Donna Summer 1948-2012

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Lorena Escalera: A Life That Mattered

From Huffington Post:


Several years into my transition about a decade ago, I thought seriously about killing myself. Life was really hard. I wasn’t passing as my true female self very well. I often was called a man as I walked down the street. I didn’t think I would ever be accepted as the woman I always knew I was, and I wanted to end it. In the note I was going to write to accompany my death, I was going to have explicit instructions about the pronouns that should be used to refer to me in death. I was going to write that I shouldn’t be referred to by the name on my birth certificate but by the name that reflects my female identity — that is, my legal name, the name I took after I dropped my old first name. (“Laverne” was my middle name, and “Cox” was my last name at birth.) I basically didn’t want to be disrespected and misgendered in my death, as all too often happens to transgender folks in news reports on our deaths.

I was reminded of that this weekend when I read the unfortunate New York Times article about the death of Lorena Escalera, a woman who died in a Brooklyn fire. The reporters were careful to use the correct pronouns when referring to Escalera but were sure to quote someone who did not use the correct pronoun to refer to her: “”For a man, he was gorgeous,’ Mr. Hernandez said, noting Ms. Escalera’s flowing hair and ‘hourglass figure.'” This is just one of many passages in the article that sexualize and objectify her. Autumn Sandeen calls attention to this in her piece on Pam’s House Blend.

In a speech I made in Albany last week, I talked about violence against transgender women of color and how our lives are not valued. This Times article is a great example of that. I didn’t personally know Lorena, but we were Facebook friends. After reading about her death, I went to her Facebook page and saw all the messages from friends of Lorena’s, friends who were devastated by the news of her death, friends who talked about her beautiful spirit and how many lives she touched. Lorena’s life mattered. Transgender lives matter.

In a HuffPost blog I wrote last month, I noted how a news outlet reporting on the brutal murder of trans woman Coko Williams showed a photo of trash to accompany the story. The Times article follows this sad paradigm: It reads, “A debris pile outside the apartment, which is above a funeral home, contained many colorful items. Among them were wigs, women’s shoes, coins from around the world, makeup, hair spray, handbags, a shopping bag from Spandex House, a red feather boa and a pamphlet on how to quit smoking.”

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From The Women’s Media Center:

The New York Times Sexualizes and Sensationalizes Death of Transgender Woman

By Madeleine Gyory
May 15, 2012

Yesterday, the New York Times published an article detailing the “suspicious” death of a transgender woman in a Brooklyn fire. Alternating between sexualized descriptions of Lorena Escalera’s physical body and alleged sexual conduct with details about the fire that claimed her life, writers Al Baker and Nate Schweber sensationalize Escalera’s death and transform her into a caricatured spectacle.

Here are some of the details they chose to publish:

She was 25 and curvaceous, and she often drew admiring glances in the gritty Brooklyn neighborhood where she was known to invite men for visits to her apartment, her neighbors and the authorities said.

Oscar Hernandez, 30, a mechanic, said she had had some of her ribs removed in an effort to slim her waist.

“For a man, he was gorgeous…” “hourglass figure.”

A debris pile outside the apartment, which is above a funeral home, contained many colorful items. Among them were wigs, women’s shoes, coins from around the world, makeup, hair spray, handbags, a shopping bag from Spandex House, a red feather boa and a pamphlet on how to quit smoking.

The article uses Escalera’s private life as fodder for a sensationalized news bit, relying primarily on the rubbernecking shock value of her gender identification, but refusing to identify her as a trans woman. Baker and Schweber use the term “transgender” only once in the article, to describe the performance group Escalera worked for. When referring to Escalera herself, Baker and Schweber write that she was “called Lorena” and “according to neighbors, she was born male.”

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Fukushima nuclear disaster: who profits and who pays?

From Green Peace:

by Jan Haverkamp
May 16, 2012

Last week, the inevitable finally happened. The company responsible for the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, has been nationalised. Japan’s trade and industry minister Yukio Edano announced a de facto state take-over of the company with a further injection of $12.5bn, bringing the total of state capital in TEPCO to $33.2bn. Edano has said that: “Without the state funds, (TEPCO) cannot provide a stable supply of electricity and pay for compensation and decommissioning costs”.

The Fukushima Daiichi catastrophe has cost TEPCO over $100bn in estimated costs, which includes compensation and clean-up costs. However, the actual costs are much bigger. Many Japanese are bearing the brunt of the damages in their daily lives with most of their claims and losses going uncompensated and most of their suffering unrecognised.

