Prominent US Modi supporter Dr. Akshay Desai in hiding, running from law in $25M defrauding case


Federal agents raid Universal Health Care headquarters Dr. Akshay Desai goes into hiding; investors lose $25 million

By A Correspondent, Indiatribune.com

St. Petersburg, FL: Indian American physicians and entrepreneurs, who invested over $25 million in Dr. Akshay Desai’s Universal Health Care Group, Inc., are seething in anger after the company filed for bankruptcy. The Surat-born 55-year-old Dr. Desai, a high profile entrepreneur in Florida, who was a luminary of the Republic Party for his fundraising abilities and was closed to presidential contender Mitt Romeny, has gone underground according to report.

Dr. Desai, in an interview six months ago, had claimed: “My company is now doing business in 20 states and this year we are expecting revenue of $1.5 billion.”

The state documents portray Universal, as a company in deep financial distress and badly mismanaged. Universal Health Care executives overstated assets and submitted “misleading financial statements” to the state and a major creditor, according to state documents released on March 28 by the Office of Insurance Regulation.

After Federal Bureau of Investigation agents on March 28 raided the headquarters of Universal Health Care Group Inc, in St Petersburg, Florida, which has gone belly up and filed for bankruptcy throwing over a 1,000 employees out of work, the Department of Justice has called on the bankruptcy court to appoint a trustee for this major Medicare provider.

Guy G Gebhardt, a DOJ official and a US Trustee in Florida, in court documents filed on April 3, in the wake of the search-and-seizure warrant executed by the FBI as part of an investigation that federal laws may have been violated and criminal indictments are likely, reiterated that it was imperative that a trustee take over the reins of Universal.

He said he strongly believed there are grounds to suspect that the hierarchy of the company has committed fraud through false statements amounting to criminal conduct in its financial reporting.

The Miami investment group led by Miguel “Mike” Fernandez earlier had expressed interest in buying Universal, but backed away two days later without comment after seeing the presentation.

Universal listed its Medicare Advantage membership as 90,000, Medicaid enrollees as 64,000. About 43 percent of the HMO members in Florida are patients, who require extra care — and bring in higher premiums from Medicare — because they have diabetes, lung disease or dementia.

A chart shows the company has brought in more than $1 billion in premiums a year, most of it from Medicare. Yet, according to another chart, the company lost $61 million in 2011 and $3 million last year.

Among some of the major investors in Universal were doctors Zach Zachariah, another longtime major Republican Party fundraiser, who had ploughed in over $6 million, and Raj Gupta, who had invested over $4 million.

“He is going to pay for his mistakes because something is not right,’’ Dr. Gupta, a Fort Lauderdale physician, said. “He told me he can do whatever he wants and does not have to listen to me or any other investor.’’

Several other Indian American physicians, including Dr. Raghavendra Vijayanagar, founder and former chairman of the Indian American Republican Council, and several entrepreneurs, and even some academics had invested anywhere from $250,000 to $1 million each, and among them there was an overriding sense of deep disappointment and despondency, with one of them saying, “All the investors have been right-royally screwed.”

“Who the hell knows what he did with all the money,” one said. “Hundreds of millions of dollars and God only knows where the money went,” this investor said, adding, mockingly, “He was living larger then life, flying in private jets and talking big to Romney and all those people, and of course, nobody wants to talk to him now, and all the politicians have washed their hands of him.”

According to its Web site, Universal provided federal- funded entitlement insurance programs such as Medicare and Medicaid to nearly 200,000 customers in 19 states and had 40,000 Medicare and 60,000 Medicaid members in Florida alone, who were now in a quandary regarding the future of their health insurance.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that when the FBI agents raided the Universal headquarters on March 28, employees were ordered out and told to immediately get away from their computers.

The FBI raid was carried out during the same week that the bankruptcy court trustee had alleged “a pattern of dishonesty or gross mismanagement,” including “side deals” that benefited insiders, and had cited examples where more than $18.3 million had been transferred to a Universal subsidiary also founded by Dr. Desai and $2.2 million in “bonuses and other compensation” to company officers Desai, Patel and Ludy in addition to their salaries, also in 2012.

The trustee said that even as Universal was knee-deep in financial trouble, Desai had continued to draw a $900,000 salary and another $2.5 million or more in bonuses and other compensation in 2012.

After the FBI raid, Desai, who was easily accessible, couldn’t be reached and Zachariah, Gupta and others who had invested in Universal, said they could not reach him either and believed he had gone underground or may have left the country.

Starting in 2006, Universal’s Any, Any Any plan — members purportedly could see any doctor anywhere at any time — drew thousands of members but also complaints of false advertising, poor customer service and denied medical treatments. The company temporarily suspended enrollment, and in 2008 signed an agreement with state regulators to beef up reserves to handle the swelling volume of claims.

Over the next few years Universal continued to grow, eventually expanding to 23 states and serving 140,000 members. In 2010, it spent $9 million for a new headquarters on Central Avenue in St. Petersburg and another $750,000 for renovations.

It paid more than $500,000 for a 28th floor condo in nearby Signature Place, known for its sleek architecture and sweeping views of the waterfront. Employees joked that Universal needed the condo as temporary housing for the many executives who cycled through — the company had five chief financial officers in six years.

For the past three years, Medicare officials hammered Universal for poor quality, urging potential members to use caution before selecting it.

