Rosita Hidalgo: Transgender Murder on South Beach

From Miami New Times:

By Jon Tayler
Mon., Jul. 23 2012

Hector Sarna isn’t surprised that his friend Rosita Hidalgo was killed. As a transgender woman who was a sex worker, she was putting herself at risk. He warned her that one of the men she brought home would hurt her, or worse. He remembers a day almost a year ago when a man client beat Rosita after finding out she was once a man. Hector told her to be more careful.

But Hector didn’t expect her to be gagged and stabbed and slashed in her apartment. That’s how he found her March 15. No one had heard from Rosita in a few days, and one of her friends became worried. So Hector called the Miami Beach police, who went to Rosita’s apartment at 545 Michigan Ave. Hector was with them. Officers opened the door just enough to see the blood pooling on the floor.

In the four months since Rosita’s death, Hector has prayed that the police or someone else would tell him why Rosita was killed. But he has received no answers — no suspects nor arrests. The MBPD issued a press release in April, stating that all they knew about the murder was that Rosita was a transvestite and a prostitute who sold herself on the street. Neither of those descriptions is correct.

“They’re not doing all they can,” Hector says. “Four months, and still to this moment, nothing.” Little is known about the case. Rosita came to the United States from Cuba as Rene Hidalgo in 1980 on the Mariel boatlift.

She left her homeland to avoid persecution over being gay, says Jorge Ortega, a Miami Beach hairdresser who knew Rosita on the island. According to Hector, Rosita transitioned to a woman soon after arriving. She lived on South Beach and owned two Chihuahuas. She was a small-time escort, bringing men to her apartment for sex and to smoke pot. She had no family here, and the money she made she sent home to Cuba to support her mother. But even those details are scant and difficult to confirm. Despite 30 years in Miami, Rosita disappeared from the city in the blink of an eye.

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Laura Jane Grace: ‘So I’m a transsexual and this is what’s happening’

From The Guardian UK:

The lead singer of Against Me! talks frankly about her gender dysphoria, and what it was like to tell her bandmates, her family and her wife that she wanted to become a woman, Sunday 22 July 2012

It’s a real challenge for a punk rocker to generate anything resembling actual shock nowadays. Thirty-five years after the Sex Pistols sang God Save the Queen, what seemed transgressive now looks practically quaint. It’s been almost as long since sex-change surgery could work up much interest either. Even the tabloids have wearied of “gender bender” headlines about butch army officers turning into foxy chicks.

But when Rolling Stone hit the newsstands two months ago, the magazine contained a genuine sensation. Tom Gabel, lead singer of American punk band Against Me!, had an important announcement to make – to his fans, his industry, his friends and to most of his family. After 10 years on stage, thrashing out a fury of sweaty nihilism, the punk would henceforth like to be known as Laura Jane Grace. The 31-year-old married father was about to embark on a process of gender reassignment, both hormonal and surgical, and for all practical purposes should be regarded from that day forth as a woman. When Against Me! performed the very next night, its ubiquitously pierced and tattooed lead singer strode on to the stage in high heels and full makeup.

Last week Against Me! were playing in Oslo, and when I arrive I by chance run into the rest of the band in the hotel lobby. Heavy set, swaddled in black, a little bit socially awkward, they talk in amiable grunts punctuated by the word “awesome”, a textbook rockers-on-tour ensemble. After some slightly stilted small talk, I get into the lift, step out on to a roof terrace, and come face to face with the most sweet-natured, articulate, nakedly vulnerable punk you are ever likely to meet.

Grace doesn’t look like a woman, but then she only began taking hormones a month ago. There’s a subtle feminity in her posture, though, and in the way her features soften as she talks. The twin impressions of apprehension and an eagerness to please are for a moment disconcerting – until you see just how extraordinary it must be to start telling a total stranger about the very thing she’s been keeping secret for most of her life.

Grace’s first intimation of gender dysphoria came when she was just five years old. “The first time I had that moment, when I knew, was seeing Madonna on a televised concert. And I thought: ‘Why not me?'” The son of a military man, she grew up on army bases feeling lonely and confused, bullied at school and bewildered by an indelible sense of toxic otherness.

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Head bans transgender pupil from exam… so she shows him Equality Act

Normally I wouldn’t post something from The sun, but this is an illustration of how having the laws protect us means we can tell petty dictators to stuff it when they try to run life damaging trips on us.

From The Sun UK:

Mon, 23 Jul 2012

A TRANSGENDER pupil had to show her headmaster a copy of the Equality Act before he allowed her to sit a GCSE exam while wearing girls’ clothes.

