Friday, November 30, 2012

November 30

From the Howard Zinn Project

Nov. 30 is the birthday of Mark Twain (1835), Gordon Parks (1912), Shirley Chisholm (1924), and Abbie Hoffman (1936).

Who else should we add to the list?

It is also the day in 1930 when fearless labor leader Mary Harris "Mother" Jones died. (Thanks to Bread and Roses 1912-2012 for the reminder.) Opponents called Mother Jones “the most dangerous woman in America." When she was denounced on the floor of the U.S. Senate as “the grandmother of all agitators,” she said she hoped to live long enough to be the great-grandmother of all agitators.
This week an article in The New Yorker reminded me of Bikini Kill, of the band that started the Riot Grrl Movement some twenty years ago.

From The New Yorker:

Hanna and Her Sisters

Bikini Kill sparked the riot-grrrl movement. It also made great music.

November 26, 2012

In May of 1989, a junior at Evergreen State College, in Olympia, Washington, named Kathleen Hanna traveled to Seattle to meet Kathy Acker, a forty-two-year-old author she admired. Acker, who had written about abuse, incest, and other forms of sexual extremity, was conducting workshops at the Center on Contemporary Art. Hanna, then nineteen, bluffed her way into an interview. As reported in Sara Marcus’s carefully documented history, “Girls to the Front,” when Hanna explained that she was interested in spoken-word performance and in writing, Acker told her that she should be in a band: “There’s more of a community for musicians than for writers.”

Hanna felt rebuffed at first, but she ultimately took the advice. In 1990, after touring with a band called Viva Knievel, she formed a new group, eventually called Bikini Kill, with a drummer named Tobi Vail, whom Hanna knew from Olympia. Vail had been publishing and writing a feminist zine called Jigsaw, which Hanna admired. Hanna and Vail found bandmates in the bassist Kathi Wilcox, who had never been in a band before, and the guitarist Billy Karren. This led to both a small catalogue of recordings and the birth of the very sort of community that Acker was referring to. People often use the phrase “riot grrrl” as shorthand for the feminist music activism of the nineties, but sometimes they use it simply to refer to Bikini Kill. The group’s first two vinyl recordings are being reissued, twenty years after their initial release, on a label set up by the members to preserve their output. Even though the riot-grrrl community has come to dwarf the songs in historical memory—that was the point, really—the music is still a pungent tonic.

Bands like Gossip, who became pop stars (in England, at least), cite the influence of Bikini Kill and the riot-grrrl movement. Members of the Russian political collective Pussy Riot, two of whom are currently in prison for hooliganism, also cite the band’s impact. (Pussy Riot is known for wearing balaclavas during public actions; is it coincidence that Hanna wore one in “No Alternative Girls,” a short film, from 1994, by Tamra Davis?)


Clinton: LGBT-inclusion ‘the smart thing’ for U.S. foreign policy

From The Washington Blade:

By Chris Johnson
on November 28, 2012

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered on Wednesday what might be her last public address before an LGBT audience as chief diplomat for the United States when she told group of LGBT Foreign Service officers their service is integral to the country.

“Creating an LGBT-welcoming workplace is not just the right thing to do, it’s also the smart thing,” Clinton said. “And part of that is because the nature of diplomacy has changed and we should and need to keep up. Today, we expect our diplomats to build relationships not just with their counterparts in foreign governments, but from people from every continent and every walk of life, and, in order to do that, we need a diplomatic core that is as diverse as the world we work in.”

Additionally, Clinton said having an LGBT-inclusive State Department makes the Foreign Service corps “better advocates” for American values.

“When anyone is persecuted anywhere and that includes when LGBT people are persecuted, we’re kept from fully participating in their societies,” Clinton said. “They suffer, but so do we. We are diminished because our commitment to the human rights of all people has to be a continuing obligation and mission of everyone who serves in the government of the United States.”

Clinton delivered the remarks in Benjamin Franklin room at the State Department to observe the 20th anniversary of the department’s LGBT affinity group, Gays & Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies, or GLIFAA.

She reminded the estimated 200 people in attendance that world in which GLIFAA was created was much different than today and the organization has worked over the course of 20 years to create a fairer workplace for LGBT Foreign Service officers.

“As we heard, in 1992, you could be fired for being gay,” Clinton said. “Just think about all of the exceptional public servant — the brilliant strategists, the linguists, the experts — fired for no reason other than their sexual orientation. Think of what we lost because we were unable of their hard work, expertise and experience.”

Clinton also gave recognition to Tom Gallagher, whom she said joined the State Department in 1965 and in the early 1970′s became the first openly gay Foreign Service officer. He was in the audience during Clinton’s speech and rose when the secretary mentioned him.

