Friday Night Fun and Culture: Wynton Marsalis

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Real workplace protections needed

From The Bay Area Reporter:

by Selisse Berry

“Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law.”

Those words, spoken by President Barack Obama during his 2013 Inaugural Address last week, give me great hope that we will soon see an executive order prohibiting all federal contractors, regardless of size, from discriminating against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in the workplace. The order would extend basic workplace protections to between 11 and 16 million people in the United States, according to a report by the Williams Institute.

Now that marriage equality has made it to the U.S. Supreme Court, it is time to address the real need for workplace protections. In 29 states, anyone can be fired simply for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. This means that a person married to a same-sex partner in Maryland, a state that has workplace protections, and working in Virginia could be fired just for being gay, with no recourse, unless they are a state employee (thanks to the non-discrimination bill that passed the Virginia state Senate last week). This situation restricts where people can work, and is not conducive for a functioning economy. It is also blatantly unfair for LGBT people. The president clearly stated his support for the LGBT community during his Inaugural Address. An executive order would take his words one step further and build the momentum for 2013 to be the year for significant workplace advances for LGBT people.

One big question is how inclusive such an order would be. At the very least, it should require all federal contractors to include sexual orientation and gender identity in their non-discrimination policies. A more comprehensive executive order might also require contractors to offer domestic partner benefits, implement diversity and inclusion training, and demonstrate non-discrimination in their hiring practices. This would be a huge improvement. Out and Equal Workplace Advocates provides diversity training and works closely with LGBT employee resource groups at a number of government contractors, including Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Rockwell Collins, and General Dynamics. These companies are ahead of the curve, and stand out from other contractors that have yet to create concrete policies.

An executive order would be a huge step forward for LGBT rights.

The order would bring monumental changes to the workplace for LGBT people by extending protections into those parts of the private sector where they currently do not exist. An executive order from Obama would provide true incentive for some of the nation’s largest corporations to create inclusive workplaces: if they want to do business with the government, they would need to comply with the executive order.

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Polish conservative MPs flinch at idea of transsexual speaker

From The Star:

By Pawel Sobczak and Christian Lowe
Friday, February 01, 2013

WARSAW (Reuters) – The third-biggest party in Poland’s parliament nominated a transsexual woman for the job of deputy speaker on Thursday, upsetting conservative lawmakers who said they would try to block the appointment.

The nomination of Anna Grodzka, a 58-year-old who completed a sex change three years ago, will test attitudes in Poland, a devoutly Catholic country where traditional moral values often clash with new, liberal ideas about sexuality.

The opposition Law and Justice party said it opposed Grodzka because she lacked the experience need for the job. But one of the party’s lawmakers had previously said Grodzka had a “boxer’s face,” and questioned if she could really be considered a woman.

Speaking to reporters in parliament after Janusz Palikot, the leader of her ultra-liberal party, the Palikot Movement, announced he was putting her name forward for the role, Grodzka said she was ready to take on the challenge.

“I’ve been a member of parliament for over a year now and this experience is enough, I think,” Grodzka said. “It’s important what one represents. If there are voices against me, they are voices that are heading into the past.”

A businesswoman with a psychology degree, Grodzka was elected in October 2011, becoming Poland’s first transsexual lawmaker. The deputy speakership is a more visible role: it involves chairing sessions of parliament when the speaker is not available, and carrying out occasional ceremonial duties.

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Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast – Fortieth Anniversary Roe v. Wade luncheon

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LA archbishop relieves retired cardinal of duties

From The Sacramento Bee:

Associated Press
Published: Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013

LOS ANGELES — Retired Cardinal Roger Mahony, the former head of the nation’s largest Roman Catholic diocese, was stripped of his duties Thursday by his successor as the Los Angeles archdiocese released thousands of pages of personnel files of priests accused of child molestation.

“I find these files to be brutal and painful reading,” Archbishop Jose Gomez said in a statement, referring to the newly released files made public by the church Thursday night just hours after a judge’s order. “The behavior described in these files is terribly sad and evil. There is no excuse, no explaining away what happened to these children.”

Gomez announced that he has “informed Cardinal Mahony that he will no longer have any administrative or public duties.”

