2012 - %3, August

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for August 7, 2012

Tue Aug. 7, 2012 10:58 AM EDT

Cpt. Wayne Griffin, brigade aviation officer for 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division "Ready First" salutes as a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter lifts off from forward operating base Denver at the National Training Center on August 4, 2012. Photo by Staff Sgt. Joseph Wilbanks.

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Why Obamacare Probably Won't Lead to Doctor Shortages

| Tue Aug. 7, 2012 10:51 AM EDT

The New York Times reports today about evidence that the HCA hospital chain has performed lots of unnecessary heart surgery over the past few years:

“The allegations related to unnecessary procedures being performed in the cath lab are substantiated,” according to a confidential memo written by a company ethics officer, Stephen Johnson, and reviewed by The New York Times. Mr. Tomlinson’s contract was not renewed, a move that Mr. Johnson said in the memo was in retaliation for his complaints.

....At Lawnwood, where an invasive diagnostic test known as a cardiac catheterization is performed, about half the procedures, or 1,200, were determined to have been done on patients without significant heart disease, according to a confidential 2010 review. HCA countered recently with a different analysis, saying the percentage of patients without disease was much lower and in keeping with national averages.

....HCA denies its decisions at these hospitals were motivated by financial considerations, but rather “demonstrate the strong focus we have on quality patient care.” The company also says that more than 80 percent of its hospitals are in the top 10 percent of government rankings for quality.

I'm going to use this as an excuse to make a fairly tangential point: Stories like this are why I'm not all that worried about a doctor shortage after Obamacare fully kicks in in 2014. It's not that the fear is totally groundless. If you put a lot more patients into the medical system, that's likely to make hospitals and doctors' offices more crowded. But there's also a lot of evidence for a substantial supply-side effect on medical care: the more doctors a city has, the more treatment people get, whether they need it or not. Likewise, if a hospital buys an expensive piece of equipment, they're highly motivated to keep it in constant use whether it's really necessary or not.

So yes: more patients might cause more crowding. It's a reasonable concern. But there's a pretty good chance that it's mostly going to crowd out a fair amount of unnecessary care, like the stuff HCA is accused of providing. That will eat into bottom lines, but it won't necessarily make it any harder to see a doctor when your kid has an ear infection. We'll just have to wait and see.

It's Time to Stop Celebrating Harry Reid

| Tue Aug. 7, 2012 10:31 AM EDT

Here is Harry Reid on Mitt Romney's taxes: "I was told by an extremely credible source that Romney has not paid taxes for 10 years." PolitiFact rates this a Pants on Fire lie.

An awful lot of liberals disagree. Typical reasons include sophistry ("PolitiFact doesn't know that Romney paid any taxes"); revenge ("Romney's been telling lots of lies, so why shouldn't we?"); disingenuousness ("All Romney has to do is release his tax returns to clear this up"); or lying as a virtue ("Politics ain't beanbag").

Come on, folks. Reid didn't say I'll bet Romney didn't pay any taxes. He didn't say he talked to someone familiar with high earners who told him Maybe Romney won't release his returns because he didn't pay any taxes. He made a flat statement of fact. He said he has an "extremely credible source," which in this context means someone with direct knowledge of Romney's taxes who decided to pick up the phone and dish about it to Harry Reid. Does anyone really believe this? Really? Then, as if that weren't enough, Reid made his little bluff even less plausible by deciding that Romney didn't just avoid all taxes for one year, he avoided them for ten years. Yeah, baby, that's the ticket! Put these two things together with the fact that Reid hasn't even tried to make his fairy tale sound believable (it's just some guy he talked to) and this is not a story that a five-year-old would credit. It's just Reid making stuff up in order to put pressure on Romney, and I think we all know it.

Can I prove this? Of course not. Given the epistemological limits of proof, I can't prove Barack Obama was born in the United States either. Nevertheless, I feel safe saying that anyone who claims to have an "extremely credible source" that Obama was born elsewhere is either crazy or lying. The same is true for Reid, and Reid isn't crazy. It's simply vanishingly unlikely that he's telling the truth, and no one — not liberal or conservative — would spend even ten seconds on a story so patently far-fetched if it were anybody but Reid and the background were anything but the frenzy of a presidential campaign.

