Meet The Man Who Could Be America’s First Openly Trans Male Judge

Henry Sias went into law because he needed a practical career where he could ?go to the dentist every year.? Now, the 40 year-old attorney and co-founder of Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity could become the first openly transgender man in the country to become a judge. While there are two openly transgender women judges in the U.S., ?the first transgender male judge to serve on the bench would make history,? Eric Lesh, Fair Courts Project Director for Lambda Legal, told HuffPost. 

But first, Sias must advance in the May 16 Democratic primary for a seat on Court of Common Pleas, Pennsylvania?s trial court. His bid comes at a time when states are debating the rights of transgender people in public spaces, and as the Trump administration walks back protections for transgender students. ?It would be a momentous step in achieving a judiciary that reflects Pennsylvania and the nation,? Lesh added.

HuffPost recently chatted with Sias about his path from Michigan, where he attended five different elementary schools in six years after his family lost their home, to running for public office in Philadelphia. 

The Huffington Post: Why should Philadelphians vote for you to be a judge?Henry Sias: I have many years of experience working directly with judges and justices, and I understand the First Judicial District from the inside. I learned from some of the finest trial judges in Philadelphia. I will take that experience directly to the bench. I also think that Philadelphians can and should send the message that transgender people belong in Philadelphia, and we belong in Philadelphia?s government. My experiences in the courts and in co-founding one of Philadelphia?s most successful legal nonprofits of the last decade show me to be someone who will continue to work to improve our courts and maintain them as safe, democratic spaces where citizens can tell their truths, and with those truths, change our community for the better.

A lot of the coverage of this race has focused on your gender identity. How have you felt about that?
When you want to get on the ballot, you have to spend two weeks kind of running around the city getting people to sign your petition ? your nomination. And, nobody really likes being approached on a sidewalk by somebody. You?re already starting off in an awkward position. And, then you say, ?Hey, I?m trans and I?m trying to become a judge.? It can?t get more awkward from there. Philadelphians were really wonderful during the petition period. They were very nice to me. A couple of guys asked, ?Well, why does it matter that you?re trans?? Like, ?why are you bringing this up?? And, about that I would say two things. First, in the age of Google, you don?t have the option not to. You can either control how it comes out or you can let somebody else control it. So, it?s better, from my perspective, to have some control over how it comes up because I know it?s going to.

But, everybody deserves representation in government. And, I think it would be helpful to the other judges to have a colleague who can be a resource if, for instance, they have somebody in their courtroom, maybe someone who?s genderqueer. They?re not necessarily going to know how best to keep the space respectful for that person. They can come to me and I can be a resource. So, that?s just one of the many reasons why we need all sorts of people involved in government.

Right now, transgender people experience a lot of employment discrimination. So, I think it would be very powerful for Philadelphia to elect somebody into government who?s out and who?s trans, because it sends the message that the city, the people in the city understand that trans people belong in the city, we belong in our community.

How do you think having more trans and queer people working within the judicial system could have an impact on various kinds of laws, like HB2 in North Carolina, where the underlying sentiment is to remove trans people from public life? 
Trying to exclude systematically a group of people from public life is the same way that aggressive catcalling is often part of the sort of systematic attempt to make women feel unsafe in public life, to make them feel that they shouldn?t be out in public life unless they have a guy with them. We think of ourselves as being this open democratic place, but when you have people who feel fear when they leave their house that?s not so open and democratic. So, we need to do everything we can to push back against that culture.

So, I would love to participate in my own little way, in pushing back against the narrative that transgender people are basically liars. That we are deceiving others. Obviously that has implications all over the place but in the court system, when your participation is often about whether you?re telling the truth, whether you?re a reliable narrator of your own experience, it?s important to push back and eliminate the idea that transgender people are sort of fundamentally false or that we?re not reliable narrators because of who we are and what happens to us. So I think having transgender people involved in the legal system in the courts in government helps to push back against that systemic discrimination.

