In the USA...
08/06/2012 04:31 PMLabeled a 'Wimp': Doubts Growing About Romney's Election Chances
By Gregor Peter Schmitz
Critics have called Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney a weakling, and polls show him far behind President Barack Obama. With new suspicions emerging that he has been less than honest about his taxes, even fellow Republicans are having their doubts about him.
Lee Sheppard, a columnist with the industry paper Tax Notes, has spent decades wading through books on taxation. But even Sheppard took a few days to figure out what Rafalca was doing in the 203-page tax return of Ann and Mitt Romney.
Rafalca is a fine, dark brown, 15-year-old Oldenburg dressage horse with an estimated value of $500,000 (€404,000). Horse enthusiast Ann Romney, the wife of the Republican presidential candidate, has been a co-owner of the mare since 2006. Last week Rafalca, ridden by German-born equestrian Jan Ebeling, even competed for the United States in dressage at the London Olympics. No ordinary Olympian, the valuable horse traveled to London in a chartered jet -- in the style to which she is accustomed.
Rafalca is a pretty expensive source of entertainment, but not necessarily for the Romneys, as Sheppard discovered while poking around in their tax return. As it turns out, the political couple posted a loss of $77,731 for the mare's upkeep and transport on their 2010 tax return, just as if the horse were a business. Although the Romneys have not claimed the loss as a deduction yet, they were acting with foresight. Whenever they earn a little money with Rafalca in the future, be it through prizes or breeding fees, they will be able to carry forward the 2010 expenses as a deduction on future tax returns.
"Do we want a president who takes advantage of tax loopholes for his wife's horse hobby?" asks Sheppard, who just published a long article on the subject.
Do Americans even want Willard Mitt Romney, 65, in the White House? It's an increasingly relevant question. The Washington Post selected Romney for its "Worst Week in Washington" column after Romney's much-touted foreign trip turned into a flop. First he insinuated that the British would not be good Olympic hosts. Then, in Israel, he said that the Palestinians were economically backward because of their "culture." Finally, his spokesman verbally abused journalists in Warsaw. "Romney is perhaps the only politician who could start a trip that was supposed to be a charm offensive by being utterly devoid of charm and mildly offensive," the Daily Telegraph wrote bitingly.
Newsweek Calls Romney a Wimp
According to the Washington-based Pew Research Center, the Republican presidential candidate is now polling 10 percentage points behind President Barack Obama, as conservatives in the United States become increasingly exasperated with Romney. After all, he is campaigning against a president whose economic policies meet with disapproval among the majority of Americans. One of the reasons Romney is trailing Obama is that he persistently refuses to talk about his past and his plans for the future. He has been deliberately vague about his own proposals for America's future economic and foreign policy.
This approach prompted Newsweek to characterize Romney as a "wimp." This man avoids all risk, unlike previous Republican candidates like Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, who both went on to win the White House. "It looks like they're banking on simply the angst about President Obama," influential conservative journalist Craig Shirley told Politico. What you've got to do is come up with a pitch, a formula, a message that is going to tell the American people, 'We've tried the last four years. I have a better plan and here's what it is.'"
Romney's biggest weakness is that he is seen as the candidate of the 0.1 percent, the richest of the rich in America. With an estimated net worth of $250 million, he is also one of the richest presidential candidates of all time.
His inability to shed this reputation is his own fault. The former businessman likes to pose while jet skiing in front of his $10-million lakeside vacation house, and he raves about how nice it is to "fire" people. Some 89 percent of Americans believe that Romney's main motivation is to help the rich, whose taxes he promises to cut considerably.
It isn't as if US citizens didn't have a weakness for rich politicians. They've voted the Kennedys and the Bushs into office, and in New York they elected multi-billionaire Michael Bloomberg as mayor. But Americans also expect full transparency from candidates for the White House, on matters ranging from marital fidelity to their health and the state of their finances.
