G20: Gay activists meet President Obama

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Putin’s War On Gays ‘A Call To Violence’ Says Russian LGBT Journalist

From The New Civil Rights Movement:  http://thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/get-us-the-hell-out-of-here-putins-war-on-gays-a-call-to-violence-says-lgbt-journalist/politics/2013/09/08/74662

by David Badash
on September 8, 2013

An LGBT journalist in Russia has called Vladimir Putin‘s war on gays “a call to violence,” and is asking the U.S. for help. “Get us the hell out of here,” Masha Gessen says. The U.S. citizens of Russian descent, who is living in Russia with her partner and three children had said she is moving to New York, but from her home in Russia Gessen talked with veteran LGBT journalist Michelangelo Signorile this week.

“Gessen hoped Western pressure in recent months would help change the course of Russia’s crackdown on its LGBT citizens, but now she believes that that’s not going to happen, and that it’s time for Russian LGBT people to flee the country to escape what she says has now become “all-out war” against LGBT people in Russia,” Signorile, Editor-at-large for the Huffington Post’s “Gay Voices,” writes:

And she’s calling on the United States to allow political asylum for LGBT Russians, and for LGBT activists here to focus on making that happen.

“You turn on the television, you see somebody highly placed,” she explained, “talking about whether the homosexual ‘propaganda’ law is enough, or if we need to take it further. That sounds like a call to violence. It’s taken as a call to violence, sometimes operating in many cities, in the very center of Moscow, in the trendiest of bars, where people have been getting beaten up, and the police do not interfere. Anti-gay violence is seen as par for the course, and if you don’t want violence, remove the gays, not the perpetrators.”

Last month, video went viral of a high-level Russian news agency director, Dmitri Kisilev, saying that the hearts of gay people are “unsuitable” for life.

“Gessen is fortunate that, as an American citizen, with the Defense of Marriage Act now struck down, she can move to the U.S. with her partner, whom she can sponsor for a green card. But she knows that that’s not the case for the vast majority of LGBT Russians,” Signorile adds:

Continue reading at:  http://thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/get-us-the-hell-out-of-here-putins-war-on-gays-a-call-to-violence-says-lgbt-journalist/politics/2013/09/08/74662

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What Happened to the Anti-War Movement?

From In These Times:  http://inthesetimes.com/article/15565/what_happened_to_the_anti_war_movement/

The short answer: partisanship.

BY David Sirota
September 6, 2013

A mere 72 hours after President Obama delivered an encomium honoring the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, he announced his intention to pound yet another country with bombs. The oxymoron last week was noteworthy for how little attention it received. Yes—a president memorialized an anti-war activist who derided the U.S. government as “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.” Then then that same president quickly proposed yet more violence—this time in Syria.

Among a political press corps that rarely challenges the Washington principle of “kill foreigners first, ask questions later,” almost nobody mentioned the contradiction. Even worse, as Congress now debates whether to launch yet another military campaign in the Middle East, the anti-war movement that Dr. King represented and that so vigorously opposed the last war is largely silent. Sure, there have been a few perfunctory emails from liberal groups, but there seems to be little prospect for mass protest, raising questions about whether an anti-war movement even exists anymore.

So what happened to that movement? The shorter answer is: it was a victim of partisanship.

That’s the conclusion that emerges from a recent study by professors at the University of Michigan and Indiana University. Evaluating surveys of more than 5,300 anti-war protestors from 2007 to 2009, the researchers discovered that the many protestors who self-identified as Democrats “withdrew from anti-war protests when the Democratic Party achieved electoral success” in the 2008 presidential election.

Had there been legitimate reason to conclude that Obama’s presidency was synonymous with the anti-war cause, this withdrawal might have been understandable. But that’s not what happened – the withdrawal occurred even as Obama was escalating the war in Afghanistan and intensifying drone wars in places like Pakistan and Yemen. The researchers thus conclude that during the Bush years, many Democrats were not necessarily motivated to participate in the anti-war movement because they oppose militarism and war—they were instead “motivated to participate by anti-Republican sentiments.”

