Mojo - February 2012

17 European Countries Force Transgender Sterilization (Map)

| Thu Feb. 16, 2012 6:00 AM EST

People rightly flipped out across the internet last month over news that the Swedish parliament would not be repealing a barbaric law that forces sterilization on trans people seeking to change their gender on legal documents. While it's despicable that Swedish politicians are opposing the law change, much of the outrage, no doubt, occurred because people previously didn't realize that a forced sterilization law existed in Sweden. 

Considering how shocking people find Sweden’s law, it's worth pointing out the country is 1 of 17 in Europe (shown in red below) that require trans people to have a surgical procedure that results in sterilization before legal gender change is made to their identification ID. The law is currently under review in Denmark, the Netherlands, and Portugal, and in Ireland a name change (which acknowledged gender change) was granted for one woman after a legal challenge that went to the high courts, but no laws exist on the matter.

 

Data source: European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights

 

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Quiz: Baby Got PAC

| Thu Feb. 16, 2012 6:00 AM EST

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for February 16, 2012

Thu Feb. 16, 2012 5:57 AM EST

US Army Cpl. Kevin Dehaven, Sniper Team Leader, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, provides security, at Observation Post Mangol, February 8, 2012, in the Nari district, Kunar province, Afghanistan. Photo by the US Army.

Is a Top US Cop Helping "Reform" Bahrain's Police?

| Wed Feb. 15, 2012 6:10 PM EST
Tear gas used during the Bahrain protests in Feb. 2011.

A veteran US law enforcement official recently began advising the Bahraini police, who on Tuesday engaged in another harsh crackdown as protesters took to the streets. John Timoney, fomerly Miami's police chief, agreed in December to join Bahrain's effort to reform its police; a brutal government response to protests there last year included fatalities. The tiny Gulf Kingdom also recruited a former top police official from Britain to help with the process. Timoney has since claimed that Bahrain is changing its police tactics for the better. Tuesday's events cast doubt on that, with protesters once again facing tear gas, stun guns, and armored vehicles aimed at stifling the demonstrations.

The police attempted to prevent protesters from even entering Manama's Pearl Roundabout, the site of mass protests and brutal police response last year. One protester described the use of tear gas to Reuters: "They fired straight at us, they weren't even shooting in the air." Andrew Hammond, a reporter at Reuters and one of the only journalists who covered yesterday's protests, wrote on Twitter that police "chased everyone down road, firing straight at ppl fleeing." Some protesters reportedly threw Molotov cocktails and rocks at police, who arrested at least 25 protesters in Manama. More than 100 protesters were injured. In Shia villages, Bahraini police reportedly even entered homes in hopes of finding protesters. Opposition activist Mohamed al-Maskati described the scene to Bloomberg: "They are storming houses suspected of harboring demonstrators, using tear gas, closing roads and arresting people."

Your Daily Newt: A Modern-Day Moses

| Wed Feb. 15, 2012 5:21 PM EST

As a service to our readers, every day we are delivering a classic moment from the political life of Newt Gingrich—until he either clinches the nomination or bows out.

Newt Gingrich has a habit of comparing himself to famous historical leaders, a tic Mitt Romney's campaign seized on in January in a press release entitled "I think grandiose thoughts" (an actual quote from Gingrich). At various points, he's compared himself to Ronald Reagan, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison, William Wallace, Pericles, "a viking"—and, as Matt Bai reported, Moses:

The night after lodging their protest against the bill on the House floor, Republican congressmen arrived at a retreat in Virginia feeling jubilant for the first time since before the presidential campaign. Waiting for them there was the evening’s keynote speaker — Gingrich, of course. Having seen his engage-and-divide strategy founder almost immediately when it came to the stimulus, Gingrich seemed to have changed his mind about Obama and resorted to his more instinctual, more confrontational cast. No longer did he talk of Obama as the kind of centrist guy you could get your arms around. In the coming days, in fact, he would deride the president's "left-wing policies" while at the same time accuse him of "Nixonian" abuses of power.

On this night, Gingrich congratulated his troops on standing united and inspired them with stories about Charles de Gaulle’s heroism and George Washington at Valley Forge, as well as the football legends Joe Paterno and Vince Lombardi. Now was the time for Republicans to rediscover their principles, Gingrich told the congressmen. At one point, he likened himself, lightheartedly, to Moses. He'd help them cross the Red Sea once again, Gingrich vowed, but only if they promised, this time, to stay on the other side.

This one actually makes a good deal of sense, albeit not in the way Gingrich wants us to think. Moses led his followers through the desert until they were within sight of the Land of Milk and Honey—but because of his own personal failings, never made it to the promised land.

Minnesota School District Ends "No Promo Homo" Policy

| Wed Feb. 15, 2012 3:58 PM EST
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) raised money for the Minnesota Family Council, a supporter of Anoka-Hennepin's "no promo homo" policy.

Back in July, my colleague Stephanie Mencimer reported on a disturbing trend in Minnesota's Anoka-Hennepin school district—a cluster of teen suicide attempts, including nine deaths, that had led state officials to declare it a "suicide contagion area." Parents and activists directed their ire, at least in part, at the district's anti-LGBT gag rule, dubbed "no promo homo," which prohibited faculty from casting homosexuality in a positive light. The policy was boosted by the Minnesota Family Council, a close ally of Rep. Michele Bachmann, who addressed a fundraiser for the group last spring. (The MFC has stated that gay teens who take their own lives bring it upon themselves.)

