Transgender Woman Says LA Fitness Barred Her From Women’s Locker Room

From KCBS Los Angeles:

October 29, 2013

MONTCLAIR ( — A transgender woman says she was recently disrespected and harassed at an LA Fitness in Montclair.

Yanel Valenzuela told KCAL9’s Crystal Cruz that one manager at the health club, located at 9385 Monte Vista Ave., told her she can no longer use the women’s locker room.

“It gave me emotional stress,” she said. “I don’t think it was fair.”

Valenzuela said the manager’s request came after she had told another employee that she is a transgender woman looking for workout advice catered to her needs.

“I felt hurt because I don’t understand why she did it. She had no reason. She had no complaints from anyone,” Valenzuela said.

Valenzuela said she showed the manager her California driver’s license, which states she’s female. She also had a letter from her doctor that said she was born a man but had surgery to become a woman.

“I hope this never happens to anybody again because it’s not fair for me to be disrespected in front of clients and the members that come here,” Valenzuela said.

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Conservative Americans are more terrified of sex than violence

From The Guardian UK:

There’s been plenty of outcry in the US over lesbian sex in Blue is the Warmest Colour. Brutality onscreen, however, is fine, Monday 4 November 2013

If you bothered to listen to the Parents Television Council, you would think that New York‘s tiny IFC Center was evil incarnate when the theatre decided not to enforce the NC-17 rating for the film Blue Is the Warmest Color. The Parents Television Council called the move “shocking” and fretted that this meant “minor children” would be allowed to view graphic sex scenes (because they’ll no doubt be camping on the street to see a three-hour French drama). Though its “stern warning” was not widely reported, it may very well have contributed to the film’s strong box office results thus far.

Everyone is entitled to their beliefs, but here’s where the fury of the Parents Television Council breaks down: these conservatives are so obsessed with sex, but seemingly care far less about violence.

While the Council was wailing about the possibility of a teenager seeing a lesbian film, a gunman opened fire at Los Angeles airport, resulting in one death and a number of injuries. That might have been a moment for the PTC, which ranks violence after sex in its list of evils it seeks to regulate on the airwaves, to deplore the shooting and, perhaps, note that there is some credence to the calls for stricter gun control laws (or, at least, less violence on screen and in video games). Real-world violence, however, tends to have little resonance with cultural scolds. It is certainly not worth mentioning when there is cinematic sex to condemn.

The fact that Blue Is the Warmest Color is even rated NC-17 in the first place makes it yet another entry in the discussion, most recently illuminated by Kirby Dick in his documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated, about the hypocrisy and arbitrariness of film ratings, particularly where sex is concerned.

Sex, female nudity, female enjoyment of sex, and especially female enjoyment of lesbian sex, tend to draw the strictest ratings. Violence, however, is given much more of a pass. Even gory violence will be rated R, whereas a women’s sexual pleasure is NC-17.

What’s so scary about sex and the female body? And why is it so much scarier than violence – including violence committed upon the female body?

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Pussy Riot’s Nadezhda sent to Siberia

From Salon:

The punk activist’s husband says she is being punished for speaking out about harsh penal colony conditions

Tuesday, Nov 5, 2013

With just a few months left of her two-year sentence for involvement in an anti-Putin punk performance in a Moscow cathedral, Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova is reportedly bing sent to a penal colony in deepest Siberia.

Concerns about the 23-year-old’s whereabouts piqued earlier this week, when her loved ones said they were unable to locate her in the Russian penal camp where she has been detained. According to an update from her husband, the Pussy Riot member has been located. “Petya Verzilov, said he had received ’100 percent reliable’ information that she was being moved to a prison in the Krasnoyarsk region, four time zones and 2,000 miles from Moscow,” the Guardian reported.

Tolokonnikova’s husband claims she is being punished for writing an open letter, which garnered viral attention, that decried the conditions at her previous penal colony as “slave labor”-like. Via the Guardian:

Verzilov said he believed the move was punishment for Tolokonnikova’s public statements, and decision had been taken to remove her from the media spotlight as much as possible.