Not surprisingly, this hyper-partisan outlook and the lack of a more robust anti-war movement explain why political calculations rather than moral questions are at the forefront of the Washington debate over a war with Syria.

Continue reading at:  http://inthesetimes.com/article/15565/what_happened_to_the_anti_war_movement/

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The Repetition Compulsion for War — and How It Might Fail This Time

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/09/07

by Norman Solomon

No matter how many times we’ve seen it before, the frenzy for launching a military attack on another country is — to the extent we’re not numb — profoundly upsetting. Tanked up with talking points in Washington, top officials drive policy while intoxicated with what Martin Luther King Jr. called “the madness of militarism,” and most media coverage becomes similarly unhinged. That’s where we are now.

But new variables have opened up possibilities for disrupting the repetitive plunge to war. Syria is in the crosshairs of U.S. firepower, but cracks in the political machinery of the warfare state are widening here at home. For advocates of militarism and empire by any other name, the specter of democratic constraint looms as an ominous threat.

Into the Capitol Hill arena, the Obama White House sent Secretary of State John Kerry to speak in a best-and-brightest dialect of neocon tongues. The congressional hierarchies of both parties — Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, John Boehner, Eric Cantor — are on the same page for an attack on Syria. And meanwhile, the U.S. mass media have been cranking up the usual adrenalin-pumped hype for war.

More than 10 years ago, American media outlets were filled with breathless idolatry of the latest U.S. weapons poised to strike Iraq. Now, the big TV networks are at it again – starting to hype the Pentagon’s high-tech arsenal that’s ready to demolish Syrian targets. Of course the people at the other end of the weaponry aren’t in the picture.

The Media Education Foundation has just posted a two-minute montage of coverage from MSNBC, Fox and CNN idolizing the latest Pentagon weaponry for use in the Iraq invasion a decade ago — as well as Walter Cronkite doing the same on CBS during the Vietnam War. As a present-day bookend, a CNN clip from a few days ago provides a glimpse of how little has changed (except for slicker on-screen graphics).

But the usual agenda-building for war may not work this time.

Continue reading at:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/09/07

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Syria: March to Disaster

From Eric Margolis:  http://ericmargolis.com/2013/09/syria-march-to-disaster/

Eric Margolis
Sept. 7, 2013

Recalling the massacres and destruction during the 1820’s Greek war of independence from the Ottoman Empire, then Victor Hugo wrote, “the Turks have passed by here – All is in ruins and mourning.”

Today, the nations in ruins and mourning are Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan, and, to a lesser degree, Libya, all dismembered or broken up by the power of the mighty American Raj.

Syria is clearly the next target of the American imperial bulldozer. After two years of brutal rebellion armed and financed by the US and its regional allies, Syria now faces devastation.

A campaign of air-strikes and missiles will crush Syria’s air force, tanks, artillery and communications. Israel stands ready to sweep up the ruins of Syria.

Pure black comedy. Shamelessly stealing Bush administration propaganda, the Obama White House has been actually warning that Syria’s chemical weapons (most of their raw materials came from Europe) pose a dire threat to the United States. Syria acquired chemical weapons to counter Israel’s large arsenal of nuclear weapons, originally supplied by France.

Failure to act will be another Munch appeasement, warns Obama. But the US Congress could not take action because it was still on summer vacation.

President Obama even allowed there was no urgency for action. The important thing he declared was that America’s “credibility” was at stake. Politicians invoke credibility as a excuse after they have made a huge blunder –notably Obama’s foolish “red lines” in Syria that boxed the president into a corner of his own making.

What we are seeing is the latest, 21st century version of the new era of colonialism and imperialism, with a touch of Crusader zeal thrown in.

Continue reading at:  http://ericmargolis.com/2013/09/syria-march-to-disaster/

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The Senate’s Syria Resolution Has a Huge Secret Giveaway to the President

From The Atlantic:  http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/09/the-senates-syria-resolution-has-a-huge-secret-giveaway-to-the-president/279421/

Though Congress plays at narrowing Obama’s authority, the draft authorization could actually give him and future presidents sweeping new powers to intervene overseas.

