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Tens Of Thousands Want ’19 Kids And Counting’ Canceled Over Anti-LGBTQ Remarks

There is currently a petition by Jim Wissick of San Jose, California gaining steam on Change.org. The petition is requesting that TLC cancel 19 Kids And Counting over ongoing and increasing anti-LGBTQ discrimination.

According to the petition:

Michelle Duggar of TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting is warning Fayetteville residents that transgender people are child predators and that the law will somehow protect that predatory behavior.

Michelle Duggar is sending out a recorded robocall to local residents that says:

“Hello, this is Michelle Duggar. I’m calling to inform you of some shocking news that would affect the safety of Northwest Arkansas women and children.”

“The Fayetteville City Council is voting on an ordinance this Tuesday night that would allow men – yes I said men – to use womens and girls restrooms, locker rooms, showers, sleeping areas and other areas that are designated for females only. I don’t believe the citizens of Fayetteville would want males with past child predator convictions that claim they are female to have a legal right to enter private areas that are reserved for women and girls.”

Here’s the thing — she’s fear-mongering. Her claims are pure hyperbole.
The petition continues:

Duggar’s words reek of ignorance and fear-mongering. Just because someone is transgendered doesn’t mean they are a child predator or a rapist. The claim that this ordinance would provide predators with access to women’s restrooms in order to assault or leer at girls or women is nothing more than fear-mongering and spreading ignornace and hatred.

Transgender people — who are far more likely to be the victims of harassment and violence if forced to use a bathroom that is inconsistent with their gender identity or expression— deserve to have the ability to use the bathroom in peace and safety.

The petition currently has around 40,000 signatures and is steadily climbing with hopes of reaching 100,000.

This isn’t the first time the Duggars have gotten into hot water over anti-LGBTQ actions. The eldest of the Duggar Clan, Josh Duggar, heads up the notoriously anti-LGBTQ Family Research Counsil.

Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar also recently posted a picture of themselves kissing on Facebook to show an example of a happily married couple, and they asked their fans to post their own pictures in the comment section, but when John Becker of The Bilerico Project (an LGBT blog) put a photo of himself with his husband it was deleted and he was banned from the page.

It would be nice if TLC looked past their long-running relationship with the Duggars and recognized that they are pushing hate, fear, and misinformation on the supposed “Learning Channel” — Learning what? Some may ask.

In an era of enlightenment, it is one thing to show different models of family units, it’s another to profit off of a family who purposefully goes out of their way to spread hyperbole and fear because they don’t happen to agree that other people should seemingly live on the planet who aren’t just like them. Their messages are dangerous and disingenuous.

From ADDICTING INFO

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Canadian Mother Gives Birth While On Vacation In The U.S., Faces $1 Million Hospital Bill

Jennifer Huculak, who lives in the Canadian province Saskatchewan, was six months pregnant when she flew to Hawaii to go on a vacation with her husband. But two days into her 2013 trip, her water unexpectedly broke; she spent the next six weeks on bed rest, and her daughter was delivered prematurely via an emergency C-section.

A year later, the Huculaks and their daughter are healthy and back at home. But they’re now facing medical bills that total $950,000 for the hospital care they received in the United States last fall. “It makes you sick to your stomach,” Huculak told CTV News. “Who can pay a million-dollar medical bill? Who can afford that?”

Although the couple purchased travel insurance from Blue Cross before their vacation, the insurance company says that Huculak’s previous pregnancy complications — she had a bladder infection when she was four months pregnant — amounted to a pre-existing condition, so her medical expenses won’t be covered. Blue Cross also maintains that the Huculaks’ plan expired while they were still in Hawaii.

Jennifer Huculak told CBC News that she’s frustrated with Blue Cross because she thought she did everything right. She had approval from her doctor to travel, and after her water broke, she tried to figure out how to return to Canada. But she couldn’t find a medical evacuation company that was willing to transport her home in her condition.

It’s not entirely uncommon for visitors to the U.S. to accrue big medical bills if they suffer from a health condition while they’re here. Travel insurance isn’t currently subject to all of the regulations under the Affordable Care Act — and the health reform law doesn’t apply to people who aren’t U.S. residents — so there can be confusion about how exactly these plans will work in practice. Other Canadian travelers have been stuck with hefty bills after unexpectedly suffering from kidney failure and struggling with high blood pressure while in the United States.

But bills for childbirth are particularly exorbitant. Giving birth in the United States costs more than anywhere else in the world, even when the procedure doesn’t involve the serious complications that Jennifer Huculak experienced. The price tag for this type of care varies widely — by up to tens of thousands of dollars — depending on which hospital you decide to go to. But the cost fluctuations are seemingly random, since high prices for childbirth services don’t correlate with a higher quality of care for American mothers.

Ironically, the Huculaks hail from the Canadian province that was the first region of their country to implement universal, publicly-funded health care. They say they’renow trying to decide if they should fight Blue Cross over their bill or declare bankruptcy.

 

From:  TARA CULP-RESSLER, Think Progress

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Why Germans Work Fewer Hours But Produce More: A Study In Culture

When many Americans think of Germany, images of WWII soldiers and Hitler often come to mind. But what many people don’t realize is that Germany is the industrial powerhouse of Europe, and is a leading manufacturer of goods for export to developing Asian nations. We don’t hear about the superiority of German engineering in Volkswagen commercials for nothing!

The economic engine of the EU, Germany single-handedly saved the Eurozone from collapse in 2012. At the same time, German workers enjoy unparalleled worker protections and shorter working hours than most of their global counterparts. How can a country that works an average of 35 hours per week (with an average 24 paid vacation days to boot) maintain such a high level of productivity?

Working Hours Mean Working Hours

In German business culture, when an employee is at work, they should not be doing anything other than their work. Facebook, office gossip with co-workers, trolling Reddit for hours, and pulling up a fake spreadsheet when your boss walks by are socially unacceptable behaviors. Obviously, in the United States these behaviors are frowned up on by management. But in Germany, there is zero tolerance among peers for such frivolous activities.

In the BBC documentary “Make Me A German“,  a young German woman explained her culture shock while on a working exchange to the UK.

“I was in England for an exchange… I was in the office and the people are talking all the time about their private things… ‘What’s the plan for tonight?’, and all the time drinking coffee…”

She was quite surprised by the casual nature of British workers. Upon further discussion, the Germans reveal that Facebook is not allowed in the office whatsoever, and no private email is permitted.

Goal-Oriented, Direct Communication Is Valued

German business culture is one of intense focus and direct communication. While Americans tend to value small talk and maintaining an upbeat atmosphere, Germans rarely beat around the bush. German workers will directly speak to a manager about performance reviews, launch into a business meeting without any ‘icebreakers’, and use commanding language without softening the directives with polite phrases.Whereas an American would say, “It would be great if you could get this to me by 3pm,” a German would say, “I need this by 3pm”.

When a German is at work, they are focused and diligent, which in turn leads to higher productivity in a shorter period of time.

Germans Have a Life Outside Work

Germans work hard and play hard. Since the working day is focused on delivering efficient productivity, the off hours are truly off hours. Because of the focused atmosphere and formal environment of German businesses, employees don’t necessarily hang out together after work. Germans generally value a separation between private life and working life.

The German government is currently considering a ban on work-related emails after 6pm, to counter the accessibility that smartphones and constant connectivity give employers to their employees. Can you imagine President Obama enacting such a policy in the United States?

To occupy their plentiful Freizeit, most Germans are involved in Verein (clubs); regularly meeting others with shared interests in their community. Common interests in Germany include Sportvereine (sports clubs), Gesangvereine (choirs or singing clubs), Musikvereine(music clubs), Wandervereine (hiking clubs), Tierzuchtvereine (animal breeding clubs – generally rabbits/pigeons) and collectors’ clubs of all stripes. Even the smallest village in Germany will have several active Vereinen to accommodate residents’ interests. Rather than settling in for a night of TV after work, most Germans socialize with others in their community and cultivate themselves as people.

Germans also enjoy a high number of paid vacation days, with many salaried employees receiving 25-30 paid days (the law requires 20). Extended holidays mean families can enjoy up to a month together, renting an apartment by the seaside or taking a long trip to a new, exciting city.

Business Respects Parenthood

Germany’s system of Elternzeit (“parent time” or parental leave) is the stuff of fantasy for most working Americans. The United States does not currently have laws requiring maternity leave, while Germany has some of the most extensive parental protection policies in the developed world. The downside of these maternity leave benefits is that employers may avoid hiring women (with the fear that they will take advantage of the extensive benefits), and German boardrooms are consistently male-dominated at a higher rate than other developed nations, although the government is working to eradicatethis trend. The financial benefits of staying home (from both Elternzeit and Elterngeldor parents’ money programs) are often too good to pass up for German mothers, and can lead to stagnant or non-existent careers.

Since “at will” employment does not exist in Germany, all employees have contracts with their employer. Parents who have been gainfully employed for the previous 12 months are eligible for Elternzeit benefits, which include up to three years of unpaid leave with a “sleeping” contract. The employee is eligible to work part-time up to 30 hours while on leave, and must be offered full-time employment at the conclusion of the parental leave. Parents may also choose to postpone up to one year of their leave until the child’s 8th birthday. Either parent is eligible for parental leave, and many couples make the choice based on financial considerations.

In addition to the preservation of the employee’s contract, the state will pay up 67% of the employee’s salary (with a cap of 1800 Euros per month) for 14 months. Parents may split the 14 months however they choose. These benefits apply equally to same-sex couples.

Have you picked your jaw up off the floor yet?

Put Some German In Your Office

The German work culture is very different from the average American office, but there are certainly lessons to be learned from our German counterparts. The diligent focus Germans bring to their working life is to be admired. Separating work from play can help us lead a more balanced life; putting the phone down after hours gives us a mental break from stressing about work, and we can return to the office refreshed in the morning. When it’s time to get something done, closing Facebook and turning off push notifications helps keep our minds quiet and the flow steady. Direct conversation can lead to increased efficiency, and more clarity of communication among team members.

Americans often equate longer hours with increased production and superior work ethic, but examining the German model makes one wonder: When it comes to time at work, maybe less really is more!

 

 

From Knote

 

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Senate fails to get needed 60 votes to bypass presidential authority on Keystone XL approval

After six hours of debate Tuesday, the U.S. Senate voted 59 to 41 for authorizing what Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer called the “Keystone Extra-Lethal” pipeline and Sen Ed Markey called the “Keystone Export Line.” That was one vote short of the 60-vote threshold needed to approve the legislation pushed by Louisiana Democrat Mary Landrieu and North Dakota Republican John Hoeven, senators from two states with major oil industries.

