Iceland to cut ties with Russia over ‘gay propaganda’ law

From Gay Star News:

Reykjavik mayor says he does not want to share political and cultural ties with Moscow, a capital that disregards the rights of LGBT people

By Joe Morgan
15 July 2013

Iceland is to cut ties with Russia after President Vladimir Putin signed a bill into law banning ‘gay propaganda’.

Jón Gnarr, the mayor of the capital Reykjavik, says he wishes to formally revise or break off the capital’s political and cultural relations with Moscow.

While the European Union has spoken out against the law, cutting the ties could be the first real international consequence of Russia being able to fine and arrest any gay protest.

According to the contract between Reykjavik and Moscow drawn up in 2007, the cities were going to cooperate on family issues.

But now, a statement from the city council reads: ‘In light of the developments concerning the affairs of gay, bisexual and transsexual people that have taken place in Russia over the last few months, the district attorney, Human Rights Office, Office of the Mayor of Reykjavík, and City of Reykjavík chief administrative officer propose amendments or the termination of the collaboration agreement between Reykjavík and Moscow, in cooperation with the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.’

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The Choice That Isn’t

From Huffington Post:


When I first blogged on The Huffington Post six months ago, I tried to address the most controversial aspects of transition. Perhaps none was more controversial than my statement that transition is often perceived as a choice, and a selfish one at that. One of the most consistent criticisms of people who transition later in life is that they did not take the effects of their transition on others into account. This is untrue, as most transgender people agonize and delay transition for years precisely because of how hard it will be.

When a lesbian or gay person chooses a life of celibacy and isolation for religious reasons, many people condemn that choice because they see it as both harmful to the person making the choice and damaging to society as a whole because it stigmatizes homosexuality. Another related situation is when lesbian and gay people find themselves in heterosexual marriages with children because they felt pressured to conform.

However, I have seen cases where the same people who would advise lesbians and gays to come out and be themselves counsel transgender people to stay in the closet because being transgender is so socially stigmatized, or for the sake of everyone else in the transgender person’s life. In some of the cases where people have questioned my own transition, I suspect that they would have not hold LGB people to a similar standard.

I don’t believe this seemingly inconsistent viewpoint comes from a place of malice. Instead, I believe it comes from the mistaken perception that being transgender is a choice, or that transition is more of a choice than whom you sleep with. Not only are both perspectives harmful to transgender people, but they hurt the LGB community’s ability to rebut the charges of religious-right leadership.

There’s little evidence to suggest that gender identity is any more a choice than sexual orientation is. The medical and psychiatric establishments tried for decades to change both, without success. More recent studies have suggested that gender dysphoria is a deeply hard-wired perception of our own bodies. However, when people who are otherwise sympathetic to the LGB community seem to agree with Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council, it actually diminishes their ability to argue that being gay isn’t a choice either.

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Sen. Warren on CNBC’s “Squawk Box”

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An Impertinent Question

From Robert Reich:

Robert Reich
Thursday, July 11, 2013

Permit me an impertinent question (or three).

Suppose a small group of extremely wealthy people sought to systematically destroy the U.S. government by (1) finding and bankrolling new candidates pledged to shrinking and dismembering it; (2) intimidating or bribing many current senators and representatives to block all proposed legislation, prevent the appointment of presidential nominees, eliminate funds to implement and enforce laws, and threaten to default on the nation’s debt; (3) taking over state governments in order to redistrict, gerrymander, require voter IDs, purge voter rolls, and otherwise suppress the votes of the majority in federal elections; (4) running a vast PR campaign designed to convince the American public of certain big lies, such as climate change is a hoax, and (5) buying up the media so the public cannot know the truth.

Would you call this treason?

If not, what would you call it?

And what would you do about it?

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President Obama Address NSA Surveillance Concerns

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Why Aren’t Americans Fighting Back?

From Truth Out:

By E. Douglas Kihn
Monday, 15 July 2013

This is the big question, right? It’s what people are wondering everywhere.

The answer is simple and plausible – but the explanation is a bit more complicated. The majority of Americans are suffering terribly from the current economic crisis, but they do not yet have a political self-identity that will allow for a successful fightback. They don’t know who they are or what they’re fighting for. Neither do they understand whom or what they are fighting against.

“If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles . . . if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.” These are the words of Sūn Zǐ, a 6th century BCE Chinese general, military strategist, and author of The Art of War, an immensely influential ancient Chinese book on military strategy.

All fighting is the same. Self-knowledge and knowledge of the enemy confer on the fighter the outlines of a winning strategy, based on the best utilization of available weapons of offense and defense.

The majority of Americans, unknowingly, are members of the working class, AKA the proletariat, and will be fighting for the kind of socialism in which sharing, cooperation, volunteerism, and wellness replace the drive for individual profits, competition, ego, and the desire for power over others. Most Americans would like to see an end to global poverty, war, and injustice, and one day, we shall discover that the means to this end involves the social ownership and democratic control of the world’s wealth. Only with this in place can the benefits of that wealth find their way back to the vast majority – the bottom two-thirds of the economic ladder.

That accomplishment will prepare us for the next stage, which will fulfill most of the needs that we “earthlings” currently have. These essentials include saving the environment, automating all boring and unhealthy jobs, developing the individual person, living wherever and however we wish, and benefiting from the astounding medical and other technological advances of the future.

The American majority will be fighting against the other pole of attraction – the ruling class, AKA the capitalist class, AKA the bourgeoisie, and their particular version of class society, which could be referred to as the Dictatorship of Capital. The rulers are fighting for the status quo – their supposed right to own, control, and accumulate wealth – and the power over the majority that that wealth provides.

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Why Do Americans Live Lives So Short?


