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Arkansas Is the Latest State to Defund Planned Parenthood

Sting videos prompt another Republican governor to cut funding for women's health care.

| Fri Aug. 14, 2015 8:00 PM EDT

Following in the footsteps of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has directed his state's Department of Human Services to terminate its Medicaid contract with Planned Parenthood. The termination will be effective in 30 days.

In a statement, Hutchinson said, "It is apparent that after the recent revelations on the actions of Planned Parenthood, that this organization does not represent the values of the people of our state and Arkansas is better served by terminating any and all existing contracts with them. This includes their affiliated organization, Planned Parenthood of Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma."

The announcement comes in the wake of outrage over heavily-edited sting videos released by anti-abortion activists alleging a litany of offenses by Planned Parenthood. The Obama administration contends that cutting Planned Parenthood off from Medicaid funds breaks federal law.

Federal money cannot be used for abortion, and abortion is only three percent of Planned Parenthood's services. The organization mostly provides STI/STD screenings, contraception, cancer screenings and the like.

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Here Are 3 Gun Control Proposals That Republicans Actually Support

Really.

| Fri Aug. 14, 2015 6:05 PM EDT

It turns out there are some gun control proposals that Republicans and Democrats actually agree on. According to new findings from the Pew Research Center, fully 85 percent of Americans—including 88 percent of Democrats and 79 percent of Republicans—believe people should have to pass a background check before purchasing guns in private sales or at gun shows. Currently, only licensed gun dealers are required to perform background checks. A majority of Americans (79 percent) also back laws to prevent those with mental illness from purchasing guns.

There is a greater divide between the parties on other gun issues. Seventy percent of respondents support the creation of a federal database to track all gun sales, including 85 percent of Democrats but just 55 percent of Republicans. A more narrow majority (57 percent) would like to ban assault-style weapons. That proposal draws support from 70 percent of Democrats and 48 percent of Republicans.

Partisan Views of Gun Proposals

The survey found even sharper partisan disagreement on other questions:

  • Seventy-three percent of Democrats say it's more important to control gun ownership, while 71 percent of Republicans say it's more important to protect gun rights.
  • Republicans are almost twice as likely to see gun ownership as an effective form of protection rather than a way to jeopardize safety.

The study also examines demographics such race, gender, and education level:

  • Proposals for a federal gun database draw more support from African-Americans (82 percent) and Hispanics (76 percent) than from whites (66 percent). Fifty-six percent of African-Americans say gun ownership is a safety hazard.
  • Sixty-five percent of women favor banning assault-style weapons, compared with 48 percent of men.
  • Sixty percent of men say guns help protect people, compared with 49 percent of women.
  • Those with post-graduate degrees are more likely to favor a ban on assault weapons (72 percent) than those with a high school diploma or less education (48 percent). Those with post-graduate degrees are also more likely to say gun ownership does more to endanger than increase safety (57 percent).
  • College graduates are almost evenly divided; 48 percent say guns endanger people, while 46 percent say they protect people.
  • Those with a high school diploma or less say gun ownership does more to protect people (59 percent).

For more information, check out these interactive charts from the Pew Research Center.

Ben Carson: Abortion Is the No. 1 Killer of Black People

"I know who Margaret Sanger is. And I know that she believed in eugenics and she was not particularly enamored with black people."

| Fri Aug. 14, 2015 4:34 PM EDT

On Thursday, Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon and Republican presidential candidate, double downed on his recent assertion that Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger used abortions as a population control tool in order to try and destroy the black population.

When asked by Fox News if he stood by his eyebrow-raising comments, Carson answered unequivocally, "Absolutely. No question about it."

"Anybody can easily find out about Margaret Sanger and what kind of person she was and how she was a strong advocate of eugenics," he explained. "She wrote articles about eugenics and believed that certain members of the population weakened the population and was not enamored of black people. And it is quite true that the majority and plurality of their clinics are in minority neighborhoods."

