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A round up of stories today about opportunity in America, pulled from a variety of nonprofits, race and immigration blogs, and mainstream media outlets.  Cross posted at State of Opportunity, a blog about human rights and the American Dream.

  • Alan Jenkins' newest opinion piece is live on TomPaine.com. Entitled 'The Return of Redemption,' the piece contextualizes the recent crack sentencing ruling as well as the end of the death penalty in New Jersey as part of a larger shift in American values:

Together, these decisions reflect decades of difficult lessons: about the folly of locking away people convicted of low-level, non-violent offenses for decades; about how seemingly neutral policies can have gravely discriminatory effects; and about the ineffectual, discriminatory and dangerously inaccurate nature of the death penalty.

But information alone rarely leads to policy change, especially when it comes to criminal justice policy. That political leaders could even consider these changes in an election year speaks to a shift in public values as well as public understanding. Each reform reflects a return to the values of redemption and equality that are essential to a fair and effective criminal justice system, and that polls and politics show are on the rise in our country.

  • RaceWire has shared a LA Times article on California's new plan for universal health care, a measure negotiated by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez (D-Los Angeles). On Monday the state Assembly approved the first phase of a $14.4-billion plan to extend medical insurance to nearly all residents by 2010. The legislation will provide subsidies and tax credits for people who have trouble paying their health insurance premiums.
  • Pam's House Blend has posted about a student at Southern Utah University who was denied housing because he is transgender. The university, which offers separate housing for men and women, demanded that Kourt Osborn provide the following in order to live in male housing:
  • a letter from the doctor that monitors his hormone treatment;
  • a letter from his therapist saying that he has gender identity disorder, or gender dysphoria; and
  • official documentation that he has had sexual reassignment surgery.

Like many transgender people, Osborn isn't interested in surgery or a clinical diagnosis of his 'disorder.' The post compares Osborn's situation with that of people of mixed racial backgrounds in decades past:

"When people do not fit into a structured, discriminatory and binary system, the chances of discrimination against that person goes up."

Such is the case with Kourt. He is a person who does not fit into society’s tidy binary system on gender. Because he has transgressed society’s gender rules, the discrimination he faces on a daily basis — including the denial of housing at a public university — is very real and hardly ever subtle.

  • Finally, Firedoglake published a piece on media reporting (or lack thereof) on torture  in the United States. Blogger PhoenixWoman received a story in her email entitled CIA photos 'show UK Guantanamo detainee was tortured' from Britain's The Independent, which details the existence of photographic evidence proving that British citizen Binyam Mohammed has been abused while in American custody.  Mohammed's lawyers in the UK have expressed their worry that the photos will be destroyed, given the CIA's recent destruction of "hundreds of hours of videotapes showing the torture of detainees held by the US." Interestingly, while US-based CommonDreams.org has also picked up this story, Google News did not provide any matches for the article.

Originally posted to The Opportunity Agenda on Wed Dec 19, 2007 at 01:32 PM PST.

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