Why I won’t be sending you a father’s day card

From New Statesman UK:  http://www.newstatesman.com/lifestyle/2013/06/why-i-wont-be-sending-you-fathers-day-card

When I tell people I no longer speak to you, they assume it’s because of my difficult and lengthy transition from male to female. That frames me as the problem. I don’t speak to you because I don’t share your values and I don’t like the way you treat people.

Oh Father.

Every dad, whether he admits it or not, looks for recognition on Father’s Day, but there will be no card or packaged gift from me to you this morning. Today I get to insult you simply by doing nothing. Petty, perhaps, but the only protest I can make against your impact on my life. This snub, of course, arises from social expectation – the sort you tried to force on me as a child, though I suspect the irony is lost on you. I know it’s self-defeating to carry ill feelings. I know hate hurts the person feeling it just as much, if not more, than those it is directed towards. I believe in forgiveness, too, when people seek it. So yes, I like to think I have a big heart these days but I do still allow myself this one slight glimmer of spite.

I was bullied as a child, violently, mercilessly, and constantly. I’m a woman today but back then I was seen as a sissy boy – a fact knocked, kicked and thumped into me at every opportunity when I was too weak to fight back. “You’re gay”, the kids at school would shout, the very worst of insults back then. When shouting wasn’t an option they’d write cruel things about me on bits of paper and pass them around the classroom. And when I got home I could expect a clip ’round the earhole for “talking like a poof”. I wasn’t the only victim of your verbal and physical violence.

Sometimes when I tell people I no longer speak to you they assume it’s because of my difficult and lengthy transition from male to female. That frames me as the problem. I don’t speak to you because I don’t share your values and I don’t like the way you treat people. I needed you to love me as a child. People assume you don’t accept me but the truth is I don’t accept you. I didn’t write this letter to hurt you though. I didn’t write this letter for you at all, actually, and I have no idea how you will feel about it or even if you will see it. The damage children suffer can be so toxic to their adult lives. This letter is for anyone whose father wasn’t some romantic stereotype who pottered around the garden while mother prepared Sunday lunch.

I daresay, like my mum, you’d have adjusted to my new identity given time. She wasn’t there for me, either, when I first transitioned. I know what it’s like to spend Christmas alone because my family found my presence more awkward than rejecting me. I also know what it’s like to feel bullied, again, as an adult, in the streets, for daring to walk down them. The taunts have become ‘fucking tranny’ and the cruel ‘jokes’ about people like me are now written in newspapers, and circulated nationally. Thankfully I reached some kind of normality. Perhaps you were right about normality, perhaps it is the most important thing.

Continue reading at:  http://www.newstatesman.com/lifestyle/2013/06/why-i-wont-be-sending-you-fathers-day-card

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Trans woman flees Scottish town which branded her a ‘witch’

From Gay Star News UK:  http://www.gaystarnews.com/article/trans-woman-flees-scottish-town-which-branded-her-witch130613

Stephanie Smyth, a transgender woman, was forced to flee her Johnstone home, in Scotland after being subjected to transphobic hate

By Dan Littauer
13 June 2013

A 32-year-old trans woman has fled her small town in Scotland, as she can no longer endure abuse from locals who called her a ‘witch’.

Stephanie Smyth, who worked as an administrator in Johnstone, Renfrewshire, Scotland said she received constant verbal abuse making her life in Johnstone ‘hell’.

The abuse started when she begun to embrace her true identity in her 20s, growing her hair and wearing women’s clothes.

Smyth underwent a gender-reassignment treatment last year.

She was hurled abuse in the town’s streets, local shops and supermarkets with people calling her a ‘witch’ and taunting her repeatedly with transphobic hate.

Smyth told The Gazette today (13 June): ‘It was mainly the worst when it came to going into shops in Renfrewshire.

‘I found that a lot of the people who worked in security would be standing around laughing and staff workers would also follow me around, jumping to conclusions.

‘Walking down the street I’d get a lot of abuse sometimes. They’d shout at me a lot, called me gay and even accuse me of witchcraft.

