iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — This week we asked Mara Keisling, founding executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, about the biggest challenges facing the transgender community and Orange is the New Black actress Laverne Cox, who Keisling calls a “phenomenal figure in raising public understanding of transgender people.”

1) So first — for those who do not know — can you explain what transgender means? How is gender identity different from sexual orientation?

MK: Being transgender is a deeply personal, deeply held understanding of your gender identity. It’s someone whose gender today is different than the gender they were born as. Some transgender people have undergone some combination of social, legal, and medical transition to live their life as the gender they know they are. As for the relationship between being transgender and one’s sexual orientation, simply put, sexual orientation describes the kind of person one is attracted to, whereas gender identity describes someone’s understanding of themselves. Transgender people can be gay or straight or bisexual or asexual, just like anyone else.

2) What do we know about the number of transgender individuals in the United States?

MK: It’s hard to tell exactly how many transgender people there are in the United States because many national population surveys like the Census or health studies are only beginning to explore how to count transgender people. My background is in public polling and the social scientist in me has sympathy for researchers who recognize how complicated it is to identify transgender people. That being said, Gary Gates at the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law estimates that 0.3 percent of adults in the United States are transgender. That percentage is likely much higher when we include gender non-conforming people — that is, people whose gender presentation falls outside of what many view as “traditionally” male or female norms.

3) In your view, what is the biggest misperception about the transgender community?

MK: That we aren’t who we say we are. Too often transgender people are accused of being something other than what they say they are. Too often, we are questioned about our “real” name or our “real” gender. The core of the mistreatment, harassment, and violence facing transgender people stems from this fundamental theme in the way the public doubts and denies us our true selves.

4) What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the transgender community?

MK: There are a lot of challenges out there, and there are a lot of people doing the work on the ground or here in Washington, D.C., who work tirelessly to address these challenges. But for me, I’d say it is the need to be accepted and respected for who we are. The lack of understanding of our humanity continues to cause us to face disrespect, discrimination, and violence and is actually killing us. And when trans people face that and other issues like racism, ableism, and xenophobia, the disrespect and violence can be so much worse.

5) How has Laverne Cox — who will be on This Week — contributed to the transgender awareness?

MK: Laverne has been a phenomenal figure in raising public understanding of transgender people. She has leveraged her platform to really catalyze public acceptance and she has done it with such graciousness, generosity, intelligence and her own story. She is part of this amazing moment we are having right now that is being led by a bunch of amazing trans women of color including Laverne, Andy Marra, Janet Mock, Geena Rocero, Fallon Fox, and some others. They are leading the kind of cultural shift that is making our work in Washington a lot easier and speeding up the pace of change.

6) You’ve praised the president’s actions on behalf of transgender Americans, but what else would you like to see him do?

MK: We still have a fairly full federal policy agenda that needs to be addressed. However, right now, since I know the White House is focused on immigration, I would especially flag the need for immigration reform that anticipates LGBT and queer immigrants. Our people often come to the U.S. because of dangerously anti-transgender climates back home, and they end up being victimized again by solitary confinement, an immoral bed quota, arbitrary asylum rules, and an absolutely broken detention system that simply cannot house transgender detainees safely.

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facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather Read More →, Mo.) — Sunday on This Week, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, sitting down for an interview in Ferguson, told ABC News’ Martha Raddatz that he was astounded by some of the images that came out of Ferguson depicting what he described as an “over-militarization” of the police force.

“I, all of us were thunderstruck by the pictures we saw,” Nixon said on This Week. “I mean, the over-militarization, the MRAPs rolling in, the guns pointed at kids in the street. All of that I think instead of ratcheting down brought emotion up.”

But Nixon rejected responsibility for failing to quell the ongoing unrest in Ferguson, responding, “I’ve been here almost every day… The bottom line: we’ve been focused on meeting with groups, meeting with the parents, making sure that we were set up and then taking the unprecedented action on Wednesday to replace and to bring in the highway patrol.”

Nixon declared a state of emergency in Ferguson on Saturday and imposed a curfew following days of protests that erupted after an unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer, identified Friday as Darren Wilson.

