By David Ferguson
Friday, October 4, 2013
On Thursday, Raw Story spoke to Mara Keisling of the National Center for Transgender Equality about the case of California nursing student Domaine Javier, who was denied entry into California Baptist University in Riverside, CA. According to Christian Walters at Towleroad, Javier has sued CBU after the college rescinded her enrollment and accused her of fraud for marking “female” as her gender.
“This is utter nonsense,” said Keisling. “California Baptist University should be ashamed of itself.”
Javier was enrolled with honors for fall semester in CBU’s nursing program after completing courses at Riverside City College. She had not yet started classes when she received a letter from college administrators. In it, she was ordered to report alone to a meeting with CBU faculty and staff to discuss accusations of fraud and “concealment of identity”
After approving her application, a CBU official reportedly saw the episode of the MTV series “True Life” that featured Javier, who was born in the Philippines and emigrated to the U.S. at the age of 12. Javier has lived as a female since her teens and was the subject of a “True Life” documentary that aired in 2011.
At the meeting, Javier was informed that she was not allowed to attend classes at CBU and that by not indicating on her application that she was born male, officials claimed that she had perpetrated an act of fraud.
“First of all, she didn’t commit fraud,” said Keisling. “Second, that wasn’t their motivation. Their motivation was that they found out they had a transgender student, so they came up with an insulting, hare-brained excuse to expel her.”
The mainstream LGBT movement—including national groups such as the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and Lambda Legal Defense, as well as many local state advocacy groups—often disagrees within itself on political priorities, policy implementation and even basic strategies regarding social justice issues. But the one thing that almost all of them agree on is that hate crime laws are good for LGBT people, that they work to deter crime and that LGBT people are safer because of them. These groups are not out of line with liberal American thinking. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Jewish Anti-Defamation League (ADL) both support hate crime legislation. To make matters appear even simpler, the groups who are most vehemently against hate crime legislation are highly conservative, often overtly homophobic groups, such as Focus on the Family and Concerned Women of America, who fear that such legislation would impede conservative religious people from voicing their beliefs and upholding what they see as “traditional values.” But even with widespread liberal support, the basic question remains: Do these laws work? Do they deter violence against LGBT people? Do they in fact make LGBT people safer? And, most important, are they fair and just?
The term “hate crime laws” is commonplace, but people often do not understand the intent or ramifications of such laws. It is important to understand why they were written in order to understand what they do and don’t do. While hate crime laws proliferated in the early 1980s, their legal roots are deeper. Throughout US history, violent, discriminatory acts against certain groups of people were not taken seriously. One solution was to enact new laws to make sure the laws already on the books were enforced. In the 1930s, when the lynching of African-Americans was pervasive throughout the country—3,446 black Americans were lynched between 1882 and 1968, one every ten days—activists lobbied Congress to pass anti-lynching laws. These would allow the federal government to legally intercede when states would not. A federal law was never passed. Only in 1968 did the Civil Rights Act make it a federal crime to “by force or by threat of force, injure, intimidate, or interfere with anyone … by reason of their race, color, religion, or national origin.” Soon states began passing their own legislation, based, to a large degree, on a model drafted by the ADL, to which “gender” and “sexual orientation” were later added.
Although all of these laws are worded differently, they usually contain three similar provisions. First, animus against the victim must be explicitly articulated. That is, the perpetrator must actively indicate that the crime is being committed because of a “hate” for the victim’s race, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation. Second, state or federal authorities will officially keep track of the number of incidents by recording them as hate crimes. Third, hate crimes carry with them “penalty enhancement,” usually meaning stiffer sentencing, because they are understood as injuring not only an individual but a community. In the New York State penal code, for instance, if you are convicted of assault in the second degree, a D felony, you could be sentenced to up to seven years in prison. If your second-degree assault is recorded as a hate crime, the prosecutor can bump the charge up to a third-degree assault, a C felony, which carries a sentence of up to fifteen years.
