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

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

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

Then the student loan bills started coming.

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

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

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

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

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

 

Source:  Daily Kos

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

By Jill Jacobs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted from Gawker.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—————–

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

From the Huffington Post

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

Blind Bay Area Architect Christopher Downey Designed Cutting Edge Facility

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hot Cop

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

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

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

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

“I’m flattered, it’s been a hoot.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Coming Out Video Series Begins Raising Money For Public Broadcasting Documentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take the example of Matthew Barrett.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


(Photo: Freedom To Work)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Haley Fox, TakePart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

From SF Gate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bryan and I have talked about this issue before.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay tuned.

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

 

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Christians Call Out Hobby Lobby For Hypocrisy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sister attacked on Pink Saturday. Police need your help

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

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

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

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

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

sister-pride-2014-1-720x340

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

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Supreme Court conservatives side with Hobby Lobby on contraception

When the legal challenges against the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate were first filed, they seemed destined to fail. The law already exempts houses of worship and religious non-profits, and as the 3rd Circuit explained, courts have “long recognized the distinction between the owners of a corporation and the corporation itself.” Ruling that “a for-profit corporation can engage in religious exercise” would “eviscerate the fundamental principle that a corporation is a legally distinct entity from its owners.”

And yet, as Irin Carmon reports, conservatives on the high court found a way to side with Hobby Lobby anyway.
The Supreme Court has ruled that a closely-held company can be exempt from the contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act. […]

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the law at issue in the case, has never been applied to for-profit entities. The Court had to decide whether corporations even have religious exercise rights – making the beliefs of the employer synonymous with the entire company – and weigh that question against the potential harms to the employees.
It was a 5-4 decision, with the five Republican-appointed justices siding against the contraception policy and the four Democratic-appointed justices ruling in favor of it. Note, it’s not a short decision: there’s the majority ruling, a concurrence, are three separate dissents.

Of particular interest, the court seems to make a distinction between for-profit corporations and “closely held” for-profit corporations, which are businesses in which no more than five individuals own most of the corporation.

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Editorial: Good Riddance to George Lucas Vanity Museum: Chicago Be Careful What you Pray For

 

Alfred E. Neuman artwork is part of George Lucas 'art collection."

Alfred E. Neuman artwork is part of George Lucas “art collection.”

 

It was great to read the San Francisco Chronicle today and see two of its leading writers, Chuck Nevius and John King, both essentially say “Hasta la Vista, Baby!” to the vanity museum that Star Wars filmmaker George Lucas wanted to build in San Francisco’s Presidio.

The real story isn’t that Chicago “won” the Lucas Cultural Arts Museum, but rather that San Francisco was victorious in rejecting a poorly-designed monstrosity that would have housed the personal collection of George Lucas’ kitschy art collection.  Chicago has “won” Lucas’ oversized ego, his childish behavior, his grumpy development team, and his collection of art that would be best exhibited in a suburban mall.

All we can say is: Thank goodness for the leadership of the Presidio Trust which turned down this monument to Lucas’ bad taste.

The Presidio park is a jewel and is enjoying nearly 20 years of success by doing the right thing and planning properly for this National Landmark and Bay Area treasure.  The cheap and cheesy museum proposed by Lucas didn’t belong on a bluff overlooking the Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Pacific Ocean.  We should all thank The Presidio Trust for acting in the best interest of the public and not in the interest of a vein Hollywood millionaire and rejecting what Chicago has all-too-quickly accepted.

Bravo Presidio Trust. Good luck Chicago.

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Wall Street nervous as Sen. Sherrod Brown vies for Banking Committee chair

Well, this would be amazing: U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio is vying for the gavel of the powerful Senate banking committee in the next Congress – a possibility that has excited consumer groups but put big Wall Street banks on edge.

So, how did the relatively junior Brown—he has “only” been in the Senate for eight years and currently ranks fifth in seniority on the committee—come to be a top prospect for a powerful committee chair? Well, retirements have Senate Democrats playing a little game of musical chairs:

  1. Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD), the current committee chair, is retiring.
  2. Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) is currently next in line on the committee. But…
  3. Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is also retiring. Reed is also next in line to lead this committee. He can only lead one major committee and is expected to take the reins of Armed Services.
  4. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is next in line after Reed. Schumer still wants to be majority leader someday and becoming Banking chair would force him into the awkward position of overseeing Wall Street, a home-state industry, at a time when most Senate Democrats want to get tougher on big banks. Schumer could take a pass on becoming Banking chair and remain chairman of the Rules Committee.
  5. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) is next in line after Schumer. But Menendez is already chair of the prestigious Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a gig previously held by Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry.
  6. Brown is next in line after Menendez.

