United States loses AAA credit rating from S&P

From Reuters: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/08/06/us-usa-debt-downgrade-idUSTRE7746VF20110806

By Walter Brandimarte

NEW YORK | Fri Aug 5, 2011 9:47pm EDT

(Reuters) – The United States lost its top-notch AAA credit rating from Standard & Poor’s on Friday in an unprecedented reversal of fortune for the world’s largest economy.

S&P cut the long-term U.S. credit rating by one notch to AA-plus on concerns about the government’s budget deficits and rising debt burden. The move is likely to raise borrowing costs eventually for the American government, companies and consumers.

“The downgrade reflects our opinion that the fiscal consolidation plan that Congress and the Administration recently agreed to falls short of what, in our view, would be necessary to stabilize the government’s medium-term debt dynamics,” S&P said in a statement.

The decision follows a fierce political battle in Congress over cutting spending and raising taxes to reduce the government’s debt burden and allow its statutory borrowing limit to be raised.

On August 2, President Barack Obama signed legislation designed to reduce the fiscal deficit by $2.1 trillion over 10 years. But that was well short of the $4 trillion in savings S&P had called for as a good “down payment” on fixing America’s finances.

Continue reading at:  http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/08/06/us-usa-debt-downgrade-idUSTRE7746VF20110806

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STOKING FIRE: Clinic Violence Needs to Be Controlled

From RH Reality Check: http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/blog/2011/07/29/stoking-fire-clinic-violence-needs-controlled

by Eleanor J. Bader, RH Reality Check
August 5, 2011

When President Bill Clinton signed the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act in 1994, the prochoice community assumed that the years of violent assaults and harassment were finally over. After all, the Act prohibits “the use or threat of force and physical obstruction that injures, intimidates, or interferes with a person seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services.” What’s more, it gives the Department of Justice authority to bring criminal charges against violators, with potentially hefty financial penalties and jail time for those convicted, and empowers DOJ, state Attorney Generals, individuals, and health centers to bring civil complaints against anyone who breaches the law.

Seventeen years later, however, only 64 lawsuits—39 of them criminal—have been filed and 92 defendants have been charged. In total, FACE has led to just 86 convictions.

Meanwhile, clinics across the U.S. continue to be menaced. “Our protesters have learned to come as close as they can without stepping over the line to a FACE violation,” says Jen Boulanger, Executive Director of the Allentown Women’s Center.  Sadly, Boulanger’s experience is all too common and protesters have further sidestepped the law by developing tactics that fall outside FACE’s purview. One of the most insidious—and effective—is the boycott. Indeed, businesses and suppliers throughout the 50 states have been threatened with blacklisting unless they sever ties with providers. Just last month, for example, an Enterprise Rent-a-Car franchise in Redwood City, California was warned that if they didn’t revoke an agreement to rent nine parking spaces to a nearby clinic, the entire national chain would be boycotted.

Yep, they’re a wily lot, the antis.  Still, the question remains: Has the Obama administration done all it can to prosecute those who’ve run rough-shod over FACE, or has it backpedaled on the issue?

Much has been made of the fact that since Obama took office, DOJ has brought charges against seven individuals for violating the Act—a nearly 360-degree turnaround from the Bush years.  Among them: Richard Retta, an elderly Maryland man who has been a constant presence at Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, DC for a decade.  According to the complaint, Retta routinely interfered with patients entering the facility.  In one incident, he got so close to a woman that he broke her shoe. DOJ seeks to bar Retta from coming within 20 feet of PPMW’s entrance and physically obstructing patients, staff, and escorts. The agency is also requesting $15,000 in fines.

Continue reading at:  http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/blog/2011/07/29/stoking-fire-clinic-violence-needs-controlled

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Potential jurors shouldn’t be dismissed for being gay, court told

From The Los Angeles Times:  http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-jurors-sexual-orientation-20110805,0,6750375.story

An appellate panel hears arguments in an assault case against a gay inmate in which a lesbian was dismissed during jury selection. Defense lawyers want the panel to consider constitutional issues.