U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) is one of nine Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives who voted to shut down the government. She also is the first openly bisexual member of Congress, elected for the first time in 2012. She was backed by the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, the Human Rights Campaign and other gay and progressive groups and was touted during the campaign to progressive and LGBT donors as a progressive Democrat. She ran as a pro-equality candidate who cared about the poor and working people, often telling her own story of her family’s economic troubles.
But how is voting to shut down the government, and voting to end affordable health care before it even begins, a vote for workers and the poor? (And make no mistake: The GOP effort to delay the mandate, for which Sinema voted, was all about sinking Obamacare.) How is that a vote for equality and a vote for LGBT Americans and people with HIV who are terribly affected by both a shutdown and any attempt to hurt the Affordable Care Act?
Since taking office, Sinema has voted with the GOP against economic justice issues that progressives, including LGBT activists, view as crucial. Both she and U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), an openly gay former Clinton aide, also elected for the first time in 2012, have voted with big banks and Wall Street time and again. Right out of the gate, Maloney, who took a lot of Wall Street money, voted with the GOP on the debt ceiling early this year, and actually co-sponsored a bill that would roll back reforms of the very Wall Street practices that led to the economic collapse. He even voted with the GOP to take authority over the Keystone XL project from the president. Like Sinema, he also voted to jeopardize Obamacare or shut down the government. And he too was supported in his election campaign by the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, the Human Rights Campaign, and other gay and progressive groups, touted as a progressive.
Think about this: On what is arguably the most important debate in Congress, two of nine Democrats who voted with the tea party-led blackmailers are openly gay or bisexual. Two of only five openly gay or bisexual members of the House voted with the extreme far right to undermine the president. Veteran recording industry executive Howie Klein, the founder of the progressive Blue America PAC and an openly gay man himself, has been criticizing both of them for their votes for months. He told me that Sinema had been calling him throughout last year’s campaign, looking for money. He’d known her and liked her, having served with her on the board of People for the American Way, but he told me that when he had her fully vetted, he was “horrified” by her record. Blue America is now actively recruiting a candidate to run in the Democratic primary against Sinema.
Some say it’s better to have Democrats like Sinema and Maloney than to possibly have a Republican in the seat. If it means they have to vote with the GOP, especially if the vote isn’t pivotal, then so be it, the thinking goes. But that breeds the most cynical kind of politics and drives people away from participating when we need to bring them in. It only furthers the disgust with Washington. It’s dishonest too, as these candidates are promoted as progressives and sold as such to LGBT and progressive donors, disingenuously using their queerness during Democratic primaries as a way to give them street cred with progressives while their records and intentions are otherwise. (And they’re continuing to do it: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is hosting an “Equality Reception” next week in D.C. for them, once again using their being gay or bi to raise money.) President Obama comfortably won both Sinema’s and Maloney’s swing districts in 2012, and a real progressive could win them as well.
From Let toys be Toys: http://www.lettoysbetoys.org.uk/interview-with-neuroscientist-cordelia-fine/
October 4, 2013
Here at Let Toys Be Toys, we are huge fans of Cordelia Fine, Australian neuroscientist and author of the best-selling book “Delusions of Gender”. In her book she takes a critical look at the science behind the popular claims that boys and girls are “hard-wired” differently, and finds it severely lacking.
So you can imagine how thrilled we were when Cordelia said that she was a supporter of our campaign and agreed to answer our questions (of which we had many!). No-one is better placed to talk about the harmful effects that the gender stereotypes perpetuated by the toy industry and the media have on children.
Cordelia, thanks so much for joining us. We have some followers in Australia who say that the situation there is similar to the UK. When you walk into a toy shop in Australia what can you expect to see?
My casual observation is that many toy shops, especially within large retailers, have a ‘pink’ section, a ‘dark-tough’ section, and then more ‘neutral’ parts. And, as in the UK, there are ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ versions of just about anything you might want to buy for a child, from bikes to recorders. It’s worth pointing out too that people of course often shop for toys online, and some online business quite explicitly categorise their toys as being ‘for boys’ and ‘for girls’.
What do you think is the most harmful message that this type of segregation sends out to children?
