Niece of Cuba’s Fidel Castro denied permission to pick up gay rights award in Philadelphia

From Gay Star News:

Equality Forum calls the visa denial ‘shocking’

By Greg Hernandez
26 April 2013

The niece of retired Cuban leader Fidel Castro has been denied a visa by the US State Department to travel to Philadelphia to accept an award for her work on behalf of gay rights.

Mariela Castro, director of Cuba’s National Center for Sex Education, is already in the US attending meetings in New York. But Cuban diplomats are prevented from traveling more than 25 miles from the United Nations without permission.

The Equality Forum, the group which was to give Castro the award on 4 May, called the visa denial ‘shocking.’

“Over the past 11 years, Equality Forum has invited leaders of the featured nation to attend. For those who needed a visa, all past visas have been approved,’ Executive Director Malcolm Lazin said in a statement.

He added: ‘It is shocking that our State Department would deny Ms. Castro travel to a civil rights summit – especially one held in the birthplace of our democracy that enshrines freedoms of speech and assembly.’

Lazin praised Castro for running the leading Cuban LGBT organization that offers support and services to LGBT youth and seniors, provides HIV and STD education and prevention, and combats homophobia.

‘These are shared values that deserve the right to be heard regardless of political systems,’ he said.

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Dear famous actresses: Your looks scare me

I’ve gotten so tired of Photoshop Plastic World that lately I’ve been shooting film because film is more real.

From Salon:

What have you all done to yourselves? I’ve loved you for decades, but your plastic features are freaking me out

Friday, Apr 26, 2013

Hey, lady. You, lady. Beloved celebrity of my generation, icon with a career spanning decades. I saw a story about you today and I was excited, because I’ve always been your fan. Then I looked at it. And I just want to know one thing. Girl, what the eff have you done to your face?

I’ve tried to ignore it. I’ve tried not to say anything. Not just to you, today, but to lots of female celebrities, for years. I want to believe that if you were to go out and get a tattoo that said “I LOVE CHEESE” across your forehead, I would support your right to do whatever makes you happy. And as someone who keeps a stock of hair color in her closet in case there’s ever a Feriapocalypse, and who doesn’t own an item of makeup or moisturizer that doesn’t boldly feature the word “youth” on the packaging, I’m not one to espouse growing older gracefully. I’d never sell anybody on the nobility of looking like you just stepped out of a Dorothea Lange photograph.

But I’m really beginning to wonder if you’ve considered whether you’re getting your money’s worth here. I imagine you’re pretty well off. Your residuals income alone must be generous, and you still work steadily — although you haven’t actually acted in a bit. So why do you look like a crazy person? I take that back. Like a crazy doll. One side of your face is visibly higher than the other. Your skin looks like it hasn’t seen blood flow in a few years. Your long, long eyelashes flutter all the way up to your eyebrows, which are located directly below your hairline. I’ll say this, though, you are smooth as hell. If you were going for Pennywise, but with a giant pair of knockers, mission accomplished.

I want you to know that whatever you think of your fans, I don’t expect you to look like you did 25 years ago — or even a decade ago. And I’m genuinely sorry that you have to live in a crappy, supermarket tabloid-saturated, gossipy website-overrun world in which Now and Then photos of stars who’ve had the temerity to not remain forever 18 are excoriated for it. I hate that the whole, “Look at her today! Remember when she was cute?” thing exists. It sucks out loud. And I cannot fathom what it is like to try to work in an industry that churns out lithe teenagers like a Lucy Ricardo chocolate factory.

But what I’d like somebody to tell you – and your plentiful frozen-faced costars of both sexes – is that the clearly tremendous amount of time and money and no doubt physical pain you have expended has not made you look younger. It has not made you look better. It has made you look hard and expressionless and, if I didn’t know better, as if you’d somehow managed to become a CGI replica of your former self. And I’ve really got to wonder if, living in your echo chamber of show business, you’ve sacrificed the original goal of looking good for this generic, truly weird end result of your extreme procedures.

