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The Second Amendment was Never Meant to Protect an Individual’s Right to a Gun

n common with the other big rightward swerves by the Roberts Court, the 2008 ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller was an aggressive exercise in mendacity. By upending the well-established meaning of the Second Amendment, the Court made the country less safe and less free. It did this under the guise of a neutral and principled “originalism” that looks to the text as it was first understood back in 1791 by the amendment’s drafters and their contemporaries.

Heller’s 5–4 majority decision, written by Justice Antonin Scalia and joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito, was less in sync with the founding generation than with the top priority of a powerful interest group closely aligned with the Republican right. The National Rifle Association had been waging an intense 30-year campaign to secure an individual’s constitutional right to keep and bear arms by winning over members of the public, high-level politicians, and, ultimately, the Supreme Court. Mission, to an alarming degree, accomplished.

The decision declared, for the first time, that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to a gun, at least for self-defense in the home. It invalidated key parts of the District of Columbia’s unusually strict handgun ban, which prohibited the possession of nearly all handguns in the violence-prone city and required that firearms be stored unloaded and disassembled, or bound with a trigger lock.

In the process, the conservative justices engaged in an unsubtle brand of outcome-oriented judicial activism and “living constitutionalism” that they claim to abhor—an irony noted by a host of devoted Supreme Court watchers across the ideological spectrum. Richard Posner, the prominent Reagan-appointed federal appellate judge and prolific commentator on legal and economic issues, derided Scalia’s flawed approach as “faux originalism” and a “snow job.”

To grasp the audacity of what Scalia & Co. pulled off, turn to the Second Amendment’s text: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” To find in that wording an individual right to possess a firearm untethered to any militia purpose, the majority performed an epic feat of jurisprudential magic: It made the pesky initial clause about the necessity of a “well regulated Militia” disappear. Poof! Gone. Scalia treated the clause as merely “prefatory” and having no real operative effect—a view at odds with history, the fundamental rules of constitutional interpretation, and the settled legal consensus for many decades.

“The Second Amendment was a response to concerns raised during the ratification of the Constitution that the power of Congress to disarm the state militias and create a national standing army posed an intolerable threat to the sovereignty of the several states,” then-Justice John Paul Stevens correctly noted in his minority opinion, joined by Justices David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Stephen Breyer. “Neither the text of the Amendment nor the arguments advanced by its proponents evidenced the slightest interest in limiting any legislature’s authority to regulate private civilian uses of firearms.”

Then there was Scalia’s peculiar breakdown of the phrase “keep and bear arms” into its component words to argue that the Second Amendment protects a general right to possess guns—even though, as Stevens pointed out, the term “bear arms” was most commonly used in the 18th century to describe participation in the military.

And let’s not overlook the most absurd thing, which Breyer tried to get at in a separately filed minority opinion: At a moment in modern America when more than 30,000 lives are lost to gun violence each year, and mass shootings are a common occurrence, the majority opinion relied heavily on a guesstimate (and a rotten one at that) of what the Second Amendment meant more than 200 years ago, with no common-sense balancing test taking into account the real-world consequences for today.

“The idea that the founders wanted to protect a right to have a Glock loaded and stored in your nightstand so you could blow away an intruder is just crazy,” says Saul Cornell, a leading Second Amendment scholar cited by the dissenters in both Heller and McDonald v. Chicago, the 2010 Supreme Court sequel that struck down Chicago’s similarly strict handgun ban and extended the new Second Amendment right to states and cities. Adding to the dishonesty, Scalia refused to acknowledge that he was overturning the Court’s venerable Second Amendment precedent, United States v. Miller, instead straining mightily, if unconvincingly, to draw distinctions.

As radical as the holding is, the majority could have done even more damage. Scalia stopped short of applying the newly discovered individual right beyond “hearth and home,” leaving the constitutional status of toting guns outside the home for another day. And, possibly to secure the vote of a wavering justice, he offered assurance that Heller posed no threat to long-standing gun- control laws and regulations short of total gun bans.

Owing a good deal to that flash of moderation, Heller’s appalling jurisprudence and real-world harms have tended to be under-recognized. The decision gave the NRA a big jolt of energy and a potent new rhetorical tool that has bolstered the group’s already formidable ability to stop needed gun-safety reforms—to the point of blocking hugely popular congressional proposals such as extending background checks to all gun sales, even following the 2012 school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. Heller is also wielded to advance the NRA’s maniacal drive to normalize the presence of guns and spread “concealed carry” permits, even absent a special need and adequate screening or training. Coincidentally or not, the number of states with lenient or no concealed-carry permitting requirements has grown significantly since Heller changed the terms of the debate.

We may be approaching another moment of reckoning. Since 2008, several federal courts have upheld state rules that allow officials discretion in issuing concealed-carry licenses. The Supreme Court declined to review those decisions. But forthcoming rulings by federal appellate courts in cases testing the constitutionality of similarly restrictive permitting requirements in San Diego and the District of Columbia could become fodder for a new round of Scalia-style “originalism.” If that happens, we may look back at Heller as a step toward something worse.

It shouldn’t come to that. There is language in Heller, as well as new historical research, to support upholding the concealed-carry permitting limits at issue. Still, it’s a scary thought.

 

Dorothy Samuels, The Nation

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The Man Who Was Held Captive by ISIS for 10 Months Says How They Can Be Defeated

A French journalist who was held hostage by Isis for 10 months has spoken out against air strikes in Syria, saying they represent “a trap” for Britain and other members of the international community.

Speaking in an interview with The Syria Campaign, Nicolas Henin put forward his strategy for combatting the militant group – a no-fly zone in opposition-held areas of Syria.

Mr Henin has previously spoken about how he was held for seven months in Syria itself, and how British national Mohammed Emwazi – known as Jihadi John – was among the jailors who subjected him to physical and psychological torture.

“Strikes on Isis are a trap,” he said.

“The winner of this war will not be the party that has the newest, the most expensive or the most sophisticated weaponry, but the party that manages to win over the people on its side.”

As an example of how the international community had responded well, he described the recent escalation of the refugee crisis – and corresponding offers from Europe of homes to fleeing Muslims – as “a blow to Isis”.

He said: “Hundreds of thousands of refugees, fleeing this Muslim land that is like a dream for Isis – that is supposed to be their Israel? And fleeing that land to go to the land of the ‘unbelievers’?

“This is why they probably tried to manipulate the public during the Paris attacks,” he said. “To make us close our borders, and maybe even more importantly, close our minds.”

Coalition bombing was not hurting the militants, Mr Henin said in the interview before British MPs voted in favour of RAF strikes in Syria, but rather “pushing people into the hands of Isis”.

“What we have to do – and this is really key – is we have to engage the local people. As soon as the people have hope for a political solution, the Islamic State will just collapse.

“There will be a very easy way to make Isis lose ground at a high speed. The international community must decide all regions held by the Syrian opposition are no-fly zones.

“No-fly zones for everybody. Not the coalition, not the Russians, not the regime, nobody. Providing security for people [there] would be devastating for Isis. That’s what the international community should focus on.”

He added: “Why are we making so many mistakes? Why are people so misunderstanding [Isis’s] vision?

“We are just fuelling our enemies and fuelling the misery and disaster for the local people.”

Mr Henin is a freelance journalist who has worked in Iraq and Syria for most of his career. He was held by Isis in an underground cell alongside other hostages including the American journalist James Foley, who was later executed.

Mr Henin was freed following negotiations between the French government and his captors, and he has since written about the experience in a book entitled Jihad Academy, published in English last month.

 

Adam Withnall, The Independent

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Golden State Warriors Mission Bay Arena Losing Ground with S.F. Voters, New Poll Shows

Joe Lacob and Peter Guber

Warriors’ Owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber Get Handed First Loss of Warriors’ Season

 

SAN FRANCISCO – San Francisco residents are growing increasingly concerned about traffic, parking and other problems related to the proposed Golden State Warriors Arena in Mission Bay, with 59 percent of registered voters in a recent poll opposing the arena once they learned the facts.

On Monday, the Mission Bay Alliance, a coalition of arena opponents, UCSF stakeholders and residents, released a poll of 540 registered San Francisco voters conducted by EMC Research that found the following: 

Based on what they know today about the proposed arena plan in Mission Bay, fewer than half of voters say they support it:

Support – 49 percent

Oppose – 42 percent

Don’t know – 10 percent

This is a 12 percent drop from a Warriors’-commissioned poll released in July, which showed about 61 percent of residents supporting the proposal.

 Once voters became aware of the facts surrounding the proposed arena and the expected regional impacts, including traffic gridlock, the lack of parking and clogged emergency access for adjacent UCSF hospitals, support for the arena plummeted even more:

Support – 38 percent

Oppose – 59 percent

Don’t know – 3 percent

Parking and traffic ranked as the two most problematic impacts, with 65 percent of voters concerned about traffic gridlock and 67 percent about a lack of parking in and around the arena.

Residents also aren’t happy about the proposed $60 million package to help mitigate overcrowding on public transportation related to the arena. About $29 million of the package would be funded by taxpayer money. The project also does little to alleviate the burden the arena will put on regional transit like BART and CalTrain.

When asked, most voters support restricting the use of public funds to offset impacts of private development projects, such as the proposed Warriors arena:

Support – 61 percent

Oppose – 32 percent

Don’t know – 7 percent

A majority of voters also support relocating the proposed arena from Mission Bay to Cesar Chavez/3rd Street, an alternative location proposed by the Mission Bay Alliance: 

Support – 55 percent

Oppose – 38 percent

Don’t know – 8 percent

The message is clear: the more people learn about this project, the less they support it, said Pollster Alex Evans.

Despite the Warriors’ claims of surging support, there’s a lot of movement “and a lot of movement away from a Warriors arena in Mission Bay,” he said. “If I was on the Warriors’ side of this, I would be very nervous.”

“The public is starting to ask serious questions about the impact this massive arena will have on the quality of life in San Francisco,” said Bruce Spaulding of the Mission Bay Alliance, which commissioned the poll. “Support for an arena drops the more city residents learn about the project and understand the negative impact of an arena of this size for Mission Bay and San Francisco as a whole.”

The poll, which was conducted between Nov. 30 and Dec. 6 and has a margin of error of 4.2 percentage points, revealed that many voters are dissatisfied with the way the project has been handled by City officials, who have come under fire for jamming the project through the approval process without adequate time for full public review. 

In fact, the poll shows voters believe the City is moving in the wrong direction.

When asked whether the City was moving in the “right direction” or was the “wrong track,” a majority said it’s on the wrong track:

Right direction – 35 percent

Wrong track – 52 percent

The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote Tuesday, Dec. 8 on an appeal by the Mission Bay Alliance of the project’s 5,000-page EIR and on the $60 million, taxpayer-funded transportation plan to help mitigate the project’s impacts on traffic and public transportation serving Mission Bay. 

The Supervisors’ vote follows a record-fast, rubber stamp approval process that has allowed the ill-conceived project to sail through regulatory approvals without scrutiny. The Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure (OCII) certified the project’s EIR on Nov. 3 – only 10 days after releasing the 5,000-page document to the public.

The Mission Bay Alliance appealed certification on Nov. 13, citing significant yet overlooked impacts, including traffic gridlock during the arena’s 225 annual events and the flawed transportation plan that commits the City to using the general fund to try to address traffic and public safety impacts. 

“Support for this arena is plummeting, and we hope our elected leaders get the message in advance of making a major decision that will shape the future of this City,” Spaulding said. “The residents of San Francisco want a fair process – and given this project’s high stakes and devastating impacts, they deserve nothing less.”

