Transgender travelers get a helping hand

From Metro Weekly:

by Troy Petenbrink
November 22, 2012

As we enter the busy holiday travel season, the Washington, D.C. based National Center for Transgender Equality yesterday released tips and information to help transgender and gender non-conforming people get through airport security.

While acknowledging that most transgender and gender non-conforming people do not experiencing problems with airport security, NCTE believes that “seasonal Holiday travel uptick can mean things are more hectic and potentially confusing for travelers and for Transportation Security Officers than usual.”

NCTE recommends that individuals take simple steps to ensure a smooth experience at airport security including:

  • Ensuring that the name and gender on your ticket reservation match the government-issued ID you bring to the airport with you. The gender on your identification and on your ticket reservation does not need to match your current gender presentation.
  • Downloading the Fly Rights iPhone and Android application before your travel, which makes it easy to report complaints directly with the Transportation Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security.
  • For frequent travelers, exploring the TSA Pre-Check program which offers “expedited screening.”

American Airlines Rainbow Team posted a link to NCTE’s complete resource guide on its Facebook page.

The LGBT marketing division for American also posted a message stating that “At American Airlines, we know the holidays and busy travel can be stressful for all. For our transgender family members and friends, we are doubly sensitive….We agree absolutely that all travelers have a right to safety, privacy and respect.”

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Canada: Federal trans rights bill stalled

From Xtra:

Justin Ling
Thursday, November 22, 2012

Partisanship strikes again. The House of Commons, through some procedural one-upmanship, has forced the standing committee on justice and human rights to adjourn until Nov 27. That means the NDP’s trans rights bill faces yet another hurdle.
C-279, a bill that would add gender identity to the list of protected minorities under the Human Rights Act, was scheduled to be moved back to the House Nov 22. Unfortunately for the bill’s author, BC MP Randall Garrison, the Liberals forced several votes in the House that were designed to throw a wrench in the machine of the Conservative government. The Tories were trying to shut down debate in the finance committee, so the Liberals used delay tactics in the House.
It meant that, twice, the bells rang – a sign that the MPs must return to the House for a vote – forcing the committee to rise, leaving witnesses to wait for its members to return. Eventually, running short on time, the chair moved that the committee adjourn.
The committee was supposed to hear from witnesses in the first hour – including testimony from the REAL Women of Canada, who oppose the legislation – and vote on amendments in the last half.
The amendments included a compromise to get Tory support and updates to the language in the bill’s French version regarding gender identity. Garrison capitulated on including “gender expression” – a term the Conservatives said was ill-defined and open to interpretation – and settled for adding just “gender identity.” That, legal experts told him, would still cover all trans people.
The committee heard from a number of trans people Nov 20 who spoke about their experience, accompanied by a brief vignette from one NDP MP’s experience with crossdressing for Halloween. They also heard from Ryan Dyck, director of policy and public education at Egale Canada. He took on the stance of the committee’s Conservative MPs that the Human Rights Act already protects trans people. Dyck testified that he, and Egale’s legal team, couldn’t find a single case where a trans person had used the Human Rights Code. The committee also heard from Sara Davis Buechner, a classical pianist, who provided the committee with colourful testimony of her own past.
“We are, as we say in music, variations on a theme — the human theme,” Buechner told the committee.
It seems that those changes have secured the support of enough Conservatives on the committee to get it back to the House quickly. Garrison told Xtra that he’s not just hopeful that it will get through the committee votes, but “confident.”

U.N. Draft Resolution Against Extrajudicial Executions Includes Gender Identity

From The Advocate:

The draft resolution approved in the Third Committee of the General Assembly mentions gender identity as a characteristic warranting protection from unlawful executions for the first time.

BY Julie Bolcer
November 23 2012

A United Nations committee overseeing human rights issues approved a draft resolution Tuesday that for the first time acknowledges the need to protect individuals from extrajudicial executions on the basis of their gender identity.

The Third Committee of the General Assembly passed the resolution by a vote of 108 to 1, with 65 abstentions and 18 absences. Iran was the only country to oppose the resolution, which was approved after “rigorous debate” over the language, according to a United Nations news release.

Sweden introduced the resolution co-sponsored by 34 states. The text reiterates states’ obligation to conduct prompt, comprehensive, and fair investigations into all suspected extrajudicial, arbitrary and summary executions, and urges states to investigate all killings, including those of people targeted for their sexual orientation, gender identity and other reasons.

The resolution on extrajudicial executions comes up for a vote in the committee every two years. Language to protect individuals on the basis of “sexual orientation” has been included for the past 12 years, but this year marked the first time the resolution has mentioned “gender identity.”

Two years ago, the reference to “sexual orientation” was removed from the draft resolution following an effort led by a group of African states. The language was later restored in a vote in the General Assembly after a last-minute push coordinated by the United States.

