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Cambridge finishes investigating handout

CAMBRIDGE — A high school health teacher remains on paid leave after the completion of an investigation into a presenter’s handout that many parents found objectionable.

“We have completed the investigation and are going to be consulting with our attorney,” Superintendent Vince Canini said Thursday, adding he could not give many details of the case because it is a personnel issue.

The investigation started when students brought the packet home after a presentation on Monday to seventh- and 10th-grade health classes by a representative of the Pride Center of the Capital Region. The representative was scheduled to come back Tuesday, but Canini canceled that visit.

Initially, Canini said a four-page handout had been given to seventh-graders and a 42-page handout to 10th-graders.

But the investigation showed that all students got the 42-page handout, which included more than 200 definitions of terms referencing the LGBTQ community.

The definition list included many standard words, such as transgender, stereotype, sex, gender, homosexual, homophobia, gay, bisexual lesbian and coming out. It also included a large number of terms relating to gender surgery and hormones, some of them specific and scientific.

It also listed a small number of sexually related terms, including top, bottom, bear, pitcher, catcher and fag hag.

“I would like to again stress that the topic of gender identity was never of concern,” Canini said. “The graphic ‘common terms and definitions’ were. The two are totally separate but have been blurred into one, which is not the case.”

Canini said he could not identify the teacher, because of personnel rules, but he confirmed the school has only one health teacher, who is listed as Jacqueline Hall. An attempt to reach her was not successful.

Canini said the school principal, Caroline Goss, was aware of the presentation, but had not seen the handout nor the specifics of the presentation in advance.

Tuesday, the school district sent a letter to parents from Canini and posted it on the district website. The letter states that the speaker was “uninvited” after the packet was reviewed and the teacher had been placed on administrative leave.

Canini said the main point of the investigation was to determine whether the handout had been reviewed before it was given to students.

US report contradicts Trump team: Warming mostly man-made

WASHINGTON — A massive U.S. report concludes the evidence of global warming is stronger than ever, contradicting a favorite talking point of top Trump administration officials, who downplay humans’ role in climate change.

The report released Friday is one of two scientific assessments required every four years. A draft showing how warming affects the U.S. was also published.

Despite fears by some scientists and environmental advocates, David Fahey of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and several authors said there was no political interference or censoring of the 477-page final report.

“A lot of what we’ve been learning over the last four years suggests the possibility that things may have been more serious than we think,” said Robert Kopp of Rutgers University, one of dozens of scientists inside and outside the government who wrote the reports.

Since 1900, Earth has warmed by 1.8 degrees and seas have risen by 8 inches. Heat waves, downpours and wildfires have become frequent.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt have repeatedly said carbon dioxide isn’t the primary contributor to global warming.

It’s “extremely likely” — meaning with 95 to 100 percent certainty — that global warming is man-made, mostly from the spewing of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas, scientists concluded.

“Over the last century, there are no convincing alternative explanations,” the report said.

Scientists calculated that human contribution to warming since 1950 is between 92 percent and 123 percent. It’s more than 100 percent on one end, because some natural forces — such as volcanoes and orbital cycle — are working to cool Earth, but are being overwhelmed by the effects of greenhouse gases, said study co-author Katharine Hayhoe of Texas Tech.

“This period is now the warmest in the history of modern civilization,” she said.

For the first time, scientists highlighted a dozen “tipping points” of potential dangers that could happen from warming, things that Hayhoe said “keep me up at night.”

They include the slowing down of the giant Atlantic Ocean circulation system that could dramatically warp weather worldwide, much stronger El Ninos, major decreases in ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, which would spike sea level rise, and massive release of methane and carbon dioxide from thawing permafrost that could turbo-charge warming.

Researchers did not provide an estimate of how likely tipping points would occur, but “there is certainly some chance of some of these things happening,” Fahey said.

The report also documented how different climate change-caused events can interact in a complex way to make life worse, such as the California wildfires and Superstorm Sandy five years ago.

The world’s oceans are under a “triple threat” — the water is getting warmer, more acidic and seeing a drop in oxygen levels, Hayhoe said.

In a 1,504-page draft report on the impacts of climate change, scientists detailed dozens of ways global warming is already affecting parts of the U.S.

Scientists said global warming is already sickening, injuring and killing Americans with changes to weather, food, air, water and diseases. And it’s expected to get worse, hurting the economy, wildlife and energy supply.

“Risks range from the inconvenient, such as increasing high tide flooding along the East Coast related to sea level rise, to ... the forced relocation of coastal communities in Alaska and along the Gulf Coast,” the draft report said.

Outside experts said the reports are the most up-to-date summary of climate science.

“It shows that if anything the findings of scientists have become more dire” since 2013, said University of California, Berkeley climate scientist Zeke Hausfather, who wasn’t part of the work.

