By Andrea Rodriguez
HAVANA — Adela Hernandez, a biologically male Cuban who has lived as a female since childhood, served two years in prison in the 1980s for “dangerousness” after her own family denounced her sexuality.
This month she made history by becoming the first known transgender person to hold public office in Cuba, winning election as a delegate to the municipal government of Caibarien in the central province of Villa Clara.
In a country where gays were persecuted for decades and sent to grueling work camps in the countryside, Hernandez, 48, hailed her election as yet another milestone in a gradual shift away from macho attitudes in the years since Fidel Castro himself expressed regret over the treatment of people perceived to be different.
“As time evolves, homophobic people – although they will always exist – are the minority,” Hernandez said by phone from her hometown.
Becoming a delegate “is a great triumph,” she added.
Because she has not undergone sex-change surgery, Hernandez is legally still a man in the eyes of the Cuban state: Jose Agustin Hernandez, according to the civil registry. Hernandez, who switched back and forth between feminine and masculine pronouns when referring to herself during an interview, said she hasn’t made a decision to seek an operation but doesn’t rule it out either.
From The BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-20355996
18 November 2012
Some children are hiding their talents and skills in school for fear of being bullied, research has suggested.
Nearly half of UK children have played down a talent because of bullying fears, a survey of 1,042 children aged 11 to 16 suggests.
And more than a quarter of those polled for England’s anti-bullying week said they had quit an activity they enjoy for the same reasons.
One in 10 said they had played down their ability in science.
And nearly one in five girls said they deliberately underachieved in maths skills to avoid being bullied.
Fewer boys, one in 10, reported playing down their maths ability for the same reason.
The poll also suggested many children (11%) having stopped singing because of the fears, some 8% said they had stopped doing drama and 9% dancing. Some 8% have quit a sport because of bullying fears.
A survey last year suggested two-thirds of parents had witnessed bullying and intimidation on the sports field.
Ross Hendry, chair of the Anti-Bullying Alliance – a coalition of organisations tackling bullying, said it could lead to children missing school, failing exams, dropping out of sport, avoiding extra-curricular activities and limiting their life choices.
“It’s unacceptable that rather than celebrate their talent, they feel that they have to hide their gifts, purposely underachieve in crucial subjects and miss out on things they enjoy because of bullying.”
Continue reading at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-20355996
From The New Civil Rights Movement: http://thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/1-just-two-of-americas-300-million-people-are-funding-almost-all-of-noms-hate/marriage/2012/11/17/53957
by David Badash
on November 17, 2012
The top anti-gay marriage group in America, the National Organization For Marriage(NOM), has been hiding some very bad news. In addition to their 100% loss at the ballot box in four states last week — three states voted to extend same-sex marriage to its citizens and one state refused to ban it in their constitution — last year NOM’s funding dropped by 32%. On top of this, out 308,745,538 Americans (per the 2010 census), 75% of NOM’s funding came from just two of those 308,745,538 people, and those two donors are anonymous — and not the U.S.Census Bureau employees shown above — but yes, anonymous to you and me. But rest assured, NOM knows full well who they are.
So much for building a movement.
And it is curious, given NOM’s extensive outreach and email campaigns — NOM has sent approximately 150 fundraising emails this year — that just “two donors were responsible for funding 75 percent of the anti-gay group – the organization reported two donations of approximately $2.4 million each,” HRC, which showed up today at NOM’s Washington, D.C. headquarters, notes:
“The National Organization for Marriage continues to push the notion that there is some sort of grassroots support for their discriminatory anti-gay agenda,” said HRC Vice President of Communications Fred Sainz. “Last week, that notion was soundly rejected by voters in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington State. Now, NOM’s own financial records are serving as the latest proof that support for LGBT equality is common-sense and mainstream. NOM is nothing more than a conduit channeling the anti-gay agenda of a few secretive, wealthy donors.”
Last year in September, Maggie Gallagher, NOM’s co-founder and Chairman resigned, and Chapman University School of Law law professor John Eastman succeeded her. And then NOM became even more rabid, unsurprisingly, given that Eastman likes to jocularly contemplate the possibility of Iran dropping a nuclear bomb on New York.
From In These Times: http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/14170/weak_teavangelicals
Despite great efforts, Billy Graham and his flock failed to pull out a Romney win. Is the ‘values voter’ era over?
BY Chris Lehmann
November 14, 2012
If Barack Obama’s win proves one thing, it’s that Republicans can no longer count on the religious Right shepherding its flocks to the polls to produce a GOP victory.
It’s not that evangelicals didn’t try. As the 2012 election cycle gasped and wheezed to a close, religious activists on the Right rushed to render the whole ghastly spectacle as a stained-glass diptych of a runaway secularist state facing off against an affronted-but-energized piety.
