Revised #NYC Know Your Rights Training

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Transgender veteran uses experience to reach out to others

From LGBTQ Nation:

MARA KLECKER | Daily Nebraskan
Sunday, September 8, 2013

Scott Schneider’s mom still calls him Megan. His dad quit talking to him for eight years.

After struggling with his identity for most of his life, Schneider — a non-traditional student and military veteran finishing his degrees in biology and psychology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln – started going by Scott in 2007 and began the medical process of transitioning from a female to a male in 2008. Today, he’s worked at UNL’s LGBTQA resource center for a year and a half.

Educating people and changing public perception and misunderstandings is Schneider’s mission. And as LGBT issues increasingly enter the public spotlight, both in the military and in the courts, it’s a mission Schneider sees taking center stage.

Schneider lives only seven blocks from his parent’s home in Lincoln, but he often goes three to four weeks without talking to his mother. When he does, the exchange is awkward. She refers to Scott with feminine pronouns. Schneider knows his mother is old-fashioned and private. He knows she worries about what others think of her and her family. He has learned to come to respect the distance that her mindset creates in their relationship.

Schneider’s shoulders are wide set; his square jaw accentuated by a dark beard. His strikingly light blue eyes squint when he laughs — a breathy chuckle that punctuates many of his blunt and sarcastic comments. At age 32, his hair is beginning to thin.

Schneider remembered a time when his mother used to play with his hair. He remembered her repeatedly telling him he should grow it out; wear more dresses.

“We butted heads, my mom and I,” Schneider said. “I just knew I wanted to run around with my shirt off and play football. I had no idea that that indicated I should be something else, and I never thought of what other people thought.”

For Schneider that “something else” meant a sex change from female to male. It was a long process of confusion and repeated bouts of depression before reaching that answer. Schneider said he realized he was gay in middle school and had his first relationship with a girl when he was in seventh grade. But he still struggled with identity issues. The years between high school and college, when he went from one data entry job to the next, were especially trying. Schneider started at UNL, but dropped out because he didn’t know what he wanted to do, and he wasn’t getting support. After his dad found a written conversation between Schneider and his girlfriend of six years, he stopped speaking to him.

“I spent like a year just wanting to lay in bed,” he said, his voice suddenly losing its cheery lilt. “I just wanted to sleep, and I felt like I was hauling a ton of rocks. My brain just blanked out, and I didn’t want to move.”

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Cenk Uygur’s Special Message For Fox News Host Dana Perino

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Russian Gay Activist’s Plea: ‘Get Us the Hell Out of Here’

From Huffington Post:


Masha Gessen is a Moscow-based writer, journalist and activist who’s been speaking out in recent months on Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law. Though she’s an American citizen, she’s from Russia and has lived in Russia for many years, raising three children with her lesbian partner, a Russian citizen. 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. 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.

Yesterday, after months of rumors, a bill was introduced in the Russian Duma that compares LGBT people to alcoholics and drug abusers and would deny LGBT Russians custody of their own biological or adopted children.

Gessen had already sent her oldest son overseas, fearful that he’d be snatched by the government.

“My situation is that my partner and I are raising three kids, one of whom is adopted and two of whom are biological,” Gessen explained to me yesterday on my radio program in an interview from Moscow. (Listen to clips of the interview below.) “In June the Russian parliament banned adoption by same-sex couples. It was a fair assumption that the law could be used to annul the adoption of our oldest son, so we made the decision to send our oldest son out of the country immediately.”

But now, if the new law passes — the adoption law passed in four days — Gessen’s biological children could be taken too.

“I had a horrible conversation with my daughter this morning,” Gessen said. “I got the news of this bill while I was sending her off to school. I said, ‘They’ve finally filed the bill.’ Obviously we’ve talked about this at length in the family, and we expected something like this would show up. And she’s 11. She sat there thinking. After about 15 minutes she said, ‘Can I stay with my other mom if they take me away from you?’ She can’t grasp this, that they’re trying to outlaw our whole family, that there isn’t the option of going with one or the other.”

Gessen said the crackdown on LGBT people in Russia has intensified, despite international outcry, and that LGBT Russians are “living through an all-out hatred campaign that’s been unleashed by the Kremlin.”

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See Also:

planetransgender: Top Russian human rights lawyer comes out as transgender

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Russia: Lesbian activist pleads mass asylum over anti-gay laws — ‘get us the hell out of here’

From Pink News UK:

8 September 2013

A lesbian journalist and activist living in Russia has said that anti-gay violence and legislation has gotten so bad for the country, their only hope now is to get as many LGBT citizens to asylum as possible.

