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Mayor Forces Man To Leave Public Meeting Because He Won’t Stand During Prayer

A Florida mayor ejected one of his constituents from a City Commission meeting on Thursday because he declined to stand during the invocation and pledge to the flag at the beginning of the meeting.

Winter Garden Mayor John Rees, a nonpartisan official leading an Orlando suburb of about 37,000, was caught on video demanding that an audience member stand for a prayer, which thanked God for “allowing us to live in a country where we’re free to believe, think, and pray.”

The audience member responded, “I don’t believe I have to do that, thank you.” After the prayer, Rees again instructed the constituent, identified by theOrlando Sentinel as Joseph Richardson, to stand for the pledge to the flag as “children have to in school.” Richardson again politely declined.

“Okay. I asked him to either stand or please be escorted out as we do the Pledge,” Rees says in the video. “It’s just not fair to our troops and people overseas, sir.”

City police then enforced the mayor’s demand and Richardson left.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, the CFFC’s national parent group, in aletter Friday, accused Rees and the chief of police of perpetrating “several serious First Amendment violations.”

The First Amendment guarantees religious freedom and speech. Additionally,section 3 of Florida’s state constitution explicitly demands a strict separation between the state and its subdivisions and religion. While schools do require that the pledge be recited in public school classrooms, Rees is incorrect on the requirements. Students have the right to sit quietly if they do not wish to participate. In a 1942 case on this exact question, the U.S. Supreme Court held that students cannot be coerced into reciting or standing for the pledge. Justice Robert H. Jackson wrote in his majority opinion that “if there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”

Rees told the Sentinel that because Richardson has previously come and left after the prayer and invocation, he believes “he doesn’t come to the meetings because he cares about the city.” Though the American Civil Liberties Unionalso objected to the mayor’s actions, Rees so far seems unconcerned: “It wasn’t premeditated. I just reacted. It hit me. I said it. I gave him an option. …Life will go on.”

 

Josh Israel, Think Progress

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Student Loan Crusader: How Elizabeth Warren Wants to Reduce Debt

As a first-term senator from Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren is advancing her fight for middle-class families with a legislative agenda focused on college affordability and student debt. “Rising student-loan debt is an economic emergency,” she says. “Forty million people are dealing with $1.2 trillion in outstanding student debt. It’s stopping young people from buying homes, from buying cars and from starting small businesses. We need to take action.”

Warren’s bills range from pie-in-the-sky progressive – she called for college loans to be issued at the same, nearly free, interest rates that Wall Street banks receive from the Fed – to soberly bipartisan. Her proposal to refinance outstanding student-loan debt at less than four percent interest (financed by a new minimum tax on America’s top earners) nearly cleared the Senate in June, and will return to the Senate floor for a new vote this fall. “This country invests in tax loopholes for billionaires,” she says. “And forces college students to pay for them through higher interest rates on their loans. That makes no sense at all.”

College affordability is not a new problem. Tuition costs are up 500 percent since 1985. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says the solution is that “not every­body needs to go to Yale.” That sounds cynical. But is there some pragmatism there? Is it time to admit that a traditional college education has become a luxury good?
Mitch McConnell’s idea that people should dream a little smaller is deeply flawed. And let me add: The problem is not limited to private universities. States used to pick up about three out of every four dollars it cost to educate someone at a public university. Now it’s about one in four. In America today, a young person needs more education after high school just to have a chance to make it in the middle class. Not a guarantee, just a chance to make it.

What can Congress do about it, on the front end, to rein in tuition?
One way is to force schools to have some skin in the game. I’ve co-sponsored a bill with Sen. Jack Reed [D-R.I.] that requires colleges with high student-loan defaults to pay back some of the federal student aid they use.

The major thrust of your work hasn’t been in trying to lower tuitions, but in making college cheaper to finance. Why is that the right approach?
Just the little slice of loans that were issued between 2007 and 2012 are projected to produce $66 billion in profits to the federal government. Think about that. The role of government has to be helping young people, instead of taxing them for making the effort. I would like [to set student loans] at the same rate that the government currently charges the financial institutions. I tried that last year [laughs].

Your latest proposal is to let people with outstanding student debt refinance loans at the same rate currently being offered to students.
Homeowners refinance their loans when interest rates go down. Businesses refinance their loans. But right now, there’s no way for students to be able to do that. I’ve proposed that we reduce the interest rate on the outstanding loan debt to the same rate Republicans and Democrats came together last year to set on new loans [3.86 percent]. For millions of borrowers, that would cut interest rates in half or more. Unfortunately, the federal government can’t just reduce the interest rate. It has already built those expected profits into the budget. So we propose stitching up tax loopholes that are available only to millionaires and billionaires, and requiring them to pay taxes at the same rate most American families pay. That would more than pay for the cost of reducing the interest rate on student loans.

What’s the status of that bill?
Every single Democrat supported it. Both Independents supported the bill. And even three Republicans voted to move it forward. But the rest of the Republicans filibustered.

We will be voting on it again in September. As a country, we can either invest in tax loopholes for billionaires or lower-cost student loans for young people who are trying to build a future. Billionaires or students: It’s a pretty stark choice.

From Rolling Stone, Tim Dickinson

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Pastor calls to imprison gays for ‘ten years hard labor’ with new constitutional amendment

A pastor who uses his Internet platform to teach political lessons based on conservative Christian ideology has proposed a constitutional amendment to punish LGBT people for “ten years in prison at hard labor.”

In a video posted to his PreachingPolitics.com website last month that was flagged by the Good As You blog on Monday, Pastor Michael V. Williams asserts that Christians have been “increasingly tolerant” of gay people over the last 50 years.

“Whereas homosexuality used to be a felony in every state — referred to as sodomy — it has now been decriminalized, and homosexuality is allowed to be openly expressed in public,” he notes. “While Christians are becoming increasingly tolerant of homosexuals, homosexuals are becoming increasingly intolerant of us.”

“It’s time for Christians to resume obeying God and his word, and to re-criminalize homosexuality, outlaw it again,” the pastor continues. “The only way to do this and keep it beyond the reach of activist judges and unaccountable bureaucrats is to create a constitutional amendment.”

Williams’ proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution declares that the “United States of America is a Christian nation with Judeo-Christian ethics, morals, principles and values.”

And it decrees that the “practice of homosexuality in the United States of America and in all its territories and possessions, and in all its States, Counties and Cities shall be a felony punishable by ten years in prison at hard labor.”

Williams recommends that his viewers “incessantly” contact lawmakers until they agree to outlaw homosexuality.

“Make such a pest of yourself that they’re willing to do anything just to shut you up,” he advises in the video. “And remember, only vote for those who promise to adopt this amendment.”

“We’re in a fight for survival and only one side can win,” the Internet preacher concludes. “Let’s make sure it’s our side.”

David Edwards, The Raw Story

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Go Topless Day, a Blatant Publicity Stunt By a UFO Cult, In Dolores Park Sunday

It’s a yearly tradition like champagne on New Year’s Eve and vomit on New Year’s Day: This Sunday is “Go Topless Day,” to be celebrated locally at Dolores Park.

This is the point in the article we inform you that this display of bare female breasts is the most blatant of blatant publicity stunts for the nutty UFO cult calling itself the Raelians, the adherents of the charismatic French crackpot Rael, Claude Vorilhan.

This is what we wrote before, here and here. But everyone, and we do mean everyone, loves boobs. So this event elicits gawkers and unquestioning media coverage year in and year out.

Rael, to put it mildly, is a pip. In 2002, he claimed his group cloned a baby. This was never proven; would-be purchasers of the Brooklyn Bridge were likely miffed as well. He has, for decades, wheedled the public for funds, ostensibly to erect an intergalactic embassy in Jerusalem with which to serve our alien creators.

He also claims to be a top-notch race car driver, and, like a less buffoonish and more dangerous cult leader, is also a singer-songwriter. As we noted earlier, his tune Toutes Les Femmes (All the Women) is particularly apropos for Go Topless Day.

So, enjoy the view on Sunday. But, remember, it’s all in the name of spreading the word that humans are the spawn of extraterrestrials who have tasked Rael with disseminating their message.

And boobs.

 

From SF Weekly,  Joe Eskenazi

 

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What Could Possibly Go Wrong Just Did. Georgia’s Carry Protection Act in Action

That’s right. After the Safe Carry Protection Act passed in Georgia, many of us made the sarcastic remark, “What could possibly go wrong?’ Well, Saturday night something did. In the picturesque tourist town of Helen in the North Georgia mountains, a woman died as the result of a stray bullet which had already penetrated the shooter’s hand as he stood outside a bar across the street from her.

The German Alpine themed small town hosts many bars and is a popular tourist destination. The streets can be crowded on weekends and during the yearly Oktoberfest celebrations. Drinking is one popular pastime and set the scene for Saturday’s tragedy.