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Obama condemns ‘assault on women’s rights’ in Planned Parenthood speech

From The Guardian UK:

President accuses US lawmakers of trying to ‘turn back the clock to the 1950s’ in attempt to limit abortion rights for women

in Washington, Friday 26 April 2013

President Obama has accused US lawmakers of wanting to “turn back the clock to the 1950s” as he launched a spirited defence of abortion services currently under attack in several states and Congress.

Speaking at a national conference held by clinic operator Planned Parenthood, he described recent legislation in 42 states banning or severely limiting the right to choose a termination as an “assault on women’s rights”.

In unusually blunt language, Obama also said politicians were trying to turn Planned Parenthood “into a punching bag” by attempting to withdraw its federal funding.

“After decades of progress, there’s still those who want to turn back the clock to policies more suited to the 1950s than the 21st century,” he said. “And they’ve been involved in an orchestrated and historic effort to roll back basic rights when it comes to women’s health.”

The White House has previously tried to avoid being dragged in to the bitter debate on abortion rights, particularly at the state level, but the growing legislative backlash has sparked a renewed effort to shore up support among Democrats.

“Forty years after the supreme court affirmed a woman’s constitutional right to privacy, including the right to choose, we shouldn’t have to remind people that when it comes to a woman’s health, no politician should get to decide what’s best for you,” added Obama.

The president took the stage to a standing ovation from a crowd of about 1,000 mainly women attendees and was introduced by Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards, who remarked that he was the first sitting president to ever address a Planned Parenthood group.

“Because of President Obama, being a woman is no longer a pre-existing condition in America,” she added.

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The 1 Percent’s Solution

From The New York Times:

Published: April 25, 2013

Economic debates rarely end with a T.K.O. But the great policy debate of recent years between Keynesians, who advocate sustaining and, indeed, increasing government spending in a depression, and austerians, who demand immediate spending cuts, comes close — at least in the world of ideas. At this point, the austerian position has imploded; not only have its predictions about the real world failed completely, but the academic research invoked to support that position has turned out to be riddled with errors, omissions and dubious statistics.

Yet two big questions remain. First, how did austerity doctrine become so influential in the first place? Second, will policy change at all now that crucial austerian claims have become fodder for late-night comics?

On the first question: the dominance of austerians in influential circles should disturb anyone who likes to believe that policy is based on, or even strongly influenced by, actual evidence. After all, the two main studies providing the alleged intellectual justification for austerity — Alberto Alesina and Silvia Ardagna on “expansionary austerity” and Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff on the dangerous debt “threshold” at 90 percent of G.D.P. — faced withering criticism almost as soon as they came out.

And the studies did not hold up under scrutiny. By late 2010, the International Monetary Fund had reworked Alesina-Ardagna with better data and reversed their findings, while many economists raised fundamental questions about Reinhart-Rogoff long before we knew about the famous Excel error. Meanwhile, real-world events — stagnation in Ireland, the original poster child for austerity, falling interest rates in the United States, which was supposed to be facing an imminent fiscal crisis — quickly made nonsense of austerian predictions.

Yet austerity maintained and even strengthened its grip on elite opinion. Why?

Part of the answer surely lies in the widespread desire to see economics as a morality play, to make it a tale of excess and its consequences. We lived beyond our means, the story goes, and now we’re paying the inevitable price. Economists can explain ad nauseam that this is wrong, that the reason we have mass unemployment isn’t that we spent too much in the past but that we’re spending too little now, and that this problem can and should be solved. No matter; many people have a visceral sense that we sinned and must seek redemption through suffering — and neither economic argument nor the observation that the people now suffering aren’t at all the same people who sinned during the bubble years makes much of a dent.

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Radio host Papantonio: Anti-intellectualism ‘has become almost epidemic in America’

From Raw Story:

By Arturo Garcia
Friday, April 26, 2013

Progressive radio host Mike Papantonio sang the praises of author Susan Jacoby on his radio show on Friday, echoing the theme of her 2008 book The Age of American Unreason in saying, “Anti-intellectualism and anti-rationalism have become almost epidemic in America,” and saying the only hesitation one should have in reading the book is how scary her findings are.