The first public notice that Universal was in serious financial trouble came in November when it agreed to stop selling Medicare policies in Georgia. That state’s insurance commissioner cited Universal’s net loss of $22.1 million in the first six months of the year as reason for the halt.

On Feb. 4, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation deemed Universal nearly insolvent and accused executives of a broad pattern of financial mismanagement — including fraud and diversion of funds — under Desai’s leadership.

Two days later, Universal Health Care Group filed for bankruptcy, listing $50 million to $100 million in assets and $10 million to $50 million in liabilities. Among those to whom the company said it owes an “undetermined’’ amount: Desai and his wife, Seema.

The Tampa Bay Times also said that Desai could not be reached and that “no one answered the door at his $2.6 million bay front Snell Isle mansion. A burgundy SUV and a dark silver Audi R8 sports car sat in the driveway, but the gates to the property were closed.

 

America’s Gender Gap in 2012 tied to Safety Net


By Samantha Kimmey

WeNews correspondent

Friday, November 9, 2012

Many pro-choice women won their Senate races Tuesday and pro-choice PACs say women punished anti-choice rhetoric. A leading gender-gap analyst says exit polling data suggests it’s still about the role of government.

Lady Gaga performs in Vancouver, Canada
A young woman turns in her ballot on Election Day 2012

 

Credit: Jason Pramas for Open Media Boston, under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

(WOMENSENEWS)–The failed U.S. Senate candidacies of Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock and Missouri Rep. Todd Akin are widely seen as payback for the GOP-led “war on women.”

Both politicians became notorious for comments about rape and pregnancy that turned them into symbols of an extremist anti-choice agenda that in the past year began extending to the formerly safe subject of birth control.

“I think that directly affected their candidacies,” said Susan Carroll, senior scholar at the Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J.

In Indiana, Mourdock won only 42 percent of female voters, a large gap from Mitt Romney at the top of the ticket, who won 52 percent of women in the state, reported the Christian Science Monitor. That data suggested that some Republican voters split their ticket to lodge a protest.

In Missouri, the percentage of women voting for incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill, Akin’s opponent, increased on Tuesday compared to 2006, reported the Associated Press. Younger women and African American women supported McCaskill in large numbers.

But while abortion, contraception, pay equity and even Romney’s debate-night reference to “binders full of women” were significant in swaying female voters, Carroll said those issues do not form the primary national basis of the gender gap.

The real basis, she said, was differing outlooks between men and women on the role of government, with women more inclined to support social safety nets.

On Election Day, CNN exit polling found 55 percent of women and 45 percent of men voted for Obama, producing a 10-point gender gap; the second-largest ever, according to Carroll.

Yet in 2008, Obama won 56 percent of the women’s vote and 49 percent of the men’s vote, meaning that although the gap widened this year, Obama’s share of women essentially remained stable and he slipped among men.

Carroll said that data might suggest the women’s vote was unchanged this year. But she also noted that one could conclude Romney’s economic arguments swayed men, while “women weren’t buying into it.”

More Women in Congress

The election will bolster women’s numbers in Congress.

In January, the Senate will move from 17 to 20 women, as five new women go to D.C. while two–longtime Sens. Olympia Snowe of Maine and Kay Bailey Hutchison in Texas–retire.

Five Democratic women and one Republican woman–incumbent McCaskill and first-timers Elizabeth Warren, Tammy Baldwin, Mazie Hirono, Heidi Heitkamp and Deb Fischer–won their races.

In the House, there will be at least 77 women in 2013, up from 73, giving them 17.7 percent representation in the lower chamber.

While some women’s rights activists are celebrating the gains, Siobhan “Sam” Bennett, president and CEO of the Washington-based Women’s Campaign Fund, which supports pro-choice female candidates, curbed her enthusiasm, calling it “pathetic to be excited about 17 to 18 percent.”

After the “year of woman” in 1992, Bennett said it was widely assumed that the problem of too few women would “organically fix itself.” Since that didn’t happen, she stressed that it remained incumbent upon the women who won to encourage far more women to run for office.

“Research shows that you need to have at least 30 percent of women in the room in order for them to be able to collectively make a difference,” she said.

Pro-choice activists could also take satisfaction in the outcome of some races for the U.S. House of Representatives.

In New York, longtime anti-abortion rights activist Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle lost to Dan Maffei.

In Illinois, Rep. Joe Walsh–who said during his campaign that he opposed abortion even in the case of the mother’s life because “you can’t find once instance” when that happens — lost to military veteran Tammy Duckworth.

The Women’s Campaign Fund’s Bennett said that anti-choice rhetoric has been growing since Ronald Reagan’s presidency, “which made legislators feel pretty safe coming out in the way they did in this election cycle.” Bennett expects the fallout of the elections to curb anti-choice rhetoric. Whether the GOP will back off anti-choice legislation at the state and federal level is another matter, she says, that “remains to be seen.”

‘Thrilled About Election’

“MomsRising was thrilled about the election,” said Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, president of MomsRising, a nonprofit advocacy group focusing on issues like paid sick leave, parental leave and health care. “Our issues — health care, access to health care, access to reproductive health care — were heard. Fifty-six percent of voting moms cast ballot for Obama,” she said, citing Fox News exit polls.

“I think that this election cycle, more than any I’ve seen in my 20-plus years in politics, truly defined how extreme the anti-choice side has become,” said Beth Shipp, political director of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

Women “rejected Republican backwards looking agenda,” said Jess McIntosh, spokesperson for EMILY’s List, the Washington PAC that works to elect pro-choice Democratic women.

