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Where did we go wrong?

Which country do people around the world think is the biggest threat to peace today? The US.As 2013 draws to a close, pollsters have been finding out how people feel about the state of their lives and the coming 12 months.
Pollsters interviewed nearly 68,000 people in 65 countries.

The research also found that the #US#Australia and#Canada where the most desirable destinations for those who want to move country.

 

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San Francisco Christmas Eve Day Toy Drive for Children at Handlery Hotel by Firefighters is a Success

 

San Francisco Firefighters Union Local 798 held a successful toy drive to make sure no child went without a toy in San Francisco this Christmas, thanks to Jon Handlery and his family’s landmark San Francisco hotel.

 

Dressed as Santa Claus, San Francisco Firefighter Bob Cuff and costumed characters accompanied by off-duty firefighters were in front of the Handlery Union Square Hotel, 351 Geary (between Powell and Mason), San Francisco from 9 a.m. to midnight on Christmas Eve day.

 

Beloved hotel owner Jon Handlery and Handlery hotel staff served as “Santa’s Helpers” and assisted with the collection of thousands of toys for needy San Francisco kids.

 

The Handlery Hotel has raised $3,500 and donated two barrels of toys to the drive this year to ensure no kid were without a Holiday present.

 

Firefighters Union Local 798 asked people to bring unwrapped toys which were collected in front of the Handlery Hotel. Everyone who brought a toy got free pictures with Santa and many children brought their lists of Christmas wishes to Santa in person.

 

An additional toy drive was held just next door to the hotel at Lefty O’Doul’s bar and pub, a property which is also owned by the Handlery family.

 

SF Firefighters Local 798 Toy Program

 

The Local 798 San Francisco Firefighters Toy Program is celebrating its 64th year of providing toys to San Francisco children in need during the holidays.  The San Francisco Firefighter’s Toy Program is San Francisco’s largest and the nation’s oldest program of its kind.  Since 1949 it has evolved from a few firefighters repairing broken toys and bikes for 15 families to, in 2012, 300 firefighters and friends volunteering their time to distribute over 200,000 toys to more than 40,000 disadvantaged children.

 

Besides helping individual families in need, the Toy Program serves many community organizations, including shelters for abused women and children, inner-city schools, children’s cancer wards, and pediatric AIDS units.

 

The Toy Program is made possible through public donations and the efforts and contributions of Local 798 members.

 

Firefighters Union Local 798 wishes to thank Jon Handlery & the staff of the Handlery Union Square hotel for welcoming the Toy Program at their property.

 

 

The Handlery Union Square Hotel

 

Located at Union Square, the Handlery Union Square Hotel offers the perfect San Francisco lodging for vacationers and business travelers.  As a fourth generation family-owned hotel, the Handlery has created great experiences for guests by offering personal service, beautifully appointed rooms, and a warm atmosphere.  Ideally located right next to the world famous Powell Street cable car line, the Handlery Union Square Hotel is a beloved San Francisco institution.

 

 

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An Open Letter to “Duck Dynasty” and Supporters

Dear Duck Dynasty and Supporters (Sarah Palin, Bobby Jindal, etc.),

Last week two members of the all-woman band “Pussy Riot” were being freed from prisonafter serving over a year because they had the audacity to peacefully protest the Russian government and its oppressive policies.

That would never happen in this country. What we call–and you yell–”Freedom of Speech” is meant to protect the right of any citizen to say whatever they wish (within reason of public safety) without repercussions from the government.

Though it’s certainly a heated debate, the spirit of freedom of speech is in protecting the opinion of the minority on an issue–whether that be a minority of background or population or power. It’s meant to give everyone the chance to voice their opinion.

And although your opinion on homosexuality is now in the minority in this country, your privilege as straight folks to say things that perpetuate dangerous myths and hatred has helped keep in place laws that treat those in the LGBT community as second class citizens.

The First Amendment ONLY guarantees the government can’t oppress you for your opinions, it does not dictate to private entities what they can and cannot do in regards to the words that come out of your mouth.

So, when you say stupid shit like “I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once.” or “whether they’re homosexuals, drunks, terrorists. We let God sort ‘em out later, you see what I’m saying?” or literally compare non-Christians to Nazis, a private company like A&E has every right to can your ass, regardless of who does and does not agree with them.

Further, I’ve noticed a strange absence of that much-heralded “let the free market do its job” commentary that was so prevalent when folks were boycotting Chick-fil-A for their anti-gay bigotry. Now, that A&E has literally made a decision in response to the market, you’re crying foul. What happened to capitalism being a driving force for social equality?

You absolutely have freedom of speech, but you do not have the right to a guaranteed audience or freedom from criticism or freedom from private sector consequences.

So, please take your duck whistles and complaints to the nearest Chick-fil-A and let the rest of us celebrate the triumph of the human spirit and actual bravery in free speech with those folks from Pussy Riot.

 From Charles Clymer, Huffington Post
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You Don’t Have the Right to Remain Silent

On Monday, in a case called Salinas v. Texas that hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves, the Supreme Court held that you remain silent at your peril. The court said that this is true even before you’re arrested, when the police are just informally asking questions. The court’s move to cut off the right to remain silent is wrong and also dangerous—because it encourages the kind of high-pressure questioning that can elicit false confessions.

 Here are the facts from Salinas: Two brothers were shot at home in Houston. There were no witnesses—only shotgun shell casings left at the scene. Genovevo Salinas had been at a party at that house the night before the shooting, and police invited him down to the station, where they talked for an hour. They did not arrest him or read him his Miranda warnings.  Salinas agreed to give the police his shotgun for testing. Then the cops asked whether the gun would match the shells from the scene of the murder. According to the police, Salinas stopped talking, shuffled his feet, bit his lip, and started to tighten up.

At trial, Salinas did not testify, but prosecutors described his reportedly uncomfortable reaction to the question about his shotgun. Salinas argued this violated his Fifth Amendment rights: He had remained silent, and the Supreme Court had previously made clear that prosecutors can’t bring up a defendant’s refusal to answer the state’s questions. This time around, however, Justice Samuel Alito blithely responded that Salinas was “free to leave” and did not assert his right to remain silent. He was silent. But somehow, without a lawyer, and without being told his rights, he should have affirmatively “invoked” his right to not answer questions. Two other justices signed on to Alito’s opinion. Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Antonin Scalia joined the judgment, but for a different reason; they think Salinas had no rights at all to invoke before his arrest (they also object to Miranda itself). The upshot is another terrible Roberts Court ruling on confessions. In 2010 the court held that a suspect did not sufficiently invoke the right to remain silent when he stubbornly refused to talk, after receiving his Miranda warnings, during two hours of questioning. Now people have to somehow invoke the right to remain silent even when they’re not formal suspects and they haven’t been heard the Miranda warnings. As Orin Kerr points out on the Volokh Conspiracy, this just isn’t realistic.

The court’s ruling in Salinas is all the more troubling because during such informal, undocumented, and unregulated questioning, there are special dangers that police may, intentionally or not, coax false confessions from innocent suspects. I have spent years studying cases of people exonerated by DNA testing. A large group of those innocent people falsely confessed—and many supposedly admitted their guilt even before any formal interrogation.  Take the case of Nicholas Yarris, who was exonerated by DNA testing in 2003, after 20 years in prison. He had been convicted and sentenced to death in Pennsylvania for the murder of a woman found raped, beaten, and stabbed near her abandoned Chrysler Cordoba.

When informally questioned, police said, Yarris volunteered that he knew the victim had been raped, and that the victim’s Chrysler had a brown “landau” roof (a vinyl fake convertible look). That was a striking detail, especially since the police had kept it out of the press. No tape was made of the interrogation. The police didn’t even produce notes. And now that DNA has cleared Yarris, we know his confession was false, and that he must not have volunteered the fact about the car roof at all.

The Supreme Court’s decision in Salinas encourages the kind of loosey-goosey, and easily contaminated, police questioning that led to Yarris’ wrongful conviction. Salinas may very well have been guilty of the two murders. But in many cases, as in this one, there are no eyewitnesses and not much other evidence of guilt: That is why the police may desperately need a confession. And that makes it crucial for them to handle interrogations and confessions with the utmost care. The court appreciated none of the pressures police face, and how they can squeeze an innocent suspect. Alito and the other conservatives were not troubled that there was no video to confirm that Salinas was in fact uncomfortable as well as silent. If Salinas had answered the question by exclaiming that he was innocent, could police have reported that he sounded desperate and like a liar? The court’s new ruling puts the “defendant in an impossible predicament. He must either answer the question or remain silent,” Justice Stephen Breyer said in dissent (joined by the other three liberal-moderates). “If he answers the question, he may well reveal, for example, prejudicial facts, disreputable associates, or suspicious circumstances—even if he is innocent.” But if he doesn’t answer, at trial, police and prosecutors can now take advantage of his silence, or perhaps even of just pausing or fidgeting.

