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New GOP Bill: Jail Time If You Reveal What Frackers Are Poisoning Your Drinking Water With

Republican lawmakers in North Carolina have introduced a bill that would make it a felony to disclose the chemicals used in fracking operations outside of emergency situations, Energywire reported. The “Energy Modernization Act,” (PDF) as the bill is called, would punish revealing fracking mix information with prison terms of “a few months,” in addition to civil penalties. While it would allow officials with the state emergency management office to gather that information for planning purposes and provide it for medical and firefighting personnel as necessary, first responders might also be forced to sign confidentiality agreements to protect that information.

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Pat Sajak: ‘Global warming alarmists are unpatriotic racists knowingly misleading’

It’s hardly news that “Wheel of Fortune” host Pat Sajak is an ardent conservative. He wrote, for instance, several articles with headlines like “Opposed to Obamacare? Then You Must Be a Racist” for the website Human Events between 2007 and 2013. But his latest rhetorical flourish is the most bizarre yet.

Sajak’s unhinged denialism — throwing wild allegations of racism against the overwhelming majority of scientists, for instance — exists only within the context of his own Twitter feed and writing online, where he’s perpetually making purposefully incendiary remarks wildly at odds with his sunny on-air personality.

But Sajak’s hardly alone as a prominent conservative who saves his vitriol for the off-air hours. Alex Trebek, of “Jeopardy!.” made allusions, in a recent New Republic profile, to beliefs including, of the Tea Party, that “There are a lot of people out there who are not happy with the way things are going, and they’ve banded together,” though he described himself as apolitical even despite having hosted a 2010 Republican fundraiser.

Drew Carey, of “The Price is Right,” has been an outspoken libertarian since his sitcom-actor days, telling Reason magazine: “As far as your personal goals are and what you actually want to do with your life, it should never have to do with the government. You should never depend on the government for your retirement, your financial security, for anything.” Bob Barker is better-known for his animal advocacy than for his endorsement of conservative lobbyist David Jolly in last year’s House special election in Florida. Chuck Woolery, the original host of “Wheel of Fortune,” is as active as his successor on Twitter and has written for the Washington Times.

 

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What ‘unstoppable’ Antarctic ice melt means for Western cities

Krista Langlois

Save for a freak May snowstorm, the other day started off normally. I woke up, made a giant mug of coffee and walked to work. But May 12 was no ordinary Monday.  “Today,” said Eric Rignot, a glaciologist at the University of California, Irvine, “we present observational evidence that a large sector of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet has gone into irreversible retreat. It has passed the point of no return.”

Language that strong isn’t often tossed about at NASA news conferences, and the world took notice. Climate change advocate Protect Our Winters called it “the day that all climate scientists feared.” Mother Jones coined it a “holy shit moment for global warming.” The well-known Canadian environmental writer Chris Turner tweeted that it’s “the most important news story you’ll see this week, by a wide margin.”

So what’s all the fuss about – and why should you care? In the most basic terms, two separate scientific studies, using two different models and released by two reputable scientific journals, both came to the same conclusion: Glaciers on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet are melting more rapidly than expected and have begun a domino effect that’s virtually unstoppable, even if we cut off greenhouse gas emissions today. Over the course of hundreds of years, the melting glaciers will boost ocean levels by 4 to 16 feet, changing the geography of the world as we know it.

Previous models, of course, have also predicted sea level rise, and West Coast cities have begun preparing by relocating threatened structures, moving drinking water supplies and modifying construction permits. But no previous study has been this conclusive or concrete in its modeling, nor taken into account the degree of Antarctic melt now considered inevitable. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned earlier this year that global sea level could rise between four inches and three feet by 2100, but the new findings make such predictions seem almost quaint. Penn State University geoscientist Sridhar Anandakrishnan told NBC News that future IPCC estimates “will almost certainly be revised” upwards as a result of the new studies.

What could rising seas actually look like for the West Coast? Andrew David Thaler, a deep-sea ecologist, posed that question to his Twitter followers last fall, and the response was tremendous: Requests poured in from around the world asking Thaler to virtually inundate their hometowns under the hashtag #DrownYourTown. #DrownYourTown has now been tweeted millions of times, and Thaler has perfected a real-time, interactive GIS modeling technique that allows him – or anyone with basic technology skills – to visualize what coastal cities might look like with varying amounts of sea level rise.

Thaler warns that the images aren’t exact and shouldn’t be used to make real estate decisions. But with once-theoretical sea level rises now a looming reality, these images make the future of the West Coast graspable. Here are a few we found particularly unsettling. (Click images to enlarge.)

If the West Antarctic Ice Sheet completely melted into the Amundsen Sea – as the new studies from NASA, UC Irvine and the University of Washington predict will eventually happen – the resulting 16 feet of sea level rise would look like this:

Marin City
Marin City, California 

 

Here’s downtown San Francisco with 22 feet, the rise that would occur if the entire Greenland Ice Sheet melted (a scenario not part of the new studies):

San Francisco 1

 

San Francisco 2

And, just for kicks, a couple of cities with 32 feet sea rise

Vancouver, British Columbia
Vancouver, British Columbia
San Diego
San Diego, California 

 

Yeah, yeah, you’re saying. My great-grandkids won’t even be alive for that. How about something more immediate?

The new studies don’t make predictions for specific years, so the best we can do for the end of this century – the year 2100 – is the IPCC’s latest estimate of about 4 feet sea level rise. Keep in mind that figure may be conservative, as scientists now say the IPCC estimates will likely increase in light of to this new information. Either way, here are a couple non-Western spots with about 3 feet sea level rise:

Key West, Florida
Key West, Florida

 

 

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REALLY? Boycott launched against openly gay St Louis Rams player Michael Sam, by Christian lobbyist Jack Burkman

In a move which he said will teach companies a lesson for “trampling on Christian values”, Jack Burkman has also aimed his protest against financial giant Visa, who gave Mr Sam his first advertising contract.

A coalition of evangelical Christian leaders from across the US, as well as influential grassroots organisations in 27 of the 50 states, have now been mobilised against the firms, according to Mr Burkman

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As part of the protest, Rams fans will be told to stop buying the team’s merchandise and not to attend games, while members of the public will be asked stop using their Visa cards, and to sell any of the company’s stocks they may own.

“Visa and the Rams will learn that when you trample the Christian community and Christian values, there will be a terrible financial price to pay,” said Burkman, head of the Washington DC lobbying firm JM Burkman & Assoc.

“Openly gay football players send a terrible message to our youth about morality. Somebody needs to step up because the moral fiber of the nation is eroding.”

As well as the boycott, Mr Burkman’s firm is attempting to push a draft bill through Washington, which will ban all openly gay players from the NFL and other professional sports in the country.

Mr Burkman’s attack comes after the 24-year-old football player was praised for celebrating his acceptance call from Rams coach Jeff Fisher on Sunday evening by kissing his boyfriend live on sports channel ESPN.

Chat show host Ellen Degeneres tweeted: “So proud of the @STLouisRams for showing there’s nothing to be afraid of. Congratulations, @MikeSamFootball”.

Speaking at a news conference held by the Rams after being drafted, Sam said: “I’ve been getting in shape and preparing for this moment for a very long time. I’m so determined to be great.”

When asked about potential detractors, Sam said: “It’s about football. Can I play football? Yes I can.”

