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Proposed Texas textbooks are inaccurate, biased and politicized, new report finds

By Valerie Strauss September 12

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) (The Associated Press)

When it comes to controversies about curriculum, textbook content and academic standards, Texas is the state that keeps on giving.

Back in 2010, we had an uproar over proposed changes to social studies standards by religious conservatives on the State Board of Education, which included a bid to calling the United States’ hideous slave trade history as the “Atlantic triangular trade.” There were other doozies, too, such as one proposal to remove Thomas Jefferson from the Enlightenment curriculum and replace him with John Calvin. Some were changed but the board’s approved standards were roundly criticized as distorted history.

There’s a new fuss about proposed social studies textbooks for Texas public schools that are based on what are called the Texas Essential  Knowledge  and  Skills.  Scholarly reviews of 43 proposed history, geography and government textbooks for Grades 6-12 — undertaken by the Education Fund of the Texas Freedom Network, a watchdog and activist group that monitors far-right issues and organizations — found extensive problems in American Government textbooksU.S. and World History textbooks,Religion in World History textbooks, and Religion in World Geography textbooks.  The state board will vote on which books to approve in November.

Ideas promoted in various proposed textbooks include the notion that Moses and Solomon inspired American democracy, that in the era of segregation only “sometimes” were schools for black children “lower in quality” and that Jews view Jesus Christ as an important prophet.

Here are the broad findings of 10 scholars, who wrote four separate reports, taken from an executive summary, followed by the names of the scholars and a list of publishers who submitted textbooks.

The findings:

  • A number of government and world history textbooks exaggerate Judeo-Christian influence on the nation’s founding and Western political tradition.
  • Two government textbooks include misleading information that undermines the Constitutional concept of the separation of church and state.
  • Several world history and world geography textbooks include biased statements that inappropriately portray Islam and Muslims negatively.
  • All of the world geography textbooks inaccurately downplay the role that conquest played in the spread of Christianity.
  • Several world geography and history textbooks suffer from an incomplete – and often inaccurate – account of religions other than Christianity.
  • Coverage of key Christian concepts and historical events are lacking in a few textbooks, often due to the assumption that all students are Christians and already familiar with Christian events and doctrine.
  • A few government and U.S. history textbooks suffer from an uncritical celebration of the free enterprise system, both by ignoring legitimate problems that exist in capitalism and failing to include coverage of government’s role in the U.S. economic system.
  • One government textbook flirts with contemporary Tea Party ideology, particularly regarding the inclusion of anti-taxation and anti-regulation arguments.
  • One world history textbook includes outdated – and possibly offensive – anthropological categories and racial terminology in describing African civilization.
  • A number of U.S. history textbooks evidence a general lack of attention to Native American peoples and culture and occasionally include biased or misleading information.
  • One government textbook … includes a biased – verging on offensive – treatment of affirmative action.
  • Most U.S. history textbooks do a poor job of covering the history of LGBT citizens in discussions of efforts to achieve civil rights in this country.
  • Elements of the Texas curriculum standards give undue legitimacy to neo-Confederate arguments about “states’ rights” and the legacy of slavery in the South. While most publishers avoid problems with these issues, passages in a few U.S. history and government textbooks give a nod to these misleading arguments.

In July, the Texas Freedom Network released a review of the various panels of people who had been selected by the Texas Board of Education to review the proposed textbooks. It said in part:

Out of more than 140 individuals appointed to the panels, only three are current faculty members at Texas colleges and universities. TFN has identified more than a dozen other Texas academics — including the chair of the History Department at Southern Methodist University as well as faculty at the University of Texas at Austin — who applied to serve but did not get appointments to the panels.

But the TFN analysis found that political activists and individuals without social studies degrees or teaching experience got places on the panels. One reviewer, Mark Keough, a Republican nominee for the Texas House District 15 seat, got an appointment to a U.S. History panel after being nominated by SBOE chair Barbara Cargill. Keough, a pastor with degrees in theology, has no teaching experience listed on his application form. Keough recently retired from a career in car sales to run a ministry in Cargill’s hometown of The Woodlands and to run for office.

In an interview conducted prior to this year’s primary elections, Keough told the Montgomery County Tea Party that he does not “believe that there is a separation of church and state in the Constitution.”

The 10 scholars who conducted the reviews are:

  • Dr. Edward Countryman, University Distinguished Professor in the William B. Clements Department of History at SMU
  • Dr. David R. Brockman, adjunct instructor in Religious Studies, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, at SMU as well as at Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth
  • Dr. Emile Lester, associate professor in the Department of Political Science and International Affairs at the University of Mary Washington
  • Seven doctoral students in the Department of History at UT-Austin

Here are some specific examples from the executive summary: 

A number of government and world history textbooks exaggerate Judeo-Christian influence on the nation’s founding and Western political tradition.

McGraw-Hill School Education – United States Government

Text mentions Moses and claims that the “biblical idea of a covenant, an ancient Jewish term meaning a special kind of agreement between the people and God, influenced the formation of colonial governments and contributed to our constitutional structure.”

What’s Wrong?

The American Founders did believe in a social contract, but their version of that contract was derived primarily from modern British political thought, and John Locke’s thought in particular. Since Locke’s version of the social contract was in many ways a repudiation of the biblical covenant view referenced in this passage, this passage provides the student with almost the opposite of the historical truth.

Perfection Learning – Basic Principles of American Government

Text has a table entitled “Where did the Founders get their ideas?” The introductory section to the table states: “When the Framers set out to write the Constitution, they drew upon the wisdom of philosophers, historians and economists. Here are a few of the people whose words influenced the content of that remarkable document.” Moses is listed first on this list, followed by John Locke, Charles de Montesquieu, and William Blackstone. The “concept” Moses is alleged to have contributed is that “A nation needs a written code of behavior.” The description of Moses includes the following sentences: “During their years of wandering in the desert of the Sinai, Moses handed down God’s Ten Commandments to the Hebrews. These commandments now form the bedrock on which the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian codes of behavior are based. The full account of Moses’ life can be found in the Bible’s book of Exodus.”

What’s Wrong?

