Archive | Front Page

Corporate Ad Mocking Burning Man’s Corporate Influence Is So Accurate That Burning Man Might Sue

A new advertisement that mocks Burning Man’s corporate influences and was itself produced by sandwich company Quizno’s (as a faux-installment of The Maze Runner movie franchise) is so meta and self-aware as to be nearly sentient. At once brilliant and sordid, this is the kind of meta-TV that David Foster Wallace warned us about, may he rest in peace. Oh, and perfectly completing the meta-mind-fuck of this whole episode, Burning Man officials are considering a lawsuit against Quizno’s — for commodifying its culture.

As the Reno Gazette-Journal reports, Burning Man isn’t very amused, perhaps because the ad strikes such a nerve. Spokesperson Jim Graham Burni says legal action is being considered because the video is theft of the event’s intellectual property. “We are pretty proactive about protecting our 10 principles, one of which is decommodification,” Graham said. “We get a quite a number of requests each year from companies wanting to gift participants with their product or to capture imagery or video of their products at the event, and we turn them all down.”

Quizno’s and Burning Man have not yet been in contact.

“We’ll be coordinating with our legal team to see what action we can take,” Graham said. In the past, Burning Man has sued the Girls Gone Wild filmmakers on similar grounds and won.


Continue Reading

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar eviscerates Kim Davis and Mike Huckabee for anti-gay unAmericanism

Hall of Fame NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar took hasn’t shied away from activism through visibility and his leadership. In 1971 he famously and publicly changed his name to reflect his Muslim heritage. He has not hidden his use of marijuana for medicinal purposes (he suffers from migraines). He has been outspoken on race issues and recently got into a feud with Donald Trump.

This week he took aim at Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis, Mike Huckabee and others who are trying to force their own religious beliefs on other people, most notably to prevent same-sex couples from marrying. Writing for Time, he took shots at Davis’ lack of patriotism and the long history in American of using religion to keep classes of people disenfranchised.

Following this tradition in America, should the Kim Davises of the country be allowed to refuse marriage licenses to divorced people because Jesus spoke against divorce? Or deny licenses to interracial couples because of the story of Ham? Or stone rebellious children because of Deuteronomy? The reason we separate Church and State is because the Founding Fathers believed government should be guided by a balance of morality and reason, not blind religious faith. There are about 35 major Christian denominations in the U.S. Various denominations don’t always agree with each other on what the proper moral action is in the same situation. Then we add in all the other religions and belief systems in our country—all protected by the Constitution—and we see why we don’t go to any one religion to decide what should be legal. The Orthodox Jewish clerk at the DMV cannot deny you a driver’s license because you eat ham. The Muslim clerk at the Social Security office can’t deny you benefits because you drink liquor. The Christian Scientist clerk at the IRS cannot audit your taxes because you chose medical help. Practice your religion in freedom; just don’t make everyone else practice your religion.

You have to read the whole piece, which is one of the best shots at the nonsense surrounding the canonization of Davis by anti-LGBT hate-mongers. And big thanks to Kareem for so eloquently and pointedly eviscerating Davis, Huckabee and their anti-Americanism.

, OutSports

Continue Reading


All of us know “that guy.” He might be a crazy uncle, an annoying co-worker, or that one person who shows up at all the parties and tells you about the merits of the gold standard for currency.

They hate government, they hate everyone else, they might even hate themselves. They are the Teabaggers.

Here is the perfect pledge to make them read aloud and then sign in front of everyone present at any discussion, gathering, rally, or other such gathering of more than just themselves talking to the TV. There is nothing more I can add to this perfect document, so I present it to you now:

I, ________________________, do solemnly swear to uphold the principles of a socialism-free society and heretofore pledge my word that I shall strictly adhere to the following:

I will complain about the destruction of 1st Amendment Rights in this country, while I am duly being allowed to exercise my 1st Amendment Rights.

I will complain about the destruction of my 2nd Amendment Rights in this country, while I am duly being allowed to exercise my 2nd Amendment rights by legally but brazenly brandishing unconcealed firearms in public.

I will foreswear the time-honored principles of fairness, decency, and respect by screaming unintelligible platitudes regarding tyranny, Nazi-ism, and socialism at public town halls. Also.

I pledge to eliminate all government intervention in my life. I will abstain from the use of and participation in any socialist goods and services including but not limited to the following:

  • Social Security
  • Medicare/Medicaid
  • State Children’s Health Insurance Programs (SCHIP)
  • Police, Fire, and Emergency Services
  • US Postal Service
  • Roads and Highways
  • Air Travel (regulated by the socialist FAA)
  • The US Railway System
  • Public Subways and Metro Systems
  • Public Bus and Lightrail Systems
  • Rest Areas on Highways
  • Sidewalks
  • All Government-Funded Local/State Projects
  • Public Water and Sewer Services (goodbye socialist toilet, shower, dishwasher, kitchen sink, outdoor hose!)
  • Public and State Universities and Colleges
  • Public Primary and Secondary Schools
  • Sesame Street
  • Publicly Funded Anti-Drug Use Education for Children
  • Public Museums
  • Libraries
  • Public Parks and Beaches
  • State and National Parks
  • Public Zoos
  • Unemployment Insurance
  • Municipal Garbage and Recycling Services
  • Treatment at Any Hospital or Clinic That Ever Received Funding From Local, State or Federal Government (pretty much all of them)
  • Medical Services and Medications That Were Created or Derived From Any Government Grant or Research Funding (again, pretty much all of them)
  • Socialist Byproducts of Government Investment Such as Duct Tape and Velcro (Nazi-NASA Inventions)
  • Use of the Internets, email, and networked computers, as the DoD’s ARPANET was the basis for subsequent computer networking
  • Foodstuffs, Meats, Produce and Crops That Were Grown With, Fed With, Raised With or That Contain Inputs From Crops Grown With Government Subsidies
  • Clothing Made from Crops (e.g. cotton) That Were Grown With or That Contain Inputs From Government Subsidies

If a veteran of the government-run socialist US military, I will forego my VA benefits and insist on paying for my own medical care

I will not tour socialist government buildings like the Capitol in Washington, D.C.

I pledge to never take myself, my family, or my children on a tour of the following types of socialist locations, including but not limited to:

  • Smithsonian Museums such as the Air and Space Museum or Museum of American History
  • The socialist Washington, Lincoln, and Jefferson Monuments
  • The government-operated Statue of Liberty
  • The Grand Canyon
  • The socialist World War II and Vietnam Veterans Memorials
  • The government-run socialist-propaganda location known as Arlington National Cemetery
  • All other public-funded socialist sites, whether it be in my state or in Washington, DC
  • I will urge my Member of Congress and Senators to forego their government salary and government-provided healthcare.

I will oppose and condemn the government-funded and therefore socialist military of the United States of America.

I will boycott the products of socialist defense contractors such as GE, Lockheed-Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, Raytheon, Humana, FedEx, General Motors, Honeywell, and hundreds of others that are paid by our socialist government to produce goods for our socialist army.

I will protest socialist security departments such as the Pentagon, FBI, CIA, Department of Homeland Security, TSA, Department of Justice and their socialist employees.

Upon reaching eligible retirement age, I will tear up my socialist Social Security checks.

Upon reaching age 65, I will forego Medicare and pay for my own private health insurance until I die.


_____________ _________________________

Signed Printed Name/Town and State

Source: Daily KOS

Your average Teabagger participates in Socialism every day of their life. They LOVE Medicare and Social Security when they are on it, and they feel “entitled” to it personally. They sure do get excited over the idea of new sports stadiums funded by public tax dollars, even though they never really return a solid economic boom to the cities they are built in. And they demand their right to travel unrestricted on public roads (again publicly funded through what they call “illegal theft” but is just really paying taxes), without having to stop at sobriety checkpoints. If there was a malfunctioning traffic light, which caused them to get in an accident, they would sue the city for not repairing it with taxpayer money sooner. No, your average Teabagger is usually more dependent on the government than anyone else, and they survive through socialism. However, you sure wouldn’t know it from reading their crazy emails or drunken rants.



Continue Reading

Elizabeth Warren: I agree with Donald Trump on taxes

Elizabeth Warren has endorsed Donald Trump — on taxes, anyway.

Warren, the Massachusetts senator and populist champion, said Tuesday that she supports Trump’s proposal to levy higher taxes on the rich.

“There are a lot of places where he gets out and talks about important things,” Warren said during an appearance on “The View.” “Donald Trump and I both agree that there ought to be more taxation of the billionaires, the people who are making their money on Wall Street.”

Warren rejected co-host Joy Behar’s suggestion that Trump had taken a “liberal position.”

“It is a pretty right position,” Warren said, arguing that the majority of Americans share that view.

Warren’s praise is likely to give more ammunition to the conservatives who insist that Trump, the current frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination, is actually a liberal. The billionaire developer said last month that he’s in favor of raising taxes on wealthy Americans, winning the approval of another progressive icon: New York Times columnist and Nobel laureate Paul Krugman.

But Warren made it clear that she’s not in Trump’s corner, saying that his pledge to deport 11 million immigrants should disqualify him for the White House.

“You can’t be president of the United States if that’s your view about how we’re going to solve immigration reform,” Warren said.

Warren offered other election observations on “The View,” the 19th season premiere for the talk show. She praised Bernie Sanders for “generating an enormous amount of interest, and said she didn’t know if Vice President Joe Biden will run for president. When asked if she would consider serving as Biden’s running mate, as has been rumored, Warren dodged.

“This isn’t about me,” she said. “I’m going to be out there talking about what I believe in, no matter what.”

However, there was one prominent candidate who didn’t get much attention during the interview: Hillary Clinton, whose name was mentioned only briefly by Behar. Warren never brought up the former secretary of state.

The show was friendly turf for Warren, who also made an appearance there last year. Behar, making her return to “The View” after a two-year absence, said Warren is “presidential material.”

“I wish that you would run,” Behar told the senator.


CNN Money

Continue Reading

Cheney’s Iran lie exposed in dramatic fashion

Former Vice President Dick Cheney is scheduled to speak today at a D.C. think tank, delivering remarks intended to condemn the international nuclear agreement with Iran. If an ignominious exchange over the weekend was evidence of his expertise, however, Cheney might want to reschedule, brush up on the details, and rethink his approach.

The underlying challenge for the failed former V.P. is the degree to which his own Iran policy failed spectacularly. Iran didn’t have a meaningful nuclear weapons program until Tehran developed one – during the Bush/Cheney administration. At the time, in response to Iran’s nuclear program, the Bush/Cheney administration did nothing – except, of course, strengthen Iran’s regional power by invading Iraq.

With this in mind, Fox News’ Chris Wallace reminded Cheney over the weekend that Iran “went from zero known [nuclear] centrifuges in operation to more than 5,000.” The Republican’s response was extraordinary.

The Fox News host flashed that data on screen so no one could miss it, and added: “So in fairness, didn’t you leave – the Bush-Cheney administration – leave President Obama with a mess?”

