EDITOR’S NOTE: The subject of this story identifies as agender, so we are following his mother’s lead in using male pronouns.
A California student who identifies as agender is recovering after having reportedly been set on fire by a fellow teen while on board a moving bus.
As The Oakland Tribune is reporting, a 16-year-old Oakland High School student (whose name was not disclosed) was arrested after setting fire to a skirt being worn by Sasha Fleischman, who had fallen asleep while returning home to East Oakland, Calif. on the bus. When Fleischman awoke, he tried unsuccessfully to put out the fire himself, but was eventually able to do so with the aid of other bus passengers, the Contra Costa Times noted.
Fleischman, 18, does not identify as male or female but rather as nonbinary gender, according to his mother, Debbie. Although Sasha has been occasionally wearing a skirt publicly for about a year, this is the first time he’s encountered an issue, she added.
“My son considers himself agender,” Debbie Fleischman told the Tribune. “He likes to wear a skirt. It’s his statement. That’s how he feels comfortable dressing.”
NBC Bay Area reports that the teen suspect was arrested Nov. 5 on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and mayhem. He may face additional charges, but officials did not disclose whether or not the incident would be investigated as a hate crime, according to that report.
“This is a horrific crime,” police spokeswoman Johnna Watson is quoted as saying. “Anyone who thinks it’s OK to light another human being on fire is not OK.”
By David Edwards
Thursday, November 7, 2013
A 13-year-old boy in Kansas was suspended on Wednesday for wearing a Vera Bradley purse — and officials say he can’t come back until he takes it off.
Skylar Davis told KCTV that he had been carrying the colorful Vera Bradley handbag for months until one official at Anderson County Senior-Junior School insisted that he remove it on Wednesday.
After telling Assistant Principal Don Hillard that he wasn’t going to take the purse off, Davis’ mother, Leslie Willis, was called to pick him up.
“I was a little furious, and I called the school [and spoke to Hillard] to reverify the story, and yeah, he refused to take off his Vera Bradley bag, nothing more to do it,” Willis recalled to KCTV. “Skylar has been going to school since August with that same Vera Bradley bag on, hasn’t taken it off. What is the problem?”
Willis added that there was no rule about purses in the school handbook.
Davis pointed out that girls at the school never faced punishment for wearing their purses.
“I don’t think everyone should be treated differently,” he said. “Everyone should have the same privileges.”
Dakota Haight agreed that the school was discriminating against his brother.
“I’ve seen girls wear short shorts. Why don’t they get kicked out? But then he gets kicked out for a purse?” Haight observed. “That doesn’t make sense. It’s not right.”
by HRC staff
November 7, 2013
Today, the U.S. Senate voted 64 to 32 to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) for the first time in the legislation’s two-decade history. All Senate Democrats joined 10 Senate Republicans to approve the bill.
Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin issued the following statement:
“Today, a strong bipartisan majority of the United States Senate made history by standing up for a fundamental American truth. Each and every American worker should be judged based on the work they do, and never based on who they are. This broad Senate coalition has sent a vital message that civil rights legislation should never be tied up by partisan political games.
“We firmly believe that if the House of Representative were freed by Speaker John Boehner to vote its conscience, this bill could pass immediately. It’s unconscionable that any one person would stand in the way of this crucial piece of the civil rights puzzle.”
Earlier this week, House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, prematurely suggested that he will not bring ENDA to the floor for an up-or-down vote. However, that statement is already drawing public criticism from some in the speaker’s own party.
In an interview with Greg Sargent of the Washington Post, GOP Representative Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania said, “I believe the Speaker should allow a vote on this bill. […] I believe that the American public wants to make sure people are not discriminated against.”
“With today’s vote in the Senate, Majority Leader Reid, Chairman Harkin, lead sponsors Senators Merkley and Kirk, and Senators Collins and Baldwin have shown us all what leadership looks like. Now, Speaker Boehner should take up the mantle of leadership and allow the House to join them.”
Separately, President Obama is also empowered to sign a long-pending executive order that would protect the employees of federal contractors from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. This order is not a silver bullet, and ENDA is vitally necessary after the order is signed. But the Human Rights Campaign has long argued that, by signing the order, President Obama can extend workplace protections to over 16 million American workers.
“We urge the House of Representatives to pass ENDA immediately, and we call on President Obama to send a clear message in support of workplace fairness by signing this executive order,” Griffin said.
Yesterday’s election brought huge results for anti-fracking voters in Fort Collins, Boulder and Lafayette where all measures were approved that will either ban or pause the practice of hydraulic fracturing. Initial results show Broomfield with a tally so close—13 votes—that it will force a recount.
