You are browsing the archive for 2015 May 04.

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Gay Couple Evicted from Their Airbnb by Their 'Straight-Friendly' Hosts

May 4, 2015 in Blogs

By Mary Elizabeth Williams, Salon

If your “friendly” you can't be bigoted, right?

Good news, people who don’t like to do business with your fellow human beings of a different sexual orientation than you. You’re not homophobic! You’re straight-friendly. And that can’t be wrong because it has the word friendly in it.

As Foti Kallergis from Houston’s local ABC news affiliate reported Thursday, Jonathan Wang and his partner got an unwelcome surprise when they used Airbnb recently to find a cozy spot to stay in Galveston for a friend’s wedding. They’d found a “gorgeous” old home listed for $140 a night. They unpacked and went to the wedding, but when they returned to the house for their booked two-night stay, they say the owners of the home were displeased to learn they had rented to a gay couple. “Heather asked me where my wife was, who is this person?” he says. “And it was my significant other, Brent. She said, ‘I thought you were bringing a wife.’ I said, ‘I never said that specifically.’ I said, ‘Is that going to be OK?’ She said, ‘It’s not.’” And with that, he claims, his hosts kicked them out. They went upstairs to pack, and “She also commented as we were going upstairs that’s actually their bedroom upstairs so they were even more uncomfortable with it,” he says. With nowhere else to go, Wang, a commercial airline pilot, called in a favor and found another place to stay.

When ABC contacted the host about the incident, she told the reporter, “I’m completely of my legal realms and morals,” whatever that means, and when asked if she rents to gay travelers, she only replied, “That’s none of your business. That’s my private home.” Airbnb, however, saw it differently, and announced late Wednesday that “We have a zero tolerance policy for discrimination on Airbnb. The host in question has been removed from the site. Airbnb has clear guidelines that a host or a guest may not promote hate or bigotry.” The company also gave Wang a refund and paid for a night at a hotel that the couple …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Senator Kirsten Gillibrand: Military Is Under-Reporting Sexual Assault and May Be Intimidating Victims

May 4, 2015 in Blogs

By Terrell Jermaine Starr, AlterNet

Military spouses and civilians near military bases are especially vulnerable.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., is accusing the Pentagon of under-reporting the true scope of sexual assault in the military community, the Associated Press reports.

Gillibrand said the Pentagon refused to provide her with all of the information she asked for regarding sexual assault allegations at major military bases. Spouses of military members and civilians who live near or in military basis are especially vulnerable, according to the Senator. “I don't think the military is being honest about the problem,” Gillibrand told the AP.

In 107 cases of sexual assault the senator analyzed, she determined that most of the punishments were too lenient and the word of the assailant was more likely to be believed over the victim. Just 11 of the cases resulted in convictions and less than a quarter of all cases went to trial. More than half of the victims in the cases were female civilians.

The Defense Department, however, said significant progress has been made in tackling sexual assault in the military in its annual report on sexual assaults released Friday. The military's report also found that reported sex crimes have decreased. The department doesn’t have the authority survey civilians, Laura Seal, a Defense Department spokeswoman, told the AP.

One case in particularly bothered Gillibrand, per the AP:

In one of the cases Gillibrand reviewed, an airman allegedly pinned his ex-girlfriend down and then raped her. During the investigation, two other civilian victims stepped forward to accuse the same airman of sexual assault. One of them, the wife of another service member, awoke in the night to find the airman in bed with her. Two of his fingers were inside her vagina. The investigating officer recommended the airman be court-martialed. If convicted, he faced a lengthy prison term.

But the investigator's superiors decided against a trial and used administrative procedures to discharge the airman under “other than honorable conditions.” The Air Force said the victims preferred this course of action. Two of them had decided they “wanted no part in the case,” according to …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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One of the Dead Shooters in Texas Has Been Identified—Here's What We Know About Him

May 4, 2015 in Blogs

By Terrell Jermaine Starr, AlterNet

Unfortunately, the shootings played right into rabid anti-Islamist Pamela Geller's hands.

One of the two gunmen killed after opening fire at an event Sunday night in Garland, Tex., where cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad were featured, has been identified as Elton Simpson of Phoenix, The New York Times reports.

Officials are not sure what the motive was behind the attack was. What is known about Elton so far is that federal prosecutors charged him with traveling to Somalia“for the purpose of engaging in violent jihad” and lying to a federal agent. He was found guilty of lying to a federal agent but a judge ruled that the government couldn’t prove he was going to engage in terrorist acts. Simpson was sentenced to three years probation and reportedly placed on the 'no-fly' list.