Questions first, rights later is the approach the court’s majority now endorses. And by giving the police more incentive to ask questions informally, the new ruling will also undermine the key reform that police have adopted to prevent false confessions: videotaping entire interrogations.  Why not try to trap a suspect before the camera starts rolling? In only a few cases like Yarris’ will there be DNA to test. The likely result of the court’s embrace of shoddy interrogation tactics: more wrongful convictions.

 

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Book bannings on the rise in US schools, says anti-censorship group

The Kids’ Right to Read Project investigated 49 book bannings or removals from school shelves in 29 states this year

An anti-censorship group in America has reported a flurry of attempted book bannings in the last quarter of the year and has said there are increasing numbers of books being taken off school shelves that deal with race or sexuality or are written by “minority” authors.

The Kids’ Right to Read Project (KRRP) is part of the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) and says in November alone they dealt with three times the average number of incidents. To date in 2013, KRRP investigated 49 book bannings or removals from shelves in 29 states, a 53% increase in activity from last year. In the last half of the year the project challenged 31 incidents compared to 14 in the same period last year.

Acacia O’Connor of the KRRP said, “Whether or not patterns like this are the result of co-ordination between would-be censors across the country is impossible to say. But there are moments, when a half-dozen or so challenges regarding race or LGBT content hit within a couple weeks, where you just have to ask ‘what is going on out there?’”

Among the books which have been complained about were Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, Toni Morrison’s The Bluest EyeAlice Walker‘s The Color Purple, Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Isabel Allende‘s The House of the Spirits and Rudolfo Anaya’s Bless Me, Ultima.

Most of the challengers were parents of district students or library patrons, though a handful were local or state government officials. Of the more than two dozen incidents KRRP faced from September to December, the majority involved materials used in classroom instruction.

“It has been a sprint since the beginning of the school year,” said O’Connor. “We would settle one issue and wake up the next morning to find out another book was on the chopping block.”

However, the KRRP says it has also seen an increase in “challenged” books being returned to the shelves following the body’s involvement. This month saw two major victories: Rudolfo Anaya’s Bless Me, Ultima was returned to English classrooms in Driggs, Idaho, and a ban on Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits was lifted at Watauga County Schools in Boone, North Carolina.

Among the other successes the KRRP counts was the situation involving the urban fantasy novel Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, which wasremoved from the shelves at schools in Alamogordo, New Mexico, following a single complaint by a parent. The school board later reinstated the book.

Neil Gaiman said today: “I’m just glad that organisations like the Kids’ Right to Read Project exist, and that so many of these challenges have successful outcomes – it’s obvious that without them, the people who do not want their children, or other people’s, exposed to ideas, would be much more successful at making books vanish from the shelves.”

KRRP, co-founded by the NCAC and the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression and supported by the Association of American Publishers and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, says it is difficult to estimate exactly how many books are challenged or removed as many incidents go unreported.

The KRRP also successfully tackled the proposed banning of The Diary of Anne Frank from schools in Northville, Michigan, where one parent complained that passages detailing Anne’s descriptions of her own body were “pornographic”, and Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which was branded “anti-Christian”. The KRRP and NCAC “went to bat for [this book] more than any other work in 2013, facing challenges in Montana, New York, and two new cases in New Jersey and West Virginia.”

Sherman Alexie said censors are “punishing the imagination. That’s why we’re fighting them.”

 

From the Guardian

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Canvasback Missions Takes a Major Step in the Fight Against Diabetes in the Marshall Islands

By Alexander Hirata

Canvasback Missions has spent years working to reverse the diabetes epidemic in the Marshall Islands. They’ve brought specialty medical care to the islands for over 30 years, and have run the Diabetes Wellness Center on Majuro since 2006. Now, Canvasback is working to reverse the epidemic of diabetes in the Marshall Islands by preventing the onset of the disease before it begins.

 

Made possible by a generous grant from the World Diabetes Foundation, Canvasback is working with Antonia Demas, Ph.D., and Marshall Islands health officials to bring health education into the classroom. Dr. Demas has visited the Marshall Islands twice so far, traveling last with Canvasback co-founder Jacque Spence and employee Jaylene Chung to implement trials of the new food education curriculum in the public schools on Majuro and Ebeye in October. The team trained instructors how to teach from the curriculum, which involves special hands-on activities to engage children and make food education fun.

 

Dr. Antonia Demas studied education, nutrition, and anthropology at Cornell University. She has developed food-based curricula for schools for over 40 years, successfully implementing her “Food is Elementary” program in over 3,000 schools. Demas is also the founder and president of the New York-based Food Studies Institute, a not-for-profit created to improve children’s health through food education.

 

One of Demas’ key beliefs is that the food we eat directly affects our health. Processed foods have replaced natural ones, and chemical preservatives are now a regular part of our diets. Demas believes that children are the ideal group to teach food literacy to: they don’t have established diets that are difficult to change; they are open to new ideas, especially if taught using sensory (taste, touch, and visual) methods; and healthy habits now would prevent illnesses later.

 

Canvasback is proud to work with Demas, because both know that food education is essential to reverse diabetes in the Marshall Islands. It is cost-efficient, slipping into the existing educational system, yet its effects will last for a lifetime. And once established, local schools and teachers will be in full control of the program. The most difficult part of the program won’t be getting kids interested in healthy eating–it will be waiting years to see how well it pays off.

 

To learn more about the work of Canvasback Missions, contact them at: 940 Adams St., Suite R, Benicia, Calif. 94510. Phone: 800-793-7245 or email them at info@canvasback.org

 

 

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Let Me Explain Freedom of Speech to all the Phil Robertson, Duck Dynasty Supporters

FROM FORWARD PROGRESSIVES

I’m sure by now most of you have heard about Phil Robertson’s anti-gay rant he went off on during an interview with GQ magazine, and the indefinite suspension by A&E that soon followed.

And wow, this situation has sure showcased how many people just don’t understand what “freedom of speech” means.  So I thought I’d explain it nice and simply to those who wrongfully believe this is some kind of attack on free speech.

You know, since apparently I wasn’t clear enough the first time.  Millions of people seem unable to grasp this simple concept.

Freedom of Speech: The legal means to say almost anything you want.  Meaning that as private citizens, we’re allowed to say nearly anything (with a few exceptions of course) that we want without fear of legal prosecution for it.

Unless I’ve missed something, Mr. Robertson faces no legal ramifications for what he said.  That’s what freedom of speech means.  Freedom of speech does not mean we can say anything we want without ramifications for what we say from our peers or employers.

We’re free to be racist, bigoted, anti-Semitic — pretty much anything we want.  We can be these things, no matter how ignorant, because that’s what the Constitution gives us the right to be.

But that doesn’t mean within a society we won’t face consequences for those “freedoms.”  The suspension of Phil Robertson is not an attack on Robertson’s right to believe how he wants.  It’s a consequence from an employer for him expressing an opinion which A&E feels represents them in a negative light.

When he signed his contract, it almost certainly included a clause that says he’s a representative of A&E and is expected to act accordingly.  All public figures, whether they want to be or not, are representatives of something.  Be it a company, a brand, a sports team or league – it’s the price that comes along with fame.

So, yes, he was free to say what he said – and now he’s paying the consequences for it.

Just ask Alec Baldwin or Martin Bashir, two gentlemen who were fired (well, Bashir “resigned” but it’s clear he was forced to do so) for expressing their “freedom of speech” rights.  Hell, weren’t conservatives calling for Bashir’s firing?  So it’s absolutely hypocritical that they’re outraged by Robertson’s suspension.  Especially considering Bashir only had derogatory words for Sarah Palinwhereas Robertson ignorantly bashed tens of millions of homosexuals.

And Alec Baldwin’s show was canceled for anti-LGBT remarks as well.  I didn’t see many conservatives up in arms about that — but clearly it’s all about whose ox is being gored now, isn’t it?

So once again, we are given the freedom of speech to say almost anything we want without legal ramifications for those words.  But that does not mean that there aren’t any ramifications for what we have the freedom to say.

Until Mr. Robertson gets thrown in jail for saying what he said, his supporters need to stop crying about this being an “attack on free speech.”  Because when they do, they obviously prove how ignorant they are about what “freedom of speech” really means.

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Obama Jabs Putin, Picks Openly Gay Delegates For Winter Olympics In Russia

President Barack Obama on Tuesday announced his delegates to the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. And, in what may be a thumb in the eye to Russian President Vladimir Putin over his crackdown on gay rights, two of Obama’s delegates are openly gay.