“They do not have the ability to put on the usual psychological or physical pressure they can use with inmates because of the high profile of the case,” he said. “So they have chosen this as the punishment instead.”

Tolokonnikova was moved after going on hunger strike over conditions in her women’s prison camp, located in the region of Mordovia. In an open letter, she described a slave-like forced-labour routine, with 17-hour working days and an array of sadistic punishments. The conditions she described were reminiscent of Soviet-era Gulag literature, and sparked a huge debate both inside Russia and internationally.

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Bill Advances to Outlaw Discrimination Against Gays

From The New York Times:

Published: November 4, 2013

WASHINGTON — A measure that would outlaw workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity overcame a significant obstacle in the Senate on Monday as seven Republicans crossed party lines and voted to begin debate on the bill.

The 61-30 vote marks the first time since 1996 that the full Senate will consider a measure to extend federal nondiscrimination law to gay, lesbian and bisexual people — a stark reminder, supporters said, that as the public has come around to accepting gay rights, Congress has been slow to keep pace.

It is also the first time that either house of Congress has voted on a nondiscrimination bill that includes transgender people.

Before the vote, supporters spoke of making history. The occasion moved Senator Mark S. Kirk, Republican of Illinois, to make his first speech in the Senate since suffering a stroke last year. None of the Republicans voting against the measure spoke up.

“Here we are today, now taking one more step to make the American family more inclusive,” said Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa. “No one should be discriminated against because of race, sex, religion, national origin, and they shouldn’t be discriminated against because of who they love or who they are.”

Senators are expected to try to amend the bill in the next several days to address Republican concerns. One proposed change would broaden the types of religious groups that are exempt from the bill, and another would make sure religious institutions are not subject to retaliation by the government if they refuse to employ people otherwise covered under the bill.

If one of those amendments is approved, the bill’s sponsors say they are confident they will be able to maintain the level of support — 60 votes — to break a Republican filibuster attempt and pass the measure.

Federal law already protects people from discrimination at work because of race, religion and a number of other factors. But it remains legal in most states to fire or refuse to hire people because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. Just 21 states and the District of Columbia offer such protections.

President Obama praised the Senate vote, saying, “Inexorably, the idea of a more tolerant, more prosperous country that offers more opportunity to more people, that’s an idea that the vast majority of Americans believe in.”

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Chelsea Manning willing to sue to get gender disorder treatment

From CBC News:

Imprisoned leaker of government documents seeking lawyer’s help to be allowed to live as woman in prison

The Associated Press
Posted:Nov 01, 2013

Imprisoned secret documents leaker Chelsea Manning says she’ll go to court, if necessary, to get treatment for gender identity disorder, also called gender dysphoria.

The U.S. army soldier formerly known as Bradley Manning wrote in a letter to the Private Manning Support Network that her court-martial defence attorney, David Coombs, is helping her seek treatment for the disorder at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks, a men’s military prison. The support group posted the Oct. 28 letter on its website Wednesday.

Manning is serving a 35-year sentence for sending more than 700,000 secret military and State Department documents to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks while working as an intelligence analyst in Iraq.

Manning, 25, wrote that she wants at least to be allowed to live as a woman and receive hormone replacement therapy. She said Coombs will represent her in those efforts “by assisting me in matters related to exhausting my administrative remedies and, if denied outright, in filing a writ before a court with jurisdiction.”

Coombs said Thursday he had nothing to add to Manning’s comments. After Manning announced her request in August, Coombs said he hoped the military prison would “do the right thing” so Manning wouldn’t have to go to court.

The military has said it does not provide treatment for gender dysphoria. Pentagon policy dictates that transgender soldiers are not allowed to serve, but Manning can’t be discharged until she’s released from prison and exhausts appeals of her criminal convictions.

The Army Medical Command has said prisoners cannot receive hormone treatment at the prison, though Manning is apparently the first to request it. Prison officials have said Manning won’t be allowed to dress as a woman.