The nationalisation of TEPCO, together with a legal practice called “channelling of liability” in which all liability related to the Fukushima nuclear disaster has to be channelled to TEPCO, means Japanese taxpayers and ratepayers will foot most of the bill.

An infuriating aspect of this story is that in a recent presentation by General Electric (GE) about its “success” over the past 50 years, there was not a word about the Fukushima disaster and nothing approaching an apology. Yet the Fukushima disaster was affected by well-known problems related to GE’s Mark 1 design, which was used at all four troubled reactors. Furthermore, GE was involved in maintenance throughout the four decades of the plant’s operation and had 44 on site at the time of the accident.

GE, together with its corporate mates from Hitachi, which is responsible for the construction of Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4, and Toshiba, which delivered Reactor No. 3, as well as Ebasco, Kajima, Areva and many others, have mostly kept mum about their involvement.

The Prime Minister orders venting

Prime Minister Naoto Kan had to order venting the day after the disaster. Without venting the containment might have given way to the rising pressure, which is a problem identified 30 years ago by several GE whistleblowers. It was not easy to give the order. Workers would risk potentially lethal doses of radiation and the evacuation around Fukushima had not even started. Venting would expose thousands of people to radiation, but the alternative of an exploding reactor would create even more havoc. TEPCO, GE, Hitachi, and Toshiba knew that this could happen. Not one of them ever demanded the closure of the reactors. By closing their eyes to their obviously faulty product they have spread the impression that people are safe.

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As NATO Meets in Chicago, Activists Condemn “Militarized Arm of the 1 Percent”

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Back to the Land for the Occupy Movement

From On The Commons:

Commons at the heart of the issue in occupation of agricultural land in the Bay Area

by Jeff Conant
May 15, 2012

When hundreds of people took up the banner of “Occupy the Farm” on April 22nd and laid claim to a patch of urban farmland owned by UC Berkeley, it was not the first time this 5-acre parcel had become the flashpoint of a struggle between the University and local communities. But it was the first time anyone had done something as brash as simply taking the land without asking.

Three weeks later, on May 14, a force of 100 police from at least 8 UC campus police forces converged on the site, blocked traffic, carted off about ten organizers, and barricaded the 5 acre farm plot, as well as the perimeter of the 14 acre parcel of which it forms a part. Dozens of supporters arrived to watch the 7 a.m. action and to express outrage at the police. Of course, the police, in their riot shields and armed with teargas and pepper spray, are merely doing the job they were asked to do by the Chancellor of University of California – to uphold the rule of law.

In the scant three weeks that Occupy the Farm persisted as a physical occupation, it expanded the tactics, objectives, and vision of the Occupy Movement; it restored the frontlines of a local struggle to get the University of California to respond to community needs rather than corporate interests; it took an issue that is generally only spoken of in the so-called ‘Third World’ – that of food sovereignty and territorial rights – and dropped it into the heart of the urban San Francisco Bay Area; and, it asserted, in the flesh, a demand that many progressives have spoken of in recent years, but few have had sufficient vision, understanding or bravery to manifest: Occupy the Farm was, and is, a bold, largely unprecedented act of reclaiming the Commons in the most immediate sense – taking land out of private speculation and putting it into community use.

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Why do conservatives hate freedom?

From Salon:

The movement’s opposition to gay rights is just the latest move in its history of opposing personal liberties

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Why do conservatives hate freedom? The question may be startling. After all, don’t conservatives claim they are protecting liberty in America against liberal statism, which they compare to communism or fascism? But the conservative idea of “freedom” is a very peculiar one, which excludes virtually every kind of liberty that ordinary Americans take for granted.

I distinguish conservatives from libertarians, who, on issues of personal liberty, tend to side with liberals. Since World War II, mainstream conservatives have opposed every expansion of personal liberty in the United States.

During the civil rights era, the leading conservative politician, Barry Goldwater, and the leading conservative intellectual, William F. Buckley Jr., along with most of their followers opposed federal laws banning racial discrimination. To their credit, they later admitted they had been mistaken; indeed, both Buckley and Goldwater supported gay rights late in their careers. But at the time that conservative support for a color-blind society might have made a difference, the leaders of American conservatism sided with the Southern segregationists. They claimed they did so, not because of racial prejudice, but because they feared federal tyranny — a weaselly stance that, in practice, made them side with white supremacist tyranny at the state level. If they had truly believed in their own propaganda about federalism, conservatives could have opposed federal civil rights legislation while campaigning for civil rights laws at the state level. They didn’t.

