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Weekly Pulse: South Dakota’s Legislative Attack on Abortion Providers

1:21 pm in Uncategorized by TheMediaConsortium

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

The South Dakota House of Representatives will soon vote on a bill that would expand the definition of justifiable homicide to include killing to protect the life of a fetus. The plain language of the bill would appear to legalize the murder of abortion providers for performing legal abortions on women who request them.

Kate Sheppard explains in Mother Jones:

The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Phil Jensen, a committed foe of abortion rights, alters the state’s legal definition of justifiable homicide by adding language stating that a homicide is permissible if committed by a person “while resisting an attempt to harm” that person’s unborn child or the unborn child of that person’s spouse, partner, parent, or child. If the bill passes, it could in theory allow a woman’s father, mother, son, daughter, or husband to kill anyone who tried to provide that woman an abortion—even if she wanted one.

“The bill in South Dakota is an invitation to murder abortion providers,” Vicki Saporta, the president of the National Abortion Foundation told Mother Jones.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Phil Jensen, vehemently denies that his bill would legalize the murder of abortion doctors, Sheppard reports in a follow-up post. Jensen did not return Mother Jones’s calls for comment before the original story ran, but he now claims that he simply wants to update the state’s fetal homicide legislation.

Jensen’s stated intent is irrelevant, however. The plain language of his bill expands the category of “justifiable homicide” to protect certain people who kill to save a fetus.

There is no question that many radical anti-choicers will interpret this legislation as a license to kill. If this bill becomes law, it is only a matter of time before one of these terrorists travels to South Dakota to test that interpretation.

As Jodi Jacobson of RH Reality Check notes, the bill codifies the same legal argument that anti-choice terrorist Scott Roeder deployed unsuccessfully at his trial for the assassination of the prominent late-term abortion provider and pro-choice activist Dr. George Tiller. Technically, the bill would only protect people who killed to “protect” a fetus being carried by their partner or family member, not strangers like Roeder who killed to “protect” fetuses in general, but the veiled threat to abortion providers is clear.

The bill cleared the legislature’s judiciary committee by a party-line vote of 9-3. The legislation is co-sponsored by 22 state legislators and 4 state senators. The full state house is scheduled to vote on the bill on Wednesday.

Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly sees the legislation as a sign of a “radical turn” in the culture war.

“Birth or Die Act” advances

Meanwhile, at the federal level, the anti-choice bill H.R. 358 passed the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Miriam Perez reports for Feministing. H.R. 358 is controversial on two fronts. First, it appears to create an opening for hospitals to refuse abortion care and abortion referrals, even when a woman’s life is at risk. Second, the bill would effectively end private insurance coverage for abortion as we know it.

Fruitwashing

You’ve heard of “greenwashing,” the marketing trend where companies repackage their old polluting inventory as planet-healthy products? The latest corporate marketing gambit is to convince consumers that sugar, starch, and red food dye are good for us, a process dubbed “fruitwashing,” by Brie Cadman of change.org.

Cadman takes food giant Kellogg’s to task for touting the “real fruit” in its frosted mini Pop Tarts, now available in 100-calorie packs. Of course, these rosy toaster pastries contain only a minuscule amount of fruit.

Kellogg’s is a repeat offender when it comes to fruitwashing. The box of the company’s Frosted Mini Wheats Blueberry Muffin cereal features photos of real blueberries, but the actual “blueberry crunchlets” in the box are made of sugar, soybean oil, red dye #40 and blue dye #2.

Play with your food

In an article called “Why Playing With Your Food is Serious Business,” Carol Deppe of Grist argues that processed fare is driving us to overeat by cheating us out of our instinctive drive to interact with our foods before we eat them:

I also tend to overeat the delicious bean soup on that day I effortlessly thawed a portion from the freezer, compared with the day that I made the soup from scratch myself. The act of preparing food seems to actually be one of my satiety mechanisms. That is, to avoid overeating, to feel satisfied with normal, healthful amounts of food, I have to play with my food.

A highly processed diet enables us to practically inhale our calories, leaving us unsatisfied.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

Weekly Pulse: Egg Salad Surprise! Congress Votes to Clean Up Food Supply

5:11 pm in Uncategorized by TheMediaConsortium

by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

It’s a Christmas-week miracle! The Senate, in a vote that astonished everyone, brought the Food Safety and Modernization Act back from the dead on Monday, as Siddhartha Mahanta reports in Mother Jones. The bill, which will enact tougher consumer protections against E. coli and other deadly contaminants in staples like eggs and peanut butter, died in the Senate last week when the omnibus spending bill it had been folded into kicked the bucket.

At Grist, Tom Philpott explains the initial demise, and the basis for the ultimate resurrection of the bill. The House passed the bill on Tuesday, having already passed it twice before.

President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law, which will usher in the first major overhaul of the country’s food safety system in more than 70 years. Food poisoning strikes 48 million Americans (1 in 6), lands 128,000 in the hospital, and kills 3,000 ever year, according to CDC figures released last week. Now that’s something to talk about with your relatives around the holiday dinner table.

Wisconsin clinic backs off 2nd trimester abortion care

A clinic in Wisconsin has reneged on its commitment to provide second trimester abortion care, as Judy Shackelford reports in The Progressive. Shackelford is outraged that the Madison Surgery Center walked back on its promise to patients. She knows first hand how important later term abortion access can be.