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The Walls Are Closing in on the Ex-Gay Industry

From Huffington Post:


In 1998, 15 religious right organizations launched a huge advertising campaign to promote "pray away the gay" programs. Anti-gay activist Robert Knight called the "Truth in Love" campaign the "Normandy Landing in the larger cultural wars."

Things didn't quite work out as Knight had hoped. In 2000, I photographed their poster boy, John Paulk, in a Washington, DC gay bar. In 2003, I joined attorney Mike Hamar in reporting that the star of their television campaign, Michael Johnston, was hooking up with men he was meeting on the Internet.

The already shredded credibility of such groups markedly deteriorated this year after Exodus International's leader, Alan Chambers, said that his "ex-gay" ministry did not work for 99.9 percent of clients. This followed a similar admission from Love In Action ministry leader John Smid. The icing on the cake occurred this spring when Dr. Robert Spitzer renounced his infamous 2001 "ex-gay" study claiming that some gay people could go straight.

The cherry on top of the icing came last month when California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill prohibiting reparative therapy for minors in California, which greatly damaged an industry where more than half of the clients are youth.

This week, the rest of the chickens came home to roost and the roles from 1998 were reversed, with the LGBT community and its allies storming the beaches of the "ex-gay" shoreline.

On Monday, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) filed a lawsuit on behalf of the victims of reparative therapy. Representing four clients, and two of their mothers, SPLC slammed Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH), its director Arthur Abba Goldberg, and life coach Alan Downing, with an historic complaint alleging consumer fraud.

SPLC's lawsuit is based on JONAH and Downing's "misguided and erroneous belief that that being gay is a mental disorder -- a position rejected by the American Psychiatric Association four decades ago." The lawsuit says that some Plaintiffs were instructed to "remove all clothing during both individual and group therapy sessions including an instruction to Chaim Levin to hold his penis in front of Defendant Downing.

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Calif. Congresswoman to introduce resolution targeting reparative therapy

From LGBTQ Nation:

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) has announced that she will introduce a House resolution on Wednesday, Nov. 28, asking the U.S. House of Representatives to encourage states to take steps to prevent minors from being harmed by controversial and discredited gay-to-straight conversion therapy.

Jenny Werwa, Speier's Communications Director, told LGBTQ Nation on Tuesday that the Congresswoman's efforts stem from the recent, "well publicized tragic examples of the harmful psychological abuse inflicted on young Americans by these dangerous sexual orientation conversion practices," also known as reparative therapy, which aims to convert or “repair” an individual’s sexual orientation.

Werwa said that Speier's office has been working closely in recent months with Christine Sun, Legal Director for the Southern Poverty Law Center, and Wayne Besen, Executive Director of Truth Wins Out, a Vermont-based watch group that has tracked "Ex-Gay" organizations and therapists who practice reparative therapy.

Speier's legislative effort, a House resolution entitled "Stop Harming Our Kids" (SHOK), was inspired by California's recent passage of legislation authored by State Sen. Ted Lieu, which prohibits reparative therapy for minors. The historic bill was signed into law on Sept. 29 by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Speier has also been investigating whether taxpayer funded programs such as Medicaid or TRICARE healthcare programs have been used to reimburse therapists who practice conversion therapy.
Speier will discuss the resolution and her efforts at a press conference on Wednesday, and is expected to be joined by advocacy leaders and survivors of sexual orientation change practices. Sheldon Bruck, a plaintiff in a new lawsuit against a New Jersey organization for offering fraudulent conversion therapy services, will share his story.

Continue reading at:

See also:  Huffington Post:  Jackie Speier Introduces 'Stop Harming Our Kids' Resolution, Hits 'Ex-Gay' Conversion 'Quackery'

Mark Ruffalo reads Eugene Debs

Today  I received a couple of books I ordered from Amazon:

Oliver Stone's The Untold History of the United States

Howard Zinn's A People's History of American Empire

I had started reading from Howard's book  Voices of a People's History of the United States

Earlier this evening I read about Eugene V. Debs.

Study: CA decriminalization caused youth pot arrests to plunge 61 percent in one year

From Raw Story:

By Stephen C. Webster
Thursday, November 29, 2012

Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) might have left his state’s fiscal house in utter disarray, but a study released Thursday finds that he also did California’s young people a huge favor by signing a bill decriminalizing marijuana.

In its October 2012 research brief (PDF), The Center on Juvenile & Criminal Justice (CJCJ) found that the governor’s agreement with the 2010 measure is directly linked to a 47 percent drop in adolescents ages 10-17 arrested on drug related offenses versus 2010′s statistics.

Overall, the study found that the decline in youth crime in California largely mirrors the overall decline in crime across the state since the 1950s. Even so, CJCJ research fellow Mike Males pointed specifically to marijuana decriminalization as leading to a 61 percent drop in small marijuana possession arrests from 2010 to 2011.