About the Mission Bay Alliance

The Mission Bay Alliance is a coalition of UCSF stakeholders, donors, faculty, physicians and the working men and women of San Francisco who are concerned about the impact of the proposed Golden State Warriors’ stadium on the future of the vibrant community and medical campus at Mission Bay. The Alliance has joined a coalition of world-renowned scientists from UCSF and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the California Nurses Association in calling the proposed Warriors’ Arena a “disaster” for Mission Bay. For more information about the Mission Bay Alliance, visit www.missionbayalliance.org. Call 415.227.9700 for more information.

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Anti-Eviction Groups Displaced by Startup Go Out in Style

After losing their mid-Market workspace to a startup that profits from renting office space to other startups, members of two leading tenants rights nonprofits tried hard to keep a sense of humor.

Last night, the staff of Tenants Together and the Eviction Defense Collaborative threw themselves an “eviction party” and raised their cups to the irony of sharing the same fate as the tenants they work to keep housed.

“Our organizations exist to stop people from being displaced from their homes, and now, we are being priced out of ours,” said Dean Preston, executive director of Tenants Together, California’s first and only statewide renter’s rights organization. “We win big battles, but sometimes we lose them.”

The group, along with the Eviction Defense Collaborative, which offers pro-bono legal services to roughly 5,000 San Franciscans facing evictions and displacement annually, are two of the three last standing nonprofits that are being displaced from the building at 995 Market St. that once housed community-serving groups on nearly each of its 15 floors.

“In the world we live in right now, building owners want to maximize the rents and don’t care how they do that, even if that means pricing nonprofits out,” he said.

Preston had an inkling that the organizations’ fates were sealed two years ago when WeWorks — a start-up that capitalizes on dividing and subletting shared office space to tech companies — began repurposing the building’s bottom floors. Still, he was surprised at how quickly and ruthlessly his workspace was turned into a construction zone.

Preston watched in agony as, slowly but surely, the building at 995 Market St. was “gutted” floor by floor and rebuilt with little regard for its long-term tenants.

“The drilling, the noise, the dust, the not-functioning elevators, and bathroom spills — they have really made it a nightmare for us to do business and help people here,” said Preston.

The collaborative’s 10-year lease officially ends on December 31, but the building has not felt like home for quite some time.

“I’ll miss the views out of this place, but I won’t be missing the construction dust everywhere,” said Paul Cohen, executive director of the Eviction Defense Collaborative, about the displacement.

Preston relates the disruptive tactics to many accounts he’s heard from residential tenants who were “elbowed out” of their homes by landlords and developers.

“No corporate tenant would ever be treated the way Tenants Together, Eviction Defense Collaborative, and the numerous other nonprofits who have tried to hang on in this building have been treated,” he said. “It’s pretty clear that they want to take over our two floors as well.”

Since 2008, his group has been subleasing their office space on the building’s 11th and 12th floor from the collaborative, which has operated at offices just across the hall for nearly a decade.

When the two groups joined forces through their shared space, a solid, physical alliance within the tenant’s rights movement was formed.

“Imagine the folks doing the on-the-ground legal work at the collaborative, and us, the bigger-picture policy advocates, sharing one floor, one kitchen, and conspiring in the hallway and elevators,” said Preston. “It’s been a positive, powerful, collaborative relationship. This break-up truly is a sad thing.”

Erin Mcelroy, director of the anti-eviction mapping project, attended the groups memorialization party – the tenant activist also lamented the loss of the two organization’s communal space.

“As far as wider anti-eviction movement goes, it’s been wonderful to have these two institutions in same building,” she said, adding that 995 Market St. often served as a meeting space for various citywide housing advocates. “The fact that they are getting kicked out and replaced by a big group of tech offices — it says so much about what’s happening in this city.”

Some hard feelings remained as two anti-eviction groups memorialized their own displacement with a party on December 2. Photo by Laura Waxmann
Some hard feelings remained as two anti-eviction groups memorialized their own displacement with a party on December 2. Photo by Laura Waxmann

Poet and journalist Fred Dodsworth echoed this sentiment, calling the groups’ displacement a metaphor for the greed of capitalism.“We need these organizations — this is sickness of our times,” he said.

Cohen, the collaborative’s director, said he feels equally frustrated, but also sees some positives in the inevitable. After all, the group just signed a lease for a larger space at 1338 Mission St. The new location is just four blocks from City Hall, where both staff and clients of the collaborative are often forced to trek for their cases.

The biggest issue, said Cohen, are “astronomical” commercial rents. The collaborative will be paying more than double the $14,000 that they were paying at 995 Market St. The group recently applied for a grant from the Northern California Community Loan Fund, one of the few resources to help displaced nonprofits cover increased rent costs.

“If it wasn’t for the increase in the market value of this building, and WeWork deciding to take over the entire building, we definitely wouldn’t have moved,” said Cohen. “But we are landing on our feet, even though it’s been a very difficult ride.”

For Tenants Together, the situation is a little less clear-cut. While the group has tentatively found a space in the mid-Market area, negotiations are still ongoing and no lease has been signed yet.

“The time and energy we spent on dealing with this eviction could have been devoted to assisting people, changing policies, stopping displacement,” said Preston. “The stress for people living under the threat of eviction is off the charts. For an organization, it’s similar because it takes away from what we should all be doing, which is work.”

 

By Laura Waxmann, Mission Local

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ODC/Dance’s The Velveteen Rabbit delivers timeless message of acceptance and love this holiday season

c7e7c837-f843-46ef-8eff-83e65b4879c6ODC Co-Artistic Director KT Nelson‘s now classic interpretation of Margery William’s beloved children’s book, The Velveteen Rabbit, returns to Yerba Buena Center for the Arts for its 29th season,  through December 13.

When KT Nelson’s son was just two years old and heard a recording of Margery Williams’ classic 1922 children’s tale, The Velveteen Rabbit, he was spellbound. Nelson immediately envisioned the story as a complete dance. Nelson’s adaptation, which highlights the purity of the character’s relationships and the truth of their emotions, captivates both children and adults with its timeless message about the enduring power of love.

Known for their athleticism and passion, the ODC dancers seamlessly navigate the many roles that bring the story to life.  They embody characters as unusual as a skin-horse, a pack of real rabbits, and 10-foot tall Nana (including Nana’s hard working, unseen lower half dubbed “The Nana Bottom.”)

Ten young dancers from ODC School join the company’s professional dancers. Each fall, students from ODC’s youth programs are invited to audition to perform in this holiday classic.  Two casts of 10 are selected.  The young dancers rehearse every weekend for two months preparing to share the stage with their adult counterparts.

Buddies for Bunnies program, now in its eleventh year, embraces the holiday spirit and dedicates two performances and over 1000 tickets to public schools in need. More than 15 Bay Area public schools will benefit this year.

The Velveteen Rabbit is a two-act fantasy told through music, dance and narrative.  The story centers around the enduring relationship between a boy and his stuffed rabbit.  Told from the perspective of the stuffed rabbit who wants nothing more than to become real, the story explores the deep bond the boy and rabbit develop over time. Despite the rabbit’s shabby and well-worn appearance, the boy continues to love him – and as their relationship grows, they depend upon one another in both good and bad times.

Throughout the run are a number of special events geared for the entire family. The ever-popular Milk & Cookies Party follows the performance on Sunday, November 29, and features mountains of holiday delicacies and tasty natural and organic treats from Bay Area natural foods purveyors.  The party also offers a chance to meet and take photos with the cast, play fun games and enjoy all-ages activities.

WHEN:           

Friday, December 4, 11:00am
Saturday, December 5, 4pm
Sunday, December 6, 2:00pm -Scouts Day
Thursday, December 10, 11:00am
Friday, December 11, 11:00am
Saturday, December 12, 1:00pm & 4:00pm
Sunday, December 13, 2:00 pm

WHERE:

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater
700 Howard at Third Street, San Francisco
 
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Nancy Reagan Abandoned Her Friend Rock Hudson As He Was Dying Of AIDS

Nancy Reagan refused to help her friend Rock Hudson get a bed at an experimental treatment facility in France as he was dying of AIDS, BuzzFeed reports.

New documents discovered in the Reagan Presidential Library offer yet another glimpse into just how far the Reagans went to distance themselves from the AIDS epidemic as it swept across the country in the 1980s.

When Hudson’s publicist, Dale Olson, sent a life-or-death telegram on July 24, 1985 to the White House begging the First Lady to help get his client transferred to a French military hospital where he could be seen by Dr. Dominique Dormant, she flat out denied the request.

At the time, Dr. Dormant, who had treated Hudson before, was working on an early experimental drug believed to help bolster the immune systems of people living with AIDS

The telegram read:

Doctor Dominique Dormant, specialist treating Rock Hudson in Paris, reports only one hospital in the world can offer necessary medical treatment to save life of Rock Hudson or at least alleviate his illness. This hospital is Ministere du la Defence Centre d’Researches du Service de Sante des Armees Percy Hospital in the city of Clamart. Commanding general of Percy Hospital has turned down Rock Hudson as a patient because he is not French. Doctor Dormant in Paris believes a request from the White House or a high American official would change his mind. Can you help by having someone call the commanding general’s office at the Percy Hospital at the above number.

But Mrs. Reagan, who had known Hudson since the 1950s, said no, claiming “it” (a.k.a. AIDS) was not something she wanted to “get into” and instead suggesting Hudson try contacting the U.S. Embassy in France.

Mark Weinberg, Reagan’s deputy press secretary at the time, tells BuzzFeed that the First Lady’s decision had nothing to do with homophobia or the Reagan Administration’s AIDS policy (or lack thereof). Instead, he says the first family’s view towards Hudson’s predicament was: “Well, we’re so sorry, but were about treating everybody the same.

“They were both very sorry for Rock’s condition and felt for him and all the people,” Weinberg says. “But it just wasn’t something that the White House felt that they could do something different for him than they would do for anybody else.”

AIDS activist Peter Staley calls the Reagans’ excuse “strange,” since they often pulled favors for their friends while in power.
“I’m sure if it had been Bob Hope in that hospital with some rare, incurable cancer, Air Force One would have been dispatched to help save him,” Staley speculated.

“There’s no getting around the fact that they left Rock Hudson out to dry,” he continued. “As soon as he had that frightening homosexual disease, he became as unwanted and ignored as the rest of us.”

Reagan, now 93 years old, does not grant interviews of any kind, but a spokesperson for the former First Lady told Buzzfeed that “she simply does not recall the incident.”

Queerty

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Ted Cruz: Most violent criminals ‘are Democrats’

A couple of months ago, Rush Limbaugh reflected on the series of school shootings in the United States, and the Republican host drew a partisan conclusion: “The people that are shooting up schools more than likely vote Democrat.”

There’s no evidence to suggest this is true, but accuracy obviously isn’t a priority. The goal with rhetoric like this is to distract from potential policy solutions while exploiting violence for partisan gain.

And in an unexpected twist, a Republican presidential hopeful yesterday made the implicit case that Limbaugh wasn’t ambitious enough. For Ted Cruz, it’s not just school shooters who are Democrats, but violent criminals in general who are members of the party he holds in contempt. Politico reported yesterday:
Ted Cruz on Monday equated Democrats with violent crime.

In an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Monday, the Texas senator said that “the simple and undeniable fact is the overwhelming majority of violent criminals are Democrats.”
In the same interview, the Texas Republican added, “There’s a reason why the Democrats for years have been viewed as soft on crime. The Democrats know convicted felons tend to vote Democrat.”

