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Profile Information

Gender: Male
Hometown: South Texas. most of my life I lived in Austin and Dallas
Home country: United States
Current location: Bryan, Texas
Member since: Sun Aug 14, 2011, 03:57 AM
Number of posts: 77,696

About Me

Middle-aged white guy who believes in justice and equality for all. Math and computer analyst with additional 21st century jack-of-all-trades skills. I'm a stud, not a dud!

Journal Archives

Gay widower's lawsuit challenges Social Security benefit rules for same-sex couples

A lawsuit filed in Tucson asserts that same-sex couples shouldn't be held to Social Security's nine-month marriage requirement for receiving spousal survivor benefits if they were legally prevented from marrying during that period.

Gay-rights group Lambda Legal filed the lawsuit Tuesday against the Social Security Administration on behalf of 65-year-old Michael Ely, a gay Tucson resident who is seeking spousal survivor’s benefits based on his 43-year relationship with the man he eventually married.

James "Spider" Taylor died six months after the couple married — and three months shy of satisfying the Social Security requirement. The couple married three weeks after Arizona's ban on same-sex marriage was struck down by a federal court in October 2014.

Ely's lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for Arizona argues that a nine-month marriage requirement for survivor’s benefits is unconstitutional in states where same-sex couples were not able to marry because of discriminatory laws.

Read more: https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/arizona/2018/11/21/gay-widower-sues-change-social-security-survivor-benefit-rules-same-sex-couples-tucson-michael-ely/2069663002/

Lack of insulin could affect 40 million people with diabetes by 2030, study finds

Insulin use is expected to rise 20 percent by 2030, and many people who need it for type 2 diabetes won't have access, a study from Stanford University suggests.

Globally, 511 million adults are expected to have type 2 diabetes in 12 years, up from 406 million this year, the study found. Over half of those people come from China, India and the U.S.

The study found 79 million people worldwide will require insulin to treat the disease, but only 38 million will have access.

"These estimates suggest that current levels of insulin access are highly inadequate compared to projected need, particularly in Africa and Asia, and more efforts should be devoted to overcoming this looming health challenge," said Sanjay Basu, lead author on the study and an assistant professor of medicine at Stanford, in a statement.

Read more: https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/world/2018/11/23/type-2-diabetes-patients-no-insulin-access-2030-study/2078076002/

Phoenix Activist: I Faced Intimidation at Job From Councilman Michael Nowakowski

A Phoenix activist leading a recall campaign against City Councilman Michael Nowakowski claims that Nowakowski leaned on his employer to get him in trouble.

Sean Sweat is president of the Urban Phoenix Project and the chairman of an affiliated political action committee. He is an outspoken activist for policies he says will make Phoenix a more livable, walkable city. He also works as a supply-chain planner with Intel Corporation in Chandler.

According to Sweat, two worlds that he tries to keep separate collided last month when Nowakowski raised his activism in a conversation with his bosses.

Sweat believes that Nowakowski is using the "dirty tactic" of putting pressure on his employer as a way of intimidating him. Intel acknowledged speaking to Nowakowski's office recently but wouldn't divulge what was said. The councilman has not responded to requests for comment.

Read more: https://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/news/phoenix-activist-job-intimidation-from-councilman-michael-nowakowski-11042573

"Senior Grad Trips" Hit With $451,000 Judgment

A $451,000 judgment has been obtained against a Texas-based travel company, EB Worldwide, LLC, and its CEO, George Barragan. The Arizona Attorney General’s Office filed a consumer fraud lawsuit back in July after receiving complaints EB Worldwide, operating under the name “Senior Grad Trips,” had accepted thousands of dollars in payments from Arizona consumers for a group vacation that was canceled without notice or refund.

In its lawsuit, the Attorney General’s Office alleged EB Worldwide and Barragan collected $40,000 from Cienega High School students and chaperones for a Disneyland senior class trip. Barragan and EB Worldwide never provided transportation to Disneyland as promised and then refused to refund consumers who paid in advance. Parents of students were not notified of the cancellation until after the scheduled departure date, and dozens of students were left stranded in the Cienega High School parking lot well into the night, waiting for a tour bus that never arrived.

On Wednesday, the Arizona Attorney General’s Office obtained a default judgment against EB Worldwide and George Barragan after they refused to respond to the State’s lawsuit. The judgment awards $40,000 in restitution to consumers who paid for the Cienega High School trip, a combined total of $400,000 in civil penalties against EB Worldwide and Barragan, and approximately $11,000 in attorney fees to the Arizona Attorney General’s Office. The judgment also bans EB Worldwide and Barragan from selling, advertising, or otherwise marketing any vacation packages or group vacations in Arizona. The Attorney General’s Office will seek to collect on the judgment.

(no more at link)

Arizona Supreme Court To Hear Religious, Artistic Freedom Case

On Tuesday, the Arizona Supreme Court agreed to consider Brush & Nib Studio v. City of Phoenix, an artistic and religious freedom case. The case involves two artists who risk jail time and fines if they violate a sweeping Phoenix criminal law that forces them to design and create custom artwork expressing messages that violate their core beliefs.

The Arizona Court of Appeals decided to allow the city to override Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski’s artistic and religious decisions about what messages to convey through their hand-painted and hand-lettered artwork in June.

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing Duka and Koski, owners of Brush & Nib Studio, then asked the high court to take the case because Phoenix’s position and the lower court’s decision violate fundamental principles of freedom of speech and religion. State legislators and other third parties also filed their own briefs with the court to encourage it to take the case.

