Fiday Night Fun and Culture: The Lumineers

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State Department Posts Informational Brief for LGBT Travelers

From HRC:

by Eric Cameron
February 13, 2013

The State Department has posted a new advisory brief for LGBT Americans traveling abroad. The statement reads in part:

Attitudes and tolerance toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons vary from country to country, just as they vary among U.S. cities and states. Most LGBT travelers encounter no problems while overseas, but it helps to be prepared and research your destination before you go.

There are a number of countries that provide legal protections to those who are LGBT.  Unfortunately, there are others that do not, and a significant number that even criminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations. Persons convicted in these countries could be sentenced to prison, and/or be punished by fines, deportation, flogging, or even sentenced to death. Before choosing one’s international destination, LGBT travelers should carefully consider the laws and biases of their international destination and decide how open one can be regarding one’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Personal judgment and knowledge of local laws and customs before one goes will help ensure your safety.

The page includes links to country-specific information, details on immigration obstacles LGBT couples face under the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and advice for LGBT travelers if they encounter harassment or arrest overseas.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made landmark strides in defending the rights of LGBT people around the globe, and we look forward to continued progress under the leadership of Secretary John Kerry.

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Civil Unions vs. Marriage: Separate And Not Equal

From The Huffington Post:


I have a 40-pound ivory tulle ball gown hanging in my dressing room waiting to be cleaned and preserved. My dining room looks like a Crate & Barrel outlet, with gift boxes stacked in every corner. I have a shiny new diamond eternity band on my left hand. I’m still sunburned from the 12 days I recently spent relaxing in the Caribbean with my lover. If you didn’t know better, you’d think I just got married.

But, I didn’t — at least not in the eyes of the Illinois government. I’m gay, so the best I could do was get a civil union. I could spend all the money I wanted on a fancy wedding – a three-course meal for my 160 guests, $400 designer shoes that I just had to have, the perfect shade of pale pink roses — and I did. But, sadly, no amount of money could buy me equality in the state where I live.

My now-wife and I waited as long as we could to get our civil union license, hoping against hope that the Illinois legislature would legalize same-sex marriage before our wedding. A few days before our January 26 ceremony, we finally accepted the fact that gay marriage would not be the law of the land on our wedding day. So, we bundled up and headed downtown to the Cook County Bureau of Vital Records to get a civil union license.

That day was so bittersweet. On one hand, it was exciting to formalize our commitment to each other in a way we’d been planning for the last 15 months. It was fun to sign on the dotted line and claim responsibility for one another. But, at the same time, being relegated to civil union status instead of being allowed to get a marriage license (like the ones all of my straight friends have) felt, for lack of a better word, gross.

In our day-to-day life, being gay is nearly a non-issue for my wife and me. We can safely walk down any street in Chicago holding hands. Our families both embrace our relationship and are excited for grandkids. We have a vibrant social circle that includes straight, gay and bisexual people who all have a great time together. I am fortunate that in the world I inhabit, being gay is kind of old news. As a result, I spend most of my days feeling astonishingly normal. I don’t think of my relationship as different from or less than my straight friends’ marriages — and neither does anyone else who I know.

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New York bill finally expands legal definition of ‘rape’ to include any forced sexual contact

From Raw Story:

By Stephen C. Webster
Thursday, February 14, 2013

Advocates are praising a newly revised version of New York’s “Rape is Rape” bill that classifies any vaginal contact as “rape,” bringing the legal definition of that form of sexual assault in line with the standards for forced anal and oral contact.

The change came shortly after Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) endorsed the bill on Tuesday, when Republican state Sen. Catharine Young (pictured) introduced a second version that removes the legal requirement of “penetration” for forced vaginal penetration to be considered “rape,” and expands the conduct covered by the term to include forced oral and anal sex.

A New York Daily News story noted that the confusion about the last-minute changes surprised even rape survivor Lydia Cuomo, whose brutal sexual assault by an NYPD officer didn’t result in his conviction of first degree rape charges because the prior definitions required prosecutors to prove a specific kind of penetration. Cuomo, who is not related to the governor, wants the definition of rape changed to include vaginal, oral or anal contact — which the bill now does.