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NEMA Tried To Erase The Castro And Chinatown From Their Map Of S.F.

nema-map-no-castro.jpg

Luxe apartment complex NEMA, whose ridiculous and vaguely offensive marketing efforts have already inspired plenty of blog ire as well as a satirical Twitter account, published a map of San Francisco on their website that seems to want to pretend that gays and Chinese Americans don’t exist here anymore.

The map, which you can see above as it was three days ago, turns the Castro into “Eureka Valley/Dolores Heights” and washes over Chinatown altogether. It appears to be a co-opting of the neighborhood designations made by the San Francisco Association of Realtors and MLS a few years ago on this map, because realtors also like to pretend there’s no such thing as The Castro, for all the man-sex and dildo shops that that name connotes. But it’s another fine example of how NEMA’s marketing team is clueless.

After Twitterer EC and Vanishing SF called out the map, and after the satirical Rent Enemamocked it, the NEMA folks quickly published a new map which you can see below. Now there is no Eureka Valley, only The Castro in big letters, and they managed to squeeze Chinatown in there after all.

Nice work, everyone. Can’t wait for the next gaff.

 

nema-map-new.jpg

 

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Jurors Beg Judge Not To Send Occupy Wall Street Protester To Prison

41514OWS.jpg

Nine members of the jury that convicted an Occupy Wall Street protester of felony assault of an officer have signed a letter asking that the judge not sentence her to any prison time. “We the jury petition the court for leniency in the sentencing of Cecily McMillan,” the letter reads. “We feel that the felony mark on Cecily’s record is punishment enough for this case and that it serves no purpose to Cecily or to society to incarcerate her for any amount of time.”

One member of the jury told the Guardian a day after the verdict that they weren’t aware that McMillan was facing up to seven years in prison for their verdict: “Most just wanted her to do probation, maybe some community service. But now what I’m hearing is seven years in jail? That’s ludicrous. Even a year in jail is ridiculous.”

In the trial that lasted nearly four weeks, McMillan claimed that her arresting officer, Grantley Bovell, violently grabbed her breast, which caused her to rear back and strike him with her elbow. Officer Bovell testified that it was intentional. Photographs show a deep bruise on McMillan’s right breast, but the jury told the Guardian they were swayed by a grainy video.

Judge Ronald Zweibel has not shown sympathy for McMillan; he sent her to Rikers without bail after the verdict (and denied her appeal), denied a request to unseal evidence that may have cast more doubts on Officer Bovell’s credibility, imposed a gag order on McMillan’s attorneys, and on more than one occasion acted angrily towards her supporters in the courtroom.

McMillan’s sentencing is on May 19th

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‘Anti-gay’ Republican candidate outed as having worked as a DRAG QUEEN under the name ‘Miss Mona Sinclair’

A North Carolina Republican candidate campaigning against same-sex marriage has been outed as a former drag queen performer known as ‘Miss Mona Sinclair’.

Steve Wiles, a conservative state Senate candidate, donned a wig and fake lashes for eight years at the now defunct gay-friendly lounge Club Odyssey, where he directed and emceed a weekly drag show. 

The club’s former owner Randy Duggins told Winston-Salem Journal he broke his silence because he wants voters to know that Wiles is, he believes, a ‘hypocrite’ and ‘liar’.

Wiles, 34, initially denied the bombshell allegations, but came out yesterday admitting his past.

‘For me, from a religious standpoint, just for my life, for me, it just was not something that I wanted to continue,’ the fledgling politician told Business Insider about being a drag queen.

‘Of course it was an embarrassment, but you know, you move on. You live life, and you change, and you make yourself what you want yourself to be. And that’s where I am now.’

Revelation: Outspoken gay marriage opponent Steve Wiles, 34 (pictured) has been outed as having worked as a drag queen performer known as 'Miss Mona Sinclair'

Revelation: Outspoken gay marriage opponent Steve Wiles, 34 (pictured) has been outed as having worked as a drag queen performer known as ‘Miss Mona Sinclair’

Wiles, who doesn’t consider himself ‘anti-gay’, supports a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in North Carolina. He considers marriage a religious institution, which he argues makes gay marriage un-Christian.

The real estate agent is competing against two other GOP candidates in a competitive primary scheduled for Tuesday, with observers noting he is up against well-connected politicos.

Wiles has not indicated whether he believes news of his past will hurt his chances, but said he has no intention of quitting.

Today, he responded to his critics in a long post on Facebook (see below) in which he claimed he ‘is for’ all Americans, regardless of their sexuality, and believes ‘state control of the institution of marriage is unconstitutional’.

Wiles, who refuses to comment on his own sexuality, said that he doesn’t believe being against same-sex marriage is the same thing as being anti-gay.

‘I don’t really understand how you can separate the fact that marriage is a religious institution,’ Wiles told Business Insider.

However to his former boss Randy Duggins, Wiles’ refusal to acknowledge his former days as a female impersonator while opposing marriage equality is a sign of hypocrisy.

HIs Reaction:
Reaction: Steve Wiles today posted a response to his critics on his Facebook page, saying that he makes mistakes but tries to live a life that reflects his beliefs

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HGTV Network Greenlights Show Starring Anti-Gay Campaigners

Last month, HGTV announced a new reality show, Flip It Forward, following two twin brother realtors as they “leverage their good-natured sibling rivalry to help families find a fixer-upper and transform it into the dream home they never thought they could afford.”

What’s not readily apparent is that the brothers are David and Jason Benham, sons of Flip Benham, an evangelical preacher who has campaigned against abortion, LGBT rights, Islam and more. Oh, and at least one of the two brothers – the stars of this new show, lest we forget – is a right wing activist much like his father, who has campaigned and protested on similar issues.

Right Wing Watch reports that David Benham held a prayer rally in Charlotte, North Carolina in 2012 which he said was necessary to stop “homosexuality and its agenda”:

“We don’t realize that, okay, if 87 percent of Americans are Christians and yet we have abortion on demand; we have no-fault divorce; we have pornography and perversion; we have a homosexuality and its agenda that is attacking the nation; we have adultery; we have all of the things; we even have allowed demonic ideologies to take our universities and our public school systems while the church sits silent and just builds big churches.”

In that same interview he said that his brother Jason, the other star of Flip It Forward, joined him in organizing the prayer rally. David also discussed his work campaigning for North Carolina’s Amendment One, which banned same-sex marriage and civil unions at a constitutional level:

“In North Carolina, you know, we just fought for Amendment One, which was a constitutional amendment that simply said, this is exactly what the amendment said is the only legal marriage in North Carolina was between a man and a woman. We received—it was such a battle in North Carolina, it blew me away.”

The Benhams’ father, Flip, heads up the abortion clinic protest group Operation Save America, and is responsible for gems such as condemning the interfaith Sandy Hook memorialprotesting in front of mosquesprotesting LGBT pride eventsstalking an abortion doctor and blaming 9/11 on abortion.

 

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Supreme Court Unanimously Slaps Conservative Appeals Court For Botching Police Shooting Case

Police Gun

Last year, an unusually conservative panel of the conservative United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued an opinion dismissing a black shooting victim’s lawsuit against a white police officer. On Monday, the Supreme Court unanimously reversed this decision in a rare order handed down without oral argument or full briefing from the parties. The order is even more rare because the conservative Roberts Court unanimously reversed a lower court from the left.

This case arose out of an incident on New Years Eve in 2008, when a Texas police sergeant named Jeffrey Cotton shot Robbie Tolan. Tolan is professional baseball player and the son of longtime Major Leaguer Bobby Tolan.

