SEAL Team 6 veteran comes out as transgender

From Salon:

The military currently bans trans service members, but a new memoir could open the policy to scrutiny

Monday, Jun 3, 2013

The 2011 repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” ended the military’s official policy of discriminating against gays and lesbians in the armed services, but a ban on transgender service members remains in place, meaning that trans men and women are still barred from serving.

But some advocates say that may change, or may come closer than ever before to changing, with the release of a new memoir from a former Navy SEAL. Kristen Beck (formerly Chris Beck) was a SEAL for 20 years — and a member of SEAL Team 6, the unit that killed Osama bin Laden — before retiring, coming out as transgender and beginning her transition from male to female in 2011.

Beck’s honest discussion of her gender identity, which she grappled with for years while in the military, is a major first, and could clear the way for others to come out with their own stories. And, as J.K. Trotter at the Atlantic Wire notes, Beck’s fellow SEALs were supportive of her transition:

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ABC: Transgender Navy SEAL ‘Warrior Princess’ Comes Out

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Bradley Manning’s Legal Duty to Expose War Crimes

From Truth Out:

By Marjorie Cohn
Monday, 03 June 2013

The court-martial of Bradley Manning, the most significant whistleblower case since Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers, has begun. Although Manning pled guilty earlier this year to 10 offenses that will garner him 20 years in custody, military prosecutors insist on pursuing charges of aiding the enemy and violation of the Espionage Act, carrying life in prison. The Obama administration, which has prosecuted more whistleblowers under the Espionage Act than all prior presidencies combined, seeks to send a strong message to would-be whistleblowers to keep their mouths shut.

A legal duty to report war crimes

Manning is charged with crimes for sending hundreds of thousands of classified files, documents and videos, including the “Collateral Murder” video, the “Iraq War Logs,” the “Afghan War Logs” and State Department cables to Wikileaks. Many of the things he transmitted contain evidence of war crimes.

The “Collateral Murder” video depicts a US Apache attack helicopter killing 12 civilians and wounding two children on the ground in Baghdad in 2007. The helicopter then fired on and killed the people trying to rescue the wounded. Finally, a US tank drove over one of the bodies, cutting the man in half. These acts constitute three separate war crimes.

Manning fulfilled his legal duty to report war crimes. He complied with his legal duty to obey lawful orders but also his legal duty to disobey unlawful orders.

Section 499 of the Army Field Manual states, “Every violation of the law of war is a war crime.” The law of war is contained in the Geneva Conventions.

Article 85 of the First Protocol to the Geneva Conventions describes making the civilian population or individual civilians the object of attack as a grave breach. The firing on and killing of civilians shown in the “Collateral Murder” video violated this provision of Geneva.

Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions requires that the wounded be collected and cared for. Article 17 of the First Protocol states that the civilian population “shall be permitted, even on their own initiative, to collect and care for the wounded.” That article also says, “No one shall be harmed . . . for such humanitarian acts.” The firing on rescuers portrayed in the “Collateral Murder” video violates these provisions of Geneva.

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Guess What? Fewer Americans Call Themselves Economic Conservatives

Good because “Economic Conservative”doesn’t mean what people think it means.

From Alternet:

New Gallup polls shows that economic conservatism is down, social liberalism is up.

By Lynn Stuart Parramore
May 30, 2013

2013 has not exactly been an inspiring year on the economic front so far: Between the news of banks too big to prosecute, consumer protection stalled, financial reform thwarted, corporate taxes dodged, privatization pushed, and Social Security attacked, it has been hard to find something to smile about. But then, suddenly, out comes a little ray of sunshine from behind the clouds.

A new Gallup survey shows significant changes in the way we Americans see ourselves. The big news? We don’t like to call ourselves economic conservatives as much as we used to; in fact, that number is at a five-year low. On top of that, more of us say we’re social liberals.

What’s going on? How did something good happen when everything feels so bad?

