Spain’s “Indignados” at the Vanguard of a Global Nonviolent Revolt

From Truth Out:

by: Pablo Ouziel, Political Thoughts | Op-Ed
Saturday 6 August 2011

Thursday night Madrid’s city centre offered a glimpse of what Western democracies have become, as thousands of unarmed nonviolent civilians with their hands up in the air shouting “these are our weapons” and “this is a dictatorship” were beaten by police commandos in full riot gear. This event was the culmination of a month of intense mobilizations across the country by the popular movement known as the ‘Indignados’. People, whom despite being ignored by the government have made their voices heard, as banking cartels, European bureaucrats, rating agencies and the country’s elites continue in their frantic push to sell-off Spain’s remaining public wealth, and persist in the implementation of drastic cuts to the welfare state.

The ‘Indignados’ are fully aware of the fact that their government does not represent them, whenever they congregate they shout that loud and clear. They know that only popular unity will salvage them from the train wreck, which complicit speculators and politicians have created, and as they read the financial news, they know things can only get worse. When the EU announced today that the economic crisis is no longer restricted to the Euro-zone periphery countries, people in the movement understood that this could only mean bad news for them. The same was clear when the New York Times began to speculate about a double-dip recession in the United States after reporting 60,000 job cuts in July. Or when Scott Minerd, CIO of Guggenheim Partners, said that Europe was on the brink of a major financial collapse. The ‘indignados’ understand that in the game of global speculation they are always the losers. So as financial ‘experts’ in Spain speak of the impossibility of an economic recovery, the media speculates about a possible bailout, the country’s borrowing costs surge, and Moody’s speaks of Spain as being on the verge of ‘shock’, the ‘indignados’ understand that mobilizing is their only defense.

The indignation on Spanish streets has not risen out of ignorance, when newspapers announced last week that the airport of Ciudad Real had joined the growing list of airports in Spain closing because of lack of flights, the ‘indignados’ understood that it had only been constructed during the building boom so that speculators could receive huge sums of public subsidies which will never be returned to the Spanish people. That is why they were not surprised a few days ago when the IMF recommended that the country cut salaries of public servants and raise VAT, or when Spanish Finance Minister Elena Salgado suggested that the nation might need to endure even deeper spending cuts than those approved by Parliament. Nor was there a sense of surprise when the Catalan Government announced yesterday that it would sell-off 37 of its government buildings at a loss of 42,4 million Euros. Nothing shocks the ‘indignados,’ they just hope that one day they will have enough critical mass to stop these incessant attacks from the financial and political elite, on the country’s citizenry.

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The Shock Doctrine

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Bad News About Water Quality — and Quantity

From The Toronto Star:–bad-news-about-water-quality-and-quantity

By Antonia Zerbisias
July 30, 2011

The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart practically cowered under his desk last month when journalist Alex Prud’homme appeared.

That’s because Prud’homme’s just-published The Ripple Effect: The Fate of Freshwater in the Twenty-First Century is 435 pages of bad news about how North Americans waste, contaminate and violate our water supplies.

“Water is a deceptively plain substance,” he notes in his introduction. “Yet it is the basis for life, and is considered an ‘axis resource,’ meaning one that underlies all others.”

Without water, there is no life. As we have seen this summer, droughts have ravaged the U.S. mid- and southwest, China and even France. In Somalia and Kenya, it’s a humanitarian disaster.

In North America, we’re spoiled.

On the phone from his home in New York City, Prud’homme says, “We really need to start thinking about water.

“Because we’ve become so good at collecting, transporting and treating water, people feel they can turn the tap on anytime they want and get as much water as they want, at any temperature they want, for as long as they want. So we’ve forgotten how important it is. But what we haven’t done is manage it very sustainably or wisely.

“But now conditions have changed. There are more people on Earth, we are using water more and more, the climate is shifting, our diets are changing, the ways we pollute water are shifting. Our indifference is a luxury we no longer can afford.”

On a per-capita basis, Canadians are just behind the world’s most wasteful water users, the Americans, reports the Conference Board of Canada. That’s a lot of water down the drain.

