Last week, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter signed legislation that will make the city one of the most trans-friendly places in the country and even in the world.
The law passed the City Council last month and extends a host of rights to trans and gender nonconforming individuals. The most prominent aspect of the law mandates that city-owned buildings have all-gender bathrooms in addition to gendered ones, but there are other changes, too. For example:
There is more to the bill than just a neutral place to relieve oneself. Nutter, city and state lawmakers and gay rights advocates said the legislation makes Philadelphia the first city in the U.S. to offer tax credits to companies that extend the same health care coverage to LGBT employees’ domestic partners and their children as they provide to heterosexual spouses and their children.
Officials said the legislation also makes Philadelphia the first city to offer businesses tax credits as a way to encourage providing transgender-specific health benefits. …
In addition to the business tax incentives, which were backed by the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce as well as LGBT advocacy groups, and the gender-neutral restrooms, the legislation revises Philadelphia’s anti-discrimination law to include transgender people, extends decision-making rights to life partners on medical and other issues, and changes city forms and websites to offer options for same-sex couples and transgender people.
This is really just incredible. Let’s make this the standard.
(Photo: Eugene Hoshiko / AP file)
President Barack Obama nominated Janet Yellen on Wednesday as the next head of the Federal Reserve, positioning her to become the first woman to head the central bank in its 100-year history.
(Photo: Pete Souza / The White House)
The conversation came after a whirlwind ten days, beginning with President Rouhani sitting down with NBC News’ Ann Curry in Tehran prior to a series of key diplomatic meetings.
PICTURED ABOVE: In this Jan. 14, 2013 file photo, Cubans wait to enter the U.S. Interests Section to apply for U.S. visas in Havana, Cuba.
Cuban, US diplomats increasingly allowed to travel
For decades, Cuban and U.S. diplomats have faced strict limits on their travel within the Cold War enemy countries.
Cuban diplomats at the United Nations in New York cannot go 25 miles beyond Columbus Circle in Manhattan or past the Beltway loop circling Washington without the permission of the U.S. State Department.
U.S. Interests Section workers, meanwhile, must submit detailed itineraries to Cuban officials if they want to travel outside Havana.
Recently, however, Cuban and U.S. diplomats have been increasingly, and more easily, stepping outside the once nearly insurmountable fences.
US, India renew efforts to boost bilateral ties
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held talks in the Indian capital Tuesday as part of a renewed effort to strengthen ties between the two countries.
The meeting came just weeks after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry came to India to lead a strategic dialogue between the nations. The pair of high-profile meetings signal increasing efforts to upgrade bilateral relations as the U.S. lays out its plans to rebalance its foreign policy toward the Asia-Pacific.
Biden’s trip will also lay the groundwork for a summit meeting between Singh and President Barack Obama in Washington in September.
Indian officials said the two discussed a raft of issues, including ways to boost trade and ease bottlenecks preventing American companies from investing in the Indian market.
They also talked about the hurdles in implementing a landmark civil nuclear agreement that the countries ratified in 2008.
India has said foreign nuclear companies operating in the country should assume nearly unlimited liability for accidents, a stringent condition that makes it all but impossible for foreign nuclear firms to set up nuclear power plants in India.
Regional security, especially in war-torn Afghanistan, and New Delhi’s concerns about the possibility of the Taliban returning to power in Kabul post-2014, were also discussed during the 75-minute meeting.
The U.S. increasingly views India as a partner in developing Afghanistan, where New Delhi has provided $2 billion in assistance. Washington wants India to play a more active role in training Afghan security forces as the U.S. and its NATO allies withdraw combat forces by 2014.
Later Tuesday, Biden will attend a banquet in his honor hosted by his Indian counterpart before leaving for Mumbai, India’s financial hub. [x]
Guinea government, opposition agree to end-September election
Guinea’s government and opposition parties reached a deal on Wednesday to hold long-delayed legislative elections at the end of September to complete the mineral-rich nation’s transition to civilian rule.
