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|Tuesday, May 21st, 2013|
|REPORT: Drones Alone Won’t Solve Militancy In Pakistan
The International Crisis Group (ICG) on Tuesday published a new report “Drones: Myths And Reality In Pakistan,” examining the ongoing war against militant groups located in Pakistan. The report calls on both the United States and Pakistan to come clean about the ongoing use of drones against suspected terrorists, saying that more than strikes are needed to end Pakistan’s ongoing problem with militants.
Since 2004, according to the ICG, at least 350 U.S. drone strikes have taken place on Pakistani soil, within the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA). Complicating operations against militant groups based in the area, the vast majority of Pakistan’s laws simply do not apply to the FATA, with the region instead following its own set of tribal laws and codes. Given the lack of control Islamabad exerts, the FATA has long been a haven for armed groups, including those who strike across the border in Afghanistan, including Mullah Omar’s Taliban and the Haqqani Network, as well as the Pakistani Taliban, which strikes against Pakistan itself.
One of the major issues ICG raises regarding drone strikes in the area is the lack of firm intelligence about precisely who is being targeted. In place of firm data, the U.S. often utilizes what are known as “signature strikes” or “personality strikes.” Groups of men between 16-55 who meet a certain profile are often considered legitimate targets, based on “pattern of life” data including where they’ve traveled while under surveillance and whether or not they were in the vicinity of known targets when the strike occurred.
As the report details, Pakistan and U.S. are locked in delicate dance over the actual use of drones within Pakistan, each concealing the full truth from the public. The U.S. still won’t officially confirm that the CIA-run targeted killing program within Pakistan even exists. The IGC says Pakistan often displays behavior that “borders on the schizophrenic” when it comes to the drone program. The Pakistani government often claims to have no forewarning about the use of drones and publicly denounces many of the strikes, even with ample evidence that they provide permission for the operations to occur, especially when carried out against its enemies.
ICG suggests both Washington and Islamabad become more transparent about the relationship the two have on drone strikes, while shifting their policies away from relying solely on military options, and instead taking a more comprehensive approach to combating militancy:
The U.S. policy should be two-fold: pressuring the Pakistan military to abandon any logistical or other support to violent extremists, including by more rigorously applying existing conditions on security assistance; and encouraging and supporting efforts by the elected leadership in Islamabad to extend the state’s writ to FATA.
Similarly, if Pakistan is genuinely committed to ending strikes on its territory, it should realise that its strongest case against the U.S. drone program lies in overhauling an anachronistic governance system so as to establish fundamental constitutional rights and genuine political enfranchisement in FATA, along with a state apparatus capable of upholding the rule of law and bringing violent extremists to justice.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister-elect Nawiz Sharif seems keen on holding talks with the Pakistani Taliban. “All options should be tried, and guns are not a solution to all problems,” Sharif said in a speech to newly elected members of his party on Monday. “Why shouldn’t we sit and talk, engage in dialogue?” While Pakistan did last year name militants an even greater threat to the country than arch-rival India, it’s less certain how the Pakistani Army, often considered the true seat of power in the country, will act in response to Sharif’s call for talks. “We sincerely desire that all those who have strayed and have picked up arms against the nation return to the national fold,” Chief of Army Staff Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani said on Saturday. “However, this is only possible once they unconditionally submit to the state, its constitution and the rule of law.”
For the United States’ part, it appears the CIA’s drone program will continue flying in Pakistan, according to a report from Reuters, even as other segments of the targeted killing program move more firmly into the Pentagon’s control. More broadly, President Obama is set to give a speech on Thursday laying out his counterterrorism strategy moving forward, including presumably how and when drones are used.
|Judge Closes Stop-And-Frisk Trial With A Whole Lot Of Skepticism
After months of evidence from more than 100 witnesses suggesting the New York Police Department sets quotas on the number of stop-and-frisks, instructs officers to target black men, and taunts young teens, federal judge Shira A. Scheindlin ended the trial by expressing considerable alarm about the “high error rate” of the controversial stop-and-frisk program, and questioned whether police racially profile. The New York Times reports:
“A lot of people are being frisked or searched on suspicion of having a gun and nobody has a gun,” Judge Scheindlin, of Federal District Court in Manhattan, said on Monday during closing arguments in the trial. “So the point is: the suspicion turns out to be wrong in most of the cases.” […]
Observing that only about 12 percent of police stops resulted in an arrest or summons, Judge Scheindlin, who is hearing the case without a jury, focused her remarks on Monday on the other 88 percent of stops, in which the police did not find evidence of criminality after a stop. She characterized that as “a high error rate” and remarked to a lawyer representing the city, “You reasonably suspect something and you’re wrong 90 percent of the time.”
“That is a lot of misjudgment of suspicion,” Judge Scheindlin said, suggesting officers were wrongly interpreting innocent behavior as suspicious.
Scheindlin was referring to the constitutional standard — “reasonable suspicion” — required for a police stop. She also questioned whether NYPD officers who make the “worrisome” argument that a higher stop and frisk rate among blacks and Hispanics mirrors higher crime rates in those populations are therefore using race as a basis for making otherwise inexplicable stops.
Plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit now underway allege an expansive and racist use of police stops has been applied without legal justification, subjecting vast swaths of the city’s young African American and Hispanic men to invasive frisks, unwarranted searches, and detention at police centers for alleged minor crimes, often marijuana possession. Scheindlin has already ruled in another stop-and-frisk case that police stops in the Bronx are likely unconstitutional.
The aggressive stop-and-frisk program has been justified as reducing crime, but new figures show that the crime rate went down with a drop in the number of stop-and-frisks under public pressure.
|Workers Explain How Unions Changed Their Lives
Unionization levels have been falling for decades and last year hit a low not seen in a century, with just 11.3 percent of workers represented. That’s the lowest level since 1916. Strikes, one of the greatest sources of power for labor unions, have also become increasingly rare.
That’s bad news for the middle class. In a new video series, the Center for American Progress showcases three stories that demonstrate the important role union membership plays for working families struggling to get by.
La Tonya Johnson was a unionized child care worker in Milwaukee until Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) cracked down on collective bargaining rights in the state:
With the help of a union, La Tonya says she was “able to afford to pay my mortgage, I wasn’t facing foreclosure, and life was relatively comfortable,” thanks to a guaranteed weekly wage regardless of which children actually showed up to her daycare center each day. After her ability to join a union was repealed, she lost that guarantee, and she descended into poverty. “It feels like I’ve hit rock bottom over night,” she says. “For people who think that having a union or being organized doesn’t have a bottom line effect, I’m here to tell you that it does.”