Billie Jean King, the tennis legend, and Caitlin Cahow, an Olympic medalist in women’s ice hockey, are both part of the U.S. delegation. Both are out lesbians.

Another member of the U.S. delegation, figure skating Olympic medalist Brian Boitano, routinely declines to answer questions about his sexuality, saying “everybody’s got their own path” to discovering who they are.

Others in the delegation include University of California President Janet Napolitano, the former Homeland Security secretary; U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul; White House Deputy Chief of Staff Rob Nabors; Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, and speed skating Olympic medalists Bonnie Blair and Eric Heiden.

In what may be another slight to the Russian president, Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and first lady Michelle Obama will not attend the opening ceremony. This marks the first time since the 2000 Summer Olympic Games that a president, vice president, first lady or former president won’t be part of the opening ceremony.

Putin has faced international criticism for his persecution of Russia’s gay community. Over the summer, he signed a law banning the adoption of Russian-born children to gay couples. He also signed a law that bans public discussion of gay rights and relationships where children might hear it. Under that law, which considers such talk “propaganda,” violators can be fined and foreigners can be deported.

Obama has denounced Putin’s treatment of gays and made a point to meet with Russian advocates of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trangender community during his September trip to St. Petersburg for the G20 Summit.

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California PUC to Consider Historic Fine Against PG&E and Orrick Herrington Law Firm Attorney in Faulty Gas Line Case

Joseph M. Malkin

PG&E and its Orrick Herrington Attorney are Facing Historic Fines and Legal Sanctions for Misleading the California Public Utilities Commission

The California Public Utilities Commission will vote on historic sanctions and a fine of up to $17 million against the Pacific Gas & Electric Corp. Thursday, Dec. 19 for failing to disclose faulty pipeline records in San Carlos to both the CPUC, the public and the City of San Carlos for nearly a year, creating a possibly dangerous public safety issue that one of its own engineers likened to possibly “another San Bruno situation” in an internal email to PG&E executives.

PG&E and its attorney Joseph M. Malkin of Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP law firm are facing a fine of up to $17 million for violating CPUC rules and discreetly filing an “errata” – the legal term for a minor correction – on the status of two pipelines, located in San Carlos and Millbrae, nearly a year after a gas leak unexpectedly revealed faulty records for those pipelines.

Pipelines listed as “seamless,” as in the case of the line that ruptured in San Bruno, were in fact a 1929 vintage welded and reconditioned gas pipe with a strength test less than records showed. The legal correction was made quietly on the afternoon of July 3, 2013, a day before the CPUC took off for the July Fourth holiday, disclosing the fact that PG&E had relied on faulty records to determine the specifications for those pipelines to handle gas at high pressure.

The Commission will make this decision three weeks after PG&E CEO and Chairman Tony Earley made a special presentation before the CPUC in an attempt to convince commissioners and the public of the company’s renewed commitment to safety. Earley was met with a skeptical commission, which challenged PG&E’s credibility in the face of mounting recordkeeping errors and threats to public safety. “We find ourselves here today with a public that doesn’t believe you and in many respects doesn’t believe us,” Commissioner Mike Florio said to Earley at the hearing.

City of San Bruno officials have agreed with the proposed fine against PG&E and are calling on the CPUC to uphold proposed sanctions against PG&E for deliberately covering up the facts after it used faulty records to determine that two Bay Area pipelines could safely operate – a decision demonstrating the continued problem with PG&E record keeping practices. Bad record keeping was one of the causes of the 2010 PG&E disaster in San Bruno and continues to threaten public safety.

Calling the July 3 PG&E filing a “brazen and calculated act of damage control,” San Bruno attorneys say PG&E’s legal maneuver illustrates PG&E’s ongoing attempts to cover its tracks as it continues to use natural gas pipelines at inappropriate operating pressures, without accurate records and with the same flawed materials that caused a tragic explosion and fire in San Bruno that killed eight, destroyed 38 homes and damaged scores more.

City officials were shocked to discover that, after gross negligence and bad recordkeeping by PG&E resulted in the fatal tragedy in San Bruno, PG&E paid its legal team to perpetuate their deception at the risk of public safety. They are now calling on the CPUC to issue sanctions and send the strong message that such behavior will not be tolerated. Officials question how many communities must endure tragedy before PG&E and our state utility regulators wake up and put safety first.

Faulty recordkeeping was found to be a major contributor to the explosion and fire in San Bruno after federal and state investigators found that PG&E had maintained bad or nonexistent pipeline safety records for much of its 1,000+ miles of urban natural gas transmission lines. As a result, state regulators required PG&E to lower pressure on its other Peninsula gas pipelines until safety records could be verified.

In 2011, PG&E declared that the pipeline construction records were accurate for both Line 101, which runs from Milpitas to San Francisco, and Line 147, which runs in the San Carlos area. Based on PG&E’s representations, the CPUC allowed PG&E to increase the pressure back to pre-explosion levels.

In reality, PG&E’s pipelines were not rated to operate at higher pressure, as revealed after an October 2012 corrosion-related leak in San Carlos revealed seams in the pipeline previously not thought to exist. Yet, it took nine months for the company to admit – by way of the subtle “errata” filing — that the records it had relied on to make that determination were faulty.

At previous CPUC hearings, regulators pressed PG&E over the “profoundly troubling” oversight, which occurred despite “the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars for record review and validation.” PG&E now faces fines of up to $17 million, on top of a possible $2.25 billion penalty and fine stemming from the fatal 2010 explosion and fire in San Bruno.

San Bruno officials say this is just the latest example of PG&E expending millions on top attorneys – more than $120 million by PG&E’s own admission – to subvert the truth and put profits over people.

 

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Coke executives meet in days to decide if they should condemn Russia’s anti-gay crackdown.

Coca-Cola executives are just days away from deciding whether or not to speak out against Russia’s brutal new anti-gay laws – and we need to show them the potential brand damage at stake if they stay silent.

Coke is a major sponsor of next year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. The Olympics should be about celebrating all that is good in humanity. But instead,the Sochi Olympics risks being known for hatred and homophobia, due to a draconian new Russian anti-gay law that criminalizes even coming out of the closet.

So far, Coke has remained silent on Russia’s LGBT crackdown – that’s why we’re joining with All Out to show Coke how many people want the company to speak out against this law. If we succeed, we can set off an earthshaking domino effect that pushes other international sponsors to follow.

This is the best shot we have at creating a billion-dollar problem for Russia that can ultimately push it to overturn its horrific anti-gay laws.

Tell Coca-Cola executives meeting this week to condemn Russia’s anti-gay laws and call for their repeal.

Russia’s anti-gay law forbids anyone from “promoting non-traditional sexual relations’. In practice, this means anyone can be arrested and jailed for something as simple as coming out, wearing a rainbow pin, or demonstrating in public.

Mega-corporations like Coca-Cola have invested millions in sponsoring the Olympics and billions in their operations in Russia. In effect, Coca-Cola and others are bankrolling the Sochi Olympics. This gives them huge influence on the thinking of the International Olympic Committee and the Russian government.

It’s easy to think we can’t influence what’s happening in an authoritarian regime like President Vladimir Putin’s Russia. But Putin craves legitimacy and glory. If we can get the companies that are paying for his personal public relations exercise to step up and criticize this vicious anti-gay law, then Putin’s Olympic games are in trouble.

As a community, we’ve shown what can be achieved when we work together for LGBT rights. We’ve fought against transphobia in newspapers like the Daily Mail. Together, we persuaded Pepsi to fight against Uganda’s anti-gay law, and we ran a huge campaign to thank Starbucks for supporting marriage equality. We’re defending the most basic of all human rights: the right to life, the right to live free of unfair arrest, and the right to be yourself.

Tell Coca-Cola to support Russian LGBT people and condemn the brutal anti-gay law.

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Affluenza? Really?

The comfort made him do it.

That was the successful defense strategy used by a Texas teenager sentenced Tuesday to 10 years of probation after he killed four people in a June drunk-driving accident.

According to news reports, a psychologist hired by 16-year-old Ethan Couch said the teenager was a victim of “affluenza,” a condition caused by the sort of absurdly permissive home life that comes with being wealthy. The lenient sentence—prosecutors had sought up to 20 years in prison—prompted anger by the victims’ families and others.

These things tend to happen in free-market capitalist societies, said Oliver James, a British psychologist and author of Affluenza: How to Be Successful and Stay Sane. Wealth skews perceptions of right and wrong, he said.

“America teaches people that greed is good,” James said. “There are very few parents who don’t imbue their children with some values, but what those values are is another story.Bernie Madoff’s children were undoubtedly given a model that money is king.”

