Archive | Politics

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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Bob Schieffer Slams Republicans for Giving Out Corporate Welfare Instead of Helping the Poor

From ForwardProgressives

While millions of poor and middle class Americans vote Republican, GOP politicians make it clear where their allegiance lies—with the wealthy and big corporations.

They don’t even attempt to hide this fact.  They constantly oppose programs that would help the poor, and build their entire economic ideology upon policies which always benefit the rich.

So it should come as no surprise that Republicans would choose to approve billions of dollars being given to giant farm owning corporations, while not approving a single dollar for the poor.

Bob Schieffer called out GOP Representative Mike Kelly this past weekend after the House of Representatives did exactly that.

See, earlier this month House Republicans passed a bill which removed funding for SNAP, but went ahead and gave billions of dollars in farm subsidies to big farm owning corporations.  The Republican defense of this is of course that they “couldn’t pass a bill which included both provisions, so they decided to separate the two.”

Funny, they had no problem quickly approving a bill which hands over billions of dollars to big business, but they chose to leave out the part which would fund food stamps for hungry, poor people (many of which are children).

As Schieffer told Kelly, “It’s almost like welfare for the wealthy, but you don’t include a dollar for hungry people for food stamps. What kind of message is that?”

And I couldn’t agree more.  While I don’t doubt a compromise couldn’t be reached to pass a bill which included both farm subsidies and food stamps, it’s laughable that once again Republicans made sure they took care of big business first and put off helping the poor.

But even as Kelly tried to claim that the food stamp bill was coming, he continued the tired rhetoric Republicans often use by saying, “What bothers me is that one in six Americans is on this program.  We’re wasting billions on a program that’s not lifting people from poverty, but keeping them in.”

Interesting, he doesn’t seem to feel that way about the billions he just voted in favor of giving to big corporations.  Maybe it’s time we stop giving them welfare and maybe they will no longer “need it”—as Republicans claim.

It seems Republicans feel that welfare “keeps people addicted to poverty” while believing corporate welfare is “vital for the health of our nation’s economy.”  Only in the delusional world Republicans live in can corporations worth billions of dollars need government assistance, while millions of people living on less than $15,000 per year to support their entire family are just looking for a free handout.

Democratic Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin responded to Kelly’s ridiculous accusations about Americans on welfare by saying, “It’s because their wages and incomes are so low.  They’re working but they can’t feed their children. It isn’t a matter of defrauding American taxpayers.”

It never fails that if a bill must be passed, Republicans make damn sure that their big corporate buddies, or the wealthy, get taken care of while everyone else can fend for themselves.

Any time I think of the millions of Americans in this country, mostly poor and middle class, who continue to vote Republican (and essentially against their own self interests) it just blows my mind.And this farm bill showed once again exactly where Republican allegiances lie.  And it’s not with 98% of Americans, it’s with the top 2% and big business.

Passing legislation which helps the rest of us just seems to get in the GOP’s way.

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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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Elizabeth Warren Tries to Break Up Big Banks With New Legislative Push

A bipartisan group of Senators are proposing the “21st Century Glass-Steagall Act” in an effort to curb the power of big banks by reinstating a Depression-era rule that separated commercial and investment banking. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), John McCain (R-AZ), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), and Angus King (I-ME) proposed the bill on Thursday.

Enacted during the Great Depression, the Glass-Steagall Act prevented commercial deposit banks, which are insured by taxpayer money through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp (FDIC), from engaging in insurance and risky investment activities. These restrictions were repealed in 1999. The new bill would reinstate and update the separation between commercial and investment banking, giving financial conglomerates a five-year transitional period to split up their businesses to come into adherence with the firewall.

“Banks should be boring,” Warren argued in her initial public push for the bill, her first major banking measure in the Senate. The bill is more than a mere a reinstatement of the original 1933 Glass-Steagall Act, however. It would also bar commercial banks from some of the newer, more complex practices that they became infamous for in the wake of the recession, including trading complex derivatives and swaps or engaging in hedge fund and private equity activities. Warren explained in a conference call with reporters on Thursday that the new bill also seeks to close loopholes created by regulators’ interpretation of the original bill in the 1980s and 90s preceding its repeal.

The repeal of Glass-Steagall allowed banks to expand rapidly in size, to a stage where the top 0.2 percent of banks control nearly 70 percent of all banking assets. Even after the 2008 financial crisis, the biggest banks continued to grow. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have criticized these banks for being not only too big to fail, but also too big for jail or for trial.

Support for restoring the banking firewalll has come from various corners since the 2008 financial crisis. Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz argued at the height of the recession, that the repeal created a “high-risk gambling mentality.” Two former chairman of Citigroup, Richard Parsons and Sanford Weill — who once had a portrait of himself in his office called “The Shatterer of Glass-Steagall,” have endorsed restoring the firewall. Citigroup, which was bailed out during in 2008, was the first big beneficiary of the firewall’s repeal. Even Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has said that he agrees with reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act.

“Americans want safe banks,” Warren said when asked how she would respond to opponents of Glass-Steagall. “The banks that handle their checking and savings accounts should be rock-solid secure, and they should not be juicing their profits by taking those insured deposits and insuring them in wild financial schemes.” McCain echoed those comments in a statement, adding, “If enacted, the 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act would not end Too-Big-to-Fail. But, it would rebuild the wall between commercial and investment banking that was in place for over 60 years, restore confidence in the system, and reduce risk for the American taxpayer.”

McCain voted for the bill that repealed Glass-Steagall in 1999, and one if its primary authors was a close economic advisor to his 2008 presidential campaign. But he changed his tune in 2009, when he and Cantwell began a similar effort to reinstate Glass-Steagall. The bill never made it out of committee. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced a basic Glass-Steagall reinstatement bill in May on the 80th anniversary of the original bill, but it was overshadowed by other banking measures being considered at the time. Restoring Glass-Steagall has also historically not enjoyed White House support.

Warren said that she believed this bill would succeed where others failed because a bipartisan group of senators are willing to fight for it publicly. “People said we could never get the consumer protection bureau. But we fought for it, and now we have an agency protecting consumers from credit card and mortgage scams,” she said on the press call. “I’ve lived in this world where people say to me ‘You can’t do this,’ and when they say that, I just say to them, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. We have done it.”
“I’ll be out there fighting, and here’ll be the fun part,” she added. “I’ll be fighting right next to John McCain.”

From Thinkprogress.com

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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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Michelangelo Signorile: Get Ready For More GOP Gay Bashing Jul 11 2013

Rick Perry’s long reign as governor of Texas is ending, with the announcement that he’s not running for reelection in 2014. Among other things, he’ll be remembered as one of the most vocally anti-gay governors and political figures in American history. In 2003, Perry lambasted the U.S. Supreme Court for striking down the Texas sodomy ban, and all sodomy bans in the states, calling the court “nine oligarchs in robes.” In 2005, Perry championed a draconian constitutional ban on gay marriage and civil unions in Texas, and signed it into law in a ceremony held in a church. During his 2012 presidential run he cruelly told a 14-year-old bisexual girl on the campaign trail that gays shouldn’t serve in the military because “homosexuality is a sin,” and he demeaned gay service members in a political attack ad that was the most parodied ad of the election season.

