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Enjoy your Stay: Thousands Await Putin’s visit to Amsterdam to Protest the President’s Position on Gay Rights

Enjoy your Stay: Thousands Await Putin’s visit to Amsterdam to Protest the President’s Position on Gay Rights

 

 
Over 3,000 people gathered in Amsterdam to protest Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit on Monday. The throng of gay rights activists and supporters flew rainbow flags at half-mast around the city that prides itself on expression and enjoying every kind of freedom. 
 
The cheerfully dressed crowd constantly chanted “Go home Putting!” during a festive protest outside the museum where Putin enjoyed dinner with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. 
 
Amsterdam in 2001 became the first nation to legalize gay marriage. 
Protesters were primarily targeting a bill before the Russian parliament that outlaws homosexual “propaganda” among minors, but also a broad rights clampdown in the nation of Russia, where Putin is serving his third term as president. 
 
Western governments and activists have expressed considerable anger over the measure, which imposes fines of up to 500,000 rubles (roughly $15,850) for any “public acts” that promote homosexuality or pedophilia. 
 
“The law does not impose violations on the rights of sexual minorities in our nation,” said a defiant Putin. “These people enjoy full liberties and rights like everyone else in Russia.”
 
Putin went onto say that gay couples could not produce children and that “Russia and Europe have demographic problems.”
 
“We need to reach a majority with this community; we need to work collectively and not insult each other.”
 
Dozens of police units were deployed in the highly secured area, including anti-riot forces. Dutch police reported that they had briefly detained one individual, a gay activist who wrote expletives against the Russian President on the window of his Amsterdam studio. 
 
Putin’s visit centered on trade negotiations with the Netherlands; many business leaders traveled with Putin discuss trade deals. 
 
Russia and The Netherlands have a detailed trade relationship as many Russian companies are registered in The Netherlands because of its favorable tax regime. 
 
Source: CNN

Federal Folly: Federal Reserve Gaffs and Releases Minutes Early

Federal Folly: Federal Reserve Gaffs and Releases Minutes Early

 

 
The Federal Reserve typically releases minutes from its 2pm meetings; however, it was forced to put the minutes out five hours early on Wednesday after learning that some people inadvertently received the minutes on Tuesday. 
 
The Federal Reserve accidently emailed the minutes from its March meeting to approximately 100 people a day early. While no major announcements were expected to come from the minutes, they are nevertheless viewed as a primary document that can move markets and influence politics. Wall Street analysts and players often delve deep into the minutes for clues about when the central bank may cut back on its bond-buying policy or hike-up interest rates.  
 
For this reason, the minutes are typically protected by the central bank and their release is supposed to be executed in a precise manner. A spokesman for the Fed told various news outlets that the mistake was entirely accidental and it can be chalked up to a human error. The 100 or so individuals on the list included mostly Congressional employees and employees of trade organizations. These individuals received the minutes shortly after 2 p.m. on Tuesday. 
 
After noticing the error this morning, the United States Federal Reserve decided to release the minutes to the public at 9 a.m. on Wednesday. It is currently not clear whether any trading took place based on the premature release, but the Reserve Board’s Inspector General will conduct an investigation regarding the error. 
The minutes contained very little information regarding expected Fed policy. The primary takeaway from the release is that most Fed members think the central bank should keep buying $85 billion in assets a month, at least until the midway point of this year. 
 
The Fed’s current policy includes purchasing $45 billion in treasuries and $40 billion in mortgage-backed securities each month; the primary intent is to lower long-term interesting rates. That said, the program, which is regarded as quantitative easing, is viewing by some as the primary reason why the S&P 500 and the Dow are at record highs. 
 
The central bank continues to keep short-term interest rates close to zero to further boost the economy. The Fed announced it plans to keep the interest rate near zero until the unemployment rate dips below 6.5 percent or inflation exceeds 2.5 percent a year. The bulk of Fed officials do not expect this to happen until at least 2015. 
 
Source: AP
 

Taking the Magnifying Glass to Obama’s Budget

Taking the Magnifying Glass to Obama’s Budget

 

 
President Obama’s $3.77 trillion budget proposal for 2014 calls for long-term changes to Social Security and Medicare in hopes of reducing the deficit by $1.8 trillion over the next decade.
 
The budget’s blueprint, which has already drawn criticism from both the right and left, offers changes to Social Security and Medicare. The budget also includes tax increases that would hit high-income corporations and homes. 
 
The Obama budget also calls for greater spending on infrastructure, nondefense research and early childhood education programs. These investments would be funded by other measures to avoid further adding to the deficit. 
 
