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WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who for the past forty-seven years has served as a weekend scoutmaster for the Boy Scouts of America, angrily resigned from that position yesterday, effective immediately.

Justice Scalia quit his post in a terse resignation letter that read, in part:

“Some of the happiest memories of my adult life have been as a scoutmaster. Huddling under blankets around the campfire, and so forth. But now, all of that has been ruined. Ruined.”

Shortly after sending the letter, Justice Scalia destroyed his scoutmaster uniform in the blazing fireplace of his Supreme Court office.

Later, he went across the hall to share his decision with his close confidant on the Court, Justice Clarence Thomas, telling him, “There’s nowhere I feel safe anymore, Clarence. The military? The N.B.A.? Nowhere. I guess the only p\lace I still feel safe is the Supreme Court. This is still a safe place, isn’t it?”

Justice Thomas said nothing in reply.

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GOP support for modern biology drops

When it comes to polling Americans’ views on science, surveys often offer very different results based on the wording of the question. Gallup, for example, has published a series of reports over the years that suggest a plurality of Americans is, in effect, creationists.
A new Pew Research Center report approached the issue a little differently and found slightly less discouraging results: a 60% majority of Americans agree that “humans and other living things have evolved over time,” while 33% reject evolutionary biology, saying that “humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.”
Whether one is relieved or discouraged that “only” a third of the country doesn’t believe in modern biology is a matter of perspective.
But as is often the case on so many issues, there are stark partisan differences within the results. Among Americans who identify themselves as Democrats or Independents, support for biology has been rather steady since the last Pew Research poll on this issue in 2009, with about two-thirds of each group on board with life evolving over time.
Among self-identified Republicans, however, acceptance of biology has suffered a noticeable drop, from 54% four years ago to 43% now. Indeed, note that in 2009, most Republicans believed in evolution, while in 2013, most Republicans don’t.
In other words, there’s a science gap driven by politics – the Democratic advantage on embracing modern biology is now 24 points – and it’s getting worse, not better.
This does help explain, by the way, why prominent Republican officials – Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, Rep. Paul Broun of Georgia, et al – seem entirely comfortable making public comments expressing skepticism, if not outright hostility, towards evolution. They apparently realize they’re simply keeping pace with their party’s rank-and-file supporters.
Regardless, the larger trend just isn’t healthy for anyone. There are so many political, policy, and cultural issues that divide partisans, but scientific truths need not be one of them. We’re quickly approaching the point – if we haven’t arrived there already – at which science itself is broadly accepted and understood as a “Democratic issue,” abandoned altogether by Republicans hostile to reason and evidence.
As we discussed in November, a few years ago, the Pew Research Center found that only 6% of self-identified scientist say they tend to support Republican candidates. That total now appears likely to drop to new depths in the coming years.
Asked to explain the trend, Brigham Young University scientist Barry Bickmore, a onetime Republican convention delegate, recently told the Salt Lake Tribune, “Scientists just don’t get those people,” referencing Republicans who adhere to party orthodoxy on climate change, evolution, and other hot-button issues. “They [in the GOP] are driving us away, people like me.”
Steve Benin, MSNBC
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FIrst Openly Gay Bishop Rt. Rev. Otis Charles of San Francisco Dies April 24, 1926 – December 26, 2013

The Rt. Rev. Otis Charles, born April 24, 1926 in Norristown, Pennsylvania, died peacefully on December 26, 2013 at San Francisco’s Coming Home Hospice following a brief illness.  Charles was with family at his bedside at the time of his death.

Charles was the eighth bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah. Soon after his retirement in 1993 he came out as an openly gay man, making him the first openly gay bishop of any Christian denomination in history. Soon after he and his wife divorced. He relocated to San Francisco, where he helped to found Oasis California, the LGBT Ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of California. which seeks to open dialogue between LGBT communities and the congregations in which they worship.

Originally from New Jersey, he served first as a priest in Washington, Connecticut. From 1968 until 1982 he was a member of the Standing Liturgical Commission of the Episcopal Church, which developed the 1979 edition of the Book of Common Prayer. In 1971, he was elected Bishop of Utah. He was active in the peace movement, and opposed Nevada and Utah being launching sites for the MX missile. In the >House of Bishops, Charles was chair of the Prayer Book Committee and a member of the Bishops’ Committee on Racism. Charles became Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School in 1985. Charles also has significant academic achievements, including a Doctorate of Divinity, and a Doctorate of Sacred Theology.

Following his coming out, Charles retained his voting seat in the 300-plus member House of Bishops. Before and following his announcement, he was an active and forceful advocate on behalf of LGBT communities. In 1979, Charles was one of 17 dissenting bishops when the Episcopal Church’s General Convention stated that practicing homosexual clergy were prohibited from ordination  – a decision that continues to generate controversy to this day.  In 1999, Charles was arrested and led away in handcuffs for his civil disobedience at the Church’s General Convention in Denver, Colorado during a protest against what demonstrators described as the Church’s long history of oppression against lesbian and gay peoples.

Charles married Dr. Felipe Sanchez-Paris on September 29, 2008. Sanchez-Paris died on July 31 of this year.  The two appear in the documentary film Love Free or Die, testifying about a resolution directing the Episcopal Church to create a provisional rite for the blessing of same-gender relationships at its General Convention in Anaheim, California, in 2009.

Charles is survived by his first spouse, five children, 10 grandchildren, four great-grandchildren, four children of Sanchez-Paris and his San Francisco family.

A memorial service and celebration of the life of Otis Charles will be held at on Saturday, January 11, 2pm at San Francisco’s St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church (500 De Haro Street).

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Where did we go wrong?

Which country do people around the world think is the biggest threat to peace today? The US.As 2013 draws to a close, pollsters have been finding out how people feel about the state of their lives and the coming 12 months.
Pollsters interviewed nearly 68,000 people in 65 countries.

The research also found that the #US#Australia and#Canada where the most desirable destinations for those who want to move country.


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Programs include Mason Bates’ Liquid Interface and The B-Sides and Beethoven’s Mass in C, Symphony No. 7, Romances for Violin and Orchestra and Excerpts from King Stephen

Programs to be recorded for future release on the Orchestra’s SFS Media label


Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT) leads the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) in two weeks of concerts pairing the works of Ludwig van Beethoven and Mason Bates January 8-18 in Davies Symphony Hall.  MTT and the SFS continue their multi-season exploration of the music of both composers, pairing some of Beethoven’s most influential works with those by a composer who similarly expands the classical experience through his use of electronics, found recordings and the rhythms of techno.  Festival highlights include Bates’ SFS commission The B-Sides and the first SFS performances of Liquid Interface, and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 and Mass in C, with soloists Joélle Harvey, Kelley O’Connor, William Burden and Shenyang.  Both programs will be recorded for SFS Media, the Orchestra’s in-house label.

“One of my goals as a symphonic composer is to bring back the large-scale narrative forms, pioneered by Beethoven, but in the digital age with a 21st-century palette of sounds,” Bates said of his symphonic works. “Beethoven launched the age of programmatic music with the choral finale of his Symphony No. 9—the first symphony to include text and choral writing with symphonic music. After being explored by some of the greatest 19th century composers—Berlioz, Liszt, Wagner—programmatic music was largely forgotten, as the 20th century moved on to the ‘purity’ of serialism and, eventually, minimalism.  I’ve found a lot of inspiration in creating big works that work on both a musical and extra-musical level, exploring the programmatic approach with the sounds of the digital age.  For instance, recording the actual sounds of glaciers calving for Liquid Interface is, in my own small way, a response to the inclusion of text in the Ninth Symphony.”