“Well, I don’t think of it that way,” Cheney countered. […] “But the centrifuges went from zero to 5,000,” Wallace pressed.

“Well, they may well have gone but that happened on Obama’s watch, not on our watch,” Cheney replied.

That’s the exact opposite of the truth, as Wallace, to his credit, quickly reminded the former V.P. Iran’s nuclear program blossomed, not under President Obama, but during the Bush/Cheney era.

Cheney wants Americans to blame Obama for a mess Cheney created. Indeed, either Cheney doesn’t know what happened in Iran on his watch, in which case his ignorance effectively disqualifies him from the debate, or Cheney simply doesn’t care about the facts, which renders his misguided opinions meaningless.

I’m afraid there is no third option.

It remains unclear whether Cheney is ignorant or dishonest, but either course leads to an unsettling direction. When it was the far-right former V.P. helping guide the nation’s foreign policy, Iran benefited tremendously. New York’s Jon Chait recently explained:

Bush and Cheney may have rhetorically opposed the Iranian nuclear program. In reality, they allowed it to blossom. As Marc Champion explained several months ago, “at the start of Bush’s presidency, Iran had no operational centrifuge cascades and no stocks of enriched fuel, so it had no means of making a nuclear weapon.” Then things got bad: “By the time Bush left office in January 2009, Iran had just under 4,000 working centrifuges and an additional 1,600 installed. These had, to that point, produced 171 kilos of low-enriched uranium. Oh, and Iran had covertly built a new enrichment facility under a mountain at Qom.”

Measured by results, rather than sound bites, Cheney was the greatest thing that happened to the radical regime in Iran since it took power.

Even Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), an aggressive hawk and no ally of Democrats, conceded not too long ago, “I think the Bush administration, they were a miserable failure when it came to controlling Iran’s nuclear ambition.”

Given all of these inconvenient facts, perhaps it’s not too surprising that Cheney would repeat demonstrably ridiculous talking points on national television. If I were Cheney, I’d feel humiliated by the truth, too.

But if the former vice president wants to play a role in the drama surrounding Iran, he’s too late – we already have enough jesters, and Cheney isn’t qualified for any other role.

Steve Benen, MSNBC

Continue Reading

Last Hurrah For The Old, White, Angry Crowd

This has been a heady summer for old, angry, white men and women.

They have been enraptured as Donald Trump tells respected TV anchorman Jorge Ramos to ”go back to Univision” and suggests that a woman who dares ask him a tough question had “blood coming out of her wherever.”

(You do have to admire Trump’s ability to hold back just a little — “Go back to Univision” was perilously close to “go back to Mexico,” though even that would not have harmed him, and would likely have caused gleeful paroxysms among his supporters.)

But the bad news for this crowd: it is your last hurrah.

I am old and white (well, not old, but old enough to squirm in embarrassment when Hillary Clinton, perhaps the unhippest human in public life, makes reference to Snapchat). And I get angry now and then.

But I don’t get angry about immigration, legal or otherwise, or about women in power, or about people with Asian or Spanish accents trying to make lives for themselves or their families in the United States.

This is, old angry people, the future of America. You can rage against it and try to build fences and you may win in the very short run.

But in the long run, you will lose.

The numbers tell the story, and even if a fence could be built (it can’t) or Donald says he can round up 11 million people and put them on buses headed south (he can’t), the country is changing. Whether that is for the better or worse, it is an unstoppable development.

So fight it and be seen as the xenophobes you may well be, or embrace it — or at least accept it — and participate in the change.

The angry white man who told Jorge Ramos to “get out of my country” after Ramos was briefly removed from Trump’s “news conference” didn’t appear to be Native American, so one has to assume that at some point in this nation’s history, someone told his great, or great-great grandparents, to get out of their country.

When I look at the people in back of Trump when he takes the podium, I wonder: Is it by design that there are so few non-white folks in his audience? Would including such people send a message to Trump supporters that he doesn’t want to send?


Every pundit — most of whom dismissed Trump at first — has concluded that he has “touched a nerve.” Maybe. But even as Trump’s support hovers around 30 percent of Republicans, remember that is 30 percent of roughly 40 percent of people who describe themselves as Republican, or about 12 percent of the general population. (Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina are touching that same anti-Washington nerve, but their base does in fact include a broader demographic.)

But yes, he has touched that nerve and made it scream a loud, ugly scream.

I don’t discount the pain these mostly older and mostly white angry people feel. It is real. They do believe they are losing or have lost their country, and they do want to “take it back” and “make America great again.” But take it back from whom? Who has actually “taken” their country?

I don’t doubt they are hurting. They may feel they have lost jobs or opportunities to the immigrant population, or that their children or grandchildren will.

Those are hard facts to accept. But that is the new reality, and yelling at people to go back to where they came from or hatching absurd schemes to send 11 million people packing won’t change that.

I have two beautiful grandchildren who are half Hispanic, and if my son and his girlfriend’s plans materialize, I may have half black grandchildren in the near future (or Jew-maican, as they have dubbed them).

I may have lost out on jobs and opportunities to women, minorities and certainly, to younger people. But I am not angry about that. It is the history of our country that people come for a better life and face ignorant hatred along the path. I choose not to be part of that ignorance, that hatred.

So enjoy your summer of Trump. Or maybe fall and winter of Trump. But it will end soon. The world and the country are changing, and no amount of anger will hold that back.

Joe Seldner, Huffington Post

Continue Reading

Thanks, Tanks, and Transformation: An Open Letter to Kim Davis

Dear Sister in Christ,

I want to write you this letter to express my sincerest and heart-felt thank you for what you are doing, but not for the reasons you might think. I am quite sure there are many opponents of Marriage Equality who are writing you letters supporting your willful insubordination to the duties of your office in the name of Christ. To many Christians you are taking a stand for “righteousness” and, even if you are jailed or forced to resign from your office because of your actions, you will be celebrated through this country as a martyr for Jesus Christ. No doubt you will be offered a book deal, be invited on news broadcasts, and go on a nationwide speaking tour. The name “Kim Davis” has already been associated with the “Tank Man,” the brave man who ironically and defiantly stood against government oppression by using his body to block the column of tanks rolling through Tiananmen Square in 1989. To many you are a freedom fighter, a veritable patriot opposing government tyranny. You have taken up your cross of righteousness and willingly bear it for truth.

 Except that you are the government. You hold an elected position as clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky. Upon taking your office, you took an oath to support federal and state constitutions and laws. You are not the “Tank Man,” Ms. Davis; you are the Tanks. You have not taken up your cross; you are the Roman legions nailing innocent LGBTQ people to the cross of your faith. The power you hold as clerk is power you willingly took to yourself when you ran for and were elected as county clerk. It is power that, if your conscience is truly stricken because of your deeply held religious beliefs, you can and should willingly lay aside.

So why am I, an openly gay Episcopal priest, thanking you, a brazenly heterosexist Christian? Because your actions have offered me a challenge to excel in love as the Gospels command us, and I love a good challenge. “Love your enemy,” Jesus says in Matthew’s Gospel. “Pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” I willingly admit that it is quite easy to love people who agree with me, who hold my beliefs, who pray like I do, and who believe in the ever expansive and inclusive truth of God like me. It is harder for me to love people who take the Gospels of Jesus Christ and apply them recklessly and without love and, as a result, do spiritual and emotional damage to the very people we are called to love and serve.

I know all too well the debilitating pathology of myopic religion. You view the world in deeply divided absolutes. Right and wrong. Black and white. In and out. Righteous and wicked. Good and evil. Those are your beliefs. As with all religious beliefs, they work until they don’t. The problem with the way that you view the world is that you have effectively cut yourself off from relationship and community with many other people. If God is found “where two or three are gathered,” you have chosen to limit your options to encounter the holy. In your sharp demarcation of creation, you miss the God who swirls at twilight or moves at the margins. You miss God in poor man Lazarus outside the Beautiful Gate, or in the Samaritan Woman at the Well, or in the community of lepers outside the city.

And yet the Gospels compel me to create room for you even though you would not create for me. My invitation to the table obliges me to set a place for you, even though you’d let me starve at yours. I am compelled to take the high road of love, which makes me carry your name in prayer, not that God would change you, but that God would support you and nurture you in all goodness and love. I am compelled by this Gospel to which I am a prisoner in chains to tear down the boundaries of my heart and to welcome you in, even though I would be refused the same hospitality in yours. You would willingly dehumanize me. It is my meet, right, and bounden duty that I affirm your humanity. Like our Lord who willingly offered himself in love to those who could not or would not return it – I am duty-bound to do the same. Why? Because creation will know that we are Christians, not by the way we argue right versus wrong, but by the way we love one another. That’s my journey towards what Joan Chittister, Benedictine nun, calls the “unboundaried heart.”

Prayer is a practice we engage in, not so that we can change God or change other people, but so that we can change ourselves. Including you in my prayers is not so that God will change your heart, but so that God can change mine. The process of conversion implicit to the spiritual life is the process wherein God overthrows the temples of our hearts, removes all the idols and false gods that we have raised upon our small altars, and enthrones himself as Lord. Through that process we learn to see as God sees, not through eyes of division and darkness, but through eyes of love and welcome. Enlightenment, Ms. Davis, does not come through raising walls around our hearts, but by tearing them down and exposing them to the God who comes to us over and over, day after day, in unexpected ways.

Some will attack your appearance. Other will attack your past (though I do find it hard to rationalize your serial remarriages with your desire to uphold the sanctity of marriage… but that’s an aside). I will try to do neither, though I do ask for you patience as God ain’t through with me yet.

Instead I will pray for you. Not in the polite, passive-aggressive, “Bless her heart” Southern meaning of “pray for you,” but really pray for you. I will hold you in my words until I can hold you in heart because when there is space enough to hold you in my heart, that will be the evidence I need to know that God is real and that God is still in the business of conversion and transformation. My initial response to your actions have revealed a darkness in me, and my choice to pray for you is an invitation for the love of God to break this heart of stone.

Until then, I offer my wounded, broken, and fortressed heart on the altar of God’s love and pray that God will transfigure me with the light of Jesus Christ until I shine with his glory.

In the meantime, I pray “Gracious God… help me not be an ass.” Yep, that seems like a good place to start.

Your Brother in Christ,
Fr. Marcus Halley +


From Black and White and in Living Color

Continue Reading

SF Spikes Hosting National Gay Indoor Soccer Tournament September 25-27


The San Francisco Spikes Soccer Club will be hosting the 3rd Annual Folsom Weekend Indoor Soccer Tournament  September 25-27.  For more info see   Spikes allows our entire community the opportunity to compete in local leagues, represent San Francisco in tournaments worldwide, and play recreational soccer. Their president Trey Allen says “we’re excited to welcome LGBT soccer players from teams such as the Albany Empire, Chicago MSA, Long Beach Waverunners, WeHo, NY Ramblers, Philadelphia, Portland and Vancouver and their allies from all over the US who will be competing in this year’s tournament taking place in Bladium Sports Arena 800 W. Tower Ave., Alameda.”