Will file petition for name change

Manning was diagnosed with gender dysphoria by two army behavioural health specialists before her trial, but the Army has said prisoners must be re-evaluated.

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Having a Child Now is Not Affordable

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Anatomy of the War on Women: How the Koch Brothers Are Funding the Anti-Choice Agenda

From RH Reality Check:

by Adele M. Stan,
November 5, 2013

In the dog days of summer, the “war on women” erupted into a full-fledged conflagration, as heated battles to roll back reproductive rights in the U.S. Congress and in state legislatures across the nation were met with protests from women’s rights groups and grassroots uprisings. While the religious right had, over the years, used its influence to restrict access to abortion and contraception and push for feticide and personhood laws, nothing quite like the anti-choice legislative frenzy seen this past summer had taken place before the Koch brothers entered the war, bringing reinforcements from their legion of wealthy associates.

In June, outside the Ohio capitol building in Columbus, for example, hundreds gathered on the lawn to protest anti-choice measures that were ultimately slipped into the annual budget bill, HB 59.

In North Carolina, thousands of activists gathered weekly, throughout the legislative session, at the state capitol in Raleigh for Moral Monday protests of a host of right-wing measures ranging from voter ID laws to rollbacks of reproductive rights. Many were arrested for trying to enter the capitol building.

And in Texas, the state capitol building in Austin was crammed with protesters as state Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) earned her place in Lone Star history with her 11-hour filibuster of a draconian anti-choice bill, SB 5, which, after being stopped by Davis and her pro-choice allies with a dramatic run-down of the clock, ultimately passed into law as HB 2 in a subsequent special session called by Republican Gov. Rick Perry.

Back in Washington, D.C., the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed HR 1797, a bill that would ban abortion after 20 weeks post-conception.

To the untrained eye, it seemed that a sudden wildfire of anti-choice bills had engulfed the legislative agenda, but in truth the assault had been years, even decades, in the making. It wasn’t until three years ago, however, that conditions became so hospitable for the arsonists who trained their flame-throwers on these fundamental freedoms.

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Why young women are going off the pill and on to contraception voodoo

From The Guardian UK:

Many twentysomethings are resentful of their birth control options, and so are choosing to use nothing at all

The Guardian, Tuesday 29 October 2013

I have a twentysomething friend in the US who, for purposes of preserving our friendship, I’ll call Mary. As Mary is a human being, she likes to have sex. One thing Mary does not like, however, is contraception. Being on the pill made her “crazy”; getting an IUD felt, she says evocatively, “like having a hair caught in my throat”; and condoms “just don’t feel good. We all know that.” So for the past dozen years (“at least”) Mary has been using an alternative method: she hasn’t been using any contraception at all.

Instead, she has worked out a formula that she calls “amazing” and I call “voodoo”. It involves a combination of relying on various smartphone apps with names like Period Tracker and relying on the guy she is sleeping with (she is not in a long-term relationship) to “behave” – in other words, pull out in the nick of time. That she has not become pregnant since switching to her voodoo system proves, she says, that it works, “although there have been a few plan B [morning-after pill] moments”. Mary is not crazy. She is not even stupid. In fact, she is increasingly typical of her generation.

According to a report from the Guttmacher Institute, more than half of the unintended pregnancies in the US occur among the 10.7% of women who use no contraceptive method at all (and no, downloading Period Tracker does not count as a contraceptive method). This finding comes only a few months after a study carried out by the amazingly named Dr Annie Dude at Duke University. Dr Dude’s findings revealed that 31% of young women in America aged between 15 and 24 had relied on the pull-out method at least once. Unsurprisingly, these women were 7.5% more likely to rely on emergency contraception than others and, even less surprisingly, of those who relied on the pull-out method, 21% had become pregnant. Apparently, these women had never heard the old joke: you know what you call a couple who use the rhythm and pull-out methods? Parents.