It was the obviously the hope of many environmental activists that President Obama would choose to veto the authorization bill if it passed. A veto would have been likely since the legislation encroached on an executive process that is much the same as it was when first authorized in 1968.

Here are Democrats who voted for the bill: Sen. John Walsh and Jon Tester of Montana; Joe Manchin III of West Virginia; Mary Landrieu of Louisiana; Tom Carper of Delaware; Joe Donnelly of Indiana; Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota; Michael Bennet of Colorado; Mark Begich of Alaska; Mark Pryor of Arkansas; Mark Warner of Virginia; Kay Hagan of North Carolina; Claire McCaskill of Missouri; Bob Casey of Pennsylvania.

Republicans and Democratic backers of the pipeline noted in debate that the process has been going on for six years, that thousands of jobs would be created directly or indirectly from its construction and operation and that tar sands petroleum carried by the pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast would be moved by other means than Keystone if the XL is rejected. Landrieu, for example, said it’s not true that tar sands oil—heavy sour crude in industry jargon—will be exported. Not economic to do so, she said.

Democratic Sens. Boxer, Sheldon Whitehouse and Ed Markey all gave strong speeches that took the focus beyond opposition to the Keystone bill itself and into the realm of clean energy jobs and climate-change concerns.

Boxer noted that the pipeline will carry “the most polluted type of oil.” She said the State Department’s environmental impact statement—which concluded that Keystone would add extra carbon dioxide to the atmosphere each year equivalent to that of eight new coal-fired plants—conflicts with another scientific study. That study was put together using the State Department’s own numbers by the Stockholm Environmental Institute. It found the added pollution to be equal to that of 29 coal-fired plants, not eight of them. Boxer said the pipeline, carrying the “filthiest, dirtiest oil,” would hurt the environment in many ways, including leaving behind huge amounts of toxins. It would also raise the price of gas, harm people’s health and worsen climate change, she said.

Whitehouse said Republicans have touted the pipeline as a major creator of jobs, something in great dispute. But even if one accepts builder TransCanada’s much-disputed claims of 42,000 direct and indirect jobs being created, the senator said, when Republicans talk about jobs in Congress, it is only about oil pipeline-related jobs. Where, he asked, was concern about clean jobs when the Jeanne Shaheen/Rob Portman energy efficiency legislation was rejected despite the estimate it would create up to 190,000 jobs? It died, Whitehouse said, because Scott Brown, Shaheen’s opponent, didn’t want her to have an accomplishment she could point to in this year’s election.

Ed Markey of Massachusetts labeled the Keystone XL an export line. Oil will travel from Canada to Gulf of Mexico and out of the country, he said, because the company and Republicans have made it clear in a previous vote that they are unwilling to have the law say the tar sands oil cannot be exported. The debate, Markey said, shouldn’t be about oil above all. It should be about clean energy and climate change. He too invoked Shaheen/Portman as well as the 142,000 new jobs generated by the production tax credit on renewable sources of energy. The pipeline shouldn’t be authorized until that debate is had, Markey said.

That certainly would be a helluva debate. Republicans would quote Bible verses and fossil fuel shills. Far-sighted Democrats would cite both the overwhelming majority of scientists on climate change and the policymakers who understand the ample benefits of building green infrastructure. Sadly, we know what the unfortunate outcome of any such a debate would be until the day when some of the marionettes and the clueless are helped to the congressional exits.

 

From the Daily Kos

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How a $47 Shrimp Treadmill Became a $3-Million Political Plaything

Over the past few years numerous media stories have surfaced about how hard-earned taxpayer dollars are supporting scientists who run shrimp on treadmills: Forbes.com listed shrimp-treadmill research as wasting $3-million in taxpayer dollars, AARP produced a nationally distributed commercial of lab-coat-wearing scientists running shrimp on treadmills to equate the lack of federal support for retiree health-care services to money spent on shrimp-treadmill research, and Mike Huckabee linked the National Science Foundation’s funding of shrimp-treadmill studies to limited military spending.

A video clip of a shrimp running on a treadmill has somehow become the nation’s poster child for wasteful spending and grounds for the Republican-led House of Representatives science committee to recently investigate wasteful spending of NSF-funded research projects across the country.

My name is David, and I am the marine biologist who put a shrimp on a treadmill—a burden I will forever carry. To be clear, the treadmill did not cost millions of taxpayer dollars, the goal of the research was not to exercise shrimp, and the government did not pay me—or anyone else—to work out shrimp on treadmills.

Simply put, my colleagues and I were studying how recent changes in the oceans could potentially affect the ability of marine organisms to fight infections—an important question, given that the amount of bacteria a shrimp is able remove from its body is directly related to how much bacteria could potentially end up on seafood-filled plates. And since shrimp are active animals in nature, it was logical to study the immune response of shrimp during activity.

Exactly how much taxpayer money did go into the now-famous shrimp treadmill? The treadmill was, in fact, made from spare parts—an old truck inner tube was used for the tread, the bearings were borrowed from a skateboard, and a used pump motor was salvaged to power the treadmill. The total price for the highly publicized icon of wasteful government research spending? Less than $50. (All of which I paid for out of my own pocket.)

In science it is often necessary to develop creative solutions to complex problems. How do you get active marine animals to move naturally in a laboratory setting? How do marine animals fight off the glut of pathogens they are exposed to in the harsh environments where they live? These are not simple questions, there are no easy solutions, and they require an enormous amount of time and effort to answer. It is, of course, impossible to understand the meaning and value of complex experiments from a short shrimp video clip pilfered from my faculty webpage and posted to YouTube.

It is disingenuous for the Republican-controlled House Committee on Science, Space and Technology to promote the idea that scientists are wasting millions of taxpayer dollars to run shrimp on treadmills based on a 30-second video clip. Given that every teaspoon of seawater can contain millions of bacteria, it does not take a mental giant to understand that the health of marine organisms and the safety of the seafood we eat are closely related.

The health  of the organisms that inhabit the largest ecosystem on the planet and the potential bacterial contamination of the food we eat are serious and important questions. I, like many of my colleagues,  are deeply concerned by the minimization and politicization of our work.

In an effort to put an end to the erroneous media reports of wasteful government sponsored shrimp-treadmill research, I am willing to put my infamous treadmill up for sale. All profits will go toward supporting marine-biology research so that grandmothers across the country will no longer be denied medication, our heroic soldiers fighting abroad might be able to get the military equipment they need, and the House science committee can rest easy knowing that they can once again eat fat juicy shrimp—free of bacteria—without using up government funds. For the bargain price of $1-million (shrimp not included)—that’s 67 percent off the price listed by Forbes.com—a lucky individual, perhaps Rep. Lamar Smith (the Texas Republican and chairman of the House science committee), can literally put their money and their shrimp where their mouth is.

David Scholnick, The Chronicle of Higher Education

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MAYOR LEE LAUNCHES BUSINESS PORTAL TO HELP SMALL BUSINESSES SUCCEED

New Comprehensive One-Stop Web Tool Helps Small Businesses Start, Stay & Grow in San Francisco; Uses Technology to Make Government More Efficient, Consolidates Information on 400+ Permits & Licenses & Provides Step-by-Step Starter Guides for Small Businesses

Mayor Edwin M. Lee today launched the San Francisco Business Portal, a new comprehensive web tool that brings together the complex information surrounding business registration, permits, and licenses in a single user-friendly City website.

“Small businesses are the heart and soul of our City’s economy, and helping them succeed is a priority because when they succeed, the City succeeds,” said Mayor Lee. “The San Francisco Business Portal puts our small businesses first by bringing together all the information a small business owner needs to start, stay, and grow in San Francisco. This is the first step in streamlining the City’s permit process and make it easier for small business owners to do business in San Francisco.”

“The Business Portal is the most comprehensive and user-friendly City website ever developed for San Francisco businesses,” said Supervisor Katy Tang, a key supporter of the project. “I look forward to supporting future phases of this program so that government can be more responsive and effective to the needs of residents and entrepreneurs.”

“The Business Portal is an unprecedented resource for our small businesses because it breaks down a complex process in a way anyone can understand,” said Small Business Commission President Stephen Adams. “The small business community asked the City to make the process easier and Mayor Lee has delivered with the Business Portal.”

“The many rules and regulations around business registration and permits can be so confusing, even for an established business,” said Marty Sanchez, an owner of the family-owned local tortilla and salsa manufacturer Casa Sanchez. “The Portal makes it much easier.”

The Business Portal consolidates information on more than 400 permits and licenses available to small businesses. Some examples of forms that are accessible in the Business Portal include the Business Registration form from the Treasurer and Tax Collector required of every business, the Permit to Operate from the Department of Public Health for all restaurants, and the Dog Walking permit from Animal Care and Control for any dog walker with four or more dogs.

The Business Portal also provides step-by-step starter guides for small businesses that want to start in San Francisco. Created by an interagency team in close collaboration with a dozen departments across the City, the Business Portal was designed based on in-depth research with business owners at different stages of the business life cycle.

A joint project of the Department of Technology, Office of Economic and Workforce Development, and Office of Small Business in partnership with the design firm Tomorrow Partners, San Francisco Business Portal advances Mayor Lee’s goal of using technology to make government more responsive and effective to the needs of residents and entrepreneurs.

“Clear, user-friendly and easy to navigate – it helped me find the answers to all my business-related questions,” said Everest Waterproofing and Restoration Inc. President Keith Goldstein. “The whole site is very intuitive.”

The Business Portal is only the first step to improving the small business experience in San Francisco. Future phases will add functionality to the Business Portal and begin to streamline the business permit and license process.

“The Portal is a great resource for deaf business owners now that everything is online,” said Melody Stein, Owner of Mozzeria, a deaf-owned pizzeria with an all deaf staff. “I love how it’s basically a one stop shop for business, from foundation to rooftop and everything in between. It cuts down on the wondering and gives you all the information that you weren’t sure about, or maybe were not even aware of.”

To access the San Francisco Business Portal, go to: businessportal.sfgov.org.