At this traditional tournament you may register as an individual and they will help find you a team. Spectators are welcome and volunteers are still needed to help out as water boys and time keepers.  The weekend festivities begin with a panel discussion hosted by Commonwealth Club San Francisco and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) “A New Era of LGBT Openness in Int’l  Soccer” including Jaiyah Saelua from American Samoa, the 1st transgender player to compete in a FIFA qualifier.  The panel discussion is hosted by the San Francisco Commonwealth Club.

The San Francisco Spikes Soccer Club was founded as a team in 1982 to represent SF in the 1st Gay Games.  All are welcome to join including any  skill and income levels.   ”We offer fun competitive, intermediate and recreational soccer programming. We offer indoor and outdoor programming, too.”  Becoming a Spike is easy. Register online or show up at one of their indoor intramural nights (Mondays during the late Fall to early Spring) or their Thursday night outdoor practices (Spring- Fall). Click the calendar link on their website   for upcoming practice dates. Email for more info.

Trey Allen (he’s Spider Man in photo), a native of Bakersfield is working on his Master in Public Administration at SF State and has served as president of the SF Spike’s since 2014.  He and I met up at none other than Spike’s Coffee and Tea on 19th St (one of their community partners). He has increased membership overall as well as at their indoor league.  Under his leadership fundraising has increased and registration at this year’s tournament has nearly doubled.  Over a dozen community partners have been recruited.

This year’s 3rd Annual Folsom Weekend Indoor Soccer Tournament from September 25-27 promises to be even better than last year! Join in the fun with the numerous local and out-of-town athletes.  Ask to see if they’re wearing a harness along with their shin guards or the other way around.

Paul Margolis,

Continue Reading

Americans believe we spend around 26% of our national budget on foreign aid. Here’s the truth.

“I think the U.S. spends too much money helping out other countries when we clearly have a sh*t ton of problems being ignored in our own,” said a dear friend of mine.

I was asking for her thoughts on how the United States goes about helping other countries through foreign assistance. It can be a confusing and controversial topic.

As it turns out, her response is a common one.

So if the general sentiment is that we’re spending too much helping other countries on things like health, economic development, and humanitarian assistance … just how much are we actually spending?

Americans believe we spend an average of 26% of our entire U.S. budget on foreign aid.

I’m not going to go all math class on you, but to put it into perspective, our entire fiscal year 2016 budget (as it stands) is around $4 trillion. So the thinking is that over a fourth of that is being used toward other countries — or is it?

The reality is America spends less than 1% on foreign aid.

According to, America spends approximately 0.8% of its entire budget on foreign aid.

Considering foreign aid is such a tiny, tiny, tinyyyyy fraction of our spending, America is really making huge strides.
Think about these five ways the U.S. has been able to improve other countries while spending less than 1% of its budget:

1. 8 million people have received life-saving HIV treatment, and 56.7 million people have received HIV counseling and testing.

Just to put that into perspective there are about 8.4 million people living in New York City. A whole New York City got saved. Cool.

And that’s not all. According to USAID, more than 14.2 million pregnant women have been supported with HIV testing and counseling and provided prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission to more than 749,000 HIV-positive women. 95% of those babies were born HIV-free, which is great news for future generations.

2. Agricultural programs have helped 1 billion people in 20 years.

What’s cooler than helping a million people? Helping A BILLION PEOPLE.

Malnutrition contributes up to 45% of all childhood deaths. Oof. Agricultural programs like Feed the Future are working to cut that in various, sustainable ways.

In just 2014, Feed the Future reached more than 12 million children with nutrition interventions and helped nearly 7 million farmers gain access to new tools or technologies such as high-yielding seeds, fertilizer application, soil conservation, and water management. It’s teaching them how to help themselves.

3. Deaths caused by malaria in African children have dropped by 51%.


Foreign aid programs have helped bring malaria rates down in a historic way. A 51% drop between the years of 2000-2012 has meant that 500,000 African kids under the age of 5 have been saved each year and otherwise wouldn’t have, Foreign Policy and a 2013 report from the World Health Organization explain.

4. More moms and babies are staying alive. Millions more of them.

Moms used to die in childbirth. That number has been halved. HALF! We halved it with 1% of the budget.

Deaths of children under 5 worldwide have declined from 10.8 million in 2000 to 6.3 million in 2013. That’s a huge drop! And there’s more reason to celebrate too. Between 1990 and 2013, maternal mortality has dropped by almost 50% worldwide.

Many of these deaths can be easily prevented or treated with simple and affordable interventions, which makes me very hopeful we can help decrease these numbers even more.

5. Mobile banking is GIVING people a future … and it is the future. And it’s happening now!

No bank? No problem. We’re putting banks in cell phones! Next thing you know, women are taking out loans and opening up businesses.

There are 1.8 billion people in the world with access to a phone but not to a bank. That’s beginning to change. A big shift in foreign assistance is to focus on effective ways to expand poor people’s access to formal financial services, and phones are proving a great way to do it.

A great example lies in Nepal. According to USAID, over 300 mobile financial services agents in 30 of 75 districts are now operating in Nepal. In 2013, banks serving Nepalese clients were expected to reach more than 19,000 new clients, with more than $2.3 million in rural loans disbursed to almost 8,000 borrowers — most of them women. That’s how businesses are started and people become able to contribute to the economy. Bam! Progress.

We do have problems in our own country that need addressing. But we’re also not exactly using up all our resources on other countries either!

How do you feel knowing how effective America has been with it’s 1% of the budget?

If you’re like these folks, you start seeing things a little differently.

Some even start to think that maybe we should could even do more.

I’m happy to know that America’s budget is getting used in this way. It’s a tiny sliver of money, prioritizing helpfulness, and the result is billions of safer earthlings. Oh, the possibilities!

Morgan Shoaff, UpWorthy

Continue Reading

Alonzo King LINES Ballet welcomes new Executive Director, Karim Eric Baer

Alonzo King LINES Ballet is pleased to announce the appointment of Karim Eric Baer as its new Executive Director, effective September 10, 2015. Baer brings extensive experience in programming, education, organizational development, strategic planning and fundraising to Alonzo King LINES Ballet.

“We found a dynamic, strategic and compassionate leader in Karim Baer,” said Board President Lucia Choi-Dalton. “His mindful approach to management and his enthusiastic embrace of LINES Ballet’s mission will continue to help sustain the financial health of this multifaceted organization. The board is excited to begin working with our new leader soon.”

“We are thrilled to have an innovative thinker and leader like Karim on board,” said LINES Ballet Artistic Director & Choreographer Alonzo King. “His energy, enthusiasm, and vision make him a great candidate to lead LINES Ballet into the future.”

Baer most recently served as the Director of Public Programs & Performances at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS), a private, non-profit institution of higher education based in San Francisco. Baer built a cultural and intellectual hub at CIIS, expanding a small collection of workshops to a dynamic program featuring internationally known artists, intellectuals and cultural influencers. He was also responsible for tripling the revenue of the Public Programs department. Prior he served as the Managing Director of the 7th Heaven Body Awareness Center in Berkeley and as a Social Worker in the Department of Social Services in Kansas City, MO.

“I have long considered Alonzo King LINES Ballet to be San Francisco’s premier dance company, representing the Bay Area’s commitment to the creative life here and abroad,” said Baer. “Likewise, the organization’s commitment to developing dancers through the LINES Dance Center and its myriad educational programs is inspirational. I am deeply honored, humbled and excited to join the team at LINES Ballet. I hope to be of great service and contribute to the artistic tapestry that is San Francisco.”

Baer received his BA in Psychology from Naropa University in Boulder, Co. He will remain involved with CIIS as an advisory board member to Public Programs & Performances.

Baer succeeds Janette Gitler, who served as Executive Director from 2011 until July of this year.


Continue Reading


My mom always asks me when she’s going to be a grandmother. Most of the time it’s in jest, but sometimes, when it’s just she and I in the car running errands, she gets more serious about it. “You’re not so young anymore,” she tells me, not in a mean way, but in a mom way — meaning that it comes from a place of love, but also that she won’t be dancing around some shit. And she’s right that I’m not so young anymore. I’m 34 years old and living like I’m 24. I have three roommates that I met off Craigslist, I’m in an often unsteady relationship (due in part to my Peter Pan Syndrome), and I want nothing to do with anything that requires me to be responsible for anything or anyone other than myself. And the thing is, I can’t imagine having any other kind of life … and I’m not sure I want to.

We always refer to San Francisco as Neverland. But as more and more Peters and Wendys and Lost Boys and Tinker Bells are pushed out of the city, I wonder if we can continue with this fantasy. Can a Peter Pan like myself survive in a Neverland diaspora? It’s easy to be forever young when the landscape that you live in doesn’t support adulthood. Shirking grown-up responsibilities like car payments is simple when you can ride a purple fuzzy bike everywhere. When the concept of owning a home is unfathomable, you just continue living with a bunch of roommates like a college student. But if I were suddenly evicted and forced out of this bubble of Victorians, fog, and hills, would I find that maybe my development had been arrested after all?

Before the current housing crisis, most of the people I knew who left San Francisco did so because, for them, it was time to escape the fantasy. They wanted normal grown-up shit like dishwashers and laundry machines and a multiple-bedroom house with a yard where their Tenderloin-studio-conceived kid could play. A cultural rift developed between those who decided they wanted out and those who wanted to continue playing make-believe. Many of us who stayed continued to do things like go out drinking on weeknights, have casual sex, and fuck around with mind-altering substances. A savings account was just the place where your money hung out until you transferred it to your checking account, and the concept of a retirement fund was ludicrous, because who the fuck has any money for that anyways? If you’re never gonna grow up, who needs a 401 (k)? Lately, though, for those of us who continue to play along, it’s felt like there’s a crack in the snow globe, and the vagaries of time are slipping in.

These days it seems possible to play at Peter Pan only if you’ve got VC funding. Silicon Valley bankrolls buy the trappings of eternal youth, like foosball tables and PlayStations at open offices. But it all seems contrived: going to an office in the first place and working for someone else sounds a lot like growing up.

I may not have realized it at the time, but I made a choice a long time ago to live a life devoted to creating things. Stories, poetry, spectacles, moon dances; the wild stuff that makes being alive worth it. I’ve always been content being monetarily broke but creatively and experientially rich. The things I make (booksTV shows, articles, poetryweb things) are highly consumed, and because of this popularity, my lifestyle far exceeds my bank account. From free meals to free booze to free tickets to shows, I get taken care of very well everywhere I go in SF, and that, combined with rent control, has always made being a broke artist viable. But here’s the thing: I am terrified of being evicted. I’ve managed to cobble together a life where bartending a few times a week supplements the little bit of money I make through my endeavors. But if I lose my rent control, I pretty much have to move out of the city, and I worry that I’m too old to start all over again and build this someplace else.