Susan Kim and Jeremy Pikser, writers in New York, explain that a union has helped them to pursue their passions while maintaining a decent quality of life:
While Susan had misgivings at first, she quickly learned the benefits of joining a union. “It made really clear sense to me when I started seeing more money, when I started qualifying for health insurance… Suddenly I had a pension plan which I’d never had before.” The effects were even starker for Jeremy. He was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2008 and had to undergo an expensive course of treatment, “which would have beyond bankrupted me” without quality health insurance negotiated by the Writers Guild, he says. “It probably did save my life because I probably wouldn’t have been able to get the level of care that I got.”
Beresford Simmons has been driving a New York City taxi for more than 45 years and is a member of the non-traditional union the Taxi Workers Alliance:
The union has seen recent success, winning a 17 percent fare hike and health care coverage. That’s meant a lot to Beresford and his wife. “With unionization from the Taxi Workers Alliance, we could afford to put a roof over our head,” he says. He says he’s a part of the union because “I just don’t want to see the next generation of cab drivers go through the same thing that I’ve been through.”
|BLM’s New Draft Fracking Rules Give Industry a Free Pass, But Were They Written By ExxonMobil?
DeSmogBlog notes that the Bureau of Land Managemen’s recently-released rules governing fracking on federal lands ”will adopt the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) model bill written by ExxonMobil for fracking chemical fluid disclosure on U.S. public.” It uses a voluntary online chemical disclosure database that has “truck-sized” loopholes, most notably that it’s voluntary — editors.
By Frances Beinecke via NRDC
When I talk to people who live near fracking operations, they often ask me the same question: “What is this doing to my drinking water?” Homeowners have shown me jugs of water from their kitchen sinks that look like rusty mud. One man said he could light his tap water on fire after energy companies put a drill pad in his neighborhood. Others tell me they worry their water is causing health problems for their families.
People across the country share these concerns. From Pennsylvania to Texas to Colorado, residents see wastewater pits leak, smell chemicals in the air, or read the scientific research showing that fracking can contaminate water supplies and pose a host of other threats. No one should have to live with these dangers: we all want to keep our drinking water safe from dangerous chemicals and reckless industrial activity.
And yet the federal government just released draft rules for fracking that fail to protect people from harm. Instead the rules protect the oil and gas industry from having to follow strong public health and environmental standards.
There is a lot at stake here. The Bureau of Land Management’s draft rules would cover fracking on public lands, including millions of acres of wild landscapes and private property where the federal government owns mineral rights. An enormous amount of land is involved, but also water. The weak rules in the draft need to do more to protect the water supplies for millions of Americans. Residents of Denver, Washington, DC, and Santa Barbara, for instance, live downstream of public lands where fracking could or already does occur.
Would you want your tap to run brown? Would you want to serve toxic water to your family?
Ordinary citizens have a hard time forcing energy companies to keep our water and air clean. We count on the government to do that job. Yet when it comes to fracking, states have proven ill equipped for the job. Only about half of the 30 states with fracking, for instance, require companies to report which chemicals they use in fracking fluids. And in most of the states with disclosure rules, companies can withhold information they deem confidential without any justification or oversight.
The federal government hasn’t been much better. The oil and gas industry has won exemptions from critical sections of our nation’s most basic environmental laws – the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Now the Bureau of Land Management has issued woefully inadequate rules for fracking on public lands. The current draft rules are even weaker than a previous draft leaked several months ago, and they read like an industry wish list.
They could exempt huge tracts of state and tribal lands from the safeguards. They offer only weak chemical disclosure requirements that would make it hard for homeowners or medical professionals to find out all the chemicals being used in fracking operations. And they ignore key areas of health and environmental concern like the huge wastewater pits have been known to leak toxic and radioactive materials.
Surely America can do a better job of holding industry accountable for its actions. Fracking is already moving full steam ahead on our public lands. Now is the time to enact strong standards, not issue giveaways to oil and gas companies.
The Obama Administration should be a leader in establishing safeguards that protect public health and the environment. And the industry—which is drilling in our backyards, near our schools, and in our natural treasures—should accept these stronger safeguards. Americans deserve to know their water is safe from fracking chemicals.
– Frances Beinecke, President of NRDC, reposted from NRDC Switchboard with permission
|Why Investing In Smarter Pill Bottles Could Help Us Save Billions Of Dollars In Health Costs
Concept for a pill bottle that would look a rotting banana when it's past its expiration date. (Credit: Wall Street Journal)
A pill bottle that glows blue when it’s time to take another dose, and red when you’ve accidentally forgotten to take one. Pills embedded with sensors that allow doctors to track who’s swallowing them. A pill bottle that starts to grow spots, like an overripe banana, when the medicine has expired.
Insurers and pharmacies are increasingly investing in these kind of start-up ventures, hoping to develop new technologies that can help Americans stick to their medication regimens. But why is this area of innovation becoming a top priority? It’s largely because the Americans who fail to take their medication as directed contribute to billions of dollars in wasteful health care spending every year. People who skip doses, take pills that have expired, or lapse too long between refills often experience health complications that lead to unnecessary hospital and doctor visits, ultimately costing insurers an estimated $290 billion each year.
Pharmacy-benefit programs like CVS Caremark have typically relied on robo-calls and mailers to remind their patients to take their pills as directed. But the old tricks aren’t working. “After six months’ time, only half of people taking prescription medicines are taking them as directed,” said Troyen Brennan, the chief medical officer of CVS Caremark Corp., explained to the Wall Street Journal.
So they’re trying to step their efforts up a notch. CVS is pilot-testing a new technology that will allow them to better track the patients who have track records of failing to adhere to their medication schedules. And other companies are working on developing apps that will reward patients who take their pills on time with gift certificates and coupons. And they continue to evaluate a range of other innovative ideas to accomplish the same goals, like new high-tech pill bottles.