Shackelford found herself in need of a second trimester abortion when she developed a blood clot in her arm during her second, much-wanted pregnancy. She decided to terminate rather than risk leaving her 7-year-old son motherless. It was hard enough to find an abortion provider when she needed one, but if she needed the procedure today, she would have nowhere to turn.

Teen birth rate at record low

The birth rate for women ages 15-19 fell to 39.1 per 1000 between 2008 and 2009, the National Center for Health Statistics announced Tuesday. Many commentators, including Goddessjaz of feministing attribute the drop to the recession. The economy seems to be an important factor because birth rates dropped in all age groups, not just among teens.

Predictably, proponents of abstinence-only-until-hetero-marriage are trying to take credit for the falling birth rate. It’s not clear why they think ab-only is finally starting to work after years of unrelenting failure. Perhaps it was Bristol Palin’s electrifying performance on “Dancing With the Stars”?

Get the government out of my Medicare

We’ve become accustomed to the ironic spectacle of senior citizens on Medicare-funded scooters decrying the “government takeover of health care.” Medicare is wildly popular, even among those who decry “socialized medicine.” When the Affordable Care Act is finally implemented, it won’t feel like a government program, either. Paul Waldman of The American Prospect wonders if this “private sector” feel will undermine support for the program:

The Republican officials challenging the ACA in court have characterized its individual insurance mandate as an act of tyranny ranking somewhere between the Stalinist purges and Mao’s Cultural Revolution. But in the “government takeover” of health care (recently declared the 2010 “Lie of the Year” by the fact-checking site PolitiFact), Americans will continue to visit their private doctors to receive care paid for by their private insurance companies. The irony is that if the ACA actually were a “government takeover,” people would end up feeling much better about government’s involvement in health care. But since it maintains the private system, conservatives can continue to decry government health care safe in the knowledge that most people under 65 won’t know what they’re missing, or in another sense, what they’re getting.

If people don’t realize that they’re benefiting from government programs, they are less likely to support those programs. In an attempt to deflect Republican criticism, the Democrats assiduously scrubbed as much of the aura of government off of health reform as they could. This could prove to be a disastrously short-sighted strategy. If health reform works, the government won’t get the credit, but rest assured that if it fails, it will take the full measure of blame.

Funding for community health centers at risk

One of the lesser-known provisions of the Affordable Care Act was to expand the capacity of community health centers (CHCs) from 20 million to 40 million patients by 2015. This extra capacity will be key for absorbing the millions of previously uninsured Americans who are slated to get health insurance under the ACA.

CHCs have been praised by Democrats and Republicans as an affordable way to provide quality health care. However, state budget crises are threatening to derail the plan, as Dan Peterson reports for Change.org. States must contribute to the program in order to qualify for federal funding. However, state funding for CHCs has plummeted by 42% since 2007. So far this year, 23 states have cut funding for CHCs and eight have slashed their budgets by 20% or more.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

Weekly Pulse: Bloomberg Shaking up Soda Pop with Politics

9:04 am in Uncategorized by TheMediaConsortium

by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is asking the USDA to approve a pilot program that would prevent his city’s residents from buying sugar-sweetened soda with food stamps. Some have called the proposal paternalistic. However, at In These Times, Terry J. Allen argues that Bloomberg’s proposal makes sense.

Allen notes that New Yorkers may spend up to $135 million in food stamp benefits on sodas. Nationwide, the food stamp program funnels about $4 billion into the pockets of soda manufacturers. Sugary carbonated drinks are artificially profitable for Big Pop because they are sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup, a heavily subsidized by-product of our broken agricultural system.

There are already restrictions on what you can buy with food stamps. Nobody thinks it’s patronizing that alcohol is off-limits, even though alcoholic beverage are a potential source of calories. A little discussed benefit of ending the soda subsidy within the food stamp program would be the incentive it gives to small storekeepers in poor neighborhoods to devote less floor and refrigerator space to carbonated drinks and more room to real food. Many low income New Yorkers struggle to buy healthy food in their neighborhoods. Soda subsidies only make the “food desert” problem worse.

Impatient to die

Prisoners on Death Row in Texas spend 23 hours a day in solitary confinement. The death house in Texas is one of the most restrictive in the nation. Conditions are so bad that many inmates are actively looking forward to their execution day to put an end to the crushing isolation, Dave Mann reports in the Texas Observer. There is a growing consensus among psychiatrists that solitary confinement is a form of torture. Some experts, and many inmates, believe that solitary confinement is literally driving Texas death row inmates insane.

Daniel Lopez is in a hurry to die: “I don’t see no point in waiting 20 years for them to finally decide to execute me.” That’s the first thing he tells me when I sit down to interview him. We are seated in the Polunsky Unit’s visiting room. Lopez is encased in a small booth. We are separated by thick, soundproof glass and talk through phones. [...] [Lopez] says he has no desire to remain on death row. He says he’s looking forward to execution day. He doesn’t want to live much longer in his small cell. “I don’t think that’s a life for somebody,” he says.

Health reform and the courts

Suzy Khimm of Mother Jones takes a closer look a the legal challenges to health care reform. Republicans in Virginia have been given the green light to challenge the constitutionality of the individual mandate in court. In October, a U.S. District judge in Detroit refused to issue a preliminary injunction to stop the implementation of health care reform in Michigan. On Monday, a U.S. District judge in Lynchburg, VA, dismissed Liberty University’s anti-health reform lawsuit. Another Virginia judge says he will rule on a similar suit by the State Attorney General by the end of the year.

