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Bakery that Refused to Make a Cake for a Same-Sex Couple Closes its Doors

The Oregon bakery that is the target of a discrimination complaint for refusing to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple’s wedding, has closed its doors.

Sweet Cakes by Melissa in Gresham, Ore., closed its storefront Saturday, after owners Aaron and Melissa Klein said they would operate their business out of their home.

Sweet Cakes owner Aaron Klein

 

 

“This will be our last weekend at the shop we are moving our business to an in home bakery. I will post our new number soon. Email will stay the same,” read a post on the bakery’s Facebook page.

The Kleins are at the center of a complaint filed with the OregonDepartment of Justice last month citing an alleged possible violation of the state’s human rights ordinance that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation andgender identity in places of public accommodation.

The complaint, filed by Rachel Cryer and Laurel Bowman, stated that Aaron Klein called them “abominations unto the Lord,” and said their money wasn’t equal.

Klein said he sells cakes to customers of all sexual orientations, but draws the line, however, at wedding cakes for same-sex couples.

The Sweet Cakes websitereinforces the Klein’s belief in marriage as between one man and one woman, and a sign posted on the door of their now closed bakery read, “The fight is not over.”

The Klein’s say their religious freedom is being violated.

The 2007 Oregon law provides an exemption for religious organizations and parochial schools but does not allow private business owners to discriminate based on sexual orientation.

If state investigators find substantial evidence of discrimination, the complaint could lead to a settlement or proceedings before an administrative law judge.

The amount of the damages that could be awarded isn’t capped and depends on the circumstances of each case, said bureau spokesman Charlie Burr.

Last week, a Portland bar owner was ordered to pay about $400,000to a group of transgender patrons he banned from his establishment last year, a violation of the same human rights law the Kleins are accused of violating.

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Drakes Bay Oyster Co: Judge Slams Majority Opinion, Calls it a “Hand Waving” decision

INVERNESS, CALIF. — Owners of the Drakes Bay Oyster Company today said they strongly disagree with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal’s decision to eject the historic oyster farm, and that attorneys for Drakes Bay are now reviewing all options before announcing the farm’s plans moving forward.

The Ninth Circuit’s three-judge panel ruled 2 to 1 today against the oyster operation, with Justice Paul J. Watford writing a dissenting opinion in support of the oyster farm. In the dissent, Watford wrote that Drakes Bay should have prevailed on its claim that Secretary Salazar’s decision was, “arbitrary, capricious or otherwise not in accordance with law.” Watford also stated that the majority opinion consisted of “hand waving” containing “nothing of any substance”, and that the injunction should have been granted (see pg. 47 from the Ninth Circuit decision).

The well-loved oyster farm asked the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to prohibit the Federal Government from ejecting Drakes Bay from its property, destroying its business and taking away the jobs of its 30 employees before the case was even fully litigated.

“As community farmers and environmentalists, we continue to hold firmly in our belief that we have taken the appropriate measures to protect and preserve the waters of Drakes Estero and the wildlife that calls the National Seashore home,” said Kevin Lunny, owner of Drakes Bay.

For years, Drakes Bay has been fighting against false science and unsupported accusations from the Interior Department and the National Park Service in their attempts to close down the farm.  In a decision made last November, then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar refused to issue a permit to allow Drakes Bay to continue farming upon the expiration of its 40-year-lease. The lease allowed the farm to operate on public land within the Point Reyes National Seashore, which was created decades after the oyster farm’s inception.

Drakes Bay asserts that the Ninth Circuit panel failed to consider several critical issues in their decision. Drakes Bay alleges that Salazar illegally determined that the Estero’s “potential wilderness” designation prevailed over Congress’ more recent direction, which authorized the renewal of the farm’s permit due to the fact that Salazar’s decision relied heavily on scientific misconduct and false science.

“The Ninth Circuit’s decision to deny this injunction is a step backwards not only for Drakes Bay, but also for Marin County, proponents of sustainable agriculture and farmers around the country. Our attorneys are now reviewing all of our options before we announce our plans moving forward.” Lunny said.

About Drakes Bay Oyster Company

Oyster farming in Drakes Estero, located in Point Reyes, Marin County, has been part of the region’s history for nearly 100 years. The Lunnys, a fourth-generation ranching family, purchased Drakes Bay in 2004 to revive a historical part of the local community and ensure the continued environmental health of Drakes Estero.  Drakes Bay currently employs nearly 30 community members, and farms sustainably in Drakes Estero, producing approximately one-third of all oysters in California. The Lunny family works hard to participate in keeping the agricultural economic system in West Marin alive. Drakes Bay actively participates in the creation of a more sustainable food model that restores, conserves, and maintains the productivity of the local landscapes and the health of its inhabitants. For more information, please visit www.drakesbayoyster.com.

 

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America’s Cup Race Jury Decision Makes Oracle Team USA Underdog in Most Contested America’s Cup in History

 

Oracle Team USA Now Is The Underdog in Most Heated America's Cup in History

 

An international jury has levied the harshest penalties in the 162-year history of the America’s Cup, docking defending champion Oracle Team USA two points in the finals against Emirates Team Zealand and expelling a key sailor.

The penalties announced against the syndicate Tuesday are for illegally modifying prototype boats in warmup regattas last year and earlier this year.

Oracle Team USA must win 11 races to retain the silver trophy. Team New Zealand must still win nine races in the series, which starts Saturday on San Francisco Bay.

Dirk de Ridder, who trims the wing sail, is barred from sailing in the regatta, and two shore crew members also have been expelled. Grinder Matt Mitchell has been barred from the first four races.

Oracle Team USA also was fined $250,000.

“The rules infractions involved only a few of our 130 team members, and were done without the knowledge of either our team’s management or the skippers who were driving the boats,” said team CEO Russell Coutts in a statement. “While we disagree with the unprecedented penalties imposed by the Jury, we have no choice but to make the necessary changes to personnel on our race boat and do our best to use the next four days for the new team to practice and get ready for the start of the 34th America’s Cup.”

The scenario creates the most hotly contested America’s Cup race in the storied history of the sport, clearly placing the Oracle Team USA as the underdog in the series against Emirates Team Zealand.  Despite the stupidity of Team USA members for participating in the boat weighting affair, the hard lesson learned has created a more than healthy rivalry with the Kiwi team.

The Kiwi team and the New Zealand media may have overplayed their hand and protested too much, creating an animosity with the American team.  American’s fight best when they are down, and they are assuredly down now, having lost three members of their team and two match points.

The New Zealander team has been together for four years and now the Oracle Team USA has only been selected and together for four days.  That’s quite a contrast, and, combined with the jury’s penalties, puts them in a fight, win or die position.  And, it also adds excitement and a new angle to what has been, up until now, a rather lackluster sporting event in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Hand it to Larry Ellison. Even when his team screws up, they make the best and most exciting things out of it.

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Republicans’ Devious Plan To Slow Down Obamacare Enrollment

Republican lawmakers who had criticized the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for improperly targeting conservative nonprofits for additional scrutiny kicked off an investigation last week into community-based groups who received Navigator grants to help uninsured people enroll in the exchanges established by the Affordable Care Act, demanding that the organizations answer detailed questions and produce thousands of reams of documents.

Fifteen Republican members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, including Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), are requesting detailed responses and thousands of pages of documents from approximately 60 percent of Navigator-recipients across the country by Sep. 13.

The tactic is reminiscent of the kind of practices Republicans had condemned over the summer, after news broke that the IRS subjected certain groups applying for 501 C4 nonprofit tax status to long, intrusive, questionnaires about their filings. Upton personally called such tactics a “thuggish abuse of power” and “simply un-American.”

But according to the GOP-backed letter, groups scrambling to begin enrolling individuals in coverage on Oct. 1, will have just two weeks to provide detailed written descriptions of their employees and activities, interactions with the Department of Health and Human Services, and “all documentation and communication related to your grant.”

Last month, the Obama administration distributed $67 million in federal grants to more than 100 hospitals, universities, Indian tribes, patient advocacy groups and local food banks “to help people sign up for coverage in new online health insurance marketplaces.”

The effort is just the latest attempt by Republicans to undermine enrollment in the Affordable Care Act. Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee have previously sent letters seeking information to entities tasked with educating the public about the law, opened investigations into public relations companies that had been contracted to promote the law on popular television shows, and warned the National Football League (NFL) and National Basketball Association (NBA) against encouraging enrollment in the law.

An HHS spokesperson strongly condemned the committee’s request to Politico, noting, “This is a blatant and shameful attempt to intimidate groups who will be working to inform Americans about their new health insurance options and help them enroll in coverage, just like Medicare counselors have been doing for years.”

 

BY IGOR VOLSKY, Thinkprogress.com

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America’s Cup: Is Emirates New Zealand Team Celebrating America’s Cup Jury Decision Too Soon?

America’s Cup: Jury Rigged?