When researchers from the Guttmacher Institute asked the women who accidentally became pregnant why they eschewed contraception, answers ranged from the self-deluding (“a perceived invulnerability to pregnancy”) to the predictable (“lack of thought or preparation”, dislike of contraceptive methods) to the absolutely infuriating (“male partner’s objections and fear that pregnancy prevention is an indication of infidelity”).

Another factor I have noticed is that some young women resent having to shoulder the responsibility for contraception. Why, these women ask, and not unreasonably, are they the ones who have to take a hormonal pill every day, or have something stuck up inside them? Let the guy deal with it from now on! It’s a remarkable turnaround since the 1960s and 70s when second-wave feminists argued that a woman’s control over her fertility was a necessary power. Margaret Sanger, before she founded Planned Parenthood in America, wrote in 1920 that a woman who relies on a man for birth control is “exploited, driven and enslaved to his desires”. Some young women today disagree and see having the control as a burdensome, irritatingly one-sided responsibility. One aspect that has undoubtedly played a considerable part in this shift is that many women have experienced negative side-effects from the pill, from making them feel – as Mary says – “crazy” to a loss of libido to a fear of blood clotting.

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Behind the right’s crazy crusade to make women pay more for health insurance

From Salon:

Equalizing premiums for men and women is common sense — unless you’re opposed to women’s freedom

Tuesday, Nov 5, 2013

In a sane world, when Rep. Renee Ellmers asked rhetorically last week “Has a man ever delivered a baby?” she would have been arguing not against, but for the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that men and women pay the same insurance premiums. After all, the special physical burdens borne solely by women to ensure the life and health of the next generation obviously benefit both genders, right? Healthy men today can thank their mothers for eating well and getting good prenatal care; likewise fathers are grateful to the mothers of their children for the same. (Michael Hiltzik runs down the case for sharing those costs publicly here.)

But no, Ellmers asked that question of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in order to rail against the ACA’s equal premium requirement. She thought it was a clever “gotcha” moment, designed to show the craziness of requiring all insurance policies to cover maternity care and contraception without a co-pay. (The doofuses at Breitbart agreed, declaring “Ellmers brings her A game.”) Amazingly, Ellmers chairs the House GOP’s “women’s policy committee” – so how could she be so tone-deaf in attacking the way the ACA helps that increasingly elusive GOP constituency, female voters?

Because the right-wing base of the modern Republican Party is dedicated to restoring men as the head of the household, and the nuclear, husband-headed family as the principle social unit. From Rick Santorum railing against contraception and preaching the nuclear family as the answer to poverty in last year’s GOP presidential primary, to Rafael Cruz Sr. telling an audience that “God commands us men to teach your wife, to teach your children—to be the spiritual leader of your family,” today’s right-wing Republicans are increasingly comfortable with open displays of old-time crackpot patriarchy. This week Sen. Ted Cruz Jr. courts the right-wing preachers of the South Carolina Renewal Project, which is thought to be a key stop on his way to the GOP nomination in that early-primary state.

Let’s face it: The only way charging women more for health insurance and healthcare makes sense is if they have a partner who either shares that burden or shoulders it entirely. As in … a husband. Then it’s clear that the male of the species is doing his part to keep the species healthy and reproducing itself. A woman who doesn’t have a husband to play that role? Well, there shouldn’t be women like that – and certainly if there are, they shouldn’t be having children anyway, or even having sex, so they don’t need maternity care or contraception.

That’s the only way I can explain the GOP’s willingness to openly endorse an enormous transfer of wealth from women back to men by not only advocating the repeal of the ACA but specifically railing against its equal-premium provisions. But don’t worry, gals: You’ll get that wealth back once you get yourself a man!

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David Suzuki’s Fukushima Warning Is Dire And Scary

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Toxic World Exposing Hundreds of Millions to Deadly Chemicals: Report

From Common Dreams:

Problem goes well beyond a ‘Top Ten’ list, but the human impact in these areas should be a wake-up call to the world

Jon Queally

The rise of computers, advanced electronics and large-scale manufacturing systems have serious down sides that much of the developed world and the beneficiaries of those technologies have proven eager to ignore.