Though, notably, Madoff’s kids turned him in.

Couch likely will be sent to a California alcohol-treatment center that costs nearly $500,000 per year, news outlets reported. His blood-alcohol level was three times the legal limit, and he was driving about 70 mph in a 40 mph zone when he killed four people standing near the side of a road. Nine others were also injured.

The Dallas-area teen was charged with manslaughter. Jan Withers, national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said he should have faced murder charges and been sent to prison.

“The families were very disappointed, and I personally was very disappointed in the verdict handed down to him,” said Withers, whose 15-year-old daughter was killed by a 17-year-old drunk driver. “We wish he had been held more accountable. He could get the help he needs and still be held accountable.”

Although research has shown the justice system routinely imposes harsher sentences on poor African-American defendants than on wealthier whites, young people of any race or income level should be treated with sensitivity, said Regina Austin, a University of Pennsylvania law professor who has written about the roles of race and class in criminal law.

“There is a concern that overindulgence of children will not produce the kinds of responsible citizens we want,” said Austin.

But it’s worth considering that, whether rich or poor, “young people can be stupid,” she said.

Couch is not the only defendant to blame income levels for criminal actions, she said. But most of the time the defense is used by poor minorities.

“That idea has been used by some minority defendants—‘If I were rich and white, I wouldn’t be prosecuted for this,’ ” Austin said. “You could say a rotten social background defense is comparable to the affluenza defense.”

You could also say they’re exact opposites.

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The Salvation Army’s History of Anti-LGBT Discriminati

In recent years, the Salvation Army has come under fire for its lengthy history of anti-LGBT political maneuvering and other incidents. The church has publicly articulated its belief that homosexuality is unacceptable, stating:

Scripture opposes homosexual practices by direct comment and also by clearly implied disapproval. The Bible treats such practices as self-evidently abnormal. … Attempts to establish or promote such relationships as viable alternatives to heterosexually-based family life do not conform to God’s will for society.

While such statements were recently removed from the Salvation Army’s website, the church has yet to repudiate any of its explicitly anti-gay beliefs. And though these positions may seem to be limited to the group’s internal doctrines, they’ve become a persistent element of the church’s overtly political activities — activities which have negatively impacted the Salvation Army’s ability to provide charitable services, and have aimed to limit the rights and benefits of LGBT citizens in multiple nations.

1986 — The Salvation Army of New Zealand collected signatures against the Homosexual Law Reform Act, which repealed the law criminalizing sex between adult men. The Salvation Army later apologized for campaigning against the Act.

1998 — The Salvation Army of the United States chose to turn down $3.5 million in contracts with the city of San Francisco, resulting in the closure of programs for the homeless and senior citizens. The church backed out of these contracts due to San Francisco’s requirement that city contractors must provide spousal benefits to both same-sex partners and opposite-sex partners of employees. Lieutenant Colonel Richard Love stated:

We simply cannot agree to be in compliance of the ordinance.

In 2004, the Salvation Army in New York City also threatened to close down all of its services for the city’s homeless due to a similar non-discrimination ordinance.

2000 — The Salvation Army of Scotland submitted a letter to Parliament opposing the repeal of Section 28, a law prohibiting “the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”. Colonel John Flett, the church’s Scotland Secretary, wrote:

We can easily envisage a situation where, due to active promotion of homosexuality in schools, children will grow up feeling alienated if they fail to conform.

The Salvation Army of Scotland has never retracted or apologized for its suggestion that homosexuality would be promoted in schools or that children would be encouraged to become gay.

2001 — The Salvation Army of the United States attempted to make a deal with the Bush administration ensuring that religious charities receiving federal funding would be exempt from any local ordinances banning anti-gay discrimination. Church spokesman David A. Fuscus explained that the group did not want to extend medical benefits to same-sex partners of its employees.

The deal fell through after it was publicized by the Washington Post.

2012 — The Salvation Army of Burlington, Vermont allegedly fired case worker Danielle Morantez immediately after discovering she was bisexual. The church’s employee handbook reads, in part, “The Salvation Army does reserve the right to make employment decisions on the basis of an employee’s conduct or behavior that is incompatible with the principles of The Salvation Army.”

Later that year, Salvation Army spokesperson Major George Hood reaffirmed the church’s anti-gay beliefs, saying:

A relationship between same-sex individuals is a personal choice that people have the right to make. But from a church viewpoint, we see that going against the will of God.

2013 — The Salvation Army continues to remove links from its website to religious ministries providing so-called “ex-gay” conversion therapy, such as Harvest USA and Pure Life Ministries. These links were previously provided as resources under the Salvation Army’s section on dealing with “sexual addictions.”

“Without discrimination” — myth or fact? The Salvation Army has recently attempted to counter this perception of the church as homophobic, scrubbing explicitly anti-gay statements from its websites and issuing missives purportedly “debunking” the “myth” of its anti-LGBT stances.

Yet these efforts at cleaning up their image still fail to address the most substantial criticisms of the church’s policies. The Salvation Army states that numerous clients at its soup kitchens and homeless shelters are members of the LGBT community, and that these individuals are served without discrimination. They further add: “The Salvation Army embraces employees of many different faiths and orientations and abides by all applicable anti-discrimination laws in its hiring.”

These statements completely ignore the reality that the Salvation Army continues to maintain anti-gay theological stances, and continues to discriminate against its own employees and their partners. They also neglect to mention that the organization historically “abides” by anti-discrimination laws by way of shutting down services in areas where such laws apply. The Salvation Army has given no indication that it intends to change any of these anti-LGBT policies.

Supporting the Salvation Army this season, whether by tossing your change in their red kettles or donating your used goods to their resale shops, means assisting an aggressively anti-gay church in furthering its goals of discrimination. Would-be donors should consider whether “doing the most good” might mean supporting one of the many other effective and reputable charities that provide for the needy without engaging in anti-gay beliefs, policies, or political activities.

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Phobie Awards: The 13 Worst People of the Year

PHOBIE OF THE YEAR: VLADIMIR PUTIN
To hold the the president of Russia responsible for every antigay incident within his country’s borders might be unfair. But it’s far less offensive than what’s happening to LGBT Russians.

A neo-Nazi group is posting video of gay men it captures and then tortures by humiliating and often violent meansSomeone threw poison gas into a gay nightclub in Moscow in November, and that was the second time it had been attacked in a week. The first time men showed up with guns and shot at the front door indiscriminately.

Meanwhile, Putin is touting his Olympic Games in Sochi, suggesting that maybe the series of antigay laws he signed won’t be enforced. In 2013, Putin signed a law banning any foreigner from adopting a Russian child if they come from a country supportive of marriage equality. Now the standard is so strict that Russia’s Children Rights Commissioner says only Italy is narrow-minded enough to meet the qualifications. And Putin famously signed the so-called gay propaganda ban this year. It’s a law so vague that Olympians could be fined or jailed for kissing their partners. Putin told the International Olympic Committee that he will do “everything” to ensure guests are “comfortable” in Sochi. But he’s also banned protests of any kind there while the games go on. And photos of those daring to protest the law already show vicious beatings as a result. This is the sort of thing that Pride parades were invented to combat. But we’re now one year into a 100-year ban on those in Moscow thanks to a law passed in 2012. Capping off the year, just this week Putin gave a speech in which he said Russia was right to reject “so-called tolerance, being genderless and fruitless.”

To be named Phobie of the Year seems like a slap on the wrist compared to what LGBT advocates in the United States are actually worried about. When activist and Broadway producer Harvey Fierstein wrote an op-ed in The New York Times that drew so much attention from the mainstream to this problem, he invoked the specter of the 1936 Olympic Games. “In 1936 the world attended the Olympics in Germany. Few participants said a word about Hitler’s campaign against the Jews,” he wrote. “Supporters of that decision point proudly to the triumph of Jesse Owens, while I point with dread to the Holocaust and world war. There is a price for tolerating intolerance.” What an ominous games the 2014 event may be. While the Olympic charter claims to promote “human dignity,” and the games will draw the world’s attention in February, the Russian parliament is on the verge of considering yet another antigay law. This one would order children with gay or lesbian parents to be taken from their homes. That’s because in twisted Russia, it’s LGBT people who are considered a danger, and not their government. — Lucas Grindley


 

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In Michigan, the meaning of ‘rape insurance’

The Michigan state legislature yesterday finished passing a bill that requires women to buy separate coverage ahead of time for abortion if they want to have coverage for it at all. The measure applies to private health insurance, and it has no exceptions for rape or incest.

For that reason, opponents have been calling the new plan “rape insurance,” which is tough terminology, to be sure. As we’ve seen in places like Virginia, what you call something really matters.