The current crop of politically motivated lawsuits challenging the individual mandate are legally tenuous at best. Aziz Huq wrote in The Nation: “Among constitutional scholars, the puzzle is not how the federal government can defend the new law, but why anyone thinks a constitutional challenge is even worth making.”

As Columbia law professor Gillian Metzger explained to Chris Hayes of The Nation earlier this year, the constitutionality of the individual mandate is basically a “no-brainer.” The way the Affordable Care Act is written, everyone who doesn’t have health insurance from some provider has two options: Buy subsidized health insurance or pay a tax. The federal government obviously has the right to collect taxes. The case is expected to go all the way to the Supreme Court, but it seems unlikely to prevail. The real fear is that a lower court will paralyze the implementation of health care reform while the decision is pending.

Crisis pregnancy center bill

Shakthi Jothianandan of Ms. Magazine has the latest on proposed legislation that would force so-called crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) in New York City to disclose that they are not real reproductive health clinics. The New York City Council held a hearing on the proposed legislation in mid-November, which brought together officials from the Department of Mental Health and Hygiene, Planned Parenthood, Concerned Clergy for Choice and staff from CPCs around the city. The representatives for the CPCs claimed that the bill violates their free speech rights, but the head of the New York Civil Liberties Union testified that requiring organizations to disclose that they are not real health care facilities and don’t provide a full range of services does not infringe on any First Amendment right.

CeCe Heil, senior counsel with the Christian anti-abortion group American Center for Law and Justice, claimed the legislation was unnecessary because women are already smart enough to know that “abortion alternatives” means “alternatives to abortion.” Many of the CPCs have “life” in their name, which should signal to potential clients that they do not provide abortion or abortion referrals. But if it’s really so obvious that CPCs are just anti-choice ministries posing as reproductive health clinics, why oppose a law that simply requires all facilities to disclose the obvious?

Boehner meets with anti-choice extremist

Future Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) met with anti-abortion extremist Randall Terry, as Miriam Perez of Feministing reports. Terry is the founder of the radical anti-choice group Operation Rescue, which has a long record of advocating violence against abortion providers. After Dr. George Tiller, one of the country’s last high-profile late-term abortion providers, was assassinated, Terry called Tiller a “mass murderer” who “horrifically, reaped what he sowed.”

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

Weekly Pulse: The New Hunger Epidemic, Making CPCs Come Clean, and Smoking Hipsters

8:41 am in Uncategorized by TheMediaConsortium

by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

As some Americans obsess over whether to brine or deep-fry their Thanksgiving turkeys, others are going hungry. Seth Freed Wessler reports for ColorLines that 50 million Americans went hungry in 2009, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Astonishingly, more than 36% of female-headed households suffered from food insecurity last year, in spite of a massive expansion of federal food stamp benefits as part of the economic stimulus. Forty-two million families received food stamps last year, 10 million more than the year before. Congress gutted the food stamp program this summer. If something isn’t done, families of four will lose $59 a month in food stamp benefits at the end of 2014. At the time of the cuts, House Democrats promised to restore food stamp benefits during the lame duck session of Congress, but Freed notes there’s been little sign recently that they plan to follow through on the promise.

Making Crisis Pregnancy Centers come clean

The New York City Council is preparing to vote on the legislation to force so-called “crisis pregnancy centers” (CPCs) to disclose that they are not health care facilities and that they do not provide birth control or abortions. CPCs are anti-choice ministries that deliberately mimic abortion clinics in order to trick women who might be seeking abortions. It’s all a ruse to bombard these women with false information about abortion under the guise of health care. As we discussed last week in the Pulse, CPCs also serve as incubators for more extreme forms of anti-choice activism, from clinic obstruction to violence.

In RH Reality Check, Dr. Lynette Leighton explains why she supports New York City’s proposed bill to require so-called “crisis pregnancy centers” to disclose that they aren’t real clinics staffed by health care providers:

As a family physician, I provide comprehensive health care for all of my patients, including safe abortions for women who decide to end a pregnancy. I’ve cared for many women who came to me in crisis when they learned they were pregnant. The last thing my patients need is to be misled by anti-abortion organizations masquerading as health clinics. I’m strongly in favor of the New York City bill requiring crisis pregnancy centers to disclose that they do not provide abortions or contraception, or offer referrals for these services.

New York CPCs are claiming that the requirement to disclose violates their freedom of speech, Robin Marty notes in RH Reality Check. In other words, they are claiming a First Amendment right to bait and switch. The executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) is scheduled to testify before the City Council that the free speech claim is baseless.

See you in court!

In other reproductive rights news, the Center for Reproductive Rights took the FDA to court on Tuesday over access to the morning after pill. The FDA has been ignoring a court order to make emergency contraception available over the counter to women of all ages, and the Center is going to court to spur the agency to comply, Vanessa Valenti reports for Feministing.

Look at this smokin’ hipster

Tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds is courting hipsters with a new “Williamsburg” cigarette, Brie Cadman reports for Change.org. “[Smoking Camels is] about last call, a sloppy kiss goodbye and a solo saunter to a rock show in an abandoned building… It’s where a tree grows,” according to the online ad copy. Mmm, kissing smokers.