Brown is already saying he wants the job, so we could end up with one of the Senate’s best Wall Street watch dogs overseeing big banks. It would be an awesome win for progressives and makes holding the Senate this fall all the more important.

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Americans Think It Should Be Illegal To Fire Someone For Being Gay, Don’t Realize It’s Not Already

Half of Americans support passing a law banning discrimination by employers against gays and lesbians, a new HuffPost/YouGov poll shows – and even more Americans agree that it should be illegal to fire someone for being gay.

The poll comes after President Barack Obama announced that his staff was drafting an executive order prohibiting job discrimination against LGBT employees of federal contractors. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a broader bill that would apply to most U.S. employers, has passed the Senate but not the House.

In the new survey, 50 percent of Americans favored and 38 percent opposed legislation banning job discrimination against gays and lesbians. The poll found political division on the issue: 63 percent of Democrats and 52 percent of independents favored that kind of legislation, but only 34 percent of Republicans did.

But on at least one major protection the legislation would provide, all three groups were united. Seventy-six percent of Americans, including 88 percent of Democrats, 74 percent of independents and 68 percent of Republicans, said that it should be illegal to fire someone for being gay or lesbian. Only 12 percent of Americans said it should be legal.

The fact that far more Americans agree with the principle than with the legislation may be attributable to a common misconception: Sixty-two percent of Americans think it’s already illegal to fire someone for being gay, while only 14 percent of poll respondents said that it’s legal. In fact, it is still legal in 29 states to fire someone for being gay.

Majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents all think it’s already illegal to fire someone for their sexual orientation.

 

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Jason Hanna And Joe Riggs, Texas Gay Fathers, Denied Legal Parenthood Of Twin Sons

It’s heartbreaking to think that a state has erased the parents of children and put a family in legal jeopardy, simply because of discrimination against gay and lesbian couples. But that’s what happened to a gay couple in Texas after what they described as the “magical” birth of their twin boys.

Jason Hanna and Joe Riggs are the proud fathers of Lucas and Ethan, who were born in April, after they’d connected with a surrogate mom, CharLynn.

Each of the men is a biological father to one of the babies. But, because Texas has a ban on gay marriage (it was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge last February, but the decision was stayed pending appeal), and because a judge can use his or her own discretion in these cases, neither of the men is currently on the birth certificates of either of the boys, nor have they been able to co-adopt each other’s biological child.

Only the surrogate mother — who has no biological relationship to the boys, since embryos were transferred to her — is on the birth certificates. In essence, the men are not legally defined as the parents of their own children. And though they have DNA tests for proof, they’re worried, particularly if something were to happen to one of them while the other still has not been able to co-adopt the other’s biological child.

“As of right now in Texas two men cannot be on the birth certificate,” Jason Hanna explained in an interview with me on SiriusXM Progress. “So our attorney followed the letter of the law. We petitioned the court. We had DNA testing there [in court] and petitioned the judge to ultimately remove the surrogate mother from the birth certificate, who has no biological ties to the boys. We would like each biological dad to be placed on the birth certificate of our own son, and then ultimately proceed to the second-parent adoption. The entire petition was denied.”

Jason Hanna and Joe Riggs met four years ago and knew they wanted to be together and raise children, so they saved their money, knowing it would be a costly process. They married last July in Washington DC, where gay marriage is legal, and then went back to Dallas to celebrate their wedding with family and friends in August. They found a surrogate mom, and this past April the twins were born.

“We were sworn in and ultimately the judge was saying that with the information she had in front of her, under Texas law she couldn’t grant it,” Riggs said of their appearance in court last week. “I was shocked. We had a ton of questions as we walked away from that courtroom.”

It was particularly jarring to Hanna and Riggs because other gay couples in Texas, including friends of theirs, have successfully completed this process. The couple’s lawyer has offered them several options on bringing the petition back, changing the paperwork and the process. But there’s no question that if their marriage was legally recognized they would not be having this problem at all.