I have always been a motherfucking hustler, but right now I’m hustling harder than I’ve ever had to in my life. The fear of losing my apartment and the torment of having been so successful artistically yet so broke, is pushing me to work 12-hour days most weeks. I’ve always worked under the assumption that if I just keep making dope shit, I will finally pass over the tipping point that my career has been on for so long. But faced with the reality that San Francisco now only seems to support your dreams if you dream in code, I’m grinding doubly hard, trying to make my projects profitable instead of just cool. Because I’m not ready to leave.


The strange thing about worrying when I’ll get pushed out of Neverland is that I’m just as nervous about what happens if I don’t. I’ve seen a lot of people who, like me, never fancied the idea of growing up, and they are still living in the same broke-as-fuck situation as I am. I look at some of my heroes and I see my future in them and it terrifies me, because if it’s this hard now, I don’t see how it can get any easier as I get older. These are the people who, given the choice between chutes and ladders, chose the chutes every time because it was always a hell of a lot more fun than climbing up somebody else’s fucking rungs. Idealism can be a dangerous thing when you live in a place that so thoroughly encourages it, but it’s even more treacherous when it feels like that place is crumbling away. When you’ve built your whole life around living in San Francisco and not ever really growing up, what do you do when San Francisco grows up without you?

No matter how much I want to stay young and play make-believe forever, the forces of time and economics are conspiring against me. And as the city that so supports our fantasies also succumbs under the weight of gold, it makes me wonder what to do next. Do I leave Neverland and finally grow up? Or do I stay here with what’s left of the pirates and the fairies pretending to be young forever, until one day when I just can’t pretend anymore?

Riding in the car with my mom, going onto whatever the next errand is, we continue to talk about her nonexistent grandchildren. “I look at Harriet and she’s my current hero,” she smiles at me. “She didn’t become a grandmother until she was 70. To be honest, honey, I just want you to be happy,” she says. For the moment, living this weird life of uncertainty, where I hustle hard every day to both pay rent and create meaningful art, I think that might be exactly what I am. Happy. Let’s just hope I can figure out how to make this shit last.




Continue Reading

Clinton Email Scandal Falls Apart As State Dept. Says There Was No Policy Against Private Email

The Republican Hillary Clinton email scandal is falling apart as the State Department confirmed that there was no policy against Clinton using private email.

On CNN’s New Day, State Department spokesman John Kirby said, “We have said in the past, Chris that there was no policy prohibiting the use of a private email account here at the State Department, and that is still a fact. Now, obviously, we have policies in place now that highly discourage that, and you are supposed to use your government account so that there is a constant, permanent record of it, but at the time she was not violating policy….I can tell you that there was no prohibition for her use of this, and we’ve since changed the policy to discourage that greatly, and in fact, the policy is that you have to use your government account for business.”

Kirby added that he didn’t believe that the policy changed while she was Secretary of State, which means that Hillary Clinton was doing nothing wrong when she used private email.

In a recent interview, also on CNN, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) admitted that the number of emails that Republicans claim were classified information in Hillary Clinton’s email account was not accurate due to retroactive classification.

The great email scandal that Republicans hoped would destroy Hillary Clinton’s candidacy is heading down the same path as “IRS scandal,” the “Benghazi scandal,” and President Obama’s birth certificate.

The email scandal is being revealed as another in a long series of election-year stunts. Republicans are set to waste millions of taxpayer dollars on politically driven investigations into Clinton’s use of email, and their efforts are likely to result in nothing.

A CNN poll released last week revealed that voters don’t care about Hillary Clinton’s emails. Clinton still leads every Republican presidential candidate, and Republicans are now confronted with the reality that if Hillary Clinton did not violate any policies regarding the use of email, there is no scandal to investigate.\

Jason Easley, PoliticusUSA

Continue Reading

Two Gay Men Who Fled ISIS Just Made U.N. History

Three months after arriving in the U.S. as a refugee once persecuted for his sexual orientation, Subhi Nahas is still grappling with the transition from his former home in Idlib, Syria, to life in San Francisco. “When you resettle you have lost everything in the country of origin that you came from,” he told reporters at the U.N. on Monday. “It means that you’re going into the unknown, that you don’t know where you’re going, that you don’t know what’s going to follow.”

Nahas never could have predicted that so soon after being granted refugee protection he would become one of the first people in history to address the U.N. Security Council on LGBT persecution. The historic meeting, an informal session known as an “Arria,” was prompted by attacks by ISIS and other extremist groups in Syria and Iraq against LGBT individuals.

“I was so nervous, but then it feels like that you’re empowered and you have a message that you want to deliver,” Nahas, who now works for the Organization for Refugee, Asylum, and Migration, said of his address to the Security Council. “It feels like you’ve done something really good for the community and for the people that I want to help.”

The meeting, organized by the U.S. and Chilean delegations, was held behind closed doors to protect the privacy of an anonymous Iraqi gay man who used the pseudonym “Adnan” and delivered testimony via telephone. It was attended by 13 of the 15 member nations of the powerful chamber, with only Chad and Angola refusing to participate. Four countries with troubling LGBT rights records of their own — China, Russia, Nigeria, and Malaysia — declined to speak, but remained present for the entire meeting.

“This is the first time in history that the council has held a meeting on the victimization of LGBT persons,” U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said in her remarks. “It is the first time we are saying, in a single voice, that it is wrong to target people because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. It is a historic step. And it is, as we all know, long overdue.”

Andrew Burton / Getty Images

Of course, LGBT individuals in Iraq and Syria had endured violence and discrimination long before ISIS emerged last year from the chaos of the Syrian civil war. However, the group’s unique brand of barbarism — executing those suspected of sodomy or homosexuality by stoning, beheading, firing squads, or throwing them from buildings, and then actively promoting the killings on social media — prompted urgent calls for the historic Security Council meeting.

Power recounted one video in which a man found to be having a gay affair was blindfolded and pushed off a building, only to survive the fall and be stoned by a mob of bystanders. “Kids in the crowd were reportedly encouraged to grab stones and take part,” she said.

“ISIS are also professional when it comes to tracking gay people,” Adnan said in his remarks. “They hunt them down one by one. When they capture people, they go through the person’s phone and contacts and Facebook friends. They are trying to track down every gay man. And it’s like dominoes. If one goes, the others will be taken down too.”

Jessica Stern, executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, said activists had documented at least 30 instances of gay men being executed by ISIS since June 2014. However, she cautioned that lesbians and transgender individuals have also endured sexual assault and fatal violence.

Stern noted that the killings her group was able to document were due in large part to the sophisticated social media propaganda machine ISIS uses to disseminate news after each gruesome execution. “I never imagined that I would say that a militia is my main source of information, but they are,” she said.

With ISIS known for using targeted violence against individuals and communities it knows will generate shock value and lead to news headlines, concerns have been raised over the potential danger involved in shining such a powerful spotlight on the Iraqi and Syrian LGBT communities.

“At best, the meeting will be useless,” former Human Rights Watch advocate Scott Long wrote in a blog post critical of the Arria. “It’ll lead to that indolent repletion where people feel they’ve acted when they’ve actually done nothing.”

“At worst, it’s going to cause more killings,” he cautioned.

Stern acknowledged these concerns as valid: “Could association with a U.N. mechanism potentially actually increase vulnerability for LGBTI Iraqis and tar them as associated with the West?” she asked. However, she argued that given the Security Council’s past discussion of ISIS’s treatment of women, the minority Yazidi community, and Christians, it was important not to exclude LGBT individuals in order to truly document the brutality of ISIS.

“Given the extreme constant forms of attack by ISIS on LGBTI Iraqis and Syrians, we think it’s of the greatest importance that the international community be informed about the issue, be seized with the issue, and take action,” she said.

Power, too, responded to the worry in a call with reporters Monday afternoon, saying she believed the opportunity to raise concerns about LGBT rights in the U.N.’s most powerful body “would do [good] for LGBT rights writ large.”

Exactly what the Security Council can do to help isn’t clear, though. While Stern’s group is calling in part for greater protection and services for LGBT refugees from the U.N. and international community, the Security Council is not a humanitarian body. A referral to the International Criminal Court also seems unlikely, Long wrote, as it might also open up Syrian or Iraqi authorities, and their various international backers, to potential prosecution.

“We don’t have a series of next steps mapped out in relation to the Security Council. In the 70-year history of the U.N., it’s never addressed this,” Stern said. “[But] today a door has opened, and we have to find out what happens when we walk through that door.”

Speaking to reporters after she addressed the Arria, Stern said she had been encouraged by the response of member nations. She noted she’d been informed that Jordan’s statement in the meeting condemning ISIS violence generally was the first time an Arab country had said something explicitly positive in the context of LGBT violations.

Ambassador Power said that in recent years the U.S. has resettled 75 to 100 LGBT refugees annually, but did not support calls for the government to dedicate spots for LGBT refugees or fast-track their applications. She called on Congress to raise the cap on the number of refugees resettled to the U.S. each year — which is now 70,000 — in response to the unprecedented 60 million people currently displaced worldwide. “The main thing is we need to work together to insure that there’s more political support up on the Hill to fund and to accommodate a larger pool of refugees,” she said.

Subhi Nahas, who fled Syria after facing threats from militants with Jabhat al-Nusra, as well as physical violence from his own father, said he is still struggling to make sense of a foreign culture and language. He said he has found it difficult to make conversation and communicate, but on Monday his voice was forceful, clear, and determined.

“There’s a community in the Middle East that is now standing up, and we want to push back,” he said. “We want our voices to be heard, we want our rights to be acknowledged, and we will prevail in the end.”

David Mack, BuzzFeed

Continue Reading

President Obama Is the Anti-Lame Duck

Quentin Tarantino really likes President Obama:

You supported Obama. How do you think he’s done?

I think he’s fantastic. He’s my favorite president, hands down, of my lifetime. He’s been awesome this past year. Especially the rapid, one-after-another-after-another-after-another aspect of it. It’s almost like take no prisoners. His he-doesn’t-give-a-shit attitude has just been so cool. Everyone always talks about these lame-duck presidents. I’ve never seen anybody end with this kind of ending. All the people who supported him along the way that questioned this or that and the other? All of their questions are being answered now.

Rapid fire indeed. In no particular order, here’s a baker’s dozen list of his major actions in the nine months since the 2014 midterm elections:

  1. Normalized relations with Cuba.
  2. Signed a climate deal with China.
  3. Issued new EPA ozone rules.
  4. Successfully argued in favor of same-sex marriage before the Supreme Court.
  5. Put in place economic sanctions on Russia that have Vladimir Putin reeling.
  6. Pressured the FCC to approve net neutrality rules.
  7. Issued new EPA coal regulations.
  8. Issued an executive order on immigration.
  9. Got fast-track authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership and seems poised to pass it.
  10. Signed a nuclear deal with Iran and appears on track to get it passed.
  11. Won yet another Supreme Court case keeping Obamacare intact.
  12. Issued new rules that increase the number of “managers” who qualify for overtime pay.
  13. Presided over the birth of twin giant panda babies at the National Zoo in Washington, DC.

