Transsexual could be new deputy speaker in Poland

From The Global Post:

February 1, 2013

She made history as Poland’s first transsexual lawmaker in 2011 and now Anna Grodzka could become a deputy speaker of parliament in this deeply Roman Catholic nation.

Born as a man, Grodzka, 58, was nominated Thursday for the position by party colleagues in the left-wing, anti-clerical Palikot Movement, which advocates legalising marijuana and civil unions for gay couples.

Grodzka is believed to be the world’s only current transsexual member of parliament, but she is not the first. Transsexual Georgina Beyer served in New Zealand’s parliament between 1999-2007.

Each of the six largest political parties sitting in the Polish parliament is entitled to a deputy speaker. An opposition party, the Palikot Movement commands 43 seats in Poland’s 460-seat lower house of parliament.

Grodzka needs to muster a simple majority in order to be voted into office, but lawmakers from the Catholic and nationalist Law and Justice party — which commands 138 seats — have already said they will not vote for Grodzka.

“If my candidature is seen as a provocation, that’s just fine. My mission has always been to make sure everyone is treated equally,” she told reporters in parliament Thursday.

It was unclear how many legislators would turn up for the vote from other parties, including the governing Civic Platform (PO), which has 206 seats, or the smaller Polish Peasant party, which has 29.

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Michigan Civil Rights Report Says Anti-Gay Discrimination Bad For State’s Economy

From Huffington Post:

Posted: 02/01/2013

Anti-gay discrimination is having a negative impact on Michigan’s economy, a new report has found.

The Michigan Department of Civil Rights‘ yearlong research project, which was sponsored by the TIDES Foundation, comprised public hearings in multiple cities throughout the state and anonymous testimonies about discrimination submitted online.

MDCR officials stressed that they didn’t conduct the research to change local views on same-sex relationships or to address moral and religious issues. Given the state’s tumultuous economic environment, MDCR authorities said they simply wanted to review whether public policy makers should consider how lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) legislation and policies affect the economy.

“The purpose of this report is not to take sides on or even address the moral and religious issues related to homosexuality. Similarly, we did not intend to, and we have not endeavored to, create a document with the purpose of changing views on homosexuality. The Department recognizes and respects the rights of individuals to hold their own opinions, especially where moral, spiritual or religious beliefs are involved,” was written on the Michigan Department of Civil Rights website.

The 124-page report heavily focuses on laws such as the Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA), which prohibits discrimination in the workplace, housing and public accommodation.

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Anti-Gay Homophobic Pastors and Politicians who turn out to be gay

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Catholic cardinal stripped of duties as LA diocese child abuse files released

From The Guardian UK:

Retired Roger Mahony is said to have shielded priests accused of child abuse in Catholic archdiocese of Los Angeles

Reuters in Los Angeles, Friday 1 February 2013

The Catholic archdiocese of Los Angeles has removed a top clergyman linked to efforts to conceal abuse as it released thousands on files of priests accused of molesting children.

Archbishop Jose Gomez said he had stripped his predecessor, the retired cardinal Roger Mahony, of all public and administrative duties. “I find these files to be brutal and painful reading. The behaviour described in these files is terribly sad and evil,” Gomez said in a statement released by the US’s largest Catholic archdiocese.

“There is no excuse, no explaining away what happened to these children. The priests involved had the duty to be their spiritual fathers and they failed,” he said.

Mahony’s former top aide, Thomas Curry, also stepped down as bishop of Santa Barbara.

The 12,000 pages of files were made public more than a week after church records relating to 14 priests were unsealed as part of a separate civil suit, showing that church officials plotted to conceal the abuse from law enforcement agencies as late as 1987.

The documents showed that Mahony, 76, and Curry, 70, both worked to send priests accused of abuse out of the state to shield them from scrutiny.

A spokesman for a victims’ support group said that the removal of Mahony and Curry was long overdue and a small step after the church spent years fighting to protect them.

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GOP Lawmaker Behind Abortion Ban: ‘We’re Not Going To Allow Minorities To Run Roughshod’

From Think Progress:

By Josh Israel
on Feb 1, 2013

On Wednesday, the Arkansas Senate approved an unconstitutional bill to ban abortion as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. As The Nation’s Lee Fang noted Friday, this is part of a larger strategy by chief sponsor Sen. Jason Rapert (R) to remake America as a arch-conservative country.

Rapert explained his long-term goals in a racist 2011 rant at a Tea Party rally, as he bashed President Obama for hosting a Ramadan celebration:

RAPERT: I hear you loud and clear, Barack Obama. You don’t represent the country that I grew up with. And your values is [sic] not going to save us. We’re going to take this country back for the Lord. We’re going to try to take this country back for conservatism. And we’re not going to allow minorities to run roughshod over what you people believe in!