The civil rights revolution was followed by the sexual revolution. Here again, conservatives, as distinct from libertarians, were on the side of government repression. The mainstream conservative movement opposed the legalization of contraceptives and abortion. In this case, unlike in the case of civil rights, the American right did not even pretend to have constitutional reasons for opposing Supreme Court decisions like Griswold v. Connecticut in 1965 (which struck down state bans on the use of contraception, including by married couples) or Roe v. Wade  in 1973 (which struck down state bans on most abortion). The mainstream right simply argued that conservative Christian beliefs about sexual morality should be incorporated into law. In other words, the very conservatives warning us about the dangers of “mobocracy” when it came to the welfare state had no objection to using the power of government to force their fellow citizens to live their private lives according to the teachings of Thomas Aquinas or the Book of Leviticus, as interpreted by semi-literate Southern Protestant preachers.

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Anti-Gay Paul Cameron Admits Attraction to Men

The old closet case finally outed himself.

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House Passes Version of Violence Against Women Act That Excludes LGBT Provisions

From The Metro Weekly:

Posted by Chris Geidner
May 16, 2012

The House — over White House opposition — today passed its version of the Violence Against Women Act on a 222-205 vote. Among the provisions excluded from the House bill that are a part of the Senate bill passed this past month are several affecting minority populations, including LGBT people.

In a statement, Vice President Joseph Biden said, “The House has passed a version of the Violence Against Women Act that will roll back critical provisions to help victims of abuse. I urge Congress to come together to pass a bipartisan measure that protects all victims. VAWA has been improved each time it’s been reauthorized, and this time should be no different.”

The House vote came after Politico reported that 13 “senators – all female – called for an up-or-down vote on the Senate bill, which garnered 68 votes in the Senate late last month. The lone Republican who signed on to the letter was Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.”

The White House has stated that, should the House version be presented to President Obama, his “senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.”

In a statement, Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese said, “Today, House Republicans put partisan politics above the well-being of victims of domestic abuse. It is unfortunate – though not surprising – that some lawmakers refuse to acknowledge the basic dignity and respect LGBT domestic violence victims deserve.”

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force executive director Rea Carey added in a statement, “The Violence Against Women Act passed by the Senate and supported by the White House is a model bill designed to meet the needs of all victims of domestic violence in the country. The House version coldly and unnecessarily puts people at risk at a time when they are most vulnerable.

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‘Desperate Greece smashed by austerity hammer’

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Cost of Greek exit from euro put at $1tn

From The Guardian UK:

UK government making urgent preparations to cope with the fallout of a possible Greek exit from the single currency

, and
The Guardian, Wednesday 16 May 2012

The British government is making urgent preparations to cope with the fallout of a possible Greek exit from the single currency, after the governor of the Bank of England, Sir Mervyn King, warned that Europe was “tearing itself apart”.

Reports from Athens that massive sums of money were being spirited out of the country intensified concern in London about the impact of a splintering of the eurozone on a UK economy that is stuck in double-dip recession. One estimate put the cost to the eurozone of Greece making a disorderly exit from the currency at $1tn, 5% of output.

Officials in the United States are also nervously watching the growing crisis: Barack Obama on Wednesday described it as a “headwind” that could threaten the fragile American recovery.

In a speech in Manchester before flying to the United States for a summit of G8 leaders, the British prime minister, David Cameron, will say the eurozone “either has to make up or it is looking at a potential breakup”, adding that the choice for Europe’s leaders cannot be long delayed.

“Either Europe has a committed, stable, successful eurozone with an effective firewall, well capitalised and regulated banks, a system of fiscal burden sharing, and supportive monetary policy across the eurozone, or we are in uncharted territory which carries huge risks for everybody.

“Whichever path is chosen, I am prepared to do whatever is necessary to protect this country and secure our economy and financial system.”

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GOH: Pizza is NOT a Vegetable!

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NOW Condemns House for Passage of H.R. 4970 Statement of NOW President Terry O’Neill

Now Press Release:

May 16, 2012

The National Organization for Women condemns today’s passage of H.R. 4970, the House Republican version of the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization bill. Sponsored by Representative Sandy Adams (R-Fla.), H.R. 4970 not only strips important provisions that were passed by a bipartisan Senate vote of 68-31, but also changes and weakens many initiatives and preventive provisions that have been included in VAWA by both Republicans and Democrats over the past 18 years.