There have been other recent pushes to build a better pill bottle, too, but those have been focused on addressing a different issue with prescription drugs — the Americans who end up abusing them. In Utah, a group of college students built an electronic pill bottle that will only dispense the specific dosage that the pharmacist has prescribed, preventing their patients from taking too much of the drug or selling the pills to other people. And in New York City, the police force is currently experimenting with implanting GPS chips in pill bottles so they’ll be able to better track stolen drugs and illegal prescription stockpiles.
|Why Exelon Is Lobbying Against The Production Tax Credit
The Production Tax Credit — the key federal incentive for wind power — is a success story. Since the PTC was first enacted in 1992, the cost of wind power has fallen 90 percent, 75,000 people now work in the wind industry, and wind power is booming.
Yet, some people still think the PTC should be eliminated. Most interestingly, Exelon — the large Midwestern utility and power plant operator — has made ending the PTC its number one lobbying priority, claiming that the credit distorts markets. This would be scary. Fortunately, it’s not true.
The truth is that Exelon hopes to slow or halt expansion of wind power projects that can affect the bottom line of their nuclear power plants in the Midwest, and to achieve that objective they’re blaming wind and the PTC for market phenomena like negative pricing that are almost always caused by inflexible generation technology and transmission constraints.
This post will summarize Exelon’s position on the PTC, show where it falls short, and then point out that Exelon is more concerned about competition from wind power, in general, than the Production Tax Credit.
Why does Exelon say the PTC is distortionary?
Exelon’s argument hinges on two fundamental ideas. First, that the PTC causes negative prices; and second, that negative prices are bad for wholesale electricity markets.
Digging into this argument requires a little knowledge of how power markets work. In much of the country — including where Exelon’s nuclear plants are located — power is sold in competitive markets, at a “clearing price” set by an auction process. In general, the clearing price is set by the most expensive marginal resource needed to meet demand at a given time. This price is then given to all the generators providing electricity at that time. (For more on this, see Wind Power Helps to Lower Electricity Prices.)
Importantly, all power plants bid prices that reflect not just their fuel expenses and other operating costs, but also forgone revenues. For example, coal plant owners can sell the coal ash for industrial uses, and they take these lost sales into account when deciding how much they should charge for power from the plant. Wind power is exactly the same, only one of its lost benefits is a tax credit.
The Production Tax Credit offers eligible wind generators a tax credit worth $23 per megawatt hour for the electricity they produce. Since the fuel costs for wind power are zero and operational costs are low, wind turbines can theoretically offer to sell their power at a negative price (that is, they can make money even though they’re paying someone to take their power).
Where Exelon goes wrong is when they draw policy conclusions from these facts. Exelon believes that these negative prices are bad for wholesale electricity markets because they discourage investment in new generation. And, because all power plants operating get the same price, a negative price can force nuclear power plant owners to pay someone to take their power.
Where Exelon loses the plot
Exelon’s explanation of negative prices is generally correct, but it’s also incomplete. First, we need to look at how often wind is setting the power price.
Exelon’s nuclear power plants are located in the PJM Interconnection, which covers parts of 13 states and the District of Columbia. In the PJM territory, there are actually two electricity markets resources compete in, the “day-ahead” market and the “real-time” market. The vast majority of transactions occur in the day-ahead market, since forecasts for the following day’s electricity are generally accurate enough that grid operators can gauge what they need and when. Real-time markets are where transactions occur to account for the differentials that may arise in the course of the day, and they account for a much smaller percentage of total transactions.
Day-ahead markets are where the vast majority of baseload power — like coal and nuclear — compete. And rightly so; because they cannot ramp up and down as easily, they need a predictable schedule instead of relying on real-time market signals. Revenue from the day-ahead market is the bread-and-butter of these power plants.
So how often did wind set the clearing price in the day-ahead market, thereby usurping potential revenue from these baseload providers? Not once (see page 62). Wind never set the clearing price in the day-ahead market in 2012. So, even if wind power was bidding a negative price, and if negative prices were bad, it still wouldn’t matter to Exelon’s nuclear plants. The real-time market is a slightly different story, but still nothing to raise alarms. In this market, wind that could bid below $0 only accounted for 0.5 percent of all dispatchable offers in 2012 (see page 55). Coal and gas, on the other hand, accounted for 89.2 percent of all clearing prices. The idea that the PTC has contributed more to changing market dynamics than, say, cheap natural gas is unsupported by any of the available data.
And yet, negative prices do show up in the day-ahead market. So if not from wind, where do they come from?
One possible answer is that when you have generation that cannot ramp down located far away from users, negative prices occur.
This is particularly true in the region that Exelon points to most frequently, the Northern Illinois Hub. What you see there is lots of generation (Exelon’s nuclear plants and then a few wind farms) that are isolated from demand by limited transmission. Since nuclear plants cannot just “shut off” they have to run with or without demand. This is called being “non-dispatchable.” Making matters worse for Exelon, now those nuclear plants are joined on the “island” by wind plants that further cut into their profit margins. The problem isn’t that wind is setting negative prices; it is that cheap wind power is taking revenue from more expensive nuclear power plants.
The second part of Exelon’s argument is that negative prices are inherently bad. Is this right? No. Negative prices are actually sending the right economic signal about market conditions at that time. When there are excess, non-dispatchable resources in one place and high demand in another — it is time to build transmission to relieve that condition. Alternatively, you could have less generation on the island, which is essentially the tact that Exelon is taking.
The real story is that Exelon doesn’t like competition from wind
Exelon is obviously a sophisticated company, so they likely understand all of this. And, they’re likely not arguing against the PTC for the fun of it. In fact Exelon owns some wind plants themselves, and it is very probable that what they are really opposed to is cheap wind power owned by other companies located in regions where it hurts the bottom line of their power plants. Our conclusion is that Exelon is much more concerned with competitive wind power than the alleged market distortion from the PTC.
First of all, Exelon is not opposed to all Production Tax Credits — just those for wind. The Production Tax Credit for nuclear, for example, is totally fine by them (see if you can spot their opposition to the $18 per megawatt hour production tax credit for nuclear here, but don’t look for too long). They also aren’t opposed to the other kinds of credits that power plants cash in, such as coal plants selling ash. The only difference between these power plants and wind power is that wind has zero fuel costs, while these others do not.
Second, the arguments above clearly show that the clearing prices in day-ahead markets where nuclear power is making their money are not influenced by wind, and that in fact the combination of cheap natural gas and transmission constraints are probably to blame. And yet, Exelon is focused on the PTC instead of focusing on transmission or natural gas. The massive stake Exelon now holds in cheap natural gas generation through its acquisition of Constellation; combined with the money they make off transmission constraints driving prices up elsewhere, probably explain part of their choice. It is an easier target to take wind out of the competition than it is to help pay for the transmission to accommodate it.
