Trans girls like us deserve to love life too

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Transsexual in Bolivia

From Huffington Post:


I wasn’t shocked that roadside prostitutes in Cochabamba, Bolivia were taunted by passers-by; this was still-macho, provincial Latin America after all. But nothing could have prepared me for the strength of character of these transgender sex workers who, against all odds, have organized to argue for their right to health care treatment — and, more important, their rights as human beings.

I lived in Cochabamba, the third largest city in Latin America’s poorest country, this past summer in between my junior and senior years at University of San Francisco, through a program with the Foundation for Sustainable Development. Considering Bolivia’s socially conservative reputation, I had no expectation of working with sex workers or the transgender community during my internship with an NGO based in HIV prevention. But, as so often happens, my emphasis shifted when I became acquainted with a community of marginalized transsexual women.

As a transgender man, my preparation for my internship in Bolivia was rooted in my desire to blend in. My desire to “pass” as male, even though I had not started hormone therapy, was riding on my understanding that Bolivian society would not have a concept of gender androgyny. I was right. Based on my artificially flat chest, short Bieber-esque haircut, and hairy legs, most Bolivians perceived me as a pubescent male, rather than a 21-year-old female-bodied university student. Although I was excited to delve into the work my host organization, Institute for Human Development (IDH), performed in Cochabamba’s sprawling rural communities, my interest was specifically peaked when I started talking with several openly gay IDH employees about the underground LGBTQ community that goes largely unnoticed by traditional Bolivians.

To be clear, Bolivia is not a safe country for LGBTQ-identifying people. Anti-discrimination laws are largely unenforced, hate crimes are not infrequent, and societal norms are built on machismo-style family structure. I knew I wanted to find out more about the queer community, though, so I took the advice of my co-workers and sought out one of two explicitly LGBTQ establishments in Cochabamba. There was no sign outside of the bar — just a dark stoop with faint music floating down from second story windows. Upon entering, I noticed many transsexual women, but no transsexual men. I worried that I stood out like a sore thumb, but my fears were fleeting as I realized that most of the trans women perceived me as a young, gay boy and were quick to give me their attention (and phone numbers). This night marked my first connection to the transsexual community that would become the defining part of my time in Cochabamba.

In conversations with my co-workers the following week, I found out that the male-to-female (MTF) transsexual community in Bolivia is, not surprisingly, incredibly stigmatized. The rate of HIV infection in the community is extremely high and most community members engage in sex work to survive. I contacted a transsexual woman named Rayza who had received some press in Latin America for her fight with the government for a legal name and sex change on her documents (which has still not been granted). She is the leader of a community of transsexual activists in Cochabamba.I met Rayza center of the city at her office, a small fluorescently lit room with two desks a few books shelves. As soon as Rayza started speaking about her work as an activist, her personal struggle with discrimination, and the daily marginalization experienced by trans community members in Bolivia, my plan for the summer shifted.

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Todd Akin Sought to Narrow the Definition of Child Abuse

From Right Wing Watch:

by Josh Glasstetter
on Wednesday, 10/31/2012

Many seem to think that Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” remarks placed him on the fringe of the Republican Party. In reality, he’s spent most of his career there.

It’s now widely known that Akin teamed up with Paul Ryan in 2011 to try to narrow the definition of rape – i.e. “forcible rape.” This is no anomaly. Early in his career as a state legislator, Akin even tried to narrow the definition of child abuse.

Back in May of 1991, the Missouri House debated a bill to “outlaw rape and sexual abuse in marriage.” “Rape is rape,” said Rep. Jo Ann Karll shortly before the bill was overwhelmingly passed. “Missouri is finally moving into the 20th century,” said Colleen Coble, executive director of the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

But not everyone was celebrating. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported on 5/1/91 that Akin voted for the bill but “questioned whether a marital rape law might be misused ‘in a real messy divorce as a tool and a legal weapon to beat up on the husband.’”

Just about any law can be abused, and lawmakers must alwa be cognizant of this. But Akin seems to be preoccupied with the potential for abuse of the law whenever it relates to the government preventing abuse in the household.

Akin and his supporters believe that the husband is head of the household, and they’re loathe to regulate what he can and cannot do to his wife and children. In fact, prominent Akin supporter Phyllis Schlafly denies the very possibility of marital rape: “By getting married, the woman has consented to sex, and I don’t think you can call it rape.”

And so in March of 1992, Akin fought for a narrower definition of child abuse. The Missouri House was considering a bill to create a “statewide child abuse review board” and tighten the standard for proving child abuse from “reason to suspect” to “credible evidence.”