During his interview on This Week, the governor revealed that the state was caught off-guard by the Ferguson Police Department’s decision to release surveillance video of Brown during an alleged store robbery on the same day they named the officer responsible for his death.

“We were unaware that they were going to release it and we certainly were not happy with that being released. Especially in the way that it was it appeared to you know cast dispersions on a young man that was gunned down in the street,” Nixon told Raddatz.

The security footage, apparently showing Brown committing a robbery at a convenience store just minutes before his death, reignited civil unrest in the town over the weekend. The Police Department claims that they were obligated to release the tape because of requests made by journalists under Missouri’s “Sunshine,” or freedom-of-information law, despite the Department of Justice and federal investigators opposing its release.

The attorney for the Brown family Anthony Gray, who also appeared on This Week, said the family was disturbed by the release of the surveillance video.

“Well, they first of all they were very appalled by it,” Gray said on This Week. “They saw it for the first time, at least a glimpse of it, on nationwide TV. They had requested an opportunity through the attorneys to see any video footage before it was released. That request obviously was not honored. So quite naturally, the reaction was very, on the part of the family, they were very disturbed by it. And I would just point out that no one from the family was given the opportunity to even authenticate that that was actually Mike Brown Jr. in the video.”

“There’s no reason not to believe that it’s him but much like when you identify somebody who is deceased, you have a family member that come in and make a positive ID. And they have not had an opportunity to do that,” Gray added.

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ABC/Lou Rocco(NEW YORK) — Laverne Cox, star of the Netflix hit series Orange Is the New Black, is breaking barriers for the transgender community both on and off the screen.

Cox has helped raise awareness and give voice to members of the trans community, pushing forward this newest battle on the civil rights front.

In an interview for This Week, she shared her one wish for America with ABC’s Byron Pitts.

“One thing I would wish for American [are] spaces where we have real gender freedom, where we create spaces of gender self-determination, where we don’t police people’s genders…[and where] we don’t tell people that they’re not supposed to act a certain way,” Cox said.

Cox has spent her whole life dealing with discrimination and harassment. Growing up in Mobile, Ala., she was constantly bullied for her gender expression, she said.

“I was bullied and I internalized a lot of shame about who I was as a child,” Cox said. “Bullied because I didn’t act the way someone assigned male at birth was supposed to act. And so I was called sissy, I was called the F-word. I was chased home from school practically every day. There was always a kid or groups of kids who wanted to beat me up,” she said.

Overwhelmed by social persecution, she attempted suicide at an early age, Cox said.

“The suicide attempt happened when I was in sixth grade and I was having all these feelings about other boys. And I didn’t want to live,” Cox said.

Hollywood blockbusters and hit TV series like Orange Is the New Black are shining a new spotlight on transgender rights, starring characters like her own that Cox says many in the trans community can relate to.

“So many trans folks have said that they see themselves reflected in this character,” Cox said. “Having your story told validates your experience. It’s like, ‘I’m not alone anymore, and maybe I’ll be OK.’”

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facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather Read More →, Texas) — Texas Gov. Rick Perry forcefully defended himself Saturday, calling the grand jury indictment against him “an abuse of power.”

Perry says he’ll fight charges that he abused his power last year when he vetoed $7.5 million in state funding for the public corruption unit of a district attorney he was trying to pressure to step down. DA Rosemary Lehmberg had been arrested on drunken-driving charges and refused to resign.

“We don’t settle political differences with indictments in this country,” Perry said to reporters at a Saturday news conference in Austin. “It is outrageous that some would use partisan political theatrics to rip away at the very fabric of our state’s constitution.”

Perry says the grand jury indictment was purely political.

“I’m confident that we will ultimately prevail,” Perry added. “That this farce of a prosecution will be revealed for what it is.”

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facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather Read More → — The Hawaii Democratic Senate primary has finally been called.

For a week, it was too close to call, but now incumbent Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz has defeated his Democratic primary challenger Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa.

Schatz was already leading after last Saturday’s primary, but he was not named the winner of the prolonged race until the last two precincts on the Big Island of Hawaii were able to vote.

Due to the damage from Hurricane Iselle, just under 8,000 voters had to wait until Friday to go to the ballot box.

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John Moore/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin has endorsed Tea Party favorite Joe Miller in Alaska’s Republican Senate primary.