Have you thought about what the visibility that would be gained if you were elected would mean for young trans people across the country who, if they saw you as a judge, could say to themselves, ?Wow, that?s an option for me??
I think it?s really, really important that we have people who are trans, who are visible, and who can demonstrate to younger trans people that there is a great future out there for them. That we are loved, that we can contribute to our communities and have our contributions seen and appreciated.

But, there needs to not be any limit to their ambitions for their future. It used to be that even parents who did not think of themselves as at all homophobic or transphobic would sort of go through a grieving period when their kid came out because they would think ?Oh, now my kid is not going to be loved. Now, my kid is never going to have someone in their life to take care of them or they?re not going to have the opportunity to spread their wings and have this beautiful career that they weren?t taught they were going to be able to have.? But, that?s not true anymore. The more we can show people that that?s not true, the better. 

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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A Painter Searches For A More Interconnected Vision Of Humanity

In Laura Berger?s inviting paintings and ceramics, everything extraneous has been stripped away. Almost featureless nude figures cavort or repose in geometrically iterated positions, set against flattened beige backgrounds. The world, in these scenes, appears harmonious and placid: Mankind at peace. 

?I?m interested in our search for a sense of belonging and meaning as individuals, and how that both contrasts and combines with our existential concerns of feeling small or insignificant in the larger world,? Berger told The Huffington Post in an email. She wants to capture ?the ideas of inclusion and interconnectedness? in these works. 

To evoke the profound underlying unity of the human race, she portrays the figures with pin-prick eyes and mouths, generic hairstyles and no secondary sex characteristics, á la Ken. (Barbie is different, thanks to the bosom.) ?I?m … trying to distill the environments and figures down to very minimal clean shapes as a way to really focus on emotion or story, color and composition,? she told HuffPost.

The earthy, warm colors of Berger?s paintings play into her peaceful aesthetic and the rosy browns of her scenes look visually reminiscent of ancient Greek pottery paintings ? which she cites as an influence. ?I?m really fascinated by ancient art that looks like it could have been made in contemporary time ? things like Japanese prints, Nayarit sculpture, Native American textiles and ledger drawings, Indonesian paintings, the modern illustrative style on Grecian vessels,? she explained. ?But I?m equally interested in really abstract, graphic work. I love the large, clean shapes in paintings by Carmen Herrera, for instance, or the loose free-flowing forms and color fields in Helen Frankenthaler?s work.?

The confluence of ancient and contemporary aesthetics infuses her paintings with a timelessness, a visual representation of humanity that seems suspended in amber. ?When you take away everything that the world puts upon us, we are all just these beings that are so similar and so connected to each other and to our collective global history,? she said.

The patterns of human figures and clean backgrounds have a geometric balance that juxtaposes with the soft bodily curves and muted palette Berger depicts. ?I guess it?s sort of how life is, so that?s interesting to me,? she said. Depending on how you look at it, the human condition is either squishy and random or guided by primordial patterns ? or maybe it?s both.

In her paintings, humanity isn?t divided by gender, color or class; they move as one. There?s a deeper pattern beneath the seemingly fragmented and squishy categories of people. On a cosmic level, the paintings seem to say that we have more in common than we have dividing us. ?Much of my focus has been around exploring alternate notions of ?family? and connection ? through our ties to the global community and to our collective ancestry, to nature and to the unknown,? Berger added. Her works soothe, suggesting a likely impossible vision of global cooperation and mutual respect. 

In the real world, we do wear clothes that mark our socioeconomic statuses; we have sex organs and we engage in vicious partisan battles instead of collaborating peacefully to build a society together. In looking at Berger?s wistful paintings, we can imagine a better way.

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Attorney For Bill O’Reilly Accuser Calls Fox News ‘The Bill Cosby Of Corporate America’

Lisa Bloom, the attorney for a former Fox News guest holding a press conference Monday, ripped the network?s handling of sexual harassment lawsuits against top-rated primetime host Bill O?Reilly and called for an independent investigation. 