So if Perry is stepping down to focus solely on a presidential run in 2016, as some observers contend, what will that mean for GOP political gay-bashing in the 2016 presidential race? Judging from Perry’s most recent rants, 2016 will be 2012 redux, no matter what any autopsy of the 2012 election by the Republican National Committee or GOP strategists might reveal about how to proceed. Since last fall Perry has only ratcheted up the attacks on gays, much as he has done on abortion. Polls show a majority of Americans, and particularly young Americans (and that includes young GOP Americans), support LGBT rights and even marriage equality. But Christian right groups still influential in the party have been threatening to bolt the GOP unless candidates toe the line. Contrary to strategists who suggest that the GOP will be forced to be more supportive on issues of concern to Latinos, women, gays and other groups, there are thinkers in the GOP who simply want to believe the GOP can win by ignoring all those groups and just getting more straight white male voters to the polls. Greg Sargent notes this while looking in particular at immigration and Latinos:

[T]he argument that Republicans don’t really need to improve their standing much among Latinos to be competitive in national elections is gaining real ground among Republicans — posing a serious threat to immigration reform. The emerging case is that Republicans mainly need to do even better among whites — by doing a better job energizing white supporters and by bringing in more “missing” white voters who might be inclined to vote Republican — thus relieving them of the inconvenient need to alienate their base with anything that might persuade Latinos to give their party a second look.

It’s surely not a stretch to say that these same Republicans don’t believe they need to improve their standing with gays or with those who support gays either, and instead just need to speak more forcefully to the anti-gay conservative base, as Perry has been doing. In March of this year Perry warned of “unsettling times in our nation’s history,” charging that gay activists lacked “tolerance” and saying that those who oppose gay rights are the victims now, “vilified” for their beliefs. This is a new kind of hysteria we’re seeing from evangelical leaders, obviously meant to scare people into action. In early May, Perry even went so far as to compare those who oppose gay rights to those who fought against slavery in the pre-Civil War era, lashing out at gay activists who “tear apart” the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) by pushing for gay scouts to be accepted. Later in May, after the BSA voted to allow gay scouts, Perry said the BSA would have to answer to God when its leaders “stand before their maker.”

With Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), another 2016 potential presidential candidate, having suggested that legalizing marriage for gays and lesbians opens the door to polygamy and marriage to “non-humans,” and with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), another 2016 hopeful, adamantly opposed to gay marriage or any laws protecting LGBT people, it so far looks like we can expect the same kind of gay-bashing in 2016 among GOP candidates that we saw in 2012. That would be extraordinary considering that the 2012 race for the GOP nomination, which included repugnant anti-gay attacks from Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann and Newt Gingrich, was viewed as perhaps the most anti-gay campaign ever. But when it comes to political gay-bashing, the GOP always seems to outdo itself.

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America’s Cup Shocker in San Francisco: Louis Vuitton Wants its Money Back for Race Sponsorship

One of the most prestigious and longest running sponsors of the America’s Cup wants some of its money back, according to the San Francisco Business Times.

Louis Vuitton, the posh French retailer that has been a primary financial backer of the competition, wants $3 million refunded because so few teams have entered.

Louis Vuitton’s initial sponsorship was for $10 million, according to an America’s Cup source. Its contract was based on at least eight teams taking part in the Louis Vuitton Cup, a round-robin playoff to determine which team will ultimately sail against Oracle Team USA in the America’s Cup championship.

There are three teams entered in the Louis Vuitton Cup: Italy’s Luna Rossa, Sweden’s Artemis Racing and Emirates Team New Zealand.

Since the 1980s, there have been anywhere from 7 to 13 teams taking part in the competition. Several potential challengers — from Korea, France, Australia, Spain and Italy — pulled out of the America’s Cup, many citing the financial burden of competing at sailing’s highest level.

Louis Vuitton can get a $1 million rebate for each team less than six that participate, the Cup source said. That would mean the company is entitled to get $3 million back.

Should any of the remaining teams pull out of the competition — which they have hinted they might do — Louis Vuitton would be entitled to even more money back.

A spokesman for the America’s Cup, which began this week and runs until September, was not immediately available for comment.

A Louis Vuitton spokesman was not immediately available for comment. But a Louis Vuitton representative told a New Zealand newspaper that the company was “not happy” with the Louis Vuitton Cup so far.

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Audubon Society Accused of Fraudulent Land Grab By Ranchers: How Audubon Society Used “White Out” To Change Boundries

MAYACAMAS MOUNTAINS, Calif. — A group of California families are accusing the National Audubon Society of whiting out parts of maps to swindle them out of their best land. This is property that in some cases has been in the families’ hands since the 1920s.

The Cervieres brothers, immigrants from France, came to California in 1895. By 1924 they had money to buy beautiful plots of land high up in the Mayacamas Mountains, towering over Sonoma wine country in northern California.

They wanted a place of retreat and refuge for what they hoped would someday be a large and extended family of Cervieres. Their descendants became five families who bought even more land in the Pine Flat area of these mountains.

And they did form a tradition across the decades of enjoying almost every major family occasion, summers and holidays in this mountain paradise. They built five homes they collectively dubbed “the ranch.”

“The ranch was like the lifeblood, the glue that held the family together,” said Lea Raynal, now one of the extended family’s matriarchs.

But a fire swept through in 2004 and burned down three of the houses.

“Torched this whole thing,” Lea’s son Mike Raynal said, looking up at a bare chimney that’s all that’s left of one home.  “We lost everything.”

Family members felt horrible but fanned hope by deciding to rebuild as quickly as possible.

Another Blow

Then came another devastating blow from a surprising source. A neighbor had bequeathed thousands of acres next door to the National Audubon Society, best known for its love of birds and conservation.

To rebuild, the families would need to upgrade the roads leading across Audubon land to accommodate their heavy construction equipment.

But after decades of everyone sharing these roads, Audubon said no and then hit the families with yet another bombshell: It said it had proof their very best acres, the flat ones where their houses had been, were actually Audubon land.

“It was like being hit in the stomach, the wind knocked out of you,” Lea recalled.

Audubon representatives showed the family survey maps that appeared to bolster Audubon’s claim, maps that years later family members would find had parts whited out by Audubon.

According to the family’s lawyer Peter Prows, the reps gave them an ultimatum:  “We’re not going to let you rebuild your homes unless you agree to the boundary as we’re claiming it to be on our drawings.”

Mike’s brother, Phil Raynal, said that would have pushed family members’ new houses “approximately 300 yards up the hill, way up in an upper meadow – virtually impossible to build on.”

“This is the only flat area,” he said, pointing to the area around him where their houses had been.

Prows said Audubon then informed the families, “If you don’t agree, we’re going to go out and build a fence on that line, and if you try to interfere, we’re going to call the police.”

Legal Battle Begins

In court documents later, Audubon insisted it believed its claim that it truly owned the best acres of its next-door neighbors.

And since it was legally bound to preserve the wilderness acres bequeathed it, the company said it couldn’t just hand those acres back to the families if it really owned them.

Audubon said it held meetings and bent over backwards to work out a deal with the families.

But here’s what Phil heard from an Audubon representative at one of those meetings: “This property has never, ever been yours. Get over it.”

“That haunts me. I tell you what, that haunts me every day,” he said.

Phil and his family accuse Audubon of simply coveting their land.

“It really bothers me that they’d come up here and try to take something that’s ours,” Phil’s young son Ryan said.

So the families decided to fight, with Mike and Phil Raynal leading the way. They threw themselves into a years-long effort to prove the ancient boundaries were correct and their land was indeed theirs, not Audubon’s.

A Costly Fight

Their efforts cost them and their families hundreds of thousands of dollars across several years, and much more than just money but “thousands and thousands and countless hours,” Phil said, shaking his head.

The brothers for years cut their way through rugged brush to find the original surveyors’ landmarks, facing rattlesnakes, ticks, poison ivy, and exhaustion.

They both already had full-time jobs. This fight became another one. Mike’s daughter Danielle feels it cost her her father.

“I’ve lost a father pretty much,” she said. “Me and my dad were very close, and it’s been hard. We’ve all drifted apart.”

Some family members were not only spending every spare hour fighting to prove Audubon wrong. But while all this was working its way through the legal system, the families couldn’t rebuild and were cut off from their piece of paradise and all those family gatherings like they’d had for decades.