The first week of concerts January 8-11 juxtapose Beethoven’s energetic, dance-infused Symphony No. 7 with Bates’ The B-Sides, which was originally premiered by the SF Symphony in 2009. “I had often imagined a suite of concise, off-kilter symphonic pieces that would incorporate the grooves and theatrics of electronica in a highly focused manner,” says Bates, whose work as a DJ under the moniker DJ Masonic highly informs his approach to electronics. “So, like the forgotten bands from the flipside of an old piece of vinyl, The B-Sides offers brief landings on a variety of peculiar planets, unified by a focus on fluorescent orchestral sonorities and the morphing rhythms of electronica.” Also on this program are Beethoven’s Romances for Violin and Orchestra Nos. 1-2, featuring SFS Concertmaster Alexander Barantschik.

Please note that The B-Sides replaces the previously announced Alternative Energy, which will be performed and recorded in the fall of 2014.



SF Symphony Concerts January 15-18 feature Beethoven’s powerful Mass in C major, excerpts from King Stephen, and the first SFS performances of Bates’ Liquid Interface. The Mass in C features soloists Joélle Harvey, Kelley O’Connor, William Burden and Shenyang. While it is much less frequently performed than his massive Missa solemnis, the Mass in C is considered by many critics and scholars to be one of the composer’s underrated masterpieces. Of Liquid Interface, Bates remarks, “Water has influenced countless musical endeavors—La Mer and Siegfried’s Rhine Journey quickly come to mind. But after living on Berlin’s enormous Wannsee and seeing this huge body of water transform from an ice sheet thick enough to support sausage venders, to a refreshing swimming destination heavy with humidity, I became consumed with writing a new take on the idea. If the play of the waves inspired Debussy, then what about water in its variety of forms?” These varying states are illustrated in Liquid Interface, most notably with an actual recording of glaciers breaking into the Antarctic. “Again, the distinguishing elements of Liquid Interface are not just the electronic sounds, but more so the way that these expanded palettes articulate large narrative forms,” Bates explains.



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‘No fools on our ticket’

By Steve Benen,MSNBC
Just over the last few months, we’ve seen reports from the New York TimesBloomberg News, and theWashington Post on the simmering tensions between Corporate America and Tea Party Republicans, driving a wedge into the GOP coalition. With party primaries looming, talk of a “Republican civil war” abounds.
Some of the party’s major players are even putting their money where their mouths are. This Wall Street Journal piece yesterday was circulated far and wide in Republican circles.
Republican leaders and their corporate allies have launched an array of efforts aimed at diminishing the clout of the party’s most conservative activists and promoting legislation instead of confrontation next year. […]
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce early next year plans to roll out an aggressive effort – expected to cost at least $50 million – to support establishment, business-friendly candidates in primaries and the general election, with an aim of trying to win a Republican Senate majority.
“Our No. 1 focus is to make sure, when it comes to the Senate, that we have no loser candidates,” said the business group’s top political strategist, Scott Reed. “That will be our mantra: No fools on our ticket.”
Though Reed did not specify who would qualify as a “fool,” it’s not hard to look back at major Senate races from the last couple of cycles and know exactly the kind of candidates he’s referencing (O’Donnell, Akin, Mourdock, Angle, et al). In other words, when Reed and the Republican Party’s Chamber of Commerce wing talk about “loser candidates” and “fools,” they’re obviously talking about right-wing Tea Party favorites.
Also note, there’s been ample analysis this year noting that Corporate America may want to overcome extremist candidates in GOP primaries, but if this wing of the party doesn’t commit real resources, Tea Partiers will prevail. It’s worth acknowledging, then, that $50 million in support of establishment candidates is a considerable sum.
But as word of the Chamber’s intentions spread, the backlash soon followed. “Special interests in Washington will do whatever it takes to protect big government Republicans,” Senate Conservatives Fund Executive Director Matt Hoskins told TPM yesterday. “Their ability to get future bailouts, kickbacks, and other favors depends on it.”
Club for Growth senior fellow Tom Borrelli added, “This is a battle between the outsiders and insiders and insiders include big bucks and establishment Republicans.”
Remember, primary season hasn’t really begun in earnest, which means these disputes are likely to intensify very soon. For many Democrats, hoping to see Republicans at each other’s throats during an election year, the popcorn is already being popped.
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The Marsh announces the return of Don Reed’s autobiographical journey CAN YOU DIG IT? The ‘60s – Back Down East 14th, now coming back in the new year, January 4 through February 2, 2014 following wildly successful extended runs at The Marsh San Francisco and The Marsh Berkeley.  Reed, an Oakland-born comedian, is currently the opening act/warm-up comedian for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.  The third installment in Reed’s hilarious coming-of-age trilogy, CAN YOU DIG IT?, a view of the 1960s through the eyes of an awkward kid, will play Saturdays at 8:30pm and Sundays at 7pm in the The Marsh Berkeley Theater Stage, 2120 Allston Way, Berkeley. For tickets, the public may visit or call 415-282-3055 between 1:00 pm and 4:00 pm, Monday through Friday.

Called “Flat out hilarious!” by KQED and “Remarkable. Terrific. Very funny,” as well as “Unexpectedly touching” by the San Francisco Chronicle, CAN YOU DIG IT? rewinds to the ‘60s, going back to young Reed’s formative years in Oakland grammar school when the family was whole – that is before his father became a pimp and his mother reluctantly became a Jehovah’s Witness.  As the plot unfolds, a series of wild, wonderful, scary, amazing, unnecessary, cool, moving, unbelievably true stories are revealed.

The first installment in Reed’s trilogy, East 14th, traced the actor-comedian’s irregular teen years through the ‘70s (his stepfather forced him to become a Jehovah’s Witness, and his biological father was a pimp).  East 14th went on to become one of the Bay Area’s longest running solo shows, and also ran Off-Broadway.  The second installment, The Kipling Hotel, followed Reed’s collegiate years at UCLA through the ‘80s, as he struggled to supplement a partial scholarship by working as a live-in waiter at an unforgettable retirement hotel.

Reed, a San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Nominee and NAACP Double Nominee for Best Actor and Best Playwright, has performed, written, and directed in film, television, and theatre all over the country.  His 1991 segment on HBO’s Robert Townsend & His Partners in Crime, which featured a variety of up-and-coming comedians, was well-received and led to many recurring and guest starring roles on various television programs.  In addition to performing as the opening act/warm-up comedian for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Reed has opened for Tony Award winner Tommy Tune, and has worked on programs including Spiderman, The Flintstones, ER, Frasier, Friends, Scrubs, Will & Grace, Law & Order, and Saturday Night Live.  Reed has written promos for the Golden Globes, the Academy Awards and the Olympics.  Additionally, he has written and developed screenplays for Spike Lee’s 40 Acres and a Mule and Maverick Filmworks.  Reed is currently a board member of the thriving 51Oakland foundation keeping music and the arts alive in Oakland Public Schools.


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San Francisco Christmas Eve Day Toy Drive for Children at Handlery Hotel by Firefighters is a Success


San Francisco Firefighters Union Local 798 held a successful toy drive to make sure no child went without a toy in San Francisco this Christmas, thanks to Jon Handlery and his family’s landmark San Francisco hotel.


Dressed as Santa Claus, San Francisco Firefighter Bob Cuff and costumed characters accompanied by off-duty firefighters were in front of the Handlery Union Square Hotel, 351 Geary (between Powell and Mason), San Francisco from 9 a.m. to midnight on Christmas Eve day.


Beloved hotel owner Jon Handlery and Handlery hotel staff served as “Santa’s Helpers” and assisted with the collection of thousands of toys for needy San Francisco kids.


The Handlery Hotel has raised $3,500 and donated two barrels of toys to the drive this year to ensure no kid were without a Holiday present.