Unlike the contributions of the three other figures mentioned in the table, the contribution of Moses is highly nebulous and contestable. The passage neglects to mention which types of codified behaviors influenced the Framers, and thus makes it difficult to evaluate this claim. The Framers, for instance, were not influenced by the first four Commandments, which deal with matters of religious belief and practice. In fact, notable framers such as James Madison led the battle against government punishment for unorthodox religious belief. Further, stating that “Moses handed down God’s Ten Commandments” is very close to endorsing a religious claim. Stating, for instance, that “Jews and Christians believe that Moses handed down God’s Ten Commandments” would have been more acceptable. Without this qualification, the text seems to endorse the truth of these biblical claims.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt – United States Government: Principles in Practice

Text has a section on “Judeo-Christian Influences” that reads: “The Framers’ political thinking was influenced by a Judeo-Christian religious heritage, which includes traditions common to both Judaism and Christianity. These religions see the law and individual rights as being of divine origin. Moreover, the Framers benefited from the Protestant Reformation, a sixteenth-century Christian reform movement whose leaders developed ideas about individual responsibility, the freedom to worship as one chooses, and self-government.”

 What’s Wrong?

This passage gives no example of a law or set of laws in the Bible that influenced the Founders and no example of a Founder or a founding document that was influenced by the “Judeo-Christian” concept of law. The text’s claim that the Reformation was a source of the Founders’ views on individual responsibility omits several important pieces of information. Major figures in the Protestant Reformation such as Martin Luther and John Calvin may have supported freedom of worship for their own views, but they often did not support freedom of worship for many competing religious views. Similarly, the views of major Reformation figures, including Luther and Calvin, about self-government were far more limited than, and had little in common with, the views of the American Founders about self-government. Finally, the paragraph could leave students with a misleading impression about the Founders’ religious views. The passage’s claim that Judaism and Christianity stresses that individual rights is of “divine origin” and that these views influenced all of the Founders suggests that all of the Founders believed that this biblical God was the source of natural rights. Many Founders did, of course, believe in the biblical God. Other Founders, though, were influenced by deism, and their conception of God departed in significant ways from the biblical God.

Pearson Education – Magruder’s American Government

Text includes a “Biography of Moses,” which states: “Moses was a lawgiver and a great leader. Like the founders of the United States, he helped establish a legal system to govern his people. The Ten Commandments have been a guide and basis for many legal and moral systems throughout the world.” The annotation to the biography states: “Moses helped establish a legal system, including the Ten Commandments, to govern his people. Similarly, the founders of the United States wrote the Constitution and established a system of laws to govern Americans. They were also part of a tradition that was familiar with the Ten Commandments as a guide for moral behavior.”

What’s Wrong?

The passage gives an exaggerated impression to students about the influence of and relationship between Moses and the Founders. The legal system that Moses founded had theocratic elements, which made it very different from the republican system of law the Founders established. Similarly, the text neglects to mention that the Founders were reacting against several of the crucial elements of the moral, legal, and political tradition associated with Moses and the Ten Commandments.

Pearson Education – Magruder’s American Government

The text states: “The roots of democratic government in today’s world – including government in the United States – lie deep in human history. They reach back most particularly to ancient Greece and Rome, and include elements related to Judeo-Christian philosophy, dating back thousands of years to Old Testament texts and Biblical figures such as Moses and Solomon.”

What’s Wrong?

The forms of government mentioned in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) are theocracy and monarchy. Prominent figures in the Hebrew Bible are occasionally critical of monarchy including the prophet Samuel and Gideon, or of the behavior of particular kings as in the case of the prophet Nathan’s criticism of King David. The Israelites also sometimes placed limits on their kings’ sovereignty (see, for instance, 1 Kings 12). Still, those critical of monarchy or monarchs did not advocate democracy as an alternative, and the limited monarchy occasionally practiced in ancient Israel seems to bear little resemblance to American democracy. Even if it is accurate that government in the Hebrew Bible had democratic features, the text never tells us how these democratic features directly influenced the Founders. It is similarly difficult to make sense of the text’s claim that Moses or Solomon governed in a democratic way.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt – World History

The text states: “Because one of Jesus’s basic principles was the equality of all people in the eyes of God, equality before the law became a central belief within the Judeo-Christian tradition.”

What’s Wrong?

There are two problems with this claim. The first concerns the presentation: the authors’ wording suggests that belief in equality of all people before God originated with Jesus. In fact, it arguably dates back to Jewish teachings such as the belief that all people have a single progenitor (Gen. 1-2), and the assertion in Leviticus that there is one law for citizen and stranger alike (Lev. 24:22). Second, the “Because…” language suggests that there is a straightforward chain of causation between, on the one hand, the Jewish and Christian belief in equality before God’s law and, on the other, the belief in equality before human law. If there is such causation, it is by no means straightforward. While the ancient Israelite teaching of equality of all people before God’s law may well have influenced our legal tradition, such influence remains tenuous and far from clear, and this text does not offer the necessary clarification or explanation.

Two government textbooks include misleading information that undermines the Constitutional concept of the separation of church and state.

McGraw-Hill School Education – United States Government

The text states: “Thomas Jefferson once referred to the establishment clause as a ‘wall of separation between church and state.’ That phrase is not used in the Constitution, however.’”

What’s Wrong?

The statement is factually correct, but it could give students the inaccurate impression that Jefferson’s view was personal and lacked significant connection to the First Amendment. The text neglects to mention, for instance, the significant support for the separationist position shared by both Jefferson and James Madison, the Founder with the greatest influence on the drafting of the First Amendment’s religion clauses. The text also neglects to mention reference to Jefferson’s “wall” metaphor in important Supreme Court establishment clause cases, such as Justice Hugo Black’s decision in Everson v. Board of Education, the first Supreme Court case to apply the establishment clause to the states and local government.

Perfection Learning – Basic Principles of American Government

This product does not mention Thomas Jefferson’s use of the phrase “wall of separation between church and state” at all. The text also includes an unbalanced discussion of the background to the Supreme Court’s seminal ruling against school prayer in Engel v. Vitale. The discussion has four paragraphs that are devoted primarily to examining the logic of the rulings of lower, state courts in favor of school prayer. These paragraphs mention that a state court decision notes that “neither the Constitution nor its writers discussed the use of prayer in public schools” and that the judges in these cases “noted that the prayer did not fall into the same category as Bible readings or religious instruction in public schools.”

What’s Wrong?

The four-paragraph discussion of lower courts’ logic in favor of school prayer is followed by only a single paragraph about the Supreme Court’s majority opinion striking down school prayer, which contains little discussion of the logic of that opinion.