?How many women have to come forward?? Bloom, who has also served as an NBC News legal analyst, asked Sunday on CNN?s ?Reliable Sources.? ?How many millions of dollars have to get paid before Fox News takes sexual harassment seriously?? 

?In my opinion, this network is the Bill Cosby of corporate America,? she continued, in reference to the dozens of women who have accused the famous comedian of sexual assault. ?Women over and over again are driven out.?

Bloom?s comments followed a bombshell New York Times investigation published Saturday that revealed payments of about $13 million to five women accusing the primetime star of sexual harassment, inappropriate behavior, or verbal abuse. One of the five suits, involving former producer Andrea Mackris, made headlines in 2004. Another suit, involving Fox News employee Juliet Huddy was only reported in January. The other three had not been previously reported. 

A sixth woman, Dr. Wendy Walsh, told the Times that she rebuffed O?Reilly?s advances and he later didn?t follow through on an offer to make her a network contributor. In a release, Bloom said Walsh will speak out at a press conference Monday in Los Angeles and they ?will reveal their new demands to the network.?

The revelations about O?Reilly only shed more light on the toxic culture inside Fox News.

Fox News chairman Roger Ailes, who built the network with Rupert Murdoch in 1996 and ran it for two decades, resigned in July following a sexual harassment lawsuit from former Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson and amid widespread allegations from women inside the network, including former primetime host Megyn Kelly and many others throughout the executive?s five decades in media and politics. Former Fox News host Andrea Tantaros is also suing Ailes and top executives at Fox News, which she compared to a ?Playboy Mansion-Like Cult.?

Federal investigators are currently looking into whether parent company 21st Century Fox didn?t properly notify investigators about payments to Ailes?s accusers and other business practices.

While Fox News recently posted its highest quarterly ratings ever, and enjoys the best access to President Donald Trump, the post-Ailes network continues to be embroiled in scandals related to allegations of employee mistreatment. 

Last month, 21st Century Fox reached a settlement with former Fox News contributor Tamara Holder after she accused former network Fox executive Francisco Cortes of sexual assault. And last week, two black former employees, Tichaona Brown and Tabrese Wright, filed a racial discrimination suit against longtime comptroller Judith Slater, Fox News, and 21st Century Fox. The network had fired Slater just days earlier for what it dubbed ?abhorrent behavior.?

O?Reilly, however, has remained seemingly untouchable at Fox News despite the headline-grabbing allegations of sexual harassment over a decade ago and the latest revelations. That?s presumably because ?The O?Reilly Factor? draws nearly 4 million viewers nightly, the most in cable news, and his show brought in more than $446 million in advertising revenue from 2014 to 2016, according to the Times.

?Just like other prominent and controversial people, I?m vulnerable to lawsuits from individuals who want me to pay them to avoid negative publicity,? O?Reilly said in a statement on his website. ?In my more than 20 years at Fox News Channel, no one has ever filed a complaint about me with the Human Resources Department, even on the anonymous hotline.?

In a statement to HuffPost, 21st Century Fox ? the Murdoch-family owned parent company of Fox News ? noted that no current or former network employee used the company?s hotline ?to raise a concern about Bill O?Reilly, even anonymously.? The company said it had ?looked into these matters over the last few months and discussed them with Mr. O?Reilly. 

?While he denies the merits of these claims, Mr. O?Reilly has resolved those he regarded as his personal responsibility,? the statement continued. ?Mr. O?Reilly is fully committed to supporting our efforts to improve the environment for all our employees at Fox News.?

The Wall Street Journal, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch?s News Corp., reported Saturday that O?Reilly?s contract, originally set to expire at the end of this year, was recently renewed.

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Donald Trump’s Team Escalates Freedom Caucus Feud

The White House is ramping up its public battle with the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus, singling out Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), one of the group?s most unflinching members.

President Donald Trump?s social media director Dan Scavino first needled Amash on Friday, tweeting that the Great Lakes State congressman refused to back the Republican Obamacare replacement bill because ?he puts politics before [Michigan.]? Scavino included screenshots of articles about the congressman?s decision not to vote for Trump, and of an Amash tweet criticizing the president?s rants about Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) in January.