The bill’s sponsor said the definition change was necessary to ensure that “all cases of child abuse can be covered.” Akin, however, was suspicious. He argued that the bill “needed a more restrictive definition of abuse” because of the potential for abuse of the child abuse law. The Post-Dispatch reported on 3/5/92:

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How Patriarchal, Christian Backlash Politics Have Only Become More Vicious

From Salon:

This kind of hatred goes way beyond ordinary politics and deep into the realm of abnormal psychology.

Sunday, Oct 28, 2012

When I tell Republicans — and even some moderate Democrats — that I wrote a book about right-wing hatred, their response, often as not, is skeptical and disapproving. Politics is a rough game, they say. Romney might have his 47 percent, but just listen to all those class war tropes about the 1 percent you hear from the left. Sure, the far right has an unfortunate legacy of racism, sexism and homophobia, but Obama has a whole deck of race and gender cards that he plays. And anyway, the nuts are ultimately unimportant — national elections are decided in the middle.

All of that might be true, but the kind of hatred that I’m talking about goes way beyond ordinary politics and deep into the realm of abnormal psychology. In its full-blown manifestations, it is akin to what an ophidiophobe feels at the sight of a snake: visceral and existential; categorical and absolute. It turns on the gut certainty that your adversaries aren’t looking just to raise your taxes but to destroy your whole way of life: that they are not only wrongheaded, but preternaturally evil. Comparatively few people experience these feelings on a conscious level, but they lie latent in many more of us than we might suspect.

It is precisely because appeals to those kinds of feelings work below the level of consciousness that I am so alert for them — and they have been very much in evidence throughout this whole campaign. When Mitt Romney promised to “keep America America” and Michele Bachmann launched a witch hunt against Muslims in the State Department, when Newt Gingrich called Obama a “food stamp president” and Rick Santorum railed against the “elite, smart people” who will never be “on our side,” those were the buttons that were being pushed.

Conspiratorial shibboleths are seeded throughout the GOP platform, which, among other things, gestures toward a return to the gold standard and repudiates the John Birch Society’s favorite bugaboo, the United Nations’ Agenda 21 (which Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican who is running for the U.S. Senate, calls a George Soros-financed attempt to “abolish ‘unsustainable’ environments, including golf courses, grazing pastures and paved roads”).

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The Breast Cancer Donor’s Dilemma: Time to Revolt?

From Truth Out:

By Ellen Leopold
Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Sixty years ago, the largest national health charities in the United States dominated the philanthropic playing field and were able to carve up the fundraising calendar year among themselves. In the days when solicitations were still face-to-face encounters or mail campaigns, each charity within this charmed circle agreed to carry out its major campaign drive within an assigned time frame. The March of Dimes kicked off the year in January, followed by the American Heart Association, which launched its own campaign on St. Valentine’s Day. Easter Seals occupied the next major holiday, followed by American Cancer Society campaigns in April, and so on, with Christmas Seals bringing up the rear in December.

Competing for their charitable dollars were what came to be called community chests. These were federations of often smaller charities that agreed to participate in one combined annual fundraising drive and divide up its revenues. They were based on a practice that emerged in the First World War, when the government asked relief agencies to coordinate a collaborative fundraising campaign. War chests aimed at direct relief soon become permanent chests addressing a variety of welfare needs. By the middle of the 20th century, more than half of Americans were exposed to some form of federated giving.

Precursors of the United Way, such coalitions were thought to be a more cost-efficient means of conducting campaigns, minimizing overheads and other expenses. A New York Times article in 1969 noted that the administrative costs of community chests ranged “from 4 per cent to 10 per cent, considerably less … than the 25 per cent to 35 per cent overhead costs of independent charity campaigns.” [1] Community chests usually operated with a skeleton staff, often composed entirely of temporary volunteers in temporary offices, much like the transient and traveling infrastructure used to conduct electoral campaigns. Chests not only trimmed the demand for volunteer workers; they also limited the potential for “donor fatigue”; contributors would buy themselves immunity from further appeals, at least for another year.

The big national charities like the March of Dimes and the American Cancer Society spurned all appeals to join federated campaigns. They were reluctant to cede control of any aspect of fundraising and knew that the money they could raise on their own would outweigh whatever share of the proceeds they would receive from a collective effort. [2] Adamant about maintaining their separate identity and independence, they rejected all invitations to collaborate. If this imposed additional expenses in the form of larger, permanent staffs and more overhead, so be it. They were out to increase donations, not to increase efficiency. Cooperation was not in the cards.