But those groups didn’t just rely on the zeitgeist during the campaign; they also spent plenty of money for each of their victories.

“We had our largest independent expenditures in organizational history,” McIntosh said.

Independent expenditures rose significantly due to the impact of super PACs. EMILY’s List super PAC arm, Women VOTE! spent over $7 million.

The PAC itself spent over $30 million this election cycle–more than the roughly $27 million it spent in 2010 but less than the $35 million spent in 2008.

NARAL Pro-Choice America’s independent expenditure arm spent $1.5 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, compared to $525,000 in 2010. The organization told Women’s eNews that it spent about $3.3 million in all.

The group also identified potential female pro-choice Obama “defectors,” or those who voted Obama in 2008 but were no longer strong supporters, in 25 battleground counties. The organization then worked to persuade these women to vote for the president through a mixture of phone and email outreach, online advertising and cable advertising.

Married Prefer Romney

Broken down by marital status, a small national majority–53 percent — of married women favored Romney, while 67 percent of non-married women favored Obama, according to Washington Post exit polling.

Non-married women came out this election in larger numbers; 23 percent in 2012 compared to 20 percent in 2008.

Democrats picked up about seven House seats –far below the 25 they needed to gain a majority, reportedThe Hill, meaning that the Republican Party maintains control of the House.

NARAL Pro-Choice America’s Shipp said of the House elections and pro-choice candidates, “We knew it was not going to be a watershed election,” but that gains were made, arguing, “We did make some significant gains with pro-choice candidates.”

In fact, some of them defeated pro-choice Republicans on Tuesday. Moderate Rep. Judy Biggert, representing Chicago’s southwest suburbs, lost after serving in the House since 1999 to NARAL-endorsed Bill Foster. In New Hampshire, Ann McLane Kuster beat Rep. Charlie Bass–a rematch from 2010, when Kuster lost.

“We are devastated at the loss of Scott Brown in the Senate and our good friends Judy Biggert and Mary Bono, Charles Bass and Robert Dold and Nan Hayworth . . . they were all stalwarts for our cause,” Ann Stone, founder and chair of Republicans for Choice, said in an email interview.

Stone added that, “Several of these pro-choice warriors were wrongly portrayed as not being pro-choice or not pro-choice enough . . . that is disgraceful . . . For them to stand up for this principle in a party which is hostile to them takes a hell of a lot more courage than a Democrat doing so in their party.”

Samantha Kimmey is a writer focusing on women and politics this election season.

 

#America- Shocking Facts about Rape #WTFnews #Vaw #Torture


Number of States in Which Rapists Can Sue For Custody and Visitation Rights — 31 — and Other Shocking Rape Facts

For months now we’ve been subjected to surreal revelations when it comes to what people think about rape. Here is some real, fact-checked information.

October 28, 2012  |   Alternet .org

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com/Oleg Golovnev

Remember facts? Remember facts about rape? Because it turns out that a whole lot of people know less than nothing about the subject. Indeed what they think they know is a whole lot of something that is wrong and dangerous to our heath, safety and well-being. Republican Representative Richard Mourdock‘srecent ” misspeaking” is unexceptional. Despite what he may have meant when he said “even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape that… is something God intended to happen,” he is unexceptional. He’s not an outlier. Not a radical. In no substantive way different from his conservative peers in this regard (see below if you disagree).

Indeed, he and others, like Todd Akin and Paul Ryan , are part of an age-old tradition of men with power defining when women are raped. And others whoenable them to do it for their own gain. But, they are not just the Republican party’s legislative norm, they are a fair reflection of our cultural tolerance, one without party affiliation, for rape and its qualifications. For months now we’ve been subjected to surreal revelation when it comes to what people think and understand about rape, god and women’s magical bodies. Here is some real, fact-checked information from a list originally published last week inRHRealityCheck .

And this is trigger warning. You may want a strong cup of coffee. Or a drink. Or an empty stomach. There is nothing remotely divine about rape. But steeping our selves in denial or happy oblivion is hurting too many people and has the potential to hurt a lot more.