Media Matters posted the audio clip and transcript of the exchange.

The Cruz campaign hasn’t substantiated the claim, but again, the point of partisan vitriol isn’t to make substantive policy arguments. The presidential hopeful is being provocative for the sake of being provocative.

If that sounds like a certain New York developer leading in the Republican polls, it’s hard not to wonder if Cruz is deliberately trying to pull a page from the Donald Trump playbook. Note, for example, that this latest rhetoric came just a day after his bizarre claims about the Colorado Springs mass shooting.

As for whether felons actually vote Democratic, Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum had a good piece noting that most felons aren’t even registered, though the argument itself serves no real purpose.
[A]nyone can play this game. Just find some demographic group that tends to vote for Party X, and then find some bad thing also associated with that group. In this case, poor people tend to vote for Democrats, and felons tend to be poor. Bingo. Most felons are Democrats.

Or this: rich people tend to vote for Republicans, and income-tax cheats tend to be rich. So most income-tax cheats are Republicans.

Or this: Middle-aged men tend to vote for Republicans, and embezzlers tend to be middle-aged men. So most embezzlers are Republicans.

We could do this all day long, but what’s the point?
Dear Cruz campaign, that need not be a rhetorical question.

Steve Benen, MSNBC

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Passenger rants about Islamic State before shooting Muslim taxi driver in back

It began as an ordinary cab ride.

But by the time it was over, the Pittsburgh taxi driver — a 38-year-old Muslim man from Morocco — had a bullet wound in his upper back and was lucky to be alive, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Pittsburgh police are investigating the Thanksgiving Day shooting, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is asking for more help: CAIR, the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, has called on the Justice Department to investigate the incident as a hate crime — which, it said, was “similar to a growing number of attacks targeting the nation’s Muslim community following the recent terror attacks in Paris.”

The passenger, according to CAIR, “reportedly began asking the driver about his background, including asking whether he was a ‘Pakistani guy.’” CAIR says the passenger also asked the driver “about the terror group ISIS” and mocked the prophet Muhammad.

The driver, who moved to Pittsburgh from Morocco five years ago, told the Post-Gazette that he is three months away from becoming a U.S. citizen. His plan is to bring his wife to the United States and start a family in the country he considers home.

“This [incident] is due to the person, not the city,” he told the paper. “Pittsburgh is my style, it is like my home town [of Safi] in Morocco. My dream is to be an American.”

“This is my country,” he added. “I am proud to say I am American, but I didn’t have the chance to say that to him.”

The driver — who spoke to the newspaper on the condition of anonymity because of concerns about his safety — told police that he picked up the man outside of a casino at about 1 a.m. As the trip unfolded, the driver told the Post-Gazette, his passenger began to ask questions about his background.

“He started the conversation and began to ask questions like, ‘You seem to be like a Pakistani guy. Are you from Pakistan?’” the driver told the newspaper at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Mercy, where he was being treated for a bullet wound in the upper back. “And I said, ‘No, I’m from Morocco. But I’m an American guy.’”

The conversation switched to “ISIS killing people,” he said, and then to Muhammad. The passenger, who has not been identified by police, even mentioned that he is the father of two children and that he was in prison at one point, the driver said.

When the pair arrived at the destination, the passenger turned violent, according to the Post-Gazette:

“He asked me to wait for a little bit because he forgot his wallet in the house,” the driver told the paper. “I waited for just five minutes, I think, and I noticed that he came out of the house carrying a rifle in his hand. I noticed him coming toward me. I didn’t hesitate. I [made] a fast decision to leave and drove my taxi away because I felt he was going to do something. There is danger. He would shoot me or something. I felt like he had the intention to kill me.”

The driver heard gunshots as he drove away. A bullet shattered the back window of his taxi and struck the man between his shoulder blades.

He was able to drive a few more blocks before flagging down a passing motorist, who called police.

City Councilman Corey O’Connor, who represents the district where the shooting occurred, told the Post-Gazette that investigators are still piecing together what happened.

“Detectives are talking to a couple witnesses and they’re starting to gather information to put a timeline together,” he said. “There are all kinds of details that have to be looked into. They have to look at the evidence and any videos that may exist.”

Greg Heeb, a spokesman for the FBI’s Pittsburgh office, told the paper that the bureau is aware of the incident but gave no indication about whether an investigation might follow.

“All I can really say is that we evaluate all crimes that appear to be racially motivated,” he said.

In a statement, CAIR said the organization has noticed a recent spike in reports of “Islamophobic discrimination, intimidation, threats, and violence targeting American Muslims.” CAIR said it attributes the growing number of incidents to the recent terrorist attacks in Paris at the hands of Islamic extremists — and the “anti-Muslim rhetoric and falsehoods being espoused by leading Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ben Carson.”

“Because of the reported bias statements made by the alleged shooter, and because of the recent spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes nationwide in the wake of the Paris terror attacks, we urge the U.S. Department of Justice to add its resources to the case and to help bring the perpetrator to justice,” CAIR-Pittsburgh Program Director Alia Schindler said, according to the statement. “Federal officials need to send a clear message that attacks on American Muslims, or on any minority group, will not be tolerated and that the perpetrators will face the full force of the law.”

Peter Holley, Washington Post

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Desperate Cruz Claims Planned Parenthood Shooter Was ‘Transgender Leftist’ Based On Rumor He Read

Who is reading that crazy conspiracy theory meme your distant relative posted on Facebook? Ted Cruz apparently.

In a move that reflected just how desperate the right-wing has become to call the Planned Parenthood terrorist attack about any but their own anti-abortion rhetoric, Republican presidential contender Ted Cruz floated the idea that the shooter was a “trangendered Leftist.”

When asked – point blank – by a reporter whether he felt his party’s violent rhetoric about Planned Parenthood could have led to the shooting, Cruz did some of the most surreal spindoctoring in American political history. No, it was the “left” that was to blame for everything, he suggested.

“Well I think there has been some vicious rhetoric on the left blaming those who are pro-life.” He later added: “This murder that occurred in Colorado is tragic, it is a criminal act we don’t fully know the motivations of this deranged individual, we know that he was a man who was registered to vote as a woman and the media promptly wants to blame him on the pro-life movement when at this point there is very little evidence to indicate that.”

To be clear there is a LOT of evidence to indicate that the killer was inspired by the pro-life movement. For one thing, he took a high-powered rifle and walked into a Planned Parenthood full of innocent strangers and started shooting. For another, he literally told the police afterwards that he did it so there would be “no more baby parts.”

Cruz wasn’t done demonstrating that he was grasping at straws. When the reporter noted all of the above evidence, Cruz went all-in with his “this was a transgender leftist” defense.

“Well it is also reported that he was registered as an independent and as a woman and a transgendered leftist activist if thats what he is…um…I don’t think it is fair to blame on the rhetoric on the left this is a murderer.”

Setting aside the fact that Cruz’s own brain seemed to shut down midway through that thought, his “reports” that the killer, identified as Robert Lewis Dear Jr., was a transgendered leftist are based on an internet rumor started by a conservative blogger named Jim Hoft who is known by many as the “dumbest man on the internet.” It’s a title he has repeatedly proved he deserves with an ever-growing series of baseless lies he writes from his right-wing conspiracy website. Ted Cruz is apparently Hoft’s biggest, and perhaps only, fan.

The rumor about Dear’s sexual identity began because internet sleuths noticed that a voter registration card bearing his name listed his gender as “female.” Was it just a typo? Probably. But from that evidence alone, conservatives concluded that the person was transgender and also a leftist (?) and proceeded to run with it. The rumor was debunked almost immediately when acquaintances of Dear were tracked down and not one mentioned him being anything but a violent, disturbed man. Some did remember him being firmly anti-Obama though.

Zigmond Post, who told BuzzFeed News he was a neighbor of Dear’s in Hartsel, said the man once gave him anti-Obama pamphlets.

Post said he once went to Dear’s home to retrieve two dogs that had gotten loose. “We were there for a minute and the guy was already handing us anti-Obama pamphlets,” he said. According to Post, Dear said “Obama was ruining the country and needed to be impeached.”

So we reach a very puzzling existential question: If Ted Cruz has no problem gobbling up everything the Dumbest Man on the Internet writes, is he therefore dumber than the Dumbest Man himself?

I’ll leave you to ponder it.

 

Jameson Parker, Bipartisan Report

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The Russian Edition Of Maxim Published A List Of “Gays We Respect”

In an article headlined “Gays We Respect,” the Russian edition of men’s magazine Maxim has “forgiven” a list of famous actors, authors and musicians for their sexual orientation.

“We, men, do not consider men who love men to be men. This is the rule,” the introduction to the post reads. “But there are exceptions. There are gays who have earned our respect and the right to remain real men in our eyes.”

These “exceptions” include actors Ian McKellen and Neil Patrick Harris, who the magazine has “forgiven” for their sexual orientation due to their onscreen roles.

“We weren’t sure about including Neil Patrick Harris in the list — after all, he declared himself a ‘happy gay’ in 2006. But his performance as Barney Stinson in the series How I Met Your Mother hasn’t left us indifferent,” the article reads. “It’s impossible not to respect someone who elevated the hunt for girls into a true art, who systematized all the tricks and techniques and created the ‘Bro Code.’ Even if he was just acting the role. But how he acted!”

As the lead singer of Queen, Freddie Mercury “brought us so much joy, we are ready to forgive him anything,” the magazine continues.

Rob Halford of Judas Priest is evidence that “if you’re cool enough, it doesn’t matter what your orientation is.” British comedian Stephen Fry is presented as “the living embodiment of the idea that one can be openly gay and a sensible person at the same time.”

The editor of Maxim’s Russian edition told BuzzFeed News,  “our position is clearly formulated in the introduction to the article.”

“We are deeply disturbed by the article in Maxim Russia and fully condemn it,” a spokesperson for Maxim told BuzzFeed News by e-mail. “It is entirely against the views of U.S. Maxim.”

Maxim is owned by Biglari Holdings, but the Russian edition is published by Hearst Shkulev Media, a Russian joint venture of Hearst’s international magazines division that also publishes the Russian editions of Marie Claire and Elle.

BuzzFeed News has reached out to Hearst and Hearst Shkulev Media for comment.

 

From BuzzFeed,  Victor Stepanov and Susie Armitage

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Here’s The Crazy Story About Thanksgiving You’ve Never Heard

The Thanksgiving story you know probably goes a bit like this: English Pilgrims, seeking religious freedom, landed in Plymouth, Massachusetts, where they found a rich land full of animals and were greeted by a friendly Indian named Squanto, who taught them how to plant corn.

The true story is more complicated. Once you learn about the real Squanto — also known as Tisquantum — you’ll have a great yarn to tell your family over the Thanksgiving table.

I asked historian Charles Mann, the author of 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, and Paula Peters, a member of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe and an expert on Wampanoag history, to tell me the real story.

“This is not revisionist history,” Peters promised. “This is history that’s just been overlooked because people have become very, very comfortable with the story of happy Pilgrims and friendly Indians. They’re very content with that — even to the point where no one really questioned how is it that Squanto knew how to speak perfect English when they came.”

Here’s what really happened.

In 1614, six years before the Pilgrims landed in modern-day Massachusetts, an Englishman named Thomas Hunt kidnapped Tisquantum from his village, Patuxet, which was part of a group of villages known as the Wampanoag confederation. (Europeans had started visiting the northeast of what is now the United States by the 1520s, and probably as early as the 1480s.)

Hunt took Tisquantum and around two dozen other kidnapped Wampanoag to Spain, where he tried to sell them into slavery.

