A state initiative would ban all abortions. But opponents of the ballot measure say it would also ban many birth control pills and hamper popular infertility treatments, claims proponents are calling ‘scare tactics.’
By Richard Fausset, Los Angeles Times November 4, 2011
Reporting from Clarksdale, Miss.
Gail Giaramita was walking door-to-door in this old cotton town on a recent afternoon, genially informing voters about the simple choice they faced when it came to Initiative 26, the statewide ballot measure that would define personhood as beginning at the moment of fertilization.
“If you believe that the unborn are human beings, you need to vote yes,” Giaramita explained to W.L. Wilkins, proprietor of Big Mama’s grocery store. “If you believe that women should continue to have the right to abort their babies, you need to vote no.”
If that’s all there was to it — if Initiative 26 would simply ban all abortions, even in cases of rape or incest — this proposed amendment to the state Constitution would be controversial enough. But opponents of the measure are warning of other potential consequences, including a ban on many birth control pills and a severe hampering of popular infertility treatments.
Proponents call these charges untrue “scare tactics.”
Either way, the measure’s passage would count as an unprecedented attempt to nullify the abortion right granted under Roe vs. Wade. Personhood USA, the main supporter of the Mississippi measure, says a victory here could “change [the] abortion debate,” as part of a “larger, global movement to define when life begins in an effort to undercut the case for legalized abortion.”
A steady, legal assault on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is underway in Washington, DC.
On Thursday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) led 132 Democrats in filing a friend-of-the-court brief in a federal court in Boston where civil rights groups are challenging DOMA on behalf of two married couples who want the military to recognize their marriages.
DOMA prohibits gays and lesbians who work for the military to receive the same marriage benefits ensured to same-sex couples by the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs. The same federal court ruled DOMA unconstitutional last year.
“These couples are in long term, committed, and legally recognized marriages, and the military should not be forced to turn its back on them because the federal government refuses to recognize their families,” said Aubry Sarvis, the director of plaintiff group the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.
Meanwhile, the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday began debating the Respect for Marriage Act, a bill that would overturn DOMA. All ten Democrats on the committee are co-sponsors of the bill, and debate will continue next week.
The 1996 law defines marriage as between a man and a woman and prevents states and government groups from being required to recognize same-sex marriages. A dozen lawsuits against DOMA are underway in several states.
As developments with Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Oakland have garnered the most headlines from the 99 percent protests of late, Occupy Philadelphia demonstrators made sure to create their own newsworthy event Friday afternoon.
Over 100 people made their voices heard when they arrived to protest a fundraiser for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in downtown Philadelphia, according to The Philadelphia Enquirer. Expecting Romney to enter through the back entrance of the Rittenhouse hotel, the location of the fundraiser, protesters chanted, “Hey Romney, picture this, no more greedy politics.” One notable protester held up a sign reading, ”Greed is Good! Romney-Gekko 2012.”
Religious feeling is as much a verity as any other part of human consciousness; and against it, on the subjective side, the waves of science beat in vain.
— John Tyndall, Professor Virchow and Evolution
Just when you think that science may have a fighting chance in Texas, its governor’s protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, something comes along to suggest, once again, that science may be happier finding a home in a different state.
Its struggles to be recognized in textbooks have been well documented. One of its recent struggles involved evolution, a concept taken by some Texans to be more theory than fact, a position with which it is difficult to argue when examining its proponents. When the 10-year review of science textbooks that was concluded in 2010 was taking place, evolution was a hot topic. The Texas Board of Education said that students must examine all “sides of scientific evidence” when it comes to evolution, including the scientific evidence that the earth is only 6000 years old, give or take a few years. The Discovery Institute that promotes “intelligent design” rather than evolution, said the revised standards were a “huge victory for those who favor teaching the scientific evidence for and against evolution. When the Board of Education agreed to include both sides of the evolution debate in text books the president of the school board said: “Our science standards are light years ahead of any other state when it comes to challenging evolution.” The Board of Education’s successful challenge to evolution, as it were, has now been joined by a less noted, but nonetheless Texas sized challenge, to global warming. Not that Texas is stopping it. It is just keeping it out of a recent scientific study.
The recent and successful assault on global warming (not its cause but its concept) came from an agency with the promising name of The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ.) The uninformed would think with a name like that it would have a lot going for it. The uninformed would be disabused of that notion upon learning that all its members were appointed by presidential hopeful, but climate change (and evolution skeptic), Texas governor Rick Perry. Members of the commission share his skepticism about global warming.
In 2009 TCEQ’s Galveston Bay Estuary Program commissioned a scientific study entitled “State of the Bay 2010 ” the purpose of which was to focus on the health of the Bay of Galveston. TCEQ retained the Houston Advanced Research Center to produce the report and the Center asked John Anderson, the Maurice Ewing professor of oceanography at Rice University to write a chapter for inclusion in the report dealing with rising sea levels. Dr. Anderson completed his report and gave it to the commission. Then a strange thing happened. In the part of the report that includes Dr. Anderson’s chapter, the Commission deleted references to climate change, the rise in sea level and the effect of humans on the environment. When Dr. Anderson learned of this he shared the chapter he had written with reporters. His conclusions, including references to the human causes of climate change that had been censored, were reported by assorted media outlets. In response, the Commission deleted his entire chapter from its report. This does not, of course, alter his conclusions. What it does is plant the Commission squarely in the camp that does not believe climate change is attributable to human activities or that climate change has caused a rise in the sea level.
