Nina Simone – Revolution

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Vietnam: Decision on trans woman’s official identity recognition awaits input from prime minister

From Pink News:

22 February 2013

The Vietnamese Ministry of Justice has ordered that a decision to revoke the country’s first official recognition of a trans woman’s identity be halted until the prime minister can weigh in on the matter.

Pham Le Quynh Tram, a teacher and the first trans person to gain legal recognition of their gender in Vietnam, was told last month that she would no longer be recognised as a woman by the the People’s Committee of Binh Phuoc.

The committee ordered the local department of justice to revert to considering her as a man and using her male birth name, Pham Van Hiep.

However, the Ministry of Justice has now stepped in to halt the process, saying that the committee must wait for input from Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, who will speak to the Ministry’s for Justice and Health on the matter.

Ms Tram had her name and gender change recognised in 2009 by the Chon Thanh District, after undergoing surgery. Her official recognition meant that official documents such as passport and driver’s license stated her gender as female.

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D.C. lawmaker proposes to ease gender change regulations

From LGBTQ Nation:

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

WASHINGTON — A District of Columbia council member on Tuesday introduced a bill that would ease the requirements of transgender D.C. residents seeking to legally change their gender on birth certificates and other legal documents.

D.C. council member David A. Catania said the bill would protect the identities of individuals who undergo gender transitions, and would also apply to transgender people who transition without surgery.

Under current D.C. law, people who have their names changed must publish notices in the newspaper once a week for three consecutive weeks. This regulation can inadvertently out transgender people who legally change their names and request new birth certificates with proper gender markers.

The proposed bill — the Birth Certificate Equality Amendment Act — would exempt transgender people from the public notice requirement. It would also allow transgender people to seal their original birth certificates from public view with an affidavit from a medical professional.

If approved, the Vital Records Division would be required to issue a new birth certificate, instead of marking an existing certificate as “amended.”

According to Catania, current D.C. law is outdated because not all transgender individuals undergo gender reassignment surgery, and because it requires a court order before a man can legally become a woman or vice-versa.

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Pope Resignation Linked To Report Of Blackmailed Gay Vatican Bishops

From The New Civil Rights Movement:

by David Badash
on February 22, 2013

Pope Benedict XVI made his decision to resign the day he received a report detailing “the discovery of a network of gay prelates [Bishops] in the Vatican, some of whom – the report said – were being blackmailed by outsiders.” So reports the Guardian, a UK newspaper, about a report in La Repubblica, Italy’s largest newspaper:

 A potentially explosive report has linked the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI to the discovery of a network of gay prelates in the Vatican, some of whom – the report said – were being blackmailed by outsiders.

The pope’s spokesman declined to confirm or deny the report, which was carried by the Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica.

The paper said the pope had taken the decision on 17 December that he was going to resign – the day he received a dossier compiled by three cardinals delegated to look into the so-called “Vatileaks” affair.

Last May Pope Benedict’s butler, Paolo Gabriele, was arrested and charged with having stolen and leaked papal correspondence that depicted the Vatican as a seething hotbed of intrigue and infighting.

According to La Repubblica, the dossier comprising “two volumes of almost 300 pages – bound in red” had been consigned to a safe in the papal apartments and would be delivered to the pope’s successor upon his election.

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See also The Advocate:  Report: Pope Influenced to Resign Over Vatican’s Gay Network

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Women, Not Right Wing Evangelicals, Have Lost Their Freedom To Tyranny

From PoliticusUSA:

By: Rmuse
Feb. 22nd, 2013

Beginning in late January 2009, a  phalanx of  “patriots” initiated a campaign decrying tyranny and loss of freedom because an African American man occupied the Oval Office even though they are incapable of citing even one freedom they lost under Barack Obama’s presidency. After contraception coverage was included in the Affordable Care Act, led by Catholic bishops, a cry of loss of religious freedom became popular that meant right wing Christians were disallowed from  imposing their bible-based beliefs on the rest of the population. It turns out there is a segment of the population who have lost their freedom due to tyranny, but it originates with Republicans at the behest of Catholic and evangelical personhood advocates.

In the ultimate loss of freedom, women seeking to carry their fetuses to term and deliver them vaginally are, under court order, being arrested, their fetuses seized, and forced to undergo caesarian (surgical) deliveries against their wishes because according to religious fanatics, the rights of a fetus supersede those of the mother. It is the greatest expression of Christian tyranny, and it is being wholly supported and enforced by Republicans giving religion power over the life of a mother in violation of her Constitutional and reproductive rights. The Dark Age Christian crusade is the work of Personhood USA, and their goal is subjugating women according to their understanding that a person is the moment of conception, even though their bible defines life as when god breathes air into a baby’s lungs.

