Blogs

House of Representatives Passes ENDA

| Wed Nov. 7, 2007 7:36 PM EST

Today marks the first time in U.S. history that either body of Congress has passed employment protections that cover lesbian, gay and bisexual citizens. Unfortunately, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, as it is currently written, does not include gender identity, which made it difficult for supporting organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign, to continue to support it. However, a decision was made by all involved that it would be better to support the current version of the bill than to let it be defeated.

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Hold The Antibiotics: Infections Critical For Healthy Life

| Wed Nov. 7, 2007 6:33 PM EST

bacteria.jpg Nix the antibacterial soaps. Forget the hand sanitizers, antibiotic gels, sprays, and baby blankets. Research shows that antibacterial products actually make children and adults more likely to develop asthma and allergies and maybe even mental illnesses. The study from Colorado State University suggests that our love affair with antibacterial products is altering how immune, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems develop and function. Infection may play a significant role in many chronic aliments, including schizophrenia, ulcers, and obsessive compulsive disorder. What many people may not realize is that most infections ensure our health instead of compromise it. Humans have 10 times more bacterial cells in their bodies than human cells. Without bacteria, there would not be humans. Gerald Callahan, who studies bacteria and infectious diseases at Colorado State University, points out that there are more bacteria by far in this world than any other living thing. "We are a minority on this planet, and we must learn how to work with the majority," he says.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

Bush Still Peddling Progress in Iraq. Sigh.

| Wed Nov. 7, 2007 6:25 PM EST

I'm not sure why it never gets old to bring attention to Bush's constant reiteration that we are freedom fighters and that Iraq is making progress. Maybe because the further along we get in this quagmire, the more absurd these comments become. This from a press conference with French president Nicholas Sarkozy held this afternoon:

If you lived in Iraq and had lived under a tyranny, you'd be saying: God, I love freedom, because that's what's happened...we're making progress.

Well, according to our figures, more than 4 million of these thankful Iraqis have fled this newfound freedom.

Shipping Fuels Heart and Lung Disease

| Wed Nov. 7, 2007 6:10 PM EST

tinley_ship-lrg.jpg That's right. All those goods you're paying to get for cheap from China. Those winter blueberries from Argentina. South African wines. Well, they come with a hidden cost. Pollution from marine shipping causes approximately 60,000 premature cardiopulmonary and lung cancer deaths around the world each year, according to a study from the Rochester Institute of Technology. The researchers correlated the global distribution of particulate matter—black carbon, sulfur, nitrogen and organic particles—released from ships' smoke stacks with heart disease and lung cancer mortalities in adults. Worse still, the predicted growth in shipping could increase annual mortalities by 40 percent by 2012.

"Our work will help people decide at what scale action should be taken," says James Corbett of the University of Delaware. "We want our analysis to enable richer dialogue among stakeholders about how to improve the environment and economic performance of our freight systems."

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

Alabama Ends Most Discrimination Against HIV-Positive Prisoners

| Wed Nov. 7, 2007 6:07 PM EST

Thanks to several years of work by the American Civil Liberties Union, AIDS Alabama and several state legislators, HIV-positive prisoners in Alabama will now get what other prisoners get: access to visitation, educational programs, substance abuse treatment, and religious services. Though it may seem hard to believe in the 21st Century, HIV-positive individuals incarcerated in Alabama prisons have been kept segregated to the point that they have been denied help taken for granted by other prisoners.

Alabama is the only state in the U.S. that segregates HIV-positive prisoners from the general prison population. At the women's prison in Wetumpka, HIV-positive prisoners have been maintained in total isolation behind barbed wire. Excluding prisoners fom community-based corrections programs, in addition to being a violaton of their rights, has also cost the state of Alabama as much as $7,000 per prisoner.

The Alabama Department of Corrections has agreed to provide HIV-positive prisoners access to visitation, education, substance abuse treatment and other rehabilitation services, and religious services, but not to provide them with any access to work release programs. The ACLU and its allies will continue to work to try to end this last vestige of discrimination against those who are HIV-positive.

Mitt Romney's Gay.com Snafu

| Wed Nov. 7, 2007 6:02 PM EST

The newly homophobic Mr. Fantastic is claiming that he advertised on gay.com by accident. I think he's just trying to make nice with these folks.

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Wolf Controversy Resurfaces

| Wed Nov. 7, 2007 5:41 PM EST

wolvesnew.jpgA few years ago, a 22-year-old student was killed in the wilds of Saskatchewan, and evidence suggested that wild wolves were the culprits. The incident was widely reported in the media, since there had never before been a documented case of death-by-wolves in North America. Last week, the coroner's inquest finally finished, and the wolves were found guilty. But some wildlife experts still have their doubts. Goat, the blog over at High Country News, has a good summary of the controversy.