To understand how misguided these attacks on the PTC are, it helps to go through a little thought experiment. Given the arguments above, imagine the PTC expires tomorrow. What would happen? Day-ahead prices would still occasionally be negative, since power plants would still be islanded away from users who need energy. Prices in the real-time market would still occasionally be zero, since wind can set the clearing price when demand is very low. Cancelling the PTC wouldn’t address any of the concerns Exelon put on the table — the only difference is that less wind would get built next year, and the year after that. Less wind being built means that the Exelon generators already in existence have less competition from cheap alternatives.
When you look at it this way, Exelon’s argument actually supports what CAP has long argued: The PTC is effective in getting more wind power built. The difference is that we think this is a good thing, while Exelon disagrees. Given the economic and environmental benefits of wind power, we’re confident that we’re on the right side of that argument.
|Before Deadly Tornado Hit, Oklahoma Senators Worked To Undermine Disaster Relief
Oklahoma residents will now turn to government assistance for emergency disaster aid after a tornado ripped through the state on Monday, leaving dozens dead and tearing apart hundreds of buildings. But the same night that many residents lost their homes, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) told CQ Roll Call insisted he would “absolutely” require any federal disaster aid to be offset by other budget cuts. He later clarified on Tuesday, promising, “I can assure Oklahomans that any and all available aid will be delivered without delay.”
Both of the state’s senators, Sen. James Inhofe (R) and Coburn, however, have long worked to undermine the Federal Emergency Management Agency, even though their state heavily relies on disaster aid:
– In September 2011, Coburn offered an amendment to offset $6.9 billion in FEMA funding.
– Coburn voted in 2011 against funding FEMA after it ran out of money, because, in his words, funding FEMA would have been “unconscionable.” Inhofe did not vote. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid fired back at Republicans blocking a bill for necessary funding to FEMA.
– Inhofe proposed removing grants for storm shelter programs coordinating with FEMA, and instead provide individuals with tax breaks.
– Coburn criticized items in Sandy disaster relief such as $12.9 billion for disaster mitigiation and $366 million for Amtrak as “wasteful spending.”
– After Hurricane Sandy, Inhofe and Coburn voted against a bill for $50.5 billion in Hurrican Sandy disaster relief.
– Coburn demanded that $5.25 billion in FEMA grant funds be reallocated because of sequestration in April 2013.
A spokesman told the Huffington Post that Coburn has supported offsets for the Oklahoma City bombing recovery effort, which tapped funds not yet appropriated.
Oklahoma and Texas rank as the top two states in FEMA disaster declarations; combined, they account for more than a quarter of declared disasters since 2009. So it doesn’t come as a surprise that the senators have requested disaster aid for severe storms and drought, even though Coburn is willing to hold up relief with his demands.
On MSNBC, Inhofe argued that tornado aid for Oklahoma is “totally different” from aid for Hurricane Sandy. “Everyone was getting in and exploiting the tragedy taking place,” he said. “That won’t happen in Oklahoma.”
|The Arguments Against Marriage Equality Apparently Have Nothing To Do With Gay People
Andrew Walker and Ryan Anderson
The Heritage Foundation’s Ryan Anderson, a disciple of National Organization for Marriage former chairman Robert George, has become a national spokesperson for opposition to marriage equality. In a new piece for Focus on the Family co-written with Heritage’s Andrew Walker, they make “a Millennial case for marriage,” citing a litany of arguments about the importance of not “redefining marriage.” Strikingly, not one of their arguments actually addresses the lives of gay people, and in turn, not one of their points would actually be compromised by same-sex couples marrying.
Here are some of their claims, many of which derive from an arbitrary definition of marriage that “men and women are different and complementary”:
Children Need To Have Fathers
Borrowing a tactic from NOM, Anderson and Walker invoke President Obama’s concerns about how growing up without a father has a significant negative impact on children. They conclude, “fathers matter, and marriage helps to connect fathers to mothers and children.” But abandoned single mothers have nothing to do with same-sex couples, and studies about “fatherlessness” do not even include lesbian families in their samples. Heterosexual men deserting their families is a legitimate societal concern, but it has nothing to do with same-sex families.
Children Do Best With A Mother And Father
Without referencing a single citation — not even Mark Regnerus — Anderson and Walker proclaim, “For decades, social science has shown that children tend to do best when reared by their married mother and father.” It may be true that children do better with both of their parents as opposed to only one, but social science has found that committed same-sex couples are just as capable of effectively raising children.
They later acknowledge that a “relatively small number” of gay or lesbian couples “would be” raising children — avoiding the reality that they already are — but offer no thought as to how those families would actually benefit from the protections of marriage outlined throughout the rest of the post.
Men Will No Longer Stay Committed To Their Wives
This continues to be one of the most absurd arguments against marriage equality: “Redefining marriage would diminish the social pressures and incentives for husbands to remain with their wives and their biological children, and for men and women to marry before having children.” Whether men will cheat on their wives has nothing to do with whether same-sex couples can marry.
Marital Norms Will Dissolve
Anderson and Walker’s slippery slope suggests that if marriages were reduced to just “intense emotional regard,” they would not have to be permanent, limited to two people, sexually exclusive, or oriented to raising families. But all of these points are already true of opposite-sex couples: many divorce, some practice polygamy, plenty cheat or are open, and none have any obligation to raise children. This argument also undercuts the important protections that couples themselves gain from marriage through that “intense emotional regard,” particularly as they age. Because they don’t have access to marriage, older same-sex couples struggle economically and face extra hurdles to care for each other.
Marriage Equality Discriminates Against Christians
Somehow marriage equality “further marginalizes those with traditional views and erodes religious liberty.” Anderson and Walker are concerned that people who are prejudiced against same-sex couples marrying will be perceived as prejudiced, which just isn’t fair. Borrowing another popular talking point, they claim that Catholic Charities in Massachusetts was “forced to discontinue adoption services,” when in fact they voluntarily shut down because of their insistence on discriminating. They’re also afraid elementary school children will learn that same-sex couples exist, ignoring that they’ll already learn that if their classmates’ parents are same-sex couples. The underlying objection here seems to be that marriage equality will make it harder for Christians to discriminate against the gay community — discrimination for discrimination’s sake.