Ralph Reed’s PAC, the Faith & Freedom Coalition, dispatched some 15 million voter guides to more than 100,000 churches, urging the evangelical faithful to turn out en masse, “specifically in the battleground ‘swing states’ and districts that will decide the [election’s] outcome … and whether freedom can be saved in America.”
Billy Graham, the 94-year-old éminence grise of the evangelical movement, took out a series of full-page newspaper ads, urging readers “to vote for those who … support the biblical definition of marriage between a man and a woman.”
Graham placed the ads after meeting with Romney and vowing, “I’ll do all I can to help you.” (Just in case there might be any lingering doubt about Graham’s agenda, the keepers of his eponymous website carefully excised a prior mention of Mormonism in an entry on illegitimate non-Christian “cults” shortly after Graham’s sit-down with the Mormon candidate.)
Yet all this hurried sanctimony in the house of conservatism may have been mere sound and fury. Long-term trends in opinion polling suggest that the evangelical Right would have been hard-pressed to repeat the Kulturkampf clamor to the ballot box that Reed famously engineered to help George W. Bush over the top in 2004. For one thing, the movement’s pet crusades—bans on abortion and gay marriage—have shown little drawing power beyond the narrow demographic of 94-year-old preachers living in the North Carolina mountains.
Continue reading at: http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/14170/weak_teavangelicals
Sun Nov 18, 2012
The Cumulus and Dial Global radio networks have been adversely impacted by the advertiser boycott
The Rush Limbaugh Show is distributed to 600 radio stations via several radio industry networks. The show is syndicated by privately-held Premiere Networks, which contracts with Cumulus Media, Dial Gobal, and other networks to secure broad access in as many media markets as possible.
On Friday, November 16, Dial Global took a huge financial hit, resulting in the company voluntarily de-listing from NASDAQ. Dial Global’s stock dropped by nearly 77 percent. The company identified three causes for its troubles, including “advertisers’ response to controversial statements by a certain nationally syndicated talk radio personality in MARCH 2012.”
Now, it is becoming apparent that Cumulus is also a troubled company. Dial Gobal appears to be on the ropes; Cumulus is, so far, failing to thrive. Both companies have publicly blamed Rush.
Cumulus had been outperforming the S&P 500 prior to Rush Limbaugh’s attack on Sandra Fluke. Since the advertiser backlash, Cumulus has been under-performing. Corporate information about Cumulus reveals why it is vulnerable:
Cumulus Media is the eighth-largest terrestrial radio operator in the United States by revenue and the second-largest in terms of number of stations owned. The company operates 314 stations in 59 markets, primarily in small to midsize cities. Through its private-equity partnership, the company operates an additional 33 stations in larger cities such as Atlanta and San Francisco. Local and regional advertising accounts for 90% of company revenue. [emphasis added] —Morning Star: Cumulus Media, Inc. Class A CMLS
“Local and regional advertising accounts for 90% of company revenue.” That means the Limbaugh advertiser boycott was, and is, a serious threat to the Cumulus business model. On November 8, Alex Fredricks reported on Cumulus:
From The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/19/opinion/krugman-the-twinkie-manifesto.html
By PAUL KRUGMAN
Published: November 18, 2012
The Twinkie, it turns out, was introduced way back in 1930. In our memories, however, the iconic snack will forever be identified with the 1950s, when Hostess popularized the brand by sponsoring “The Howdy Doody Show.” And the demise of Hostess has unleashed a wave of baby boomer nostalgia for a seemingly more innocent time.
Needless to say, it wasn’t really innocent. But the ’50s — the Twinkie Era — do offer lessons that remain relevant in the 21st century. Above all, the success of the postwar American economy demonstrates that, contrary to today’s conservative orthodoxy, you can have prosperity without demeaning workers and coddling the rich.
Consider the question of tax rates on the wealthy. The modern American right, and much of the alleged center, is obsessed with the notion that low tax rates at the top are essential to growth. Remember that Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, charged with producing a plan to curb deficits, nonetheless somehow ended up listing “lower tax rates” as a “guiding principle.”
Yet in the 1950s incomes in the top bracket faced a marginal tax rate of 91, that’s right, 91 percent, while taxes on corporate profits were twice as large, relative to national income, as in recent years. The best estimates suggest that circa 1960 the top 0.01 percent of Americans paid an effective federal tax rate of more than 70 percent, twice what they pay today.
Nor were high taxes the only burden wealthy businessmen had to bear. They also faced a labor force with a degree of bargaining power hard to imagine today. In 1955 roughly a third of American workers were union members. In the biggest companies, management and labor bargained as equals, so much so that it was common to talk about corporations serving an array of “stakeholders” as opposed to merely serving stockholders.