“In order to grant a second-parent adoption [automatically under current law], it has to be between two married people,” Jason explained. “And so, considering we’re not legally married in the eyes of Texas, they don’t have to grant that second-parent adoption because they don’t recognize our marriage…It’s up to the judge’s discretion on whether or not to grant it.”

Hanna and Riggs worry, as they wait for the next step, because they’re in a scary legal limbo.

“Without [co-adoption], if something happened to either me or Joe we don’t have any legal recourse to keep the other’s biological child,” Hanna said. “The state could come in and separate these two brothers…We want to reiterate how important it is for a state to recognize each family, whether it’s same-sex or opposite-sex, and really to ensure everyone has equal protection from the state.”

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Study by 9th Graders: Plants Won’t Grow Near Routers

Ninth-graders design science experiment to test the effect of cellphone radiation on plants. The results may surprise you.

Five ninth-grade young women from Denmark recently created a science experiment that is causing a stir in the scientific community.

It started with an observation and a question. The girls noticed that if they slept with their mobile phones near their heads at night, they often had difficulty concentrating at school the next day. They wanted to test the effect of a cellphone’s radiation on humans, but their school, Hjallerup School in Denmark, did not have the equipment to handle such an experiment. So the girls designed an experiment that would test the effect of cellphone radiation on a plant instead.

Photo courtesy of Kim Horsevad, teacher at Hjallerup Skole in Denmark.

The students placed six trays filled with Lepidium sativum, a type of garden cress into a room without radiation, and six trays of the seeds into another room next to two routers that according to the girls calculations, emitted about the same type of radiation as an ordinary cellphone.

Over the next 12 days, the girls observed, measured, weighed and photographed their results. Although by the end of the experiment the results were blatantly obvious — the cress seeds placed near the router had not grown. Many of them were completely dead. While the cress seeds planted in the other room, away from the routers, thrived.
The experiment earned the girls (pictured below) top honors in a regional science competition and the interest of scientists around the world.
Teens involved in plants and cellphone experiment, Hjallerup Skole

According to Kim Horsevad, a teacher at Hjallerup Skole in Denmark were the cress experiment took place, a neuroscience professor at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, is interested in repeating the experiment in controlled professional scientific environments.

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STUDY: Undetectable Guys Do Not Transmit HIV To Negative Sex Partners

A two-year study gives scientific credence to what many have long suspected: HIV positive guys who are on treatment and have an undetectable viral load are not giving HIV to their partners, not matter how hard they try. The study strengthens the belief that “treatment as prevention” is one of the most effective ways to stop new infections.

The two-year study, presented at the Conferences on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections this week, showed as low a risk of infection as you can find in research. As reported by AIDSMap:

When asked what the study tells us about the chance of someone with an undetectable viral load  transmitting HIV, presenter Alison Rodger said: “Our best estimate is it’s zero.”

Participants in the study were couples, gay and straight, in which one partner had HIV and the other did not. They were selected because they had sex without condoms at least some of the time, and the negative partner was not on PrEP (taking the drug Truvada to prevent infection).

The couples kept themselves very busy sexing it up in the name of science: the study reported 16,400 sexual acts among the gay couples, including being on top, being on bottom, oral sex, and plenty of “ejaculate” on and in the bodies of participants (imagine conducting those interviews with the couples).

None of the negative subjects were infected by their positive partners, although a few negative partners got infected by someone outside the relationship, which was determined by genetic testing of the HIV strain. Those guys then had some explaining to do, don’t you think? Or, perhaps, not.

Of course, you have to know if you’re positive in the first place for treatment to make a difference. At least 20% of those with HIV in the U.S. don’t know they have it. “The keys to keeping everyone healthy is for you to be regularly tested for HIV, and if you are positive, to take advantage of effective treatments,” said Raymond C. Martins, M.D., of Whitman-Walker Health in Washington, DC. “For gay men who are negative, please remember that the higher risk comes from those men who do not know their HIV status and might in fact have high levels of infectious virus.”

The jury is still out on whether or not studies like this will affect HIV stigma, but one thing is certain: our friends with HIV who are on successful treatment are definitely doing their part to stay healthy — and protect the rest of us, too.

Way to go, poz dudes.

 

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Recology Wins Resounding Victory Over False Claims by Disgruntled Ex-Employee

San Francisco, Calif. – A San Francisco jury today cleared Recology, San Francisco’s recycling and resource recovery provider, of all 154 allegations of filing false claims to the State of California in a lawsuit filed by a disgruntled former employee that claimed the company mischarged the State of California’s recycling redemption program.