“You have family reunions. You’re always having holidays,” Danielle remembered as she recalled how the five families would spend months of each year together on the ranch.

“And then it’s just an abrupt stop,” she said.

“Everybody getting together. It was just absolutely amazing,” Danielle’s mother Carin Raynal recalled. “And this whole debacle has just torn all of it apart.”

Another family member, Bruce Young, testified in a sworn declaration.

“There’s no doubt in my mind whatsoever that the emotional stress and aggravation to which Audubon subjected me is the cause and underlying reason for the three strokes I have suffered and survived,” he said.

‘White Out’ Gate

Then another stunning surprise in 2010 after years of legal wrangling: Audubon caved and said it would accept the original property lines and let the families use the roads unimpeded.

“They completely capitulated,” Prows stated.

No one outside of Audubon knows why this capitulation, but one more shock was ahead. In 2012, the families’ lawyers discovered with a subpoena that at the start of all this, Audubon had held back from family members some of the surveying maps it had commissioned.

They had also altered the maps they presented to prove Audubon’s claim.

“Audubon had actually doctored the drawings that it showed to our clients,” Prows said. “It took white out, and we have emails from Audubon’s very top people talking about putting white-out on the maps – removing the lines that its surveyors had put on the maps that Audubon didn’t like, showing that the boundary really was in the right place all along.”

This screamed lies and coverup to the families.

“We actually call it ‘White Out Gate’ now,” Phil said.

He still gets mad thinking of those thousands of hours he and Mike spent researching, gathering documents, combing through the thick brush on their land.

“Really what sunk in was all those years – seven, eight years of hard work when they knew from day one this was never their property. Ever! They knew it,” Phil fumed.

“I couldn’t believe anybody would do that,” Mike Raynal said. “I wouldn’t do that to another human being, period.”

A Bid for Restitution

Now the families are suing for fraud. Audubon admitted in court documents it didn’t give them all the surveyor’s maps but said that was because not all were relevant. It said it did white out lines on the maps but only lines it said were extraneous.

Audubon calls this lawsuit frivolous, demanding the families pay its legal bills.

Family members refuse to give an inch because all these years of legal war have certainly cost them.

“It’s affected everybody mentally, physically, emotionally,” Carin Raynal said.

When CBN News asked repeatedly for an interview or written comments, Audubon suggested researching the court documents and would only give the following mission statement:

“Audubon is fully committed to its mission as a non-profit organization dedicated to faithful care of the earth. We believe that every person on earth is a steward of land, air, water and wildlife. We believe that safeguarding America’s great natural heritage builds a better world for future generations, preserves our shared quality of life, and fosters a healthier environment for all of us.”

Lea Raynal summed up her family’s feelings about Audubon: “They came in and stirred up all this mess, and we’re left with nothing.”

From a CBN News Report

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Penalties await gay couples trying to marry in Indiana

From NWIPolitics

A same-sex couple applying for a marriage license in Indiana, where gay marriage is expressly prohibited by law, could face up to three years in prison for submitting the application to their county clerk — even if it’s denied.

A 1997 state law declares it a Class D felony to submit false information on a marriage license application or lie about the physical condition, including gender, of a marriage license applicant.

Two men or two women seeking to marry inevitably would trigger the law, as the state’s electronic marriage license application specifically designates “male applicant” and “female applicant” sections for gathering required background data.

It’s not known how often Hoosiers, gay or straight, are prosecuted for submitting false information on a marriage license application.

In any case, the recently approved reform of the state’s criminal code will, starting July 1, 2014, drop the crime to a Level 6 felony, punishable by a maximum of 18 months in prison and a potential fine of up to $10,000.

The law also penalizes clergyman, judge, mayor, city clerk or town clerk-treasurer who solemnizes a marriage between two people of the same gender. Those who conduct a gay marriage ceremony can be charged with a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

Across the country, elected officials and ordinary Americans have been rethinking their stances on gay marriage following two U.S. Supreme Court rulings last month.

Those decisions require the federal government recognize gay marriages performed in states where they are legal and upheld a federal court ruling striking down a gay marriage ban in the California constitution.

Indiana is poised for a two-stage fight next year over whether to add its existing ban on gay marriage to its state Constitution.

The Republican-controlled General Assembly must decide during the January-March 2014 legislative session whether to submit the proposed constitutional amendment — which also prohibits any form of civil unions — to Hoosier voters for ratification.

If lawmakers approve the amendment, supported by Gov. Mike Pence and other top Republican leaders, the question of a constitutional gay marriage ban will be on the Nov. 4, 2014, general election ballot.

Also part of Indiana’s law, a county clerk determined to ignore Indiana’s gay marriage ban would face comparatively minimal punishment if he or she issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The same law that makes it a felony to submit false information on a marriage license application declares it only a Class B misdemeanor for a clerk to issue a marriage license based on information the clerk knows is false.

But because the charge is not a felony the clerk would not face removal from office upon conviction — assuming the county prosecutor chose to file charges in the first place.

Judges also are authorized to suspend without conditions any punishment for a misdemeanor conviction or may place the person on probation for up to one year.

Recent polls have found a majority of Hoosiers oppose a constitutional amendment prohibiting gay marriage and civil unions, which is similar to the California constitutional amendment that was found to infringe on the 14th Amendment requirement of equal treatment under the law.

The origin of California’s constitutional amendment and the subsequent legalization of gay marriage in that state can be traced to a 2004 decision by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and other city officials, believing the state’s prohibition on gay marriage violated the constitution’s equal protection clause, to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The California Supreme Court halted the issuance of marriage licenses to gay couples after a month, but legalized the marriages in a 2008 ruling that described marriage as a fundamental right that cannot lawfully be denied based on sexual orientation.

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Key ‘Obamacare’ provision delayed until 2015

from maddowblog

News from the Obama administration about the employer mandate in the Affordable Care Actcaused quite a stir last night, but it’s worth pausing to appreciate the extent of the impact.

In a significant setback for President Obama’s signature domestic initiative, the administration on Tuesday abruptly announced a one-year delay, until 2015, in his health care law’s mandate that larger employers provide coverage for their workers or pay penalties. The decision postpones the effective date beyond next year’s midterm elections. [...]

While the postponement technically does not affect other central provisions of the law — in particular those establishing health insurance marketplaces in the states, known as exchanges, where uninsured Americans can shop for policies — it threatens to throw into disarray the administration’s effort to put those provisions into effect by Jan. 1.

Well, maybe. Let’s back up and recap what this policy is all about, because I think some of the reactions to the one-year delay have been a little excessive. Maybe it’ll be easier to tackle this in Q&A form.

What’s the employer mandate? In practical terms, the policy name is a bit of misnomer — there is no actual “mandate.” Under the Affordable Care Act, businesses with 50 or more full-time employees are told they need to offer health care coverage to their employees, but those who choose not to pay a fairly modest tax penalty. As of last night, that penalty won’t kick in, at the earliest, before 2015.

Won’t this mandate discourage those businesses from hiring? It’s been an important part of the criticism, but Obamacare extends all kinds of breaks to these employers to help subsidize the insurance and soften the blow of increased costs.

So is it a good policy or a bad policy? Opinions vary, of course, but plenty of folks, including some center-left health care advocates, have never been crazy about the idea, and see alternative approaches that can help reach the same goal.

But if the policy is delayed, won’t that mean a whole lot of Americans won’t get coverage until 2015? The problem is with the “whole lot” part of the question. The vast majority of employers in this category (about 96%) already offer health insurance to their workers, and the delay won’t affect them at all. What’s more, the delay won’t affect the creation of the exchanges, which should help bridge the gap — folks working for businesses that don’t offer coverage will still be eligible for subsidies they can use to buy insurance in their state marketplace.

