Trans Vietnam Idol finalist stars in ‘Normalize Condoms’ campaign

From Gay Star News:

Huong Giang wears dress made of 2,000 condoms as part of publicity campaign funded by USAID

By Anna Leach
19 April 2013

Transgender Vietnam Idol finalist Huong Giang is the latest celebrity to wear a dress made of 2,000 condoms for a safe sex campaign.

Giang told Tuoitre News Vietnam she is happy for her name to be associated with condom-use and wants to send the public, particularly young people, a message about safe sex.

The dress was designed by Nguyen Minh Tuan for his industrial fine arts graduate project at Van Lang University in Ho Chi Minh City. Last year the dress was worn by Vietnam’s Next Top Model 2011 runner-up Tra My.

The campaign, now in its third year, is funded by US Agency for International Development (USAID) and aims to ‘bin thong hoa boa cao su’ – normalize condoms.

A survey from US-based Population Services International showed that only 40% of gay men in Vietnam use condoms, Thanh Nien News reports.

According to figures from USAID, in 2011 250,000 people in Vietnam had HIV.

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McDonald’s surprising pro-transgender bathroom policy

From Salon:

A Washington franchise has made it official policy to provide “safe and dignified” bathroom access for all


A Detroit-area McDonald’s recently found itself in legal trouble after falsely claiming its menu items were halal, and New York City employees of the fast food chain went on strike last month to demand a living wage, but a franchise in Washington state is grabbing headlines for actually doing something right: Providing safe, guaranteed access to bathroom facilities regardless of a person’s gender identity or expression.

A Reddit user shared a photo of a Seattle McDonald’s bathroom sign, announcing:

We respect the rights of all customers and employees. We believe all people must have access to safe and dignified bathroom facilities regardless of their gender identity or expression. Therefore, the following policy has been adopted for this restaurant at 1530 3rd Avenue … Employees and customers may use any restroom that corresponds with and is based upon the gender identity they publicly and exclusively assert or express.

The notice is seven years old, but David Santillanes, the current owner and operator of the franchise, said that the bathroom policy is an extension of how he hopes to treat all employees and customers: “Making sure my employees and customers are treated with dignity and respect is a priority for me,” he told the Huffington Post in an email. “This notice reaffirms my commitment to my employees and customers and underscores my restaurant’s compliance with applicable law.”

Area franchises make their own policies, and the bathroom notice doesn’t reflect the company’s overall position on transgender rights, according to a McDonald’s spokesperson. But they are supportive of the local policy (at least they are now, while it gets them good press):

“This specific decision was made by one of our franchisees for his restaurant,” U.S. Media Relations Manager Ofelia Casillas told HuffPost in an email on Wednesday. But, she added, all Golden Arches stand for equal rights.

“At McDonald’s, we respect and value everyone,” she added. “We have a strict policy prohibiting any form of discrimination in our restaurants. We recognize and appreciate individuals’ rights and require all our restaurants to follow local, state and federal laws.”

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Huffington Post: Washington McDonald’s Supports Transgender Rights With Bathroom Message

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Transgender Woman Arrested for Exposing Breasts, Jailed With Men

From The Advocate:

Ashley Del Valle is a transgender woman from New York who was arrested in Georgia for indecent exposure after she allegedly showed her breasts, but then was housed in an all-male jail.

BY Sunnivie Brydum
April 17 2013

A transgender woman from New York was arrested in Savannah, Ga., last week for allegedly exposing her breasts, reports Savannah’s WSAV. But when deputies booked Ashley Del Valle, 38, she says a nurse examined her genitals, and determined that she was “technically a male.” As a result, Del Valle was placed in a holding cell in the men’s prison ward.

Del Valle was alone in various cells in the men’s ward for three days before her family posted her $3,500 bail. She told WSAV that she often felt unsafe, and claims that deputies repeatedly referred to her as “thing,” “brotha,” and “nigga.”

“I just felt like I wasn’t being treated like a human being,” said Del Valle, who was assigned male at birth, but has lived as a woman for more than 20 years, and legally changed her name in 2002.

The chief deputy at the jail says his employees followed existing protocol to keep Del Valle in a private cell, but did admit to misgendering her.

“First off, Ashley is still a man,” chief deputy Roy Harris told WSAV. “I think he’s had some surgery, breast implants. But technically he is still a male which poses a problem. We do have a policy in place. Typically we put them in isolation.”

