Transgender Latinas Find a Refuge in Queens

From The New York Times:

By Julie Turkewitz and Juliet Linderman
December 2, 2012,

Two years ago, smugglers buried a woman named Joselyn in Matamoros, a Mexican border city that attracts immigrants waiting to cross into the United States. Several men encased her body in dirt, covered her face with leaves and told her to wait until Border Patrol agents had disappeared to dig herself out.

For Joselyn, who is transgender, the process of being buried alive was nothing new. Growing up in Guatemala, she had suffocated beneath a barrage of insults and physical attacks from her family, her neighbors and her peers, she said. And with Mexican gangs moving south, violence against gays and transgender people was becoming more frequent. So at 19, Joselyn set off on an 18-day journey to the United States and eventually made it to New York City.

She spent 10 months alone. “I isolated myself from everyone,” Joselyn, who asked that her last name not be used because she is here illegally, said in Spanish. “I said, ‘What’s the point? If my mama didn’t even love me, why should I seek help?’”

But this summer, she met another transgender Latina who encouraged her to join a support group started by the AIDS Center of Queens County. “I felt like a bird when someone opens its cage and it can fly,” she said.

Since 2008, a growing number of transgender Latinas have gathered in Queens every Friday night, discussing challenges unfamiliar to many New Yorkers: Where do I buy female hormones without a prescription? How do I avoid the police when reporting a drug overdose? Who can help me find a lawyer familiar with asylum petitions?

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Canada: Bill C-279 testimony met with jeers

From Xtra:

FEDERAL NEWS / “Real Women of Canada” says bill will shield pedophiles

Bradley Turcotte
Thursday, November 29, 2012

Observers in the gallery of the standing committee on justice and human rights shook their heads Nov 27 as they listened to a representative from Real Women of Canada speak out against trans rights.
The third day of hearings on Bill C-279, which would add gender identity to the list of protected minorities under the Canadian Human Rights Act, also saw testimony from the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. Yet it was Diane Watts’s testimony that got the biggest reaction from onlookers.
Watts adopted the frequently referenced stance that if the bill passes, sexual deviants will be able to access women’s washrooms where children are present.
“There’s a situation in Washington where a man who thinks he’s a female has been allowed entrance into a health club where children change. Since the terms gender identity and gender expression are undefined, they apply to anyone who thinks he or she is another sex,” Watts said, “whether or not he/she has had hormonal treatment or surgery.”
Watts also said that taxpayers should not have to pay for sex reassignment surgery and that trans Canadians should not receive special treatment.
“People who think they are transgender should receive compassionate counselling, rather than be encouraged to go against their dissatisfaction with their genetically ingrained gender,” she said. “Their DNA does not change after these treatments.”
The bill’s author, NDP MP Randall Garrison, challenged Watts’s statements and called her brief “offensive.”
“The connection that you attempt to draw to pedophilia . . . anyone who has taken the time to inform themselves with the issues before us would know and should know that there is no connection between the issues we have before us, gender identity and gender expression, and pedophilia,” Garrison said.
Real Women of Canada has refused to meet with trans organizations, declining several requests. When Garrison asked why, Watts said substantial literature on the group’s website answers any questions trans groups — such as Ottawa’s Gender Mosaic, which requested a meeting with Real Women — have.

How Girls Evolved to Shop, Rebecca Watson Skepticon 5

For what it is worth I think Evolutionary Psychology ranks up there with homeopathy and astrology as Pseudo-Scientific bullshit.

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Walmart’s New Health Care Policy Shifts Burden To Medicaid, Obamacare

From Huffington Post:


Walmart, the nation’s largest private employer, plans to begin denying health insurance to newly hired employees who work fewer than 30 hours a week, according to a copy of the company’s policy obtained by The Huffington Post.

Under the policy, slated to take effect in January, Walmart also reserves the right to eliminate health care coverage for certain workers if their average workweek dips below 30 hours — something that happens with regularity and at the direction of company managers.

Walmart declined to disclose how many of its roughly 1.4 million U.S. workers are vulnerable to losing medical insurance under its new policy. In an emailed statement, company spokesman David Tovar said Walmart had “made a business decision” not to respond to questions from The Huffington Post and accused the publication of unfair coverage.