Yesterday in Michigan, State. Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, was not backing down.

For those you who want to act aghast that I’d use a term like “rape insurance” to describe the proposal here in front of us, you should be even more offended that it’s an absolutely accurate description of what this proposal requires. This tells women that were raped and became pregnant that they should have bought special insurance for it. By moving forward on this initiative, Senate Republicans want to essentially require Michigan women to plan ahead and financially invest in healthcare coverage for potentially having their bodies violated and assaulted. Even worse, it would force parents to have similar and unthinkably terrible discussions about planning the same for their daughters. I’ve said it before and I will say it again: This is by far one of the most misogynistic proposals I’ve ever seen in the Michigan legislature.

Whitmer went on to describe her personal experience of surviving sexual assault. The final vote was 27-11 in the Senate, to go along with passage in the House of 62-47. Republican Governor Rick Snyder vetoed a similar bill last year. But because the bill this time arose as a citizens’ initiative, it does not require a signature from the governor – neither can he veto it. Had the Michigan legislature sent it on to the ballot, it faced a divided electorate, with voters opposed to it by 47 percent to 41 percent in a recent poll. The bill will take effect early next year.

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TJPA Executive Director Maria Ayerdi-Kaplan Honored by Lambda Alpha International Honorary Society for the Advancement of Land Economics

International Society Honors SF Executive for Contributions to Transit Oriented Development and Urban PlanniInternational Society Honors SF Executive for Contributions to Transit Oriented Development and Urban. Maria Ayerdi-Kaplan, Executive Director of the Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA), was inducted into the Lambda Alpha International Honorary Society for the Advancement of Land Economics at its Annual Initiation Dinner.

Ms. Maria Ayerdi-Kaplan was honored for her extraordinary accomplishment in securing more than $2 billion in funding and bringing the Transbay Transit Center Project to fruition. Now under construction, the Transbay project is spurring the extensive development that is taking place in the Transbay neighborhood. Ms. Ayerdi-Kaplan formed the TJPA in 2001 and has since served as the Executive Director. She negotiated the transfer of 17 acres of state land for the development of the Transit Center, the Downtown Rail Extension, parks, retail, and residential and office towers that will reshape the San Francisco skyline and infuse new economic vitality into downtown.

Ms. Ayerdi-Kaplan also led the negotiations for the historic sale of the Transbay Transit Tower property to Boston Properties and Hines for $192 million in 2013, collecting more than $3,700 per square foot of land – one of the highest prices paid per square foot for a commercial property in San Francisco history.

Ms. Ayerdi-Kaplan graduated from U. C. Berkeley and Hastings College of Law and has been widely recognized for her achievements in transit-oriented development and transportation.

“I am honored and appreciative to have been recognized by this outstanding professional society,” said Ms. Ayerdi-Kaplan.

In the autumn of 1930, Lambda Alpha was established at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois to help foster the study of land economics. The inspiration for Lambda Alpha was Professor Richard T. Ely (1854-1943), commonly called the “Father of Land Economics.” Lambda Alpha International has chapters in many key cities in the United States, Canada, England, and Madrid with members-at large in many other parts of the world. Its membership is a “Who’s Who in Land Economics” honoring men and women who have distinguished themselves in land economics-related activities.

The Transbay Transit Center, known as the “Grand Central Station of the West coast,” is a revolutionary transportation facility that will transform the South of Market neighborhood into the new heart of downtown. The Transit Center will connect eight Bay Area counties and 11 transit systems, including future High Speed Rail. The Transbay Transit Center is scheduled to open in late 2017. To learn more about the project, please visit our website at www.TransbayCenter.org

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3.8%

by RA Salvadore, Daily Kos

I never see this discussed on the news, the pundit shows, or anywhere else.

Want to know the dirty little secret about why the wealthy hate Obamacare?

3.8%

We hear the right-wing screaming all the time about Obamacare, of course, and how it’s a travesty that will destroy freedom, take our guns and womenfolk, and will destroy Christmas! We have op-eds from people like Edie Stansby telling us of one horror after another. Even our well-to-do friends on Facebook bemoan their premium increases…while the middle class right wingers keep saying that they’ll be paying the tab for the poor and the “takers,” etc. It’s all tied together, of course; those middle class folks are being fed that by the puppet masters.

Make no mistake about it, the wealthy hate Obamacare. And it’s got nothing to do with premiums.

it’s got to do with a single number: 3.8%

Remember that number. Shout that number.

You see, up until Obamacare, the truly wealthy in our society, that passive income crowd that dodged the top tax bracket by getting their compensation in capital gains and such, was EXEMPTED from the Medicare portion of FICA.

This tax (2.9%) went up .9% for incomes over 250k under PPACA. .9%’s not that bad, of course, but for those living on passive income, the hit is much larger.

Until now, this law, they were exempt from that tax.

Now they’re not.

Take a guy like Romney – he makes $20,000,000 a year, most if not all of it in the form of passive income. So he was paying at the 15% rate, thanks to the special treatment for such “special” income.

That went up to 20% when parts of hte Bush tax cuts expired in 2012.

And now, to add insult to that injury, Romney’s income is subjected to that dastardly Medicare tax (which, unlike the Social Security portion of FICA, doesn’t cut off at $106,000, or $133,000, or whatever it is this year).

3.8% of $20,000,000 is $760,000 dollars in taxes. That has to sting that generational wealth plan Romney was hatching.

Imagine the hit the Kochs and the hedge fund guys are taking. The 25 top hedge fund guys in 2009 averaged $1Billion each…3.8% of a billion? Get your calculators out: mine says that means about $38,000,000 in new taxes for these guys.

So if they spend a few million trying to kill it, who could blame them, right?

3.8%.

They hate Obamacare. They hate Obama. It’s pretty simple, when you think about it.

Make sure you point that out to the blue collar guy on Facebook who tells you that he’s paying for the freeloaders. He is indeed, but he’s looking in the wrong direction when he turns his gaze DOWN.

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Maria Bello Comes Out About Her ‘Modern Family’ in New York Times Column

Acclaimed actress Maria Bello came out in a column entitled “Coming Out as a Modern Family” in a column in the New York Times Friday. Bello, star of PrisonersA History of ViolencePrime Suspect and ER, wrote in her column about coming out to her 12-year-old son Jackson, who had begun to suspect that she was in a relationship with someone. That someone turned out to be a woman Jackson knew quite well, Bello’s best friend.

 

“I was with someone romantically and I hadn’t told him,” Bello wrote. “I had become involved with a woman who was my best friend, and, as it happens, a person who is like a godmother to my son.”

In conjunction with the column Bello Tweeted the above photo of her with Jackson, Jackson’s dad Dan, and Clare

Bello wrote openly in her column about leafing through old journals. “I read about the handful of men and the one woman I had been in romantic relationships with, passages rife with pain and angst,” Bello wrote. “It seemed when I was physically attracted to someone, I would put them in the box of being my “soul mate” and then be crushed when things didn’t turn out as I had hoped.”

She went on to write that she came across an old photo of her with her best friend Clare on a New Year’s Eve back in the day.

“We looked so happy, I couldn’t help but smile,” Bello wrote. “I remembered how we had met two years before; she was sitting in a bar wearing a fedora and speaking in her Zimbabwean accent.”

Bello continued to tell the story of reuniting with Clare and confessing her “confusing” feelings. Eventually they entered into a romantic relationship.

“My feelings for Clare aren’t the same as the butterflies-in-the-stomach, angst-ridden love I have felt before; they are much deeper than that,” Bello wrote. “As we grew closer, my desire for her grew stronger until, after a few months, I decided to share the truth of our relationship with my large, Italian-Polish, “traditional” Philadelphia family.”

Bello wrote that her son was wholly supportive when she came out to him. “Love is love,” he said, according to his mom.

To end her column Bello wrote, “So I would like to consider myself a “whatever,” as Jackson said. Whomever I love, however I love them, whether they sleep in my bed or not, or whether I do homework with them or share a child with them, “love is love.” And I love our modern family.”

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APP TO HELP RESIDENTS KEEP FOOD ON TABLE

Developed by Code of America Fellow, Promptly is Nation’s First Human Services Text Message App

Mayor Edwin M. Lee today launched Promptly, the first application in the country created to send text message notifications for human services clients. Developed by a Code for America Fellow at City Hall this year, Promptly provides clear and concise text messages delivered directly to San Francisco Human Services Agency (HSA) clients that allows them to quickly take action to preserve their benefits.

“Our City strives for strong, healthy communities that can participate in a prosperous economy, and Promptly helps us achieve this by enabling beneficiaries of programs like CalFresh to keep food on the table for their families,” said Mayor Lee. “I am impressed with the partnership with Code for America that uses innovation to help some of our most vulnerable residents.”

