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Week In Review: Transgender Day of Remembrance, Crackdown on Occupy Movement, Clinton to Visit Burma

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Yesterday and this week, we honor our transgender sisters and brothers, recognize the power of the Occupy Movement as mayors and police organize against fellow citizens and  rely on journalists to keep us informed on the deeply troubling news emitting from Penn State University’s child abuse scandal.

International

13th Transgender Day of Remembrance

 Sunday marked the 13th International Transgender Day of Remembrance. As we take a moment to commemorate transgender persons’ efforts to achieve justice for the living and pay tribute to those from our community who have been so cruelly murdered because of their gender identity. The New Civil Rights Movement stands with trans people in America and across the world in their efforts to achieve justice and equality and call on all LGBTQ groups to redouble their efforts to advance trans rights–in jobs, housing, medical and identity documentation, to name just a few. We have all witnessed the unprecedented mass media cultural breakthrough by Chaz Bono since his sexual transition from woman to man. We believe that these media outreach efforts, if done properly can advance the public’s awareness about the lives and needs of trans people and provide a window into the challenges of leading a transgender life. Check this calendar for commemorative events.

Clinton to Visit Burma–First in 50 Years

During President Barack Obama’s trip to Asia last week he announced that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would travel to Burma (also known as “Myanmar,” the previous military regime’s given name) next month to meet with a new civilian government formed earlier this year, that has signaled openness to the West in word and deed.  Its release of home detained Nobel Peace laureate Daw Aung San Sung Suu Kyi, the enduring leader of the democratic opposition in Burma and her positive conversations with President Obama and Secretary Clinton gave the green light for the visit, the first by a U.S. Secretary of State in 50 years.  A photograph of Clinton side-by-side with Suu Kyi will be an historic one,  worth more than a thousand words. Clinton laid out the policy foundation for the Obama Asia trip early in November by delivering a speech titled “America’s Pacific Century.”

Syrian Regime Escalates Violence, Egypt Protesters Challenge Military

Sectarian violence continues to plague Syria, where the city of Homs is ground zero for government orchestrated killings estimated at several hundred casualties a day now, that has been weeks in duration since Arab Spring hit Syria in February. President Bashar al-Assad’s actions, in wake of the Arab League’s suspension, indicates he has no intention of seeking a brokered mediation to end hostilities between the government and Syria’s opposition. Egypt on the other hand, whose opposition succeeded in removing dictator Hosni Mubarak earlier in 2011, has returned to Cairo’s streets in opposition the the military rulers who have slowed a turnover to elected civilian leadership. Demonstrators were violently removed from Tahrir Square in clashes on Friday when the military and police used tear gas on the opposition, that was estimated more than 1,000 persons were injured and 10 persons were killed. Demonstrators are demanding elections and a quick transition to civilian rule.

National

U.S. Mayors Coordinate Arrests of Occupy Activists, Capitol Hill Weighs In, UC-Davis Cops Overreact

From Oakland to New York City during the past week, the nation’s mayors and police forces engaged in an apparent coordinated effort to drive the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators out of park encampments coast-to-coast, resulting in arrests, violence and outrage by demonstrators, who vowed to continue the anti-Wall Street movement, who seem only limited by their imaginations and ability to adapt to harsh conditions.

The police effort in New York City began early Tuesday morning after an order by Mayor Michael Bloomberg who directed the police action that began at 1:00 a.m. when NYPD raided Zucotti Park in full anti-riot gear, accompanied by the New York City Department of Sanitation and the FDNY, who assisted in throwing away all personal items, including bedding, clothing, books and food.

Not only were demonstrators arrested, but so were journalists, even if they were clearly identified as media. The raid’s obvious timing was directed to avoid and severely limit media coverage, given the action took place during the early hours of the morning. David Badash, the New Civil Rights Movement publisher and editor in chief reported NYPD’s actions, posting blogs at 2:10 a.m. and 4:13 a.m., that were followed up throughout the week, including court judgements evicting movement participants from Zucotti Park and directing that no demonstrators could return to the park with tents or stay overnight.