‘There were so many times I almost contacted the police because it had got so bad but ended up scared of the repercussions.’

The abuse got so bad that she felt terrified to leave her Johnstone home fearing transphobic hate.

‘Because places like Johnstone are so small, everyone knows you so you can’t hide away.

‘The only choice I had was to move away from Renfrewshire and start a new life.

Continue reading at:  http://www.gaystarnews.com/article/trans-woman-flees-scottish-town-which-branded-her-witch130613

See also:

Pink News UK: Scottish trans woman ‘forced’ to leave town after she was branded a ‘witch’

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A ‘Process’ For ENDA? Big Headlines From Democrats — But Is It For Real?

From The New Civil Rights Movement:  http://thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/a-process-for-enda-big-headlines-from-democrats-but-is-it-for-real/politics/2013/06/10/68472

by David Badash
June 10, 2013

Nothing ever really happens all of a sudden, but it seems like there is a groundswell of support for getting the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) — and/or an executive order from the President — done. From the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, to conversations with the White House and even last week’s controversial interruption of First Lady Michelle Obama at a fundraising event, ENDA is making headlines.

Andrew Tobias, the DNC’s Treasurer, has announced there is a “process” underway that would lead to President Barack Obama signing an executive order amounting to an ENDA for all federal employees and contractors. That conceivably could cover about 20 percent of the nation’s workforce. And Senator Harry Reid, who last month said he would like to hold a vote on ENDA after the July 4 holiday recess. Additionally, minutes ago, Reid sent a tweet confirming his intentions to vote on ENDA “soon.”

Continue reading at:  http://thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/a-process-for-enda-big-headlines-from-democrats-but-is-it-for-real/politics/2013/06/10/68472

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The Dance

From Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/leslie-lagerstrom/the-dance_b_3421172.html?utm_hp_ref=gay-voices


The wedding invitation came addressed to our entire family, a detail that made me cringe. A daughter of dear friends was getting married and the honor of our presence was requested, or so the invitation proclaimed. Deep down I knew the sentiment was sincere — that they truly did want our family of four to be their guests — but that meant subjecting us to a host of potentially awkward situations. Situations I just didn’t want to face.

The year was 2010. Sam was 13 and had transitioned a few months earlier, but many people in our lives had yet to come face-to-face with him living as a young man. They knew because we told them or the grapevine had, but experience taught us that knowledge does not eliminate the uncomfortable feelings that accompany those first post transition meetings. It’s that proverbial elephant-in-the-room type of occasion, but without a handler holding a whip to keep the situation from escalating into a stampede of embarrassing looks, comments and actions.

The majority of guests would be people we did not know, but I assumed the few we did would not know what to do or say. Exaggerating their delight in seeing us, being overly apologetic about using the wrong pronoun, and head-to-toe glances at Sam when they thought we weren’t looking were all exchanges I thought we would have to contend with, not to mention the uneasy stares that would ensue when he used the men’s restroom. All acts of human nature not malice, but never the less stressful for all involved.

I flirted with the idea of having our children stay home, rationalizing it would be easy to explain their absence given the crazy nature of teenager’s schedules at the end of the school year. But that would have been a white lie that I could not live with, not only because we would have been betraying our friends but also because of what that would have meant to Sam. An old soul, he would have known before that excuse left my mouth that I was trying to avoid a potentially hurtful event. Avoidance was not how he lived his life and because of that I knew it was not how I could live mine.

So we went to that wedding and my husband and I were just as proud as any other parents to be accompanied by our children. Mingling with guests at the reception we accepted compliments from strangers about our well-mannered son and daughter. Joining our friends, not one batted an eye or let on in any way that they were affected by Sam’s transition. And just as I began to breathe a sigh of relief, Sam made a simple request that challenged my internal fortitude more than I could have ever imagined.