Interestingly, all other categories in the state’s Department of Finance crime reporting statistics saw significant declines from 2010-2011 as well. Arrests of young people for violent crime dropped 16 percent over 2010, and murder was down 26 percent. Property crimes were also down 16 percent, and rapes were down by 10 percent.

All together, California’s youth crime rate plunged an astonishing 20 percent in one year, the study concludes. Compared to the 1970s, as President Richard Nixon’s (R) drug war was getting underway in earnest, youth crime in California is down a whopping 68 percent — and Males even wrote that may be lowballing the estimate.

“Many youth offenses may have been hidden in the past, due to historic data collection limitations,” the study explains. “An average of 90,000 arrests per year in the 1950s, were reported as ‘delinquent tendencies,’ a broad category that included various violent, property, drug, and status offenses.”

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Savita's Case Reveals Narrowness of "Catholic" Law in an Increasingly Borderless World

From RH Reality Check:

by Michelle Chen, Special to RH Reality Check
November 27, 2012

When the young woman lay in agony in the hospital late last month, there should have been nothing standing between her and an emergency medical intervention. But instead, what stood between Savita Halappanavar, a 31 year-old, Indian-born dentist, and the Irish doctor treating her, was a dangerously wide grey area that has long hovered over Ireland’s constitution. As she suffered through complications stemming from a miscarriage, she begged for an abortion. It was denied, reportedly because the fetal heartbeat was still present. Her husband later recalled that Savita was told by a medical consultant that an abortion would be impossible because Ireland “is a Catholic Country.”

That exchange, seared in her aggrieved family's mind, lay bare the medieval nature of one of the Western hemisphere’s harshest abortion bans. Savita, a Hindu born in India, argued that she was “neither Irish nor Catholic." None of that mattered, because Ireland’s anti-abortion law, as it was interpreted by her medical provider, trumped questions of both bodily sovereignty and cultural difference.

Savita’s case was one of countless pregnancies across Ireland in which a woman’s fate may come down to a subjective medical assessment colored by “conscience.” To qualify under Ireland’s near-total abortion ban, Savita’s life was apparently deemed not sufficiently endangered—until the two heartbeats ended after days of crippling pain, leaving both the fetus and the mother dead, the latter of sep­ticaemia.

Savita’s death has set off a wave of protests—not just among pro-choice activists in Ireland but also Ireland’s Indian immigrant community and in her home country. Two official investigations into the medical decisions leading up to Savita’s death are pending. Even the Indian government has gotten involved, with a meeting between the Indian ambassador to Ireland and the Irish foreign minister.

Yet Savita’s tragedy isn’t about her Indian identity per se; it points to the barriers facing all women in Ireland. The unwritten religious subtext of the policy—“cruelty disguised as piety,” in the words of one columnist—effectively places the bodies of both Catholic and non-Catholic women, citizens and migrants alike, under a sweeping, vague rule at odds with rights enshrined in international law.

The main legal guidance for the abortion ban is the case of X, involving a 14 year-old rape victim who was blocked from traveling to England for an abortion. The court set the medical threshold for abortion as “real and substantial risk to the life, as distinct from the health, of the mother.” The lack of concrete legislation on the standard has left the the one narrow avenue for legal abortion mostly in the hands of doctors. For a woman ineligible for a medically necessary abortion, virtually the only safe option is to travel to the United Kingdom or another country to terminate her pregnancy.

Continue reading at:

This Goes Out to All the Ladies

From The American Prospect:

Having won re-election on the backs of women voters, Obama should thank them by reversing last year's disastrous decision on Plan B.

Amanda Marcotte
November 29, 2012

This past election, President Barack Obama made blatant appeals to female voters to great success. Fifty-five percent of women and a jaw-dropping 68 percent of single women voted for the president this round. Feminist and reproductive-rights groups especially campaigned hard, not just to reward him for some significant wins for women in office but because they widely believed that he could do even more in a second term, especially with 18 congressional seats swapping from anti- or mixed-choice to pro-choice.
In other words, feminist-leaning women helped usher in Obama’s victory, and now they’re wondering how he intends to show his gratitude.

Even though most of 2012 was a lovefest between feminists and the Obama administration, the administration came under plenty of fire from activists who felt he was often too quick to compromise. Some feminist organizations, like the National Organization for Women, denounced the president for signing an executive order barring insurance plans on health-care exchanges from covering abortion, even though a handful of anti-abortion Democrats were determined to destroy health-care reform if they didn’t get this concession.

More troubling was that, in late 2011, the administration took away a victory that feminists thought was in the bag. For years, anti-choicers from the Bush administration had killed applications to make Plan B, an emergency contraceptive, available to all customers over the counter, even though the makers had repeatedly demonstrated that their product met all the safety standards required. The debate centered around giving access to minors. Bush-appointed FDA officials voiced concerns that Plan B on shelves would encourage teenage girls to have sex, and even, in the words of one official, that the drug would “lead adolescents to form sex-based cults around the use of Plan B.”