What’s more, says Prud’homme, we excrete Viagra, synthetic estrogen and other prescription drugs — as well as illicit substances — when we use the toilet. Some of us are even flushing chemicals and leftover pills away. We poison fish every time we wash with antibacterial soap. Our factory farms send rivers of runoff — including potentially E. coli-carrying manure — into lakes and streams. Turn on an appliance, including the computer on which you may be reading this, water is used to power hydroelectric dams, or cool nuclear plants, or run coal generators.

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The Sustainable Seafood Myth

From The Grist:

by Brendan Smith
1 Aug 2011

Stroll by any Whole Foods seafood counter and you will see color-coded fish: Green for fully sustainable, yellow for partially sustainable, and red for fish threatened by overfishing or grown on polluting fish farms. Buy a “green” fish and you eat guilt free, confident that you are doing your part to save the ocean and its inhabitants.

Put down your fork — Whole Foods is not telling you the whole story. The dirty little secret of their seafood rating system is that it ignores the largest and most imminent threat to our oceans: greenhouse-gas emissions. Even if every human on the planet miraculously decided to buy only seafood stamped with the Whole Foods seal of “sustainablity,” marine species will still be doomed.

This is not a secret threat: Just last month, the International Program on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) — a consortium of 27 of the top ocean experts in the world — declared that effects of climate change, ocean acidification, and oxygen depletion have already triggered a “phase of extinction of marine species unprecedented in human history.” According to Dr. Alex Rogers, director of the IPSO [PDF]:

The findings are shocking. As we considered the cumulative effect of what humankind does to the ocean the implications became far worse than we had individually realized … We are looking at consequences for humankind that will impact in our lifetime.

Sadly, in the era of climate crisis, overfishing and other forms of unsustainable harvest are the least of our problems. Rising carbon emissions are radically changing the chemical composition of our seas, having already contributed to the destruction of more than 85 percent of the world’s coral and oyster reefs. Rising air temperatures are changing wind patterns, which is a major cause of more than 400 ocean “dead zones” devoid of oxygen and sea life. Species ranging from gray whales to plankton are fleeing their native habitats for the first time in nearly 2 million years as water temperatures rise.

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Prevention at the Heart of Keeping Women Healthy

From The White House Blog:

Posted by Kathleen Sebelius
August 01, 2011

Everyone wants their family to be healthy. And a key component of this is ensuring that mothers, daughters, and sisters have access to the preventive services they need. When it comes to health, women are often the sole decision maker for their families and the trusted source in circles of friends – and they are also key consumers of health care.

Women have unique healthcare needs across their life span and have high rates of chronic disease, including diabetes, heart disease and stroke.  Yet while women are more likely to need preventive health care services, they often have less ability to pay. Too often, the combination of women’s lower incomes and out-of-pocket health costs mean that women forgo necessary preventive services. But removing cost sharing requirements improves women’s access to important preventive services. In fact, one study found that the rate of women getting a mammogram went up as much as 9 percent when cost sharing was removed.

The Affordable Care Act helps make prevention affordable and accessible for all Americans by requiring new health plans to cover recommended preventive services and by eliminating cost sharing, such as deductibles, copayments or co-insurance, for  many preventive services. The law also requires insurance companies to cover additional preventive health benefits for women.

For the first time ever, HHS is adopting a new comprehensive set of guidelines for women’s preventive services that builds on and fills the gaps in existing preventive services recommendations for women’s health.  Together, these guidelines will help ensure that women stay healthy at every stage of life.

The new guidelines include a number of key services for women. For adult women of all ages, well-woman visits will now be covered without cost-sharing. Similar to well-baby visits and the annual Medicare wellness visit, this annual well-woman preventive care visit will help women and their doctors determine what preventive services are appropriate and set up a plan to help women get the care they need to be healthy.

Women will have access to life-saving screenings. For example, women will have access to screening and counseling for interpersonal and domestic violence. An estimated 25 percent of women in the U.S. report being targets of intimate partner violence during their lifetimes. Screening is effective in the early detection and effectiveness of interventions to increase the safety of abused women.