Firefighters Union Local 798 asked people to bring unwrapped toys which were collected in front of the Handlery Hotel. Everyone who brought a toy got free pictures with Santa and many children brought their lists of Christmas wishes to Santa in person.


An additional toy drive was held just next door to the hotel at Lefty O’Doul’s bar and pub, a property which is also owned by the Handlery family.


SF Firefighters Local 798 Toy Program


The Local 798 San Francisco Firefighters Toy Program is celebrating its 64th year of providing toys to San Francisco children in need during the holidays.  The San Francisco Firefighter’s Toy Program is San Francisco’s largest and the nation’s oldest program of its kind.  Since 1949 it has evolved from a few firefighters repairing broken toys and bikes for 15 families to, in 2012, 300 firefighters and friends volunteering their time to distribute over 200,000 toys to more than 40,000 disadvantaged children.


Besides helping individual families in need, the Toy Program serves many community organizations, including shelters for abused women and children, inner-city schools, children’s cancer wards, and pediatric AIDS units.


The Toy Program is made possible through public donations and the efforts and contributions of Local 798 members.


Firefighters Union Local 798 wishes to thank Jon Handlery & the staff of the Handlery Union Square hotel for welcoming the Toy Program at their property.



The Handlery Union Square Hotel


Located at Union Square, the Handlery Union Square Hotel offers the perfect San Francisco lodging for vacationers and business travelers.  As a fourth generation family-owned hotel, the Handlery has created great experiences for guests by offering personal service, beautifully appointed rooms, and a warm atmosphere.  Ideally located right next to the world famous Powell Street cable car line, the Handlery Union Square Hotel is a beloved San Francisco institution.



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An Open Letter to “Duck Dynasty” and Supporters

Dear Duck Dynasty and Supporters (Sarah Palin, Bobby Jindal, etc.),

Last week two members of the all-woman band “Pussy Riot” were being freed from prisonafter serving over a year because they had the audacity to peacefully protest the Russian government and its oppressive policies.

That would never happen in this country. What we call–and you yell–”Freedom of Speech” is meant to protect the right of any citizen to say whatever they wish (within reason of public safety) without repercussions from the government.

Though it’s certainly a heated debate, the spirit of freedom of speech is in protecting the opinion of the minority on an issue–whether that be a minority of background or population or power. It’s meant to give everyone the chance to voice their opinion.

And although your opinion on homosexuality is now in the minority in this country, your privilege as straight folks to say things that perpetuate dangerous myths and hatred has helped keep in place laws that treat those in the LGBT community as second class citizens.

The First Amendment ONLY guarantees the government can’t oppress you for your opinions, it does not dictate to private entities what they can and cannot do in regards to the words that come out of your mouth.

So, when you say stupid shit like “I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once.” or “whether they’re homosexuals, drunks, terrorists. We let God sort ‘em out later, you see what I’m saying?” or literally compare non-Christians to Nazis, a private company like A&E has every right to can your ass, regardless of who does and does not agree with them.

Further, I’ve noticed a strange absence of that much-heralded “let the free market do its job” commentary that was so prevalent when folks were boycotting Chick-fil-A for their anti-gay bigotry. Now, that A&E has literally made a decision in response to the market, you’re crying foul. What happened to capitalism being a driving force for social equality?

You absolutely have freedom of speech, but you do not have the right to a guaranteed audience or freedom from criticism or freedom from private sector consequences.

So, please take your duck whistles and complaints to the nearest Chick-fil-A and let the rest of us celebrate the triumph of the human spirit and actual bravery in free speech with those folks from Pussy Riot.

 From Charles Clymer, Huffington Post
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You Don’t Have the Right to Remain Silent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Book bannings on the rise in US schools, says anti-censorship group

The Kids’ Right to Read Project investigated 49 book bannings or removals from school shelves in 29 states this year

An anti-censorship group in America has reported a flurry of attempted book bannings in the last quarter of the year and has said there are increasing numbers of books being taken off school shelves that deal with race or sexuality or are written by “minority” authors.

The Kids’ Right to Read Project (KRRP) is part of the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) and says in November alone they dealt with three times the average number of incidents. To date in 2013, KRRP investigated 49 book bannings or removals from shelves in 29 states, a 53% increase in activity from last year. In the last half of the year the project challenged 31 incidents compared to 14 in the same period last year.

Acacia O’Connor of the KRRP said, “Whether or not patterns like this are the result of co-ordination between would-be censors across the country is impossible to say. But there are moments, when a half-dozen or so challenges regarding race or LGBT content hit within a couple weeks, where you just have to ask ‘what is going on out there?’”

Among the books which have been complained about were Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, Toni Morrison’s The Bluest EyeAlice Walker‘s The Color Purple, Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Isabel Allende‘s The House of the Spirits and Rudolfo Anaya’s Bless Me, Ultima.

Most of the challengers were parents of district students or library patrons, though a handful were local or state government officials. Of the more than two dozen incidents KRRP faced from September to December, the majority involved materials used in classroom instruction.

“It has been a sprint since the beginning of the school year,” said O’Connor. “We would settle one issue and wake up the next morning to find out another book was on the chopping block.”

However, the KRRP says it has also seen an increase in “challenged” books being returned to the shelves following the body’s involvement. This month saw two major victories: Rudolfo Anaya’s Bless Me, Ultima was returned to English classrooms in Driggs, Idaho, and a ban on Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits was lifted at Watauga County Schools in Boone, North Carolina.

Among the other successes the KRRP counts was the situation involving the urban fantasy novel Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, which wasremoved from the shelves at schools in Alamogordo, New Mexico, following a single complaint by a parent. The school board later reinstated the book.

Neil Gaiman said today: “I’m just glad that organisations like the Kids’ Right to Read Project exist, and that so many of these challenges have successful outcomes – it’s obvious that without them, the people who do not want their children, or other people’s, exposed to ideas, would be much more successful at making books vanish from the shelves.”

KRRP, co-founded by the NCAC and the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression and supported by the Association of American Publishers and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, says it is difficult to estimate exactly how many books are challenged or removed as many incidents go unreported.

The KRRP also successfully tackled the proposed banning of The Diary of Anne Frank from schools in Northville, Michigan, where one parent complained that passages detailing Anne’s descriptions of her own body were “pornographic”, and Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which was branded “anti-Christian”. The KRRP and NCAC “went to bat for [this book] more than any other work in 2013, facing challenges in Montana, New York, and two new cases in New Jersey and West Virginia.”

Sherman Alexie said censors are “punishing the imagination. That’s why we’re fighting them.”


From the Guardian

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Canvasback Missions Takes a Major Step in the Fight Against Diabetes in the Marshall Islands

By Alexander Hirata

Canvasback Missions has spent years working to reverse the diabetes epidemic in the Marshall Islands. They’ve brought specialty medical care to the islands for over 30 years, and have run the Diabetes Wellness Center on Majuro since 2006. Now, Canvasback is working to reverse the epidemic of diabetes in the Marshall Islands by preventing the onset of the disease before it begins.


Made possible by a generous grant from the World Diabetes Foundation, Canvasback is working with Antonia Demas, Ph.D., and Marshall Islands health officials to bring health education into the classroom. Dr. Demas has visited the Marshall Islands twice so far, traveling last with Canvasback co-founder Jacque Spence and employee Jaylene Chung to implement trials of the new food education curriculum in the public schools on Majuro and Ebeye in October. The team trained instructors how to teach from the curriculum, which involves special hands-on activities to engage children and make food education fun.