50 Facts About Rape

    1. Low estimate of the number of women , according to the Department of Justice, raped every year: 300,000
    2. High estimate of the number of women raped , according to the CDC: 1.3 million
    3. Percentage of rapes not reported : 54 percent
    4. A woman’s chance of being raped in the U.S.: 1 in 5
    5. Chances that a raped woman conceives compared to one engaging in consensual sex : at least two times as likely
    6. Number of women in the US impregnated against their will each year in the U.S. as a result of rape: 32,000
    7. Number of states in which rapists can sue for custody and visitation : 31
    8. Chances that a woman’s body ” shuts that whole thing down“: 0 in 3.2 billion
    9. Rank of U.S. in the world for rape: 13th
    10. A woman’s chance of being raped in college : 1 in 4 or 5
    11. Chances that a Native American woman in the U.S. will be raped : 1 in 3
    12. Percentage of women in Alaska who have suffered sexual assault: 37 percent
    13. Number of rape kits untested by the Houston police force: 6,000-7,000 (Texas ranked second in nation for “forcible rape”)
    14. Number of adult men accused of repeatedly gang raping 11-year-old girl in Texas: 14
    15. Quote in the New York Times regarding the rape: “They said she dressed older than her age.”
    16. Age of woman raped in Central Park in September, 2012: 73
    17. Number of rape kits left untested in Detroit , listed by Forbes as one of two the most dangerous places for woman to live in the US: 11,303
    18. U.S. state in which, in September 2012, mentally disabled rape victim was required to provide evidence of her “kicking, biting, scratching” in objection to her rape: Connecticut
    19. State seeking to reduce childcare welfare benefits to women cannot provide proof of their pregnancy-causing rapes: Pennsylvannia
    20. Percentage of sexual assault and rape victims under the age of 12 : 15 percent
    21. Percentage of men who have been raped : 3 percent
    22. Percentage of rapists who are never incarcerated : 97 perent
    23. Percentage of rapes that college students think are false claims : 50 percent
    24. Percentage of rapes that studies find are false claims : 2-8 percent
    25. Number of rapes reported in the military last year: 16,500
    26. Pentagon’s estimated percentage of military assuaults not reported: 80-90 percent
    27. Percentage of military rape victims who were gang raped/raped more than once : 14%/20%
    28. Percentage of military rape victims that are men : 8-37 percent
    29. Percentage of military victims who get an “involuntarily” discharge compared to percentage of charged and accused who are discharged with honor : 90 percent involuntary to 80 percent with honor
    30. Chances an incarcerated person is raped in the U.S.: 1 in 10
    31. Increase in chance that LGTB prisoner is raped: 15x greater chance
    32. Number of men raped that could be counted as legally raped before the FBI changed its definition in December of 2011: 0
    33. Number of rapes noted in commonly used World War II statistics: 0
    34. Number of rapes of WWII c oncentration camp inmates : Untallied millions
    35. Number of rapes of German women by Russian soldiers at the end of WWII: between 1m and 2m
    36. Number of women raped in 1990s Bosnian conflict : 60,000+
    37. Number of women raped per hour in Congo during war: 48
    38. Country where 12 year old was forced to participate in the rape of his mother: U.S.
    39. Country where women are imprisoned for being raped: Afghanistan
    40. Age of Moroccan rape victim who committed suicide after being forced to marry her rapist: 16
    41. Worldwide number of “child brides” under the age of 18forced to marry every day : 25,000
    42. Ages of girls forced to marry a 59-year-old at the Tony Alamo Christian Ministry in Arkansas : 8, 14, 15
    43. Estimated number of people, primarily children, sexually abused by priests in the U.S. versus the number of senior Catholic officials found guilty of sexual abuse related crimes in the U.S.: 10,667 to 1
    44. Chances that a woman in the U.S. is raped versus gets breast cancer : 2 to 1
    45. Chances that a victim is ” Emergency Raped ” by a strangerversus percentage of victims who consider their rapes emergencies: 7 percent versus 100 percent
    46. Percentage of victims of rape who report the use of a weapon: 11 percent
    47. Prison sentences for four men found guilty of participating in gang rapes of two teenage girls in France over two years: one year, six months, suspended sentence
    48. State where in 2012 a doctor is facing the loss of her medical license for providing an abortion to a pregnant 10-year old incest rape victim : Kansas
    49. Country where doctors (but not the rapist) were excommunicated for performing a life-saving abortion to nine-year-old incest rape victim: Brazil
    50. Country where major party’s vice-presidential candidate wants to criminalize all abortions including rape-related ones, because rape is just ” another method of conception “: U.S.

Had enough? Me, too. And, believe me, this is the Cliff Notes version. Some people are offended by frank conversation about violence, especially sexualized violence. I’m offended by tolerance for these assaults, scientific denialism, entertainment at the expense of people’s safety and bodily integrity, and shame-infused legislation that hurts children and women and is based on the belief that all men are animals at heart .

Rape happens everywhere . All over the world rape acceptance, rape tolerance, rape denial and rape ignorance at best are used to restrict women’s reproductive rights and impede women’s equality. At worse, rape is used strategically and with violence and malevolence as a weapon in war and as a tool of active oppression. Keeping the reality of rape in the shadows has obviously done us a massive disservice and provided cover for rapists and their apologists. So, even though it’s not easy information to digest, it’s important. Maybe information is part of god’s divine plan.

In an excellent and thorough overview of our problem, Ending Rape Illiteracy,published yesterday in the Nation, Jessica Valenti, coauthor along with Jaclyn Friedman of Yes Means Yes!: Visions of Female Sexual Power and A World Without Rape, wrote: “Every day, the severity, violence and criminality of what rape is — its very definition — is distorted in a way that makes it more difficult for survivors to come forward and for anti-violence advocates to do their work, while making the world easier for victim-blaming and for rapists themselves.”

Akin, Mourdock, Ryan, et al are the distortions. If men like Mitt Romney really doesn’t agree with them then he should grow some ovaries, so to speak, and stop playing in the same political sand box. And, please, these men are not alone: “legitimate rape” versus non legitimate rape. “Forcible rape” as “stock language,” “lemons from lemonade.” Women “should make the best of a bad situation,” “horribly created gifts from God,” husbands can’t rape their wives,because of science and technology no woman ever needs an abortion, “emergency rape,” women lie about rape legislation, “honest rape,” rape blackmail“the sodomized virgin” raperape is like auto theft. But, again, all of this goes hand-in-hand with Facebook rape pages, Daniel Tosh rape jokes,Reddit rapist threadsmusic, videos, movies, ad infinitum. This recent political display of religiously convoluted rape “reasoning” in legislation is a national shame with deadly consequences for women here and abroad. But, just as these legislators want to decide for themselves when a woman is raped, they also want to control when a woman can and cannot be pregnant and they infuse the same level of malignant know-nothingness into those decisions, too. And, no, it does not make me feel any better that Republican Representative Steve King has “never heard of a girl getting pregnant from rape or incest.” At least he cleared this up for me, I used to think “ignorant buffoon” was spelled with 15 letters.
Resources
If you want to understand more about the continued use of rape and its role in culture here are some suggested books.