An aide to Sen. Young confirmed to Raw Story that characterization is correct. “It changes the standard for vaginal rape from penetration to contact,” the aide said. “It makes it easier to convict. [Prosecutors] just need to prove contact and not penetration, which was the problem that existed in Lydia Cuomo’s case. They had a lot of evidence but couldn’t prove penetration. That’s the problem our bill addresses.”

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office told Raw Story that the move was supported by prosecutors, but did not comment as to why. An aide to Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D), who initially introduced the legislation last year, explained that the revision does not actually change anything with regards to the actual crimes of forced oral and anal sex, where the legal standard is already “contact” instead of “penetration.”

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One Billion Rising Flashmob in San Francisco!

What makes One Billion Rising’s invitation to dance a radical move

From The Guardian UK:

What’s political about dancing? The global campaign to highlight violence against women asks us to reclaim public space with joy, Thursday 14 February 2013

One of my favorite feminist quotations – “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution” – is widely (and probably wrongly) attributed to feminist and anarchist Emma Goldman. Accurate quote or not, the quote is a feminist mainstay, printed on t-shirts and bags, memorialized in tattoos and on Facebook profiles. Now, activist Eve Ensler has turned it into a movement called One Billion Rising, focused on ending the violence that impacts more than 1 billion women around the world. Its apex is today, and the action is simple: go out and dance.

I’ll admit: I was initially a bit nonplussed by OBR. Dancing? That’s all we’ve got to combat the systematic, worldwide oppression and violence that 70% of women (pdf) will face in their lifetimes? It struck me as too silly, too 70s. Too much about feelings, more “raising awareness” than much-needed concrete action.

But the truth is, violence is tragically one of the ways women around the world are united – regardless of our age, nationality, race, religion, class or culture, our very existence as women in the world is dangerous. We may speak different languages, have different belief systems and face different and intersecting oppressions, but physical and sexual violence against women is sadly universal.

The facts are astounding. Most of that violence comes at the hands of intimate partners, or someone a woman knows. And not all women are equally susceptible to violence. Factors like lower levels of education and income, maltreatment as a child and living in an environment where gender inequity is the norm all increase a woman’s likelihood of experiencing violence in her life.

In many places, including the United States, transgender women, lesbian women and women of color are disproportionately targeted. In the United States, a woman is beaten by her partner every 15 seconds. In Egypt, 35% of women report being physically abused at least once in their marriages; 35% of Turkish women have experienced marital rape. In South Africa, 165 women report being raped every day, many of them targeted because they are perceived to be lesbians or gender non-conforming and the rape is “corrective”; and the number who report their assaults to police are likely a fraction of victims.

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One Billion Rising 2013 – Join the Sheffield Rising And Dance!!

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Inside the Military Rape Cult

From Alternet:

On One Billion Rising, a day to stop rape and violence against women, Sabrina Rubin Erdely discusses her Rolling Stone report on a tragic tale of sexual assault in the military.

By Janet Allon
February 13, 2013

In many ways, what happened to Petty Officer Second Class Rebecca Blumer after she was roofied and raped by three Army officers she met in a bar not far from base was far worse than the attack itself. Her superiors became more intent on prosecuting her for D.U.I. than on finding out what really happened to this promising young intelligence analyst. What’s worse is that her brutal story, recounted in riveting detail by journalist Sabrina Rubin Erdely in this month’s Rolling Stone magazine, is far from uncommon. The military, as films like The Invisible War and Erdely’s article show, has a rape problem of epidemic proportions. It is estimated that one in three military women are raped by fellow troops, twice the number of their civilian counterparts. One survivor of multiple rapes quoted in Erdely’s article calls the military a “giant rape cult.” In 2010, the DoD found that 19,000 service members were sexually assaulted. Of those a paltry 3,100, or 13.5 percent, were reported, and of those only 17 percent were prosecuted. All too often, attackers receive a slap on the wrist while their victims lose their careers and their futures, sometimes falling into homelessness, despair and suicidal thoughts.

I recently spoke with Erdely about her article, and was surprised to find that despite the horrific experiences of Blumer and other military rape victims, there might just be a glimmer of hope at the end of a long dark road spanning Tailhook, Lackland Air Force, Aberdeen and probably many sexual assault scandals that have never come to light.

Janet Allon: What drew you to the topic of sexual assault in the military?