 

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ALERT: ‘SUPER GAY MALE SOLDIERS’ COMING FOR USA CHRISTIANS, WARNS RADIO HOST

An extreme right-wing US radio host is warning of “a race of super gay male soldiers” that is plotting to kill Christians and take over America.

gay army

During a radio broadcast on Friday, Rick Wiles of TruNews claimed that Naziism was a “radical homosexual movement” and that Hitler was “trying to create race of super gay male soldiers”, according to Right Wing Watch. He also claims that gay rights advocates are literal Nazis who idolize Adolf Hitler.

military

Wiles: It’s not an exaggeration to say homofascist because the German Nazi Party was homosexual, Hitler was a homosexual, the top Nazi leadership, all of them were homosexuals, it was a radical homosexual movement that gained political power, military power, and they were creating a homosexual special race. That’s what it was all about. It wasn’t this thing about an Aryan race of white people, blue-eyed, blonde-haired, white people, Hitler was trying to create a race of super gay male soldiers. That’s what he was creating.When you understand what the real agenda of the homosexual movement was in the 30s and 40s and you see it is happening now here in the United States of America. I’m telling you, this is not an exaggeration. If it’s not stopped, it will end up in America just like it was in Germany but it won’t be the Jews that will be slaughtered, it will be the Christians.

Allen: Right. We haven’t gotten, fortunately, to the slaughtering part, but we’re getting to the point of the marginalizing part. Marginalized, get us to the edge, remove us from any influence in society.

Wiles: They are Nazi thought police and they’re going to be the worst kind of tyrants we’ve ever seen. The nightmare is only starting and if the Christians don’t get their act together, this is going to become a hellacious place to live and you’re going to have to go underground to be a Christian in this country. They’re going to hunt you down and they’re going to persecute you. That is the spirit that is alive in this country right now and is being embraced by political leaders in both parties, it is the new Nazism.Allen: They already are hunting you down, they’re hunting you down. If they find out about you, they come after you.

Wiles: Yes. They’re looking for people. They want trophies, they want your head on the wall, they want to put your head on the wall, they’re looking for scalps because it emboldens them and it sends fear into their opponents. It is the worst kind of tyranny.

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muscled_naked_soldiers_outside

We will keep you updated on this developing story, and provide you an address to their training facility as soon as we find it.

 

From The Gaily Grind

 

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How Straight World Stole ‘Gay’: The Last Gasp of the ‘Lumbersexual’

Hmm, there’s something familiar about “lumbersexuals,” I thought, scanning the facile breakdowns of this supposedly new smoking-hot male subset.

In a flash it was obvious. Straight people have discovered, and co-opted, the gay “bear” and “cub.” Of course they have, just as gays co-opted the look once from lumberjacks and rural workmen. It was only a matter of time that the wheel turned its full revolution.

First, straights came for the smooth, pretty gay look recustomized as “the metrosexual,” and now you have come for our hairier brethren. What else would you like? What else can we give you? You’ve taken it all. All our cutting asides and repartee, design expertise, gym dedication, fitted shirts, food knowledge, high and low culture snarking, gift-buying nous, and our smarts (“She’s such a drama queen”)—straight culture has gobbled gay culture as ravenously as Cookie Monster atomizes baked dough.

It’s fine, we’ll take the compliment, even if we are baffled that you’re now wanting a slice of performing and playing with masculinity, given the amount of homophobia and legislative discrimination you have put in our way. All that gay fear you’ve labored under and battered us with, all that crap about what men should be, and now, with the lumbersexual, the metrosexual, the use of camp, and so much more, you’ve not only come over to our side, you want in on the joke.

And lumberjacks, well, you should have really trademarked your look.

The lumbersexual is beards and flannel shirts, the opposite of the waxed chest, sculpted muscles, empathetic male cyborg of a few years ago: the straight man who was “gay” apart from where he chose to place his penis. He knew all about cilantro and the best facial cleanses, but in bed and on the kitchen table he was all about the ladies.

Gay men bequeathed straights the metrosexual—truly, the word was the invention of a gay author, Mark Simpson—and thought that would be enough. But no: “the lumbersexual” is the metrosexual’s equally pantomimic flipside. His beard is so thick it can sweep floors. His flannel shirts are thick. He looks unkempt. The beard, in fact, can be short or totally out of control. The message of the “lumbersexual” is: I am earthy. I am earth. I care more about chopping trees down than buying you that Yohji Yamamoto blouse as a surprise.

Despite all the breathless style magazine articles, the lumbersexual is less a new desirable heterosexual model, but an acknowledgment that heterosexuality is a performance and jape. Everybody, even those in flannel shirts and Abe Lincoln whiskers, knows the lumbersexual wants proper coffee more than he wants to chop down a tree. Before a lumbersexual picked up an axe he’d consult his back doctor.

Beards and moustaches were customized as sexy by gay clones and bears years ago—they were just two demographics within a gay demographic that helped people into that kind of look shortcut conversations about sexual likes and dislikes. Gays observe hetero-excitement over the lumbersexual with a weary eyeroll. Been there, done that more interestingly.

Now beards are ubiquitous, like masculine knotweed, wrapping themselves around any bloke-face they can find, and adding to the general confusion on the streets of not just sexual identity, but more profound questions, like why on earth the data programmer from White Plains wants to look like a Newfoundland logger.

You used to suspect the bearded of being lazy or feckless. Now the clean-shaven look suspicious. Patrick Bateman was clean-shaven, and look at how he spent his evenings.

But the rough-looking, dependably butch lumbersexual, despite his honest-guy uniform, is a drag queen, just as we all are. On go our costumes every day, and so it especially is with those whose uniform is dedicated to looking like they care least of all what they look like. The lumbersexual is the biggest drag queen of them all.

Above a picture of a muscular-looking bearded twentysomething in cool hat, flannel shirt, and trousers, GearJunkie says: “He is bar-hopping, but he looks like he could fell a Norway pine. He looks like a man of the woods, but works at The Nerdery, programming for a healthy salary and benefits. His backpack carries a MacBook Air, but looks like it should carry a lumberjack’s axe.”

So, the Brooklyn lumbersexual is just playing a part—though trying to look rough when you’re not is the least sexy thing a man can do, surely. The gap between image and reality is laughable. Instead of finding the performance of that sexually or romantically attractive, surely it would make any sane partner, potential or otherwise, immediately run weeping into the arms of the nearest pinstripe-suited, stubble-free banker.

GearJunkie counterposes pictures of real lumberjacks and hipsters who look totally ridiculous. This ham-fisted visual coding reminded me that a few billion years ago, when gay men cruised each other on actual streets, when their heads weren’t stuck in their mobile phones even as they stood in gay bars surrounded by other people, they looked at one another, searchingly, flirtily.

We wore hankies in our back pockets that symbolized what we liked to do sexually with one another. It was all so efficient, and also much more fun and inventive than an app.

Gay sexuality was once so proscribed that wearing “uniforms” and decoding uniforms was necessary. Having a “gaydar” was once a necessity, rather than a joke. “Cruising” could be a delight, when—a few paces on in their respective directions—two men turned at the exact same moment to re-check each other out.

It could be a momentary bummer when you turned and the object of your desire did not. And it could be a total shit-show if the other guy turned round, and said angrily, “What are you looking at, faggot?” Then you hoped it wouldn’t turn nasty, and pretended you were mesmerized by the fascinating brickwork of the nearest building.

In the late 1980s, gaydars pinged and pinged if you wore light blue jeans, white T-shirt, and tight black leather jacket; if you had square-cut hair and highlights. In Oscar Wilde’s time, gay men wore a green carnation in their lapels.

The lumbersexual is just straight culture’s latest belated attempt to theatricalize masculinity, decades after gays got there first—and we did it to make finding each other easier in times, ironically, when we had to hide.

The lumbersexual’s beard speaks symbolically of straightforward—even if the lumbersexual is not found in the woods, even if he doesn’t make shelves, or chew grass looking soulfully out to a lake while his black lab sits at his feet. Even if he panics not about crops or drainage systems, but whether he’ll make 300K this year.

Cosmopolitan has asked readers, “Are You Dating a Lumbersexual?” For a start, it would be pretty bloody obvious, as your previously fairly average partner will have sprouted a beard, and started wearing flannel and heavy boots. He who once liked a glass of Malbec and looking tidy for his mother now slugs beer from the bottle, and wants to give everything up to open a craft brewery.

Cosmo educates us about the lumbersexual’s characteristics: “Whenever you suggest a quick Ikea trip for a new dresser, he jumps in and volunteers to build you one and next thing you know, nine months later, you have a new dresser. You go to the grocery store to pick up basil and he says, ‘No need. I’m growing my own.’ You go hiking and try to pack Power Bars but he tells you he already knows where the nearest patch of wild blackberries is.”

If any of this flim-flam is true, the lumbersexual already sounds way more annoying than the metrosexual. Yet his ubiquity symbolizes the dissolving of more barriers between gay and straight. We are looking the same, acting the same, and mimicking masculinity the same. Soon, the only difference will be who either group chooses to sleep with, and straight men will no doubt find a way to sleep with other men, just as more gays get married, have children, and move out to the suburbs, from the inner-city areas they once gentrified and populated, which have now been colonized by straights-with-strollers.

Gay men used to adventure, and now—just like straights—apps and websites mean they can tailor their sexual lives very specifically. Gay sexual desire has become privatized, and a lot less interesting.

The lumbersexual, cute and beardy as he is, is just the latest, depressing sign of the withering on the vine of gay counterculture, the latest pasteurizing of sexuality. “Gay” is no longer different, or even challenging, and marriage equality—vital as it is—only serves to make homosexuality even safer and less threatening. Does political and social equality really have to entail a leveling of sexual difference?

Maybe the wheel will turn again, and heterosexuality will come to seem edgy. Perhaps in 40 years the straights will liberate gays; maybe we will be spirited from Home Depots and encouraged to have transgressive sex on the streets, and in meat lockers, again. Maybe Grindr and Scruff will combust, and we’ll return to the hankie code, and looking and speaking to each other. Maybe they’ll be a run on green carnations. Until then, men shall all wearily grow our facial hair, wear flannel, and confuse the hell out of each other out on the streets.

 

From the Daily Beast

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Elton John Sticks It to Russia’s Antigay Law in Front of Thousands

Sir Elton John has done it again, asking Russians at a concert in St. Petersburg to reconsider the homophobic, draconian ban on so-called gay propaganda that President Vladimir Putin signed into law last year.

This time, the out Grammy- and Oscar-winning singer-songwriter invoked the name of beloved Russian composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky, who is believed to have been gay, reports The Moscow Times.

“Is Tchaikovsky’s beautiful music ‘sexually perverting?” the British-born pop star asked the crowd. John’s rhetorical question was a direct attack on the 2013 Russian law that criminalizes any public expression that could be construed as “distribution of information that is aimed at the formation among minors of nontraditional sexual attitudes, attractiveness of non-traditional sexual relations, misperceptions of the social equivalence of traditional and non-traditional sexual relations, or enforcing information about non-traditional sexual relations that evokes interest to such relations.”