To protect our health, we’ve learned to have our ‘vital signs’ taken. But no visit to a doctor’s office can tell us the vital signs that determine where on earth people can expect to live the longest lives.

By Sam Pizzigati
July 13, 2013

Let’s talk life expectancy.

The stats first. They tell a clear story: Americans now live shorter lives than men and women in most of the rest of the developed world. And that gap is growing.

Back in 1990, shouts a new study published last week in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association, the United States ranked just 20th on life expectancy among the world’s 34 industrial nations. The United States now ranks 27th — despite spending much more on health care than any other nation.

Americans, notes an editorial the journal ran to accompany the study, are losing ground globally “by every” health measure.

Why such poor performance? Media reports on last week’s new State of U.S. Health study hit all the usual suspects: poor diet, poor access to affordable health care, poor personal health habits, and just plain poverty.

In the Wall Street Journal, for instance, a chief wellness officer in Ohio opined that if Americans exercised more and ate and smoked less, the United States would surely start moving up in the global health rankings.

But many epidemiologists — scientists who study health outcomes — have their doubts. They point out that the United States ranked as one of the world’s healthiest nations in the 1950s, a time when Americans smoked heavily, ate a diet that would horrify any 21st-century nutritionist, and hardly ever exercised.

Poor Americans, then as now, had chronic problems accessing health care. But poverty, epidemiologists note, can’t explain why fully insured middle-income Americans today have significantly worse health outcomes than middle-income people in other rich nations.

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Big Picture Rumble – Living Wage – Bring it on!

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Mining the World to Death

From Alternet:

Our industrial model, based on extraction, is setting us on a road to eventual collapse.

By Robert Jensen
July 9, 2013

The following is an excerpt from We Are All Apocalyptic Now: On the Responsibilities of Teaching, Preaching, Reporting, Writing, and Speaking Out , in print at and on  Kindle (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2013).

Progressive analyses of inequality and injustice focus on the illegitimate hierarchies in patriarchy, white supremacy, the imperial nation-state system, and capitalism. The final hierarchal system—and in some ways the most dangerous—is the industrial model of human development, the latest and most intense version of an unsustainable extractive economy.
The bounty that makes contemporary mass consumption possible did not, of course, drop out of the sky. It was ripped out of the ground and drawn from the water in a fashion that has left the continent ravaged, a dismemberment of nature that is an unavoidable consequence of a worldview that glorifies domination.
“From [Europeans’] first arrival we have behaved as though nature must be either subdued or ignored,” writes the scientist and philosopher Wes Jackson, one of the leading thinkers in the sustainable agriculture movement. As Jackson points out, our economy has always been extractive, even before the industrial revolution dramatically accelerated the assault in the 19th century and the petrochemical revolution began poisoning the world more intensively in the 20th. We mined the forests, soil, and aquifers, just as we eventually mined minerals and fossil fuels, leaving ecosystems ragged and in ruin, perhaps beyond recovery in any human timeframe. All that was done by people who believed in their right to dominate.
One way to understand that domination is the context of the two major revolutions in human history—the agricultural and industrial revolutions.
The agricultural revolution started about 10,000 years ago when a gathering-hunting species discovered how to cultivate plants for food and domesticate animals. Two crucial things resulted from that, one ecological and one political. Ecologically, the invention of agriculture kicked off an intensive human assault on natural systems. Gathering-hunting humans were capable of damaging a local ecosystem, but the large-scale destruction we cope with today has its origins in agriculture when humans began exhausting the energy-rich carbon of the soil, what Jackson has described as the first step in the entrenchment of an extractive economy and Jared Diamond has called “the worst mistake in human history.”
Human agricultural practices vary from place to place but have never been sustainable over the long term. Politically, the ability to stockpile food made possible concentrations of power and resulting hierarchies that were foreign to gathering-hunting societies. Again, this is not to say that humans were not capable of doing bad things to each other prior to agriculture, but only that what we understand, as large-scale institutionalized oppression has its roots in agriculture. We need not romanticize pre-agricultural life to recognize the ways in which agriculture made possible dramatically different levels of unsustainability and injustice.
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Sea Level Rise Study Shows Each Degree Of Warming Could Bring 2.3 Meter Shift

From Huffington Post:

By Erik Kirschbaum

BERLIN, July 15 (Reuters) – Sea levels could rise by 2.3 metres for each degree Celsius that global temperatures increase and they will remain high for centuries to come, according to a new study by the leading climate research institute, released on Monday.

Anders Levermann said his study for the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research was the first to examine evidence from climate history and combine it with computer simulations of contributing factors to long-term sea-level increases: thermal expansion of oceans, the melting of mountain glaciers and the melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets.

Scientists say global warming is responsible for the melting ice. A U.N. panel of scientists, the IPCC, says heat-trapping gases from burning fossil fuels are nudging up temperatures. A small number of scientists dismiss human-influenced global warming, arguing natural climate fluctuations are responsible.

“We’re confident that our estimate is robust because of the combination of physics and data that we used,” Levermann told Reuters. “We think we’ve set a benchmark for how much sea levels will rise along with temperature increases.”

Sea levels rose by 17 cm last century and the rate has accelerated to more than 3 mm a year, according to the IPCC. A third of the current rise is from Antarctica and Greenland.

Almost 200 governments have agreed to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times and plan to agree, by the end of 2015, a deal to curb emissions.

Global average surface temperatures have risen by 0.8C (1.4F) since the Industrial Revolution and the IPCC has said temperatures are likely to be 0.4 to 1.0 degrees Celsius warmer from 2016-35 than in the two decades to 2005.

“In the past there was some uncertainty and people haven’t known by how much,” Levermann said. “We’re saying now, taking everything we know, that we’ve got a robust estimate of 2.3 meters (7 feet, 6.6 inches) of rising sea per degree (Celsius) of warming.”

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