Meanwhile, a news story reported by the San Francisco Bay Guardian on Friday said that The Police Executive Research Forum, an international non-governmental organization was intimately involved in facilitating a national coordinated effort to roll-up the Occupy Movement at the request of 40-city governments from Oakland to New York City. Oakland Mayor Jean Quan tipped off media that a coordinated effort had been underway during an interview reported by MSNBC on Tuesday. Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now! confirmed the media reports on Thursday when she interviewed Chuck Wexler, director of the Police Executive Research Forum. Goodman, describing the interview, writes on her blog:

We host a discussion on policing and the Occupy Wall Street movement with Chuck Wexler, director of the Police Executive Research Forum, which helped organize calls among police chiefs on how to respond to the Occupy protests, and with Norm Stamper, the former police chief of Seattle, who recently wrote an article for The Nation magazine titled “Paramilitary Policing from Seattle to Occupy Wall Street.” “Trust me, the police do not want to be put in this position. And cities really need to ask themselves, is there another way to handle this kind of conflict?” Wexler says. Stamper notes, “There are many compassionate, decent, competent police officers who do a terrific job day in and day out. There are others who are, quote, ‘bad apples.’ What both of them have in common is that they ‘occupy,’ as it were, a system, a structure that itself is rotten. And I am talking about the paramilitary bureaucracy.”

By Saturday morning the Occupy Movement story moved from city parks to Capitol Hill when MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, host of Up with Chris Hayes reported he had obtained a copy of a memorandum prepared by the D.C. lobbying firm Clark Lytle Geduldig & Cranfor, which reportedly has close ties with Speaker John Boehner, who wrote a memorandum to the American Bankers Association proposing an $850,000 strategy that would include monitoring and efforts to undermine the Occupy Wall Street movement in support of politicians who are opposed to the grassroots movement.

But the denouement of the week was video and photographs of the University of California-Davis police pepper spraying protesting students who were sitting on the ground, engaged in non-violent constitutional civil disobedience. This video and photographs give new meaning to the adage that “a photograph is worth a thousand words.” The two officers involved in the pepper spray incident are under investigation by a University task force and are currently on paid administrative leave. Faculty and students are calling for Chancellor Linda Katehi to step down. Katehi has dismissed such calls for the time being.

Failure Likely as Deadline Looms for Super Committee on Deficit Reduction

The Democratic co-chair of the Congressional Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction that calls for $1.2 trillion in the government debt over the next 10 years, says that a compromise with Republicans  is not likely who face a looming deadline tomorrow and a Wednesday vote by committee members on negotiated cuts and revenues. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) said Sunday during a CNN television interview that “no-compromise with the Republican members of the committee is in sight” and that the main sticking point was concerning “shared sacrifice” by all Americans, a euphemism for raising taxes on those who earn more than $1 million a year, a Democratic policy that the Republicans have refused to agree to during the past 10 weeks of debate and negotiation.

If the Super Committee fails to reach a compromise on the cuts, a process known as “sequestration” will kick-in automatically cutting substantially large sums of money across the U.S. government budget. Both Democrats and Republicans admitted  today that sequestration is probably the only way out of the shameful morass.

Prop 8 Ruling Allows Anti-Gay Marriage Proponents Standing

The California State Supreme Court issued an advisory ruling on Thursday that gives standing to Proposition 8 proponents to challenge the Court’s  constitutional ruling on December 8.  The full transcript of the Court’s decision is here.  The American Foundation for Equal Rights seems unperturbed by the ruling and fully expects the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to affirm the District Court constitutional ruling on behalf of marriage equality.

Penn State:  Sandusky Claims Innocence, NCAA Opens Investigation of Penn State’s Athletics, Paterno Diagnosed with “Recoverable” Lung Cancer

The second week of the Penn State University sexual abuse scandal seems to only get worse, as more new stories emerged, including a Saturday announcement that former coach Joe Paterno has been diagnosed with “recoverable” lung cancer. Paterno is 84-years old. The painful reality that there are more terrible facts to emerge is something truly hard to fathom, with the media taking command in reporting each new fact that emerges to a stunned and captivated story that is simultaneously repulsive and deeply offensive.

Stunningly, Jerry Sandusky, former defense coordinator coach for the football team, who has been charged with 40 counts of sex abuse of children, gave a telephone interview to Bob Costas, the highly regarded NBC sports journalist, that was initially broadcast on MSNBC’s Hard Ball with Chris Matthews and later on NBC’s Hard Rock with Brian Williams on Monday evening that revealed a halting Sandusky, who delayed his denial that he was sexually aroused by young boys, in a direct question posed by Costas, but admitted that he “should not have showered with those kids.”