But what if the exchanges aren’t ready in time? Well, that would be a bit of a problem. The fact that most of the nation’s Republican governors still hope to sabotage the law and deny Americans coverage has forced officials to scramble and there is an open question about whether the marketplaces will be ready in time.

If these affected workers are going to get subsidized coverage through the exchanges anyway, why have the policy at all? Primarily, the employer mandate helps pay for the Affordable Care Act. In fact, with the policy delayed, Obamacare will still reduce the deficit, but by about $4 billion less than previously estimated.

Does yesterday’s announcement have anything to do with the individual mandate we’ve heard so much about? No, that’s something different, and it remains very much in place.

Who benefits from the delay? As a political matter, Republicans are crowing about implementation troubles, but as a substantive matter, this appears to be a win for employers who’ve complained bitterly about the measure. In fact, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has said repeatedly that this provision is discouraging private-sector hiring. (I rather doubt that’s true, but if it is, these employers should start hiring more in light of the newly announced delay.)

If the provision is proving to be some troublesome, why not replace it with an alternative provision? Plenty of reform proponents, including some credible folks on the left, would be happy to do this, but it would require Congress to work on a solution — and Congress is such a mess it can’t do much of anything anymore. In particular, congressional Republicans don’t want to correct Obamacare’s glitches to benefit consumers and employers; they want to destroy the law and go back to the dysfunctional mess that existed before.

Does the Obama administration have the authority to simply delay implementation of part of the law unilaterally? Apparently so. Ideally, the White House would work with Congress on something like this, but again, Congress no longer functions so the administration is using its regulatory authority, effectively telling the IRS, “Don’t enforce this part of the law.”

So what’s the bottom line? The newly announced delay doesn’t look good, and arguably causes the White House some political troubles, but as Jonathan Cohn explained, “In short, delaying the employer mandate probably won’t do much damage to the law’s basic goals — making health insurance more available and, over time, containing the rise of health care costs.”

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CPUC Filing by City of San Bruno Calls for PG&E to Pay Maximum Penalty without Credits for San Bruno Blast and Fire

San Francisco—The City of San Bruno filed legal arguments this week calling for the California Public Utilities Commission to levy the maximum penalty against the Pacific Gas & Electric Co. without granting it hundreds of millions in past repair credits for its gross negligence that caused the explosion of PG&E’s line 132 in San Bruno on Sept. 9, 2010.

San Bruno’s motion filed late Monday calls on the CPUC to strike the vague “credit” concept altogether from the CPUC safety division’s so-called penalty proposal of $2.25 billion – which has been revealed to provide significant tax benefit rewards in addition to huge credits to PG&E – and to prohibit PG&E from deducting an ill-defined list of safety improvements made to date since the 2010 explosion and fire.

“These credits would let PG&E off the hook for more than 50 years of  systematic safety failures that caused the 2010 explosion and fire, which took the lives of eight citizens of our city, destroyed 38 homes, and left a hole in the heart of San Bruno,” said Mayor Jim Ruane. “We ask that this ill-defined provision be struck completely from the penalty recommendation so that PG&E can be held accountable for this tragic disaster and justice for the victims of San Bruno can finally be served.”

The concept of allowing PG&E to deduct for past safety repairs made since the 2010 explosion and fire surfaced first in the so-called penalty recommendation of Jack Hagan, director of the CPUC’s safety division.  That recommendation is now mired in controversy after it was 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 PG&E.

Senior attorneys on the CPUC’s safety division refused to sign the proposal – calling it “unlawful” and “contrary to what our team had worked to accomplish in the last two and a half years” – and, bowing to political pressure, the lead attorney on the case, Frank Lindh, a former PG&E attorney, has since recused himself entirely from the investigation.

San Bruno city officials contend that allowing PG&E to reduce its penalty by amounts already spent on safety improvements since 2010 will result in a calculation that is an “untested, unaudited, unverified back of the envelope calculation of alleged PG&E shareholder expense,” according to San Bruno’s filing with the CPUC.

“To award PG&E a massive, and in San Bruno’s view, undeserved ‘credit’ against the significant fines, penalties and remedies warranted by PG&E’s decades of irresponsible and deadly mismanagement in this manner does not comport with due process or offer the residents of San Bruno any measure of justice,” the filing states.

San Bruno has instead called for PG&E to be penalized a total of $3.8 billion – or $2.45 billion in after-tax dollars – the maximum financial consequences that the CPUC safety division experts determined it can bear without giving PG&E the benefit of significant state and federal tax breaks and no credits for past expenses.

San Bruno has also demanded that the CPUC direct 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 concept of granting so-called credits for safety improvements that PG&E should have been making for the past 50 years is a slap in the face to the residents of San Bruno and the citizens of California who place trust in our public utility system to keep our gas lines functioning safely,” Ruane said. “We ask that the CPUC do the right thing by eliminating this onerous credit concept and by penalizing PG&E so that we can ensure this tragedy never happens again, anywhere.”

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BART Strike Update: Former BART Director Michael Bernick Calls for Parties to Continue Negotiations, Not Strike

Oakland–Former BART Director Michael Bernick today called for BART management and unions to continue negotiations, if no agreement is reached by 12:00 a.m. July 1, according to a news release just issued by the transit district and its communications agency Singer Associates Public Relations and Public Affairs.

 “In 1991, 1994 and 2009 the parties continued negotiating past the strike deadline, and a settlement was reached without a strike. The same process at least should be tried this time,” said Bernick, who formerly served as  a director of the BART transit system.

The former director noted that the collective bargaining process by which the parties negotiate with the threat of a Bay Area transit strike needs to be changed by the state legislature. The same dynamics of negotiations to the end and threat of a transit strike have occurred in each of the negotiations over the past three decades. The current process is a disservice to Bay Area residents, and over the past negotiations has not resulted in better settlements for the BART workers.

Regarding the structure of a settlement,  Bernick noted that Governor Brown has set a structure for pension contributions that should guide BART negotiations.

Bernick also urged other politicians to stay out of the process. “The BART Board is a responsible body and should be given the authority to handle the negotiations.”

Bernick was elected to the board of directors of the Bay Area Rapid Transit rail system in 1988 and soon began to note the lack of land development linked to rail. With UC Berkeley Professor Robert Cervero, he established a research center at UC-Berkeley focused on the link of land use and transit, and together they published a series of articles leading to their 1996 book, Transit Villages in the 21st Century.  The book helped to develop and popularize the transit village concept.

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Transgender first-grader wins the right to use girls’ restroom

(CNN) — A transgender first-grader who was born a boy but identifies as a girl has won the right to use the girls’ restroom at her Colorado school.

The Colorado Rights Division ruled in favor of Coy Mathis in her fight against the Fountain-Fort Carson School District.

Coy’s parents had taken her case to the commission after the district said she could no longer use the girls’ bathroom at Eagleside Elementary. In issuing its decision, the state’s rights division said keeping the ban in place “creates an environment that is objectively and subjectively hostile, intimidating or offensive.”

The Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund praised the ruling that was filled under Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act. Michael Silverman, the group’s executive director, called the ruling “a high-water mark for transgender rights.”

This is the first of it’s kind ruling in the country regarding the rights of transgender students. No court, no tribunal has ever said what the Colorado Division of Civil Rights has said today which is that trangendered students must be treated equally. They specifically referenced the outmoded concept of separate but equal and told us that separate but equal is very rarely equal and it is certainly not equal in Coy’s case

Coy’s mother, Kathryn Mathis, said she’s pleased that Coy can return to school and put this behind her. The first-grader has been home schooled during the proceedings

“We’re very thrilled that Coy is able to return to school and have the same rights that all the other girls had, that she should have had and was afforded by law to begin with. We’re extremely happy that she’s going to be treated equally and we thank the civil rights division for coming to this conclusion,” Kathryn Mathis said. “We’re very grateful to the voters of Colorado for putting its laws into place to begin with.”