The application was built by Code for America Fellows in collaboration with the San Francisco Human Services Agency (HSA) and the Mayor’s Office. Promptly is first rolling out with CalFresh clients and then will continue on to other programs. When benefits for a client change or need to be renewed, they are currently mailed a notice of this change. However, these paper notices may be missed for a number of reasons – meaning a client’s benefits could expire without their knowledge until an inopportune time, like when checking out at the grocery store. Once this happens, reinstating benefits after a lapse can be frustrating and time consuming for the client. Text messages, delivered in addition to the mailed notices, reduce the likelihood of these lapses.
“The Human Services Agency mission is to promote well-being and self-sufficiency among individuals, families and communities in San Francisco,” said HSA Executive Director Trent Rhorer. “We must constantly improve ways for our residents to access our benefits and remain enrolled to receive the services they need. Promptly is a huge step forward towards doing just that.”

So far, 700 users have already signed up to receive text messages. In early piloting of the program, HSA has texted around 100 clients with a 50 percent response rate—a far greater response rate than traditional mailers or email. With more than 90 percent of the U.S. population having access to short message system (SMS) or text message capabilities on their cell phones, Promptly stands to make a big impact as more individuals enroll. Text messages from Promptly are translated into six languages.

“We are excited to let HSA clients know about Promptly. Both HSA and our team believe that text messaging is a quick and easy way to reach people who are in danger of not receiving necessary benefits. If clients receive a text message that enables them to stay on benefits – that’s food that a client has for the next six months,” said Andy Hull, a Code for America Fellow. “This project was a true collaboration between Code for America and the City of San Francisco, and we’re looking forward to expanding Promptly to every HSA client in San Francisco.”
Code for America

Founded in 2009, Code for America (CfA) is a nonprofit collaborating with local governments to foster and facilitate innovation. CfA is known for its fellowship program, which embeds tech and design professionals in local governments explore new approaches to resolving local challenges. Through the Accelerator, Brigade, and Peer Network programs, CfA is connecting cities with startups and volunteers, as well as each other. For more information, go to: www.codeforamerica.org.

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The Photo that Changed the Epidemic

In November 1990 LIFE magazine published a photograph of a young man named David Kirby — his body wasted by AIDS, his gaze locked on something beyond this world — surrounded by anguished family members as he took his last breaths. The haunting image of Kirby on his death bed, taken by a journalism student named Therese Frare, quickly became the one photograph most powerfully identified with the HIV/AIDS epidemic that, by then, had seen millions of people infected (many of them unknowingly) around the globe.

More than two decades later, on the 25th World AIDS Day, LIFE.com shares the deeply moving story behind that picture, along with Frare’s own memories of those harrowing, transformative years.

“I started grad school at Ohio University in Athens in January 1990,” Frare told LIFE.com. “Right away, I began volunteering at the Pater Noster House, an AIDS hospice in Columbus. In March I started taking photos there and got to know the staff — and one volunteer, in particular, named Peta — who were caring for David and the other patients.”

David Kirby was born and raised in a small town in Ohio. A gay activist in the 1980s, he learned in the late Eighties — while he was living in California and estranged from his family — that he had contracted HIV. He got in touch with his parents and asked if he could come home; he wanted, he said, to die with his family around him. The Kirbys welcomed their son back.

Peta, for his part, was an extraordinary (and sometimes extraordinarily difficult) character. Born Patrick Church, Peta was “half-Native American and half-White,” Frare says, “a caregiver and a client at Pater Noster, a person who rode the line between genders and one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met.”

“On the day David died, I was visiting Peta,” Frare, who today lives and works in Seattle, told LIFE. “Some of the staff came in to get Peta so he could be with David, and he took me with him. I stayed outside David’s room, minding my own business, when David’s mom came out and told me that the family wanted me to photograph people saying their final goodbyes. I went in and stood quietly in the corner, barely moving, watching and photographing the scene. Afterwards I knew, I absolutely knew, that something truly incredible had unfolded in that room, right in front of me.”

“Early on,” Frare says of her time at Pater Noster House, “I asked David if he minded me taking pictures, and he said, ‘That’s fine, as long as it’s not for personal profit.’ To this day I don’t take any money for the picture. But David was an activist, and he wanted to get the word out there about how devastating AIDS was to families and communities. Honestly, I think he was a lot more in tune with how important these photos might become.”

Frare pauses, and laughs. “At the time, I was like, Besides, who’s going to see these pictures, anyway?

Over the past 20 years, by some estimates, as many as one billion people have seen the now-iconic Frare photograph that appeared in LIFE, as it was reproduced in hundreds of newspaper, magazine and TV stories — all over the world — focusing on the photo itself and (increasingly) on the controversies that surrounded it.

Frare’s photograph of David’s family comforting him in the hour of his death earned accolades, including a World Press Photo Award, when published in LIFE, but it became positively notorious two years later when Benetton used a colorized version of the photo in a provocative ad campaign. Individuals and groups ranging from Roman Catholics (who felt the picture mocked classical imagery of Mary cradling Christ after his crucifixion) to AIDS activists (furious at what they saw as corporate exploitation of death in order to sell T-shirts) voiced outrage. England’s high-profile AIDS charity, the Terrence Higgins Trust, called for a ban of the ad, labeling it offensive and unethical, while powerhouse fashion magazines like ElleVogue and Marie Claire refused to run it. Calling for a boycott of Benetton, London’s Sunday Times argued that “the only way to stop this madness is to vote with our cash.”

“We never had any reservations about allowing Benetton to use Therese’s photograph in that ad,” David Kirby’s mother, Kay, told LIFE.com. “What I objected to was everybody who put their two cents in about how outrageous they thought it was, when nobody knew anything about us, or about David. My son more or less starved to death at the end,” she said, bluntly, describing one of the grisly side effects of the disease. “We just felt it was time that people saw the truthabout AIDS, and if Benetton could help in that effort, fine. That ad was the last chance for people to see David — a marker, to show that he was once here, among us.”

David Kirby passed away in April 1990, at the age of 32, not long after Frare began shooting at the hospice. But in an odd and ultimately revelatory twist, it turned out that she spent much more time with Peta, who himself was HIV-positive while caring for David, than she did with David himself. She gained renown for her devastating, compassionate picture of one young man dying of AIDS, but the photographs she made after David Kirby’s death revealed an even more complex and compelling tale.

Frare photographed Peta over the course of two years, until he, too, died of AIDS in the fall of 1992.

“Peta was an incredible person,” Frare says. Twenty years on, the affection in her voice is palpable. “He was dealing with all sorts of dualities in his life — he was half-Native American and half-White, a caregiver and a client at Pater Noster, a person who rode the line between genders, all of that — but he was also very, very strong.”

As Peta’s health deteriorated in early 1992 — as his HIV-positive status transitioned to AIDS — the Kirbys began to care for him, in much the same way that Peta had cared for their son in the final months of his life. Peta had comforted David; spoken to him; held him; tried to relieve his pain and loneliness through simple human contact — and the Kirbys resolved to do the same for Peta, to be there for him as his strength and his vitality faded.

Kay Kirby told  LIFE.com that she “made up my mind when David was dying and Peta was helping to care for him, that when Peta’s time came — and we all knew it would come — that we would care for him. There was never any question. We were going to take care of Peta. That was that.

“For a while there,” Kay remembers, “I took care of Peta as often as I could. It was hard, because we couldn’t afford to be there all the time. But Bill would come in on weekends and we did the best we could in the short time we had.”

Kay describes Peta, as his condition worsened in late 1991 and 1992, as a “very difficult patient. He was very clear and vocal about what he wanted, and when he wanted it. But during all the time we cared for him, I can only recall once when he yelled at me. I yelled right back at him — he knew I was not going to let him get away with that sort of behavior — and we went on from there.”

Bill and Kay Kirby were, in effect, the house parents for the home where Peta spent his last months.

“My husband and I were hurt by the way David was treated in the small country hospital near our home where he spent time after coming back to Ohio,” Kay Kirby said. “Doctors and nurses wore gloves and gowns whenever they were around him, and even the person who handed out menus refused to let David hold one. She would read out the meals to him from the doorway. We told ourselves that we would help other people with AIDS avoid all that, and we tried to make sure that Peta never went through it.”

“I had worked for newspapers for about 12 years already when I went to grad school,” Therese Frare says, “and was very interested in covering AIDS by the time I got to Columbus. Of course, it was difficult to find a community of people with HIV and AIDS willing to be photographed back then, but when I was given the okay to take pictures at Pater Noster I knew I was doing something that was important — important to me, at least. I never believed that it would lead to being published in LIFE, or winning awards, or being involved in anything controversial — certainly nothing as epic as the Benetton controversy. In the end, the picture of David became the one image that was seen around the world, but there was so much more that I had tried to document with Peta, and the Kirbys and the other people at Pater Noster. And all of that sort of got lost, and forgotten.”