The event, organized by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, an anti-Islamic group started by rabid anti-Muslim Pamela Geller, started at 7 p.m. Sunday night. The organization also uses the name  Stop Islamization of America and is based in New York. The event included a contest that awarded $10,000 for the best caricature of the Prophet Muhammad. Simpson and another man opened fire on a security guard, Bruce Joiner, soon after the event started, hitting the man in the ankle. Garland police returned fire, killing Simpson and the other suspect. Joiner was taken to the hospital and released.

Law enforcement officials searched the scene for bombs but did not find any, according to CNN.

Both Simpson’s body, as well as that of the other unidentified shooting suspect, were still lying where they fell Sunday night welll into Monday. 

A sampling of Geller's view on Muslims was when she told the New York Times, in 2010, that she doesn’t “believe in the idea of a moderate Muslim. I do not believe in the idea of a moderate Islam” and that a “moderate Muslim is a secular Muslim.”

Local police say they aren’t sure if the shooting was connected to the cartoons, but Geller said it was.

“The Islamic jihadis are determined to …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Texas Republican Wants Women to Carry Deceased Fetuses to Full Term

May 4, 2015 in Blogs

By Leslie Salzillo, Daily Kos

The proposed amendment is so insane, even his GOP colleagues are repulsed.

Last week in Texas, a Republican lawmaker proposed an amendment so outrageous, that even some of his own GOP colleagues were repulsed. Andrea Grimes, with RH Reality, reports:.

Rep. Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler) put forward an amendment that would make it illegal to terminate a pregnancy after 20 weeks, even if a fetus “has a severe and irreversible abnormality,” effectively forcing families with wanted, but unsustainable pregnancies to carry to term at the behest of the state and against the advice of their doctors or their own wishes.

What would cause a lawmaker to want the government to inflict more emotional pain onto an already grieving family, in addition to adding a major health risk to the mother? Does he not realize a woman can easily die of sepsis by carrying a nonviable fetus?

Schaefer said that suffering is “part of the human condition, since sin entered the world.”

Oh, for fucksake! Where do these people come from? More importantly, how do they hide their vile and odious ignorance long enough to get elected?

Democratic Representative, Jessica Farrar of Houston, is quoted as saying this is the most misogynistic piece of legislation she's seen during her 21 years in office. Matt Schaefer’s amendment actually passed, but he removed it for full committee review after Trey Martinez Fischer, the House Democrat from San Antonio filed a legislative point of order.

The late author, humorist and commentator, Molly Ivins, sums up late term abortion, perfectly, in an excellent video. Here is an excerpt.

“I almost get the impression that somebody thinks women don't have no moral sense at all. No woman who is seven months pregnant, ever waddles past an abortion clinic and says, 'Darn, I knew there was something I've been meaning to get around to.' This is ridiculous. You have those late-term abortions, because either the mother is going to die, the child is going to die, or both are going to die.”

There seems to be a nonstop effort by Republican lawmakers to control women/their bodies – often in the name of God. Thankfully, there are also nonstop …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Governor of Puerto Rico Signs Executive Order to Legalize Medical Marijuana

May 4, 2015 in PERSONAL LIBERTY

By drosenfeld

Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla of Puerto Rico signed an executive order yesterday legalizing medical marijuana in the U.S. territory. The order enables the Puerto Rican Health Department to authorize the use of marijuana and its derivatives for medical purposes. The Health Secretary now has three months to produce a report etching out the details of the new system. In 2013, a medical marijuana bill was introduced into the Puerto Rican legislature but remains stuck in the House of Representatives.

May 4, 2015

Drug Policy Alliance

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Source: DRUG POLICY

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Garland, Texas Is a Hotbed for Anti-Muslim Bigotry

May 4, 2015 in Blogs

By Zaid Jilani, AlterNet

The narrative being told about Sunday night's shootings is woefully incomplete.

On Sunday, there was a shooting in Garland, Texas. Two men opened fire outside a Muslim caricature event hosted by anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller, and were shot dead in response. One security officer was reportedly injured in the attack as well.

There are many unanswered questions about the shooting, and we don't know much about the identity of the perpetrators or their motivations.

But the narrative that is being told about the events is incomplete. Geller is being portrayed as an advocate of free speech, who was holding a Muhammad cartoon contest that was simply about affirming First Amendment principles. This is simply not the case.

Geller is not a “critic of Islam,” as the Los Angeles Times wrote last night. Her goal is to cleanse the Western world of Muslims in much the same manner Slobodan Milosevic wanted to cleanse the Balkans of its Muslim population. On her website, she promoted a British activist’s solution to that country's Muslim migration:

If a government wants to learn how to manage growing Islamic problems, take some advice from Ottoman army officer Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Atatürk abolished Islam by putting a complete ban on Islamic materials, demolishing mosques, and removing any traces of Islam in his country to get rid of the evil. Those who tried to revolt were put in their place, or basically killed….