In a Huffington Post interview, Masha Gessen said it is time for Russian LGBT citizens to flee the country in order to escape what she says has now become an “all-out war” against gay people.

President Vladimir Putin signed the controversial law in June banning the promotion of “non-traditional relationships” toward minors, a move that has been criticised as part of a broader crackdown on Russia’s gay community.

On Friday, a bill was introduced in the Russian Duma that compares LGBT people to alcoholics and drug abusers and would deny LGBT Russians custody of their own biological or adopted children.

Ms Gessen said she has already sent her eldest son overseas because she feared he would be taken by the government.

She said: ”My situation is that my partner and I are raising three kids, one of whom is adopted and two of whom are biological.

“In June the Russian parliament banned adoption by same-sex couples. It was a fair assumption that the law could be used to annul the adoption of our oldest son, so we made the decision to send our oldest son out of the country immediately.”

She added: “I had a horrible conversation with my daughter this morning. I got the news of this bill while I was sending her off to school. I said, ‘They’ve finally filed the bill.’ Obviously we’ve talked about this at length in the family, and we expected something like this would show up.

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Huffington Post: Elena Kostyuchenko, Russian LGBT Journalist, Threatens To Out Closeted Politicians

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The Future of Broadband, Security and Privacy for LGBT Communities

From Huffington Post:


One of the most frequent reactions I get when I mention to people that I co-founded a nonprofit dedicated to addressing the technology issues of LGBT communities is bewilderment and surprise that LGBT communities would have specific concerns related to technology that differ from those of other communities. It is not an altogether unfair reaction, as, at first blush, it doesn’t seem like LGBT people would interact with technology any differently than their heterosexual counterparts would. However, it is precisely as a result of this reaction that I decided to launch the LGBT Technology Partnership.

As a matter of fact, LGBT communities do indeed have very specific concerns and issues that wholly differ from those of other communities, and it is our goal to educate the general public as well as relevant policy makers and industry leaders on these issues to ensure that those concerns are included and addressed in any policy conversations about technology. To that end, this month the LGBT Technology Partnership is extremely proud to launch a series of daily blog posts meant to spur discussion about these issues, written by experts in their fields and culminating in the first-ever LGBT public policy forum addressing key technology areas affecting LGBT communities, with a keynote address by Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioner Ajit Pai. This year’s forum will revolve around two major areas: the impact of the national broadband plan on LGBT communities, and online security, confidentiality and privacy issues for LGBT communities.

In early 2009 Congress directed the FCC to develop a national broadband plan to ensure that every American has “access to broadband capability.” Congress also required that this plan include a detailed strategy for achieving affordability and maximizing use of broadband to advance “consumer welfare, civic participation, public safety and homeland security, community development, health care delivery, energy independence and efficiency, education, employee training, private sector investment, entrepreneurial activity, job creation and economic growth, and other national purposes.”

Our guest posts and the subsequent panel will explore and address the impact of this national broadband plan on LGBT communities. LGBT communities have relied on broadband technology in several unique ways since its earliest inception. (Research shows that LGBT communities are among the earliest adopters of new technologies.) In many instances the Internet served to decrease isolation and spark empowerment and greater civic engagement by eliminating geographic barriers that long separated LGBT individuals and their communities.

From online dating to running businesses, public safety to electronic health care, we’ve assembled a team of experts from the Aspen Institute, Centerlink: The Community of LGBT Centers, CUNY College and Freedom to Marry to explore the implications of the future of broadband and its impact on LGBT communities across the United States.

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A Journalist-Agitator Facing Prison Over a Link

From The New York Times:

Published: September 8, 2013

Barrett Brown makes for a pretty complicated victim. A Dallas-based journalist obsessed with the government’s ties to private security firms, Mr. Brown has been in jail for a year, facing charges that carry a combined penalty of more than 100 years in prison.

Professionally, his career embodies many of the conflicts and contradictions of journalism in the digital era. He has written for The Guardian, Vanity Fair and The Huffington Post, but as with so many of his peers, the line between his journalism and his activism is nonexistent. He has served in the past as a spokesman of sorts for Anonymous, the hacker collective, although some members of the group did not always appreciate his work on its behalf.

In 2007, he co-wrote a well-received book, “Flock of Dodos: Behind Modern Creationism, Intelligent Design and the Easter Bunny,” and over time, he has developed an expertise in the growing alliance between large security firms and the government, arguing that the relationship came at a high cost to privacy.