Several world history and world geography textbooks include biased statements that inappropriately portray Islam and Muslims negatively.

Social Studies School Service – Active Classroom: World History

The text states: “Much of the violence you read or hear about in the Middle East is related to a jihad.”

What’s Wrong?

This broad charge effectively blames Islam for a very complex cycle of violence and counter-violence, a cycle driven by a host of factors (e.g., natural resources, population pressures) besides radical Islam.

WorldView Software – World History B: Mid-1800s to the Present

The text states: “The spread of international terrorism is an outgrowth of Islamic fundamentalism which opposes Western political and cultural influences and Western ideology.”

Also, at various points in this product, parts of the Middle East and North Africa are referred to as being “occupied” by “the Muslims” or “in Muslim hands.” The text also adopts the revisionist trope that Islam synthesized, stored, and annotated Classical Greek and Roman learning but did not do much to add to it.

What’s Wrong?

The statement about international terrorism is inaccurate and misleading. Not all international terrorism is an outgrowth of Islamic fundamentalism; for example, ETA in Spain and the Irish Republican Army are unrelated to Islamic fundamentalism. Further, the use of loaded terms like “occupied” makes little sense when discussing the Middle Ages, when the population of those regions were by and large Muslim themselves. While there is a lengthy section on Islamic scholarship in this product, in nearly every instance the “original” scientist whose work inspired the scientist described is identified, which serves to minimize the contribution of Islamic scholarship.

Cengage Learning – World Cultures and Geography

In a section on the spread of Islam, the text states: “In the centuries after Muhammad’s death, Muslims spread their religion by conquest. Islamic rulers took control of Southwest Asia, Central Asia, North Africa, and parts of India and Spain.”

What’s Wrong?

This is a half-truth. While in this period Islam did spread in part by conquest, it was also taken to many regions (for instance, Sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia) by traders and missionaries, not by conquest.

McGraw-Hill School Education – World Geography

An image of Muslim women wearing chadors is accompanied by two discussion questions. The first asks how wearing the chador affects women’s interactions in public. The suggested answer is: “The chador limits women’s interactions in public as it makes them indistinguishable from one another and inhibits any kind of contact.” The second question asks what the chador reveals about the status of women in Muslim society. The suggested answer: “The chador reveals that even in countries that claim there is equality for women, religious law still hinders women’s rights.”

What’s Wrong?

Both suggested answers are incorrect. Unlike the full-body burqa, the chador leaves the face uncovered, and thus does not inhibit facial “contact,” such as eye contact, facial expressions, or touching/kissing the face. Second, the chador is not required by Muslim law; it is a matter of local custom. Furthermore, some Muslim women in the West wear the chador entirely voluntarily, for religious reasons; thus one cannot infer that the chador per se hinders women’s rights. This passage offers a highly misleading picture of the status of women in Islam.

All of the world geography textbooks inaccurately downplay the role that conquest played in the spread of Christianity.

Discovery Education — Social Studies Techbook World Geography and Cultures

The text states: “When Europeans arrived, they brought Christianity with them and spread it among the indigenous people. Over time, Christianity became the main religion in Latin America.”

Pearson Education – Contemporary World Cultures

The text states: “Priests came to Mexico to convert Native Americans to the Roman Catholic religion. The Church became an important part of life in the new colony. Churches were built in the centers of towns and cities, and church officials became leaders in the colony.”

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt – World Geography

The text states: “The Spanish brought their language and Catholic religion, both of which dominate modern Mexico.”

Various

All but two of the world geography textbooks fail to mention the Spaniards’ forced conversions of the indigenous peoples to Christianity (e.g., the Spanish Requerimiento of 1513) and their often-systematic destruction of indigenous religious institutions. The two exceptions (Cengage Learning, Inc. – World Cultures and Geography and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt – World Geography) delay this grim news until a chapter on South America, and even there do not give it the prominence it deserves.

What’s Wrong?

The Christianization of the indigenous peoples of the Americas was most decidedly not benign. These descriptions provide a distorted picture of the spread of Christianity. An accurate account must include information about the forced conversion of native peoples and the often-systematic destruction of indigenous religious institutions and practices. (This error of omission is especially problematic when contrasted with the emphasis on conquest – often violent – to describe the spread of Islam in some textbooks.) In addition, though neither English nor French North American colonizers actually forced Christianity upon Native people, it did become United States policy to actively discourage all expressions of traditional Native cultures, including indigenous religion. This was particularly so in the notorious boarding schools to which Native children were sent after being forcibly separated from their parents.

Several world geography and history textbooks suffer from an incomplete – and often inaccurate – account of religions other than Christianity.

 Cengage Learning – World Cultures and Geography

In one discussion of the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths, the authors state: “Selfishness is the cause of suffering.”  In another discussion, they describe selfishness as “a cause of suffering.”

What’s Wrong?

The first statement is incorrect, and the second is misleading. According to the Buddha, the cause of suffering is not selfishness but desire; selfishness is only one form of desire.

Discovery Education – Social Studies Techbook World Geography and Cultures

The text states: “Hindus are strict vegetarians.”

What’s Wrong?

This claim is incorrect and is in fact a stereotype. Many Shaivites are not vegetarian, and some Brahmins eat fish and other meat.

Cengage Learning – World Cultures and Geography

In an exercise comparing views of Jesus in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, the Teacher Edition states: “All three religions see Jesus as an important prophet, but only Christians see him as the messiah, or expected leader and savior.”

What’s Wrong?

This is factually incorrect with regard to Judaism. Most Jews do not regard Jesus as a prophet.

McGraw-Hill School Education – World Cultures & Geography

The lesson on the history of Southwest Asia devotes only six sentences to Judaism’s origins and does not include a discussion of the Diaspora. By contrast, the lesson devotes two pages to Islam and its spread.

What’s Wrong?

This is not adequate attention to the important events surrounding the history of the Jewish faith tradition and culture.

Various

Coverage of primal religions varies widely, in both extent and quality, in all of the world geography textbooks. Only theDiscovery Education – World Geography and Cultures text covers primal religions with anything approaching adequacy.