I sure hope those baby pandas survive. It would be a shame if Obama’s legacy were marred by insufficient maternal attention from Mei Xiang.

UPDATE: Greg Sargent comments: ”What’s particularly striking is how many of these major moves have been embraced by likely Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and have been opposed by the 2016 GOP presidential candidates.” In other words, Obama’s late-term actions will provide much of the contrast between the likely Democratic and Republican nominees next year.

That’s partly because Clinton is reconstituting the Obama coalition of millennials, minorities, and socially liberal, college educated whites, who are more likely to support (and care about) action to combat climate change, immigration reform, relaxing relations with Cuba, active government to expand health coverage, and so forth. It’s also partly because the Clinton camp genuinely sees these issue contrasts as useful to the broader mission of painting the GOP as trapped in the past. It’s possible the Clinton team thinks it can pull off a balancing act in which she signals she’d take the presidency in her own direction while vowing to make progress on Obama’s major initiatives and excoriating Republicans for wanting to re-litigate them and roll them back.<

Also, too, because Obama and Clinton are both liberals, and are naturally likely to agree on the general direction of the country in the first place. It’s worth remembering that a lot of Democrats struggled in 2008 to find much daylight between the two.

, Mother Jones

Continue Reading

Trump wants to tell you about the ‘real’ unemployment rate

On the first Friday of every month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases a report on monthly U.S. job totals and the nation’s unemployment rate. In the most recent report, the rate was 5.3% – its lowest point in more than seven years, and far from its peak of 10% in 2009.

In Republican circles, this poses a bit of a problem. President Obama and his agenda are supposed to be causing an economic nightmare of historic proportions, with “job creators” crying over their balance sheets when they’re not being dragged into the streets for their ritual tar-and-feathering. With job creation improving so much, so quickly, conservatives find themselves looking for new ways to talk about the issue.

For some, conspiracy theories are a convenient crutch – that rascally White House, the argument goes, must be manipulating the data to fool everyone – while other Republicans make the case that there’s a difference between the unemployment rate and the real unemployment rate.

Consider GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump’s comments to Time magazine this week:

“We have a real unemployment rate that’s probably 21%. It’s not 6. It’s not 5.2 and 5.5. Our real unemployment rate – in fact, I saw a chart the other day, our real unemployment – because you have ninety million people that aren’t working. Ninety-three million to be exact. If you start adding it up, our real unemployment rate is 42%.”
Note, over the course of a few seconds, Trump said the “real unemployment rate” doubled from 21% to 42%. That escalated quickly.

We’re left with two very different sets of numbers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Labor Department have official data that shows a rate of 5.3%. On the other hand, Donald Trump “saw a chart the other day” and came up with 42%.

I’d ordinarily just shrug this off as Trump being Trump, but with so many conservatives looking for ways to question good news, it’s worth pausing to appreciate what they’re trying to say.

Trump’s numbers aren’t completely made up. When the GOP candidate talks about “our real unemployment rate,” he points to the 93 million Americans who, in reality, do not have a job.

But as the Wall Street Journal explained, the details matter.

[M]any people without jobs are teenagers and retirees…. The Labor Department doesn’t consider these people unemployed for a reason: Your kid brother who is a high school junior and my grandma who just turned 88? They’re not considered unemployed, for a very good and very obvious reason!
Right. For Donald Trump, the “real” unemployment rate should include kids in high school and seniors who’ve retired from the work force. That strikes me as a little silly, but your mileage may vary.

If conservatives want to make the case that the official unemployment rate – the U-3 rate for you wonks out there – is not the best metric for understanding the health of the job market, I’m not unsympathetic to the argument. As regular readers know, I’m far more interested in whether jobs are actually being created than whether the rate, which only counts those actively looking for a job, is inching higher or lower.

But let’s not play political games with the data, pretending there’s a “real” unemployment rate that should include octogenarians.

Steve Benen, MSNBC
Continue Reading

An Old Folks Home In San Francisco Has Some New Residents: Young Techies

Some luxury apartment buildings in San Francisco lure young tech workers with perks like housekeeping, dry cleaning, and concierge services. But at one newly renovated building in the city’s Mission neighborhood, techie tenants are instead encountering amenities like a free blood pressure screening and an educational workshop on arthritis.

That’s because the building, in addition to housing some fresh young faces, is also a government-subsidized senior community, where most of the residents are elderly retirees.

For several years now, with the San Francisco real estate market reaching stomach-turning heights, developers have been finding new ways to cash in on surging demand. Gleaming high-rises in the South of Market and mid-Market areas, featuring pricey apartments within longboarding distance of many tech companies, have helped push the median monthly rent for a studio apartment in the city to $2,722 as of June, according to Pricenomics.

But the transformation taking place at the Mission building, a longtime home for the elderly, highlights how the city’s real estate gold rush can occasionally veer into the absurd. The building, known as the Vincentian Villa, had been owned by the St. Vincent de Paul Society charity for 40 years, until it was sold to a Los Angeles–based developer for $13.5 million last year. The purchaser, GHC Housing Partners, agreed to extend a federal contract to keep about 60% of the building’s units priced far below market rates. But it is now gradually renting out the rest as they become vacant — apartments so small they are called “micro studios” — to tech workers paying around $2,000 a month for roughly 300 square feet of space.

One new tenant, Zane Riley, a 24-year-old product designer from southern Missouri, came across the Vincentian Villa toward the end of a two-month apartment search this spring, while he and his girlfriend, Megan Keesee, were staying with an Airbnb host in Berkeley. “We didn’t know anything about the San Francisco housing market,” said Riley, an artsy type with a slight country twang, who grew up fishing and swimming in a quarry near his hometown of Blodgett (population: 211). “We got our apartment in Missouri with a handshake, basically.”

The young couple, who shared their first kiss on the banks of the Mississippi River, were surviving only on Keesee’s starting salary as a public relations associate. The craft beers and cage-free eggs at the nearby Berkeley Bowl were out of reach; for dinner, they would sometimes split a single appetizer at a local Korean place. “We usually walked to McDonald’s,” Riley said. “That was about the extent of going out.”

The Craigslist ads for studio apartments in the Vincentian Villa didn’t mention that the majority of the building’s units were covered by the federal government’s Section 8 housing assistance program for low-income tenants. At first glance, the building, which was recently renovated at a cost of $3 million to include granite countertops and new plank flooring in the units, and a modern-looking courtyard in back, resembles the countless other habitats marketed to aspiring yuppies. Riley said he didn’t remember the building’s Section 8 status being mentioned on the tour. Only when he later googled the address on a hunch — after signing the lease and paying the security deposit and first month’s rent — did he learn the building’s history.

The agent who did the deal, Kent Boeker of J.Wavro Associates, said Riley should have known better. “Everyone was told that this was an assisted living, subsidized housing building, where a small number of units were currently available for market-rate tenants,” Boeker told BuzzFeed News. “But it’s easy to miss if you’re not paying attention. I would only say it once.”

Boeker’s boss, James Wavro, put it more bluntly.

“Anyone who walks in that building will see a critical mass of old people, rolling around the building, hanging out in the common areas,” Wavro said. “The way that we train our agents, I tell them, ‘Kill the deal, kill the deal, kill the deal.’ What I mean by that is, let people know what they’re getting themselves into.”

“Our joke was, we’re going to have multigenerational bridge games going on in the club lounge, which we thought would be kind of fun,” Wavro added. “Because you can learn a lot from old people.”

The San Francisco real estate boom, accompanying the city’s rise as a major new tech hub in recent years, has reshaped neighborhoods and inflamed local tensions. A growing number of new residents — many of them young, highly skilled workers — are competing for a limited number of apartments in a few hot neighborhoods, like Soma and the Mission. Even as new apartment buildings have gone up, competition for living space has intensified.

By the end of this year, the city is projected to have a 3.2% apartment vacancy rate, compared with a projected rate of 4.8% for all major U.S. cities, according to the real estate brokerage firm Marcus & Millichap. In a report this spring, Forbes, using Marcus & Millichap data, declared San Francisco to be the No. 1 worst city in the nation for renters.

While developers have seized the moment by erecting structures like Nema, a luxurious apartment complex where some studio apartments rent for more than $4,000 a month, the situation at the Vincentian Villa is more complicated.

The building’s new owner, GHC, is one of the largest owners of affordable housing in the United States, and it took certain steps last year to keep the elderly residents in their homes. Crucially, it extended for 20 years the federal contract that had ensured Section 8 affordability for 72 of the building’s 124 apartments. Many of the other apartments, though lacking the federal subsidy, are still being subsidized by an ad hoc fund created by GHC and the St. Vincent de Paul Society. (Companies like GHC that own Section 8 housing receive payments from the government to make up for the lower rent.)

The arrangement hasn’t attracted much attention from local housing advocates, who say they are instead concerned about buildings like Frederick Douglas Haynes Gardens, a development in the Fillmore district that is apparently at risk

of losing its Section 8 designation altogether. “I wouldn’t have done a deal that would have required us to displace people to make a profit, or to make a property financially viable,” Gregory Perlman, the chief executive of GHC, told BuzzFeed News.

Indeed, GHC is pursuing a more nuanced strategy, with plans to reap its biggest profits from the 52 apartments that aren’t covered by Section 8. When residents in those apartments leave — or die — GHC will rent out their homes to new tenants at market rates.

At least 14 such units have been rented out so far. Riley and Keesee, who pay $1,700 a month for a roughly 285-square-foot studio that they share with Champ, their 65-pound German shepherd–border collie mix, were among the first young people to move in. The other new tenants include “young twentysomethings moving to the city for a new job, or even their first job,” according to Boeker, the real estate agent.

To speed this process, and also to ease the challenge of renovating the building with elderly people living in it, GHC offered $25,000 last year to any resident who chose to leave. Five people took the money. Perlman said the offer was not intended to drive people out of the 52 apartments that would go on the market. Three of the tenants who took the money, he said, had been living in the Section 8 apartments, which will stay subsidized for 20 years.

But even in those cases, the landlord can benefit from a tenant taking a buyout. When a Section 8 apartment becomes vacant, elderly residents in the other apartments have first dibs on moving there, according to Perlman — creating vacancies among the apartments that can be rented at market rates.

One longtime resident who made such a move was Maria Amparo Ochoa, a 73-year-old immigrant from Guadalajara, Mexico, who once worked in a clothing factory in Los Angeles. She told BuzzFeed News that she didn’t move by choice. Instead, she said, the building management moved her from an apartment on the first floor to a different one on the third floor, a small space crowded with cardboard boxes of her belongings. The higher elevation, Ochoa said, aggravates her health issues, including high blood pressure.

“I feel suffocated and my breathing is not good. I need to take a lot of medicine for the high blood pressure, constantly,” Ochoa said in Spanish. “I really would like to go down,” she added. “I live more comfortably on the ground floor.”