Rocket Man Wants to Know if an iPad Makes You Gay

Sir John, 67, also took his performance as an opportunity to lambast the recent removal of a statue commemorating Apple founder Steve Jobs in St. Petersburg, just days after Jobs’s successor, Apple CEO Tim Cook, came out as gay last month.

“Can this be true?” John asked the crowd. “Steve’s memory is rewritten because his successor at Apple, Tim Cook, is gay? Does that also make iPads ‘gay propaganda’?”

Not the First Time Sir John Slammed Russia’s Antigay Laws

Sir Elton John dedicated a 2013 concert in Moscow to murdered gay Russian youth Vladislav Tornovoi, who was just 23 when he was raped and murdered after coming out as gay.

“You took me to your hearts all these years ago, and you’ve always welcomed me with warmth and open arms any time I’ve visited,” John said from the Moscow stage. “You have always embraced me and you have never judged me. So I am deeply saddened and shocked over the current legislation that is now in place against the LGBT community here in Russia. In my opinion, it is inhumane and it is isolating. People have demanded that because of this legislation, I must not come here to Russia. But many, many more people asked me to come and I listened to them. I love coming here.”

The out musician even went so far as to invite President Putin to join him in meeting some of his country’s LGBT people in person.

“I would welcome the opportunity to introduce President Putin to some Russians who deserve to be heard, and who deserve to be treated in their own country with the same respect and warm welcome that I received on my last visit,” John said in a statement released after the 2013 concert.

There’s no indication that Putin ever replied to that invitation.

St. Petersburg: The Birthplace of Modern Russian Homophobia

Russia’s second-largest city was the first to enact a local ordinance banning so-called gay propaganda, years before a similar law took hold nationwide. In fact, the federal legislation thattook effect last year was modeled after the St. Petersburg ordinance, which was drafted by municipal lawmaker Vitaly Milonov — notably the first to demand a lifelong ban on Apple CEO Tim Cook‘s entrance into Russia the very day Cook came out.

In July the Human Rights Campaign unveiled an enlightening report documenting the marked increase in violence and oppression against LGBT people in Russia that followed the ban on gay propaganda’s enactment a year earlier.

From The Advocate

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Inside the lonely fight against the biggest environmental problem you’ve never heard of

In 2011, an ecologist released an alarming study showing that tiny clothing fibers could be the biggest source of plastic in our oceans. The bigger problem? No one wanted to hear it

Ecologist Mark Browne knew he’d found something big when, after months of tediously examining sediment along shorelines around the world, he noticed something no one had predicted: fibers. Everywhere. They were tiny and synthetic and he was finding them in the greatest concentration near sewage outflows. In other words, they were coming from us.

In fact, 85% of the human-made material found on the shoreline were microfibers, and matched the types of material, such as nylon and acrylic, used in clothing.

It is not news that microplastic – which the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration defines as plastic fragments 5mm or smaller – is ubiquitous in all five major ocean gyres. And numerous studies have shown that small organisms readily ingest microplastics, introducing toxic pollutants to the food chain.

But Browne’s 2011 paper announcing his findings marked a milestone, according to Abigail Barrows, an independent marine research scientist based in Stonington, Maine, who has helped to check for plastic in more than 150 one-liter water samples collected around the world. “He’s fantastic – very well respected” among marine science researchers, says Barrows. “He is a pioneer in microplastics research.”

By sampling wastewater from domestic washing machines, Browne estimated that around 1,900 individual fibers can be rinsed off a single synthetic garment – ending up in our oceans.

microfibers
Tiny plastic fibers taken from a water sample in Blue Hill Bay in the gulf of Maine.   Photograph: Marine Environmental Research Institute

Alarmed by his findings, Browne reached out to prominent clothing brands for help. He sought partnerships to try to determine the flow of synthetic fibers from clothing to the washing machine to the ocean. He also hoped his research might help develop better textile design to prevent the migration of toxic fibers into water systems.

The reaction wasn’t what he expected.

He contacted leaders in the outdoor apparel industry – big purveyors of synthetic fabrics – including Patagonia, Nike and Polartec. But none of these companies agreed to lend support.

“Perhaps it’s my pitch,” Browne joked. “We want to look for new, more durable materials that do not emit so much microplastic.”

In 2013, Brown presented his vision for a program called Benign by Design, backed by a team of engineers and scientists from academic institutions around the world as well as from the Environmental Protection Agency. The group’s goal is to help the industry tackle the problem of synthetic microfiber migration into waterways and marine ecosystems. He proposed creating a range of working groups where scientists and industry representatives would work together to develop synthetic materials that do not shed synthetic fibers – or do so minimally but are still cost-effective, high-performing and, if possible, rely on recycled materials.

Only one firm, women’s clothing brand Eileen Fisher, offered to support him. The company’s $10,000 grant has supported a section of Browne’s research over the past year.

“Any lifecycle issue, especially when it’s about a huge consumer product like clothing, is important,” says Shona Quinn, sustainability leader with Eileen Fisher. “[Browne] is raising an issue no one else has been studying.”

While Browne sees the grant as a validation of his efforts, 90% of the products Eileen Fisher sells are made of natural fibers. He’s still hoping to find a clothing company that will collaborate on research and development of new synthetic fabrics that will not shed microfibers.

While pitching his idea at the Launch innovation conference, Browne spoke to Jim Zieba, vice president of Polartec’s advanced concepts and business development group. In a follow-up email, Browne asked if Zeiba could provide him with polymers from Polartec textiles so that Browne could grow the database of materials he maintains to help discern the unidentified fibers in his samples. He did not hear back from Zeiba.

Allon Cohne, global marketing director at Polartec, says he’s familiar with Browne and his research, but that Polartec has already done an internal study to analyze the effluent at its Lawrence, Massachusetts, manufacturing plant. Aside from characterizing the amount of microfibers contained in the effluent as “minimal”, Cohne said he could not publicly share the study or any details – such as what minimal means.

Browne says he’s glad to hear that Polartec conducted a study, but maintains that any truly scientific study would be open to peer review. (As it happens, the words “Committed to Science” are currently presented on Polartec’s website, above a video describing Polatec’s approach to fabric innovation.)

Patagonia, a company known for its strong environmental ethic and sustainable manufacturing processes, has also declined to work with Browne. The company’s strategic environmental responsibility manager, Todd Copeland, says the company considers Browne’s findings too preliminary to commit resources directly to a project like Benign by Design, until it sees more solid evidence that specific types of products or materials, such as fleece jackets or polyester base layers, are contributing to a major environmental threat. “I don’t know how much effort we want to spend looking for the solution before we know where the problem is,” Copeland says.

Browne says that, without industry support, he doesn’t know how he can move ahead with his efforts to address microfiber migration from textiles at their source.

“I think [clothing companies] have all put a lot of marketing money into environmental programs, but I’ve not seen evidence that they’ve put much money into research,” says Browne.

In fact, Patagonia maintains a policy to not directly support research, its spokesman Adam Fetcher told me. Instead, it supports non-profit groups doing environmental advocacy work. Over the past five years, Patagonia has awarded close to $70,000 in grants to groups focused on the microplastics pollution issue. These include Algalita Marine Research Foundation (founded by captain Charles Moore, who first raised the issue of microplastics in oceans), 5 Gyres, and Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation (ASC), with whom Abigail Barrows works to collect surface water samples from around the world for her research into microfibers.

Abigail BarrowsMicroplastic researcher Abigail Barrows draws water samples from a lobster boat.   Photograph: Veronica Young

Perhaps Browne would have more luck if he were an environmental advocate rather than a scientist.

Still, Gregg Treinish, ASC executive director, says he would need to raise a great deal more money to fund the level of research he feels microfibers deserve. “Determining what type of plastic is in the water is hard and expensive – up to $1000 per sample.”

Bad chemistry

Browne’s difficulty in finding companies to cooperate might be compounded by the fact that the industry that is already under scrutiny for different environmental issues. According to the World Bank, textile manufacturing generates up to 20% of industrial wastewater in China, and a number of environmental groups, chiefly Greenpeace, have launched campaigns to pressure clothing makers to rid their supply chains of toxic chemicals, such as perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) used in textile processing. PFCs are linked to environmental toxicity and human health problems, and Kevin Brigden, a chemist and Greenpeace honorary research fellow, says some manufacturers are finally beginning to phase them out.

But Brigden fears microfibers released from synthetic fibers could just as chemically hazardous. “Some chemicals are very water soluble, so they wash out [into wastewater during textile manufacturing],” Brigden says. “Others are less soluble so they take time to wash off. If fabrics break down then [microfibers] are another pathway for those [chemicals into the environment].”

Those fighting the use of microbeads in beauty products are finding more traction, Barrows says, because phasing them out is straightforward. Getting rid of synthetic fibers, on the other hand, would be extremely difficult. Not only are synthetic fabrics durable and versatile, but they can have smaller water and energy footprint than natural fabrics. “Synthetic fabrics have many great applications,” Barrows concedes, and determining how to measure their environmental impacts is an overwhelming challenge.

Other sources, other solutions

Polartec’s Cohne argues that too much emphasis is being placed on the clothing industry and that carpet and upholstery manufactures ought to be considered as equally important sources of synthetic microfiber runoff in the industrial sector. Professional carpet cleaners might be another vector.

Cohne also believes more onus should be put on washing machine manufacturers to find ways to capture the clothing fibers so that they do not ultimately enter wastewater treatment systems.

Browne has reached out to appliance manufacturers Siemens, Dyson (which sells washing machines in Europe), and LG, hoping to engage their design or research teams in a discussion about how they might be able to develop microfiber filters to prevent them from entering the water.

None has responded.

However, a Canadian tinkerer turned entrepreneur named Blair Jollimore is working on a solution. After his septic tank backed up and flooded his home, he discovered the main culprit was lint from his washing machine. So the former airplane engine mechanic, based in Nova Scotia, created a filter for his home laundry machine. “I’m a mechanical engineer, so I modified a water filter and added stainless steel screen,” says Jollimore. “I’ve been using it for 14 years.”

In 2003, some of his neighbors who were also having septic tank problems asked if he could make filters for their machines, too, and a home business was born. Jollimore has sold more than 1,000 of his filters to homeowners from England to Hawaii and now, with Browne’s encouragement, is preparing to pitch his filter to appliance makers as a way to rid wastewater of microfibers.

While he has found a screen that would capture strands down to 1 micron – necessary to stop all microfibers – he is still experimenting with what forcing water through such a fine filter could do to laundry machine function. “Every bit of dirt in your laundry would be captured, so it would back up the process,” he says.

