Milford NH: Doctor signing book at Toadstool

From Cabinet:

By Michael Cleveland
Thursday, November 22, 2012

MILFORD – When Jessica Angelina Birch holds a signing for her first book at the Toadstool Bookshop on Saturday, Nov. 24, she will be instantly recognized by a number of people.

Jessica Angelina Birch is her pen name, but she’s known to her patients as Dr. Jennifer Madden, and she has been practicing medicine in Amherst under that name for five years.

But for a long time Jennifer was known as Henry, and that is what the book is about: A monumental change that allowed someone who always believed she was a woman to actually become one.

The book, “Confessions of a Transsexual Physician,” is her story, one she believes portrays a realistic view of the metamorphosis that took place in her.

“For good or for bad, I put it all out there for others to see, so they might better understand what I endured to find peace within myself.”

“There’s a message in the book,” Madden said during a recent telephone interview, “and a fair amount of sadness and trauma. But I think it’s upbeat. I survived the process. Hopefully, future generations won’t have to go through some of that.”

Madden didn’t make the decision to become a woman until she was 48 years old.

“I was afraid,” she said. “It wasn’t something that I was really willing to open up to people about. I was afraid of the consequences.”

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Syracuse Common Council Extends Basic Civil Rights Protections to Transgender Residents



November 19, 2012 —  The New York Civil Liberties Union today applauded the Syracuse Common Council’s passage of legislation amending local civil rights law to protect transgender and gender non-conforming residents from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations, such as restaurants, hotels and stores.

In an 7 to 1 vote, the Common Council approved a bill to amend the Syracuse Fair Practices Law to include gender identity and expression as protected categories. With the passage of this legislation, every large city in New York State has enacted basic civil rights protections for transgender and gender non-conforming residents and visitors. Buffalo, Rochester, Albany, Binghamton, Ithaca, New York City as well as Westchester, Suffolk, and Tompkins counties have similar local anti-discrimination laws.

“In passing this legislation, the Common Council has reaffirmed our city’s commitment to respecting the civil rights and basic human dignity of all residents,” Barrie Gewanter, director of the NYCLU’s Central New York Chapter, said. “Nobody should be denied service at a doctor’s office or fired from a job because of the way they express their gender. We applaud the Common Council for closing this gap in local anti-discrimination laws across upstate New York.”

The New York State Senate has effectively blocked consideration of a statewide law that would explicitly prohibit discrimination against transgender and gender non-conforming people. The passage of the Syracuse bill, which was sponsored by Councilor at Large Jean Kessner, builds additional momentum for the this statewide measure, known as the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA).

“The strength of people’s civil rights protections shouldn’t depend on whether they live in an urban area,” Gewanter said. “It’s time for our state legislators to stand up for true equality and fairness by supporting GENDA.”

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It Doesn’t Matter Nate Silver Is Gay. It Matters America Knows He Is.

From The New Civil Rights Movement:

by David Badash
on November 18, 2012

Nate Silver is gay, in case you didn’t know. Until yesterday, practically no one did. Silver is the incredibly accurate statistician who gave President Obamaa 91.6% probability of winning re-election on Election Day, and gave right wing pundits and prognosticators such angst for the months leading up to the election they created an entire new system of poll reading — that, like most everything the right does, was totally wrong.

Silver, author of the bestselling book, The Signal and the Noise, has not been totally wrong. In fact, he’s been almost totally right. Silver’s statistical model ultimately predicted President Obama would win the White House with an a weighted probability average of about 315 electoral votes — with 332 the most likely scenario — and 50.9% of the popular vote. Obama won 332 electoral college votes and 50.6% of the popular vote. Perhaps more important, Silver’s model predicted the vote correctly in all 50 states. In 2008, Silver correctly predicted 49 out of 50 states and all 36 Senate races.

“I’ve always felt like something of an outsider,” Nate Silver tells Carole Cadwalladr of The Observer, a liberal British newspaper. “I’ve always had friends, but I’ve always come from an outside point of view. I think that’s important. If you grow up gay, or in a household that’s agnostic, when most people are religious, then from the get-go, you are saying that there are things that the majority of society believes that I don’t believe.”

Cadwalladr, who in her extensive profile of the 34-year old superstar, published in the U.S. at The Raw Story, notes, “Silver is gay,” and writes:

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Right Wing Hate Group Spokesman Bryan Fischer: Anti-Gay Exorcisms Work, People Never Born Gay, Gay

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Explain Away the Gay

From Slate:

Opponents of same-sex marriage went 0-for-4 in the election. But they have lots of excuses.

