Chicago billionaire comes out as transgender, backs study of transgender military service with cash

From Raw Story:

By George Chidi
Friday, August 23, 2013

One of the wealthy heirs of the Pritzker hotel fortune — a former lieutenant colonel in the Illinois Army National Guard — came out as transgender Friday.

Jennifer Natalya Pritzker — formerly known as James Pritzker — is part of the prominent Chicago Pritzker family that founded the Marmon Group and owns the Hyatt hotel chain, the TransUnion credit agency and other businesses. Jennifer Pritzker’s cousin is Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker.

In a letter emailed to employees at the Pritzker Military Library and Tawani Enterprises and forwarded to Crain’s Chicago Business, the billionaire said that “As of Aug. 16, 2013, J.N. Pritzker will undergo an official legal name change, will now be known as Jennifer Natalya Pritzker. This change will reflect the beliefs of her true identity that she has held privately and will now share publicly. Pritzker now identifies herself as a woman for all business and personal undertakings.”

Jennifer Pritzker enlisted in the Army in 1974 and earned a commission as an infantry officer in 1979, serving with the 82nd and 101st Airborne divisions before moving to the Illinois Army National Guard. She retired from military service in 2001.

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In Chelsea Manning, We Finally Have a Scapegoat for the Iraq War

From The Nation:

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Mainstream Media’s Issue With Chelsea Manning’s Gender Identity

From Huffington Post:


“I am Female,” says Pfc. Chelsea Manning. “No, you are not,” says the Mainstream Media.

The media has made a mockery of Pfc. Chelsea Manning in its coverage of her decision to publicly declare her desire to begin the process of transitioning. To those who have faithfully followed the Manning trial — regardless of opinion on Manning and the vigorous effort of the Obama Administration to prosecute her for leaking over 700,000 classified documents and information files to Wikileaks — it should come as no surprise that Chelsea Manning has struggled with her gender identity.

In fact, Manning recently cited the struggle of coming to terms with her female identity as an aggravating factor leading to her decision to leak the classified documents between 2009 and 2010.

What is shocking about this entire revelation is the manner in which the mainstream media has chosen to report Manning’s recent decision to go public about her identity. The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, and the Associated Press all opened their stories introducing Chelsea Manning by her former name Bradley Manning and employing male gender pronouns. In their August 22 story for the Times, Emmarie Hutteman and Brian Stelter repeatedly framed the story as a man choosing to live as a woman, writing:

According to testimony, Private Manning e-mailed a photograph of himself dressed in a blond wig and makeup to a supervisor at one point during his deployment. In the e-mail, which he titled “My Problem,” he described a struggle with something that “makes my entire life feel like a bad dream that won’t end.”

Not only is this facially offensive to gender queer and transgender people, but it also substantively perpetuates a damaging and oppressive cultural assumption that one’s gender identity is a choice one makes. In this case the choice seems to be implicitly portrayed as one taken by Manning in order to save himself from a harsh prison environment. Perhaps it was a choice made to gain a pardon from President Obama — forcing the Commander in Chief’s hand by playing to his demonstrated interest in leaving a legacy of protecting LGBTQ rights? These are the questions we are meant to ponder after reading the articles of news sources unwilling to accept the veracity of Manning’s claim to her gender identity.

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“Dangerously Uninformed”: Fox News’ Fact-Free Campaign Against Protections For Transgender Students

From Media Matters:

August 22, 2013

Fox News launched an aggressive campaign to smear a California law that would protect transgender public school students from discrimination. And because the network’s coverage of the law lacked commentary from experts or actual transgender people, Fox’s commentators were able to manufacture wild horror stories based largely on transphobic misinformation.

On August 12, California Governor Jerry Brown (D) signed a law that would prohibit public schools from barring transgender students access to school facilities and athletic teams that correspond to their gender identity. In the days before and after the bill was signed into law, Fox News commentators peddled a number of baseless attacks on the measure:

Fox’s fear mongering was based on several flawed right-wing talking points about the law, including the claim that male students would pretend to be transgender to sneak into the girls’ bathroom and the assertion that students are too young to understand gender identity issues.