Speculation About Unreleased Tax Returns
And that, precisely, is Romney's problem. The steadfast refusal to release his tax returns to the extent that former candidates have done has led to speculation. Mark McKinnon, a former campaign strategist for George W. Bush, said there was obviously something problematic in Romney's tax returns. And Harry Reid, the Democratic majority leader in the Senate, even insinuated that Romney hadn't paid any taxes at all for 10 years.
Romney's 2010 tax return, the only one he has released so far, offers an indication of how serious the problems could be. His investment advisors found so many loopholes that the Romneys paid taxes of only 13.9 percent on income of $21.6 million, a lower rate that the average secretary pays in the United States.
The Romneys' extensive investments abroad cover 55 pages of the joint return. Vanity Fair has learned that his former company, the investment firm Bain Capital, maintains 138 investment funds in the Cayman Islands, and that Romney has interests in 12 of them, with an estimated value of $30 million.
Romney, who doesn't tire of praising the United States as the "greatest country in the world," is proving to be less than patriotic in his investment strategies.
Until 2010, the Republican had $3 million deposited in a Swiss bank account. An investment firm in Bermuda helped him save additional taxes. Romney invested at least $1 million in Elliott Associates, a hedge fund of the worst sort. Elliott buys the bonds of dirt-poor African countries, often for very small amounts, and then tries to sue their governments for the money.
All of this can be found in the tax return Romney felt comfortable enough to release. But what secrets could be hidden in the others? More offshore accounts? Even lower tax rates? Politically sensitive investments for a candidate running on an anti-abortion platform? Bain, for example, once invested in a company that media reports claimed had helped abortion clinics dispose of fetuses.
Aggressive Investment Firm
Experts are not even ruling out the possibility of illegal transactions. In 1995, the Republican transferred assets that would now be worth $100 million to his five sons. Without reviewing the documents, it can't be determined whether he may have underreported the value of the transfers to avoid pesky taxes. It's a widespread practice, and US authorities only tend to investigate violations sporadically. "If detected, undervaluing large gifts to one's children could provoke large penalties from the I.R.S.," Columbia University law Professor Michael Graetz writes in the New York Times.
Romney remains defiant. "I'm simply not enthusiastic about giving (the Obama people) hundreds or thousands of more pages to pick through, distort, and lie about," he says. But even Romney's father George, the former CEO of a car company and former governor of Michigan, released 12 years of tax returns during his unsuccessful 1968 presidential candidacy. Ironically, in doing so he established the practice of tax transparency.
The longer the debate drags on, the more voters remember how Romney accumulated so many millions as the founder of Bain Capital, a particularly aggressive investment firm. Bain advisors repeatedly bought up healthy companies and saddled them with high levels of debt. Then the advisors collected lavish fees while the overleveraged companies went bankrupt. Rick Perry, one of Romney's rivals in the Republican primary, characterized the Bain people as "vultures."
Romney has argued that his years with the investment firm make him more qualified than President Obama to create the jobs that are so urgently needed in the United States. But now no one really believes him anymore.
The worries of his wealthy rival must seem like a gift from God to Obama. The president already published his 2011 tax return online in April, and it showed that he paid a tax rate of more than 20 percent last year. The Democrat is now a millionaire, thanks to the royalties for his memoirs. But he rarely forgets to remind voters of the modest circumstances in which he was raised.
In a recent speech, just as Romney was being photographed on jet skis,
Obama reminisced about spending vacations travelling in Greyhound buses and staying at budget motels in his youth.
Obama's advisors are using ads to paint Romney as a tax trickster. One ad features Romney doing a terribly off-key rendition of "America the Beautiful," while images of the picturesque beaches of the Cayman Islands flicker across the screen.
" The Obamans firmly believe that they've hit a nerve," writes New York Magazine, " and like a bunch of sadistic dentists, they plan on drilling away at that sucker until the patient/victim screams."
Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan
Originally published Monday, August 6, 2012 at 3:51 AM NASA releases low-res video of Mars rover descent
NASA's Curiosity rover has transmitted a low-resolution video showing the last 2 1/2 minutes of its white-knuckle dive through the Martian atmosphere, giving earthlings a sneak peek of a spacecraft landing on another world.
By ALICIA CHANG and SETH BORENSTEIN
AP Science Writer
NASA's Curiosity rover has transmitted a low-resolution video showing the last 2 1/2 minutes of its white-knuckle dive through the Martian atmosphere, giving earthlings a sneak peek of a spacecraft landing on another world.
As thumbnails of the video flashed on a big screen on Monday, scientists and engineers at the NASA Jet Propulsion let out "oohs" and "aahs." The recording began with the protective heat shield falling away and ended with dust being kicked up as the rover was lowered by cables inside an ancient crater.
It was a sneak preview, since it'll take some time before full-resolution frames are beamed back depending on other priorities.
The full video "will just be exquisite," said Michael Malin, the chief scientist of the instrument.
NASA celebrated the precision landing of a rover on Mars and marveled over the mission's flurry of photographs - grainy, black-and-white images of Martian gravel, a mountain at sunset and, most exciting of all, the spacecraft's white-knuckle plunge through the red planet's atmosphere.
Curiosity, a roving laboratory the size of a compact car, landed right on target late Sunday after an eight-month, 352-million-mile journey. It parked its six wheels about four miles from its ultimate science destination - Mount Sharp, rising from the floor of Gale Crater near the equator.
Extraordinary efforts were needed for the landing because the rover weighs one ton, and the thin Martian atmosphere offers little friction to slow down a spacecraft. Curiosity had to go from 13,000 mph to zero in seven minutes, unfurling a parachute, then firing rockets to brake. In a Hollywood-style finish, cables delicately lowered it to the ground at 2 mph.
At the end of what NASA called "seven minutes of terror," the vehicle settled into place almost perfectly flat in the crater it was aiming for.
"We have ended one phase of the mission much to our enjoyment," mission manager Mike Watkins said. "But another part has just begun."
The nuclear-powered Curiosity will dig into the Martian surface to analyze what's there and hunt for some of the molecular building blocks of life, including carbon.
It won't start moving for a couple of weeks, because all the systems on the $2.5 billion rover have to be checked out. Color photos and panoramas will start coming in the next few days.
But first NASA had to use tiny cameras designed to spot hazards in front of Curiosity's wheels. So early images of gravel and shadows abounded. The pictures were fuzzy, but scientists were delighted.
The photos show "a new Mars we have never seen before," Watkins said. "So every one of those pictures is the most beautiful picture I have ever seen."
In one of the photos from the close-to-the-ground hazard cameras, if you squinted and looked the right way, you could see "a silhouette of Mount Sharp in the setting sun," said an excited John Grotzinger, chief mission scientist from the California Institute of Technology.
A high-resolution camera on the orbiting 7-year-old Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, flying 211 miles directly above the plummeting Curiosity, snapped a photo of the rover dangling from its parachute about a minute from touchdown. The parachute's design can be made out in the photo.
"It's just mind-boggling to me," said Miguel San Martin, chief engineer for the landing team.
Curiosity is the heaviest piece of machinery NASA has landed on Mars, and the success gave the space agency confidence that it can unload equipment that astronauts may need in a future manned trip to the red planet.
The landing technique was hatched in 1999 in the wake of devastating back-to-back Mars spacecraft losses. Back then, engineers had no clue how to land super-heavy spacecraft. They brainstormed different possibilities, consulting Apollo-era engineers and pilots of heavy-lift helicopters.
"I think its engineering at its finest. What engineers do is they make the impossible possible," said former NASA chief technologist Bobby Braun. "This thing is elegant. People say it looks crazy. Each system was designed for a very specific function."
Because of budget constraints, NASA canceled its joint U.S.-European missions to Mars, scheduled for 2016 and 2018.
