From the archive, 15 February 1986: Transsexual magician challenges men-only rule

From The Guardian UK

Fay Presto finds herself outside the Magic Circle and it will take more than a wave of the wand to get her back in again, Friday 15 February 2013


It’s a man’s world in the Magic Circle. Let any spellbinding magicienne, as the female exponents of the art call themselves, try for admission and they’ll be quickly asked to disappear.

For the Circle, founded in 1905, now numbering more than a thousand members and with a rule discouraging the ‘disclosure of magical secrets to the public’ is a Men Only organisation.

This is causing some annoyance to Oliver Winter, who three years ago was just an ordinary chap, an associate member of the Circle, with an amateur interest in slicing girls in half and doing the usual with rabbits.

Today, things are very different, having been involved in a bit of medical magic himself – he changed his sex to female and his name to Fay Presto – he has become Britain’s first professional transsexual magician.

She finds herself outside the Magic Circle and it will take more than a wave of the wand to get her back in again.

‘If they just want to be a gentleman’s club they must be allowed to do so.’ says Miss Presto, a tall handsome blonde with long painted finger nails. ‘But they also set themselves up as the arbiters of all that is right and proper in magic.’

She believes that the Circle should either confine itself to amateurs or admit the girls, who want more out of the magical world than to be sawn apart, or used as old fashioned sex symbol.

The Magic Circle is sticking, uncharacteristically, to firm reality. It sets examinations and is eager to see if an aspiring magician knows how to get things out of his bag to the manner born. But it insists it is a club for Gentlemen only.

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To End Rape, We Need the F-Word

From Reader Supported News:

By Linda Rubin, Al Jazeera
14 February 13

I spend lots of time in the world of technical theatre in my community. As a result, I have friends of all ages, from teenagers to wise old folks in their 90s. One day, I was sitting in the light booth having a conversation with a 20 year-old crew member who was also a college student. We were talking about some of the struggles college women and men experience in dating. My young friend said that women should not have to fear domestic violence and forced sex in their relationships, and she went on to say that women should not have to fear rape under any circumstance. I agreed.

In December, a brutal gang rape on a bus in Delhi captured international attention and outrage. This rape resulted in the death of a 23 year-old woman, a physiotherapy college student in India. In late 2012, a 20 year-old woman was raped on a Los Angeles metro bus. In early 2013, the rape of a young woman in a Washington, DC parking lot was captured by surveillance cameras. These three sexual assaults occurred in public venues and garnered considerable media attention. They represent only a tiny fraction of the violence against women that occurs every day. Rape is frighteningly common.According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the United States one in five women is raped during her lifetime, and more than 80 percent of these women know the rapist

Now, national attention is on Steubenville, Ohio. Two high school football players are currently awaiting trial in March after being accused of the gang rape of a 16 year-old girl. Beyond the brutality of the rape, this case captured national attention when considerable evidence of the rape was found in the football teammates’ texts, tweets, and cell phone images, which were posted on social networking websites and seen by countless other kids and eventually stunned adults. These tweets exposed sexually provocative and misogynistic views among this network of teens.

While discussing these horrors of rape with my young friend, I used the word “feminist” in describing my point of view. She offered a common paradoxical response, “Well, I’m not a feminist, but…”.The “but” was immediately followed by decidedly feminist ideas about non-violence and equality. She agreed that violence against women must be stopped, while flinching at the mere mention of the word, feminist. Although she did not realise it, her idea is a feminist one.

The stigma of the F-word

Feminism has become a bad word. The stereotyped myth of the angry, ugly, man-hating feminist is alive and well. This highly negative, but fictional, caricature has been made to seem repulsive to people. Opponents of feminism exploit these harsh stereotypes and scare women and men away by frequently using hateful language, like “feminazis”.Who would want to stand up and claim this as their identity? Resistance is especially profound for college students and other young adults who are in the midst of developing their own identities.

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Fixing Medicare: Start By Eliminating Drug Makers’ Sweetheart Deal, Not Benefits

From The Huffington Post:


It’s no surprise that American corporations spend billions of dollars each year on lobbying, trying to gain favorable treatment from legislators. What some may find a bit unnerving is the industry that’s leading the pack in these efforts.