Female lawmakers allege harassment by colleagues in House

WASHINGTON — For years, Republican Rep. Mary Bono endured increasingly suggestive comments from a fellow lawmaker in the House of Representatives. But when the congressman approached her on the House floor and told her he’d been thinking about her in the shower, she’d had enough.

She confronted the man, who she said still serves in Congress, telling him his comments were demeaning and wrong. And he backed off.

Bono, who served 15 years before being defeated in 2012, is not alone.

As reports pile up of harassment or worse by men in entertainment, business and the media, one current and three former female lawmakers tell The Associated Press that they, too, have been harassed or subjected to hostile sexual comments — by fellow members of Congress.

Their stories renewed calls to tighten up Congress’ own lax training and reporting requirements. House Speaker Paul Ryan sent a memo to fellow lawmakers encouraging them to complete sexual harassment training and mandate it for their staffs, telling them, “Harassment has no place in this institution. ... We can and should lead by example.”

The example set by male members of Congress has not always been admirable, as the accounts from the four female lawmakers who spoke with The AP make clear.

The incidents they recounted occurred years or even decades ago, usually when the women were young newcomers to Congress. They range from isolated comments at one hearing, to repeated unwanted come-ons, to lewd remarks and even groping on the House floor. Coming amid an intensifying national focus on sexual harassment and gender hostility in the workplace, the revelations underscore that no woman is immune, even at the highest reaches of government.

“This is about power,” said Democratic former California Sen. Barbara Boxer, after describing an incident at a hearing in the 1980s where a male colleague made a sexually suggestive comment about her from the dais, which was met with general laughter and an approving second from the committee chairman.

“That was an example of the way I think we were thought of, a lot of us. ... It’s hostile and embarrasses, and therefore could take away a person’s power,” she said.

Bono, Boxer and the other female lawmakers spoke on the record to tell their stories in the wake of revelations about Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s serial attacks on women, as well as disclosures from current and former Capitol Hill staffers about harassment by lawmakers and aides.

Largely untold before now is that some female lawmakers themselves say they have been harassed by male colleagues. While rare, the accounts raise troubling questions about the boys’ club environment in Congress where male lawmakers can feel empowered to target not only staffers but even their own peers.

The lawmakers declined to identify the perpetrators by name, but they said at least two of the men continue to serve in the House. None of the female lawmakers interviewed reported what happened, and some noted it was not clear where they would lodge such a complaint. At least three of the four told friends or aides about the incidents, which in some cases were witnessed by other lawmakers.

“When I was a very new member of Congress in my early 30s, there was a more senior member who outright propositioned me, who was married, and despite trying to laugh it off and brush it aside it, would repeat. And I would avoid that member,” said Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif. She added that she would warn other new female members about the lawmaker in question, but she declined to identify him, while saying he remains in Congress.

“I just don’t think it would be helpful” to call the lawmaker out by name, Sanchez said. “The problem is, as a member there’s no HR department you can go to, there’s nobody you can turn to. Ultimately they’re employed by their constituents.”

Sanchez also said that a different male colleague repeatedly ogled her, and at one point touched her inappropriately on the House floor, while trying to make it appear accidental. She declined to identify the lawmaker but said he was no longer in Congress.

Bono, who arrived in the House at age 36 to replace her husband Sonny Bono after he died in a skiing accident, said she ultimately confronted her colleague on the House floor after he’d made repeated harassing comments.

She said it seemed like the lawmaker didn’t know how to talk to a woman as an equal. “Instead of being, ‘How’s the weather, how’s your career, how’s your bill,’ it was, ‘I thought about you while I was in the shower.’ So it was a matter of saying to him, ‘That’s not cool, that’s just not cool.’”

Bono declined to identify the lawmaker, saying the behavior stopped after she finally challenged him. He still serves in Congress, she said.

“It is a man’s world, it’s still a man’s world,” Bono said. “Not being a flirt and not being a bitch. That was my rule, to try to walk that fine line.”

Former Rep. Hilda Solis, now a Los Angeles County supervisor, recalls repeated unwanted harassing overtures from one lawmaker, though she declined to name him or go into detail.

“I don’t think I’m the only one. What I tried to do was ignore it, turn away, walk away. Obviously it’s offensive. Are you supposed to be flattered? No, we’re adults. Not appropriate,” said Solis, who left Congress in 2009 to join the Obama administration as labor secretary.

“It’s humiliating, even though they may have thought they were being cute. No, it’s not. It’s not appropriate. I’m your colleague, but he doesn’t see me that way, and that’s a problem,” Solis said.