When certain kinds of toys are marked quite clearly for one sex, it not only reinforces inaccurate stereotypes that only girls are nurturing, or that only boys are competitive or aggressive, but it also makes those toys less appealing to the children of the supposedly ‘wrong’ sex. Developmental psychologists have called it the ‘hot potato’ effect.
So gendered marketing hinders children from developing a whole range of skills and interests?
Gendered marketing contributes to a culture in which girls have less opportunity to benefit from the positive play activities and values facilitated by ‘boy toys’, (e.g., physicality, competition, construction) and boys have less opportunity to benefit from the positive play activities and values facilitated by ‘girl toys’ (e.g. fine motor skills, caring, co-operation). Emphasising gender has also been shown to reduce children’s interest in mixed-sex play.
I think we need to ask ourselves if this is what we want in the twenty-first century? Surely our goal as parents and as a society should be for our children to believe that what sex they are makes no difference to what they want to do, what they are interested in, or what they want to be. We should be equipping all children, regardless of their sex, to be caring, empathic, competent, ambitious and assertive. These goals are undermined by a childhood culture that relentlessly genders children’s toys.
Continue reading at: http://www.lettoysbetoys.org.uk/interview-with-neuroscientist-cordelia-fine/
By Zoe Greenberg
Saturday, Oct 5, 2013
At 11 on a Saturday morning, Julie Petrillo pops a bottle of pink champagne, which fizzes and erupts onto the black walnut floor of the shop where she works. A mother of a bride rushes to get paper towels. Julie pours the champagne into three glass flutes and escorts her customers to a leather couch beside the tiaras and across from a stately silver-framed mirror. She sits in front of them, pen and paper in hand, and begins her first appointment of the day.
“Have you been shopping before?” she asks Kristen, a soon-to-be-bride who’s wearing blue jeans and pink flip-flops. “Did you find anything you really liked? How are you with beading?”
Julie is the manager and primary dress consultant at Bridal Trousseau on Main, a boutique in Branford, Conn., with 500 wedding dresses, as well as a sizable collection of diamond headbands, Swarovski crystal veils, and cutely packaged nipple-concealing adhesives. At work, Julie tends to wear all black, aside from the yellow measuring tape that dangles around her neck. She has plump red cheeks and hazel eyes defined by black mascara and blue eye shadow. In her own words, she freakin’ loves weddings.
Her shop is divided into four galleries, each of which has a couch and a mirror facing an elevated black pedestal. Women in taffeta and tulle perch on the pedestals like plastic brides on wedding cakes; the height of the stand makes them appear taller and thinner than their everyday selves. Other than the black-accented galleries and the black-clad Julie, the store is a sea of white. The walls are packed with racks and racks of white dresses, whose feather skirts and sheer bodies give the impression of a Snow Queen’s costume closet. Tucked into the corner are the ruffled, sequined, flowered and bowed “special-event dresses.” The music in the store is always upbeat, though its subject matter seems to place disproportionate emphasis on breaking up with and destroying men. Taylor Swift belts “We are never ever ever getting back together” as a bride in a Princess Diana-style ball gown dances around the gallery with her plain-clothed friend.
Since this is her first appointment with Kristen, Julie takes her speed-dating for dresses. They start with gowns by Matthew Christopher, which sell for an average of $3,500. In the background Carrie Underwood sings “Before He Cheats,” a song about slashing her ex-boyfriend’s tires to teach him a lesson. Next are the Maggie Sottero dresses, which are made to look like expensive designer gowns but cost much less.
Continue reading at: http://www.salon.com/2013/10/05/inside_americas_wedding_dress_obsession/
Sunday 29 September 2013
Two months ago, a young mother of two was stoned to death by her relatives on the order of a tribal court in Pakistan. Her crime: possession of a mobile phone.
Arifa Bibi’s uncle, cousins and others hurled stones and bricks at her until she died, according to media reports. She was buried in a desert far from her village. It’s unlikely anyone was arrested. Her case is not unique. Stoning is legal or practised in at least 15 countries or regions. And campaigners fear this barbaric form of execution may be on the rise, particularly in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Women’s rights activists have launched an international campaign for a ban on stoning, which is mostly inflicted on women accused of adultery. They are using Twitter and other social media to put pressure on the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, to denounce the practice.