Any of these myths could have been easily dispelled had Fox invited an expert on transgender issues – or even an actual living, breathing transgender person – to discuss the law. Instead, Fox relied on its commentators to make their own judgments about the measure based on their personal opinions and biases.

In statements to Media Matters, experts on transgender equality condemned Fox’s one-sided coverage of the story.

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, warned that Fox’s slanted coverage “contributes to violence and harassment trans young people already face in restrooms”:

They don’t seem to want to understand trans people. And I don’t know what Fox News thinks transgender people do in restrooms, but their obsession with it is a bit creepy. Fox News’ coverage of AB1266 is another example of their long record of using outdated fears of trans people to manipulate fair minded viewers. Their insistence on representing us this way contributes to the violence and harassment trans young people already face in restrooms.

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Plutocrats’ New Pitch: Let Us Rob You Now So You Can Plan Ahead for Poverty

From Alternet:

Pete Peterson & Co. kindly want to take your Social Security away to prevent you from imagining a dignified future.

By Lynn Stuart Parramore
August 22, 2013

Somehow, I’ve wound up on the mailing list for a group of oligarchs campaigning to swindle Americans out of their hard-earned retirement insurance. Hedge fund billionaire Pete Peterson, the budget buffoons Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, and the rest of their merry band of hustlers over at the hilariously named Committee for a Responsible Budget have asked me to consider their latest proposal.

So I thought I’d oblige them, what the heck.

Judging from the shrill headline in their mailing [ full text here], these men (and a token woman or two) wish to sell me on the idea of “Social Security Reform and the Cost of Delay.”

The cost of delay? Boys, I hear you on that. Any delay in ripping me off must be very costly — for you.

Social Security, the most prudently managed and economically sound retirement program the country has ever seen, and with the very lowest costs, is preventing you from piling up even more money in your bank accounts. Trust me, I really do understand how you feel:  Financiers desperately wish to get their mitts on American retirements so they can charge all sorts of outrageous fees. And you hate the prospect of having to pay higher taxes in the future if you don’t “fix” Social Security.

I know how diligently you’ve tried to privatize America’s best-loved program in order to get this show going. You must be bone tired! And I also fully get that as rich people interested far more in the size of your bank accounts than anything so trifling as, say, the strength and health of your country, you hate paying taxes of any kind. You deeply resent such citizen responsibilities, and so you want to cut Social Security as quickly as possible (calling your cutting “reform,” you clever marketing devils!) because doing so will lessen your already minuscule tax burden. Your aim is to hurt America’s retirement program to the point where you can bring up your privatization hustle again. Does that about sum it up?

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Snowden: UK government now leaking documents about itself

From The Guardian UK:

The NSA whistleblower says: ‘I have never spoken with, worked with, or provided any journalistic materials to the Independent’, Friday 23 August 2013

The Independent this morning published an article – which it repeatedly claims comes from “documents obtained from the NSA by Edward Snowden” – disclosing that “Britain runs a secret internet-monitoring station in the Middle East to intercept and process vast quantities of emails, telephone calls and web traffic on behalf of Western intelligence agencies.” This is the first time the Independent has published any revelations purportedly from the NSA documents, and it’s the type of disclosure which journalists working directly with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden have thus far avoided.

That leads to the obvious question: who is the source for this disclosure? Snowden this morning said he wants it to be clear that he was not the source for the Independent, stating:

I have never spoken with, worked with, or provided any journalistic materials to the Independent. The journalists I have worked with have, at my request, been judicious and careful in ensuring that the only things disclosed are what the public should know but that does not place any person in danger. People at all levels of society up to and including the President of the United States have recognized the contribution of these careful disclosures to a necessary public debate, and we are proud of this record.

