The GOP’s Stealth Plan to Redefine Rape

From Mother Jones:

Republicans pulled controversial “forcible rape” language from a pending bill, but they’re trying a backdoor maneuver to ensure the legislation achieves the same effect.

— By Nick Baumann
Tue May. 3, 2011

They’re doing it again: After jettisoning controversial legislative language narrowing the definition of rape for the purposes of abortion law, House Republicans are attempting a backdoor maneuver to ensure that solely victims of “forcible rape” are eligible for federal funding if they seek abortions.

In February, Republicans drew widespread condemnation for their “forcible rape” proposal, which legal experts said would have excluded statutory rape victims and others from obtaining abortions through Medicaid. Amidst public outcry and a protest campaign by left-leaning groups, Republicans abandoned the language, which had been included in the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” a bill the GOP leadership numbered H.R. 3 to signify its high priority to the party. But while they’ve amended their legislation, which faces a floor vote in the House on Wednesday, Republicans haven’t stopped trying to narrow the already small exception under which federal funding for abortions is permissible. They’ve used a sly legislative maneuver to make sure that even though the language of the bill is different, the effect remains the same.

The backdoor reintroduction of the statutory rape change relies on the use of a committee report, a document that congressional committees produce outlining what they intend a piece of legislation to do. If there’s ever a court fight about the interpretation of a law—and when it comes to a subject as contentious as abortion rights, there almost always is—judges will look to the committee report as evidence of congressional intent, and use it to decide what the law actually means.

In this case, the committee report for H.R. 3 says that the bill will “not allow the Federal Government to subsidize abortions in cases of statutory rape.” The bill itself doesn’t say anything like that, but if a court decides that legislators intended to exclude statutory rape-related abortions from eligibility for Medicaid funding, then that will be the effect.

“There is absolutely no legal basis to this claim,” says George Washington University’s Sara Rosenbaum.

“Unfortunately, it is sometimes the practice on Capitol Hill for Members of Congress and their staffs to use [committee] reports…to try to manipulate the meaning of the language passed by Congress,” says Ann O’Leary, a lecturer at the University of California-Berkeley’s law school who served as Hillary Clinton’s legislative director when Clinton was in the Senate. “It is clear here that the committee report tries to narrow the meaning of rape.”

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Political Sea Change in Canada: Two Parties Lose Big on Monday, NDP Seats Nearly Triple

From Fire Dog Lake:

By: Jon Walker
Tuesday May 3, 2011

The big topline story from the federal election yesterday in Canada is that the Conservatives won a solid majority of seats in parliament. Prime Minister Steven Harper will have extensive power to govern the country as his party desires.

On a historical level, though, probably the even bigger news is that the election saw the near collapse of two political parties. The Bloc Québécois was effectively wiped out at the national level. Last night it went from 49 seats in parliament to a mere 4, causing it to lose its official party status. While not as dramatic, the massive losses for the center-left Liberal party will likely have much farther reaching implications for the future of Canadian politics. For a long time, the Liberals have dominated the politics of Canada as one of its major parties, but this election saw them fall to a distant third. Liberals lost over half their seats, falling from 77 to only 34.

It was the left-wing New Democratic Party that mainly gained from the losses of the other two parties. The NDP had overwhelmingly its best national showing ever, going from 37 seats to 102, making it the official opposition.

Moving Canada toward a true left-right two-party system

The effective disappearance of Bloc Québécois and the huge loses for the Liberal Party could easily transform Canadian politics into some form of a two-party system in the near future. Exit polling found most NDP and Liberal voters supported a merger of the two parties. An official merger or some kind of a temporary non-competition pact in the next federal election to prevent the Conservatives from winning a majority with only 40 percent of the popular vote is at least a possibility.

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Same sex marriage ban introduced to Pennsylvania House and In Minnesota

From Raw Story:

By Eric W. Dolan
Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

Pennsylvania House State Government Committee Chairman Daryl Metcalfe (R) introduced a constitutional amendment to the state’s House on Tuesday that would define marriage as solely between one man and one woman.