The shooter is a 53 year old man with a previous drunk driving conviction in 1999. He was outside a bar when the shooting occurred. He was found sitting on a bench with his injured hand. The woman his bullet found lay on the sidewalk across the street, dead at the scene, surrounded by family and friends, some of them children.

Many years ago our family visited the little town during their Oktoberfest. We noticed students in various stages of intoxication staggering into a fudge shop and joked, “What could possibly go wrong?” as we imagined the nauseating mixture of fudge and way too much beer. We never imagined the deadly new combination that would result many years later.

The man has been charged with involuntary manslaughter.

By Lily O Lady, Daily Kos

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Ro Khanna Campaign Silent Following Homophobic Rant by Republican Supporter Ernie Konnyu: Editorial

 

Ro Khanna Campaign Silent

Ro Khanna Campaign Silent

Congressional candidate Ro Khanna should  immediately take action and publically denounce the support of homophobic former Congressman Ernie Konnyu, Khanna’s highest-profile Republican endorser.

Konnyu, a one-term Silicon Valley Congressman who was voted out of office following a sexual harassment scandal, made news last week for orchestrating Tea Party support for Khanna, who is hoping to unseat longtime U.S. Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose.

But this week Konnyu took his right-wing vitriol a step further, using Facebook to publically attack the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce PAC for supporting openly gay Campbell Mayor Evan Low in his State Assembly race against former Saratoga mayor Chuck Page.

Konnyu waged his attack last Friday on a Facebook comment by former Chamber CEO Jim Cunneen, calling it “sick” that the Chamber PAC would support “a liberal so left that he wants to change the law to allow blood donations by gays. This, even though the current law forbids it since such blood has a risk of transferring the deadly AIDS virus. Yes! Gay pride is worth more with Evan Low than our citizens’ lives.”

Despite Cunneen’s efforts to prevent Konnyu from doing more damage by “counting to 10 before posting on Facebook,” Konnyu instead redirected his attack on Cunneen. “I am wiser, more experienced, and a lot older than you,” he said.

The San Jose Inside blog broke the story Wednesday but so far we’ve heard nothing from the Khanna campaign. By contrast, following last week’s news about the Tea Party’s support, Khanna’s campaign immediately responded with a “with friends like these…” shake of the head.

Konnyu is becoming a tremendous liability for Khanna, and we’re shocked that Khanna hasn’t denounced Konnyu’s misguided statements and support.

Let’s face it; Khanna doesn’t have a shot at defeating Honda, a seven-term incumbent with a proven track record of fighting for civil rights and same-sex equality.  However, that’s no excuse not to stand up and speak out against this kind of discrimination and homophobia – in his district and on his endorsement list.

 

 

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Splunk Technology Co. To Occupy 270 Brannan St.–Groundbreaking Draws Mayor Lee, SKS Partners, Mitsui Fudosan America

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Mayor Ed Lee today joined SKS Partners, Mitsui Fudosan America and more than 50 dignitaries at a ceremony today to officially break ground on 270 Brannan St. – the new 213,000 gross sq. ft. office building located in the heart of San Francisco’s SOMA neighborhood.  The space is already 100 percent leased to machine data player Splunk, which has another leased office building within the block of the new development.

“Our City’s South of Market neighborhood is going through an exciting renaissance, transforming an underutilized warehouse district into a growing, modern mixed-use area with office space, housing and small businesses,” said Mayor Lee. “I am thrilled to break ground on the 270 Brannan St. office building with SKS Partners and Mitsui Fudosan America who are committed to working with the community to ensure this neighborhood thrives economically yet maintains its historic presence.”

The building is being developed as a joint venture between San Francisco’s SKS Partners and Mitsui Fudosan America. The building was designed by prominent local architect, Peter Pfau, and Charles Pankow Builders is the general contractor.

Splunk, the big data technology company, will occupy the building when it opens in Dec. 2015.

“270 Brannan is the realization of the City’s 2008 Eastern Neighborhoods plan, creating a new office building for the growing economy that respects the historical context of the South Beach neighborhood,” said Dan Kingsley and Paul Stein, the Managing Partners at SKS.

City planners have praised the design of 270 Brannan St. for incorporating the character and history of the neighborhood while meeting the needs of its tenants.

The building will include a 5,000 sq. ft. internal atrium which will connect the building’s five-story front section and seven-story rear section. The building is targeting LEED Platinum Certification by the US Green Building Council and has many environmentally-friendly features such as roof-top solar panels.  It also includes spaces for 52 bikes along with adjacent showers and lockers in its basement. Automobile parking is limited to 12 spots in the building’s underground garage.

The building’s design will feature a pattern of alternating aluminum curtain wall windows and terracotta cladding on its Brannan Street façade, consistent with the surrounding South End Historic District. The rear façade, which fronts on DeBoom Street, will feature terracotta cladding on the lower floors with a floor-to-ceiling glass curtain wall on the top two floors.

“This groundbreaking is happening during a truly important time for environmental responsibility, both locally and globally. We are making real and lasting investments to improve our city, while protecting our environment and creating new jobs,” said Yukio Yoshida, President of Mitsui Fudosan America. “This building is believed to be one of the first to feature more bike parking spaces than car parking stalls in the history of San Francisco real estate developments and that, in and of itself, is a huge indication that we are opening a new chapter in San Francisco’s history of progress.”

The new 270 Brannan St. is scheduled to open in December 2015.

For more information, visit www.270brannan.com

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Wife of top Texas anti-gay crusader divorces him to be with lesbian partner

The leader of an anti-LGBT group who has joined with Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott to ban same-sex marriage had his own marriage end after his wife began a romantic relationship with another woman.

According to court documents obtained by Lone Star Q, Corrine Morris Rodriguez Saenz was dating another woman when she filed for divorce from Jonathan Saenz in 2011. Less than six months later, Jonathan Saenz took over as the president of the state’s top anti-gay group, Texas Values.

Corrine Saenz told the court that she wanted to end her marriage on the grounds that it was “insupportable due to discord or conflict of personalities … that destroys the legitimate ends of marriage and prevents reasonable expectations of reconciliation.”

Jonathan Saenz initially asked the court to refuse to grant the divorce, and to bar “any unrelated adult, with whom the parent has an intimate, romantic, emotional, and/or dating relationship to remain in the presence of the children, including but not limited to Ercimin Paredes, a/k/a Ercilia M. Paredes.”

Paredes was reportedly Corrine Saenz’s girlfriend, and the two worked together at as teachers at Becker Elementary School in the Austin Independent School District.

Nearly two years after the divorce battle began, Jonathan Saenz filed a counterpetition for divorce in May of 2013, accusing Corrine Saenz of adultery. The petition also asked that Paredes be permanently barred from access to the children.

The divorce became final on Aug. 1, 2013, and the Agreed Final Decree of Divorce made no mention of Paredes.

The Final Decree stated that both parents had the right “to direct the moral and religious training of the children.”

Earlier this year, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia ruled that Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage violated the Equal Protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. Jonathan Saenz has been working alongside Attorney General Abbott, the Republican Party’s nominee for governor, to overturn the decision.

“There is wide support for the state’s rights and for marriage to remain between one man and one woman. That cuts across political lines, across faith lines and across demographic lines,” Jonathan Saenz said earlier this month.

From Dave Edwards, The Raw Story

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The pastor of a church in Tampa, Fla., says he does not regret canceling a funeral service because the deceased man was gay

The pastor of a Tampa, Fla., church that canceled a man’s funeral because the deceased was gay is standing by his decision, despite negative reaction from around the nation.

“I don’t hate gay people,” Pastor T.W. Jenkins of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church told Tampa TV station WFLA, which first reported the news. Jenkins said he does, however, preach against marriage rights for same-sex couples.

Julion Evans was married to his partner of 17 years, Kendall Capers. In his obituary, Capers was listed as the surviving spouse, which Jenkins said caused church members to complain. “It would have been more of a negative response to hold the funeral than to cancel it,” the pastor said.

Evans, 42, died in July of a rare illness called amyloidosis, which destroys bodily organs. As reported last week, his mother, Julie Atwood, was baptized at New Hope Missionary Baptist, and some members of her family still attend services there. While her son and his husband did not go to the church, the family requested that the funeral be held there, as  the church offered a space large enough to accommodate the crowd of hundreds expected to attend. The service was scheduled for July 26, but canceled the day before by the church. The funeral had to be moved within 24 hours. As there was not enough time to notify all of the mourners, some people missed the funeral.

Otis Cooper, 29, who performed the ceremony, is a pastor at New Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church in Tampa. Atwood attends his church, and he had initially agreed to perform the ceremony at New Hope, then helped the family find another location, Blount & Curry Funeral Home. He told WFLA that he “can’t make a judgment call for” Jenkins, just as Jenkins “can’t make a judgment call for me.”

Capers, Evans’s husband, said he would have understood the church’s decision not to allow the service, had it given the family proper notice. Meanwhile, Atwood said getting the call about the cancellation was “devastating. I did feel like he was being denied the dignity of death.”