Coverage of key Christian concepts and historical events are lacking in a few textbooks, often due to the assumption that all students are Christians and familiar with Christian events and doctrine.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt – World Geography

While this textbook includes brief definitions of most religions discussed, and while it describes the difference between the Sunni and Shi’ite branches of Islam, it does not offer similar descriptions for Catholicism, Protestantism, and Orthodoxy. The authors introduce those terms without defining them in either the text or the glossary.

McGraw-Hill School Education – World Geography

In the chapter on the U.S., the authors note that most Americans are Protestant Christians, without defining “Protestant.” Similarly, in the chapter on Mexico, the authors note that most people in Mexico self-identify as Catholics—again, without defining what “Catholic” means. By contrast, the authors are careful to define the major divisions of both Buddhism and Islam in the World Religions Handbook.

McGraw-Hill School Education – World Cultures & Geography

Whereas the lesson on Southwest Asia states: “The teachings of Jesus led to the rise of Christianity,” it does not explain what those teachings were or how Christianity spread. In contrast, the authors devote a full page to the teachings of Muhammad, Muslim practices (the Five Pillars), and the spread of Islam.

What’s Wrong?

Given the increasing number of Texas students who come from outside the Christian tradition, textbooks should not assume that readers are familiar with what Christianity is and how it spread.

A few government and U.S. history textbooks suffer from an uncritical celebration of the free enterprise system, both by ignoring legitimate problems created by capitalism and failing to include coverage of government’s role in U.S. economic system.

Pearson Education – Magruder’s American Government

The text’s treatment of the free enterprise system is almost uniformly celebratory. A few examples:

“The atmosphere of a free market, as well as a free society that encourages the exchange of ideas, can and often does lead to innovation and scientific and technological discoveries. All these conditions promote growth in the economy and often improve the quality of everyday life.”

“The proper role of government in economic affairs should be restricted to functions intended to promote and protect the free play of competition and the operation of the laws of supply and demand. True laissez-faire capitalism has never in fact operated in this country, yet it has a profound effect on the structure of the nation’s economic system, which can be described as laissez-faire capitalism with limited government involvement.”

What’s Wrong?

Mentioning the advantages of the free enterprise system is entirely appropriate. However, the text’s treatment of the free enterprise system is unbalanced and asymmetrical because the text provides little mention of the possible limits and disadvantages of a free enterprise and laissez-faire system. Students are given little awareness that critics of a laissez-faire system, both in the U.S. today and the past, have argued that an unfettered market can and has occasionally led to economic insecurity and inequality, unfair pay and unsafe labor conditions for many employees.

Pearson Education – United States History: 1877 to the Present

The first lesson on the Gilded Age opens with the header: “Free Enterprise Improves Life.” It explains Mark Twain’s reasons for coining the term “the Gilded Age,” and then continues to minimize his critique in glowing terms: “Most Americans were not as cynical. The dizzying array of things to do and buy convinced the growing middle class that modern America was in a true golden age.”[…] The application of scientific discoveries and technological innovations by the free enterprise system improved the standard of living in the United States. Driven by entrepreneurs, American businesses were able to create products and services that made daily life easier and more fun for many people. Mass produced materials and products lowered the prices of many goods, enabling ordinary Americans to purchase items that previously had been out of reach.”

What’s Wrong?

As stated above, mentioning the advantages of the free enterprise system is entirely appropriate. However, this textbook’s unrelenting praise of free enterprise as the progenitor of any and all American successes is problematic for a number of reasons. First, nineteenth-century free-market capitalism went hand in hand with governmental suppression of Native ownership over vast swaths of fertile land, leading to that land’s transformation (first) into public property and (second) into private property protected by law. Without governmental action, that transformation would not have happened. Second, nobody during the age of early industrialization disputed the importance of active governmental support for “internal improvements” that were beyond private means. And finally, any comprehensive discussion of the history of free-market capitalism in this country should note that the great driving commodity of the pre-Civil War economy was cotton, produced by slave labor on an enormous scale.

McGraw-Hill School Education – United States History to 1877

The text states: “The capitalist economic system of the United States helped spur industrial growth. In capitalism, individuals and businesses own property and decide how to use it. The people—not the government—control capital, which includes the buildings, land, machines, money, and other items used to create wealth.”

 What’s Wrong?

This passage ignores a very important dimension of American economic development after the Revolution: the argument, developed by Alexander Hamilton, that government power is needed to foster development in an active way, including projects that are beyond private capital’s reach. The declarative statement that “people – not the government – control capital” seems to dismiss even the possibility of this more complicated relationship between individuals, the government and capital. In addition, the debate over public regulation of both individual and corporate enterprise remains an active subject of contention in American economic and legal life to the present day. Students should have a context for understanding that debate.

One government textbook (Pearson Education, Inc.) flirts with contemporary Tea Party rhetoric, particularly regarding the inclusion of anti-taxation and anti-regulation ideology.

Pearson Education – Magruder’s American Government

The first paragraph of the textbook’s section devoted to taxes states: “In the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., taxes are ‘what we pay for civilized society.’ Society does not appear to be much more civilized today than it was when Justice Holmes made that observation in 1927. However, ‘what we pay’ has certainly gone up.”

What’s Wrong?

The text neglects to mention that defenders of increased taxation for an expanded safety net would respond that programs adopted since 1927 such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act have produced such ‘civilized’ benefits as a drastic reduction of poverty and economic insecurity among the elderly, children, and the population at large, and improved and more equal access to health care.

Pearson Education – Magruder’s American Government

The text also includes an ideologically slanted cartoon.

What’s Wrong?

The text gives students the impression that Americans are very heavily taxed without placing this information in historical or cross-national context. For instance, the text could have mentioned that according to the Congressional Budget Office in 2011, federal taxes as a percentage of the GDP were at their lowest rate since 1950. The text might also have mentioned that the United States has the lowest corporate tax burden of any member nation of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The use of this cartoon is also unbalanced because the text provides no counterbalancing illustration suggesting that excessively low taxes might lead to economic insecurity and poverty, or critical of the lack of an adequate safety net for low-income Americans.

One world history textbook (by Worldview Software, Inc.) includes outdated – and possibly offensive – anthropological categories and racial terminology in describing African civilization.

WorldView Software – World History A: Early Civilizations to the Mid-1800s

The text states: “South of the Sahara Desert most of the people before the Age of Explorations were black Africans of the Negro race.”