In 2011, the scientific arguments in favor won out, and the Food and Drug Administration prepared to grant Plan B over-the-counter status. But in a historically unprecedented move, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled the FDA, requiring Plan B to stay behind pharmacy counters, where only those 17 and older can buy it without a prescription if they show identification.
Despite Obama’s comments defending the decision, in which he claimed “common sense” holds that Plan B shouldn’t be sold “alongside bubble gum or batteries,” the move was widely perceived as shameless political pandering. Prior to this, the president had defended the reproductive rights of minors, opposing parental-notification laws for abortion and arguing for comprehensive sex education. By stating that girls should not be “punished with a baby” for having sex, he showed he was not just pro-choice but understood the right-wing obsession with sin and punishment, which is what drives conservative opposition to expanded reproductive health-care access.

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180 Seconds of Coal Ash Problems

Somewhere Under the Rainbow

From In These Times:

When will the Left move on from movement-building?

BY Carl Davidson
November 27, 2012

A rainbow coalition of Democratic voters gave Barack Obama a victory over big Wall Street money and the steady drumbeat of hard-right racism. Nearly 45 percent of the president’s voters were people of color, with their numbers augmented by white women, youth and trade unionists. It was enough to keep him in the White House, but not enough to decisively change the overall balance of forces.
Now the harder struggles begin—for Obama, for the Democratic Party and for the Left. Tough choices face all three.

Obama has to decide how he wants to govern in his second term. Does he want to be remembered as a center-right conciliator of neoliberal austerity and militarism who discounted key components of his rainbow? Or does he want to forge a deeper center-left majority coalition that can make wise use of government to create jobs, spur growth, promote equity and find solutions to global problems short of war? Since he has always been a liberal speaking mainly to the center, he can go either way.
The Democrats have a longer-term choice. Do they want to be the Blue Dog party of neoliberalism elite, best summed up by a Rahm Emanuel policy of “unite the center,” move to the Right and dismiss the Left? Or do they want to revisit their Keynesian roots with a Green New Deal that builds an educational and manufacturing infrastructure for the 21st century? The first course means the country continues its steady reactionary drift, rewarding a privileged few. The second means a progressive turn that can reward the rest of us.

The Left faces a choice, too. Do we continue trying to build mass movements, in the hope that they will be the engines of a new and transformative strategic politics? Or do we go further than our usual “movement building” mantra and put new emphasis on organization building? We’ve seen the Wisconsin and Ohio uprisings, Occupy Wall Street, and the pressing of the Robin Hood tax by the Congressional Progressive Caucus—all of which are the beginnings of an emerging popular front against finance capital, one pregnant with new potential. But without organization, movements simply ebb and flow—and often dissipate. Our task now is to combine fanning the flames with a new organizing thrust.
We have to evolve political groups with electoral capacities than can win elections locally. We must expand the ranks of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, turning it into our left- progressive pole inside the Beltway.

We have to encourage more social justice trade unions, like the Chicago Teachers Union. We have to grow our grassroots coalitions, like the Virginia New Majority, and to launch solidarity economy projects, like Cleveland’s Evergreen Cooperatives. We have to promote a new culture of educating with reason, promoting science over ideology, and defending the core democratic values of the Enlightenment. We must speak truth to power while we fashion the instruments to take power. In brief, we require a united, determined core of Left political organizers with a wider and deeper vision for economic democracy and a socialism worthy of the 21st century.

Continue reading at:

It's the New Economy, Stupid

From The Nation:

John Cavanagh and Robin BroadNovember 28, 2012
Most progressives have long embraced a clear alternative to the conservative story that prosperity flows best from a “free market” unfettered by government regulation and taxes. The standard progressive response: government incentives and spending are essential to spur the creation of jobs, and unions and regulations can make them “good jobs.” 

President Obama’s re-election by a surprisingly healthy margin (he won by 3.5 million in the popular vote and by 126 in the Electoral College) confirmed substantial support for this overall approach to the economy. Despite deep economic suffering throughout Obama’s first term, the public validated his advocacy for more progressive taxes, his ideas about the positive role that government must play in regulation, and his call for public investment in training, education and research. All of this adds up to a significant defeat for the free-market ideologues who lined up behind Mitt Romney. 

But here’s the catch: while Obama’s policies have the short-term potential to improve the lives of many Americans beleaguered by the economic slump, the approach he champions is insufficient to tackle the long-term problems we face. To secure a safe and prosperous future for subsequent generations, efforts to reduce unemployment and curb inequality must be considered alongside urgent threats to the environment and democracy. These crises present a compelling argument for systemic change. 