Dr. Antonia Demas studied education, nutrition, and anthropology at Cornell University. She has developed food-based curricula for schools for over 40 years, successfully implementing her “Food is Elementary” program in over 3,000 schools. Demas is also the founder and president of the New York-based Food Studies Institute, a not-for-profit created to improve children’s health through food education.


One of Demas’ key beliefs is that the food we eat directly affects our health. Processed foods have replaced natural ones, and chemical preservatives are now a regular part of our diets. Demas believes that children are the ideal group to teach food literacy to: they don’t have established diets that are difficult to change; they are open to new ideas, especially if taught using sensory (taste, touch, and visual) methods; and healthy habits now would prevent illnesses later.


Canvasback is proud to work with Demas, because both know that food education is essential to reverse diabetes in the Marshall Islands. It is cost-efficient, slipping into the existing educational system, yet its effects will last for a lifetime. And once established, local schools and teachers will be in full control of the program. The most difficult part of the program won’t be getting kids interested in healthy eating–it will be waiting years to see how well it pays off.


To learn more about the work of Canvasback Missions, contact them at: 940 Adams St., Suite R, Benicia, Calif. 94510. Phone: 800-793-7245 or email them at



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Let Me Explain Freedom of Speech to all the Phil Robertson, Duck Dynasty Supporters


I’m sure by now most of you have heard about Phil Robertson’s anti-gay rant he went off on during an interview with GQ magazine, and the indefinite suspension by A&E that soon followed.

And wow, this situation has sure showcased how many people just don’t understand what “freedom of speech” means.  So I thought I’d explain it nice and simply to those who wrongfully believe this is some kind of attack on free speech.

You know, since apparently I wasn’t clear enough the first time.  Millions of people seem unable to grasp this simple concept.

Freedom of Speech: The legal means to say almost anything you want.  Meaning that as private citizens, we’re allowed to say nearly anything (with a few exceptions of course) that we want without fear of legal prosecution for it.

Unless I’ve missed something, Mr. Robertson faces no legal ramifications for what he said.  That’s what freedom of speech means.  Freedom of speech does not mean we can say anything we want without ramifications for what we say from our peers or employers.

We’re free to be racist, bigoted, anti-Semitic — pretty much anything we want.  We can be these things, no matter how ignorant, because that’s what the Constitution gives us the right to be.

But that doesn’t mean within a society we won’t face consequences for those “freedoms.”  The suspension of Phil Robertson is not an attack on Robertson’s right to believe how he wants.  It’s a consequence from an employer for him expressing an opinion which A&E feels represents them in a negative light.

When he signed his contract, it almost certainly included a clause that says he’s a representative of A&E and is expected to act accordingly.  All public figures, whether they want to be or not, are representatives of something.  Be it a company, a brand, a sports team or league – it’s the price that comes along with fame.

So, yes, he was free to say what he said – and now he’s paying the consequences for it.

Just ask Alec Baldwin or Martin Bashir, two gentlemen who were fired (well, Bashir “resigned” but it’s clear he was forced to do so) for expressing their “freedom of speech” rights.  Hell, weren’t conservatives calling for Bashir’s firing?  So it’s absolutely hypocritical that they’re outraged by Robertson’s suspension.  Especially considering Bashir only had derogatory words for Sarah Palinwhereas Robertson ignorantly bashed tens of millions of homosexuals.

And Alec Baldwin’s show was canceled for anti-LGBT remarks as well.  I didn’t see many conservatives up in arms about that — but clearly it’s all about whose ox is being gored now, isn’t it?

So once again, we are given the freedom of speech to say almost anything we want without legal ramifications for those words.  But that does not mean that there aren’t any ramifications for what we have the freedom to say.

Until Mr. Robertson gets thrown in jail for saying what he said, his supporters need to stop crying about this being an “attack on free speech.”  Because when they do, they obviously prove how ignorant they are about what “freedom of speech” really means.

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Obama Jabs Putin, Picks Openly Gay Delegates For Winter Olympics In Russia

President Barack Obama on Tuesday announced his delegates to the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. And, in what may be a thumb in the eye to Russian President Vladimir Putin over his crackdown on gay rights, two of Obama’s delegates are openly gay.

Billie Jean King, the tennis legend, and Caitlin Cahow, an Olympic medalist in women’s ice hockey, are both part of the U.S. delegation. Both are out lesbians.

Another member of the U.S. delegation, figure skating Olympic medalist Brian Boitano, routinely declines to answer questions about his sexuality, saying “everybody’s got their own path” to discovering who they are.

Others in the delegation include University of California President Janet Napolitano, the former Homeland Security secretary; U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul; White House Deputy Chief of Staff Rob Nabors; Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, and speed skating Olympic medalists Bonnie Blair and Eric Heiden.

In what may be another slight to the Russian president, Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and first lady Michelle Obama will not attend the opening ceremony. This marks the first time since the 2000 Summer Olympic Games that a president, vice president, first lady or former president won’t be part of the opening ceremony.

Putin has faced international criticism for his persecution of Russia’s gay community. Over the summer, he signed a law banning the adoption of Russian-born children to gay couples. He also signed a law that bans public discussion of gay rights and relationships where children might hear it. Under that law, which considers such talk “propaganda,” violators can be fined and foreigners can be deported.

Obama has denounced Putin’s treatment of gays and made a point to meet with Russian advocates of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trangender community during his September trip to St. Petersburg for the G20 Summit.

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California PUC to Consider Historic Fine Against PG&E and Orrick Herrington Law Firm Attorney in Faulty Gas Line Case

Joseph M. Malkin

PG&E and its Orrick Herrington Attorney are Facing Historic Fines and Legal Sanctions for Misleading the California Public Utilities Commission

The California Public Utilities Commission will vote on historic sanctions and a fine of up to $17 million against the Pacific Gas & Electric Corp. Thursday, Dec. 19 for failing to disclose faulty pipeline records in San Carlos to both the CPUC, the public and the City of San Carlos for nearly a year, creating a possibly dangerous public safety issue that one of its own engineers likened to possibly “another San Bruno situation” in an internal email to PG&E executives.

PG&E and its attorney Joseph M. Malkin of Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP law firm are facing a fine of up to $17 million for violating CPUC rules and discreetly filing an “errata” – the legal term for a minor correction – on the status of two pipelines, located in San Carlos and Millbrae, nearly a year after a gas leak unexpectedly revealed faulty records for those pipelines.

Pipelines listed as “seamless,” as in the case of the line that ruptured in San Bruno, were in fact a 1929 vintage welded and reconditioned gas pipe with a strength test less than records showed. The legal correction was made quietly on the afternoon of July 3, 2013, a day before the CPUC took off for the July Fourth holiday, disclosing the fact that PG&E had relied on faulty records to determine the specifications for those pipelines to handle gas at high pressure.

The Commission will make this decision three weeks after PG&E CEO and Chairman Tony Earley made a special presentation before the CPUC in an attempt to convince commissioners and the public of the company’s renewed commitment to safety. Earley was met with a skeptical commission, which challenged PG&E’s credibility in the face of mounting recordkeeping errors and threats to public safety. “We find ourselves here today with a public that doesn’t believe you and in many respects doesn’t believe us,” Commissioner Mike Florio said to Earley at the hearing.

City of San Bruno officials have agreed with the proposed fine against PG&E and are calling on the CPUC to uphold proposed sanctions against PG&E for deliberately covering up the facts after it used faulty records to determine that two Bay Area pipelines could safely operate – a decision demonstrating the continued problem with PG&E record keeping practices. Bad record keeping was one of the causes of the 2010 PG&E disaster in San Bruno and continues to threaten public safety.