Squeezed between high taxes and empowered workers, executives were relatively impoverished by the standards of either earlier or later generations. In 1955 Fortune magazine published an essay, “How top executives live,” which emphasized how modest their lifestyles had become compared with days of yore. The vast mansions, armies of servants, and huge yachts of the 1920s were no more; by 1955 the typical executive, Fortune claimed, lived in a smallish suburban house, relied on part-time help and skippered his own relatively small boat.
It’s about time regulators take on the industry that impacts your financial fate.
By Odysseas Papadimitriou
November 16, 2012
Monopoly. We all know the game – one of the Parker Brothers’ best – as a quintessential American pastime with the potential to bring generations together (or spark heated arguments among those of us with a bit of a competitive streak). But when that term is applied not to board games, but instead to board rooms, it has a decidedly negative connotation. Everyone knows how important competition is to a free market economy, after all.
That’s what makes the ineptitude and pervasive conflicts of interest that mark the credit reporting and scoring industry due to a lack of competition so hard to fathom. It’s also what underscores the drastic need for reform.
Credit Reporting Conflicts of Interest
A relatively small number of companies – namely Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion – currently dominate the credit reporting space and use our credit data more as a means of advancing their own business interests than serving the needs of their customers (i.e. us and the lenders who review consumer credit reports). A perfect example of this is how Experian has made FICO Scores based on their reports — inaccessible to consumers , yet accessible to big banks. They did so to encourage use of their own in-house credit score, but the move also made it impossible for consumers to understand how they’re being rated by a lot of lenders. In other words, the ability for consumers to make sound financial decisions was expendable in the pursuit of maximized profits. That’s not the exception either, it’s the norm. The interests of credit reporting companies simply aren’t always in line with those of consumers (i.e. accurate and accessible data).
Credit Reporting Inaccuracies
Credit reporting conflicts of interest don’t represent the only downside stemming from the dearth of credit reporting competition either. We’ve also had to tolerate an alarming amount of inaccurate information in our credit reports. Studies have shown that as many as 25% of credit reports contain errors significant enough to cause a denial of credit. When you consider that the ability to build credit is perhaps more important than Internet access in this day and age – given that it’s used in extending loans, making employment decisions, tenant screening, evaluating vehicle lease applications, etc. – it’s obvious how detrimental credit report mistakes can be for you and me. And that’s not even to mention the fact that debt collectors use credit reports to go after consumers. If this information isn’t accurate, you could be forced to pay and undergo a lot of stress unnecessarily.
November 16, 2012
Walmart is notorious for treating its workers terribly, but this year employees are fighting back by hitting the retailer where it hurts: on Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year. Walkouts and protests at locations around the country have already started, and a strike is scheduled for Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving and the start of the Christmas shopping season.
Walmart employees have reported that if they complain about their schedules, wages, or benefits, the company either docks their hours or fires them. But during the holiday shopping rush, Walmart will need all hands on deck, giving the striking employees the most leverage they’re going to get. Not to mention that, as if striking employees were ever good for business, a picket line is sure to put a damper on the holiday cheer that spurs big spending this time of year.
With 1.4 million U.S. workers, Walmart is the country’s largest private employer, and one of the top 20 largest companies in the world. Clearly a force to be reckoned with, Walmart has managed to quash previous attempts at organization among employees. This strike, backed by Making Change at Walmart (MCW), a coalition of Walmart employees, union leaders, and other supporters, will be the first in the company’s history.
“As the largest private employer in the United States and the world, Walmart is setting the standard for jobs,” reads MCW’s website. “That standard is so low that hundreds of thousands of its employees are living in poverty — even many that work full time.”
And they’re exactly right, this strike is about more than the wages and healthcare premiums of Walmart’s employees – though those are valid and urgent issues – it’s about what we mean when we talk about the need for jobs in this country. As we all know from the recent presidential race and debates, employment in this country is a major issue, and Americans aren’t likely to be confident in the economic recovery until the unemployment rate is back below 7%.
But when we say we want Americans put back to work, do we mean we want them working for wages so low that they still need public assistance to feed their children? Do we mean we want them working for a company that will fire them if they try to organize or express dissatisfaction?
See also Care2: Walmart Workers Plan Massive Black Friday Strike
US reliance on the Gulf for its oil – and its consequent need to maintain a dominant presence in the Middle East to keep the oil flowing – has been one of the constants of the post-1945 status quo. That could be turned on its head.
It’s been dubbed “the homecoming”. After decades in which the hollowing out of American manufacturing has been chronicled in Bruce Springsteen’s blue-collar laments, cheap energy is being seen as the dawn of a new golden age for the world’s biggest economy.
The reason is simple. The US is the home to vast shale oil and gas deposits made commercially viable by improvements to a 200-year-old technique called fracking and by the relentlessly high cost of crude.