Perlman, the chief executive of GHC, said in an email that Ochoa’s move to a Section 8 apartment on the third floor ensured that she would have subsidized housing “for the long term,” under a federal contract. He said Ochoa had signed up to be on a waiting list for a Section 8 room, and that “fair housing laws do not allow her to pick and choose which unit she can move into.”

Ochoa may want to move back to her old apartment on the first floor, but she can’t now. The apartment has already been rented out — to Zane Riley.

Riley, of course, didn’t have a clue about this backstory when he moved in. As gentrifiers go, he couldn’t be further from the entitled brat stereotype. Living with elderly peo

ple, he said, “was perfect for us” and reminded him of a similar setup he and Keesee had in Missouri. Their dog, Champ, he added, “does much better with older tenants.”

“Because I’m from a low-income area, that’s always on my mind: Now I’m a techie yuppie that everybody hates,” said Riley, who works at Brit + Co, a media and e-commerce startup in the city.

“Back home, we were worried about things like food deserts and infant mortality rates,” he added. “If I have to live in a small apartment to do the work that I love, that’s fine with me. Hopefully the tenants don’t feel we’re displacing them.”

William Alden with Erica Sánchez, Aaron Reiss, and Zach Nacev ,

Continue Reading

2 More Gay Men Thrown Off Building by ISIS then Stoned by Blood-Thirsty Waiting Mob

Where is the rage people? Imagine if two gay men were thrown off a roof in San Francisco. We should be just as angry. I feel like we are too comfortable with these things happening to our gay brothers and sisters when they are on the other side of the world.

Daily Mall reports:

A gruesome video has emerged showing ISIS jihadists executing two men whose only crime’ was being gay.

The video shows two men being thrown to their deaths from a roof in Homs, before being stoned by a bloodthirsty and baying mob – which included children.

It goes on to show the killers apparently conducting the rituals of an Islamic burial – only to be dumped in an unmarked grave.

The murders are the latest in a string of rooftop ‘executions’.

Read more:


From AccidentalBear

Continue Reading


Twyla Tharp’s 50th Anniversary Tour, Bach Collegium Japan, and Gil Shaham provide multiple access points to the composer in the inaugural season of Berkeley RADICAL

 Cal Performances Executive and Artistic Director Matías Tarnopolsky curated three thematic strands when programming the 2015–2016 season. The first, called ZellerBACH, features a series of performances and public programs to explore the lasting musical legacy of Johann Sebastian Bach. American iconoclast Twyla Tharp celebrates a half-century of creating ambitious, complex dance works that embrace and extend the American vernacular, with her 50th Anniversary Tour, featuring new works set to John Zorn, New Orleans jazz, and Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier. The Baroque chamber orchestra and choir Bach Collegium Japan, directed by Masaaki Suzuki, are pioneers of period-instrument performance in its home country, performs an all-Bach program. And violinist Gil Shaham plays Bach’s complete Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin, with new projections by acclaimed visual artist David Michalek.  Performances of Twyla Tharp’s 50th Anniversary Tour are Friday­­ and Saturday, October 16 and 17 at 8:00 p.m., and Sunday, October 18 at 3:00 p.m. in Zellerbach Hall.Bach Collegium Japan performs on Saturday, October 24 at 8:00 p.m. in First Congregational Church, and Gil Shaham takes the stage in Zellerbach Hall, with films by David Michalek, on Thursday, April 14 at 8:00 p.m. in Zellerbach Hall.

In February 2015, Cal Performances unveiled Berkeley RADICAL (Research And Development Initiative in Creativity, Arts, and Learning), its new project to cultivate the artistic literacy of future audiences and to connect the world’s most innovative artists with the intellectual capital of the UC Berkeley campus. Through carefully crafted public programs and creative artistic residencies, Berkeley RADICAL serves as a framework to expand the reach of Cal Performances by providing audiences with multiple access points to a single work of art or artist. In addition to the performances, ZellerBACH programs include pre-performance talks, and a community response panel exploring the dynamic attraction of Bach’s music for contemporary artists and audiences. For more information as events are announced, visit

Twyla Tharp’s 50th Anniversary Tour celebrates her influential career creating dance works that have famously bridged popular and classical forms, with two new works performed by a company of 13 dancers. Featuring two Bay Area premieres, Preludes and Fugues is set to Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier, and Yowzie is steeped in the rhythms of early jazz, with music by Jelly Roll Morton and Fats Waller, arranged and performed by Henry Butler and Steven Bernstein. Each dance is introduced by a Fanfare, composed by John Zorn.

Bach Collegium Japan, directed by Masaaki Suzuki, returns to Berkeley with an all-Bach program, including the “Brandenburg” Concerto No. 5, the Concerto for Oboe d’amore in A major, the Trio Sonata from theMusical Offering, and a solo cantata, Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut. Praised for the clarity of its interpretations, “[The ensemble] played with such purity of tone, so reliably in tune. The small, precise, dramatically alert chorus breathed fire but also revealed a heartbreaking tenderness” (Los Angeles Times).

With Bach: Six Solos, violinist Gil Shaham brings a 21st-century vision to some of the most cherished works in the canon, performing Bach’s complete Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin, set in conversation with new video projections by David Michalek. Michalek is best known for Slow Dancing, his outdoor video installation of hyper-slow-motion ­video ­portraits that has been shown internationally, and here creates a contemplative, immersive tableau as a companion to Bach’s iconic works.

Friday­­ and Saturday, October 16 and 17 at 8:00 p.m.

Sunday, October 18 at 3:00 p.m.

Zellerbach Hall, UC Berkeley Campus

Bancroft Way at Dana Street, Berkeley


Continue Reading

Gay Cowboys Awarded $43K From Texas County Over Denied Marriage License

A Texas county clerk’s refusal to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple has cost taxpayers more than $43,000.

The Hood County Commission has agreed to settle a lawsuit against Clerk Katie Lang, who cited her religious beliefs in refusing to issue a marriage license to Jim Cato and Joe Stapleton (above) following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges.

After Cato and Stapleton, a couple of 27 years, filed a federal lawsuit, Lang quickly relented and issued the license — but it would be too late.

Lang, represented by the anti-gay Liberty Institute, could have been on the hook for more than half a million dollars in attorney’s fees and damages, according to Cato and Stapleton’s attorneys. However, the couple agreed to forego damages, and the attorneys cut their hourly rate in half to avoid protracted litigation.

Pat O’Connell, one of the couple’s attorneys, said in a release announcing the settlement (believed to be the first in a case where a county clerk refused to issue a same-sex marriage license):

“It is a shame that Hood County Clerk Katie Lang refused to follow the rule of law, causing our clients to go through the difficulties of hiring lawyers and filing a federal lawsuit to obtain the marriage license to which they are constitutionally entitled. And it is sad that the taxpayers of Hood County have to pay the price for their elected official’s misconduct.”

Jan Soifer, another attorney for Cato and Stapleton, added:

“Marriage equality is finally the law of the land. Instead of seeking legal advice from the Hood County Attorney about the impact of the law on her official responsibilities,Hood County Clerk Katie Lang turned to a private attorney from the Liberty Institute,putting her own personal political goals ahead of her responsibilities to Hood County taxpayers. Clerk Lang’s actions in violation of her legal duties forced our clients to file their lawsuit. Clerk Lang is fortunate that the Hood County Commissioners agreed to resolve the lawsuit now to save her from dealing with the additional expense and significant financial exposure her actions caused the taxpayers of her county.”

And Cato said:

“We are overjoyed that justice was done, and grateful to our lawyers for forcing the County Clerk to follow the law, something she was unwilling to do before our lawyers stepped in to represent us. We are very happy that we finally received our marriage license and were able to celebrate our marriage at our home in Granbury.”

Cato and Stapleton’s attorneys say they’ll donate a portion of their earnings to the Equality Texas Foundation, so Lang can take comfort in knowing her refusal to issuing a same-sex marriage license will ultimately help fund a gay-rights group.

Now, perhaps Lang should put in a call to Clerk Kim Davis in Rowan County, Kentucky, to advise her as to the consequences of violating same-sex couples’ civil rights.


John Wright, TowleRoad

Continue Reading

Flagging in the Park – Celebrating San Francisco’s Disco Era

August 15, 2015 Interview of Xavier Caylor


Flaggers and fanners entertained us from the stage while we danced the night away at the Trocadero Transfer and I-Beam during the disco era here in San Francisco.  The vibrant colors swooshing and swaying through the air enhanced our experience with trails of color.   Watch this YouTube video of a fan dance from 1984:

Many passed away of AIDS and were buried with their flags and fans. Carrying on this tradition today is a group of flow artists – fanning, flagging, poi, staff, hoopers, and flow arts supporters who gather 5 times annually during the spring and summer in the National AIDS Memorial Grove located at Nancy Pelosi Dr. & Bowling Green Dr.  Flagging in the Park is a celebration of life and fundraiser for local charities and since 2005 they have been responsible for $145,000 in disbursements. One of their events benefits the Grove and the other 4 beneficiaries are chosen by the deejay of the event.


Xavier Caylor moved here after admiring a flagging tribe in the Grove in 1997. He is among a group of volunteers who co-produce Flagging in the Park.  He also volunteers at Grass Roots Gay Rights Foundation, is a tie dye artist instructor and ASL interpreter.  Some participants at the events take his flagging classes at FitnessSF while others are self-taught.  Xavier describes the experience as “magical, mystical & meditative as well as self-healing.”  See this YouTube video from their May 2015 event and feel the energy:

The Flaggers also build community by performing at fundraising events such as the Folsom Street Fair and Bliss, an event benefitting Maitri, a residential care facility for people living with AIDS.

Flagging in the Park will entertain us once again in the beautiful National AIDS Memorial Grove August 23rd from 1-4pm along with the amazing deejay John LePage.  Proceeds will benefit the SF AIDS Foundation.  All are invited to participate – at the last event over 600 people did so.  Flags are available for use or you can relax, take in the fun dance music and colorful visuals.  See the event page  Come enjoy the sun, music, flora, and friends.

Their last event this year will take place October 10 benefitting the AIDS Housing Alliance. For information regarding upcoming events and volunteer opportunities see their website and Facebook page

by Paul Margolis , Director of



Continue Reading

Mike Huckabee: 10-year-old rape victim should be forced to carry rapist’s baby

Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee argued over the weekend that a 10-year-old girl should have been forced to carry her pregnancy to term after she was raped.

During an interview on Sunday, CNN host Dana Bash asked the GOP candidate if he would refuse an abortion to a 10-year-old girl in Paraguay, who was allegedly raped by her stepfather.

“Creating one problem that is horrible — let nobody be misled, a 10-year-old girl being raped is horrible — but does it solve a problem by taking the life of an innocent child?” Huckabee said. “And that’s really the issue.”

The former Arkansas governor recalled that he had known a man who was born as the result of a rape after doctors in Texas refused to give his mother an abortion.