“It caused quite a commotion when this guy showed up trying to sell these people,” Mann said. “A bunch of people in the church said no way.”

Tisquantum escaped slavery — with the help of Catholic friars, according to some accounts — then somehow found his way to England.

He finally made it back to what is now Massachusetts in 1619. As far as historians can tell, Tisquantum was the only one of the kidnapped Wampanoags to ever return to North America, Peters notes.

But while Tisquantum was in Europe, an epidemic had swept across New England. 

“The account that’s recorded by Gov. Bradford of Plymouth Plantation is that there’s a shipwreck of French sailors that year on Cape Cod,” Mann said. “One of them carried some disease and it wiped out a huge percentage of the population in coastal new England. … The guess is it was some kind of viral hepatitis, which is easily communicated in water. It exploded like chains of firecrackers.”

When Tisquantum returned to Patuxet, he found that he was the village’s only survivor.

“Into this bumbled the Pilgrims,” Mann said. “They had shown up in New England a few weeks before winter. … Up until the Pilgrims, the pattern had been pretty clear. Europeans would show up, and Indians would be interested in their trade goods, but they were really uninterested in letting [Europeans] permanently occupy land.”

Often, armed native people would even force Europeans to leave if they attempted to stay too long.

This time, the Europeans wanted to stay, and the disease that had decimated Patuxet ensured that they had a place to settle.

“Patuxet ultimately becomes Plymouth,” Peters explained. “They find this cleared land and just the bones of the Indians. They called it divine providence: God killed these Indians so we could live here.”

A website Peters helped create for the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims’ arrival puts it even more bluntly: “The graveyard of [Tisquantum's] people became Plymouth Colony.”

Massasoit, a local Wampanoag leader, didn’t trust Tisquantum. “He looks at this guy and smells trouble,” Mann said. Massasoit kept Tisquantum under what was essentially house arrest until the Pilgrims showed up and promptly started starving to death.

Patuxet wasn’t the only native village decimated by the plague. The entire Wampanoag confederation had been badly hit — as much as 75 percent of the Wampanoag population was wiped out, Mann said. But the Narragansett, a rival neighboring group, basically weren’t affected by the disease at all. That put the Wampanoag in a precarious strategic position.

 Massasoit had an idea.

“He decides we’ll ally with these guys, set up a good trading relationship, control supply of English goods, and the Narragansett won’t be able to attack us,” Mann said.

On March 22, 1621, Massasoit went to meet with the Pilgrims. He brought Tisquantum along to translate.

Mann described the meeting in a 2005 article in Smithsonian Magazine:

Tisquantum most likely was not the name he was given at birth. In that part of the Northeast, tisquantum referred to rage, especially the rage of manitou, the world-suffusing spiritual power at the heart of coastal Indians’ religious beliefs. When Tisquantum approached the Pilgrims and identified himself by that sobriquet, it was as if he had stuck out his hand and said, “Hello, I’m the Wrath of God.”

Massasoit was right not to trust Tisquantum, who soon tried to pit the Pilgrims against him. But the plan didn’t work: Massasoit “is just pissed off and demands the Pilgrims hand him over because he’s gonna execute him,” Mann said.

The Pilgrims didn’t. Instead, Tisquantum stayed in the colony with them, helping them prepare for the next winter.

“Never did the newcomers ask themselves why he might be making himself essential,” Mann wrote in Smithsonian“But from the Pilgrims’ accounts of their dealings with him, the answer seems clear: the alternative to staying in Plymouth was returning to Massasoit and renewed captivity.”

It’s all a lot more complicated — Machiavellian, even — than the story you might have learned. Mann in Smithsonian again:

By fall the settlers’ situation was secure enough that they held a feast of thanksgiving. Massasoit showed up with “some ninety men,” Winslow later recalled, most of them with weapons. The Pilgrim militia responded by marching around and firing their guns in the air in a manner intended to convey menace. Gratified, both sides sat down, ate a lot of food and complained about the Narragansett. Ecce Thanksgiving.

So what does this all mean? “While it was by far not the first occasion of human trafficking conducted by European explorers to the new world, the capture of Squanto and his fellow tribesmen would forever alter the course of history for people on two continents,” Peters wrote on the anniversary website.

“We learn about Columbus landing in 1492 and it’s as if nothing happened for over 100 years until the Pilgrims landed,” Mann added. “But the Tisquantum story gives you this tiny peek into that all the people involved had been interacting for more than a century.”

And today, of course, the Wampanoag are still around.

 

Nick Baumann, Huffington Post

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San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band (SFLGFB) Dance-Along Nutcracker

Interview with Pete Nowlen – Artstic Director

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The 2015 Dance-Along Nutcracker® -The Nutcracker of Oz! will take audience members on a wild adventure when a twister carries Clara and her dog Fritz over the rainbow to the Land of Oz. Clara and Fritz’s journey down the Yellow Brick Road is sure to entertain and amuse.

Under the baton of Artistic Director Pete Nowlen, who is celebrating his 3rd season, the band will play Ozesque favorites from the 1939 cinema classic, Wicked and The Wiz blended with Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite. Sugar Plum wannabes will dance and pirouette under the spotlights of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and as always, a rollicking fun time will be had by all!

Mr. Nowlen was the guest conductor this summer for the annual conference of the Lesbian/Gay Band Association.  He serves as director of concert bands at UC Davis and on the faculty of Sacramento State.

The San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band is the first openly gay musical organization in the world, inspiring the formation of LGBT bands, choruses and performing groups around the globe. On a local level, SFLGFB is the Official Band of San Francisco, having been given that honor by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in honor of the Band’s 20th and 25th anniversaries.

Founded in 1978 by Jon Sims at the height of Anita Bryant’s anti-gay crusade, the Band has made music to build understanding among communities of all sexual orientations and identities for more than three decades. SFLGFB first appeared in public when it marched up Market Street behind Harvey Milk’s convertible in the 1978 San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade, an event recreated in the Oscar-winning film “Milk.”

 

San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band (SFLGFB)  Dance-Along Nutcracker® http://sflgfb.townalive.com/season-events/dance-along-nutcracker-december-2015/
Saturday December 12  3pm & 7pm,  Sunday, December 13  11am & 3pm
at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.
See and hear a sample of the show at http://sflgfb.townalive.com/season-events/dance-along-nutcracker-december-2015/

The cast features Donna Sachet (Witch), Zelda Koznofski (Clara), Flynn DeMarco (Scarecrow), Joe Wicht (Lion), Noah Haydon (Tinman), Tina Sogliuzzio (Glinda) and Leigh Crow (Wizard).

JOIN: “Our marching and pep program is non-audition and especially friendly to people who haven’t picked up their instrument in a while or are switching to something more marching-esque. The music we play is a good mixture of some easier pieces and some things more challenging, so there is something for everyone at every level.  There are no auditions, just come and play. Contact us at membership [at] sflgfb [dot] org

VOLUNTEER: “You don’t need to play an instrument to get involved! SFLGFB is seeking enthusiastic and dedicated volunteers and leaders. Your efforts will help make our concerts and events better for our fans and members.”  Leave a message at 415.255.1355 or email us at sflgfb [at] sflgfb [dot] org  to volunteer.

DONATE: It takes a lot of money and hard work to keep a multi-faceted musical group like this going for 36 years.  To donate online, please pay securely http://sflgfb.townalive.com/get-involved-support/make-donation/

HIRE THE BAND:  Hire the Band to add a true piece of San Francisco to your ceremony! Contact events@sflgfb.org

We’re looking forward to seeing you at SFLGFB’s Beloved Holiday Show.  It’s just a few weeks away so order your tickets now.  Ask about their Friends and Family Ticket Packages.

 

Article by: Paul Margolis – Director of OurTownSF.org 

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When a local mosque was burned down, a town raised $80k to rebuild it in less than a day.

On Nov. 15, 2015, residents of Peterborough, Ontario woke up to the kind of news that makes your heart sink.

A mosque — the only one in the community — was burned down. Though the motive for the attack is still unclear, police have declared that the fire was set intentionally, and the blaze is being investigated as a potential hate crime.
Since the Paris attacks, hostility towards Muslims has become far more visible in Europe and North America.

The U.K. has experienced a huge spike in attacks against Muslims. Many U.S. presidential candidates have called for halting the flow of Syrian refugees into the country — especially if they’re not Christian. Some have gone so far as to propose shutting down mosques and have insinuated that American Muslims cheered on the 9/11 attacks.

But residents of Peterborough refused to give into suspicion and fear and were determined to do something to help their neighbors rebuild.

“Damages are estimated to exceed $80K. We encourage members of the community, of all or no faiths, to help the Muslim community restore their place of worship,” Peterborough resident Duane Rouselle wrote on a fundraising page he created.

Rouselle told Upworthy that he donated all he had — the 17 cents in his bank account.

“When I heard the news — I heard it from somebody who lived beside the Mosque, before it hit the news — I felt compelled to do something, anything,” he wrote in an e-mail.
The fundraiser hit its $80,000 goal before the first day was over.

And the donations kept pouring in. As of Nov. 23, 2015, the community had raised over $110,000 to help rebuild the mosque.
The community didn’t just rally to raise money.

Other religious groups in the city immediately stepped up to offer displaced members of the mosque space to gather, worship, and pray.

“There are no words to describe how amazing our community has represented itself as a giving, loving, peaceful and supportive community,” Rouselle wrote.
The mosque will be able to rebuild, and the Peterborough community deserves massive congratulations for living up to its highest ideals.

In the wake of a terrible tragedy, it’s natural — and understandable — to be afraid. It’s easy to look at the perpetrators of unspeakable violence and draw quick, and not always accurate, conclusions about people who look like them.

“Our acts of kindness should not conceal the very real threats that people have to live with on a daily basis,” Rouselle wrote in his e-mail. And he’s right.
It’s important to stand up for the least empowered members of our communities — even when we don’t know them that well, or disagree with them.

In the wake of the positive press, some have pointed to the Peterborough imam’s retrograde views on marriage and women’s rights. And it’s OK to be offended by them! But they’re not a reason to not help a community. And they certainly don’t justify what happened to the mosque.

Far too often, we turn to people in our communities who look different, think differently, pray differently and think, “You are other,” and “We’re afraid of you.” And we turn our backs.

Peterborough didn’t. They said, “You are all one of us. And we’ve got your back.”

We could all stand to learn from them.

 

From Upworthy, Eric March

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Two gay Syrian refugees get sanctuary in Canada

A gay Syrian couple seeking refuge from discrimination and war in their hometown are now able to live in Canada after local sponsors and supporters intervened on their behalf

“I want to ride a roller coaster for the first time,” Danny Ramadan told cbc.ca. “I would also like to give back to the community that brought me here. It’s just beyond (my dreams).”

Ramadan and his partner who has requested anonymity because he’s not out to his family are are among the first refugees from the war in Syria to arrive in Vancouver, according to cbc.ca.

The ongoing Syrian war has created over 3 million refugees with more than 100,000 Syrians having lost their lives in the escalating conflict between forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and those opposed to his rule. In the past year, Canada pledged to take in 1,300 before the end of 2014.

However, many gay men in Syria are threatened not only by the Syrian Army and Islamist organizations and rebels but also from family members, says Human Rights Watch.

Gay people even before the war have been the target of “honor killings” with family members viewing same-sex relations as a disgrace and the persecution is their bid to overcome that public disgrace.

Before coming to Canada last week, the couple had been living in Beirut, Lebanon. They are eager to start a new life in Vancouver with their rescue dog, Phoebe.