The level of glee by the Emirates New Zealand  team and news media over foibles of Oracle Team USA has taken such a decidedly nasty turn that members of the International Jury have delayed their decision over what penalties, if any, should be given to defending America’s Cup champion team in the “weighting scandal.”

Clearly, Oracle Team USA made a serious mistake. Who in Hell puts weights on a ship to make it go faster? And, who in Hell does it in “pre-season” matches when it doesn’t matter in scoring America’s Cup races?

It was a stupid move by someone/s on Team USA, but it shouldn’t impact the most sought after silver trophy in the World, The America’s Cup.

But the New Zealand team, and the media down-under, have gone “John Bull Mad” over the alleged scandal and created such an ugly scene they have brought disrepute on themselves as much as Team USA. It’s embarrassing to read the ‘homer” news copy from the Kiwis.

The N.Z. media’s fawning stories about the “cheating scandal” and how it has harmed the sport are hogwash.  The America’s Cup is always controversial and the Kiwi’s namby-pamby media patter has made the entire sport look amateurish, low-class and soft.

The jury should make its decision and it should be fair and square–something that has not been so far with leaks from the Jury and other questionable allegations making their way into the media.

The Jury’s pending decision should not be delayed any longer and the decision must be commensurate with the alleged wrong doing: if no harm and no impact was had on the America’s Cup race itself, why should any of the sailors or Team USA be penalized? Really?

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NFL Veteran Poses Nude for NoH8.

Brendon Ayanbadejo, a 13-year veteran NFL linebacker who most recently played for the Baltimore Ravens, may be best-known for his LGBT advocacy. As a straight ally, Ayanbadejo’s support first came to prominence last summer when a Maryland state lawmaker, Emmett C. Burns, Jr., wrote a bigoted and scathing rebuke of Ayanbadejo to to Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, and demanded he be silenced. Ayanbadejo of course refused.

 

 

Then, you’ll remember, Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe responded to Burns with the world’s best-ever letter to a lawmaker, which used the now famous phrase, “lustful cockmonster.”

Ayanbadejo and Kluwe appeared together at the GLAAD Awards in New York City this year, and Ayanbadejo has continued his strong support of equality. He even has started to tour the country as a civil rights activist public speaker, and continues his work with LGBT organizations, as he did in the above image posted to Facebook by Adam Bouska’s NoH8 Campaign.

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Russia Raids Gay People’s Homes

Russian gay activist Nikolai Alexeyev’s home was among the latest to be raided by prosecutors.

The Russian government’s new law condemning so-called gay propaganda has now encouraged people to report their LGBT neighbors to local authorities.

A notice allegedly from the government says any person who suspects that a neighbor or tenant disseminates “homosexual propaganda” should contact the police immediately, Gay Star News and O-Blog-Dee-O-Blog-Da report.

“Increase your vigilance when you talk to your neighbors, when you are checking your mail and in elevators,” the notice says, according to a translation. “You can easily become a target of homosexual propaganda. There is one step from being homosexual and to start propaganda of homosexualism and molesting decent people.”

Russian prosecutors reportedly raided the home of activist and lawyer Nikolai Alexeyev. According to Reuters, officials ransacked Alexeyev’s home and removed several pieces of electronic equipment.

“Do you think this is all legal?” Alexeyev said to reporters inside his apartment after the raid. “What if they now start raiding flats every day, for instance?

The raid was spurred by a Russian parliament member who lodged a complaint against Alexeyev.

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Thanks To Budget Cuts, The Forest Service Is Out Of Money To Fight Wildfires

The U.S. Forest Service has nearly depleted its budget for fighting wildfires at the peak of wildfire season, a development which hasforced the agency to divert $600 million in funds from timber and other areas to continue fighting fires.

As of Wednesday, the agency was down to $50 million after spending $967 million this year on fighting wildfires. So far in 2013, 33,000 wildfires have burned in the Western U.S., spanning 5,300 square miles and destroying 960 homes and 30 commercial buildings.

This year is the second consecutive year and the sixth year since 2002 that the Forest Service has had to divert funds for fighting fires. The Forest Service’s wildfire fighting budget was slashed by $115 million by automatic, across-the-board sequester cuts that went into effect earlier this year. In addition, a wildfire reserve fund created in 2009, known as the FLAME Act has dropped from $413 million in 2010 to $299 million this year after sequestration. These cuts come as costs to fight wildfires each year are soaring: during the 1990s, the federal government spent less than $1 billion a year fighting wildfires, but since 2002, it’s spent a yearly average of more than $3 billion.

These cuts and the trend of the Forest Service’s depleting funds are made all the more troubling by warnings that wildfires will only become more intense and more frequent and as the climate warms — already, wildfire seasons last about two months longer than in previous decades.

Despite a tragic wildfire in Arizona, the most destructive wildfire in Colorado history, and major fires in Alaska and Idaho, this wildfire season has been less severe than last year in terms of acres burned. So far, wildfires have burned through about 3.5 million acres in the U.S., compared to last year’s 7.1 million acres burned at the same point. But large, explosive fires like the one that killed 19 firefighters in central Arizona earlier this summer are already becoming more common, and as climate change brings higher temperatures, severe drought and expanded insect infestations in many parts of the U.S., conditions are becoming more and more conducive to wildfires.

Despite this year’s relatively small loss of acreage to fires, 51 large, uncontained active wildfires are still burning in the U.S. today — in IdahoMontana, Oregon and an out-of-control fire in California that’s grown to 165 square miles and entered a remote area of Yosemite National Park on Friday. The blaze, known as the “Rim” wildfire, has prompted California Gov. Jerry Brown declare a state of emergency in Tuolumne County on Thursday, and has cost $5.4 million so far.

 

From ThinkProgress

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Did PG&E CEO Tony Earley Lie to Bloomberg News on Bankruptcy Statement on CPUC San Bruno Fine?

 

Did PG&E CEO and Chairman Tony Earley Knowingly Mislead Bloomberg News and Wall Street?

 

Pacific Gas & Electric Company CEO Tony Earley’s statement to Bloomberg News this week has landed the utility executive between a rock and hard place.

The City of San Bruno today criticized statements by the top executive of Pacific Gas & Electric Company who told Bloomberg News on Tuesday that a proposed penalty and fine by the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) for the deadly 2010 PG&E gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno could force the utility into bankruptcy – statements that contradict the sworn legal testimony of PG&E’s own finance expert.

PG&E Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Tony Earley told Bloomberg in a news interview the proposed $2.25 billion penalty and fine for the Sept. 9, 2010 explosion in San Bruno that killed eight, destroyed 38 homes and damaged the community could not be funded with equity alone. He told the news service the penalty would require PG&E shareholders to sell billions in additional stock and, if shares failed to sell, could land PG&E in bankruptcy.

San Bruno city officials said these comments contradict the findings of multiple experts, including PG&E’s own paid finance consultant.

“Mr. Earley’s comments are inconsistent with the company’s own sworn testimony made before the CPUC on March 5 this year,” said San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane. “PG&E’s own expert said the company has the financial capability to withstand a penalty of this magnitude. We are deeply concerned that these comments could mislead the market, shareholders, and the public, and we hope these were not made in a deliberate attempt to influence the outcome of the ongoing penalty process.”

Earlier this year, PG&E’s paid expert, Eric O. Fornell of Wells Fargo Securities, said during a penalty proceeding under oath that it was “doable” for PG&E to issue equity or raise enough capital to cover a $2 billion penalty. His statements followed a separate, impartial report by Overland Consulting, independently commissioned by the CPUC in 2012, which similarly found that PG&E would be able to afford a $2.25 billion penalty without hurting its creditworthiness.

Meanwhile, PG&E stock prices remain strong. PG&E Corp.’s second-quarter earnings rose 39 percent as the utility reported stronger revenue and lower charges related to its natural-gas pipeline efforts, among other items.

The company’s solid financial footing and multiple expert findings are partly what guided the $2.25 billion recommendation of the CPUC’s safety division, which issued its revised penalty proposal in July. The proposed $2.25 billion penalty would fund ongoing safety improvements and include a $300 million fine to PG&E shareholders, which is not tax deductible and would be paid directly to the State of California’s general fund. In addition, the proposal also curtails PG&E’s ability to deduct “credits” for safety repairs made since the 2010 explosion and fire – a provision San Bruno has advocated strongly for.

San Bruno officials said they support elements of the CPUC’s proposed penalty, but given the scope and magnitude of PG&E’s misconduct, they are pushing for a penalty of $3.8 billion, which would amount to $2.45 billion in after-tax dollars. This penalty would also fund ongoing safety improvements and give no credits for past expenses. San Bruno based its recommendation on the Overland report, which determined that PG&E could bear a maximum financial consequence of $2.45 billion and remain solvent.