Society Will ‘Self-Correct On Marriage Over Time’
Anderson and Walker conclude their piece by constructing a narrative of momentum for opposition to marriage equality, imagining “Americans committed to marriage coming out of the shadows.” This optimism for their cause ignores that people of all ages are increasingly supporting same-sex marriage, a trend driven most robustly by the young people they claim to represent. Their hope is that when young people marry, they’ll appreciate the “gendered nature of parenting,” but what seems more likely is that they will only further appreciate just how much respect and security is denied to same-sex couples.
|No State Earns A Top Grade For Promoting Economic Security For Working Families
The federal poverty line, $23,550 for a family of four, is considered the minimum amount a family needs to get by. Yet many families need much more to cover all the costs they face and truly feel economically secure. Most Americans say a family of four needs nearly $60,000 to “get by.”
State policies play a big role in helping families to achieve this sense of economic security. Yet a new scorecard from Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) has found that most states don’t have a comprehensive policy regime. While some stand out in a few areas, no state has fully addressed all of the needs of working families.
Looking at 85 different policies, including the minimum wage, Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), family and sick leave, public education spending, savings and retirement support, and support for child care, health care, and housing, the scorecard granted each state a grade on “their potential to improve the economic security of workers, families, and retirees.” No state in the country received an A or B grade – the highest, for Washington, was a B-. Most states received grades between a C+ and a C-, while four got the lowest, a D+. An overview of how each state fared can be found in this map:
The states that fared best are those that have strong policies on the minimum wage and EITC. Many states also improved their grades thanks to policies that promote savings and eliminate asset eligibility tests for social programs. Yet most fared poorly on family leave, paid sick days, flexible work arrangements, and unemployment insurance. Many still rely on the low federal floor set in these areas.
While some states may counter that their budgets are constrained, making it difficult to implement more robust policies, WOW’s report found that the grades were “not strongly related to a state’s median income, budget size or fiscal health.” Therefore, it found, “these factors do not define a state’s ability to improve its residents’ security.”
Many states have been pulling back on these investments, cutting spending on things like public education, child care, and higher ed, often in lieu of raising taxes. This report may provide evidence that there is room to improve policies to support working families.
|Five Ways Amazon Can Improve ‘Alpha House,’ The John Goodman Political Comedy It Just Picked Up
Politico reported yesterday that Alpha House, the Garry Trudeau-created pilot about a group of Congressmen living together in a townhouse in Washington, DC that’s based on a 2007 New York Times story about real-life legislators who are roommates when they’re in the District of Columbia, has become one of the first shows to be picked up by Amazon as part of its attempts to expand into original content development. It doesn’t shock me that Amazon pulled the trigger on Alpha House, which, if nothing else, let the company lock down John Goodman for a show, a move that follows the playbook laid out by Amazon in its splashy signing of Kevin Spacey to star in its remake of the British series House of Cards. But Alpha House was far from the strongest of Amazon’s adult-oriented pilots (it’s also testing shows aimed at children). And even if Amazon isn’t doing a traditional development process like its competitors in broadcast television, it would be wise for the service to consider taking a page from the networks’ playbooks and consider revamping the show a little bit before its full launch. Here are five suggestions for how to make Alpha House shine.
1. Make The House Bipartisan: One of the dullest decisions in the original pilot of Alpha House was to make all members of the house Republicans, and to make them all risible. Goodman’s Gil Joh Biggs, a do-nothing incumbent from a rural district who teaches Louis Laffer (Matt Malloy), an obviously closeted social conservative, to shoot in the basement, and signs them both up for a trip to Afghanistan when they attract Tea Party challengers and need to look tough. Clark Johnson plays Robert Bettencourt, an African-American Congressman who’s mostly in in for the donations from defense contractors—in one scene, he gives Gil John his notes from a filibuster speech so they can both go on the record saying nice things about the same giant corporations. And Mark Consuelos plays andy Guzman, a recently-divorced freshman who’s schtupping the founder of a Super PAC. All in all, it’s nothing we’ve seen before. But if Alpha House can sharpen the characterizations and give us a fresh take on what bipartisanship actually looks like, it could be refreshing and funny.
2. Lose The Lazy Do-Nothing Politicians Cliches: Alpha House‘s pilot makes a mistake common to many Washington shows: assuming none of its characters have actual passions or interests in policy, and that they’re good at manipulating the system, but not at doing anything of substance. But the show should take a lesson from Parks and Recreation, which has only gotten better as its main character Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) has become more competent, and as her success has posed an increasing challenge to the worldview of her libertarian supervisor Ron Swanson. Apathy doesn’t go anywhere. But genuine interest and accomplishments that threaten the priorities of other members of the house would be constant plot fodder.
3. Beef Up The Staff And Spouses: Right now, Alpha Dogs staffers and spouses fall into two categories: the beleaguered chief of staff and wife who try to get Gil John to do anything to stay in office, or enablers, like Bettencourt’s chief of staff or Guzman’s sexy bundler. Giving these characters more personality shading would make it clearer why the main cast loves the house as much as they do, and would create tensions within it. I already can’t wait to see what the preparations look like when Gil John’s wife shows up for visits.
4. Give The House Neighbors: The only story than the original Times reporting on the Congressional frathouse was the news, broken several years later, that Rahm Emanuel, while he was serving as President Obama’s chief of staff, lived in an illegal rental unit in Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro and her husband, political strategist Stan Greenberg’s basement. Stories about families of whatever variety are always better when you’ve got great neighbors, whether its the Flanders on The Simpsons, or sad FBI agent Stan Beeman’s total unawareness that his raquetball-and-motel-drinking buddy Phil Jennings is a Soviet spy on The Americans. This could also be a way for the show to get some ideological balance if Amazon plans to air the original pilot as is.
5. Explain Why The Characters Love Not Just The House, But Washington: Pop culture loves to bash Washington, DC as a third-rate swamp of corruption. But there’s a lot to love about the nation’s capital, and it would be nice to see Alpha House play on the tension for men who not only have left their families behind to pursue politics, but in some cases, are leaving rural districts behind for a more cosmopolitan area with a lot of amenities. This could also be a nice way to flesh out the members’ personalities beyond their stereotyped beginnings. Maybe have Gil John, in addition to shooting mattresses in the basement, be super-into his local Fresh Farm market, or have Bettencourt be irritated that since the beginning of the Obama administration, he can no longer sneak off to Ben’s Chili Bowl.
|Federal Appeals Court Tells Cops To Get A Warrant Before They Search Cell Phone
Last Friday the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled a warrantless search of a cell phone during the arrest of a Boston man that contributed to his conviction on drug and weapon charges was unconstitutional. The decision adds to a growing court divide on whether access to digital devices and the personal information they often contain requires judicial oversight.