By coming to Canada, the couple hopes to escape the homophobia they faced in Syria and Lebanon.

“Here, I have the ability to be myself finally,” says Ramadan. “I have been gay-bashed in the Arab world. My family disowned me at times. But here, I feel like I have a family somehow,” he told cbc.ca

Their coming to Canada was made possible by a group from Vancouver who helped in bringing the couple by raising funds, working through the application process and lobbying MPs and MLAs.

Rainbow Refugee, an organization that advocates for refugees fleeing persecution because of sexual orientation, was also instrumental in bringing the couple to Canada.

Canada has identified gay men, children, religious minorities and women facing sexual violence as being particularly vulnerable among Syrian refugees.

 

From GayAsiaNews

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Gay asylum seekers face threat from fellow refugees in Europe

Rami Ktifan made a snap decision to come out. A fellow Syrian had spotted a rainbow flag lying near the 23-year-old university student’s belongings inside a packed refugee center. The curious man, Ktifan recalled, picked it up before casually asking, “What is this?”

“I decided to tell the truth, that it is the flag for gay people like me,” Ktifan said. “I thought, I am in Europe now. In Germany, I should not have to hide anymore.”

What followed over the next several weeks, though, was abuse — both verbal and physical — from other refugees, including an attempt to burn Ktifan’s feet in the middle of the night. The harassment ultimately became so severe that he and two other openly gay asylum seekers were removed from the refugee center with the aid of a local gay activist group and placed in separate accommodations across town.

As the largest flow of refugees since World War II streams into Europe, Ktifan’s case illustrates an emerging problem for gay and lesbian asylum seekers. Some of them arrive in Europe only to find themselves under threat from fellow refugees.

Gays who face official persecution in nations such as Iran and Uganda have been fleeing to Europe for years. But experts estimate that a record number of gays and lesbians seeking asylum, as many as 50,000, will arrive this year in Germany, the European nation accepting the largest number of refugees. Rather than leaving their home countries specifically because of anti-gay persecution, many are fleeing violence and war in nations such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Once in Europe, gays and lesbians are herded along with other asylum seekers into cramped shelters and camps, where a number of them are exposed to serious harassment.

There are no official figures. But the Lesbian and Gay Federation of Berlin and Brandenburg, for instance, says it is receiving three to six cases a week in which gay asylum seekers have been victims of physical abuse, including sexual assault. Earlier this month, a 21-year-old gay Arab asylum seeker in Berlin was hospitalized after he was insulted and assaulted at the refugee center where he was staying. In the city of Dresden, an eastern German metropolis of 525,000, at least seven gay asylum seekers have been removed from shelters this year for their own safety.

Sensing a growing threat, officials in Berlin are seeking to open the city’s first refugee center exclusively for gays and lesbians. The Berlin gay federation, meanwhile, has rolled out a new campaign called Love Deserves Respect, putting up posters inside refu­gee centers showing three couples kissing — a man and a woman, two women and two men.

“Just like everyone else, with the refugees, there are good ones and bad ones, and there are those who are carrying homophobic attitudes from their homelands,” said Jouanna Hassoun, head of the Berlin gay federation’s migrant program. “Those attitudes won’t be abandoned immediately.”

Part of the debate

The incidents are fast becoming political lightning rods, playing into the broader debate in Germany over questions of how to integrate hundreds of thousands of new refugees and whether to start sending more of them back.

The majority of the newcomers are coming from nations in the Middle East and Africa with sharply different laws and social norms from Germany regarding, for example, gays and women. Even some on Germany’s political right — rarely seen as champions of gay rights — have seized on gay bashing as further evidence of the dangers of accepting so many refugees, many of whom may never fully embrace modern German values.

Many on the political left, while demanding protections for all refugees, concede that there is, at the very least, a steep learning curve ahead for newcomers to accept established norms in a country that is led by a female chancellor — Angela Merkel — and that offers legal benefits, if not full marriage, to same-sex couples.

“You must forget what you learned at home about what is right or wrong,” commentator Harald Martenstein recently wrote in the Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel, addressing refugees. “You do not have to give up your culture, not that. But you must accept the equality of women. You must learn that homosexuals and Jews are just like everyone else. You must bear mocking and satire, even when it concerns your religion. . . . If you don’t accept these rules, you have no future here.”

Ktifan and two other men — Yousif al-Doori, 25, of Iraq, and Ahmed Suliman, 20, of Syria — said that initially they suffered only verbal abuse after word spread about their sexual orientation in a refugee shelter in Munich. But after they were relocated with other refugees to a longer-term facility in Dresden, things took a turn for the worse.

At one point, Ktifan said, another refugee slipped into his room at night, stuck pieces of paper between his toes and set them on fire. Al-Doori said several male refugees from North Africa and the Middle East surrounded him and then demanded sex. He said he pretended to go with one of them willingly before running away. Ktifan, ­al-Doori and Suliman said they were routinely pushed and shoved by fellow refugees while in line for food. Several of the male refugees would shout at them “to go wait with the women,” Ktifan said.

The harassment became so constant that, with the aid of local gay activists, Ktifan, ­al-Doori and Suliman were pulled out of the refugee center last month and installed in a small separate apartment near the city center. The dangers they faced, though, were nothing new.

Before fleeing for Europe, ­al-Doori said, he was kidnapped and held for two days in Baghdad by religious thugs who had tried to extort his family because he is gay. Ktifan said that in Syria he hid his sexuality from all but a select few and initially fled to Libya to escape his country’s civil war. But after a Libyan man tried to blackmail him for being gay, Ktifan said, he returned to Syria. As he grew increasingly fearful of Islamist extremists who were targeting gays and lesbians, he said he decided to join the exodus to Europe.

“We thought we were leaving that kind of treatment behind,” Suliman said. “But inside the refugee center, it felt like we were back in Syria.”

Widely differing views

Yet opinions among refugees regarding gays and lesbians differ widely and often are very nuanced. On a recent afternoon outside Berlin’s teeming main refugee registration center, some asylum seekers who were asked about their beliefs strongly denounced gays and lesbians and said they should not be tolerated.

Others, such as Ali Ahmad Haydari, a 25-year-old father of four who said he had lost two of his children during the war in Afghanistan, said accepting gay rights came with the territory of a new life in Europe.

“I don’t have a problem with that,” he said.“I like the freedom here. Everybody should live as they want.”

FROM THE WASHINGTON POST, Anthony Faiola

 

 

 

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The Irony: Texas GOPer Doesn’t Want Refugees Because It’s Too Easy To Get Guns

Predictably, Texas Governor Greg Abbott told President Obama that his state will not accept any of the Syrian refugees who are trying to escape violence at the hands of ISIL.

Abbott joins a list of Republicans – and one Democrat – who refuse to accept those fleeing from violence in Syria, including children.

“They do not have the capability to distinguish between those refugees who can pose as terrorist, and those who may be innocent, and until the United States develops that capability it is essential that we do first things first, and that is and that is to keep the people of the state of Texas safe,” said Greg The Christian Abbot.

State Representative Tony Dale added more irony to the mix saying that he’s concerned the refugees could obtain guns in Texas, a state which has some of the most lax gun laws in the country.

Dale penned a letter to Governor Abbott and other state leaders to issue a warning.

Sounds scary!

Dale is worried refugees would be able to get a job at the airport and said that the state cannot prevent refugees from getting a Texas Driver’s License.

“So they could get a job in the airport, for example and they could plant something on a plane like we saw in the Sinai Peninsula recently when the Russian airline was taken down, they could board a plane legally in the United States,” said State Rep. Dale.

Actually, a person can carry guns legally in airports in Texas. That is something Conservatives pushed for and now they have it.

Federal officials confirmed that gun purchases are also possible by a refugee who has the proper federal document and a Texas Driver’s License, according to Fox 7.

“California when they issue drivers licenses to non-citizens specifically says that it is not to be used for a Federal purpose, not to be used for employment and that means it cannot be used to board a plane … and presumably it could not be used to purchase a gun,” said Dale.

Fun fact: In Texas, there is no background check, no training, no age limit required to carry loaded high capacity weapons openly.

Open Carry Texas’ fearless leader C.J. Grisham could not obtain a concealed carry permit due to a blemish on his record.

So, he obtained one in another state and now he can carry legally in Texas. It’s just that simple in the lone star state.

It looks like the problem is in Texas and not with those fleeing violence. Although, we would suggest the refugees move to a different state if they want to run from violence and not to it.

 

From BiPartisanReport.com

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Antonin Scalia: If We Protect Gays, Why Not Child Molesters?

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is famed for his archconservative views and often-homophobic rhetoric, but he took it up a notch even for him Monday, saying the logic behind making LGBT people a protected minority could just as easily apply to child molesters.

Scalia, speaking to first-year law students at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., said there is no constitutional basis for gay rights decisions made by the court, The New York Timesreports. “What minorities deserve protection?” he asked. “What? It’s up to me to identify deserving minorities?”

Those decisions should be made by the people and their elected representatives, he said, not judges. He “allowed that the First Amendment protects political and religious minorities but suggested that there was no principled way for courts to make further distinctions based on the text of the Constitution,” the Times reports.

“What about pederasts?” he asked, with some sarcasm. “What about child abusers? So should I on the Supreme Court say this is a deserving minority. Nobody loves them. … No, if you believe in democracy, you should put it to the people.”

He also said, “The notion that everything you care a lot about has to be in the Constitution is a very dangerous notion,” The Washington Post reports. “It begins with stuff that we all agree upon … and at the bottom of that slope is same-sex marriage.”

There was some swift reaction to Scalia’s comments. New Republic blogger Jeet Heer called the remarks “breathtaking in their bigotry” and wrote, “Apparently you can be a Supreme Court justice without being able to understand the elementary distinction between consensual relationships between adults and heinous acts that by definition are coercive.”

In his dissents on Supreme Court decisions regarding LGBT rights, Scalia has often argued for the right of the people to assert opposition to homosexuality through discriminatory laws. In his dissent in 1996’s Romer v. Evans, which struck down an antigay Colorado ballot measure, he wrote that the measure was “a modest attempt by seemingly tolerant Coloradans to preserve traditional sexual mores against the efforts of a politically powerful minority to revise those mores through use of the laws.”

In 2003, in dissenting from the Lawrence v. Texas ruling, which invalidated antisodomy laws, he advocated for the rights of Americans who “do not want persons who openly engage in homosexual conduct as partners in their business, as scoutmasters for their children, as teachers in their children’s schools, or as boarders in their home” because “they view this as protecting themselves and their families from a lifestyle that they believe to be immoral and destructive.”

Trudy Ring, The Advocate

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Anonymous Takes Down 5,500 ISIS Accounts – 24 Hours After ISIS Called them “Idiots”

The Anonymous hacking collective has reportedly taken down over 5,500 Twitter accounts purported to belong to Islamic State members following their declaration of “total war” on the terrorist group after the Paris attacks.

The announcement comes less than 24 hours after hacktivist group warned of a coordinated and targeted attack against the Islamic State in the wake of the deadly wave of terror attacks across Paris.

Anonymous spokesman Alex Poucher said:

“Our capability to take down ISIS is a direct result of our collective’s sophisticated hackers, data miners, and spies that we have all around the world. We have people very, very close to ISIS on the ground, which makes gathering intel about ISIS and related activities very easy for us.”

Poucher went on to say that the groups hacking acumen “might be better than any world government’s tools to combat ISIS online,” adding that although ISIS has its own hacking core, the terrorist group “does not have hackers like we have hackers.”

“They picked a fight with Anonymous when they attacked Paris, and now they should expect us,” he said, adding that the collective “will not sit by and watch these terror attacks unfold around the world.”