San Bruno said it will also continue pushing the CPUC to direct PG&E to adopt and fund a series of remedial measures that will ensure systemic regulatory change in the future. These include $5 million per year for a “California Pipeline Safety Trust,” an Independent Monitor to make sure PG&E follows its own safety plan in the face of possible lax enforcement and the installation of lifesaving Automated Shutoff Valves.

The CPUC’s five-member commission is expected to issue its final recommendation in coming months.

“As we approach the three-year anniversary of this devastating tragedy, we remain firm in our belief that the only way to prevent future accidents is by penalizing PG&E to the maximum,” Mayor Ruane said. “The independent experts – even PG&E’s – have agreed that PG&E is financially able to weather a penalty of this magnitude—and then some. We are now looking to the CPUC to do the right thing and penalize PG&E in order to send a strong message that public safety cannot be compromised by the bottom line.”

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Judge Allows Landmark Case Against Anti-Gay Religious Leader to Proceed

In a first-of-its kind case brought by a Ugandan LGBTI advocacy organization against a prominent U.S. anti-gay extremist, a federal judge on Wednesday ruled that persecution on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is a crime against humanity and that the fundamental human rights of LGBTI people are protected under international law.

The ruling means that the case brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) on behalf of Sexual Minorities of Uganda (SMUG), a Uganda-based coalition of LGBTI rights and advocacy groups, can move forward over defendant Scott Lively’s request to dismiss the lawsuit.

 

Scott Lively

“Widespread, systematic persecution of LGBTI people constitutes a crime against humanity that unquestionably violates international norms,” said U.S. District Judge Michael Ponsor.

“The history and current existence ofdiscrimination against LGBTI people is precisely what qualifies them as a distinct targeted group eligible for protection under international law. The fact that a group continues to be vulnerable to widespread, systematic persecution in some parts of the world simply cannot shield one who commits a crime against humanity from liability,” Ponsor rule.

The lawsuit alleges that Lively’s actions over the past decade, in collaboration with key Ugandan government officials and religious leaders, are responsible for depriving LGBTI Ugandans of their fundamental human rights based solely on their identity, which is the definition of persecution under international law and is deemed a crime against humanity.

This effort resulted in, most notably, the introduction of the notorious Anti-Homosexuality Bill — widely know at the “Kill the Gays” bill — which Lively allegedly helped engineer.

Lively is also alleged to have been active in countries like Russia where a new law criminalizing gay rights advocacy was recently passed. In 2007, Lively toured 50 cities in Russia, where he reportedly recommended many of the measures that are now law.

“Today’s ruling is a significant victory for human rights everywhere but most especially for LGBTI Ugandans who are seeking accountability from those orchestrating our persecution,” said Frank Mugisha, the director of SMUG.

“We are gratified that the court recognized the persecution and the gravity of the danger faced by our clients as a result of Scott Lively’s actions,” said Pam Spees, and attorney for CCR. “Lively’s single-minded campaign has worked to criminalize their very existence, strip away their fundamental rights and threaten their physical safety.”

U.S. law allows foreign citizens to sue for violations of international law in U.S. federal courts under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS).

The case, Sexual Minorities Uganda v. Lively, was originally filed in federal court in Springfield, Mass., in March 2012.

FROM www.lgbtqnation.com

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Final Nail in Coffin for Prop 8

In what is most likely the final chapter in the legal fight over California’s 2008 ban on gay marriage, the state Supreme Court has denied a petition by Proposition 8 backers to place a narrow limit on which marriages are legal.

Chief Justice Tani Cantil Sakauye rejected on Wednesday afternoon the final pro-Prop 8 lawsuit.  Plaintiffs argued that a federal judge’s rejection of the gay marriage ban only applied to the couples that filed that 2009 lawsuit — and not to any same sex couple wishing to be married.

That lawsuit was filed on July 12, a little more than two weeks after the historic decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to reject the defense of Prop 8 by its political supporters.

The state’s highest court offered no explanation for its rejection of this last lawsuit, and few legal watchers had given the case much of a chance of success.

A separate case, filed by the clerk of San Diego County and asking for the power to not issue same sex marriage licenses, was also formally resolved Wednesday afternoon.  The high court accepted clerk Ernest Dronenburg’s request, filed earlier this month, to drop the case.

The long legal fight over Proposition 8 dates back to the lawsuit filed by two gay couples in the wake of its passage by voters in November 2008.  A federal judge ruled the state measure a violation of the U.S. constitution in August 2010.  The appeals over that ruling by Prop 8′s backers spanned almost three years, ending in the U.S. Supreme Court decision to deny their legal standing on June 26.

 

News 10 Sacramento

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Study: Single-payer healthcare system would save billions

Expanding the nation’s Medicare program to cover people of all ages would save the government billions of dollars, according to a new study released Wednesday.

The study found that a single-payer health care system based on the principles of legislation by Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act, would save the federal government about $592 billion in one year.

That’s more than enough to pay for comprehensive benefits for all Americans at a lower cost to the public, according to Physicians for a National Health Program, which circulated the study. The extra money would go to paying down the national debt.

The savings would come from slashing administrative waste and negotiating drug prices.

The study was conducted by Gerald Friedman, a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

“Paradoxically, by expanding Medicare to everyone we’d end up saving billions of dollars annually,” Friedman said. “We’d be safeguarding Medicare’s fiscal integrity while enhancing the nation’s health for the long term.”

The study comes as Republicans in Congress are pulling out all the stops to repeal President Obama’s health care overhaul. Tea Party Republicans have in recent weeks vowed to oppose any measures to keep the government running after the current funding bill runs out on Sept. 30 if it also means funding ObamaCare.

Republicans have generally opposed the idea of a single-payer health care system in the past.

 

By Lara Seligman, The Hill

 

 


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Growing Number Of States Are Reporting Lower Than Expected Health Care Premiums

Health premiums in Maryland’s exchanges will be “among the lowest of the 12 states that have available proposed or approved rates for comparison,” the state’s exchange — Maryland Health Connection — announced Friday. The news comes just asNew York,OregonMontanaCalifornia, and Louisiana are also reporting lower than expected premiums.

In Maryland, a 25-year-old will be able to purchase a plan that is more comprehensive than policies currently available on the individual market for $114 per month, while a middle aged adult will have to pay approximately $260 per month for insurance. A 21-year-old non-smoker can start as low as$93 a month. Officials say they used their authority to deny rate increases to reduce the proposed premiums by “more than 50 percent.” Thirty other states have have similar authority.

The prices Marylanders will pay are lower than the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) anticipated, but do cost more than the bare-bones plans that are available today. Residents will have a choice of nine insurance carriers andthree out of four people purchasing coverage through the exchange will qualify for tax credits, further reducing the cost of coverage. Nationally, 6 million out of the 7 million people who are expected to enroll in 2014 will receive subsidies.

“Historically, insurance carriers have been allowed to turn down people with pre-existing conditions and allow only the healthiest individuals into their plans,” said Rebecca Pearce, Executive Director of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange. “In 2014, that will change, and 740,000 Marylanders will have new access to health coverage with more robust benefits.

Earlier this week, the Connecticut exchange announced that since a new insurer lowered its projected premiums, “the average cost for an individual-market HealthyCT plan dropped by 36 percent, from $427 per month to $271.” In Nevada, preliminary costs find that strong competition between insurers in some areas of the state will lower individuals’ premiums.

The news is on track with a report from the Department of Health and Human Services, which found that “the lowest cost silver plan in the individual market in 2014 is, on average, 18 percent less expensive” than past projections.

 

From ThinkProgress

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Ohio Plans Unspeakably Cruel Appeal Of Dying Man’s Last Wish

John Arthur is dying. He is in the terminal stages of Lou Gehrig’s disease and has entered hospice care. Arthur is also gay, and in a 20 year relationship with a man named Jim Obergefell. Because the couple’s home state of Ohio will not allow them to marry, Arthur and Obergefell recently flew to Maryland together and were legally married on the tarmac — just weeks after the Supreme Court’s landmark marriage equality decision in United States v. Windsor. Arthur was unable to rise from his hospice bed.

In his final days, Arthur wants to honor his commitment to his husband. He wants his own death certificate to list Obergefell as his “surviving spouse.” And he wants to die knowing that his partner of 20 years can someday be buried next to him in a family plot bound by a directive that only permits his lawfully wedded spouse to be interred alongside him. And, on Monday, a federal judge ruled that Arthur should indeed have the dignity of dying alongside a man that Ohio will recognize as his husband.

And now, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine (R) wants to take that dignity away from Mr. Arthur. The day after a judge issued a temporary restraining order requiring Ohio to list Arthur’s husband as his “surviving spouse” on his death certificate, DeWine announced that he would appeal this decision and try to strip a dying man of his final wish.

There are marriage equality cases with sweeping national implications. This is not one of them. The judge’s order is limited exclusively to Arthur and Obergefell. Indeed, as the judge explains, “there is absolutely no evidence that the State of Ohio or its citizens will be harmed by the issuance” of an order requiring Ohio to acknowledge the two men’s marriage. “No one beyond Plaintiffs themselves will be affected by such a limited order at all.”