BY MICHELLE GARCIA, The Advocate

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Tragedy in Nigeria as hundreds of Catholics found burnt alive by Muslims

This is a brutal example of how far the struggle between Muslims and Catholics in Nigeria has reached.

Muslims are determined to impose their ‘religion’ all over Africa as well as in other continents and countries of the world. Islam has but one goal: rule the world at any cost!

And where are the International Human Rights Organizations? Christians are burnt alive in Nigeria: a horrific Holocaust right in front of International indifference! As denounced by Father Juan Carlos Martos, on behalf of the Missionari Clarettiani, via del Sacro Cuore di Maria, Rome, Italy.

By publishing this graphic document on Facebook, I have intended to make the world aware of certain terrible events totally ignored or minimized by the mainstream media; an authentic genocide so cruel and inhuman only comparable with the most hateful and vile acts in the Nazi extermination camps.

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To my great surprise, Facebook has criticized me for the publication of this graphic document as a proof of the Holocaust that Christians have been suffering in Nigeria in the last ten years. According to Facebook’s Security policy of the ‘social’ Network, this photo has been classified as ‘pornographic’, ‘violent’ or ‘inappropriate’ and hence I was disallowed to publish any picture for a week. And I was threatened drastic measures if I insist publishing any document that prove the terrible violations of Human Rights in Nigeria. This attitude by the (Spanish) Facebook Management is an attack to the freedom of expression as much as a
shameful insult to the 500 victims (only in this horrible episode) slaughtered by Islamic terror only for being christian.

I thought that this social network, originated in the United States , would not bend its knees in front of terror.
Especially, when still healing their wounds suffered in the gruesome 9/11 attack, just as our own 3/11 at Madrid railway station, all innocent victims of the wild fury and insanity of Islamic terror.

This seems even more unacceptable in Spain, a Democratic state, where the rights of opinion, expression and religion are guaranteed by the Constitution (Art. 16 and 20), if there is an attempt to limit such rights, let alone through threats and coercion thus weakening their freedom of expression by condemning as “inappropriate” a graphic document (not a photomontage) which reflects a brutal reality in all its crudeness.
Contrarily, the Administrators of Facebook Spain should welcome this public protest advocating that such a barbarian act will never be replicated and that its perpetrators will be brought to justice. This is a right and duty of every citizen: a service to society, ultimate goal, I feel, of any network that defines itself as ‘social’.

Regrettably, if the murders continue, this is greatly because truth is always hidden to the sovereign people, so that they may not be aware and ‘disdained’ by it: complicit silence by the mainstream media leads to the indifference of the international political community facing this unspeakable Holocaust! Let alone the cowardice already rooted in the western world facing the Islamic terror. A consequence of the stupid ” Alliance of civilizations”: another regrettable incident of our former Prime Minister Rodriguez Zapatero.

Can you imagine the reaction of the Islamic terrorist organization in the (impossible) case of a massacre of Muslims in a mosque, by the hands of christian terrorists? And how widely would our media cover and condemn the crime and the criminals??

Therefore, from this modest blog, I ask a favor from all people who are reading me: please distribute this photo and its comments using all the media you have. If only for commemorating these martyrs since, unfortunately, Facebook seems to be on the side of the executioners by preventing the publication of such tragic events.

Statement by Father Juan Carlos Martos cmf Secretariat of PV Clarettiani Missionaries

Posted by EU Times

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The Gorilla Foundation Announces New Focus, Key Hires and Important Organizational Changes

KoKo gorilla

Koko gorilla

San Francisco–The Gorilla Foundation announced a series of important changes today, including anticipated new management positions, potential new Board members and a certain new focus, all designed to strengthen one of the world’s leading organizations for great ape understanding, care and conservation. “We have come to a crossroads in our Foundation’s history, and we have recognized the need to do more for the cause of the great apes through building global empathy for their preservation and care”

These improvements, made after an extensive internal review with the help of the Foundation’s Scientific Advisory Board, Governing Board and outside consultants, seek to balance the vital goals of caring for and protecting the gorillas (Koko and Ndume) while refocusing and reinvigorating the organization’s core mission of learning about gorillas through direct communication, and applying that knowledge to advance great ape conservation and prevent their extinction through education, compassionate care and empathy worldwide.

“We have come to a crossroads in our Foundation’s history, and we have recognized the need to do more for the cause of the great apes through building global empathy for their preservation and care,” said Dr. Penny Patterson, the lead researcher behind the Foundation’s groundbreaking “Project Koko,” which is to date the longest running interspecies communication project in history and the only one involving gorillas.

“Koko and her family have taught us so much over many decades and now, more than ever, we feel it is incumbent on this organization to share what we’ve learned with people across the globe, as a way to help put an end to poaching and build compassion for enhancing the care of gorillas and other great apes everywhere,” she said.

The Gorilla Foundation was founded in 1976 by Dr. Patterson, Ron Cohn and philanthropist Barbara Hiller to expand the groundbreaking and unique work of “Project Koko,” the first-ever project to study the linguistic capabilities of gorillas through sign language. Today, after decades of research and learning, Koko is able to use more than 1,000 signs, understands as many words of spoken English, and demonstrates the amazing ability to communicate her thoughts and express her feelings through sign language.

With the goal of protecting and honoring this legacy for generations to come, the Foundation’s leadership today announced, in addition to organizational changes, a series of goals and programs that are designed to make better use of what Koko and her family have taught us over the years. These include:

RESEARCH:

1. Gorilla Emotional Awareness Study (GEARS) will provide an analysis of Koko’s awareness of her emotions (introspection) and the emotions of others (empathy), in research made possible by her unique communication abilities.

2. Digital Data Archival of Project Koko for Future Crowd-Sourced Research will involve a partnership with a major university to digitize and preserve four decades of unique Gorilla Foundation data and archive it in a form that will facilitate analysis and collaboration.

EDUCATION:

3. Koko Signing App will allow the public to learn to sign with Koko and to understand her in videos designed to advance the public’s knowledge about gorillas and learn about their need for compassionate conservation.

4. Project Koko Interactive Database will be made available to scientific colleagues and great ape facilities so that they can make use of our direct experience and data, gained through years of communicating with gorillas.

CONSERVATION:

5. Publication of new book (with video), Michael’s Dream, about the remarkable life of Koko’s gorilla friend Michael, who, on several occasions, communicated (in sign language) his memory of witnessing his gorilla mother being killed by poachers in Africa. This was documented on video.

6. Wide Distribution of Koko’s Kitten & Michael’s Dream Books and Educational Curricula throughout Africa, to strengthen compassionate conservation values and support the preservation of endangered gorillas In their homelands. This builds on our successful distribution of Koko’s Kitten (and curriculum) to over 100,000 students in Cameroon.

CARE AND WELLNESS:

7. Enhancement of Koko & Ndume’s facilities to enrich their lives, expand their options for exploration and privacy, and create capacity for a larger gorilla family.

8. Gorilla Interspecies Communication Work/Play-Station will provide the gorillas with the use of interactive computer technology (including “tough tablets”) to allow them to have fun, express their preferences and have more control over their environment.

ORGANIZATIONAL INFRASTRUCTURE:

9. Expanding the Foundation’s Board of Directors to include more experts in our highly specialized field, as well as strategically selected business, finance and fundraising experts.

10. Developing a new executive team for leadership, fundraising and building strategic alliances.

These changes are being made as part of a focused process with three primary goals: 1) to ensure the care and protection of Koko and Ndume now and into the future and 2) to better apply the lessons learned by the Foundation to protect and enhance the lives of gorillas and other great apes worldwide, and 3) to allow our enlightening dialogues with Koko, Ndume and other gorillas to continue.

The Foundation’s leadership is tremendously appreciative of the contributions of its Board of Directors, Advisory Board, and its many consultants and colleagues, who were integral to the development of this new vision.

For more information about the Gorilla Foundation, visit www.koko.org.

 

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Elizabeth Warren slams banks for cruel treatment of parents of deceased daughter with student loan

Elizabeth Warren showed her disgust with banks in the manner in which they handle student loan issues with those afflicted with financial problems. She provided the following story reported by CNN Money.

When his 27-year old daughter Lisa died suddenly of liver failure five years ago, Steve Mason was as devastated as any father would be.He and his wife Darnelle immediately took in Lisa’s three children — ages 4, 7 and 9 at the time — even though they knew it would be a huge struggle to support them. Steve earns less than $75,000 per year as a pastor, while Darnelle earns even less as a director at the same church.

Then the student loan bills started coming.

Mason had co-signed on the $100,000 in private student loans that his daughter took out for nursing school, and the lenders wanted their money.

Unable to keep up with the monthly payments on top of all of the other mounting expenses, the $100,000 balance ballooned into $200,000 as a result of late penalties and interest rates of as high as 12%.

“It’s just impossible on a pastor’s salary raising three kids to pay $2,000 a month on loans,” said Mason, who has been searching for a second job.