And on Monday, highlighting the ten worst places in the world for industrial pollution, a new report claims that more than 200 million people living in low- and middle-income countries are having their health dramatically impacted by their exposure to dangerous levels of toxic materials.

According to the report, produced by the U.S.-based Blacksmith Institute and Green Cross Switzerland in Europe, the new list of the top ten polluted places shows that a range of pollution sources and industrial contaminants—including hexavalent chromium from tanneries and heavy metals released from smelting operations—continue to plague populations already suffering from poverty and poor health systems.

“In this year’s report, we cite some of the most polluted places we’ve encountered. But it is important to point out that the problem is really much larger than these ten sites,” says Richard Fuller, president of Blacksmith Institute. “We estimate that the health of more than 200 million people is at risk from pollution in the developing world.”

As the report shows, the world’s ten most polluted places include:

Agbogbloshie, Ghana
Chernobyl, Ukraine
Citarum River, Indonesia
Dzershinsk, Russia
Hazaribagh, Bangladesh
Kabwe, Zambia
Kalimantan, Indonesia
Matanza Riachuelo, Argentina
Niger River Delta, Nigeria
Norilsk, Russia

The groups released a similar report in 2007 and though many of the same areas remained on their top ten list, they were joined by an unfortunate number of newly polluted areas that have succumbed to the perils of electronic manufacturing and the growing quantities of e-waste produced by the digital revolution.

As Agence France-Presse reports:

West Africa’s second largest processing area for the world’s swelling piles of electronic waste, at Agbogbloshie in Ghana’s capital Accra was among new additions.

Each year, Ghana imports around 215,000 tonnes of secondhand consumer electronics, mainly from Western Europe — a number that is expected to double by 2020, according to the report.

The main health concern linked to e-waste processing in Ghana is the burning of sheathed cables to recover the copper inside, the report said, pointing out that the cables can contain a range of heavy metals, including lead.

Soil samples from around Agbogbloshie have shown concentrations of that toxic metal that are 45 times more than accepted levels, the report said.

“E-waste is really going to be a challenge. It’s growing exponentially. Everybody wants a computer, a laptop, the modern devices, so I think we’re seeing the tip of the iceberg,” Blacksmith research director Jack Caravanos told reporters in a conference call.

Read the full report, The Top Ten Toxic Threats: Cleanup, Progress, and Ongoing Challengeshere.


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Anti-vaccination movement: It’s time for doctors to take a stand

From The LA Times:,0,6638791.story#axzz2jojkReJ6

November 5, 2013

Are doctors inadvertently fueling the anti-vaccine movement?

A study published Monday in the Journal of Pediatrics analyzed more than 100 vaccine discussions involving 16 healthcare providers and found that how the doctor phrased the vaccine question had an impact on swaying parents who were hesitant about whether to vaccinate their children.

The study found that when doctors told parents it was time to vaccinate (“It’s time for Bobby to have his shots”) rather than presenting it as a question (“What do you want to do about Bobby’s shots?”), parents were much more likely to accept vaccination. As the study by Dr. Douglas Opel, assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, suggests, doctors need to stop presenting vaccination as a question and more assertively advocate for the potentially lifesaving vaccination of young children.

Of course, parents should not be pressured into vaccinating. They should have questions answered and should make decisions based on informed consent. But from a public health perspective, vaccination should not be presented as a choice, implying equally valid options, especially in the context of rampant vaccine misinformation.

From the moment of conception, today’s parents are swamped with information overload and an endless barrage of choices. The Internet is teeming with information on every conceivable choice a parent may encounter. Parents don’t need to go very far to find opposition to vaccination, whether in play groups or online. Though suspicion about vaccines is not new, a now widely discredited study published in 1998 linking the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine to autism kicked the panic over vaccines into overdrive. And anti-vaccination zealots like Jenny McCarthy continue to fire up the “debate.”

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