Calling the July 3 PG&E filing a “brazen and calculated act of damage control,” San Bruno attorneys say PG&E’s legal maneuver illustrates PG&E’s ongoing attempts to cover its tracks as it continues to use natural gas pipelines at inappropriate operating pressures, without accurate records and with the same flawed materials that caused a tragic explosion and fire in San Bruno that killed eight, destroyed 38 homes and damaged scores more.

City officials were shocked to discover that, after gross negligence and bad recordkeeping by PG&E resulted in the fatal tragedy in San Bruno, PG&E paid its legal team to perpetuate their deception at the risk of public safety. They are now calling on the CPUC to issue sanctions and send the strong message that such behavior will not be tolerated. Officials question how many communities must endure tragedy before PG&E and our state utility regulators wake up and put safety first.

Faulty recordkeeping was found to be a major contributor to the explosion and fire in San Bruno after federal and state investigators found that PG&E had maintained bad or nonexistent pipeline safety records for much of its 1,000+ miles of urban natural gas transmission lines. As a result, state regulators required PG&E to lower pressure on its other Peninsula gas pipelines until safety records could be verified.

In 2011, PG&E declared that the pipeline construction records were accurate for both Line 101, which runs from Milpitas to San Francisco, and Line 147, which runs in the San Carlos area. Based on PG&E’s representations, the CPUC allowed PG&E to increase the pressure back to pre-explosion levels.

In reality, PG&E’s pipelines were not rated to operate at higher pressure, as revealed after an October 2012 corrosion-related leak in San Carlos revealed seams in the pipeline previously not thought to exist. Yet, it took nine months for the company to admit – by way of the subtle “errata” filing — that the records it had relied on to make that determination were faulty.

At previous CPUC hearings, regulators pressed PG&E over the “profoundly troubling” oversight, which occurred despite “the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars for record review and validation.” PG&E now faces fines of up to $17 million, on top of a possible $2.25 billion penalty and fine stemming from the fatal 2010 explosion and fire in San Bruno.

San Bruno officials say this is just the latest example of PG&E expending millions on top attorneys – more than $120 million by PG&E’s own admission – to subvert the truth and put profits over people.


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On Scene with Bill Wilson: Photos of the Year

Pope Francis during a General Audience in St. Peter’s Square on April 17, 2013

 In terms of photographing people of prominence 2013 might take the cake for being the year I achieved the peak.  Being able to get photos of Time Magazine’s Person of the Year in the same year he graced the year-end cover is something that will remain a highlight for years to come. I refer, of course, to Pope Francis. When elected in March of 2013 I think the Cardinal electors knew they were getting a man who would bring needed change, but I’m not convinced they knew just how much a change he would bring. From the moment he stepped out on the loggia of St. Peter’s and asked for the people’s blessing before blessing them to his words – “Who am I to judge?” and his actions, – kissing the feet of 12 inmates at a juvenile detention center in Rome during Holy Thursday services, among them two women and two Muslims – the Pope continues to provide us with answers to the question, “What would Jesus do?”


Pope Francis kissing eight month old Mattais.

 Being able to photograph some of the Pope’s public events during his first month in office provided me with a great many memories that will remain with me. The foremost one will be the fact that during the General Audience of April 17 as he circled St. Peter’s Square, he stopped in front of me to kiss the baby of the couple next to me. The husband was a member of the Swiss Guard and was returning to Switzerland. He and his wife brought their 8 month old son to be kissed by the Pope. He did right in front of my camera. With about 70-80,000 people in the Square the chances of that happening are rather astronomical.


Justice Sonia Sotomayor  with Bill Wilson

Just being in the right place at the right time seemed to be a theme this year as I found myself dealing with two Supreme Court Justices and a former President of the United States, but not all at the same time! When Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor was in San Francisco to promote her autobiography she did two days of appearances. At the second event I attended one of the organizers told me that the photographer they had hired to take photos was unable to be there so she asked if I would be able to take pictures for them. I agreed. Briefly before her speech the Justice posed with various event organizers. After everyone had posed with her she said, “We’re not finished yet.” She turned to me and explained, “You are going to hand your camera to someone and they are going to take your picture with me.” Of course I did.


 Edie Windsor greets the throngs of supporter after oral arguments in her case before the Supreme Court

 Just being in Washington, DC during the oral arguments in the Prop 8 and DOMA cases was being in the right place, but again there were many moments that I will cherish. One of them was walking down the streets I walked as a very closeted gay man working for a United States Senator some forty years ago. That same Senate seat is now occupied by Senator Tammy Baldwin the first openly LGBT member of the Senate. Something that I could not have even contemplated would happen in my lifetime, but then I never thought it would be possible to elect a black man President in my lifetime either – why do I suddenly feel like an old man? I remember when there were no gays in Congress and when you wrote to someone you used a pen, not a computer.



Senator Tammy Baldwin leaving the Supreme Court after arguments in the Windsor case that overturned DOMA.

Justice Anthony Kennedy is the author of the majority opinions in such landmark cases concerning gay rights cases as Romer v Evans, which struck down Colorado’s Amendment Two, Lawrence v Texas, which struck down sodomy laws, and Windsor v State of New York, which struck down the Defense of Marriage Act. He was invited to San Francisco to give the keynote address at the opening session of the American Bar Association’s annual convention. It seemed very fitting that as he spoke seated behind him was the San Francisco’s Gay Men’s Chorus, which performed during the opening session. I had the opportunity to take photos backstage before the session. When I said that I had taken photos during their previous visit to ABA convention in San Francisco it was Mrs. Kennedy who replied, “Yes, I remember because many people say that they will send us copies of photos, but you are one of the few who actually did.”


Justice Anthony Kennedy and the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus.

 When it was announced that President and Mrs. Carter were going to be working on a house in Oakland as part of the 30th anniversary of their annual Habitat for Humanity Bldg. project I welcomed the chance to get some photos of the former President and Mrs. Carter doing the humanitarian work that they are noted for doing. I didn’t realize at the time that I would get a chance to participate.


The future owners of the home under construction stop for an interview as President and Mrs. Carter in the background continue working.

When I arrived at the sign –in area around 8:30 I was told the Carters were already at work on site, which was several blocks away. Because it was a construction site they had places were the media could observe and photograph from without being in the way. Every once in a while the President and Mrs. Carter would come out and use the table saw with Mrs. Carter holding the piece of wood. After I had been there several hours and gotten some great photos of them working, the President and Mrs. Carter came out and started talking with Mrs. Carter’s nephew and his family, who were also volunteering on the project. After a few minutes President Carter became a little restless and went back to work. He finished whatever he had been doing and came out of the house with another piece of wood to be cut. The place were they allowed the media was close to the table saw and when he realized that Mrs. Carter was still talking to her nephew he turned to the media and said, “Can I get some help?” Trying to remain cool I counted to two before I jumped at the chance to volunteer.

President Carter cutting lumber for a window frame with an assist from Bill Wilson (Photo:  David Kligman)

No year – end review would be complete without noting those to whom we said a final good-bye. This year the Imperial Court lost it founder, Jose Sarria whose funeral held at Grace Cathedral was befitting the royalty he was. It wasn’t too long after that that the Court paid final honors to Steve Rascher, the 16th Emperor after Norton..


 The Widow Norton at her tombstone and Emperor Steve Rascher (right).

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Coke executives meet in days to decide if they should condemn Russia’s anti-gay crackdown.

Coca-Cola executives are just days away from deciding whether or not to speak out against Russia’s brutal new anti-gay laws – and we need to show them the potential brand damage at stake if they stay silent.

Coke is a major sponsor of next year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. The Olympics should be about celebrating all that is good in humanity. But instead,the Sochi Olympics risks being known for hatred and homophobia, due to a draconian new Russian anti-gay law that criminalizes even coming out of the closet.