Sep 6 2013

Many years ago, I attended a panel consisting of the legendary Barney Frank. (I think there were others, but somehow they didn’t get a word in.) An audience member asked Frank how Congress could take back some of its power to declare war, which had been “usurped by the executive.”

Frank gave him his trademark who-let-you-in-you-moron look. “Usurped it?” he said. “USURPED it? We throw it at him! We BEG him to take it!”

Not much has changed in the past 20 years. Faced with a question of war and peace, Congress as an institution seems to hope the president will act without asking permission. That way, members can attack him if things go south, and pass resolutions praising themselves if they go well.

Even what seems like a step back for executive power may actually be a retreat for Congress’s shared responsibility. For an example, look at the language of the Senate joint resolution approved this week by the Foreign Relations Committee to authorize a military strike in Syria. Hidden among the “whereas” boilerplate in the document — mostly discussing the villainy of Assad and the danger of chemical weapons — is this short clause: “Whereas the President has authority under the Constitution to use force in order to defend the national security interests of the United States …”

Glides right past the eye, doesn’t it? Good old Constitution, empowering the president to protect us all!

The only problem is it’s not true, and it represents a two-century high-water mark in claims of executive power. Having been consulted by the president, Congress is poised to respond by throwing back at him not only the current decision but sweeping new powers he didn’t have before.

Continue reading at:  http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/09/the-senates-syria-resolution-has-a-huge-secret-giveaway-to-the-president/279421/

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Global Power Project, Part 10: TransCanada Corporation, Kings of the Keystone Pipeline

From Truth Out:  http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/18667-global-power-project-part-10-transcanada-corporation-kings-of-the-keystone-pipeline

By Andrew Gavin Marshall
Saturday, 07 September 2013

TransCanada Corporation describes itself as “a leader in the responsible development and reliable and safe operation of North American energy infrastructure.” Beginning in 2005, the company announced plans for the Keystone XL pipeline. In 2010, Canada’s National Energy Board (NEB) approved the full pipeline project, stating that it was in the “public interest” to transport Canadian tar sands oil to the Gulf Coast in the United States.

If approved, the Keystone XL pipeline would transport oil from Alberta through six U.S. states: Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. Russ Girling, President and CEO of TransCanada, said the project would “improve U.S. energy security and reduce dependence on foreign oil from the Middle East and Venezuela.”

As opposition to the pipeline project increased — and dramatically so in the wake of BP’s 2010 Gulf oil spill — Girling stated, “There is no way we could have ever predicted that we would become the lightning rod for a debate around fossil fuels and the development of the Canadian oil sands…The pipeline itself is routine. It’s something we do every day. It will be a safe pipeline.”

Canada’s National Energy Board, however, said that TransCanada had failed to meet safety standards for its pipeline within Canada. While the company “considered itself compliant,” a former TransCanada employee blew the whistle on TransCanada’s “culture of noncompliance” of environmental and safety regulations that posed “significant public safety risks,” and referred to the company’s approach as “organized crime.”

In the United States, TransCanada has been suing American citizens who refuse to allow the pipeline to cross their property, threatening to confiscate their lands through the application of “eminent domain,” which allows for the confiscation of private property if “it is judged to serve a larger public good.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/18667-global-power-project-part-10-transcanada-corporation-kings-of-the-keystone-pipeline

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New NOAA Report Confirms Climate Change Is Intensifying Extreme Heat and Storms

From Natural resources Defense Council:  http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/fbeinecke/new_noaa_report_confirms_clima.html

Frances Beinecke
September 6, 2013

When an extreme heat wave blasted the country last summer, I grew concerned about my father’s health.  Medical experts say hot weather takes the heaviest toll on senior citizens, and I knew my father would have a hard time managing the spike in temperature. He wasn’t alone. Young children and people with heart and lung illnesses are also vulnerable during heat waves. Diabetics, the obese, and people using common medications also face a greater risk when the heat rises. In other words, tens of millions of Americans are vulnerable to extreme heat.

