Protestors to picket newspapers after Burchill trans hate rant

From Gay Star News:

The Observer newspaper under pressure as anti-transphobia protesters gear up for demonstration

By Ray Filar
16 January 2013

Protests against transphobia in the UK media are scheduled to take place tomorrow (17 January) in London and Manchester.

Around 300 attendees are expected to demonstrate outside of the London offices of the Observer newspaper, part of the Guardian Media Group.

The protests were initiated by Sarah Savage, star of the Channel 4 drama My Transsexual Summer.

Trans issues have taken center stage in the UK press this week, following the Observer’s publication of a transphobic article (13 January) by outspoken columnist Julie Burchill.

Having provoked a wave of complaint, the anti-trans piece was later withdrawn from the Observer website.

But Toby Young, blogger for The Daily Telegraph newspaper, took the controversial decision to reprint the hate-filled article.

A second protest (18 January) has been now arranged outside of the offices of The Telegraph.

An open letter addressed to the Guardian Media Group laid out the reasons for the protest. It said that the Observer’s statement on its decision to withdraw Burchill’s article is not enough.

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San Francisco transgender man sues school over alleged mistreatment

From The San Francisco Examiner:

By: Chris Roberts

A man is suing his former school and employer, alleging that positive reviews and recommendations all turned sour and that his supervisors took retaliatory actions after he disclosed his transgender status.

Everything was going fine for Kellen Bennett as the Oakland-based licensed marriage counselor pursued a Ph.D. in clinical psychology at Alliant International University in San Francisco from August 2006 to October 2011. His grades were good and his recommendations solid. But then one day in October 2011, he told a faculty member and several classmates in a group session that he is transgender.

All of a sudden, positive reviews turned to bad ones, and a promised postdoctoral internship evaporated. One of his supervisors began repeatedly using the word “tranny” in his presence and school records were altered in an attempt to deny him a job, Bennett alleges in a lawsuit filed late last year against the university’s California School of Professional Psychology.

Bennett, who has lived as a man for 13 years after undergoing sexual-reassignment surgery, sued Alliant and faculty members Dr. Elizabeth Milnes and Dr. Gregory Wells, according to documents on file at San Francisco Superior Court.

The revelation came to light in one of Milnes’ classes, the lawsuit states. At the time, Bennett was employed via Alliant’s in-house psychiatric services provider at two Bay Area high schools as a counselor.

Milnes allegedly repeatedly used the word “tranny” in front of Bennett in class, and Wells allegedly told peers and supervisors to “watch Bennett” and “make sure he doesn’t do anything inappropriate,” according to the lawsuit, which alleges workplace discrimination and harassment and failure to promote.

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Barney Frank: ENDA victory not tied to executive order

From Metro Weekly:

Posted by Justin Snow
January 16, 2013

Former Rep. Barney Frank isn’t buying arguments that the signing of an executive order that would prohibit federal contractors from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity would build momentum for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

In an interview with Metro Weekly shortly after the 113th Congress was sworn in Jan. 3, the Massachusetts Democrat and former champion of ENDA in the House said President Barack Obama’s delay in signing the executive order, which Obama indicated he would support as a presidential candidate in 2008, should not be interpreted as anti-LGBT.

“That’s a pretty far-reaching policy decision to be made by the executive alone and the Republicans have made a lot of arguments and have scored some points by arguing he has done too much executive power without congressional approval. So I think it is unfair to impugn their reluctance to sign that,” said Frank. “It’s a reluctance to do too many things by executive order and feed into their argument that there’s an executive overreach.”

Advocates have pushed the White House to sign such an executive order, which would apply to contractors who do more than $10,000 of work with the federal government and affect 26 million workers. Many believe Obama could help refocus attention on ENDA and cast a spotlight on legislation that has widespread public support but has faced Republican opposition for decades. According to White House press secretary Jay Carney, the White House remains focused on securing passage of comprehensive federal legislation in the form of ENDA rather than an executive order that would only apply to federal contractors.

“[The executive order] would be hugely helpful to ENDA efforts on the Hill, which the White House has made clear it supports,” Jeff Krehely, vice president of LGBT research at the Center for American Progress, told Metro Weekly last month. “Although we know the rates of anti-LGBT discrimination are high, we also know that many Americans already think federal laws exist to prevent and crack down on this type of discrimination.”

Frank, however, disagrees: “That argument is dumb. D-U-M-B. Dumb.”

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In the Wake of Aaron Swartz’s Death, Let’s Fix Draconian Computer Crime Law

From The Electronic Frontier Foundation:

By Marcia Hofmann
January 14, 2013

Outpourings of grief and calls for change continue to flood the Internet after the suicide of Aaron Swartz, only 26 years old.

Aaron was one of our community’s best and brightest, and he acheived great things in his short life. He was a coder, a political activist, an entrepreneur, a contributor to major technological developments (like RSS), and an all-around Internet freedom rock star. As Wired noted, the world will miss out on decades of magnificent things Aaron would have accomplished had his time not been cut short.

Over the past two years, Aaron was forced to devote much of his energy and resources to fighting a relentless and unjust felony prosecution brought by Justice Department attorneys in Massachusetts. His alleged crimes stemmed from using MIT’s computer network to download millions of academic articles from the online archive JSTOR, allegedly without “authorization.” For that, he faced 13 felony counts of hacking and wire fraud (pdf), which carried the possibility of decades in prison and crippling fines. His case would have gone to trial in April.