“The institution of traditional marriage has never been under greater attack,” said Metcalfe. “This not only includes the special interests who want to permanently redefine marriage, but unfortunately the executive branch and the federal Department of Justice who have blatantly and recklessly refused to uphold and defend its Constitutionality. Once again, it falls to the responsibility of state lawmakers to restore the rule of law and carry out the will of the people.”

The Pennsylvania Constitution requires that a proposed amendment be approved by both chambers of the state’s General Assembly and then ratified by a majority of voters in a general election. Unlike other legislation passed by the General Assembly, the Governor of Pennsylvania does not have the power to veto a constitutional amendment.

“The definition of marriage as ‘the union of one man and one woman,’ defended and upheld by this legislation, is the traditional definition of marriage that has been recognized and accepted throughout history and the world for centuries,” Metcalfe added.

Last week, Republican state lawmakers in Minnesota introduced a similar constitutional amendment to the state’s Senate to define marriage as solely between one man and one woman. The legislation was passed by the Minnesota Senate and is awaiting a vote by the House.

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Representative Steve Simon (DFL Hopkins/St. Louis Park) says a proposed Minnesota constitutional amendment is largely about religion. He says if sexual orientation is innate as science is showing us, and not a lifestyle choice, then God created gay people. He asks how many gay people must God create before we accept that he wants them around.

I Never Promised You an Organic Garden

From Common Dreams:

by Jill Richardson
Published on Tuesday, May 3, 2011 by La Vida Locavore

A story has been developing over the past month involving lies, toxic sludge, Hollywood celebrities, and poor, inner city school children. It centers around the Environmental Media Association (EMA), a group of environmentally conscious Hollywood celebs, and the “organic” school gardens they’ve been volunteering at for the past past couple years. Stars like Rosario Dawson, Amy Smart, Emmanuelle Chriqui, and Nicole Ritchie have generously adopted Los Angeles schools, visiting the schools and helping the children garden. What the celebs didn’t know is that their organization’s corporate donor – Kellogg Garden Products – sells both organic compost and soil amendments and ones made from sewage sludge. Seventy percent of Kellogg’s business is products made from sewage sludge. Sewage sludge is not allowed on organic farms and gardens.

In late March, the Center for Media & Democracy (CMD) wrote to EMA, alerting them that Kellogg products contain sludge, which may jeopardize the safety and the organic status of the gardens. As a result of the letter, John Stauber, founder of CMD, then met with Ed Begley, Jr., famous environmentalist and EMA board member, who was concerned about the possibility that sludge was used on the gardens.

Following that meeting, a reply came back from EMA’s President, Debbie Levin, who has been called “Hollywood’s Conscience,” asking CMD to stop communicating with Ed Begley, Jr. and to call off its public campaign against the use of Kellogg products on the LA school gardens. She asserted that her organization never claimed the gardens were organic. Then, in the next week, EMA removed the word “organic” from its webpage about its school garden program… but left it in on some pages. (See screenshots here) EMA refers to the gardens as “organic” in a fundraising form, leading donors to believe they are contributing to organic school gardens. Ironically, in 2003, EMA gave an award to King of the Hill for its episode titled “I Never Promised You an Organic Garden.” Talk about foreshadowing.

SFGate and Mother Jones each wrote articles on this story, published a few days after Levin’s initial email reply. The Mother Jones piece features a picture of Rosario Dawson gardening with children, with a bag of Kellogg’s Amend (made from sewage sludge and contaminated with dioxins and other hazardous material) behind them. The article says:

“This was one of those unfortunate weird things,” says EMA president Debbie Levin, who hadn’t known anything about Amend before the shoot. Amend, she later learned, is not approved for organic farming because it’s made from municipal sewage sludge.