By Monday, Nov. 19, 2012

Until this year, opponents of same-sex marriage had never lost a statewide referendum. They’d won 32 straight times. Two weeks ago, the tide of public opinion finally overwhelmed them. They lost all four measures on the November ballot—one to ban gay marriage in Minnesota, and three others to permit gay marriage in Maine, Maryland, and Washington.

Are they humbled? Shaken? Worried that the country might be turning against them? Not a bit. The leading conservative lobby on this issue, the National Organization for Marriage, has cooked up a handy set of post-election excuses. Here’s the list.

1. We never really had a shot. Last year, when Minnesota lawmakers voted to put the issue on the 2012 ballot, NOM predicted victory, noting that “deep blue states” such as California, Maryland, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin had rejected gay marriage. In January of this year, NOM released a survey purporting to show that Washington state voters were “not in favor of redefining marriage.” When same-sex marriage advocates in Maine, stung by a previous defeat, filed signatures for a rematch, NOM President Brian Brown scoffed, “The people of Maine are not in favor of redefining marriage, as we showed in 2009. Gay advocates are fooling themselves when they say things have changed.” In February, when Maryland lawmakers voted to legalize the practice, Brown warned them, “The people of Maryland do not support same-sex marriage.” In May, NOM predicted a “clean sweep” of the four ballot measures.

On Election Day, the clean sweep went the other way. NOM snapped into action. Overnight, the four easy wins became, in retrospect, impossible uphill struggles. “We knew long ago that we faced a difficult political landscape with the four marriage battles occurring in four of the deepest-blue states in America,” Brown pleaded in a Nov. 7 statement. Tom Peters, NOM’s cultural director, told PBS, “Going into these four state fights, we had no illusions. These were deep blue states.” Indeed, Peters marveled, “It`s amazing, with all of the cultural forces trying to redefine marriage, that we’re still here in 2012, just barely seeing some footholds gained in deep blue states.” Those plucky defenders of traditional marriage, holding their ground against all odds as they defend our culture against our culture.

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Bobby Jindal Confident Women Will Vote GOP if Republicans Just Stop Saying What They Actually Believe

From Jezebel:

Erin Gloria Ryan
Nov 19, 2012

Can you guess Louisiana Governor and unfortunate Kenneth the Page doppelgänger Bobby Jindal’s great advice for the GOP as it attempts to retool itself to become more palatable to female voters? Change stuff around so that the party isn’t one big, embarrassing celebration of religious wackiness? Stop making fairy stories interpreted to view women as chattel central to your platform? Nope. Keep all the same ideas as before. Just don’t talk about them. Bobby Jindal, you huggable Southern asshole.

Jindal, who looks like he smells like Play Doh but talks like he smells like artificial deer urine and Febreeze, shared his bizarre prescription to cure what ails the GOP yesterday on Fox News Sunday. When host Chris Wallace rightfully pointed out that the GOP had been “hammered” on social subjects like abortion, especially with single women, this is how Jindal replied,

Well, Chris, a couple of things. One, I think we can still be true to our principles — I’m pro-life. I follow the teachings of my church and my faith.

But at the same time, I think we can respect those that disagree with us. We don’t need to demonize those who disagree with us. We need to respect the fact that others have come to different conclusions based on their own sincerely held beliefs and have a civil debate.

We don’t need to demonize — and we also don’t need to be saying stupid things [referring to Romney’s remarks]. Look, we had candidates in Indiana and Missouri that said offensive things that only hurt themselves and lost those Senate seats, but also have hurt the Republican Party across the board. So, I think we can be true to our principles. We don’t need to pander or change our principles, but at the same time, we can be respectful.

Jindal’s big solution to getting women to vote Republican? Don’t tell women what Republicans actually believe! Piss on their legs and tell them it’s raining, very politely.

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Ohio Is The Latest Battlefield in the War on Contraception

From RH Reality Check:

by Amanda Marcotte, RH Reality Check
November 18, 2012

This year’s UN Population Fund’s annual report reiterates the long-accepted fact that access to contraception is a basic human right, making women’s rights and women’s health at the center of development. The document reflects a growing worldwide understanding that, as bell hooks titled her famous book, feminism is for everybody. When women can control their birth spacing and family size, they and their families have more economic opportunities and can better provide for the children they do have. No duh, right?

Well, unfortunately, the anti-choice movement in the United States presents the biggest obstacle for getting our country to embrace this common sense understanding of the value of contraception. Yes, they are coming for your birth control.