Elizabeth Warren grilled Richard Hunt, President and CEO of Consumer Bankers Association about the banks being inflexible in working with situations like Mr. Mason. When he attempted to use smoke and mirrors to make it appear that banks were doing something about it, Warren would have none of it.

“They have not provided adequate relief,” said Elizabeth Warren. “… And I don’t know how many other families are in these circumstances. … So far what that bank has said is no, “The banks have not forgiven those loans. They have not provided adequate relief to this family and I don’t know how many other families are in those circumstances. … There really is no substitute for bankruptcy protection. But banks went out and lobby to make sure that they were going to be exempt from the bankruptcy laws. And now they won’t even provide the modest relief that is provided on federal loans for people who end up in terrible financial circumstances. I think this is wrong.”

 

Source:  Daily Kos

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Way too many people still believe these hideous stereotypes about Israelis and Palestinians

By Jill Jacobs

My heart jumped when I saw the poster at the entrance to the Muslim community center in Central Java, Indonesia, in 2009. I didn’t need to speak Indonesian to understand the photo of dead and injured Gazan children. Still, I asked for a translation. Uneasily, our group’s translator explained that the poster reported the amount of money the community group had raised in relief funds after Operation Cast Lead, just a few months before, and prayed for the health and safety of all Muslims . . . and for an end to “the Zionist entity.”

I had come to Indonesia with a delegation of U.S. faith leaders, organized by Legacy International and sponsored by the State Department, to speak at universities and community centers about religious pluralism in America. It wasn’t my turn to present that day, so I enjoyed a brief respite as I debated how and whether to address the poster with these members of Muhammadiyah, one of the largest Muslim organizations in Indonesia. In the end, I had little choice. “I have a question for the rabbi,” began one attendee during a Q&A session: “Why do Jews kill Muslim children?”

Heart pounding, I stood up. I spoke of my pain at the loss of life among Gazan civilians, tragically including so many children. And then I took a deep breath. “I noticed the poster in the entranceway,” I began. I praised the group for raising money for humanitarian relief. But, I continued, “When you call for an end to the Zionist entity, I want you to know that you’re talking about my family and my friends and my people.” I spoke of my own commitments to Israel, of the significance of Israel to the Jewish people, and of my firm belief that a two-state solution will allow both peoples to live securely and peacefully.

To my shock, the audience applauded. Afterwards, many of those present told me that they had never before thought about who might live in Israel. That they had never thought a two-state solution to be possible. That they had believed that Jews wanted only to kill Muslims. And they crossed out the final line of the poster.

This incident did not transform Israeli-Palestinian or Jewish-Muslim relations. It did not drastically shift the perception of Jews in Indonesia. I did learn, though, that a little empathy goes a long way. Hearing my own concern about the death of Muslims, the group could be open to imagining the suffering of Jews.

During the current war between Israel and Hamas, we desperately need radical empathy. By this, I mean opening ourselves to the pain of the other exactly at the moment when we are terrified of this other, and exactly at the moment when fear for our lives and for our loved ones pushes us inward.

This is not a new idea. As far back as the first century CE, in the shadow of the destruction of Jerusalem, Rabban Gamliel, one of the most important rabbis of his time, taught that “Anyone who has compassion for other human beings will merit compassion from above.”

Today, we suffer through increasingly vitriolic language from both pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian partisans, and — even more frighteningly — violent protests in Europe, Israel, the occupied Palestinian territories and even the United States. Strident voices ignore or deny the painful narrative of the other.

The pro-Palestinian side places all blame on Israel and the occupation, dismisses or justifies rocket attacks on major Israeli cities, and allows criticism of Israel to slide into ugly anti-Semitism. “Rocket attacks from Gaza are a desperate response to these injustices [of occupation],” Waleed Ahmad writes in Mondoweiss. “No people would ever tolerate an oppressive occupation and an unjust siege, so why should the Palestinians?” Protesters in London, Paris and Berlin have held signs saying “Hitler was right” and encouraging the reading of the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”

On the pro-Israel side, too, many respond callously to the soaring numbers of Palestinian casualties or even deny the veracity of these reports, place sole blame on Hamas for the deaths of civilians, and take Hamas’s actions as permission to demonize all Muslims. In the Wall Street Journal, Thane Rosenbaum wrote, “you forfeit your right to be called civilians when you freely elect members of a terrorist organization as statesmen.” A prominent settler rabbi justified killing innocents, and even destroying Gaza.

This lack of empathy does not confine itself to Israel and Gaza. Already, we have witnessed a synagogue firebombed in Paris, German protesters calling for gassing Jews, and protest signs that showcase classical anti-Semitic images. In Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, right-wing Jewish mobs, some wearing fascist T-shirts, have marched through the streets shouting “Death to Arabs,” and beating up Palestinians and Jewish leftists. In Brooklyn, worshipers at a mosque have suffered harassment.

This is what we need to hear instead: pro-Palestinian voices that empathize with the Israelis racing for shelter, that denounce terrorism and rocket attacks, and that refuse to tolerate any anti-Semitic tropes masquerading as criticism of Israeli policy. In one powerful and much-circulated op-ed, for instance, a Palestinian-American student calls for pro-Palestinian protesters to utterly reject anti-Semitism.

And we need to hear pro-Israel voices expressing authentic grief at the deaths of Palestinian children, calling for protection for civilian populations, acknowledging the damage inflicted by 47 years of occupation, and denouncing any language that dehumanizes Palestinians or Muslims. I’m proud that T’ruah, where I serve as executive director, was the only organization to issue a rabbinic opinion discrediting Rabbi Lior’s claim that Judaism permits murdering innocents. In Israel, organizations including B’tselem and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel humanize and protect Palestinians while remaining steadfastly committed to the security of Israel.

We have seen a few examples of radical empathy: the families of the kidnapped and murdered Israeli and Palestinian teens consoling one another in their houses of mourning; Jews and Muslims fasting for peace together; religious leaders who have reached across the divide.

Such empathy will not bring about a peace agreement tomorrow. Nor even a cease-fire. But radical empathy does force us to see the humanity of the other, to reject hate speech and violence, and ultimately to demand a political solution that protects the human rights of Palestinians and Israelis.

 

Rabbi Jill Jacobs is the Executive Director of T’ruah, which mobilizes 1,800 rabbis, cantors, and their communities to protect human rights in North America, Israel, and the occupied Palestinian territories. Her most recent book is “Where Justice Dwells.”

 

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Crowdfunding Campaign Is Launched to Keep the Music Playing at the Castro Theatre

David Hegarty, long-time Castro Theatre organist, and his nonprofit foundation SFCODA
turn to Indiegogo for further funding of the groundbreaking CASTRO SYMPHONIC THEATRE ORGAN
 
In keeping with the long tradition of organ music at the Castro Theatre dating from 1922, and the evolving functionality of the venue—now including the performing arts, an instrument of momentous artistic merit has been designed to replace the soon-to-be-removed Wurlitzer that was installed over 30 years ago by a private owner.
An equivalent theatre pipe organ has been donated by another nonprofit theatre foundation, and additional classical pipes will be added. The remaining portions of the instrument will take advantage of cutting-edge twenty-first-century digital technology resulting in a greatly expanded theatre organ—equivalent to the famous San Francisco Fox Theatre Wurlitzer, combined with a magnificent classical/symphonic organ, capable of every style of organ and orchestral music.
This will be the largest pipe/digital hybrid organ in the world. The stunning seven-manual console is already being built, and SFCODA is launching an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds for the next phase of its construction—an intermediate goal of $60,000. Total cost of the project is approximately $700,000.
Major sponsorships by individuals and corporate foundations will be rewarded with significant name recognition at a venue that serves over 150,000 patrons every year.
To learn more about the project, visit the SFCODA website: www.sfcoda.org
To contribute to this project, the Indiegogo campaign can be accessed here:
Or Google: Indiegogo Castro
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Language School Blogger Fired for Writing About Homophones

A social media specialist for a Utah language school that teaches English to non-native speakers says he was fired for writing a blog post about homophones—words that sound the same, but carry different meanings—because his boss was afraid readers would think it was about “gay sex.”

Tim Torkildson told the Salt Lake Tribune that shortly after his lesson went up, Nomen Global Language Center owner Clarke Woodger fired him, complaining “now our school is going to be associated with homosexuality.”

“I had to look up the word” Woodger said, according to the account Torkildson published on his personal blog, “because I didn’t know what the hell you were talking about. We don’t teach this kind of advanced stuff to our students, and it’s extremely inappropriate. Can you have your desk cleaned out by eleven this morning? I’ll have your check ready.”

It seems too ridiculous to believe, but Torkildson’s former employer confirmed the incident of homophonia actually happened.

“People at this level of English,” Woodger told the Tribune, ”may see the ‘homo’ side and think it has something to do with gay sex.”