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/leslie-lagerstrom/the-dance_b_3421172.html?utm_hp_ref=gay-voices

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Size zero campaigners take body image debate to the heart of fashion

From the Guardian UK:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2013/jun/01/size-zero-campaigners-london-college-fashion

Women’s group is to stage provocative debate on the beauty industry at the London College of Fashion

The Observer, Saturday 1 June 2013

The size zero debate has raged for years, drawing in models, fashion designers and magazine editors, politicians and doctors – and it shows no sign of abating. In the last few weeks, River Island has been criticised for using an ultra-slim woman in its latest campaign, and the former editor of Australian Vogue has revealed that models are eating tissues to stay thin.

Now a controversial event at the London College of Fashion will propose a “revolution in how we think about body size”.

On Tuesday, nine speakers will aim to bridge the gap between aspiration and reality in Be Real Talks: Why Size Doesn’t Matter – “a cross between a theatre experience and a comedy club with a workshop element”. Speakers will include psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos, who has spoken out against the airbrushing of photos and has advised the government on its negative impact, and Natasha Devon of Body Gossip, a not-for-profit organisation that aims to raise awareness about body image.

Devon says: “When you look at social media, there is a huge chorus of people who are fed up of the advertising and beauty industries. They want a revolution. The tide is turning.”

In the last seven years she has lectured to more than 20,000 14-to-18-year-olds about body confidence: 30% boys and 70% girls. “Their idea of what is anatomically perfect is very narrow,” she says. “It’s basically Barbie and Ken. It’s a huge job to get them to see that there is no such thing as perfect.”

Liberal Democrat women’s minister Jo Swinson is heading an all-party parliamentary group to develop a “national campaign for positive body image”. Devon is petitioning the education secretary, Michael Gove, for more funding for PSHE (personal, social and health education), which has been in the national curriculum since 2000. She says she does most of her work with independent schools because state schools do not have the budget and anything touching on “body confidence” is expected to be covered by school teaching staff.

Hospital admissions in the UK for eating disorders rose by 16% last year, with children and young people accounting for most admissions.

Continue reading at:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2013/jun/01/size-zero-campaigners-london-college-fashion

See Also:

The Daily Mail UK: ‘We have a moral obligation to ban the airbrush’: Debenhams vows not to retouch model shots… and calls on others to follow suit

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Girls and Long Hair: What Message Are We Sending?

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jackie-morgan-macdougall/girls-and-long-hair_b_3308559.html


I grew up hating my hair. Mousy brown (that’s right, I was not born with this vibrant, ever-changing gray-red hair), super fine, lifeless… I dreamed of having bouncy, shiny hair like those orgasmic beauties in the shampoo commercials. It’s probably why I’ve had no problem trying so many different styles throughout my lifetime — no matter how bad it gets, it can’t be much worse than the hair I was born with.

So, when I was blessed with my daughter, I latched onto her black, thick, shiny Asian hair like she was Rapunzel and I was desperately climbing for my one chance to experience long, flowing, gorgeous locks. Seriously, her hair is perfect.

Then, when she started talking about cutting it short several months back, I would nod and smile and know that it just wasn’t going to happen. A few months ago, she stepped up her game, telling anyone who’d listen how she wanted a Mohawk. As I do when she asks for something that’s absolutely out of the question, I told her she could have one when she was 14.

I was pretty confident in my decision… until the doubt began to creep in. What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t she have super-short hair that she could style into a “fauxhawk”? (Sorry, I don’t do Mohawks with my boys, either — it’s not happening.) I realized that I was projecting my own self doubt and insecurities onto my strong sassy daughter. If she wants her hair cut, who am I to stop it from happening? Yes, kids might tease her… you know it happens. But the only thing worse than that is teaching her that she should make choices in life solely based on how other people (not even people she cares about) might perceive them.

Around the same time that I had begun to doubt myself for being so rigid, I read an interview that Jada Pinkett Smith gave to People. While I’m not one to usually jump on what celebrities do or how they parent their children, Jada’s words about her own daughter Willow’s hair really moved, and stuck, with me:

This is a world where women, girls are constantly reminded that they don’t belong to themselves; that their bodies are not their own, nor their power or self determination.Willow cuts her hair because her beauty, her value, her worth is not measured by the length of her hair. Even little girls have the RIGHT to own themselves and should not be a slave to even their mother’s deepest insecurities, hopes and desires.

