Greenwald: Obama's NSA 'reforms' are little more than a PR attempt to mollify the public

From The Guardian:

And now we have the spectacle of President Obama reciting paeans to the values of individual privacy and the pressing need for NSA safeguards. "Individual freedom is the wellspring of human progress," he gushed with an impressively straight face. "One thing I'm certain of, this debate will make us stronger," he pronounced, while still seeking to imprison for decades the whistleblower who enabled that debate. The bottom line, he said, is this: "I believe we need a new approach."

But those pretty rhetorical flourishes were accompanied by a series of plainly cosmetic "reforms". By design, those proposals will do little more than maintain rigidly in place the very bulk surveillance systems that have sparked such controversy and anger.



Maryland to give it another try

On Tuesday Maryland state Senator Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) introduced another bill that would outlaw discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodation against individuals on the basis of their gender identity.

A similar bill last year died in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee by a vote of 6-5 in March. Proponents of the bill feel optimistic this year, citing cultural progress and the endorsement of some key political figures.

I am very hopeful. Given the way our culture has changed in a progressive direction in Maryland and given the support we now have from the Senate and House leadership we will get the votes in the Judicial Proceedings Committee to move the bill.

--Dana Beyers, executive director of Gender Rights Maryland



Gender Prison: Not Pono

It's not surprising that Hawai'i Republicans dipped into some culture bashing in their most recent rhetoric.

Basically the story concerns the curriculum developed by the Hawaii Department of Education and the University of Hawai'i to combat teen pregnancy and STI transmission by giving the young people there accurate information in order to make informed choices about their sexual health. The name for the program is Pono Choices. A rough english translation of the concept Pono is "righteousness," but with deeper culturally and spiritual connotations involving living in harmony, balance, and unity.

The core concept is that it is not who you are that puts you at risk; it is what you do.

As you might imagine, this does not fly well in right-wing circles. Their extremist vision is that Pono Choices is being forced on children and their parents…even though parents have the right to opt out of the program, like all reproductive health programs. But also, they are warning everyone that the program "encourages the homosexual lifestyle," even though it is in compliance with an abstinence-based education policy.




Sunday Train: The Rumored Death of Peak Oil Was Greatly Exaggerated

From Earth Insight by Nafeez Ahmed, hostsed by the Gardian, Former BP geologist: peak oil is here and it will 'break economies':

Dr. Richard G. Miller, who worked for BP from 1985 before retiring in 2008, said that official data from the International Energy Agency (IEA), US Energy Information Administration (EIA), International Monetary Fund (IMF), among other sources, showed that conventional oil had most likely peaked around 2008.

Dr. Miller critiqued the official industry line that global reserves will last 53 years at current rates of consumption, pointing out that "peaking is the result of declining production rates, not declining reserves." Despite new discoveries and increasing reliance on unconventional oil and gas, 37 countries are already post-peak, and global oil production is declining at about 4.1% per year, or 3.5 million barrels a day (b/d) per year:

"We need new production equal to a new Saudi Arabia every 3 to 4 years to maintain and grow supply... New discoveries have not matched consumption since 1986. We are drawing down on our reserves, even though reserves are apparently climbing every year. Reserves are growing due to better technology in old fields, raising the amount we can recover – but production is still falling at 4.1% p.a. [per annum]."




RIP Reverend BobbieJean Baker

 photo BobbieJean_zps26e4cf86.gifReverend BobbieJean Baker, 49, of City of Refuge United Church of Christ in San Francisco and Oakland had officiated at a New Year's Eve Watch Night worship service in Oakland, along with Bishop Yvette Flunder from the same church.

Baker moved to the Bay Area in 1992 from Memphis, TN. She served as west Coast Regional TransSaints Minister of the Fellowship of Affirming Ministries and Lay Minister at Transcending Transgender Ministries at City of Refuge. She was also lead singer of the all transgender member Transcendence Gospel Choir. She also worked at San Francisco's Asian and Pacific Islander Wellness Center as a substance abuse and transgender health counsellor.

My purpose is to help you break whatever it is that had you bound so that you can move to better yourself. I'm willing to hold hands and walk you through every phase, but I am not willing to be your babysitter. There comes a time when you need to really step up and do the work for you.

--BobbieJean Baker, to her clients

 photo BobbieJeanx400_zpsf18ce839.jpgAt the service Bishop Flunder says Baker seemed to know she didn't have much time left.

She gave best wishes to everyone, wonderful, kind words. She went way out of her way speaking to everyone and wishing them the best for the coming year. It was incredible the space that she was in.

--Bishop Flunder

After the service Reverend Baker went to the home of gay deacon Bobby Wiseman where there was to be a traditional meal of corn bread and black-eyed peas.

[It was almost as if she knew] that something was coming, because she was so unusually specific in many of the ways she was going around talking to different people and encouraging them through their own struggles.

--Bishop Yvette Flunder

Wiseman says that at about 2:30 am he was driving his Ford Expedition west on I-580 in Oakland to take Baker home, "remembering the good times and the friends that we've lost over the years" when a silver and black car bumped his SUV on the left before swerving away. Wiseman's vehicle fishtailed and then rolled two or three times before landing upside down at the Park Boulevard exit. Wiseman managed to crawl out of the vehicle through the window, but he and a bystander were unable to free Baker. Both of them had been wearing seat belts.

Baker died at the scene.




MITNews: Even when test scores go up, some cognitive abilities don’t

In the "not really news for those who have taught the students subjected to the standardized test system" Department, from MITNews:

Such tests are designed to measure the knowledge and skills that students have acquired in school — what psychologists call “crystallized intelligence.” However, schools whose students have the highest gains on test scores do not produce similar gains in “fluid intelligence” — the ability to analyze abstract problems and think logically — according to a new study from MIT neuroscientists working with education researchers at Harvard University and Brown University.



CDC: 27% of Trans women are HIV+

On December 9, 2013 the Center for Disease Control released a report entitled HIV Among Transgender People.

Two days ago Leela Ginelle, communications and development intern for TransActive Education and Advocacy wrote an Op-Ed at the Advocate: Why the CDC's Latest HIV Report Is So Alarming.

The CDC report says an estimated 27% of transgender women are HIV positive, which is nearly 50 times as high as the rate for other adults. A New York City study found that more than 90% of newly diagnosed transwomen are African-American or Latina, and more than half are in their 20s.

Ginelle asks the question, "Why?"



Couric Sticks Her Foot in It

Someone on Katie Couric's daytime talk show made a decision that they needed to do a show on transgender women. But nobody bothered to bring Couric up to speed on appropriate topics of conversation.

 photo carmen-carrera_zps6fbc0338.jpgChosen to be the targets of Couric's rudeness were model Carmen Carrera and actress Laverne Cox from Orange Is the New Black.

In fact Couric introduced Carrera by stating that "she was born a man and that's why she is on our show."

Unfortunately, Couric seemed unable to get beyond a schoolyard fascination with the women's "private parts.

Carrera told her the question was invasive and "after transition there's still life to live, I still have career goals, I still have family goals."



Gender Prison: Transgender People and the Police (3 stories)

The Philadelphia Police Department is implementing a new set of guidelines which instruct officers on how to interact with transgender people. The nine pages of guidelines were developed by Deputy Commisioner Kevin Bethel, working in concert with members of the Philadelphia GLBT community.

The times have evolved, and not just within the Police Department.. You see it across the board in so many different areas. We have to learn to adapt to the times.

--Lt. John Stanford, police spokesman





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