As for capturing the fibers at their next stop, wastewater treatment plants, Browne is not optimistic. He says he has conferred with many engineers who work in sewage treatment and none of them thinks removing fibers – or microbeads, which enter wastewater through residential plumbing – is viable. Besides, he says, even if those microplastics were removed from the liquid waste, they would end up in sludge, which in some places ends up being turned into fertilizers. In those cases, the plastics would still enter the ecosystem, and conceivably the food chain.

Browne concedes that more research is required to better understand the sources and impacts of synthetic microfibers in the environment, and he wishes he could get the clothing companies on his side. “The [textile] people I’ve talked to have not been trained environmental scientists, they’re more often marketing people.”

“Industry is saying, ‘you just have to do more work on it’. But that will require someone to support it,” he says. “It seems to be a way of avoiding dealing with the problem.”

From The Guardian, Mary Catherine O’Connor.  O’Oconnor is an independent reporter and co-founder of Climate Confidential.

 

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The Democrats’ Political Suicide

For six years the Democrats have been bent on committing political suicide. Or so it seems. President Barack Obama has been the point man for this bizarre self-immolation. That period represents the culmination of a long 30 year exercise in political obtuseness that has seen a steady estrangement from the party’s roots and a fatal mimicking of their Republican rivals. 2010 saw the first fruits of the project. Despite every plank in the traditional GOP program being exposed as rotten and the cause of national disasters at home and abroad, the Democrats under White House leadership contrived to allow the opposition to paint them as the problem. What should have been 1934 became 1994. Now the party has had both wrists slashed as it awaits morosely and impotently for the coup de grace in 2016.

Yet, party leaders react with surprise. They beat their breasts and gnash their teeth — how on earth could this have happened? Who could have predicted this debacle?

This bizarre tale knows no precedent in American political history. The explanation, though, is readily apparent for those willing to look at the record. The formula did not require anything as exotic as hemlock; rather the more prosaic ingredients were imbibed gradually. The most toxic have been these.

One, alienate your core constituencies. That includes reneging on a pledge to help the trade unions; launch a campaign of vilification against school teachers — from kindergarten through college; attack civil liberties protections; commit to reductions in Social Security and Medicare; stiff the environmentalists. In short, do to them in a calculated way what a Republican president would do instinctively.

Two, curry favor with your party’s traditional enemies: Wall Street, Big Pharma, the Christian Right, the energy and industrial agriculture trusts. That has the dual effect of blunting your message and blurring your image while emboldening the objects of your favors to demand even more.

Three, permit the Republicans in Congress to exploit to the fullest their irresponsible tactics by never denouncing them for what they are or moving to challenge them on their own electoral turf. As a corollary, go along with the coy designation of the Tea Party controlled radical reactionary Republican Party as self-styled “conservatives.”

Four, enable the Republicans to shape public discourse by monopolizing the airways and media. Democratic silence, timidity, defensiveness and evasion have given the Republicans the free run of the playing field. On this score, the party’s leadership has been abject — the president above all. Endless visits to daytime TV shows to schmooze about nothing in particular undercut respect for the presidency, neutralize the advantage of the incumbency and motivate the public to tune out or denigrate important messages. Mr. Obama seems oblivious to the obvious truth that most of the country stopped paying attention to what he says years ago.

At a time when Americans feel more discontent and view their prospects more darkly than on any occasion since the depths of the Great Depression, the Democrats have defaulted. They offer no interpretation that conforms to their bedrock principles; they offer no narrative that fits the pieces into a comprehensible whole; they offer no vision for the future. Instead, they have adapted themselves to the Republican narrative and Republican motifs. They present no robust defense of government as the people’s instrument for meeting communal needs and wants. Rather, they incline toward the assumption that government and public programs should be viewed skeptically.

Privatization has been taken aboard without critical scrutiny; the White House-proposed sequester has resulted in a sharp reduction of all government services, personnel and budgets. That effect has been compounded by the failure to provide assistance to state and municipal governments in 2009 that could have prevented mass layoffs and cutbacks. The president’s buying into the “austerity” snake oil went so far as broadcasting the Republican propaganda that presents the federal budget as being no different from a family budget. Above all, he went out of his way to buffer the financial barons from condemnation and accountability.

The near total neglect of the Detroit crisis pulls into focus these multiple flaws and faulty judgments. A great American city is allowed to founder at the very moment that the federal government is spending hundreds of billions to salvage predatory financial interests. Not only is this tragedy allowed to occur without assistance from Washington, it is studiously ignored. The critical financial aid is wrung out of foundations — the ultimate confirmation that public responsibilities have been shed and replaced with pleadings before the “private sector.” The earned pensions of hundreds of thousands are saved only by their generosity, not by a Democratic administration. The Detroit Museum of Arts, too, gains a reprieve from having its world class collection scattered to the four winds like the ashes from a city sacked by barbarians.

The overwhelming majority of those abandoned by their government are Democrats. Consequently, the populist passions that have raged since 2008 have been diverted from Wall Street to Washington. Almost all American politics is a contest for populist imagery. It provides the only vocabulary for political discourse. Democrats, for more than a century, identified and encouraged that current of populist thinking that found its target in the established power of big business and banking. Republicans have tried strenuously to counteract that tendency by playing on skepticism of government — especially the federal government. That great battle produced the historic victory of the Democratic conception as embodied in the New Deal. It now is in the process of being reversed.

That is the outcome of a long-term strategy that gained momentum in the Reagan years. Its successes have gone far beyond anything that could reasonably be imagined at the time. The Great Financial Collapse promised to stop the movement in its tracks — to regain lost ground and to consolidate what had been won. That the diametric opposite has occurred represents the ultimate failure of Democrats and their allies. There is much blame to go around; surely, though, the largest share goes to Mr. Obama. In this sense, his presidency indeed has been one of the most consequential in our history. To call it a success, though, is to embrace the thinking of the radical reactionaries who are celebrating their triumph. Have years of appeasement — intellectual and political — led to a silent conversion?

What next? The first signs are discouraging. The noises coming out of the punditocracy, think tanks, media and the Clinton entourage suggest that the same blinkered views that have brought the Democratic Party low are being reinforced. Some of this phenomenon can be understood as sheer intellectual laziness among the inbred Washington elites. Some expresses the self-interest of those who long have reconciled themselves to a status quo that has placed them among the country’s privileged and keeps threats to their sinecures at a distance. This is not the age of conviction or empathy. The psychology of cognitive dissonance reinforces these dispositions.

Adversity is rarely the mother of invention, as the old adage has it. Experience and history tell us otherwise, as do behavioral experiments. The psychology of perceived necessity is complex. Adversity or threat in and of itself does not trigger improvisation or adjustment. Even the survival instinct does not always spark innovation. Denial, or avoidance, is normally the first reaction when facing adversity in trying to reach an objective or to satisfy an interest. Reiteration of the standard repertoire of responses follows. Hence, we already are seeing a spate of commentaries to the effect that the big test is 2016; that what happens then will determine future control of the Senate; that what really counts are the social issues — abortion, same sex marriage, immigration — where legislation is less important than executive action and the Supreme Court. Hence, we see Democrats grasping at the straw represented by the weak field of prospective Republican candidates, most with extreme views far out of line with the locus of public opinion.

True innovation tends to occur only in extremis; indulgent complacency is built on the premise that the party is not in extremis. So they rest content with making tactical adjustments at the margins rather than alteration of core premises and patterns of action.

There are few signs that any significant slice of Democratic Party elites have the motivation, conviction and intestinal fortitude to break out of their self-induced coma. The harsh truth is that the gumption to take on the arduous task of creating a new political frame of reference in the country is in short supply. It is far easier to think in terms of personal career, to concentrate on the political maneuvers that might keep you in office or get you into a higher office. That clearly is the outlook of Hillary Clinton.

Last Thursday, her camp heralded the connection being made with the famed Austin public relations wizard who produced the slogan “Don’t Mess With Texas.”

It is this kind of puerile attitude that has the Democratic Party sinking beneath the waves — dragging with it the decent country that the party did so much to create.

We are witnessing a great contest that will determine the American destiny for generations to come. One side is mobilized for total war. The other isn’t even sure that the battle is engaged. The latter’s supposed champion expends his energy in the neutral no-man’s land searching blindly for common ground. He positions himself thus because he is a pacifist at heart — and because he sees some virtue to parts of the opponent’s creed.

Can the outcome be in doubt?

Michael Brenner, Huffington Post

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Michael Moore Defends Bill Maher Amid Uproar Over Maher’s Statements on Islam and Muslim World

“I think I may have a couple answers as to why some liberals are uncomfortable with Bill’s humor when it comes to Islam.”

Bill Maher is a friend of mine. He stood up for me when I was attacked after my Oscar speech (given on the fourth night of the Iraq War, a war Bill publicly opposed while 70% of the country, including the majority of Democrats in the U.S. Senate, supported it), and I stood up for him when ABC fired him and cancelled his show when he attempted to stop the hysteria and fear-mongering after 9-11 — resulting in the Bush White House publicly ordering him to watch what he says — or else. When Bill got his HBO show, he went on a 7-year tear against the Bush administration and became one of our most unapologetic and unrelenting voices against the insanity being shoved down our throats.

I, for one, am glad there’s at least one top comedian who isn’t afraid to say the word “capitalism” or give credence to the good of socialism.
You may not agree with Bill on everything. Yet I’m guessing you love it when he goes after the Uterun Police/Protectors of Child Rapists (also known as The Vatican), or when he brilliantly satirizes the crazy Christian Right which has controlled much of our politics for the past 33 years. I certainly do.

But when Bill goes after Islam, or crazy people professing to be Muslim, we grow uncomfortable. Why is that? Because when he bravely ridicules and attacks Christian assassins of abortion doctors who cite the Bible as justification for their evil acts, we heartily applaud him. But when he mercilessly stomps on Islamic assassins who cite the Koran, we grow uneasy. Why the switch on our part? Is it because Bill doesn’t just stop with the Islamic assassins — he thinks anyone who follows the Koran is a bit nuts? Or the Bible or the Talmud or the… you name it. He thinks it’s all coo coo for cocoa puffs.

I have, when I’m on Bill’s show, told him there are far more examples historically of the death and destruction that Christians have brought to the planet, from the Crusades to the Inquisition to the wiping out of Native Americans to the Holocaust. But he points out that, in truth, the Jesus followers seem to have taken a break lately in their genocidial lust — and that the debate should be about the present; i.e., which religion is now doing most of the terrorizing?

