

The bullet uses tiny fins to correct the course of its flight allowing it to hit laser-illuminated targets.

It is designed to be capable of hitting objects at distances of about 2km (1.24 miles). Work on a prototype suggests that accuracy is best at longer ranges.

A think tank says the tech is well-suited to snipers, but worries about it being marketed to the public.

Work on the project is being carried out by an Albuquerque-based subsidiary of defence contractor Lockheed Martin on behalf of the US government.

The current prototype involves a 4in (10cm) bullet which includes an optical sensor in its nose to detect the laser. This information is then processed and used to move motors within the bullet which steer tiny fins, altering the ammunition’s path.

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80 Percent of Chicken Growers Never Sanitize Poop-Filled Crates

From Mother Jones:

By Tom Philpott
Tue Jan. 31, 2012

I was going to call this post “The Poultry Industry’s Dirty Secret,” but then I got to thinking: Isn’t that too broad? It raises the question of which dirty secret—the fact that it turns independent family farmers into low-income serfs? Intentionally feeds arsenic to chickens, which ends up both in meat and in ground water? Severely damages one of the nation’s most productive fisheries with tainted chickenshit? Routinely sends out chicken that’s infected with pathogens resistant to several antibiotics?

So I added the parenthetical modifier “latest.” This one shocked even me. Reports the meat-industry trade journal Meatingplace (sub required):

Survey results seem to indicate that about 80 percent of poultry growers don’t ever sanitize their crates, according to an Auburn University survey of 10,317 farms. What’s more, just 18.3 percent sanitize their trucks and trailers—two areas that contribute to the spread of Salmonella and Campylobacter.

What does this mean? First it’s important to get some definitions straight. For background, this Humane Society of the United States report (PDF) delivers a pretty good overview of how poultry facilities work. Every year, HSUS informs us, the industry raises 9 billion birds in sheds the size of 1.5 football fields (about 450 feet) lengthwise and 40 feet wide. These factory-style facilities hold as many as 20,000 chickens, with enough space to offer each about a letter-size piece of paper’s worth by the time they reach market size.

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Mitt Romney to Faith Leaders on Obama’s Assault on Marriage and DOMA

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Ultra Right Wing Racist Charles Murray does it again

From Salon:

Big government has created a new lower class of lazy, shifty, low-IQ folks, argues Charles Murray

By Joan Walsh
Monday, Jan 30, 2012

Hey, white people – they’re talking about you again!

I argued a few weeks ago that Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum might be able to believe they’re not singling out black people, or “blah” people, when they rail against food stamps and government “dependency” on the campaign trail. Yes, Republicans have long used not just dog whistles but foghorns to tell white working- and middle-class voters that welfare programs only support lazy, undeserving African-Americans. Ronald Reagan gave us those iconic Cadillac-driving “welfare queens” and “young bucks” using food stamps to buy T-bone steaks. Gingrich is certainly playing on that long history with his remarks. (It’s funny how our first “food stamp president” also happens to be black.)

But increasingly the right wing argues that government programs have created a dangerously expanding lower class that includes white people, too. This new white lower class, like the black lower class before it (in the telling of conservatives), is struggling not because of the decline in median wages, the rise of unemployment or the disappearance of middle-class jobs, but because it prefers casual coupling over marriage, and government-subsidized slacking over work.

A little over a year ago, the conservatives behind “When Marriage Disappears: The Retreat From Marriage in Middle America” tied the decline of the American middle and working class to the drop in marriage and the rise in the number of children living in single-parent homes – trends that are most stark, over the last few decades, among white people. Now comes Charles Murray to make the issue of race even more pronounced. In “Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010,” Murray identifies a new “white lower class” consisting of men who choose not to work hard, women who choose not to marry, and children who are deprived of the values-generating support of the two-parent family, and are thus doomed to repeat the cycle all over again.

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Working Poor: Almost Half Of U.S. Households Live One Crisis From The Bread Line

From Huffington Post:

What does it mean to be poor?

If it means living at or below the poverty line, then 15 percent of Americans — some 46 million people — qualify. But if it means living with a decent income and hardly any savings — so that one piece of bad luck, one major financial blow, could land you in serious, lasting trouble — then it’s a much larger number. In fact, it’s almost half the country.

“The resources that people have — they are using up those resources,” said Jennifer Brooks, director of state and local policy at the Corporation for Enterprise Development, a Washington, D.C., advocacy group. “They’re living off their savings. They’re at the end of their rope.”

The group issued a report today examining so-called liquid asset poverty households — the people who aren’t living below the poverty line, but don’t have enough money saved to weather a significant emergency.

According to the report, 43 percent of households in America — some 127.5 million people — are liquid-asset poor. If one of these households experiences a sudden loss of income, caused, for example, by a layoff or a medical emergency, it will fall below the poverty line within three months. People in these households simply don’t have enough cash to make it for very long in a crisis.

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Greek officials attack EU and IMF as debt talks stall

From The Guardian UK:

Prime minister Lucas Papademos calls crisis meeting to ask backers for further concessions after ‘tough and honest’ discussions in Brussels and Frankfurt

and, Tuesday 31 January 2012

Greek officials launched a vociferous behind the scenes attack on European Union and International Monetary Fund negotiators as talks in Athens over the country’s mounting debts appeared to stall.

Prime minister Lucas Papademos told aides that a crisis meeting of party leaders would be called as early as Thursday to thrash out a response to an increasingly intransigent negotiating team sent by Brussels, which is demanding severe austerity measures before sanctioning a further €130bn (£109bn) of bailout funds.

Papademos, the economist temporarily heading a transition government in Athens, wants party leaders backing his administration to make further concessions to bring talks to a swift end.

Papademos and his team of aides returned in sombre mood on Tuesday from a round of talks in Brussels and Frankfurt at the offices of the European Central Bank (ECB), despite relief that a German proposal to install an EU commissioner in Athens, with special oversight of Greek finances, had been quashed.

One aide said: “All round there is an understanding that the situation is quite dramatic. Our discussions in Brussels were tough and honest with things being laid out in an austere manner.

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Mass arrest attempted at 19th St. in Oakland #J28

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Abortion: A Topic Ritually Avoided by Recreational Media

From RH Reality Check:

by Ellen Levine, Author
January 31, 2012

My novel, In Trouble, takes place in 1956. It’s about teen pregnancy, an acceptable subject in a teen novel. But one of my characters has an abortion. In Trouble takes place almost two decades before Roe v. Wade, in the days of back-alley abortions and the iconic image of coat hangers used by desperate women.

I’ve written more than twenty books, but was startled by what I learned: you can raise the possibility of abortion, but it must be rejected. I hit a wall of resistance I believe is self-censorship on the part of the publishers. When a character is pregnant, whether from rape, incest, etc., so long as a baby is born, that’s acceptable. The “Juno” scenario. Even as late as the mid-1990s, some editors published manuscripts in which an abortion occurred, although not central to the story; or was mentioned as a past event.

I’m certain there were editors who rejected my manuscript because they didn’t like the characters, the voice, etc. When you get the same questions about a manuscript, I pay attention. That didn’t happen with In Trouble. The rejections were all over the map. One editor told me they would never publish a book with an abortion in it.

What’s startling is that the avoidance is not just with teens’ books, but also in the world of adult media:

“Sex and the City” – is there anything that show hasn’t covered or uncovered? Abortion. Raised and rejected.

Theresa Rebeck, NYPD Blue writer, couldn’t sell a script to that show with an abortion storyline. NYPD Blue with naked tushes!

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