Labor and health care experts portrayed Walmart’s decision to exclude workers from its medical plans as an attempt to limit costs while taking advantage of the national health care reform known as Obamacare. Among the key features of Obamacare is an expansion of Medicaid, the taxpayer-financed health insurance program for poor people. Many of the Walmart workers who might be dropped from the company’s health care plans earn so little that they would qualify for the expanded Medicaid program, these experts said.

“Walmart is effectively shifting the costs of paying for its employees onto the federal government with this new plan, which is one of the problems with the way the law is structured,” said Ken Jacobs, chairman of the Labor Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley.

For Walmart, this latest policy represents a step back in time. Almost seven years ago, as Walmart confronted public criticism that its employees couldn’t afford its benefits, the company announced with much fanfare that it would expand health coverage for part-time workers.

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Don’t Slave Your Life Away: Why America Should Embrace a 4-Day Work Week

From Alternet:

Workers today are expected to be on call 24/7.

By Bill Ivey
November 28, 2012

The following is an excerpt from Handmaking America: A Back-to-Basics Pathway to a Revitalized American Democracy by Bill Ivey.

The Perpetual Workday

Jill Andresky Fraser’s book White-Collar Sweatshop details the movement of factory floor, scientific-management-style techniques into the office. Overall real wages scarcely budged in the 1990s, and earnings for college-educated workers actually declined by more than 6 percent. We might surmise that the lack of salary increases were offset, in part, by noncash benefits, but these too were extracted from the compensation package. “Lunch hour? An anachronism. Commuting time? A good chance to return phone calls. Sleep? Never mind if you were up until 2am on the phone with a client across the globe. Be at the office at eight.

“These days, workers are expected to be on call 24/7—24 hours per day, seven days per week,” writes Fraser. Seen in this light, innovations like flex time or working from home are in fact strategies to bring new sorts of workers—think women—into the job market and to subject them to a new set of (frequently electronic) rules and controls.

Think about it. Fifteen years ago, would you have taken a job if you had to be available every day, respond to messages from your boss late at night, and maintain contact with the office while on vacation? You would probably have taken a pass. But today just about any job, especially the good ones, exhibit precisely this oppressive 24/7 character.

It’s a corrosive double whammy: At the same time as technology has redefined labor by converting craft occupations into assembly line piecework, new gadgets have allowed our less inviting piecework tasks to follow us home, invading our bedrooms, filling family time, distracting us on holiday. This change in the character of work took place very quickly. As technology critic Jaron Lanier observed, “It’s as if you kneel to plant the seed of a tree and it grows so fast that it swallows your whole village before you can even rise to your feet.”

Americans are suckers for new technologies. We cheerfully purchased the Sony Walkman (how quickly we forget!) and embraced digital cameras, cell phones, plasma TVs, smart phones, and now iPads. Just as we’ve consumed high-tech gadgets at home, we welcome electronic devices in the workplace; won’t they save precious time by making us more efficient? Our enthusiasm for innovative machines obscures the truth that all they do is bind us more tightly to our jobs while forcing us to work longer hours.

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Foodies Get Wobbly

Form In These Times:

Food supply chain workers adopt the IWW’s radical actions to fight abusive employers.

BY Michelle Chen
December 2, 2012

Once upon a time in the labor movement, a rebellious vanguard emerged at the margins of American industry, braiding together workers on society’s fringes—immigrants, African Americans, women, unskilled laborers—under a broad banner of class struggle.

The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), or Wobblies, raised hell in the early 20th century with unapologetically militant protests and strikes.

Their vision of a locally rooted, globally oriented anti-capitalist movement was eclipsed by mainstream unions, which had more political muscle. But grassroots direct action is today undergoing a resurgence in the corners of the workforce that have remained isolated from union structures.

Such alternative campaigns have a special resonance in today’s food industries, which employ the roughly 20 million people (one-sixth of the total workforce) who harvest, process, distribute and sell the food we eat. This marginalized, low-wage group is hungry for organizing models that move as nimbly as the corporations that run the production chains. The IWW’s signature organizing model, syndicalism (which prioritizes direct action in the workplace), meshes with the growing trend in the labor movement toward less bureaucratic labor groups, such as worker centers and immigrant advocacy campaigns. Flexible mobilization that doesn’t require formal votes or union certification is well-suited to precarious laborers seeking to outmaneuver the multinationals.