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Craig Fugate, FEMA Administrator, Responds To Michael Brown: ‘Better To Be Fast Than To Be Late’

From Huffington Post:


FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate dismissed criticisms of President Barack Obama’s response to Hurricane Sandy lobbed by Michael Brown, who oversaw the disastrous Bush administration response to Hurricane Katrina.

Better to be fast than to be late,” Fugate said in an interview on NPR Tuesday morning.

Brown, whom President George W. Bush infamously praised for doing a “heckuva job” in the aftermath of Katrina in 2005, told a Denver paper that Obama had acted too quickly in mobilizing relief for Sandy.

“Here’s my concern,” Brown told Denver’s Westword on Monday, suggesting that the prompt official response was actually making people complacent. “It’s premature [when] the brunt of the storm won’t happen until later this afternoon.”

Fugate also addressed the role of FEMA, which has been a hot topic since Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said he wanted to abolish the agency so that states would have direct responsibility for disaster response.

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See also: Daily Kos:  Failed Bush FEMA director Michael Brown doubles down on criticism of Obama’s Sandy response

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Chris Matthews Calls Climate Change Deniers ‘Pigs’

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President Obama Tours Areas Damaged by Hurricane Sandy

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Romney Staffers Made a $5,000 Wal-Mart Run to Stock Storm Relief Event in Ohio

From Daily Kos:

By ericlewis0
Wed Oct 31, 2012

From Buzzfeed (article by McKay Coppins):

The plan was for supporters to bring hurricane relief supplies to the event, and then deliver the bags of canned goods, packages of diapers, and cases of water bottles to the candidate, who would be perched behind a table along with a slew of volunteers and his Ohio right-hand man, Senator Rob Portman. To complete the project and photo-op, Romney would lead his crew in carrying the goods out of the gymnasium and into the Penske rental truck parked outside.But the last-minute nature of the call for donations left some in the campaign concerned that they would end up with an empty truck. So the night before the event, campaign aides went to a local Wal Mart and spent $5,000 on granola bars, canned food, and diapers to put on display while they waited for donations to come in, according to one staffer. (The campaign confirmed that it “did donate supplies to the relief effort,” but would not specify how much it spent.)

As supporters lined up to greet the candidate, a young volunteer in a Romney/Ryan t-shirt stood near the tables, his hands cupped around his mouth, shouting, “You need a donation to get in line!”

Empty-handed supporters pled for entrance, with one woman asking, “What if we dropped off our donations up front?”

The volunteer gestured toward a pile of groceries conveniently stacked near the candidate. “Just grab something,” he said.

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Mitt Romney, the hollow man

From Salon:

Romney likens hurricane relief to cleaning up “rubbish and paper products” from a football field. Is he joking?

Tuesday, Oct 30, 2012

It’s become a platitude to say that no one should be playing politics with Hurricane Sandy, but that’s silly. When the performance of government suddenly becomes a literal matter of life and death to many Americans, we ought to be thinking about what kind of government we want to have, and that involves politics.

It’s impossible not to see that this storm has devastated Mitt Romney’s presidential candidacy. The response to the hurricane has seemed like one long dramatic Obama campaign commercial, a lesson in “We’re all in this together,” while Romney, the man who said he’d dismantle FEMA, flails on the sidelines.

Romney’s “relief” event outside of Dayton, Ohio, was surreal enough to be a campaign parody, with the candidate comparing the federal government’s hurricane relief efforts to the time he and some friends had to clean up a football field strewn with “rubbish and paper products.” It was supposed to be a parable of how Republicans handle disaster – with private charity, not government intervention – as Romney told his audience, “It’s part of the American spirit, the American way, to give to people in need.” The Republican went on to talk about the time some Hurricane Katrina survivors were rerouted from Houston to Cape Cod and the good people of Cape Cod responded by donating food and, yes, television sets.

Of course, as Alex Seitz-Wald writes, the Red Cross and other private charities are discouraging the donation of goods, preferring that kind Americans donate funds that can be used where they’re needed, not goods that must be sorted and distributed and may not even be necessary (television sets?).

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Super Storm Sandy’s wrath: US infrastructure in shambles

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Sandy forces climate change on US election despite fossil fuel lobby

From The Guardian UK:

Such is Big Energy’s hold on DC, neither Obama nor Romney talk about climate change. But Americans are joining the dots, Wednesday 31 October 2012

Here’s a sentence I wish I hadn’t written – it rolled out of my Macbook in May, part of an article for Rolling Stone that quickly went viral:

“Say something so big finally happens (a giant hurricane swamps Manhattan, a megadrought wipes out Midwest agriculture) that even the political power of the industry is inadequate to restrain legislators, who manage to regulate carbon.”

