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Having provoked a wave of complaint, the anti-trans piece was later withdrawn from the Observer website.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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The United States needs to see the doctor

From The Washington Post:

Published: January 15, 2013

January has turned out to be a banner month for fans of American exceptionalism. As documented in voluminous detail in a 404-page report released last week by the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine, Americans lead shorter lives than Western Europeans, Australians, Japanese and Canadians. Of the 17 countries measured, the United States placed dead last in life expectancy, even though we lead the planet in the amount we spend on health care (17.6 percent of gross domestic product in 2010 vs. 11.6 percent each for France and Germany). We get radically less bang for the buck than comparable nations. If that’s not exceptionalism, I don’t know what is.

Americans die young. The death rate for Americans younger than 50, the report showed, is almost off the comparative charts. A range of exceptionally American factors — car usage and lack of exercise, junk-food diets, violent deaths from guns, high numbers of uninsured and a concomitant lack of treatment, the high rate of poverty — all contribute to this grim distinction. Of the 17 nations studied, the United States ranks first in violent deaths, at roughly three times the level of second-ranking Finland and 15 times that of Japan, which ranked last. This list includes violent deaths by all means, not just gunshots, so it’s a pretty fair measure of either different people’s inherent propensity toward violence or the access people have to deadly weapons when they get violent. (To look at this list and conclude that guns have nothing to do with the rate of violent deaths, you have to believe that Americans are just much more murderous than anybody else.)

The study enumerates other key, if unsurprising, factors in our shortness of life. “Americans are more likely to find their health care inaccessible or unaffordable,” it concludes. “Americans benefit less from safety net programs that can buffer the negative health effects of poverty and other social disadvantages.”

But a funny thing happens to Americans’ life expectancy when they age. The U.S. mortality rate is the highest of the 17 nations until Americans hit 50 and the second-highest until they hit 70. Then our mortality ranking precipitously shifts: By the time American seniors hit 80, they have some of the longest life expectancies in the world.

What gives? Have seniors discovered the Fountain of Youth? Do U.S. geriatricians outpace all our other physicians?

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Paul Krugman: Anti-Obamacare Governors Risk Killing Poor People

From Huffington Post:


Anti-Obamacare governors are boosting their political profiles on the backs of their suffering constituents, according to Paul Krugman.

Ten Republican governors — including the governors of Texas, South Carolina and Louisiana — have refused to participate in Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid, which would have allowed their residents who earn up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level to get public health coverage.

“Refusing to expand Medicaid would impose huge suffering on lots of poor people, and kill some of them; for people like Jan Brewer, that’s a plus,” Krugman wrote in a blog post on Tuesday. “But it would also hurt the profits of big health-industry corporations. What’s a conservative to do?”

Though Krugman criticized Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R), she broke from the ranks of many of her Republican colleagues Monday when she announced that her state will participate in the Medicaid expansion. Nonetheless, Brewer said in November that her opposition to Obamacare is “unwavering” when she rejected implementing a state-run health insurance exchange as part of health care reform. The Medicaid expansion presumably would help the health care industry because it would enable more patients to get health care regularly.

The Medicaid expansion aims to help poor Americans who are going without health insurance (many because they make too much money to qualify for Medicaid). The problem is widespread: 15.7 percent of Americans lacked health insurance in 2011, putting them at risk of worse health and massive medical bills.

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Stealing from seniors so the rich can get richer

From Socialist Worker:

Gary Lapon
January 14, 2013

CALL IT Robin Hood in reverse: The super-rich comes out of the so-called “fiscal cliff” debate with most, if not all, its tax breaks from the Bush years intact–before Washington gets down to the project of cutting benefits for the elderly and most vulnerable by “reforming” Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Translation: Take from the poor to give to the rich.

Much of the focus in the fiscal cliff deal that passed Congress focused on the income tax increase for the richest Americans–those making $400,000 or more ($450,000 for couples filing jointly). Less noticed was the giveaway to the rich, worth nearly $400 billion over 10 years, by reversing what would have been a significant increase in the estate tax.

Without action by Congress, the estate tax was set to increase substantially as of January 1, back to the levels of the Clinton years. The exemption–that is, the amount that can be passed to heirs at death, or as gifts during one’s life, without paying the estate tax–would have fallen from $5.12 million per person ($10.24 million for couples) to $1 million ($2 million for couples). The tax rate on the portion of estates exceeding the exemption would have risen from 35 percent to 55 percent.