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‘Define Me’ – Ryan Amador (featuring Jo Lampert)

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San Francisco Stops Using Condoms As Evidence

From HIV+ Magazine:

A new directive from the San Francisco District Attorney and Police Department instructs officers not to use condoms as evidence of prostitution.

BY Sunnivie Brydum
April 19 2013

The San Francisco District Attorney and San Francisco Police Department announced on April 16 that it would no longer consider the possession of condoms as evidence of prostitution.

According to an SFPD department bulletin obtained by the Transgender Law Center, the city’s district attorney and public defender’s office agreed to revise a policy that formerly allowed officers to use even unopened condoms as evidence of   that a person intended to solicit sex for money.

“Going forward it shall be Department policy not to confiscate, photograph, or otherwise document possession of open/unopened condoms,” says the bulletin, signed by Chief of Police Gregory Suhr. “Members may continue to photograph or otherwise document possession of money and related paraphernalia when establishing probable cause for ‘loitering for the purpose of prostition.’ “

San Francisco was one of three major U.S. cities using condoms as evidence profiled in a scathing report from Human Rights Watch last year titled “Sex Workers at risk.”

That report found that a staggering 52% of sex workers in the U.S. said there had been times when they opted not to carry condoms because they were afraid doing so would lead to problems with the police. HIV Plus spoke with a San Francisco Police officer who called the policy a “Catch-22,” since officers are required to report all evidence they obtain when charging someone with prostitution.

“Being law enforcement officers, we cannot lie,” SFPD officer and spokesman Carlos Manfredi told HIV Plus last year. “We have to give them all the facts that we see what’s presented to us. Say we don’t disclose that information in court, then the defense can use that against us.”

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Meet the 28-year-old Student Who Exposed Two Harvard Professors Whose Shoddy Research Drove Global Austerity

From Alternet:

Economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, the academic champions of austerity, are exposed.

By Lynn Stuart Parramore
April 18, 2013

The world of economics has just changed, and somebody has some ‘splaining to do! Please savor the following twisted tale of bad math, academic folly and pundit hubris.

Since 2010, the names of Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff have become famous in political and economic circles. These two Harvard economists wrote a paper, “Growth in the Time of Debt” that has been used by everyone from Paul Ryan to Olli Rehn of the European Commission to justify harmful austerity policies. The authors purported to show that once a country’s gross debt to GDP ratio crosses the threshold of 90 percent, economic growth slows dramatically. Debt, in other words, seemed very scary and bad.

Their historical data appeared impressive, as did their credentials. Policy-makers and journalists cited the paper to convince the public that instead of focusing on the jobs crisis that was hampering recovery, we should instead focus on deficits. The deficit hawks jumped up and down with excitement.

But something didn’t smell right.

Progressive economists I knew were shocked at what appeared to be the shoddiness of the research and the absurdity of the conclusions. In their paper “ A World Upside Down? Deficit Fantasies in the Great Recession,” Thomas Ferguson and Robert Johnson observed that R&R had truncated their sample of British data in a way that skewed their conclusions, eliminating more than a century of data in which British debt loads exploded but economic growth raced ahead (see pages 11-13). The always savvy Marshall Auerback called them out in a blog for New Deal 2.0, which I edited at the time, criticizing the relevance of the cases they had used to justify their conclusions.

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How would ‘Chained CPI’ affect your benefits?

From The Washington Post:

by Josh Hicks
on April 18, 2013

A House Ways and Means subcommittee on Wednesday held a hearing to examine the impacts of using “Chained CPI” to slow the growth in entitlement spending and increase tax revenue.

President Obama has put Chained CPI on the table as part of his proposal to cut entitlements in exchange for higher taxes, but many Democrats think that deal gives away too much to Republicans.

All this probably leads our readers to wonder: What is Chained CPI, and how would it affect me?

Before we jump too far into the weeds on this, readers should know that the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association published a calculator that estimates how chained CPI would affect individuals over time, based on the size of their annual benefit.

Now for the details.

Chained CPI is shorthand for the “Chained Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers.” It’s an inflation measure that essentially ties tax rates and entitlement spending to the rise in prices over time.

The government currently uses a different inflation measure to calculate Social Security benefits, applying the CPI-W, or “Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers” to its formula.

