By Glennisha Morgan Posted: 04/17/2013
Dean of Students Sue Wasiolek confirmed that administrators signed a new contract with the university’s health insurance provider, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, that will include up to $50,000 to cover gender confirmation surgery, according to the Duke Chronicle. Wasiolek also stated that all pivotal aspects of transgender health care such as counseling, hormone therapy and surgery will be included in the coverage.
The Duke Chronicle notes coverage will begin this fall.
“The addition of sexual reassignment surgery with a $50,000 cap makes Duke’s student health care plan one of the most, if not the most, transgender-inclusive plans in the country,” Sunny Frothingham, the incoming outreach chair for Blue Devils United (BDU), an advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) undergraduates, is quoted by the Chronicle as saying. “This is a huge step forward for Duke.”
BDU’s president echoed Frothingham’s sentiments.
“This is really important symbolically for the Duke community,” Jacob Tobia, president of BDU, is quoted as saying. “I hope that this will help us remain really competitive as an institution when recruiting students, because I know that in the past we have had transgendered students that have been extremely successful at Duke, including merit scholars.”
As Campus Reform points out, the University of California, Berkeley added coverage of up to $75,000 for students who wish to undergo gender confirmation surgery last year. The university will fund 90 percent of the operation.
“when it comes to someone needing their name changed for their mental health, they get roadblocked.”
From The San Francisco Examiner: http://www.sfexaminer.com/opinion/op-eds/2013/04/transgender-rights-students-can-help-them-succeed
I was pushed around for being skinny when I was a kid. Also for wearing an eye patch, for being the smart kid and for always acting like a performer. And did I mention I was called “Petunia”?
It doesn’t take much to make a child feel like an outsider. Most of us have felt that way at one time or another. What can be hard is helping children feel like they belong — like they are part of something bigger than themselves.
That’s what I always worked for as a teacher.
That is why I introduced Assembly Bill 1266, the School Success and Opportunity Act — to ensure that transgender students are not made to feel like outsiders in California’s public schools. We want all students to succeed. We want every student to have great opportunities.
I should mention that the San Francisco Unified School District — the district I was a trustee for — is a model in allowing transgender students to be themselves, and it has been a positive thing for the district’s students.
Unfortunately, in too many districts across the state, transgender students don’t get that chance to succeed because they aren’t allowed to be themselves in physical education classes, team sports and other important school activities.
Part of success is involving all students in the school activities they enjoy and want to pursue. We know girls who play sports develop leadership skills and have fewer self-destructive behaviors. We know boys can learn cooperation and gain self-esteem from their extracurricular groups.
Everyone benefits when children learn to play and work together in group activities. We want transgender children to have those benefits as well. When they don’t get that chance, it can result in missed credits, stigma, harassment and dropping out of school. This bill, which will be heard today by the Assembly Education Committee, will ensure that these students have the same opportunities to participate and succeed — and stay in school — as others.
From The Guardian UK: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/apr/17/new-zealand-legalises-same-sex-marriage
Agencies in Wellington
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 17 April 2013
Seventy-seven of 121 members voted in favour of amending the 1955 Marriage Act to allow same-sex couples to wed, making New Zealand the first country in the Asia-Pacific region to do so.
“Two-thirds of parliament have endorsed marriage equality,” said Louisa Wall, a gay opposition Labour party MP who campaigned in favour of the bill. “It shows that we are building on our human rights as a country.”
The bill was widely expected to pass, given similar support for the change in a preliminary vote held last month. It is likely to come into effect in August.
New Zealand becomes the 13th country to legalise same-sex marriages, after Uruguay passed the law last week. Australia rejected a similar proposal last year.
Countries where such marriages are legal include Canada, Spain, Sweden and some US states. France is close to legalising same-sex marriage despite increasingly vocal opposition.
Continue reading at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/apr/17/new-zealand-legalises-same-sex-marriage
By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
President Barack Obama’s drug czar toed a strict line on marijuana Wednesday, saying federal laws will prevail regardless of state-level efforts to legalize pot.
Gil Kerlikowske said enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 — which ranks marijuana as a Schedule One drug alongside heroin, LSD and ecstasy — remains in the hands of the US Department of Justice.
“No state, no executive can nullify a statute that has been passed by Congress,” the director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy told a National Press Club luncheon.
“Let’s be clear: law enforcement officers take an oath of office to uphold federal law and they are going to continue to pursue drug traffickers and drug dealers,” he said.