Politically, of course, Reid's ploy has worked like a charm. Romney's taxes are back in the news and Romney's ham-handed handling of the whole affair has kept it there. And that gives everyone a fifth reason to cheer on Reid: the end justifies the means.

Take a deep breath, folks. This is contemptible stuff and it's not just business as usual. We've spent too many years berating the tea partiers for getting on bandwagons like this to get sucked into it ourselves the first time it's convenient. It's time to quit cheering on Reid and get off this particular bus.

Crop Data Prepares Drought-Stricken Farmers to Get By With Less

| Tue Aug. 7, 2012 6:00 AM EDT

This story first appeared on the Guardian website.

The device keeping disaster away from Glenn Cox's farm in this summer's devastating drought could well be the laptop on his kitchen counter.

A few keystrokes and eventually his painfully slow dial-up connection pulls up graphs tracking temperature and moisture levels from his corn and peanut fields.

The real-time feed gives Cox an advantage over farmers across a vast swathe of the mid-west who are preparing to give up on their crops.

It's taken away the guess work. He knows where to water, and where not to water—giving Cox a critical advantage in a year when rain is elusive and groundwater is in short supply.

This stretch of Georgia is in its second year of drought—the worst since the 1950s, Cox said. "If we had not had irrigation we would be filing insurance right now," he said. "That's plain. I could plant it, and without irrigation we would be broke."

Cox's edge comes through technology developed over the last decade by the University of Georgia. The innovations are seen as the biggest advance on irrigation systems in decades.

The lower Flint River basin, where Cox farms, is one of the top agricultural areas in the south-east, producing the country's biggest pecan, peanut and cotton crops. But its weather is increasingly unpredictable, careening between flood and drought. Scientists see the extreme variability of the last 15 years as evidence of climate change and expect it to get worse over the coming decades.

Farmers are going to have to make smarter use of water to remain viable.

The technology developed at the University of Georgia, and rolled out in partnership with the Nature Conservancy and the Flint River Conservation Project, relies on GPS technology and low-cost sensors.

The sensors, encased in PVC pipes, gather temperature and moisture data from different soil depths and at multiple locations. Antennae fitted to the pipe then relay the soil conditions to a computer, where the data is reviewed and analysed by crop consultants.

Cox sees himself as a cautious man. His family has been farming in south-western Georgia for five generations, on lands that back up into the cypress, sycamore, and live oaks that line the Flint River. Cox is pushing, not very subtly, to make it a sixth when his daughter Casey finishes college.

For years now he has been planting virtually the same mix of peanuts and corn on his 850 acres, but conditions for farmers in Georgia are changing.

The last two years have brought drought so severe it killed mature trees. Five years ago, a flood left 4ft of water in his bedroom, along with a dead armadillo, and a live rattlesnake on the porch.

The technology promises a degree of certainty. He is not wasting electricity when there is no need to pump water onto his fields. He is not wasting water on the low-lying areas that soak up moisture or the wasteland that hugs the road.

"It's absolutely critical. Water costs money. Electricity costs money. Gas costs money," he said. "It costs a lost of money to bring this crop out of the ground."

Cox is also spared from driving miles each day checking conditions on his fields. It's all there in a few clicks, even on the sluggish internet connection of rural Georgia.

The University of Georgia scientists and the Flint River Project started working with farmers more than a decade ago to try to find ways to save water without sacrificing their crops.

They started by testing a low-pressure system for the giant centre pivot irrigation systems that circle the fields, spraying water from scores, sometimes hundreds, of spouts. Water at high pressure can be lost to wind or evaporation. That one change alone probably reduced water use by 20%, said David Reckford, who heads the project for the Nature Conservancy.

Next they introduced technology to control individual spouts, which saved farmers from spraying water on the road or nearby wasteland.

Then they moved into the world of sensors and data management. Some estimates suggest the technology could help farmers reduce water use by up to 30%.