The same jury returned a verdict against the recycling company on one of the five separate allegations of filing a false claim to the City and County of San Francisco. This verdict, if it stands, claims the company wrongly benefited in the amount of $1,366,933. Recology disagrees with this finding and will appeal.

“We are thankful for the jury’s determination that cleared Recology of 158 of the 159 allegations of false claims,” said Sam Singer, a spokesman for Recology. “This is a resounding victory for our company and its employee-owners.”

“Unfortunately, the complicated nature of this case has resulted in one finding against the company,” he added.  “We will be appealing the one verdict, as the facts simply do not support it.”

Recology is an industry leader in recycling and resource recovery programs and has helped San Francisco become the greenest city in North America, diverting 80 percent of its waste away from landfill. Recology programs have been replicated throughout the country and serve as a national model for resource recovery initiatives.

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CPUC PG&E Chicanery? California Commission Sudden Halt into PG&E Gas Pipeline Safety Raises Serious Questions, San Bruno Says

San Francisco, Calif. – The City of San Bruno today criticized a decision by the California Public Utilities Commission to halt its investigation into thousands of missing Pacific Gas & Electric Co. pipeline strength test records – a sudden and shocking reversal that’s prompted concerns of a possible backroom deal brokered between PG&E and the state agency tasked with regulating it.

 

The CPUC’s Safety Enforcement Division this week quietly halted its inquiry into the safety of 435 miles of gas pipelines across California after PG&E refused to turn the information over to regulators— causing speculation that PG&E may have applied outside pressure to compel the regulatory agency to end its investigation.

 

San Bruno officials are now calling upon the CPUC to immediately re-open the investigation to force PG&E to produce accurate strength test records for 23,761 segments of pipe covering more than 435 miles – records that PG&E explicitly told the CPUC it would produce by 2013.

 

State and federal investigators identified PG&E’s faulty recordkeeping as a leading cause of the fatal 2010 pipeline explosion and fire in San Bruno that killed eight, injured 66 and destroyed 38 homes.

 

“PG&E continues to play a lethal game with the lives of the public. We are deeply concerned by their persistent failure and unwillingness to produce accurate pipeline records, without which we cannot know whether our communities remain at risk for the same devastating and fatal explosion that we experienced in San Bruno,” said San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane. “Yet even more troubling is the CPUC’s decision to not pursue an investigation of these missing records even after preparing a motion to do so.”

 

“We question the CPUC’s sudden decision this week and are concerned it may be the result of inappropriate pressure applied by PG&E at the expense, once again, of public safety,” Ruane said.

 

The CPUC’s latest inquiry came about as part of the ongoing penalty proceeding to determine how much PG&E will be forced to pay for its gross negligence that caused the fatal explosion and fire in San Bruno. The CPUC’s administrative law judges are now considering penalties and fines against PG&E of up to $2.45 billion.

 

Yet, following unsuccessful attempts to obtain missing strength test records for more than 435 miles of pipeline directly from PG&E, the CPUC’s safety and enforcement division submitted a motion on May 30 to re-open the penalty proceeding’s record for the sole purpose of forcing PG&E to produce the documents.

 

San Bruno strongly supported the CPUC’s motion and its inquiry of the missing records, which city officials say are critical to instilling the public’s confidence in the safety of PG&E’s embattled pipeline system. San Bruno filed its own motion officially supporting the safety enforcement division’s request to obtain the missing records.

 

City officials are now questioning the division’s sudden decision to withdraw the motion and suspend the inquiry – a decision the city can only speculate as resulting from outside attempts by PG&E and its proxies to influence the CPUC’s actions.

 

“We are concerned that this decision is just further evidence of the cozy relationships that continue to jeopardize the CPUC’s ability to objectively regulate PG&E,” Ruane said.

 

San Bruno officials say this latest incident further underscores the need for an Independent Monitor, who would serve as a vigilant third-party watchdog over both PG&E and the CPUC.

 

“Only an independent monitor – free of the CPUC’s conflicts of interest and cozy relationships with PG&E that have jeopardized pipeline safety – can help guarantee that PG&E maintains good records and ensure that the CPUC provides the adequate and consistent oversight needed to keep our communities safe so that what happened in San Bruno never happens again,” Ruane said.