It’s all part of an online marketing campaign in which users are invited to guess where brand mascot Joe Camel will show up next week. Interestingly, the contest’s name is “Break Free Adventure,” a twist on the Camel brand’s “Break Free” tagline. Odd that they’d pick a slogan usually associated with quitting smoking, rather than feeding the addiction. Those hipsters sure love irony.

Blowing the whistle on health insurers

On Democracy Now!, health insurance executive turned whistleblower Wendell Potter predicts that the Republicans will back off their grandiose campaign promises to repeal health care reform and instead try to dismantle the bill’s provisions that protect consumers. Potter notes that health insurers are major Republican donors, and that parts of the law are very good for insurers, notably the mandate forcing everyone to buy health insurance.

Apparently, some true believers haven’t gotten the memo. Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly notes that some Republican members of Congress are still gunning to shut down the government over health care reform and other spending.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

Weekly Pulse: Fear-mongering and Fetal Separatism in Today’s Anti-Choice Movement

10:09 am in Uncategorized by TheMediaConsortium

by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Rachel Maddow’s documentary, “The Assassination of Dr. Tiller,” premiered on Monday. The film tells the story of how radical anti-choicers besieged Dr. George Tiller and his abortion clinic for decades, fostering an atmosphere that legitimized murder in the eyes of a fanatic.

Kay Steiger of Campus Progress notes that while Tiller’s colleagues blame Roeder, they hold the larger anti-choice movement responsible for creating a climate of hate and intimidation. Roeder cultivated relationships with anti-choice terrorists, including a woman who went to jail for a botched attempt on Dr. Tiller’s life. He also had links to Operation Rescue, the radical anti-abortion group that tried unsuccessfully to shut down Tiller’s clinic for decades, through blockades, frivolous criminal complaints, and unrelenting harassment of clinic workers and their families.

Operation Rescue’s crusade against Tiller caught the attention of conservative talk show host Bill O’Reilly who excoriated Dr. Tiller on the air 28 times, dubbing him “Tiller the Baby Killer.”

A federal grand jury is investigating whether Roeder was actually involved in a conspiracy to assassinate Tiller.

Ground-breaking

Vanessa Valenti of Feministing was impressed by how straightforwardly the documentary dealt with women who have abortions and doctors who provide them:

When we talk about abortion on television … the real lives who are actually affected by this issue — abortion care providers and the women who have had abortions — are completely left out of the conversation. And this film was about someone’s life, a life that was dedicated to helping, to saving, other people’s lives.

Fighting back

In AlterNet, Aaron Gouveia writes about his confrontation with anti-abortion protesters who called his wife a murderer as the couple approached an abortion clinic in Brookline, MA. The couple was there to terminate a much-wanted pregnancy because doctors had learned that the fetus was suffering from “Sirenomelia,” or Mermaid Syndrome, a rare congenital defect that causes the legs to fuse together. This particular fetus had no bladder or kidneys, and doctors said there was no chance of survival.

When a protester called his wife a murderer, Gouveia confronted them.

“So you’re yelling at my wife for doing nothing more than having a nearly dead baby inside her?” Gouveia asked the protesters.

One of the protesters threatened to call the police on Gouveia because he was standing on the sidewalk yelling at them.

Fetal Separatism

Lynn Paltrow has a thought-provoking essay in RH Reality Check about the radical agenda behind Amendment 62, a Colorado ballot initiative  that would declare a fertilized egg to be full-fledged human being. If Amendment 62 passes, it would outlaw abortion, in vitro fertilization, and legally complicate any medical procedure on a pregnant woman that might affect the well-being of her fetus.

Paltrow argues that the bill’s backers should be called “Fetal Separatists”:

This organization claims that its goal is to end the “injustice of abortion.” In fact they are promoting a Fetal Separatist movement, one that is trying to legally separate pregnant women and the fertilized eggs, embryos and fetuses inside of them. Their efforts are dangerous to all pregnant women including those who go to term, those who expect confidential medical care, and those who want to preserve their right to life and liberty.

The argument that eggs and fetuses may be treated as if they are legally independent of the women who carry them has been used to deprive pregnant women of their status as full constitutional persons.

Supporters of the measure say they want to extend rights to eggs and fetuses, but as Paltrow points out, this kind of thinking reveals another aspect of their agenda: Diminishing the rights of pregnant women by elevating the “rights” of fetuses. Paltrow gives examples of women who were imprisoned or harassed by authorities who felt they had an obligation to control the woman to protect her fetus. In one case a woman was imprisoned in a Florida hospital because authorities thought it was the best thing for her fetus. In another incident, fetal separatist arguments advanced to justify dispatching a sheriff to the home of a woman who was attempting to have a home birth.

According to the latest poll, 20% of Coloradans support Amendment 62, 56% oppose it, and 25% remain undecided.

CO abstinence program tied to anti-gay groups in Uganda

Speaking of the religious right in Colorado, Andy Kopsa of the Colorado Independent reports that a teen abstinence program known as WAIT Training, which has received over $8 million in federal funds since 2005, has ties to a virulently anti-gay group in Uganda led by pastor Martin Ssempa.

Ssempa is one of the leading proponents of legislation known as the “Kill the Gays” bill in Uganda. The bill would not only make homosexual sex a capital offense, it would also force Ugandans to turn in their gay friends and neighbors. So far, the bill hasn’t passed. The U.S. government officially opposes the legislation, but some major conservative Christian groups in the U.S. supported the bill. Of course, they now claim they didn’t actually support killing LGBT people, they just wanted to help Uganda become a more godly nation.