“Today, his organization feeds, cares for and brings living capacity for water to hundreds of thousands of people across the world,” Huckabee noted. “That would never have happened… So when I think about one horror, I also think about the possibilities.”

He agreed that it wouldn’t be “easy” to force a 10-year-old girl to carry her rapist’s baby, “but let’s not compound the tragedy by taking yet another life.”

“When an abortion happens, there are two victims,” he insisted. “One is the child, the other is that birth mother, who often will go through extraordinary guilt years later when she begins to think through what happened, with the baby, with her.”

“There are no easy answers here,” Huckabee opined. “And I realize that there are some people that will be very different in their view of this than me. And I respect that. I don’t want to get into a shouting match with people who think I’m wrong. I respect that.”

“I just come down on the side that every life is precious. I don’t think we discount the intrinsic worth of any human being, and I don’t know where else to go with it.”


David Edwards, Raw Story

Continue Reading

S.F. Chinese Community Health Plan Sued by its Own Physicians for Endangering Patient Health Care

S.F. Physicians Sue For Contract Breach, Criticize CCHP Management for Endangering Patient Safety, Health Care

In Separate Legal Action, Whistleblower Sues CCHP in S.F. for Overbilling Medicare

CCHP accused of harming Chinese patients, endangering healthcare in S.F. Chinatown

CCHP accused of harming Chinese patients, endangering healthcare in S.F. Chinatown


The physicians association representing the medical staff at the Chinese Hospital in Chinatown has filed suit against the for-profit Chinese Community Health Plan (CCHP), claiming that recent actions by CCHP management to siphon doctors from the association threaten to tear apart longstanding health-care alliances in the community while putting the very future of the hospital at risk.

The non-profit, independent physicians association, known as Chinese Community Health Care Association (CCHCA), represents 197 doctors serving the Chinese Hospital and community health clinics in Chinatown.  For more than three decades the physicians association has served as a gatekeeper between CCHP, the Chinese Hospital and health care providers, ensuring that everyone in the community received high-quality health care.

Recently, however, CCHP sent doctors in the physicians association Participating Provider Agreements – individual physician contracts – in an attempt to pressure doctors into signing directly with the health plan. The contract offer included language that intentionally misled doctors into believing that the PPA was simply a renewal of an existing agreement, when in fact it was a completely new offer that would have legally bound the physicians directly to CCHP.

“We believe the purpose of these unprecedented solicitations is to decimate the independent physicians association, destroy the unique health care alliance that has served this community so well for so long and ultimately drive up profits for CCHP at patients’ expense,” said Dr. Raymond Li, President of CCHCA.  “The actions by the management of CCHP will leave our community with fewer doctors and far fewer health-care choices.”

The CCHP contract offer threatens to divide the health-care community in Chinatown and diminish the availability of care for thousands of Chinese patients. Without the protections of CCHCA, health plan management would be free to manipulate fees and other reimbursements, driving qualified, culturally sensitive doctors from the community and depleting the medical ranks within the Chinese community.

San Francisco elected representatives told the San Francisco Sentinel they will investigate the allegations made by physicians to ensure the safety of Chinese patients from price gauging, unsafe medical practices, overbilling and other questionable actions by CCHP and its management and board of directors.

“The unique alliance between CCHP, CCHCA and the Chinese Hospital served the Chinese community well for many years,” said Dr. Eric Leung, Vice President of CCHCA.  “But the tradition of affordable, reliable care and services is threatened by the actions of profit-driven corporate leaders bent on controlling and manipulating the health-care marketplace. The pending opening of the new Chinese Hospital will mean little if the historical structure of health care in the community has been destroyed by corporate greed.”

CCHCA took legal action against CCHP reluctantly and only after a cease and desist letter from CCHCA was ignored. Indeed, instead of ending the solicitation, CCHP sent out an addendum to the physicians that continued the deception in an attempt to coerce their signatures. Despite these veiled threats and strong-armed tactics, only two physicians have signed the CCHP contract.

The California Medical Association and the San Francisco Medical Society recently penned a joint letter to Brenda Yee, CEO of the health plan, expressing their grave concerns about CCHP’s actions. “It is critical that the health plan respect the important role CCHCA has played in delivering much-needed, culturally appropriate, affordable health care to the Chinese community,” the letter stated. “CMA and the SFMS are prepared to support CCHCA and its physicians to continue to achieve its charitable purposes.”

As the letter from SFMS and CMA points out, CCHCA for three decades has promoted social welfare in Chinatown by providing financial support for health-related community programs, including the Chinese Community Health Resource Center, the Neighborhood Disaster Response Plan and treatment room services at the Chinese Hospital. CCHCA has also provided more than $2 million in direct grants to innovative community projects.

“We have asked our elected representatives to join us in condemning the recent actions by CCHP management,” Dr. Li said. “In the spirit of transparency and cooperation, CCHP must drop its efforts to destroy our health network so we can continue our mission of serving our community and providing high-quality health care to all.”

CCHCA Doctors Stand Up for Chinese Patients

Non-Profit CCHCA Doctors Stand Up to Protect Rights of Chinese Patients Against For-Profit CCHP

Separate Legal Action Claims Chinese Community Health Plan Overbilled Medicare

In another lawsuit filed this week against Chinese Community Health Plan in San Francisco, a whistleblower in Texas has brought a lawsuit against former employer CenseoHealth and numerous Medicare Advantage Organizations (including CCHP in S.F.) alleging they overcharged Medicare for in-home patient care.

Plaintiff and former Censeo Coding Manager Becky Ramsey-Ledesma of Texas has demanded a jury trial, according to court documents filed with the U.S. District Court of Texas. So far, no trial date has been set.

The court documents were ordered unsealed by the court on June 17 after the United States Department of Justice declined to intervene in the civil action, according to Judge Barbara Lynn.

[Also: Feds look closely at Medicare Advantage plans in risk adjustment probe]

Plaintiff Ramsey-Ledesma claims Censeo knew diagnoses of patients were not supported by medical record documentation, but were “picked up” from diagnoses predicted by medications used, according to court documents.

“If a prescribed medication could potentially support a diagnosis, they were to code for that diagnosis,” according to the lawsuit.

Ramsey-Ledesma claims Censeo Chief Medical Officer Mark Dambro developed an evaluation process designed to maximize the capitated payment rates paid to Censeo’s client Medicare Advantage Organizations.

Rather than rely on medical records provided by physicians treating patients, the plaintiff alleges Censeo obtained self-reported data directly from certain MAO members, according to court documents. The data was collected through evaluation forms completed by physicians retained by Censeo, not for the purpose of treatment, but to create ICD-9 codes for submission to the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services, according to the lawsuit.

Censeo targeted those MAO plan members who were likely to yield the most serious diagnoses, and more likely to generate higher capitation payments for Censeo’s MAO clients, the lawsuit states. Medicare Advantage plans get higher rates for patients who are sick than those in good health.

The company completed twice as many assessments in 2013 as it did in 2012, saying its clients propelled the company into a record-setting first quarter, increasing the number of evaluations by 250 percent, according to the lawsuit.

[Also: Medicare Advantage proposal means rates fall, rise depending on risk ]

Revenue growth for 2013 was projected to reach $120 million, a 140 percent year-over-year increase, according to court records.

Censeo contracted with at least 30 MAOs to provide the home assessments, including Blue Cross Blue Shield in several states and Humana, which are both named as defendants.

Defendants include: CenseoHealth LLC, Mark Dambro, Chief Compliance Officer James Edward Barry Greve Jr., Director of Quality Joy Ridlehuber, Altegra Health Inc., Blue Cross Blue Shield Alabama, Blue Cross of Idaho, Blue Cross Blue Shield Tennessee, Care Plus Health Plans Inc., Chinese Community Health Plan, Commonwealth Care Alliance, Community Health Plan of Washington, Coventry Health Care Inc., Health Net Inc., Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, Hill Physicians Medical Group Inc., Humana, Inc., and North Texas Specialty Physicians.

Ramsey-Ledesma said she was fired August 9, 2013, after advising coders she would code only those diagnoses that could be supported by a doctor’s assessment. Messages for comment to Censeo were not returned.

This case is among several whistleblower cases filed alleging billing fraud of Medicare Advantage plans. CMS has said in the past it suspects home visits improperly raise risk scores.

In July, the Center for Public Integrity published a report of government audits showing widespread billing errors — mostly overcharges — in private Medicare Advantage health plans.

The audits involved five health plans: Aetna Health Inc. in New Jersey; Independence Blue Cross in Philadelphia; Lovelace Health Plan in Albuquerque, N.M.; Care Plus, a division of Humana, South Florida; and PacifiCare in Washington State, an arm of UnitedHealth Group, and considered the nation’s largest Medicare Advantage plan.

Among the findings: Medicare paid the wrong amount for 654 of the 1,005 patients in the sample, an error rate of nearly two-thirds. The payments were too high for 579 patients and too low for 75 of them. The total payment error topped $3.3 million in the sample.

Auditors concluded that risk scores were too high for more than 800 of the 1,005 patients, which in many cases, but not all, led to hefty overpayments.

Auditors could not confirm one-third of the 3,950 medical conditions the health plans reported, mostly because records lacked “sufficient documentation of a diagnosis.” The names of the medical conditions were redacted by federal officials.The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which conducted the audits, had no comment, according to the Center for Public Integrity.

None of the health plans would discuss the audit findings.

Aetna, in a statement, said the company had “raised a number of questions and concerns” regarding the results and was “awaiting a response from CMS.”

Clare Krusing, a spokeswoman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, the insurance industry’s primary trade group, said the audits “overstated” the payment errors, according to the nonprofit and nonpartisan investigative news organization. The records are coming to light at a time of rapid expansion – and consolidation–in the Medicare Advantage market. Enrollment has neared 17 million. An estimated one of every three people are eligible for Medicare.


Continue Reading

SF lawmaker announces ‘Idaho Stop’-style bike yield law proposal

Supervisor John Avalos on Wednesday announced plans to introduce an ordinance to make citations for bicyclists who “safely yield at stop signs” the SFPD’s lowest law enforcement priority.

The proposal is called the “San Francisco Right-of-Way Policy,” but it closely dovetails what is commonly called the “Idaho Stop.” That state law allows cyclists to treat a stop sign as a yield sign if no vehicles or pedestrians are present at an intersection.

Yielding at stop signs when no cars are present is a natural cyclist behavior, bike advocates argue, for safety and momentum. Now those cyclists may get their wish: Yielding at stop signs may soon be quasi-legal.

The announcement follows a recent police crackdown on cyclists rolling through stop signs, which prompted an outcry from San Francisco bike riders.

The number of cyclists in San Francisco has boomed in recent years, Avalos noted in his announcement. The SFMTA’s Annual Bicycle Count shows bicycle traffic has increased 206% since 2006.