Torkildson disagrees. He wrote that homophones are “one of the first subjects tackled when teaching ESL,” and said his piece about them was very straightforward. The Tribune points out the Nomen blog published another post on the topic in 2011, apparently without incident.

Torkildson, a 60-year-old who enjoys taking quirky selfies, had only worked at Nomen for three months. Although he claims Woodger told him he’s only suited for “clerical work,” he’s now seeking another social media job.

Posted from Gawker.com

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France’s Jews Flee As Rioters Burn Paris Shops, Attack Synagogue

France’s politicians and community leaders have criticised the “intolerable” violence against Paris’ Jewish community, after a pro-Palestinian rally led to the vandalizing and looting of Jewish businesses and the burning of cars.

It is the third time in a week where pro-Palestinian activists have clashed with the city’s Jewish residents. On Sunday, locals reported chats of “Gas the Jews” and “Kill the Jews”, as rioters attacked businesses in the Sarcelles district, known as “little Jerusalem”.

Manuel Valls, France’s prime minister said: “What happened in Sarcelles is intolerable. An attack on a synagogue and on a kosher shop is simply anti-Semitism. Nothing in France can justify this violence.”

Religious leaders gathered for an interfaith service on Monday to call for calm, and Haim Korsia, the chief rabbi of France, and Hassen Chalghoumi, the imam of Drancy shook hands on the steps of the synagogue.

Francois Pupponi, the mayor of Sarcelles, told BFMTV that the violent attacks were carried out by a “horde of savages.”

“When you head for the synagogue, when you burn a corner shop because it is Jewish-owned, you are committing an anti-Semitic act,” interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve told reporters at a press conference at the local synagogue.

  • A worker prepares to repair a shop windowin Sarcelles, a northern Paris suburb, a day after a rally against Israel’s Gaza offensive descended into violence
  • A man walks in Sarcelles, a northern Paris suburb, by broken windows as he enters a shopping center in Les Flanades neighborhood
  • The broken shop window of a restaurant in a shopping center in Les Flanades neighborhood, damaged on July 20 after a rally against Israel’s Gaza offensive descended into violence pitting an angry pro-Palestinian crowd against local Jewish businesses
  • MIGUEL MEDINA via Getty Images
    Projectiles were thrown at police, burned cars and looted shops
  • The Parisian suburb is known for its multiculturalism
  • Damages in a restaurant of a shopping center in Les Flanades neighborhood
  • A policewoman takes part in an investigation in Sarcelles, a northern Paris suburb in front of a chemist in a shopping center of Les Flanades neighborhood, which was burnt down
  • The Imam of the eastern suburb of Drancy, Hassen Chalghoumi, the President of the Central Jewish consistory of France, Joel Mergui, the Great Rabbi of France Haim Korsia, and the Bishop of Pontoise for the Conference of Bishops of France, Stanislas Lalanne attend an ecumenical ceremony at the synagogue of Sarcelles
  • STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN via Getty Images
    French singer Enrico Macias (4th L), French writer Marek Halter (C), the Imam of the eastern Paris suburb of Drancy, Hassen Chalghoumi (4th R), the President of the Central Jewish consistory of France Joel Mergui (3rd R_ and Bishop of Pontoise for the Conference of Bishops of France Stanislas Lalanne (2nd R) pose during an ecumenical ceremony at the synagogue of Sarcelles, north of Paris

—————–

Eighteen people were arrested for attacks on shops, including a kosher supermarket, a Jewish-owned chemist and a funeral home. Rioters, who carried batons and threw petrol bombs according to eyewitnesses, were yards from the synagogue when they were driven back by riot police who used tear gas.

“They were shouting: ‘Death to Jews,’ and ‘Slit Jews’ throats’,” David, a Jewish sound engineer told The Times. “It took us back to 1938.”

“We called our town ‘Little Jerusalem’ because we felt at home here,” Laetitia, a longtime Sarcelles resident, told France 24. “We were safe, there were never any problems. And I just wasn’t expecting anything like this. We are very shocked, really very shocked.”

Roger Cuikerman, head of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France told Radio France International: “They are not screaming, ‘Death to the Israelis’ on the streets of Paris. They are screaming, “Death to the Jews.” The community was not just scared, but “anguished.”

The government had banned a demonstration planned in Paris for Saturday, but posters were seen around the area which said “Come equipped with hammers, fire extinguishers and batons” and promised a “raid on the Jewish district”.

France has around half a million Jews, the biggest population in Europe, and around five million Muslims.

The Society for the Protection of the Jewish Community’s figures suggest that anti-Jewish violence is seven times higher than in the 1990s, and 40% of racist violence is against Jews, despite them making up just 1% of the population.

In March 2012, a shooting spree by Mohammed Merah in the south of France left three French soldiers, three Jewish schoolchildren and a rabbi dead. The gunman claimed a connection to al Qaeda.

More than a thousand Jews have made aliyah (the term used when Jews immigrate to Israel) in the past 10 days, according to the Israeli government.

“I came because of anti-Semitism,” said teary-eyed Veronique Rivka Buzaglo, one of 430 immigrants who arrived from France the day before. “You see it in the eyes of people. I see it in everything,” she told HuffPost.

Buzaglo says nothing would have stopped her from becoming an Israeli citizen this week – not even the rocket sirens frequently blaring in the south of the country, where she plans to live.

 

From the Huffington Post

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Saturday, July 26 Grand Opening of SF’s New Independent Living Resource Center Marks Anniversary of the Signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Blind Bay Area Architect Christopher Downey Designed Cutting Edge Facility

 It’s the blind leading the blind. When the Independent Living Resource Center San Francisco (www.ilrcsf.org) opens its new state-of-the-art facility this Saturday, July 26  – the 24th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act – this often negative cliché will become a high compliment, especially to the facility’s architect, Christopher Downey of the Bay Area: one of the world’s very-few, working, blind architects.

“Both the visually impaired and the sighted rely on information and architectural cues to navigate the built environment,” says Downey, who lost his sight in 2008 following surgery to remove a tumor that was pressing on his optic nerve. “I draw upon my experience as an architect to help design teams and client organizations to create enriching environments for the visually impaired and, not coincidentally, the sighted as well.”

Downey, 51, starts each day rowing with the East Bay Rowing Club on the Oakland Estuary before commuting on public transit to his office in San Francisco. He has been featured in local, national and international media stories and speaks regularly about architecture and visual impairment including his inspirational TED Talks. He also teaches accessibility and universal design at UC Berkeley and serves on the Board of Directors for the Lighthouse for the Blind in San Francisco.  Downey consults on design for the blind and visually impaired, encompassing specialized centers as well as facilities serving the broader public. His work ranges from a new Department of Veterans Affairs blind rehabilitation center, to renovations of housing for the blind in New York City, and to the new Transbay Transit Center in San Francisco.

“With over 98,000 people with disabilities in the City of San Francisco, we know that our goal of expanding access for all was ambitious, especially given the current real estate climate, but that didn’t stop us, and Chris was integral to helping us realize our dream,” says Jessie Lorenz, Executive Director of the Independent Living Resource Center, noting that fully 25% of their clients are current conflict vets with disabilities.  “We exist to ensure that people with disabilities are full social and economic partners, both within their families and in a fully accessible community. What a perfect way to mark almost a quarter century of the ADA and the lives this law has improved.”

According to Lorenz, the Independent Living Resource Center’s new facility at 825 Howard Street is “truly a community center.” It is a purpose-built, ground floor, fully accessible location in the heart of San Francisco’s South of Market district. An integral part of its neighborhood, the new center is a welcoming place with street appeal where people with disabilities feel comfortable dropping in, participating in workshops, and seeking support and information as they establish or maintain their independence.

“Our new home was designed and built to anticipate disability as the rule, not the exception,” Lorenz emphasizes. “It has an open floor plan guided by a forward-thinking green design that is made expressly for enhancing community for people of all abilities. We endeavored to create space to allow for dynamic interaction and group presentations. The lobby will be for waiting, greeting, and exhibiting veteran and community artwork. The built environment will showcase the best principles of accessible design, responding to the growing needs of a technologically savvy disabled community.”

Additionally, Schindler Elevator Corporation, a pioneer in building mobility, has partnered with the Independent Living Resource Center to pilot the next generation of features for PORT Technology, an innovative destination-dispatching system that revolutionized the way people move through buildings.

Founded in 1977, the Independent Living Resource Center San Francisco exists to ensure that people with disabilities are full social and economic partners, both within their families and in a fully accessible community. ILRCSF core values are: Choice: the right of individuals and families to make informed decisions about their own lives. Persons with disabilities are experts on their own needs. Consumer leadership creates an accessible community. Full access to and inclusion in the community for all people with disabilities means the same range of choices as the general community. Universal usability means that services, housing and consumer products are designed to be used by all members of the community.