So what to do if you’re a home gardener who wants compost without the sewage? Try checking the website of the Organic Materials Review Institute, which vets agricultural products used by certified organic farmers. That’s the preferred approach of Levin, who stresses that no Kellogg Amend was ever actually applied to EMA’s gardens (though one school may have inadvertently ordered a different sludge-based product). “Everything was according to what we asked for,” she says. “We use the organic stuff.”

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U.N. Forecasts 10.1 Billion People by Century’s End

From The New York Times:

By and
Published: May 3, 2011

The population of the world, long expected to stabilize just above 9 billion in the middle of the century, will instead keep growing and may hit 10.1 billion by the year 2100, the United Nations projected in a report released Tuesday.

Growth in Africa remains so high that the population there could more than triple in this century, rising from today’s one billion to 3.6 billion, the report said — a sobering forecast for a continent already struggling to provide food and water for its people.

The new report comes just ahead of a demographic milestone, with the world population expected to pass 7 billion in late October, only a dozen years after it surpassed 6 billion. Demographers called the new projections a reminder that a problem that helped define global politics in the 20th century, the population explosion, is far from solved in the 21st.

“Every billion more people makes life more difficult for everybody — it’s as simple as that,” said John Bongaarts, a demographer at the Population Council, a research group in New York. “Is it the end of the world? No. Can we feed 10 billion people? Probably. But we obviously would be better off with a smaller population.”

The projections were made by the United Nations population division, which has a track record of fairly accurate forecasts. In the new report, the division raised its forecast for the year 2050, estimating that the world would most likely have 9.3 billion people then, an increase of 156 million over the previous estimate for that year, published in 2008.

Among the factors behind the upward revisions is that fertility is not declining as rapidly as expected in some poor countries, and has shown a slight increase in many wealthier countries, including the United States, Britain and Denmark.

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Republi-Nazi Paul Ryan blames rowdy town halls on ‘misinformation’

It is spontaneous outbursts of public outrage directed at “Big government” when Koch and other rich right wing coropate heads finance Astro-Turf Tea Parties, but due to misinformation when actual grassroots organized groups that will actually be harmed by Republi-Nazi policies do the same.

Perhaps Paul Ryan is so delusional, so wrapped up in his vision of being John Galt i.e. having his head up his own ass, as to not recognize real grass roots opposition even as it is forming mobs with pitchforks and torches.

From Raw Story:

By David Edwards
Sunday, May 1st, 2011

Outraged constituents have showed up at town hall events across the country to protest a Republican budget plan that would end Medicare as it exists today but Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) says it’s all been a misunderstanding.

“The crowds are really getting bigger and people are getting much more anxious about where the country is headed,” Ryan told ABC’s Christiane Amanpour in an interview that aired Sunday.

“This is the sign of the times, I think. I think it’s sign of anxiety of the times and sign of misinformation perpetrated out there.”

“What do you mean, misinformation?” Amanpour asked.

“There are TV, radio and phone calls running, trying to scare seniors. The Democratic National Committee is running phone calls to seniors in my district, TV ads, saying we’re hurting current seniors, which in fact that’s not the case,” Ryan explained.

But Democrats claim that the Republican plan authored by Ryan would force millions of seniors to pay an extra $2.2 billion next year alone.

And they say that for Americans under 55, the plan would effectively eliminate Medicare by replacing it with a voucher system. The Congressional Budget Office has predicted that in ten years, the new Medicare system would cost each senior about $6,500 extra per year.

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Impeach or recall Paul Ryan

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The 12 Worst (and Most Powerful) Christian Right Groups

From Alternet:

The Religious Right in America is lavishly funded and politically well connected. These groups raise more than three-quarters of a billion dollars annually, mostly tax-exempt.

May 2, 2011

The Religious Right in America is lavishly funded and politically well connected. While the men who lead the fundamentalist Christian political movement hold different opinions about theology, they share a deep and abiding hostility to the separation of church and state. They seek to inject religion into public schools, obtain taxpayer funding for religious schools and other ministries, roll back reproductive choice and deny civil rights to gay people. And they enjoy extraordinary influence in Washington, D.C., and in many state legislatures.