Yes Means Yes!: Visions of Female Sexual Power and A World Without Rape
Jaclyn Friedman (Author), Jessica Valenti (Author)

Transforming a Rape Culture [ Emilie Buchwald (Editor), Pamela Fletcher (Editor), Martha Roth (Editor)

The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and and How All Men Can Help
Jackson Katz

The Color of Violence: The Incite! Anthology

I Never Called It Rape by Robin Warshaw

Voting is a resource, too. Please, don’t vote for these people who fundamentally believe that women are essentially incubators first and foremost and that our rapes are of marginal importance to our breeding capabilities. As Jill Filipovic put it in the Guardian:

“Rape treats women as vessels, disregarding our autonomy and our right to control what happens to us physically and sexually. The Republican position is that women are not entitled to make fundamental decisions about our own bodies and our own sexual and reproductive health. When that position is written into the GOP platform and is a legislative priority, can we really be surprised when it’s further reflected in Republican legislators’ comments on rape?

Soraya L. Chemaly writes about feminism, gender and culture. She writes for The Huffington Post, The Feminist Wire, BitchFlicks and Fem2.0 among others.

 

#VAW -Raped by stepfather at 13, Forced to illegal abortion #Mexico


We must never forget!

RH Reality Check / By Dawn Hill

I Was Raped By My Stepfather at 13 and Forced to Get an Illegal Abortion in Mexico

I became pregnant, contrary to the “scientific theories” of many modern Republicans. Not only was the experience loathsome and painful, it was also impossible for me to deal with or talk about because abortion was illegal in the 1950s.

This is one of a series of powerful stories from survivors of rape, you will find them all here .

Last week, Indiana GOP Senate candidate Richard Mourdock argued in a debate that women who have been raped should not have access to abortion services because their pregnancies are a “gift from god.” As a survivor of childhood sexual violence, I disagree with him completely.

My name is Dawn Hill. Though I am old now, there was a time when I was young and carefree as you perhaps are now or can remember being in your childhood. Childhood should be a happy and carefree time for all our children, but my mother found her new husband, my stepfather, much more important. He forever took the joy away from my life when I was just 11 years old: He began molesting me and continued until he began raping me when I was 13.

Mr. Mourdock last night said: “I came to realize life is that gift from God, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape. It is something that God intended to happen.”

I became pregnant, contrary to the “scientific theories” of many modern Republicans. Not only was the experience loathsome and painful, it was also impossible for me to deal with or talk about because of the times: in the fifties, abortion was illegal. Illegal in the same way the Republican Party platform states it wants to make abortion now by constitutional amendment and just as Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has suggested casually he would “be delighted” to return to.

Please, take a moment to travel back to the fifties with me.

My mother took me to Mexico, where anyone could get an abortion for a price. I have blocked out many memories associated with this entire experience, but I remember the pain. Illegal abortions are not the simple safe vacuum procedure used today by legal abortion providers. Oh, no: They were a “dilatation and curettage.”

This means that my cervix was mechanically opened by insertion of larger and larger metal “dilators” until it was opened enough to get a sort of sharpened spoon inside my 13-year-old uterus, while strangers looked at my exposed parts that were theretofore called “private.”

It was cold and dirty in the room, and then the true torture started. They shoved this curette into me and scraped away the entire lining of my uterus with the sharp side. I screamed the entire time even though no one had seen so much as a tear out of me before this moment because I had developed a stony stoicism to protect my mind from the molestation.

This pain was, however, like nothing I’ve ever felt before or since. Can you imagine what happened to those women and girls who couldn’t even get this barbaric abortion? They stuck wire hangers into themselves and bled to death or suffered other horrible complications. Then, too, I also got a terrible infection from the filthy conditions.

I can tell you, though, that I would have gotten a hundred illegal abortions before carrying that monster’s offspring and going through labor, even to give the child away. That would have been the unkindest cut of all.

For women and girls, safe legal abortions are essential. While many will choose a different path than I with their pregnancies, having that choice is essential. Any encroachment on that right is an encroachment on the life, liberty, and safety of the women and girls of America.

Change.org Changing: Site To Allow Corporate, Anti-Abortion, GOP Campaigns #takecaction


Ryan Grim
 (UPDATE)

Posted: 10/22/2012 5:58 pm EDT Updated: 10/23/2012 9:44 pm EDT

Change

WASHINGTON — Change.org, the online social movement company founded on progressive values, has decided to change its advertising policy to allow for corporate advertising, Republican Party solicitations, astroturf campaigns, anti-abortion or anti-union ads and other controversial sponsorships, according to internal company documents.

Change.org allows users to launch and sign petitions, and the company has had somehigh-profile successes. Change.org currently operates under a values-based client policy, only accepting advertisements from progressive organizations that share its values. The new policy will be closer to “a Google-like open advertising policy in which determinations about which advertisements we’ll accept are based on the content of the ad, not the group doing the advertising,” according to a company FAQ sent to staff. The document was leaked to Jeff Bryant, an associate fellow at the Campaign for America’s Future, a liberal organization, who subsequently provided it and others to The Huffington Post.