“Establishing a more accessible and visible office will position us as a model community-based center for independent living in an urban area,” Lorenz sums up. “We hope to move from a model of solely offering support and services to individuals with disabilities, to becoming an incubator and community center where the Independent Living Movement can build the next generation of leaders who will be empowered and engaged citizens who are fully integrated in their communities.”

This Saturday’s grand opening events features a free lunch catered by Buca di Bepo and guided tours from 10am – 12noon; 2pm – 3pm. The facility’s official dedication will take place at 1pm

 

 

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Castro Street’s Hot Cop Is the Batman to Sexy Mug Shot Guy’s Joker

He’s handsome, ridiculously buff, and armed with one of those toothpaste-commercial smiles. Chris Kohrs is the hot cop fighting crime in San Francisco’s historic gay neighborhood.

San Francisco police officer Chris Kohrs is hotter than the devil’s backside on an August day in Georgia. At 36, and almost six feet tall, Kohrs looks like he just stepped out of a GQ centerfold. He’s upsettingly handsome, he’s got one of those smiles you see in toothpaste commercials and a body that would make Mario Lopez run to the gym. All that would be tolerable if he were an arrogant jerk, or just plain dumb. Sadly, he is neither.

“It’s been pretty crazy,” says Kohrs when I tracked him down in his hometown. “They call me ‘Castro’s Finest’ now.”

These days Kohrs is enjoying the popularity usually reserved for Hollywood stars. He’s had dozens of articles written about him, he’s got his own fan club and just in the last couple of days he’s been approached to appear on magazine covers and even Good Morning America.

In his six years on the force, Kohrs has kicked some Grade A ass. Once he lunged at a man trying to rob a convenience store, subduing him with his bare hands. Another time, he came to the rescue of a young woman whose iPhone had been snatched by a petty thief. Kohrs, who wasn’t even on duty at the time, heard the girl screaming for help and chased the perpetrator on foot until finally tackling him to the ground. The phone was later returned to its stunned owner, who must have felt like an extra in a superhero movie.

Kohrs is one cool dude under fire. But all his training and experience couldn’t have prepared him for what happened when a stranger on the street asked to take his picture. Kohrs, who was assigned to the legendary gay Castro district that day, obliged. It was just another civilian showing support for the SFPD. Or so he thought.

Turns out, the man from the Castro was gay novelist Mark Abramson. And Abramson’s innocent Facebook post about a young cop, whose name he didn’t even know, quickly went viral, sparking a mini-sensation within the gay community. Soon, social media feeds from coast to coast (and even across the pond) were blowing up with pictures of the young officer’s chiseled face. It wasn’t long before gay blogs and news sites took notice, writing articles about Kohrs, who became known simply as “The Hot Cop of Castro Street.”

What’s most surprising about all this is the fact that Kohrs had no inkling any of it was happening. “I’m not really a Facebook kinda guy,” he says. He actually first got wind of the story after his colleagues printed out some of the articles and taped them all over the precinct walls. “I was never going to live that down,” he says, laughing.

Then, Kohrs got another shout-out, this time from one of the city’s most famous residents, Armistead Maupin, author of the best-selling series Tales of the City. Maupin posted a picture of Kohrs on his Facebook page with the caption: “I finally got to lay eyes on the legendary Hot Cop of Castro Street.” Kohrs was now a bona-fide gay-lebrity with A-list admirers.

Hot Cop

It didn’t hurt that Kohrs could be Channing Tatum’s twin brother in Magic Mike. He looks like he’s been plucked straight out of central casting. And then, of course, there’s that uniform.

“He looks like a porn star,” says Abramson, the man responsible for Kohrs’s newfound fame. “But of course, he’s anything but. He’s just a really nice guy.”

It didn’t take long before the gays came flocking down to the Castro to see the hot cop everyone’s been talking about. And not just men. “I’d jump the fence for that,” said Donna Merlino, a 54-year-old lesbian from San Francisco. Merlino says she first noticed him on her Facebook feed and quickly became a die-hard Kohrs fan. “He looks so sweet and innocent, with a hint of sexuality.”

Ironically, the man who wasn’t even on Facebook now has his own Facebook fan page. “Obviously his good looks were the initial reason he caught everyone’s attention, but when people started to recognize him and talk to him, they saw what a great guy he was,” says Nathan Tatterson, creator of Kohrs’ fan page. “He is nice, funny, and professional, traits most people don’t associate with police officers these days.” The page, which was created on June 26, has already garnered an impressive 9,500 likes in only a few weeks.

“I’m flattered, it’s been a hoot.”

Kohrs is getting attention far beyond the Bay Area. According to Tatterson, he has admirers from as far as Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and even Pakistan. But, aside from the United States, the biggest country that’s gone gaga over Kohrs is France. “In France, we are not used to that kind of gay-friendly officer, and that’s why I had a crush on him,” says Philippe Lowinski, a 53-year-old from the suburbs of Paris. Lowinski became so enamored with Kohrs, he’s traveling all the way to San Francisco in August just to meet him. “He seems like such a nice guy. En plus il est charmant,” he says in French, meaning, he’s also very charming.

It’s a far cry from the White Night riots, in May of 1979, when gay men stormed San Francisco’s City Hall following the lenient sentencing of Dan White, a city supervisor charged with murdering Harvey Milk months earlier. White had been convicted of voluntary manslaughter, the lightest possible sentence for his crime. The announcement triggered a violent reaction from the gay community, resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars in property damage, as well as injuries to police officers. Cops then retaliated with a raid of their own on a gay bar in the Castro.

“As a child and teenager, I feared the police and hated them. They were awful,” says gay rights activist and San Francisco resident Cleve Jones. “They were violent and homophobic and racist. When I arrived here, the cops were a symbol of what we were fighting against.”

Public relations guru Howard Bragman says the SFPD “is well aware that this is helping build a bridge to one of their most important constituencies in San Francisco.”

It’s no surprise then, that today’s SFPD couldn’t be happier that Kohrs is getting this kind of attention now.

“I think that it’s a great story, that we have an officer with a fan base in the Castro,” Albie Esparza, public information officer for the SFPD, tells me. “It’s always reassuring when we hear about any positive interaction between one of our officers and the community that we serve.”

Apparently, both Officer Kohrs and his bosses see his newfound popularity with gays as a badge of honor.

“I’m flattered, it’s been a hoot,” says Kohrs, flashing his signature aw-shucks smile. “If I can make one person’s day, then I’ve done my job.”

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Coming Out Video Series Begins Raising Money For Public Broadcasting Documentary

The Pye Harris Legacy Project (PHLP), non-profit that teaches young people about the modern LGBT movement through interviews with elders, has begun a crowdsourcing campaign to edit videos into one-hour documentary.  The project hopes to raise $60,000 to edit existing interviews and add more historical footage and photos of the Coming Out experience from different eras.

The Projects four short videos (Coming Out in the 1950s. Coming Out in the 1960s, Coming Out in the 1970s, and Coming Out in the 1980s) are available on youtube and have over 50,000 views.   The success of the short videos has garnered interest from other non-profits and public broadcasting stations to create a longer video that can be broadcast in 2016.

“We are hoping that our Indiegogo campaign will get the word out so we can get these stories out to as many kids as possible” said Phil Siegel, Executive Director of PHLP.  “We want future activists to know that we all stand on the shoulders of those that came before us, and that the LGBT movement did not just happen by itself.   We have to make sure that we never become complacent.”

PLHP has also created a companion curriculum that has been distributed to schools that dovetail with the videos.  The curriculum includes a series of activities and age-appropriate questions for young people to ask elders so they can learn directly from those who Came Out in other times.

Siegel adds “If we can just get one suicidal kid to realize that he/she is not alone, we have done our job.”

The PHLP was created in 2012 in honor of Ed Pye and Bob Harris, who met after WWII and were together for over 50 years until Mr. Harris death in 2008.   Mr. Pye, who came out in the 1930s, created the PLHP to teach young people that there is a lot to learn from those who came before.   And even though the social climates change, Coming Out can always be difficult if you thing you are alone.

For additional information or to donate to the series, go to

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-coming-out-project-in-5-decades-they-changed-the-world

 

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After Hobby Lobby, Seven Top LGBT And Civil Rights Orgs Drop Support For ENDA

Seven of the nation’s top LGBT and civil rights organizations today have announced they are withdrawing support for ENDA after the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling.

After 40 years, the LGBT community in part has decided that not only is ENDA not good enough, it’s potentially dangerous because the legislation contains strong carve outs for religious organizations. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling, ENDA could become a license to discriminate rather than the legal protection it was designed to be.

In a dramatic move today, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force announced it was dropping support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Hours later, a coalition of five LGBT legal and civil rights groups — the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), and the Transgender Law Center — made a similar announcement. (Pride at Work announced they are dropping support after this article was originally published .)

The coalition of five groups calls their request “a simple one.”