The archbishop also said Monsignor Thomas Curry, former vicar of the clergy who was Mahony’s point person for dealing with priests accused of molestation, has stepped down from his post as head of the diocese’s Santa Barbara region.

The public denouncement of Mahony and Curry was highly unusual and marks a shift from the days when members of the church hierarchy emerged largely unscathed for the roles they played in covering up clergy sex abuse, said the Rev. Thomas Reese, a Jesuit and senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University.

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Should government step in when Capitalism fails?

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US unions’ continued decline masks new forms of worker activism

From The Guardian UK:

Most Americans wish for union protections, though membership has slipped to 1916 levels. But that’s not the whole story, Friday 25 January 2013

America’s long and steady march toward a fully disposable workforce continues apace, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this week. Union membership is at its lowest point in nearly a century, with just 11.3% of all workers – the same level it was in 1916. To put this in proper historical perspective, union members are as rare today as they were at a time when being one could get you shot to death in a mining camp by the Colorado national guard.

Not that there is a great public outcry to return to the halcyon days of garment factory fires and tubercular slaughterhouses, or workers rallying to demand their bosses take away their pensions and bathroom breaks. Surveys show that most people wish they had more, not less input into their working conditions, and that a majority of non-union workers would choose to join a union, given the opportunity. Most do not get that opportunity, whether due to outright intimidation, or the ongoing shift of large parts of the economy toward part-time, temporary, low-wage and no-benefit jobs.

Union decline is nothing new: it began in the US in the mid 1950s and has been accelerating since the mid 70s. What’s new this year is why: while deunionization was long linked to deindustrialization, now union losses are concentrated in government, the last bastion of organized labor. Decades ago, facing factory closings, many unions shifted to the public sector, organizing what were then seen as stable jobs: teachers, firefighters, cops, state-funded healthcare and childcare workers.

Then came the recession, and a new breed of Republican governors who seized the moment as a chance to punish their political opponents. One of the sharpest declines has occurred in Wisconsin, where Governor Scott Walker stripped most state employees of their bargaining rights (notably excluding those unions that had endorsed him).

But if labor markets are adapting to the reality of a mostly union-free America, so too is labor activism. Last year, two of the highest profile labor actions in the country – one-day “flash” strikes at fast food restaurants in New York City, and at Walmart stores nationwide – were coordinated by groups that are not traditional unions: New York Communities for Change and OUR Walmart (though both received union support). And both strikes were carried out without the traditional aim of formal union recognition.

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Applebee’s fires waitress for exposing pastor’s ‘give God 10%’ no-tip receipt

Add another business to the list of businesses to avoid…

BTW why do people have to give money to churches?  Doesn’t god provide for their needs?

From Raw Story:

By David Edwards
Thursday, January 31, 2013

A waitress says she was fired from her job at Applebee’s after posting a note from a pastor who refused to tip, writing that “I give God 10% Why do you get 18.”

The waitress, who identified herself only as Chelsea, told The Consumerist that she originally posted the photo on the atheist section of social media website Reddit as a “lighthearted joke.”

“I thought the note was insulting, but it was also comical,” she explained. “I posted it to Reddit because I thought other users would find it entertaining.”

On the receipt she posted, Applebee’s computer system had added an automatic 18 percent gratuity because the dinner party had eight or more people. But the customer scratched out the $6.29 tip and wrote “0.” The receipt included a note about giving God 10 percent and a signature which indicated that the diner was a “pastor.”

“My mistake sir, I’m sure Jesus will pay for my rent and groceries,” Chelsea wrote on Reddit on Wednesday along with a photo of the receipt.

The waitress said that the she failed to redact the signature because she thought it was illegible, but Internet sleuths began using it to obtain the pastor’s identity.