“It appears that the UK government is now seeking to create an appearance that the Guardian and Washington Post’s disclosures are harmful, and they are doing so by intentionally leaking harmful information to The Independent and attributing it to others. The UK government should explain the reasoning behind this decision to disclose information that, were it released by a private citizen, they would argue is a criminal act.”

In other words: right as there is a major scandal over the UK’s abusive and lawless exploitation of its Terrorism Act – with public opinion against the use of the Terrorism law to detain David Miranda – and right as the UK government is trying to tell a court that there are serious dangers to the public safety from these documents, there suddenly appears exactly the type of disclosure the UK government wants but that has never happened before. That is why Snowden is making clear: despite the Independent’s attempt to make it appears that it is so, he is not their source for that disclosure. Who, then, is?

The US government itself has constantly used this tactic: aggressively targeting those who disclose embarrassing or incriminating information about the government in the name of protecting the sanctity of classified information, while simultaneously leaking classified information prolifically when doing so advances their political interests.

One other matter about the Independent article: it strongly suggests that there is some agreement in place to restrict the Guardian’s ongoing reporting about the NSA documents. Speaking for myself, let me make one thing clear: I’m not aware of, nor subject to, any agreement that imposes any limitations of any kind on the reporting that I am doing on these documents. I would never agree to any such limitations. As I’ve made repeatedly clear, bullying tactics of the kind we saw this week will not deter my reporting or the reporting of those I’m working with in any way. I’m working hard on numerous new and significant NSA stories and intend to publish them the moment they are ready.

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Things to Know as Collapse Becomes Hip

From Truth Out:

By Jan Lundberg
Saturday, 24 August 2013

A consensus seems to be building toward anticipating collapse. So what’s your flavor? Financial meltdown with chaos? Petrocollapse? Climate extinction? The contributing crises are seemingly diverse, including Fukushima’s mounting radioactive releases into the Pacific, the growing plastic plague and creeping GMO contamination. If none of those are your thing, you can acknowledge accelerating bee colony collapse.

You may feel the days of “innocence” have receded in the rear-view mirror as we drive off the ecological cliff like motorized lemmings. Even so, maybe you see such resilience in the corporate state and its war machine that you anticipate dictatorship à la Children of Men, the ominous film set in 2027.

It appears that things must get worse before they get better. The United States has become especially absurd with its intensifying mess of debt and flailing leadership. If a major event in the Persian Gulf or China can trigger the toppling of the US House of Cards, increased consumer vulnerability must be the order of the day. It is surprising to some that total collapse has not yet happened, but news such as record new car sales in July suggests the entire system can keep on going indefinitely. Such news supplies happy-talk for the embattled corporate agenda.

A more disturbing and shocking statistic than car sales going in the wrong direction for Mother Earth:

“Four out of five US adults struggle with joblessness, near-poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream.” (Associated Press, July 28, 2013)

Is this a wake-up call or just part of the relentless barrage of disillusion? What about things the four-fifths can do now that they are not doing? Are they – we – helpless victims? We’ll need to do more than wait for the next election, write to Congress or demonstrate in the streets against economic hardship and mismanagement. Yet many of the four-fifths still assume that they can rise above any temporary period of struggling and that money will solve their problems. Meanwhile, the holy grail of national Recovery beckons without arriving.

How many of the four-fifths are talking about bartering and seeing what else they can do for more self-sufficiency? Are they growing their own food? Creating compost for soil-building instead of land-filling the food-waste? Boycotting corporate products by eschewing car dependence, for example? Depaving and installing gardens? Sharing appliances and skills in their apartment buildings and neighborhoods?

Only a tiny minority of consumers lifts a finger in its own long-term interest. One factor is that progressive commentators concentrate on “the 1%” or the one-out-of-five not currently struggling as the source of economic security via redistribution of wealth. Redistribution is not going to happen while the financial system is intact. Even the triumph of a revolution over wealth redistribution and provision of social services could still fail to secure the survival of the species or prevent a thorough economic collapse.