Though I would maintain that it is still the Judeo-Christian West whose armies and banks and institutions keep much of the third world under a heavy economic boot, resulting in a lot of hunger, suffering and death, Bill asks, “If I draw a cartoon of Jesus in a dress, will Christian leaders issue a call to assassinate me?”

I can’t speak to Bill’s drawing skills, but it’s safe to say that in the USA he can draw whatever he wants. In fact, other than those murdered abortion doctors, a hundred bombed or ransacked Planned Parenthood clinics and a few people like me, there are not many activists or artists who have to worry about Baptists blowing up their homes. Sinead O’Connor was not beheaded for beheading a photo of the Pope on NBC. Your middle name can be ‘Hussein’ and you can still win the state of Virginia if you’re running for President.

Sure, I can make a daily list of all the horrible things so-called Christians still do in this country. Rarely, though, do their actions involve decapitation.

But if you’re a Dutch filmmaker who makes a movie about violence against women in some Islamic countries, or if you’re a Danish cartoonist who draws an image making fun of the Prophet — well, you are then either shot to death or you are now in hiding.

 

From ALTERNET

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This Is What Happened Because Congress Didn’t Fix The Voting Rights Act

A number of voters in Texas reported problems casting their ballots on Election Day, with many of the issues stemming from a restrictive new voter ID law that went into effect for the first time this election cycle. Texas is one of several states where residents are reporting problems with voting, a consequence of Congress’ failure to replace a key provision of the Voting Rights Act struck down by the Supreme Court last year.

In June 2013, the Supreme Court struck down the part of the Voting Rights Act that prevented certain states with a history of discrimination from enacting changes to their voting process without permission from the federal government or a panel of judges.

Following that decision, voting rights advocates pushed for Congress to pass legislation preventing states from making potentially discriminatory changes to election laws that could prevent citizens from casting their votes. The initiative even gained limited Republican support. But Congress failed to act.

The ramifications of congressional inaction are now being felt not only by Texas voters, but by residents of a number of other states as well. In Georgia, voters who believed they were registered reported being turned away because officials failed to process a number of voter registration forms that were submitted by an outside group. In North Carolina, a law in effect for the first time this year bans people from voting unless they show up at a specific precinct. Many voters in the state have reported time-consuming delays because they were not allowed to cast a ballot when they showed up at the wrong polling location.

Voting problems seemed especially prolific in Texas, where the new voter ID law has effectively disenfranchised many voters, especially college students, elderly voters, new residents of the state and poor people. Voters who had valid photo identification issued by other states were surprised to learn their ID wasn’t valid under the Texas law, which a federal judge last month called a “unconstitutional poll tax.” The law was, in fact, ruled unconstitutional by a federal court before the Supreme Court allowed it to go forward, at least for the 2014 election, evidently because the majority of the court believed it was too late to revert back to the previous voter ID law.

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund is challenging the Texas law in a lawsuit. One of the plaintiffs is a student named Imani Clark, who was unable to vote in this election because she has an out-of-state driver’s license. And she’s not alone.

Kelsey McElduff, 22, recently moved to Texas to earn a master’s degree in transportation engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. She registered to vote almost as soon as she arrived, because she was interested in propositions on commuter rail and education that were appearing on the ballot. But McElduff discovered she wasn’t able to vote with her out-of-state license. Fortunately, she had a passport and was able to bring it back in time to vote.

“I can’t help but feel as though my rights to vote in the state I’m living in are being oppressed based on where I came from,” McElduff told The Huffington Post, adding that she has other friends from out of state who didn’t register to vote because they thought the new law required them to have a Texas driver’s license.

Christina Sanders, state director at the Texas League of Young Voters Education Fund, told HuffPost that her group saw a “concerning” number of students at Prairie View A&M University, a historically black college in Prairie View, Texas, turned away because the only identification they had were student IDs or out-of-state driver’s licenses, both of which are not accepted under Texas’s new law.

Uba Okereke, who recently attended the Frank Mayborn Graduate Institute of Journalism, said that his girlfriend went to vote in Dallas this morning with four other friends, but she was the only one who had adequate ID and was able to do so. “I was like, man, that’s crazy,” he said, adding that “voter ID laws in Texas and other southern states are truly discriminatory.”

“Voter ID is definitely emerging as a big problem this year,” said Wendy Weiser, who heads the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. Weiser worked on Tuesday with the Election Protection coalition, a group of NGOs working on voting rights issues. She said that voter registration problems have been “widespread” this year, with many voters reporting that they had been “purged” from the voter rolls in states like Georgia.

The Election Protection coalition had received over 18,000 phone calls as of Tuesday afternoon, though officials noted that many of these calls were from voters simply seeking information on their polling location or asking other questions. Still, Barbara Arnwine of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a member of the coalition, believed that the high volume of calls was representative of deeper problems.

“This isn’t what people call ‘voting irregularities.’ These are large-scale, systemic problems,” she said.

With Republicans expected to gain seats in the House and possibly take control of the Senate, it isn’t clear that voting rights reform will be high on the agenda.

“While in the ideal world, Congress would be responsive to actual problems, we have seen a lot of congressional dysfunction lately,” Weiser said. “We can point to a strong need. Whether that strong need leads to congressional action also depends on who wins today.”

 

Huffington Post

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The 19 Worst Decisions You Can Make in San Francisco

You make great decisions all of the time, starting with the fact that you live in San Francisco. But c’mon, admit it: you make some terrible ones as well. Hopefully, none of them are these:

Giving up your rent-controlled apartment
Unless you’re a Twitter millionaire which, ugh, you probably are if you would do something so frivolous.

Not bringing a jacket with you
Yes, even when it’s 90 degrees outside. Even in September. And even when you’re going to The Mission. Have you learned nothing by now?

Assuming the plans you made will actually happen
You need same-day text confirmation — if not same-hour — otherwise you’re totally getting flaked on.

Not leaving 20 minutes to find parking
It will always take at least 20 minutes. Always.

Trying to figure out what kind of poop that is
You lose either way. Also, it’s probably human poop.

Telling your friend in Oakland you’ll go to his party
Don’t get his sad little East Bay hopes up when you know there’s no way you’re taking BART across the bay on a Saturday night. Or ever, if you can help it.

Eating at the Taco Bell on Duboce
Yeah, there tooootally aren’t any legit taquerias just a few blocks away or anything.

Letting your friend tell you about his app idea
Ohmygod NO ONE cares. Unless he’s buying drinks and then, well… nope, sorry, not even then.

Not working at a start-up
You know who’s rich in SF? Start-up people. You know who’s not? The rest of us.

Waiting until after 11pm to go out
Last call in SF is 1:30am.

Hosting a guest
People who come to SF don’t just come for a weekend; they come for weeks. When’s the last time you wanted to see the same person for more than three days in a row?

Having a baby
The public schools are awful and private school costs 25K. For kindergarten. So basically procreating in SF is just your way of taking forever to say goodbye.

Not bringing cash
Unless you love taking one dollar bills and ripping them up into teeny-tiny pieces, which is basically the equivalent of paying ATM fees.

Expecting your bus to be on time
The buses in SF take after the people. Or is it the other way around? Either way, your bus is going to be late. Fact.

Thinking cyclists are going to obey the rules of the road
No, they will not stop at the stop sign. Not even if it’s your turn to go

Being on the road during Critical Mass
Even on a bike. Sorry, dude.

Telling your tourist friends you’ll do touristy stuff with them
Touristy stuff will always include Fisherman’s Wharf and rarely include whiskey. Meet them for dinner and drinks instead.

Driving across the Bay Bridge at 5pm on a Friday
Yes, you really want to get to Tahoe (why else would you be on The Bridge?). Thing is, you can leave at 7pm and make it there at the exact same time.

Telling the police at the Giants riot you need to get by because your Uber is down there!
Actually, never mind. That was totally classic, ridiculous SF.

Daisy Barringer, Thrillist

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Exit Polls Indicate Nation Suffering from Severe Memory Loss

Exit polls conducted across the country on Election Day indicate a nation suffering from severe memory loss, those who conducted the polls confirmed Tuesday night.

According to the polls, Americans who cast their votes today had a difficult time remembering events that occurred as recently as six years ago, while many seemed to be solid only on things that have happened in the past ten days.

While experts were unable to explain the epidemic of memory loss that appears to have gripped the nation, interviews with Americans after they cast their votes suggest that their near total obliviousness to anything that happened as recently as October may have influenced their decisions.

“I really think it’s time for a change,” said Carol Foyler, a memory-loss sufferer who cast her vote this morning in Iowa City. “I just feel in my gut that if these people were in charge they’d do a really amazing job with the economy.”

Harland Dorrinson, who voted in Akron, Ohio, and who has no memory of anything that happened before 2013, said his main concern was a terrorist attack on American soil.

“I really think we need to put a party in charge that won’t ever let something like that happen,” he said.

In Texas, exit polls showed strong support for George P. Bush, who was running for the Republican nomination for Texas land commissioner. “George Bush sounds like the name of someone who would be really good at running things,” said one voter.

The national exit polls revealed an electorate deeply fearful of a number of threats, including ISIS, Ebola, and, oh, what was that other thing?

 

ANDY BOROWITZ, The New Yorker

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Republicans didn’t win as big as you think they did. And Obama didn’t lose

In the end, there was no Republican wave. Indeed, ideologically it was barely a ripple. Unlike 2010, with the Tea Party, or 2006, when the Democrats took over, there was no all-encompassing agenda or over-arching theme. The Republicans won the US midterms – there’s no denying that – but they didn’t win as big as it first seems.

This election cycle included not only conservative-friendly states but a disproportionate number of competitive states in which incumbent Democrats were stepping down. Democrats have not won Louisiana or Arkansas in a presidential election since 1996, Georgia since 1992 and Alaska since 1964. A Democrat losing in these places is no great surprise. They were low-hanging fruit, and Republicans expended a lot of energy – and even more money – trying to get to it. They were successful. Democrats fared better on Tuesday night than they did in 2010, two years after which Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney. States where Democrats fared worse, like VirginiaNorth Carolina or Florida (in the governor’s race), are swing states that are always in play.

This election was not a referendum on Obama. Or if it was, it was inconclusive. He is as much the president in New Hampshire, where Democrats won a Senate seat, as in Colorado and Georgia, where they lost.