Around 2 in the morning on the day of the shooting, another officer ran the license plate of a black SUV that he saw take a turn a little too quickly and then park in front of a house, but the officer miskeyed the plate number — leading his computer to incorrectly tell him that the vehicle was stolen. The cop then exited his car, drew his gun, and ordered the two men who had just exited the SUV to the ground. Soon, Tolan’s parents, who lived in the home where the car was parked, emerged from the house in their pajamas and tried to explain that the car belonged to their family and that no one had committed a crime. Nevertheless, the cop radioed for backup.

Things escalated quickly after Sergeant Jeffrey Cotton arrived at the scene. Tolan and his family claim that Cotton grabbed Tolan’s mother’s arm and slammed her against the garage door with sufficient force that she fell to the ground. They also claim that, while Tolan rose to his knees after this incident, he never stood up or approached the officers. Cotton claims that he used less force on Tolan’s mother and that Tolan rose to his feet. No one disputes what happened next, however. Tolan told Cotton to “get your fucking hands off my mom” — and then Cotton drew his pistol and fired three shots at Tolan. Though Tolan survived, the bullets collapsed his right lung and pierced his liver.

After Tolan sued Cotton, his case wound up in front of a very conservative panel of the Fifth Circuit. Judges Edith Jones and Rhesa Barksdale once voted to allowa man to be executed despite the fact that his lawyer slept through much of his trial. Judge Leslie Southwick once joined a court decision upholding the reinstatement of a white state worker who was fired for calling a black colleague a “good ole n*igger.” These three judges ruled in favor of Cotton.

As the Supreme Court explained on Monday, however, Jones, Barksdale and Southwick bungled this decision. In federal courts, a party which believes that there are no real factual disputes in a case can seek something called “summary judgment” The court considering a request for summary judgement, however, must view all evidence “in the light most favorable” to the party that isn’t seeking such a judgment. Essentially, in order to win a summary judgment, a party must show that they would win their case even if every factual issue in the case were decided against them.

Yet, as the justices explain in an unsigned order, that’s not what happened in Tolan’s case. Cotton claimed that the Tolans’ porch was “dimly-lit,” that Tolan’s mother did not remain calm, that Tolan stood up and that he was ‘verbally threatening” — and that these facts justified a spur of the moment decision to shoot. Even if all of these facts are true, however, it is not the job of the Fifth Circuit to assume that they are true before the case is even tried. In the words of the Supreme Court, “[t]he witnesses on both sides come to this case with their own perceptions, recollections, and even potential biases. It is in part for that reason that genuine disputes are generally resolved by juries in our adversarial system.”

The upshot of this the Supreme Court’s opinion is that the Fifth Circuit will have to try again. Tolan could still lose, but he is entitled to have his case considered under the proper legal standard first.

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Dick Cheney denies war criminal allegations at KPU event

Former Vice President Dick Cheney refuted accusations that he is a war criminal during his speech to students and members of the AU community in Bender Arena on March 28. The Kennedy Political Union hosted Cheney as part of a stream of speakers coming to campus.

“The accusations are not true,” Cheney said.

20140327_kpucheney_anasantos_c_0088Former VP Dick Cheney Talks Politics, Responds to Controversy at KPU Event

 

During his vice presidency, three people were waterboarded, Cheney said. Waterboarding refers to either pumping a stomach with water or inducing choking by filling a throat with a stream of water, according to a report by NPR.

“Some people called it torture. It wasn’t torture,” Cheney said in an interview with ATV.

Students protested the event due to the accusations of war criminality against Cheney, The Eagle previously reported.

According to Cheney, the enhanced interrogation tactics used do not fall under the scope of the 1949 United Nations Geneva Convention, which outlaws cruel, inhuman or any degrading treatment or punishment because the Geneva Convention does not apply to unlawful combatants.

The Bush administration considered terrorists as unlawful combatants and considered those undergoing enhanced interrogation tactics as terrorists.

“If I would have to do it all over again, I would,” Cheney said. “The results speak for themselves.”

Cheney: ‘Weak’ response on Syria, Crimea
Cheney told The Eagle that Obama’s response regarding Syria and Crimea has been weak dating back to the Syrian conflict.

“The president indicated that if the Syrians used chemical weapons there would be consequence,” he said. “They used chemical weapons and there were no consequences. That conveyed a sense of weakness; that you don’t have to pay attention to what he [the president] says because he won’t follow through.”

A lack of U.S. leadership created a vacuum for extremist Islamist groups to sweep through Syria, Cheney said.

Obama is again showing weak leadership in Crimea, according to Cheney.

“Putin has gotten away with Crimea,” Cheney said regarding the recent annexation of Crimea to Russia.

Cheney said he advises Ukrainian officer training and military exercises with Poland in order to combat Russian influence in the Ukraine.

Snowden’s whistleblowing is ‘devastating’

Cheney said he fully supports National Security Agency surveillance and phone tapping.

“I don’t have any problems with our people doing that,” Cheney said about NSA surveillance.

The U.S. needs to take advantage of technology in the face of constant threat of cyberwarfare because the country needs to protect itself, according to Cheney.

Cheney also discussed his opinions on NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, calling him a traitor. However, he considered the possibility that there are undiscovered NSA internal leaks.

“I’ve always wondered, although I haven’t been able to prove one way or another, if he [Snowden] had more help from the inside,” Cheney told the audience at the KPU event. “What he’s done to the U.S., it is devastating.”

 

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Justice Scalia makes embarrassing error in latest dissent

Justice Scalia makes embarrassing error in latest dissentAntonin Scalia (Credit: Jeff Malet, maletphoto.com)

Justice Antonin Scalia is famous for his acerbic, caustic and highly readable dissents. So when his latest was released on Tuesday, in which Scalia rails against the court’s 6-2 decision to uphold the Environmental Protection Agency’s right to regulate coal pollution that crosses state lines, observers of the court were ready to dive into another delicious Scalia attack.

But there’s a problem — it turns out that Scalia’s dissent makes a rare, clear and somewhat embarrassing factual error.

“This is not the first time EPA has sought to convert the Clean Air Act into a mandate for cost-effective regulation. Whitman v. American Trucking Assns., Inc., 531 U. S. 457 (2001), confronted EPA’s contention that it could consider costs in setting [National Ambient Air Quality Standards],” Scalia writes in his dissent. But as Talking Points Memo’s Sahil Kapur notes, Scalia’s gotten the earlier case almost completely backward.

“The EPA’s position in 2001,” writes Kapur, “was exactly the opposite.” In that case, the EPA was defending its right to not use cost concerns as a counter to health effects when writing certain air quality standards. The EPA won that case unanimously, with all nine justices taking its side. And the author of the opinion for the court on that case was none other than Scalia himself.

“Scalia’s dissent … contains a hugely embarrassing mistake,” wrote University of California-Berkeley law professor Dan Farber. “He refers to the Court’s earlier decision in American Trucking as involving an effort by EPA to smuggle cost considerations into the statute. But that’s exactly backwards: it was industry that argued for cost considerations and EPA that resisted.”

Farber continued, writing, “Either some law clerk made the mistake and Scalia failed to read his own dissent carefully enough, or he simply forgot the basics of the earlier case and his clerks failed to correct him. Either way, it’s a cringeworthy blunder.”