More investigations have ensued, including the NCAA who communicated by letter to Penn State on Thursday which informed the university, in a blow that it would not be limiting its investigation to the football program, but would include all athletics at Penn State University. Other agencies investigating the beleaguered university include the Attorney General of Pennsylvania State, the Board of Trustees of  Penn State University, The Second Mile, the organization that Sandusky founded for at risk children, the U.S. Department of Education and potentially the FBI, who could be looking into Sandusky’s travel to out-of-state sporting events, which he took children with him who he allegedly sexually assaulted and raped during these trips.

Media reports indicate that The Second Mile is in the process of spinning off its programs to other agencies and may close its doors, due to the child sex abuse scandal.

Penn State University is required by the Jeanne Clery Act, a federal statute, to annually report all campus crimes to the Department of Education.  Failure to report crimes, can result in a $27,500 penalty for each infraction and can expose the University to violations of Title X education requirements.

Given the magnitude of the Penn State scandal, the media has taken command of this story with Sports Illustrated magazine publishing a “special edition” cover story this week titled “Special Report:  Scandal. Shame. A search for answers at Penn State.”

While the New York Times got credit for breaking this story, the reporter who initially reported that Sandusky had been summoned to a grand jury was scooped by Sara Ganim, a 24 year-old crime reporter at the Harrisburg Patriot-News on March 31st, who graduated from Penn State in 2008. Ganim has garnered national attention for her intrepid reporting, most recently for her published interviews on Nov. 7 of two mothers of children who were allegedly sexually assaulted by Sandusky. The Patriot-News published a story to readers by writing they broke the story when they had the facts.

Tanya L. Domi is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University who teaches about human rights in Eurasia and is a Harriman Institute affiliated faculty member. Prior to teaching at Columbia, Domi worked internationally for more than a decade on issues related to democratic transitional development, including political and media development, human rights, gender issues, sex trafficking, and media freedom.

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News

Rick Scott’s IVF Pledge Using His Own Grandkids Slammed as ‘Lie’ by Democrats

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U.S. Senator Rick Scott (R-FL), running for re-election and running to replace Mitch McConnell as Senate Republican Leader, has put out a new seven-figure ad that uses his children and grandchildren as he pledges to protect in-vitro fertilization (IVF), but Democrats in the Sunshine State are accusing him of lying.

“My wife Ann and I have two daughters and seven perfect grandkids. Each is a precious gift from God. But sometimes families need help. Millions of babies have come into this world from IVF, in-vitro fertilization. In fact, our youngest daughter’s receiving an IVF treatment right now, hoping to expand her family. She and I both agree IVF must be protected. For our family, for every family,” Senator Scott says in his latest ad he’s also posted to social media (below).

Democrats are calling Sen. Scott out for what they say is a lie.

On Thursday, Scott voted against the Right to IVF Act, Democratic legislation sponsored by U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), who blasted him on Friday: “You literally voted against my bill to protect IVF yesterday.”

READ MORE: Right Wing Justices Rule Ban on Gun Accessory Used in Major Mass Shooting Unlawful

On Thursday, Senate Republicans blocked Duckworth’s bill in a 48-47 vote. Only two Republicans, Senators Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins voted with Democrats for the legislation.

“Rick Scott voted against protecting access to IVF — a miracle treatment that has allowed millions of Americans to start families,” Florida Democratic Party Chair Nikki Fried said in a statement that also includes his voting record and statements on IVF and other issues including abortion. “Scott has made it crystal clear that he will stop at nothing to rip away personal decisions from women and their families — and it will cost him his Senate seat.”

“Scott previously blocked legislation to protect IVF treatment that was introduced in response to the Alabama Supreme Court ruling that stored embryos have the same legal protections as children,” the Florida Democratic Party statement also reads. “Scott is now trying to cover up his anti-IVF record by touting an ’empty, symbolic’ resolution that would do nothing to actually protect IVF and spending millions to lie to Floridians about his phony support for IVF.”

The Florida Phoenix last week reported, “Scott, a Republican, will likely face former South Florida Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in November. Both candidates must get through their respective party primary elections in August.”

READ MORE: ‘Pyongyang in the Rotunda’: GOP Red Carpet Rollout for Trump’s DC Trip Likened to North Korea

“Mucarsel-Powell has been relentless in criticizing Scott’s record on abortion rights. Last week, her campaign issued a statement noting that the Scott had received an “A+” rating from Students for Life Action, an anti-abortion organization that opposes IVF.”

Political consultant Dana Houle observed, “If you’re running ads trying to convince people you’re not opposed to IVF (which in effect he is, since he voted against protecting it) you’re in pretty big trouble. It’s crazy to think that it’s likely that one of the decisive events of the 2024 campaign occurred in Alabama.”