The company will implement the shift on Oct. 24, according to the memo.

“Change.org built its reputation on arming Davids to take on the Goliaths of the world,” Bryant told HuffPost. “Now it seems that the company thinks David and Goliath should be on the same team.”

Change.org did not plan to reach out to its base of progressive users about the change. “[W]e have no plans to proactively tell users about the new design or our new mission, vision, or advertising guidelines,” reads one document.

The press was to be kept similarly in the dark. “We are not planning proactive press outreach on the rebrand but are queuing up positive press profiles to launch around Oct. 22,” reads the FAQ in the document, urging staff to keep things confidential and referring to the initial launch date, which has since been postponed.

The current Change.org policy limits sponsored campaigns to progressive organizations. “We accept sponsored campaigns from organizations fighting for the public good and the common values we hold dear — fairness, equality, and justice,” reads the site’s soon-to-be replaced policy. “We do not accept sponsored campaigns from organizations that consistently violate these values, support discriminatory policies, or seek private corporate benefit that undermines the common good.”

After the shift, Change.org’s new policy will specifically allow campaigns that its liberally minded site users might find objectionable. “What about anti-abortion, pro-gun and union-busting advertising?” reads the FAQ in the leaked document.

“We are open to organizations that represent all points of view, including those with which we personally (and strongly) disagree,” reads the answer.

Benjamin Joffe-Walt, director of communications for Change.org, acknowledged that the changes as outlined in the internal documents will be implemented. Joffe-Walt said the company never intended to pitch itself as strictly progressive.

“It’s not what we ever claimed to be,” he said.

Joffe-Walt said a new, general guide for the new company policy would be: “If Google will allow it, we would allow it.”

Change.org leadership met in San Francisco this summer to hash out its new advertising policy following a public uproar in July over the site’s partnership with Michelle Rhee, whose organization works in opposition to labor unions. “[W]e looked long and hard at our client policy in the context of our vision. This was the most difficult part of the weekend, but after many hours of discussion and edge cases we ultimately agreed that the current closed approach is simply not feasible,” Change.org’s founder and CEO Ben Rattray wrote in an email to staff, which was also leaked to HuffPost by Bryant.

“[W]e as an organization have transitioned from an American cause-based organizing network with a largely progressive agenda into a global platform open to a wider diversity of participants and perspectives,” he wrote. “Yet the honest reality is that we haven’t fully made this transition. At least in the US, we still often see things through a traditional partisan progressive lens, and over the past couple months it’s become clear that we have a choice: we can continue to try to have it both ways and risk getting pigeonholed into being a partisan organization with a particular agenda and limited audience, or we can break out of this mold and aspire to something much bigger –- to true empowerment everywhere.”

Labor and progressive organizations, which make up a sizable base of Change.org’s client list, threatened to pull out over the Rhee situation. After reports that Change.org was dropping Rhee and another controversial anti-union group as clients, the site continues to run her petitions.

It remains to be seen how current site users and clients will react to a new ad policy that opens the platform to opponents. Three of Change.org’s most prominent clients are the Sierra Club, Amnesty International and Credo Mobile, which runs the second-biggest progressive online activist group, after MoveOn.org.

According to the internal memo, the new policy will still allow the company to reject an ad if accepting it would threaten Change.org’s “brand.” Such rejections, according to the FAQ, will only be made by Rattray, who has been named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people.

Joffe-Walt said the “vast majority of Change.org” users were not strictly liberal or progressive. “We’re in 196 countries,” he said, adding that it sounds like those who might criticize the policy shift “don’t want us to be on an open platform.”

Change.org’s advertising policy shift demonstrates the potential perils of for-profit companies founded on progressive values, and shows the power of money even outside the sphere of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. Change.org’s strategic break with the progressive movement comes just days after the board of another for-profit progressive company, Salsa Labs, ousted its CEO. Salsa is a prominent campaign organizing platform that took $5 million in venture capital funding last year — a move the two cofounders say they “deeply regret.” Fitzgibbon Media, which only works with progressive organizations, has decided to drop the company as a client because it no longer considers Salsa in that category, according to founder Trevor Fitzgibbon.

“We remain committed to serving only progressive clients, reaffirmed that publicly on Friday, and have given no indication otherwise. Salsa’s change in CEO was solely a management change and is not indicative of any shift in our corporate vision or mission,” said Dave Leichtman, a Salsa vice president. Salsa’s main rival, Blue State Digital, sold itself to the corporate firm WPP in 2010.

Rattray has also recently been meeting with a number of well-known venture capital firms, according to his internal calendar, which was shared with Bryant. The venture giants include Google Ventures, Bridges Ventures and Acumen Fund, among others. Joffe-Walt stressed that the meetings “have absolutely nothing” to do with the change in advertising policy. The company is continuing to speak with venture capitalists, Joffe-Walt said, but will only work with a “mission-aligned investor.”

While it had no plans to proactively let users or the media know of its plans for a new direction, Change.org did tell staff it would launch new, “awesome language” on its site on Monday to better describe the company, the memo said. In a separate email to employees, Rattray laid out the new language to describe the company’s mission: “To empower people everywhere to create the change they want to see.”

In its internal memo to employees, Change.org justified its decision to change its advertising policy by referencing the dispute over Rhee. The situation was excessively time-consuming, the memo states, and the research efforts involved in such disputes “simply don’t scale” as the firm continues to grow globally.

