Friday Night Fun and Culture: Patsy Cline

The Cost of Trans Job Discrimination

From Huffington Post:

I recently met a transgender person who works as a roofer for a construction company. She came out as transgender on the job recently, and the next day a coworker on her worksite came out and told her that she is also transgender. Both of them — and everyone they work with, for that matter — had worked with a transgender person and didn’t even know it.

Sure, people in more and more workplaces are finding that they have transgender coworkers. And it probably seems like there are stories of transgender people in the news much more than there used to be. But as the United States becomes increasingly aware that transgender people exist in most workplaces — in factories, in offices, and on construction sites — it’s increasingly clear that there is little awareness that these same people can lose their jobs for being transgender or gender-nonconforming.

That’s why we are excited to work with the Movement Advancement Project and several other partners to publish a new report called “A Broken Bargain for Transgender Workers,” which was a companion to an LGBT report we issued together earlier this year called “A Broken Bargain: Discrimination, Fewer Benefits and More Taxes for LGBT Workers.”

The report clearly lays out the barriers to equal treatment of transgender people in the workplace:

  • Hiring bias and on-the-job discrimination that keep qualified transgender workers from entering the workforce
  • Wage inequities that prevent transgender people from providing for themselves and their families
  • Lack of clear federal nondiscrimination laws that can help end the rampant discrimination against transgender people
  • Inability to update legal documents and records that can be intrusive or burdensome for transgender workers
  • Unequal access to basic health care, including transition-related care

The totality of these barriers has contributed to catastrophic health disparities, suicide rates, and unemployment among transgender people. In a side-by-side comparison of a transgender and a non-transgender worker over a period of five years, the report estimates a $132,577 cost in extra financial burdens for a transgender person as a result of lost income, out-of-pocket medical expenses, denied promotions and unfair firings.

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Venezuelan Women Are Dying From Buttock Injections

From The Atlantic:

The quest for beauty leads to a dangerous, DIY surgical procedure.

Sep 16 2013

Astrid de la Rosa was left bedridden for two years after her liquid silicone buttock injections migrated into her spine, paralyzing the supporting muscles.

“We are trying to educate Venezuelan girls about the dangers of these procedures before they are 12 years old,” she said. “We have to get to them early, as parents tend to offer these injections as 15th birthday presents”.

In Venezuela, 17 women have died in the past 12 months as a result of liquid silicone buttock injections. The procedure, which according to Jesus Pereira, the president of the Veneuzelan Plastic Surgeons Association, an estimated 30 percent of Venezuelan women aged 18 to 50 have undergone, attempts to achieve a figure thought to be more attractive to Venezuelan men.

While the death toll resulting from these injections has risen since they became widely available in 2008, it has done little to curb the trend of Venezuelans seeking a quick-fix solution to what they perceive as physical inadequacies. Despite being illegal in Venezuela (sale of silicone carries a two-year prison sentence) the country’s Association of Cosmetic Surgeons estimates that 2,000 women every month are receiving injections of this biopolymer, either at home or illegally at unlicensed businesses.

“The injections take just 20 minutes, but they can never fully be taken out,” says Jesús Pereira, the president of the Venezuelan Plastic Surgeons Association. “100 percent of cases become complicated. It could take four days or it could take 20 years, but eventually the patient will become irreversibly sick.”

Because the practice is banned, women seeking the procedure must find a fitness or beauty-related business that offers the injections in secret (most commonly a beauty salon or gym).

The injections cost, on average, just $8.

The average Venezuelan woman spends 20 percent of her annual salary on beauty products, while 4,000 people go under the knife every month in the name of self-improvement. Indeed, most banks in Venezuela offer long-term loan packages specifically tailored towards plastic surgery procedures.

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Poverty: The American nightmare

From The Party for Socialism and Liberation:

Millions live in poverty in the U.S.

By Eugene Puryear
September 18, 2013

For the second straight year data indicate that roughly 47 million people in the United States remain mired in poverty. In addition, median household income is now 8.3 percent lower than it was in 2007. This news, coming fast on the heels of strikes around the country by low-wage workers, further underscores capitalist politicians’ lack of action to end poverty.

In fact the primary economic news coming out of Washington has been about whether or not the Federal Reserve will begin to “taper” its cheap-money-for-banks program known as Quantitative Easing, and the corresponding fear on Wall Street that their free ride courtesy of taxpayers may be ending. In a sign of just how outside the purview of politicians the plight of the impoverished is, House Republicans are pushing a massive cut to food stamp—the federal program most associated with lifting people out of poverty!