After the shattering experience of WWI, Freud wrote about the pervasive discontent and unease with society, and he examined how humans tend to react to these feelings. In facing misery, would we throw in the towel? Would we become more aggressive? Or could we embrace the opportunity to improve our reality and transform our thinking? Freud, it must be said, was not overly optimistic about the answers to these questions.

Today, there’s a widespread feeling of skepticism about the form of capitalism we’re saddled with, which works well for a few and causes the rest of us various kinds of misery. Many Americans are beyond sick and tired of bankers, financiers and political hucksters. We see that crony capitalism is destroying our communities, our democracy, our economic well-being, and the natural world.

But will anything ever change it? I have been writing about economic matters since the Great Recession hit, trying to foster different ways of thinking. Honestly, most days it seemed like what I was trying to say was falling on deaf ears – that smart regulation was vital, that jobs must be our primary focus, that austerity was a foolish and deadly policy, and that, at a fundamental level, we need an economy that will serve society rather than the other way around.

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Mass protests shake Turkish government

From World Socialist Web Site:

By Alex Lantier
3 June 2013

Protests in cities across Turkey shook the Islamist government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday and over the weekend, amid rising discontent with his domestic policies and his support for the US-led proxy war in neighboring Syria.

The protests grew rapidly after police crackdowns on Friday morning at Istanbul’s Gezi Park and then in Taksim Square. The sit-in had begun Tuesday, as lawmakers and officials of the Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), subsequently joined by the bourgeois opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), protested Erdogan’s plan to remodel Gezi Park, which is adjacent to Taksim Square. The sit-in initially gathered dozens and then hundreds of people.

Erdogan plans to build a mosque in the area and to rebuild an Ottoman Empire-era barracks, destroyed in 1940, to be used as a shopping center, while destroying a nearby cultural center named after Turkish bourgeois nationalist leader Kemal Atatürk.

The remodeling plans were provocative, given Taksim Square’s historic association with working class or popular protest. The 1969 Bloody Sunday massacre of demonstrators protesting the deployment of the US Sixth Fleet to Turkey took place nearby, and dozens were killed in the square in the repression of an International Labor Day march on May 1, 1977.

On Friday, police initially cracked down on protesters, pushing them into Taksim Square, and then brutally attacked them again. As the demonstration swelled, helicopters and police squads fired intense volleys of tear gas into residential areas and into the public transit system; one video shows a police armored vehicle hitting a protester as it charged a barricade.

“Police are everywhere, and helicopters are monitoring our movements. Whenever police see us march, they come and gas us… We were gassed, we dispersed, and then gathered again,” one protester said.

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Defiant Turks: “this is only just the beginning”

From Roar Mag:

by ROAR Collective
on June 2, 2013

Originally published by, a grassroots initiative in citizen journalism aimed at covering the ongoing protests in Turkey and posing a counterbalance to the co-opted corporate media.

It started with hundreds of peaceful protesters resisting the demolition of Gezi Park, one of the very few green spaces left in the center of Istanbul. There are plans to replace it with yet another shopping mall. The disproportionate police response to the peaceful Gezi protests has triggered a nationwide revolt within a matter of days. What we have witnessed since the early hours of May 30 is not only a display of the collective will of Istanbul residents claiming their right to the city but also a broad-based rebellion against the authoritarianism of Turkey’s conservative neo-liberal Islamist government.

Hundreds of thousands of people of all ages and political stripes have united around slogans such as “shoulder to shoulder against fascism,” and calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan. The protests have spread from Istanbul to Ankara, İzmir, Adana, Eskişehir, Samsun, Konya and Mersin among other cities, despite the brutal and relentless attacks by the police. From the very beginning of the protests, Turkish police used water cannons and tear gas against the demonstrators. The streets of Istanbul and other cities have become battlefields; hundreds have been hospitalized and several unconfirmed deaths have been reported.