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Hands Off Social Security and Veterans’ Benefits

From Senator Bernie Sanders:

By Senator Sanders
January 31, 2013

Sen. Bernie Sanders on Thursday was joined by a growing coalition of seniors, veterans and labor organizations against changing the consumer price index to cut Social Security and disabled veterans’ benefits.  Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse and Jeff Merkley also took part in the Capitol news conference. They were flanked by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka; AARP Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond; Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America policy chief Tom Tarantino; National Organization for Women President Terry O’Neill and The Arc of the United States CEO Peter Berns.  “We are here today to tell the White House and the leadership in Congress: do not balance the budget on the backs of the elderly. Do not balance the budget on the backs of disabled veterans who have lost their arms, legs, and eyesight defending our country. Do not balance the budget on the backs of working families. Do not adopt the so-called chained-CPI,” Sanders said.

Read Sen. Senator’s statement on chained-CPI »

My Republican friends and some Democrats have said that lowering cost-of-living adjustments through the adoption of a chained-CPI would be a ‘minor tweak’ in benefits. But let’s be clear: for millions of Americans the chained CPI is not a minor tweak.  It is a significant benefit cut that will make it harder for the elderly, permanently disabled veterans, and working families to feed their families, heat their homes, pay for their prescription drugs, and make ends meet,” added Sanders, chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and founder of the Defending Social Security Caucus.

More than 55 million retirees, widows, orphans and disabled Americans on Social Security could be affected by the switch to a so-called chained CPI. According to the Social Security Administration, the change would result in $112 billion in reduced Social Security benefits over 10 years. The typical Social Security recipient who retires at age 65 would get $653 less a year at age 75 and would get $1,139 less a year at age 85 than under current law.

The proposed change in how annual cost-of-living adjustments are calculated also would mean that veterans who started receiving VA disability benefits at age 30 would have their benefits reduced by $1,425 at age 45, $2,341 at age 55 and $3,231 at age 65, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

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The Question No One is Asking about Keystone XL

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‘Bringing It All Back Home’: How Vermont Can Lead on Localizing the Climate Fight

From Common Dreams:

by Bill McKibben
Published on Thursday, January 31, 2013 by Common Dreams

Environmentalist Bill McKibben, author of some of the most widely read literature on climate change and co-founder of the group, brought his message about the dangers of global warming to lawmakers in his home state of Vermont on Wednesday, telling members of the Statehouse assembly that every state government (like every nation large and community small) must do what it can to meet the challenge—the greatest one ever faced by humanity—posed by climate change. Courtesty of the author, his full prepared remarks follow:

It is a great and signal honor for me to be here at my second-favorite legislative body on the planet. You are actually a match for the Ripton Town Meeting in wisdom, civility, and earnest effort, falling short only in the selection of baked goods. I look forward to the first Tuesday in March for many reasons, but the most important are probably these particular maple cream cookies that my neighbor Barry King always bakes; since our great mutual friend Willem Jewett is now your Majority Leader, perhaps he can bring some up some time, because that’s really all you’re missing.

I’d like to thank Speaker Smith for this invitation, and also for his clarion call to this great assembly to make climate change a priority; I know he will meet with a good reception, because just a quick glance around the chamber reveals some of the country’s most devoted environmental legislators. Tony Klein, Margaret Cheney—and from your sister body the Senate I want to take a moment to salute Ginny Lyon for her hard work over the years. Of course Governor Shumlin has been a leader on this issue throughout his career, in both legislative and executive capacities—and also as an outstanding communicator. His straightforward declaration, from the first morning of our trauma with Irene, that it was an effect of climate change is a model of the way we need our leaders to talk about the world we find ourselves in.

It is that world I want to address today. I know that you all know about climate change, but I want to take just a couple of minutes to bring you up to date scientifically. I wrote the first book for a general audience about what we then called the greenhouse effect, way back in 1989. At that time, few anticipated how rapidly the crisis would advance. So far human beings have raised the planet’s temperature about a degree Celsius—a quarter century ago few scientists predicted the effects of that relatively small increase. But the earth turned out to be very finely balanced. The extra solar energy trapped by carbon in the atmosphere—less than three quarters of a watt per square meter of the earth’s surface—has already done very large things. This past summer, for instance, saw the catastrophic melt of the Arctic ice sheet—there’s now, by area, half the ice that Neil Armstrong saw when he looked down from the moon.