“[W]e believe open advertising guidelines will help us maximize our mission,” offers the memo. What’s good for the business is good for the world, it argues, and an open platform that empowers more people will lead to positive change. Furthermore, the memo says, the rejection of some advertisers for moral or political reasons is an implicit endorsement of other advertisers — something the company wants to avoid.

Change’s softening of its liberal stance leaves the space open for competitors like Care2.com, which is also for-profit, and MoveOn.org, which offers petition software called SignOn and is a nonprofit organization. Care2 has been around longer than Change.org, and has significantly more clients, but the company lags behind Change.org in terms of public relations. Asked if Care2 would accept clients whose values the company doesn’t share, Clinton O’Brien, a Care2.com vice president, said no.

“Care2 will never run a campaign for the NRA, or from advocacy groups that don’t support a woman’s right to control her own body,” O’Brien told HuffPost. “Just like we will never sell an ad campaign to Monsanto or some other for-profit whose behavior we think is widely recognized to be negative for society or the planet … We consider it our duty to accept or reject clients on a case-by-case basis.”

Steven Biel, the director of SignOn, echoed the sentiment.

“When you see MoveOn.org promote a petition, you never have to wonder if we’re doing it because someone paid us to,” Biel wrote in an email to HuffPost. “For years, progressives have built a huge advantage over the right wing on the Internet, and it would be awful to lose that in service of a short-term payday.”

Change.org leadership, in explaining the policy shift to its staff around the world, noted that some of the changes could not be implemented immediately because there would be no support base among current users for the advertising campaigns the company may pursue.

“It’s irresponsible for us to sell advertising to a group that we don’t have the audience to support, and it’s bad user service to show users ads they don’t want to see,” reads an internal FAQ sent to staffers.

Change.org scooped up many of the most talented and well-known progressive activists when it initially launched, making the company’s departure from the movement more jarring.

As it attempts to expand its customer base to include conservatives and Republicans, Change.org is in a precarious position. In order to successfully make the pivot, the company will need to hold on to its base of progressive clients and users long enough for it to build a bridge across the spectrum. That means burying sponsored ads that its base will find objectionable. “We’ll also be investing heavily in building strong feedback loops so that sponsored campaigns our users don’t like will be hidden or even taken down from the site,” reads the memo. “This is going to be essential to our success as we build a much larger and diverse base.”

Rattray, in an email to staff that hinted at possible departures as a result of the shift, struck a hopeful tone.

“For some of you, this vision won’t feel like a shift at all. For others, it might seem like a big reframing of who we are. But if this feels a little unsafe, know this: nothing big was ever achieved by taking the safe option. We’re attempting something nobody else has done before – to transcend traditional partisanship and build a global empowerment platform that reaches hundreds of millions of people. It’s not easy to do, and will require difficult choices that will challenge each of us. But in the long run, it’s how we will change the world,” he wrote.

Joffe-Walt said Change.org is “not beholden to one community.”

“We’ve created a new platform that has enabled things to happen that weren’t possible before. We’re helping to drive net positive change in the world — with the emphasis on net,” he said.

UPDATE: Oct. 23, 9:25 p.m. – Benjamin Joffe-Walt, Change.org’s managing director of global communications, said that the source of the leak is no longer with Change.org.

“A Huffington Post article about our new advertising guidelines revealed that a blogger had obtained access to internal Change.org documents. We’ve identified the person who leaked the documents and they are no longer with the company. We respect their privacy and we are not releasing their name,” he said in a statement, adding that “this was a case in which a Change.org staffer shared internal documents and the private schedule of our founder and CEO with a journalist. Content aside, there is simply no situation in any organization or company in which the result would have been different. The suspicion that such a move is an attempt to punish a ‘whistleblower’ couldn’t be further from the truth: the leaked documents and emails in question are available to all our employees and outline plans to be fully transparent about our business model and new advertising guidelines. While we wouldn’t normally communicate externally through a painfully long, 12-page document, it outlines a number of important concerns and if anyone is inclined to read it they are more than welcome to do so. There are no nefarious secrets to reveal and no whistle was blown.”

PLEASE ASK CHANGE.ORG TO COME OUT CLEAN NOW !!.

What “Rape Sonograms” Are Really About



This week, the Virginia State Legislature – joining Texas, Oklahoma, Iowa – passed two of the country’s most restrictive abortion bills. One, a personhood anti-abortion bill and the other, mandating a coercive mandatory transvaginal probe for women seeking abortions. This week’s momentum of the “personhood” movement is not surprising in that it is closely tied to conservative Republican’s inability to target the economy as a problem in a campaign year. A shift in focus on social issues is logical.

It struck me as particularly meaningful, therefore, that I was watching The Loving Story as I thought about the passage of these bills. That documentary is about the mixed race couple who took their challenge of Virginia’s anti-miscegenation slavery laws to the Supreme Court in 1963, exactly 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

Can you tell by looking at it, if that map is a map of states considering personhood bills or a map of the states that had anti-miscegentation laws up to 100 years after Emancipation? Of the states that have introduced personhood bills 77% had anti-miscegenation laws on their books as late as 1948-1967. Of the 16 states that never repealed their anti-misegenation laws, but rather had them overturned by Loving vs. Virginia, more than half have introduced personhood bills.

These statistics are not a coincidence. Racism, sexism, homophobia – they go hand in hand and the people oppressed by them experience them in intersecting ways. Worldwide, women’s human rights are complicated by these intersections.