Using Chained CPI instead of CPI-W would slow the rate of growth for entitlement benefits and cause people to enter higher tax brackets more quickly — because the income parameters for each bracket would rise more slowly.

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Wow! GOP Pats Exxon on the Back for Arkansas Oil Spill

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How your pension is being used in a $6 trillion climate gamble

From The Guardian UK:

Fossil fuel companies’ bet that climate agreements won’t stop them from burning carbon puts pension funds at risk

and, Friday 19 April 2013

Suppose you weren’t worried that we humans are destroying our water supply and eroding our ability to feed ourselves by burning coal and gas and oil and hence changing climate. Suppose you thought that was all liberal hooey. What might worry you about fossil fuels instead? How about a six trillion dollar bet, including a big slug of your own money, on people not doing what they have said they are going to do, and that some have already sworn to do in law?

Six trillion dollars is what oil, gas, and coal companies will invest over the next ten years on turning fossil fuel deposits into reserves, assuming last year’s level of investment stays the same. Reserves are by definition bodies of oil, gas or coal that can be drilled or mined economically. Regulators allow companies, currently, to book them as assets, and on the assumption that they are at zero risk of being stranded – left below ground, “value”unrealized – over the full life of their exploitation. Yet a report published today shows they are at very real risk of being stranded, and in large quantity.

Governments agreed in 2010 to keep global warming below two degrees. The Carbon Tracker Initiative, a group of concerned financial analysts based in London, has teamed up with the Grantham Institute, a climate research centre, to calculate how much carbon it would take to reach that two degree threshold, and what it means for the capital markets. By this calculation, fully 60 to 80% of oil, gas and coal reserves listed on stock exchanges are unburnable.

The six trillion dollar bet is that this calculation remains entirely theoretical, and that fossil-fuel companies will be allowed to keep pumping up the carbon bubble by investing more cash to turn resources into reserves, and continue booking them at full value, assuming zero risk of devaluation. It’s a bet that effectively says to government: “nah, we don’t believe a word you say. We think you’ll do nothing about climate change for decades.”

Yet the British government, for one, has signed its targets into law, and the Copenhagen Accord brokered by the Obama administration in 2009 specifically sets 2 degrees as its goal. And all governments at the most recent annual climate negotiations have agreed to set legally binding targets at the 2015 climate summit in Paris.

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Scientist to Moyers: It’s time to beat the ‘Save the World’ drums

From Raw Story:

By David Ferguson
Friday, April 19, 2013

In this clip from Friday’s edition of “Moyers and Company,” biologist and activist Sandra Steingraber discussed her quest to fight the “toxic assault” waged on U.S. children through processed food and tainted water and air.

Moyers asked Steingraber what average parents can do who are not biologists and who are unable to, say, go to jail to protest hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” as Steingraber has done.

Steingraber said that she sees it as her job to point out existing problems and direct people to the path of activism, as well as to change their thinking about the problem itself.

She pointed to the Cuban Missile Crisis, in which Americans thought they could be attacked by nuclear weapons at any time. People could respond to the crisis in two ways, to build themselves a bomb shelter or to work toward disarmament.

“I’m not going to build myself a beautifully appointed toxin-free bubble for my family,” she said, “because sooner or later, my children have to grow up anyway and enter the world, right?”

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Noam Chomsky: How Close the World Is to Nuclear War

From Alternet:

A powerful excerpt from the new book, “Nuclear War and Environmental Catastrophe.”

By Noam Chomsky, Laray Polk
April 17, 2013

The following is an excerpt from the new book Nuclear War and Environmental Catastrophe, by Noam Chomsky and Laray Polk, which takes the form of a series of interviews with MIT Professor Noam Chomsky (Seven Stories, 2013).

Laray Polk: What immediate tensions do you perceive that could lead to nuclear war? How close are we?

Noam Chomsky: Actually, nuclear war has come unpleasantly close many times since 1945. There are literally dozens of occasions in which there was a significant threat of nuclear war. There was one time in 1962 when it was very close, and furthermore, it’s not just the United States. India and Pakistan have come close to nuclear war several times, and the issues remain. Both India and Pakistan are expanding their nuclear arsenals with US support. There are serious possibilities involved with Iran—not Iranian nuclear weapons, but just attacking Iran—and other things can just go wrong. It’s a very tense system, always has been. There are plenty of times when automated systems in the United States— and in Russia,it’s probably worse—have warned of a nuclear attack which would set off an automatic response except that human intervention happened to take place in time, and sometimes in a matter of minutes. That’s playing with fire. That’s a low-probability event, but with low-probability events over a long period, the probability is not low.