The former Vice Presidential nominee also endorsed Miller in 2010, when he won the GOP primary against Senator Lisa Murkowski. Murkowski THE ended up defeating Miller in a successful write-in campaign.

But this time around, it’s different– according to ABC’s Shushannah Walshe, one of Miller’s opponents is Dan Sullivan, a man Palin appointed Attorney General when she was governor.

The winner of Tuesday’s primary will face Democrat Mark Begich in November.

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Office of Congressman Doug Collins(WASHINGTON) — In this week’s Republican address, Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia urged the Democratic Senate to act on jobs bills that have been passed in the Republican-held House of Representatives.

Collins says in his statement that Democratic inaction in the Senate is the cause of much of the Washington gridlock in terms of jobs efforts. “Our bills are piling up on Harry Reid’s desk, collecting dust,” he says.

Despite the gridlock, Collins says Republicans “aren’t going to slow down” and will “keep passing common-sense solutions to help American families.”

Here is the full transcript of this week’s Republican address:

Earlier this week, I visited with folks in Blue Ridge, a small community of less than fifteen hundred between the Chattahoochee National Forest, the Cohutta Wilderness Area, and a big, beautiful lake where families often go to camp, kayak, or just catch a few trout.

At the local high school, we had a good, honest conversation about growing the economy, creating more jobs, and expanding opportunities for all Americans.

I listened as workers and parents who are living paycheck to paycheck shared their concerns about the future of their families and also of our country.

Like most Americans, my constituents are frustrated with the status quo.

They wish Washington would stop meddling in things that aren’t broken, and start fixing the things that are.

They think there’s too much talk, and not enough action on real solutions.

Those I talked to want to know, why can’t our leaders just do their jobs?

I know how they feel, because my Republican colleagues in the House and I have made the American people’s priorities our priorities.

We’ve passed bill after bill to help our struggling economy, save taxpayer dollars, lower the cost of gas and groceries, and help every child get a good education.

But Democrats in the Senate have essentially decided to do nothing.

Our bills are piling up on Harry Reid’s desk, collecting dust.

Even when it comes to a crisis like the one on our southern border, House Republicans passed a common-sense solution, and Senate Democrats left town without doing the hard work to pass their own.

That’s just irresponsible – there’s no other word for it.

In recent weeks, Republicans have led efforts to enact job training legislation that helps people get back to work.

We’ve given veterans stuck in an outdated federal bureaucracy timely access to the care they need.

And we’ve prevented major highway projects from being shut down.

But there is much more work to be done.

President Obama enjoys complaining about Congress, but the fact is, his own party controls the Senate, and they need to get to work.

Of the bills that have been signed into law, more than 75 percent of them have originated in the House.

What’s more, right now, Senate Democrats have failed to take action on more than 340 bills passed by the House.

Many of them have bipartisan support, including most of the 43 jobs bills that are stuck in this do-nothing Senate.

So if they’re truly interested in making progress, the president and his party have a lot of catching up to do.

Republicans aren’t going to slow down; we’re going to keep passing common-sense solutions to help American families, and we’re going to keep the pressure on Senate Democrats to do their job.

Thank you so much for listening.

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Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — In his weekly address, President Obama pointed to the upcoming start of a new school year and the impotrance of higher education.

“In today’s economy,” the president said, “whether you go to a four-year college, a community college, or a professional training program, some higher education is the surest ticket to the middle class.” A typical American with a bachelor’s degree, Obama pointed out, makes about $28,000 per year more than someone with just a high school diploma, and is also significantly more likely to be employed at all.

Pointing to his experience and that of First Lady Michelle Obama, the president acknowledged the difficulty some college graduates have paying off their college loans. Just as he has pushed for loan reform, the president urged students to push themselves academically, to challenge themselves to “reach higher.”

Read the full transcript of the president’s address:

Hi, everybody. Over the next couple weeks, schools all across the country will be opening their doors. Students will suit up for fall sports, marching band, and the school play; moms and dads will snap those first-day-of-school pictures – and that includes me and Michelle.

And so today, I want to talk directly with students and parents about one of the most important things any of you can do this year – and that’s to begin preparing yourself for an education beyond high school.