Just a week before an election in which both candidates largely ignored the environment, Hurricane Sandy devastated the East Coast and put climate change at center stage. Who would have imagined Bloomberg Businessweek with a cover trumpeting “It’s Global Warming, Stupid,” as the magazine did just days after the storm? Climate chaos is at the core of our environmental crisis, but the problem also includes dwindling supplies of potable water, the destruction of forests and oceans, and the depletion of the planet’s biodiversity. Simply put, jobs that threaten the environment cannot be considered good jobs. 

The assault on democracy by growing corporate control of our workplaces, our politics and our economy presents another deepening crisis. Roughly $6 billion was spent to influence and distort the political process in the 2012 elections, with a huge portion of this staggering sum coming from Wall Street and the wealthy. This dire situation demands that we put a premium on alternative forms of collective ownership and a shift from giant corporations and banks to smaller enterprises rooted in communities.

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Fast Food Workers Launch Strikes Across New York City

From Alternet:

On the heels of Black Friday WalMart walkouts, hundreds of fast food restaurant workers are planning to strike in high-traffic commercial centers.

By Laura Gottesdiener
November 29, 2012

From the Chicago teachers’ strike to WalMart walkouts to protests at fast food restaurants across New York City, 2012 is shaping up to be the year that labor fought back.
Thursday, coming less than one week after the Black Friday WalMart walkouts, hundreds of fast food restaurant workers are striking in high-traffic commercial centers in Manhattan and Brooklyn. The strikes, which began at 6 am this morning and will continue throughout the day, will hit some of the world’s biggest fast food chains, including McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Dominos, Burger King, Kentucky Friend Chicken and Taco Bell, and carry an industry-shaking demand: the right to unionize and wage increases to $15 an hour.
Fast food workers in New York City earn  just below $9.00 an hour  on average, and rarely receive health care, paid sick days or other benefits that make it possible to live in an expensive urban center like New York City. These workers are also often given only 20 or 30 hours of work a week, which keeps their annual income far below the poverty line. According to organizers on the campaign, many workers have to resort to collecting public assistance, eating at their restaurants to save money and sometimes even living in homeless shelters--necessities that not only make their lives incredibly challenging but also put intense strain on the city’s social safety net. 
The top companies, meanwhile, have been netting considerable profits; according to The Atlantic’s Sarah Jaffe , Taco Bell and KFC’s profits have risen nearly 50 percent over the last four years, and McDonald’s have jumped a staggering 130 percent. Most troubling, these types of low-wage, low-protection jobs are the majority of positions being created as the economy slowly recovers from the 2008 recession. According to a report by the National Employment Law Project, nearly 60 percent of the jobs added since the recession have been these types of low-wage jobs, particularly in retail sales and food preparation.
Given the intense economic inequality of this rapidly growing industry, the sector is ripe for worker organizing. However, the high turnover rate in the industry and the challenge of battling some of the world’s most massive corporations has thus far deterred any group from launching an ambitious and comprehensive campaign.
Beginning in January of this year, New York Communities for Change, in partnership with UnitedNY, the Black Institute the Service Employees International Union, and faith groups across the city, set out to change that legacy, deploying more than three dozen full-time organizers into the city’s fast food sector.

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Wikileaks founder has new book on internet freedom

BP to Shareholders: We're Already Working With EPA to Lift Federal Contract Ban

From Truth Out:

By Jason Leopold
Thursday, 29 November 2012

Despite a long history of  "egregious violations," the behemoth oil company's temporary suspension from obtaining lucrative government contracts may turn out to be much shorter than expected. 
 "BP is a serious serial corporate environmental criminal and a corporate serial killer.... [The company] always settles its cases with the government and promises to change its culture, but it continues to do the same thing over and over again."-- Jeanne Pascal, former EPA debarment counsel  

On Wednesday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made a surprise announcement stating that, effective immediately, the oil behemoth and more than a dozen of its subsidiary companies will be "ineligible"  to "receive any federal contract or approved subcontract" as a result of BP's agreement to plead guilty two weeks ago to a wide range of crimes directly related to the deadly April 2010 disaster in the Gulf.

"EPA is taking this action due to BP's lack of business integrity as demonstrated by the company's conduct with regard to the Deepwater Horizon blowout, explosion, oil spill and response as reflected by the filing [by the Justice Department] of a criminal information," the EPA said in its statement.

The notice of suspension, sent to BP PLC chief executive Robert Dudley, states that on November 23 the EPA's suspension and debarment division recommended that BP immediately be suspended from government contract work. The notice of suspension typically is preceded by a complaint document that lays out all of the reasons suspension and debarment is sought. The EPA did not provide Truthout with a copy of the complaint.

In a news release BP issued after it settled criminal charges related to the Gulf disaster, BP said the company "has not been advised of the intention of any federal agency to suspend or debar the company in connection with this plea agreement."