But Carson then brought the discussion up to 2015. "It brings up a very important issue and that is do those black lives matter?" Carson added. "The number one cause of death for black people is abortion. I wonder if maybe some people might at some point become concerned about that and ask why is that happening and what can be done to alleviate that situation. I think that's really the important question."

According to the Centers for Disease Control, heart disease is the number one cause of death for African Americans.

His attack on the women's health organization comes the same week that it was revealed Carson used fetal tissues to conduct medical research—a practice that has come under fire in recent weeks after an anti-abortion group published a string of a heavily-edited video footage appearing to capture Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of fetal tissues.

Despite his very vocal anti-abortion criticism, Carson defended his past research on aborted fetuses and argued that there was no inconsistency with this and his continued attacks on Planned Parenthood. "Killing babies and harvesting tissue for sale is very different than taking a dead specimen and keeping a record of it," he said. "Which is exactly the source of the tissue used in our research."

John Wayne Was the Worst Swimming Instructor

This video.

| Fri Aug. 14, 2015 3:44 PM EDT

Do you know how to swim? I bet you do. But once upon a time you didn't know how to swim. Go back to that place. 

John Wayne is dead, but once upon a time he was alive. Bring him into that place.

Now tell John Wayne you don't know how to swim. Go on. Tell him.

He's John Wayne! TELL HIM! 

Sucker.

This California Farmers Market Sells Marijuana

The same people who grow tomatoes, squash, and carrots will also sell you pot.

| Fri Aug. 14, 2015 3:01 PM EDT

In the fruit and veggie cornucopia that is California, local farmers markets sell everything from brandywine tomatoes and lemon cucumbers to hedgehog mushrooms and fresh medjool dates. But no farmers market can match the selection of the one in the Mendocino County town of Laytonville, which offers, among other things, an ample supply of heirloom cannabis.

Admittedly, this is not a typical farmers market. It takes place just once a year, at a hippie enclave replete with UFO murals and Ganesh shrines, and only certified medical marijuana patients may enter (though there's a doctor on site to help with that). But it does offer the spectacle of actual farmers selling their own produce and pot side by side.

Emily Hobelmann of the Lost Coast Outpost visited last year and was wowed by the selection:

All told, I saw squash and apples and pears and peppers and world-class cannabis flowers. I saw leeks and tomatoes, peaches and dab rigs. I saw picked beans and marijuana clones, carrots and cold water hash.

If you happen to be up that way, you can stop by between 11 a.m. and 4:20 p.m. next Saturday.

Friday Cat Blogging - 14 August 2015

| Fri Aug. 14, 2015 2:50 PM EDT

This is Hopper doing her best impression of the Queen of Sheba. She doesn't deign to stand up when she hydrates herself, but instead lounges idly on the floor while delicately lapping up her water. Soon she'll probably start demanding that I drop individual bits of kibble into her mouth while she reclines on my lap. I'd probably do it, too. And make sure to get some pictures.

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More Police Killed in States With Higher Levels of Gun Ownership

"If we're interested in protecting police officers, we need to look at what’s killing them, and what's killing them is guns."

| Fri Aug. 14, 2015 2:42 PM EDT

Police officers working in states with higher rates of private gun ownership are significantly more likely to be killed on the job than officers working in states with low levels of gun ownership, according to a new study on occupational homicides.

The study, published by the American Journal of Public Health on Thursday, analyzed FBI data focusing on the number of law enforcement officials that were killed between 1996 to 2010. During that period, 716 out of the total 782 police killings were found to be carried out by the use of firearms. Handguns were responsible for 515 of all the homicides. 

"If we're interested in protecting police officers, we need to look at what’s killing them, and what's killing them is guns,” the study's lead author David Swedler of the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health noted in an academic news release.

A firearm present in a domestic violence situation also increases the likelihood of an officer being killed.