We know that in today’s economy, whether you go to a four-year college, a community college, or a professional training program, some higher education is the surest ticket to the middle class. The typical American with a bachelor’s degree or higher earns over $28,000 more per year than someone with just a high school diploma. And they’re also much more likely to have a job in the first place – the unemployment rate for those with a bachelor’s degree is less than one-third of the rate for those without a high school diploma.

But for too many families across the country, paying for higher education is a constant struggle. Earlier this year, a young woman named Elizabeth Cooper wrote to tell me how hard it is for middle-class families like hers to afford college. As she said, she feels “not significant enough to be addressed, not poor enough for people to worry [about], and not rich enough to be cared about.”

Michelle and I know the feeling – we only finished paying off our student loans ten years ago. And so as President, I’m working to make sure young people like Elizabeth can go to college without racking up mountains of debt. We reformed a student loan system so that more money goes to students instead of big banks. We expanded grants and college tax credits for students and families. We took action to offer millions of students a chance to cap their student loan payments at 10% of their income. And Congress should pass a bill to let students refinance their loans at today’s lower interest rates, just like their parents can refinance their mortgage.

But as long as college costs keep rising, we can’t just keep throwing money at the problem – colleges have to do their part to bring down costs as well. That’s why we proposed a plan to tie federal financial aid to a college’s performance, and create a new college scorecard so that students and parents can see which schools provide the biggest bang for your buck. We launched a new $75 million challenge to inspire colleges to reduce costs and raise graduation rates. And in January, more than 100 college presidents and nonprofit leaders came to the White House and made commitments to increase opportunities for underserved students.

Since then, we’ve met with even more leaders who want to create new community-based partnerships and support school counselors. And this week, my Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, announced a series of commitments to support students who need a little extra academic help getting through college.

This is a challenge I take personally. And to all you young people, now that you’re heading back to school, your education is something you have to take personally, also. It’s up to you to push yourself; to take hard classes and read challenging books. Science shows that when you struggle to solve a problem or make a new argument, you’re actually forming new connections in your brain. So when you’re thinking hard, you’re getting smarter. Which means this year, challenge yourself to reach higher. And set your sights on college in the years ahead. Your country is counting on you.

And don’t forget to have some fun along the way, too.

Thanks everybody. Good luck on the year ahead.

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Office of Senator Mary Landrieu(WASHINGTON) — It’s been a tough week for Sen. Mary Landrieu.

If it wasn’t bad enough that the three-term Louisiana Democrat was already considered one of the most vulnerable Democrats in the 2014 midterms — whose seat could determine control of the Senate — this week, Landrieu’s re-election bid was rocked by turbulence over a private jet scandal and the announcement that her leading opponent now has more money to spend in the campaign.

The campaign of her GOP challenger, Rep. Bill Cassidy, announced Thursday that he had pulled ahead of Landrieu with $5.6 million cash on hand, according to new FEC filing posted for Landrieu and Cassidy. That’s compared to Landrieu’s $5.5 million.

It’s a small lead of only about $100,000, but a significant one for Cassidy. This is the first time he has managed to outdo Landrieu’s deep fundraising pockets, and his campaign celebrated the achievement.

“We are incredibly excited about the state of our campaign,” Cassidy campaign spokesman John Cummins said in a statement Thursday. “Dr. Cassidy’s message of common-sense conservative reform is resonating. That’s why he has proven one of the most prolific fundraisers of this cycle and is the only Senate challenger in the country with more cash on hand than the incumbent.”

But the Landrieu campaign countered that Cassidy’s cash on hand number is “inflated” by the inclusion of $400,000 that could only be used after Nov. 4 in the event that no one candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, in which case the two candidates with the largest number of votes would proceed to a runoff.

“We have always had the funds necessary to run the campaign we planned and will raise all the money we’ll need to get out the message that Mary is fighting for Louisianans in the Senate,” Landrieu campaign communications director Fabien Levy said in a statement. “Congressman Cassidy has chosen to inflate his fundraising numbers by including nearly $400,000 in runoff contributions that will be sitting in the bank when Sen. Landrieu wins this election on Nov. 4.”

Cassidy’s cash announcement was just the final straw in Landrieu’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week.