But the midterms were a reflection on Obama’s presidency. His second term has lacked purpose and direction as it has lurched from crisis to crisis, many of which – the NSA, the IRS, White House security – have been self-imposed. Where he has taken a stand, like on gun control after the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, Obama was unable to achieve legislative change. Where he has not taken a stand, as with immigration reform, he is being punished for it. Polling shows the public actually backs Obama rather than Republicans on key issues, including mending rather than repealing Obamacareimmigration reformincreasing the minimum wagesame-sex marriage and a host of other issues. The problem is few people have any confidence that Obama will actually get any of them done.

Still, 2014 was hardly an endorsement of the Republicans. Red states like Nebraska and Arkansas voted to raise the minimum wage, Alaska and Oregon and Washington DC voted to legalize marijuana, and Washington state voted for a gun control measure. That the GOP has now taken control of the Senate marks a substantial change in terms of leadership but not a particularly consequential one in terms of legislation. The Republicans will emerge with only a small majority, and if the party’s recent experience running the House of Representatives is anything to go by, the GOP is likely to be a dysfunctional caucus – and anything Republicans do come up with that is unpalatable to Democrats, the president still holds a veto. Obama at times has proved himself in negotiations to possess the spine of a jellyfish, but unless he caves, nothing much more will get done this session than during the previous one.

Only this time the excuses will be different. Instead of Democrats blaming House Republicans for refusing to compromise, Republicans will blame Obama for thwarting the will of Congress. “Just because we have a two-party system doesn’t mean we have to be in perpetual conflict,” Mitch McConnell, the presumptive new Senate majority leader, said in his victory speech on Tuesday night. “I think I’ve shown that to be true at critical times in the past. I hope the president gives me the chance to show it again.”

According to a CNN exit poll, 8 in 10 Americans disapprove of how Congress has been handling its job, while almost 6 in 10 are displeased with President Obama. A full 44% have a positive view of Democrats; 40% have a positive view of Republicans. Americans have just elected the party they like the least to run the government body they least trust. Even greater cynicism is the most likely outcome.

On Tuesday night, the electorate wasn’t waving. It was drowning.

 

Gary Young, The Guardian

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Science Committee chair shrugs off terrifying new climate data

Over the weekend, the United Nations published a synthesis report of its “most comprehensive assessment of climate change ever.” As Jane C. Timm noted, “The 40-page report sums up 800 scientists’ thousands of pages of research from over 13 months, using an enormous amount of science to argue that carbon emissions must be dramatically reduced.”

The findings can fairly be described as terrifying. The New York Times’ report noted, “Failure to reduce emissions, the group of scientists and other experts found, could threaten society with food shortages, refugee crises, the flooding of major cities and entire island nations, mass extinction of plants and animals, and a climate so drastically altered it might become dangerous for people to work or play outside during the hottest times of the year.”

The U.N. report pointed to the “increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.”

And though the document was specifically intended to help provide guidance to policymakers, Republican officials just don’t care.
The chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee said on Sunday that a United Nations report that said the earth is heading toward “severe, pervasive, and irreversible” climate change impacts is “nothing new.”

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said in a statement that he appreciates efforts “to better understand the complex science of our ever-changing planet,” but adds that the new report “says nothing new.”

“Similar to previous reports, the latest findings appear more political than scientific,” he said. “People are tired of the re-packaged rhetoric. It’s time to stop fear mongering and focus on an honest dialogue about real options.”
Smith may not fully appreciate what the word “scientific” means.

For elected U.S. officials, who are ostensibly interested in Americans’ well being, to casually dismiss terrifying warnings is alarming. It is not, however, surprising – contemporary Republican politics is dominated by a fairly aggressive strain of climate denial.

Indeed, it’s about to get considerably worse.

Ron Brownstein took a closer look at the 14 most competitive U.S. Senate candidates in the Republican Party this year, most of whom are favored to win.
[W]hile all 14 GOP contenders promise to fight the proposed Environmental Protection Agency climate regulations limiting power-plant carbon emissions, Ernst would eliminate the EPA itself – a position rarely heard. […]

Other than Terri Lynn Land in Michigan, who is the least likely to win, none of the 14 has endorsed the scientific consensus that carbon emissions are driving global climate change.
Of the U.S. House members poised to get a promotion to the U.S. Senate, all of them are such fierce climate deniers that they voted to prohibit the Pentagon from even considering the national-security implications of global warming.

The more serious the crisis becomes, the more forceful the GOP becomes in rejecting the science. History will not be kind.

 

Steve Benin, MSNBC

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Which Country Searches Google For The Most Gay Porn?

Google analyzed its data to report on gay porn search habits. Can you guess which countries found themselves in the top five searchers of gay porn on Google, according to the report? If you answered “countries that criminalize homosexuality,” you’d be mostly right! Except for South Africa, all of the top five countries that search for gay porn throw their gay people in prison — or worse.

Kenya, which took the tiara in the report, criminalizes homosexuality with prison sentences between five and 14 years.

Countries more tolerant of their LGBT citizens don’t appear until the latter half of the Top 10, starting with Australia and the U.S. at numbers seven and eight, respectively.

Does this report prove that criminalizing being gay doesn’t actually “rid” a country of homosexuality?

 

Jonathan Higbee, Instinct

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A 330-sq-ft former earthquake cottage in Telegraph Hill sells for $765K

When the refugee camps began closing a year after the big 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fires, anyone with a mule and a piece of land could take a U.S. Army-built earthquake shack and make it a home. These tiny cottages were dragged all over the city, but many of them ended up in Bernal Heights and the Sunset—outlying neighborhoods with plenty of room.

But, according to Socketsite, at least one ended up in densely populated Telegraph Hill, where land was already selling at a premium a century ago. Obviously, that trend has only continued and the 330-square-foot former shack at 1448 Kearny Street has recently sold for $765K—or over $2,000 a square foot.

Admittedly, the artist owner of the home has done as much as could be done to make the small single-family feel bigger, from white-washing the fir floors to raising the ceiling to adding a loft bedroom to making room for a walk-in closet. (Check out the gallery above for some impressive before and afters.) But even so, that price per square foot is pretty astounding considering that the average price per square foot in the neighborhood is about half that.

However, it is rare to find a condo in the neighborhood south of $1 million, and single-family homes in Telegraph Hill are practically nonexistent. So, even with the small footprint and no real room to expand, the sellers seemed to have no problem finding a buyer. It was listed in late September at $679K and closed less than a month later for nearly 100K over asking, netting the new owners a pricey piece of San Francisco history and honorary membership into the Tiny House Movement.

Emily Landis, SF Gate

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Charles Schwab Files Libel, Defamation Lawsuits against Beverly Hills Law Firm for Bogus Websites

Law Firm Steiner & Libo, Partner Leonard Steiner, Plaintiff Nicholas Behunin Sued by Charles Schwab Family For Libel

San Francisco-The Los Angeles law firm Steiner & Libo and one of its clients is being sued for defamation and libel for creating bogus websites as part of a plot to extract money from the family of respected investment advisor Charles R. Schwab, according to lawsuits filed today in Superior Court.

Legal complaints from Charles R. Schwab and his son Michael Schwab were filed against Steiner & Libo, partner Leonard Steiner, and plaintiff Nicholas Behunin of Los Angeles, Calif.

The lawsuits claims the law firm and its client knowingly made false claims on defamatory websites to purposely harm the reputation of the Schwab family in retaliation for not settling a lawsuit, which itself was an effort to shakedown the family.

The Charles R. Schwab lawsuit alleges the sites were “a tool for the extortion of Schwab” by creating the false impression that Mr. Schwab, his son, and family did business with a brutal dictator.

The defamatory sites state that Mr. Schwab sought to do business with the family of the late Indonesian dictator Suharto and his son Tommy Suharto, a convicted murderer. The sites advertise that Mr. Schwab can provide advice to investors on “how to profit from a brutal dictator” and methods to “launder money overseas.”

The Schwab lawsuits unequivocally state that neither Mr. Schwab nor his son Michael ever met President Suharto or Tommy Suharto or had any business dealings with them.

“The only reason to create these fraudulent websites was to besmirch the good name and reputation of Charles R. Schwab and his son Michael. Not one claim on the landing page of the site is true or correct and the guilty parties were aware of that prior to making the defamatory statements,” said attorney Robert R. Moore of the law firm of Allen Matkins, representing Charles R. Schwab.

The lawsuit claims “In sum, (Leonard) Steiner (Steiner & Libo and Nicholas Behunin) used the Websites as a tool for the extortion of Schwab.  The Website’s clear objective was, and is, to publicly embarrass and shame Schwab and then to leverage that public embarrassment into litigation advantage in Behunin’s lawsuit against Schwab.”

“The Defendants agreed to a scheme that included providing false and defamatory information to third parties who would post articles or blogs on the internet repeating the false and defamatory statements provided to them by Defendants…creating the impression that the false statements on the websites had been independently corroborated by the third-party posters,” according the lawsuit by Michael Schwab filed by his attorney David H. Schwartz.

Schwartz pointed to a false and defamatory story by HuffingtonPost.com blogger Bruce Fein entitled “Does This Schwab Charity Satisfy the IRS Perfume Test?<http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bruce-fein/does-this-schwab-charity-_b_5978502.html>” which is based on the libelous and defamatory statements from the bogus websites.

The Schwab’s attorneys said the bogus websites were posted after they refused to pay $25 million to Nicholas Behunin, who, through his attorney Leonard Steiner, threatened to sue unless the payment was made.   When no payment was made, Behunin sued the Schwabs on May 28, 2014, to recover his purported ownership interest in a real estate development venture with Michael Schwab. (The case is Sealutions LLC et al. case number BC546925, in the Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Los Angeles).

“The only purpose and intent of this scheme was to force a settlement through the implicit threat that Defendants would continue to disseminate such false and defamatory statements to the public unless and until Plaintiff and/or his father agreed to a settlement of the pending action,” according to the suit by Michael Schwab.

The Schwab legal filings claim that they initially contacted attorney Steiner in early October to inquire if he or his client was responsible for the websites. Steiner told them he had no knowledge of the sites, according the lawsuits.  The websites were registered anonymously. After further investigation, the Schwab’s attorneys found the sites were registered to Levick Strategic Communications public relations.  Later, after notifying attorney Steiner again, he still denied knowledge of them. After that contact with Steiner, the Schwab lawsuit says, the website was changed to include the name of Steiner & Libo law firm. In the past few days, the firm removed its name and now the site lists its owner as: N. Behunin.

Charles R. SchwabCharles R. Schwab

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Just Theater Presents the World Premiere IN FROM THE COLD

JUST THEATER (JT) presents the World Premiere of In From The Cold by Jonathan Spector, opening with a press night on Monday, November 3 (Previews Nov 1 & 2) running through November 23 in the Live Oak Theatre, 1301 Shattuck Ave (at Berryman) in North Berkeley, in which a Cold War spy’s past maybe isn’t past after all, the secret meaning of 80s movies is revealed, and its Ladies Night at Chilis. In From The Cold is a funny and provocative new play about what is means when you used to mean a lot, and now you don’t mean much anymore.