Sabrina Rubin Erdely: I’ve written a lot on the subject of sexual assault in general, and have long been interested in the way these cases are handled and the way they are perceived by society. In both military sexual assault and civilian sexual assault, there are these rape myths that get in the way of survivors reporting these crimes.

Rape myths are at the heart of sexual assault and how it is handled, but these problems are magnified in the military. The military’s rape epidemic is magnified by military culture.

JA: Describe that culture and how it magnifies the problem.

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One Billion Rising- flash mob February 14 2013, ways to rise, Valentines Day, V-Day

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The courage of the vigilante feminists is contagious

From The Guardian UK:

In Ireland and Egypt – and beyond – women are coming together to combat sexual violence

The Guardian, Tuesday 12 February 2013

‘I’m sick of being ashamed.” Three days ago, an anti-harassment activist said those words to me in a flat above Cairo’s Tahrir square, as she pulled on her makeshift uniform ready to protect women on the protest lines from being raped in the street. Only days before, I’d heard exactly the same words from pro-choice organisers in Dublin, where I travelled to report on the feminist fight to legalise abortion in Ireland. I had thought that I was covering two separate stories – so why were two women from different countries and backgrounds repeating the same mantra against fear, and against shame?

From India to Ireland to Egypt, women are on the streets, on the airwaves, on the internet, getting organised and getting angry. They’re co-ordinating in their communities to combat sexual violence and taking a stand against archaic sexist legislation; they’re challenging harassment and rape culture. Across the world, women who are sick and tired of shame and fear are fighting back in unprecedented ways.

This is not 2011. The mood of hope that so recently swept Europe, America, the Middle East and cyberspace is collapsing into confusion and social tension, and social tension is being channelled, in part, into suspicion of minorities, immigrants, people of colour, and women and girls. Sexism often functions as a pressure-release valve in times of social unrest – and when it does, it takes different forms, depending on local values. Right now, in Egypt, it’s groping, heckling and mob attacks; in Ireland, it’s rape apologism and a backlash against abortion and sexual equality; on the internet, it’s vicious slut-shaming and “revenge porn“. But this time, women are refusing to take it any more.

Like the Arab spring and Occupy in 2011, local movements with no apparent connection to one another are exchanging information and taking courage from one another’s struggles. The fight against misogyny is spreading online and via networks of solidarity and trust that develop rapidly, outside the traditional channels. I met Swedish and Iranian feminist activists in Dublin, and British feminist activists in Cairo, and have seen live information about the women’s marches in Egypt spread quickly through chains of activists from South Africa to the American Deep South. Men and boys, too, are involved as allies – not in large numbers, but in numbers large enough to make their presence impossible to overlook.

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It’s V-Day. We are RISING. Eve’s Message to You.

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Exxon Hates Your Children

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Secret funding helped build vast network of climate denial thinktanks

From The Guardian UK:

Anonymous billionaires donated $120m to more than 100 anti-climate groups working to discredit climate change science

How Donors Trust distributed millions to anti-climate groups

, US environment correspondent, Thursday 14 February 2013

Conservative billionaires used a secretive funding route to channel nearly $120m (£77m) to more than 100 groups casting doubt about the science behind climate change, the Guardian has learned.

The funds, doled out between 2002 and 2010, helped build a vast network of thinktanks and activist groups working to a single purpose: to redefine climate change from neutral scientific fact to a highly polarising “wedge issue” for hardcore conservatives.

The millions were routed through two trusts, Donors Trust and the Donors Capital Fund, operating out of a generic town house in the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington DC. Donors Capital caters to those making donations of $1m or more.

Whitney Ball, chief executive of the Donors Trust told the Guardian that her organisation assured wealthy donors that their funds would never by diverted to liberal causes.

“We exist to help donors promote liberty which we understand to be limited government, personal responsibility, and free enterprise,” she said in an interview.

By definition that means none of the money is going to end up with groups like Greenpeace, she said. “It won’t be going to liberals.”

Ball won’t divulge names, but she said the stable of donors represents a wide range of opinion on the American right. Increasingly over the years, those conservative donors have been pushing funds towards organisations working to discredit climate science or block climate action.