For the uninformed, personhood gives a single-celled zygote 14th Amendment rights that supplant those of the mother carrying the organism.  In more than half the country, religious Republicans are attempting to amend state constitutions granting personhood to zygotes, and in the United States Congress, several Republicans sponsored personhood bills under the moniker, “Sanctity for Human Life,”  but in their perverse interpretation, sanctity for life is reserved for a fetus. The group behind the movement, PersonhoodUSA claimsto glorify Jesus Christ in a way that creates a culture of life so that all innocent human lives are protected by love and by law,” unless the innocent life happens to be the mother. The effect of personhood laws exceed pro-life advocates’ attempt to deny a woman the right to choose her own reproductive health, and they have been depriving pregnant women their right to liberty, bodily integrity, medical decision-making and even life. It is the ultimate loss of freedom under cover of religious liberty, and another example of religious tyranny escalating against women as America declines into a theocracy.

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Oklahoma May Deny Women Affordable Birth Control Because It ‘Poisons Their Bodies’

From Think Progress:

By Tara Culp-Ressler
on Feb 22, 2013

Oklahoma already prevents women from using their insurance plans to help cover abortion services, but Republicans aren’t stopping there. One state lawmaker wants to continue stripping insurance coverage for reproductive health services, advancing a measure that would allow employers to refuse to cover birth control for any reason — based solely on the fact that one of his constituents believes it “poisons women’s bodies.”

Under State Sen. Clark Jolley (R)’s measure, “no employer shall be required to provide or pay for any benefit or service related to abortion or contraception through the provision of health insurance to his or her employees.” According to the Tulsa World, Jolley’s inspiration for his bill came from one of his male constituents who is morally opposed to birth control, and wanted to find a small group insurance plan for himself and his family that didn’t include coverage for those services:

Jolley said the measure is the result of a request from a constituent, Dr. Dominic Pedulla, an Oklahoma City cardiologist who describes himself as a natural family planning medical consultant and women’s health researcher. […]

Women are worse off with contraception because it suppresses and disables who they are, Pedulla said.

“Part of their identity is the potential to be a mother,” Pedulla said. “They are being asked to suppress and radically contradict part of their own identity, and if that wasn’t bad enough, they are being asked to poison their bodies.”

The bill has already cleared a Senate Health committee and now makes it way to Oklahoma’s full Senate. It is unlikely that either Jolley and Pedulla themselves rely on insurance coverage for hormonal contraceptive services — but if the measure becomes law, the two men could limit the health insurance options for the nearly two million women who live in Oklahoma.

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Sean Wilentz: Wrong on ‘Untold History,’ Wrong on History in General

From Michael Moore:

By Jon Schwarz
February 22nd, 2013

Sean Wilentz is a fancy professor of history at fancy Princeton, and a personal friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton, two extremely fancy Democrats. And as he recently explained in the New York Review of Books, he hates Untold History, the new book and Showtime documentary series by Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick.

A quick glance might give you the impression Wilentz’s grudge is all about a seemingly obscure, dusty corner of history (Henry Wallace and the 1948 election) that doesn’t affect anyone’s life today one way or the other. But it’s not. Wilentz is pissed off because he understands Untold History is a damning indictment of an entire worldview – that of his political patrons and all comfortable establishment historians like him. And that worldview is genuinely a matter of life and death for all Americans in 2013. If you’d prefer that the plane you’re taking next week not get hit by an surface-to-air missile liberated by Islamists from Libya’s stockpile, and that you not personally get torn into several large chunks at 7,000 feet, you really should pay attention to this.

Untold History, and hence Wilentz, spend lots of time examining the aftermath of World War II in the late 1940s; it was a critical period of U.S. politics, one that’s determined our path ever since. As Wilentz accurately writes, “the beginning of the cold war divided American liberals and leftists of various stripes,” as the liberals mostly got what they wanted and the leftists did not.

Cold war liberals of the time, exactly like Wilentz today, would have preferred not to share power with the paranoid, racist neanderthals of the U.S. right. (The neanderthals of 1948 didn’t read “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” in the New Yorker and were terrible at sophisticated discussions of existentialism at Georgetown dinner parties.) However, the liberals were even less eager to share power with genuine, unfancy leftists – especially because the liberals agreed with the right that the cold war was forced upon the U.S. by the Soviets and was mostly or wholly defensive in nature.