Anonymous has targeted ISIS in the past, dismantling 149 Islamic State websites so far this year, according to Foreign Policy. The hacktivist group began operations against the Islamic State following their brutal attack on Charlie Hebdo in January.

On Monday, Anonymous released a video announcing that the group would “launch the biggest operation ever” against Islamic State.

The hacking collective vowed to “unite humanity,” warning the terrorist group to “expect massive cyber-attacks.”

“Anonymous from all over the world will hunt you down,” the masked Anon spokesman in the video said. “You should know that we will find you and we will not let you go.”

ISIS responded to Anonymous’ video on Monday, calling the hacktivist group “idiots” and offering technical guidance to ISIS supporters in an effort to protect against Anonymous cyber-attacks.

In spite of the ISIS insults aimed at Anonymous, judging by the initial results, it seems the Islamic State is impotent to stop the hacktivist group from decimating the terror group’s social media outreach and recruitment efforts.

Jay Syrmopoulos is an investigative journalist, free thinker, researcher, and ardent opponent of authoritarianism. He is currently a graduate student at University of Denver pursuing a masters in Global Affairs. Jay’s work has been published on Ben Swann’s Truth in Media, Truth-Out, AlterNet, InfoWars, MintPress News, as well as many other sites. You can follow him on Twitter @sirmetropolis, on Facebook at Sir Metropolis and now on tsu.

 

From THE MIND UNLEASHED

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The Little-Noticed Conservative Plan To Permanently Lock Democrats Out Of Policymaking

The Federalist Society is the intellectual nexus of America’s conservative legal establishment. It was the incubator of both Supreme Court suits that tried (and failed) to gut the Affordable Care Act, and its events are often the best indicator of what Justice Samuel Alito’s opinions will say two years down the road. The Society’s annual national lawyer’s convention, moreover, typically showcases the many diverse strategies its members have devised to implement conservative policy in any branch of government willing to listen to them. Past convention speakers offered proposals as ambitious as eliminating anti-discrimination law, eliminating the minimum wage, and declaring much of the twentieth century unconstitutional.

This year’s convention, however, which was held this past weekend, took on a decidedly different tone. While flagship conservative ideas such as eliminating unions and protecting anti-gay discrimination certainly were mentioned at the Federalist Society’s 2015 National Lawyers Convention, the panels were fixated on a single idea — restricting or abolishing the power of federal agencies to regulate. Indeed, this topic came up so often that one could be forgiven for assuming that this year’s convention schedule was planned by Captain Ahab, with the Obama administration’s regulations playing the role of Moby Dick.

Given the Federalist Society’s influence among Republican lawmakers — especially the kind of Republican lawmaker who wears judicial robes — it is very likely that many of their proposals will be implemented if the 2016 election gives the GOP control of all three branches of government. It should be noted, moreover, that their proposals to hobble federal agencies are likely to give a structural advantage to Republicans that could very well become permanent. Republicans would still be capable of implementing their preferred policies, while Democrats would struggle to do the same even in the immediate wake of an electoral victory.

What They Want To Stop

Many federal laws delegate authority to agencies to figure out the details of how to achieve policy goals set by Congress. The Clean Air Act, for example, instructs the Environmental Protection Agency to set “standards applicable to the emission of any air pollutant from any class or classes of new motor vehicles or new motor vehicle engines” if the EPA determines that those emissions “cause, or contribute to, air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.” In the 2007 case Massachusetts v. EPA, the Supreme Court explained that this delegation gives the EPA some authority to rein in greenhouse gas emissions — and EPA’s authority in this space is even more robust when EPA invokes its authority under other provisions of the law.

Because Congress already gave the EPA power to check emissions that exacerbate climate change, existing law has enabled the Obama administration to target global warming even though the present Congress has not shown much eagerness to find new solutions to this problem. Unsurprisingly, the fact that existing law gives the President Obama the ability to act without seeking permission from a Republican Congress has not sat well with congressional Republicans — or with those Republicans’ allies in the legal profession.

Similarly, the Affordable Care Act requires employer-provided health plans to cover “preventive health services,” but if gives various divisions of the federal Department of Health and Human Services the responsibility to examine medical evidence to determine which specific services should be included in these plans. Pursuant to this responsibility, health regulators determined that contraceptive care is one of twenty-two women’s preventive services that should be included. This, of course, has not sat well with religious groups that object to birth control, who have now brought their second lawsuit to the Supreme Court claiming that they should not have to follow this rule.

Enter the Federalist Society. Speakers at this year’s lawyer’s convention offered so many different proposals to halt regulatory action, it was difficult to keep track of them all. The conference opened with a speech by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), a deeply conservative lawmaker who once claimed that federal child labor laws are unconstitutional because the Constitution was “designed to be a little bit harsh.” Lee used his talk to push the REINS Act, a bill that, if enacted, would most likely freeze most of the federal regulatory code in place. New York Law School Professor David Schoenbrod, the opening speaker at a panel on environmental law, called for a similar regime where regulations would not go into effect until they were enacted by Congress.

Yet, while the conference speakers rarely concerned themselves with whether their proposals may appear too radical or disruptive, the Federalist Society is not naive to the fact that Congress remains a highly dysfunctional branch unlikely to enact major reforms in the near future — indeed, the conference devoted an entire plenary session to a panel on “congressional dysfunction.” Perhaps for this reason, several other speakers suggested asking the judiciary to dismantle the modern regulatory state. Some pointed to the Nondelegation Doctrine, a largely defunct legal doctrine that a conservative Supreme Court briefly used to limit congressional delegations of power to the Roosevelt administration during the early stages of the New Deal. Others offered more modest — though still quite disruptive — ideas, such as weakening or eliminating the Supreme Court’s Chevron Doctrine, which calls upon federal courts to defer to agencies on many regulatory matters within their expertise.

This later proposal would effectively give the Republican-controlled Supreme Court broad new authority to strike down federal regulations.

The Long Game

Thus far, conservatives have had some success in their efforts to thwart the federal regulatory system. REINS is not law, but it has passed the Republican-controlled House on multiple occasions and has earned the endorsement of some GOP presidential candidates. Burwell v. Hobby Lobby granted religious objectors some authority to exempt themselves from the Obama administration’s birth control rules, although the Court is considering another case this term that will decide if many objectors actually have the power to cut off contraceptive coverage for their employees. In King v. Burwell, an attack on the Affordable Care Act that otherwise ended disastrously for the Federalist Society, Chief Justice John Roberts’ opinion for the Court held that Chevron does not apply to questions of “deep ‘economic and political significance’” that are “central” to a statutory scheme. It remains to be seen how much impact King will have on other challenges to regulatory action, but it could prove quite significant.

Ultimately, however, these are very modest successes in comparison to the bold proposals offered at the Federalist Society. Take the REINS Act, for example, which would automatically invalidate any new regulation that impacts more than 0.0006 percent of the nation’s economy unless this regulation is approved by Congress “by the end of 70 session days or legislative days.” Given congressional dysfunction, this bill would likely shut down many new federal rules entirely — regardless of whether those new rules expand the scope of federal regulation, update an existing regulation in light of new technological or other developments, or even if the new rule repeals an existing regulation entirely.

As a practical matter, however, REINS and similar proposals would likely effect a massive shift in power from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party.

Much of our electoral system, at the moment, places a thumb on the scale in favor of Republicans. The GOP-controlled Supreme Court gave state lawmakers more leeway to enact voter suppression laws than they have enjoyed since Jim Crow. U.S. House districts tend to favor Republicans because Democrats tend to cluster in cities where they are concentrated into relatively few congressional districts. These geographic factors are then exacerbated by partisan gerrymandering, which also give Republicans a significant advantage in many key states.

Indeed, in 2012, ThinkProgress estimated that Democrats would have needed to win the national popular vote in all U.S. House races by 7.25 percentage points in order to eek out a bare majority in Congress’s lower chamber.

Meanwhile, Democrats may enjoy a structural advantage in presidential races over Republicans. Democrats won the national popular vote in five of the last six presidential races. Groups that tend to favor Republicans (older voters, white voters, wealthy voters) tend to be more financially secure and settled in their communities, factors which correlate with higher turnout in off-year elections. Meanwhile, groups that tend to favor Democrats (younger voters, lower income voters and voters of color) tend to be less secure, and thus more likely to only vote in presidential election years.

The result is that, while Democrats may capture the White House, they are at a serious disadvantage when trying to capture the House of Representatives. Republican presidents, by contrast, do not face the same problem. So if the House enjoys an effective veto over federal regulations, that’s a bonanza for Republicans because their presidents are much more likely to enjoy sufficient majorities in Congress to get around that veto.

Similar things can be said about judicial efforts to limit agency action. Because Democrats are at a structural disadvantage in House races, Democratic presidents are much more likely to need to rely on their existing statutory authority to make policy. Republican presidents, by contrast, are more likely to be able to sign new legislation because they are less likely to face a hostile House.

The Federalist Society’s proposals, in other words, would take a system that has already been rigged by factors such as voter suppression laws and gerrymandering and rig it even more so that Democrats cannot make policy even when they do earn the mandate of the people.

IAN MILLHISER, Think Progress

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John Pilger on ISIS: Only When We See the War Criminals In Our Midst Will the Blood Begin to Dry

In transmitting President Richard Nixon’s orders for a “massive” bombing of Cambodia in 1969, Henry Kissinger said, “Anything that flies on everything that moves”. As Barack Obama ignites his seventh war against the Muslim world since he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the orchestrated hysteria and lies make one almost nostalgic for Kissinger’s murderous honesty.

As a witness to the human consequences of aerial savagery – including the beheading of victims, their parts festooning trees and fields – I am not surprised by the disregard of memory and history, yet again. A telling example is the rise to power of Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge, who had much in common with today’s Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). They, too, were ruthless medievalists who began as a small sect. They, too, were the product of an American-made apocalypse, this time in Asia.

According to Pol Pot, his movement had consisted of “fewer than 5,000 poorly armed guerrillas uncertain about their strategy, tactics, loyalty and leaders”. Once Nixon’s and Kissinger’s B52 bombers had gone to work as part of “Operation Menu”, the west’s ultimate demon could not believe his luck.

The Americans dropped the equivalent of five Hiroshimas on rural Cambodia during 1969-73. They levelled village after village, returning to bomb the rubble and corpses. The craters left monstrous necklaces of carnage, still visible from the air. The terror was unimaginable. A former Khmer Rouge official described how the survivors “froze up and they would wander around mute for three or four days. Terrified and half-crazy, the people were ready to believe what they were told… That was what made it so easy for the Khmer Rouge to win the people over.”

A Finnish Government Commission of Enquiry estimated that 600,000 Cambodians died in the ensuing civil war and described the bombing as the “first stage in a decade of genocide”. What Nixon and Kissinger began, Pol Pot, their beneficiary, completed. Under their bombs, the Khmer Rouge grew to a formidable army of 200,000.

ISIS has a similar past and present. By most scholarly measure, Bush and Blair’s invasion of Iraq in 2003 led to the deaths of some 700,000 people – in a country that had no history of jihadism. The Kurds had done territorial and political deals; Sunni and Shia had class and sectarian differences, but they were at peace; intermarriage was common. Three years before the invasion, I drove the length of Iraq without fear. On the way I met people proud, above all, to be Iraqis, the heirs of a civilization that seemed, for them, a presence.