Ashlyn Parram, 16, turned up for her first examination in tights, skirt and blazer — but was told by teachers to go home and change into the boys’ school uniform.

The furious teen printed off a copy of the law on sex discrimination, which includes specific legislation on the treatment of transgenders and transsexuals, and marched it straight to head Chris Wall’s office.

He admitted he could not ban Ashlyn — but teachers made her sit away from other pupils at the back of the sports hall at Giles Academy in Boston, Lincs.

Ashlyn — who used to be called Lewis — said: “I have never felt so bad about myself.

“It’s sad people can’t be more open-minded. I’ve lost a lot of friends because of everything I’ve been through. I really didn’t need to lose the support of my teachers.”

Ashlyn has lived openly as a girl at home for two years — but had toned down her appearance at school to avoid abuse. She had been spat at and hit in the street.

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Anti-prostitution pledge in US Aids funding ‘damaging’ HIV response

From The Guardian UK

Activists at Aids conferences demand end to Pepfar conditions that prevent HIV programmes reaching vulnerable groups

in Kolkata, Tuesday 24 July 2012

Aids activists gathering in Washington DC and Kolkata, India, this week have denounced conditions attached to US global Aids funding, which they say have damaged the response to the epidemic by further marginalising sex workers – among those hardest hit.

International organisations that receive funds through the President’s emergency plan for Aids relief (Pepfar) must sign an “anti-prostitution pledge” prohibiting them from doing anything that could be perceived as supporting sex work. Activists say this has weakened the already underfunded response to the HIV epidemic among some of the most vulnerable communities.

“We need concerted pressure against the US to look into its anti-prostitution pledge and its relationship to HIV rates,” said Andrew Hunter, president of the Asia-Pacific Network of Sex Workers. He said some organisations have rejected Pepfar funding because of the pledge, while others have closed entire programmes.

A key problem, said Hunter, is that the pledge affects all projects that are implemented by a grantee – regardless of whether or not a specific project receives money from the fund. This, combined with vague wording and uneven enforcement, has left many organisations unclear about which of their activities might be permitted or forbidden, he said.

Hunter said this confusion has led to “ridiculous levels of withholding services”, as frontline staff worry about their programmes closing if they are perceived to be violating the pledge. “The pledge has ended up being far more damaging and applying to far more than even its most conservative supporters had wanted,” he said.

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Greenland Ice Melt, Measured By NASA Satellites, Reaches Unprecedented Level

From Huffington Post:

Posted: 07/24/2012

Unprecedented melting of Greenland’s ice sheet this month has stunned NASA scientists and has highlighted broader concerns that the region is losing a remarkable amount of ice overall.

According to a NASA press release, about half of Greenland’s surface ice sheet naturally melts during an average summer. But the data from three independent satellites this July, analyzed by NASA and university scientists, showed that in less than a week, the amount of thawed ice sheet surface skyrocketed from 40 percent to 97 percent.

In over 30 years of observations, satellites have never measured this amount of melting, which reaches nearly all of Greenland’s surface ice cover.

When Son Nghiem of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory observed the recent melting phenomenon, he said in the NASA press release, “This was so extraordinary that at first I questioned the result: Was this real or was it due to a data error?”

Scientists at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, University of Georgia-Athens and City University of New York all confirmed the remarkable ice melt.

NASA’s cryosphere program manager, Tom Wagner, credited the power of satellites for observing the melt and explained to The Huffington Post that, although this specific event may be part of a natural variation, “We have abundant evidence that Greenland is losing ice, probably because of global warming, and it’s significantly contributing to sea level rise.”

Wagner said that ice is clearly thinning around the periphery, changing Greenland’s overall ice mass, and he believes this is primarily due to warming ocean waters “eating away at the ice.” He cautiously added, “It seems likely that’s correlated with anthropogenic warming.”

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Hundreds of Medical Marijuana Supporters Protest Obama in Oakland as Feds Escalate War on Pot

From Alternet:

Demanding answers for unjustified federal raids and threats, patients challenged the DEA’s claim that marijuana has no medical use.

By J.A. Myerson
July 24, 2012

 Hundreds of supporters of President Obama turned out to see him at Oakland’s Fox Theater on Monday afternoon. They lined up for blocks along Telegraph Avenue for the opportunity to see President Obama as he traveled from one fundraising event to another. Before the First Motorcade passed them, a march of several hundred people instructed them variously to “Smoke weed every day,” “Stop the madness, spark a spliff,” and demand that their candidate keep his promise.