 

Ironically, PG&E has been spending millions of dollars on advertising its new “culture of safety,” with advertisements that stress the utility’s gas pipeline safety improvements since the San Bruno explosion and fire.  Yet, Ruane said, the utility can’t back up their advertising with proof that what they are telling the public is true.

 

Also this week, PG&E revealed that the U.S. Federal Prosecutor’s office expects to file additional legal actions against the utility for its gross negligence in the San Bruno case.  In April, the federal government charged PG&E with 12 felony violations of federal safety laws.

 

Is there a dirty deal between CPUC Michael Peevey and PG&E Executives?

Is there a dirty deal between CPUC Michael Peevey and PG&E Executives?

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Sikh Community Commemorates Massacre that “Never Happened”

  • Imagine five bombings in the United States similar to the Oklahoma City bombings — all going off simultaneously at the largest churches in the country during Christmas. 
  • Imagine young people who criticize the Federal Government’s response disappearing permanently with no explanation. 
  • Imagine a citizen who collects data to bring the bombers to justice also disappearing
  • All signs point to the Federal Government being behind the bombings, only to have officials tell citizens basically “That is old news. Get over it.”

The Sikh community has been commemorating the infamous Golden Temple massacre annually since June 6, 1984.   This year on the 30th anniversary, there will be a rally at SF City Hall on Sunday June 8 at noon.

The bombings — coupled with troops tying up and shooting worshipers — has haunted the minority Indian community for three decades.   The death toll was more than double the World Trade Center and Oklahoma City bombings combined.   And since that day, over 250,000 Sikhs have been killed by the Indian Government.  Yet the Government refuses to acknowledge the incident, forcing a media blackout.  So it is as if it never happened.  (Not according to Amnesty International and the Human Rights Watch).

We won’t forget 9/11.  Jews don’t forget the holocaust.  Armenians don’t forget the slaughter of their communities.  And Sikhs will not forget the brutal Government atrocities that have continued till date.

We don’t trade with Myanmar.   We sanction Putin.   We deny passports to leaders of the Iran hostage crisis.   What are we going to with the terrorists that have just come to power in India?

The US government should seriously sanctions against a regime that has sponsored killings of minorities.

If the US wants to lead the world in justice and human rights, we have to bring these murderers to justice.

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An exceedingly rare NRA apology

It’s been about four decades since Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal introduced us to an unfortunatecatchphrase: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” More recently, I’ve always thought it was better applied to the National Rifle Association, which never has to say it’s sorry, either.
No matter how extreme the far-right group gets, no matter who it offends, no matter the consequences of its policy purism, the NRA just doesn’t apologize for anything, ever.
Once in a great while, however, there are exceptions.
The National Rifle Association has disavowed its recent criticism of pro-gun demonstrations in Texas.
In an interview on Tuesday with the organization’s own news site, the head of the NRA’s lobbying arm blamed a staff member’s “personal opinion” for the content of an unsigned statement published Friday on the organization’s website, and he apologized for “any confusion” the statement may have caused.
For those just joining this story, a variety of gun enthusiasts, most notably members of a group called Open Carry Texas, have carried assault rifles into assorted restaurants and retail outlets, basically because the law allows it.
This led the NRA’s lobbying arm, the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, to issue a lengthy statement, urging activists to stop doing this. The organization made the case that “public displays of firearms as a means to draw attention to oneself or one’s cause” can be “downright scary” to members of the public. The far-right group added that a recent incident at a Chili’s restaurant was “downright weird” – and the NRA wasn’t referring to the manager’s request that the gun-toting patrons leave the premises.
It was a rare, welcome sight for the American mainstream – the NRA agreeing with the public and endorsing a position in line with common sense.
Right-wing activists were outraged by what they saw as a terrible betrayal, and it wasn’t long before the NRA apologized for its sensible position.
“Ultimately, what this comes down to is a tactics discussion,” Cox told NRA News. “Some people believe that the best way to effectuate that sort of policy change is in protest. And what they did in Texas is, some people decided to protest the absurdity of the ban on … open carry of handguns by carrying their long guns openly, and legally.
“Now, the truth is, an alert went out that referred to this type of behavior as weird, or somehow not normal. And that was a mistake. It shouldn’t have happened. I’ve had a discussion with the staffer who wrote that piece, and expressed his personal opinion. Our job is not to criticize the lawful behavior of fellow gun owners.”
From MSNBC
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