Extremists in the House may resent being called out for their War on Women, but their atrocious bill is part and parcel of it — and women are not fooled by the attempts of H.R. 4970’s supporters to characterize serious policy differences as mere election year politicking. Proponents of the Adams bill seemed more interested in railing against Washington bureaucrats and claiming (without evidence) rampant fraud by immigrant women who have been battered and raped, than they were about the plight of victims in desperate need of services and legal protections.

Their bill most assuredly is not about victims. The bill fundamentally undermines VAWA’s 18-year history of victim-centered legislation by shielding perpetrators from accountability for their violent crimes, raising new hurdles to women escaping violent relationships, removing important college campus and housing improvements, rolling back provisions for culturally specific services currently in VAWA and turning its back on immigrant women and Native American and LGBT communities. Small wonder its proponents were not able to produce experts or professionals who support this bad bill.

Because the Adams bill undercuts previous VAWA provisions and stays silent on serving underserved communities, survivors and advocates understandably sense that House extremists are intent on abandoning victims because of their racial and legal status. And we are not afraid to state that this second-class treatment of victims of color smacks of willful ignorance of the problem and hostility toward the victims. Constituents no doubt will be reluctant to vote for representatives who claimed to support ending violence against women while voting for an exclusionary bill that ignores the biases and disrespect that certain victims face when seeking help from the criminal justice system and access to lifesaving services.

NOW has “scored” this vote, meaning the organization considers a vote for H.R. 4970 a vote against VAWA. The 222 representatives in the House who voted for this bill abandoned victims of violence and enabled abusers, and they will be judged in the public arena and at the polls in November.

For Immediate Release
Contact: Latoya Veal w. 202-628-8669, ext. 116, c. 301-660-3447

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Pompous Prevaricators of Power

From Common Dreams:

by Ralph Nader
Published on Wednesday, May 16, 2012 by Common Dreams

A friend who works in Congress and actually reads the Congressional Record suggested that a collection of excerpted falsehoods by Republicans on the floor of the House of Representatives and Senate would make compelling evidence for the truth of economist Albert Hirschman’s book, The Rhetoric of Reaction (1991).

Professor Hirschman, a very original political economist, found throughout American history the following three propositions were commonly used to counter social justice efforts:

The Perversity Thesis states government action only serves to exacerbate the problem being addressed;
The Futility Thesis holds that attempts at social policy will simply fail to solve the problem;
The Jeopardy Thesis argues that the cost of the proposed change or reform is too high and will lead to disaster.

The only people who know more about this sequential rhetoric than Mr. Hirschman are corporate lawyers and their corporate clients’ publicists. For over two hundred years they and their corporations have opposed virtually every advance for better and fairer lives of the American people using propaganda which fits into Hirschman’s frameworks. Whether it was the abolition of slavery, child labor, and the 70 hour week, or women’s right to vote, trade union rights, the progressive income tax, unemployment compensation, social security and, of course, the various regulatory standards protecting consumers, worker safety and the environment, the arguments against them have been pretty much the same.

As the fascinating “Cry Wolf Project” staff observed: “We’ve heard these all before. Perversity: if you raise the minimum wage, you’ll increase unemployment. Futility: tobacco warning labels won’t stop people from smoking. And Jeopardy: it’s a ‘job killer.’”

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TPP: Secret trade agreement expanding drug monopolies?

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Older Unemployed Americans Face Tough Job Hunt

From CNBC:

By: Reuters
Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Jean Coyle, 67, has a new kind of ministry. The former professor had just begun a career as a Presbyterian minister in Virginia when the economic downturn forced her church to let her go in 2007.

After that, she found only temporary work. She relied on savings while job hunting, but at 64, had to dip into her Social Security benefits. She officially retired in 2010. For spending money, she plans to start teaching a water aerobics class to earn $40 a week.

“I’m not going to get wealthy on that,” she said. “It’s not really the ministry I expected to have.”

Coyle is among the many unemployed, older Americans who, while struggling to re-enter the workforce, have growing worries that their retirement security is at risk.

The number of long-term unemployed workers ages 55 and older has more than doubled since the recession began in late 2007. Getting back to work is increasingly difficult, according to a government report being released Tuesday.

For unemployed seniors, the chances of re-entering the workforce are grim. Experts worry that unemployed seniors face a long-term threat as the impact of lost wages compounds. In what should be their prime earning years, these older workers rely on savings, miss out on potential wages and prematurely tap into Social Security — all at a time when Americans live longer and health care and other living costs are rising.

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