From all accounts, including his own, Mr. Brown, now 32, is a real piece of work. He was known to call some of his subjects on the phone and harass them. He has been public about his struggles with heroin and tends to see conspiracies everywhere he turns. Oh, and he also threatened an F.B.I. agent and his family by name, on a video, and put it on YouTube, so there’s that.

But that’s not the primary reason Mr. Brown is facing the rest of his life in prison. In 2010, he formed an online collective named Project PM with a mission of investigating documents unearthed by Anonymous and others. If Anonymous and groups like it were the wrecking crew, Mr. Brown and his allies were the people who assembled the pieces of the rubble into meaningful insights.

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Privacy Scandal: NSA Can Spy on Smart Phone Data

From Der Spiegel:

SPIEGEL has learned from internal NSA documents that the US intelligence agency has the capability of tapping user data from the iPhone, devices using Android as well as BlackBerry, a system previously believed to be highly secure.

September 07, 2013

The United States’ National Security Agency intelligence-gathering operation is capable of accessing user data from smart phones from all leading manufacturers. Top secret NSA documents that SPIEGEL has seen explicitly note that the NSA can tap into such information on Apple iPhones, BlackBerry devices and Google’s Android mobile operating system.



The documents state that it is possible for the NSA to tap most sensitive data held on these smart phones, including contact lists, SMS traffic, notes and location information about where a user has been.

The documents also indicate that the NSA has set up specific working groups to deal with each operating system, with the goal of gaining secret access to the data held on the phones.


In the internal documents, experts boast about successful access to iPhone data in instances where the NSA is able to infiltrate the computer a person uses to sync their iPhone. Mini-programs, so-called “scripts,” then enable additional access to at least 38 iPhone features.

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NSA spies on smart phones

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Obama’s rogue state tramples over every law it demands others uphold

From The Guardian UK:

For 67 years the US has pursued its own interests at the expense of global justice – no wonder people are sceptical now

The Guardian, Monday 9 September 2013

You could almost pity these people. For 67 years successive US governments have resisted calls to reform the UN security council. They’ve defended a system which grants five nations a veto over world affairs, reducing all others to impotent spectators. They have abused the powers and trust with which they have been vested. They have collaborated with the other four permanent members (the UK, Russia, China and France) in a colonial carve-up, through which these nations can pursue their own corrupt interests at the expense of peace and global justice.

Eighty-three times the US has exercised its veto. On 42 of these occasions it has done so to prevent Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians being censured. On the last occasion, 130 nations supported the resolution but Barack Obama spiked it. Though veto powers have been used less often since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the US has exercised them 14 times in the interim (in 13 cases to shield Israel), while Russia has used them nine times. Increasingly the permanent members have used the threat of a veto to prevent a resolution being discussed. They have bullied the rest of the world into silence.

Through this tyrannical dispensation – created at a time when other nations were either broken or voiceless – the great warmongers of the past 60 years remain responsible for global peace. The biggest weapons traders are tasked with global disarmament. Those who trample international law control the administration of justice.

But now, as the veto powers of two permanent members (Russia and China) obstruct its attempt to pour petrol on another Middle Eastern fire, the US suddenly decides that the system is illegitimate. Obama says: “If we end up using the UN security council not as a means of enforcing international norms and international law, but rather as a barrier … then I think people rightly are going to be pretty skeptical about the system.” Well, yes.

Never have Obama or his predecessors attempted a serious reform of this system. Never have they sought to replace a corrupt global oligarchy with a democratic body. Never do they lament this injustice – until they object to the outcome. The same goes for every aspect of global governance.

Obama warned last week that Syria’s use of poisoned gas “threatens to unravel the international norm against chemical weapons embraced by 189 nations“. Unravelling the international norm is the US president’s job.

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How the White House and the CIA Are Marketing a War in the YouTube Era

From Common Dreams:

by Dennis Kucinich

Governments have always used fear and manipulation of emotion to get the public to support wars. The Bush administration did it in 2002 in Iraq and it is happening again in Obama’s push for war in Syria.

In possibly the biggest development yet in the story, we learned this weekend that the CIA has now been enlisted to sell this new war with unproven evidence. On Saturday, U.S. intelligence officials claimed they “authenticated” 13 videos that show the horrific aftermath of a chemical attack in Syria in August. What exactly did they “authenticate”?

Why are these videos suddenly news when they have been publicly circulating the web for weeks? Here’s why: The videos are meant to market the war, not to “prove” who committed the atrocities. (CBS News and others have reported that the White House case for war has been described as “largely circumstantial.”)