“No one should be forced to create artwork contrary to their core convictions, and certainly not under threat of criminal fines and jail time. That is what’s at stake in this case, and we hope that the Arizona Supreme Court’s decision will protect artistic and religious freedom for everyone,” said Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) Senior Counsel Jonathan Scruggs, who argued the case before the Arizona Court of Appeals. “The government must allow artists to make their own decisions about which messages they will promote. Joanna and Breanna are happy to design custom art for anyone; they simply object to being forced to pour their heart, soul, imagination, and talent into creating messages that violate their conscience.”

Read more: https://arizonadailyindependent.com/2018/11/20/arizona-supreme-court-to-hear-religious-artistic-freedom-case/

High voter turnout makes direct democracy more difficult

That record number of Arizonans who turned out to vote this year has a dark side for direct democracy: It’s going to be harder for voters to propose their own laws or get rid of ones they don’t like.

And that poses a threat to possible petition drives to ban “dark money,” increase education funding and find more transportation dollars – and any voter-led effort to block an anticipated new bid by lawmakers to expand vouchers.

The problem is that state law bases the number of signatures required for referenda and initiatives is linked not to the number of people who live in Arizona, or even to the number of people who have registered to vote. Instead the threshold is determined by how many people voted in the most recent gubernatorial race.

Four years ago, when Doug Ducey won against Democrat Fred DuVal and a host of minor party candidates, the total votes in that race were 1,506,416.

Read more: https://azcapitoltimes.com/news/2018/11/17/high-voter-turnout-makes-direct-democracy-more-difficult/

Family of Texas Cowboys pledge requests investigation following deadly crash; allege hazing

The family of Nicholas Cumberland has asked for an investigation into alleged hazing at this year’s Texas Cowboys initiation retreat, according to a statement provided to The Daily Texan. This follows the death of their son from injuries sustained as a passenger in a car crash returning from the retreat in the early morning hours of Sept. 30.

The crash, which occurred at 5:43 a.m. an hour and a half northwest of Austin, was a result of the driver falling asleep, according to the crash report. The driver, who is a new member of Texas Cowboys, did not respond to requests for comment.

“Why was our son and a group of new Cowboy pledges permitted to depart on a two and a half hour drive from a ranch back to Austin around 4 a.m. in the morning with zero sleep after a full day of initiation activities?” the statement said.

Nicholas “Nicky” Cumberland spent four weeks on life support following the crash and his funeral was held on Nov. 3. Clio Harralson, Nicky’s girlfriend, said Nicky left for the retreat around 4 p.m. the day before the crash and told her he would return the next morning.

Read more: http://dailytexanonline.com/2018/11/18/family-of-texas-cowboys-pledge-requests-investigation-following-deadly-crash

Incoming SOS Katie Hobbs to 'take the politics out of the office'

Secretary of State-elect Katie Hobbs will push to take the politics out of Arizona’s elections office.

Vowing not to endorse candidates, ballot measures or limit herself to Democratic speaking engagements, the newly elected Democrat insisted the state’s elections office must be Arizona’s most nonpartisan office.

“This is not a win for me,” she said. “It’s not a win for Democrats. This is a win for all of Arizona. It’s about restoring integrity and transparency to government, creating a government that works for all of us.”

Hobbs outlined her priorities as Secretary of State at a press conference in the state’s Executive Tower, where she will have an office once she is sworn in early next year.

Read more: https://azcapitoltimes.com/news/2018/11/19/incoming-sos-katie-hobbs-to-take-the-politics-out-of-the-office/

Company agrees to never run faux political campaign again

Homie won’t be running for the U.S. Senate anymore.

The Utah-based real estate company, which made headlines with a guerilla marketing campaign that took advantage of an election season loophole to post “Vote For Homie” signs on street corners throughout metro Phoenix, has agreed to never duplicate the ad in future election cycles.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said that the company went too far in its faux election campaign and improperly collected consumer data.

Brnovich and Homie CEO John Hanna filed an agreement in Maricopa County Superior Court on Nov. 16 stating that Homie would drop the act.

Read more: https://azcapitoltimes.com/news/2018/11/20/company-agrees-to-never-run-faux-political-campaign-again/

This sign in Phoenix appears to be for a political campaign, but it is really to advertise for a real estate company.

Six sentenced in Greece for fatal beating of Austin tourist

A Greek court on Thursday convicted and sentenced six of the nine suspects in the fatal beating of Bakari Henderson, a 22-year-old Austin tourist, at an island resort last year, finding them guilty of reduced charges in a move that angered the victim’s parents.

The six were handed sentences ranging from five to 15 years in prison on charges of deliberate bodily harm, reduced from intentional homicide, which carries a life sentence.

Henderson died after being beaten in the street following an argument in a bar in the popular Laganas resort area of Zakynthos island in July 2017. One Greek, seven Serbs and a British citizen of Serbian origin were accused of involvement and tried in the western port city of Patras.

The British citizen of Serbian origin was sentenced to 15 years in prison. One of the Serb suspects was sentenced to 10 years, three received seven-year sentences and one a five-year sentence. All had been held in pretrial detention and are to return to prison after the trial. Their names were not immediately available.

Read more: https://www.statesman.com/news/20181122/six-sentenced-in-greece-for-fatal-beating-of-austin-tourist
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