By Carol J. Williams, Los Angeles Times
August 5, 2011

Trial lawyers should be barred from dismissing potential jurors because of their sexual orientation, defense attorneys argued Thursday in a case that, if successful, could extend constitutional protection from discrimination to homosexuality along with race, creed and gender.

The arguments made to a panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena arose from a prosecutor’s decision last year to strike a lesbian from the jury weighing assault charges brought against a gay Nigerian inmate at the federal lockup in Los Angeles.

The Obama administration has called for “heightened scrutiny” of laws and practices that target gays, and the government has lately expressed its concern about the constitutionality of differing treatment of spouses in same-sex marriages.

In Nigerian-born Daniel Osazuwa’s appeal of his assault conviction before three of the most liberal judges of the 9th Circuit, attorneys with the federal public defender’s office argued that gays and lesbians should be added to the classes of citizens considered vulnerable to discrimination and accorded better protection of their rights.

Deputy Public Defender James H. Locklin asked the 9th Circuit panel to find that Osazuwa’s trial judge erred in accepting a bogus reason for the prosecutor’s dismissal of the lesbian during jury selection.

Continue reading at:  http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-jurors-sexual-orientation-20110805,0,6750375.story

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Who killed economic growth?

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Friday Night Fun and Culture: Keepin’ Austin and other Parts of Texas Weird

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American Psychological Association calls for gay marriage

From Pink News: http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2011/08/05/american-psychological-association-calls-for-gay-marriage/

by Jessica Geen
5 August 2011

The world’s largest body of psychologists, the American Psychological Association, has called for state and federal officials to lift barriers to marriage equality.

Members at the group’s annual meeting in Washington voted unanimously on Wednesday to back “full marriage equality for same-sex couples”.

Its policy-making panel cited evidence which shows that marriage has the same health benefits for gay people as it does for straight people and that barring gay couples from marrying “may have negative effects on their psychological well-being.”

Clinton Anderson, director of APA’s Office on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns, told USA Today: “Now as the country has really begun to have experience with gay marriage, our position is much clearer and more straightforward – that marriage equity is the policy that the country should be moving toward.”

States which allow gay marriage are New York, Vermont, Iowa, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire, as well as Washington DC. A small number of states permit civil unions, which many gay rights campaigners see as inadequate.

The resolution passed by the APA says that “many gay men and lesbians, like their heterosexual counterparts, desire to form stable, long-lasting and committed intimate relationships and are successful in doing so”.

It adds: “Emerging evidence suggests that statewide campaigns to deny same-sex couples legal access to civil marriage are a significant source of stress to the lesbian, gay and bisexual residents of those states and may have negative effects on their psychological well-being.”

Continue reading at: http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2011/08/05/american-psychological-association-calls-for-gay-marriage/

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America In Decline

From In These Times: http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/11806/america_in_decline/

By Noam Chomsky
August 5, 2011

“It is a common theme” that the United States, which “only a few years ago was hailed to stride the world as a colossus with unparalleled power and unmatched appeal is in decline, ominously facing the prospect of its final decay,” Giacomo Chiozza writes in the current Political Science Quarterly.

The theme is indeed widely believed. And with some reason, though a number of qualifications are in order. To start with, the decline has proceeded since the high point of U.S. power after World War II, and the remarkable triumphalism of the post-Gulf War ’90s was mostly self-delusion.

Another common theme, at least among those who are not willfully blind, is that American decline is in no small measure self-inflicted. The comic opera in Washington this summer, which disgusts the country and bewilders the world, may have no analogue in the annals of parliamentary democracy.

The spectacle is even coming to frighten the sponsors of the charade. Corporate power is now concerned that the extremists they helped put in office may in fact bring down the edifice on which their own wealth and privilege relies, the powerful nanny state that caters to their interests.

Corporate power’s ascendancy over politics and society—by now mostly financial—has reached the point that both political organizations, which at this stage barely resemble traditional parties, are far to the right of the population on the major issues under debate.

For the public, the primary domestic concern is unemployment. Under current circumstances, that crisis can be overcome only by a significant government stimulus, well beyond the recent one, which barely matched decline in state and local spending—though even that limited initiative probably saved millions of jobs.

Continue reading at:  http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/11806/america_in_decline/

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