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Your Take/My Take – Billionaires, Socialism and Permian Extinction

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Old, Female and Homeless

From The Nation

Rose Aguilar
January 23, 2013
This story was produced with support from the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.The doors of the Mission Neighborhood Health Center in San Francisco don’t open until 7 am, but on the Saturday morning I was there, a dozen or so people were already lined up by 5:30. The group included a middle-aged white man who had lost his job managing a high-end restaurant and a black man wearing a crisp security guard blazer because he had to be at work by noon. Each was there hoping for a bed for the night. The city assigns most slots in its homeless shelters on a first-come, first-served basis by computer. The people had shown up here so early because they know through experience that every last bed will be claimed by 7:10 am.A 56-year-old woman named Marcia, who has been homeless for six years, was one of the unlucky ones. She arrived while it was still dark, but not early enough to secure a bed. Because it was the weekend, her bad luck also meant two days of killing time. “Saturdays and Sundays are hell for those of us who are homeless, because most walk-in centers are closed,” she told me. “I especially hate Sundays. That’s when I ride BART.” For Marcia, riding the Bay Area’s commuter rail system is a relatively cheap way to get some rest during the day. She often falls asleep on the train, and it’s not uncommon for her to wake up and find herself an hour or more outside San Francisco.

When Marcia has no bed, she is left with precious few options, none of them good. She can ride the city bus, hoping for a kind driver who won’t boot her into the street. That’s what a 55-year-old woman I met named Dorothy used to do until she deemed that strategy too risky. “If you don’t get a nice driver, you have to get off every hour or so and wait for another one,” Dorothy said. “If you have to wait for a bus at three in the morning, you’ll be waiting a long time. Anything can happen.”

And then there were the plastic chairs at the Oshun Drop-In Center, a public facility run by the San Francisco Department of Public Health. Marcia usually chose the plastic chairs at Oshun. It was hardly ideal, but at least she felt safe there and could try to get some sleep. “You can’t lie down on the floor,” she said. “You try, but you’re not allowed.” After a night spent contorting herself into an uncomfortable chair, her back would be killing her. “But I try not to think about it,” she said. “After a while, you get used to it.”

It used to be that homeless women over 50 were blessedly rare. Marie O’Connor began helping seniors find housing in San Francisco’s Mission District in 1992. “To see homeless elders back then was shocking,” said O’Connor, a volunteer coordinator with the St. Anthony Foundation, a nonprofit providing the homeless with housing, meals and medical care. “Today, it’s the norm.”

How widespread is the problem? Every homeless advocate and shelter monitor I spoke with told me the older homeless population in San Francisco is exploding. The problem is bound to get worse as the price of housing reaches new heights. San Francisco is the most expensive city in the country for renters, according to a March 2012 report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Small studio apartments are going for as much as $2,000 a month, which requires a salary of at least $70,000 a year.

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Class Is a Five-Letter Dirty Word: The Lack of Class Consciousness in an Era of Record Inequality

From Truth Out:

By Anthony DiMaggio
Friday, 01 February 2013

Until Americans’ awareness catches up to the realities of the increasing US class divide, shrinking life opportunities for the majority and disappearance of social mobility, we will be unable to address the problems of high unemployment and economic stagnation.

It’s no secret that inequality today is at its highest level since 1929. Countless commentators lament record high inequality as a danger to our society and to American prosperity – a point that even establishment papers like The New York Times are now acknowledging. In an October 2012 story, for example, the paper warned that ” income inequality may take [a] toll on growth,” and reported that ” a growing body of economic research suggests that it might mean lower levels of economic growth and slower job creation in the years ahead.”

Political scientists are focusing attention on the dangers of growing economic inequality as a threat to political participation. As income and wealth inequality increase, Americans are forced to work longer and longer hours to make ends meet. This leaves less time to pay attention to the news and the world around us, and it means that the poor and working class are less likely to follow politics, and less inclined to participate in basic civic obligations like voting. As political scientist Frederick Solt points out, it’s no coincidence the United States has the highest levels of economic inequality in the first world, and the lowest level of political participation.1

It’s not difficult to understand the concerns of those who study this issue closely. Income inequality is at its greatest level since The Great Depression, with the top one percent of Americans capturing an astounding 93 percent of all annual income gains in the post-2008 era. This represents a dramatic acceleration of an already extreme trend from the 1980s through the 2000s, when the top one percent captured one-sixth of all income created, and the top 10 percent captured approximately one half of created wealth.