Sexually-active women will have access to annual counseling on sexually transmitted infections and HIV. Only 28 percent of women aged 18 to 44 years reported that they had discussed STIs with a doctor or nurse yet screening services have been shown to reduce risky behavior.  Women who are 30 years old or older will have access to high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA testing every three years, regardless of pap smear results. Early screening, detection and treatment have been shown to help reduce the prevalence of cervical cancer.

Women will also have access to all Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling. Though most workers in employer-sponsored plans are currently covered for contraceptives, these new guidelines offer more women the opportunity to access these important services. When half of pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned, we know family planning services are an essential preventive service for women. These services are critical to appropriately spacing and ensuring intended pregnancies which results in improved maternal health and better birth outcomes.

For mothers-to-be, gestational diabetes screening will now be covered at no out of pocket expense. It will help improve the health of mothers and babies because women who have gestational diabetes have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future. Pregnant and postpartum women will have access to comprehensive lactation support and counseling from trained providers, as well as breastfeeding equipment. One of the barriers for breastfeeding is the cost of purchasing or renting breast pumps and nursing related supplies, and now, women will have coverage for this important benefit. As breastfeeding is one of the most effective preventive measures mothers can take to protect their health and the health of their children, access to this equipment without cost can help improve maternal and child health.

By eliminating barriers like co-pays, these guidelines will help improve access to affordable, quality health care for all women. New private health plans must cover the guidelines on women’s preventive services with no cost sharing in plan years starting on or after July 29, 2012. Today, we are moving one step closer to knocking down the barriers to the services that keep American women healthy.

Learn more about the new women’s prevention guidelines. For more information, view Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President on Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs Valerie Jarrett’s blog post.

Kathleen Sebelius is Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Medical Issues and Openness

I have been on my own almost my entire adult life when it comes to health  care.  I have only  been covered with health insurance for maybe five of the last 45 years.

Outside of about a 5 year period when I was in transition and surgery including the labial revision my seeing doctors has been a rather hit or miss affair.

I’ve gone to doctors at free clinics who wrote scripts for my hormones.

In the past, on occasions when I’ve had access to someone who has a lot of TS/TG patients, I’ve felt comfortable enough to be open about my medical history and actually get a physical exam.

But for most of my life I’ve tended to avoid doctors unless I was in need of emergency medical attention.

In most cases where it wasn’t relevant for me to share my information I haven’t shared it.

That includes when I required the emergency surgery to remove the breast implants that were causing the breast tissue above them to die and were coming out one way or another.

Then Tina found a really good doctor, one we both felt comfortable with and who didn’t have a problem with us both in the exam room at the same time.

Having a doctor recognize that you are a family unit and not act strange because you are a same sex couple is important.

He also took Medicare.

Late last year Tina insisted I see a doctor.

Just as a couple of years before that I had insisted she see one.

She learned she is diabetic.  I learned that along with being over weight I have high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

We, initially she found the doctor, who is now our family doctor through several references from the doctor who removed my implants.

I think sometimes we are more driven by fear of prejudice than by actual prejudice.

We are afraid doctors will mistreat us or not value our relationships.  In some cases they do mistreat us and in some cases they are prejudiced.  But we are in a way not just patients, but consumers of medical services.

This means we can do a certain degree of shopping.

Now for some matters how much we share with the doctor treating us may well be based on, “How much do they need to know?”  Does a dentist really need to know about our having been transsexual years ago?  Or our being in transition?  Or our being transgender, lesbian, gay, bisexual?

Now mileage may vary, and someone such as an optometrist, whose questionnaire lists medications you are taking may well need to know if you are taking hormones, because of the potential side effects of certain medications.

At the same time when I was treated for a broken wrist I didn’t feel compelled to share my past medical history.

As L/G and especially as people with either transsexualism or transgenderism, we often have medical needs that straight people do not.  At the same time we sometimes do not have the needs that they have.

Medicine is not nor should it ever be the same as religion.

We should not have to fear discrimination or unequal treatment.  We should demand our relationships be treated with the same dignity and respect accorded straight people.

