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Member since: Tue Feb 10, 2004, 12:08 PM
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Environmental Scientist

Journal Archives

Oregon’s Gov. Bans Conversion Therapy

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown Monday signed into law House Bill 2307, which bans the use of so-called conversion therapy on minors.

The bill passed the Oregon Senate earlier this month by a vote of 21-3, after passing the House in March. Oregon now joins California, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia in outlawing the scientifically discredited therapy, which attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

The practice, sometimes called “ex-gay” or “reparative” therapy, has been denounced as ineffective and harmful by every major mental health organization in the nation, and by President Obama and other top federal officials.

The Oregon law, which includes protections against efforts to change a transgender person's identity, prohibits licensed therapists from attempting to change a minor’s sexual orientation or gender identity, “including attempting to change behaviors or expressions of self or to reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same gender.”


Federal judges rip into practices at Alabama middle school where 14-year-old raped when used as bait

A trio of federal judges this morning dug into the tangled, nearly unbelievable case of a 14-year-old girl sodomized in a middle school bathroom after employees used her as bait to catch a repeat sexual harasser.

But the judges didn't want to talk about the facts of the 2010 botched sting operation. Those were not in dispute.

Today was about liability, about who knew what when, about whether the principal and assistant principals could have prevented this attack, about whether the Madison County school board should face a jury trial for civil damages.

"That's what we always wanted, a jury trial," Eric Artrip, attorney for the girl, told news cameras outside the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in downtown Atlanta early this morning.


Why You Never Saw The CIA’s Interrogation Tapes

When graphic photographs of American soldiers abusing detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq surfaced in 2004, they sparked international outrage — and prompted new scrutiny of how the U.S. treats its prisoners.

Even though Abu Ghraib itself wasn’t a CIA-run facility, the agency was worried about the scandal’s ramifications.

That’s because the CIA was in possession of something that was potentially more explosive than the detainee abuse photos: hundreds of hours of videotaped “enhanced interrogations” of two Al Qaeda suspects in CIA detention, that included the use of techniques widely described as torture.

As FRONTLINE details in tonight’s new documentary, Secrets, Politics and Torture, those tapes would never see the light of day. Their destruction was ordered by Jose Rodriguez, then the CIA’s top operations officer.

“I was told, if those videotapes had ever been seen, the reaction around the world would not have been survivable,” Jane Mayer of The New Yorker tells FRONTLINE.



Oklahoma set to overturn local drilling controls as backlash brews

Facing a backlash over the side effects of its oil and gas boom, Oklahoma is poised to overturn an 80-year-old statute that allows cities and towns to ban drilling operations within their borders.

The legislation, now being finalised, would help insulate energy companies from local movements that have grown in response to the rapid expansion of oil and gas drilling and a dramatic spike in earthquakes across the central state.

Oklahoma now sees 600 times more tremors than it did before 2008, a surge seismologists say is linked to vast amounts of wastewater injected into the ground as a result of drilling for oil and from hydraulic fracturing - a process to extract natural gas that is also known as fracking.

The bill was championed by energy companies, which contend that local interference in drilling practices would endanger the production bonanza that has boosted their profits and brought the United States within sight of energy independence.



London’s canal walkways now have “duck lanes”

Running or cycling down the Regents Canal in central London is one of the city’s great pleasures. The water’s edge is lined with narrowboats. Cafés and galleries occupy once-derelict warehouses and factories, serving delicious coffee at tiny tables. The busy roads of the City, roaring a couple miles away, seem very distant on this long stretch of towpath, grass, and old-fashioned locks.
But the way is treacherous.

Runners, often with their senses blunted by headphones, charge along the path, weaving between slower pedestrians. Cyclists race past, dinging indignant bells. And ducks waddle along, oblivious to it all.

It is chaos.

But one charity says it has come up with a solution: duck lanes. The Canal & River Trust has painted a white line demarcating areas to be used by the wildfowl with a stencilled silhouette of a duck. The lanes were painted by towpath ranger Dick Vincent at four locations in Little Venice, in Kings Cross, and in east London.


GOP pols rip Obama for not being faithful enough to Saudi Arabia

A growing chorus of Republican politicians are demanding that President Barack Obama respect and follow the agenda of Saudi Arabia, a country known for its export of Sunni extremist beliefs, brutal executions of petty criminals and religious heretics, and suppression of women’s rights.

From negotiations with Iran, to the ongoing Saudi bombing of Yemen, to issues of regional Middle East security, Republicans are insisting that the Saudis should be trusted.

In a major speech on Monday, Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., ripped Obama for alienating Persian Gulf regimes, including Saudi Arabia. “Just last week we saw the embarrassment of almost all the Gulf leaders, including the Saudi king, pulling out of President Obama’s summit at Camp David,” he said. Christie, who is considering a presidential bid, added, “our allies want policies, not photo ops, and we’re not listening to them.”

Former Gov. Mike Huckabee, R-Ark., has admonished the Obama administration for negotiating for a nuclear deal with Iran. “Now the Israelis are in a greater alliance with the Saudis, Jordanians and Egyptians than they are with the United States because those countries at least have the good sense to know you don’t trust the Iranians,” Huckabee said at a campaign speech in New Hampshire on April 18th.

For some lawmakers, the Saudi agenda in the region is regarded as almost sacrosanct. “It would be hypocritical for us to criticize what the Saudis are doing because they’re right there in the region and probably have better intel than we do, anyways,” Rep. Reid Ribble, R-Wisc., told C-SPAN’s Washington Journal on April 22nd.