The court concluded:
Since the time of its framing, “the central concern underlying the Fourth Amendment” has been ensuring that law enforcement officials do not have “unbridled discretion to rummage at will among a person’s private effects.” Gant, 556 U.S. at 345; see also Chimel, 395 U.S. at 767-68. Today, many Americans store their most personal “papers” and “effects,” U.S. Const. amend. IV, in electronic format on a cell phone, carried on the person. Allowing the police to search that data without a warrant any time they conduct a lawful arrest would, in our view, create “a serious and recurring threat to the privacy of countless individuals.”
Brima Wurie was convicted by a jury in February 2010 of distribution of crack cocaine, possessing additional crack cocaine with intent to distribute, and being a felon-in-possession of a firearm. Officers allegedly observed Wurie engaging in a drug sale in a car, picked him up, and used information from one of the two cell phones on his person to discover his home address and obtain a warrant to search it, resulting in the additional weapon and drug charges. The government argued that Wurie’s phone was “indistinguishable from other kinds of personal possessions, like a cigarette package, wallet, pager, or address book” which are subject to the search incident to arrest exception to Fourth Amendment protections.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled searches at the time of arrest without a warrant are permissible in United States v. Robinson, but that was before advent of mobile computing technology. There is significant legal question surrounding whether digital devices like cell phones and laptops can be searched in the course of an arrest because, as the opinion in the Wurie case notes, “individuals today store much more personal information on their cell phones than could ever fit in a wallet, address book, briefcase, or any of the other traditional containers” and the Fourth Amendment specifically guarantees papers and effects not be subject to warrantless searches.
The Florida Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that a similar police search of an arrested person’s phone without a warrant was unconstitutional earlier this month, but four other federal appeals court have ruled searching a cellphone found on someone arrested is fair game. In 2012 the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit shut down suspicionless unwarranted searches of computers and other similar digital devices at the border, noting they served as “simultaneously offices and personal diaries.”
|Thanks To Debunked Anti-Vaccine Study, U.K. Sees Dramatic Surge In Measles Cases
(Credit: Pak Med)
U.K. public health officials are racing to contain a rash of measles outbreaks
among older British children that threatens to spread the highly contagious disease throughout the country. The budding epidemic has been linked to a debunked 1998 anti-vaccine study that caused U.K. vaccination rates against measles to plummet.
In 1998, a team of British scientists led by Dr. Andrew Wakefield published a widely rebuked paper that incorrectly linked the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine with autism. The study, which received widespread attention at the time, led many British parents to forgo their children’s MMR shots — something that is possible in the U.K. since schoolchildren aren’t subject to mandatory vaccination laws as they are in the United States.
The vaccine exodus led to a sharp decline in MMR immunization — from 90 percent of all children to just 54 percent in a year — and its consequences are now coming into full view, as unvaccinated British teenagers spread measles by the thousands:
This year, the U.K. has had more than 1,200 cases of measles, after a record number of nearly 2,000 cases last year. The country once recorded only several dozen cases every year. It now ranks second in Europe, behind only Romania.
The majority of those getting sick in the U.K. — including a significant number of older children and teens — had never been vaccinated. [...]
Across the U.K., about 90 percent of children under 5 are vaccinated against measles and have received the necessary two doses of the vaccine. But among children now aged 10 to 16, the vaccination rate is slightly below 50 percent in some regions.
To stop measles outbreaks, more than 95 percent of children need to be fully immunized. In some parts of the U.K., the rate is still below 80 percent.
By contrast, the U.S. — where measles immunization rates are above 90 percent — reported just 55 cases of measles last year.
Still, Americans tend not to get their vaccinations if they can help it. While U.S. school attendance is generally contingent on a variety of shots for highly contagious diseases, others such as the yearly influenza shot and HPV vaccine aren’t, leading the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to call American immunization numbers “unacceptably low.” Politicians and public officials who parrot discredited conspiracy theories similar to the Wakefield study contribute to that trend.
|GOP Aides Mock House Republicans’ ‘Crazy’ Benghazi Witch-Hunt
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) is leading the GOP's Benghazi witch-hunt (Credit: Reuters)
GOP aides are criticizing the House Republicans’ partisan witch-hunt over the Obama administration’s handling of the attacks on a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya last year, arguing that the Party should focus more on substantive issues, such as lessons learned and how to recalibrate diplomatic security. </p>
Roll Call reports that Republican aides are saying staffers are getting bogged down chasing bogus accusations.
“We have got to get past that and figure out what are we going to do going forward,” a GOP aide told Roll Call. “Some of the accusations, I mean you wouldn’t believe some of this stuff. It’s just — I mean, you’ve got to be on Mars to come up with some of this stuff.” Another aide expressed frustration at accusations that military assets weren’t properly deployed during the night of the attacks and that a team from Tripoli could have been flown in to fight off the attackers:
“There are some real issues there and then there is just some crazy stuff,” the senior House GOP aide said. “The crazy stuff is, you know, the airman in Ramstein [Air Base, Germany,] that knew that the Predator [drone] was armed. There are no armed Predators in the region there. The [status of forces agreement] does not allow us to fly them armed, and everybody knows it.” [...]
GOP aides described another criticism aired at a recent House Oversight Committee hearing that there were four security officers at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli who were ordered to remain in the capital for several hours after the first reports of an attack, rather than being scrambled to assist the consulate in Benghazi.
“The stand-down order was for four guys,” the GOP aide said. “When you step back and say how were the people killed at the annex, they were killed by an indirect fire mortar round. Four more M-4s [rifles] inside the annex doesn’t change that outcome. In fact, they might have just created more casualties. We have got to get down to what really happened on the DoD side and for us the DoD side was not properly postured, why?”