Blocks of countries challenged the concept of rights based on sexual orientation and gender identity again this year. The United Arab Emirates sponsored an amendment on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation that would have removed the language about sexual orientation and gender identity, but it was defeated by a vote of 86 to 44, with 31 abstentions and 32 absences. In a separate track, the Holy See led an effort that would have stripped references to all vulnerable groups, but the proposal was never formally introduced.

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Anita Hill, Sandra Fluke and Garry Trudeau speak at the NWLC annual dinner

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1.3 Million Women Received Unnecessary And Invasive Cancer Treatment, Study Finds

From Think Progress:

By Igor Volsky
on Nov 23, 2012

Routine mammograms have caused more than a million U.S. women to receive “unnecessary and invasive cancer treatments over the last 30 years,” a new study finds, detecting tumors that are harmless. The results come after the government’s Preventive Task Force issued recommendations in 2009 advising primary care physicians against recommending mammograms to women under 40 years of age. Those guidelines stirred political outcry on both sides of the aisle and slowed down workon President Obama’s health care law.

But the study shines new doubt “over the effectiveness of an already controversial cancer screening tool that is aimed at detecting tumors before they spread and become more difficult to treat”:

Their analysis showed that, since mammograms became standard in the United States, the number of early-stage breast cancers detected has doubled — in recent years, doctors found tumors in 234 women out of 100,000. But in that same period, the rate of women diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer has dropped just eight percent — from 102 to 94 cases out of 100,000.

We estimated that breast cancer was overdiagnosed — i.e., tumors were detected on screening that would never have led to clinical symptoms — in 1.3 million US women in the past 30 years,” authors Gilbert Welch of Dartmouth Medical School and Archie Bleyer of the Oregon Health & Science University, wrote in a study published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

We estimated that in 2008, breast cancer was overdiagnosed in more than 70,000 women; this accounted for 31% of all breast cancers diagnosed,” they added. These women likely received major medical interventions — including surgery, radiology, hormone therapy and chemotherapy — that ought only to be used when absolutely necessary, the authors stressed.

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Saudi Arabia implements electronic tracking system for women

From Raw Story:

By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, November 22, 2012

RIYADH — Denied the right to travel without consent from their male guardians and banned from driving, women in Saudi Arabia are now monitored by an electronic system that tracks any cross-border movements.

Since last week, Saudi women’s male guardians began receiving text messages on their phones informing them when women under their custody leave the country, even if they are travelling together.

Manal al-Sherif, who became the symbol of a campaign launched last year urging Saudi women to defy a driving ban, began spreading the information on Twitter, after she was alerted by a couple.

The husband, who was travelling with his wife, received a text message from the immigration authorities informing him that his wife had left the international airport in Riyadh.

“The authorities are using technology to monitor women,” said columnist Badriya al-Bishr, who criticised the “state of slavery under which women are held” in the ultra-conservative kingdom.

Women are not allowed to leave the kingdom without permission from their male guardian, who must give his consent by signing what is known as the “yellow sheet” at the airport or border.

The move by the Saudi authorities was swiftly condemned on social network Twitter — a rare bubble of freedom for millions in the kingdom — with critics mocking the decision.

“Hello Taliban, herewith some tips from the Saudi e-government!” read one post.

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C Is For Class Warfare

From The New York Times:

By Paul Krugman
November 21, 2012

Ryan Chittum has a great piece about CNBC’s decision to drop even the pretense of journalistic objectivity and throw its weight behind the deficit scolds. Basically, the network has gone all in on behalf of the 0.01 percent.

One question Chittum doesn’t really get at, however, is why CNBC takes this tilt — why, in fact, it has been so dominated by the fake deficit hawk faction, the people who say that the debt is terrible, terrible, and that’s why we have to cut taxes on the rich. After all, the network’s audience does not consists mainly of the very rich; rather, it’s the 1 percent wannabees, who imagine that watching many hours of talking heads will somehow let them absorb the secrets of getting rich.

Now, one possible answer is that we’re looking at what the sponsors rather than the viewers want. But I don’t think that’s the main story; if there really were millions of people eager to get business news with a Keynesian flavor, my guess is that Wall Street would swallow its revulsion and buy ads all the same.

No, this is what the audience wants. And it’s what they want even though the Austerian stuff the network peddles has been wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong (have some fun with Chittum’s hyperlinks on Larry Kudlow). Never mind that the Keynesians have been right about interest rates, inflation, austerity, and more; the audience wants to hear about the debt crisis and hyperinflation coming any day now unless we cut taxes on the rich, or something.