"When's the next lander on Mars? The answer to that is nobody knows," Bolden said in a recent interview with The Associated Press.
But if Curiosity finds something interesting, he said, it could spur the public and Congress to provide more money for more Martian exploration. No matter what, he said, Curiosity's mission will help NASA as it tries to send astronauts to Mars by the mid-2030s.
to view the video:http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/multimedia/videos/
Originally published Monday, August 6, 2012 at 5:16 PM India outraged over Sikh killings
Protests and prayer vigils were planned as grieving Sikhs across India called for strong U.S. gun-control laws after a gunman killed six Sikhs on Sunday in their temple.
By Mark Magnier
Los Angeles Times
NEW DELHI —
India reacted with grief and outrage Monday at the news that at least six Sikhs were killed when a gunman attacked them the day before in their Wisconsin temple as they prayed and prepared food.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, himself a Sikh, said in a statement that he was shocked and saddened by the news and extended his condolences to the families of the victims.
"India stands in solidarity with all the peace-loving Americans who have condemned this violence," he said, adding that he hoped "such violent acts are not repeated in the future."
The motive of Wade Michael Page, a U.S. Army veteran who opened fire on worshippers at a Sikh temple, in Oak Creek, Wis., and was shot and killed by police, was not clear.
At the Golden Temple in Amritsar near the Pakistan border, one of the Sikh religion's most sacred shrines, officials said they were planning a three-day prayer vigil in honor of the victims.
"We are still in shock after the incident," Avtar Singh, the president of the trust that runs the temple, told local media.
Sikh men all take the name Singh, meaning lion. Protesters Monday in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir blocked a highway and waved banners calling for stronger U.S. gun laws. And Sikh parties pledged to mount a peaceful demonstration in front of the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, as American Ambassador Nancy Powell visited New Delhi's largest Sikh gurdwara in a show of solidarity over what she described as a "ghastly act of violence."
Giani Gurbachan Singh, the head priest of Akal Takht, the highest Sikh temporal seat, called on Sikhs in the United States to adopt security measures at the U.S. temples, including installing closed-circuit cameras.
"This is a security lapse on the part of the U.S. government," he said, according to the Press Trust of India news agency. He called for prayers for the victims to be said at Sikh temples across India and ordered a Sikh delegation sent to the United States to investigate the attack.
The Indian government rushed its consul general from Chicago, N.J. Gangte, to Wisconsin. India's foreign minister, S.M. Krishna, said the government was awaiting the results of the U.S. investigation, and he criticized the gun culture in the United States.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, traveling in Africa, spoke by phone Monday with her counterpart, Krishna, said State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell. He did not immediately have details of the conversation.
Ambassador Powell paid her respects at a Sikh temple in New Delhi and assured the worshippers there that her government stood with them. Powell expressed condolences and support for thorough investigation into "this horrific crime," Ventrell said in Washington.
In the northern city of Jammu, dozens of Sikhs gathered to protest the shooting, shouting slogans and carrying placards that read, "Ban open sale of weapons in U.S.A." and "Shame Shame Shame."
"It is very shocking. A country like the U.S.A., which says it is a superpower, could not protect its own people," said T.S. Ahluwalia, a marketing executive, as he walked into a Sikh temple in New Delhi.
India itself has a growing problem with gun violence, and ranks second worldwide in absolute numbers of civilian guns at 40 million, according to gunpolicy.org, a website hosted by the School of Public Health at the University of Sydney in Australia.
However, guns and ammunition are strictly regulated in India, and their numbers and use pale beside America's estimated 270 million firearms. India has fewer than four guns for every 100 people, compared with about 89 guns per 100 Americans, the world leaders.
"The gun culture in America is a bit disturbing," said Rohan Sabharwal, 23, a Sikh dressed in an orange turban who was shopping in a Delhi market. "It's a sad, regrettable thing to have this happen."