The debate about the Saskatchewan incident reminds us that we've never had an easy relationship with wolves in North America. They loom large in our mythology—both Native American and European—and they've come to represent a truly wild part of our landscape. We tend to romanticize this wildness, casting wolves either as mystical beasts or angry killers. (And some of us want them in our bedrooms—WTF?)

Amidst all the T-shirts, sheet sets, and other wolf propaganda, we tend to forget that wolves are, um, actual wild animals, too. During the westward expansion, we hunted so many gray wolves that the species was nearly extinct. But thanks to protection under the Endangered Species Act and a reintroduction program, these days, wolves have made a comeback. In 2004, gray wolf populations in Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin and parts of other states around the Great Lakes were officially removed from the federal list of endangered species. Sizable wolf populations in the Rocky Mountains have some people cheering and others up in arms, literally. Ranchers in the Rockies have trouble protecting their sheep, and a few hunters have reported that their dogs have been attacked, too. Right now, wolves in the Rockies are listed as "non-essential experimental populations," and the EPA is currently considering revising the wolf rules for these areas.

High Country News points out that the decision in the Saskatchewan case "bolsters those who continue to oppose wolves in the West." It'll be interesting to see how everyone reacts—the mystical wolf T-shirt crowd and the angry wolf T-shirt crowd alike.


How To Stop Fishermen From Killing Captured Dolphins

| Wed Nov. 7, 2007 5:40 PM EST

slaughter.gif BlueVoice reports from the frontlines of the annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan. After 8 days of not hunting, the fishermen have brought into Hatajiri Bay 7 dolphins which appear to be Risso's Dolphins, reports Hardy Jones:

Traditionally there are 2 sets of nets across the bay and this one seems to have been thrown together very quickly. But they have got the 7 Risso's dolphins here, which if previous experience is a guide, they will kill tomorrow morning. Now is the time for you to fax or telephone Japanese embassies and consulates near you. Faxes are great because they can't forward you to voice mail. Emailing is not so effective because they can set up spam blockers. But please make your voice heard. Let them know that these atrocities must not proceed. Contact your Japanese embassy or consulate and protest vigorously.

Past protests have worked.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

Pat Robertson is to Giuliani as Cindy Sheehan is to...

| Wed Nov. 7, 2007 5:25 PM EST

One final thought on the Giuliani endorsement made by Pat Robertson today. I find it completely wacky that Robertson, who made his career speaking out on social issues like abortion and gay marriage, chose to ignore those issues when making his choice. Here's how Ed Kilgore put it over at Democratic Strategist:

I've tried to think of a Democratic analog for the unlikeliness of this particular endorsement, and the best I can come up with is Cindy Sheehan joining Hillary Clnton's campaign out of admiration for her energy proposals.

Spot on.

MoveOn Takes On Fox. . .With a Little Help From the Wingers

| Wed Nov. 7, 2007 5:06 PM EST

A little more than six months ago, a vast right-and-left-wing conspiracy launched a campaign to make the footage of the Republican and Democratic presidential debates free. Not free of advertising, that is, but free in the sense that anyone could take the footage and use it as they wished—to criticize, to mock, to celebrate. Most of the networks, surprisingly, agreed, although many people didn't get the point of asking for "free debates" in the first place. "Oh come on. Do you really think a network is going to threaten a presidential candidate over a copyright claim?", a friend wrote to intellectual property guru and internet Thomas Jefferson Lawrence Lessig.

Turns out, of course, that a network really is threatening a presidential candidate over a copyright claim. The candidate is John McCain, who used a clip from a debate in one of his ads, and the network, of course, if Fox. As TPM reported, MoveOn.org Civic Action and a coalition of right-wing bloggers (including the inimitable Michelle Malkin) are taking on Fox for their uniquely silly and counterproductive position. Lessig elaborates:

It is time that the presidential candidates from both parties stand with Senator McCain and defend his right to use this clip to advance his presidential campaign. Not because it is "fair use" (whether or not it is), but because presidential debates are precisely the sort of things that ought to be free of the insanely complex regulation of speech we call copyright law.
Indeed, as the target of the attack, and as one who has been totally AWOL on this issue from the start, it would be most appropriate if this demand were to begin with Senator Clinton. Let her defend her colleague's right to criticize her, by demanding that her party at least condition any presidential debate upon the freedom of candidates and citizens to speak.

Indeed. And if you don't think this is a key moment for "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it," you should really watch that McCain ad again.