 Elsewhere, the text states: “The first known inhabitants of Africa north of the Sahara in prehistory were Caucasoid Hamitic people of uncertain origin.”

What’s Wrong?

First, the term “Negro” is archaic and fraught with ulterior meaning. It should categorically not be used in a modern textbook. Further, the first passage is unforgivably misleading because it suggests that all black native Africans belong to a single “racial” group. This is typological thinking, which disappeared largely from texts after the 1940s. It harkens back to the racialization theory that all people could be classified as one of three “races”: Caucasoid, Mongoloid, or Negroid. Better to say: “…were natives of African origin.” Similarly, in the second passage, it is more accurate to simply omit reference to “Caucasoid.”

A number of U.S. history textbooks evidence a general lack of attention to Native American peoples and culture and occasionally include biased or misleading information.

WorldView Software – Basic American History I: Pre-Columbian Years to Reconstruction

The text states: “The early 1600s were an uncertain time for the colony of Virginia. It was a land of starvation and high death rates, one in which the Native Americans regularly launched merciless attacks against the colonists.”

What’s Wrong?
While early Virginians did indeed endure attacks from Native Americans, this passage provides no context for understanding the complicated relationship between the two groups. For instance, the Native Americans offered food in the time of starvation that followed the initial settlement. They tried to establish diplomatic relations on their own terms. Nonetheless, the English made their intentions plain by constructing a triangular fort, from which they could fire in all directions. They set out to just take whatever they wanted including food supplies, followed by land. From the start, they used violence, including such instances as kidnapping the Queen of one group known as the Pamunkeys, killing her children during the voyage back to Jamestown by throwing them into the water and shooting them. These events, plus the simple fact that the English were invaders, provide an essential context for the “massacre” of 1622.

Social Studies School Service – Active Classroom: U.S. History (Grade 8)

The materials include a video from Ambrose Videos entitled “1876 – The Battle of Little Bighorn.” The video claims: “for over 200 years, the Plains Indians were a major force in North America.” It goes on to say “but a new Native American culture arose around the horse and buffalo and a formidable warrior class grew up with it.”

What’s Wrong?

The interpretive position of this video is dangerously skewed. The claim of “200 years” trivializes the millennia of Native American heritage and frames their existence from a Euro-centric point of view. And by emphasizing that the horse/buffalo/warrior culture “was a way of life that successfully controlled the Great Plains up until the middle of the 19th century,” the video misleads the student into believing that the Plains Indians appeared with the Europeans and then suddenly became dangerous warriors who controlled land that was up for grabs.

Pearson Education – Magruder’s American Government

The text also makes the unsubstantiated prediction that “[i]t seems clear that the days of affirmative action programs are drawing to a close.”

What’s Wrong?

The text makes an inaccurate and unbalanced attempt to convince students that affirmative action programs are outdated on the basis of lopsided factual information. The text rests its claim in part on a Supreme Court case striking down an affirmative action policy (Ricci v. DeStefano) that was decided by a 5-4 margin. This means, of course, that the replacement of just a single Supreme Court justice could lead to very different outcomes in future cases regarding affirmative action. That the federal government and state governments continue to maintain and even expand various types of affirmative action programs is ignored. The text also neglects to mention that defenders of affirmative action would argue that widespread discrimination against women and minorities today as well as the legacy of historical injustices justify the continued use of affirmative action programs in appropriate circumstances.

Most U.S. history textbooks do a poor job of covering the history of LGBT citizens in discussions of efforts to achieve civil rights in this country.

Among the textbook packages for high school U.S. History since 1877, Discovery Education and Social Studies School Serviceoffer a variety of sources that provide substantial coverage of the movement for civil and equal rights for LGBT people since the 1960s. Most of the remaining publishers offer glaringly inadequate coverage of this important contemporary civil rights issue, and bias and errors sometimes creep into those very limited discussions.

WorldView Software: American History II: Post-Civil War America to the Present

The text states: “Harvey Milk was the first openly gay elected official in the United States.”

What’s Wrong?

Milk was certainly among the first openly gay elected officials, but he was preceded by other openly gay or lesbian officeholders, including Kathy Kozachenko, who won election to the Ann Arbor city council in 1974, and Elaine Noble, who took her seat in the Massachusetts Legislature in 1974.

Elements of the Texas curriculum standards give undue legitimacy to neo-Confederate arguments about “states’ rights” and the legacy of slavery in the South. While most publishers avoid problems with these issues, passages in a few U.S. history and government textbooks give a nod to these misleading arguments.

McGraw-Hill School Education – United States Government

The text’s case study of Brown v. Board of Education includes the following passage: “Under segregation, all-white and all-African American schools sometimes had similar buildings, buses, and teachers. Sometimes, however, the buildings, buses, and teachers for the all-black schools were lower in quality. Often, African American children had to travel far to get to their school.”

What’s Wrong?

The unfortunate wording of this case study severely understates the tremendous and widespread disadvantages of African-American schools compared to white schools, as well as the limitations placed on educational opportunities for blacks in general during the Jim Crow period.

McGraw-Hill School Education – United States History to 1877

The text states: “Southerners used states’ rights to justify secession. Each state, they argued, had voluntarily chosen to enter the Union. They defined the Constitution as a contract among the independent states. They believed the national government had broken the contract by refusing to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act and by denying Southern states equal rights in the territories. As a result, Southerners argued, the states had a right to leave the Union.”

Pearson Education – U.S. History: Colonization – Reconstruction

In a section titled “Causes Leading to War,” the text states: “Now a new issue emerged: whether southern states were allowed to secede under the Constitution. Most southerners believed that they had every right to secede. After all, the Declaration of Independence said that ‘it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish’ a government that denies the rights of its citizens. Lincoln, they believed, would deny white southerners the right to own African Americans as slaves.

For many southerners, secession was an issue of states’ rights and sovereignty, or independent control of an area. Many in the southern states believed that states had the sovereign right to secede. According to this view, states had the authority to make decisions without interference from the federal government, and the Constitution created a Union made up of states that could decide to leave the Union at any point. Those states also had the sovereign right to join together to form a new government, such as the Confederacy.”

Discovery Education – United States History (Prehistory-Reconstruction)

Materials include a two-minute video that argues that the states’ rights concept originated in the tariff disputes of 1828-1832. The video goes on to present the nullification controversy as strictly a matter of states’ rights and interests, and gives a sympathetic account of John C. Calhoun’s developing political position on the matter without any mention that he culminated that development in 1837 when he announced that slavery was a “positive good” for all involved, including slaves. The video closes with a song from the period endorsing the southern position.