Sikhs for Justice, which describes itself as a U.S.-based human-rights advocacy group, said in a statement that it was donating $10,000 to the badly wounded Wisconsin police officer who risked his life in the attack and likely saved many other Sikhs. The officer was taken to a Milwaukee hospital and is expected to survive.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, Sikhs, who wear long beards and turbans to cover their uncut hair, and other South Asians have been the victims of mistaken identity, starting just four days after the World Trade Center attack when a Sikh gas-station owner in Mesa, Ariz., was taken for an Arab Muslim and killed.
Since then, according to the Sikh Coalition, a New York-based activist group, there have been some 700 cases of random violence, killings, vandalism, bullying, beatings and intimidation against the Sikh community in the United States.
Arvinder Kaur, an English professor at Post-Graduate Government College for Girls in Chandigarh, said her American Sikh relatives don't wear turbans so they are better able to blend in.
"But I'm concerned for them," she said, although she's not going to cancel a planned trip to the United States. "We can't be scared. We can't let these people get away with this kind of discrimination."
The Sikh's headgear also has created misunderstandings with U.S. airport security. In late 2010, a senior Indian diplomat was told he had to remove his turban, a request that Sikhs consider offensive. After a 30-minute standoff, the diplomat's identity was verified, and he was allowed to proceed without a body search, but the incident made headlines in India.
Founded in 1469 by Guru Nanak, who preached monotheism and equality, in reaction to the Hindu caste system, the religion grew more militant after fights with India's Muslim Mogul rulers. The 10th and final founding leader, Guru Gobind Singh, commanded Sikhs to carry a kirpan, or curved ceremonial dagger.
Sikhs at one point controlled a powerful kingdom in what is today western India and parts of Pakistan. The British captured it in a bloody war in 1849. Around that time, the British army formed a Sikh regiment that still exists in the Indian military. Although Sikhs comprise about 2 percent of India's population, they make up a far higher percentage of the military.
Sikhs complained of discrimination after the nation achieved independence in 1947, and extremist factions grew in power. In 1984, Sikh extremists demanding the formation of a new nation of Khalistan holed up in the Golden Temple before being forced out by Indian forces with tanks; about 1,200 people died, mostly Sikhs.
Several months later, two Sikh security guards for Prime Minister Indira Gandhi shot and killed her in retaliation, prompting bloody anti-Sikh riots across Delhi and other cities. The Sikh uprising was crushed in much-criticized police actions across Punjab in the 1990s.
In addition to Prime Minister Singh, Sikhs hold some of India's most important positions: Army Chief Gen. Bikram Singh; and Montek Singh Ahluwalia, head of the financially powerful planning commission, are all Sikh.
They are a majority in the agriculturally crucial province of Punjab, known as the breadbasket of India, which now is ruled by the Sikh-dominated Akali Dal party. Their temples, or gurdwaras, often run free kitchens giving food to all comers. They are sometimes found on street corners during hot, summer months handing out cool drinks of ice, milk and rosewater to passing drivers.
Includes material from The Associated Press
**************Sikh temple president died trying to ward off gunman
By Agence France-Presse
Monday, August 6, 2012 16:59 EDT
OAK CREEK, Wisconsin — When a gunman burst into the Sikh temple he’d devoted his life to building in this small Wisconsin town, Sadwant Singh Kaleka grabbed the only weapon at hand, a blunt ceremonial knife.
The confrontation didn’t last long. The gunman — identified by police as 40-year-old army psy-ops veteran Wade Michael Page — mercilessly cut down the 65-year-old temple president with shots from a 9mm handgun.
But Kaleka slowed the attacker just long enough for the women preparing the afternoon’s meal to hide in a pantry and for the children attending Sunday school downstairs to escape the gunman’s deadly gaze.
“He was a hero through and through,” Kaleka’s son Amardeep said Monday.
“There couldn’t have been a better place for him to lay to rest.”
Amardeep Kaleka was driving to temple on Sunday morning when his phone rang with the horrible news.