A girl’s life

For most of the past year, Coy has dressed as a girl.  Coy’s passport and state-issued identification recognize her as female.

Transgender kids: Painful quest to be who they are Mathis said she got a call “out of the blue” from the school in December saying that Coy could use the boys’ bathroom, gender-neutral faculty bathrooms or the nurse’s bathroom, but not the girls’ facilities.

The district “took into account not only Coy, but other students in the building, their parents and the future impact a boy with male genitals using a girls’ bathroom would have as Coy grew older,” a letter the family’s attorney received in December said

“However, I’m certain you can appreciate that, as Coy grows older and his male genitals develop along with the rest of his body, at least some parents and students are likely to become uncomfortable with his continued use of the girls’ restroom.

CNN was unable to reach the school district early Monday for comment on the ruling. But in February, the district’s attorney, W. Kelly Dude, said: “The district firmly believes it has acted reasonably and fairly with respect to this issue.”

A little-studied group

Transgender children experience a disconnect between their sex, which is based on their anatomy, and their gender, which includes behaviors, roles and activities, experts say.

For the general public, transgender identity may be a new concept, though many might recall Chaz Bono, the child of entertainers Sonny and Cher. Born female, Bono underwent a transition in his 40s to become a man. He wrote in his book “Transition” that, even as a child, he had been “aware of a part of me that did not fit.”

He appeared last year as a man on “Dancing with the Stars,” in part, he said, to destigmatize being transgender. Being transgender no longer a mental ‘disorder’ in diagnostic manual.

Comprehensive data and studies about transgender children are rare. International studies have estimated that anywhere from 1 in 30,000 to 1 in 1,000 people are transgender.

Some children as young as age 3 show early signs of gender dysphoria or gender identity disorder, mental health experts who work with transgender children say.  These children are not intersex — they do not have a physical disorder or malformation of their sexual organs. The gender issue exists in the brain, though experts do not agree on whether it’s psychologically or physiologically based.

Many transgender people report feeling discomfort with their gender as early as they can remember.

Transgender job seekers face uphill battle. Gender identity is often confused with sexual orientation. The difference is that “gender identity is who you are, and sexual orientation is who you want to have sex with,” said Dr. Johanna Olson, a professor of clinical pediatrics at the University of Southern California, who treats transgender children.

Children around age 3 are probably not interested in sexual orientation, she said. But experts say some children who look like they will be transgender in early childhood turn out to be gay, lesbian or bisexual. Differences in schools. School policies toward transgender students vary across the United States. In New York, for example, the law says students can’t be discriminated against on the basis of their gender identity.

But in Maine, a court ruled in November that a school district did not violate a transgender student’s rights when she was told she couldn’t use the girls’ bathroom.  Gender nonconformity is not a disorder, group says Dude, the Colorado school district’s attorney, has said there is nothing in that state requiring public schools to permit transgender students to use restrooms intended for the gender with which they identify

At the time, he argued that the Fountain-Fort Carson School District adheres to the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act in all respects: “Coy attends class as all other students, is permitted to wear girls’ clothes and is referred to as the parents have requested.”

On Monday, Silverman underscored what he described as the unfairness of Coy’s situation.  ”By denying Coy the right to use the little girls restroom like all the other little girls at school it had created an environment that was hostile, discriminatory and unsafe. Coy was treated in what was referred to as an exceptional way, which limited her educational opportunities. In the end, we’ve been saying from the start, that Coy wants the same dignity, respect and opportunity, and deserves that, as every other student in Colorado. The state of Colorado has now said that’s exactly what she deserves,” Silverman said.

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Justice Ginsburg Slams Supreme Court’s ‘Hubris’ In Fiery Dissent On Voting Rights Act

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg penned the fierce dissent against the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision Tuesday to invalidate a key section of the Voting Rights Act, accusing the conservative justices of displaying “hubris” and a lack of sound reasoning.

“The Court’s opinion can hardly be described as an exemplar of restrained and moderate decision making,” wrote the leader of the court’s liberal wing. “Quite the opposite. Hubris is a fit word for today’s demolition of the VRA.”

Joined by the three other liberal-leaning justices, Ginsburg scolded the conservative majority and its rationale for throwing out Section 4 of the law — which contains the formula Congress has used to determine which states and local governments must receive federal pre-approval before changing their voting laws.

“Congress approached the 2006 reauthorization of the VRA with great care and seriousness. The same cannot be said of the Court’s opinion today,” she wrote. “The Court makes no genuine attempt to engage with the massive legislative record that Congress assembled. Instead, it relies on increases in voter registration and turnout as if that were the whole story.”

Congress has renewed the Voting Rights Act four times — most recently in 2006 by an overwhelming 390-33 vote in the House and a 98-0 vote in the Senate. Chief Justice John Roberts, the author of the majority opinion, argued that “[o]ur country has changed” particularly in the mostly southern jurisdictions covered by the Voting Rights Act.

“In my judg­ment,” Ginsburg wrote, “the Court errs egregiously by overriding Congress’ decision.”

She lambasted the majority for “disturbing lapses” in its reasoning, citing as one example its failure to explain why the plaintiff in the case, Shelby County of Alabama, should be freed from preclearance despite its history of voter discrimination.

“Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet,” Ginsburg wrote.

The Clinton-appointed justice said there was a “sad irony” to the Supreme Court throwing out a piece of the law it admits has been effective at reducing discrimination.

“The sad irony of today’s decision lies in its utter failure to grasp why the VRA has proven effective,” she wrote. “The Court appears to believe that the VRA’s success in eliminating the specific devices extant in 1965 means that preclear­ance is no longer needed. … With that belief, and the argument derived from it, history repeats itself.”

From Talking Point Memo

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Morality study finds conservatives show a ‘general insensitivity to consequences’

When it comes to topics like abortion or assisted suicide, there seems to be no common ground between conservatives and liberals. Why is there such a noticeable rift between the two political orientations?

Research published June in Social Psychological and Personality Science suggests that religious individuals and political conservatives think about moral issues in a fundamentally different way than liberals.

The study by Jared Piazza of the University of Pennsylvania and Paulo Sousa of Queen’s University Belfast, which included a total of 688 participants, found religious individuals and political conservatives consistently invoked deontological ethics. In other words, they judged the morality of actions based on a universal rule such as, “You should not kill.” Political liberals, on the other hand, consistently invoked consequentialist ethics, meaning they judged the morality of actions based on their positive or negative outcomes.

“Does being religious or being conservative promote a rule-based ethic or does having a rule-based ethic promote religiosity and/or conservatism?” Piazza told PsyPost. “This question is difficult to answer definitively without running a longitudinal study, since you cannot really manipulate religious orientation, or being in possession of a deontological orientation, and then look at the consequences.”

The study’s cross-sectional methodology makes it impossible to say anything more than religion and conservativism are associated with deontological ethics. However, Piazza said prior research suggested that being religious underlies the adherence to deontological ethics

“I think it is more likely that being religious — and being religious in a particular way — is what promotes deontological commitments, and not the other way around,” he told PsyPost. “In a recent unpublished study I conducted with my colleague Justin Landy at Penn, we found that it is a particular sub-class of religious individuals that are strongly opposed to consequentialist thinking. Specifically, it was religious individuals who believe that morality is founded upon divine authority or divine commands, and that moral truths are not obtained via human intuition or reason, who were strong deontologists (i.e., they refused to find various rule violations as permissible even when the consequences were better as a result).”