A breakthrough for the commons came in 2009 when Elinor Ostrom won the Nobel Prize for Economics. The first woman awarded this honor, the Indiana University political scientist not only made history but also helped debunk widespread notions that the commons inevitably leads to tragedy. In 50 years of research from Nepal to Kenya to Switzerland to Los Angeles, she has shown that commonly held resources will not be destroyed by overuse if there is a system in place to manage how they are shared.
How such systems work around the world was the topic of Ostrom’s keynote address at Minneapolis’ Festival of the Commons at Augsburg College Oct. 7—co-sponsored by On the Commons, Augsburg College’s Sabo Center for Citizenship and Learning and The Center for Democracy and Citizenship.
Ostrom explained there is no magic formula for commons management. “Government, private or community,” she said, “work in some settings and fail in others.”
The most effective approach to protect commons is what she calls “polycentric systems,” which operate “at multiple levels with autonomy at each level.” The chief virtue and practical value of this structure is it helps establish rules that “tend to encourage the growth of trust and reciprocity” among people who use and care for a particular commons. This was the focus of her Nobel Lecture in Stockholm, which she opened by stressing a need for “developing new theory to explain phenomena that do not fit in a dichotomous world of ‘the market’ and ‘the state.’”
Addressing a crowded auditorium at the Minneapolis Festival, Ostrom pointed to an authoritative study of 100 protected forests in 14 countries, which shows that the cooperation of local people is more important to preserving these commons than whether a national government, local officials or someone else actually oversees the forests. If the people who live there feel they benefit long-term from how the forests are managed, she notes, they make sure the rules are followed. “When local groups have the right to harvest non-timber resources, they are more likely to monitor and sanction those who break the rules.”
I won’t deny it: my first reaction on seeing the results of Chris Goodall’s research into our use of resources was: “I don’t want this to be true.” Obviously, I’d like to see our environmental impacts reduced, as swiftly and painlessly as possible. But if his hypothesis is right – that economic growth has been accompanied by a reduction in our consumption of stuff and might even have driven it – this would put me in the wrong. I’m among those who have argued that a decline in our use of resources requires less economic activity, or at least a transition to a steady-state economy.
“The current economic system [cannot] address the environmental crisis. Its advocates promised that economic growth and environmental damage could be decoupled: better technology and efficiency would allow us to use fewer resources even while increasing economic output. Nothing remotely like it has happened. In some cases there has been a decline in resource intensity, which means a lower use of materials per dollar of economic output but higher overall consumption. In some cases – such as iron ore, bauxite and cement – even this hasn’t happened: resource use per dollar has risen.”
That was what the available research suggested at the time. But if Goodall’s findings are correct, they put a coach and horses through something I strongly believed to be true.
So, for a few minutes, I engaged in what psychologists call protective cognition. I started scouring his findings for reasons to reject them. It took an effort of will to shake myself out of it and remember that the intellectually honest response to new information is to adjust our beliefs to the evidence, rather than adjust the evidence to our beliefs. We must question and test new findings of course, but we must do so as dispassionately as possible. Otherwise we are in danger of doing more harm than good, and of wasting our lives promoting the wrong causes. Anti-vaccine campaigners please take note.
Starting again, this time reading it as objectively as I could, I saw that Goodall’s report appears to be rigorous and unbiased. It answered many of the questions and objections I raised as I read it. People like me have to step back and consider the possibility that Chris Goodall could be right when he states:
Them Texas Christians just can’t help it as much as the Dominionists tell them they have to be nice to the Jews until after the rapture which is dependent on certain actions by the children of Israel and without the Jews the Apocalypse will never come. Some of these goobers just don’t get it and can’t help themselves. Y’all see they were raised to be racist, queer hating anti-Semites.
AUSTIN (KXAN) – Amid a bid for the state Senate, the chairman of the Texas House Republican Caucus is drawing attention this week for an ethnic slur he uttered during a legislative oversight committee hearing.
“Don’t nitpick, don’t try to Jew them down,” Rep. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, said regarding insurance payments for windstorm victims on Thursday.
He quickly followed the statement, by saying, “That’s probably a bad term.” The hearing continued without other members acknowledging what he had said.
“At a legislative oversight committee hearing today, I inadvertently used a phrase that many people find offensive,” Taylor later said. “I corrected myself immediately when I realized what I had said. I regret my poor choice of words and sincerely apologize for any harm they may have caused.”
The Anti-Defamation League — a group aiming to fight anti-Semitic behavior, racism, and bigotry — contacted Taylor’s office Friday to discuss the comment further. Taylor responded to the group, sending a formal letter of apology.
Why is Rick Santorum running for President of the United States of America?