“Stoning is a cruel and hideous punishment. It is a form of torturing someone to death,” said Naureen Shameem of the international rights group Women Living Under Muslim Laws. “It is one of the most brutal forms of violence perpetrated against women in order to control and punish their sexuality and basic freedoms.”
She said activists will also push the UN to adopt a resolution on stoning similar to the one passed last year on eradicating female genital mutilation – another form of violence against women often justified on religious and cultural grounds.
Stoning is not legal in most Muslim countries and there is no mention of it in the Koran. But supporters argue that it is legitimised by the Hadith – the acts and sayings of the Prophet Mohamed. Stoning is set out as a specific punishment for adultery under several interpretations of sharia or Islamic law. In some instances, even a woman saying she has been raped can be considered an admission to the crime of zina (sex outside marriage).
From The Guardian UK: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/oct/04/nsa-reporting-about-journalism
In late June, the economist Dean Baker astutely observed that our NSA reporting was “doing as much to expose corrupt journalism as to expose government spying.” Indeed, from the earliest stages of this reporting, back in Hong Kong, we expected (and hoped) that the reporting we were about to do would expose conflicts in how journalism is understood and practiced as much as it would shine light on the NSA’s specific surveillance programs.
That, I think, has clearly been the case. The debates over the proper relationship between journalists and governments have been as illuminating and significant as the debates over government spying and secrecy. Last night on BBC‘s Newsnight, I was interviewed for 14 minutes by host Kirsty Wark. It was an adversarial interview, which is how interviews should be. But she chose to focus almost entirely on the process questions surrounding the reporting rather than the substance of the revelations, and in the process made some quite dubious claims that come straight from the mouths of government officials. Nonetheless, her choice of focus ended up highlighting many of the most important conflicts about how journalism is understood, and is worth watching for that reason:
By Mike Ludwig
Friday, 04 October 2013
Researchers have found elevated levels of radioactive material and other pollutants in Pennsylvania’s scenic Blacklick Creek, and they say fracking is to blame.
Researchers at Duke University announced this week that samples collected from 2010 to 2012 near a fracking wastewater treatment facility that discharges into Blacklick Creek had up to 200 times the amount of radium than samples just upstream, as well as elevated levels of salts and heavy metals.
“The radioactivity levels we found in sediments near the outflow are above management regulations in the United States and would only be accepted at a licensed radioactive disposal facility,” said Robert B. Jackson, professor of environmental science at Duke.
Hydraulic fracturing, aka “fracking,” involves forcing high volumes of water and chemicals into underground formations to release fossil fuels. Advances in fracking technology triggered an oil and gas rush in Pennsylvania and across the country, and after several years of heavy fracking, researchers are now beginning to quantify the environmental damage.
The heavily-fracked Marcellus Shale formation under Pennsylvania is naturally high in radioactive material. In 2011, the state asked fracking firms to voluntarily stop sending wastewater to facilities like the one on Blacklick Creek until they upgraded treatment equipment, but wastewater is still discharged into the environment in some other states, according to the Duke team.
Where Do You Put Billions of Gallons of Toxic Wastewater?
The fracking industry produced 280 billion gallons of toxic wastewater in 2012 alone, according to a recent report from Environment America. Since 2005, the industry has used 250 billion gallons of fresh water to produce oil and gas, which was turned into toxic wastewater along with underground water unearthed in production.
by BillMoyers.com Staff
October 4, 2013
Environmental activist Bill McKibben sat down with Moyers & Company to talk about the lasting contributions of Wendell Berry to the environmental, sustainable agriculture and slow food movements.
“He understood what was happening on this planet a long time before everybody else,” McKibben said. It was Berry’s foresight and activism that led local farmers to bring their produce directly to consumers in communities across the country.
McKibben calls Berry the patron saint of farmers markets adding “almost by force of will and [the] beauty of his words he gave birth to a counterculture trend that … bears great promise.”