It is time for the UK to stop wasting their military abroad, but bring them to patrol their own streets and begin to remove Muslims. And it is vital time to plan and arrange deportation programs – and even arrange new deportation programs for practicing Muslims born in England to be deported to their parent’s country of origin.

She has posted bus ads around the country saying that “Islamic jew-hatred: it's in the Quran,” leading to the New York Metro Transit Authority banning all political ads in its system after her provocative material was placed. She has called for all Muslim migration to the …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Lessons from the Hanseatic League

May 4, 2015 in Economics

By Richard W. Rahn

Richard W. Rahn

Stockholm, Sweden — Last week, there were reports in the Swedish and Finnish press about what was presumed to be a Russia submarine probing the harbors in both Stockholm and Helsinki. This was not viewed as a serious Russian threat but merely an extension of the general and low-level harassment the Russians have displayed against their European neighbors, particularly the Baltic nations.

The European Union is not the first free-trade and defense bloc to arise in Europe. Six hundred years ago, the Hanseatic League held both economic and military sway in an area that at its farthest extent went from Novgorod in northern Russia to trade zones near London. The league was centered in the German city of Lubeck on the Baltic. Members of the league included towns and cities in modern-day Germany, Denmark, Poland, Lithuania, Russia, Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands and Belgium. The Hanseatic League established free trade among its members, who agreed to a basic charter. It also established its own navy and defense force to protect its cargos, and it succeeded in largely eliminating pirates from the Baltic.

Strong international alliances build both prosperity and longevity.”

The first trade alliances that evolved into the league began after the end of the Viking era in the 12th century and lasted until the rise of the Swedish Empire, which gained control over most of the Baltic Sea in the 16th century. Many of the members of the league were “free cities and towns,” and others were controlled by local princes. It was the merchant class that was the driving force behind the league in that the rise in trade became highly profitable to them and greatly increased the prosperity of those living in the league trading area. Over the centuries, cities dropped in and out of membership as circumstances changed.

The EU faces many of the same types of pressures that the league faced. Not all members of the league abided by the rules all of the time — read Greece — but the league endured. Some members were harassed or even attacked by neighboring kingdoms — read Russia — but the league endured for more than three centuries.

Vladimir Putin’s Russia has been engaged in a low-level campaign to harass and intimidate some of its neighbors for very understandable political and economic reasons. Mr. Putin has been clear in his goal to recreate the Russian Empire as his legacy, thus he claims the right to protect Russians, even when they live outside of Russia. More than a quarter of the population of Estonia is Russian. The Estonians are bombarded with Russian propaganda through …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Should Americans Join a Military with a Reckless Commander-In-Chief?

May 4, 2015 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Former governor and imminent presidential candidate Michael Huckabee issued a clarion call for young Americans not to join the military if he or virtually any Republican wins the presidency in 2016. Well, that’s not exactly what he said. But it was the obvious implication of his remarks.

Huckabee declared: “I’d wait a couple of years, until we got a new commander-in-chief, that will once again believe one nation under God and believes that people of faith should be a vital part of the process of not only governing, but defending this country.” It was an oblique, even confusing attack on President Barack Obama. Apparently the former Baptist pastor was upset about Pentagon restrictions on proselytizing within the armed services.

It’s a fair area for debate since the Obama administration sometimes has taken a careless, even hostile, stance toward religious liberty. But there’s no evidence that the president doesn’t want people of faith joining the military (or being involved in “governing,” whatever that means).

However, Huckabee inadvertently raised a far more important issue. Should Americans join the military if the next commander-in-chief of the armed services is an irresponsible war-hawk? Patriotic young men and women want to serve their country, challenge themselves, and more. Many of America’s best and brightest join the armed services. But with the U.S. constantly at war joining is a life or death decision, dependent on the judgment of whoever sits in the Oval Office.

There is much to criticize in President Obama’s foreign policy. He is too aggressive—twice increasing troop levels in Afghanistan, and recently prolonging the U.S. presence; going to war in Libya; making the Islamic State’s sectarian conflict America’s own; putting combat and training personnel in a number of smaller conflicts, including Uganda and Ukraine; backing Saudi Arabia’s aggression in Yemen. The administration’s execution also often suffers; sadly, the word incompetent comes to mind.

What’s a patriotic potential service member to do? Pine for Ronald Reagan.”