She’s so right. We try to teach our daughters to love their bodies, no matter the size. We want to empower girls to respect themselves and not give their bodies away in exchange for a few minutes of feeling accepted and loved. But how can we teach them to make strong, independent decisions about their own selves when society, peers (and yes, even parents) are sending mixed messages that it’s OK to be yourself, but only if you fit into what others deem beautiful?

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jackie-morgan-macdougall/girls-and-long-hair_b_3308559.html

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‘Tip of the Iceberg’: Senators Warn Far More Data May Not Be Safe

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/06/13-0

Senator to NSA Chief: “What I worry is how far you believe this authority extends.”

Lauren McCauley

Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee took the opportunity Wednesday during a previously scheduled hearing to challenge the director of the National Security Agency about the extent of the agency’s domestic surveillance, during which it was made clear that what has been revealed thus far is just the “tip of the iceberg.”

 Responding specifically to questions regarding whether “e-mail contacts” are being “vacuumed” by the Obama administration’s clandestine interpretation of the Patriot Act’s surveillance powers, NSA Chief Keith Alexander responded, “I don’t want to make a mistake” and reveal too much. He added that disclosing such details may cause “our country to lose some sort of protection.”

Alexander followed up by saying the topic of e-mail and other metadata surveillance is best discussed in a “classified session” which senators are scheduled to attend Thursday.

The two programs in question, which were revealed last week in a series of breaking stories by the Guardian—which had obtained the information by Edward Snowden, an employee of the contracted security firm Booz Allen—are supposedly distinct and are theoretically justified by different laws.

The first, justified under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, collects the phone records of millions of Americans, but reportedly does not examine at their content. The other, known as PRISM, is justified under Section 702 of the 2008 Fisa Amendments Act and is meant to surveil the online communications of people believed not to be inside the United States.

However, as Alexander explained during yesterday’s hearing, it is difficult, in practice, to separate them. “The reality is, they work together,” Alexander said.

Senators yesterday were specifically concerned about a top secret court order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, disclosed last week by the Guardian, which allows the NSA to obtain daily records of all domestic calls made by Verizon customers and could, under certain interpretations, justify a similar collection of email and IP data.

CNET’s Declan McCullagh explains:

Continue reading at:  http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/06/13-0

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Security Wars: Inside the Military’s Big, Messy Fight With Palantir, the Company They Pay to Spy on You Online

From Truth Out:  http://truth-out.org/news/item/16917-security-wars-inside-the-militarys-big-messy-fight-with-palantir-the-company-they-pay-to-spy-on-you-online

By Stephen Benavides
Friday, 14 June 2013

In a House Armed Services Committee hearing at the end of April, California Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter, a former Marine, leveled serious charges against high-level Army officers. He accused them of blocking the use of Palantir technology, the company the military has hired to watch the US public’s every online move for signs of potential terrorist activity.

But the House had concerns of its own: In a letter dated August 1, 2012, the House Committee asked why the $2.3 billion had been spent on research and development of the DCGS-A, a global surveillance and intelligence super platform, that despite the mind-boggling sum, failed to work as planned. Reports submitted to House Armed Services Committee outlining serious issues with the global surveillance and intelligence super platform indicated that DCGS-A is “unable to perform simple analytical tasks.” More specifically, military intelligence analysts from the Army and Air Force have both expressed that DCGS-A does not “provide intuitive capabilities to see the relationships between a wide variety of disparate data sets of information.”