The EPA's announcement, which does not apply to BP's existing federal contracts, was made the same day the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management opened up for sale to oil companies more than 20 million acres in the Western Gulf of Mexico for oil and natural gas exploration and development. Also, on Wednesday, two BP supervisors who were aboard the Deepwater Horizon when it exploded were arraigned on manslaughter charges, and a former BP vice president was arraigned on false statements and obstruction of Congress. All three pleaded not guilty.

A BP spokeswoman said the company already had decided before the decision by the EPA to sit out Wednesday's lease sale. But the EPA's suspension would also have covered new drilling leases and so the timing of the agency's announcement does not appear to be coincidental. BP was the high bidder in June for 43 leases to drill in the Central Gulf of Mexico, not far from the site of where the Macondo well ruptured and spewed millions of barrels of oil into the waters. BP is the largest deepwater leaseholder in the Gulf.
But after the EPA announced BP's suspension, BP quickly issued a statement, downplaying the EPA's action and attempting to reassure its shareholders,  saying that the corporation "has been in regular dialogue with the EPA" and is already negotiating with federal regulators to lift the ban.

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Climate change is happening now – a carbon price must follow

From The Guardian UK:

The extreme weather events of 2012 are what we have been warning of for 25 years, but the answer is plain to see
, Thursday 29 November 2012

Will our short attention span be the end of us? Just a month after the second "storm of a century" in two years, the media moves on to the latest scandal with barely a retrospective glance at the implications of the extreme climate anomalies we have seen.

Hurricane Sandy was not just a storm. It was a stark illustration of the power that climate change can deliver – today – to our doorsteps.

Ask the homeowners along the New Jersey and New York shores still homeless. Ask the local governments struggling weeks later to turn on power to their cold, darkened towns and cities. Ask the entire north-east coast, reeling from a catastrophe whose cost is estimated at $50bn and rising. (I am not brave enough to ask those who've lost husbands or wives, children or grandparents).

I bring up these facts sadly, as one who has urged us to heed the scientific evidence on climate change for the past 25 years. The science is clear: climate change is here, now.

Superstorm Sandy is not the first storm, and certainly won't be the last. Still, it is hard for us as individual human beings to connect the dots. That's where observation, data and scientific analysis help us see.
No credible scientist disputes that we have warmed our climate by almost 1.5C over land areas in the past century, most of that in the past 30 years.

As my colleagues and I demonstrated in a peer-reviewed study published this summer, climate extremes are already occurring much more frequently in the world we have warmed through our reliance on fossil fuels.

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Harvey Milk, George Moscone Remembered At San Francisco Memorial, 34 Years After Assassinations

Photo by Suzan Cooke

From Huffington Post:

Posted: 11/28/2012

November 27 is a sensitive day for San Francisco.

Anyone who lived in this city in 1978 remembers that morning, four days after Thanksgiving, when Supervisor Dan White walked through City Hall with a revolver and shot and killed Mayor George Moscone and Harvey Milk, the city's first openly gay supervisor.

So on Tuesday, 34 years after the tragic incident, city officials, the Milk and Moscone families, LGBT supporters and much of the San Francisco community gathered on the steps of City Hall in memory.
"Let's get this straight: George and Harvey did not die heroically. It was a senseless act," said Jonathan Moscone, George's youngest son, according to SF Appeal. Jonathan was a 14-year-old freshman at St. Ignatius High School when his father was killed.

White was convicted of voluntary manslaughter instead of murder, a decision that led to the violent White Night riots at City Hall. The conviction was widely viewed as too lenient, and made famous the "Twinkie defense" that helped White in court.

"Don't think I didn't smile when I heard Hostess was going under," Jonathan said to the crowd on Tuesday.
Jonathan called on crowd members to live their lives like Milk and his father, both considered champions for equality and civil rights.

"We're all agents of change like George and Harvey were," he said. All of us have a voice."
Other speakers expressed the same sentiment.

"Harvey Milk was a visionary whose life and death had a profound effect on the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community," said Anne Kronenberg, Milk's former aide, per SF Weekly. "He is remembered for his passion and his perseverance in his quest for equality for all people."