That also appears to be the position of Florida Democratic Party executive director Phillip Jerez, who responded to Scott’s ad by asking, “Didn’t you vote AGAINST the IVF bill in the Senate yesterday?”

“Rick Scott is now putting up this 7-figure ad because he needs to work OVERTIME to lie to Floridians,” Jerez added. “He’s never won an election by more than 1% and never in a presidential year. Rick Scott is in trouble.”

David Simon, the well-known author, journalist, and screenwriter known for his colorful language, also responded to Sen. Scott: “Shitheel, you voted against the bill to protect IVF and then ran out to tweet this horseshit the next day. Even by our American standards of grifting, empty political hacks, this is wondrous.”

See Sen. Scott’s ad above or at this link.

RELATED: GOP Will Ban IVF if Trump Wins After Southern Baptists Condemnation: Expert

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News

Right Wing Justices Rule Ban on Gun Accessory Used in Major Mass Shooting Unlawful

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In a 6-3 decision along partisan lines, right-wing justices on the U.S. Supreme Court ruled a bump stock, an accessory used in America’s most-deadly mass shooting, that effectively turns an AR-15 into a machine gun, cannot be regulated under current law. Justice Clarence Thomas authored the majority opinion. The device is so dramatically lethal pro-gun President Donald Trump banned it in 2018.

“The Supreme Court just effectively legalized machine guns,” is the headline of Ian Millhiser’s report at Vox. He says Friday’s ruling “effectively legalizes civilian ownership of automatic weapons.”

“Bump stocks increase an AR-15’s rate of fire from 180 rounds per minute to 400-800 rounds per minute,” explained Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern, in response to Friday’s Supreme Court ruling. “They inflict mass carnage by allowing the gunman to shoot automatically, without pulling the trigger. Yet the Supreme Court declares that they do not create a ‘machinegun.’ ”

READ MORE: ‘Pyongyang in the Rotunda’: GOP Red Carpet Rollout for Trump’s DC Trip Likened to North Korea

Legal and gun experts might delve in to the mechanics of what makes a gun a gun, what makes a machine gun a machine gun, add in the conservative justices’ “textualism” and “originalism” theories where words are supposed to only mean what they meant when the Constitution, or, in this case, a law was written, but as Stern and Aaron Fritschner, the deputy chief of staff for a Democratic U.S. Congressman discussed (social media post below), the Supreme Court appears, they say, to have interpreted the plain language of words differently than their plain meaning to reach the conclusion they did:

Indeed, as senior advisor to the nonprofit organization Court Accountability and self-described “lapsed lawyer” Mike Sacks noted, in her dissent, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor joined by liberal Justices Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson, wrote: “When I see a bird that walks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, I call that bird a duck.”

Sacks adds, “Sotomayor calls out *every* *single* *one* *of* *her* *Republican* *colleagues* for abandoning their textualist ‘principle,’ in a paragraph that concludes, “Today, the majority forgets that principle and substitutes its own view of what constitutes a “machinegun” for Congress’s.”

Berkeley professor of public policy and former Cabinet Secretary Robert Reich wrote, “Koch-backed groups called on SCOTUS to overturn the federal bump stock ban. Clarence Thomas secretly attended Koch fundraising events, but of course didn’t recuse from this case — he wrote the majority opinion. Our nation’s highest court is beyond compromised.”

NBC News reported in December of 2018 that Donald Trump “had urged the federal government to ban bump stocks this past spring following a deadly Valentine’s Day shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 dead. However, the device gained notoriety when a lone gunman killed 59 people and injured at least 527 others attending a country music festival in Las Vegas in October 2017. The shooter, Stephen Paddock, had 22 semi-automatic rifles and 14 of them were equipped with bump stocks. They allowed him to fire the rifles continuously with a single pull of the trigger, resulting in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.”

That shooting to this day remains the deadliest mass shooting in modern day history.

See the social media posts above or at this link.

READ MORE: ‘Don’t Breathe Easy Yet’: Abortion Pill Safe Only ‘For Now’ Experts Say After SCOTUS Ruling

 

 

 

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OPINION

‘Pyongyang in the Rotunda’: GOP Red Carpet Rollout for Trump’s DC Trip Likened to North Korea

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Donald Trump’s first return to Capitol Hill since the violent and deadly January 6, 2021 insurrection he fomented elicited responses of celebratory embrace, near-coronation, and a whitewashing of history from House and Senate Republicans and some of the mainstream media. That has critics sounding the alarm, likening their remarks to those of the subjects of authoritarian dictators like North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.