Also See: Outsourced Intelligence: How the FBI and CIA Use Private Contractors to Monitor Social Media

The ongoing fight over the use of Palantir software bubbled over into Congress when the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform sent a letter to then Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta requesting documentation of the forward operations assessment for the Palantir system. Before any technology is deployed by the military, that technology must be vetted in the form of an assessment based on a trial resembling real world situations. Instead of receiving the powerful software system with open arms, Army brass refused to fully implement technology that the FBI and CIA already use to monitor digital communications of US citizens, including surveillance of social media platforms as Facebook and Twitter. Given that the CIA provided the start-up to get Palantir going, there is an interest in having all branches of government implement the same, or similar technology. In the age where terrorists lurk around every corner, and international occupations churn out generation after generation of anti-imperialist youth, consolidating the surveillance and intelligence systems employed would seem to make sense. Now that this private company, Palantir, has become a very successful money-making venture, there appears to be an internal security war going on inside the US government over what system to deploy in international theaters. This is not in the name of the public good, but rather an effort by the US Army to hold its own as other federal agencies like the CIA, FBI, NSA, and DIA increase in power and influence post 9-11.

Continue reading at:   http://truth-out.org/news/item/16917-security-wars-inside-the-militarys-big-messy-fight-with-palantir-the-company-they-pay-to-spy-on-you-online

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Edward Snowden’s worst fear has not been realised – thankfully

From The Guardian UK:   http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jun/14/edward-snowden-worst-fear-not-realised

The NSA whistleblower’s only concern was that his disclosures would be met with apathy. Instead, they’re leading to real reform

The Guardian, Friday 14 June 2013

In my first substantive discussion with Edward Snowden, which took place via encrypted online chat, he told me he had only one fear. It was that the disclosures he was making, momentous though they were, would fail to trigger a worldwide debate because the public had already been taught to accept that they have no right to privacy in the digital age.

Snowden, at least in that regard, can rest easy. The fallout from the Guardian’s first week of revelations is intense and growing.

If “whistleblowing” is defined as exposing secret government actions so as to inform the public about what they should know, to prompt debate, and to enable reform, then Snowden’s actions are the classic case.

US polling data, by itself, demonstrates how powerfully these revelations have resonated. Despite a sustained demonization campaign against him from official Washington, a Time magazine poll found that 54% of Americans believe Snowden did “a good thing”, while only 30% disagreed. That approval rating is higher than the one enjoyed by both Congress and President Obama.

While a majority nonetheless still believes he should be prosecuted, a plurality of Americans aged 18 to 34, who Time says are “showing far more support for Snowden’s actions”, do not. Other polls on Snowden have similar results, including a Reuters finding that more Americans see him as a “patriot” than a “traitor”.

On the more important issue – the public’s views of the NSA surveillance programs – the findings are even more encouraging from the perspective of reform. A Gallup poll last week found that more Americans disapprove (53%) than approve (37%) of the two NSA spying programs revealed last week by the Guardian.

As always with polling data, the results are far from conclusive or uniform. But they all unmistakably reveal that there is broad public discomfort with excessive government snooping and that the Snowden-enabled revelations were met with anything but the apathy he feared.

Continue reading at:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jun/14/edward-snowden-worst-fear-not-realised

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Permanent Washington’s Backlash to Edward Snowden

From In These Times:  http://inthesetimes.com/article/15145/permanent_washingtons_backlash_to_edward_snowden/

The attacks on the NSA whistleblower reveal some ugly truths about America

BY David Sirota
June 14, 2013

Whether in celebrity culture or in our Facebook-mediated interactions, we live in the age of the human being as a public brand. So there’s nothing surprising about the reaction to this week’s disclosures about the National Security Agency’s unprecedented surveillance program. In our cult-of-personality society, that reaction has been predictably—and unfortunately—focused less on the agency’s possible crimes against the entire country than on Edward Snowden, the government contractor who disclosed the wrongdoing.

Almost universally, the government officials, pundits and reporters who comprise Permanent Washington have derided Snowden. For instance, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) bashed him for committing “treason.” Likewise, establishment pundits from CNN’s Jeffrey Toobin to the New York Times‘ David Brooks loyally defended government’s national security agencies by respectively assaulting Snowden as a “narcissist” and a loser who “could not successfully work his way through the institution of high school.”