More than 30 years of extreme inequality in earnings have produced similar extremes concerning the concentration of wealth. Recent statistics suggest the top one percent of Americans hold 34.5 percent of all wealth. The top 10 percent hold 74.5 percent of all wealth, and the top 20 percent (one in five Americans) hold about 85 percent.2

Estimates for the rest of America are quite sobering as well: In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, the bottom 40 percent of Americans are estimated to have zero percent of all wealth, while the bottom half hold a miniscule 1.1 percent.3

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An Economic Alternative to Exploitative Free Market Capitalism

From Truth Dig:

By Thomas Hedges, Center for Study of Responsive Law
Jan 31, 2013

In 1649, a group of English communists started fighting the notion of private property in what became known as the commons movement. They were using the unstable period in England’s history to introduce a new economy, one that would see land, wells and other means of wealth as shared resources. This group would prevent a small class of people from collecting and consolidating the rights to basic human life, such as water and food. In an annual celebration that doubled as a protest, they would circle the village commons and level or dig up any hedges and fences that designated spots of private ownership. They became known as the “levelers” or “diggers.”

The movement, which was subsequently quelled in 1651 by landowners and the Council of State, has seen a revival in the past decade. It remained dormant for so many years because of its fundamental threat to modern economics, putting community needs at the center of society rather than those of the individual.

The commons protects large resources from privatization, such as the lobster fisheries in Maine or grassland management in Mongolia, and allows collectives to regulate extraction. Exploitation is avoided because no one individual has more of a right to the source than any other.

“[The commons]” is “an intellectually coherent way of talking about inalienable value, which we don’t have a vocabulary for,” David Bollier, author of “The Wealth of the Commons,” said in a conference Tuesday at the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Washington, D.C.

It is a way, Bollier says, of formally introducing the “political, public policy, cultural, social, personal, even spiritual” aspects of life into our economic system, which now, he says, can deal only with monetary value.

“You could say that it’s a different metaphysics than that of the modern liberal state,” he says, “which looks at the individual as the sole agent.”

The commons movement is a reaction to exploitative free market capitalism. It rejects the notion that resources, spaces and other assets are purely a means to wealth. It condemns the privatization of public works, such as the parking meters in Chicago, which allows the sovereign wealth fund that controls it to increase the rates.

When an economy allocates wealth to private entities, Bollier says, those property rights inevitably get consolidated until a few large institutions control its means.

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Hazardous Fracking – Is it Time for Civil Disobedience?

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The End of the Farm Bill? And the Beginning of Better Food System

From Common Dreams:

We must build a new policy framework for a fair, sustainable, and healthy food system.

by Jim Harkness
Published on Friday, February 1, 2013 by OtherWords

“There is absolutely no way to explain this other than agriculture is just not a priority,” said Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow on the Senate Floor on New Year’s Day.

She was describing the bare-bones Farm Bill extension agreed to as part of the stop-gap budget deal.

Most astonishing was how Congress and the White House seemed to ignore the longstanding importance of this legislation when they failed to provide mandatory funding for a whole host of programs in the absence of its full renewal.

The Farm Bill is the nation’s largest piece of agricultural legislation. It’s the usual vehicle for far-reaching programs to boost crop production, protect farmers, advance rural development, conserve energy, provide for international food aid, and, notably, run nutrition assistance programs. And it’s in limbo.

This stripped-down extension came just after the House allowed the Farm Bill to expire, never even calling for a vote. House Speaker John Boehner simply didn’t bother. He clearly didn’t pay any political cost for that — he was overwhelmingly reelected as House Speaker shortly thereafter.

Is this the end of the Farm Bill? Collin Peterson, the ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, seems to think so.

The Minnesota lawmaker has written House leadership asking for an agreement to bring a Farm Bill to a vote if it comes out of committee — otherwise, he just won’t bother writing one. As importantly, he asks whether their plan is simply to renew the Farm Bill (rather than actually writing the traditional five-year bill) and look for ways to scale back the bill each year.

The reality is that this key legislation has drifted a long way from its original form passed during the Great Depression. Back then, it was called the Agricultural Adjustment Act. Originally, it was designed to address the oversupply of agricultural commodities while ensuring that the marketplace paid farmers a fair price.

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Exposed: How Whole Foods and the Biggest Organic Foods Distributor Are Screwing Workers

From Alternet

United Natural Foods Incorporated, the largest wholesale distributor of organic and “natural” foods in the U.S., is currently under investigation for 45 violations of federal labor law.

By Ronnie Cummins, Dave Murphy
January 31, 2013

This article was published in partnership with

“The union is like having herpes. It doesn’t kill you, but it’s unpleasant and inconvenient, and it stops a lot of people from becoming your lover.” — John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market

Whole Foods Market (WFM) CEO John Mackey has done a brilliant job of creating the illusion that his empire is all about abundance, bounty and the good life. But there’s nothing bountiful or good about the way the second-largest non-unionized food retailer exploits workers.