Exploitation of fields in Appalachian states such as West Virginia and Pennsylvania, and further west in North Dakota, have transformed the US’s energy outlook pretty much overnight. Professor Dieter Helm, an energy expert at Oxford University, said: “In the US, shale gas didn’t exist in 2004. Now it represents 30% of the market.”
If all the known shale gas resources were developed to their commercial potential in North America and other new fields, production could more than quadruple over the next two decades, and account for more than half of US natural gas production by the early 2030s, according to recent study by the Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Centre.
From The Post Carbon Institute: http://www.postcarbon.org/blog-post/1306494-you-can-t-say-that
by Richard Heinberg
Posted Nov 14, 2012
In his November 14 press conference president Obama made a few brief comments about global warming:
“There’s no doubt that for us to take on climate change in a serious way would involve making some tough political choices and understandably, you know, I think right now the American people have been so focused and will continue to be focused on our economy and jobs and growth that if the message somehow is that we’re going to ignore jobs and growth simply to address climate change, I don’t think anyone’s going to go for that. I won’t go for that. If, on the other hand, we can shape an agenda that says we can create jobs, advance growth, and make a serious dent in climate change and be an international leader, I think that’s something that the American people would support.”
What’s wrong with this picture? Well, almost everything.
Yes, the most effective way to slow climate change is to shrink the economy. That statement is inconvenient as hell, but it’s true. Sure, efficiency and renewable energy can nibble around the edges of our carbon emissions, but just three or four percent economic growth per year would be sufficient to cancel out any gains we’d be likely to achieve with solar panels and electric cars. Understandably, this makes the post-carbon transition a tough sell.
But here’s what the president didn’t say—and it makes all the difference in the world: Real economic growth will be elusive anyway. For the past couple of years we’ve been enjoying a species of faux growth based on massive injections of cash from the Fed and $100 billion a month in Federal deficit spending. Take those away and the anemic residue of growth we’ve been enjoying will go too (which is why so many analysts are frightened of the fiscal cliff). Indeed, economic growth has been waving a long, slow goodbye since 1980: in the past three decades, total debt in the US has expanded at three times the rate of GDP growth. We’ve been hocking our grandkids’ future for a little more spending money today. In recent years, the amount of GDP growth we’ve gotten per dollar in new debt has declined. Whether the debt-for-growth swap ever made sense, the fact is it’s succumbing to the law of diminishing returns.
But it gets worse. The costs of climate change are mounting. With more record droughts and massive storms we’ll see those costs mushrooming to the point where they are equal to or greater than the amount of economic growth the U.S. has been clocking per annum. That’s right, if we decide to forget climate change in order to go for the growth, Mother Nature will make sure whatever growth we do see comes mostly from spending on disaster recovery.
Continue reading at: http://www.postcarbon.org/blog-post/1306494-you-can-t-say-that
From Common Dreams: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/11/18-6
The next chapter in the fight against the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline begins today with a major protest in Washington, DC.
More than 3,000 people are expected to join a rally at the White House this afternoon. Together, we’ll march around the entire property with a 500 ft inflatable pipeline and host a rally in Freedom Plaza with speakers like 350.org’s Bill McKibben, BOLD Nebraska’s Jane Kleeb, and other key pipeline fighters from across the country.
There’s a new sense of momentum in the campaign against Keystone XL. We pressed the button on an email announcing today’s protest a few minutes after the networks called the election for President Obama. In just 10 days, thousands of people have signed up to come to the capitol. Volunteers have helped organize buses from New York City, Philadelphia, Michigan, and Ohio.
What accounts for the new sense of energy? Large amounts of credit are due to the brave and ongoing actions of the Tar Sands Blockade in Texas, where landowners and activists have come together to block the southern leg of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Their ongoing direct action has made the front page of the New York Times, emboldened farmers and ranchers up and down the pipeline route, and inspired people across the entire nation.
The new wave of activism is also fueled by the anger and sadness that so many of us felt watching Hurricane Sandy devastate New York City and huge swaths of New Jersey and the surrounding coastline. I was in New York the night before last for 350.org’s Do The Math show, one of 21 multi-media lectures our founder Bill McKibben is doing across the country to connect the dots between extreme weather, climate change, and the fossil fuel industry. We’d originally planned a to hold the event in a church or some other small venue in the city, but the surge of interest after Sandy was so huge that we upgraded to the 2,500 person plus Hammerstein Ballroom — and we sold it out. Clearly, people are ready for action.
That’s what makes this moment different from four years ago. In 2008, many environmentalists were ready to give Obama a honeymoon. After all, this was a candidate that had promised to “end the tyranny of oil” and “heal the planet.” But the immense power of the fossil fuel industry made those words ring hollow. It turned out that even after a historic election, the President wasn’t powerful enough to stand up to Big Oil on his own.
Continue reading at: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/11/18-6