After the Waco Shootout, Texas Lawmakers Debate Gun Laws


Authorities are still working to develop a clear picture of the bullet-riddled scene where nine members of biker gangs died in a shootout in Waco, Texas. Reports describe a chaotic fight that started in the bathroom of the bustling Twin Peaks restaurant, then escalated into a parking-lot brawl involving knives, brass knuckles, and guns. By Monday, 170 bikers had been arrested on murder-related charges and held with million-dollar bails. Autopsy reports released Tuesday indicated that all nine of the men killed were victims of gunshot wounds. As it happens, the gun fight coincides with the likely passage of a legislative initiative to loosen gun laws in Texas.

On Monday, deliberations over a bill that would allow for the open carrying of handguns in Texas went on as scheduled in the state’s Senate. Lawmakers offered support for the measure, which has already passed Texas House. “This bill does not have anything to do with what went on yesterday," a state senator remarked. This sentiment was echoed by others, including Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who told the AP on Monday: "The shootout occurred when we don't have open carry, so obviously the current laws didn't stop anything like that.”

Several witnesses who spoke to the bill on Monday did draw a connection between the open carry bill and Sunday’s bloodbath, the Texas Tribune reported. Austin Assistant Police Chief Troy Gay “told senators that the ‘chaotic situation’ in Waco could have been made much worse by the confusion an open carry law would bring to responding police officers.”



Platinum Pay in Ivory Towers

Gregory Fenves recently got a big promotion, from provost to president of the University of Texas at Austin. A raise came with it. Instead of his current base of about $425,000, he was offered $1 million.

And he rejected it — as too much.

“With many issues and concerns about administrative costs, affordability and tuition, such a salary will affect the ability of the president to work with the Texas Legislature,” Fenves wrote to a university official, in an email obtained by The Austin American-Statesman and published last week.

He suggested, and agreed to, $750,000.

That’s hardly chump change. But in the context of the shockingly lucrative deals that have become almost commonplace among college presidents, the sum — or, more precisely, the sentiment behind it — is worthy of note and praise.

Another of those deals came to light late Tuesday night, when The Wall Street Journal reported that Yale University had paid its former president, Richard Levin, an “additional retirement benefit” of $8.5 million after he retired from his post in 2013. The Journal characterized this as an “unprecedented lump-sum payment” for a college president and noted that Levin’s annual compensation package during his final years at Yale was already over $1 million.



Charles Murray and the Right's Plan to Subvert Democracy

By Brian Beutler

Early last week, a watchdog website hosted by People for the American Way, a liberal advocacy group, reacted with alarm to a political-legal strategy outlined in a new book by the conservative social theorist Charles Murray. Normally when liberals assail Murray it’s in connection with his infamous tome The Bell Curve, which made him synonymous with race science—specifically the presumption that I.Q. differences between whites and blacks can be partially attributed to genetics.

Twenty years later, Murray has moved on to a more direct form of conservative activism, and taken a critical look at the mixed record of various expensive right-wing efforts to roll back the New Deal consensus. As you might expect from someone as deterministic as the author of The Bell Curve, Murray has concluded that the conservative movement’s shortcomings must be explained via reference to its political DNA and the political DNA of its competitors. But rather than reason much as he did two decades ago that these shortcomings reflect the intrinsic weakness of his ideology, he has concluded instead that the system is rigged against it. Appealing as populist libertarian ideas are to him and his cohort, or as they should be in the abstract, they simply can’t compete in a democratic environment with downwardly distributive progressivism. For the right to gain advantage, it will have to change terrain.

In his latest book, as PFAW explains, Murray hopes “to have one or a few anti-government billionaires kick in to create ‘The Madison Fund,’ a legal group that would flood the government with lawsuits challenging the enforcement of regulations they deem unnecessary.”

This is an apt description of Murray’s strategy, but the strategy itself happens to be the least revealing or alarming in his book. By The People is not first and foremost a book about billionaires subverting federal regulations, or beleaguered citizens seeking redress with the help of libertarian philanthropists.


Pentagon says no one should be held accountable for $34 million debacle

Camp Leatherneck in southern Afghanistan was not a particularly hospitable base for the tens of thousands of U.S. Marines and other troops who surged there towards the end of the last decade. Sandstorms regularly swept through the treeless landscape, and attacks on the base by Taliban forces claimed lives. The base's initial name was "Tombstone."

So it was perhaps understandable when the Marines declared an “operational need” in 2010 for a huge headquarters building at the site, to be outfitted with air conditioning, plush seating and comfortable offices.

But the decision to construct a 64,000-foot command and control facility has since come to exemplify the U.S. military’s careless waste in Afghanistan. After $34 million was spent on its construction, the tall, windowless building was never, ever used, except perhaps for target practice by the Taliban, according to U.S. officials. The facility was officially turned over to the Afghan Army last fall, but it remains empty and lies in a part of Afghanistan where U.S. personnel rarely if ever travel now.

The question posed by the initial exposure of this costly debacle in July 2013 is, who was responsible? And will anyone in the military be held accountable?

After two internal investigations, and considerable hemming and hawing, the Pentagon’s definitive answer is finally available in a newly released federal report: No one in particular made a bad call, and if the question arose again under similar circumstances today, the same cavernous facility would be still be ordered up. Therefore, no one in the chain of command can or should be held responsible.


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