There are also marriage equality cases where a great deal of money is at stake. But this is not one of those either. In Windsor, plaintiff Edith Windsor sought $363,053 in estate taxes she was forced to pay because the federal government would not acknowledge her marriage to a woman. Arthur, by contrast, hardly has an estate to tax. He and his husband had to raise donations to cover the cost of their flight to Maryland.

Yet, while Ohio has nothing to gain from refusing to comply with the judges’ order, Arthur and Obergefell have a tremendous amount to lose. Thanks to DeWine’s appeal, Arthur will spend his last days unsure whether he and his husband can someday lie together in his family burial plot. The two men’s final moments will be poisoned by uncertainty over their lawsuit. And Obergefell will likely be forced to spend his first weeks as a widower caught up in discussions with his lawyers about the litigation itself. The couple also could lose their case. Most of the judges on the appeals court that will hear their case are Republicans.

There is a common refrain among marriage equality’s opponents that discrimination is necessary to remove some kind of “threat” equality poses to straight couples’ marriages. This case is a put up or shut up moment for these voices. Who, exactly, will divorce because Ohio will acknowledge one gay couple’s marriage? What strife will result when Obergefell someday is laid to rest next to Arthur? Where is the wife that will leave her husband because Arthur died alongside his? Who does DeWine think he is serving by filing this appeal?

Someday very soon, Obergefell will go home, lie in an empty bed, and confront for the first time the prospect of a life without his husband. In that moment of loss, he believes he will find some comfort if the State of Ohio acknowledges that he feels the same pain that he would have felt if he were married to a woman. That’s what DeWine wants to take away. And it will gain the people of Ohio nothing.

 

From ThinkProgress

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Coca-Cola, VISA, Procter&Gamble, Samsung, and Panasonic: Stand for Human Rights and Pull Sponsorship from the 2014 Winter Olympics

From Change.org

As host of the 2014 Olympics in Sochi this coming February, Russia will open its arms to visitors from around the world — so long as they’re not gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. At least, that’s what gay rights activists fear after the government passed one of the most draconian anti-gay laws on the planet this week.

RUSA LGBT, a Russian-speaking American association for members of the gay community, has called for a boycott of the Sochi Olympics. It said gay athletes and spectators would not be safe in Russia after a law passed last month in Russia’s Parliament and signed earlier this week by President Vladimir Putin banned “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” and established steep fines for anyone equating the value of same-sex relationships with those between individuals of the opposite sex. Foreigners charged with such “propaganda” could be subject to arrest, 15 days in jail, deportation and fines up to $3,000.

Travel industry website eTurboNews notes: “It is now literally illegal in Russia to say that you are gay. It is illegal to kiss your partner in public — say, after you win a gold medal. It is illegal for a gay athlete to wear the rainbow flag. Or even to acknowledge during an interview that they are gay — or for the foreign press to acknowledge it — unless they mention that gay sexual orientation in a negative way.”

In response to the new legislation, the International Olympic Committee reiterated its “long commitment to non-discrimination against those taking part in the Olympic Games.” The Switzerland-based body also stated, “Athletes of all sexual orientations will be welcome at the Olympic Games.” However, RUSA LGBT is not convinced.

“We want to know how they can ensure this in a country with state-sponsored homophobia backed by federal law? How can one attend the Sochi Olympics without compromising one’s integrity by supporting the economy of a country that promotes hate against the LGBT community?”

The gay rights organization said the Russian Federation had shown little regard for the freedoms of all of its citizens and instead “promoted a vicious onslaught of state-sponsored homophobic legislation to distract the public from government corruption and other social ills.”

Boris Dittrich, advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, sent a letter to IOC Director General Christophe De Kepper last month before the anti-gay law passed that detailed the group’s concerns. Dittrich called the law “clearly incompatible with the Olympic Charter’s promotion of ‘human dignity,’ as well as a blatant violation of Russia’s international legal obligations to guarantee non-discrimination and respect for freedom of expression.” He continued by asking the IOC to “ensure, without distinction, the safety and the freedom of expression and association of all athletes, coaches, fans and others who will attend the Sochi Games.”

Human Rights Watch also expressed concerns that Russia had impeded efforts to create an Olympic Pride House in Sochi, potentially ending an Olympic tradition that began in Vancouver. Its founders hoped to offer information regarding homophobia in sports and promote LGBT rights during the Games, but Russian authorities said the Pride House would “contradict the foundations of public morality and government policy in the area of protection of the family, motherhood and childhood.” The organizers have since appealed to the European Court of Human Rights.

Some gay rights activists like RUSA LGBT have asked corporate sponsors and partners of the Sochi Olympics — including Coca-Cola, VISA, Omega Watches, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Procter & Gamble, Samsung and Panasonic — to withdraw their support and funding unless Russia can ensure the safety of all visitors to the Olympic Games. A poll conducted Tuesday by the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper, meanwhile, found that 56 percent of readers believed the U.S. should boycott the Olympics altogether because of Russia’s anti-gay law.”

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Prince William and Kate’s Royal Baby Boy is Third in Line to British Throne

Prince William’s wife Kate gave birth to a boy on Monday, the couple’s first child and the third in line to the British throne, heralding celebrations in London and messages of goodwill from across the world.

“We could not be happier,” Prince William said in a brief statement, after he witnessed the birth of his son at 4:24 p.m. (11:24 a.m. ET), an event that sparked an international media frenzy and the illumination of London landmarks in blue.

His office said Kate and the baby, weighing 8 lbs 6 oz (3.8 kg) and to be publicly named at a later date, were both doing well and would stay in hospital overnight.

Prince William phoned his grandmother the queen to give her the news, and also contacted his father Prince Charles and brother Prince Harry, all of whom were said to be delighted. The addition to the family is third in line to the throne after Prince Charles and William.

It might take some time for the name to emerge however. The announcement of William’s name took more than a week, but bookmakers make George the favorite, followed by James.

As the birth of the queen’s third great-grandchild was announced, a loud cheer went up from the well-wishers and media gathered outside St. Mary’s Hospital in west London, where William was also born to the late Princess Diana in 1982.

“It is an incredibly special moment for William and Catherine and we are so thrilled for them on the birth of their baby boy,” said Prince Charles, the heir to the throne.

Within minutes, messages of congratulations began flooding in, while crowds gathered outside the queen’s London residence Buckingham Palace where an official notice was placed on a gold-colored easel at the main gates.

U.S. President Barack Obama was one of the first world leaders to welcome the birth.

“Michelle and I are so pleased to congratulate The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the joyous occasion of the birth of their first child,” he said. “We wish them all the happiness and blessings parenthood brings.”

The royal couple, officially known as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, had arrived at the hospital shortly before 6 a.m. and entered through a back door to avoid massed ranks of British and international media camped outside the main entrance.

Kate and William, both aged 31, met when they were students at St. Andrews University and were married in April 2011 in a spectacular wedding broadcast around the world.

FRENZY

The royal birth has provoked a similar frenzy, with media keeping up a deluge of speculative reports for days beforehand and particularly throughout Monday.

“Right across the country and indeed right across the Commonwealth people will be celebrating and wishing the royal couple well,” Prime Minister David Cameron told waiting reporters in Downing Street.

“It is an important moment in the life of our nation but I suppose above all it’s a wonderful moment for a warm and loving couple who got a brand new baby boy.”

Outside Buckingham Palace, there was a party atmosphere with well-wishers laying flowers and teddy bears, singing “God Save the Queen” and “Happy Birthday”, and children waving flags.

“The build up to the birth has been so big I’m just happy it’s finally come. I’m pleased it’s a boy, you always want a boy really,” said Alice Durrans, who rushed from a nearby restaurant after hearing the news.

Deborah Beeson, a banker from the United States, was ecstatic.

“It’s wonderful. I got chills. I cried,” she said. “You know America loves Kate. She’s just beautiful, she has dignity.”

There will be a 41-gun salute at London’s Hyde Park and 62 rounds fired at the Tower of London on Tuesday to herald news of the birth.

The baby arrives at a time when the royal family is riding a wave of popularity. An Ipsos Mori poll last week showed 77 percent of Britons were in favor of remaining a monarchy over a republic, close to its best-ever level of support.

DARK DAYS

The dark days for the House of Windsor after the death of William’s mother Princess Diana in 1997, which led to public anger at the royals, have been replaced with outpourings of support for William and Kate’s wedding and the Diamond Jubilee for the queen last summer.

“It’s been a remarkable few years for our royal family,” Cameron said.

The couple, who have been living in a cottage in north Wales where William is based as a Royal Air Force helicopter pilot, will eventually take up residence with their baby at Apartment 1A at London’s Kensington Palace when a 1 million pound refurbishment is completed later this year.

The palace was also William’s childhood home.