So far, Coke has remained silent on Russia’s LGBT crackdown – that’s why we’re joining with All Out to show Coke how many people want the company to speak out against this law. If we succeed, we can set off an earthshaking domino effect that pushes other international sponsors to follow.

This is the best shot we have at creating a billion-dollar problem for Russia that can ultimately push it to overturn its horrific anti-gay laws.

Tell Coca-Cola executives meeting this week to condemn Russia’s anti-gay laws and call for their repeal.

Russia’s anti-gay law forbids anyone from “promoting non-traditional sexual relations’. In practice, this means anyone can be arrested and jailed for something as simple as coming out, wearing a rainbow pin, or demonstrating in public.

Mega-corporations like Coca-Cola have invested millions in sponsoring the Olympics and billions in their operations in Russia. In effect, Coca-Cola and others are bankrolling the Sochi Olympics. This gives them huge influence on the thinking of the International Olympic Committee and the Russian government.

It’s easy to think we can’t influence what’s happening in an authoritarian regime like President Vladimir Putin’s Russia. But Putin craves legitimacy and glory. If we can get the companies that are paying for his personal public relations exercise to step up and criticize this vicious anti-gay law, then Putin’s Olympic games are in trouble.

As a community, we’ve shown what can be achieved when we work together for LGBT rights. We’ve fought against transphobia in newspapers like the Daily Mail. Together, we persuaded Pepsi to fight against Uganda’s anti-gay law, and we ran a huge campaign to thank Starbucks for supporting marriage equality. We’re defending the most basic of all human rights: the right to life, the right to live free of unfair arrest, and the right to be yourself.

Tell Coca-Cola to support Russian LGBT people and condemn the brutal anti-gay law.

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Affluenza? Really?

The comfort made him do it.

That was the successful defense strategy used by a Texas teenager sentenced Tuesday to 10 years of probation after he killed four people in a June drunk-driving accident.

According to news reports, a psychologist hired by 16-year-old Ethan Couch said the teenager was a victim of “affluenza,” a condition caused by the sort of absurdly permissive home life that comes with being wealthy. The lenient sentence—prosecutors had sought up to 20 years in prison—prompted anger by the victims’ families and others.

These things tend to happen in free-market capitalist societies, said Oliver James, a British psychologist and author of Affluenza: How to Be Successful and Stay Sane. Wealth skews perceptions of right and wrong, he said.

“America teaches people that greed is good,” James said. “There are very few parents who don’t imbue their children with some values, but what those values are is another story.Bernie Madoff’s children were undoubtedly given a model that money is king.”

Though, notably, Madoff’s kids turned him in.

Couch likely will be sent to a California alcohol-treatment center that costs nearly $500,000 per year, news outlets reported. His blood-alcohol level was three times the legal limit, and he was driving about 70 mph in a 40 mph zone when he killed four people standing near the side of a road. Nine others were also injured.

The Dallas-area teen was charged with manslaughter. Jan Withers, national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said he should have faced murder charges and been sent to prison.

“The families were very disappointed, and I personally was very disappointed in the verdict handed down to him,” said Withers, whose 15-year-old daughter was killed by a 17-year-old drunk driver. “We wish he had been held more accountable. He could get the help he needs and still be held accountable.”

Although research has shown the justice system routinely imposes harsher sentences on poor African-American defendants than on wealthier whites, young people of any race or income level should be treated with sensitivity, said Regina Austin, a University of Pennsylvania law professor who has written about the roles of race and class in criminal law.

“There is a concern that overindulgence of children will not produce the kinds of responsible citizens we want,” said Austin.

But it’s worth considering that, whether rich or poor, “young people can be stupid,” she said.

Couch is not the only defendant to blame income levels for criminal actions, she said. But most of the time the defense is used by poor minorities.

“That idea has been used by some minority defendants—‘If I were rich and white, I wouldn’t be prosecuted for this,’ ” Austin said. “You could say a rotten social background defense is comparable to the affluenza defense.”

You could also say they’re exact opposites.

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The Salvation Army’s History of Anti-LGBT Discriminati

In recent years, the Salvation Army has come under fire for its lengthy history of anti-LGBT political maneuvering and other incidents. The church has publicly articulated its belief that homosexuality is unacceptable, stating:

Scripture opposes homosexual practices by direct comment and also by clearly implied disapproval. The Bible treats such practices as self-evidently abnormal. … Attempts to establish or promote such relationships as viable alternatives to heterosexually-based family life do not conform to God’s will for society.

While such statements were recently removed from the Salvation Army’s website, the church has yet to repudiate any of its explicitly anti-gay beliefs. And though these positions may seem to be limited to the group’s internal doctrines, they’ve become a persistent element of the church’s overtly political activities — activities which have negatively impacted the Salvation Army’s ability to provide charitable services, and have aimed to limit the rights and benefits of LGBT citizens in multiple nations.

1986 — The Salvation Army of New Zealand collected signatures against the Homosexual Law Reform Act, which repealed the law criminalizing sex between adult men. The Salvation Army later apologized for campaigning against the Act.

1998 — The Salvation Army of the United States chose to turn down $3.5 million in contracts with the city of San Francisco, resulting in the closure of programs for the homeless and senior citizens. The church backed out of these contracts due to San Francisco’s requirement that city contractors must provide spousal benefits to both same-sex partners and opposite-sex partners of employees. Lieutenant Colonel Richard Love stated:

We simply cannot agree to be in compliance of the ordinance.

In 2004, the Salvation Army in New York City also threatened to close down all of its services for the city’s homeless due to a similar non-discrimination ordinance.

2000 — The Salvation Army of Scotland submitted a letter to Parliament opposing the repeal of Section 28, a law prohibiting “the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”. Colonel John Flett, the church’s Scotland Secretary, wrote:

We can easily envisage a situation where, due to active promotion of homosexuality in schools, children will grow up feeling alienated if they fail to conform.

The Salvation Army of Scotland has never retracted or apologized for its suggestion that homosexuality would be promoted in schools or that children would be encouraged to become gay.

2001 — The Salvation Army of the United States attempted to make a deal with the Bush administration ensuring that religious charities receiving federal funding would be exempt from any local ordinances banning anti-gay discrimination. Church spokesman David A. Fuscus explained that the group did not want to extend medical benefits to same-sex partners of its employees.

The deal fell through after it was publicized by the Washington Post.

2012 — The Salvation Army of Burlington, Vermont allegedly fired case worker Danielle Morantez immediately after discovering she was bisexual. The church’s employee handbook reads, in part, “The Salvation Army does reserve the right to make employment decisions on the basis of an employee’s conduct or behavior that is incompatible with the principles of The Salvation Army.”

Later that year, Salvation Army spokesperson Major George Hood reaffirmed the church’s anti-gay beliefs, saying:

A relationship between same-sex individuals is a personal choice that people have the right to make. But from a church viewpoint, we see that going against the will of God.

2013 — The Salvation Army continues to remove links from its website to religious ministries providing so-called “ex-gay” conversion therapy, such as Harvest USA and Pure Life Ministries. These links were previously provided as resources under the Salvation Army’s section on dealing with “sexual addictions.”

“Without discrimination” — myth or fact? The Salvation Army has recently attempted to counter this perception of the church as homophobic, scrubbing explicitly anti-gay statements from its websites and issuing missives purportedly “debunking” the “myth” of its anti-LGBT stances.

Yet these efforts at cleaning up their image still fail to address the most substantial criticisms of the church’s policies. The Salvation Army states that numerous clients at its soup kitchens and homeless shelters are members of the LGBT community, and that these individuals are served without discrimination. They further add: “The Salvation Army embraces employees of many different faiths and orientations and abides by all applicable anti-discrimination laws in its hiring.”

