EXCLUSIVE-Retired U.S. military chiefs fight Trump trans ban

EXCLUSIVE-Retired

LONDON, Jan 8 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Four senior retired U.S. military officers on Tuesday blasted a legal ruling backing President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender individuals serving in the armed forces as “wrong” ahead of a key decision from the country’s top court on Friday.

The officers said a ruling last week by a Washington appeals court in favour of a ban on transgender recruits was misguided and backed an earlier decision that such a policy would violate their constitutional rights.

“The D.C. Court of Appeals made an error when it lifted one of the injunctions that protect transgender members of our military,” said retired officers Lieutenant General Claudia Kennedy, Rear Admiral John Hutson, Major General Gale Pollock and Brigadier General Clara Adams-Ender.

“The need for an injunction protecting transgender people who serve their country remains precisely the same,” they said in a joint statement obtained exclusively by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

In July 2017, Trump tweeted that transgender people would be banned from serving in the U.S. military, citing the “tremendous medical costs and disruption”.

Former defense secretary Jim Mattis last year proposed allowing trans individuals currently serving to remain.

However, new transgender recruits and trans servicemen and women who sought to transition after the ban took effect would be barred.

In its ruling, the Washington appeals court said the Mattis proposal did not represent a “blanket ban” on trans individuals.

But the retired chiefs said the rationale for the Mattis policy and the Trump tweets was “the same — politics, not military expertise — and courts should not be deferring to it”.

A 2016 RAND Corporation survey estimated that there were between 1,300 and 6,600 trans men and women on active duty in the 1.3 million-strong U.S. military.

“The Trump tweets and the Mattis policy take aim at the same people: troops diagnosed with gender dysphoria,” said Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center, an independent research institute that focuses on LGBT+ people and the military.

EXCLUSIVE-Retired

“They ban the same thing: gender transition. They have the same effect: forcing transgender troops to live a lie and denying them medically necessary care.”

Other LGBT+ rights organisations echoed Belkin’s concerns.

The administration is “trying to package this as an entirely new policy, but all it does is what President Trump ordered: ban openly transgender people from bravely serving their country”, said Tara Borelli, counsel at Lambda Legal.

Ryan Thoreson, an LGBT+ researcher at Human Rights Watch, said: “Wording the Mattis policy slightly differently doesn’t change the plain fact that this is and always has been a ban on transgender service.”

Under rules introduced by former U.S. President Barack Obama, the country’s military did not distinguish between trans men and women and other service personnel.

A Swiss philanthropist has donated $1 billion to save the Earth’s wild lands and waters from destruction. Here’s where the money is going.

A Swiss philanthropist

Hansjorg Wyss, a Swiss philanthropist, has pledged $1 billion to land and ocean conservation.

The Wyss Foundation wants to help preserve 30% of the planet’s wild lands and oceans by 2030.

An increase in conservation can help prevent animal and plant species from going extinct, and it can expand the availability of clean air and drinking water.
Greg Zimmerman, the communications director at the Wyss Campaign for Nature, said the foundation has already donated more than $66 million.

In October 2018, Swiss philanthropist Hansjörg Wyss announced a $1 billion donation to conserve the planet’s oceans and lands.

Wyss, a billionaire and conservationist, wrote in a New York Times op-ed that his eponymous foundation will donate the money over the next 10 years to conservation projects led by indigenous people, local leaders, and conservation groups. He wants to help conserve 30% of the planet by 2030, adding that lands and waters are best protected when they are turned into public national parks, marine reserves, and wildlife refuges.

Such a large increase in conservation would widen the availability of clean air and drinking water, and prevent the extinction of many species. Researchers at Brown University have found that animal and plant species are going extinct 1,000 times faster than they did prior to human activity.

By the end of 2018, the Wyss Foundation had donated more than $66 million to at least nine local organizations. Zimmerman highlighted projects in Canada and Argentina as just three examples of promising partnerships.

The Wyss Foundation is donating $750,000 to help the Dehcho First Nations in Canada to create a management program for the Edéhzhíe National Wildlife Area in the Northwest Territories. Part of the 3.5 million acre area includes a wetland ecosystem that serves as a habitat for moose, bison, wolverine, caribou, and waterfowl. According to the Wyss Foundation, the donation will help the Dehcho First Nations benefit economically from managing the area.

A Swiss philanthropist

Two projects in Argentina are also receiving support from the Swiss billionaire. Aves Argentinas, the country’s oldest conservation organization, will receive up to $5.8 million for the conservation of about 65,000 acres of wetlands. This donation will help create a 1.5 million acre national park, helping to protect the endangered maned wolf and three species of flamingos.

Wyss’s foundation is also giving up to $22 million to Fundación Flora y Fauna, which will establish a 178,000 acre national park in Argentina’s Tucumán Province. The park will protect a mountain chain containing glaciers that provide clean water to the region’s blueberry and lemon industries. The most southerly Inca settlement is located where the park is set to form.

This is not the Swiss billionaire’s first dive into conservation projects – he has previously donated more than $450 million to help protect wild species in North America, South America, Africa, and Europe. Wyss has also signed the Giving Pledge, which is a commitment among billionaires to donate at least 50% of their wealth to charitable causes.

The Wyss Foundation is also focused on raising awareness ahead of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in 2020, Zimmerman said. The foundation hopes to encourage governments to adopt more ambitious conservation pledges and help protect more of their lands and oceans.