As this unprecedented wave of protests spread across Turkey, there was an unofficial news blackout across the mainstream media. The censorship of Turkish media has increased sharply in the last few years. According to Reporters Without Borders’ 2012 report, Turkey has become “the world’s biggest prison for journalists.” Protesters have been mobilizing nevertheless, mainly through social media.

Despite the clear dangers posed by an unrestrained police force, people have taken to the streets without fear. This ongoing protest is unique and historic, not only because the people insist in ever greater numbers on reclaiming the streets from the riot police, but also because it represents the hope for a genuine people’s movement beyond the usual political factions.

The protesters of #OccupyGezi are anything but a homogeneous group. It is comprised of millions of people from all over the country, young and old, leftists and nationalists, liberals and Kemalists, middle class and working class, believers and atheists, gays, lesbians, transsexuals and football fans, all united by one collective demand – the end of AKP authoritarianism. There is no central political organization bringing these groups together, yet the protesters have displayed enormous solidarity.

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Only ‘Unevolved Apes Want Nukes!’: Japanese Demand End to Nuclear Era

From Common Dreams

Thousands rally in Tokyo as nuclear restarts loom

Common Dreams staff
Thousands of people, including victims from the Fukushima disaster in 2011, took to a central park in Tokyo on Sunday to protest the Japanese government’s intent to restart the nation’s nuclear reactors.Agence France-Presse reports:

Protesters later marched through the capital, holding anti-nuclear banners including one which read: “No Nukes! Unevolved Apes Want Nukes!”

They also demonstrated outside the headquarters of Tokyo Electric Power Co, operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant which was crippled by meltdowns after the March 2011 tsunami.

[Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe], whose Liberal Democratic Party has close ties with the nation’s powerful business circles, has repeatedly said he would allow reactor restarts if their safety could be ensured.

Japan turned off its 50 reactors for safety checks in the wake of the disaster but has restarted two of them, citing possible summertime power shortages.

And RT adds:

Shortly after the Fukushima disaster in March 2011, the Japanese government pledged to fully abandon atomic energy by the 2030s. However, in about a year authorities realized their promise was a hasty one, as the archipelago nation had hardly any other means to ensure sufficient electric energy supply but to return to nuclear power generation.

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Good Consumers, Bad Citizens

From Truth Out:

By Michael Winship
Thursday, 30 May 2013

A few days ago, I was listening to a radio talk show discussion of the bill passed on May 7 by the New York City Council, requiring some businesses to provide paid sick leave to employees.

The first caller was indignant. “This bill is anti-consumer!” he bellowed because, he insisted, it would raise prices. I thought, no, this bill is pro-citizen, helping out people, many of them in extremis — and just when did we stop being citizens and become merely consumers? When did access to material goods and low prices become a right more important than public health and welfare? When did our celebration of profit take precedence over fundamental fairness and justice?

I thought of this again the other night while attending the ceremony for the Hillman Prizes in Journalism, named after the late union leader Sidney Hillman, once the influential president of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America. One of the awards went to ABC News for its coverage of a deadly fire at a garment factory in Bangladesh where Tommy Hilfiger clothing was being manufactured. Deliberately locked in and unable to escape, 29 died.

Confronted with the evidence, Hilfiger and his parent company finally pledged over $2 million to improve fire safety at dozens of other facilities in Bangladesh, but six months later, another fire took more than 100 lives. According to the Sidney Hillman Foundation, an ABC News producer “obtained evidence that showed clearly that Wal-Mart, Sears, Disney and other retailers’ labels of clothes were being made there at the time of the fire, and written warnings from Wal-Mart’s own inspectors that the factory was not safe.” All in the name of cheap clothing made by workers in a country that has the lowest minimum wage in the world, $37 a month, while exporting $18 billion worth of apparel yearly, second only to China.

The Hillman Prize came just weeks after the April 24 collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh that killed 1,127 workers, and indeed another award was given by the Hillman Foundation in the name of the workers and in honor of labor activists fighting for safer factories in that country, many of whom have been intimidated, beaten and even murdered.

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