Elections scheduled for June 30 were postponed after a wave of protests, with the opposition accusing President Alpha Conde of planning to rig the poll. Conde won a 2010 election in Guinea’s first democratic transition of power, but his victory was contested by the opposition.
"We have reached an agreement," Mouctar Diallo, one of the opposition’s leaders, told Reuters. "I hope the international community will guarantee the implementation of this deal."
Political instability following a 2008 military coup deterred some investors from Guinea despite its large deposits of iron ore, bauxite, gold and other minerals.
The election, originally due to take place in 2011, is essential to unlock nearly 200 million euros of European Union funding.
Wednesday’s agreement means elections should be held within 83 days. With Guinean electoral law specifying voting must take place on a Sunday, this would make the date of the election September 29, Diallo said.
Scenes of celebration following today’s rulings on Prop. 8, DOMA
The Supreme Court handed two major victories to the gay marriage movement this morning, ruling a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, and effectively ending Proposition 8 in California.
You can read the full opinions of the court here, or just keep looking at the joy over the rulings captured above.
Photos: Charles Dharapak, Eric Risberg / Associated Press, Win McNamee, Justin Sullivan, Mark Wilson / Getty Images, Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA, Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times
PICTURED ABOVE: Burkina Faso’s foreign Minister Djibril Bassole speaks to media after meeting with representatives of Touareg rebels and Malian government on June 10, 2013 at the presidential palace in Ouagadougou. [AFP Photo/Ahmed Ouoba]
Mali government, Tuaregs reach ceasefire deal ‘in principle’
A Malian government delegation and Tuareg separatist rebels have reached an agreement “in principle” that would allow planned elections in July to go ahead in the disputed northern Kidal region, a senior mediator in the talks said late on Monday.
Negotiations in Ouagadougou, the capital of neighboring Burkina Faso, opened on Saturday, after Mali’s army last week began advancing towards Kidal, the MNLA rebels’ last stronghold in the remote northeast, in the first direct fighting in months.
France launched a massive military campaign in January which broke al Qaeda-linked Islamist fighters’ control over the northern two-thirds of Mali. However it allowed the Tuaregs to regain control of their traditional fiefdom.
The Malian government has made clear that it wants civil administration and the army to return to Kidal before elections scheduled for July 28 and had threatened to seize the town if no agreement was reached by Monday.
"On the point concerning the deployment of Malian armed forces in the region of Kidal, we have obtained an agreement in principle," Djibril Bassole, Burkina’s foreign minister, told journalists following a round of meetings.
"The two sides have requested a few hours to report back to their bases … in order to be able to come back tomorrow for the final adoption of this document," he said.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the United States hoped the talks “will set the stage for long-term national reconciliation.”
"We call on the parties to conclude a framework agreement for elections in Kidal without delay," Psaki told reporters.
In a major breakthrough, the Taliban and the U.S. announced Tuesday that they will hold talks on finding a political solution to ending nearly 12 years of war in Afghanistan as the Islamic militant movement opened an office in Qatar.
American officials with the Obama administration said the office in the Qatari capital of Doha was the first step toward the ultimate U.S.-Afghan goal of a full Taliban renouncement of links with al-Qaida. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record, said U.S. representatives will begin formal meetings with the Taliban at the office in a few days.
(MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images)
(Photo: Ebrahim Noroozi / AP)
Hassan Rowhani, a moderate cleric who scored a surprise victory in Iran’s presidential election, held out the prospect of improved relations with the United States.
US government to end effort to restrict morning-after pill
New York Times: The Obama administration told a U.S. District Court judge it would stop trying to block the over-the-counter availability of Plan B One-Step for all women and girls.
The reversal by the government means that anyone, no matter how young, will soon be able to walk into a drugstore and buy the pill, Plan B One-Step, without a prescription.
The Justice Department had been fighting to prevent that outcome, but said late Monday afternoon that it would drop its appeal of a judge’s order to make the drug more widely available. In a letter to Judge Edward R. Korman of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, the administration said it would comply with his demands that the Food and Drug Administration be allowed to certify the drug for nonprescription use.