United Natural Foods Incorporated (UNFI), the largest multi-billion dollar wholesale distributor of organic and “natural” foods in the U.S., is currently under investigation for 45 violations of federal labor law, including physically threatening immigrant workers in California who were trying to form a union.

The company recently fired its underpaid and overworked unionized workers at its Auburn, Wash., distribution center for going on strike, and illegally hired non-union replacement workers.

What happens when companies like WFM and UNFI, which have carefully cultivated their public progressive images, start acting like Walmart? When union-busting and labor exploitation are accepted as “business-as-usual” in the green economy, it makes us all look bad. It discredits organics and Fair Trade by creating the impression that consumers don’t really care how their healthy organic food was produced. That the entire industry cares only about profits. Ethics and workers be damned.

When flagship organic companies take a Walmart approach to workers’ rights, it sends negative and conflicting signals to core organic consumers, making it look like leaders in the organic community are concerned about the plight of endangered species and Third World coffee growers or cacao producers, but oblivious to the economic pain and stresses of working class Americans or hardworking immigrants who plant and harvest our organic fruits and vegetables and then pack and deliver them to our neighborhood co-ops and natural food markets.

Isn’t it time we ask the same of WFM and UNFI that we demand of ourselves: that they walk their talk, prioritize organic food and products, practice Fair Trade and social justice, and wake up to the fact that “business as usual” is a bitter recipe for injustice?

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Exxon, Chevron Made $71 Billion Profit In 2012 As Consumers Paid Record Gas Prices

Not to mention the tax payer funded kickbacks in the form of write offs for exploration and depletion.  Write off that make Exxon and Chevron some of the world’s biggest welfare queens.

From Think Progress:

By Rebecca Leber
on Feb 1, 2013

While 2012 might not be a banner year for Big Oil profits, it wasn’t a bad one either. With just BP left to announce 2012 earnings, Big Oil earned well over $100 billion in profits last year, while the companies benefit from continued taxpayer subsidies. Average gas prices also hit a record high last year, showing how a drilling boom may help oil companies’ profit margins, but not consumers’ wallets.

ExxonMobil — now the most valuable company in the world, passing Apple — earned $45 billion profit in 2012, a 9 percent jump over 2011. Meanwhile, Chevron earned $26.2 billion for the year. In the final three months of the year, the companies earned $9.95 billion and $7.2 billion respectively.

Here are the highlights of how Exxon and Chevron spend their earnings:


Exxon received $600 million annual tax breaks. In 2011, Exxon paid just 13 percent in taxes. The company paid no taxes to the U.S. federal government in 2009, despite 45.2 billion record profits. It paid $15 billion in taxes, but none in federal income tax.

Exxon’s oil production was down 6 percent from 2011.

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Europe’s Climate Forecast: Unsettling

From Truth Dig

By Paul Brown, Climate News Network
Feb 1, 2013

LONDON—With the European land surface warming rapidly, rainfall patterns changing and sea levels rising ever faster, southern Europe will suffer most from climate change. But there is an urgent need for countries across the continent to adapt to change, according to the European Environment Agency (EEA).

Temperatures are already 1.3C above the pre-industrial average and are expected to go on rising. This brings gains to some countries in northern Europe, with higher crop yields and lower heating costs, while the south loses.

It is the countries currently struggling most at the moment economically, Greece, Spain and Portugal, that will fare worst under climate change. The EEA says all three countries will lose both harvests and tourists, two of their main economic props, as a result of rising heat and low summer rainfall.

Northern Europe does not escape unscathed. River flooding is already a problem and annual sea level rise, which has already doubled in the last 20 years, and is currently at 3 mm a year, is expected to rise further. All the countries around the North Sea are now vulnerable to storm surges.

It’s real and it’s now

The latest assessment of how climate change is affecting Europe, published every four years by the Agency and due out in March, is the main evidence being used by the European Union to underpin its policy of adapting to a warming world.

Billions of euros will be spent trying to stave off the worst effects of climate change, which the Agency says are already going to happen whatever we do now to mitigate carbon emissions. Temperatures in Europe are expected to rise as much as 4C this century.

Professor Jacqueline McGlade, EEA Executive Director, has said: ”Climate change is a reality. The extent and speed of it is becoming ever more evident. This means every part of the economy, including households, has to adapt.”

While in some places changes are beneficial, for example an earlier spring and longer growing season, the overall effects are negative. The further south in Europe climatologists investigate, the more they see climate change affecting both human and natural populations.

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