What follows is a survey of some of the nation’s leading Religious Right organizations. Collectively, these groups raise more than three-quarters of a billion dollars annually, the bulk of it tax-exempt. Budget figures are from public tax documents and are the most recent available, in most cases from 2009 and 2010.

The Pat Robertson Empire

Christian Broadcasting Network

Budget: $295,140,001

Location: Virginia Beach, Va.

Regent University

Budget: $60,093,298

Location: Virginia Beach, Va.

American Center for Law and Justice:

Budget: $13,375,429

Location: Virginia Beach, Va.

Christian Advocates Serving Evangelism

Budget: $43,872,322

Location: Atlanta, Ga.

TV preacher Pat Robertson has for many years overseen a sprawling Religious Right empire that includes a global television network, a university and an influential right-wing legal outfit. Robertson’s flagship operation, “The 700 Club,” is a daily television program that mixes news, faith healing, Christian lifestyle features and Religious Right politics. He calls church-state separation a “myth” and a “lie of the left.” Despite his extreme views, Robertson remains well connected with the GOP power structure in Washington, and congressional leaders and presidential candidates often appear on his show. House Speaker John Boehner, for example, gave an exclusive interview in February.

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Why Being a Foodie Isn’t ‘Elitist’

From Common Dreams:

by Eric Schlosser
Published on Sunday, May 1, 2011 by the Washington Post

At the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual meeting this year, Bob Stallman, the group’s president, lashed out at “self-appointed food elitists” who are “hell-bent on misleading consumers.” His target was the growing movement that calls for sustainable farming practices and questions the basic tenets of large-scale industrial agriculture in America.

The “elitist” epithet is a familiar line of attack. In the decade since my book “Fast Food Nation” was published, I’ve been called not only an elitist, but also a socialist, a communist and un-American. In 2009, the documentary “Food, Inc.,” directed by Robby Kenner, was described as “elitist foodie propaganda” by a prominent corporate lobbyist. Nutritionist Marion Nestle has been called a “food fascist,” while an attempt was recently made to cancel a university appearance by Michael Pollan, author of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” who was accused of being an “anti-agricultural” elitist by a wealthy donor.

This name-calling is a form of misdirection, an attempt to evade a serious debate about U.S. agricultural policies. And it gets the elitism charge precisely backward. America’s current system of food production — overly centralized and industrialized, overly controlled by a handful of companies, overly reliant on monocultures, pesticides, chemical fertilizers, chemical additives, genetically modified organisms, factory farms, government subsidies and fossil fuels — is profoundly undemocratic. It is one more sign of how the few now rule the many. And it’s inflicting tremendous harm on American farmers, workers and consumers.

During the past 40 years, our food system has changed more than in the previous 40,000 years. Genetically modified corn and soybeans, cloned animals, McNuggets — none of these technological marvels existed in 1970. The concentrated economic power now prevalent in U.S. agriculture didn’t exist, either. For example, in 1970 the four largest meatpacking companies slaughtered about 21 percent of America’s cattle; today the four largest companies slaughter about 85 percent. The beef industry is more concentrated now than it was in 1906, when Upton Sinclair published “The Jungle” and criticized the unchecked power of the “Beef Trust.” The markets for pork, poultry, grain, farm chemicals and seeds have also become highly concentrated.

America’s ranchers and farmers are suffering from this lack of competition for their goods. In 1970, farmers received about 32 cents for every consumer dollar spent on food; today they get about 16 cents. The average farm household now earns about 87 percent of its income from non-farm sources.

While small farmers and their families have been forced to take second jobs just to stay on their land, wealthy farmers have received substantial help from the federal government. Between 1995 and 2009, about $250 billion in federal subsidies was given directly to American farmers — and about three-quarters of that money was given to the wealthiest 10 percent. Those are the farmers whom the Farm Bureau represents, the ones attacking “big government” and calling the sustainability movement elitist.

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