It appears that some Republicans are also beginning to see that the GOP’s Benghazi affair isn’t paying dividends. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell backed away from some Republicans’ baseless claims of an Obama White House cover-up. And Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) in an interview on Fox News on Monday warned his colleagues about taking the issue too far:
BLUNT: I think the real challenge here for Republicans, frankly, is to be patient and methodical when you’re outraged. It’s hard to do when you’re outraged. But the right thing to do here is let the facts come out, don’t try to prejudge what they are.
Rep. John Mica (R-FL) recently dropped his support for a select committee to investigate the Benghazi attacks. Republicans have been calling for creating the committee, but House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) hasn’t been supportive. “I think Mr. Boehner made the right decision,” Mica said.
Behind the scenes in the House, a GOP aide told Roll Call that staffers will push to address lessons learned from Benghazi. “We’re trying to stay on the substance of it,” one senior GOP aide said. “There has got to be some good that comes out of those fatalities.”
The State Department thinks so too. On Monday it released a fact sheet detailing its implementation of the Benghazi Accountability Review Board’s 24 unclassified recommendations, which include “plans to send dozens of additional diplomatic security agents to high-threat embassies, install millions of dollars of advanced fire-survival gear and surveillance cameras in those diplomatic posts, and improve training for employees headed to the riskiest missions.”
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) introduced a bill last week to provide funding to increase embassy security. The focus “should not be to score political points at the expense of the families of the four victims,” he said. “It should be on doing all we can to protect our personnel serving overseas.”
|May 21 News: GOP Plans Keystone Approval Vote Tomorrow, House Dems Clarify True Impact
Our thoughts this morning are with those affected by the tornadoes in Oklahoma.
Tomorrow, the House of Representatives should pass a bill aiming to force approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, but some House Democrats are trying to offer amendments to clarify the true nature of the project. [The Hill]
The House is expected to easily pass a Keystone XL pipeline approval bill this week with bipartisan support, but liberal Democrats that oppose the project will try to land some punches too.
Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) wants a floor vote on an amendment requiring that oil transported through the Canada-to-Texas oil sands pipeline — and any refined products made from it — remain in the U.S. …
Holt’s export ban amendment is one of several submitted thus far to the House Rules Committee, which will meet late Tuesday afternoon to decide which amendments will receive votes on the floor the next day. …
And a separate amendment from Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-N.H.) requires that prior to the pipeline approval taking effect, TransCanada must “disclose its campaign contributions and other electioneering expenditures over the previous five years to the public,” a summary states.
A good brief summary of what can be said about tornadoes and climate change (hint: it’s complicated). [Grist]
Chris Christie says there is no “proof” that climate change helped cause Superstorm Sandy. [WNYC]
Pakistan, facing extreme heat and electric blackouts, is turning off air conditioning in public building and directing civil servants to not wear socks. [Guardian]
Governor Sean Parnell of Alaska told the Chamber of Commerce that Alaska would contribute $50 million to model how much oil is in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge to better lobby the federal government to permit oil companies to “recover” oil from the refuge. [LA Times]
Ernest Moniz gets sworn in as Energy Secretary today. [The Hill]
The United States and European Union have decided to negotiate a settlement among a set of antidumping cases with China involving solar panel exports. [Bloomberg, New York Times]
Organizing for Action, the successor to the Obama campaign, has listed dozens of climate deniers in Congress and is asking supporters to “call them out.” [Organizing for Action]
The Post reports on the “impatient” Obama supporters who want action on climate change, do not see enough executive action, and are planning protests of OFA meetings. [Washington Post]
Yes, we’re definitely over 400 parts of carbon dioxide per million parts of air in the atmosphere now. [LA Times]
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is criticizing green groups for suing the EPA for failing to meet a regulatory deadline or requirement. [The Hill]
The largest wind farm on tribal land will proceed in Oklahoma, with Cherokee Nation, Kaw Nation, Otoe-Missouria Tribe, Pawnee Nation and Ponca Nation expecting $16 million in revenue over 20 years. [Sustainable Business]
Electric plug-in car sales have passed 100,000, according to EV America, with the market approaching 48 percent growth. [EarthTechling]
|Low-Wage Workers Strike In Washington, Sixth City In Wave Of Actions
Service workers at four buildings in Washington, D.C., are going on strike Tuesday, putting a human face on a recent report about federally-contracted workers stuck with unlivable wages. Starting at the Ronald Reagan Building and moving through two Smithsonian museums and Union Station, the city’s commuter rail and Amtrak hub, the strikes are the latest in a wave of low-wage worker actions designed to make service sector employment economically sustainable. The local progressive radio station WeAct Radio is maintaining a livestream of the day’s actions here.
The strike follows similar actions by private-sector workers in other major cities. Fast food and retail workers in New York City, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Detroit, and Chicago have walked off the job in recent weeks to demand wage hikes. Like those workers, the men and women striking in the capital Tuesday are struggling to tread water economically, even while working full-time. The difference for these most recent participants in the spreading service worker action is that they are paid, indirectly, by the federal government.
As the policy think tank Demos reported in early May, federal dollars are connected to more low-wage jobs than Walmart and McDonalds combined:
We find that nearly two million private sector employees working on behalf of America earn wages too low to support a family, making $12 or less per hour. […]
These workers represent a large spectrum of occupations, from workers sewing military uniforms to hospital aides funded by Medicare, security guards with contracts to protect public buildings, and food cart vendors at the National Zoo.
President Obama has proposed hiking the federal minimum hourly wage to $9, from its current $7.25 level. While opponents point to gradual increases from 2008-2010 as sufficient, the reality is the minimum wage still has less buying power than it did in the 1970s.
This public policy failure is also a major component of the gender wage gap that persists today. Working Americans in six major cities are now organizing to combat Congress’ failure to ensure that service work is livable.
|National Security Brief: DOD To Take Over Some CIA Drone Programs
(Credit: CBS News)
The Obama administration is reportedly looking to shift some of the responsibility of U.S. drone operations from the CIA to the Defense Department, in an effort to make part of its counter-terror targeted killing program less secretive and more in line with international law.
It’s unclear at this point what that shift will look like. The Daily Beast reported in March that “the CIA is close to taking a major step toward getting out of the targeted killing business” but Reuters reported on Tuesday that the CIA will keep control of its secret drone program in Pakistan.
The draft document outlining the plans, the Wall Street Journal reports, “reflects a growing consensus within the Obama administration that the long-term future of the program lies with the military, where U.S. officials say it will be on firmer legal footing and be more transparent.”