Though they failed to show that Snowden’s disclosures endanger national security, these attacks do tell an important story—not about the whistleblower, but about America.

First and foremost, the backlash reveals that Permanent Washington doesn’t work for We the People—it works to protect itself. We know this because whereas Snowden is vilified for disclosing information that’s inconvenient to Permanent Washington, those who leak classified information that is advantageous to Permanent Washington are left alone.

Yes—most of those slamming Snowden expressed no outrage when the White House recently leaked Obama-glorifying information about the president’s assassinations of alleged terrorists. Same thing when it came to John Brennan. As Reuters’ Jack Shafer notes, after the president’s counterterrorism adviser leaked administration-defending information about a terrorist attack, “instead of being prosecuted for leaking sensitive, classified intelligence, Brennan was promoted to director of the CIA”—and few of those now complaining about Snowden expressed any outrage.

Of course, Permanent Washington’s self-interested assaults on Snowden will inevitably find some support among the general public. The question is: Why?

Continue reading at:  http://inthesetimes.com/article/15145/permanent_washingtons_backlash_to_edward_snowden/

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On Prism, partisanship and propaganda

From Guardian UK:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jun/14/nsa-partisanship-propaganda-prism

Addressing many of the issues arising from last week’s NSA stories

guardian.co.uk, Friday 14 June 2013

I haven’t been able to write this week here because I’ve been participating in the debate over the fallout from last week’s NSA stories, and because we are very busy working on and writing the next series of stories that will begin appearing very shortly. I did, though, want to note a few points, and particularly highlight what Democratic Rep. Loretta Sanchez said after Congress on Wednesday was given a classified briefing by NSA officials on the agency’s previously secret surveillance activities:

“What we learned in there is significantly more than what is out in the media today. . . . I can’t speak to what we learned in there, and I don’t know if there are other leaks, if there’s more information somewhere, if somebody else is going to step up, but I will tell you that I believe it’s the tip of the iceberg . . . . I think it’s just broader than most people even realize, and I think that’s, in one way, what astounded most of us, too.”

The Congresswoman is absolutely right: what we have reported thus far is merely “the tip of the iceberg” of what the NSA is doing in spying on Americans and the world. She’s also right that when it comes to NSA spying, “there is significantly more than what is out in the media today”, and that’s exactly what we’re working to rectify.

But just consider what she’s saying: as a member of Congress, she had no idea how invasive and vast the NSA’s surveillance activities are. Sen. Jon Tester, who is a member of the Homeland Security Committee, said the same thing, telling MSNBC about the disclosures that “I don’t see how that compromises the security of this country whatsoever” and adding: “quite frankly, it helps people like me become aware of a situation that I wasn’t aware of before because I don’t sit on that Intelligence Committee.”

How can anyone think that it’s remotely healthy in a democracy to have the NSA building a massive spying apparatus about which even members of Congress, including Senators on the Homeland Security Committee, are totally ignorant and find “astounding” when they learn of them? How can anyone claim with a straight face that there is robust oversight when even members of the Senate Intelligence Committee are so constrained in their ability to act that they are reduced to issuing vague, impotent warnings to the public about what they call radical “secret law” enabling domestic spying that would “stun” Americans to learn about it, but are barred to disclose what it is they’re so alarmed by? Put another way, how can anyone contest the value and justifiability of the stories that we were able to publish as a result of Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing: stories that informed the American public – including even the US Congress – about these incredibly consequential programs? What kind of person would think that it would be preferable to remain in the dark – totally ignorant – about them?

Continue reading at:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jun/14/nsa-partisanship-propaganda-prism

See Also:

George Orwell back in fashion as Prism stokes paranoia about Big Brother

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Gar Alperovitz, Seattle, April 27, 2013 – “What Then Must We Do?”

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How the Transition Movement Is Spreading to Towns Across America

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/activism/how-transition-movement-could-be-happening-your-town

Transition’s focus on resilient communities finds a middle ground between the ‘drop in the bucket’ of personal action and the depressing inertia of government.