Trump is the Republican Party’s presumptive 2024 presidential nominee, a convicted felon awaiting sentencing who remains criminally indicted and out on bail in three other jurisdictions, an adjudicated rapist and fraudster who has been credibly accused by at least 18 to 23 or more women of varying degrees of sexual misconduct including harassment, assault, and rape, who allegedly had sex with a Playboy Bunny, and a porn star, the latter just four months after his third and current wife had given birth to their four-month old son.

He is a one-term, twice impeached ex-president who made over 30,000 “false or misleading claims” during his four years in the Oval Office, whose “inept and insufficient” response was in part responsible for about 40% of the COVID-19 pandemic deaths in the U.S., according to a February 2021 study that deemed them preventable.

And as of today, Donald Trump is 78 years old, and the subject of a New Yorker column published Friday alleging “age-related diminishment of a candidate.”

READ MORE: ‘Don’t Breathe Easy Yet’: Abortion Pill Safe Only ‘For Now’ Experts Say After SCOTUS Ruling

The ex-president met with House Republicans Thursday morning at the same restaurant where a pipe bomb was found outside on January 6, 2021. It’s just a seven-minute walk from the halls of Congress, where many of those same lawmakers who were jovially dining with and cheering on Trump, had huddled, hunkered-down, and fled through that centuries-old symbol of American democracy, afraid for their lives as supporters of the then-Commander-in-Chief – some of whom have said in court documents they believed were acting under his instructions – attacked the U.S. Capitol building and police, used the American flag as a spear, defecated on the walls, broke windows, damaged, destroyed, and stole U.S. Government property, hunted for the Democratic Speaker of the House, calling her by name, and hunted for the Republican Vice President, chanting their threats to “hang Mike Pence,” in a coordinated effort to help Trump overturn the results of the 2020 election he had lost by over seven million votes, and 74 Electoral College votes.

None of that matters now to the people’s elected representatives of the Republican Party in the House and Senate.

U.S. Senator, venture capitalist, and former “Never Trumper,” J.D. Vance (R-OH) on Thursday, walking in Washington, D.C. after he and nearly all of the Republican Senators met with Donald Trump and gave him a 30-second standing ovation, told reporters the GOP has absolved Trump of guilt and responsibility for the deadly insurrection three years ago.

“Well look, I think no real Republican with any credibility in the party is still blaming him for January the 6th. Frankly, some of his critics were in the room (Thursday) and were supportive and are supportive. So I think it’s a good thing and the Republican Party’s in a good place.”

After House Republicans had breakfast with Trump, Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, criticized for apparently not remembering Congress is a co-equal brach of the U.S. government and Donald Trump is no longer a leader of any branch of government, glowingly bragged the ex-president “said I’m doing a very good job.”

Aaron Fritschner, deputy chief of staff for a Democratic U.S. Congressman, blasted Senate Republicans after they met with Trump, saying they “just rolled the red carpet out and welcomed him back with smiles and handshakes.”

READ MORE: GOP Will Ban IVF if Trump Wins After Southern Baptists Condemnation: Expert

He posted a photo of Trump warmly shaking hands with Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who reportedly had not spoken to Trump since before the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S Capitol, and on that day declared him “practically and morally responsible” for the insurrection.

Journalist and Public Notice founder Aaron Rupar posted a “supercut” of Republicans responding to Trump’s visit, also likening their embrace to how subjects speak of dictators.

Award-winning Talking Points Memo publisher Josh Marshall praised Rupar and blasted Republicans: “For all the ‘triumphant returns’ and ‘Trumps flexes’ and all the rest I don’t think anyone beside @atrupar really captured it. This was Pyongyang in the Rotunda. The maniacal clapping in unison, MTG almost breaking down in tears cuz Trump smiled at her. Total North Korea vibe.”

Critics are slamming not only House and Senate Republicans, but the mainstream media’s coverage, especially a social media post by the Associated Press, which declared Trump’s return to D.C. “triumphant,” a term often reserved for a conquering or undefeated hero.

Veteran journalist and D.C. Bureau Chief of Mother Jones, David Corn, co-author of the 2018 book, “Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump,” criticized the AP’s post, saying: “Sounds like a North Korean report.”

Award-winning journalist Steve Silberman called the AP’s post, “an instant candidate for the Museum of American Fascism.”

Watch the videos above or at this link.

READ MORE: Buttigieg on Martha-Ann Alito: Flags Symbolizing Love vs. Insurrection Are Different

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