Amash, known for his stubborn independence from party leadership, was defiant as ever, defending opposition to the bill he called ?#Swampcare because it?s just another version of #Obamacare.?

Scavino continued hammering Amash on Saturday, calling for Trump supporters to primary Amash in the coming election cycle.

Amash responded in less than an hour, claiming the Trump administration and establishment ?have merged into #Trumpstablishment.?

If the White House is serious about ousting Amash, it will not be easy. A more mainstream Republican backed by the party establishment tried to defeat the four-term congressman in a 2014 primary and failed miserably.

Amash has emerged as the congressional Republican perhaps most willing to criticize Trump. He has maintained this maverick approach during the public feud that has erupted between Trump and the Freedom Caucus in the past few days. 

The president has settled on a deliberate strategy of calling out the Freedom Caucus for its role in sinking the Republican Obamacare replacement bill. The group of hardline fiscal conservatives argued that the legislation preserved too much of the Affordable Care Act?s original structure, noting that it would provide tax credits for individuals to purchase insurance on exchanges.

Trump tweeted on Thursday that Republicans ?must fight? Freedom Caucus members if they ?don?t get on board,? implying that they would be subject to primary challenges. On Friday, he singled out GOP Reps. Mark Meadows (N.C.), Jim Jordan (Ohio) and Raul Labrador (Idaho) ? all Freedom Caucus members ? in more conciliatory tweets that seemed aimed at cajoling them into cooperation.

Scavino?s call to initiate a primary challenge against Amash is the most explicit indication yet that the White House plans to try to push these members out if they stand in the way of the broader GOP agenda.

– This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

All The News That’s Fit To Buy

?Fake news? comes in many different forms. Before the 2016 presidential election, the term was used to describe modern day yellow journalism?false or misleading news stories widely shared on social media platforms. The term was later co-opted by President Donald Trump and his rabid defenders to describe any news story not favorable to his corporatist, fact-adverse regime.

Before the term?s emergence as a political buzzword, however, ?fake news? has existed as a device of corporate marketers and advertisers whose deceptive tactics continue to evolve in the digital age. And has it evolved!

?Fake News is fast replacing recognizable advertising as the weapon of choice for the clear majority of advertisers and websites battling for revenue, and consumers,? says Will deHoo, cofounder and Executive Director of the FoolProof Foundation. DeHoo and iconic news anchor Walter Cronkite created their foundation to teach consumers to be healthy skeptics.

Hundreds of billions of dollars are spent by corporations each year on advertising, from flashy Super Bowl ads to banners on the sides of city buses. Just how effective these ads are in selling products is an ongoing debate kept mostly private within the advertising industry. Pioneering department store magnate, John Wanamaker of Philadelphia, once mused that half the money he spent on advertising was effective, but he didn?t know which half.

Fake News is going to be a big, nearly overpowering presence in all of our lives for a long time to come.
Will deHoo

Americans are now under constant bombardment by advertisers, from billboards to radio and TV commercials, internet ads, athlete jerseys and even in once off-limits schools. However, research shows that more and more Americans consciously attempt to avoid advertisements when they can. This is a serious problem to a multi-billion dollar industry ever striving to justify its relevance.

Ever flip through a magazine or a newspaper and come across an article that looks nearly identical to any other article in the publication, only to see ?advertisement? along the bottom in small letters? These are called advertorials?advertisements designed to look like editorial content. The practice is not new. Merriam-Webster dates the origin of the word to 1946. Back in the 1970?s, Mobil Oil famously bought ad space on the op-ed pages of major newspapers to push oil and gas interests and favorable policy positions.

The intent of an advertorial is shameless deception, to fool readers into absorbing a one-sided marketing release without even realizing it. With the oversaturation of easily-ignorable advertising in other mediums, this old tactic has re-emerged online with new life.