He clearly has contempt for the U.S. Constitution which the President swears to uphold. He believes that the Bible has supremacy over the Constitution which amounts to theocracy. His greatest wish is for this nation to cease being a land of liberty, justice, and freedom.
Instead, it appears that he would love for America to transform into a barbaric and backwards Christian version of Iran. Presumably, he would like to lead this social, moral, legal, and economic monstrosity that would drag America into the gutter.
Is Rick Santorum flirting with tyranny and treason?
Phyllis Schlafly has lashed out at Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry for the way his 20 percent flat-tax plan eliminates tax advantages for married couples. She argued that giving deductions to unmarried parents with “alternative lifestyles” means “rewarding bad behavior.” Schlafly also condemned Perry for being “fine” with marriage equality in other states: “New York’s same-sex marriage is, indeed, Texas’s business, too, since two same-sex couples have already moved to Texas and are demanding that Texas courts recognize their marriage. This shows why the definition of marriage is a national and not a states-right issue.” (HT: American Independent.)
Deadbeat Rep. Joe Walsh, Who Owes $100k In Child Support, Receives ‘Pro-Family’ Award From Family Research Council
In July, the press learned that Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL), a Tea Party freshman in Congress, owed $117,000in unpaid child support to his ex-wife. Walsh, despite earning a hefty salary as a member of Congress, has continued to refuse to pay his ex-wife to support his children. Now, it appears, an influential Christian right lobbying group is lending some support to the deadbeat congressman.
The Sun-Times reports that the Family Research Council, a social conservative advocacy nonprofit headed by CNN pundit Tony Perkins, has awarded Walsh a 100 percent rating as a “True Blue” member of Congress. The FRC said it gave the honor to Walsh because of his “unwavering support of the family”:
“We thank Cong. Walsh who has voted consistently to defend faith, family and freedom,” said FRCA President Tony Perkins. “Cong. Walsh and other ‘True Blue Members’ have voted to repeal Obamacare, de-fund Planned Parenthood, end government funding for abortion within the health care law, uphold the Defense of Marriage Act, and continue support for school choice. I applaud their commitment to uphold the institutions of marriage and family.”
“I am proud and honored to be recognized by the Family Research Council as the only member from Illinois with a 100 percent pro-family voting record,” Walsh said in a news release. “Defending American values have always been one of my top priorities, and this reward reaffirms my dedication to that fight.”
(Reuters) – A French satirical weekly whose office was firebombed after it printed a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad has reproduced the image with other caricatures in a special supplement distributed with one of the country’s leading newspapers.
The weekly Charlie Hebdo defended “the freedom to poke fun” in the four-page supplement, which was wrapped around copies of the left-wing daily Liberation Thursday, a day after an arson attack gutted Charlie Hebdo’s Paris headquarters.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, which took place hours before an edition of Charlie Hebdo hit newsstands featuring a cover-page cartoon of Mohammad and a speech bubble with the words: “100 lashes if you don’t die of laughter.”
The weekly, known for its irreverent treatment of the political establishment and religious figures, bore the headline “Charia Hebdo,” in a reference to Muslim sharia law, and said that week’s issue had been guest-edited by Mohammad.
A world recession has drawn closer after a fractious G20 summit failed to agree fresh financial help for distressed countries and debt-ridden Italy was forced to agree to the International Monetary Fund monitoring its austerity programme.
This article is based on testimony submitted by Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health (PRCH) on November 2, 2011, to the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Health Hearing on Conscience Clauses and Contraceptive Mandates. PRCH is a doctor-led national advocacy organization that relies upon evidence-based medicine to promote sound reproductive health policies.
PRCH supports the recent recommendation of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to include contraception in the preventive health benefits  for women under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA)  and the decision of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to adopt this recommendation in its draft regulations.  As physicians, we know that access to contraception is essential to the health and well-being of our patients.
About half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended.  Regular use of contraception prevents unintended pregnancy and reduces the need for abortion.  Contraception also allows women to determine the timing and spacing of pregnancies, protecting their health and improving the well-being of their children.  Contraceptive use saves money by avoiding the costs of unintended pregnancy and by making pregnancies healthier, saving millions in health care expenses.  Several contraceptives also have non-contraceptive health benefits, such as decreasing the risk of certain cancers and treating debilitating menstrual problems. Making contraception more affordable is a significant step forward for the health of women and their families.
PRCH appreciates the decision of HHS to include in the draft regulations the coverage of all forms of birth control, allowing patients to access to the method that best meets their needs. Contraceptive methods vary and women with their health care providers need to be free to select from the full range of FDA-approved contraceptives. Not all contraceptives are clinically appropriate for every woman.  We also know that women and couples are more likely to use contraception successfully when they are given their contraceptive method of choice, be it a birth control pill, a vaginal ring, or an intrauterine device (IUD). The draft regulations hold the promise of making contraception more affordable and easier to access for millions of women.
While we strongly support the inclusion of contraception as preventive care, we are deeply troubled by the provisions that exempt certain employers from compliance. The draft regulations threaten to compromise the very important protections they would put in place. As physicians who care for patients who may be deprived of the affordable contraceptive coverage that all women deserve, we outline our concerns in the comments below.