“Debate in Washington has raged between reducing our deficits and making investments needed to grow our economy. My budget answers this argument; we can grow our economy, and reduce our deficits,” said the President. 
 
President Obama’s budget was released with a delay, coming after the House and Senate each passed separate and different 2014 budget frameworks. 
 
While the proposal is not expected to fly on Capitol Hill, Obama’s budget sets a powerful marker for continuing debt talks with lawmakers. 
 
President Obama’s budget calls for a $50 billion investment to repair bridges, highways, airports and transit systems. The budget would also create a National Infrastructure Bank to merge public and private capital for noteworthy projects.
 
Obama has already faced heavy criticism from the left for supporting a switch to a chained CPI measure, which is a new way to track inflation to ultimately reduce federal spending by slowing the growth in federal benefits which are adjusted each year for cost of living purposes. Obama’s budget; however, calls for ways to compensate low-income veterans and recipients of Supplemental Security Income. 
 
By 2020, the use of the chained CPI measure would yield an average tax increase of $311 among the 80 percent of homes that would see a tax increase. 
 
Among the President’s new tax measures, Obama plans to place a cap on the tax-advantaged portion of a person’s savings across tax-preferred retirement accounts, such as IRAs. 
 
The President’s debt reduction proposal comes from an offer he made to House Speaker John Boehner during last year’s fiscal cliff talks. The proposal, if accepted, would replace the automatic budget cuts, which took effect last month.  
 
 
Source: whitehouse.gov

Unbreakable: Cyber Attacks can’t Break the Internet

Unbreakable: Cyber Attacks can’t Break the Internet

 

 
A recent wave of tremendous cyber-attacks has proven it is possible to bend, but not shatter the Internet. 
 
It is easy for a virus to take down a website; attack methods known as “distributed denials of service” enable cybercriminals to direct considerable amounts of traffic to a website to overwhelm its servers and render the site unreachable. Government websites, banks and financial exchanges have been commonly targeted venues for distributed denial of service attacks. 
 
However last month, European spam-prevention service Spamhaus was rocked by the largest known cyber-attack in history causing Internet speeds to slow throughout large chunks of Europe. The attackers utilized nearly 100,000 servers to transmit 300 gigabits of traffic per second during the breach. The attack was more than three times larger than the Iranian-sponsored cyber-attacks of September 2012, which impeded access to some American banks’ websites for days. 
 
Yet many experts contend that the entire Internet cannot just be flipped on or off like a simple light switch. “The infrastructure of the Internet is highly robust and designed to guarantee reliable traffic at a high quality of service,” said Dr. Schneck, chief technology officer at Intel’s Internet security division. 
 
Despite the relative ease of taking down individual websites, it would be particularly difficult to sustain a widespread level of attack for a lengthy period of time, let alone a continuous flow of traffic that would exceed the limits of Internet service providers. 
The Internet is also too widely distributed to fall victim to a widespread attack. There have numerous occasions when regional access to the Internet was disrupted, either by attacks on vital services, accidental cable cutting, or a government-run utility limiting or shutting off access. Yet the Internet continued to work for billions of people outside of those regions. 
 
In the United States, a number of redundancies are built into the Internet; if one or two avenues are disrupted from your local network to the Internet, you likely won’t even notice a hitch. 
 
Another reason why the Internet is impossible to take down: cyber attackers depend on the Internet to operate. “The Internet is what the attackers need to deliver their attack,” said Gavin Reed, the director of engineering and products for Cisco. “I suppose it is possible for an attack to be large enough to destroy large chunks of the Internet, but we have not seen that happen.” 
 
Only government bodies have the ability to grind the entire Internet to a halt for a sustained period of time. So even as cyber-attacks increase in frequency and size, cyber criminals will never be able to take down the entire Internet. 
 
Source: whitehouse.gov
 

Ongoing Battle for Justice and Equality in New York State

Ongoing Battle for Justice and Equality in New York State

 

 
As the battle for the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act heats up in the state of New York, two prominent members of the Trans Rights Coalition have launched powerful media campaigns to educate New York residents about discrimination on the basis of expression and gender identity. 
 
The New York State Pride Agenda movement—often known as the Empire State Pride Agenda Campaign—has been broadcasting a radio spot in a number of media markets throughout the state. These advertisements serve as a reminder to listeners that New York employees should be judged on their accomplishments and merits, and not on the basis of their expression or gender identity. The Human Rights Campaign issued a simply statement to back the initiative of the Empire State Pride Agenda campaign, by saying “nobody deserves to be fired from their job or not hired for an employment opportunity because of who they are.”
 