The government should never have thrown the book at Aaron for accessing MIT’s network and downloading scholarly research. However, some extremely problematic elements of the law made it possible.  We can trace some of those issues to the U.S. criminal justice system as an institution, and I suspect others will write about that in the coming days. But Aaron’s tragedy also shines a spotlight on a couple profound flaws of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act in particular, and gives us an opportunity to think about how to address them.

Problem 1: Hacking laws are too broad, and too vague

Among other things, the CFAA makes it illegal to gain access to protected computers “without authorization” or in a manner that “exceeds authorized access.”  Unfortunately, the law doesn’t clearly explain what a lack of “authorization” actually means. Creative prosecutors have taken advantage of this confusion to craft criminal charges that aren’t really about hacking a computer but instead target other behavior the prosecutors don’t like.

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Carmen Ortiz and Stephen Heymann: accountability for prosecutorial abuse

From The Guardian UK:

Imposing real consequences on these federal prosecutors in the Aaron Swartz case is vital for both justice and reform, Wednesday 16 January 2013

Whenever an avoidable tragedy occurs, it’s common for there to be an intense spate of anger in its immediate aftermath which quickly dissipates as people move on to the next outrage. That’s a key dynamic that enables people in positions of authority to evade consequences for their bad acts. But as more facts emerge regarding the conduct of the federal prosecutors in the case of Aaron Swartz – Massachusetts’ US attorney Carmen Ortiz and assistant US attorney Stephen Heymann – the opposite seems to be taking place: there is greater and greater momentum for real investigations, accountability and reform. It is urgent that this opportunity not be squandered, that this interest be sustained.

The Wall Street Journal reported this week that – two days before the 26-year-old activist killed himself on Friday – federal prosecutors again rejected a plea bargain offer from Swartz’s lawyers that would have kept him out of prison. They instead demanded that he “would need to plead guilty to every count” and made clear that “the government would insist on prison time”. That made a trial on all 15 felony counts – with the threat of a lengthy prison sentence if convicted – a virtual inevitability.

Just three months ago, Ortiz’s office, as TechDirt reported, severely escalated the already-excessive four-felony-count indictment by adding nine new felony counts, each of which “carrie[d] the possibility of a fine and imprisonment of up to 10-20 years per felony”, meaning “the sentence could conceivably total 50+ years and [a] fine in the area of $4 million.” That meant, as Think Progress documented, that Swartz faced “a more severe prison term than killers, slave dealers and bank robbers”.

Swartz’s girlfriend, Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, told the WSJ that the case had drained all of his money and he could not afford to pay for a trial. At Swartz’s funeral in Chicago on Tuesday, his father flatly stated that his son “was killed by the government”.

Ortiz and Heymann continue to refuse to speak publicly about what they did in this case – at least officially. Yesterday, Ortiz’s husband, IBM Corp executive Thomas J. Dolan, took to Twitter and – without identifying himself as the US Attorney’s husband – defended the prosecutors’ actions in response to prominent critics, and even harshly criticized the Swartz family for assigning blame to prosecutors: “Truly incredible in their own son’s obit they blame others for his death”, Ortiz’s husband wrote. Once Dolan’s identity was discovered, he received assertive criticism and then sheepishly deleted his Twitter account.

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Punishment Before Trial: More Than 1,000 Days and Counting

From Huffington Post:


I read the news about Colonel Denise Lind’s ruling in the case against Bradley Manning with great interest. She ruled that Manning, the U.S. soldier accused of releasing thousands of military and diplomatic emails and cables to Wikileaks was indeed subjected to excessively harsh treatment whilst in military detention and this must surely be seen as a small victory for the Manning defense team.

The punishment of Bradley Manning goes directly against the Uniform Code of Military Justice’s own laws, namely Section 813 article 13, which basically states, “No punishment before trial.” This law was obviously broken. People in this country are entitled to a “speedy trial,” which is normally between 100 and 120 days from the date of the crime. Bradley Manning has been incarcerated for more than 1,000 days before his trial has begun and even a United Nations investigation confirmed that Manning was being held in inhumane conditions that was tantamount to torture.

In my humble opinion, the judges’ ruling, granting Manning a 112-day reduction in any sentence he might receive, is welcome but far short of true justice. If the military broke its own laws and President Obama even declared publicly that Manning had broken the law, then how can anyone say that this could be a “fair” trial? Which military judge is going to go against the statements of his or her commander in chief?

An internal investigation by the Marine Corps, which operates the prison in which Manning was being held, stated that Manning’s jailers violated their own policies in imposing oppressive conditions. The Obama administration’s own State Department spokesman, PJ Crowley, denounced the detention conditions as “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid” and was fired for his outspokenness.

President Obama, a constitutional lawyer, pays great lip service to “whistle blowers,” maintaining that the U.S. needs people who will attempt to tell the truth, that the country needs people of courage to step forward when they witness wrongdoing of any kind, but cannot see the need to protect Bradley Manning. Perhaps the greatest crime that Manning committed was one of embarrassing the military and disturbing the status quo and one also has to wonder why the newspapers that profited from the publication of the events are not being brought to task. Manning is accused of aiding the enemy but surely the members of Al-Qaeda can read the newspaper.

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Government postpones Manning trial without a clear reason

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