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Gore: I wish I was wrong about climate change

From Raw Story:

By David Ferguson
Thursday, January 31, 2013

On Wednesday night’s edition of “The Daily Show,” host Jon Stewart welcomed former Vice President Al Gore in a wide-ranging discussion that covered topics ranging from Gore’s sale of his Current TV network to Al Jazeera to global climate change to the influence of big money in politics. Raw Story presents all four segments of the unedited, online-only version of the interview from, below.

Gore was appearing on the show to promote his new book The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change. The Future warns of consequences humankind could face if the current forces shaping our world (global climate change, unsustainable population growth and depletion of resources) are not reckoned with. In the book, he sets forth a course of action that would allow humanity to occupy the world sustainably.

In the first segment of the interview, Gore spoke to Jon Stewart about the sale of Current TV to Al Jazeera. The Qatar-owned news network, he said, has “earned respect in every country where they’ve operated” with its in-depth reporting and commercial-free format.

“You know who else does that, the no commercial breaks,” said Stewart, “Cinemax.”

Stewart went on to ask Gore whether, as one of the first national figures to sound the alarm about global climate change, the former vice president felt a sense of vindication when he saw Manhattan flood during Superstorm Sandy.

“No, this thing is so serious and so beyond the traditional boundaries of what we’re used to dealing with,” he replied. “You know, I wish that the scientists whose wisdom that I have delivered to people had been wrong. They wish they had been wrong.”

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The 14 fossil-fuel projects poised to f*ck up the climate

From Grist:

By David Roberts
22 Jan 2013

In a justly famous Rolling Stone piece, Bill McKibben popularized the notion of “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math.” We have a “carbon budget,” between now and 2050, of roughly 565 gigatons of carbon dioxide. If we emit more than that we are likely to exceed the 2 degree C target agreed to in the Copenhagen Accord. (As Thomas Lovejoy notes in clear-eyed and essential piece in The New York Times yesterday, “2 degrees seems nightmarish as it is.”)

According to the Carbon Tracker Initiative, the amount of CO2 represented by the world’s proven fossil fuel reserves is 2,795 gigatons. Here’s the problem, in math terms:

2,795 > 565

If we want a reasonable hope of hitting our 2 degree target, we have to leave about 80 percent of the known fossil fuels in the ground.

That is indeed terrifying math, but it may become slightly less so as it becomes more specific and concrete. (It is always helpful to break a large task into component parts.) Toward that end, today saw some fascinating new work from the research consultancy Ecofys. Commissioned by Greenpeace, it attempts to rank the most dangerous fossil-fuel projects currently being planned.

The metric is simple: how many additional tons of CO2 the project will emit by 2020. (See the report for more on methodology.) Here’s how they rank:

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Don’t Put a Fork in It: On the Perils of Genetically Engineered Salmon

From Common Dreams:

Despite consumer opposition, the FDA is one step away from approving the ‘frankenfish’

by Wenonah Hauter
Published on Wednesday, January 30, 2013 by OtherWords

While most Americans were enjoying the holiday season or stressing out over the nation’s imminent leap off the so-called fiscal cliff, the Food and Drug Administration delivered some big news as quietly as possible.

On December 21, the agency announced that AquaBounty’s genetically engineered salmon had cleared the final hurdle before clinching FDA approval.

Despite insufficient testing and widespread consumer opposition, AquaBounty’s food experiment is dangerously close to becoming the first genetically engineered animal produced for human consumption. Yes, a newfangled fish may soon land on a dinner plate near you.

For those who have been following this news for the past several years, the timing of the FDA’s release of its draft environmental assessment — the Friday before Christmas — was no surprise. But the news was still frightening: The FDA may give this transgenic animal the green light under a new approval process that treats the fish as an “animal drug.”

Prefer your salmon without those eel genes spliced into its DNA? Pay close attention because this frankenfish may hit the market without any sort of label.

It seems that AquaBounty and the FDA don’t believe consumers deserve the right to know whether the fish we eat is genetically engineered. Those who have demanded labeling for genetically engineered food will be unable to identify this transgenic salmon from standard farm-raised varieties.

Not only does this ignore our fundamental right to know what we are putting on our plates, it’s also a bad business decision. It’s entirely possible that many Americans will avoid purchasing any salmon for fear it is genetically engineered.

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