Actually, you see a lot of that in the comment threads whenever Joe Weisenthal says something reasonable about macroeconomics; what you see isn’t just disagreement, it’s blind, spluttering rage.

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Why Walmart and Big Retailers Should Pay Their Workers More

From Huffington Post:


Henry Ford famously decided in 1914 to pay many of his workers the then incredible sum of five dollars a day, which was substantially higher than the prevailing wage at the time.

While that wasn’t done specifically to enable Ford’s workers to buy his cars (his primary objective was to reduce employee turnover), it did at times have that effect. More important, Ford’s innovation, which shocked the industrialists of that era, helped kickstart America’s high-wage, high-consumption economy and the creation of its vast middle class.

Nearly a century later, in the midst of a weak economy and rising poverty, my colleagues at Demos, a New York-based think tank, have made a compelling case that Ford’s revolutionary approach to industrial wages should now be applied to America’s retail sector.

Retail is an enormously powerful force in the U.S. economy. It hauls in more than $4 trillion in annual revenue and employs more than 15 million people. The problem, and it’s a huge one, is that many of the sector’s dedicated and hard-working employees are badly underpaid. The typical retail sales person earns just $21,000 a year, with cashiers earning even less–just $18,500, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s not much of a gateway to the middle class.

In a rigorous new study, Retail’s Hidden Potential: How Raising Wages Would Benefit Workers, the Industry and the Overall Economy, Demos describes the broad benefits that would be gained if the nation’s largest retailers established a voluntary wage floor of $25,000 for full-time, year-round employees.

Such a move would lift millions of people out of poverty, bolster the American economy and strengthen the retailers’ own bottom line.

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BLACK FRIDAY 2012 – RIOTS In Walmart Fighting Over Phones

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Behind closed doors – What Wal-Mart is really saying about strikers

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Walmart Retaliates Against Black Friday Activists

From Alternet:

With its own workers standing up against poverty wages and exploitation, Walmart is siccing the cops on past and present employees, allegedly on false pretenses.

By Adele M. Stan
November 22, 2012

As Black Friday approached, the honchos at Walmart, the largest employer in the United States, found themselves at a loss to respond to a nationwide rebellion within the ranks of their near-captive workers — people who work for an average wage of $8.81 per hour , according to The National Memo,  often in areas where Walmart is the only game in town for a job if you don’t have a college degree (or even if you do). And so it seems they started making stuff up, and pulling strings — in at least two locations — to get local police to do their bidding.

Across the country this Friday, Walmart workers and their supporters are conducting rallies and protests at or near Walmart stores, as shoppers line up in the pre-dawn hours for a crack at the super-bargains that are the retailer’s Black Friday hallmark.

For more than six months, two groups linked to the United Food & Commercial Workers union have been working on behalf of Walmart employees, demanding a living wage, a humane level of benefits, reasonable hours and an end to the company’s legendary retaliation against workers who seek to unionize and put an end to its  abusive labor practices , including wage theft. Walmart employees number 1.4 million, and, as Catherine Ruetschlin of Demos reports, it is the country’s  largest single employer of African Americans.

The groups, OUR Walmart and Making Change at Walmart , are relying largely on social media campaigns to organize what are expected to be thousands of Walmart workers walking off the job today. Aiding in the organizing are former Walmart employees, such as Alex Rivera, who claims he was fired by Walmart in Orlando this September for joining the OUR Walmart campaign, according to a report by  The Nation s Josh Eidelson.

On Wednesday, Rivera was handcuffed by Orlando police — in front of his former colleagues — when he entered the store in which he was formerly employed, because, Eidelson writes, Walmart managers appear to have falsely told police that the store had a “no tresspassing” order against the former Walmart “associate,” as the mega-retailer calls its employees.

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Taming the Walmart Bully

From Ad Busters:

Nationwide walkout emboldens America’s labor movement

22 November 2012

In the radical spirit of Buy Nothing Day, thousands of Walmart workers are staging a nationwide walkout on Black Friday . . .

Walmart is notorious for forcing small retailers out of business, pushing suppliers to bankruptcy, depressing labor conditions and paying employees the barest minimum wage. And Walmart is a committed union buster – when workers in the USA and Canada tried to organize, Walmart closed entire stores to avoid setting a precedent. Now . . . finally . . . there’s some blowback across the country, inspired by the workers at Walmart warehouses in southern California. “The warehouse workers did it,” Walmart associate Dan Hindman explains, “if they can, we all can do it. We’re protected by the law. We’re doing it for our rights and to get the company to follow their own policies that they’ve broken.”

Hindman is a college graduate who takes home $75 for a two-week pay period ever since Walmart cut his hours. “I can’t afford to work at Walmart, but I have no choice,” he says, “I’m fighting for a lot. This is a big deal for me…All we’re asking for is respect. … I’ve never been a slave, but I don’t like this. It’s out of control. This is about freedom, about our rights.”