Bush and Blair blew all this to bits. Iraq is now a nest of jihadism. Al-Qaeda – like Pol Pot’s “jihadists” – seized the opportunity provided by the onslaught of Shock and Awe and the civil war that followed. “Rebel” Syria offered even greater rewards, with CIA and Gulf state ratlines of weapons, logistics and money running through Turkey. The arrival of foreign recruits was inevitable. A former British ambassador, Oliver Miles, wrote recently, “The [Cameron] government seems to be following the example of Tony Blair, who ignored consistent advice from the Foreign Office, MI5 and MI6 that our Middle East policy – and in particular our Middle East wars – had been a principal driver in the recruitment of Muslims in Britain for terrorism here.”

ISIS is the progeny of those in Washington and London who, in destroying Iraq as both a state and a society, conspired to commit an epic crime against humanity. Like Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, ISIS are the mutations of a western state terror dispensed by a venal imperial elite undeterred by the consequences of actions taken at great remove in distance and culture. Their culpability is unmentionable in “our” societies.

It is 23 years since this holocaust enveloped Iraq, immediately after the first Gulf War, when the US and Britain hijacked the United Nations Security Council and imposed punitive “sanctions” on the Iraqi population – ironically, reinforcing the domestic authority of Saddam Hussein. It was like a medieval siege. Almost everything that sustained a modern state was, in the jargon, “blocked” – from chlorine for making the water supply safe to school pencils, parts for X-ray machines, common painkillers and drugs to combat previously unknown cancers carried in the dust from the southern battlefields contaminated with Depleted Uranium.

Just before Christmas 1999, the Department of Trade and Industry in London restricted the export of vaccines meant to protect Iraqi children against diphtheria and yellow fever. Kim Howells, parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Blair government, explained why. “The children’s vaccines”, he said, “were capable of being used in weapons of mass destruction”. The British Government could get away with such an outrage because media reporting of Iraq – much of it manipulated by the Foreign Office – blamed Saddam Hussein for everything.

Under a bogus “humanitarian” Oil for Food Programme, $100 was allotted for each Iraqi to live on for a year. This figure had to pay for the entire society’s infrastructure and essential services, such as power and water. “Imagine,” the UN Assistant Secretary General, Hans Von Sponeck, told me, “setting that pittance against the lack of clean water, and the fact that the majority of sick people cannot afford treatment, and the sheer trauma of getting from day to day, and you have a glimpse of the nightmare. And make no mistake, this is deliberate. I have not in the past wanted to use the word genocide, but now it is unavoidable.”

Disgusted, Von Sponeck resigned as UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator in Iraq. His predecessor, Denis Halliday, an equally distinguished senior UN official, had also resigned. “I was instructed,” Halliday said, “to implement a policy that satisfies the definition of genocide: a deliberate policy that has effectively killed well over a million individuals, children and adults.”

A study by the United Nations Children’s Fund, Unicef, found that between 1991 and 1998, the height of the blockade, there were 500,000 “excess” deaths of Iraqi infants under the age of five. An American TV reporter put this to Madeleine Albright, US Ambassador to the United Nations, asking her, “Is the price worth it?” Albright replied, “We think the price is worth it.”

In 2007, the senior British official responsible for the sanctions, Carne Ross, known as “Mr. Iraq”, told a parliamentary selection committee, “[The US and UK governments] effectively denied the entire population a means to live.” When I interviewed Carne Ross three years later, he was consumed by regret and contrition. “I feel ashamed,” he said. He is today a rare truth-teller of how governments deceive and how a compliant media plays a critical role in disseminating and maintaining the deception. “We would feed [journalists] factoids of sanitised intelligence,” he said, “or we’d freeze them out.”

On 25 September, a headline in the Guardian read: “Faced with the horror of Isis we must act.” The “we must act” is a ghost risen, a warning of the suppression of informed memory, facts, lessons learned and regrets or shame. The author of the article was Peter Hain, the former Foreign Office minister responsible for Iraq under Blair. In 1998, when Denis Halliday revealed the extent of the suffering in Iraq for which the Blair Government shared primary responsibility, Hain abused him on the BBC’s Newsnight as an “apologist for Saddam”. In 2003, Hain backed Blair’s invasion of stricken Iraq on the basis of transparent lies. At a subsequent Labour Party conference, he dismissed the invasion as a “fringe issue”.

Now Hain is demanding “air strikes, drones, military equipment and other support” for those “facing genocide” in Iraq and Syria. This will further “the imperative of a political solution”. Obama has the same in mind as he lifts what he calls the “restrictions” on US bombing and drone attacks. This means that missiles and 500-pound bombs can smash the homes of peasant people, as they are doing without restriction in Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Somalia – as they did in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. On 23 September, a Tomahawk cruise missile hit a village in Idlib Province in Syria, killing as many as a dozen civilians, including women and children. None waved a black flag.

The day Hain’s article appeared, Denis Halliday and Hans Von Sponeck happened to be in London and came to visit me. They were not shocked by the lethal hypocrisy of a politician, but lamented the enduring, almost inexplicable absence of intelligent diplomacy in negotiating a semblance of truce. Across the world, from Northern Ireland to Nepal, those regarding each other as terrorists and heretics have faced each other across a table. Why not now in Iraq and Syria.

Like Ebola from West Africa, a bacteria called “perpetual war” has crossed the Atlantic. Lord Richards, until recently head of the British military, wants “boots on the ground” now. There is a vapid, almost sociopathic verboseness from Cameron, Obama and their “coalition of the willing” – notably Australia’s aggressively weird Tony Abbott – as they prescribe more violence delivered from 30,000 feet on places where the blood of previous adventures never dried. They have never seen bombing and they apparently love it so much they want it to overthrow their one potentially valuable ally, Syria. This is nothing new, as the following leaked UK-US intelligence file illustrates:

“In order to facilitate the action of liberative [sic] forces… a special effort should be made to eliminate certain key individuals [and] to proceed with internal disturbances in Syria. CIA is prepared, and SIS (MI6) will attempt to mount minor sabotage and coup de main [sic] incidents within Syria, working through contacts with individuals… a necessary degree of fear… frontier and [staged] border clashes [will] provide a pretext for intervention… the CIA and SIS should use… capabilities in both psychological and action fields to augment tension.”

That was written in 1957, though it could have been written yesterday. In the imperial world, nothing essentially changes. Last year, the former French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas revealed that “two years before the Arab spring”, he was told in London that a war on Syria was planned. “I am going to tell you something,” he said in an interview with the French TV channel LPC, “I was in England two years before the violence in Syria on other business. I met top British officials, who confessed to me that they were preparing something in Syria… Britain was organising an invasion of rebels into Syria. They even asked me, although I was no longer Minister for Foreign Affairs, if I would like to participate… This operation goes way back. It was prepared, preconceived and planned.”

The only effective opponents of ISIS are accredited demons of the west – Syria, Iran, Hezbollah. The obstacle is Turkey, an “ally” and a member of Nato, which has conspired with the CIA, MI6 and the Gulf medievalists to channel support to the Syrian “rebels”, including those now calling themselves ISIS. Supporting Turkey in its long-held ambition for regional dominance by overthrowing the Assad government beckons a major conventional war and the horrific dismemberment of the most ethnically diverse state in the Middle East.

A truce – however difficult to achieve – is the only way out of this imperial maze; otherwise, the beheadings will continue. That genuine negotiations with Syria should be seen as “morally questionable” (the Guardian) suggests that the assumptions of moral superiority among those who supported the war criminal Blair remain not only absurd, but dangerous.

Together with a truce, there should be an immediate cessation of all shipments of war materials to Israel and recognition of the State of Palestine. The issue of Palestine is the region’s most festering open wound, and the oft-stated justification for the rise of Islamic extremism. Osama bin Laden made that clear. Palestine also offers hope. Give justice to the Palestinians and you begin to change the world around them.

More than 40 years ago, the Nixon-Kissinger bombing of Cambodia unleashed a torrent of suffering from which that country has never recovered. The same is true of the Blair-Bush crime in Iraq. With impeccable timing, Henry Kissinger’s latest self-serving tome has just been released with its satirical title, “World Order”. In one fawning review, Kissinger is described as a “key shaper of a world order that remained stable for a quarter of a century”. Tell that to the people of Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Chile, East Timor and all the other victims of his “statecraft”. Only when “we” recognise the war criminals in our midst will the blood begin to dry.

By John Pilger, Films for Action

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Colorado will vote next year on single-payer health care system — and insurers are already freaking out

First legalized marijuana, now universal health care?

As reported by the Denver Post, Colorado is now poised to consider the possibility of expanding its health coverage in a way never before seen in the United States via a single-payer insurance system — thanks to a successful campaign run by ColoradoCareYES.

The grassroots group presented 158,831 signatures sponsoring a proposed overhaul of the pre-existing health care system to the state earlier this year. This Monday, it was confirmed that they had obtained enough valid signatures to suppass the 90,000 threshold needed for the measure to be placed on the ballot, according to Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

“Colorado deserves a better option, and now they can vote on one,” said Senator Irene Aguilar (D-Denver) in a statement released by ColoradoCareYES. “Health care costs continue to rise every year, hurting Coloradans’ chances to get ahead. It’s time we get the insurance industry out of the driver’s seat and put families in charge of their health care.”

The Colorado Care measure, should it pass, would fund itself through a new 10 percent payroll deduction. Employers would pay about 7 percent of the tax while employees would cover the rest. In exchange, people would no longer need to pay individual premiums, deductibles or most co-pays. Though people would still choose their own medical providers, their bills would be paid by the state itself, creating what the group calls “Medicare for all.” According to them, savings would come from reducing administrative costs as well as allowing the negotiation of bulk rates for pharmaceuticals. It’s claimed these savings will amount to about $5 billion when compared to what Colorado citizens currently pay collectively.

Of course, Colorado is hardly the first state to attempt such a radical shift in its health care system, nor is it even the first state to get this far. In 2011, Vermont successfully passed legislation that allowed for the formation of a single-payer system. Three years later, however, the state was forced to reconsider its implementation, after it was determined that the short-term costs were too high a burden on the economy.

Similarly, there are already naysayers who decry even the possibility of a similar system in Colorado. “A single-payer system would destroy our industry. I don’t think there’s any question about it,” Byron McCurdy, board president of the Colorado State Association of Health Underwriters, told the Denver Post.

With just under a year before next Election Day, it appears that time will tell how enthusiastic Colorado citizens are for a new approach to health care. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 11 percent of Coloradans are presently uninsured.

Ed Cara, Raw Story

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Texas Police Respond To Attempted Suicide, Shoot Hispanic Man, Then Learn He’s A Cop

Despite the childish response by police across the nation to the Black Lives Matter movement and repeated asinine reminders that “Blue Lives Matter” and “All Lives Matter,” neither of the latter was true in the eyes of two Laredo, Texas police officers who responded to a call about a suicidal man on Monday. The mother of a Webb County sheriff’s deputy says that the two responding officers did not have a good reason to shoot their son when they showed up to respond to the attempted suicide at around 11 a.m.

Police were alerted to the situation when they received a call that 25-year-old Cesar Cuellar Jr. had sent texts indicating that he wanted to harm himself. According to Laredo Investigator Joe E. Baeza, one of the two officers opened fire on Cuellar after “repeated commands to the individual who was armed with a handgun.” According to the officers, Cuellar pointed the gun at them — but Dora Arambula Cuellar says differently.

“Don’t shoot, don’t shoot, don’t shoot, please, please, please. It’s my son.” Those were the words she recalled saying as she begged the responding officers not to end her son’s life. She says she arrived at her son’s apartment to find the officers pointing guns at her son though he was not returning the favor as they claimed in their efforts to justify murdering a disturbed and suicidal man:

“Both of them were pointing at him. My son was like this with the gun pointed down, not saying a word. He was surprised, he was frozen. He didn’t say a word. They had scared him.”