We’ve seen this movie before and it doesn’t end well. A decade after the Bush administration used the CIA’s “yellow cake” tale and other faulty evidence, the government is yet again relying on the CIA to lead a domestic propaganda effort for military action abroad. If these videos can sway American public opinion, as they’re intended to do, and influence Congress to vote to attack Syria, this could become the first YouTube war.

No American could look at these horrifying videos of people suffering and dying and not be moved. But that doesn’t mean a military strike is the only way to respond to the humanitarian tragedy happening in Syria. So bald-faced is the rush to war that the White House could not restrain its anticipation that the videos could be successfully employed to market the war. As the Washington Post reported, “Administration officials and their congressional allies believe the horrific scenes depicted in the videos could help sway public opinion.” But CNN, which broadcast portions of the grim videos this weekend, added the qualification that they could not independently authenticate them.

The release of these graphic videos is a cynical maneuver by the White House because the rest of the case for war remains unproven, with open questions about transcripts, satellite imagery and signal intelligence under the shield of classified information. What does it mean when the government’s case for war relies more on emotion than on evidence? Welcome to war marketing in the YouTube era.

Just as the White House would have us believe that others created the “red line,” the administration has just shifted responsibility for the war onto the CIA, which is famous for the use of emotional and psychological warfare. To point to just one example, in the 1960s the Agency’s “Operation CHAOS” spied on American anti-war activists to try to disrupt and discredit opposition to the Vietnam War in order to sway public opinion against the anti-war movement.

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Obama Plans ‘Shock and Awe’ in Syria

From The Nation:

Bob Dreyfuss
on September 9, 2013

President Obama’s plan to have Congress approve his ill-considered war on behalf of Al Qaeda in Syria will shock everyone, when it happens, with its sheer intensity. Those expecting a “limited” strike against a handful of Syrian military installations, including those involved in delivering chemical weapons, are in for a rude awakening. Instead, what the president will order will be a lot closer to President George W. Bush’s “shock and awe” bombardment of Baghdad before the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.


That isn’t to say that Obama is planning an invasion of Syria. He’s not. (Although if the state collapses, and Syria descends into chaos, the United States may very well end up with “boots on the ground” and body bags for American soldiers.)


In trying to market his war plans to Congress and the American public, Obama has repeatedly stated that he’s seeking authority for a limited war, and some officials have suggested—especially at the beginning of Obama’s war push—that “the strike,” as the belligerent Secretary of State John Kerry calls it, might involve only a couple of dozen cruise missiles. Don’t believe that for a second.


Even the drafts of resolutions being circulated in Congress suggest that Obama will get the “authority” to wage war against Syria for up to sixty days, with the possibility of an extension. That’s war, folks, not a “strike.”


No longer is the Obama administration arguing that it intends merely to punish President Bashar al-Assad for his alleged use of sarin gas. Instead, the talk in Washington more and more is about the need to “degrade” Syria’s core military apparatus. In Pentagon lingo, “degrade” means “destroy.” In other words, the object of Obama’s planned war on Syria is to tilt the balance of the conflict to the rebels, many of whom are radical Islamists, extremists of all kinds and Al Qaeda types.


As the Los Angeles Times reported over the weekend, even the initial list of fifty targets to be attacked—and fifty is a lot—has been expanded. And the United States is planning to use not only cruise missiles but other weapons, including bombers, based in both the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf, at least. As the Los Angeles Times report, by veteran reported David S. Cloud, puts it:

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Help Kickstart World War III!

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The world does need a red line – on climate change

From The Guardian UK:

Activists agree we must fight the Keystone XL pipeline in the US, but also chip away at the political power of the fossil fuel industry, Monday 9 September 2013

In a few weeks, a new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, prepared by 2,000 climate scientists from around the world, will be released. Leaked early drafts reveal some frightening predictions for the next century, including a high likelihood that the globe’s average temperature will rocket past the 2C target, the reddest of red lines for human existence on the planet.

Two degrees doesn’t seem like much, but it takes only a few Google searches to connect the dots between the one degree of warming that has already set in, and catastrophic events like Hurricane Sandy, unprecedented wildfires in the American west and record flooding in places like the Philippines and Pakistan. Some have even pointed to extended climate-induced drought in Syria as a key driver of the conflict there. It doesn’t take much sleuthing, either, to find out that humans have loaded so much carbon into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels, cutting down forests and engaging in poor agricultural practices, that the IPCC says it’s now 95% certain that we’re responsible for most of the warming that has happened since the industrial revolution.