“This dramatic increase in bicycle traffic has led to an increase in conflicts between bicyclists, pedestrians, and drivers,” Avalos said, in a statement. Board of Supervisors President London Breed told the Examiner she supports the “Idaho Stop.”

The Board of Supervisors is currently in recess and will reconvene in September.

Managing enforcement priority is not a new police practice. Low-level drug offense enforcement has been a much lower priority for SFPD than violent crime in San Francisco, starting around 2013.

Cmdr. Ann Mannix, who heads the traffic division, told the San Francisco Examiner previously, in an email, “If the public, legislators, voters want us to enforce anything else they must create it and get adopted as law.”

From Avalos’ announcement of the ordinance:

Supervisor Avalos’s proposed ordinance would make it the lowest law enforcement priority in San Francisco to issue citations for bicyclists who safely yield at stop signs. However the ordinance would not discourage officers from citing bicyclists who fail to slow to a safe speed at stop signs or fail to yield to another vehicle or pedestrian.

The ordinance would also establish the “San Francisco Right-of-Way Policy:”
To promote safety, tolerance, and harmony on our streets, all users of San Francisco streets shall respect others right-of-way and take their turn when navigating intersections.
All users of SF streets shall yield to emergency vehicles.
All users of SF streets shall yield to Muni vehicles.
Drivers and bicyclists shall always yield to pedestrians and be vigilantly aware of pedestrians.
Bicyclists shall always yield to others at intersections, but they may slowly proceed without fully stopping at stop signs if the intersection is empty.


 Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez, SF Examiner
Continue Reading


The San Francisco Improv Festival presents its 11th season of off-the-cuff comedy from top improv and sketch comedians. The festival welcomes back the husband and wife comic duo WeirDass, comprised of Stephnie Weir (MadTV, Raising Hope) and Robert Dassie(Eleven Year Itch, Funny or Die). Joining WeirDass will be Upright Citizen’s Brigade founding member Matt Besser (Comedy Central, MTV, NBC), who will be live recording his popular iTunes podcast, improv4humans, at the show. Also featured will be Chicago comedian Susan Messing’s hit show Messing with a Friend (with guest, MadTV’s Frank Caeti) and iO West’s star team King Ten, one of the premiere improv ensembles in Los Angeles. The San Francisco Improv Festival runsSeptember 10-19, 2015 at The Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson Street, San Francisco. For tickets ($5 – $35 for shows, $50-$225 for workshops), the public may

In addition to ten jam-packed days of comedy from some of nation’s sharpest minds, the festival also includes master-level workshops led by industry pros, Friday night comedy jams with special celebrity guests, and the festival’s traditional finale, “Game Island,” in which performers throw down under the watchful eye of formerWhose Line Is It Anyway Games Director Ron West. The program will also include local talent and out-of-town comics selected from a highly competitive, record-breaking pool of applicants.

Headliner Stephnie Weir made a name for herself as a head writer and actress on hit sketch comedy show Mad TV.  Weir, a Second City alumna, has appeared in and written for other series including The MillersModern FamilyWeeds, and ’Til Death. She most recently co-starred in the FX network show The Comedians, alongside Billy Crystal and Josh Gad.  Robert Dassie, the other half of improv duo WeirDass, is a veteran sketch comedian who has performed with Second City, iO West, and others. He has appeared on Comedy Central, FX, and NBC, and is a regular performer in Funny Or Die’s online sketches and HBO televised series. Matt Besser is host of the popular sketch series, improv4humans, one of the top comedy podcasts on iTunes.  A founding member of Upright Citizen’s Brigade (alongside Amy Poehler, Matt Walsh and Ian Roberts), Besser has also appeared regularly on television series including Comedy Bang! Bang!Parks and Recreation, and Key and Peele. 

The full list of participants is as follows: 5 Play (Fremont, CA), BATS (SF), Awkward Dinner Party (SF), Cat Dance (SF), Chardonnay (SF), Chick Flick (SF),Chicken Scratch Improv (SF), Damaged Goods (Louisville, KY), DASH at Un-Scripted Theater Company (SF), Euro Trash (SF), Game Island (LA),Hamilton & MacLean(SF), Honey (NYC), Hot Again (NYC), HUGE (SF), improv4humans (LA), Jetzo (LA), King Ten (LA), Liss n’ Sams (SF), Messing With a Friend (Chicago), My Cousin’s Wedding (LA), Off One Letter (SF), Pilgrim (LA), Shades of Grey (SF), Sketchy Alley (SF), Speechless (SF), Stage 4 Improv (San Jose, CA), The All Girl Revue (LA), The Double Improv Rainbows (Hawaii), The Five Deadly Improvisers (SF), The Letters (SF), The Recchia (SF), The Right Now (SF), The Unwritten Bedroom (SF), The Utility Players (Reno, NV), Vagina Jones (SF), and WeirDass (LA)..

The San Francisco Improv Festival celebrates the art of improvisational theater by presenting events with local and out-of-town ensembles, producing workshops with the most innovative minds in the art form, and educating the public about all aspects of improvised performance. The San Francisco Improv Festival was founded by Sam Shaw and Shaun Landry in 2004. Jamie Wright has been Executive Producer since 2009.


Continue Reading

What non-Californians don’t know about Carly Fiorina — but should

The most surprising takeaway from last week’s Republican presidential debate — next to the difficulty of puncturing Donald Trump’s helium-powered candidacy — was the mass anointing of Carly Fiorina as the Candidate to Watch.

Praise for the former Hewlett-Packard CEO’s performance at the introductory undercard debate spanned the full range of news outlets. The conservative National Review remarked on her “poise and her well-crafted answers,” and CNN paid homage to her “sharp knowledge of the issues.”

Fiorina told the latter that she went into the debate aware that “only 40% of Republicans even know who I am.”

She must be talking about people outside the state of California. Here in the Golden State, we know Carly Fiorina very well. We know her as the under-performing CEO of one of Silicon Valley’s marquee corporations, and even better for her losing campaign against Sen. Barbara Boxer in 2010.

So as a public service, let’s share with the rest of the country what we’ve learned about Carly Fiorina. We’ll start with her dismal political record.

Even before her 2010 campaign against Boxer could get off the ground, it was poleaxed by the revelation that she had failed to cast a ballot in 75% of the California elections for which she was an eligible voter. She missed presidential primaries in 2000 and 2004, and the primary and general elections in 2006, including a Senate reelection run by Democrat Dianne Feinstein. She skipped the primary and general elections in 2002, a gubernatorial election year, as well as the historic recall vote that brought Arnold Schwarzenegger to the governor’s seat.

In an Orange County Register op-ed announcing her Senate candidacy in 2009, she explained lamely: “I felt disconnected from the decisions made in Washington and, to be honest, really didn’t think my vote mattered because I didn’t have a direct line of sight from my vote to a result.”

I observed at the time:

“During her reign at Hewlett-Packard, according to public records, her corporation spent $4.7 million to lobby Congress and donated more than $390,000 to political candidates through its political action committee. Fiorina and her husband, Frank, a former AT&T executive, have made more than $100,000 in political donations personally since 2000.

“That suggests not that Fiorina ‘felt disconnected’ from what was going on in Washington, but rather that she understood all too well that in politics, money talks. Why bother to vote when you can get what you need with greenbacks?”

(In other words, she believes in the political system, just not the one that non-millionaires have to use.)

Among her big issues was healthcare reform and the bill just then beginning its journey through Congress. “Wouldn’t you love to know what’s in that 1,990-page healthcare bill that’s being considered right now?” she asked the crowd at her launch event in November 2009. Actually, the measure was closer to 950 pages — but why count pages when there’s a political point to be scored? — and, as I pointed out, it was no secret. The text could be downloaded from a public website and read by anyone, including Fiorina.

More to the point, Fiorina, who was making much out of her own battle with breast cancer (“After chemotherapy, Barbara Boxer just isn’t really that scary anymore,” she quipped), displayed the usual contempt that privileged insurance owners have for the uninsureds. Fiorina received her health coverage through her husband’s AT&T retirement plan, but for everyone else she advocated allowing insurance companies to sell policies across state lines, which would be a boon to the insurers and a disaster for buyers.

As I observed: “If she were an average person who lost that AT&T coverage and had to replace it in an individual market where the insurers could sell it to her on their own terms, subject to the rules of the most lenient and consumer-unfriendly states … as a cancer survivor, she’d be uninsurable.”

The Affordable Care Act, which she opposed in its cradle and now says should be repealed, bars discrimination against applicants based on their medical conditions. What’s her answer to that? We don’t know, because she wasn’t asked at the debate. She has, however, advocated defunding Planned Parenthood, which provides reproductive health services to middle- and low-income women unlike her.

The foundation stone of Fiorina’s political pitch is her business career. It’s impressive on paper, underwhelming in reality. She was CEO of Hewlett-Packard from mid-1999 to early 2005, a period in which the company’s stock sank 49% to 60% (depending on how you count), making it one of the worst-performing high-tech firms.

CEO Fiorina talked a lot about “innovation” while pursuing corporate strategies displaying a striking lack of imagination. She cut HP’s payroll by 10,000 employees in 2000 while surrounding her glamorous self with clouds of image and strategy consultants. She marketed overpriced knockoffs of other companies’ consumer technologies and then, disastrously, doubled down on the PC business by acquiring Compaq in 2002, when the right move would have been to exit that low-margin business altogether.

The Compaq takeover led to a bruising battle with the HP board, which she utterly mismanaged, leading to her bitter ouster in 2005. Her reaction was to blame everyone else, which doesn’t speak well of her capacity for introspection. She left with a severance package estimated at $40 million, which speaks very well of her negotiating skills (or her lawyers’).

The Affordable Care Act, which she opposed in its cradle and now says should be repealed, bars discrimination against applicants based on their medical conditions. What’s her answer to that? We don’t know, because she wasn’t asked at the debate. She has, however, advocated defunding Planned Parenthood, which provides reproductive health services to middle- and low-income women unlike her.

The foundation stone of Fiorina’s political pitch is her business career. It’s impressive on paper, underwhelming in reality. She was CEO of Hewlett-Packard from mid-1999 to early 2005, a period in which the company’s stock sank 49% to 60% (depending on how you count), making it one of the worst-performing high-tech firms.

CEO Fiorina talked a lot about “innovation” while pursuing corporate strategies displaying a striking lack of imagination. She cut HP’s payroll by 10,000 employees in 2000 while surrounding her glamorous self with clouds of image and strategy consultants. She marketed overpriced knockoffs of other companies’ consumer technologies and then, disastrously, doubled down on the PC business by acquiring Compaq in 2002, when the right move would have been to exit that low-margin business altogether.

The Compaq takeover led to a bruising battle with the HP board, which she utterly mismanaged, leading to her bitter ouster in 2005. Her reaction was to blame everyone else, which doesn’t speak well of her capacity for introspection. She left with a severance package estimated at $40 million, which speaks very well of her negotiating skills (or her lawyers’).

Michael Hiltzik, LA Times

Continue Reading