Another man had grabbed his bleeding father and dragged him into a nearby bathroom where they locked the door and prayed for help.
“He was telling me your father’s at my feet — we need to get an ambulance here,” Kaleka told reporters.
The gunman had already shot at least one person in the parking lot. He killed five more — including Sadwant Singh Kaleka — before heading back outside to ambush the police.
Lieutenant Brian Murphy, 51, was the first to arrive just three or four minutes after the first call came in for help.
He got out of his car and rushed over to check on a person he saw laying on the ground in a pool of blood.
But the gunman was lying in wait and shot Murphy eight or nine times “at very close range,” Oak Creek police chief John Edwards told reporters.
Other officers were close behind and shot Page after he refused to lay down his weapon — a handgun that was legally obtained — and opened fire upon them, striking two of the police cruisers.
It took a few moments for the officers to realize Murphy was hurt.
When they rushed to his aid, he tried waving them off “and told them to go into the temple to assist those in there,” Edwards said.
Murphy and two other shooting victims remained in critical condition Monday as officials worked to discover a motive.
The FBI has taken the lead because the shooting is considered a “possible domestic terrorism” incident. Page had ties to white supremacist groups.
Kaleka and his family came to the United States from India in 1982. He built a successful business, and devoted every extra dollar he earned into building the Oak Creek temple.
Parishioners described him as the kind of man who, if you called him at two in the morning to say a light had gone out at the temple, would be there at 2:15 am to change the bulb.
He was remembered as a easy going man who never lost his cool or held a grudge. A man who was always ready to help anyone and everyone. A handyman who loved life and could talk your ear off.
“As I saw the picture of the man who took away my father’s life — you look at his face and it’s full of hollow emptiness — a dark void,” Amandeep Kaleka said after police released the photo at a press conference.
“I feel a lot of sadness towards that individual… I’m not going to replace it with anger.”
He hopes that this shooting will be an opportunity for Americans to come together and have an honest conversation about race, religion and how to build more tolerance in a nation of immigrants.
Kaleka’s nephew echoed the sentiment.
“When these things happen we learn how hateful and ignorant people can be. What we want to promote is education and community,” said 29-year-old Kanwardeep Singh Kaleka.
“This is part of our faith — love and understanding no matter who you are.”
Kanwardeep Kaleka was so angry when he first heard of the shooting that he slammed his fist into the wall.
But he knew that anger just makes things worse and did not want to be a victim to the emotion which drove the shooter to such a horrific act.
So even though he doesn’t normally wear a turban, he tied a dark blue one around his head and stood shoulder to shoulder with dozens of other Sikhs as they sought answers at the police station.
“I only hope our community grows stronger. I hope we’re able to show our love and still keep our doors open to everyone,” Kanwardeep Kaleka said.
**************Missouri mosque destroyed in suspicious fire
By David Edwards
Monday, August 6, 2012 12:23 EDT
For the second time in about a month, a mosque in Joplin, Missouri caught fire on Monday, but this time it was burned to the ground.
KODE first reported that firefighters responded to a fire at the Islamic Center of Joplin, but the flames quickly spread and engulfed the building. There were no reports of injuries.
The fire marshal has been called to investigate, the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office said.
The FBI recently announced a $15,000 reward for information leading to the arrested of a man is who suspected of arson after a July 4 fire was set on the roof of the same building. Surveillance video captured footage of a man throwing a burning object onto the roof.
“We just take this as a test from God,” Imam Lahmuddin, the mosque’s imam, told The Joplin Globe on Monday. “This is the month of Ramadan. We are fasting we are not supposed to get angry, we are not supposed to say anything bad.”
“But that’s not only for this month, but for every day of our lives. In Ramadan we are more careful in guarding our tongues, not to say anything inappropriate. We come here during the month of Ramadan more often. Last night we left at about 11:20 p.m. when we finished final prayers and we were supposed to get in here about 5 a.m. for the morning prayer. But God has a plan.”