Call it Radical Egalitarianism if you will, but human dignity demands no less.

The United States has what is perhaps the worst Health Care Insurance structure in the developed world.

It leaves many of us uncovered until we reach the age where we are eligible for Medicare.

Lack of marriage equality plays a major role in this lack of coverage since we are often not eligible to be covered by partner’s benefits.  Add to this the fact that so many of us are victims of the erosion of the middle class, coupled with minority group status means that often we are either  unemployed or under-employed.  Either way that means we are uninsured as part-time employees are rarely covered by health insurance.

This means we are paying out of pocket and postponing medical treatment.

Way too many of us engage in risky sex, drug and alcohol abuse.  L/G and especially TS/TG people smoke at a much higher rate than the general population.  Yesterday I was listening to Michelangelo Signorile, who was speaking to some one involved with an LGBT/T health study and I learned that in general the rate of smoking among LGBT/T people is double that of the straight communities.

Many of us are afraid of doctors.  That fear probably dates from childhood when many of us were threatened with horrifying treatments and cures  because we were born different.

We literally are everywhere.  From the smallest village to the biggest city.  Many of us do not have the luxury of living in a ghetto or even near one where one can look up a doctor in the LGBT/T Yellow Pages.

This means that when we look for a family doctor and find one who is open we may have to become a teacher for someone who is an authority figure we are going to for help.  Sort of the way many TS/TG people had to do in the 1960s and 1970s.

You can’t do this from the closet.  Your relationship with your family practitioner is one of the most intimate relationships you will ever have.

Tina says I am not a complainer.  We are both in the exam room when our doctor examines either of us.  We each bring up things that the other one of us glosses over or fails to admit.  I am sometimes afraid to mention I have chronic injuries that bother me.  I tough it out and compartmentalize pain.  I had planer fascitis for over a year while I was working on the concrete floor of the big box.  I took ibuprofen and worked through it.

I didn’t tell my doctor for the first six months of seeing him.  I guess I figured it would just heal itself as I was on my feet less.  When I told him he gave me a name for the condition and suggested a couple of things I could do to help it heal.  I went home and searched for information on the condition, discovered that Birkenstocks were highly recommended.  Now some three months later the pain has diminished considerably.

Most of my friends from the early days are dead.  Or perhaps I should clarify that a bit, with most of my friends who lived fast, died young.  Often times they refused to see doctors about issues until they got to a point where they were seriously ill.

I know it is embarrassing, especially when you have to teach your doctor, but decent medical care should be our right as  human beings.  Even if we were born different.  Along with equal access to health care our relationships deserve to be treated as being equal in every respect to those of straights.

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Earth’s systems in rapid decline

From Al Jazeera:

Overpopulation is causing huge losses in biodiversity, and ‘protected areas’ such as national parks aren’t working.

Stephen Leahy
03 Aug 2011

Protecting bits of nature here and there will not prevent humanity from losing our life support system. Even if areas dedicated to conserving plants, animals, and other species that provide Earth’s life support system increased tenfold, it would not be enough without dealing with the big issues of the 21st century: population, overconsumption and inefficient resource use.

Without dealing with those big issues, humanity will need 27 planet Earths by 2050, a new study estimates.

The size and number of protected areas on land and sea has increased dramatically since the 1980s, now totaling over 100,000 in number and covering 17 million square kilometres of land and two million square kilometres of oceans, a new study reported Thursday.

Dealing with failure

But impressive as those numbers look, all indicators reveal species going extinct faster than ever before, despite all the additions of new parks, reserves and other conservation measures, according to the study published in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series.

“It is amazing to me that we haven’t dealt with this failure of protected areas to slow biodiversity losses,” said lead author Camilo Mora of University of Hawaii at Manoa.

“We were surprised the evidence from the past 30 years was so clear,” Mora said.

The ability of protected areas to address the problem of biodiversity loss – the decline in diversity and numbers of all living species – has long been overestimated, the study reported. The reality is that most protected areas are not truly protected. Many are “paper parks”, protected in name only. Up to 70 per cent of marine protected areas are paper parks, Mora said.

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