WAIT worked with Ssempa to build a website, print business cards, and develop a video and other promotional materials. WAIT said it was unable to provide Kopsa with copies of any of the materials that it worked on with Ssempa. WAIT maintained formal ties with Ssempa until January of 2010, when they decided they didn’t want to be associated with him any more, perhaps because the media scrutiny became too intense. The New York Times, the Washington Post, and other prestigious media outlets ran op/eds condemning the anti-gay bill in January of 2010.

A major Ugandan newspaper recently published a “top 100″ list of alleged homosexuals under the headline “Hang Them,” according to Laura Gottesdiener at the Ms. blog. Since the story ran, several of the subjects have been attacked.

The dynamic is very similar to the persecution of Dr. Tiller. First targets are identified and held up to hate and ridicule. Some are intimidated and go away. Those who don’t are marked for violence.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

Weekly Diaspora: Suing, Protesting, and Boycotting Arizona over SB 1070

8:54 am in Uncategorized by TheMediaConsortium

by Erin Rosa, Media Consortium blogger

Senate Bill 1070, Arizona’s notorious anti-immigrant law, is set to go into effect on July 29. With days left to go, Organizers are in a race against the clock to minimize the bill’s impact on immigrant communities. Meanwhile, legal experts are examining the strategy behind a federal Department of Justice suit recently lobbed against the Arizona law, and other immigrant rights supporters continue to pressure the state via boycott. All of these acts are contributing to a tumultuous fight that’s escalating by the day.

A top concern is that SB 1070 will increase racial profiling and harassment against Latinos due to a provision that requires local law enforcement to check an individual’s immigration status if there is “reasonable suspicion” that a person is undocumented. The bill also requires immigrants with documentation to carry papers at all times.

At ColorLines, Jamilah King reports that “activists nationwide are stepping up their protests against the measure.” As part of a new campaign called "30 Days, 30 Events for Human Rights," a variety of actions including works shops, concerts, and protests have been planned for each day leading up to July 28, the day before the bill is set to become law.

Border governors boycott Arizona

GRITtv has more coverage of the Arizona debacle, including commentary from Arizona state lawmaker Kyrsten Sinema and Suman Raghunathan of the Progressive States Network.

On top of that, ColorLines’ Daisy Hernandez also writes that an annual meeting of Mexican and US governors set to take place in Arizona has been canceled over the controversial law. “Six governors of Mexico’s border states have basically said there’s no way in hell they’re stepping foot in Arizona,” Hernandez reports.

This year it was Arizona’s turn to host the meeting, which has taken place for the last 30 years. But Arizona Governor Jan Brewer 86′d the event, citing lack of attendance.

Another lawsuit?

One might think Arizona officials have enough to worry about after spurring international outrage, boycotts, and countless lawsuits with the passage of one law. But now there are reports that the state may get sued by the Justice Department again if documented cases of racial profiling occur after SB 1070 takes effect.

As Gabriel Arana at The American Prospect explains, the Obama administration’s suit against Arizona centers around the legal question of “whether the state is pre-empting the federal government’s constitutional authority to regulate immigration,” not the potential for civil rights abuses.

But New America Media notes that “in six months or a year, the Department of Justice plans to study the impact of the law on racial profiling,” and if civil rights violations are found, Attorney General Eric Holder won’t hesitate to take action.

Still hope for the DREAM Act

While media outlets direct their attention to Arizona, other immigrant rights supporters are actively working to support the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act on the national level. The DREAM Act is a federal bill that would provide a pathway to citizenship for young immigrants who were brought into the United States as children and have no control over their immigration status.

Feministing reports on the Campus Progress National Conference that took place in Washington DC last week, which featured David Cho, whose parents immigrated from South Korea when he was nine. Because he is undocumented, Cho, through no fault of his own, is barred from most schools and jobs.

Trapped in an ‘invisible prison’

“My dad believed that my two younger sisters and I could fulfill the American dream,” said Cho, who would like to be able to serve in the US Air Force. “But I feel like I am living inside an invisible prison cell. Because there are these invisible bars in front of me that limit me from doing the things I want to do.”

The DREAM Act would benefit people like Cho, by allowing immigrants who came to the country before the age of 16 to obtain citizenship after graduating from high school by either going to college for two years or serving in the armed forces.

Mikhail Zinshteyn at Campus Progress reports that if the DREAM Act were enacted today, “800,000 individuals would qualify for legal status on a conditional basis or having already completed a high school degree,” while an additional 900,000 would qualify upon turning 18. But it all depends on the Senate, and it remains to be seen if it will can tackle the issue by the end of the year.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Diaspora for a complete list of articles on immigration issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, and health care issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Pulse. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

Weekly Pulse: Prostate Health is Girly and Other Health Care Paradoxes

9:08 am in Uncategorized by TheMediaConsortium

Prostate health is girly

The Prostate Cancer Foundation recently rolled out one of the most bizarre and ill-advised public health advisories in the history of advertising. The takehome message? That there’s something sissy, or god forbid gay, about getting checked for prostate cancer.