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FINALLY: Boehner concedes ACA repeal ‘isn’t the answer’

Three weeks ago, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) responded with a simple message to the news that Affordable Care Act enrollment had exceeded expectations: “House Republicans will continue to work to repeal this law.”
Three weeks later, it appears even Boehner doesn’t believe Boehner’s bluster.
Speaker John A. Boehner said Thursday that changes brought about by the Affordable Care Act make it impossible to just repeal the health care law unless Congress has a replacement ready as well.
Speaking at a Rotary Club meeting in his Ohio district … Boehner said simply repealing the Affordable Care Act “isn’t the answer” and it would take time to transition to a new system.
According to the account from the local paper, Boehner specifically told his audience, “(To) repeal Obamacare … isn’t the answer. The answer is repeal and replace. The challenge is that Obamacare is the law of the land. It is there and it has driven all types of changes in our health care delivery system. You can’t recreate an insurance market overnight.”
Hmm. Let’s take a brief stroll down memory lane.
In 2011, Boehner tried several times to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
In 2012, shortly after the national elections, Boehner suggested he was done trying to repeal the law. “It’s pretty clear that the president was re-elected,” he said. “Obamacare is the law of the land.”
In 2013, Boehner returned to trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act and even shut down the federal government in part over ill-defined opposition to the law.
In 2014, just a few weeks after saying his caucus will keep up its repeal crusade, Boehner has returned to the realization that the ACA is “the law of the land” and full repeal “isn’t the answer.”
And to think some House Republicans aren’t satisfied with the quality of the Speaker’s leadership.
I suppose the obvious next question for Boehner is this: when, exactly, did he come to the realization that trying to “repeal Obamacare … isn’t the answer”?
On the one hand, if this just recently dawned on the House Speaker, why did it take him so long?
On the other hand, if Boehner has been aware of this for some time, then why has he allowed House Republicans to waste so much time with several dozen votes to repeal some or all of the federal reform law?
The clarification from his office didn’t help much.
Spokesman Brendan Buck downplayed Boehner’s comments. “For four years now the House Republican position has been repeal-and-replace,” he said.
The GOP, however, has taken a number of votes to repeal the law, including bills that would have completely repealed the law without replacing it. The party hasn’t unified behind a replacement, let alone voted on one, since Boehner took the speaker’s gavel.
The Speaker’s occasional incoherence notwithstanding, Boehner’s underlying sentiment reinforces the fact that the health care debate has shifted considerably just over the last several weeks. Between all of the positive news surrounding implementation of the law, the remarkable enrollment data, Democrats starting to look at the law as a political benefit, Republicans hedging on ACA issues like Medicaid expansion, and the nation’s top GOP lawmaker abandoning full repeal as “the answer,” Obamacare proponents finally have the wind at the their backs.
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New Program in China for High School and College Students to Travel with Stanford Lecturers to Learn About Urban Development

A new two-week Global Leadership program in China for English-speaking high school and college students is accepting applications for summer 2014.  Walking Tree Travel, an organization that specializes in service, conservation, and leadership programs in 18 countries, just announced the China Global Leadership Program itinerary.  The program includes stops in four of China’s most famous and fascinating cities – Hong Kong, Beijing, Shenzhen and Guangzhou. On this program, participants will get an inside look at changing social and economic environments in these cities, and learn how urban planners are dealing with unprecedented population growth.

“We have just passed the halfway mark and 51% of the earth’s population now live in urban environments,” said Deland Chan, Stanford University Urban Planning Lecturer and guide for the China Global Leadership Program.  “This program is an excellent start for young people who are looking to lead in areas of communications and city planning.  This program gives an insider’s look at a growing economy with an emphasis on urban sustainability.

The program will take students to four very different urban centers in China, each facing challenges of employment, sustainability, environmental protection, and transportation.  Students will get to engage with important current events, all while enjoying Chinese culture, entertainment, and food. Chan’s fellow guide Kevin Hsu (also a Lecturer in the Urban Planning Department of Stanford University), added that  “this will be a tour of China for future leaders who want an incredible cultural experience and want to prepare for the challenges of the 21st Century by honing their leadership, problem solving, and communications skills.”

The 15-day program is from June 30 – July 15, 2014.  For additional information, contact Walking Tree Travel at 303-242-8541 or visit the website at www.walkingtree.org.

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Shipwreck: San Francisco’s Worst Remains Undiscovered — Along with Millions in Silver

Amazing scenes were witnessed today when it was revealed the elusive wreckage of the City of Chester has been located 216 feet beneath the waves, not far from the Golden Gate Bridge.

That ship’s 1888 sinking killed 16 people; it was the second-worst disaster recorded on the waters of San Francisco Bay.
The worst disaster, however, vanished without a trace. And, as is the case with so many horrendous incidents later rendered insignificant by the Great Quake of 1906, it has equally vanished from public memory.
There is, however, a story to tell. It was 1901. It was the extreme tail end of a journey from Hong Kong to San Francisco.
And it was foggy.
CityofRDJ.jpg
Golden Gate National Recreation Area Archive
Happier times

 

On Feb. 22, 1901, the City of Rio De Janeiro steamed through the Golden Gate; had it not been so perilously foggy the city’s lights would have beckoned.

The voyage from the Far East was ostensibly 99.9 percent complete. But 99.99 percent is not 100 percent. Some 130 people would soon learn this in the most unforgiving manner possible.
San Francisco’s worst maritime disaster didn’t take long to unfold. The City of Rio de Janeiro sank in just eight minutes after striking submerged rocks near Fort Point. The ship’s underside was ripped nearly completely open and its hold flooded rapidly. Rescue crews only hundreds of yards away remained oblivious due to the dense fog; their first clue of the unfolding tragedy came when lifeboats floated by two hours later.
By the time rescue vessels could be dispatched, it was too late to save many passengers. A few were found clinging to scattered bits of wreckage, but, of the 220-odd people aboard the boat, only 82 were saved — many by Italian fishermen on the scene far sooner than official personnel.
Captain William Ward, who always said he’d go down with his ship, went down with his ship. So did silver ingots with a present-day value exceeding $22 million.
Detritus from the wreck washed up throughout the bay; luggage and chairs were found as far off as Suisun. In 1931, a man known to history only as “Captain Haskell” told gawping news reporters that he’d discovered the vessel with a two-man sub of his own devising. He filed a claim on the wreckage and hatched plans to become a millionaire.
Instead, in July of that year, he would disappear, never to be seen again.
The City of Rio de Janeiro has long since been forgotten. Its wreckage was never recovered.
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LGBT group boycotts Beverly Hills Hotel after its owner, the Sultan of Brunei, will institute policy condemning homosexuals to death by stoning

  • Brunei is planning to implement the Sharia Penal Code, which calls for the stoning of people who commit a variety of sexual ‘crimes’
  • Currently, homosexuality is punishable by up to 10 years in prison
  • The United Nations already has warned that Brunei’s new penal code violates international human rights standards
  • The Sultan also owns The Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles, 45 Park Lane in London and Le Meurice in Paris

By DAILY MAIL REPORTER

An LGBT advocacy group has moved the location of a conference it is planning to hold later this year from the Beverly Hills Hotel to a different location in protest of anti-gay policies being adopted by the Sultan of Brunei – the owner of the hotel – that calls for homosexuals to be stoned to death.

The Gill Action Fund, which was founded by activist Tim Gill, was scheduled to host its ‘Winning the Heartland’ conference for political donors at the Hotel from May 1-4.

However, because of the draconian laws regarding ‘sexual crimes’ Brunei is set to adopt later this month, the group has canceled its conference at the Beverly Hills Hotel and is looking for a new location.