Despite decades of science showing human impact on the atmosphere, and the availability of renewable energy options, from cheap solar to wind to geothermal, political will to deal with climate change in the world’s richest countries has flatlined. Last year, members of US Congress received more than $34m from oil, gas and coal companies – money to ensure they do nothing on climate change – and President Obama has so far taken baby steps compared to the enormity of the climate challenge. Despite historic investments in in clean energy, moves to raise auto fuel efficiency and regulate dirty coal plants, and hopeful signs that he’s ready to engage obstructionists, President Obama has not taken the United States far enough, fast enough.

In a recent address on climate change – his first since he came into office five years ago – President Obama set a high bar for the construction of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, an export pipeline that would run from Canada to the Gulf Coast. He said he would approve construction only if it “does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution”. A recent independent analysis of Keystone XL (pdf) calculates that the pipeline would dump the equivalent of 51 coal power plants, or 37m cars worth of CO2 into the atmosphere per year. That’s a lot of carbon. If President Obama spoke in good faith, then there is only one decision he can make: reject the pipeline.

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The real reason you don’t want to eat chicken processed in China

From Tree Hugger:

Margaret Badore
September 6, 2013

Last week, Politico broke the story that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved four plants in China to process chicken for export to the United States. Politico obtained audit reports stating the plants met requirements:

“As all outstanding issues have been resolved, [China] may proceed with certifying a list of poultry processing establishments as meeting [Food Safety and Inspection Service] requirements,” says a letter signed by Andreas Keller, director of international equivalence staff.

The New York Times says that consumers won’t be able to identify chicken that’s been processed in China:

And because the poultry will be processed, it will not require country-of-origin labeling. Nor will consumers eating chicken noodle soup from a can or chicken nuggets in a fast-food restaurant know if the chicken came from Chinese processing plants.

Other publications have focused on the food safety issues. NPR’s blog The Salt highlights some of the recent horror stories:

“That’s a pretty disturbing thought for anyone who’s followed the slew of stories regarding food safety failures in China in recent years. As we’ve previously reported on The Salt, this year alone, thousands of dead pigs turned up in the waters of Shanghai, rat meat was passed off as mutton and — perhaps most disconcerting for U.S. consumers — there was an outbreak of the among live fowl in fresh meat markets.”

The food safety issue is certainly a serious one. There’s an environmental cost as well. One important caveat is that the Chinese factories can only make products with chickens raised and slaughtered in the U.S. or Canada.

That’s right. We’ll be raising chickens in the Americas, shipping them to China, and then shipping them back.

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For the USDA, Chicken is Just Politics

From Food and Water Watch:

By Wenonah Hauter
September 5th, 2013

When you purchase chicken at the grocery store, you might have the perfectly reasonable expectation that the poultry you are buying was raised on an American farm, and that it was inspected by a government official. Well, lower your expectations: if the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) gets its way, poultry inspections will be left to the very same people that process the poultry—corporations—in a privatized poultry inspection scheme that is bad for workers and food safety. Furthermore, the agency appears to be paving the way for processed poultry imports from none other than China, the birthplace of several egregious food safety scandals.

First, the proposed “Modernization of Poultry Inspection” rule would remove most government food safety inspectors from the poultry slaughter lines and replace them with untrained company employees, allowing processing companies to police themselves. It would also permit chicken plants to increase line speeds to 175 birds-per-minute. The government has, unsurprisingly, received hundreds of thousands of comments from consumers opposed to this change. It is such a bad idea that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a scathing analysis of the pilot project that USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is using to justify its proposal to privatize poultry inspection in some 200 poultry plants across the country.

The GAO report, requested by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), chair of the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy, Poultry, Marketing and Agriculture Security, evaluated 20 young chicken and five young turkey plants and reveals gaping methodological flaws in the pilot project. The GAO also questioned how FSIS could use its flawed evaluation of the pilot project as the basis to propose expanding the privatized inspection model across the entire poultry industry.

By supporting poultry inspection privatization, the Obama Administration is prioritizing poultry industry economic interests over consumers and workers in poultry plants who face faster line speeds and increased safety risks. But the administration doesn’t stop there: it recently cleared four Chinese food processors to be able to export poultry products to the U.S., which would be a boon to companies that want to take advantage of China’s low-paid work force to maximize profits.

Under the plan USDA is finalizing, the Chinese processors can only process raw poultry that comes from “approved” sources, which are limited to countries such as the U.S., Canada, and Chile. This means raw poultry needs to be shipped to China from those countries for cooking before it can be exported to the U.S.

However, there will be no USDA inspector stationed in the Chinese poultry processing facilities to verify that the Chinese are cooking poultry products from only the “approved” sources, and not using their own poultry for export; and because the poultry will be processed, no Country of Origin label is required, leaving U.S. consumers in the dark.

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