“Chances are, if you are one of those corporate media-following bone heads who still believe that weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq, or Saddam Hussein blew up the Twin Towers, or Obama is a secret Muslim, or Obama wants to take your guns, or Obama has FEMA prison camps set up for Teabag Republicans, then search no further,” said Papantonio, who is also president of the National Trial Lawyer Association. “You truly are the undereducated, child-like, impressionable, irrational, dangerous cog in America’s political system that puts Democracy most at risk.”

In her book, Papantonio explained, Jacobs found that more than 40 percent of Americans under the age of 44 did not read a single book over the course of the previous year. And their concentration had deteriorated to the point that politicians needed to condense their messages into 8-second soundbytes to grab their attention, leading her to conclude that the country was now “ill with a powerful mutant strain of intertwined ignorance, anti-rationalism and anti-intellectualism,” compounded by schools’ increased emphasis on passing standardized tests instead of comprehensive education on subjects like civics and humanities.

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Here’s What Your Libertarian Paradise Looks Like

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Indiana wants to make exposing animal abuse illegal

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James Hansen: The One Thing We Should Be Doing to Prevent Catastrophic Climate Change

From Alternet:

The country’s leading climatologist talks about what our future looks like if we continue along with business as usual — and what we could do to prevent catastrophe.

By Tara Lohan
April 24, 2013

It’s hard to imagine anyone who has done more to further our understanding of the impacts of climate change than Dr. James Hansen. After 46 years working a scientist and climatogolist for NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Hansen wasn’t content to simply catalog the dangers facing humanity and our planet — he has been ringing the alarm bell. “On a blistering June day in 1988 he was called before a Congressional committee and testified that human-induced global warming had begun,” the New York Times wrote in a recent story about Hansen. “Speaking to reporters afterward in his flat Midwestern accent, he uttered a sentence that would appear in news reports across the land: ‘It is time to stop waffling so much and say that the evidence is pretty strong that the greenhouse effect is here.’”

Over the next several decades as scientific evidence poured in about the threats from climate change, and as governments — including the U.S. — failed to take any meaningful action, Hansen stepped out of the lab and into the media spotlight. He has participated in climate change protests, including being arrested several times, and has been outspoken about urging the Obama administration to kill the Keystone XL pipeline proposal. He warned that building the pipeline would mean “game over” for the climate.

This week Hansen was awarded the 2013 Ridenhour Prize for Courage from the Fertel Foundation and the Nation Institute. Ridenhour prizes are named in honor of the late Ron Ridenhour, who blew the whistle on the My Lai massacre in the Vietnam War and went on to become an award-winning investigative journalist.

At a moment when a debate is raging about the treatment of whistleblowers, the Ridenhour Prizes recognize those who put their lives on the line to challenge the status quo,” said Randy Fertel, founder of the Fertel Foundation, which co-sponsors the prizes. “The 2013 winners represent voices who have come forward to speak truth on the most defining issues of our time.”

Hansen recently announced that he is stepping down from his post at NASA. He talked to AlterNet about what he plans to do next, what may be in store for our future, and the most important thing we can do to prevent catastrophic, runaway climate change.

Tara Lohan. First off, congratulations on your Ridenhour Prize for Courage. They selected you for your decades of hard work ringing the alarm bell about climate change. Does it get a little lonely out there for you?

James Hansen: Well, that is an interesting question I have never been asked before. I am a little surprised that the scientific community has allowed us to go so far down the line that it’s almost too late to avoid the rather substantial climate change and practical impacts. It was not surprising at all that the scientific community or at least many people in it objected to my testimony in the late 1980s and was illustrated so well by the article that Dick Kerr wrote in Science Magazine that was called “Hansen vs. the World on the Greenhouse Threat.”

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