These statements completely ignore the reality that the Salvation Army continues to maintain anti-gay theological stances, and continues to discriminate against its own employees and their partners. They also neglect to mention that the organization historically “abides” by anti-discrimination laws by way of shutting down services in areas where such laws apply. The Salvation Army has given no indication that it intends to change any of these anti-LGBT policies.

Supporting the Salvation Army this season, whether by tossing your change in their red kettles or donating your used goods to their resale shops, means assisting an aggressively anti-gay church in furthering its goals of discrimination. Would-be donors should consider whether “doing the most good” might mean supporting one of the many other effective and reputable charities that provide for the needy without engaging in anti-gay beliefs, policies, or political activities.

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Phobie Awards: The 13 Worst People of the Year

To hold the the president of Russia responsible for every antigay incident within his country’s borders might be unfair. But it’s far less offensive than what’s happening to LGBT Russians.

A neo-Nazi group is posting video of gay men it captures and then tortures by humiliating and often violent meansSomeone threw poison gas into a gay nightclub in Moscow in November, and that was the second time it had been attacked in a week. The first time men showed up with guns and shot at the front door indiscriminately.

Meanwhile, Putin is touting his Olympic Games in Sochi, suggesting that maybe the series of antigay laws he signed won’t be enforced. In 2013, Putin signed a law banning any foreigner from adopting a Russian child if they come from a country supportive of marriage equality. Now the standard is so strict that Russia’s Children Rights Commissioner says only Italy is narrow-minded enough to meet the qualifications. And Putin famously signed the so-called gay propaganda ban this year. It’s a law so vague that Olympians could be fined or jailed for kissing their partners. Putin told the International Olympic Committee that he will do “everything” to ensure guests are “comfortable” in Sochi. But he’s also banned protests of any kind there while the games go on. And photos of those daring to protest the law already show vicious beatings as a result. This is the sort of thing that Pride parades were invented to combat. But we’re now one year into a 100-year ban on those in Moscow thanks to a law passed in 2012. Capping off the year, just this week Putin gave a speech in which he said Russia was right to reject “so-called tolerance, being genderless and fruitless.”

To be named Phobie of the Year seems like a slap on the wrist compared to what LGBT advocates in the United States are actually worried about. When activist and Broadway producer Harvey Fierstein wrote an op-ed in The New York Times that drew so much attention from the mainstream to this problem, he invoked the specter of the 1936 Olympic Games. “In 1936 the world attended the Olympics in Germany. Few participants said a word about Hitler’s campaign against the Jews,” he wrote. “Supporters of that decision point proudly to the triumph of Jesse Owens, while I point with dread to the Holocaust and world war. There is a price for tolerating intolerance.” What an ominous games the 2014 event may be. While the Olympic charter claims to promote “human dignity,” and the games will draw the world’s attention in February, the Russian parliament is on the verge of considering yet another antigay law. This one would order children with gay or lesbian parents to be taken from their homes. That’s because in twisted Russia, it’s LGBT people who are considered a danger, and not their government. — Lucas Grindley


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Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT), the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) and the world-renowned tenor Plácido Domingo come together this January to celebrate the 80th birthday of Gordon Getty, esteemed composer, philanthropist, and generous supporter of the San Francisco Symphony. This concert will be the only public celebration of Getty’s birthday. Domingo returns for his first concert with the SFS forty years after his SFS debut, a 1973 performance of Verdi’s Requiem with then-Music Director Edo de Waart. MTT will conduct a program including pieces by Beethoven, Tallis, and Getty himself. Getty’s history with the SFS spans 34 years of notable artistic, philanthropic, and administrative achievement.

About Gordon Getty

Gordon Getty has served on the Board of Governors of the San Francisco Symphony since 1979. During his tenure, he and his wife, Ann, have provided leadership and generous support for some the Symphony’s most important initiatives, including the acoustic renovation of Davies Symphony Hall in 1990, the Grammy award-winning Mahler recording cycle, and the Orchestra’s international tours. Raised in San Francisco and an alumnus of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Getty’s compositions have been widely performed in North America and Europe. In 1986, he was honored as an Outstanding American Composer at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and he was awarded the 2003 Gold Baton of the American Symphony Orchestra League. The SFS has performed Getty’s works numerous times, including two world premieres and one West Coast premiere. The Orchestra and Chorus (led by Edo de Waart) performed “Scene I” from Getty’s first opera Plump Jack in 1985, and the entire work was premiered in 1987 with Andrew Massey conducting the Orchestra and Chorus as part of the SFS New and Unusual Music Series. Most recently, in 2004, MTT led the Orchestra and Chorus in the West Coast premiere of Getty’s Young America, a cycle of six movements for chorus and orchestra to texts by Getty and by Stephen Vincent Benét. In 2005, PentaTone released a CD of Getty’s principal choral works up to that time, performed by the SF Symphony and Chorus, with MTT conducting, and the Eric Ericson Chamber Choir and Russian National Orchestra.

Getty has recently devoted considerable attention to a pair of one-act operas, Usher House (derived from Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher”) and The Canterville Ghost (after Oscar Wilde’s tale). The former will be premiered in 2014 by the Welsh National Opera. Although most of Getty’s works feature the voice, he has also written for orchestra, chamber ensembles, and solo piano. In 2010, PentaTone released a CD devoted to six of his orchestral pieces, with Sir Neville Marriner conducting the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, and in 2013 it followed up with a CD of the composer’s solo piano works, performed by Conrad Tao. Currently in preparation is a PentaTone CD of his chamber music, which will include a string-quartet version of his Four Traditional Pieces (a work that was performed in a string-orchestra arrangement by Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and the New Century Chamber Orchestra in 2012) and a new album of works for chorus and orchestra. In 2009, his ballet Ancestor Suite was given its premiere staging with choreography by Vladimir Vasiliev, performed by the Bolshoi Ballet and Russian National Orchestra. It was then presented at the 2012 Festival del Sole in Napa.

Of his compositions Getty has said: “My style is undoubtedly tonal, though with hints of atonality, such as any composer would likely use to suggest a degree of disorientation. But I’m strictly tonal in my approach. I represent a viewpoint that stands somewhat apart from the twentieth century, which was in large measure a repudiation of the nineteenth and a sock in the nose to sentimentality. Whatever it was that the great Victorian composers and poets were trying to achieve, that’s what I’m trying to achieve.”’

About Plácido Domingo

Plácido Domingo: singer, conductor and administrator. He has sung over 140 different roles, more than any other tenor in the annals of music, with more than 3600 career performances. His more than 100 recordings of complete operas, compilations of arias and duets, and crossover discs have earned him 12 Grammy Awards, including three Latin Grammys, and he has made more than 50 music videos and won two Emmy Awards. In addition to three feature opera films—CarmenLa Traviata and Otello—he voiced the role of Monte in Beverly Hills Chihuahua, played himself on The Simpsons, and his telecast of Tosca from the authentic settings in Rome was seen by more than one billion people in 117 countries. He has conducted more than 450 opera performances and symphonic concerts with the Metropolitan Opera, Covent Garden, Vienna Staatsoper, LA Opera, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Vienna Philharmonic, Montréal Symphony, National Symphony, London Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic and Berlin Philharmonic. In 1993, he founded the international voice competition Operalia. In recent seasons, he has celebrated his 40th anniversaries at the Met, Vienna State Opera, La Scala, Arena dei Verona and Covent Garden. For LA Opera, where he is the Eli and Edythe Broad General Director, he created the role of Pablo Neruda in the 2010 world premiere of Daniel Catán’s Il Postino. Although he has no intention of moving substantially into the baritone repertoire, in 2009 he added the title role of Simon Boccanegra to his repertoire, with subsequent performances at the Met, La Scala, Covent Garden and in Madrid, Berlin and Los Angeles. In the 2012/13 season, he added two new baritone roles to his repertoire, Francesco Foscari in I Due Foscari in Los Angeles, and Germont in La Traviata during his 45th season at the Metropolitan Opera.