Voters in Colorado and Washington last November approved proposals to legalize the possession of small quantities of marijuana by individuals in their respective states.
Earlier this month, a Pew Research Center opinion poll indicated that for the first time in more than four decades of polling on the issue, a majority of Americans — 52 percent — think marijuana should be legalized.
Several states have approved the medical use of marijuana with a doctor’s prescription, and the first marijuana clinic in the nation’s capital, just up the street from the Capitol, is near opening its doors.
From The Guardian UK: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/apr/15/afghanistan-expectations-record-opium-crop
Twelve years after the fall of the Taliban, Afghanistan is heading for a near-record opium crop as instability pushes up the amount of land planted with illegal but lucrative poppies, according to a bleak UN report.
The rapid growth of poppy farming as western troops head home reflects particularly badly on Britain, which was designated “lead nation” for counter-narcotics work over a decade ago.
“Poppy cultivation is not only expected to expand in areas where it already existed in 2012 … but also in new areas or areas where poppy cultivation was stopped,” the Afghanistan Opium Winter Risk Assessment found.
The growth in opium cultivation reflects both spreading instability and concerns about the future. Farmers are more likely to plant the deadly crop in areas of high violence or where they have not received any agricultural aid, the report said.
Opium traders are often happy to provide seeds, fertilisers and even advance payments to encourage crops, leaving farmers who do not have western or government agricultural help very vulnerable to their inducements.
At the same time the more powerful figures in the drugs trade, from traffickers to corrupt government officials, who take over half the profit from each kilo of opium, have shrinking opportunities to earn money from Nato or international aid contracts – and may be preparing a war chest for upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections.
“Opium cultivation is up for the third successive year, and production is heading towards record levels,” said Jean-Luc Lemahieu, Afghanistan head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. “People are hedging against an insecure future both politically and economically.”
Many Christian pastors and fundamentalists practice the art of bullying themselves, demanding obedience and discouraging dissent.
By Rev. Howard Bess
April 14, 2013
Bullying is now a major reason that American teenagers give for skipping school and eventually dropping out of high school. Students get bullied over race, sexual orientation, clothes, looks, handicaps, intelligence and economic class.
Yet, where can we find a voice of sanity that will publicly call for a halt in the practice of bullying? It is not the Christian churches. Indeed, many Christian pastors and fundamentalists practice the art of bullying themselves, demanding obedience to holy books and creeds.
I cringe every time I hear preachers and devout Christians declare “The Bible says…” Rarely do they identify the author or the circumstance of the passage to which they refer. “The Bible says…”is the sledge hammer of Protestant Christianity.
The message is all too plain: Get in line or you are headed for punishment, rejection or even Hell. It is the ultimate bullying tool because it is difficult for a parishioner to out-gun a holy god who has spoken with finality and without error. Dynamic and authoritarian preachers are especially good at Bible rhetoric that is calculated intimidation. Preachers may be the most skilled persons in our society in the practice of bullying.
And then there are the creeds, which were originally devised to force conformity to Christian belief. The creeds of Christianity have been and are regularly used as the club for bullying. Again, the message is clear: Agree or be denied ordination; agree or be silenced; agree or be censored; disagree and be labeled a heretic and be excommunicated.
Bullying also is practiced at the highest level of American civil society, with bullying a front-line tool of U.S. foreign policy. One could say that America in its world leadership role has refined and redefined the art of bullying.
From Robert Reich: http://robertreich.org/post/48204111845
By Robert Reich
We come together as Americans when confronting common disasters and common threats, such as occurred in Boston on Monday, but we continue to split apart economically.
Anyone who wants to understand the dis-uniting of America needs to see how dramatically we’re segregating geographically by income and wealth. Today I’m giving a Town Hall talk in Fresno, in the center of California’s Central Valley, where the official unemployment rate is 15.4 percent and median family earns under $40,000. The so-called “recovery” is barely in evidence.
As the crow flies Fresno is not that far from California’s high-tech enclaves of Google, Intel, Facebook, and Apple, or from the entertainment capital of Hollywood, but they might as well be different worlds.
Being wealthy in modern America means you don’t come across anyone who isn’t, and being poor and lower-middle class means you’re surrounded by others who are just as hard up. Upward mobility — the old notion that anyone can make it with enough guts and gumption — is less of a reality.
