Mayors for the Freedom to Marry

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Anti-Gay Groups Protest SPLC with Claims of Hate and Intolerance

From Southern Poverty Law Center:

January 17, 2012

About a dozen African American pastors joined anti-gay extremists today in condemning the Southern Poverty Law Center for using its “hate group” label to describe faith-based organizations that demonize the LGBT community, characterizing it as part of an orchestrated liberal plot.

The pastors spoke at a press conference staged outside the SPLC offices in Montgomery, Ala., by Americans for the Truth About Homosexuality (AFTAH), which the SPLC lists as an anti-gay hate group.

“The SPLC has moved from monitoring actual hate groups like the KKK and neo-Nazis to slandering mainstream Christian organizations with that very same hate group label,” said Matt Barber of the Liberty Counsel, affiliated with Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University. “By extension, the SPLC is smearing billions of Christians and Jews worldwide as haters simply because they embrace the traditional Judeo-Christian ethics.”

Rachel Conner of Abiding Truth Ministries, also listed as a hate group, charged that  “the Southern Poverty Law Center has now become a tool of the God-haters, promoting hatred in the form of vicious lies against Christianity.”

“This has nothing to do with hate and tolerance,” said Peter LaBarbera, president of AFTAH. “It has everything to do with pro-gay politicking.”

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Sugar High: The Dark History and Nasty Methods Used to Feed Our Sweet Tooth

From Alternet:

Sugar is now 20 percent of the American diet, but it’s not just our health that suffers from its pervasiveness.

By Jill Richardson
January 20, 2012

Americans think an awful lot about sucrose — table sugar — but only in certain ways. We crave it and dream up novel ways to combine it with other ingredients to produce delectable foods; and we worry that we eat too much of it and that it is making us unhealthy or fat. But how often do Americans think about where sugar actually comes from or the people who produce it? As a tropical crop, sugarcane cannot grow in most U.S. states. Most of us do not smell the foul odors coming from sugar refineries, look out over vast expanses of nothing but sugarcane, or speak to those who perform the hard labor required to grow and harvest sugarcane.

Of course, sugar can be made from beets, a temperate crop, and more than half of sugar produced in the United States is. But globally, most of the story of sugar, past and present, centers around sugarcane, not beets, and as biofuels become more common, it is sugarcane that is cultivated for ethanol. What’s more, some conscious eaters avoid beet sugar as most of it is now made from genetically modified sugar beets.

While I do not fool myself that sugar is “healthy,” if I am going to satisfy my sweet tooth, I prefer cane sugar, maple syrup, agave nectar, or honey over the other choices: beet sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial sweeteners. Of the bunch, most Americans can find only honey and perhaps maple syrup sustainably and locally produced, but cane sugar is often the most versatile product for baking.

As a major consumer of cane sugar, I was disturbed to learn the realities of cane sugar production when I visited a sugarcane-producing area in Bolivia.

Sugarcane grew as far as the eye could see on the degraded soils of the deforested industrial agricultural area in Bolivia’s lowlands. At one point, the van I was riding in got stuck in a traffic jam of enormous trucks, each full of sugarcane, delivering their loads to a refinery. The area around the refinery smelled terrible, and the locals told us the smell came from oxidizing ponds that hold the refinery’s wastewater. When the refineries are washed out, typically once a year, the wastewater is dumped into local waterways, resulting in fish kills. This spurred me to learn more about how sugar is made, both in the U.S. and around the world, and how it impacts the land and the people who produce it. Sadly, the story of sugar is also the story of the African slave trade. Today, sugar production still uses exploitative labor practices and can cause serious environmental problems.

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Lost Calories: US trashes $ 1 Bln worth of food

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Lechery, Immodesty and the Talmud

From The New York Times:

Published: January 19, 2012

IS it possible for a religious demand for modesty to be about anything other than men controlling women’s bodies? From recent events in Israel, it would certainly seem that it is not.

Last month, an innocent, modestly dressed 8-year-old girl, Naama Margolese, living in Beit Shemesh, described being spat on and vilified by religious extremists — all men — who believed that she did not dress modestly enough while walking past them to the religious school she attends. And more and more, public buses in Israel are enforcing gender segregation imposed by ultra-Orthodox riders in and near their neighborhoods. Woe to the girl or woman who refuses to move to the back of the bus.

This is part of a larger battle being waged in Israel between the ultra-Orthodox and the rest of Israeli society over women’s place in society, over their very right to have a visible presence and to participate in the public sphere.

What is behind these deeply disturbing events? We are told that they arise from a religious concern about modesty, that women must be covered and sequestered so that men do not have improper sexual thoughts. It seems, then, that a religious tenet that begins with men’s sexual thoughts ends with men controlling women’s bodies.

This is not a problem unique to Judaism. But the Talmud, the basis for Jewish law, offers a perhaps surprising answer: It places the responsibility for controlling men’s licentious thoughts about women squarely on the men.

Put more plainly, the Talmud says: It’s your problem, sir; not hers.

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The Onerous Toll of the Helms Amendment and What Obama Can Do To Change It

From RH Reality Check:

by Jessica Mack
January 17, 2012

It’s been almost three years since President Obama repealed the global gag rule, one of the most ludicrous and paternalistic U.S. foreign policies in history. But as we celebrate the anniversary of its repeal, just one day after the anniversary of Roe v. Wade on January 22nd, another matter deserves our attention.

The last stronghold of America’s oppressive overseas reproductive health policies, the Helms Amendment, is still alive and well. The 1973 amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act restricts U.S. funding for abortion overseas – even in countries where abortion is legal. Specifically, it states:

“No foreign assistance funds may be used to pay for the performance of abortion as a method of family planning or to motivate or coerce any person to practice abortions.”

The Helms Amendment invented what the global gag rule caricatured: a foreign policy that explicitly intrudes on the lives of women in developing countries, singling out and stigmatizing ‘abortion’ from the continuum of reproductive care necessary for a healthy life. Yet we’ve heard relatively little of this “grandfather” of anti-choice policies over the past 40 years, and all the while its colonial specter has continued to haunt the United State’s legacy of global reproductive rights.

Some are now aruing publicly for change. In late-December, 12 Members of Congress, including Representatives Lois Capps, Pete Stark, and Jan Schakowsky,  sent a letter to President Obama  asking for a formal review of the policy for the first time in history.

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Greece on verge of breakthrough in deal to cancel 70% of debt

From The Guardian UK:

• Agreement secured on interest rate for new bonds
• Athens hopes to brief EU meeting on Monday

and in Athens, Friday 20 January 2012

Greece is on the verge of a breakthrough in talks with its creditors that could wipe out up to 70% of its debts and alleviate the crisis in the eurozone.

An outline deal, hurriedly endorsed by Brussels, came after a frantic three days of negotiations that at one time appeared to be heading for deadlock.

It appeared that Greece had secured a deal to pay an interest rate of 3.1%, rising to 4.75%, on new 30-year bonds created from its outstanding €360bn (£300bn) debt burden. The effect would be for creditors to accept writedowns of up to 70% on many of their loans.

Sources close to the Greek government said it was still possible that major lenders could walk away if there was a failure to get agreement on some of the fine detail, but Athens was confident that further talks over the weekend would bring a comprehensive deal.

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