Meanwhile, the leftists of various stripes believed the cold war might largely be avoided – but that powerful sectors of U.S. society found it to be the perfect cover for aggressive policies they would have wanted to carry out even if the Soviet Union had never existed. Leftists also believed there was a natural constituency for endless war in the White House. As Clark Clifford, then Truman’s White House counsel, wrote to him as the cold war was dawning: “There is considerable political advantage to the Administration in its battle with the Kremlin…In times of crisis, the American citizen tends to back up his President.” Moreover, as Wilentz says, leftists saw liberal anticommunism “as virtually indistinguishable from – indeed, as complicit with – the anticommunism of the right.”

Wilentz is incredulous that Stone and Kuznick are resurrecting this perspective, something liberals like himself believed had been dead and buried for decades. That’s what he’s angry about: that they’re on the New York Times bestseller list and premium cable saying things that all properly educated people know are wrong.

But are they? Now, with twenty years of post-cold war history behind us, we should be able to judge.

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America’s Spiritual Death: It’s Time to Learn the Dark History of the U.S. You Were Robbed of … and Oliver Stone Will Help

From Alternet:

Stone’s TV series, “Untold History of the United States,” digs deep into American atrocities the mainstream media doesn’t spend much time on.

By Fred Branfman
February 21, 2013

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”  –Martin Luther King Jr. “Beyond Vietnam” speech, April 4, 1967

I recently watched all 10 episodes of Oliver Stone’s “Untold History of the United States” (on Showtime). I strongly recommend it to everyone, but particularly to America’s young people who have been robbed of a most precious legacy: an understanding of their true history, and thus their future. I can’t think of a more meaningful gift to young people for, as Stone says, “history must be remembered or it will be remembered until the meanings are clear.” The same U.S. Executive Branch mentality that produced Vietnam is today illegally and inhumanly murdering and weakening U.S. national security interests throughout the Muslim world, and threatening its own citizens as never before. It has never been more urgent to learn from America’s real history.

I am not ashamed to say this series moved me to tears. First, by its depiction of the millions of lives the U.S. Executive Branch has ruined all over the world. This includes over 21 million — officially estimated — killed, wounded and made homeless in Indochina and Iraq alone, bring back the most painful memories of my life: my interviews with over 1,000 Lao refugees who reported seeing beloved parents, spouses and children burned alive, buried alive, and shredded to pieces by years of secret, illegal and inhuman U.S. Executive Branch bombing. [Showtime has made available some of the episodes free to watch over the internet.]

Second, I was touched by the awful beauty of simply seeing the truth told so clearly and vividly. The combination of the information, the imagery and Stone’s narration touched levels far deeper than the mind.

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Economist to Moyers: Minimum wage hike would benefit millions

From Raw Story:

By David Ferguson
Friday, February 22, 2013

On this week’s edition of “Moyers and Co.,” host Bill Moyers spoke with economist Richard Wolff about the U.S. minimum wage, and how raising it would not just benefit workers at the bottom end of the economic spectrum, but rather the entire economy.

Moyers opened the segment by saying that even if the country increases the minimum wage to the $9 per hour proposed by President Barack Obama in his State of the Union speech, workers will still be worse off than their counterparts were fifty years ago.

Wolff agreed, “The peak for the minimum wage in terms of its purchasing power,” he said, “was 1968. It’s basically been declining, with a couple of ups and downs, ever since.”

“So, you’ve taken the people who work at the bottom, full time job,” he continued, “and you’ve made their economic condition worse over a 50 year period while wealth has accumulated at the top. What kind of a society does this?”

“Who decided that workers at the bottom should fall behind?” Moyers asked.

“Well, in the end,” said Wolff, “it’s the society as a whole that tolerates it. But, it’s Congress’ decision and Congress’ power to raise the minimum wage.”

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White House Wants Everyone to Know Obama Supports Cutting Social Security Benefits

From Fire Dog Lake:

Friday February 22, 2013

Just in case you haven’t gotten the message already, the White House wants to make sure everyone knows President Obama supports cutting Social Security benefits. They are even bragging about Obama’s desire to cut Social Security benefits on the official White House blog:

And he’s laid out a specific plan to do more. His proposal resolves the sequester and reduces our deficit by over $4 trillion dollars in a balanced way- by cutting spending, finding savings in entitlement programs and asking the wealthiest to pay their fair share. As a result the deficit would be cut below its historic average and the debt would fall as a share of the economy over the next decade.  Just two months ago Speaker Boehner said there was $800 billion in deficit reduction that could be achieved by only closing loopholes and reducing tax expenditures.  So we know we can get this done. Let’s be clear: the President’s proposal to Speaker Boehner is still on the table. Here it is again

If you click on the link it takes you to a PDF of the Obama’s current offer. One of the single biggest items in it is “Spending Savings from Superlative CPI with protections for vulnerable $130.” That is adopting the chained-CPI for for Social Security benefits. It would be a cut to benefits every year that would build cumulatively. The AARP actually has a calculator to show roughly how big a cut it would be for you.