The probability that a poor child in America will become a poor adult is higher now than it was 30 years ago, and higher in the United States than in the United Kingdom, which has a long history of class rigidity.
Almost 1 out of 4 of the nation’s children is in now in poverty, but you wouldn’t know that in Washington, where our representatives are now busily cutting safety nets children depend on, or in many state capitals that continue to slash budgets for education and social services.
Continue reading at: http://robertreich.org/post/48204111845
From Adirondack Life: http://www.adirondacklifemag.com/blogs/2013/04/15/water-proof/
by Curt Stager
April 15, 2013
In July 1609 Samuel de Champlain wrote in his journal while traveling the length of a large lake with a group of Native Americans: “I noticed, while observing the country, some very high mountains on the eastern side, on top of which there was snow.”
In describing a summer visit to upstate New York in 1791, Thomas Jefferson wrote that local residents told him that the same lake, which by then was known as Lake Champlain, “closes with ice about the last of November.”
These are among the earliest recorded observations of the Champlain Basin’s climate, made during a natural, relatively cool period known as the Little Ice Age, between the 15th and 19th centuries. Today, another two centuries later, snowcaps on the Green Mountains in July and ice on the main basin of Lake Champlain in November are things of the past. And people who live, work and play on Lake Champlain are witnessing more dramatic changes within their own lifetimes. New scientiﬁc evidence supports what anglers, sailors and ferry operators are noticing about declining ice cover, shifting lake levels, and other signs that unnatural, human-driven climate change has come to the North Country in ways that are increasingly difﬁcult to ignore.
The retreat of ice cover on Lake Champlain is perhaps the clearest measure of such change. A 200-year sequence of freeze-up dates shows that the main basin froze over during every winter but three during the 19th century. Normally, freeze-up came in January or February, already much later than what Jefferson reported. Was it because the climate was already warming by then, or did Jefferson’s sources refer merely to some bays that froze earlier and more easily?
We can’t be sure of the answer, but one thing is both more certain and more relevant to us today: during the 20th century Lake Champlain failed to freeze completely 27 times, and most of those ice-free winters occurred since 1970. Now, in the ﬁrst years of this new century, total freeze-up is no longer the rule but the exception.
Only two things are likely to cause a long-term advance in freeze-dates like this: wind and temperature. There is no historical evidence that winds have strengthened and stirred the lake surface enough to slow the formation of winter ice in this manner. However, local weather records do clearly reveal a parallel increase in air temperatures during the last century.
Continue reading at: http://www.adirondacklifemag.com/blogs/2013/04/15/water-proof/
From Common Dreams: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/04/17-0
April 16, 2013
Earth Day cometh — the 43rd year of this national focus on the state of our globe. So, how is Earth doing? Should we be weeping … or cheering?
The first step to any recovery is recognition of the obvious: Earth has a problem. In fact, beaucoup of them. For example, despite the squawking of profiteering polluters and professional deniers, our very atmosphere — without which everyone and everything is dead — is rapidly being degenerated by our own addiction to fossil fuel, literally altering Earth’s climate in disastrous ways. Yet, as we burn, energy corporations blithely fiddle.
They’re fiddling with tar sands oil in Alberta, Canada, uncaring about the vast amounts of ozone-destroying carbon that will be released by ripping open Northern Alberta’s boreal forest to get at the junk oil, or about the extra carbon-dioxide contamination that will come from processing this especially toxic sludge at Big Oil’s Gulf Coast refineries.
Also, they’re fiddling with the Earth itself, by fracking deep underground shale to bring gas and oil — plus more ozone-depleting methane — to the surface. And they’re still fiddling with the priceless ecology of America’s ancient Appalachian Mountains and streams by exploding off the mountaintops — merely to make it easier and cheaper for Big Coal to extract the ozone-killing carbon.
There are plenty of horrors to make you weep this Earth Day. But tears don’t bring change. That comes only from the determined effort of ordinary grassroots people to organize, strategize and mobilize. The good news for our Earth and our own existence is that such people are on the move in every part of America. They’re confronting the greedheads and boneheads, creating effective energy alternatives, forging fresh and sensible polices, lifting heads out of the sand — and producing the change we must have.
The courageous and tenacious mountaineers of Appalachia, for example, are at last beginning to score big victories in their long, hard fight against the coal giants, including winning an agreement last November from one, Patriot Coal, to cease all mountaintop-removal coal mining.