There is another possibility that, I think, is not to be dismissed: nuclear terror. Like a dirty bomb in New York City, let’s say. It wouldn’t take tremendous facility to do that. I know US intelligence or people like Graham Allison at Harvard who works on this, they regard it as very likely in the coming years—and who knows what kind of reaction there would be to that. So, I think there are plenty of possibilities. I think it is getting worse. Just like the proliferation problem is getting worse. Take a couple of cases: In September 2009, the Security Council did pass a resolution, S/RES/1887, which was interpreted here as a resolution against Iran. In part it was, but it also called on all states to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty. That’s three states: India, Pakistan, and Israel. The Obama administration immediately informed India that this didn’t apply to them; it informed Israel that it doesn’t apply to them.

If India expands its nuclear capacity, Pakistan almost has to; it can’t compete with India with conventional forces. Not surprisingly, Pakistan developed its nuclear weapons with indirect US support. The Reagan administration pretended they didn’t know anything about it, which of course they did. India reacted to resolution 1887 by announcing that they could now produce nuclear weapons with the same yield as the superpowers. A year before, the United States had signed a deal with India, which broke the pre-existing regime and enabled the US to provide them with nuclear technology—though they hadn’t signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty. That’s in violation of congressional legislation going back to India’s first bomb, I suppose around 1974 or so. The United States kind of rammed it through the Nuclear Suppliers Group, and that opens a lot of doors. China reacted by sending nuclear technology to Pakistan. And though the claim is that the technology for India is for civilian use, that doesn’t mean much even if India doesn’t transfer that to nuclear weapons. It means they’re free to transfer what they would have spent on civilian use to nuclear weapons.

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‘People’s History’ of Gulf Oil Disaster Reveals Deadly Truth Behind Dispersant Corexit

From Common Dreams:

Report released on eve of Deepwater Horizon anniversary tells of BP lies and government collusion in oil ‘clean-up’

Jacob Chamberlain

Not only is the chemical dispersant that was used to “clean up” the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster of 2010 extremely dangerous, it was knowingly used to make the gushing oil merely “appear invisible” all the while exacerbating levels of toxicity in the Gulf waters, according to a report released Friday, the eve of the third anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, by the Government Accountability Project.

According to the report, Deadly Dispersants in the Gulf: Are Public Health and Environmental Tragedies the New Norm for Oil Spill Cleanups?, Corexit—the dispersant chemical dumped into the Gulf of Mexico by oil giant BP and the U.S. government in the spill’s aftermath—was widely applied “because it caused the false impression that the oil disappeared.”

Government Accountability ProjectAs GAP states: “In reality, the oil/Corexit mixture became less visible, yet much more toxic than the oil alone. Nonetheless, indications are that both BP and the government were pleased with what Corexit accomplished.”

The Corexit/oil combination is highly toxic and will continue to cause “devastating long-term effects on human health and the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem” for a long time into the future, the report warns.

GAP spent 20 months collecting evidence from “over two dozen employee and citizen whistleblowers who experienced the cleanup’s effects firsthand,” and from extensive Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

“This report is a people’s history to rebut a false advertising blitz by BP, enabled by government collusion,” stated GAP Legal Director Tom Devine, co-author of the report.  “Gulf workers and residents who are still suffering deserve justice, and the public deserves the truth.”

“The price for making the spill appear invisible has been deadly,” he said. “It is time to stop covering up the truth about the deadly effects of the chemical cover-up Corexit.”

“Taken together, the documents and the witnesses’ testimony belie repeated corporate and government rhetoric that Corexit is not dangerous. Worse than this, evidence suggests that the cleanup effort has been more destructive to human health and the environment than the spill itself,” the group stated Friday.

The report includes first hand accounts from cleanup workers, divers, local doctors, and residents.

The findings also include “higher than normal frequency of seafood mutations,” and “pockets of ‘dead’ ocean areas where life was previously abundant.”

“Through their testimony and emerging science, the truth about the spill response’s toxic legacy is beginning to surface as the third anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon explosion approaches,” GAP stated.

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