“This suggests that not all religious individuals are non-consequentialists; that is, religion does not necessarily promote a deontological ethic, though many religious institutions do promote such an orientation,” Piazza added. “Instead, it may be that people who are skeptical about the capacity for human beings to know right from wrong in the absence of divine revelation that tend towards a rule-based morality. Though this begs the question of why some religious individuals tend to see morality in terms of honoring divine commands, while others accept that human intuition or reason may be an equally, if not more reliable, foundation. This is an interesting and complex psychological question which we don’t currently have an answer to.”

The participants in the study provided their moral position on killing, assisted suicide, torture, incest, cannibalism, malicious gossip, stealing, lying, deception, betrayal, breaking a promise, breaking the law, and treason. The researchers discovered that religious individuals and political conservatives showed a “general insensitivity to consequences.”

For instance, religious individuals and political conservatives tended to say that lying was never acceptable under any circumstances, while political liberals tended to say that lying was permissible or even obligatory if it resulted in greater good than bad.

There was a notable exception. When it came to torture, Piazza described American conservatives as “full-blown consequentialists.” But the same could not be said of religious individuals.

“In other words, political conservatives found torture acceptable when it brought about a greater good, but religious individuals found torture less acceptable even when it was a means to a greater good,” he told PsyPost. “Past research by Kevin Carlsmith and Avani Sood have shown that Republicans are more likely than Democrats to view torture in the context of military interrogation as a form of retributive justice (i.e., the detainee ‘deserves’ to be punished because of their involvement in previous criminal activity), which may promote their more permissive stance towards torture, at least in this context. So one possibility is that conservatives in our study conceived of torture in the context of harsh military interrogations (i.e., it was the primary form of torture that came readily to mind), and this is what explains their consequentialist stance towards it.”

Eric Dolan, Originally published on PsyPost.

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McConnell: ‘Absurd’ to ban corporations from having same rights as ‘people’

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Friday said that he opposed a constitutional amendment to ban corporations from having the same rights as people because the idea was “absurd.”

Speaking to the conservative American Enterprise Institute, McConnell accused President Barack Obama’s administration of using a “culture of intimidation” to stifle free speech.

Following the remarks, the Washington Free Beacon’s Lachlan Markay asked McConnell for his thoughts on a constitutional amendment proposed by Sens. Jon Tester (D-MT) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) to clarify that corporations are not “people” and restore Congress’ ability to limit corporate influence in elections.

“Well you have to give them some points for not hiding it,” McConnell quipped. “They are uncomfortable with corporate free speech obviously.”

“They were not uncomfortable with corporate free speech when corporations that owned newspapers or television stations were engaging in it. They only become uncomfortable with it when the Supreme Court said, why should there be a carve out for corporations that own the media outlet and for no one else?”

The Kentucky Republican concluded: “Its an absurd proposal and it won’t go anywhere.”

From the Raw Story

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You Don’t Have the Right to Remain Silent The Supreme Court’s terrible—and dangerous—ruling this week on the Fifth Amendment.

By Brandon L. Garrett, Daily Kos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tester’s Constitutional Amendment: CORPORATIONS ARE NOT ‘PEOPLE’

 

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester today introduced a Constitutional Amendment clarifying that corporations are not “people,” restoring the right of Congress to limit corporate influence in elections.

In introducing his amendment, Tester is heeding the call of Montana voters, who voted overwhelmingly in November to direct Montana’s Congressional delegation to amend the U.S. Constitution to empower Congress to limit corporate spending in elections.

Tester’s amendment would overturn Citizens United, the unpopular 2010 Supreme Court decision which allows corporations to spend unlimited money on political campaigns with no transparency.

“Montanans expect real people and their ideas -not corporations and their money-to decide our elections,” Tester said. “The Citizens United decision undermines Montana values and distorts the democratic process. Montanans rejected corporate control of elections a century ago, and I’m proud to join them in standing up for our long-held values.”

Tester, a consistent critic of Citizens United, said today at a press conference that unlimited and undisclosed corporate spending warped 2012′s elections. He said holding corporations accountable would empower voters and support leaders willing to tackle the tough issues facing the country.

Tester is also co-sponsoring a Constitutional Amendment introduced by New Mexico Senator Tom Udall. Udall’s amendment specifically authorizes Congress to regulate the raising and spending of money for federal political campaigns, while letting states oversee spending at their level.

Montana’s efforts to stand up to corporate influence in elections date back to the early 1900s, when wealthy mining corporations used their money to buy election outcomes. In response, Montana voters in 1912 passed an initiative limiting corporate influence-a law recently upheld by Montana’s Supreme Court, but overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court last year.

To alter the U.S. Constitution, an amendment must pass both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives by two-thirds majority before being ratified by three-fourths of the state legislatures.

Tester’s Constitutional Amendment, which is co-sponsored by Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), is available online HERE. Udall’s amendment is available online HERE.

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Top CPUC Attorney Calls upon Attorney General Kamala Harris to Investigate Charges Against Him of Unethical Action in PG&E San Bruno Explosion Case

This evening there is a growing firestorm in the California Public Utilities Commission legal department as attorneys are openly questioning the ethical behavior of the CPUC’s General Counsel Frank Lindh in removing attorneys from the penalty phase against PG&E for its gross negligence in the San Bruno explosion and fire.

The top public safety division attorneys quit the case this past week after spending nearly three years of their careers attempting to bring Pacific Gas & Electric Co. to justice for the death and destruction caused by its failure to maintain its pipeline in the center of the City of San Bruno.

The safety division attorneys rebelled and had refused to put their names to a CPUC document because they told the CPUC General Counsel Frank Lindh of its illegality.  Insiders say the overwhelming majority of attorneys in the CPUC are now lining up against Lindh and in support of their colleagues.  They are privately raising issues of conflict of interest between CPUC President Michael Peevey, PG&E and Frank Lindh, who formerly was a PG&E employee prior to joining the CPUC.

A number of news stories by the San Francisco Chronicle’s Jaxon Van Derbeken, NBC 11 investigative reporters Tony Kovaleski and Liz Wagner, Mercury News Reporter Joshua Melvin and editorials in the Merc News and Sacramento Bee have shed light on CPUC conflicts and now the State agency appears to be spinning out of control.

Last night a special investigative report by NBC 11 reporters Kovaleski and Wagner showed CPUC President Peevey at a PG&E employee union event honoring him for his ‘leadership in safety’ which raises questions about conflict of interest as well as video footage that shows his possibly illegal ex-parte contact with CPUC safety division director Jack Hagen.

There is a growing revolt and more news and action is expected this week from attorneys inside the CPUC as well as parties in the case against PG&E, which includes its own Division of Ratepayer Advocates,  consumer advocate TURN, the City and County of San Francisco’s City Attorney Dennis Herrera, and the City of San Bruno, which has called upon attorney General Kamala Harris—followed by the same call from Lindh—to investigate the CPUC immediately.

The conflict has broken out into an open dispute this week when Lindh found he was talking to an unfriendly forum—his own staff—when he gave the keynote speech Monday at a legal conference his agency is hosting, according to a report first published by The Recorder reporters Max Taves and Cheryl Miller yesterday and picked up today in the American Bar Association Journal and Law.Com.

Attendees from around the country watched as top in-house CPUC lawyer Frank Lindh was heckled during his speech about staff attorneys at a “hypothetical” utility regulator who lacked judgment and loyalty, the Recorder reports.

Specifically, his speech discussed what duty of loyalty is owed by a staff lawyer who strongly disagrees with a client’s legally permissible position on a rate-setting proposal.

“My solution in this circumstance would be to ask for a reassignment, but also to take steps to make sure I am not leaving my client in the lurch by withdrawing at the last minute,” said Lindh. “In the end, it all comes back to loyalty.