What’s wrong?

First, a clarification: all three of these publishers provide thorough and accurate coverage of slavery in their products. There is no attempt to hide the issue in the run up to the Civil War. However, the requirement in the curriculum standards that compels coverage of “sectionalism, states’ rights, and slavery” (in that order) as causes of the war leads publishers to these sort of misleading – and even inaccurate – passages.

They are inaccurate for a simple reason: the concept of “states’ rights” in an abstract sense as a defense of secession did not appear until after the conclusion of the Civil War. Contemporaneous documents and statements by southerners make it plain that slavery was the underlying reason for their action. In their secession ordinances, South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi and Texas all stated their understanding that slavery had been placed in danger by Lincoln’s election and made that their major theme. Moreover, high officials, such as Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Vice President Alexander H. Stephens, made plain the absolute centrality of protecting slavery as the reason for secession. That point is important for two reasons. One is that both Davis and Stephens revised their positions after the war was over to argue that slavery had not been the issue at all, maintaining instead that it had been about abstract constitutionalism. The other is that these passages, which appear designed to fit the TEKS requirement of considering “states’ rights” as a separate issue, does dovetail with current neo-Confederate ideology, which is deeply false to the historical record.

 

VALERIE STRAUSS, Washington Post

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Djanjo Unchained Actress Detained for Kissing her Husband in Public: Police Suspect her as a Prostitute

Young African-American actress Danièle Watts, known for her role in Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” and the television show “Partners” was detained by police near Hollywood, after they saw her kissing her husband on the sidewalk and assumed she was a prostitute.

According to Watts’ Facebook page, where she recounted her terrible experience, police approached the couple when they saw her hugging and kissing her husband in public. They accused her of soliciting sex, presuming her husband was a “John” who had hired her. Watts, who was wearing a t-shirt, shorts, and athletic shoes (as pictured above), was taken aback by the allegations and refused to give the police her ID when they demanded it. So they slapped handcuffs on her and threw her into the back of a squad car.

Watts writes:

Today I was handcuffed and detained by 2 police officers from the Studio City Police Department after refusing to agree that I had done something wrong by showing affection, fully clothed, in a public place.

When the officer arrived, I was standing on the sidewalk by a tree. I was talking to my father on my cell phone. I knew that I had done nothing wrong, that I wasn’t harming anyone, so I walked away.

A few minutes later, I was still talking to my dad when 2 different police officers accosted me and forced me into handcuffs.

As I was sitting in the back of the police car, I remembered the countless times my father came home frustrated or humiliated by the cops when he had done nothing wrong. I felt his shame, his anger, and my own feelings of frustration for existing in a world where I have allowed myself to believe that “authority figures” could control my BEING… my ability to BE!!!!!!!

Later, she chooses to view the negative experience as an ultimately positive one with more grace than many would probably have after being handcuffed and thrown into the back of a police car for doing nothing wrong.

I will continue to look any “authority figure” in the eye without fear. NO POLICE OFFICER OR GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL IS MORE POWERFUL THAN ME. WE ARE EQUALS. I KNOW THAT I WILL ALWAYS BE FREE BECAUSE THAT IS THE NATURE OF MY SPIRIT.

And moreover, I deeply enjoyed connecting with the cops who detained me. I allowed myself to be honest about my anger, frustration, and rage as tears flowed from my eyes. The tears I cry for a country that calls itself “the land of the free and the home of the brave” and yet detains people for claiming that very right.

Today I exist with courage, knowing that I am blessed to have experienced what I did today. All of those feelings, no matter how uncomfortable. These feelings are what builds my internal strength, my ability to grow through WHATEVER may happen to me.

It’s inspiring that Watts could keep that positive outlook, but it leaves others furious. Many people on her Facebook post suggested she file a formal complain with the Studio City Police Department for wrongful detention. So far, she has yet to do so.

The cops – perhaps realizing almost immediately that they had arrested a ordinary citizen and not, in fact, a prostitute – released her after some time and didn’t press charges. An LAPD spokesperson told Variety that since no charges were filed, they had no record of the incident.

After several high profile incidents of police brutality, including the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, there has been a national conversation wrestling with the uncomfortable nature of racism and over-zealous cops on the force. Watts’ experience highlights another facet to that story: For many black Americans, money, fame, or being a celebrity don’t necessarily mean you won’t be targeted, investigated, and harassed.

From Addicting Info, Jameson Parker

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Lesbian dance instructor found murdered in St. Petersburg, Russia

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — A lesbian dance instructor was found murdered in her car in the Russian city of St. Petersburg on Sunday, reported QueerRussia.

Ekaterina Khomenko

Ekaterina Khomenko, 29, who was known in the local LGBT community as an instructor of tango for same-sex couples, was found with a 9 cm slit in her throat. Police are now treating her death as murder, after an initial investigation suggested she had committed suicide.

Khomenko’s body was found on the morning of September 7 by a passing street cleaner; her car had its engine and headlights still on.

Her father claimed police initially quizzed him about money, drugs and suicidal tendencies, considering those as possible causes of her death.

The Russian group Coming Out LGBT said it was shocked by Khomenko’s murder: “Ekaterina was a wonderful person, a great professional, daughter and friend. We will remember her and what she had done – bestowed joy and wings to many of us.”

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It’s Official: President Obama Is The Best Economic President In Modern Times

In a new economic report, published by Forbes.com on September 6, 2014, clearly shows that President Obama is the best economic president in modern times. It’s not an opinion, it’s a fact, based on all of typical the economic indicators, including jobs, investments, growth and expansion, even the rate of inflation. In all of these areas President Obama’s record outperforms that of every other modern president, including conservative idol, Ronald Reagan.

Under President Obama’s leadership, the unemployment rate has now decreased to 6.1 percent, the lowest it’s been since 2007, when the economy began gushing jobs under the failed leadership of then president George W. Bush.

Typically, republicans have tried to detract from the president’s accomplishments. When it comes to the falling unemployment rate, they claim that it is somehow related to large numbers of people just dropping out of the workforce. This would almost be believable if the economy wasn’t creating new jobs at a rate that coincides perfectly with the falling employment rate, but it is. There have been six consecutive months with more than 200,000 new jobs created, with only a slight dip in that number in August. Additionally, there have been 63 straight months of economic expansion and more than two solid years of manufacturing expansion.