As the distraught mother begged the officers not to shoot, she says her son remained completely still. She added that the officers took their time, seemingly almost reveling in their opportunity to steal away someone’s life. “They shot him, they shot him once and then it took a while and after another boom again. It wasn’t continuous, but my son never lifted his gun. Never,” she said. “They shot him without having to, not one reason.”

It was only later that they realized they had killed a cop. Cuellar has worked in law enforcement for six years, but was relatively new to the Webb County Sheriff’s Office.

Cuellar’s mother says that she wants the officers who were involved in her son’s murder to lose their badges. “I want justice, I want justice for my son”, she explained. “I want their guns and badges taken away.” She added that he was not mentally or emotionally unstable.

Laredo Police Chief Raymond Garner has promised a “thorough investigation” into the cop killing, and says that the Texas Rangers “will also be conducting an independent investigation into this case to further ensure that all facts and evidentiary findings of this tragedy will be collected in the most thorough and transparent manner possible.”

In the meantime, the officers involved have been placed on paid vacation administrative leave, pending the results of the investigation.

John Prager, Addicting Info

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Koret Foundation Lawsuit Heats Up: New Website, Ads Call for Return to Founder’s Charitable Mission

Koret  Contributions to Hoover Institution, Polish Jewish Museum, Slammed by Koret Widow–Says Tad Taube, Anita Friedman of JCFS, Richard Green of Radovsky Green, Others, Use Charitable Funds for Own Pet Projects

President of Koret Foundation

Tad Taube, Ex-President of Koret Foundation

Partner of the San Francisco law firm Greene, Radovsky, Maloney, Share & Hennigh

Richard L. Green, Partner at law firm Greene, Radovsky, Maloney, Share & Hennigh

Jewish  Family and Children's Services

Jewish Family and Children’s Services, Anita Friedman

San Francisco—A new website seeks the support of Bay Area organizations and individuals to join the fight to reclaim the Koret Foundation and restore it to the Jewish, humanitarian, and community-oriented mission intended its founder, Joseph Koret. The website started this week and is at SaveKoret.org.

Mrs. Susan Koret, Joseph Koret’s widow, filed a lawsuit in October 2014 against the Koret Foundation’s current Board of Directors for ignoring the wishes of her late husband to help the poor and disadvantaged in the Bay Area and supporting Jewish causes in the Bay Area and Israel. The suit alleges, among other things, that the Foundation’s directors have diverted millions in Foundation dollars to grantees outside of the Bay Area and Israel and other grantees directly associated with their own personal interests – including causes in former President Tad Taube’s native country of Poland.

Mrs. Koret is seeking to restore a more egalitarian foundation structure, whereby organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area and Israel can seek funding consistent with her husband’s intent.

Many organizations stand to gain from this reform and the new website, SaveKoret.org, encourages those interested in joining this effort to sign up in support.

“Mrs. Koret claims in her lawsuit that the current directors are shortchanging the people of the Bay Area and Israel who most need the help that her husband intended his legacy to provide, and that community support will be positive for a restored mission,” said Rob Bunzel, an attorney for Mrs. Koret.

Mrs. Koret’s lawsuit demands the removal of board members Tad Taube and his longtime legal counsel Richard L. Greene of Greene Radovsky Maloney Share & Hennigh LLP; co-president Anita Friedman, director of Jewish Family and Children’s Services; co-president Michael J. Boskin, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution; board member Richard Atkinson, former president of the University of California; and board member Abraham D. Sofaer, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution. The suit calls for their replacement with the appointment of an independent board with a majority of Jewish directors.

The suit claims the Koret board is using foundation funds to promote programs closely affiliated with individual board members and is purposely confusing the public by putting signage that prominently features Taube’s name alongside the Koret Foundation name on buildings and grants for which the Koret Foundation is the principal funder.

The lawsuit also claims that, at Taube’s direction, the Koret Foundation has donated approximately $9 million to the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, a pet project of Taube, who was born in Poland.  “While the Polish Museum commemorates significant Jewish history, the diversion of Koret funds to Poland is not in keeping with my husband’s charitable mission…and in effect drains funds that could benefit the needy in communities in the Bay Area and Israel,” the lawsuit states.

“Alleviating suffering and misfortune were my husband’s top priorities,” said Mrs. Koret when the lawsuit was filed. “Joe and Stephanie’s money shouldn’t be used for Tad Taube’s pet projects in Poland or to help conservative economic and policy think tanks–not when so many in the Bay Area go to bed hungry every night and Jewish causes need support.”

Mrs. Koret noted her husband was a native of Odessa, Russia, who immigrated to America, struggled growing up poor in the U.S., and then struck it rich later in life in clothing and real estate. He was deeply committed to humanitarian causes such as alleviating hunger,  and would “be deeply angered and offended by Tad Taube and the board’s strong support of conservative  causes and grants that divert money needed for the local community and Jewish causes.”

The lawsuit asks the court to prevent the spending down of the Foundation’s assets by Taube and the board members with whom he has surrounded himself and allow the appointment of a new, independent board to carry out its mission and save the Foundation.

Mrs. Koret was named a lifetime director and chairwoman of the Foundation prior to her husband’s death in 1982. She was entrusted by her late husband to carry out the family legacy of caring for the poor and supporting Jewish and community causes through the Koret Foundation, according to the lawsuit.

Mrs. Koret said she has been marginalized as Taube, a Silicon Valley real estate investor, and his hand-picked supporters on the board steer donations toward causes in which they have affiliations.

Mrs. Koret said she filed the suit as a last resort after her efforts to diversify the board, get independent legal advice, confirm the perpetual nature of the Foundation and redirect funds back to her late husband’s mission were rebuffed.  She fears the Koret Foundation is facing destruction of its mission and eventual collapse unless changes are made.

The lawsuit alleges that Taube is a shameless self-promoter who has personally selected board members to rubber stamp his decisions in exchange for support of their own pet projects. Additionally, the suit says Taube established his own foundation, called Taube Philanthropies, but uses money and staff from the Koret Foundation to pay for and enhance joint projects of Taube Philanthropies and the Koret Foundation. A review of the Koret Foundation’s public filings shows reported annual salaries and compensation of officers exceeded $1.9 million in 2011, while Taube Philanthropies showed no such expenses for the same period, according to the lawsuit.

Mrs. Koret’s lawsuit charges that out of the $79 million gifted by the Koret Foundation between 2010 and 2013, nearly 60 percent was spent on causes outside the stated mission of her husband, the late Joseph Koret.

Learn more about the lawsuit and recent developments by visiting SaveKoret.org.

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Shunned Gay Teen Wins Lottery, Homophobic Parents Now Demanding Part Of His Winnings

Would you give any of your lottery winnings to your homophobic parents who shunned you as a teenager?

That’s the question Redditor Idontwanttogiveitup was left asking after striking it rich, winning a lottery jackpot of over $15 million (he did not disclose the exact ammount).

The now, 29-year-old millionaire, writes:

Hey everyone, I’m was told that I should bring my problem to reddit to see what people have to say. But before I do, I feel the need to say that I know it’s a privileged problem to have and I’m not falling all over the place in tears about it. It’s just emotionally weighing on me.So! I’m a 29yr old guy and I won the lottery. And it’s enough that I don’t have to work ever again if I don’t want too (over 15m). My plans are to take some finance/business courses over a period of time so I can be smart about investments and be responsible with the money. I am terrible at money management. I want to turn it into more money and hopefully get involved in charity. Altruistic I know, but I have always volunteered and it’s part of me.

My problem? My family, mainly my parents, feel they are entitled to 1/4 of the amount. I offered to pay off their mortgages and give them a little sum but that’s not good enough once they found the total amount. My family and I have a cordial relationship but I moved an hour away to get away from my oppressive mother and distant father. My sisters are nice people but we don’t really have a relationship. The definition of distant white middle class family. Boohoo, I know.

What it comes down too it, I don’t feel like they are entitled to anything and I’m being as generous as I can be (which I never said to them, but retrospectively I guess it’s implied). The conversation got ugly and When my mom said, “we raised you”, I immediately thought about how both my parents didn’t talk to me for 5yrs (ages 15-20), when they found out I was gay. And I almost failed high school because of it. Is that raising someone? Obviously I have hangups.

How do I explain to them what my plans are again and how it doesn’t involve them? Should I speak to a lawyer about it just in case? I can’t see them suing but money makes people do dumb things. I don’t want to ruin the relationships but I feel like the damage is done. I feel like a lot of people are going to say “Fuck them”.

 

From the Gaily Grind

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Call for Tenderloin Tessie Holiday Dinner

Feeding the Hungry in San Francisco for Over 35 Years!

“We are a non-judgmental group of volunteers who are dedicated to providing a bountiful meal, a smile and a gift to all of our patrons three times a year on Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas,” Michael Gagne – president of the board

HOLIDAY SCHEDULE: 11/26 & 12/25 1pm-4pm 

First Unitarian Church 1187 Franklin St. (corner Geary)

Tenderloin Tessie Holiday Dinners is an all-volunteer nonprofit serving an average of a thousand people at each holiday including the elderly, disabled, homeless, low income (to include HIV+), homeless families with children and those that do not have a family or a place to go. Easter Dinner took place 4/5/15.

FUNDING/DONATIONS: A large percentage is collected at Pink Saturday and Gay Pride plus several bar fundraisers are held by both the Imperial and Ducal Councils.  Tenderloin Tessie Holiday Dinners is also the beneficiary of grants from the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Bob Ross Foundation and the First Unitarian Church (where holiday events take place).  Private donations to this nonprofit are encouraged – see www.TenderloinTessie.com  For $40 you may sponsor a table of 8 persons.

HISTORY: Tessie was the drag name of Perry Spink, a local performer/bartender in the Tenderloin during the 60’s and 70’s. Legend has it that on Thanksgiving in 1974, he received several turkeys and was inspired to cook and serve them to local Tenderloin residents.  Due to her generosity, Tessie was honored with the title of Empress 15 in 1980.

Along with the dinners, Tessie started the tradition of giving gift bags along with the meals, a tradition that lives on today. These bags contain donated items such as toiletries, socks, gloves and an assortment of non-perishable food. Clothing donated by St. Anthony’s is also distributed after dinner is served.

Sadly, Tessie died in 1984 but the meals continue. Three years later, the name Tenderloin Tessie Holiday Dinners was created and the meals became a holiday tradition. They were served at a church on the corner of Eddy and Gough and began focusing on the needs of those suffering from AIDS and the growing number of homeless throughout the city.

That church burned in 1995 but the meals were moved to the First Unitarian Universalist church on Franklin and Geary. The organization is stronger than ever and always mindful of the original mission of Tenderloin Tessie to help anyone in need.

VOLUNTEERS: various positions are needed Wed -Nov 25: 10:45 am to 3 pm, Thur -Nov 26:, Thanksgiving Day: 9 am to 6pm ish, Sat -Nov 28th: 9:30 – 10:30am.  Sign up to volunteer online at www.TenderloinTessie.com under the Contact Us tab on the left side of the page. Then scroll down to the Volunteer section.

Michael Gagne, current president  Board for over 10 years as well as Vanessa Bousay will be singing and Marc Sanders -pianist will be entertaining at both Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Facebook event page for Thanksgiving: https://www.facebook.com/events/1095325000478403/

Paul Margolis –  ourtownsf.org/Videos-Interviews

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