Iconic: The Beverly Hills Hotel is owned by the Dorchester Group, which is controlled by the Sultan of Brunei

Iconic: The Beverly Hills Hotel is owned by the Dorchester Group, which is controlled by the Sultan of Brunei
Sharia: Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah plans to implement a Sharia Penal Code, which calls for the stoning of gays

 Sharia: Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah plans to implement a Sharia Penal Code, which calls for the stoning of gays

 

‘In light of the horrific anti-gay policy approved by the Government of Brunei, Gill Action made the decision earlier today to relocate its conference from the Beverly Hills Hotel to another property,’ Gill Action Executive Director Kirk Fordham told washingtonblade.com. ‘We are seeking a return of all deposits.’

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah announced last year that his tiny, oil-rich nation would begin to implement a Shariah Penal Code in his country, which calls for grisly executions of anyone committing a variety of sexual ‘crimes,’ including sodomy, adultery and rape.

‘By the grace of Allah, with the coming into effect of this legislation, our duty to Allah is therefore being fulfilled,’ the sultan said at a legal conference in Brunei’s capital last year.

The law would apply only to Muslims, who comprise about two-thirds of the population of nearly 420,000 people. The others follow mainly Buddhist, Christianity and indigenous beliefs.

Boycott: The Gill Action Fund, started by activist Tim Gill, is taking its business elsewhere

Boycott: The Gill Action Fund, started by activist Tim Gill, is taking its business elsewhere

 

Brunei’s Mufti Awang Abdul Aziz, the country’s top Islamic scholar, said last year that Shariah law ‘guarantees justice for everyone and safeguards their well-being.’

‘Let us not just look at the hand-cutting or the stoning or the caning per se, but let us also look at the conditions governing them,’ Awang said. ‘It is not indiscriminate cutting or stoning or caning. There are conditions and there are methods that are just and fair.’

Under secular laws, Brunei already prescribes caning as a penalty for crimes including immigration offenses, for which convicts can be flogged with a rattan cane.

The United Nations already has criticized Brunei’s adoption of the Sharia Penal Code, claiming it does not meet international human rights standards.

‘Under international law, stoning people to death constitutes torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and is thus clearly prohibited,” UN High Commission on Human Rights spokesman Rupert Colville said last week.

Even before the new penal code was adopted, homosexual acts were punishable by up to 10 years in prison in Brunei.

Dorchester: The hotel is owned by the Dorchester Group, which is controlled by the Sultan and owns other hotels throughout the world

Dorchester: The hotel is owned by the Dorchester Group, which is controlled by the Sultan and owns other hotels throughout the world

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Mayor Lee & Board President Chiu Launch Ellis Act Housing Preference Program

New Law Gives Displaced Tenants Preference for City’s Affordable Housing

Mayor Edwin M. Lee and Board of Supervisors President David Chiu today launched the Ellis Act Housing Preference Program (EAHP) for tenants who are evicted under the State Ellis Act. Displaced tenants will now be given preference for the City’s affordable housing programs.

“This gives San Francisco’s longtime tenants and working families the much needed and urgent help they need after an Ellis Act eviction,” said Mayor Lee. “While we work on Ellis Act Reform to eliminate speculative evictions in our City, we are also providing some relief to tenants who can now more easily participate in San Francisco’s affordable housing programs, so that we remain a City for the 100 percent.”

“We must do everything we can to help San Franciscans facing Ellis Act evictions,” said Board President Chiu, who began this legislative effort in October 2013. “This safety net measure assists our most vulnerable tenants and reinforces our commitment to building more affordable housing as quickly as possible.”

The Ellis Act Displacement Emergency Assistance Ordinance, which responded to concerns in the rise of Ellis Act Evictions that paralleled rising market-rate housing prices, was unanimously approved by the Board of Supervisors and signed into law by Mayor Lee on December 18, 2013.

Landlords subject to the Rent Ordinance must have “just cause” to evict existing tenants. Of several allowable reasons for eviction that are not the tenant’s fault (“No-Fault Evictions”), Owner Move-In and Ellis Act Evictions are historically the most numerous. No-Fault Evictions rose significantly in 2013.

In response, the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development created the EAHP to assist the rising number of tenants displaced due to Ellis Act evictions and for whom a market rate rental unit is unaffordable.

The EAHP gives displaced tenant preference in City affordable housing programs. Tenants who have been or may be displaced by Ellis Act Evictions that took place in 2012 or later may apply for an EAHP certificate from the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development. An EAHP Certificate will give tenants priority consideration to obtain a housing unit in a City-funded or Inclusionary housing development. Applicants must meet program eligibility rules.

For more information on the EAHP and the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development, go to sf-moh.org.

 

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Louisiana’s bold stand against sodomy

The culture war’s focus has narrowed quite a bit in recent years. Whereas the political combat over hot-button social issues used to include issues like school prayer, access to pornography, and Ten Commandments displays, the contemporary culture war tends to focus on sexual health (access to abortion and contraception) and gay rights (most notably marriage equality).
But once in a while, anti-sodomy laws return to the fore.
It was, after all, just last summer that Virginia’s Ken Cuccinelli (R), at the time the state Attorney General, fought in support of an anti-sodomy measure that had already been struck down in the courts. This week in Louisiana, meanwhile, state lawmakersprotected an anti-sodomy law that’s already been deemed unconstitutional.
The Louisiana House of Representatives rejected legislation, on Tuesday, that would remove the state’s symbolic ban on certain kinds of sodomy. The bill failed by a wide margin on a vote of 27-67, with 11 members not voting.
Louisiana’s anti-sodomy law was overturned and declared unconstitutional in 2003, with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling such state statutes could not be enforced. Still, the Legislature has been unwilling to officially strike the measure from state law, even though it can’t be used as a cause for arrest.
A House Committee passed the legislation onto the body’s floor by a vote of 9-6 last week. But one of the state’s most powerful lobbying groups, the conservative Christian Louisiana Family Forum, opposes striking the sodomy ban.
And in this case, the Louisiana Family Forum won.
Keep in mind, everyone involved realizes that Louisiana’s anti-sodomy statute cannot legally be enforced. It’s effectively legal window dressing – it’s just sitting there, serving no practical purpose. But rather than removing unenforceable clutter from their books, Louisiana’s state House, with the overwhelming support of its Republican majority, agreed with the Louisiana Family Forum’s assessment that the unconstitutional anti-sodomy statute is “consistent with the values of Louisiana residents who consider this behavior to be dangerous, unhealthy and immoral.”
It’s tempting to think it this is largely a fight over symbolism, but it’s worth noting that last July, the East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff’s office began arresting men for agreeing to have consensual sex with other men. When asked to defend the arrest, the sheriff’s office pointed to the statute that’s “still on the books of the Louisiana criminal code.”
That the statute is dead-letter law didn’t seem to matter.
None of those charged faced prosecution – lawyers couldn’t find any evidence that a crime had been committed – but the incident served as a reminder that it’s generally not a good idea to leave unconstitutional laws in place just for the heck of it.
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The Bundy crisis in Nevada: Don’t like a law? Get a gun.