Researchers also discovered that the 23 states with the highest levels of gun ownership were three times as likely to have an officer killed by a gun than the eight states with the lowest rates of gun ownership. Interestingly, the study also found that states with a low prevalence of police homicides  had the lowest percentage of gun owners but also were home to the largest populations.

Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Montana recorded both the highest levels of gun ownership and police killings. Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island had the lowest levels for both.

For more on where America's guns are, check out Mother Jones' charts here.

Jeb Bush Will Do Fine Defending His Brother's War

| Fri Aug. 14, 2015 2:09 PM EDT

Jeb Bush just can't stop talking about Iraq:

"In 2009, Iraq was fragile but secure. It was mission was accomplished in the way that there was security there and it was because of the heroic efforts of the men and women in the Untied States military that it was so."

In a question and answer session hosted by Americans for Peace, Prosperity and Security held on a college campus here, the Republican presidential hopeful said the removal of Saddam Hussein from power "turned out to be a pretty good deal," and he praised the 2007 troop surge his brother pushed as "an extraordinarily effective" strategy.

On the debate over interrogation techniques, another issue that dogged his brother, Bush would not say for certain whether he would preserve the executive order President Obama signed banning enhanced interrogation. "I do think in general that torture is not appropriate," he said.

Obviously I think Bush is wrong about all the Iraq stuff, and I'd certainly like to hear a more robust denunciation of torture than calling it "not appropriate." Still, I guess he deserves some credit on the torture score since the rest of the Republican field mostly seems to think the only problem with George Bush's torture policy is that he didn't do enough of it.

But the merits of the Iraq war aside, here's what I'm curious about: is this a winning position with the Republican base? I've been reading a lot of comments about how extraordinary it is that in only a few short years, Republicans have abandoned their Iraq skepticism and become full-bore defenders of the war again. How could it happen so quickly?

But conservative Republicans never abandoned their support for the Iraq war in the first place, did they? Sure, there were times when support dipped a bit in national polls, but conservatives supported the surge from the start; they've always canonized the surge as the point where the war was finally won; they've long excoriated Obama for pulling out troops; and they've been hawkish on ISIS from the beginning. As near as I can tell, conservative Republicans have never really questioned the value of the Iraq war. Nor have they lost their taste for having lots of ground troops there.

So Jeb should do fine by defending his brother's war. Plenty of Beltway types will mock him, but the Republican base has never lost the faith. As far as they're concerned, Iraq was a righteous venture that was ruined only by the gutlessness of President Obama and his cabal of apology tour aides. We coulda won if only we'd just kept at it.

Feinstein: No Classified Info in Hillary Clinton Emails

| Fri Aug. 14, 2015 11:35 AM EDT

I'm pretty sure this has already been widely reported, but today Dianne Feinstein confirmed what we know about those four emails on Hillary Clinton's server that contain sensitive information:

“None of the emails alleged to contain classified information were written by Secretary Clinton,” Mrs. Feinstein said in a statement. “The questions are whether she received emails with classified information in them, and if so, whether information in those emails should have been classified in the first place. Those questions have yet to be answered.”

Mrs. Feinstein also said, “None of the emails alleged to contain classified information include any markings that indicate classified content.”

Should they have been classified at the time? Who knows. That's a spat between State and the CIA, and a fairly uninteresting one. For now, anyway, our national security seems to have survived the Clinton era at the State Department unscathed.

Maybe We'll Have a Trump-Sanders Unity Ticket in 2016?

| Fri Aug. 14, 2015 11:20 AM EDT

Kathleen Hennessey of the LA Times on what Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have in common:

Both Trump, the real estate tycoon, and Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont, are tapping into anti-establishment, pro-outsider sentiment that is emerging as a potent force early in the campaign cycle. Years of dissatisfaction with Washington leaders, along with a thirst for authenticity in politics, is leading voters to at least contemplate something different this year — dramatically different.

I guess I'm going to have to keep count of how many reporters write this exact same story. At least there's no mention in this one of the evergreen voter "anger" that we hear about every four years. I'll take my victories where I can get them.