The young royal couple have become global stars after some 2 billion people tuned in to watch their glittering marriage ceremony in 2011, while Kate is seen as a fashion icon.

(Additional reporting by Belinda Goldsmith, Sarah Young, Limei Hoang and Mark Anderson; Editing by Angus MacSwan, Michael Roddy and Eric Beech)

 

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Florida Trial for Another White Man for Killing a Black Teen: Will Lightning Strike Twice or Will We Wake Up?

(The Root) — Just two days after a jury acquitted George Zimmerman, Jacksonville, Fla., lawyer Cory Strolla stood in the Florida State Court hallway and spoke to a huddle of reporters.

“I worry they’re going to say, ‘We lost Zimmerman, so let’s get Michael Dunn,’ ” Strolla said, referring to Florida State Attorney Angela Corey.

Strolla, an experienced defense lawyer, said he was worried that Dunn, his client, will get the punishment that Zimmerman did not. In November 2012, Dunn, a 46-year-old white Florida software developer, shot and killed 17-year-old Jordan Davis, an unarmed black boy, after a verbal confrontation about loud music in a Jacksonville convenience-store parking lot. But victims-rights and gun control advocates, Jordan’s parents and others watching the case fear that Strolla is terribly wrong and another Florida civilian with a gun will not be punished for taking the life of yet another unarmed black teen because, like Zimmerman, Dunn says he was afraid.

Sometime between now and September, Dunn is expected to seek immunity — that’s an all-out free pass on any criminal or financial penalties — in a “Stand your ground” hearing in front of a Florida judge. Dunn will have to convince the judge that he feared for his life. If that effort fails, a Florida judge and jury in one of the most conservative and gun-loving parts of the state will wade through an admixture of stereotypes and suspicion, as well as Florida gun-possession and weapons-use policies, to determine Dunn’s fate.

Some combination of that same cocktail sent Zimmerman home a free man. So Jordan’s parents, gun control and victims-rights advocates are all asking the same question: Could it happen again?

“As crazy as that sounds,” said Sam Hoover, a staff attorney at the San Francisco-based nonprofit Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, “that’s a distinct possibility. The reality is that Florida law gives these shooters an escape.”

Zimmerman’s lawyers did not make an explicit “Stand your ground” claim before his trial began, but testimony about the law was introduced. And because it is a part of Florida’s legal code, “Stand your ground” language is included in the jury’s instructions, something that could not have happened before the 2005 law was passed.

Ladd Everitt, communications director for the Washington, D.C.-based Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, a nonprofit lobbying group, bluntly described what could happen as Dunn’s case moves forward.

“What people have to understand is that ‘Stand your ground’ legalized murder,” he said. “If you happen to be a concealed-carry permit holder, well, you might get off scot-free, even if someone is dead.”

Jordan’s parents, already carrying the burden of losing their son to a legally armed and emboldened Florida civilian, are, like many other Americans, reeling from the Zimmerman verdict. They have, according to their lawyer, grown particularly close to Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin’s parents.

Together, the two sets of divorced parents form a fraternity to which no one seeks entry. Both have lobbied Congress for gun control reforms and described concealed-carry permit laws and the “Stand your ground” laws as the legal equivalent of a plague. Right now, Jordan’s parents aren’t talking to reporters. They are trying to offer Martin and Fulton support while hoping and praying that a Florida court will see what happened to their son differently.

“The facts of the two cases are very different,” said John Phillips, a Jacksonville lawyer representing Jordan’s parents. “But the tragedy and the set of laws that I think we all saw last week compound the Trayvon Martin tragedy, they are the same. So it’s not clear — not in the way that it ought to be — how much Dunn really has to fear.”

Day at the Mall Ends Tragically

Nov. 23, 2012, Jordan and three friends set out on a parent-free trip to the mall. Davis’ friend, a teenager with access to a Dodge SUV, did the driving. On the way home, one of the four wanted to stop for a pack of cigarettes, according to police reports and court records.

While three of the boys, including Jordan, waited for the fourth to emerge from the convenience store, they listened to music. A black Volkswagen pulled up. The car’s driver, Dunn, told his girlfriend that he hated the “thug music” coming from the SUV next to them. The woman hopped out to grab a bottle of wine. It wasn’t long before Dunn barked at the teens in the SUV, telling them that their music was too loud.

One boy turned the music down. Jordan took off his seat belt and turned it back up. Dunn started yelling. Witnesses heard Dunn scream that Jordan could “not talk to me that way.” Within minutes, Dunn pulled a gun and, after positioning himself inside his car, fired at the SUV as its teenage driver attempted to flee. Eight of Dunn’s bullets punctured the car, coming dangerously close to the heads and limbs of the teenagers inside. Two entered Jordan’s body, lodging in his chest and groin. Dunn sped away from the scene.

The next time Ron Davis saw his son, the teen was lying in a hospital trauma room covered up to his chin with a white hospital sheet. Jordan was already dead.

Witnesses at the convenience store managed to jot down Dunn’s plate number. It didn’t take law enforcement long to find him at his Satellite Beach, Fla., condo, about two-and-a-half hours south of Jacksonville, and bring him in for questioning.

When they did, Dunn explained that the teens had “defied” his “orders.” Dunn’s initial lawyer also told local reporters that Dunn had fired on the car 10 times because he was certain he had seen the muzzle of a shotgun emerging from one of the SUV’s rear windows. And Dunn was certain that the black “men” in the car had summoned gang members to come to their aid. Dunn, said the lawyer (who has since been replaced by Strolla), had reason to fear for his life. Sheriff’s deputies in Jacksonville didn’t agree and arrested Dunn on the spot.

Law-enforcement officials investigating the shooting never found a shotgun and say that none of the teens, including Jordan, was armed. They were, in fact, the kind of smartphone- and video game-obsessed teens, model and average students, who had nothing to do with gangs, Jordan’s parents and their lawyer insist.

Jordan was a natural charmer with the looks to pull what Rolling Stone called a “smoking-hot girlfriend,” but also the manners, family and grades to make his friend’s parents welcome him into their homes. He was the son, Ron Davis said earlier this year, that every father wants and whose death would transform most parents into staunch and vocal opponents of Florida’s gun laws.

Florida Has the Most Concealed-Weapon Permits

Dunn’s alleged behavior confirms what gun control advocates like Kristen Rand, legislative director at the Washington, D.C.-based Violence Policy Center, already think about the more than 1 million men and women in Florida – more than any other state – who have been given permission by the state to carry a concealed weapon.

“The whole theory was to put more guns in the hands of ‘good guys’ who were going to use those guns against ‘bad guys,’ and what we are seeing is, that has no basis in reality,” Rand said. “Concealed-carry permit holders, it seems, are a rather paranoid lot who regularly pull their guns on people, shoot people and escalate situations that might be a fistfight into a deadly situation.”

Rand admits that her opinion is not based on a definitive look at state data. National Rifle Association lobbyists have managed to bar the state from collecting or distributing anything more than the most basic information about permit holders. The Violence Policy Center does maintain its own database of shootings involving concealed-carry permit holders, based on what can be culled from news reports. All told, 516 people have been killed by shooters with concealed-carry permits, according to the center’s data.

Both Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis are a part of that victim list.

Still, Florida isn’t just one of 49 states with a concealed-carry law. It has been a sort of gun-policy laboratory for the NRA, said Hoover, of the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

In 1987 Florida became the nation’s first “shall issue” state, meaning that law-enforcement officials are required to issue concealed-carry permits to almost everyone who requests one, Hoover said. (This is in contrast to a “may issue” state, where the applicant needs a reason to carry a gun.) People with felony convictions and those who have been committed to a mental hospital are the only exceptions. But smaller-scale criminals, stalkers and even people with known mental illnesses must be issued permits. The NRA pushed for the change, Hoover said.

“Stand Your Ground” Laws Don’t Deter Crime

Then, in 2005, the NRA convinced Florida’s legislators to change the state’s self-defense standard. When they did, not only did people in Florida become able to stand their ground in the face of danger, but state prosecutors also somehow had to prove that the shooter was not afraid in order to send the person to prison.

Today more than 30 states have adopted some version of the same “Stand your ground” law.

2012 Texas A&M University study found that “Stand your ground” laws in Florida and 19 other states didn’t deter violent crime. Instead, the study found a clear increase in homicides in those states — about 700 additional killings nationwide each year.

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Centerplate and Teamsters Reach Agreement for Employees at AT&T Park, Other SF Venues: New Pressure on Local 2 UNITE HERE to Bargain in Good Faith

San Francisco—Centerplate, one of the largest hospitality and concession companies in North America, and San Francisco’s Teamsters Local 853 recently announced the ratification of a collective bargaining agreement for 200 retail and food service employees working at AT&T Park, Candlestick, and the Cow Palace. The agreement, which extends through March 31, 2016, includes an immediate wage increase, a signing bonus and excellent health and welfare benefits.