The latest battle in the war on contraception is being fought in Ohio, where the House Health and Aging Committee approved a bill to be sent to the floor that would de-fund Planned Parenthood, as well as other family planning groups that provide affordable contraception and reproductive health care to the women of Ohio. So far, these attempts to de-fund family planning have failed in the courts, though Texas has won a victory in the Fifth Circuit and could very well be successful in dramatically reducing (and perhaps eventually eliminating) funding to clinics that help low-income women afford contraception.

Invariably, these attacks on contraception are rationalized by the politicians mounting them with claims that this is all about abortion, even though the groups in question do not use government funding to provide abortion. One of the reasons that these attacks have failed in court is because the laws usually violate non-discrimination clauses that disallow governments to punish groups for having different views on abortion—which, may I remind you, is legal and ruled a right by the Supreme Court—by taking their funding. But Ohio’s bill goes about it in a different way, by killing the competitive grant process, and instead giving the money to public health departments and federally qualified health centers before non-public family planning clinics, even though the latter are usually far better at dispensing the kind of personalized gynecological care women need to control their fertility.

Because of this, we can see the “pro-life” mask slipping further. Even though the word “abortion” gets tossed around a lot, this bill makes it clear that the biggest sin of Planned Parenthood and other family planning clinics, in anti-choice eyes, is that they help women have better sexual health and control their family sizes. They aren’t even trying to tie this to abortion anymore, but blatantly objecting to a model of providing reproductive health care that’s been proven to work, precisely because they don’t want it to work.

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Study: Women Denied Abortions More Likely to Suffer Domestic Violence and Be on Public Assistance

From Alternet:

A study tracks outcomes for women who seek and abortion but do not obtain one. The results are not pretty.

By Kathleen Geier
November 19, 2012

Abortion is one of the  most common surgical procedures  in the United States, and one of the central political issues of our time. Yet in spite of this, there is surprisingly little solid social science research on many of the important social, psychological, and economic consequences of abortion outcomes. Having good research on abortion is important, because research findings are often used to justify abortion policy and law.

For example, in the Supreme Court’s 2007 Carhart case, which upheld a ban on so-called “partial birth abortion,” Justice Anthony Kennedy’s decision infamously invoked the  paternalistic notion  that protecting women from possible negative consequences of their own decision to abort justified abortion restrictions. In theCarhart opinion, Kennedy was influenced by  junk social science  studies by anti-abortion advocates claiming that women who have abortions suffer from a “post-abortion syndrome” characterized by regret and severe mental health issues. There is  no scientific evidence  that post-abortion syndrome exists, but that didn’t stop Kennedy from basing his decision on its alleged effects anyway.

One extremely important question Kennedy didn’t give much thought to is the other side of the question: that is, what happens to women who seek abortions but are denied them. For reasons of both ideology and feasibility, this issue had not been studied much — until now, that is. Researchers at the University of California in San Francisco are currently conducting a  major longitudinal study of just this question. Known as the Turnaway Study, this project is examining “the mental health, physical health and socioeconomic outcomes of receiving an abortion compared to carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term.” The findings thus far suggest that women who are denied abortions fare significantly less well than those who are able to obtain them.

I’ll discuss those findings later, but first I wanted to describe the study’s methodology. Working with first and second trimester abortion clinics, researchers recruited about 1,000 participants who fell into these three groups:

women whose gestational age was one day to three weeks over the gestational limit and who were turned away from the clinic without receiving an abortion; women whose gestational age was one day to two weeks under the clinic’s gestational limit and who received an abortion; and women who received a medical or surgical abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy.

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BP…How ‘Big Oil’ Got Away with Murder

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The Usual Suspects Who Will Benefit From Gutting Obamacare Now Want You to Worry About ‘Disruption’

From Huffington Post:



Get ready to hear that word many times in the coming weeks, especially if you hang out inside the Washington beltway.

“Disruption” will be the new buzzword in an upcoming advertising campaign aimed at scaring us. The campaign is selling the idea that millions of Americans will face higher premiums and possibly be forced into health plans with skimpier benefits — i.e., disrupted — if Congress doesn’t repeal a provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that raises money to pay for expanding coverage for the uninsured.

The greed of the health insurance industry knows no bounds. Insurance companies will get billions of dollars in new revenue every year as a result of the health act’s requirement that, starting in 2014, we will have to buy coverage from private insurers if we’re not eligible for Medicare or Medicaid.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that 32 million uninsured Americans will finally get coverage as a result of the law. While many will be newly eligible for the Medicaid program, millions of others will get subsidies from the federal government to help them buy private insurance. So insurance companies will get new premium revenue not only from individuals and families but also from the government.