Since 2007, the Wobbly-affiliated coalition Focus on the Food Chain (FOFC) has empowered workers in New York City’s food sectors to challenge abusive employers on the streets and in the courts. The group—an alliance between the local IWW and the advocacy group Brandworkers International—aims to “carry out member-led workplace justice campaigns to transform the industry” and focuses on the oft-neglected links between farm and fridge. According to Brandworkers Executive Director Daniel Gross, these processing and distribution industries are a “sweatshop corridor.”

“The business model,” he says, “is exploitation of recent immigrants.”

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World News – The Science Guy takes on creationism

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A new face of the new labor movement

From Waging Non-Violence:

December 1, 2012

For Mahoma Lopez, a long-time restaurant worker in New York City, it came down to a decision between fight and flight. Last fall, his boss at the cafe on the Upper East Side where Lopez had worked for years began cutting hours and screaming at his employees, withholding overtime pay and threatening to fire anyone who complained. Being Mexican-born and with halting English, Lopez had been in this position before. Time after time, he’d quit; to be a proud man in his industry required a fair number of employment changes.

“Hot and Crusty —” Lopez said, smiling as he began the story of his most recent employer, one in a chain of cheap, 24-hour eateries sprinkled across Manhattan. Lopez leaned back in the flimsy chair of the pizzeria a few blocks from his Queens apartment. With his large stomach thrust forward and his wide cheeks covered in a trimmed beard, the 34-year-old looked stately, almost regal.

“In December, the campaign began underground,” he said.

Last month, Lopez and his co-workers at the Hot and Crusty on 63rd St. won a suspenseful and highly atypical 11-month labor campaign. The battle pitted 23 foreign-born restaurant workers, supported by a volunteer organizing center and members of Occupy Wall Street, against a corporate restaurant chain backed by a multimillion dollar private equity investment firm. The campaign itself was filled with enough twists, betrayals and finally triumphs to be the subject of an upcoming documentary, Cafe Wars. Yet the story of Mahoma Lopez’s own year-long evolution from an employee to an organizer exemplifies the new, dynamic direction of the U.S. labor movement that appears to be on the brink of resurgence.

Lopez has a friendly disposition, which he employs in conversation to smooth over whatever difficulties have come his way. Crossing the Mexican-American border with a coyote — a smuggler of migrants — was no big deal, he says, even though the coyote was detained and imprisoned at the border, leaving 18-year-old Lopez in charge of the rest of the group once they reached Texas. Lopez also talks about his father’s early death deftly, explaining that it left him a good job as a gas station attendant, which Lopez assumed when he was 13. His relaxed demeanor didn’t inure him to things like chaotic protests; as a boy growing up in Mexico City, he was generally against marches.

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Yuck: Our Seafood Is Loaded with Unspeakably Gross Pollutants

From Alternet:

Some of our most popular seafood treats come to us from filthy operations in other countries. 

By Jill Richardson
November 30, 2012

This article was published in partnership with

When you tuck into a delicious seafood dish, is it possible that the fish you are eating once ate human poop? Surprisingly, that might be the case. A look at the U.S. seafood supply reveals that some of our most popular seafood treats might come to us from unsanitary and disgusting operations in other countries. And the federal government does not necessarily stop it from making its way to your dinner plate, either.

These days, 91 percent of U.S. seafood is imported, and half of that is farmed (the other half is wild-caught). Our top suppliers include China, Thailand, Canada, Chile, Indonesia, Ecuador, and Vietnam. And the production systems some of these countries use would make your stomach turn.

Michael Doyle, regents professor and director at the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia, described tilapia production in China, saying, “The farmers there grow the fish in ponds that are maybe one to two acres in size. That’s their livelihood. And they use excessive antibiotics.” China is a leading supplier of tilapia to the U.S.

“It’s not just antibiotic residues on the seafood. It’s also antibiotic-resistant microbes that come with the fish or the shrimp,” he continued. “A primary source of salmonella is the raw manure that is used to feed the shrimp and fish. Many of these farmers have poultry — maybe chickens, maybe geese, maybe ducks. The fecal waste of these animals is fed directly into these ponds, which is the source of nutrients for these fish and shrimp… Poultry can harbor salmonella… that’s shed in the feces. And many of these little farms have the family outhouse just feed directly into the ponds.”