The announcement comes as Local 2 Unite Here refuses to respond to Centerplate’s proposals for a wage increase and bonus for food service workers at AT&T Park and Candlestick. Rather than negotiating a fair deal with Centerplate, Local 2′s Union boss, Mike Casey, has stated for months he will not agree to Centerplate’s economic proposal while at the same time refusing to provide a counter proposal.

“Centerplate would like to thank the Teamsters for working with us to achieve a deal for our employees and provide our team with the wages and benefits they deserve,” said Sam Singer, spokesperson for Centerplate. “It is bizarre to us that we can come to terms with the Teamsters in a matter of hours for an agreement that provides for improved wages, while Local 2 continues to focus on irrelevant issues. We invite Local 2 to return to the table with a renewed sense of urgency to accept our proposal that immediately puts money in the pockets of our employees—their members,” said Singer.

The agreement reached between Centerplate and the Teamsters took a total of 6 hours and includes the following terms:

1)      An immediate $1.50 per hour increase and a minimum of a $.40 per hour increase in years 2 and 3 of the contract for Food Service workers;

2)      A $500 signing bonus for Food Service workers who worked at least 40 events last year;

3)      An immediate $1.40 per hour increase and a $.30 per hour increase for years 2 and 3 of the contract for Merchandise workers;

4)      A $100 signing bonus for Merchandise workers who worked at least 40 events last year; and

5)      A $5,000 increase in pension contributions per year, raising Centerplate’s annual pension contribution to $20,000 per year.

Last month, Local 2 union leaders walked out on contract negotiations with Centerplate and a Federal Mediator, once again failing to make an economic counter proposal, thereby denying, for the time being, Centerplate’s employees at AT&T Park and Candlestick the economic benefits that would flow from a new contract.

“We hope this sends a clear message to Unite Here’s labor boss, Mike Casey, that it’s possible that we can reach a fair and reasonable deal, but that doing so requires both parties to focus on the best outcome for Centerplate’s employees, not on third parties,” said Singer. “These past few months, Mike Casey has spent almost as much time picketing and demonstrating as he has sitting at the negotiation table where a fair deal awaits Centerplate employees. Ultimately, it’s the employees who are paying the price. Centerplate’s deal with the Teamsters demonstrates again that we are willing to deliver bonuses, salary increases, and the health and welfare security that our employees deserve,” said Singer.

Under Union boss Casey, Local 2 continues to make non-economic demands outside of the concessionaire’s control and has threatened years of potential labor strife and demonstrations. In May, Local 2 was sued by Centerplate for attempting to illegally force the San Francisco Giants into signing a “successor addendum” that would bind the baseball team, and any future concessionaire at AT&T Park, to the same terms Local 2 negotiates with Centerplate. This action is illegal under federal labor law, Centerplate officials said, because the foodservice employees at AT&T Park are employed by Centerplate and not the San Francisco Giants, who are being unfairly dragged into a fight that is not theirs to have.

As a seasonal, part-time labor force, Centerplate’s employees currently earn the highest wages in the nation, making an average of approximately $15 to $20 per hour. These part-time employees also receive some of the best benefits, with fully paid healthcare individually and for their families. Most of these workers do not work enough hours to qualify for health benefits under Obamacare, but Centerplate has provided it to them all along.

To ensure seamless exceptional service for fans, Centerplate has made an offer than includes:

  • A ratification bonus of approximately 4.5 percent—$500—for those who worked more than 40 games in 2012;
  • A 1.7 percent annual wage increase on top of what already is the best compensation package in the industry;
  • Increased contribution of 9.2 percent to the Unite Here benefit plans; and
  • Employer paid health care for employees and their families.

For months, Centerplate has been in negotiations over a new contract. Local 2 delayed requesting negotiations for nearly two years and, even after it first offered to bargain, Local 2 dragged its feet and delayed negotiations. Throughout this time, Centerplate has been encouraging Local 2 to move quickly to find a solution.

“Nothing is more important to Centerplate than our employee partners and the customer service experience we provide guests. Local 2’s actions and demands are an attack on our guests and the community groups we partner with at AT&T Park and Candlestick. It is time for Local 2 to come back to the table and focus on a realistic agreement,” Singer said.

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Virginia GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Wants To Outlaw Oral Sex, Even For Married Couples

Virginia Republican Gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli is now obsessed with oral sex in addition to his obsession with anal sex. Apparently he wants to spy on everyone’s bedrooms and arrest people who engage in either legal act, even if they are married couples.

Cuccinelli unveiled a new website on Wednesday dedicated to his cause of forever banning consenting adults from having oral and anal sex in the privacy of their bedrooms

His goal is “to reinstate Virginia’s unconstitutional Crimes Against Nature law,” ThinkProgress reports. “The rule, which makes felons out of even consenting married couples who engage in oral or anal sex in the privacy of their own homes, was struck down by federal courts after Cuccinelli blocked efforts to bring it in line with the Supreme Court’s 2003 Lawrence v. Texas ruling.” That ruling struck down laws that intrude upon the personal and private lives of consenting adults. In other words, it is unconstitutional to arrest people for engaging in private sexual acts.

According to the Crimes Against Nature Law that Cuccinelli supports,

If any person carnally knows in any manner any brute animal, or carnally knows any male or female person by the anus or by or with the mouth, or voluntarily submits to such carnal knowledge, he or she shall be guilty of a Class 6 felony.

Cuccinelli claims the law is only aimed at child predators, prostitution, non-consenting actions, and public sex, but the problem is that there are provisions in the law, like the one above, that still criminalize sex acts performed by consenting adults, even though the Supreme Court has effectively struck those particular provisions down. But Cuccinelli wants to defy the Court and reinstate the law anyway.

One has to wonder how Cuccellini knows so much about “carnal knowledge” and why he is so obsessed with it. Did Cuccinelli have bad experiences in the past that led him to try and outlaw these sex acts for everyone? Perhaps he feels that since he can’t have a good time, no one else should be allowed to? Is he simply jealous? It just boggles the mind to wonder why Cuccinelli is so adamant about regulating what people do in the privacy of their own homes. And that brings us to another question. How will he enforce his law if he gets what he wants?

Unless Cuccinelli plans to hire a police officer to stand guard outside the bedrooms of every man and woman in the state, he will fail to stop consenting adults from engaging in the sex acts he despises. Of course, he could always use drones, which is frightening to think about. Is Cuccinelli literally going to spy on our bedrooms to find people breaking his law? Either option would require unprecedented man power, not to mention millions of taxpayer dollars. Simply put, it’s a waste of time and money to worry about what consenting adults do with each other in private. The state would be far better off targeting child molesters and rapists which everyone agrees should be arrested and punished.

This is what the Republican Party has turned into. The once proud party of small government and privacy now wants to use government to literally regulate what Americans do in their bedrooms, and there is a fundamental reason why. It’s called religious extremism.

Ken Cuccinelli once said, “I think in a natural law based country it’s appropriate to have policies that reflect that.” By “natural law” Cuccinelli means Christian law or Biblical law. He wants to bring Biblical law to the state of Virginia and force everyone to abide by it whether they are Christians or not. Such laws would strip women of their reproductive rights, ban same-sex marriage, ban unmarried couples from having sex, ban unmarried couples from living together, ban birth control, force women to submit to their husbands, and ban any sexual activities that fundamentalist Christians disagree with, including oral and anal sex. Such laws are also entirely unconstitutional and would destroy the civil laws in which this country was founded.

If Virginians don’t want to be spied on or arrested for what they do in the privacy of their own homes, Ken Cuccinelli is not the person they should vote for as Governor. He would put Bob McDonnell, aka “Governor Ultrasound,” to shame. If Ken Cuccinelli hates anal and oral sex so much, the answer is simply. Just don’t do it. But don’t try to use government and police resources and taxpayer money to stop every other consenting adult from doing it. Republicans are hypocrites for trying to legislate what we can and can’t do in our bedrooms. That kind of government is not “small government.” Only big government, REALLY big government, has the power to do such a thing. Millions of people would have to be spied on and arrested in order for Cuccinelli’s “natural law” to work. It would turn Virginia into a police state where Biblical law supersedes the Constitution. Is that what Virginians really want for their state?

From addictinginfo.com

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Major Victory for Drakes Bay Oyster Co. as Marin Court Allows Farm to Remain Open Until Federal Lawsuit is Resolved

Amy Trainer, Environmental Action Committee of West Marin executive director, discredited by false statements against Drakes Bay Oyster Co. Court makes favorable  judgement for DBOC

A Marin County Superior Court Judge put two orders by the California Coastal Commission on the back burner that would have forced the historic Drakes Bay Oyster Company (DBOC) to shut down prior to the resolution of a pending federal lawsuit.