Following up on it’s hit production of A Maze, Just Theater brings this hilarious, troubling new work inspired by the little known true story of the Cold-War’s biggest spy. In From The Cold exposes the personal consequences of political actions and asks deep questions about the trade-offs we make in the name of our ideals. In From The Cold gives life to the actions of a former spy, playing out when a prodigal son returns home to take up residence in the basement with both funny and tragic results.

”A few years ago I discovered that one of the biggest spies from the Cold War had lived in hiding across the street from my suburban high school, and that I’d actually met him a few times. I’m always interested in people who are caught up in moments of great historical change, and in the incongruity of the large social forces and mundane everyday life – like the fact that this guy who may have prevented WWIII still had to worry about moving his car on Tuesdays for street sweeping.” remarks playwright and Just Theater Co-Artistic Director Jonathan Spector. In From The Cold is directed by Christine Young, featuring Seton Brown*, Julian Lopez-Morillas*, Harold Pierce, Sarah Moser*, David Sinaiko (*Actors Equity).

In From The Cold was a winner of Aurora Theater’s Global Age Prize, featured in Playwrights Foundation’s ROUGH reading series, and a finalist for the O’Neill Playwrights Conference. It was commissioned and developed in Just Theater’s New Play Lab.

Live Oak Theatre, Live Oak Park, 1301 Shattuck Ave,  (at Berryman) North Berkeley, CA 94709

Nov 1 – 23 (Previews Nov 1 & 2)

Performances: Thurs 7 pm Fri- Sat 8 pm Sunday 5 pm.

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Court Refuses To Intervene In Case of 40,000 Missing Voters In Georgia

—On Tuesday, Judge Christopher Brasher of the Fulton County Superior Court denied a petition from civil rights advocates to force Georgia’s Secretary of State to process an estimated 40,000 voter registrations that have gone missing from the public database.

Though early voting is well underway in the state, Judge Brasher called the lawsuit “premature,” and said it was based on “merely set out suspicions and fears that the [state officials] will fail to carry out their mandatory duties.”

Angela Aldridge, an organizer with the group 9 to 5 Atlanta Working Women who has been working to register voters for several months, told ThinkProgress she was “furious” when she learned of the outcome: “That impedes people’s rights,” she said. “People need information before they go out to vote and they don’t even know if they’re registered or not. They were discouraged, upset, kind of frazzled, not really knowing what was going on. What can you even say to people who want to vote but possibly can’t? They might get disengaged and say, ‘Why vote? It doesn’t matter.’ It’s really disheartening.”

The New Georgia Project, who spearheaded the voter registration drive and brought the lawsuit against the state, vowed Tuesday to “continue to pursue all legal avenues available.” But with the election mere days away, there may be little remedy for the tens of thousands of people who submitted all necessary documents, but have still not received a registration card. Four of those impacted voters were present at the court hearing, but were denied the opportunity to testify.

Dr. Francys Johnson, President of the Georgia NAACP, who represented the 40 thousand voters in the court, called the ruling “outrageous.”

“All in all – a republican appointed judge has backed the republican Secretary of State to deny the right to vote to a largely African American and Latino population,” Johnson wrote in a press release.
On Monday, dozens of Georgians occupied the Secretary of State’s office to demand he meet with them and explain what happened to the tens of thousands of missing registrations. At that protest, in which eight activists were arrested, former American Government teacher and civil rights lawyer Marsha Burrofsky told ThinkProgress she suspects foul play.

“When we started registering people this spring, people were saying, ‘You know, I registered six months ago, but I haven’t gotten anything yet!’ We thought that was strange,” she said. So we sat down with our list of registrations and checked, and about 20 to 20 percent were not showing up. We truly don’t know where things stand with them.”

Burrofsky said the people she registered in Dunwoody, Georgia, a more affluent and conservative community, did show up in the system, while those in more diverse and low-income communities in DeKalb County mysteriously disappeared.

“It just hadn’t occurred to me that this would be a tactic that the Secretary of State could use. I was very naive, I guess. I feel absolutely sick that this election is being stolen,” she said.
With the races for the state’s governor’s mansion and Senate seat too close to call, the missing voters could not only sway the political control of the state, but the political control of Congress’ upper chamber. Aldridge, who has spent several months registering voters in Fulton and Cobb County, told ThinkProgress that it is imperative to increase participation in marginalized communities so that elected officials better represent the constituents.

“I don’t believe that the government represents the whole state yet,” she said. “The politicians always say, ‘These are our values.’ But it has nothing to do with my personal values! That’s why we have to get out to vote, to make sure our state represents our values.”

Longtime Atlanta resident Atuarra McCaslin with Moral Monday Georgia, who organized Monday’s action, summed up his feelings on the situation. “It’s an unjust thing going on, he said. “Those 40,000 now can’t participate in the voting process, even though it’s their right as citizens. The Secretary of State doesn’t really care about those 40,000 people, who are primarily people of color and youth. Those kids have been waking up politically, and now their voices are going unheard. It’s just not right.”

ALICE OLLSTEIN, From Think Progress

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3-Month-old Baby Shoots Texas Man In The Face

This totally never happens except when it does. After another apparent accidental shooting, Houston police are investigating. This time, the culprit is a 3-month-old baby. You see, the baby had access to his binkie, a blankie and of course, a gun.

20-year-old Patrick Sanders was shot on Saturday after a gun fell out of his pocket during a nap and landed in the hands of an infant, according to Houston Press Blogs.

Sanders was napping on the couch in the living room of his apartment, according to the police report, when the gun stashed in his pocket slipped out and onto the floor.

What could go wrong?

Well, when the man awoke, he found his firearm in the hands of the three-month-old boy, HPD Homicide Division Sergeant R. Rodriguez and W. Gilbert said.

You know how babies are. Oh look, a shiny thing!

Sanders tried to grab the gun from the infant, which caused the gun to fire, resulting in the man being shot in the face.

The baby was not injured during the incident, according to the police report.

Sanders was transported to a local hospital where he is listed in critical condition. It’s not clear as to whether Sanders is the3-month-old shooter’s father or not.

On the plus side: At least the baby didn’t put the gun in its mouth. Babies tend to put everything in their mouths, like shiny things, for example.

As far as I know, the gun survived the incident and is ready for the next. I’m sure the NRA would support gun owners teaching little babies proper gun safety. “More guns” is totally the answer.

From Libraland

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RightWingRo.com Educates Republicans about the Truth Behind Ro Khanna’s Republican Support

We recently wrote about how Congressional Candidate Ro Khanna is a Democrat in name only at this point – even attracting criticism from Howard Dean for his anti-Democratic statements. Now it appears Khanna is courting Republicans by repeatedly calling on the political ghost of the former Republican Congressman Tom Campbell of San Jose.

But Campbell hasn’t endorsed Khanna and, as of today, the Mike Honda campaign is pushing back with a new website, RightWingRo.com, that educates voters about the real Republicans behind Khanna’s bid for Congress – aka, none other than the disgraced former Congressman Ernie Konnyu, who recently came under fire for some homophobic remarks.

“While Khanna has frequently drawn on the memory of former Congressman Tom Campbell in his last-ditch attempt to secure the conservative vote, Republicans deserve to know where Khanna’s support is actually coming from – former Congressman Ernie Konnyu, who Campbell defeated in the 1980s,” said Honda Campaign Manager Doug Greven in a statement. “We have launched this latest effort to provide Republicans with the facts behind the company Khanna keeps so that they can make an informed decision about who is best to represent the 17th Congressional District.”

Despite Konnyu’s questionable character, Khanna has not renounced Konnyu’s endorsement. In fact, he’s said he was “happy” to have the support of Konnyu, his highest-ranking Republican endorser who tried to rally the support of the Tea Party Express for Khanna in August.

The new website goes on to show how Konnyu was disowned by his own party in the 1980s after three aides accused him of sexual harassment. Even Campbell has attacked Konnyu for vulgarly addressing female aides and lobbyists. Campbell, who challenged Konnyu in 1988 and won, chided him for his “insensitivity” and “crassness,” and called Konnyu “a fraud,” and “a turkey,” according to media reports from the 1980s.

So, while Khanna may be courting Republicans, his highest-ranking Republican ally is a guy Republicans don’t even want on their team – not exactly a ringing endorsement for a candidate trying to establish credibility among some of the state’s savviest voters.

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By the Numbers: How Canada’s Gun Laws Compare to Ours

The Ottawa shootings at the National War Memorial and inside Parliament shone a light on our northern neighbor’s laws, which have often been credited with helping Canada avoid the multitudes of mass shootings the U.S. has seen.

Annual homicides by gun:

Canada had 173 homicides by gun, according to a 2012 report.
The U.S. had 9,146 that year.

Total number of civilian guns:

Canada has 9,950,000.
The U.S. has more than 27 times as many: 270,000,000.

Guns per person:

Canada reports 30.8 firearms per 100 people. The country ranks 13 worldwide for firearms per capita, according to a report published by The Washington Post in September
The U.S. has 88.8. It ranks No. 1.

Waiting period to purchase a gun:

Canada requires a 60-day waiting period.
There is no federally mandated waiting period.
In the U.S. Residents can receive a gun after a background check.

Largest mass shootings:

Canada’s largest mass shooting was in 1989, when 25-year-old Marc Lepine killed 14 people at Montreal’s École Polytechnique.
The U.S. has had 160 mass shooting incidents between 2000 and 2013, CNN reports from a study released by the FBI. The largest U.S. shooting was at Virginia Tech in 2007, when 23-year-old student Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people. In 2012, twenty children and seven adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

License and registration requirements:

To own a gun in Canada, residents must take a safety course and pass both a written and a practical exam. The license expires in five years. Residents have to register restricted firearms, such as handguns and automatic weapons, with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s Canadian Firearms Program.
In the U.S., license and registration laws vary from states to state, often with no such requirements. There is no mandatory course or exam.

Background checks:

Canada requires a background check that focuses on mental health and addiction. Agents are required to inform an applicant’s spouse or family before granting a license.
The U.S. requires a federal background check for all those buying guns from licensed dealers but does not require one in private transactions such as at gun shows.

 

(Information is gathered from data collected by the Small Arms Study, The United Nations Office on Drug and Crime, and the Canadian Firearms Program).

Samantha Cowen, TakePart

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