Now called ?native? or ?invisible? advertising, companies are investing big into Trojan horsing their sales pitches. An added benefit to these shifty sellers is that by shedding the legal baggage that comes attached to ?pure? advertising, they are more able to make even more outrageous and unprovable assertions about their products. Perhaps a more accurate term is ?ambush advertising.?

Even online articles from highly-respected outlets such as The New York Times and The Washington Post are routinely covered in banner advertisements, sometimes embedded in the middle of the article text. Similar to the old days of Mobil Oil, many of these ads can initially appear to be links to other legitimate articles from the same outlet, unless one is paying enough attention to notice that they are covertly labeled as paid for by a sponsor. Other websites show sponsored ads with innocuous labels like ?Recommended For You? or ?From Our Partners.?

?Advertisers have spent the last five years perfecting how to hide advertising within editorial content,? says Dr. Mara Einstein, author of Blacks Ops Advertising: Native Ads, Content Marketing, and the Covert World of the Digital Sell. Einstein also serves on the FoolProof Foundation?s board. ?The newest research suggests that native advertising will soon represent almost 3/4 of display advertising. And most of that will be ?custom native? ? the kind that looks most like the website on which it appears.?

To savvy readers and internet users, these ad traps might stand out and be easily avoided, but many consumers of content are not aware of the ulterior motives behind what they see on their screens.

According to a Stanford University study, 82% of middle-schoolers could not tell the difference between a real online news story and an advertisement designed to look like one?even with the presence of a small disclaimer.

Corporate brands have also moved into social media platforms, blurring the lines between corporate advertising, human relationships and editorial content. With Congress now passing a bill allowing Internet Service Providers to sell the private browsing data of its customers, it seems nothing is off limits for those seeking to shamelessly sell.

The Walter Cronkite project at The FoolProof Foundation has put together a useful website with information on how to identify the signs of fake news advertising. It also has resources for teachers to help educate their students about this deceptive new wave of advertising. It?s worth a visit.

?Fake News is going to be a big, nearly overpowering presence in all of our lives for a long time to come,? summed up FoolProof Founder Will deHoo. Cronkite would have agreed with him.

– This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

This Little Girl Loves Costco So Much, She Made It Her Birthday Party Theme

When Kimber Walker celebrated her fifth birthday, she picked a pretty unconventional party theme. 

The North Carolina preschooler commemorated the occasion with a Costco-themed party at her home in February. 

?She is obsessed with Costco,? Kimber?s mom, Niki, told The Huffington Post. ?We served hotdogs and pizza, set up sample stations, printed dollars with her face on them, had Costco pizza and Kirkland ice cream. We also had a little shop set up, and everyone designed their own ?membership cards?.?

Niki said Kimber had been requesting a Costco-themed party for two years, so the family finally decided to bring her dream to life for her fifth birthday.

The Walkers declared their daughter ?Employee of the Month? and set up a photo area for guests to take photos with a sign stating that. Their local Winston-Salem Costco even gave them a special employee badge for the little girl.

Kimber had a blast at the party, and her guests enjoyed the celebration as well.

?They thought it was hilarious and quirky, which both describe my daughter,? said the mom.  ?One of the little girls that came said that it was the best party that she had ever been to, including all of her own. ?

Keep scrolling to see more photos from Kimber?s awesome Costco party.

– This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

Bosses defend Peugeot-Opel deal under political fire

FRANKFURT/PARIS (Reuters) – PSA Group and General Motors mobilized their chief executives on Wednesday to defend the Peugeot maker’s planned acquisition of GM’s Opel against a German-led backlash that could derail the deal even before its terms are finalised.

.http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/zhSZtEv4M64/us-opel-m-a-psa-hq-idUSKBN15U12T
RANKFURT/PARIS (Reuters) – PSA Group and General Motors mobilized their chief executives on Wednesday to defend the Peugeot maker’s planned acquisition of GM’s Opel against a German-led backlash that could derail the deal even before its terms are finalised.

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