“We are pleased that the court stayed the restoration order, recognizing that it was inappropriate for the Commission to act while the federal permit is still  under review by the Court,” said DBOC owner, Kevin Lunny.  “We are  troubled, however, that the Commission continues to misrepresent the oyster farm operations to the public and the Court. We are confident that theirmisrepresentations will be revealed for what they are—completely unfounded and contradictory with their own reports—when the hearing on the merits occurs,” he said.

In February 2013, the Commission issued a Cease and Desist Order and Restoration Order against Drakes Bay, alleging that the historic farm was not complying with required standards and was harming harbor seals, eelgrass and the environment of Drakes Estero. These allegations were  repeatedly proven to be false by the Nation’s top scientists and the Commission’s own reports.

A special Commission Trip Report, prepared in 2007, directly contradicts the two major claims the Commission has made in court. The Commission argued that the oyster farm harms harbor seals because “there are boats cruising around near harbor seals”, but its report admits that “servicing the oyster bags located several hundred yards away from the haul-out sites probably would not result in disturbance to the seals.”  The Commission also argued that DBOC is “expanding” operations, but its own report admitted that the historical production cap was 700,000 pounds/year, a recommended level of production which DBOC has not violated.

Even the Commission’s own vice-chair, Steve Kinsey, has called the Commission’s treatment of DBOC “morally disturbing.” Kinsey stated that the Commission has “repeated the same disproven assertions that the operation was harming harbor seals and eelgrass” and “chosen to portray the Lunnys as irresponsible operators to aid and abet the Park Service’s myopic interest in terminating the lease.”

“With the support of our employees, thousands of environmentalists, community members and elected leaders around the nation, we will continue to fight and remain confident and hopeful that we will be successful in the next stages of our legal battle,” Lunny stated.

Recently,  Amy Trainer, Director of the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin, has been  exposed in a series of false statements against Drakes Bay Oyster Co.  Trainer has issued a series of false news releases and made statements regarding  the scientific evidence about the benefits of oyster farming.  She and the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin, were also behind the false statements that the DBOC was being funded by the conservative Koch brothers.  It has been proven there was no tie or link between the Koch brothers and DBOC and Trainer and her environmental group have been discredited.

About Drakes Bay Oyster Company

Oyster farming in Drakes Estero, located in Point Reyes, MarinCounty, has been part of the region’s history for nearly 100 years. The Lunnys, a fourth-generation Point Reyesranching family, purchased Drakes Bay Oyster Company in 2004 to revive a historical part of the local community and ensure the continued environmental health of Drakes Estero.  DrakesBaycurrently employs nearly 30 community members, and farms sustainably in Drakes Estero, producing approximately one-third of all oysters in California. The Lunny family works hard to participate in keeping the agricultural economic system in West Marin alive. DrakesBayactively participates in the creation of a more sustainable food model that restores, conserves, and maintains the productivity of the local landscapes and the health of its inhabitants. For more information, please visit www.drakesbayoyster.com.

 

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5 Million Farmers Sue Monsanto for $7.7 Billion

Launching a lawsuit against the very company that is responsible for a farmer suicide every 30 minutes, 5 million farmers are now suing Monsanto for as much as 6.2 billion euros (around 7.7 billion US dollars).

The reason? As with many other cases, such as the ones that led certain farming regions to be known as the ‘suicide belt’, Monsanto has been reportedly taxing the farmers to financial shambles with ridiculous royalty charges.

The farmers state that Monsanto has been unfairly gathering exorbitant profits each year on a global scale from “renewal” seed harvests, which are crops planted using seed from the previous year’s harvest.

The practice of using renewal seeds dates back to ancient times, but Monsanto seeks to collect massive royalties and put an end to the practice. Why? Because Monsanto owns the very patent to the genetically modified seed, and is charging the farmers not only for the original crops, but the later harvests as well. Eventually, the royalties compound and many farmers begin to struggle with even keeping their farm afloat. It is for this reason that India slammed Monsanto with groundbreaking ‘biopiracy’ charges in an effort to stop Monsanto from ‘patenting life’.

Jane Berwanger, a lawyer for the farmers who went on record regarding the case, told the Associted Press:

“Monsanto gets paid when it sell the seeds. The law gives producers the right to multiply the seeds they buy and nowhere in the world is there a requirement to pay (again). Producers are in effect paying a private tax on production.”

The findings echo what thousands of farmers have experienced in particularly poor nations, where many of the farmers are unable to stand up to Monsanto. Back in 2008, the Daily Mail covered what is known as the ‘GM Genocide’, which is responsible for taking the lives of over 17,683 Indian farmers in 2009 alone. After finding that their harvests were failing and they started to enter economic turmoil, the farmers began ending their own lives — oftentimes drinking the very same insecticide that Monsanto provided them with.

As the information continues to surface on Monsanto’s crimes, further lawsuits will begin to take effect. After it was ousted in January that Monsanto was running illegal ‘slave-like’ working rings, more individuals became aware of just how seriously Monsanto seems to disregard their workers — so why would they care for the health of their consumers? In April 2012, another group of farmers sued Monsanto for ‘knowingly poisoning’ workers and causing ‘devastating birth defects’.

From Realfarmacy

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Daniels Denies Trying to Quash Academic Freedom

From the AP

Purdue University President Mitch Daniels on Wednesday denied trying to quash academic freedom while serving as Indiana’s governor, a day after an Associated Press report cited emails in which he opposed use of a book by historian and antiwar activist Howard Zinn.

Conservative free speech advocates rose to his defense, saying it was appropriate for Daniels to express concern about what was taught in the state’s public institutions. The leader of the school’s faculty senate, meanwhile, said it was too soon to say if the university’s professors would conduct a review of Daniels’ actions.

Emails published Tuesday by the AP show Daniels tried to ensure Zinn’s book was not used in Indiana’s K-12 classrooms and colleges and that he wanted to “disqualify the propaganda” he said was being taught to teachers in training at Indiana’s colleges.

In a statement posted on Purdue’s website on Wednesday, Daniels said, “In truth, my emails infringed on no one’s academic freedom and proposed absolutely no censorship of any person or viewpoint.”

“In fact, the question I asked on one day in 2010 had nothing to do with higher education at all. I merely wanted to make certain that Howard Zinn’s textbook, which represents a falsified version of history, was not being foisted upon our young people in Indiana’s public K-12 classrooms.”

The emails show, however, that Daniels ordered a “cleanup of what is credit-worthy” at Indiana’s colleges after he was told Zinn’s book was being used at an Indiana University summer course for teachers. And in another email unrelated to Zinn or K-12 classrooms, he discussed cutting funding for a program run by a university professor who was one of his sharpest critics.

Daniels called the AP report “unfair and erroneous” in interviews with reporters at Purdue on Wednesday, but declined to speak with the AP. Neither he nor his spokesperson replied to questions about his statement’s focus on K-12 classrooms despite the emails’ references to classes taught at the state’s public universities.

Zinn was a historian, playwright and activist who taught political science at Boston University until retiring in 1988. His book, “A People’s History of the United States,” addresses American history from the viewpoint of those whose plights he said were often omitted from most history textbooks. It has been widely criticized by many conservatives and scholars and characterized by historian Eugene D. Genovese as “incoherent left-wing sloganizing.”

In an email on Feb. 9, 2010, obtained by the AP through a public records request, Daniels called the book “a truly execrable, anti-factual piece of disinformation that misstates American history on every page.” He noted that it was widely used in high schools and colleges around the country.

His education adviser responded that the book was being used at Indiana University in a course for licensed teachers, who need such college credits to retain their license. Daniels quickly replied that the course should not be recognized for licensing teachers in Indiana.

Purdue spokeswoman Julie Rosa said Wednesday Daniels was questioning “whether the state should endorse through its regulatory approval ‘professional development’ training of already licensed teachers to use false history in their classrooms.”

The publication of the emails sparked reaction in higher education circles, with some educators expressing alarm that a top state official would try to censor teachings.

“It is ultimately bad for democracy. No head of state should engage in any form of censorship,” said Gerardo Gonzalez, dean of the Indiana University College of Education.

Purdue alumni who opposed Daniels’ selection last year renewed their call for his removal. They had earlier questioned his academic credentials and suitability for the position.

“I’m hopeful that this new information, which shows more people the side of Daniels we have always known existed, will energize people to work to have him removed,” said Aaron Hoover, a spokesman for Society for an Open and Accountable Purdue and a 2008 graduate.

But some doubted the email revelation would have much impact on Daniels beyond initial discomfort because they were written long before he took over at Purdue. He was named the university’s president in January after being unanimously selected by the board of trustees, most of whose members he appointed while governor. They reaffirmed their support for him on Wednesday.

“President Daniels has stated and demonstrated his complete commitment to freedom of inquiry and has been an emphatic voice for that freedom,” the board said in a statement.

Robert O’Neil, former president of the University of Virginia and a leading expert on academic free speech issues, said the broader response to the emails would depend on whether such expressions by Daniels were limited to his time as governor or continued after taking over at Purdue.