Things started to get bumpy on Tuesday when a media report alleged that Landrieu had used taxpayer funds to pay for a charter flight to attend a campaign fundraiser. Landrieu spent $3,200 on a round-trip flight from New Orleans to Lake Charles, Louisiana, where she attended a $40-per-person fundraiser with women supporters Nov. 8. The flight should have been paid for by Landrieu’s campaign but was instead reportedly paid for by her Senate office, which is a violation of federal law.

The report came on the heels of a USA Today report a week earlier that said Landrieu was among one of the Senate’s biggest spenders in chartering flights for official Senate business, racking up a $47,000 tab in 2013.

Landrieu campaign communications director Fabien Levy told ABC News it was a mistake that taxpayer dollars were used to pay for the flight to Lake Charles and that the campaign took action “immediately” to correct the error when it was first discovered by her office on July 29.

“We take our finances very seriously and are glad we caught the vendor’s mistake and were able to rectify the matter as soon as possible,” Levy said in a statement to ABC News on Wednesday.

Though the Landrieu campaign had already corrected the error, which it blamed on the charter company, Landrieu’s opponents cried foul.

“Sen. Landrieu’s disregard and abuse of taxpayer money is unacceptable and, reportedly, illegal,” Rep. Cassidy said in a statement. “She should return all the taxpayer money she has spent on charter flights, open up her travel logs for further review to ensure there are not more violations, and apologize to American taxpayers immediately.”

Candidate Col. Rob Maness, the tea party favorite in the race, suggested that the $3,200 flight was just the tip of the iceberg.

“In recent weeks, a disturbing pattern-of-behavior has been exposed revealing Sen. Mary Landrieu’s constant abuse of taxpayer dollars,” Maness said in a statement.

Then, the conservative America Rising PAC managed to squeeze a little extra play out of the media maelstrom that formed Wednesday with the rapid release of a Web video “Mary Landrieu, Louisiana’s Frequent Flier,” that mashed up sound bites on the story from local news reports.

Just as it seemed the story might die with the 24-hour news cycle by Thursday morning, a second media report was published late Wednesday night revealing that Landrieu would also reimburse a separate charter flight, for which her Senate office paid $5,700.

Landrieu had chartered the flight through her Senate office to attend an official event in Shreveport, Louisiana. While the Shreveport event qualified as official expense, the same plane then took Landrieu to Dallas, where she attended a fundraiser before returning to Washington.

“Out of an abundance of caution in case there was a cost allocation error connected to this flight, the Senate will be reimbursed for the [Shreveport to Dallas] flight,” Landrieu’s Senate spokesman Matthew Lehner told ABC News in a statement.

Cassidy’s campaign spokesman John Cummins called the second flight reimbursement “a pattern” of disregard for taxpayer money.

“This second offense shows a pattern of mismanagement of her office expenses,” Cummins said. “Sen. Landrieu only complied with federal law, nearly a year later, after she was caught red-handed. She then said she only complied with federal law out of an ‘abundance of caution.’ If an average Louisiana taxpayer broke the law, and then a year later tried to correct it, they couldn’t get away with platitudes.”

Adding fuel the fire, the conservative Keep Louisiana Working group announced soon thereafter that it had filed an FEC complaint against Landrieu over the charter flights; and the Louisiana Republican Party launched an “Air Mary” campaign, complete with a Twitter handle @AirMaryLa. The tongue-in-cheek Twitter handle provides this description: “Taxpayer Funded Flights since 1997, because clout doesn’t fly coach.”

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ABC/Matthew Putney(AUSTIN, Texas) — Texas Gov. Rick Perry was indicted on Friday by a grand jury in Travis County, Texas, on accusations that he abused his official powers.

The indictment was announced by Special Prosecutor Michael McCrum on Friday night. The indictment document lists two charges, abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public servant. Perry, the indictment claims, improperly vetoed funding for the Public Integrity Unit of the Travis County District Attorney’s Office.

Perry’s General Counsel Mary Anne Wiley released a statement on his behalf on Friday, saying that “the veto in question was made in accordance with the veto authority afforded to every governor under the Texas Constitution.” The statement also noted that Perry plans to defend his “lawful and constitutional action.”

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