*****************Coloradoans likely to vote in November on Citizens United ruling
By Eric W. Dolan
Monday, August 6, 2012 16:43 EDT
Public Citizen, Common Cause and U.S. PIRG announced Monday that more than 100,000 signatures had been collected for a Colorado ballot measure calling for the controversial Citizens United ruling to be overturned.
“Our elected officials are supposed to serve the voters, not the highest bidder,” Aquene Freechild, the senior organizer of Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People Campaign, said in a statement. “Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which allows corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections, Super PACs and other independent groups have spent huge amounts, in some cases outspending individual campaigns by a ratio of 2-to-1.”
The 100,000 signatures in support of the ballot measure is well over the 86,105 valid signatures needed to qualify for the Colorado ballot this November. Supporters of the effort included Colorado Common Cause, Colorado Fair Share, CoPIRG (Colorado Public Interest Research Group), Free Speech for People, Colorado Progressive Coalition, CleanSlateNow.org, Colorado 350.org, People for the American Way, Public Citizen, Communications Workers of America, and the Colorado Center on Law and Policy.
The ballot measure, Initiative 82 (PDF), would urge Colorado’s congressional delegation to support an amendment to the U.S. constitution that allows Congress to limit outside campaign spending. The ballot measure says the amendment is necessary to “ensure that all citizens, regardless of wealth, can express their views to one another and their government on a level playing field.”
The Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United held that limits on independent political contributions by corporations and unions violated the First Amendment, because political donations were a form of political speech. The ruling paved the way for Super PACs, which can receive unlimited sums of money to influence elections. A constitutional amendment is the only way to override the ruling.
“Citizens United-enabled outside group spending, much of it secret, is devoted overwhelmingly to negative attack ads,” Freechild added. “The funds come from a very small cluster of people; a recent report found that just 47 people, each giving at least $1 million to Super PACs, accounted for more than 57 percent of the money raised by Super PACs during this current election cycle.”
Last week, Massachusetts became the seventh state to pass a symbolic resolution condemning the Citizens United ruling. Massachusetts joined California, Hawaii, New Mexico, Vermont, Rhode Island and Maryland in calling for a constitutional amendment. More than 280 cities, most recently Chicago, have approved similar resolutions.
***************HHS includes trans people in health care rule that bans sex discrimination
By Kay Steiger
Monday, August 6, 2012 15:22 EDT
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) clarified recently that the much-touted rule that says health insurance companies can not discriminate based on sex also extends to trans people.
“This anti-discrimination law, enacted as part of the Affordable Care Act, creates an important new tool to combat anti-LGBT and especially anti-transgender discrimination in health care,” said National Center for Transgender Equality (CTE) Executive Director Mara Keisling in a press release.
This clarification determines that section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which “extends federal nondiscrimination protections to the health care system for the first time,” according to an analysis by left-of-center policy and advocacy organization the Center for American Progress.
Any trans person who experiences gender discrimination at a hospital, clinic, doctor’s office or other medical center that accepts federal dollars through Medicare or Medicaid can file a complaint with HHS and “expect to have those complaints taken seriously,” according to the CTE press release.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) ruled this spring that gender identity was covered under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits sex discrimination, offering unprecedented protections for trans people under existing employment discrimination law.
When the EEOC issued its ruling in April, Masen Davis, head of the Transgender Law Center, told LGBT newspaper Metro Weekly, “Given the incredibly high rate of employment discrimination facing transgender people, this is incredibly significant for us. … This creates a whole new fabric of legal support for our community.”
And the new HHS ruling is another thread in that fabric of support, but should a less trans-friendly administration come into power, such a ruling on sex discrimination could be easily reversed.
CTE’s Keisling said, “A law explicitly banning health care discrimination based on gender identity is the next step. Our community needs medical providers to know what their obligations are and passing a law is the strongest and clearest way to do that.”
You can see the letters sent to HHS requesting a clarification here, and HHS’ response here.