It’s not uncommon for conservative media to put a very different spin on current events than major news organizations. For example, news consumers who surround themselves with nothing but conservative media might believe right now that the Affordable Care Act is in a death spiral, the IRS “scandal” is heating up; the nation is facing a debt crisis; the Benghazi conspiracy will soon rock the White House; etc.
But once in a while, conservative media doesn’t just put a unique spin on the news, it also identifies stories that exist largely below the radar. Over the last week, for example, far-right news consumers have been captivated with coverage of Cliven Bundy, while for much of the American mainstream, that name probably doesn’t even sound familiar.
If you don’t know the story, it’s time to get up to speed.
U.S. officials ended a stand-off with hundreds of armed protesters in the Nevada desert on Saturday, calling off the government’s roundup of cattle it said were illegally grazing on federal land and giving about 300 animals back to the rancher who owned them.
The dispute less than 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas between rancher Cliven Bundy and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management had simmered for days. Bundy had stopped paying fees for grazing his cattle on the government land and officials said he had ignored court orders.
Anti-government groups, right-wing politicians and gun-rights activists camped around Bundy’s ranch to support him.
By any fair definition, this was an intense standoff with a very real possibility of significant casualties.
But to understand how and why the crisis unfolded as it did over the weekend, we have to start with how it started in the first place.
Ian Millhiser did  a nice job summarizing the backstory.
This conflict arises out of rancher Cliven Bundy’s many years of illegally grazing his cattle on federal lands. In 1998, a federal court ordered Bundy to cease grazing his livestock on an area of federal land known as the Bunkerville Allotment, and required him to pay the federal government $200 per day per head of cattle remaining on federal lands. Around the time it issued this order, the court also commented that “[t]he government has shown commendable restraint in allowing this trespass to continue for so long without impounding Bundy’s livestock.” Fifteen years later, Bundy continued to defy this court order.
Last October, the federal government returned to court and obtained a new order, providing that “Bundy shall remove his livestock from the former Bunkerville Allotment within 45 days of the date hereof, and that the United States is entitled to seize and remove to impound any of Bundy’s cattle that remain in trespass after 45 days of the date hereof.” A third federal court order issued the same year explains that Bundy did not simply refuse to stop trespassing on federal lands – he actually expanded the range of his trespassing. According to the third order, “Bundy’s cattle have moved beyond the boundaries of the Bunkerville Allotment and are now trespassing on a broad swath of additional federal land (the “New Trespass Lands”), including public lands within the Gold Butte area that are administered by the BLM, and National Park System land within the Overton Arm and Gold Butte areas of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.” The third order also authorizes the federal government to “impound any of Bundy’s cattle that remain in trespass.”
So, on the one hand we have Bundy, who’s said, “I don’t recognize [the] United States government as even existing.” It led him to repeatedly ignore federal law, repeatedly blow federal court rulings, and refuse to pay federal fines for his transgressions. On the other hand we have the United States government – which does, in fact, exist – showing considerable restraint in trying to resolve the problem.
All of this started to come to a head last week, with federal officials going to the area late last week to enforce the law and seize the cattle Bundy has been illegally grazing. Except this proved to be problematic – Bundy’s heavily-armed allies, egged on by conservative media, showed up from a variety of Western states to confront U.S. officials.
Facing the very real possibility that the anti-government forces might open fire, U.S. officials backed off in the interest of maintaining public safety.
“Based on information about conditions on the ground and in consultation with law enforcement, we have made a decision to conclude the cattle gather because of our serious concern about the safety of employees and members of the public,” U.S. Bureau of Land Management Director Neil Kornze, said in a statement.
Bundy’s cattle, which had been rounded up, were released. The Bundy supporters and assorted militia members were pleased, the crowds dispersed, and no one was shot.
But you probably see the problem: it’s unsustainable to think a group of well-armed extremists can simply block the enforcement of American laws in the United States. It’s perfectly understandable that the Bureau of Land Management saw a crisis unfolding and pulled back to prevent bloodshed, but there’s an obvious problem with establishing a radical precedent: you, too, can ignore the law and disregard court rulings you don’t like, just so long as you have well-armed friends pointing guns at Americans.
To put it mildly, that’s not how the American system works. Indeed, that’s not how any system of government can ever work.
Tensions eased over the weekend, but it seems likely that this story isn’t over yet.
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Judge: Ohio must recognize out-of-state gay marriages

Proponents of marriage equality have been on quite a winning streak in the courts, targeting anti-gay laws in states across the country. That streak continued this morning in Ohio.
U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black has formally ruled that Ohio must recognize same-sex marriages performed legally in other states, but he put a hold on his order for the time being.
“Ohio’s marriage recognition is facially unconstitutional and unenforceable under any circumstances,” Black said in an order he announced verbally 10 days ago.
“It is this court’s responsibility to give meaning and effect to the guarantees and of the U.S. Constitution and all American citizens and that responsibility is never more pressing than when the fundamental rights of some minority citizens are impacted by the legislative power of the majority.”
To be sure, the judge in this case had already made clear that this ruling was coming, but for civil-rights advocates, that doesn’t detract from the satisfaction that comes with another victory.
Indeed, note that Black was fairly aggressive in smacking down Ohio’s argument, concluding that the record “is staggeringly devoid of any legitimate justification for the State’s ongoing arbitrary discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.”
The case did not address whether or not same-sex couples can be married in Ohio, only whether same-sex marriages performed in other states should be legally recognized in the Buckeye State.
As for the current state of the law in Ohio, in light of the ruling, Chris Geidner reported, “The ruling is stayed, or put on hold, with Black inclined to issue a stay pending appeal as to the full recognition ruling. Black wrote, though, that he is inclined not to issue a stay ‘as to the as-applied claims of the four couples who are Plaintiffs because they have demonstrated that a stay will harm them individually due to the imminent births of their children and other time-sensitive concerns,’ but he announced in his ruling that he will be taking views from both the couples and the state on the question over the next day before deciding whether to issue a stay as to the four couples.”
For those keeping score, the Ohio ruling this morning comes on the heels of related victories in Michigan,VirginiaKentuckyOklahomaUtah and Texas, just from the last few months.
Steve Benin, MSNBC
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Gender politics: he, she or zie?

Last week, the Australian high court ruled that the sex of Norrie May-Welby was ‘non-specific’

Norrie, who identifies as a ‘spansexual’Norrie, who identifies as a ‘spansexual’

Meet Norrie May-Welby – or simply ‘Norrie’ as zie (no, that’s not a typo: bear with me) is known to the Australian media – a Scottish-born, Sydney-dwelling artist and political activist with a penchant for big sunglasses and provocative cartoons.
Except in one sense: Norrie (born Bruce Norrie Watson) is neither male nor female, hence the playfully evasive adopted surname.

Last week, the high court of Australia ruled that the sex of May-Welby was “non-specific”.

Norrie is not the first Australian whose gender has been legally declared to be neither male nor female – previous cases include Tony Briffa, a former mayor of Hobsons Bay in Victoria. In fact, since 2011, Australians have been able to tick a box marked “X” in the space for gender on passport applications.

But what is different about Norrie’s case is that it wasn’t merely about gender – a concept understood since at least ancient Greek times to encompass some fluidity – it was about sex. Specifically, it was about whether sex can be legally be “non-specific”.

Norrie, who identifies as a “spansexual”, was born with male sexual organs. Zie (the preferred pronoun of many of her fellow spansexuals, although Norrie is okay with “she” and “her”) underwent gender-reassignment surgery at the age of 28, but subsequently decided that she wasn’t female, or even intersex.

In 2010, Norrie successfully obtained a birth cert recognising that the gender affirmation surgery had left her with a sex that was “non-specific”. Cue global headlines about the “world’s first genderless person”, and a minor, embarrassed flurry in the New South Wales births, deaths and marriages office, which led to the status being rescinded just four weeks later. Since then, Norrie has been locked in a legal battle to have that birth cert reissued. That the high court ruled in Norrie’s favour has obvious implications for the estimated one in 2,000 children born intersex (with indeterminate sexual organs) each year. Instead of being boxed into one gender or the other immediately after birth, those in Australia now have time to determine which gender, if either, fits.

