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Covered California Introduces Standard Plans

By Anthony Wright

On Wednesday, February 13, Covered California unveiled a new website, its new social media presence and, in particular, the new benefit designs that this marketplace will offer in 2014 under the Affordable Care Act to help California consumers get coverage more easily and affordably.

California has led the way in realizing the promise of "Obamacare" - being first to set up such an exchange where consumers will be able to conveniently shop for quality, affordable health insurance that meets federal guidelines and where many people will be able to receive subsidies (100% federally subsidized) to help pay for coverage.

"Enough is Enough”: New Group Unites to Challenge the “War on Women”

By Kelly Rivas

On Saturday, April 28, 2012, in cities and Capitols across America, a new and growing movement will march and rally to Unite Against the War on Women.  April 28th will be a day for Americans to loudly denounce the ongoing attacks on women from the extreme right as well as to honor the diversity and continued fight for the freedom of women.

All across the country, through legislative proposals, government regulations, and political rhetoric, a war is being waged against women, our bodies, our rights and our freedom. Arizona is making the use of birth control without employer permission a fire worthy offense. Birth control is covered in 28 states, Viagra is covered in all 50. Rape victims must undergo vaginal probing before seeking an abortion in TX and PA and last year, Topeka, Kansas decriminalized domestic violence. Currently over 400 similar bills are being considered federally and within states including the current debate on the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (S. 1925) in the U.S. Senate.

A “Separate but Equal” Internet?

By Stephanie Chen and Chris Brown
Greenlining Institute

Californians know better than anyone that in today’s world technology is the essential portal to information, and the old line that knowledge is power is truer than ever.  Information technology has the potential to be a great social and economic equalizer – but only if we preserve today’s open Internet.

That is not by any means a sure thing, and a U.S. Senate bill that would go a long way toward solving the problem hasn’t made progress. California’s representatives in Washington have a mixed record at best.

SOPA and PIPA Die: Anti-Piracy Push Languishes for Now

By David Dayen

After the death of PIPA this morning comes the news that Lamar Smith, the Republican chair of the House Judiciary Committee who planned on resuming the markup of SOPA, the House version of anti-piracy legislation, in February, has put the bill into cold storage. The work of the grassroots coalition did the trick: SOPA and PIPA are dead for now.

U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) announced today that the House Judiciary Committee, which he heads, “will postpone consideration of the legislation until there is wider agreement on a solution.” Smith added that he has taken critics’ concerns “seriously.”

“It is clear that we need to revisit the approach on how best to address the problem of foreign thieves that steal and sell American inventions and products,” Smith said in today’s statement [...]

Internet Blackout Today: The Fight For A Free And Open Web

By Isaiah J. Poole

Because our fight for a people-powered democracy and an economy that works for all Americans depends on a free and open Internet, OurFuture.org today is standing in solidarity with the many websites that are protesting two bills pending in Congress that are direct and profound threats to that freedom.

Many of these websites, including the reference site Wikipedia and MoveOn.org, have decided to "go dark" today to symbolize what could happen if the draconian measures in these bills are put into effect. The organization "Fight for the Future," which bills itself as a nonprofit defending "online freedom," calls today's action "the largest online protest in history."

The bills are the Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House. The bills are ostensibly intended to crack down on copyright infringement, but both bills contain clauses that allow copyright holders to launch legal actions that would shut down an entire website, and the Department of Justice could demand that Internet service providers, search engines and social networking sites block access to the site. The Senate bill would allow a website to be blocked before the owners of the targeted site could defend themselves in court.

Confessions Of A Hollywood Professional: Why I Can't Support the Stop Online Piracy Act

By Marta Evry

According to a report published by the AFL-CIO, online piracy costs content providers (mostly TV networks and movie studios) a lot of money. Around $20 billion annually. That, in turn, costs a staggering number of industry-related jobs - over 140,000 by some estimates.

As a freelance film editor, this scares the hell out of me.  If the  networks and studios I work for don't make money, sooner or later I'm  out of a job. And if I'm out of a job long enough, I lose my union health benefits, my pension, the whole ball of wax.

I know it scares the hell out of my union, IATSE, judging by numerous emails warning how my livelihood is in grave danger from "foreign rogue sites" dedicated to wholesale theft of the intellectual property of my employers.

On the flip side, there were petitions filling my inbox from internet watchdog groups urging me to tell Congress to "preserve free speech", and that if I didn't, the "internet as we know it" would cease to exist.

Now, if you don't know what they're talking about, you're not alone. Until I started getting these emails, I too was blissfully ignorant about the alphabet-soup of anti-piracy  legislation currently grinding it's way through the bowels of Congress -  the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate.

Flash Report Gets It Wrong (I Know - We're Shocked Too) On Redistricting Report

By Jason Kinney

I consider Jon Fleischman a friend and his Flash Report blog an important reminder to California's resident ivory-tower intelligentsia that right-wingers can read and write, too - sometimes quite thoughtfully.

But his piece Friday on the ill-advised attempt by Republican politicians to overturn by referendum the will of California's voters and the hard work of the bipartisan, Citizens Redistricting Commission was unique in its brazen disregard of, you know, obvious, widely-accepted facts.

Survive Cyber Monday with our Top 10 Online Shopping Tips

By Paul Stephens
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse

The phrase "Cyber Monday" was coined several years ago to describe the phenomenon of millions of workers returning to their offices on the Monday after Thanksgiving and spending a good part of the day doing their holiday shopping online. By November 2010, Cyber Monday had become the biggest online shopping day in history and the first to surpass the billion-dollar threshold.

Amid Concerns About Budget Cuts, Most Say Higher Education System Heading in Wrong Direction

By Public Policy Insitute of California

Most Californians say the state’s public higher education system is headed in the wrong direction, according to a statewide survey released today by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), with funding from The James Irvine Foundation. With the possibility of more cuts to the state’s public colleges and universities looming, most residents say affordability and the state budget situation—rather than educational quality—are big problems.

Just 28 percent of Californians say the public higher education system is headed in the right direction, while 62 percent see it headed in the wrong direction—a view shared across political parties and regions of the state. Only 24 percent say overall educational quality is a big problem, but 61 percent say overall affordability of education for students is a big problem and an even greater 69 percent say the overall state budget situation is a big problem.

What Activists Can Learn From Occupy Wall Street

By Randy Shaw
Beyond Chron

For some, Occupy Wall Street is a great strategy for bringing attention to the financial industry’s ongoing abuses and the political system’s unwillingness to control them. For others, it is more akin to a 1960’s “Be In” than a serious challenge to Wall Street power, as it lacks the specific targets and winnable demands customary in standard organizing campaigns. Activists can disagree on many aspects of the occupation, and debating its strategy (or lack thereof) adds to our learning curve. But the greatest lesson of Occupy Wall Street is hard to dispute: many have not given up hopes for real progressive change, and are now more likely to focus outside the electoral process.