HRC Charts Lone Course, Reiterates Support For ENDA Despite Religious Exemptions
“Do not give religiously affiliated employers a license to discriminate against LGBT people when they have no such right to discriminate based on race, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information,” the group say in a joint statement just released. “Religiously affiliated organizations are allowed to make hiring decisions based on their religion, but nothing in federal law authorizes discrimination by those organizations based on any other protected characteristic, and the rule should be the same for sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. Religious organizations are free to choose their ministers or faith leaders, and adding protections for sexual orientation and gender identity or expression will not change that.”

They say their “concerns are not hypothetical” and that “the American people oppose efforts to misuse religious liberty as an excuse to discriminate against LGBT people.” Increasingly, this is what employment discrimination against LGBT people looks like.

Take the example of Matthew Barrett.

In July 2013, Matthew was offered a job as food services director at Fontbonne Academy, a college prep high school in Milton, Massachusetts that is affiliated with the Roman Catholic Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston.  Fontbonne Academy has employees and admits students of various faiths. Yet, two days after Matthew listed his husband as his emergency contact on the standard employment paperwork, and despite twenty years of work in the food services industry, his job offer was rescinded.  Although nothing about the food services job involved religious rituals or teaching, Matthew was told by an administrator that the school was unable to hire him because “the Catholic religion doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage.” The current version of ENDA would authorize this sexual orientation discrimination.

The groups add that until the “discriminatory exemption is removed so that anti-LGBT discrimination is treated the same as race, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information under federal workplace laws,” they think “ENDA should not move forward in Congress.”

That request will likely be granted, as Speaker John Boehner has stated he believes LGBT people — as do the majority of Americans, wrongly – are already protected and can’t be fired for being LGBT. Boehner refuses to bring ENDA for a vote.

“In addition,” the coalition states, “we will oppose any similar provisions at the state and local level.  We are hopeful that the many members of Congress who support this historic, critically important legislation will agree that singling out LGBT people for an unequal and unfair exemption from basic workplace protection falls unacceptably short of the civil rights standards that have served our nation well against other types of discrimination for fifty years.  We stand ready and eager to work with them to achieve the long-sought goal of explicit, effective federal non-discrimination protections for LGBT people.”

Rea Carey, Executive Director, Task Force Action Fund, adds:  ”The campaign to create broad religious exemptions for employment protections repeats a pattern we¹ve seen before in methodically undermining voting rights, women¹s access to reproductive health and affirmative action. It is time for fair minded people to block this momentum, rather than help speed it into law. We need new federal non-discrimination legislation that contains a reasonable religious accommodation. LGBT people should have the same protections as those contained in Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Legal equality is legal equality.”

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Fake Job Applications Prove There’s Real LGBT Discrimination in HirinQ

Jennifer and Michelle both apply for an administrative assistant position at Exxon Mobil in Illinois.

They went to the same high school and the same college, and they have a similar work history, though Jennifer got better grades and achieved management positions. Yet it’s Michelle who gets the callback for an interview.

The only other real difference between the two is that Jennifer has a history of LGBT activism.

If you haven’t already guessed, Jennifer and Michelle are the names on fake resumes that were submitted to eight different federal contractors as part of a recent study by the Equal Rights Center and Freedom to Work, an LGBT organization pushing for equality in the workplace. Although the applicants in the study are fictional, the results are very real: LGBT applicants were 23 percent less likely to get an interview than their less-qualified heterosexual counterparts.

“Despite significant progress in advancing civil rights and equality, employment discrimination remains a persistent barrier for the LGBT community,” said Melvina Ford, executive director of the Equal Rights Center.


(Photo: Freedom To Work)

A pair of resumes was submitted for 100 different jobs at eight different federal contractors, including Exxon Mobil and General Electric Co. Seven of the selected companies have their own internal employment policies allowing for discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The study began in December 2012 after advocates were informed that President Barack Obama wouldn’t be signing an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating against prospective employees based on sexual orientation or identity. This “long-stalled” order was at the forefront of their minds when they decided to test how severe LGBT discrimination really was, said Tico Almeida, president and founder of Freedom to Work.

“As much progress as our LGBT community has made in freedom to marry, there’s still a lot to be done to make sure our LGBT community has the freedom to work without discrimination,” said Almeida.

The study lasted a year, ending in December 2013, and the results were released earlier this week. Although not every resume received a callback, the straight applicants received callbacks more often, even though they were much less qualified. The findings have already been shared with the White House and the Labor Department, Almeida said.

The results of the report come just a few weeks after Obama announced he would finally be moving forward with the federal contractor executive order.

Federal contractors employ about 20 percent of the total U.S. workforce, and a few key employers have been publicly criticized for refusing to protect LGBT workers. Exxon Mobil, for one, has repeatedly shot down proposals that would ban discrimination of LGBT employees.

“An executive order by President Obama would force Exxon Mobil to adopt LGBT workplace protections in order to continue profiting from hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded contracts,” said Almeida.

Workplace discrimination comes in many forms, experts say, from being passed over for promotions to receiving a lower salary, being unjustly fired, or being harassed. There is currently no federal law protecting LGBT workers from hiring and employment discrimination.

While some states have protective measures, it’s still legal in 29 states to fire or refuse employment to a person based on sexual orientation.

Although Almeida is confident the president will sign the executive order this time around, he and many other LGBT advocates support more sweeping, comprehensive change.

This comes in the form of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a piece of legislation—with its own shortfalls—that passed the Senate last year but has petered out in the House.

LGBT supporters continue to raise money and lobby for ENDA, and Almeida’s Freedom to Work has launched a concentrated campaign to target specific prospective ENDA supporters in the House. The 218 project, named for the magic number needed for majority support, will feature five House members a week and encourage voters to contact them voicing their support for antidiscrimination legislation.

 

Haley Fox, TakePart

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Bump in the Road for Pinterest: Design Center Not Up for Grabs

It looks like Pinterest won’t be pinning its headquarters in Showplace Square after all.

A measure that would have replaced dozens of tenants at 2 Henry Adams St. with a San Francisco headquarters for the tech darling is all but dead after the Board of Supervisors Land Use & Economic Development Committee voted Monday to table the matter indefinitely.

RREEF, the owner of San Francisco Design Center at Showplace Square, had sought to take advantage of a city zoning ordinance that allows owners of designated historic landmarks to change zoning from so-called PDR – production, distribution and repair – to traditional office space. That would have allowed Pinterest to locate its offices there.

While Supervisor Malia Cohen said the Design Center building deserves landmark designation, she was uncomfortable with the property owner’s plans to move many longtime design businesses out. As the sponsor of the property’s landmark legislation, Cohen is the only supervisor who can revive it. She said she has no intention of doing so.

The 600,000-square-foot San Francisco Design Center consists of two buildings: 2 Henry Adams St. and 101 Henry Adams St. While some of the design center’s tenants supported Pinterest moving into the building, many others said it would lead to the demise of a collection of home-furnishing showrooms just rebounding from the recession.

Bay West Development, the management company that operates the property on behalf of RREEF, pulled out all the stops in its effort to persuade tenants, and the committee, to support the landmark designation. For the 77 tenants in the 2 Henry Adams building, the management company promised to find space for the vast majority of them, either in the 20 percent of 2 Henry Adams that would have remained PDR or across the street at 101 Henry Adams.

Bay West partner Sean Murphy had said his group would pay brokerage fees and relocation costs for displaced tenants. Pinterest sweetened the pot, saying it would pay the first two months’ rent to any tenants made to leave the design center.

But Cohen stressed that the land-marking bill was not about Pinterest, or even the design center. Some 15 buildings totaling 1 million square feet could be landmarked and converted to office space from PDR under the land-marking loophole, she said.

She said the legislation allowing landmarked property to convert to office space is meant as an economic incentive for property owners to do expensive seismic retrofits and renovation. But 2 Henry Adams has been “impeccably maintained through the downturn.”

“This isn’t in the spirit of the code or the landmark legislation,” she said. “We are not talking about one building, but 15.”

She also said she didn’t buy Bay West’s assurances about the tenants. “I still think there is significant amount of confusion about what will happen with the tenants,” she said.

After the vote, a spokesman for Bay West said the group was “disappointed the item was tabled” but that it would continue to seek a compromise. “We agree with them that what the Design District has always been about is finding a good mix of uses,” said spokesmanCharlie Goodyear.

John McEvoy, an art dealer who has been in the design center for 24 years, said Pinterest is not the issue. “I use Pinterest. It could be State Farm Insurance. The problem is putting office tenants in the shrinking PDR space of San Francisco.”

 

From SF Gate

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Oakland Mayor’s Race: Candidate Bryan Parker is Focus Of Unfair Domestic Violence Attacks

Bryan Parker, Candidate for Oakland Mayor, Faces Unfair DV Attacks

Bryan Parker, Candidate for Oakland Mayor, Faces Unfair Domestic Violence Attacks

Bryan Parker, the man I’m backing in the Oakland Mayor’s Race, is the focus of an unfair and hidden attack, writes Oakland blogger Zennie Abraham in his Zennie62.com blog. The rest of his post from yesterday is a fascinating overview of the silent attacks in political campaigns in Oakland, and in general.  We publish the column here for our readers:

For months, there’s been a whisper campaign brewing among Oakland insiders about the problems and issues of most all of the candidates. One of the most insidious rumor campaigns is about Bryan Parker. With 20 candidates now in the race for Oakland Mayor (not including Charlie The Dog) it was only a matter of time before the attacks started.