I wish I hadn’t written it because the first half gives me entirely undeserved credit for prescience: I had no idea both would, in fact, happen in the next six months. And I wish I hadn’t written it because now that my bluff’s been called, I’m doubting that even Sandy, the largest storm ever, will be enough to make our political class serious about climate change.

Maybe I’m wrong, though. Maybe – just maybe – the arrival of a giant wall of water in the exact middle of the financial and media capital of our home planet will be enough to get this conversation unstuck. Maybe that obscene slick of ocean spreading unnaturally into the tubes and tunnels of the greatest city on earth will shock enough people to change the debate. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, at a press conference Tuesday afternoon, allowed as how:

“There has been a series of extreme weather incidents. That is not a political statement, that is a factual statement … Anyone who says there’s not a dramatic change in weather patterns, I think, is denying reality.”

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg added:

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Facing Sandy’s Fury, Don’t Let Clean Energy Naysayers Deny Us Hope

From Common Dreams:

by Frances Moore Lappé and Diane Moss
Published on Wednesday, October 31, 2012 by Common Dreams

As a historic storm hammers the east — signaling the extremes promised by climate change — maybe we should listen to the wind. Isn’t it telling us to celebrate clean energy’s potential and push it forward with new urgency?

Yet we hear instead what can feel like a collective mourning over the demise of the green energy industry. One prominent media voice to show up at the funeral is columnist David Brooks, who eulogizes green technology in his recent New York Times piece “Sad Green Story.” The once-great hope for green technology, he suggests, has been destroyed by inept big-government ideologues and their counterparts around the globe.

But, mope no more. Green technology is actually an outstanding success story.

Brooks and others dismiss renewable energy as a failed jobs-creating strategy. But tell that to the Germans! Over about a decade, their effective renewable energy laws have spurred more than 380,000 new jobs.

Even here in the U.S., with our comparatively timid renewable energy platform, analysis by the Brookings Institution shows that despite the recession, from 2008-2010, US jobs in clean energy — like smart grids, solar PV and wind — outpaced our employment growth in other sectors by about two to one, thanks in part to the federal stimulus.

What’s more, clean, technology-related jobs already outnumber fossil fuel jobs, even though those dirty jobs have benefited from billions of government support annually over many decades.

And green jobs pay on average 13 percent more than other jobs.

Misguided voices seem to be trying to scare us into believing that renewable energy is a failed industry, a bursting bubble caused by overinvestment by governments around the world. Brooks assures us that shale gas is different: It “has become the current, hot revolutionary fuel of the future.” But he would do well to confer with his New York Times colleagues, who just released a report showing that most natural gas investors in the US are “losing their shirts,” as Exxon’s CEO puts it.

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Monsanto’s Roundup, Glyphosate Linked to Parkinson’s and Similar Diseases

From Reader Supported News:

By Elizabeth Renter,
31 October 12

We already know the links between herbicides and sterility in men, birth defects, mental illness, obesity and possibly cancer – but now we have something new to add to the nasty effects of pesticides list – Parkinson’s disease and similar neurodegenerative conditions.

New research, published in the journal Neurotoxicology and Teratology, indicates a connection between a component in Monsanto’s Roundup and Parkinson’s disease. Glyphosate is said to induce cell death, with frightening repercussions. reports the study was investigating the links between herbicides (weed killers) and brain damage. These chemicals, the study’s authors say, “have been recognized as the main environmental factor associated with neurodegenerative disorders,” like Parkinson’s.

Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative nervous system disease. It slowly progresses as time goes on with common symptoms like tremors, rigidity, difficulty walking, poor posture, lack of movement, and slowness of movement, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

The CDC reports Parkinson’s as the 14th leading cause of death in the U.S. In 2010 (the last year for which data is available), there was 4.6% increase in the number of deaths attributed to this disease. One has to wonder if there is a connection between this jump and the ever-growing prevalence of herbicides like Roundup in our air, food, and water.

Studies indicate that glyphosate is toxic to human DNA “at concentrations diluted 450-fold lower than used in agricultural applications.” Worded differently – the levels considered safe by our government are 450 times the levels at which glyphosate has been found to damage and destroy human DNA. Yes, it’s that serious.

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