In the short term, Norrie’s victory may not seem to mean much to the rest of us; but to those for whom it matters, it matters a great deal. Facebook recognised the need for genders beyond the binary when, earlier this year, in a fit of either empathy or advertising savvy, it introduced a total of 56 gender options, up to 10 of which can be used on any one profile.

But even for the rest of us, it raises valid questions in a society obsessed with gender and sexual identity.

“Do you know what you’re having?” is the first question a pregnant woman gets asked (and the one she is asked at least twice a day, every day, until it can be replaced by “What did you have?”). As they grow, children’s gender is expected to determine the clothes they wear, the toys they will play with, the sports they participate in, and even where they are educated and work. As adults, we are required to declare our gender on everything from car-insurance forms to bank-account applications. Sex has become a shorthand for much more than our chromosomal make-up; it’s the bluntest and most effective way we have of corralling one another into rigid stereotypes.

But if people such as Norrie force us to recognise sex as something more fluid – if we accept that, like sexuality, it might more accurately be said to exist on a spectrum – then such divisions begin to seem more meaningless than ever.

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Washington Hospital Physician Among the First in Bay Area to Implant Lifesaving Device for Patients at Risk of Sudden Cardiac Death

Christine Ortiz, 59 of Union City, is one of the first patients in the Bay Area to receive a new unique cardiac device known as a Subcutaneous ICD (implantable cardioverter defibrillator). Her life nearly came to an end after she suffered what is known as sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), a condition where the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating. Without rapid medical attention, a person can die within a few minutes. The incident occurred while Ms. Ortiz, who is the proud grandmother to six grandchildren, was watching her grandson’s high school wrestling match. Thanks to a quick assessment by the school’s wrestling coach and a Washington Hospital athletic trainer, Ms. Ortiz was resuscitated by emergency responders and transferred to Washington Hospital; an Alameda County designated cardiac receiving facility. Upon arrival, she was placed under the care of Washington Hospital cardiac electrophysiologist Dr. Sanjay Bindra, who was involved in early studies when the device was in development. Not only was the life of Ms. Ortiz saved, but as a result of this new, revolutionary device, she is already resuming a normal life and is protected from another, potentially deadly episode of sudden cardiac arrest.

The recently FDA approved Boston Scientific S-ICD® System is the world’s first and only commercially available subcutaneous implantable defibrillator (S-ICD) for the treatment of patients at risk for sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). The S-ICD System is designed to provide the same protection from SCA as traditional ICDs; however the S-ICD System sits entirely just below the skin without the need for thin, insulated wires — known as electrodes or ‘leads’ — to be placed into the heart. This leaves the heart and blood vessels untouched, offering physicians and patients an alternative treatment to traditional ICDs and fewer potential long-term complications.

“This new device is a major leap forward in the treatment of patients like Christine,” said Dr. Bindra. “Because there are no wires into the heart with this device, the risk of infection and wear on the wires, which is an issue with traditional ICDs, is not a factor.” For younger patients, those with cardiac electrical disorders or prior infection complications, the S-ICD is invaluable.

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Powerball Winner to Use $425 Million to Travel, Start Charity

Ray Buxton, the winner of the $425 million Powerball lottery, wants to use his new found fortune to travel and start a foundation to do good by fighting child hunger and promoting pediatric health and education.

Buxton claimed his prize today from the California Lottery and is still overwhelmed with excitement. “Unbelievable” is the best word, he said, to describe his winning the sixth largest Powerball jackpot in history.

“Once the initial shock passed I couldn’t sleep for days,” is how the senior citizen described his feelings after realizing on Feb. 19 that he was sole ticket winner.

Since winning, he said, he has sat in front his computer in disbelief frequently re-checking the numbers across multiple sources. While validating the numbers at the California Lottery web site, he came across the “I Won! Now What? Winners Handbook,” and started to put a plan in motion. As advised in the handbook, it took some time to solidify legal and financial representation.

Buxton said his short term goals are to “spend time with my family and friends, start a charity and consult with professionals on how to pragmatically utilize this windfall.”

“My longer term plan is trying to find a way to live a normal and discreet life,” Buxton added.

Who was the first person he told about winning? Nobody, he said.

“Sitting on a ticket of this value was very scary. It’s amazing how a little slip of paper can change your life. I’m going to enjoy my new job setting up a charitable foundation focused on the areas of pediatric health, child hunger and education,” he added.

Buxton estimates he has been playing the lottery for 20 years. He beat the odds, which were one in 175 million, to become the winner of the $425.3 million Powerball Lottery on Feb. 19. He purchased his ticket at the Dixon Landing Chevron in Milpitas.  His winning Powerball numbers were 17, 49, 54, 35, and 1, with a Powerball number of 34.

He said played the lottery regularly under the mantra: “You can’t win if you don’t play.” The Feb. 19 Powerball jackpot was big – so he decided to test his luck twice purchasing a second ticket for the week’s draw. He had previously purchased an entry for the draw, but luckily chose to purchase a second Powerball ticket while picking up food at the Subway inside Milpitas Chevron on California Circle. It was a smart choice because he ended up matching six of six Powerball numbers to win.

He has selected the cash option, which according to Lottery officials, is around $242.2 million before Federal taxes.

Buxton waited until today to claim his prize. Since winning in February, he has been working with his attorney Susan von Herrmann at the law firm of Schiff Hardin LLP to establish bank accounts, a charity, and work on tax issues.

Buxton does not want to do media interviews at this time and referred all media to his public relations representative Sam Singer of Singer Associates Public Affairs and Public Relations in San Francisco.  Phone: 415-227-9700. Email: Singer@SingerSF.com

 

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Is Rick Scott Guilty of Murder?

Florida Governor Rick Scott is now officially a killer, and Charlene Dill is one of his victims. Charlene Dill was a hardworking Florida woman, who moved down to Florida when she was just 18 years old. To help make ends meet, Charlene worked at various fast food restaurants, at Disney World, and even cleaned houses and babysat. As the years went by, Charlene found herself, as a single mother, struggling to raise 3 children.  Last year, Charlene made just $11,000 cleaning houses and babysitting. She used that money to help put food on the table for her children, and to put a roof over their heads.

Then Charlene discovered she had a severe heart problems that needed to be managed.  And she couldn’t afford to get it treated right, because Charlene didn’t have health insurance. Charlene fell into what’s called the “Red State Donut Hole,” created by Republican lawmakers like Rick Scott. It says that if you make over $5,400 and less than $11,400, you get no health insurance.

Below the $5,400, Charlene would have qualified for Florida’s pretty pathetic Medicaid program. Over $11,400, she would have qualified for free health insurance under Obamacare because of the subsidies for low-income people. But because she only earned $11,000, she made too little to qualify for Obamacare, but too much to qualify for Florida Medicaid.

This isn’t, of course, how the Obamacare law was written. But this giant Swiss Cheese hole was drilled into Obamacare by John Roberts, when the Supreme Court said that states could refuse to take federal money to pay to cover people who don’t earn enough to qualify for insurance subsidies but make more than state Medicaid programs will cover.  It was into that hole that Charlene fell.