On Monday, the "no promo homo" policy was officially retired by the school board—an investigation from Rolling Stone may have been the last straw—and replaced it with a policy requiring staff to "affirm the dignity and self-worth of all students." But as the American Independent's Andy Birkey reports, the anti-gay activists behind "no promo homo" didn't go down quietly:

Lori Thompson, a frequent testifier at the board meetings and a member of the Parents Action League, complained of a "relentless campaign by homosexual activists" over the last 18 months. She said that the idea that the policy aided and abetted anti-LGBT bullying was false.

"Only the gullible and oblivious believe that line," Thompson said.

She said repealing the policy would lead to "indoctrinating the porous young minds with the homosexual propaganda" and that "homosexual activists" had created a controversy where none exists.

"I blame these same adults for creating an unsafe environment for students who believe in traditional values," she said, adding that that environment was perpetuated by "liberal sassy teachers who don’t know how to behave."

As Birkey notes, activists in Anoka-Hennepin had also unsuccessfully pushed gay students to pursue conversion therapy to make them heterosexual.

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Watch: The Occupy and Tea Party Beer Summit

| Wed Feb. 15, 2012 6:00 AM EST

How do you get tea partiers and occupiers at the same table? Buy lots of beer. It certainly worked at last week's Conservative Political Action Conference, the nation's preeminent gathering of folks who love tri-cornered hats, fear Beelzebub, and hate Big Government—especially when it messes with their Medicare. A few occupy protesters and CPAC-goers took a break from yelling at each other one night to trade rounds at a nearby bar. Here's a condensed version of journalist Eddie Becker's account of what happened next

H/T Salon

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for February 15, 2012

Wed Feb. 15, 2012 5:57 AM EST

Rangers from 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, as part of a combined Afghan and coalition security force operating in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan, await a CH-47 for extraction. Department of Defense photo by US Army Pfc. Pedro Amador.

5 Things You Might Have Missed in Obama's Proposed 2013 Budget

| Tue Feb. 14, 2012 6:41 PM EST
The federal chopping block, 2013

Just in time for Valentine's Day, the White House gifted to Congress the president's proposed budget for the 2013 fiscal year. President Obama has been pretty clear that the budget is also meant to draw a stark contrast between him and the Republican opposition. Conservative pundits and politicos have been equally clear that they intend to use the proposed budget as more proof that Obama is a die-hard economy wrecker.

There are plenty of hot-button items sure to provide much grist for the attack-ad-mill as November approaches: Taxing the rich, trimming military spending, cutting spending on some federal health programs, and so forth.

Here are a few things you might have missed about the 2013 budget released on Monday:

1. Arab Spring nations get modest earmarks: The Obama administration wants to allot $800 million in economic aid to certain countries affected by Arab Spring uprisings. State Department officials told Reuters that the bulk of the sum would go to "initiatives [supporting] long-term economic, political, and trade reforms for countries in transition such as Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen." 

Of that amount, $770 million would be set aside for creating the "Middle East and North Africa Incentive Fund," which would provide aid to governments "prepared to make reforms proactively," the budget document notes.

Republican lawmakers like Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the leading GOPer on the Senate budget committee, is skeptical for all the expected reasons:

First, I'm not sure who'll we'll be negotiating with, and who you could give the money to. And there seems to be some awfully extreme views within the Arab Spring movement. I think we have to be very careful that any money we provide would be well spent.

Virginia Is for Zygote Personhood?

| Tue Feb. 14, 2012 5:47 PM EST
Virginia lawmakers want to grant fertilized eggs the same rights as adults.

We've covered the litany of so-called "personhood" measures—conferring legal rights on fertilzed eggs—that have popped up around the country since Mississippi voters defeated just that sort of effort last November. Now Virginia could become the first state in the country to actually pass personhood legislation.

On Tuesday, the Virginia House of Delegates passed a bill introduced by Delegate Bob Marshall (R-Prince William) by a 66-32 vote. The bill, like other "personhood" measures, would amend the definition of the word "person" under state law to include zygotes, thereby granting them legal rights. The summary reads:

Provides that unborn children at every stage of development enjoy all the rights, privileges, and immunities available to other persons, citizens, and residents of the Commonwealth, subject only to the laws and constitutions of Virginia and the United States, precedents of the United States Supreme Court, and provisions to the contrary in the statutes of the Commonwealth.

It will be interesting to see what happens from here. The bill now must be cleared by the state senate to move forward. But earlier this month, a panel in the state senate rejected a bill that would have limited abortions to the first 20 weeks after conception. This latest bill would be far more restrictive, potentially prohibiting all abortions and likely some common types of oral contraception. Virginia's House of Delegates also recently passed a new law forcing women to undergo an ultrasound before having an abortion.

Passage of this latest bill in the House of Delegates makes Virginia "dangerously close to making Virginia the first state in the country to grant personhood rights to fertilized eggs," says Tarina Keene, the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia. She noted that the state code mentions the word "person" 25,000 times, which would give this redefinition a broad reach into many aspects of the law. The measure now faces a vote.