President Obama is expected to deliver a major speech on Thursday outlining his administration’s counterterrorism policies, including, one White House official said, “our military, diplomatic, intelligence and legal efforts.”
“Barack Obama has got to be concerned about his legacy,” a “former adviser” told the Daily Beast back in March. “He doesn’t want drones to become his Guantánamo.”
In other news:
- The Washington Post reports: Chinese hackers who breached Google’s servers several years ago gained access to a sensitive database with years’ worth of information about U.S. surveillance targets, according to current and former government officials.
- The New York Times reports: By late this summer, the State Department plans to send dozens of additional diplomatic security agents to high-threat embassies, install millions of dollars of advanced fire-survival gear and surveillance cameras in those diplomatic posts, and improve training for employees headed to the riskiest missions.
- The Times also reports: Lebanon reeled Monday from the twin realizations that Hezbollah, the nation’s most powerful military and political organization, was plunging deeper into a war the country has tried to stay out of, and that the group was taking unaccustomed losses.
|Oklahoma Senator Won’t Support Tornado Relief Without Budget Cuts
The tornado that hit Oklahoma on Monday resulted in more than 20 deaths and is expected to cost the federal government untold billions of dollars in aid and recovery. But Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), who has long objected to federal funds being spent on everything from veterans benefits to relief in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, is already insisting that any additional appropriations should be paid for with cuts elsewhere. “That’s always been his position [to offset disaster aid],” Coburn spokesman John Hart said. “He supported offsets to the bill funding the OKC bombing recovery effort.”
Indeed, during his time in Congress, Coburn has portrayed his efforts to rein in federal spending as a principled stance against accumulating larger deficits and passing debt to future generations. But Coburn hasn’t always opposed government spending that is not offset by budget cuts. The senator known as “Doctor No” has voted to fund the war in Iraq, the 2008 bank bail out, and even relief in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina:
– 2005: The “Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act” (H.R. 1268) provided $82 billion to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Coburn voted for the measure.
– 2006: The Defense Appropriations Bill (H.R.2863) provided approximately $40 billion for the war in Iraq. Coburn voted for the measure.
– 2006: “Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act,” (H.R. 4939 ) provided $72 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Coburn voted for the measure.
– 2005: After Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, Congress passed two relief bills, allocating more than $50 billion and allowing the National Flood Insurance Program to borrow more money. One of the measures was adopted by unanimous consent and Coburn voted for the other.
– 2006: Congress approved a Department of Defense appropriations bill (H.R. 5631), including approximately $70 billion for the war in Iraq. Coburn voted for the measure.
– 2008: In October 2008, the Bush Administration and Congress enacted a rescue package to stabilize the financial system by creating the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). Coburn voted in favor of the measure.
By insisting that funding for tornado relief be offset by cuts elsewhere in the budget, Coburn representing his ideological purity rather than the needs of his Oklahoma constituents.
|A ‘Game Of Thrones’ Actress’s Revealing Comments About Nudity And Seriousness
The New York Post treats a reveal it got yesterday as a guess-that-name gossip item, but the word that a Game of Thrones actress didn’t want to do any more nude scenes raises more interesting and important questions than the simple question of who it was:
One of the stars of “Game of Thrones” is refusing to appear in any more nude scenes, according to a cast member.
“One of the girls in the show who got her [dress] off the most in the first couple of seasons now doesn’t at all,” Oona Chaplin, who plays the noblewoman Talisa Maegyr on the show, told reporters in London over the weekend.
“She said, ‘I want to be known for my acting not for my breasts.’ ”
Chaplin refused to say which actress it is.
I absolutely support any actress who doesn’t want to do nudity, particularly given the disparate pressure on women to take their clothes off on-screen, and how often that nudity is used as fan service rather than for narrative emphasis or to grow characters. But I do think it’s depressing that we’re at a point where actresses feel that they’re faced with a choice: getting nude, even when said nudity might provide an important character moment or punctuate a scene in a moving way, or be taken seriously. Game of Thrones, in its first several seasons, particularly through its use of sexposition—sex scenes that appeared in the show to make more visually, er, stimulating, scenes where characters explained backstory or politics—helped make that feel more like a choice.
But it’s done a great deal in this third season to make nudity equal-opportunity across genders, and more importantly, to demonstrate that you can be naked and do serious acting. Seeing Brienne of Tarth lunge, nude, out of a bath to confront her antagonist and former prisoner, Jaime Lannister, wasn’t about presenting her body for our consumption as a sex object, but to demonstrate that she wasn’t afraid to be naked in front of a man who had sexually shamed her for loving a king who would never want her. Seeing Robb Stark and his wife Talisa naked together after a bout of marital sex was a display of their intimacy and comfort with each other, as well as the fact that they were still in the early stage of their relationship, when their nudity was still novel to each other. And seeing Jon Snow stripped of his furs was also to see him stripped of the vows he swore as a member of the celibate Night’s Watch: wildling Ygritte’s seduction of him rendered him emotionally and physically naked.
Getting naked is a serious business, something that happens consensually between adults, non-consensually a way of victimizing someone and making them feel powerless, non-sexually as a way of demonstrating comfort, or necessarily to provide care to someone who is vulnerable. Nudity can be funny without making the person who is nude risible, and sensual without making the person who is naked an object. That we still have trouble with those ideas suggests we have a lot to learn as viewers, and that our popular culture has to be more precise in the way it teaches us to absorb the nudity it puts on screen.
|Why Austerity Kills: From Greece to U.S., Crippling Economic Policies Causing Global Health Crisis
In their new book, "The Body Economic: Why Austerity Kills," economist David Stuckler and physician Sanjay Basu examine the health impacts of austerity across the globe. The authors estimate there have been more than 10,000 additional suicides and up to a million extra cases of depression across Europe and the United States since governments started introducing austerity programs in the aftermath of the economic crisis. For example in Greece, where spending on public health has been slashed by 40 percent, HIV rates have jumped 200 percent and the country has seen its first malaria outbreak since the 1970s. An economist and public health specialist, Stuckler is a senior research leader at Oxford University. Dr. Basu is a physician and epidemiologist who teaches at Stanford University. "Had austerity been organized like a clinical trial, it would’ve been discontinued given evidence of its deadly side effects," Stuckler says. "There is an alternative choice that we found in the historical data and through the present recessions: When we place people and their health at the center of economic recovery, it can help get our economy back on track faster and yield lasting dividends to our society."