Photo credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images via nytimes.com
Afghan President Visits Qatar To Discuss Peace
Afghanistan’s president landed in Qatar Sunday to discuss his country’s stalled peace process and the possible opening of a Taliban office in the Gulf state, officials said.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Janan Mosazai said President Hamid Karzai will not hold any talks with Taliban representatives now in Qatar.
He will meet with Qatari officials on the sidelines of an annual conference on relations between the United States and the Muslim world.
"As we have already said, any official negotiations regarding peace with the Taliban can take place only between the high-ranking Taliban representatives and the High Peace Council of Afghanistan," Mosazai told reporters.
Mugabe signs Zimbabwe constitution, paving way for vote
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe signed a new constitution into law on Wednesday, replacing a 33-year-old document forged in the dying days of British colonial rule and paving the way for an election later this year.
Approved overwhelmingly in a referendum in March, the constitution clips the powers of the president and imposes a two-term limit. However, it does not apply retroactively so the 89-year-old Mugabe technically could extend his three decades in office by another 10 years.
A beaming Mugabe, flanked by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, his main political rival, and Deputy President Joice Mujuru signed multiple copies of the charter at State House in the capital to cheers and applause from aides.
The constitution was rewritten under terms of a power-sharing deal between Mugabe and Tsvangirai after elections in 2008 marred by violence.
The five-year coalition government formed under the same agreement expires on June 29, and parliamentary and presidential elections should follow within 90 days of that date.
However, many obstacles remain, not least finding the estimated $130 million needed to pay for the election and reaching agreement on outside monitors.
Harare has turned down offers of United Nations or donor assistance and Mugabe accused some in the 15-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC), which has been mediating in the crisis, of trying to impose their will.
"We rejected this," he told reporters after the signing ceremony, adding that any vote would be fair. "We will ensure that there won’t be any violence, that there won’t be any rigging."
Mugabe made no mention of an election date but Tsvangirai later told reporters it would be later rather than sooner because of the need to amend electoral laws and allow the 30-day registration period for new voters mandated in the constitution.
State media said on Wednesday that Mugabe was pressing for a vote before July although his rivals wanted it delayed to allow for the opening up of broadcast media, registration of new voters and reform of the military to ensure it stays out of politics.
China president makes first ever visit to Trinidad, starting regional tour that will end in US
Chinese President Xi Jinping (above, right) met for the first time with officials in Trinidad and Tobago Saturday on the first stop of a four-country regional tour.
In a news conference, Xi announced that China was awarding Trinidad a $250 million loan to build a children’s hospital. He also said he and Trinidadian Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (above,left) had signed a memorandum of understanding to co-operate on a range of issues.
"We both agree to actively advance co-operation in key areas of energy, minerals and infrastructure development and also to advance our co-operation in new energy, telecommunications and agriculture," Xi told reporters after he and Persad-Bissessar met in her office.
Persad-Bissessar said Trinidad views China “as a very key business partner and a potential new market for our energy products and for alternative energy research.” She added that Xi agreed to send the Caribbean 100 volunteer medical professionals over the next three years.
John Baird appoints Canada’s first ambassador to Somalia in more than 20 years
A longtime Canadian diplomat will become the country’s first ambassador to Somalia in more than two decades.
The announcement of David Angell’s appointment marks a restart of diplomatic relations between Canada and the east Africa country.
Canada hasn’t had an ambassador accredited to Somalia since 1990 but had signalled it wanted to rekindle relations following presidential elections in the country last year.
Angell was appointed Canada’s ambassador to Kenya last fall and he’ll continue to live in Nairobi while carrying out his new duties.
His appointment was formally announced Tuesday by Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird (pictured above) during a visit to Kenya.
It had been approved by the Privy Council Office last week as part of a broader diplomatic shuffle which also saw Canada’s ambassador to Mali receive responsibility for Niger.