Why this man pleaded innocent after killing a transgender woman is frustrating.

In 49 states, people can argue that a homicide is justified because they found out the victim is LGBT. It's time to end that.

Imagine that a 21-year-old woman is beaten by a complete stranger as she's walking home.

Imagine that she dies days later in the hospital.

Imagine that the man who attacked her admits he was the one who did it.


And now imagine that, when asked how he pleads, the man answers, "Not guilty."

This is not a hypothetical story.

This is the story of how Islan Nettles died and how her attacker tried to use one of the most vile defenses imaginable to get away with it.

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images.

When James Dixon was questioned by police after attacking Nettles, he admitted he did so because she was transgender.

To hear him describe it, he was justified in beating her.

"I don't go around gay-bashing people," he told police. "I don't care about what they do. I just don't wanna be fooled. My pride is at stake."

After being "tricked by a [sic] transgender" a week earlier, Dixon said the encounter with Nettles sent him into a "blind rage."

And so, initially, he pleaded not guilty.

It's called the "trans panic" defense, and it has been used with varying degrees of success to excuse the murder, battery, and assault of trans people.

Essentially, what "trans panic" means is that someone claims that the act of learning someone else's gender identity sent them into an uncontrolled state where they can not be held fully responsible for their actions.

It's been successful in helping people get lesser charges for violent crimes. For example, in the 2002 beating death of Gwen Araujo, two of her attackers got off with light sentences. In 2014, U.S. Marine Joseph Pemberton choked trans woman Jennifer Laude to death, and in court, he used the trans panic defense and was able to get murder charges downgraded to homicide.

Photo by Jay Directo/AFP/Getty Images.

While Dixon eventually opted for an agreement in which he would plead guilty to manslaughter in exchange for a shortened sentence, the Nettles case has the issue of "trans panic" defense back in the news.


Just four days before Dixon killed Nettles, the American Bar Association came out very publicly against "gay panic" and "trans panic" defenses.

In a resolution, the American Bar Association offered guidance to governments looking to ensure fairness in trial and sentencing of people who commit violent crimes against LGBT individuals.

"The American Bar Association urges federal, tribal, state, local and territorial governments to take legislative action to curtail the availability and effectiveness of the ‘gay panic’ and ‘trans panic’ defenses, which seek to partially or completely excuse crimes such as murder and assault on the grounds that the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity is to blame for the defendant’s violent reaction."

Specifically, the ABA recommended that governments require courts to instruct juries not to let bias on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity affect their judgement and for these states to specify in law that "neither a non-violent sexual advance, nor the discovery of a person's sex or gender identity, constitutes legally adequate provocation to mitigate the crime of murder to manslaughter."

So far, one state has followed the ABA's recommendations: California. Had New York done the same, it's possible Dixon would have been tried for murder instead of manslaughter.

In September 2014, California Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 2501 into law, which states being provoked into a violent act is "not objectively reasonable if it resulted from the discovery of, knowledge about, or potential disclosure of the victim's actual or perceived gender, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation."

In other words, in California, you can't kill someone because they're gay or trans and then use that fact as an excuse for your actions. Simple enough, right?

California Governor Jerry Brown. Photo by David Paul Morris/Getty Images.

No one should be killed for who they are or who they love, and while there's nothing that will bring back people like Islan Nettles lost to anti-LGBT violence, the least we can do is not allow it to be excused.

Now is as good a time as any for more state, local, and federal governments to take up legislation to ban use of the "trans panic" defense. Let people clearly know that no, this will not be excused.

Mourners hold a vigil for Jennifer Laude. Photo by Ted Aljibe/AFP/Getty Images.

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Should a man lose his home because the grass in his yard grew higher than 10 inches? The city of Dunedin, Florida seems to think so.

According to the Institute of Justice, which is representing Jim Ficken, he had a very good reason for not mowing his lawn – and tried to rectify the situation as best he could.

In 2014, Jim's mom became ill and he visited her often in South Carolina to help her out. When he was away, his grass grew too long and he was cited by a code office; he cut the grass and wasn't fined.

France has started forcing supermarkets to donate food instead of throwing it away.

But several years later, this one infraction would come back to haunt him after he left to take care of him's mom's affairs after she died. The arrangements he made to have his grass cut fell through (his friend who he asked to help him out passed away unexpectedly) and that set off a chain reaction that may result in him losing his home.

The 69-year-old retiree now faces a $29,833.50 fine plus interest. Watch the video to find out just what Jim is having to deal with.

Mow Your Lawn or Lose Your House! www.youtube.com

Cities

The world officially loves Michelle Obama.

The former first lady has overtaken the number one spot in a poll of the world's most admired women. Conducted by online research firm YouGov, the study uses international polling tools to survey people in countries around the world about who they most admire.

In the men's category, Bill Gates took the top spot, followed by Barack Obama and Jackie Chan.

In the women's category, Michelle Obama came first, followed by Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie. Obama pushed Jolie out of the number one spot she claimed last year.

Unsurprising, really, because what's not to love about Michelle Obama? She is smart, kind, funny, accomplished, a great dancer, a devoted wife and mother, and an all-around, genuinely good person.

She has remained dignified and strong in the face of rabid masses of so-called Americans who spent eight years and beyond insisting that she's a man disguised as a woman. She's endured non-stop racist memes and terrifying threats to her family. She has received far more than her fair share of cruelty, and always takes the high road. She's the one who coined, "When they go low, we go high," after all.

She came from humble beginnings and remains down to earth despite becoming a familiar face around the world. She's not much older than me, but I still want to be like Michelle Obama when I grow up.

Her memoir, Becoming, may end up being the best-selling memoir of all time, having already sold 10 million copies—a clear sign that people can't get enough Michelle, because there's no such thing as too much Michelle.

Don't like Michelle Obama? Don't care. Those of us who love her will fly our MO flags high and without apology, paying no mind to folks with cold, dead hearts who don't know a gem of a human being when they see one. There is nothing any hater can say or do to make us admire this undeniably admirable woman any less.

When it seems like the world has lost its mind—which is how it feels most days these days—I'm just going to keep coming back to this study as evidence that hope for humanity is not lost.

Here. Enjoy some real-life Michelle on Jimmy Kimmel. (GAH. WHY IS SHE SO CUTE AND AWESOME. I can't even handle it.)

Michelle & Barack Obama are Boring Now www.youtube.com

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via EarthFix / Flickr

What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

Planet

The world is dark and full of terrors, but every once in a while it graces us with something to warm our icy-cold hearts. And that is what we have today, with a single dad who went viral on Twitter after his daughter posted the photos he sent her when trying to pick out and outfit for his date. You love to see it.




After seeing these heartwarming pics, people on Twitter started suggesting this adorable man date their moms. It was essentially a mom and date matchmaking frenzy.

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