To help finance this expanded coverage, the ACA includes a premium fee on insurers and their business customers that provide the highest level of coverage (like the so-called Cadillac plans). The fee, which is estimated to raise $87 billion over 10 years, will go into effect simultaneously with the individual mandate.

Even though insurers will get a huge infusion of cash from us and the government over that period, they are claiming it’s not fair for them have to foot any of the bill. They insist they’ll have no choice but to pass the fee — which they call a tax — on to their policyholders. In other words, they’re not happy enough with the cake the government is giving them. They want to eat every crumb of it, too.

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‘Shadow banking’ industry grew to $67 trillion in 2011: report

From Raw Story:

By Stephen C. Webster
Monday, November 19, 2012

The G20′s Financial Stability Board (FSB) said Sunday that the market for debt-based products, which it calls the “shadow banking” industry, was worth an astonishing $67 trillion at the end of 2011.

The FSB’s report (PDF) explained that the U.S. had by far the largest shadow banking sector in 2011, worth approximately $23 trillion. The U.S. was followed by the European Union at $22 trillion and the United Kingdom at $9 trillion.

The report aims to recommend policy actions that governments can take to prevent electronic bank runs in the mostly unregulated sector, which it blames for the 2008 economic crisis.

The report also charts the rise of the shadow banking industry, going from $26 trillion to $62 trillion from 2002-2007. The crisis in 2008, which saw unemployment soar in the U.S., didn’t slow it down much either: the report says that the value of debt products “declined slightly” before zooming back up.

All told, the FSB says that the shadow banking industry is now worth about half of all bank holdings around the world, and more than 111 percent of the annual gross domestic product of all nations. The U.S. gross domestic product was $15.09 trillion in 2011.

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Occupy’s New Offshoot Set to Cancel Millions in Medical Debts

From Yes Magazine:

Medical debt is the cause of 62 percent of bankruptcies, say organizers of Strike Debt, which threw last night’s offbeat fundraiser for their new “Rolling Jubilee.” Ordinary people donated enough money to collectively buy an estimated $5.9 million in bad debt in order to cancel it.
Nov 16, 2012

On the first anniversary of Occupy Wall Street’s eviction from Zuccotti Park, celebrity and local performers donated their time for a “post-modern variety show” last night at Manhattan’s Le Poisson Rouge nightclub. They were there to raise money for what may be the most far-reaching project to grow out of the Occupy movement so far: a “bailout for the 99 percent” called Rolling Jubilee. Launched by Strike Debt, an offshoot of OWS, the Jubilee has begun erasing people’s medical debt by infiltrating the debt-collection industry.

The tactic is to buy private debt the same way collection companies do—on the debt market, at tiny fractions of its original worth—and then cancel it in hopes of freeing debtors from their piled-up medical bills. It is hoped that the action will bring debt servitude to the forefront of our national conversation.

Last night’s live-streamed spectacle, billed as the People’s Bailout Telethon, featured comedienne Janeane Garofalo, musicians Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth and Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel, and a three-hour-long vaudevillian line-up of mariachi and magic, gospel and hip-hop, striptease and performance art. Comedy writer Lizz Winstead and cartoonist David Rees emceed the event, badgering a fluctuating online audience to donate money. With local Strike Debt chapters holding viewing parties across the country, there may have been close to 2,000 online viewers.

The event had been planned as a launch party for Rolling Jubilee, which opened its bank account on Friday, November 9. But as donations surged past the $250,000 mark—five times Strike Debt’s stated goal for the evening—the soirée took on the bubbly energy of a victory rally. Organizers say these donations could buy 20 times their amount in debt, since distressed medical debts (that is, debts seen as unlikely to be paid) can sell for as little as five cents to the dollar. In other words, a collection company might pay a hospital $10 for the right to chase down a patient’s $200 debt. Or, in the case of Rolling Jubilee, a $10 donation could cancel a $200 debt. According to Yates McKee, a Strike Debt organizer, the group has “friends in the industry” with debt-purchasing experience who are bidding discreetly on the group’s behalf.

Of the money raised this week, Strike Debt has already spent $5,000 on purchasing medical debt. Sometime soon, the first households will receive letters informing them that their debt has been cancelled, along with copies of a “Debt Resistor’s Operation Manual.”

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Subprime Students: How Wall Street Profits from the College Loan Mess

From The Policy Shop:

Tamara Draut
November 16, 2012

Five years after Wall Street crashed the economy by irresponsibly securitizing and peddling mortgage debt, the financial industry is coming under growing scrutiny for its shady involvement in student loan debt.