You might think our nation’s defense and aerospace companies, which have legions of hired guns on Capitol Hill, are the leaders. Or perhaps Big Oil, which is perpetually fighting with environmentalists and consequently needs friends in Washington to block what it considers onerous legislation or regulations.

In both cases, you’d be wrong. It’s actually the pharmaceutical industry that spends the most each year to influence our lawmakers, forking over a total of $2.6 billion on lobbying activities from 1998 through 2012, according to To get some perspective on just how big that number is, consider that oil and gas companies and their trade associations spent $1.4 billion lobbying Congress over the same time frame while the defense and aerospace industry spent $662 million, a fourth of Big Pharma’s total.

(Number two on the OpenSecrets list, by the way, was my old industry, insurance, which spent $1.8 billion. Although health insurers were among the biggest spenders, the list also includes property and casualty and auto insurers.)

The huge sum of money our nation’s drug makers lavish on Congress each year begs the question, what are they seeking in return? Surely it has something to do with the fact that our nation’s legislators turn a blind eye as pharmaceutical companies engage in predatory pricing practices while enjoying exclusive rights to manufacture drugs for 20 years or more. All at the same time that drug costs and drug price inflation are among of the main drivers of health care costs for individuals and families and threaten the fiscal health of our public health care programs.

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Elizabeth Warren’s Aggressive Questioning Prompts Anger From Wall Street

From Huffington Post:


Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) meeting with bank regulators Thursday left bankers reeling, after she questioned why regulators had not prosecuted a bank since the financial crisis.

At one point, Warren asked why the book value of big banks was lower, when most corporations trade above book value, saying there could be only two reasons for it.

“One would be because nobody believes that the banks’ books are honest,” she said. “Second, would be that nobody believes that the banks are really manageable. That is, if they are too complex either for their own institutions to manage them or for the regulators to manage them.”

That set off angry responses to Politico’s Morning Money. “While Senator Warren had every right to ask pointed questions at today’s Senate Banking Committee hearing, her claim that ‘nobody believes’ that bank books are honest is just plain wrong,” a “top executive” emailed the financial newsletter. “Perhaps someone ought to remind the Senator that the campaign is over and she should act accordingly if she wants to be taken seriously.”

The anonymous emailer said Warren was being as “extreme” as fellow freshman Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who asserted Tuesday without evidence that secretary of defense nominee Chuck Hagel may have received money from “extreme or radical” groups.

In another email, a GOP bank lobbyist said, “Republicans also would like to know why the Democratic donor base has avoided trial. Maybe she should subpoena the DSCC and Obama’s super PAC to answer her question.”

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Debtors Prisons have Returned to America

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The best solution on climate change requires Congress to act

From The Guardian UK:

I introduced a bill to reduce US greenhouse gas emissions because it’s the right move for current and future generations, Saturday 16 February 2013

Unless we take bold action to reverse climate change, our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren are going to look back on this period in history and ask a very simple question: Where were they? Why didn’t the United States of America, the most powerful nation on earth, lead the international community in cutting greenhouse gas emissions and preventing the devastating damage that the scientific community was sure would come?

The issue that we are dealing with is not political. It has nothing to do with the squabbling we see in Washington every day. It has everything to do with physics. The leading scientists in the world who study climate change now tell us that their earlier projections were wrong. The crisis facing our planet is much worse than they had thought only a few years ago. Twelve out of the last 15 years ranked as the warmest on record in the United States. Now, scientists say that our planet could be 8F warmer or more by the end of this century if we take no decisive action to transform our energy system and cut greenhouse gas emissions.

What would that mean to planet earth? Sea levels would rise by three to six feet, which would flood cities like New Orleans, Boston and Miami and coastal communities all over the world. It would mean that every year we would see more and more extreme weather disturbances, like Hurricanes Irene and Sandy, costing taxpayers tens of billions of dollars every year and resulting in devastating blows to our economy and productive capabilities.