Soon after those whispers started, I received an anonymous package with two unverified, but authentic looking police reports filed against Parker a decade ago that describe two separate domestic issues between him and two different women, one in 2003 and one in 2006.

I have reached out to both of these women for comment and noticed that one is actually a volunteer on his campaign. I have chosen not to identify the women involved until at least I have the chance to discuss it with them.

As for the allegations in these reports, they show heated arguments between Parker and the women involved. They paint a less-than pretty picture and allege such things as harsh words and the brandishing of a hand gun used for intimidation purposes.

Bryan and I have talked about this issue before.

I reached out to Parker and he provided me with the statement that appears here (Bryan Parker Statement On Smear Campaign), saying he, too, had also received these police reports anonymously several months ago when someone left them in his fiancé’s mail box (which, if you think about it, is a form of harassment and intimidation).

 

Although Bryan was not surprised these incidents had come forward given the competitive mayoral campaign, he also had no awareness that these reports existed until now.
This made me curious as to the source of the information.

Considering the timing, all logic would suggest it was an operative of Mayor Jean Quan who was distributing these reports in an attempt to eliminate potential competition. Parker was one of the first candidates to announce and has remained a formidable frontrunner, although the field has recently grown widely.

Whether or not Quan’s campaign is behind this (and I’m told that it is, so Mayor Quan’s going to have to stop texting and driving and talking) there’s no doubt that the distribution of these reports are tactics being used by an opposing campaign.

For me, the question becomes should this be an issue?

These police reports were taken at the request of the women involved. No follow up investigation or reports exist about whether Parker was ever personally contacted by police about these allegations.

More important, no charges were ever filed against him because it appears the facts of both cases did not merit further investigation or action.

If all that is true – and these reports do in fact document heated disagreements between Parker and past partners – should they matter in this Mayor’s race?

As so often the case in politics, opponents are prone to cast broad and damaging allegations supported by little proof. Those of us who cover politics are accustomed to smear campaigns.

Character does matter and while it seems that Parker may have had some anger issues as a young man, but by all accounts there is just no semblance of that by anyone who has worked or dealt with him currently, including his fiancé Kamala Peart. (Kamala Peart Statement On Smear Campaign)

When reached for comment, Peart told me that she and Parker have shared the ups and downs expected of long-term relationships, saying: “While Bryan is not perfect, I know he is a man of kindness and compassion who has never been in trouble with the law or otherwise. I am proud to know that I am marrying a man who cared enough about his own self-improvement to seek counseling and work on his spirituality so that he could learn how to be the best man and partner he can be. I would never expose my children to a person who was anything other than kind and loving.”

I also spoke to some of my friends in law enforcement. They said that that they take and such reports seriously – if they had any merit, they would have followed up on them with urgency. The fact that they did not can only mean that officers found the allegations to be less than credible.

As I considered my pick for Oakland’s next mayor, I’ve weighed all of the issues against my own experience as Economic Advisor to Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris, and President Of The Super Bowl XXXIX Bidding Committee, including character, vision and, more important, a candidate’s ability to lead. Bryan Parker is still my top contender, and in rank choice fashion followed by Oakland Councilmember Libby Schaaf and Joe Tuman, 1, 2, and 3.

Not only does this latest incident demonstrate personal growth in Bryan, but it also shows integrity – here’s a candidate who is not shying away from his past and who is using personal experience to become a better person and leader in the future.

Meanwhile, Mayor Quan still has to talk about the active lawsuit filed against her by Donna White, who asserts that an “entourage” representing Oakland Mayor Jean Quan blocked Ms. White from sitting in an area that’s normally designated for the disabled.

Stay tuned.

By Zennie Abraham of Zennie62.com, an Oakland political blogger and opinion leader.

 

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Christians Call Out Hobby Lobby For Hypocrisy

The arts and crafts retailer Hobby Lobby proudly touts itself as a Christian company that puts people over profits. However, some staunch Christians say there’s a gaping hole in that claim — namely, China.

Products bearing “Made in China” labels are found all over the shelves at Hobby Lobby, evidence that some of its wares come from Chinese factories that have a reputation for labor rights violations and rock-bottom wages. Employees at these facilities often end up working grueling hours in prison-like conditions and never earn enough to escape poverty.

“You cannot call your business ‘Christian’ when arguing before the Supreme Court, and then set aside Christian values when you’re placing a bulk order for cheap wind chimes,” wrote Christian author and columnist Jonathan Merritt in a recent article for The Week.

Hobby Lobby remains quiet about its dealings in China. The company did not respond to requests for a list of Chinese factories it does business with, and did not provide information about what percentage of its merchandise comes from China.

Then there’s China’s controversial record on abortion. The country’s one-child policy was slightly relaxed in 2013, but the family planning bureaucracy still exists. Since the government instituted the policy 40 years ago, there have been more than 330 million abortions in China, according to health ministry data cited by the Financial Times. Though fewer instances of forced abortion, infanticide and involuntary sterilization now occur because they’re banned by the government, they still happen, The Washington Post reported last year.

This week, Hobby Lobby’s crusade against contraceptives scored it a victory in the U.S. Supreme Court. On Monday, the court ruled 5-4 that so-called “closely held corporations” don’t have to provide certain kinds of contraception for employees.

“Being Christians, we don’t pay for drugs that might cause abortions, which means that we don’t cover emergency contraception, the morning-after pill or the week-after pill,” Hobby Lobby founder and CEO David Green wrote in an open letter in 2013. “We believe doing so might end a life after the moment of conception, something that is contrary to our most important beliefs.”

Yet the company is happy to profit from the business it does with China, critics argue, even though political conditions in that country have led to hundreds of millions of abortions.

Leslie Marshall, a radio host and self-described born-again Christian, questioned Hobby Lobby’s policies in a column for U.S. News & World Report in March, invoking the teachings of the “guy who started all of this.”

“As they say: What would Jesus do?” wrote Marshall. “He would remind Hobby Lobby that ‘he that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone.’ Hobby Lobby should put its stones down.”

In a 2013 blog post, Matt Chambers, the director of a non-governmental organization called SafeWorld, similarly wrote that he disapproved of Hobby Lobby’s relationship with China for religious reasons.

“You see, when it comes carrying high the banner of ‘Biblical principles’, I believe a company who wanted that to be their public persona would be extra careful to NEVER do business with the very people who go against everything they claim to fight for as Christians,” Chambers wrote, according to The Christian Post.

Other Christian columnists, including The Christian Post’s Josh Stonestreet, have come out in defense of Hobby Lobby, saying that working with Chinese manufacturers is different from working with the Chinese government.

“Doing business in a place where evil exists is not the same as directly supporting that evil,” wrote Stonestreet. “In fact, it may even be a force for good!”

Hobby Lobby has remained largely silent on the issue, but in a column in the Rutland (Vermont) Herald in March, Peter Dobelbower, the company’s vice president and chief legal officer, provided some insight into Hobby Lobby’s rationale for buying products made abroad: Those factories can’t control what their governments do, so it’s OK.

“Our company sources from suppliers around the world,” Dobelbower wrote in response to an earlier op-ed, calling for a boycott, that had appeared in the same paper. “Virtually all Hobby Lobby’s vendors are small entrepreneurial businesses without control over their government’s abortion policies.”

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Sister attacked on Pink Saturday. Police need your help

Police need the community’s help in identifying the attacker(s) of one of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and her husband during Pink Saturday festivities in the Castro near 18th and Castro Street.

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence are the main hosts of Pink Saturday festivities and widely push their “Stop The Violence” campaign year round to help curb violence against LGBTQ people and offer safe places for victims of violence to seek refuge and support. It is unfortunate that one of the do-good Sisters and her husband would be a victim of violence themselves.

According to a Castro Community on Patrol email alert, the Sister and her husband were physically and verbally assaulted by a group of up to seven people at the intersection of Castro Street & 18th Street. Both received some injuries and were very shaken by the incident, but fortunately neither required hospitalization.

The unnamed Sister allowed a photo of her from Saturday to be released on the Stop the Violence campaign Facebook Page (below) to help jog the memory of people who may have witnessed the incident. If you witnessed this incident, or if you have photographs or video of the incident, please contact Mission Police Station:

MISSION POLICE STATION:
630 Valencia St.
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 558-5400
Email: SFPDMissionStation@sfgov.org
Non-emergency, dial: (415) 553-0123
TIP LINE: (415) 552-4558

sister-pride-2014-1-720x340

Sister who was attacked (photo: Stop The Violence Facebook Page)

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