The ad features a bunch of retired sports legends in a suburban living room, knitting. They proceed to quiz each other about their prostate exams.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1437ocq8-mU&feature=player_embedded[/youtube]

Jessica Valenti of Feministing has the transcript:

Man 1: How did that prostrate exam go today?

Man 2: Very well, thank you for asking. (Looking to Man 3) Hey aren’t you due for one pretty soon?

Man 3: I guess.

Man 4: Whoa there, big guy.

Man 3: I’ll get around to it sooner or later.

Man 1: Sooner or later? 1 in 6 are diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Man 3: Alright! I’ll do it.

Man 4: That’s all we wanted to hear.

Man 5: Dessert is served.

The tagline is "Why can’t men express themselves more like women?" No doubt, the copywriters thought they were complimenting women. But if they want men to be more comfortable talking about their health, they shouldn’t reinforce the myth that broaching the subject is emasculating.

Abstinence-only, until adultery

It’s official: abstinence-only education works by failing. When people fail to practice abstinence and go on to ruin their lives, it just goes to show how great abstinence would be if anyone took it seriously. More federal funding, please.

As TPM reports, former GOP congressman Mark Souder says he’s happy that the abstinence-only video he filmed with his mistress and erstwhile staffer Tracey Jackson is the butt of late night talkshow jokes.

"If some people see this abstinence video, I’m living proof of what we’re saying in it. If they actually listen to the words, maybe it’s worth it," Souder told an Indiana newspaper, adding, "You’ll go crazy if you don’t have some sense of irony." Indeed.

Sex ed activist Shelby Knox writes in AlterNet, "If we can thank Mr. Souder for anything this week, it’s putting failed abstinence-only-until-marriage programs in the public crosshairs once again."

Rand Paul: Fairweather libertarian

Last week, the Republican senate candidate in Kentucky, Rand Paul, made headlines when he argued that Civil Rights unjustly infringed upon the right of private business owners to segregate their establishments by race. Astonishingly, some liberals rushed to defend Paul against charges of racism on the grounds that he was merely expressing "principled" libertarian views. On this view, Paul’s not a racist, it’s just that the country would be a lot more racist if he were in charge. Comforting?

Katha Pollitt of the Nation points out that Paul’s "principles" are very selective. He wouldn’t dream of restricting a Woolworths’ right to hang up a "whites only" sign, but he’s perfectly comfortable using government power to restrict a woman’s right to choose:

In countries where abortion bans are taken seriously, the prospect of performing even the most medically necessary abortion terrifies doctors and hospitals. Law enforcement treats miscarriages as possible crimes. Women and doctors go to prison. How does a police officer showing up at a patient’s hospital bed to question her as a possible murderer, with a mandatory investigation of the premises of the alleged crime—her vagina and uterus—square with libertarianism? Like his support for increased Medicaid payment to physicians, a profession he just happens to follow, the exceptions to Rand’s libertarianism miraculously track his own preferences. Somehow the market, which is supposed to miraculously produce food that doesn’t poison you, cars that don’t explode, oil wells that don’t pollute and mines that don’t collapse, is useless when it comes to forcing women to stay pregnant against their will and making sure doctors make plenty of money.

The only way Paul can keep the libertarian high ground is if he comes right out and says that women are the property of men.

Red tape effective barrier to abortion access

Jodi Jacobson of RH Reality Check reports on a new study by the Guttmacher Institute on why so many young obstetrician-gynecologists who are trained and willing to provide abortions don’t end up offering those services. The findings are based on interviews with 30 OB-GYNs who completed their residencies between 5 and 10 years ago. All received abortion training; 18 said they intended to provide elective abortions, but only 3 were actually doing so.

The doctors said that they were unable to offer the service because of formal and informal restrictions imposed by group practices, employers and hospitals. This small, qualitative study points to an unexpected conclusion: When it comes to abortion access, red tape can be a bigger barrier than the threat of violence, at least among doctors who have already decided to provide abortions.

Kagan Hearings Set for Late June

In other news, confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Elana Kagan are scheduled to begin on June 28. No doubt abortion issues will remain in the spotlight in the weeks ahead. Hopefully, pundits will remember that Supreme Court Justices wear robes to work and stop obsessing about Kagan’s wardrobe.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

Weekly Diaspora: More Hypocrisy in Arizona

9:31 am in Media by TheMediaConsortium

by Erin Rosa, Media Consortium blogger

After passing what is arguably the harshest immigration law in the country—SB 1070 forces local police to adhere to detain someone if there is “responsible suspicion” that they are undocumented—Arizona has now passed a law banning ethnic studies courses, as Feministing reports.

At The Nation, Jon Wiener writes that the new law "bans classes that ‘promote resentment toward a race or class of people,’ ‘are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group,’ or ‘advocate ethnic solidarity instead of treating pupils as individuals.’" Hypocrisy much?

Arizona is a bad influence. “At least 10 other states — many inspired by Arizona — are talking about enacting similarly draconian legislation,” Zachary Roth over at TPMMuckraker writes. “And most aren’t places that are traditionally thought of as hot-spots in the immigration battle.” States considering harsh laws include South Carolina, Texas and Georgia, according to Roth.

But along with a growing national boycott, Arizona is also facing major tourism backlash. AlterNet reports that “as tourists increasingly shun Arizona over the state’s new immigration law, their desertion is likely to spill some paint of their own: red ink stains all over state and local budgets.” At least nineteen conferences have been canceled so far in the state, according to the article. Currently, Arizona is also facing a major budget shortfall totaling $2 billion.