“I suspect there are some Purdue faculty who would give him a pass and others who would find it censurable,” O’Neil said.

David Williams, chairman of the Purdue University Senate, said he is waiting to see how the story is received before deciding to conduct any review of Daniels. He added he is confident Daniels has little power as president to quash dissenting views at the university.

“The academic side of Purdue University is controlled by the faculty. Period. End of story,” Williams wrote in an email.

Daniels emails reflect his effort to change how teachers are trained in Indiana, including pushing students away from colleges of education, which conservatives nationwide argue instill liberal ideology in their students. The effort stalled somewhat after Daniels left office, but is still being pushed by his appointees to the State Board of Education.

Peter Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars, a group associated with conservative academic causes, said it was appropriate for Daniels to express concern about was taught in public institutions and to object to the use of Zinn’s book, which Wood called “trashy pseudo-history.”

“Faculty members make their own best judgments about what to teach and how to teach it,” Wood said. “But that’s not an absolute principle. They have to recognize that that academic freedom they enjoy comes with responsibilities.”

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San Bruno Commends Improved CPUC Recommendation to Punish PG&E, Demands Even Tougher Remedies from Regulators

San Francisco—The City of San Bruno today commended the latest legal filing by the California Public Utilities Commission’s safety division and called the improved penalty and fine proposal of $2.25 billion against Pacific Gas & Electric Company “a step in the right direction” to punish the utility for its gross negligence that caused the Sept. 9, 2010 San Bruno explosion and fire.

 

San Bruno officials have long demanded that PG&E pay the maximum for the tragic explosion and fire that took eight lives, destroyed 38 homes, and damaged scores more.  The City today said it will continue its push for additional remedies, including lifesaving fully automated safety shutoff valves and an independent safety monitor to serve as a watch dog for the completion of required system safety improvements.

 

San Bruno is also asking that the CPUC mandate that PG&E fund a Pipeline Safety Trust in California, an independent group that would advocate for pipeline safety and would serve as a legacy to the tragic explosion.  San Bruno has until Aug. 1 to file its formal response to the CPUC.

 

“The latest penalty proposal is a long-awaited step in the right direction for public safety, and we commend the attorneys within the CPUC’s safety division for exhibiting the courage to significantly strengthen the division’s previous, and inadequate, penalty recommendation,” said San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane. “While we wholeheartedly support the tougher penalty and fine, the City of San Bruno will continue to fight for additional and ongoing safeguards to protect the public and help us ensure that what happened in San Bruno never happens again, anywhere.”

 

The City cautioned that it just received the CPUC safety division filing this morning and needs to review it thoroughly before fully commenting on the revised proposal.

 

The CPUC’s revised $2.25 billion penalty and fine proposal replaces the CPUC’s original — and now discredited — recommendation announced with much hype by Jack Hagan, director of the CPUC’s safety division, in May but which was soon revealed to be 100 percent tax-deductible and littered with credits and perks to benefit PG&E, amounting in a net penalty of almost nothing for the utility.

 

Not one of the CPUC safety division’s senior attorneys agreed to sign the original penalty recommendation, calling it “unlawful” and “contrary to what our team had worked to accomplish in the last two and a half years.” Those attorneys were reassigned off the investigation as a result of their protest.

 

The shocking internal turmoil at the CPUC led San Bruno to call for an investigation by the California Attorney General and the State Legislature and, ultimately, forced the recusal of the CPUC’s chief counsel and the lead attorney on the case, Frank Lindh, a former PG&E attorney.

 

The formerly reassigned attorneys returned to the investigation and last week they requested to withdraw the old filing and “correct certain inaccuracies,” characterizing the events as “unorthodox.”

 

The amended filing not only imposes a tough penalty of about $2.25 billion that will fund ongoing safety improvements but it also incorporates a $300 million fine to PG&E shareholders, which is not tax deductible and would be diverted into the State of California’s general fund. In addition, the proposal also curtails PG&E’s ability to deduct “credits” for safety repairs made since the 2010 explosion and fire – a provision San Bruno has advocated strongly for in the past.

 

And while city officials say they generally support the monetary component of the CPUC’s revised proposal, given the widespread dysfunction at the CPUC, they will continue to push for PG&E to adopt and fund a series of remedial measures to ensure systemic regulatory change in the future. These include funding for a California Pipeline Safety Trust advocacy organization, an Independent Monitor to make sure PG&E follows its own safety plan in the face of possible lax enforcement, and the installation of lifesaving fully Automatic Shutoff Valves.   The City also opposes the proposed $435 million credit to PG&E shareholders which effectively reduces the  penalty against PG&E to $1.815 billion.

 

“While we continue to applaud those CPUC attorneys who displayed exceptional courage in their effort to uphold justice for the people and victims of San Bruno, we believe the level of chaos and disarray at the CPUC is proof that additional, going-forward remedies are needed, specifically an Independent Monitor to oversee the CPUC’s activities and correct the overly cozy relationship with the CPUC,” Ruane said. “We will continue to fight for additional safeguards so that, as the legacy of the City’s involvement in this process, we can feel confident that the state’s regulatory and public utility systems are changed for the better.”

 

 

Contact: Connie Jackson, City Manager

Phone: (650) 616-7056

Sam Singer, Singer Associates

Office: (415) 227-9700

 

 

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Trayvon Martin’s Legacy

From the NY Times Editorial Board

It may not be possible to consider the case of George Zimmerman, who was acquitted Saturday of all charges in the killing of Trayvon Martin, as anything but a sad commentary on the state of race relations and the battle over gun rights in America today.

Certainly it is about race — ask any black man, up to and including President Obama, and he will tell you at least a few stories that sound eerily like what happened that rainy winter night in Sanford, Fla.

While Mr. Zimmerman’s conviction might have provided an emotional catharsis, we would still be a country plagued by racism, which persists in ever more insidious forms despite the Supreme Court’s sanguine assessment that “things have changed dramatically,” as it said in last month’s ruling striking down the heart of the Voting Rights Act. (The Justice Department is right to continue its investigation into whether Mr. Zimmerman may still be prosecuted under federal civil rights laws.)

The jury reached its verdict after having been asked to consider Mr. Zimmerman’s actions in light of Florida’s now-notorious Stand Your Ground statute. Under that law, versions of which are on the books in two dozen states, a person may use deadly force if he or she “reasonably believes” it is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm — a low bar that the prosecutors in this case fought in vain to overcome.

These laws sound intuitive: who would argue that you may not protect yourself against great harm? But of course, the concept of “reasonable belief” is transformed into something deadly dangerous when firearms are involved. And when the Stand Your Ground laws intersect with lax concealed-carry laws, it works essentially to self-deputize anyone with a Kel-Tec 9 millimeter and a grudge.

It has been a bad year so far for gun control. But if anything, cases like this should be as troubling as the mass killings that always prompt a national outcry and promises of legislative remedy. We were heartened that President Obama, in his statement after the verdict was issued, took the opportunity to denounce once again “the tide of gun violence” sweeping the country.

In the end, what is most frightening is that there are so many people with guns who are like George Zimmerman. Fear and racism may never be fully eliminated by legislative or judicial order, but neither should our laws allow and even facilitate their most deadly expression. Trayvon Martin was an unarmed boy walking home from the convenience store. If only Florida could give him back his life as easily as it is giving back George Zimmerman’s gun.

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Gay Athlete to Risk Arrest, Deportation at Russia Olympics


Blake Skjellerup, a New Zealand speed skater who came out in 2010,

will be wearing a rainbow pin at the Sochi Winter Olympics 2014

A gay athlete is going to risk arrest and deportation at the Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia next year.  Blake Skjellerup, a 28-year-old New Zealand speed skater, will be wearing a rainbow pin to show his support for the maligned LGBT community in Russia.

It follows gay activists calling for a total boycott of the event, with some international organizations saying it is irresponsible for the International Olympics Committee to have chosen a country with a poor record on human rights.

Speaking to Vocativ, Skjellerup said: ‘The Olympics are an apolitical movement, however the Olympics is also a celebration of humanity and all sexualities are a part of humanity.

‘Being in a country like Russia where they have decided to introduce these new laws basically telling children that homosexuals don’t exist, It’s a massive step backwards for the LGBT human rights movement in the world, not just for Russia.’

Instead of throwing away the hard work he has done, Skjellerup wants to be seen as a guiding light for LGBT sport.

‘Having the presence of someone like myself who is just out and who is just being myself is far more important than not being there,’ he said.

President Vladimir Putin signed a nationwide bill into law last month banning ‘gay propaganda’. Under the law, any gay tourist can be arrested, held up to 14 days and deported from the country.

Skjellerup said: ‘I was in the closet for a long time and who I am now is who I really am and who I always will be, and I’m not going to tone down or change who I am just because I’ve gone to a different country.

‘If it gets me in trouble, then I guess so be it.’

From gaystarnews

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