Under the canons of ethics, I simply cannot be disloyal to my client, even in the circumstance where I disagree strongly with my client’s wishes.”

His comments at the National Conference of Regulatory Attorneys conference in San Francisco were apparently relevant to the recent reported reassignment of an entire team of CPUC lawyers. They were responsible for handling litigation over Pacific Gas and Electric Co.’s culpability in a 2010 natural gas explosion and fire that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes.

The four-lawyer team had taken a position that supported the city of San Bruno’s call for more than $2 billion in fines to be imposed on the gas company, and the city asked earlier this month for the state attorney general and lawmakers to look into the lawyers’ reassignment.

In a Friday interview, Lindh also said the AG should investigate—to set the record straight—and said he “begged the attorneys to stay on the case,” the Bay Area News Group reported in an article published by the San Mateo County Times.

They withdrew from the case,” Lindh said, “and they left me with the obligation to fill in behind them.”

However, in an email to Lindh leaked to the newspaper that was also sent Friday, assistant CPUC general counsel Harvey Morris said the team had not sought reassignment. He said they had refused to sign a brief they believed to be unethical, apparently over concerns that it made unlawful recommendations about the penalties that should be assessed against the gas company in the San Bruno case, according to the Bay Area News Group article and other media reports.

Because you did nothing to resolve our ethical concerns, one attorney asked to be taken off the case, and then you claimed that all of us asked to be reassigned,” Morris wrote.

Frank Lindh, CPUC General Counsel Accused of Conflicts with PG&E, calls upon California Attorney General to Investigate Him, CPUC Actions

 

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Still Believe Nature Got It Wrong? Top 10 Health Benefits of Marijuana

From Realfarmacy.com, Marco Torres

There is no plant on Earth more condemned than marijuana. We’re talking about a living organism which governments have taken upon themselves to designate as an illegal substance. Despite no existing evidence of anyone ever dying of a marijuana overdose, possession of this plant is still illegal in many parts. Marijuana has been found to suppress cancer, reduce blood pressure, treat glaucoma, alleviate pain and even inhibit HIV. It is an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective. Can you understand more now why it’s illegal?


No Independent Study Has Ever Linked Marijuana To Psychosocial Problems

Cannabis is one of the most powerful healing plants on the planet. Dozens of studies have made pseudoscientific attempts to indicate that young people who use cannabis tend to experience psychological, social problems and mental decline. However, there is no evidence that marijuana use is directly linked with such problems, according to the results of a study published in The Lancet.

“Currently, there is no strong evidence that use of cannabis of itself causes psychological or social problems,” such as mental illness or school failure, lead study author Dr. John Macleod of the University of Birmingham in the UK told Reuters Health.

“There is a great deal of evidence that cannabis use is associated with these things, but this association could have several explanations,” he said, citing factors such as adversity in early life, which may itself be associated with cannabis use and psychosocial problems.\

Macleod and his team reviewed 48 long-term studies, 16 of which provided the highest quality information about the association between illicit drug use reported by people 25 years old or younger and later psychological or social problems. Most of the drug-specific results involved cannabis use.

Cannabis use was not consistently associated with violent or antisocial behavior, or with psychological problems.  In another study, Scientists from King’s College, London, found occasional pot use could actually improve concentration levels.  The study, carried in the American Journal of Epidemiology, tested the mental function and memory of nearly 9,000 Britons at age 50 and found that those who had used illegal drugs as recently as in their 40s did just as well, or slightly better, on the tests than peers who had never used drugs.

‘Overall, at the population level, the results seem to suggest that past or even current illicit drug use is not necessarily associated with impaired cognitive functioning in early middle age,’ said lead researcher Dr Alex Dregan.

Dr Dregan’s team used data on 8,992 42-year-olds participating in a UK national health study, who were asked if they had ever used any of 12 illegal drugs. Then, at the age of 50, they took standard tests of memory, attention and other cognitive abilities.
Overall, the study found, there was no evidence that current or past drug users had poorer mental performance. In fact, when current and past users were lumped together, their test scores tended to be higher.

The Age of Deception is Ending
In 2003, the U.S. Government as represented by the Department of Health and Human Services filed for, and was awarded a patent on cannabinoids. The reason? Because research into cannabinoids allowed pharmaceutical companies to acquire practical knowledge on one of the most powerful antioxidants and neuroprotectants known to the natural world.

 

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Opinion: Gay After Tomorrow

Frank Bua, Huffington Post

It should come as no surprise that the Supreme Court did not issue rulings today on two critical gay rights cases, Hollingsworth v. Perry and U.S. v. Windsor. According to the bible for Supreme Court junkies, SCOTUS Blog, landmark decisions require greater deliberation and tend to come out during the final day(s) of the court’s session — which this year is “penciled in” as June 24. Make no mistake: Gay D-Day is coming soon to a theater near you, its release inexorably and poetically linked with New York City’s Pride celebrations. When the decisions come down, any progress will likely be tempered with disappointment that more sweeping change didn’t take place. And this shouldn’t surprise anyone either.

For the LGBT community and our allies, the past month has been a whirlwind of success and setback; we may not have always enjoyed the ride, but we’ve certainly had a front seat on the roller coaster. The Boy Scouts allowed gay boys to join but will still kick them out when they turn 18. Immigration reform is making its most successful revival since 1986, but the Uniting American Families Amendment (UAFA) was rather ceremoniously excluded from the Gang of Eight’s bill and the Senate Judicial Committee’s markup. The Land of 10,000 Lakes completed the most stunning same-sex turnaround since Ken Mehlman came out, yet the Land of Lincoln failed to get the Democratic-controlled Illinois House to even vote on a marriage measure. Hate crimes and HIV are back to levels that we haven’t seen since the 1980s. And that’s to say nothing of harmful international revelations of the obvious: The Vatican has a gay lobby, and Russian freedom is taking a page from the Soviet playbook.

There are always roadblocks to change, and President Obama understands this better than most. The most memorable line of his second inaugural address, “from Seneca Falls, to Selma, to Stonewall,” was more than a pretty alliteration, or historic recognition of the LGBT movement in a broader civil rights context: It demonstrated his understanding of time as an agent of change. The women’s suffrage and civil rights movements had a not-coincidental three-generation gestation period; the amount of time between Seneca Falls’ Declaration of Sentiments and the passage of the 19th Amendment was 72 years. Likewise, 69 years passed between the creation of the “separate but equal” doctrine in Plessy v. Furgeson and the March to Selma, which placed an exclamation point on the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In such cases, as the older generation dies off, it takes with it the oppositional ignorance that was too ingrained to accommodate. The intermediate generation develops relationships with people from the minority group and begins to question the premise for — and justification of — discriminatory behavior simply because “that’s the way it’s always been done.” The next generation comes of age with a different worldview and frankly can’t understand what the problem was to begin with. Stonewall was 43 years ago; we may have to pave some more roads (and dig some more graves) before we find ourselves at the end of the rainbow.

Chief Justice John Roberts may find people falling all over themselves to support our movement, but 38 states still do not allow gays and lesbians to marry — and our movement is about more than just marriage. We need to push for inclusion of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) in immigration reform to protect same-sex binational couples (paging Sen. Chuck Schumer); demand that Congress pass the Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) to end workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identification; educate our youth that while HIV may be treatable, it is not curable; and move the Every Child Deserves a Family Act (ECDF) into law so that the 400,000 children in foster care can be placed in homes with loving — and yes, even gay — parents. We need to give our youth the mechanisms to steer clear of hatred of others and themselves, and to take care of the LGBT elders who were on the front lines of our movement long before many of us were born. We need our president to issue his long-promised executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT workers, and we need to exercise the power of the purse by frequenting LGBT-friendly businesses, avoiding others (as if the Valdez spill wasn’t enough of a reason to avoid ExxonMobil) and supporting candidates (Christine Quinn for mayor of New York, Corey Booker for U.S. Senate) who speak to our issues.