In order to satisfy Obama’s conservative critics, Forbes compared the economy under President Obama to that of Ronald Reagan, who the GOP often touts as the best economic president of our times. It’s no surprise to discover that even with many additional obstacles in his path, Forbes concluded that:

“President Obama’s administration has outperformed President Reagan’s in all commonly watched categories.”

In order to complete the analysis, Forbes interviewed Bob Deitrick, CEO of Polaris Financial Partners. The company’s newsletter is reported to be one of the most reliable authorities on economic performance in the country. Here’s what Deitrick had to say about President Obama’s job creation record, when compared to that of President Reagan.

“President Reagan has long been considered the best modern economic President. So we compared his performance dealing with the oil-induced recession of the 1980s with that of President Obama and his performance during this ‘Great Recession.’

As this unemployment chart shows, President Obama’s job creation kept unemployment from peaking at as high a level as President Reagan, and promoted people into the workforce faster than President Reagan.

President Obama has achieved a 6.1% unemployment rate in his 6th year, fully one year faster than President Reagan did. At this point in his presidency, President Reagan was still struggling with 7.1% unemployment, and he did not reach into the mid-low 6% range for another full year. So, despite today’s number, the Obama administration has still done considerably better at job creating and reducing unemployment than did the Reagan administration.

We forecast unemployment will fall to around 5.4% by summer, 2015. A rate President Reagan was unable to achieve during his two terms.”

According to Forbes, this is not only the best private sector job growth in modern history:

“This is the best private sector jobs creation performance in American History.”

Deitrick also made it clear that President Obama has not achieved this reduction in unemployment because of a shrinking workforce, but in spite of it.

“What’s now clear is that the Obama administration policies have outperformed the Reagan administration policies for job creation and unemployment reduction. Even though Reagan had the benefit of a growing Boomer class to ignite economic growth, while Obama has been forced to deal with a retiring workforce developing special needs. During the 8 years preceding Obama there was a net reduction in jobs in America. We now are rapidly moving toward higher, sustainable jobs growth.”

As a final note, President Obama has managed to outperform Ronald Reagan in all of these areas, while at the same time, reducing the national debt. On the other hand, Reagan greatly expanded the debt, and still failed to achieve in eight years, what President Obama has achieved in only six.

 

Author: Randa Morris, Addicting Info

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PrEP: Behind the Numbers

A new campaign from the AIDS Healthcare Foundation has kicked off another round of controversy about HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and how to interpret data from prevention studies.

truvada pill and bottle.white5 copy The AHF ad features a chart showing overall efficacy in eight major studies of PrEP using Truvada (tenofovir plus emtricitabine) or tenofovir alone in pill or gel formulations. Figures range from a high of 75% in the Partners PrEP trial of heterosexual couples in Africa to less than 10% in the Fem-PrEP study of African women.

“Overall efficacy was low in all studies due to low adherence,” the ad states. “[AHF] has taken the position that the scientific data do not support the large-scale use of Truvada as a community-wide public health intervention.” In fact, AHF president Michael Weinstein suggested, “the government-sanctioned widespread scale-up of PrEP appears to be a public health disaster in the making.”

In contrast, proponents say PrEP is highly effective—in the 90% to 100% range—when used consistently. Once-daily Truvada was tested in clinical trials and this is the regimen approved by the FDA in July 2012 and recently recommended by the CDC. But study data show that Truvada can still provide a high level of protection even if people miss some doses.

Dueling Data
The battle of the numbers arises from the different ways researchers can report medical study results.
In randomized controlled clinical trials, the gold standard is “intent-to-treat” results, or how well a drug works among everyone assigned to take it. This includes people who may not have used it regularly or who stopped early due to side effects or for other reasons. This is usually the primary type of data reported in medical journals and at scientific conferences.

Another method, known as “as-treated” or “per-protocol” results, considers only the subset of study participants who actually took the drug as directed—that is, those with good adherence.
In general, as-treated results will make a treatment look more effective than intent-to-treat results. A drug may have strong antiviral potency, for example, but if many people find it too inconvenient or too toxic to use regularly, its actual effectiveness in practice may be low.

iPrEx by the numbers
The PrEP debate mainly revolves around the various reported figures from the iPrEx study, which enrolled about 2,500 HIV-negative gay and bisexual men and a small number of transgender women at 11 sites in six countries. Participants were randomly assigned to take either Truvada or an inactive placebo once daily. The study was double-blind, meaning neither the participants nor the researchers knew who was taking what. Everyone also received regular HIV testing and prevention services including risk-reduction counseling and free condoms.

As SFAF medical director Robert Grant and colleagues reported in the December 30, 2010, New England Journal of Medicine, after an average follow-up period of about one year, the risk of HIV infection was 44% lower overall in the Truvada group compared with the placebo group in an intent-to-treat analysis of the main iPrEx study—the figure shown in the AHF ad. For participants that self-reported taking Truvada as directed most of the time, the risk of infection dropped by 73%. Among people with blood drug level measurements indicating good adherence, risk reduction was 92%. A mathematical model later estimated that risk reduction would reach 90% if participants took Truvada at least four days per week, and could hit 99% with daily use—the figure often cited by PrEP advocates.

After the main study ended, all participants (even those assigned to take placebo during the main study) had the option of receiving Truvada in the iPrEx open-label extension (OLE). About 1,600 participants took part in iPrEx OLE with three-quarters choosing to take Truvada and the rest serving as an untreated control group. Unlike the original randomized part of the trial, OLE participants knew they were getting the active drug and were informed about findings showing that it reduced HIV risk.
As Grant reported at the recent International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, the overall risk reduction in the OLE was 49% in the Truvada group compared with the untreated group.

“Under more or less ideal conditions, the best they could get to was 50 percent [risk reduction],” said Weinstein. “That’s not a big success—that’s a big danger.”

Yet among people who had blood drug levels indicating that they took Truvada at least four times per week, there were no new infections—100% efficacy. However, only one-third managed to reach this level of adherence. People who took Truvada two or three times per week still had a risk reduction of 84%, while those who took fewer than two doses saw no significant protective effect.