United we stand

As Daisy Hernandez reports for RaceWire, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which represents more than 2 million members, has vowed to focus more on immigration. While unions offered less than stellar support during the 2007 immigration reform debate after disagreeing with provisions for a guest worker program, they are now expected to be a key ally in 2010.

SEIU is joining the boycott against Arizona for its anti-immigration law, and Hernandez also notes that “the news comes as the union swore in its new president Mary Kay Henry over the weekend.”

From dreams to reality

On GRITtv, Laura Flanders discusses the growing movement to support the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act), "a bipartisan bill offering a road to citizenship for undocumented minors who attend college or join the military,” as Flanders says.

Undocumented students backing the DREAM Act are an integral part of the immigration reform movement. They’ve successfully organizing to stop deportations of young immigrants and lobbied members of Congress to support their cause. Most recently, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) wrote a national op-ed this week boosting the act.

Currently, the DREAM Act is lingering in the Senate, and reform supporters are pushing for a immigration reform bill (which would likely include a DREAM Act provision) to be proposed and debated in the Senate this year, although it’s unknown when that will happen.

The value of immigrants

At New America Media, Jacob Simas reports on the state of immigrant workers who pick crops around Fresno, California. “Nobody knows how many farm workers here are homeless,” Simas writes, “And while longtime community members say they are likely a small percentage of the unemployed farm worker population, it is the first time they can recall seeing living conditions get this bad for the workers who help put food on our tables.”

Thanks to the recession, migrant workers are now struggling to find work. “Scattered groups of farm workers, unemployed and desperate, are emerging from a long cold winter spent living outdoors, in the same orchards that were once their livelihood,” according to Simas, who quotes one worker as saying, “We’ll go to town and ask people if we can work in their yard for ten, fifteen, maybe twenty dollars.”

Why the census matters

In Michigan, local governments are encouraging undocumented immigrants to participate in the census in order to gain more funding for federal services. Todd A. Heywood writes for the Michigan Messenger that in Macomb County, which borders Detroit, “a low count that ignores residents without proper documentation in 2010 could cost the county hundreds of thousands of federal dollars.”

The county loses more than $1,000 for each resident who doesn’t fill out the census, per year, according to Heywood. This year alone, the federal Census Bureau has launched the largest campaign in history to reach out to undocumented immigrants and other communities of color, amid a history of low turnout and a reluctance to give information to the government. Advocacy groups have been urging undocumented immigrants to be counted in the census this year, and note that immigration status is not asked on the form.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Diaspora for a complete list of articles on immigration issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, and health care issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Pulse. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

Weekly Diaspora: Zero Hour Approaching for Federal Immigration Reform

9:39 am in Media by TheMediaConsortium

by Erin Rosa, Media Consortium blogger

The countdown is on. Half a million supporters of comprehensive immigration reform rallied across the country on May 1 to protest SB 1070, Arizona’s prohibitive new anti-immigration law and ratchet up pressure for a federal reform bill this year. In Washington, DC, police arrested a dozen demonstrators, including Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), after they engaged in non-violent civil disobedience, as Esther Gentile reports for New America Media.

So far, legislators in the Senate have not introduced a proposal, and the longer they wait, the less likely it is that a bill will be debated in 2010, especially with an election on the horizon. The stakes are incredibly high because a lack of federal action leaves a wide opening for states to draft their own, increasingly restrictive versions of immigration reform.

Rally round the country

Feministing also reports on the Washington May Day rally, which was led by “the Trail of Dreams trekkers, Felipe Matos, Gaby Pacheco, Carlos Roa, and Juan Rodriguez, who walked 1500 miles from Florida to DC in support of the DREAM Act, which would make a college education possible and create a path to citizenship for some undocumented immigrants.”

Los Angeles had the largest rally attendance of about 60,000 according to Hatty Lee at RaceWire, but there were also significant numbers in other states. “The nationwide May Day rallies drew tens of thousands of protesters—the largest turnouts since 2006,” Lee writes, remembering the millions who marched in cities for immigration reform just four years ago.

Workers Independent News sheds some light on to the labor history involved with May Day, writing that May 1, also known as International Workers’ Day, has created a strong alliance between union members and immigration reform boosters.

Arizona on my mind

SB 1070, Arizona’s new immigration law which forces local police to check the immigration status of a person if there is a “reasonable suspicion” that they are undocumented, has only energized the reform movement.

“It has mobilized the entire pro-immigration community and triggered a large, visible, highly vocal and well-publicized backlash that some polling suggests is beginning to turn fence-sitters into advocates,” William Fisher reports at the Inter Press Service.

Jesse Freeston with the Real News found that “While the demands of immigration reform, fair education, and an end to deportations have been around for years, the recent developments in Arizona were on everybody’s mind.”

In the wake of Arizona, Democratic lawmakers released a rough draft of an immigration proposal for the Senate last week. Jessica Pieklo at Care2 reports that “the proposals suggested by the Democrats include enhanced border security, the creation of a new fraud-resistant Social Security card, and for those already in the country illegally, a series of penalties, taxes, and fees, in addition to passing a criminal background check would have to be satisfied before they would qualify for legal residency, ”

Despite the draft—one of two, the other co-authored by Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and released weeks ago—a bill has yet to be officially introduced in the Senate, and it’s unknown when it will be given a chance.