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Historic Tar-Sands Action at Obama’s Door

From Truth Dig:

By Amy Goodman
Posted on Feb 13, 2013

For the first time in its 120-year history, the Sierra Club engaged in civil disobedience, the day after President Barack Obama gave his 2013 State of the Union address. The group joined scores of others protesting the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which awaits a permitting decision from the Obama administration. The president made significant pledges to address the growing threat of climate change in his speech. But it will take more than words to save the planet from human-induced climate disruption, and a growing, diverse movement is directing its focus on the White House to demand meaningful action.

The Keystone XL pipeline is especially controversial because it will allow the exploitation of Canadian tar sands, considered the dirtiest oil source on the planet. One of the leading voices raising alarm about climate change, James Hansen, the director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, wrote of the tar sands in The New York Times last year, “If Canada proceeds, and we do nothing, it will be game over for the climate.” New research by nonprofit Oil Change International indicates that the potential tar-sands impact will be even worse than earlier believed. Because the proposed pipeline crosses the border between the U.S. and Canada, its owner, TransCanada Corp., must receive permission from the U.S. State Department.

Among those arrested outside the White House was Julian Bond, former chair of the NAACP. Bond said, “The threat to our planet’s climate is both grave and urgent. … I am proud today to stand before my fellow citizens and declare, ‘I am willing to go to jail to stop this wrong.’ The environmental crisis we face today demands nothing less.”

Two weeks of protests at the White House in the summer of 2011 led to the arrest of 1,252 people. Later, in November, thousands more joined to encircle 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., calling for denial of the Keystone XL permit. Days later, President Obama announced he would delay the decision until 2013, after the election. He later granted permission to build the southern leg of the pipeline, from Oklahoma through Texas. That decision sparked protests from landowners and environmentalists, including a nonviolent direct-action blockade campaign in Texas, with people chained to pipeline equipment and occupying land with tree-sits to halt construction.

Early in the permit process, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she was inclined to approve the pipeline, even though the State Department’s mandatory review was incomplete. Controversy erupted when The Washington Post reported that TransCanada’s lobbyist for the pipeline in D.C., Paul Elliott, was a senior staffer on Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, headed by Obama-appointee Lisa Jackson, had been critical of the pipeline. When Jackson resigned unexpectedly late last December, the New York Post reported, based on an unnamed “Jackson insider,” “She will not be the EPA head when Obama supports it [Keystone] getting built.” Jackson’s spokesperson denied the allegation.

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Corporatizing Seeds of the Commons: Patents Enabling BigAg Control

From Common Dreams:

New report details how patents allow ‘private companies to assert ownership over a resource that is vital to survival’

Andrea Germanos, staff writer
Published on Wednesday, February 13, 2013 by Common Dreams

The paradigm shift that has transferred control of seeds from the commons to corporations has brought harmful consequences to farmers, seed diversity and the environment while making a few agricultural firms owners of the “irreplaceable element of all food,” according to a report released Tuesday

Entitled Seed Giants vs. U.S. Farmers (.pdf), the report from the Center for Food Safety and Save Our Seeds highlights how patents have enabled global corporate control over seeds, and how agricultural heavyweights are poised to follow in the steps of Monsanto in launching lawsuits against farmers for alleged seed patent infringement.

“Corporations did not create seeds and many are challenging the existing patent system that allows private companies to assert ownership over a resource that is vital to survival, and that, historically, has been in the public domain,” stated Debbie Barker, Program Director for Save Our Seeds and senior writer for the report.

The report points to the tremendous control exerted by a handful of large agricultural corporations, creators of a “seed oligarchy”:

Three agrichemical firms—Monsanto, DuPont, and Syngenta—now control 53 percent of the global commercial seed market. The top ten seed firms, with a majority stake owned by U.S. corporations, account for 73 percent.

In addition to contracts some firms require farmers to sign stating that they will not save the corporate-owned seeds, some contracts allow “intrusive invasion of farmer privacy,” the report explains:

For example, Dow’s technology agreement requires farmers to complete questionnaires for, and provide planting information to, company investigators. Farmers must also agree to give Monsanto their internet service provider records, purportedly to “validate Grower’s electronic signature.” Monsanto, Dow, and Syngenta agreements allow the companies to access records concerning farmers’ activities held by third parties, such as the U.S. government. In particular, the agreements allow investigators to review USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) crop reporting information, including aerial photos and farmer submissions, on any land farmed by the grower. […]

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