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Gay Men Will Marry Your Girlfriends

NOM Now Warning Against Young People Having Gay Friends

From Think Progress

By Zack Ford
on Nov 26, 2012

The National Organization for Marriage has sunk to a new low of intolerance. In a “Thanksgiving Message” from Jennifer Roback Morse of NOM’s Ruth Institute, she warns that young people are being “pressured” to support LGBT equality because they have gay friends and peers. Morse relates a story of a Catholic resident assistant (RA) at a college who didn’t want to participate in the “drag party” being organized by her gay supervisor. The supervisor was supposedly “really leaning on her” and trying to “make her feel bad, make her look bad,” an example of a pro-LGBT strategy that Morse feels is a much more significant threat than the media:
MORSE: I think a lot of our students are encountering this type of situation in their dorms and on their college campuses… What I want to say to you, is that the other side has RAs in the dorm where your young people are going to school. There’s no TV message that is going to do the job of countering that type of influence. Somebody’s got to be there talking to young people one at a time in the places where they’re hanging out and doing the things that they’re doing. There’s no mass media strategy by itself that will solve this problem. [...]
And this holiday season, when your young people come home from college, ask them about this. Ask them if they have a gay RA in their dorms… So please, talk to your young people about this and see what kind of pressure they may be under that maybe even they don’t realize how much it’s having an impact upon them.
Complete article at:

Abortion in Ireland: The Injustice and Day-to-Day Terror Faced by Countless Women

From RH Reality Check:

by Sarah Fisher, Abortion Support Network
November 28, 2012

As an organization that hears first-hand from the women who bear the burden of Ireland’s archaic abortion laws, the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar was shocking and sickening.

And yet not as surprising as you’d think.

Given that abortion laws in Ireland are among the strictest in the world, a tragedy of this kind wasn’t so much a matter of if, but when. The circumstances in which Savita died are truly abhorrent. Admitted to hospital experiencing a miscarriage at 17 weeks, despite being told that the fetus “wasn’t viable” she was made to suffer for days, left begging for an abortion that she was refused as long as there was a foetal heart beat.
Haunted by the harrowing details of Savita’s death we’re left to wonder how many more women in Ireland may have lost their lives as a result of being denied a life-saving abortion.

If Savita’s family hadn’t bravely made the decision to go public, would her senseless death have come to light? Have the lives of more women been sacrificed because a fetus was deemed more important? Even when it was known that the fetus would not survive? When, technically in Ireland an abortion is permitted if there is a “real and substantial risk to the life of the mother?” These are questions that we cannot ignore and questions that demand answers.

Savita’s death is the worst illustration of what happens when abortion is highly restricted, and the worst way for the ‘pro-life’ lobby to be proved wrong. How often do we hear that abortion is never necessary to save the life of a woman? A protester at a vigil for Savita hit the nail on the head with a placard stating ‘Pro-Life beliefs killed Savita Halappanavar – Ireland needs abortion rights.’  So did Kartha Pollit in her compelling reflection on the case When ‘Pro-Life’ kills.

But what has been absent from the mainstream media coverage of Savita’s death has been the mass, day-in day-out misery and discrimination experienced by women as a result of the near-total ban on abortion in Ireland.

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Abortion In The Crosshairs Of Many States Run By GOP

From Addicting Info:

By 2012/11/28

While Republicans consider a compromise regarding the looming “fiscal cliff,” they insist on refusing to learn the lessons of this month’s election when it comes to social issues like abortion. Nationally, the GOP seems to regard the fact that they still maintain majority in the House, one of the few places where they didn’t suffer humiliating defeat, as a mandate from the people. We have already seen this happen in their steadfast refusal to vote for the Senate’s Violence Against Women Act because it would protect Native American women, immigrants, and gay, lesbian or transgender individuals. Unfortunately, as the few states who are still held in Republican majority begin their legislative sessions, we also are witness to brazen acts against women’s rights on a state level.

Arkansas is one of those states that have a Republican House, Senate, and governorship. Enthused by the supposed mandate of the 2012 election, Arkansas state leaders have chosen to direct their energies not toward job creation or other economic solutions, but toward their sick fixation with abortion. One man, Rep. Andy Mayberry, was very enthused by the majority his party holds in that state and his chances for pushing through anti-choice laws that severely limit women’s access to abortion and contraception:
“I will say that basically any opportunity now is more than any opportunity than we had in the previous session.”
When I asked UniteWomen.Org’s Arkansas State Director, Jennifer Moser, what she and her organization thought about the impending threat of new legislation from Rep. Mayberry and his friends, she was very concerned. In her written response to me she said that, “The war on women is far from over.”  In fact, what she describes is obviously just that, an organized attack on women as part of the War on Women:
“Pro-Life organizations in Arkansas are pushing lawmakers to pass anti-choice legislation for the upcoming 89th general assembly. Arkansas Right To Life is currently petitioning residents on anti-choice legislation. According to their website, they are requesting signatures to ban “web cam” abortions, to ban abortions on an unborn child capable of feeling pain, and to opt out of the abortion coverage in the Obama healthcare law.