The activists gathered first at Oakland City Hall to protest U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag’s crusade against area dispensaries. This April, in apparent contravention of the publicly stated will of President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, federal agents raided Oaksterdam University. Recently, Haag has also threatened to seize Harborside Health Center, where 100,000 patients have procured medicine over the last six years. Representatives of the two dispensaries joined Judge Jim Gray, the vice-presidential candidate on the Libertarian ticket, a handful of Occupy Oakland regulars, and a community of cannabis patents in front of around 100 supporters.

Specifically, the group’s plea was for the president and the attorney general to intervene in Haag’s anti-dispensary fight. Behind this, they have Obama’s previous statements and what they have been led to believe was official Justice Department policy, as articulated by Holder. Candidate Obama said in 2007, “I would not have the Justice Department prosecuting and raiding medical marijuana users; it is not a good use of our resources. AG Holder has promised to keep the Justice Department’s nose out of medical marijuana establishments unless they ‘are acting out of conformity with state law.'”

The letter Haag issued to explain her posture did not adhere to that standard, effectively calling the dispensaries too successful to tolerate rather than citing specific violations of state law. “The larger the operation,” read the letter, “the greater the likelihood that there will be abuse of the state’s medical marijuana laws.” (Why no U.S. attorney has applied this standard to, say, financial institutions, remains to be explained.)

One by one, cannabis patients told their stories to counteract the DEA’s assertion that marijuana has “no currently accepted medical use.” Jason David, who was featured in Discovery Channel’s “Weed Wars,” told the story of his son, who had a seizure every day of his life until he was treated with CBP, which changed his life. “I’m getting my son back,” David said. “He can look me in my eyes. He can comprehend now, which he never could before. Now, when we go swimming, he’s happy. He gets to swim. Before, when we would go to a swimming pool, he couldn’t swim. He’d look at it and have a seizure.”

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Police Use Brutal Force on CA Protesters

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Where is Obama’s Promised Minimum-Wage Hike?

From Common Dreams:

by Ralph Nader
Published on Tuesday, July 24, 2012 by Reuters

During the 2008 campaign, presidential candidate Barack Obama made a pledge to raise the minimum wage to $9.50 per hour by 2011. Promises like this one inspired a generation of young voters, excited long-neglected progressive voters and gave hope to millions of his supporters across the country.

President Obama ran a campaign of soaring rhetoric and uplifting ideas. Amidst two unpopular wars, a rapidly deteriorating financial crisis and the wildly unpopular presidency of George W. Bush, Americans were desperate for a change. He was viewed as a “transformational” candidate, a president who would turn the page on the stagnant politics of Washington.

It is now four years later, and there has been no increase to the minimum wage. There has been no congressional vote, much less a whisper from the White House on the minimum wage.

President Obama understood the importance of this issue in 2008. The merits of raising the minimum wage haven’t changed since then, but his political courage has. The inflation-adjusted value of the minimum wage has been in decline since the 1960s, losing over 30 percent of its value and leaving hard-working Americans struggling to get by from paycheck to paycheck. At the same time, the cost of living has continued to rise steadily, further eroding the value of a minimum wage. Had the minimum wage kept pace with inflation since 1968, today it would be at $10.57 per hour, instead of the current federal minimum wage of $7.25.

Studies show that the minimum wage could help jump-start the economy and increase consumer spending. A 2011 study by the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank found that for every dollar increase to the hourly pay of a minimum wage worker, the result is $2,800 in new consumer spending from that worker’s household over the year. And a 2009 study from the Economic Policy Institute estimated that simply by raising the minimum wage to $9.50 per hour, $60 billion in additional spending would be added to the economy over a two-year period.

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Noam Chomsky, The Great Charter, Its Fate, and Ours

From Tom Dispatch:

Posted by Noam Chomsky
July 22, 2012.

This week the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights filed suit against CIA Director David Petraeus, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and two top special operations forces commanders for “violating the Constitution and international law” in the drone assassination of three American citizens in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki, Samir Khan, and al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son Abdulrahman (though no one claims he had anything whatsoever to do with terror campaigns).  The suit is based on the Constitution’s promise of “due process” (“[N]or shall any person… be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law”), which to the untutored eye of this non-lawyer clearly seems to involve “law.”  Attorney General Eric Holder evidently thinks otherwise and has explained his reasoning when it comes to the right of the Obama administration to order such deaths: “The Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process.”  If you’re not inside the National Security Complex, it may be just a tad hard to grasp how “due process” could mean a secret process of review in the White House presided over by a president with a “kill list” (whose legal justification, laid out by the Justice Department, cannot be made public).  And yet that is, as far as we can tell, indeed the claim.