Like these two Virginia bills, anti-misegenation laws were really not about “morality” or “decency”, but about social order. They’re not about “personhood” but “humanity.” Sex, controlling other people’s private lives, dictating what they do with their bodies and controlling their “place” in society. The more “human” you perceive yourself to be, the more you presume you have authority to tell others how to be and what to do. And, like those laws, these bills are based on ignorance, entitlement and arrogance. After many years, the Lovings won their landmark case and succeeded in finally dismantling shameful government-sanctioned racism in regards to mixed-race marriages.

Exactly how ugly and perversely wrong do things have to get before people pay attention to how fragile women’s rights and choices are in the face of sexism, misogyny, and legislative bullying? Is requiring women to undergo a medically unnecessary, invasive vaginal penetration bad enough? To me, it sounds as punitive, threatening and coercive as “virginity tests” that female Egyptian anti-government protestors were subjected to last year.

Personhood bills grant full rights, privileges and immunities to multicellular diploid eukaryotes. They also, for good measure, restrict and may entirely ban hormonal contraception. The second Virginia bill, and others like it, is what I want to focus on here. It forces any woman seeking an abortion to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound. Without her consent.

You see, if you raise the bar for decency, humanity and safety so far up, it might make your actual indecency and coded threats of violence seem somehow reasonable.

Either that, or the Republican Virginia legislators are unclear about what “trans,” ”vaginal,” and “consent” mean. “Trans,” a panic-inducing prefix for conservatives, means “across.” “Vaginal” means a place in a woman’s body to put phallic things into when the government wants to. For someone that hasn’t had to or will never have to experience it this is how Medline Plus explains what happens when you put “trans” and “vaginal” together in an ultrasound:

“You will lie down on a table with your knees bent and feet in holders called stirrups. The health care provider will place a probe, called a transducer, into the vagina. The probe is covered with a condom and a gel…The doctor can immediately see the picture on a nearby TV monitor.”

“Consent” means with permission. I am surprised, since a TV monitor is part of the procedure, that they haven’t yet mandated a live-stream into the legislative chamber – just to make sure no one is cheating them of their god-given right to invade another person’s body without her permission.

Gov. Bob McDonnell, a conservative Roman Catholic, who has never experienced a transvaginal probe, has explained that he will sign the ultrasound bill, although he is uncertain about the personhood bill. Does this mean he’s not sure if a mass of undifferentiated cells are people, but he is sure that women aren’t?

Not only are they fuzzy on those terms, but the Governor and Republican members of the Virginia State Legislature don’t understand what rape is. Maybe they should consult the FBI, which defines rape this way:

“The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”

Or their own state’s rape statute:

“If any person has sexual intercourse with a complaining witness, whether or not his or her spouse, or causes a complaining witness, whether or not his or her spouse, to engage in sexual intercourse with any other person and such act is accomplished (i) against the complaining witness’s will, by force, threat or intimidation of or against the complaining witness or another person; or (ii) through the use of the complaining witness’s mental incapacity or physical helplessness; or (iii) with a child under age 13 as the victim, he or she shall be guilty of rape.”

Or maybe they just think women should “expect to be raped” if they live in Virginia and want abortions, just like in the military.

Republican legislators explicitly declined to vote for a proposed amendment that would have required women to sign a consent form. Carrie Brandstrom, who started the FaceBook page Stay out of MY UTERUS! Stop ANTI-Women Legislation, called it a “rape sonogram” earlier this week and she is right. That’s what it should be called.

As Andy Kopsa, writing in RHReality Check, put it, “The bottom line is pro-choice legislators in state houses around the country as well as physicians and women’s rights activists must start drawing the clear line between state forced transvaginal ultrasounds and rape.”

I know that the Republicans in the Virginia Legislature, and the people that support them, don’t want to rape good women. They know that unless a woman screams and fights, it’s not “real rape.” They want toprotect women from their own intrinsically poor decision making faculties and take away the access to birth control and abortions that turn them into craven sluts.

Can you imagine making it mandatory for any man needing medicine for erectile dysfunction to pay for and have a rectal exam and cardiac stress test? I mean, how ridiculous is that? No legislative body would ever pass an amendment making anal penetration with a probe mandatory for men who don’t want it.

Ha! What a joke! Except it isn’t.

It was a protest that no one took seriously. Virginia State Senator, Janet Howell, to whom I am currently erecting a small shrine in my office, attached the mandatory rectal exam and cardiac test to theses abortion bills. Needless to say, it did not pass. That’s because THAT is different and the legislators in question have no doubt about whattransrectal probes are. Just to be clear, I don’t want to make any transorifice probe mandatory, but there is no difference between these procedures except the gender of the people subjected to them.

Delegate David Englin, a Democrat who thinks women are equal before the law, had this to say:

“This bill will require many women in Virginia to undergo vaginal penetration with an ultrasound probe against their consent in order to exercise their constitutional right to an abortion, even for nonsurgical, noninvasive, pharmaceutical abortions. This kind of government intrusion shocks the conscience and demonstrates the disturbing lengths Republican legislators will go to prevent women from controlling their own reproductive destiny.”

He proposed the failed amendment that would have required women to give their consent before the invasive procedure. These bills go beyond casual misogyny. They ignore and revoke women’s right to privacy and deny them their personal liberty, not to mention dignity. They are unconstitutional and will be challenged if signed into law.

How long will it take for women to have full and equal reproductive rights and control over their own bodies, free from conservative legislative interference?
By Soraya L. Chemaly | Sourced from Feminist Wire