Instead, the exemption will stay where it is–and even grow with inflation. And the new tax rate amounts over the threshold will be just 40 percent. And unlike the Bush tax breaks, this massive cut in the estate tax from Clinton-era levels is permanent, with no expiration date.

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Corporations wants students to be cogs in their profit machine

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Aboriginal Groups Stage Protests Across Canada

From The New York Times:

Published: January 16, 2013

WINDSOR, Ontario (AP) — Aboriginals slowed highway traffic, snarled a rail line and protested at the busiest Canada-US crossing point on Wednesday as part of a “day of action” in their ongoing dispute with the Canadian government over treaty rights.

Hundreds of supporters of the “Idle No More” movement gathered at one entrance of the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ontario. Another entrance to the border crossing remained open, and organizers said the protest will not be a blockade. At one point, trucks were lined up for about almost a mile (2 kilometers).

The protests erupted almost two months ago against a budget bill that affects Canada’s Indian Act and amends environmental laws. Protesters say the bill undermines century-old treaties by altering the approval process for leasing Aboriginal lands to outsiders and changing environmental oversight in favor of natural resource extraction.

In northern Ontario, a group of people set up a blockade on a rail line Wednesday. Via Rail said the blockade halted the movement of trains between Toronto and Montreal and Ottawa.

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Whole Foods CEO changes tune on ‘Obamacare’: It’s not ‘socialism,’ it’s ‘fascism’

As if I really needed a reason not to shop at Whole Paycheck.

I never really liked Whole Foods.  there was always something that rubbed me the wrong way about them.  Perhaps it was their gobbling up other independent health food stores.  Or maybe it was the feeling they weren’t really any different from any other market.  Only much more expensive.

So I’ve added them to a list that includes Domino’s, Chick fil-A, Carls Jr. and a bunch of other places I will never never do business with.

From Raw Story:

By Stephen C. Webster
Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The CEO of Whole Foods said in 2009 that the Affordable Care Act was tantamount to “socialism,” but now he’s changing his tune: It’s not socialism anymore. According to him, it’s “fascism.”

That’s what John Mackey told National Public Radio (NPR) on Wednesday, in an interview aired on “Morning Edition,” seeming not to mind that the two forms of government are largely incompatible and ill-suited for framing the U.S. health care laws.

Mackey had a different take in 2009, when he wrote in The Wall Street Journal that the Affordable Care Act is precisely the kind of “socialism” British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher warned about.

“Technically speaking, it’s more like fascism,” he told NPR on Wednesday. “Socialism is where the government owns the means of production. In fascism, the government doesn’t own the means of production, but they do control it — and that’s what’s happening with our health care programs and these reforms.”

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The Weathermen Don’t Know Which Way the Wind’s Blowing

From In These Times:

Four in 5 Americans believe in global warming–but nearly half of local weather reporters don’t.

BY David Sirota
January 12, 2013

There’s a big reason climate change differs from so many public policy challenges: unlike other crises, addressing the planet’s major environmental crisis truly requires mass consensus. Indeed, because fixing the problem involves so many different societal changes—reducing carbon emissions, conserving energy, retrofitting infrastructure, altering a meat-centric diet, to name a few—we all need to at least agree on the basic fact that we are facing an emergency. This is especially the case in a nation where, thanks to the U.S. Senate filibuster, lawmakers representing just 11 percent of the population can kill almost any national legislation.

That’s why as encouraging as it is to see a new Associated Press-GfK poll showing that 4 in 5 Americans now see climate change as a serious problem, it is also not so encouraging to see that after the hottest year on record, 1 in 5 still somehow do not acknowledge the crisis. Unfortunately, that 1 in 5 may be enough to prevent us from forging the all-hands-on-deck attitude necessary to halt a planetary disaster.

What, if anything, can be done? Short of eliminating the filibuster so that lawmakers representing this 20 percent don’t retain veto power over climate change legislation, America desperately needs a serious public education campaign.

The good news is that with such education, many of those who don’t yet believe climate change is a serious problem can, in fact, be reached—and convinced to accept obvious reality.

This is the conclusion of a new study by researchers at George Mason University and Yale University. It found that those with a “low engagement on the issue of global warming…are more likely to be influenced by their perceived personal experience of global warming than by their prior beliefs.” Summarizing the findings, reporter David Roberts writes that “people who have made up their mind have made up their mind,” but for those in the “mushy middle,” personally facing severe weather—and being exposed to facts about what that weather really represents—“can make a real difference.”

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