Making matters even worse, when poverty numbers are broken down, the largest cohort in poverty are children, 16 million of whom are impoverished. Children under 5-years-old are the poorest age group. As nutritional support is on the chopping block, and early childhood education was slashed by President Obama’s sequester, these figures represent a devastating attack on brain development during the crucial pre-school years

The American government defines poverty as $64 a day for a family of four. This comes down to $16 a day to spend for each family member. Tens of millions also live in “extreme poverty” which is defined as $32 a day for a family of four, or $8 a day for each family member. This creates impossible choices every day for those in poverty; choosing between the heating bill and clothing, between school supplies and food and between all of those and rent.

These tragic choices however do not concern capitalists.  In pursuit of high profit margins capitalists have allowed wages to stagnate, and in almost every industry  have moved to cut benefits and pensions. In addition, what job growth there is has mostly been confined to low wage sectors. In fact, according to USA Today’s estimate of the 10 fastest growing job categories, the sector that added the most jobs was also the lowest paying.

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Priced out of New York

From Salon:

I never thought I’d leave, but the city I once loved is now unaffordable for middle-class families like mine

Wednesday, Sep 18, 2013

I realized I might need to leave New York when I became envious of every friend who’d managed to escape. A Swiss friend moved back to Lucerne with her American husband and New York-born child, and I found myself wishing my husband were from someplace else, so I might have an excuse to flee, as if an honorable discharge were necessary. But honorable discharge or not, we had to face facts: We had a baby now, and could no longer afford to live in the place where we’d both been born.

This was 2007, and just that week in Park Slope, parents had camped out overnight to secure spots for their children in the pre-K program they were zoned for. The schools in our Brooklyn neighborhood of Prospect Lefferts Garden were failing. We heard gunshots every night. (Shouldn’t failing schools and gunshots come with affordable housing, like in the old days?) What exactly were we struggling to hold on to? The idea of New York? Our identities as New Yorkers? What was that worth?

But we also could not imagine living elsewhere. New Yorkers don’t leave New York. It was unthinkable.

* * *

I was born on the Lower East Side in 1973 and dragged to New Jersey at age 5 when my father changed jobs. My grandparents remained in the neighborhood, as did our closest family friends, and we visited often enough that I knew what I was missing, viewing New York as my true (lost) home through the romanticized eye of the suburban kid who longed to escape New Jersey.

When I moved back to the Lower East Side — in 1991, to my college boyfriend’s apartment on E. 11th between B and C, and later to my own tiny rent-stabilized studio on St. Marks and First Ave — I returned to a neighborhood that challenged my middle-class, suburban notions of how a life is to be lived, a neighborhood that pushed me to consider my assumptions and habits, that made me uncomfortable in some very necessary ways, forcing me to think, for the first time, about race and class and privilege.

But in the time I lived there, the Lower East Side grew more and more gentrified, more and more homogeneous and unchallenging for the returning kids of the parents who’d fled for the suburbs in the ’70s. It also became colder and more anonymous. My apartment building, 76 St. Marks Place, sat across the street from the building where the poet W. H. Auden had once lived. In the time I lived there, Auden’s majestic old stoop was torn down and replaced by a boxy storefront soon filled by a crappy but expensive bistro.

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Underpaid 83-Year-Old Professor Died Trying to Make Ends Meet by Working Night Shift at Eat an’ Save

From Alternet:

The sad financial straits of Margaret Mary Vojtko is the latest tragic example of how adjunct professors are mistreated.

By Daniel Kovalik
September 18, 2013

On Sept. 1, Margaret Mary Vojtko, an adjunct professor who had taught French at Duquesne University for 25 years, passed away at the age of 83. She died as the result of a massive heart attack she suffered two weeks before. As it turned out, I may have been the last person she talked to.

On Aug. 16, I received a call from a very upset Margaret Mary. She told me that she was under an incredible amount of stress. She was receiving radiation therapy for the cancer that had just returned to her, she was living nearly homeless because she could not afford the upkeep on her home, which was literally falling in on itself, and now, she explained, she had received another indignity — a letter from Adult Protective Services telling her that someone had referred her case to them saying that she needed assistance in taking care of herself. The letter said that if she did not meet with the caseworker the following Monday, her case would be turned over to Orphans’ Court.

For a proud professional like Margaret Mary, this was the last straw; she was mortified. She begged me to call Adult Protective Services and tell them to leave her alone, that she could take care of herself and did not need their help. I agreed to. Sadly, a couple of hours later, she was found on her front lawn, unconscious from a heart attack. She never regained consciousness.