That’s troubling news in the age of climate change.

According to a new report released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, extreme heat waves like we saw in 2012 now happen four times as often because of global warming pollution.

The study looked at several extreme weather events from last year and concluded that at least half of them were intensified or made more likely by climate change. The floodwaters from Superstorm Sandy, for instance, were made worse by rising sea levels, and the odds of a Sandy-like disaster happening again in New York City have already increased by 50 percent. Those odds will increase even more dramatically by the end of the century..

“Coastal communities are facing a looming crisis due to climate-related sea level rise,” William Sweet, one of the NOAA scientists who examined Sandy for the report, told the New York Times. Again, we are talking about tens of millions of Americans.

Keep in mind that this study looked at events that already happened. People have already scrambled to keep unusually high floodwaters out of their homes. They have already rushed children to the ER because record-breaking heat is making smog pollution worse. Climate change is threatening our communities right now, and we owe it to our children to confront this danger before it gets worse.

We start by reducing the carbon pollution that is causing climate change. The largest amount of these emissions comes from power plants—they generate 40 percent of all carbon pollution in the United States. America has established limits on how much arsenic, mercury, and lead can go into our air. It’s time to do the same for carbon pollution.

Continue reading at:  http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/fbeinecke/new_noaa_report_confirms_clima.html

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Political power on two wheels: Don’t mess with the bikers!

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2013/09/07/political_power_on_two_wheels_dont_mess_with_the_bikers/

Forget Boss Tweed or newspaper endorsements: There’s a surprising new political power in big cities — bicyclists

Saturday, Sep 7, 2013

New York City Council speaker Christine Quinn swept the big papers; Bill Thompson, the former city comptroller, earned the support of the teachers union.

As for the front-runner in the Democratic primary for New York City mayor, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio? Last week, he won the endorsement of StreetsPAC, a political action committee dedicated to improving the safety and mobility of New York City streets, and, at 5 months old, one of the city’s youngest political entities.

“De Blasio Wins the Bike Vote,” announced the New York Daily News, as if such a thing as the “bike vote” were a known quantity. With major differences between mayoral candidates on issues like education, policing and taxes, are there New Yorkers who will cast their votes thinking of speed cameras and bike lanes?

If so, it would mark the emergence of a surprising political force in the city, though not a new one. Before the automobile was king, bike voters were a formidable political force. Organizations like the League of American Wheelmen (today the League of American Bicyclists) lobbied for the first paved roads in cities across the U.S. At the turn of the 20th century, the League counted over 100,000 members.

In an 1897 report for the American Society of Municipal Engineers on bike paths, L.W. Rundlett, a city engineer from St. Paul, Minn., succinctly summarized the political development of the bicycle:

“Bicycles at first were considered a nuisance on the street and sidewalk, but as the number increased and the public became accustomed to them, this sentiment gradually wore away. Moreover, the number of wheelmen has so increased that they represent quite a power at the polls, and without giving allegiance to any particular party they could easily be able in any local election, to elect to office those who would at least show them justice in establishing rules and regulations for the proper use of the streets and sidewalk.”

The rest, as they say, is history: The political influence of the “wheelmen” was eclipsed and then vanquished by that of the automobile lobby and its constituents, the car owners of America.

“We joke that we slipped a little during the 20th century,” says Andy Clarke, president of the League of American Bicyclists. “But we’re back.”

In New York, the would-be “bike voters” face an important election. Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s tenure, a benevolent era for cyclists, pedestrians and park-lovers, is expiring. New York has replaced traffic jams with picnic tables, added hundreds of miles of bike lanes, and implemented one of the world’s largest bike-share systems. It seemed at times that his initiatives — innocuous though they may appear, to residents of other cities — would cause some kind of citywide crackup. But Bloomberg held his ground.

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2013/09/07/political_power_on_two_wheels_dont_mess_with_the_bikers/

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