If that makes you less interested in ordering the tilapia, then you surely don’t want any Vietnamese “catfish” either. U.S. aquaculture produces channel catfish, but these days, American producers compete with a flood of cheap Vietnamese fish that are marketed as catfish. Dr. Carole Engle, chair and director of aquaculture and fisheries at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, says these Vietnamese catfish are “not only a different species, it’s a different genus and a different family. We call it pangasius.”

To understand pangasius farming in Vietnam, one must first know a little bit about life in the Mekong Delta. Engle explains, “What’s striking when you first get there is that there’s more water than there is land in the Mekong Delta region. There are these large rivers coming through the Mekong Delta… These waters are everything. A lot of the transportation is on the water, and a lot of people live on the water, on houseboats. It’s also a disposal system. People live on these rivers and their restrooms are right on these boats and they are discharging right on the rivers. And all the human waste, and all of the waste from cities… it’s all going into the river and the river is the source of the water.”

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Our Rust Bucket Reactors are at the Nuclear Cliff

From Common Dreams:

by Harvey Wasserman
Published on Sunday, December 2, 2012 by Common Dreams

In the wake of this fall’s election, the disintegration of America’s rust bucket reactor fleet is fast approaching critical mass. Unless our No Nukes movement can get the worst of them shut soon, Barack Obama may be very lucky to get through his second term without a serious plunge over the nuclear cliff. San Onofre nuclear power plant

All 104 licensed US reactors were designed before 1975—a third of a century ago. All but one went on line in the 1980s or earlier.

Plunging natural gas prices (due largely to ecologically disastrous fracking) are dumping even fully-amortized US reactors into deep red ink. Wisconsin’s Kewaunee will close next year because nobody wants to buy it. A reactor at Clinton, Illinois, may join it. Should gas prices stay low, the trickle of shut-downs will turn into a flood.

But more disturbing are the structural problems, made ever-more dangerous by slashed maintenance budgets.

San Onofre Units One and Two, near major earthquake faults on the coast between Los Angeles and San Diego, have been shut for more than nine months by core breakdowns in their newly refurbished steam generators. A fix could exceed a half-billion dollars. A bitter public battle now rages over shutting them both.

The containment dome at North Florida’s Crystal River was seriously damaged during “repair” efforts that could take $2 billion to correct. It will probably never reopen.

NRC inspections of Nebraska’s Fort Calhoun, damaged during recent flooding, have unearthed a wide range of structural problems that could shut it forever, and that may have been illegally covered-up.  As many as three dozen US reactors may be vulnerable to flooding from upstream dams.

Ohio’s Davis-Besse has structural containment cracks that should have forced it down years ago and others have been found at South Carolina’s V.C. Summer reactor pressure vessel.

Intense public pressure at Vermont Yankee, at two reactors at New York’s Indian Point, and at New Jersey’s Oyster Creek (damaged in Hurricane Sandy) could bring them all down.

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World temperature set to increase 9 degrees: study

From Raw Story:

By Agence France-Presse
Sunday, December 2, 2012

PARIS — Levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) are rising annually by around three percent, placing Earth on track for warming that could breach five degrees Celsius (9.0 degrees Fahrhenheit) by 2100, a new study published on Sunday said.

The figure — among the most alarming of the latest forecasts by climate scientists — is at least double the 2C (3.6F) target set by UN members struggling for a global deal on climate change.

In 2011, global carbon emissions were 54 percent above 1990 levels, according to the research, published in the journal Nature Climate Change by the Global Carbon Project consortium.

“We are on track for the highest emissions projections, which point to a rise in temperature of between 4C (7.2F) and 6C (10.8F) by the end of the century,” said Corinne le Quere, a carbon specialist at the University of East Anglia, eastern England.

“The estimate is based on growth trends that seem likely to last,” she said in a phone interview, pointing to the mounting consumption of coal by emerging giants.

Other research has warned of potentially catastrophic impacts from a temperature rise of this kind.

Chronic droughts and floods would bite into farm yields, violent storms and sea-level rise would swamp coastal cities and deltas, and many species would be wiped out, unable to cope with habitat loss.

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