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Fracking Boom Slouching Toward Bust

From Common Dreams:

by Richard Heinberg

Stop me if you’ve heard this one. What’s an obscenity that starts with “f” and ends with “ck”?

Oh wait, sorry, this is supposed to be a serious article about fracking. That’s right, we’re talking about The Biggest Development in the energy world since the birth of the sun, the Revolution that is freeing America forever from bondage to oil imports.

But here’s the thing: though this revolution is only a few years old, it’s already losing steam. There are two big reasons why.

The first has to do with environmental problems that can’t be swept under the carpet any longer. The image of a homeowner lighting his tap water on fire in Josh Fox’s documentary film “Gasland” has become a cliché; still, for a while the industry was successfully able to argue that adverse impacts from fracking to water, air, soil, wildlife, livestock, and human health are negligible. Industry-funded studies declared the practice safe, and the EPA appeared to back them up.

Drilling companies tended to target economically depressed regions, where poverty forced most townsfolk to take whatever short-term jobs and production royalties were offered, while stuffing their concerns about nosebleeds, headaches, dying pets, intolerable noise, and tainted water. Meanwhile, citizens who suffered the worst health effects or property damage were led to sign non-disclosure agreements in order to receive settlement payoffs (including two children ages 7 and 10 who have been given lifetime bans from speaking about fracking), thus keeping their plight out of public view.

But the bad news just keeps leaking, like methane through a bad well casing. Former Mobil Oil VP Louis W. Allstadt, who spent his career running oil production operations and company mergers, now speaks on behalf of anti-fracking resistance groups,  pointing to studies revealing that compromised casings (and resulting instances of water contamination) are far more common than the industry claims.

Meanwhile Los Angeles Times has uncovered documents showing that the EPA has systematically ignored evidence of environmental harms from fracking, choosing not to publicize or act on data collected by its own staff.

A few years ago fracking for shale gas or tight oil was still novel and confined to small regions, but now tens of thousands of wells have been drilled and millions of Americans have personal experience with the noise, truck traffic, fumes, and local political turmoil that seem inevitably to follow in fracking’s wake. Hundreds of anti-fracking citizen groups have formed, public sentiment is turning, and communities have begun seeking bans or moratoria on the practice. The industry is on the defensive: Wayne County, PA activists are currently celebrating the cancellation of 1500 drilling leases covering 100,000 acres of land.

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Greenpeace ship defies Russia, enters Arctic route to protest against oil drilling

From Raw Story:

By Agence France-Presse
Saturday, August 24, 2013

Greenpeace has deployed its icebreaker through an Arctic shipping route to protest against oil drilling in the fragile ecosystem, defying Russian authorities, the group said Saturday.

The Russian transportation ministry immediately accused the Dutch-flagged vessel of “crudely” violating Russian and international law.

Earlier this week Greenpeace said Russia had refused the permission to enter the Northern Sea Route on several occasions citing concerns about the icebreaker’s ability to withstand thick ice.

The global environmental group has called the move “a thinly veiled attempt to stifle peaceful protest.”

In defiance of the Russian authorities, the Greenpeace said its ship Arctic Sunrise entered the Northern Sea Route early Saturday to protest plans by the country’s top oil firm Rosneft and its US partner ExxonMobil to drill near the Russian Arctic National Park.

“We refuse to let illegal attempts by the Russian government stop us from exposing dangerous oil drilling in the Arctic.

“The Russian Arctic National Park is a special place full of rare and threatened Arctic wildlife, and faces an infinitely greater threat from reckless oil companies than a fully equipped Greenpeace icebreaker,” Christy Ferguson, a Greenpeace Arctic campaigner aboard the ship, was quoted as saying in the group’s statement.

“If Rosneft and ExxonMobil bring in offshore drilling platforms they will risk catastrophic blowouts and spills that could devastate the region,” said Ferguson, adding that the two oil giants “rely on secrecy and evasion.”

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