“There have been bills in the past that have tried to limit or ban abortions in Arkansas. The most recent, HB1887, which was sponsored by Rep. Andy Mayberry, was adjourned without assigning a date for further decision.
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BP suspended from new US federal contracts over Deepwater disaster

From The Guardian UK:

Environmental Protection Agency accuses oil giant of a 'lack of business integrity' over its behaviour following 2010 Gulf spill

, US environment correspondent, and
The Guardian
, Wednesday 28 November 2012

BP has been blocked from seeking new contracts with the US government because of the oil company's "lack of business integrity" during the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster, the Environmental Protection Agency said Wednesday.

The temporary order bans BP from competing for new oil leases in the Gulf of Mexico – such as the auction of 20m acres taking place on Wednesday – or from bidding on new contracts to supply the Pentagon or other government agencies with fuel.

While the ban does not affect existing business, it raises wider questions about the company's future in a crucial market.

The type of suspension imposed by the EPA typically does not last more than 18 months. But an official said that in this case the ban could be extended because of the ongoing legal proceedings. That could mean BP, the largest oil producer in the Gulf of Mexico, would remain under an extended moratorium until all criminal charges and law suits are resolved.

BP was clearly taken by surprise and struggled to explain the impact on its business. Its shares fell nearly 2% in London as investors reacted with dismay to the news which puts a major dent in the company's already battered reputation.

The finance director of the London-based oil group warned investors at a recent presentation that any outright ban could "affect BP's investment thesis in the US". 

The order was handed down just two weeks after BP agreed to plead guilty to manslaughter and other charges arising from the April 2010 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, as well as pay a record $4.5bn in fines.

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Change Is Coming: Factory Farms' Days May Be Numbered

From Common Dreams:

Animal welfare advocates, rejoice

by Ocean Robbins Published on Wednesday, November 28, 2012 by Common Dreams

In one of history's most stunning victories for humane farming, Australia's largest supermarket chain, Coles, will as of January 1 stop selling company branded pork and eggs from animals kept in factory farms. As an immediate result, 34,000 mother pigs will no longer be kept in stalls for long periods of their lives, and 350,000 hens will be freed from cages.

Not to be outdone, the nation's other dominant supermarket chain, Woolworths, has already begun phasing out factory farmed animal products. In fact all of Woolworth's house brand eggs are now cage-free, and by mid-2013 all of their pork will come from farmers who operate stall-free farms.

Coles and Woolworths together account for a dominant 80 percent of all supermarket sales in Australia.
The move to open up the cages was fueled by "consumer sentiment," and it has been synchronous with a major campaign against factory farming of animals led by Animals Australia. The campaign features a TV ad, titled "When Pigs Fly," in which an adorable piglet tells the story of animals sentenced to life in cramped cages, and then flies to freedom.

Meanwhile, in the United States, egg factory farms cram more than 90 percent of the country's 280 million egg-laying hens into barren cages so small the birds can't even spread their wings. Each bird spends her entire life given less space than a sheet of paper. And in a reality that does not please fans of Wilber or Babe, between 60 to 70 percent of the more than five million breeding pigs in the United States are kept in crates too small for them to so much as turn around.

There are laws against cruelty to animals in the United States, but most states specifically exempt animals destined for human consumption. The result is that the animal agriculture industry routinely does things to animals that, if you did them to a dog or a cat, would get you put in jail.

Gene Baur, president of Farm Sanctuary, explains: "Most of the anti-cruelty laws exempt farm animals as long as the practices are considered to be normal by the agriculture industry. What has happened is that bad has become normal, and no matter how cruel it is, normal is legal."

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World Bank should take its own advice on climate change

From Green Left:

By Simon Butler
Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The World Bank delivered a brutal warning about the dangers of runaway climate change and called for rapid action to cut greenhouse gas emissions in a recent report. But don’t expect the bank to take its own advice.

The bank released its Turn Down the Heat report on climate change on November 18. Subtitled “Why a 4 degree warmer world must be avoided”, the report said the world is headed for a 4°C average temperature rise by the end of the century, and possibly as soon as 2060.

On today’s trends, a 4°C world is almost certain — even if all nations were to meet their current targets to cut emissions. That is, the existing pledges to cut emissions made at recent international climate talks are not enough to make a difference.

The report makes clear that a 4°C world would be a global calamity. The World Bank said a 4°C temperature rise would lead to average summer temperatures about 6°C higher in North Africa, the Mediterranean, the Middle East and North America.

The higher temperatures will also mean “a dramatic increase in the intensity and frequency of high temperature extremes”.

These extremes, such the unprecedented Russian heatwave of 2010, would become “the new normal summer”. The Russian heatwave caused more than 10,000 deaths and wiped close to $15 billion off the country’s GDP.

The big rise in CO2 levels would also cause a 150% rise in ocean acidification by 2100, something probably “unparalleled in Earth’s history”. This would spell the end for the world’s coral reefs but also wipe out global fish stocks, which the WWF says are due to collapse anyway by mid-century from overfishing. Today, about 1 billion people worldwide rely on fish as their main protein source.

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