Just mere days before this planned nationwide walkout, Walmart executives had the gall to file a complaint with a federal agency, accusing United Food and Commercial Workers union – one of the largest labor unions in America – of unlawfully organizing picket lines, in-store “flash mobs” and other demonstrations. Walmart executives also warned employees to show up for work on Friday, or else, “there could be consequences.”

But this time around Walmart’s bully tactics may backfire. And as it goes for any bully, their defensive actions only reveal their core vulnerability and insecurity. With shares of the company down 6% last week, impassioned, ongoing protests by employees over the last six months, and a powerful alliance of Walmart workers forming the activist group, OUR Walmart, Walmart’s CEO and executives are starting to loosen their ties, as fear-sweat trickles down their necks.

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Walmart hit by Black Friday strikes across 46 states, say protesters

Driving by both the local Super Walmart and Super Target today looked like an ordinary Friday afternoon.  If there was any Black Friday rush, it was long over by 2:00pm.

From The Guardian UK:

Retail giant Walmart hit by protests and staff walkouts on Black Friday, the busiest shopping day in the retail calendar

in New York, Friday 23 November 2012

Retail giant Walmart has been hit by protests and staff walkouts at stores across the US on Black Friday, the busiest shopping day in the retail calendar.

The actions began Thursday, as workers protested the retail giant’s decision to open on Thanksgiving, which is traditionally a national holiday, and what they claim are attempts by Walmart to silence protests from workers. Industrial action continued Friday, with organisers claiming 1,000 protests in 46 states.

Walmart workers in Atlanta, Miami, Dallas, Wisconsin, California’s Bay Area, Chicago, Washington DC and other cities took part in the walk out, protesting wages and work conditions. The demonstrations were co-ordinated by OUR Walmart, a workers’ group that last month led the first strikes that the retail giant had experienced.

OUR Walmart workers claimed the retailer was intimidating those who protest working conditions at the retailer.

Walmart countered that it had had its best Black Friday ever and that the majority of protesters were not Walmart workers.

“Only 26 protests occurred at stores last night and many of them did not include any Walmart associates,” said Bill Simon, Walmart’s US president and chief executive officer. “We had very safe and successful Black Friday events at our stores across the country and heard overwhelmingly positive feedback from our customers,” Simon said.

He added that the retailer estimated less than 50 Walmart workers had taken part in the protests. “In fact, this year, roughly the same number of associates missed their scheduled shift as last year,” Simon said.

But protesters disputed the retailer’s numbers.

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Walmart Workers Protest For Better Wages And Benefits On Black Friday

From Think Progress:

By Igor Volsky
on Nov 23, 2012

Workers at Walmart stores across the country are walking off their jobs to protest the national retailer’s low wages and poor working conditions in an effort to raise public awareness about how the company treats its employees on the busiest shopping day of the year. The strikes, which began earlier this month, are the first in the 50 year history of the company and come just as Walmart reported a 9 percent increase in third-quarter net income, earning $3.63 billion.

Workers are also opposing Walmart’s poor benefits, alleged systematic discrimination against women, and its decision this year to kick off Black Friday on Thursday night. As Fox News reported today, many employees say they fear retaliation for speaking out against the company’s policies:

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Wal-Mart Worker Strikes And Protests Hit 100 Cities In Almost Every State

From The New Civil Rights Movement:

by David Badash
on November 23, 2012

Wal-Martworkers are protesting and striking in 100 U.S. cities across the nation in 46 states, hoping to draw attention to Wal-Mart’s tragically low wages and strong anti-union policies.

“A Walmart press release this morning downplayed what commentators have called historic strike actions by Walmart workers this Black Friday across the United States,” reports:

The release noted that “the same number of associates missed their scheduled shift as last year,” but hundreds of protests in 46 states beginning Thursday evening have drawn attention to the retailer’s poor labor practices…

Salon also has a list of strikes and protests.

Over at The Nation, Josh Eidelson is live blogging updates of actions against Wal-Mart. In his latest update he writes:

According to a spokesperson for Making Change at Walmart, a group tied to the United Food & Commerical Workers union, hundreds of Walmart retail workers have now gone on strike. He added that there are Black Friday strikers in at least 100 cities and protests in 46 states. The spokesperson accused Walmart of making up numbers to minimize the strike, and said that it will take time to tally more exact figures because many strikers are walking off the job on their own in stores that haven’t seen past OUR Walmart actions. He reiterated the group’s position that the strike is legally protected, and pledged support for any workers who face illegal retaliation for participating.

Meanwhile, a guest post at AmericaBlog by Brian Young, a co-founder of the Corporate Action Network explains:

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