The experiences occurred against the backdrop of broader gender inequities in Congress, where women remain a distinct minority, making up only about 20 percent of members in the House and Senate. That’s up from fewer than 10 percent in the quarter-century since politics’ Year of the Woman in 1992. That election season, large numbers of women sought office following hearings by the then-all-male Senate Judiciary Committee over Anita Hill’s testimony about alleged sexual harassment by Clarence Thomas, who was subsequently confirmed to the Supreme Court.

The increase in numbers and the prominence of a few individual women, such as House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, has not resulted in parity in all measures, nor eliminated the potential for male members to demean or even harass their female counterparts. Nonetheless, a few female lawmakers contacted by the AP expressed surprise and even disbelief at the notion that lawmakers themselves could be victims of harassment.

Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier of California has recently gone public with an account of being sexually assaulted by a male chief of staff while she was a congressional staffer. She has criticized the vague rules in place on the issue and has introduced legislation aimed at increasing protections for congressional employees. In a video posted to Twitter last week, she called Congress “a breeding ground for a hostile work environment” and encouraged others to come forward.

Yet when it comes to lawmakers themselves, Speier said: “I think the women in Congress are big girls. The equalizer that exists in Congress that doesn’t exist in other settings is that we all get paid the same amount and we all have a vote, the same vote. So if you have members that are demeaning you it’s because you’re letting them.”

Democratic former Rep. Ellen Tauscher of California argued that although male lawmakers “can be jackasses ... I don’t believe members of Congress can sexually harass each other, which is a legal term of art, because we are equals in our work.”

In fact, the law specifies that harassment can occur between equals, said Jennifer Drobac, a professor at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, who teaches a course in sexual harassment law.

“Formally, two members of Congress may have the same status. That doesn’t change the fact that sexual harassment can occur between peers,” Drobac said, noting that numerous other factors can come into play, including the difference in age and length of service between the members, and the mere fact that men have more power in society than women.

Yet the fact that some dispute whether harassment could even occur between members of Congress underscores the complexity of the issue and the fraught questions surrounding it.

Bono said she found power in confronting her harasser, and that after she did so it never happened again. She emphasized that she encountered only a couple out-of-line colleagues during her time in the House, and said that she understood her experience was different than those of young staffers who may face harassment from someone who could retaliate against them.

But Bono strongly disputed any suggestion that she or any other female lawmaker could not be harassed by their peers.

“My career didn’t suffer, I didn’t suffer,” Bono said. “But it did happen.”

Supporters worry land bank ballot proposition gets lumped with 'Con con'

Matt Simpson

Supporters of a ballot proposition that would create a “land bank” of state forest preserve land to help municipalities with public works projects are concerned that opposition to a constitutional convention could hurt the proposition’s chances of passing.

The Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages sent out a news release this week, seeking to clarify the distinction between the two ballot items and urging voters who oppose a constitutional convention to support the land bank proposal.

The association called the land bank proposition “an ideal example of how a small, well-reasoned, common-sense change can be made to the constitution on a case-by-case basis, without opening the document to a complete overhaul in a convention.”

The land bank and constitutional convention propositions are among three that will be on the back of the ballot in Tuesday’s general election.

The land bank proposal is the third on the back of the ballot. It would allow an amendment to the constitution to add 250 acres of land to the state Forest Preserve and allow communities in the Adirondack and Catskill parks to later use up to 250 acres from the preserve over a period of years to make critical public health and safety infrastructure improvements.

The need to replace Middleton Bridge over the Schroon River in Warren County has been cited as a situation in which the land bank would be a huge help, as the county has been stymied when trying to build a new bridge by the fact that Forest Preserve land lines the river, prevented construction at the preferred site. Exchanging other land for use of the riverbank, as the land bank proposal would allow, would solve the problem.

While the constitutional convention proposition would seek open-ended changes to the constitution, the two ballot items are not related other than by their appearance on the ballot.

But some are worried that voters who don’t take the time to read them will confuse the two.

William Farber, supervisor in the town of Morehouse and chairman of the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors, said supporters of the land bank are “worried” voters won’t differentiate between the ballot propositions.

“It’s complicated, and there is some confusion,” he said. “Some people think they are related. But they are on opposite ends of the spectrum.”

Horicon Supervisor Matt Simpson, in whose town the replacement bridge would be built, agreed there seems to be “a lot of confusion” over differentiating the two propositions, and that has concerned land bank advocates.

“We have been trying to do a lot of education to let people know the difference between the two propositions dealing with the constitution,” he said.

Polls have shown considerable opposition to a constitutional convention, with many government workers opposing it out of concern their pensions could be changed and environmental groups fretting about rollback of “forever wild” provisions.

The League of Women Voters has pointed out it has found no organized opposition to the land bank proposal.

AATV directed voters to a website set up about the proposition at