Lost and forgotten — or, at the very least, utterly overshadowed — until LIFE.com contacted Frare, and asked her where the photo of David Kirby came from.

“You know, at the time the Benetton ad was running, and the controversy over their use of my picture of David was really raging, I was falling apart,” Frare says. “I was falling to pieces. But Bill Kirby told me something I never forgot. He said, ‘Listen, Therese. Benetton didn’t use us, or exploit us. We used them. Because of them, your photo was seen all over the world, and that’s exactly what David wanted.’ And I just held on to that.”

After the Benetton controversy finally subsided, Therese Frare went on to other work, other photography, freelancing from Seattle for the New York Times, major magazines and other outlets. While the world has become more familiar with HIV and AIDS in the intervening years, Frare’s photograph went a long way toward dispelling some of the fear and willful ignorance that had accompanied any mention of the disease. Barb Cordle, the volunteer director at Pater Noster when David Kirby was there, once said that Frare’s photo of David “has done more to soften people’s hearts on the AIDS issue than any other I have ever seen. You can’t look at that picture and hate a person with AIDS. You just can’t.”

Ben Cosgrove is the Editor of LIFE.com

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Guess Who’s Furious Over Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade’s ‘Kinky Boots’ Performance?

DAVID BADASH on NOVEMBER 29, 2013

in BIGOTRY WATCH,NEWS 

Conservatives just couldn’t enjoy our national day of thanks without going berserk over some event that doesn’t fit their tightly-wound vision of what America is “supposed” to be. At yesterday’s 87th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, the cast of the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical “Kinky Boots” performed, ruining the entire day for the nation’s right wing nuts.

Despite being created by Cyndi Lauper and Harvey Fierstein, despite winning six Tony Awards, conservatives screamed about “family values!” and “the children!,” whose lives, apparently now will be devastated.

WorldNetDaily, that bastion of birtherism that thinks Obama is gay, wrote that “Kinky Boots” “left a lot of viewers scratching their heads, shaking their heads, and wondering what happened to the family friendly tradition.”

One commenter there complained, “Just when I thought NYC and NBC couldn’t get any lower. Next year they will have LGBT Poll dancers. This is despicable and disgusting beyond belief. NBC, you should be ashamed. But when you have people like Ed Shultz and Andrea Mitchell you have no shame.”

Another, “Our country is morally bankrupt! To allow such a mockery of everything sacred is despicable! If Macy’s allowed this, there should not be one person show up for the parade next year. Those are sick people who need help… not to be paraded in front of children and the whole world. It’s an embarrassment for America of which I am very ashamed.”

And, “They’re going to push until their “lifestyle” is made illegal. Think it won’t happen. When you make up only 3% at best the population, you don’t go dancing through the minefield. Remember action and reaction. Parents are not amused and you can thank your media friends for helping you “mentally disturbed” to P em off.”

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‘This could be dramatic’

In recent years, political organizations have exploited flaws in the campaign-finance system in a way that seems almost farcical. That may be poised to change in a big way.

For example, a group like Karl Rove’s attack operation, Crossroads GPS, or the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity, can declare itself a “social welfare” organization, as opposed to a political action committee. Once they enjoy tax-exempt status as a 501(c)4 group, these brazenly partisan outfits can raise enormous amounts of money as non-profit organizations – while keeping their donors lists entirely secret from everyone.

As Nicholas Confessore reports this afternoon, the Obama administration is eyeing new rules that would “curtail” the campaign activities of these groups that enjoy tax-exempt status, but shouldn’t.

The proposed rules, announced by the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service, would expand and clarify how the I.R.S. defines political activity and then establish clearer limits for how much activity nonprofits can engage in. Such a change – long urged by government watchdog groups – would be the first wholesale shift in a generation in the regulations governing political activity. […]

The rules would not prohibit political activity by nonprofit organizations. But by establishing clearer limits for campaign-related spending, the new rules could have a significant impact on the big-spending nonprofit groups that have played a central role in national politics in recent years, spending hundreds of millions of dollars on political advertising and voter outreach.

Marcus Owens, a former chief of the IRS’s exempt organizations division, told the Times, “Depending on the details, this could be dramatic.”

Quite right. The proposed guidance, for example, would say that “social welfare” organizations couldn’t engage in campaign  activities such as airing television ads within 60 days of an election.

We’ll learn more about the detail soon, but the goal here is to start applying meaningful definitions – and setting credible limits – on what a “social welfare,” tax-exempt, non-profit group can do to influence the outcome of elections. No matter what the guidance says, the parameters likely won’t be in place to influence the 2014 cycle, but in 2016 and beyond, the administration’s proposed changes have the potential to make an enormous impact on U.S. elections.

Steve Benin MSBNC

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Fallin’s fallacy fails to fix fault

The Pentagon has ordered national guard facilities nationwide to extend equal treatment to married couples in the U.S. military – including same-sex married couples – and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel gave them a Dec. 1 deadline to comply.

While most states have gladly gone along – because, really, what kind of governor wants to deny active-duty military personnel equal treatment, especially during a war? – there are a handful of far-right, red-state governors who continue to resist the order, citing their state’s anti-gay policies.

As Rachel noted on the show last night, Oklahoma’s Republican governor has taken this position to its logical extreme.

Oklahoma will stop processing all military spouse benefit applications at state-owned National Guard facilities rather than begin accepting the applications from same-sex spouses, Gov. Mary Fallin said Wednesday.

Instead, military spouse applications, including those of same-sex couples, will only be accepted at four federally owned National Guard bases: the Air National Guard bases in Tulsa and Oklahoma City, the Regional Training Institute in Oklahoma City and Camp Gruber.

Got that? Fallin’s administration could process benefits applications for all military spouses – just as most governors from both parties are doing – but that would mean helping same-sex married couples. So rather than comply with the Defense Department, Oklahoma intends to stop processing everyone’s benefits applications.

If you’re in the National Guard, you’re in Oklahoma, and you want your spouse to be eligible for benefits, you must now travel to a federally run facility – because the state doesn’t intend to process your application anymore. As Rachel put it on the show, “Instead of treating one group with dignity and one group with indignity, now nobody gets treated at all.”

The story took an interesting turn today, however, when Fallin said on Twitter, “To set the record straight – no National Guardsman in Oklahoma is being denied marriage benefits. Stories that suggest otherwise are false.”

Twitter obviously isn’t conducive to detailed explanations – 140 characters is inherently limiting – which is a shame in a case like this because the governor’s message isn’t exactly helpful in letting the public know the whole story.

In Oklahoma, can married National Guardsmen and women apply for marriage benefits? Yes. But – and this is the important part – the Republican governor and her administration have changed state policy in order to deny equal treatment to married same-sex couples. The applications will still be processed, but only at federal locations in Oklahoma because Fallin’s state facilities have withdrawn from the process rather than helping Guard personnel – gay or straight – in order to remain in technical compliance with the Pentagon policy.

Let’s put this another way:

1. Oklahoma used to process military spouse benefit applications.

2. Then the Pentagon ordered Guard bases to treat all marriages equally.

3. Then Oklahoma stopped processing military spouse benefit applications.

Fallin’s defense, at least on Twitter, is that benefits will still be available, and to be sure, that’s heartening.

But it also misses the point of the controversy.

From msnbc

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Ted Cruz Gets Asked What His Alternative to “Obamacare” is, Hilarity Quickly Ensues

Ted Cruz likes to use any microphone or television camera he’s presented with as a platform to bash the Affordable Care Act. I honestly can’t recall the last interview I’ve seen him give, or speech he’s given, where he didn’t obsess about “repealing Obamacare.”

And while it’s easy to bash the healthcare law — or in the case of Ted Cruz, just blatantly lie about it — it’s a lot harder to name an alternative solution. Which is probably why 3 1/2 years later, Republicans have yet to do just that.

Well, during an interview on CNN with Chris Cuomo, Ted Cruz was asked what his alternative to “Obamacare” was exactly:

CUOMO: What do you say to them, Senator? When they say, “Please help me”, what is the fix that you offer them? I looked at the list of bills that you’ve sponsored. There’s not one that offers a solution to the current problems with health care except to get rid of the existing law. Is that enough?
CRUZ: Well, that’s the only solution that will work. All of these Band-Aid fixes that the president is pushing, the congressional Democrats are pushing won’t fix the problem. Every one of those bills, they have great titles, like “if you like your plan you can really, really, really keep them”, but if they were passed into law, it wouldn’t fix the problem for the 5 million people who have lost their health insurance, they wouldn’t get it back.
CUOMO: You don’t think you have a responsibility as a U.S. senator to do better than that in terms of offering a solution for what to do next?
CRUZ: Well, I appreciate your trying to lecture me in the morning. Thank you for that.
Cuomo: Not at all, Senator. I’m worried, the same as you. Anybody who looks at the situation has worries. Families need health insurance.