Meanwhile, I called Adult Protective Services right after talking to Margaret Mary, and I explained the situation. I said that she had just been let go from her job as a professor at Duquesne, that she was given no severance or retirement benefits, and that the reason she was having trouble taking care of herself was because she was living in extreme poverty. The caseworker paused and asked with incredulity, “She was a professor?” I said yes. The case- worker was shocked; this was not the usual type of person for whom she was called in to help.

Of course, what the case-worker didn’t understand was that Margaret Mary was an adjunct professor, meaning that, unlike a well-paid tenured professor, Margaret Mary worked on a contract basis from semester to semester, with no job security, no benefits and with a salary of between $3,000 and just over $3,500 per three-credit course. Adjuncts now make up well over 50 percent of the faculty at colleges and universities.

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In Light Of Census Numbers, Cutting SNAP Would Be Irresponsible

From the Economic Policy Group:

by Elise Gould and Hilary Wething
September 19, 2013

The Census released its annual income and poverty report this week, which, among other highlights, calculates the number of people who are kept out of poverty by various government assistance programs. While many of the headline numbers stayed the same, the number of people kept out of poverty by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) increased to an all-time high of 4 million people.1

The data arrived, coincidentally, as the House of Representatives announced it will be voting today to cut SNAP spending by 5 percent over the next 10 years, cutting 3.8 million people from the program by as early as next year. Understanding why SNAP has increased over the last five years helps us understand why it would be irresponsible–indeed cruel and stupid—to cut spending on the program now.

The Census report confirmed that the vast majority of American households have made only slight progress in recovering from the Great Recession. The number people in poverty remained at 15 percent of the population (unchanged from 2011), and incomes remain substantially lower than they were before the recession began for all but the top 5 percent of the income distribution. Between 2011 and 2012, earnings for full time full year workers hardly budged—not surprising given the employment-to-population ratio is 4.4 percentage points below its 2007 level. The reduced bargaining power that results from a lack of outside job opportunities hurt earnings growth even for those with full-time, full-year work. Americans who utilize SNAP, therefore, are no better off this year they were last year.

As of 2011, about 45 million people (more than 1 in 7 Americans) participate in SNAP. Over 41 percent of all recipients live in households where family members are employed; these are largely families that have been left behind by a deeply damaged labor market. Beyond increasing deprivation for these families, the proposed cuts to SNAP would damage the overall labor market even further. Nearly all macroeconomic forecasters agree that food stamps are among the most effective forms of fiscal support to create economic activity and jobs in an economy where there is tremendous slack in the labor market. This is because food stamps go to people that are by definition cash strapped, which means they spend the money right away, putting the cash received directly back into local businesses and grocery stores. Because of this high propensity to spend SNAP dollars, estimates are that each dollar spent on SNAP generates $1.50 to $1.70 in additional economic activity. This means that the $75 billion spent on food stamps in 2012 supported roughly $120 billion in overall economic activity.

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Two Years After Occupy Wall Street, a Network of Offshoots Continue Activism for the 99%

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EPA Proposes Rules for New Power Plants; Fight Over Coal’s Carbon Pollution Heats Up

From Truth Out:

By Mike Ludwig
Thursday, 19 September 2013

A political battle is heating up in Washington over the future of the nation’s cheapest and dirtiest fuel source: coal.

On Friday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will take a step toward implementing President Barack Obama’s climate action plan and propose the first-ever carbon pollution standards for new coal-burning power plants. Reports indicate the rules would require that newly built, coal burning plants meet pollution standards by installing new technology to capture and bury emissions of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas linked to climate change.

Existing power plants are responsible for 40 percent of the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions and one-third of domestic greenhouse gas emissions overall, according to the EPA.

For years, environmental groups have pushed for a federal cap on carbon emissions from coal-burning power plants, but the rule expected Friday will cover only plants that have yet to be built. The EPA is not expected to release new standards for existing plants, which are the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions nationwide, until June 2014.

The coal industry and its conservative allies in the media and Washington have accused the Obama administration and Democrats of waging a job-killing “war on coal” and are fighting both rules tooth and nail. The rule for new facilities, they argue, will make it financially impossible to build new coal-burning power plants and will eliminate coal as fuel source for future generators. Legal challenges to the new rules are all but imminent.

The EPA had originally proposed rules for new plants in March 2012, but missed that deadline and agreed to rework the rules after the industry complained that the original carbon pollution caps were too stringent.

A similar effort by the EPA to cap emissions of toxic chemicals and metals from power plants – which contribute to child asthma, premature deaths and cancer – was stalled for nearly a decade by industry challenges and opposition from Republicans in Congress before being implemented in 2011.

The coal industry is under pressure to stay relevant at a time when public concerns about the climate crisis are at an all-time high and the price of natural gas, a cleaner burning option for utility generators, has dropped because of the recent gas rush facilitated by fracking.