Housing works has issued several postcards that illustrate the struggles that transgender New Yorkers face on a day to day basis. Housing works also explains on its webpage why the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act is such a critical piece of legislation to an initiative whose mission is related to the homelessness and HIV populations. 
 
Both campaigns draw attention to the prominence of New York State passing the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act this legislative session. This piece of legislation would prohibit discrimination against transgender people in employment, education, housing, credit and public accommodations. The state of New York protects lesbian, gay, bisexual, and heterosexual people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. 
 
The Human Rights Campaign claims that it is time for the state of New York to close the gap and guarantee that transgender individuals are afforded the same vital anti-discrimination protections that are provided to the rest of the population. Currently sixteen states, Washington D.C., and 166 cities and towns in the United States institute similar laws, including Buffalo, Albany, New York City, Suffolk County, Rochester, and Tompkins County in the state of New York.  
 
 
Source: Human Rights Campaign

Jersey City Establishes Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Task Force as it Sets Sights on Perfect MEI Score

Jersey City Establishes Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Task Force as it Sets Sights on Perfect MEI Score

 

 
Throughout the United States, some of the most fundamental and vital work being accomplished on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender inclusion is occurring in cities and local communities. Efforts to boost the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community are being undertaken at the local level to provide greater efficacy to the cause. This localized feeling makes sense because there is no level of government with a more personal relationship with its citizen base. Cities and local communities have the power to make substantial and real change in their communities and, as the 2012 Municipal Equality Index revealed, towns and cities are bringing equality to a locality near you. 
 
Here is a prime example of this shift to localization: while Mayor Healy has been a longtime friend to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community throughout his term as Mayor of Jersey City, he instituted a mayoral LGBT task force. As a result of his efforts, Jersey City earned an 83 on the 2012 MEI, and while that score was in the top 20 percent of scores throughout the nation, Mayor Healy demanded more. The mayor of Jersey City currently has his sights set on a perfect score in 2013, and he is appointed a full-fledged task force to help him accomplish this task. 
 
The Human Rights Campaign provided many thanks to municipal leaders like Mayor Health and their cities for implementing more inclusive policies to expand the reach of crucial city services. Most importantly, the Human Rights Campaign 
 
 
Source: Human Rights Campaign

U.S. Government Releases Form for Obamacare Coverage

U.S. Government Releases Form for Obamacare Coverage

 

 
Starting in October of this year, Americans without access to affordable health coverage through their jobs will be able to purchase insurance through various state-run exchanges. 
 
Today, the government announced the unveiling of the forms prospective buyers will fill out to apply for health insurance from private insurers under the Obama healthcare law. The United States Federal Government will not start accepting and processing applications for Obamacare until later this year. 
 
The form of applicants is three pages, which is a marked improvement from the 20-plus page draft version that circulated earlier this year. 
 
The revised application for benefits, which was unveiled by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, requires potential applicants to file personal information, citizenship status, employment status, income details, current health coverage, Social Security number, and other information that is subsequently verified by other federal bodies. Those applying for family coverage under the program will be asked to fill out an 11-page application that asks for additional information. Those individual who do not require financial assistance may file the three-page form that does not require applicants to disclose their income. 
 
This application will be used in the 33 states with federally managed exchanges. The application will also be made available in the other 17 states that chose to establish their own healthcare packages. 
 
The state-based insurance exchanges are a flagship of the Affordable Care Act, which is the formal name given to Obamacare. The United States Congressional Budget Office forecasts that 7 million people will receive health benefits through the exchanges in 2014; this number is expected to increase to 24 million by 2016. 
 
The U.S. Federal Government; however, has a long way to go to convince individuals to sign up for benefits under Obamacare. Roughly 42 percent of Americans do not even realize the law is in effect, including many who thought that the U.S. Congress or the Supreme Court had struck it down. In addition to these individuals, merely half do not understand how the new law will affect them or their families. 
 
 
Source:whitehouse.gov

First Lady Michelle Obama Hires New Commitments for Veterans and Military Spouses

First Lady Michelle Obama Hires New Commitments for Veterans and Military Spouses

 

 
In 2011, President Obama announced a challenge to the private sector to train or hire 100,000 unemployed veterans or their spouses by the end of 2013. 
 
Today, President Barack Obama, along with First Lady Michelle Obama, and Vice President Joe Biden participated in a Joining Forces Employment initiative at the White House. 
 
President Barack Obama established a goal when asking the private to train or hire 100,000 veterans and military spouses by the latter stages of 2013. Today, the First Lady announced that domestic businesses nearly tripled this goal and did so 8 months in advance of the target date. The private sector has already trained or hired over 290,000 veterans and military spouses. 
 