“With wins in Boulder, Lafayette and Fort Collins—and a partial-victory in Broomfield—this election sends a huge wake-up call to Governor Hickenlooper that the people of Colorado do not want to be fracked,” said Gary Wockner of Clean Water Action. ”Fort Collins’ vote is especially revealing—a decisive 10 point win in a swing county while being outspent 40 to 1. The oil and gas industry poured in almost $900,000 to try and force citizens to be exposed to their cancer-causing fracking chemicals. Their money back-fired.”
“Here’s the message to Governor Hickenlooper: Can you hear us now?” said Wockner.
In all four races, proponents were heavily outspent by the opposition. According to The Denver Post, Colorado Oil and Gas Association opened its wallet wide to oppose all of the anti-fracking measures, spending $878,120 on city-specific campaigns by Halloween. Anti-fracking groups raised more than $26,000 in the same time.
The Fort Collins initiative—which won with 55 percent of the vote—halts fracking and the disposal of related waste for five years. In Boulder, Issue 2H won with 77 percent of the vote, which extends by four years a one-year moratorium on oil and gas extraction that would otherwise expire June 3, 2014. In Lafayette, 59 percent of the voters decided to change the city charter to ban the practice outright. In Broomfield, Question 300 would prevent any drilling activity that uses hydraulic fracturing for a total of five years.
“This is a huge victory for the citizens of Fort Collins. We are thrilled that the citizens of Fort Collins saw through the misinformation and half-truths told by the world’s richest and most powerful industry,” said Kelly Giddens of Citizens for a Healthy Fort Collins.
From The Vancouver Straight: http://www.straight.com/news/523551/david-suzuki-getting-dirty-good-your-immune-system
by David Suzuki
on Nov 5, 2013
For much of human history we lived close to the natural world. As civilization evolved we became increasingly urbanized, and most of us now live in cities. As we’ve moved away from nature, we’ve seen a decline in other forms of life. Biodiversity is disappearing. The current rate of loss is perhaps as high as 10,000 times the natural rate. The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s 2008 Red List of Threatened Species shows 16,928 plant and animal species are threatened with extinction. This includes a quarter of all mammal species, a third of amphibian species and an eighth of bird species. And that’s only among those we know about; scientists say we may have identified just 10 to 15 percent of existing species.
It can be a challenge to communicate why this loss is important. We know species diversity is critical to the healthy functioning of ecosystems that provide services on which humans depend. But could we live with fewer? Some would argue we could do without mosquitoes and other annoying critters. We could keep the ones we want and those that are useful to us. Do we need biodiversity to keep humans healthy?
According to an article in Conservation magazine, there is a link between biodiversity and human health. Ilkka Hanski and his colleagues at the University of Helsinki compared allergies of adolescents living in houses surrounded by biodiverse natural areas to those living in landscapes of lawns and concrete. They found people surrounded by a greater diversity of life were themselves covered with a wider range of different kinds of microbes than those in less diverse surroundings. They were also less likely to exhibit allergies.
What’s going on? Discussion of the relationship between biodiversity and human health is not new. Many have theorized that our disconnection from nature is leading to a myriad of ailments. Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, says people who spend too little time outdoors experience a range of behavioural problems, which he calls “nature deficit disorder”. It fits with theories of modern ecology, which show systems lacking in biodiversity are less resilient, whether they’re forests or microbial communities in our stomachs or on our skin. Less resilient systems are more subject to invasion by pathogens or invasive species.
Hanski studied a region in Finland where few people move far. He randomly selected 118 adolescents in an equal number of homes. Some were in the city and others in woods or on farms. The team collected skin swabs from subjects and then measured the biodiversity of plants around each house. Their data revealed a clear pattern: higher native-plant diversity appeared to be associated with altered microbial composition on the participants’ skin, which led in turn to lower risk of allergies.
By John Upton
5 Nov 2013
Cars and cows are slurping up the largest corn crop ever grown in the U.S.
With the fall corn harvest three-quarters done, traders are anticipating a yield of about 14 billion bushels, Bloomberg reports. That exceeds forecasts and is 30 percent greater than last year. Growers are thanking agreeable weather for this year’s early and bountiful harvest, a notable shift after last year’s drought woes.
The amount of land used to cultivate corn has been growing during the past 25 years, displacing grasslands and other crops. Meanwhile, the amount of corn grown per acre has tripled since the 1950s due largely to new varieties and heavy doses of herbicides and fertilizers, which have been polluting waterways and fueling algae blooms.
But the most dramatic change in recent years has been the skyrocketing demand for corn to brew ethanol. That’s not due to a resurgent national appetite for white lightning moonshine. Rather, it’s due to the EPA’s renewable-fuel mandate, a controversial regulation requiring biofuels be blended into gasoline. The mandate was created under the Energy Policy Act of 2005, substantially expanded in 2010, and it continues to be expanded.