What Does It Mean?
With so many numbers being tossed around, many people are understandably unsure about which ones to focus on. Yet the issue is not really which risk reduction estimates are “true,” but rather what these percentages mean in real life.

Taken together, studies of gay men, heterosexual couples, and people who inject drugs have shown that Truvada (or even tenofovir alone) is highly effective with consistent daily use.

“We know that people who did take the drug had very high levels of protection,” said Jim Pickett, director of Prevention Advocacy and Gay Men’s Health at the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. “This drug works extraordinarily well to prevent HIV if you use it.”

However, randomized studies and open-label demonstration projects have found that many participants don’t maintain good adherence. A U.S. PrEP demonstration project found that while 92% of San Francisco participants had blood drug levels indicating that they took Truvada at least four times per week, this fell to 57% in Miami. At the other extreme, adherence levels in two PrEP studies of women in Africa—VOICE and Fem-PrEP—were so low that they could not demonstrate a protective effect.
While Weinstein argues that condoms are the best way to prevent HIV infection, PrEP advocates stress that most gay men do not use condoms all the time — as demonstrated at an SFAF Real Talk discussion where an audience poll showed that 100% had ever had sex without a condom.

As with PrEP, the level of protection in condom studies also varies widely. While effectiveness in preventing pregnancy approaches 100% with perfect use, a study by Dawn Smith from the CDC and colleagues found that gay men who reported using condoms all the time were about 70% less likely to become infected than those who said they use them sometimes or not at all.

“Does that mean we tell guys [condoms] are only 70% effective? No, partly because some guys probably didn’t use them religiously or correctly,” explained David Evans, director of research advocacy at Project Inform. “So what we say is that they are highly effective if used correctly and used every time. That’s what most of us are saying about PrEP.”

Importantly, iPrEx and other studies have found that using PrEP does not make people less likely to use condoms, but in fact is associated with a reduction in sexual risk behavior. And compared with condoms, PrEP is more forgiving of less-than-optimal adherence.

“Having used a condom yesterday provides no protection if you don’t use a condom today,” said Grant. But the iPrEx OLE results “demonstrate that PrEP remains highly effective, even in real-world circumstances in which adherence may not be perfect.”

“It’s important to note that PrEP is not simply a pill, it’s a program,” Pickett told BETA. “It’s a program that includes quarterly testing for HIV, regular STD screens (and STD treatment as necessary), medical monitoring, adherence support, and sexual health counseling.”

Liz Highleyman is a freelance medical writer and editor-in-chief of HIVandHepatitis.com. This article appeared in BETA.

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Police Arrest Young Black Politician For Distributing Voting Rights Leaflets

The stars of North Carolina’s Moral Mondays movement took the stage on Labor Day at Charlotte’s Marshall Park to condemn the state’s record on voter suppression and racial profiling, and urge the community to organize and turn out at the polls this November. Just a few hundred feet away, police cuffed and arrested local LGBT activist and former State Senate candidate Ty Turner as he was putting voting rights information on parked cars.

“They said they would charge me for distributing literature,” Turner told ThinkProgress when he was released a few hours later. “I asked [the policeman] for the ordinance number [being violated], because they can’t put handcuffs on you if they cannot tell you why they’re detaining you. I said, ‘Show me where it’s illegal to do this.’ But he would not do it. The officer got mad and grabbed me. Then he told me that I was resisting arrest!”

There is a local ordinance prohibiting leafleting on cars. But according to local activist Casey Throneburg, who also filmed the arrest, it is almost never enforced, and “certainly not with handcuffs.”

Instead of transporting Turner directly to the Mecklenburg County jail, which sits just a few blocks from Marshall Park, he said they took him first to an empty parking lot behind the highway. “They took me to three different spots other than the jail,” he said. “They knew they were in the wrong.”

This happened as the Moral Mondays leaders lead a small but enthusiastic crowd in prayer, song and chants of “Forward together, not one step back!” and “Fired up, ready to vote!” When they learned what had happened to Turner, they urged the rally attendees to join them on a march to the jailhouse to demand his release. About 30 people did so, walking silently behind the clergy and friends of Turner.

On arrival, Deputy Brown at the front desk said Turner had not yet arrived, but when he did he would be fingerprinted and photographed before being released.

As the crowd waited, Reverend Dr. William Barber—the founder of Moral Mondays and President of the North Carolina NAACP—said the incident illustrated the urgent need to get out the vote in the African American community.

“Police are hired by police chiefs, who are hired by people that are elected,” he said. He then turned to Turner’s friends, who were crying. “I want you to be angry. Rosa Parks got angry and she changed the world. Take this incident and turn it into power. Anyone who says they’re upset about this profiling of black men, ask them if they’re registered to vote. That’s how we change this system.”

Dr. Barber added that Turner’s arrest reminded him of earlier, darker times in the American South. “The arrogance to come into our rally and think they can snatch up one of our boys and we’re going to be quiet about it! That day is so old we can’t even remember it.”

Other rally participants said they were reminded of more recent dark times, including the killing of Jonathan Ferrell by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police last year. Ferrell, a 24 year old former college football player, was unarmed when police shot him 10 times.

As the crowd waited for Turner’s release Monday night, local Reverend Kojo Nantambu put in a phone call to the President of the National NAACP, who in turn called the police department demanding Turner’s release. Shortly after, the police told the crowd they would be releasing Turner with a citation, but he would not be processed at the jail. A squad car then pulled up outside the jail, and Turner emerged, limping slightly and sweating profusely. The crowd cheered when they saw him and ran to comfort him.

Turner’s friend Cece, who did not wish to reveal her last name, said the arrest shone light on “a cause we need to fight for.”

“Ty is not the only person this has happened to and he will not be the last one,” she said. “A lot of people get arrested and detained without reason, unjustly, and we need to be there for them.”

Reverend Nantambu told ThinkProgress the incident shows the need for strengthening the citizen review board that oversees the police in Charlotte, so that they have the power to investigate and subpoena officers accused of wrongdoing.

As for Turner, who this spring ran an unsuccessful campaign to be the youngest member from his District in the State Senate, he said the incident has not shaken his dedication to activism and public service.

“I always tell people, ‘Know the law. Know what your rights are. You’ve got power,” he said. “The law works for you only if you know it.”

A request for comment directed towards the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department was not returned by press time.

Alice Ollstein,Think Progress

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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

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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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