Obama wasn’t forced to reluctantly accept cutting Social Security by Republicans. It is something Obama has always wanted to do and he is actively trying to use it to entice Republicans to support a grand bargain.

The primary thing that has protected your Social Security benefits from being cut under Obama has been House Republicans unwillingness to accept any tax increases.

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Earth Hour 2013 Official Video

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Perils of the Keystone XL Pipeline Confront Obama

From Common Dreams:

by Ralph Nader
Published on Friday, February 22, 2013 by Common Dreams

Bill McKibben, a prolific writer and organizer on global warming and climate change, has had a busy year teaching environmentalists not to despair and will soon be learning some lessons himself.

In August 2011, he organized an unprecedented demonstration in front of the White House urging President Obama to deny a permit for the giant Keystone XL pipeline that would haul very dirty tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada down to Texas refineries, largely to be exported. More than 1200 people were arrested over the course of the month to protest the construction of the pipeline. This could be the largest mass arrest before the White House in decades. Kudos to Bill and his associates.

On February 17, 2013, 48 people, including McKibben and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., were arrested for open, non-violent civil disobedience mostly for refusing U.S. Park Police orders to keep moving on the White House’s sidewalk (with some protestors actually attaching themselves to the fence in front of the White House).

This past weekend, McKibben was back at the White House with more than 40,000 anti-Keystone XL protestors along with demands for Obama to act on broader climate issues. Protestors included leaders of Native American tribes, some legislators, corporate executives, farmers, students, workers and other Americans who think saving the planet from a huge rush of carbon dioxide and expanding the very large toxic region of Alberta, was worth some of their direct effort.

President Obama has twice postponed his decision on the XL pipeline, much to the relief of Hillary Clinton, whose State Department would have been blamed for approving the pipeline, much to the detriment of her future political aspirations. Now Secretary of State John Kerry has said a decision is coming “near term.”

The Keystone XL pipeline’s owner is TransCanada, which is busily buying rights of way through the western U.S., and calling on states to use their eminent domain powers when ranchers and farmers resist. Giant pipes have already been shipped to various locations along the way. Actual construction has been underway in Texas. The governor of Nebraska, Dave Heineman, dropped his objection once the pipeline’s route was alerted to go around the state’s environmentally vulnerable Sand Hills area.

Since fracking is spreading rapidly in many states to increase U.S. oil production, not to mention burgeoning natural gas fracking extractions, why would President Obama want to approve Keystone XL? What about his State of the Union warnings regarding global warming and its terrible costs in lives, property and money?

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Permafrost Melting Rate Could Be Faster And Worse Than We Thought, New Study Finds

From Huffington Post:

From Climate Central’s Michael D. Lemonick:

Nearly a quarter of the Northern Hemisphere’s land surface is covered in permanently frozen soil, or permafrost, which is filled with carbon-rich plant debris — enough to double the amount of heat-trapping carbon in the atmosphere if the permafrost all melted and the organic matter decomposed.

According to a paper published Thursday in Science, that melting could come sooner, and be more widespread, than experts previously believed. If global average temperature were to rise another 2.5°F (1.5°C), say earth scientist Anton Vaks of Oxford University, and an international team of collaborators, permafrost across much of northern Canada and Siberia could start to weaken and decay. And since climate scientists project at least that much warming by the middle of the 21st century, global warming could begin to accelerate as a result, in what’s known as a feedback mechanism.

How much this will affect global temperatures, which are currently projected to rise as much as 9°F by 2100, is impossible to say. It all depends on how quickly the permafrost melts, and how quickly bacteria convert the plant material into carbon dioxide and methane gas, and nobody knows the full answer to that. But since climate scientists already expect a wide range of negative consequences from rising temperatures, including higher sea level, more weather extremes and increasing risks to human health, anything that accelerates warming is a concern.

While the rate at which melting permafrost will add carbon to the atmosphere is largely unknown, a study released February 11 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences at least begins to tackle the problem. It shows that when the permafrost does melt, carbon dissolved in the meltwater decomposes faster after it’s been exposed to the ultraviolet component of sunlight.

In any case, there’s no doubt that the permafrost will melt, at least in part, since it’s already starting to do so. In some parts of the Arctic, trees, buildings and roadways have started listing to one side, or even collapsing, as soil that was once hard as a rock has softened from the warming that’s already taken place.

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