By Jessica Stites
June 11, 2013

When I set out to investigate the appeal of  Transition, a sustainability movement that has spread to 1,105 towns in 43 countries over the past eight years, I started with what I thought was a basic question: What are “Transition Towns” transitioning to? 

“Resilience,” I was told. “What does that mean?” I asked, thinking vaguely of steel. “The ability to absorb shocks to a system!” was the reply. Well, yes, but …? Pressed for details, Nina Winn, who runs a Transition initiative at the  Institute of Cultural Affairs in Chicago, said, “I don’t think there’s a conclusion. Like when a person’s trying to self-improve, it’s a constant growth. Our communities would grow to be a lot more intimate. We wouldn’t be hesitant to ask for that cup of sugar or tomato. The streets would be narrower instead of expanding; there would be fresh produce on every corner that was grown just down the street. 

You would see people on the street because of that—because where there’s food, there’s people.”
Such bucolic but fuzzy visions are typical of Transition, which is more about shifting paradigms than prescribing solutions. With an it’ll-take-shape-as-we-go ethos, most Transition Town websites sport a “cheerful disclaimer”: “Just in case you were under the impression that Transition is a process defined by people who have all the answers, you need to be aware of a key fact. … Transition is a social experiment on a massive scale.” 

On a basic level, however, the experiment seeks to address what  founder Rob Hopkins sees as a source of frustration in the environmental movement: Personal action feels like a drop in the bucket, while governments often move at a glacial pace. 

“Until now, there’s been the things you can do at home on your own—changing your lightbulbs and sharing your lofts and things—and then there’s everything else that someone else is meant to do: the sort of mythical ‘they,’” says Hopkins. “Transition is what’s in the middle, what you can do with the people on your street.” 

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/activism/how-transition-movement-could-be-happening-your-town

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Al Gore says Obama must veto ‘atrocity’ of Keystone XL tar sands pipeline

From Guardian UK:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/jun/15/al-gore-obama-keystone-pipeline

Former vice-president says oil pipeline is ‘really a losing proposition’ and demands climate plan promised at inauguration

, US environment correspondent
guardian.co.uk, Saturday 15 June 2013

Al Gore has called on Barack Obama to veto the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, describing it as “an atrocity”.

The former vice-president said in an interview on Friday that he hoped Obama would follow the example of British Columbia, which last week rejected a similar pipeline project, and shut down the Keystone XL.

“I certainly hope that he will veto that now that the Canadians have publicly concluded that it is not safe to take a pipeline across British Columbia to ports on the Pacific,” he told the Guardian. “I really can’t imagine that our country would say: ‘Oh well. Take it right over parts of the Ogallala aquifer’, our largest and most important source of ground water in the US. It’s really a losing proposition.”

Campaigners have cast Keystone XL as the most important decision of Obama’ presidency. The State Department, which has say over the project because it crosses the US-Canadian border, is to announce its decision later this year.

But Gore said an even larger environmental decision loomed for Obama next month. The White House has indicated Obama could offer a long-awaited climate plan, the first concrete proposals since his inauguration in January when the president suggested it was a religious and patriotic duty to deal with the challenge

“This whole project [Keystone XL] is an atrocity but it is even more important for him to regulate carbon dioxide emissions,” Gore said. He urged Obama to use his powers as president to cut carbon dioxide emissions from new and existing power plants – the biggest since source of global warming pollution.

“He doesn’t need Congress to do anything,” Gore said. “If it hurts the feelings of people in the carbon polluting industries that’s too bad.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/jun/15/al-gore-obama-keystone-pipeline

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The Father’s Day Present I Want: Action On Climate Change

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/06/16-2

by John Friedrich

I became a father seven years ago on the eve of Father’s Day. I’ll never forget the first gaze into my daughter’s eyes, with her look of recognition at this man who had sung to her for months in momma’s belly. The feeling that filled my being in those first moments of her existence was the power of love on full throttle.