In addition to this fantastic news, the First Lady also announced that domestic companies have committed to train or hire an additional 435,000 veterans and military spouses over the next five years. 
 
Some of the American companies that stood out with regards to training or hiring military veterans include:
 
The BNSF Railroad committed to hire 5,000 veterans and spouses over the next five years
 
UPS committed to hire over 25,000 veterans and military spouses over the next five years
 
McDonald’s committed to hire 100,000 veterans and military spouses over the next five years
 
Home Depot promised to hire 55,000 veterans and military spouses through 2018
 
Deloitte has promised to double its veteran hiring over the next three years
 
AT&T promised to create an online military talent exchange to facilitate military hiring
 
The BlackStone Group urged each of its 50,000 managers to hire at least one veteran in its affiliated businesses 
 
In addition to these announcements, the First Lady also shared stories from veterans who have successfully transitioned into second careers. With the Iraq war finished and the war in Afghanistan nearing its end, more than one million service members are expected to transition back to civilian life within the next couple of years. Respectable civilian jobs will not only help our military families manage their transition to normalcy, but will also demonstrate that our nation truly appreciates their service. 
 
 
Source: whitehouse.gov

Civil Unions to take Full Effect in the State of Colorado

Civil Unions to take Full Effect in the State of Colorado

 

 
Starting today, committed same-sex couples in every community and corner of the Centennial State will gain access to the fundamental protections they require to take care of themselves and the ones they love. 
 
Colorado’s Civil Union Law passed in March with bipartisan support in both houses of the state’s General Assembly; the bill was then signed into law by Governor Hickenlooper. Advocates at several Colorado gay rights organizations and initiatives worked tirelessly to ensure that the bill would secure approval and subsequently be passed in a timely fashion. 
 
One Colorado, which was the leading advocacy group in ensuring the success of this bill, put together a streamlined application form, equipped with Frequently Asked Questions, and an assortment of other tips for couples seeking civil unions. 
Colorado, through the passing of this law, becomes the eighteenth state—in addition to Washington, DC—to offer comprehensive state-level benefits, rights, and obligations to same-sex couples.
 
Currently, nine states in the U.S. (Connecticut, Maine, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, New Hampshire, Washington, and Vermont), along with Washington DC issue marriage licenses to homosexual couples. Moreover, as of May 1st, nine states (Colorado, California, Hawaii, Delaware, Nevada, Illinois, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Oregon) will provide the equivalent of state-level spousal rights to homosexual couples within state borders. 
 
For more information on trends, upcoming votes, and state sentiment regarding the passing of laws that extend rights to homosexual citizens, please visit the Human Rights Campaign website at www.hrc.org. 
 
 
Source: Human Rights Campaign

Boy Scouts of America Offer New Resolution Regarding Acceptance of Gay Members

Boy Scouts of America Offer New Resolution Regarding Acceptance of Gay Members

 

 
Last week, the Boy Scouts of America Executive Committee offered a policy that would establish a nondiscrimination policy to eliminate its longstanding discriminatory ban on gay Scouts, while maintaining several discriminatory practices in place for lesbian and gay parents, employment opportunities, and Scout leaders. 
 
The resolution offered by the Boy Scouts of America proposes a policy where, “no youth shall be denied entry into the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of their sexual orientation.” This policy is national in scope as opposed to the organization’s previous approach that placed the membership decisions on the shoulders of local sponsoring organizations. The new proposed resolution will face a vote by approximately 1,4000 leaders of the organization during their National Council Meeting, which is set to take place on May 22nd through the 24th. 
 
“It is welcomed news that the leadership of the Boy Scouts of America is open to terminating the ban on gay scouts; however, this resolution must contain more protections for the gay community,” said Chad Griffin, the President of the Human Rights Campaign. “Adults and Parents of good moral character, regardless of sexual orientation, must be allowed to volunteer their time to mentor the upcoming generation of Americans. What message does this proposal send to the homosexual scout who, as an adult, wishes to continue a lifetime of scouting by becoming a leader in the organization?” 
 
Unanswered in the proposal is the issue of employment discrimination; currently the job application for a leadership position with the organization explicitly says homosexual cannot apply. The application, which is uniform throughout the nation, reads: “The Boy Scouts of America will not employ agnostics, atheists, avowed or known homosexuals.”
 
In anticipation of a universal resolution, the Human Rights Campaign issued a petition asking its supporters to call on their local Boys Scouts of America councils to vote in favor of a policy which prohibits discrimination against homosexual scouts, parents, and leaders of the organization. The petition aims to generate messages to local council representatives, so they hear how the ban on homosexuals harms members of their own community. 
 
 
Source: Human Rights Campaign