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In Michigan, the meaning of ‘rape insurance’

The Michigan state legislature yesterday finished passing a bill that requires women to buy separate coverage ahead of time for abortion if they want to have coverage for it at all. The measure applies to private health insurance, and it has no exceptions for rape or incest.

For that reason, opponents have been calling the new plan “rape insurance,” which is tough terminology, to be sure. As we’ve seen in places like Virginia, what you call something really matters.

Yesterday in Michigan, State. Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, was not backing down.

For those you who want to act aghast that I’d use a term like “rape insurance” to describe the proposal here in front of us, you should be even more offended that it’s an absolutely accurate description of what this proposal requires. This tells women that were raped and became pregnant that they should have bought special insurance for it. By moving forward on this initiative, Senate Republicans want to essentially require Michigan women to plan ahead and financially invest in healthcare coverage for potentially having their bodies violated and assaulted. Even worse, it would force parents to have similar and unthinkably terrible discussions about planning the same for their daughters. I’ve said it before and I will say it again: This is by far one of the most misogynistic proposals I’ve ever seen in the Michigan legislature.

Whitmer went on to describe her personal experience of surviving sexual assault. The final vote was 27-11 in the Senate, to go along with passage in the House of 62-47. Republican Governor Rick Snyder vetoed a similar bill last year. But because the bill this time arose as a citizens’ initiative, it does not require a signature from the governor – neither can he veto it. Had the Michigan legislature sent it on to the ballot, it faced a divided electorate, with voters opposed to it by 47 percent to 41 percent in a recent poll. The bill will take effect early next year.

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Republican Pol: Gays Want Free Medical Care Because of AIDS

Dave Agema, a member of the RNC, claims gay men are dying in midlife and therefore are seeking free health care.

Dave Agema, the Michigan Republican politician known for outrageous antigay comments, is at it again, claiming gay people want free medical care “because they’re dying between 30 and 44 years old.”

Agema, a former state legislator who now represents Michigan on the Republican National Committee, was making a reference to HIV and AIDS in the statement, which came in a speech before the Berrien County Republicans in Bridgman, Mich., last Thursday. The theme of his speech was the need for unity between Tea Partyers and other Republicans, and between Michigan Republicans and the national party, reports The Herald-Palladium, a newspaper in southwestern Michigan.

Agema said one of his priorities was supporting “traditional marriage, no homosexual ones” and claimed that the employee benefits coming with recognition of same-sex relationships leads to fraud. He asserted that when he was a pilot for American Airlines, which offers domestic-partner benefits, he saw employees list a person with AIDS as their partner so that the sick person could get health care.

“Folks, they [gay people] want free medical because they’re dying [when they’re] between 30 and 44 years old,” he said, a statement that ignores the fact that with proper treatment, people with HIV now have about the same life expectancy as the rest of the population. “To me, it’s a moral issue. It’s a Biblical issue. Traditional marriage is where it should be and it’s in our [national] platform. Those in our party who oppose traditional marriage are wrong.”

Earlier this year, Agema received much criticism for a Facebook post that quoted a questionable article featuring many unsubstantiated assertions about gays, some of which were linked to a Holocaust denier. Among the statements: “Many homosexuals admit they are pedophiles” and “The median age of death of lesbians is 45.” That led some observers to call for his resignation from the RNC, but he resisted.

He also was a prominent sponsor of the national Republican Party’s platform position reaffirming its opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples. The Michigan state Republican Party, which does not have an official platform, should adopt the national platform in total, he said at the Berrien County event.

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On Scene with Bill Wilson: Rome

In his introduction to “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” Tony Bennett sings that Rome’s splendor is of another age. We discovered that is not exactly true. There is much splendor and even a spectacle or two to be found in Rome. One of the spectacles can be found among the shops along the Via Babbuino leading from the Spanish steps to the Piazza di Popolo. The neon sign in front of the shop provides a unique view of the Egyptian Obelisk.

The setting sun add a pink tint to the obelisk as seen through the neon spectacle advertising an optical shop.

Several of Rome’s more fashionable streets radiate from the Spanish steps, but Via Babbuino provides the most direct route to the Piazza del Popolo. The designer names among the stores are familiar to anyone who knows fashion.

Chanel still provides a classic look to its window displays

Other stores have names not as familiar but each providing their styles and panache to the area. Of course it being Rome you can’t go very far without coming upon a church or two.

Dior features colorful handbags in one of their windows.

As a photographer I loved walking down this street. Every window reflected not only what was in the window, but because it was nearing dusk and the day had been very sunny it also reflected what was on the outside. However there was one window that even fooled me. The back of the store was just a big mirror that I didn’t notice until Fernando pointed out that you could see us on the back wall.

You can just make out the photographer and his husband (in the red jacket) in this window which also includes a reflection of the Spanish steps.

The street is also home to many art galleries and antique stores with art works for sale. I couldn’t help but think about what some of the people who had been sculpted centuries ago would think if they were alive today.

If only he could tell us what he is thinking.

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TJPA Executive Director Maria Ayerdi-Kaplan Honored by Lambda Alpha International Honorary Society for the Advancement of Land Economics

International Society Honors SF Executive for Contributions to Transit Oriented Development and Urban PlanniInternational Society Honors SF Executive for Contributions to Transit Oriented Development and Urban. Maria Ayerdi-Kaplan, Executive Director of the Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA), was inducted into the Lambda Alpha International Honorary Society for the Advancement of Land Economics at its Annual Initiation Dinner.

Ms. Maria Ayerdi-Kaplan was honored for her extraordinary accomplishment in securing more than $2 billion in funding and bringing the Transbay Transit Center Project to fruition. Now under construction, the Transbay project is spurring the extensive development that is taking place in the Transbay neighborhood. Ms. Ayerdi-Kaplan formed the TJPA in 2001 and has since served as the Executive Director. She negotiated the transfer of 17 acres of state land for the development of the Transit Center, the Downtown Rail Extension, parks, retail, and residential and office towers that will reshape the San Francisco skyline and infuse new economic vitality into downtown.

Ms. Ayerdi-Kaplan also led the negotiations for the historic sale of the Transbay Transit Tower property to Boston Properties and Hines for $192 million in 2013, collecting more than $3,700 per square foot of land – one of the highest prices paid per square foot for a commercial property in San Francisco history.

Ms. Ayerdi-Kaplan graduated from U. C. Berkeley and Hastings College of Law and has been widely recognized for her achievements in transit-oriented development and transportation.

“I am honored and appreciative to have been recognized by this outstanding professional society,” said Ms. Ayerdi-Kaplan.

In the autumn of 1930, Lambda Alpha was established at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois to help foster the study of land economics. The inspiration for Lambda Alpha was Professor Richard T. Ely (1854-1943), commonly called the “Father of Land Economics.” Lambda Alpha International has chapters in many key cities in the United States, Canada, England, and Madrid with members-at large in many other parts of the world. Its membership is a “Who’s Who in Land Economics” honoring men and women who have distinguished themselves in land economics-related activities.

The Transbay Transit Center, known as the “Grand Central Station of the West coast,” is a revolutionary transportation facility that will transform the South of Market neighborhood into the new heart of downtown. The Transit Center will connect eight Bay Area counties and 11 transit systems, including future High Speed Rail. The Transbay Transit Center is scheduled to open in late 2017. To learn more about the project, please visit our website at

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