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Top U.S. Climate Scientist: Today’s Leaders Will ‘Determine the Fate of Humanity’

From The Progressive:

By Stephen C. Webster,
September 18, 2013

New research co-authored by leading U.S. climate scientist James Hansen, a longtime employee of NASA who recently resigned to engage in climate activism, paints a grim picture of a future Earth left virtually uninhabitable by current warming trends. The paper, published Monday, concludes that energy-related decisions being made by today’s government leaders will ultimately “determine the fate of humanity.”
Hansen’s paper, authored with several former NASA colleagues, warns that Earth’s climate-regulating systems may be more sensitive to higher levels of carbon than scientists previously suspected. They also calculated the atmospheric changes that would be produced by burning off the estimated stock of Earth’s fossil fuel reserves, finding that it would result in a planetary apocalypse.
“Burning all fossil fuels, we conclude, would make most of the planet uninhabitable by humans, thus calling into question strategies that emphasize adaptation to climate change,” they write. Such a scenario, with average temperatures rising 16 degrees Celsius on land and 30 degrees Celsius at the poles, would leave just a fraction of humanity clinging to life atop Earth’s highest ridges, Hansen et. al. predict.
Climate denialists have in recent months seized upon a strategy of downplaying the likelihood of climate-driven mass extinctions within the next 50-100 years, urging government officials to instead adopt policies that aim to help humanity adapt to climate change — which they claim will be less than 2 degrees Celsius, bringing about unforeseen benefits.

By comparison, the World Bank warned last year that a rise of just 4 degrees Celsius is looking almost inevitable on our current track. Such a change would cause widespread famine, droughts, intensifying storm systems and mass population movements across dozens of developing nations as resources dwindle and coastlines are increasingly swallowed up by rising seas.
World Bank President Jim Yong Kim also warned in an advisory that a change of just 2 degrees Celsius, which many scientists believe to be unavoidable in the next 20-30 years, “will cause widespread food shortages, unprecedented heat waves, and more intense cyclones.”
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Colorado Flooding Sparks 18,000-Gallon Oil Leak

From Common Dreams:

10 oil and gas releases being monitored in the state, officials say

Andrea Germanos

Over 18,000 gallons of oil have leaked into Colorado’s South Platte and St. Vrain Rivers as historic flooding continues to wreak havoc upon the state.

)One 5,250-gallon spill happened near Milliken, while a second, 13,500-gallon release happened near Platteville.

The leaking tanks are owned by Anadarko, which stated on Thursday that “there were no impacts to the environment due to our drilling or hydraulic fracturing activities.”

In addition to the oil leaks, Noble Energy reported “natural gas releases” from three of its wells, with one of those releases still not contained.

The Denver Post reports on Thursday that there are a total of 10 oil and gas releases being monitored in the state, with 8 of the releases classified as “minor.”

Officials are also warning about sewage and household and industrial chemicals that may be in the floodwaters, posing public health risks.

The flooding, which many have linked to climate change, has left 200 people still unaccounted for, six dead, pet and livestock victims, and communities and businesses struggling in the aftermath of the multi-billion dollar disaster.


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Mexico braces for third deadly storm

From The Guardian UK:

Hurricane Manuel makes landfall on back of two torrential storms that have left at least 80 dead across country

in Mexico City, Thursday 19 September 2013

Mexico, which is reeling from two storms which left more than 80 people dead, was braced for more devastation on Thursday night after a third made landfall.

Hurricane Manuel reached the northwestern state of Sinaloa on Thursday, adding to a growing countrywide crisis that has seen the death toll rising every day along with new reports of acute emergencies requiring attention.

So far the worst affected area has been the southern state of Guerrero which was hit by an earlier version of Manuel when it first made landfall on Monday as a tropical storm before dissipating, returning to sea and regaining strength.

The full extent of the disaster, however, is only now beginning to emerge as news of death, destruction and dwindling supplies of food in mountain communities takes over from the more visible chaos the storm caused in big cities such as Acapulco.

Fifty-eight people were still missing after part of a hillside collapsed on top of much of the coffee-growing village of La Pintada, leaving survivors trapped between a swollen river they cannot cross and the still unstable mountain that is threatening to fall apart again at any moment.

“We have not seen a single body yet and at the moment we are focused on rescuing the villagers still there,” interior minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong told MVS Radio. He said that the authorities had already airlifted 300 people to safety but were struggling to get to the remaining 45 because of adverse weather conditions.

The minister revealed that the day’s priorities also included reaching at least three other isolated communities in Guerrero to check out reports of similar, if smaller, landslides.

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