I quickly came to understand that these feelings are universal, shared in equal measure by fathers and mothers for countless generations in every corner of the globe and in every circumstance. Whatever our differences, the depth of love for our children is a stronger unifying force than all that divides us.

As a new father, the notion of creating a better world for our children became imperative, urgent. At the top of my list was helping to turn the tide on climate change, which will create an increasingly chaotic world for our children if we stay the current course.

By the time Rosie turned one, we started listening to a candidate for President who was saying things like, “I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.”

Campaign rallies were populated with new parents and our children, all of us feeling that “hope” and “change” were not glib slogans but connected to our deepest yearnings. I made “Babies for Barack” buttons and got elected delegate to the national convention in Denver, where I organized a “Families for Obama” rally. Moms and Dads spoke from their hearts about what was at stake for them in the election.

Now, five years later, the expectation of transformative change has given way in many instances to cynicism or frustration. Nowhere is that more true than on climate change. Last year was the hottest year on record in the U.S., the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is higher than it has been in 3 million years, droughts, floods and storms are becoming more severe, glaciers are melting at an alarming rate and the oceans continue to rise.

President Obama has continued to say the right things about climate change. In his Second inaugural address he said, “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.”

In his State of the Union address this year, he said: “for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change… if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will.”

It sounds good, but words won’t make the planet livable for our children and grandchildren — actions will. So far, President Obama’s actions have been far too meager to stop the slow rolling disaster that climate change is.

It’s true that President Obama is saddled with a House filled with climate change deniers, who defeated an amendment stating the scientific consensus that climate change is occurring and caused largely by humans. Until climate deniers in Congress are replaced with representatives who accept scientific evidence and are less beholden to fossil fuel interests, President Obama must lead, as promised. What President Obama does – or doesn’t do – to confront climate change will be his longest lasting legacy. Failure is not an acceptable option for anyone who loves their children.

Continue reading at:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/06/16-2

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Pentagon bracing for public dissent over climate and energy shocks

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/earth-insight/2013/jun/14/climate-change-energy-shocks-nsa-prism

NSA Prism is motivated in part by fears that environmentally-linked disasters could spur anti-government activism

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Friday 14 June 2013

Top secret US National Security Agency (NSA) documents disclosed by the Guardian have shocked the world with revelations of a comprehensive US-based surveillance system with direct access to Facebook, Apple, Google, Microsoft and other tech giants. New Zealand court records suggest that data harvested by the NSA’s Prism system has been fed into the Five Eyes intelligence alliance whose members also include the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

But why have Western security agencies developed such an unprecedented capacity to spy on their own domestic populations? Since the 2008 economic crash, security agencies have increasingly spied on political activists, especially environmental groups, on behalf of corporate interests. This activity is linked to the last decade of US defence planning, which has been increasingly concerned by the risk of civil unrest at home triggered by catastrophic events linked to climate change, energy shocks or economic crisis – or all three.

Just last month, unilateral changes to US military laws formally granted the Pentagon extraordinary powers to intervene in a domestic “emergency” or “civil disturbance”:

“Federal military commanders have the authority, in extraordinary emergency circumstances where prior authorization by the President is impossible and duly constituted local authorities are unable to control the situation, to engage temporarily in activities that are necessary to quell large-scale, unexpected civil disturbances.”

Other documents show that the “extraordinary emergencies” the Pentagon is worried about include a range of environmental and related disasters.

In 2006, the US National Security Strategy warned that:

“Environmental destruction, whether caused by human behavior or cataclysmic mega-disasters such as floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, or tsunamis. Problems of this scope may overwhelm the capacity of local authorities to respond, and may even overtax national militaries, requiring a larger international response.”

Two years later, the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Army Modernisation Strategy described the arrival of a new “era of persistent conflict” due to competition for “depleting natural resources and overseas markets” fuelling “future resource wars over water, food and energy.” The report predicted a resurgence of:

Continue reading at:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/earth-insight/2013/jun/14/climate-change-energy-shocks-nsa-prism

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