Twenty-three states which are either controlled by a Republican governor or a Republican legislature have refused to expand Medicaid coverage to their citizens under Obamacare.  This is pure politics, an effort to sabotage Obamacare by cutting the working poor out of the program. Republicans are hoping that working poor people like Charlene will be so upset that they can’t get Obamacare, and won’t realize that it was the Republican governors who refused their eligibility, that they’ll be angry with Obama and the Democrats and vote Republican in 2014 and 2016.

It’s all about politics. These states are literally playing politics with people’s lives, and Charlene is one of the people they’ve now killed.  Around 5 million Americans won’t have access to healthcare in 2014, because they fall into the “Red State Donut Hole,” just like Charlene.

Since she didn’t have insurance, Charlene couldn’t afford a regular doctor or regular treatment. In 2012, Charlene went to the emergency room because of a flare-up with her heart. Doctors there told her to start taking medicine, and to be routinely monitored. But she couldn’t afford it, because she only made $11,000 a year and had to feed three kids, and Rick Scott wouldn’t let her have the free health insurance that working poor people in every Democratically-controlled state in America have.

Rick Scott was willing to let her to die so he could score political points against President Obama. Back in December, Charlene again went to the emergency room, this time because of abscesses in her legs. Shortly after that trip to the ER, Charlene picked up another job as a vacuum cleaner saleswoman, on top of babysitting and house cleaning, to help provide for her family and to pay for her ER bills, which weren’t covered because Rick Scott and the Florida Republicans refused to let the federal government pay for her Medicaid.

This past Friday, Charlene was supposed to go see one of her close friends, so their children could play together. Charlene never made it to her friend’s house. Charlene died during one of her vacuum cleaner sales appointments that day. The hardworking and loving single mother of three young children was just 32-years-young.

Charlene died because multimillionaire Republican and Florida Governor Rick Scott chose to play politics, rather than protect the lives of the Florida citizens he is supposed to be serving. And unfortunately, if Republicans across the country continue playing politics with peoples’ lives, Charlene won’t be the only one to die.

A recent study by researchers at Harvard University and the City University of New York found that as many as 17,000 Americans will die directly as a result of Republican states refusing to expand Medicaid under Obamacare.  Samuel Dickman, one of the authors of the study, told Morning Call that, “The results were sobering. Political decisions have consequences, some of them lethal.”

Unfortunately, Republicans like Rick Scott don’t give a rat’s ass that their political decisions have life-and-death consequences.  Consequences like three young children losing their mother. They just want to smear Obama, and don’t care who dies, just so long as it’s just working poor people.

But enough is enough. Some things are more important than politics, and life is certainly one of them. Republicans say that they’re pro-life, but that’s a bald-faced lie, because they refuse to let low-wage working Americans have access to life-saving Medicaid. If Rick Scott and his Republican buddies in the Florida legislature are really the Christians they claim they are, then they’re going to burn in hell. Deservedly.

From Thom Hartmann

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Justice Scalia’s Past Comes Back To Haunt Him On Birth Control

When the Supreme Court hears two landmark cases about birth control on Tuesday, few observers doubt that Justice Antonin Scalia’s sympathies will be the Christian business owners who charge that the mandate violates their religious liberties.

The Reagan-appointed jurist is a devout Catholic who has extolled “traditional Christian virtues” and insists the devil is “a real person.” He even has a son who’s a Catholic priest. He voted in 2012 to wipe out Obamacare in its entirety and has been President Barack Obama’s most outspoken foe on the Supreme Court.

And yet, Scalia’s past jurisprudence stands contradictory to the argument for striking down the Obamacare rule in question, which requires for-profit employers’ insurance plans to cover contraceptives (like Plan B, Ella and intrauterine devices) for female employees without co-pays.

In 1990, Scalia wrote the majority opinion in Employment Division v. Smith, concluding that the First Amendment “does not require” the government to grant “religious exemptions” from generally applicable laws or civic obligations. The case was brought by two men in Oregon who sued the state for denying them unemployment benefits after they were fired from their jobs for ingesting peyote, which they said they did because of their Native American religious beliefs.

“[T]he right of free exercise does not relieve an individual of the obligation to comply with a valid and neutral law of general applicability,” Scalia wrote in the 6-3 majority decision, going on to aggressively argue that such exemptions could be a slippery slope to lawlessness.

“The rule respondents favor would open the prospect of constitutionally required religious exemptions from civic obligations of almost every conceivable kind,” he wrote, “ranging from compulsory military service, to the payment of taxes, to health and safety regulation such as manslaughter and child neglect laws, compulsory vaccination laws, drug laws, and traffic laws; to social welfare legislation such as minimum wage laws, child labor laws, animal cruelty laws, environmental protection laws, and laws providing for equality of opportunity for the races.”

That opinion could haunt the jurist if he seeks to invalidate the birth control rule.

“Scalia will have to reckon with his own concern in Smith about the lawlessness and chaos created by liberal exemptions to generally applicable law,” said Adam Winkler, a constitutional law professor at UCLA. “For him to uphold an exemption now is to invite more of the lawlessness that he warned about.”

Michael C. Dorf, a law professor at Cornell, also addressed the tension.

“Justice Scalia’s opinion in the Smith case offered a number of grounds for the conclusion that the Free Exercise Clause does not entitle religious objectors to exceptions from neutral laws of general application,” Dorf wrote in SCOTUSblog, observing that Scalia also posited that judges weren’t “competent” to decide which religions were deserving of exemptions.

In response to Scalia’s decision, Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 1993, which says any law that “substantially burden[s]” a person’s exercise of religion must demonstrate a “compelling governmental interest” and employ the “least restrictive means” of furthering that interest. That’s the basis under which Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, two businesses with religious owners, are suing for relief from the birth control rule.

And that might offer Scalia an escape hatch. Experts say he could conceivably decide that the First Amendment doesn’t protect a religious person’s entity’s to an exemption from the law but that RFRA suffices to let Hobby Lobby and certain others off the hook from the birth control rule. But even then, the RFRA argument isn’t clear-cut. Nineteen Democratic senators who voted for the law in 1993 have filed an amicus brief insisting that it doesn’t — and was never intended to — give for-profit companies a pass on the law.

It’s up to Scalia and the other justices to parse that question. If he axes the mandate on the basis of RFRA, he still has to contend with his earlier argument that such an outcome carries grave dangers for the rule of law.

“To permit this,” he wrote in Smith, quoting from an old court decision, “would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself.”

SAHIL KAPUR, TPM

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Gluten Free Crepes Contest Winner at Squat and Gobble

Jessann Cohn, a trained chef who works as a caterer, has just moved the Gluten Free bar a bit further.   The Haight resident is the winner in the Squat and Gobble gluten free crepe contest and won $300 and a years worth of monthly meals.  Cohn currently works as a caterer with one of the larger SF catering companies.

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“”Crepe’ and ‘Gluten Free’ are rarely heard in the same sentence” according to Squat and Gobble managing partner Issa Sweidan.   “Because we specialize in crepes, we wanted to include an alternative for people with gluten issues.  So we conducted this contest to get some new ideas to make sure all of our customers can enjoy our family-friendly menu.”

Cohn’s winning recipe replaces traditional flour with chickpea flour among its chief ingredients.   Beginning this month a version of her crepe will appear on the menu at all five Squat and Gobble locations.

At the same time, all locations will offer gluten-free pasta, as well.

Squat and Gobble has served the Upper Haight, Lower Haight, Marina, Castro and West Portal since 1994.  Www.squatandgobble.com.

 

 

 

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