SB 1070 disproportionately affects women and children

SB 1070 will likely affect undocumented women the most, according to Laura Tillman at the Women’s Media Center. Tillman notes that domestic abuse could become worse for immigrant women in the state, now that the police are full-time immigration agents.

Tillman writes that the “new immigration law is set to give [domestic abuse] victims a heightened fear of deportation if they come forward to report crimes, and criminals the confidence to perpetrate crimes without fear of retribution.”

AlterNet also reports on a new study from the advocacy group First Focus, which finds that “Children are the hidden casualties of America’s war on immigrants, and the passage of Arizona’s new racial profiling legislation could open up countless opportunities for local law enforcement to break up families by putting undocumented parents on the fast-track to deportation.”

Today, with strong grassroots organizing, and after the countless injustices endured by immigrants on both the state and national level, the immigration battle of 2010 is nearing its most critical hour. And now, all eyes are on Congress to produce a bill.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Diaspora for a complete list of articles on immigration issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, and health care issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Pulse. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

Weekly Pulse: What Would Jesus Insure?

9:04 am in Media by TheMediaConsortium

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Christian groups are trying to create a run around health care reform by setting up alternative, unregulated religious health care bill collectives—and movement conservatives are cheering them on.

Religious right-watcher Sarah Posner reports on so-called Christian health care-sharing ministries in the American Prospect. Health-sharing ministries (HCSM) bill themselves as godly alternatives to health insurance. HCSM are groups of Christians who promise to cover each other’s heath care costs. About a hundred thousand people nationwide belong to these collectives. The Alliance of Health Care Sharing Ministries and its army of lobbyists convinced Senate lawmakers to exempt HCSMs from health care reform’s individual mandate.

Obliterating patient privacy

According to Posner, anti-reform conservatives are talking up these groups because they see them as a way to undermine the individual mandate. But if you think HCSM are a convenient loophole to avoid paying for insurance, think again. Posner describes the criteria for joining Samaritan Ministries International (SMI), one of the largest HCSM:

"To join the HCSM, applicants must agree to a statement of faith that they are a ‘professing Christian, according to biblical principles’ set out in Romans 10:9-10 and John 3:3. They must agree to adhere to guidelines that include no sex outside of "traditional Biblical marriage," no smoking or drugs, and mandatory church attendance.

SMI members pay their own health care costs out of pocket and seek reimbursement from the group. What about privacy? In order to get reimbursed, they have to publish their health care "needs" in a monthly newsletter and hope someone sends cash. Lifetime benefits are capped at $100,000. Members waive their right to sue for any reason. SMI won’t cover treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, addictions, or the pregnancies of single mothers.

It doesn’t take a genius to see that this free-for-all won’t end well. You can’t just start a quasi-health insurance scheme in your garden shed and expect it to work out. Real insurance companies are subject to oversight to make sure that they have enough money on hand to cover their claims. Who knows what HSCM are doing with people’s money? These outfits have all the disadvantages of private insurers and none of the benefits. Members are a single major illness away from bankruptcy.

Bartering for health care?

Speaking of wacky alternatives to health insurance, Sen. Harry Reid’s (D-NV) main Republican challenger, Sue Lowden, insists that patients can pay for their health care via a barter system, as Rachel Slajda reports for TPMDC. Great! How many chickens for an appendectomy?

Medicare expansion doesn’t equal bankruptcy

At Mother Jones, Kevin Drum debunks the latest right-wing myth about health care reform, that Medicare expansion will bankrupt the states. States pay part of the cost of Medicare, so it’s true that any expansion of the program will cost the states some money. However, the talking point is that the expansion will push state budgets to the breaking point. That’s false.

Drum explains that the health care reform bill exempts states from the extra cost until 2016. Even after that, the costs to the states will be minimal:

"[Health care reform] won’t cost states an extra dime through 2016, by which time our recession will presumably be over, and even after that states will only pay for a tiny fraction of the increased costs. As CBPP points out, states will pay about 4% of the total costs of Medicaid expansion over the next ten years. This represents an increase in overall state Medicaid spending of slightly over 1%."

Abortion and ‘convenience’

Jessica Valenti of Feministing has been taking on manipulative, anti-choice ads in the New York City subway. These ads are sponsored by an anti-abortion group. They feature various distraught-looking models staring wistfully into space. The tagline is "Abortion Changes You." The message is that if you have an abortion, you will be a guilt-racked wreck for the rest of your life. Some feminist with a wry sense of humor and a little glue pasted in another sentence on the ad (pictured above): "Now I can go to college and fulfill my dreams."

Anti-choice blogger Lori Ziganto was scandalized by the anonymous culture jammer’s message. She sneered at the idea that women’s lives and hopes actually matter: "Want to go to college, but there is a pesky baby growing inside of you? Abort! A life is far less important than your co-ed fun and career plans, right?"

Valenti’s response: "It isn’t that anti-choicers don’t understand why women get abortions – it’s that they care so little about women’s lives that any reason given to obtain an abortion is seen as "convenient." Some things that are convenient: Providing for your existing children. Going to college. Having enough money to eat, pay rent, keep the electricity on. Not dying."

HSCMs and the subway ads are part of an enormous rift in contemporary politics: Opponents of health care reform say that they’re defending freedom, but in reality, they’re advocating control.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.