We would see the price of food go up because crops in the US and around the world would be affected by temperatures substantially greater than what we have today. It would mean greater threats of war and international instability because hungry and thirsty people would be fighting for limited resources. It would mean more disease and unnecessary deaths.

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Arctic Death Spiral Bombshell: CryoSat-2 Confirms Sea Ice Volume Has Collapsed

From Think Progress:

By Joe Romm
on Feb 14, 2013

The sharp drop in Arctic sea ice area has been matched by a harder-to-see, but equally sharp, drop in sea ice thickness. The combined result has been a collapse in total sea ice volume — to one fifth of its level in 1980.

Back in September, Climate Progress reported that the European Space Agency’s CryoSat-2 probe appeared to support the key conclusion of the Pan-Arctic Ice Ocean Modeling and Assimilation System (PIOMAS) at the University of Washington’s Polar Science Center: Arctic sea ice volume has been collapsing much faster than sea ice area (or extent) because the ice has been getting thinner and thinner.

Now the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the UK’s primary agency for funding and managing environmental sciences research, has made it official. In a Wednesday press release, they report:

Arctic sea ice volume has declined by 36 per cent in the autumn and 9 per cent in the winter between 2003 and 2012, a UK-led team of scientists has discovered….

The findings confirm the continuing decline in Arctic sea-ice volume simulated by the Pan-Arctic Ice-Ocean Modelling & Assimilation System (PIOMAS), which estimates the volume of Arctic sea ice and had been checked using earlier submarine, mooring, and satellite observations until 2008.

This should be the story of the day, week, month, year, and decade. As NERC notes, sea ice volume is “a much more accurate indicator of the changes taking place in the Arctic.”

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America’s Environmental Future Starts Now

From Huffington Post:


This Sunday, a new environmental movement will arrive in Washington, D.C. Thousands of people will join, the Sierra Club, and the Hip Hop Caucus’ “Forward on Climate” rally to call out with one voice and demand Obama keep his promise to future generations.

I will be proud to be there with them.

If you’re coming to D.C. this weekend, you won’t see your parents’ environmental movement here on the Mall. The climate crisis has forged a new, diverse coalition of Americans who have seen the effects of our fossil fuel dependency and want no future with it.

Drought-stricken farmers in Iowa get it. Homeowners from the Jersey Shore get it. Eroding Alaskan native communities get it. Flooded families in New Orleans get it. They will all be part of thousands of people here on Sunday who get it — America’s energy past is dead in the ground. Our energy future is in the air, with wind, solar, and other renewable energy sources. The Keystone XL pipeline, which would bring dirty tar sands oil from Canada through the U.S. for export, will lead only to further darkness.

Millions of people around the country have lived the effects of climate change and now share this vision of the future. We all cheered President Obama’s spirited call to action in his inaugural address — “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations” — and we hope he keeps his word. But we know that powerful interests want these words to simply be empty rhetoric.

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Environmental Activists Pose Security Threat: Canadian Government

From Common Dreams:

Canadians going to Keystone XL protest ‘better take precautions’

Common Dreams staff
Published on Friday, February 15, 2013 by Common Dreams

The environmental activist movement in Canada has been targeted by the Canadian government as a threat to national security, according to documents recently released under a freedom of information law, the Guardian reports.

According to Jeffrey Monaghan of the Surveillance Studies Center at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, who obtained the previously unreleased government documents, security and police forces have been closely surveilling peaceful environmental activists, including many who are planning to attend the Washington DC Keystone XL Pipeline protest on Sunday.

“Any Canadians going to protest the Keystone XL pipeline in Washington DC on Sunday had better take precautions,” Monaghan told the Guardian.

“It’s the new normal now for Canada’s security agencies to watch the activities of environmental organizations,” he added.

“Security and police agencies have been increasingly conflating terrorism and extremism with peaceful citizens exercising their democratic rights to organize petitions, protest and question government policies,” Steven Leahy reports at the Guardian.

Canada’s national police force and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) say activists engage in “forms of attack” through acts of civil disobedience such as blocking access to roads or buildings.

Monaghan added that in particular, protests in opposition to Canada’s oil and gas industry are viewed as threats by Canadian authorities.

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