For a host of reasons, including a major decline in public dollars for higher education, going to college today means borrowing—and all that borrowing has resulted in a growing and heavy hand for Wall Street in the lending, packaging, buying, servicing and collection of student loans. Now, with $1 trillion of student loans currently outstanding, it’s becoming increasingly clear that many of the same problems found in the subprime mortgage market—rapacious and predatory lending practices, sloppy and inefficient customer service and aggressive debt collection practices—are also cropping up in the student loan industrial complex.

This similarity is especially striking in the market for private student loans—which currently make up $150 billion of the $1 trillion of existing student loans.

As detailed in a July 2012 report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Department of Education, private student loans mushroomed over the last decade, fueled by the very same forces that drove subprime mortgages through the roof: Wall Street’s seemingly endless appetite for new ways to make profit. In this case, investor demand for student loan asset backed securities (SLABS) resulted in private student lenders—primarily Sallie Mae, Citi, Wells Fargo and the other big banks—to relax lending standards and aggressively begin marketing these loans directly to students.

Unlike federal student loans, private loans have higher and fluctuating interest rates and come without any flexibility for tailoring payments based on income. Before the SLABS binge, most private student loans were actually made in connection with the college financial aid office, which helped ensure students weren’t taken for a ride, or weren’t borrowing more than they needed to. Between 2005 and 2007, the percentage of loans to students made without any school involvement grew from 40 percent to over 70 percent. And the volume of private student loans mushroomed from less than $5 billion in 2001 to over $20 billion in 2008. The market shrunk back to $6 billion after the financial crisis as lenders tightened standards.

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Frack Fight A Secret War of Activists — With the World in the Balance

From Tom Dispatch:

By Ellen Cantarow
November 18, 2012

There’s a war going on that you know nothing about between a coalition of great powers and a small insurgent movement.  It’s a secret war being waged in the shadows while you go about your everyday life.

In the end, this conflict may matter more than those in Iraq and Afghanistan ever did.  And yet it’s taking place far from newspaper front pages and with hardly a notice on the nightly news.  Nor is it being fought in Yemen or Pakistan or Somalia, but in small hamlets in upstate New York.  There, a loose network of activists is waging a guerrilla campaign not with improvised explosive devices or rocket-propelled grenades, but with zoning ordinances and petitions.

The weaponry may be humdrum, but the stakes couldn’t be higher. Ultimately, the fate of the planet may hang in the balance.

All summer long, the climate-change nightmares came on fast and furious. Once-fertile swathes of American heartland baked into an aridity reminiscent of sub-Saharan Africa. Hundreds of thousands of fish dead in overheated streams. Six million acres in the West consumed by wildfires.  In September, a report commissioned by 20 governments predictedthat as many as 100 million people across the world could die by 2030 if fossil-fuel consumption isn’t reduced.  And all of this was before superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc on the New York metropolitan area and the Jersey shore.

Washington’s leadership, when it comes to climate change, is already mired in failure. President Obama permitted oil giant BP to resume drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, while Shell was allowed to begin drilling tests in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska.  At the moment, the best hope for placing restraints on climate change lies with grassroots movements.

In January, I chronicled upstate New York’s homegrown resistance to high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing, an extreme-energy technology that extracts methane (“natural gas”) from the Earth’s deepest regions.  Since then, local opposition has continued to face off against the energy industry and state government in a way that may set the tone for the rest of the country in the decades ahead.  In small hamlets and tiny towns you’ve never heard of, grassroots activists are making a stand in what could be the beginning of a final showdown for Earth’s future.

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White House march revives Keystone XL protest movement

From The Guardian UK:

Hundreds gathered for the protest, in the hope Obama will reject the presidential permit required for the pipeline

Reuters, Monday 19 November 2012

Hundreds of people who say they worry oil that would be carried the Keystone XL pipeline will accelerate climate change marched around the White House on Sunday, hoping to revive a movement credited with slowing down the permit process for the crude oil project.

The protesters chanted “Hey, Obama! We don’t want no climate drama” and said they hoped the president’s election-night promise to address climate change means he will reject the pipeline, which needs a presidential permit to cross into the United States from Canada.

“We’re interested in sending a clear message to Obama,” said Molly Pugh from nearby Alexandria, Virginia, marching with her husband and two-year-old daughter.

Pugh said she was deeply disappointed that Obama failed to talk about climate change during the recent presidential election campaign, addressing it only in his acceptance speech.

Sunday’s protest drew far fewer people than a rally a year ago against TransCanada Corp’s project, when thousands linked arms and encircled the White House.

Keith Bockus was at that protest, and hopes that Obama will block the pipeline in his second term now that he no longer faces the pressures of another election.

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