It will be a surprise if this case goes far.  The government is almost certain to bring to bear the usual not-quite-state-secrets-act to squelch it, with its lawyers undoubtedly claiming that any such trial could reveal damaging secrets about our expanding drone wars.  Of course, U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and more rarely Somalia are regularly in the news, and have been proudly cited or even boasted about by officials from the president on down, yet they remain somehow “covert” and unmentionable when it suits the administration.  And since just about anything the National Security Complex does evidently now qualifies for classified status, secrecy is increasingly the convenient excuse for just about anything.

In the case of our drone wars, “covert” clearly has little to do with secrecy in any normal sense and a lot to do with lack of accountability to anyone not involved in choosing those to be killed or launching the attacks.  One thing is clear: whatever the ACLU and others do, we now live in a post-legal America, a world in which no act (other than whistleblowing), however illegal, within the national security state can be successfully prosecuted in court.  This has clearly been part of a process by which, since 2001, American liberties have been turned in for “safety.”  Something did change after 9/11 (when “everything” was supposed to have changed) and in a speech at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, reproduced below in full, Noam Chomsky backs up a few centuries to lay out a vivid history of just how this happened. (To catch Timothy MacBain’s latest Tomcast audio interview in which Chomsky discusses the recent shredding of the principles of the Magna Carta, click here or download it to your iPod here.) Tom

Destroying the Commons
How the Magna Carta Became a Minor Carta

By Noam Chomsky

Down the road only a few generations, the millennium of Magna Carta, one of the great events in the establishment of civil and human rights, will arrive.  Whether it will be celebrated, mourned, or ignored is not at all clear.

That should be a matter of serious immediate concern.  What we do right now, or fail to do, will determine what kind of world will greet that event.  It is not an attractive prospect if present tendencies persist — not least, because the Great Charter is being shredded before our eyes.

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Food Fight – Some Humanity for the Chicken Industry?

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The $7.25 Minimum Wage Is Too Low for 21st Century America

From Truth Out:

By Salvatore Babones
Monday, 23 July 2012

On July 24, 2009, America’s minimum wage went up from $6.55 an hour to $7.25 an hour. It hasn’t changed since.

On July 24, 2012, the National Employment Law Project (NELP) is coordinating a National Day of Action to Raise the Minimum Wage, with events planned in more than 30 cities.

The NELP argues that the minimum wage should be indexed to changes in the Consumer Price Index to adjust for inflation. Most other federal benchmarks are adjusted for inflation. The national poverty line, food stamp eligibility and Social Security benefits are all adjusted for inflation every year.

The minimum wage is not adjusted for inflation. The United States has had a national minimum wage since 1938, but it has only been increased 22 times in the past 74 years.

In terms of purchasing power, the minimum wage reached its highest level in 1968. When the 1968 minimum wage is converted into today’s dollars using the official Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator, it equals $10.55 an hour in 2012 dollars.

In other words, 1968 America legislated a minimum wage that would be the equivalent (in purchasing power) of $10.55 an hour today.

Some people might consider a $10.55 minimum wage to be unrealistically high, but that’s what we had in 1968. And the unemployment rate in 1968 was 3.6 percent. Our high minimum wage didn’t seem to prevent people from finding work.

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Senator Sanders Asks Obama: Will You Defend Social Security?

From Common Dreams:

“It is past time that the president told the American people in no uncertain terms that he will not cut Social Security on his watch.”

Common Dreams staff
Published on Tuesday, July 24, 2012 by Common Dreams

US Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) took to the Senate floor today and asked President Obama to end any speculation about his stance on Social Security and implored him to take a strong, public defense against the vociferous attacks on the program led by the Republican party and their presidential candidate, Mitt Romney

Sanders questioned why Obama has not defended Social Security against Republican calls for deep cuts in the program that benefits some 55 million retired and disabled Americans, widows and orphans. “I do not believe that we should cut Social Security,” Sanders said in the speech. “I would like to know, and I think the American people would like to know, if President Obama feels the same way.

Last year Sanders introduced legislation, modeled on Obama’s 2008 campaign proposal, to lift a cap on Social Security payroll taxes so people with earnings of $250,000 and more would pay the same share of that income as all workers.  The payroll tax is now assessed only on incomes up to $110,100 a year.

Sanders said that prior to 2008 Obama was a loud and vocal defender of the program. “I suspect that millions of Americans voted for President Obama because of the strong stands he took in defending Social Security,” he said.

During the past four years, President Obama has been largely silent on Social Security. Sanders expressed alarm that reports last year suggested that the White House was considering Social Security cuts as part of a “grand bargain” with Republican House Speaker John Boehner.

“It should come as no surprise that Republicans in Washington and Gov.  Romney want to slash Social Security.  The truth is Republicans have never liked Social Security and they have been attacking Social Security since its inception,” Sanders said.

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