I too am eager to find out the decisions in Hollingsworth v. Perry and U.S. v. Windsor, but our journey for equality will continue beyond these important cases. In the end, it is the court of public opinion that matters most — and the WIlliams Institute indicates we are doing pretty well there.

After all, it’s about time.

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Russian Parliament Approves Anti-Gay Bill, Dozens of Protesters Detained

 A bill that stigmatizes Russia’s gay community and bans the distribution of information about homosexuality to children was overwhelmingly approved by the lower house of parliament Tuesday.

More than two dozen protesters were attacked by anti-gay activists and then detained by police, hours before the State Duma approved the Kremlin-backed legislation in a 436-0 vote.

The bill banning “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” still needs to be passed by the appointed upper house and signed into law by President Vladimir Putin, but neither step is in doubt.

Ivan Sekretarev, AP
Police officers detain gay rights activists as they gathered near the State Duma, Russia’s lower parliament chamber, in Moscow, Russia
Ivan Sekretarev, AP
An anti gay right activist (center, in blue shirt), grapples with a pro gay rights activist outside the State Duma, Russia’s lower parliament chamber, in Moscow on Tuesday.
Ivan Sekretarev, AP
Detained gay rights activists shout from a police bus near the State Duma, Russia’s lower parliament chamber, in Moscow on Tuesday.

The measure is part of an effort to promote traditional Russian values as opposed to Western liberalism, which the Kremlin and the Russian Orthodox Church see as corrupting Russian youth and contributing to the protests against Putin’s rule.

The only parliament member to abstain Tuesday was Ilya Ponomaryov, who has supported the protest movement to the aggravation of the leadership of his pro-Kremlin party.

Before the vote, gay rights activists attempted to hold a “kissing rally” outside the State Duma, located across the street from Red Square in central Moscow, but they were attacked by hundreds of Orthodox Christian activists and members of pro-Kremlin youth groups. The mostly burly young men with closely cropped hair pelted them with eggs while shouting obscenities and homophobic slurs.

Riot police moved in, detaining more than two dozen protesters, almost all of them gay rights activists. Some who were not detained were beaten by masked men on a central street about a mile away.

The legislation will impose hefty fines for providing information about the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, or LGBT, community to minors or holding gay pride rallies. Breaching the law will carry a fine of up to 5,000 rubles ($156) for an individual and up to 1 million rubles ($31,000) for media organizations.

After the bill was given preliminary approval in January, lawmakers changed the wording of “homosexual propaganda” to “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations,” which backers of the bill defined as “relations not conducive to procreation.”

Russia decriminalized homosexuality in 1993, but anti-gay sentiment remains high. Russia also is considering banning citizens of countries that allow same-sex marriage from adopting Russian children.

Earlier Tuesday, dozens of anti-gay activists picketed the Duma. One of them held a poster that read: “Lawmakers, protect the people from perverts!” while others held Orthodox icons and chanted prayers.

Russian and foreign rights activists have decried the bill as violating basic rights.

“Russia is trying very hard to make discrimination look respectable by calling it ‘tradition,’ but whatever term is used in the bill, it remains discrimination and a violation of the basic human rights of LGBT people,” Graeme Reid, LGBT rights program director at Human Rights Watch, said Tuesday in a statement.

Russian officials have rejected the criticism. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov defended the bill in February, saying that Russia does not have any international or European commitment to “allow propaganda of homosexuality.”The widespread hostility to homosexuality is shared by much of Russia’s political and religious elite.

Lawmakers have accused gays of decreasing Russia’s already low birth rates and said they should be barred from government jobs, undergo forced medical treatment or be exiled.

An executive with a government-run television network said in a nationally televised talk show that gays should be prohibited from donating blood, sperm and organs for transplants, while after their death their hearts should be burned or buried.

The bill’s adoption comes 20 years after a Stalinist-era law punishing homosexuality with up to five years in prison was removed from Russia’s penal code as part of the democratic reforms that followed the Soviet Union’s collapse.

 

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With the FBI On Her Trail, Michele Bachmann Raises Money For Non-Existent Reelection Bid

An FBI investigation into money laundering, wire fraud, and mail fraud has not stopped Rep. Michele Bachmann from continuing to raise money for a reelection campaign that she isn’t running.

According to the University of Minnesota’s Smart Politics blog, Nearly two weeks after announcing she would not seek a 5th term from Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District, Republican Michele Bachmann’s congressional campaign website is still locked and loaded to take in money. The campaign’s donation page is still featured and functional.” The donation page is still claiming that, “Obama and the Democrats are targeting Michele for speaking out against their extreme liberal agenda. They will do, say and spend whatever it takes to defeat her.”

According to David Shuster, the FBI may be in the process of gathering evidence against Bachmann herself, “According to sources close to the criminal investigation of Bachmann’s presidential campaign, the FBI has now been given sworn testimony and documents alleging Bachmann approved secret payments to Iowa state Senator Kent Sorenson in exchange for his help and support in that state’s 2012 Presidential caucuses. Ethics rules explicitly prohibit Iowa lawmakers from accepting payments from Presidential campaigns or PACs. Investigation sources tell Take Action News the FBI is examining money laundering allegations against Bachmann, as well as possible wire fraud and mail fraud.”

If this is the case, it is very clear why Bachmann high tailed it out of the House by announcing her “retirement.”

Usually, it wouldn’t be a big deal for a “retiring” member of Congress to continue to raise a small sum of money before they leave office. However, when the person raising the money is possibly facing mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering charges, it looks pretty bad to have a message up on your website soliciting donations for a reelection campaign that doesn’t exist.

It could be that Team Michele is distracted by other things, like the fact that members of her own presidential campaign team are possibly giving evidence against her to the FBI, or it could just be one of those things that Bachmann just hasn’t gotten around to yet.

When the FBI is investigating you for potential money laundering, it probably isn’t the best idea to be raising money by using a reelection campaign that no longer exists.

It is possible that Bachmann could change her mind and run for reelection, but after her “retirement” announcement the ethical thing to do would have been to change the language of the fundraising pitch on her website.

Then again, a lack of ethics is what got Michele Bachmann into this mess in the first place.

From POLITICSUSA

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Elizabeth Warren: SEC ‘Actively Reviewing’ Big Bank Settlement Policy

The new head of the Securities and Exchange Commission told Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) Monday that she is reviewing whether her enforcement division has been too lax on Wall Street by allowing banks to settle enforcement actions without going to trial.

“I am actively reviewing the scope of the Commission’s neither-admit-nor-deny settlement policy with the leadership of the Division of Enforcement to determine what, if any, changes may be warranted and whether the SEC is making full appropriate use of its leverage in the settlement process,” Mary Jo White told Warren in the letter, provided to HuffPost.

The letter is in response to questions Warren raised in May letters to the SEC, , Attorney General Eric Holder and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.

“Have you conducted any internal research or analysis on trade-offs to the public between settling an enforcement action without admission of guilt and going forward with litigation as necessary to obtain such admission and, if so, can you provide that analysis to my office?” Warren asked on May 14.

Earlier this year, Warren embarrassed bank regulators by pressing them during a Senate hearing whether any had taken a bank to trial. A video of the senator’s vigorous questioning went viral online. Many of the regulators struggled for answers, pledging to get back to Warren with more information. (White had not yet been appointed SEC chairwoman.)

“There are district attorneys and United States attorneys out there every day squeezing ordinary citizens on sometimes very thin grounds and taking them to trial in order to make an example, as they put it. I’m really concerned that ‘too big to fail’ has become ‘too big for trial,’” Warren said at the hearing.

From the Huffington Post

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