Nevertheless, the president apparently is thoughtful and thus reluctant to loose the dogs of war. In contrast, ever-angry 2008 presidential candidate John McCain urges war in virtually every circumstance. He ignores the consequences of bombing or invading other nations. One would be a real risk-taker to join the military under such a commander-in-chief.

President George W. Bush demonstrated a different set of faults. By all accounts he knew little about the countries he was invading and peoples he was …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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The Judicial-Elections Exception to the First Amendment

May 4, 2015 in Economics

By Ilya Shapiro

Ilya Shapiro

By now anyone who would be reading this will know that last week the Supreme Court decided that the First Amendment’s speech protections are weaker in the context of judicial elections than in other kinds. In effect, the five-Justice majority found that a state’s interest in preserving public confidence in its judiciary extends beyond preventing the “appearance of corruption” that’s at play in the context of candidates for legislative or executive office. Accordingly, states — or, as in this case, state bar associations — can limit political speech that aims to raise money for judicial candidates.

I think the Court got it wrong: while I don’t like the idea of judicial elections — though they’re better than any alternative but the federal model — if you’re gonna have em, the Constitution doesn’t allow you to pick and choose between the salubrious and unseemly parts of democracy. But at this point I don’t have any novel analysis beyond the dissenting opinions and the coverage provided in this symposium.

Accordingly, rather than go over well-trodden ground, I’ll pick out an excerpt from each opinion that epitomizes the point being made and offer a brief comment.

1. Chief Justice John Roberts, for the majority (joined by Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor in full, and by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg except as to the part saying that strict scrutiny applies)

“The Florida Bar faces a demanding task in defending Canon 7C(1) against Yulee’s First Amendment challenge. We have emphasized that ‘it is the rare case’ in which a State demonstrates that a speech restriction is narrowly tailored to serve a compelling interest. Burson v. Freeman … (1992) (plurality opinion). But those cases do arise. See ibid.; Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project … (2010); McConnell … (opinion of KENNEDY, J.); cf. Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Peña … (1995) (“we wish to dispel the notion that strict scrutiny is ‘strict in theory, but fatal in fact’”). Here, Canon 7C(1) advances the State’s compelling interest in preserving public confidence in the integrity of the judiciary, and it does so through means narrowly tailored to avoid unnecessarily abridging speech. This is therefore one of the rare cases in which a speech restriction withstands strict scrutiny.”

We have an unsatisfying opinion that may do damage to both political speech and the application of the strict scrutiny test (whatever its merits).”

I think the Chief Justice goes on to make a hash of …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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North Korea: Evil, but Not a Terrorist State

May 4, 2015 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

President Barack Obama plans to remove Cuba’s official designation as a terrorist state. Congressional hawks are grumbling, but they can’t stop him. The move is long overdue—and is a good argument against those who want to put North Korea back on the list.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) remains a most troublesome country. Delisted in 2008 by George W. Bush in an attempt to reach an agreement over nonproliferation, the DPRK has continued its policy of brinkmanship highlighted by occasional missile and nuclear tests. Ruled by the grandson of the North’s founder, North Korea has become the world’s first Communist monarchy. The country is also a human-rights horror.

President Barack Obama never believed there was much chance of changing Pyongyang’s behavior. The administration attempted to ignore first Kim Jong-il and now Kim Jong-un. The North made that difficult, staging missile and nuclear tests, sinking a South Korean naval vessel and bombarding a South Korean island, and arresting American visitors for various alleged crimes. Even then, Washington made little effort to pursue serious negotiations, especially after Kim fils shot off a rocket shortly after agreeing to freeze missile and nuclear development in the so-called Leap Day deal of 2012. The North is not alone at fault in the dreary history of U.S.-North Korean relations, but the administration’s pessimism is well justified.

Calling North Korea a terrorist sponsor might offer emotional release, but won’t make the claim true.”

Ideas for dealing with Pyongyang range from initiating diplomatic relations to tightening sanctions to enlisting China to “solve” the problem. None look particularly promising in changing the DPRK.

Gaining renewed attention is the idea of relisting Pyongyang as a “state sponsor of terrorism,” or SSOT. North Korean attacks on the South in 2010 led to calls to put the North back on the terrorism list. The campaign was revived by the hacking of Sony Pictures last fall, apparently by North Korea.

The administration eventually responded by tightening some sanctions, but did nothing substantial enough for the DPRK to notice. In practice, it is difficult to make the North pay a high price, so long as China insulates Pyongyang from outside pressure. While the Xi government appears irritated, even angry, with its small neighbor, Beijing is not yet willing to risk its relationship with North Korea, or the latter’s stability, by ramping up the pressure.

In January, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen introduced …read more

Source: OP-EDS