CRUZ: Sir, if you’re worried, did you speak out for the five million people who’ve lost their health insurance? Did you speak out…?
CUOMO: We’ve been covering it doggedly and I’m sure you watch the show. The problem is I don’t have the power to fix it. You do. That’s what a U.S. Senator does. You sponsor law. You know this. It’s not a lecture, it’s a concern. I’m asking what are you going to do about it?
CRUZ: Well, and I share that concern and have every day been working to highlight the millions of people who have lost their job because of Obamacare, the millions of people who have been forced into part-time work. There are single moms, there are young people, Hispanics, African Americans, people struggling who are now on part-time work. You can’t feed your kids with 29 hours a week. There’s over five million people who have lost their health insurance and the way to fix that is to stop this broken law.

First, I love how Ted Cruz never once offered an alternative outside of “repeal it,” claiming that’s the “only solution that will work.” The closest thing to a “plan” he really offered during the whole interview was allowing people to buy insurance across state borders. Yes, that’s really plausible.

Then I love how he seems unable to step away from the “5 million Americans” talking point, while completely ignoring the fact that millions of Americans were already denied insurance before the Affordable Care Act.
Oh, and people aren’t “losing” their health insurance. These people who’ve had their plans cancelled are simply being forced to buy new insurance plans. What, were many Americans not having their health insurance cancelled each year before “Obamacare?”

We also can’t forget the “millions” of people who have lost their job because of “Obamacare.” Funny, the nearly 8 million private-sector jobs we’ve created since the healthcare law was passed would say otherwise. His statement also has exactly zero evidence to support it. It’s just another right-wing talking point.
Then he has the nerve to talk about people being forced into part-time employment being caused by the health care law? Please. That’s on big business and greedy corporations. These companies were already gutting full-time positions long before “Obamacare.” They’re just using the healthcare law as a convenient excuse to do what they were already planning on doing.

I absolutely love how he threw out the “young people, Hispanics and African Americans” line. A blatant attempt to try to fear monger about the struggles of those who fall within the demographics Republicans usually lose come election time.

Cruz is nothing more than a robotic politician. Everything he says seems like it was taken directly from flash cards that were prepared and written by the tea party.

And even after all his fear mongering, lies and propaganda—he still couldn’t offer a single alternative for the healthcare law he has spent nearly his entire time in the United States Senate opposing.

But when it’s all said and done, he can whine about “Obamacare” all he wants — Ted Cruz has absolutely no answers to fix the issues that have plagued our health care system for years. And while the Affordable Care Act isn’t perfect, it’s at least a starting point to better health coverage for all Americans.

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Ashton Kutcher vs. Wal-Mart: Epic Twitter clash rages over poverty wages

Celebrity actor/producer Ashton Kutcher and retail giant Wal-Mart had a spirited Twitter debate Tuesday over Wal-Mart workers’ wages.

Kutcher (@aplusk) kicked off the dust-up by tweeting about the news that an Ohio Wal-Mart took up an employee-to-employee food charity collection “so Associates in Need can enjoy Thanksgiving dinner.” He wrote, “Walmart is your profit margin so important you can’t Pay Your Employees enough to be above the poverty line?”

Fourteen minutes later, the company’s @WalmartNewsroom account, echoing its replies to others on the topic, tweeted back at Kutcher, “It’s unfortunate that an act of human kindness has been taken so out of context. We’re proud of our associates in Canton.” After 10 minutes, Kutcher shot back, “you should be proud of your associates but I’m not sure if they should be proud of you.”

Wal-Mart then offered Kutcher a video on “Opportunity and Benefits at Walmart,” saying, “We know you believe in opportunity like we do & we’d love to talk to you more about it.”

Kutcher quickly countered, “you had 17 billion in profits last year. You’re a 260 billion$ company. What are we missing?”

That set off a trio of tweets from Wal-Mart, starting with, “We think you’re missing a few things,” and then touting that “The majority of our workforce is full-time and makes more than $25,000/year”; that “about 75% of our store management teams started as hourly associates”; and that “every year, we promote about 160,000 people…”

Kutcher told Wal-Mart the company “does a lot of great things but it needs to be a leader on this issue as well.” In its final tweet to Kutcher – so far — Wal-Mart answered, “We know we can always get better as a company. This year we’ve made providing more opportunities for our associates a top priority.”

Kutcher returned to the topic an hour later, linking a blog post on a study estimating the cost of Wal-Mart workers’ use of public assistance, and saying “Walmart should be the leaders not the low water mark.

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Obama Calling the GOPs Bluff

One must always be careful of what they ask for. Many have been accusing President Obama of breaking his promise ‘If you like it you can keep it’. The president ill-advisedly decided to ‘apologize’ in an interview with MSNBC’s Chuck Todd.

On Thursday the President gave an extensive news conference. Republicans may have been caught flat footed judging from the less than inflammatory rhetoric that followed. Maybe they thought the president would have to resort to legislation that they would be able to politicize and block.

The fix the president has instituted is rather ingenious. More importantly it immediately ensured that Congress, the insurance companies, and the American citizens absorb responsibility for the solution.

The president said, ‘Insurers can extend current plans that otherwise would be canceled into 2014 and Americans whose plans have been canceled can choose to re-enroll in the same kind of plan.” He then said, ‘This fix won’t solve every problem for every person, but it’s going to help a lot of people. Doing more would require work with Congress.’

The president’s fix allows insurance companies to extend the cancelled policies even if they do not conform to the Affordable Care Act for one year. The insurance companies cannot enroll new customers into the substandard policies. The insurance companies are also required to inform the purchasers of these substandard policies that they may qualify for federal subsidies only through the exchanges. They must disclose that these policies do not have the consumer protections that all new insurance policies must have. They must also inform them that they may qualify for Medicaid.

Insurance Triangulation

President Clinton was the master of triangulation. Unfortunately while he seemed to win at triangulation, the poor and the middle class usually became its victim (e.g., Glass-Steagall, welfare reform, supply side economics). This move by President Obama if allowed to go through is how a masterful triangulation should be effected.

President Obama tells insurance companies they have the freedom to extend the policies but cannot force them. That removes the narrative of Obama/government takeover of your healthcare. He forces insurance transparency by requiring insurance companies to come clean on their substandard policies relative to the Affordable Care Act. In doing this the American citizens purchasing these policies know upfront that they are purchasing junk.

The fact that many will now have the comparison and the knowledge that there may be subsidies on the exchange will limit the size of that insurance market. This means it is unlikely many insurance companies will bite. There are some people who will not get subsidies, will not have policies extended by insurance companies, and will be upset that they will pay higher rates. The president put the onus of fixing that on working with Congress. Congress can choose to engage or not. Not engaging becomes a new campaign direction for Democrats.

The insurance companies are now upset. When they cancelled policies they did so with an upsell of more expensive policies as opposed to encouraging folks to go to the Obamacare exchanges. In doing so they created a political firestorm instigated by Republicans. Now the insurance companies are complaining about the fix disrupting the insurance markets.

Purist believe the Obamacare fix is about to create a big mess. This is partly true. This mess is politically necessary to expose insurance companies and Republicans. It will illustrate realities versus perceived hypotheticals.

The insurance companies attempted to circumvent the Obamacare exchanges and got bit. Their threats of future higher premiums should be ignored. If they do not work towards assisting in getting a sustainable pool that can be insured at affordable rates, Americans will demand a public option which will likely evolve into a single payer (Medicare for all) in the form detailed by Anthony Weiner on Real Time with Bill Maher.

The roll out of the healthcare.gov has been a mess. President Obama said that he is responsible for fumbling the rollout of Obamacare. He also said that when he became president he told Americans he would not be perfect but he would be working throughout his administration to make life better for Americans. He said the old individual insurance market was not working. Many only had insurance until they had to use it. He reiterated all the benefits of Obamacare.

The president’s news conference was contrite yet assertive. It was likely compelling to many in its detail. Near universal coverage has eluded every president in the 20th and 21st centuries thus far. Those who are betting that obstruction and sabotage would deter this president should take heed. This president has accomplished substantive changes to the direction of this country even as billions have been spent to derail him. Bet against him at your peril. The president will win this one. Americans will win.

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