Earlier versions of the variable irrigation systems developed at the University of Georgia are in demand in Kansas and Nebraska, both deep within the drought zone.

The systems typically save 1,000 gallons of water per minute, said Rick Heard, a consultant with the Australian firm Farmscan, which is marketing the systems. "On a really large system you may end up turning off three-quarters of the spigots," he said.

The next stage promises to be even bigger, said George Vellidis, the agricultural engineer who helped develop the systems.

"I think it's going to be huge," he said. "This is still a little premature but five years from now it's going to be ready for prime time."

Drought years impose a huge cost even on those farmers who have irrigation systems. They pay more for electricity, their equipment breaks down from overuse during dry spells. And then there is the realisation that the water will not last forever.

Vellidis went on: "Let's say you have limited water supply because you are in extreme drought. Now you have a very smart way to make a decision about how to apply water. You know which field is suffering so you can decide which fields to apply water on."

The technology could help defuse what are now politically loaded decisions in Georgia because of increasing competition for water from cities, industry, and power stations, in addition to farmers, and because of the implications of climate change.

The Republican governor, Nathan Deal, rejects the science of climate change. Late last year, he removed the state climatologist, David Stooksbury, reportedly for upholding established climate science.

"Most elected officials are in denial. They don't believe it's real," said Woody Hicks, a hydrologist advising the Flint River project.

But he said climate change would exert even greater pressure on water supply and use over the coming decades.

The groundwater Cox and other farmers pull up to water their fields is already on borrowed time, with scientists finding a direct connection between withdrawals from underground aquifers and levels in the Flint River.

Too much pumping of the underground aquifer sucks the water out of the Flint. It also threatens supplies to the aquifer that waters Florida, Mississippi, and Alabama.

As farmers are now discovering, they are going to have learn to get by with less. Now, however, they may be within reach of the technology to do so.

"The farming community now realises we are dealing with a finite resource," said Hicks. "The more straws that go into the can the less water for everyone."

14 Wacky "Facts" Kids Will Learn in Louisiana's Voucher Schools

| Tue Aug. 7, 2012 6:00 AM EDT
Separation of church and what?

Thanks to a new law privatizing public education in Louisiana, Bible-based curriculum can now indoctrinate young, pliant minds with the good news of the Lord—all on the state taxpayers' dime.

Under Gov. Bobby Jindal's voucher program, considered the most sweeping in the country, Louisiana is poised to spend tens of millions of dollars to help poor and middle-class students from the state's notoriously terrible public schools receive a private education. While the governor's plan sounds great in the glittery parlance of the state's PR machine, the program is rife with accountability problems that actually haven't been solved by the new standards the Louisiana Department of Education adopted two weeks ago.

For one, of the 119 (mostly Christian) participating schools, Zack Kopplin, a gutsy college sophomore who's taken to Change.org to stonewall the program, has identified at least 19 that teach or champion creationist nonscience and will rake in nearly $4 million in public funding from the initial round of voucher designations.

Many of these schools, Kopplin notes, rely on Pensacola-based A Beka Book curriculum or Bob Jones University Press textbooks to teach their pupils Bible-based "facts," such as the existence of Nessie the Loch Ness Monster and all sorts of pseudoscience that researcher Rachel Tabachnick and writer Thomas Vinciguerra have thankfully pored over so the rest of world doesn't have to.

Here are some of my favorite lessons:

1. Dinosaurs and humans probably hung out: "Bible-believing Christians cannot accept any evolutionary interpretation. Dinosaurs and humans were definitely on the earth at the same time and may have even lived side by side within the past few thousand years."Life Science, 3rd ed., Bob Jones University Press, 2007

Much like Whoopi and Teddy in the cinematic classic Theodore Rex. Screenshot: YouTubeMuch like tough cop Katie Coltrane and Teddy the T-rex in the direct-to-video hit Theodore Rex Screenshot: YouTube

2. Dragons were totally real: "[Is] it possible that a fire-breathing animal really existed? Today some scientists are saying yes. They have found large chambers in certain dinosaur skulls…The large skull chambers could have contained special chemical-producing glands. When the animal forced the chemicals out of its mouth or nose, these substances may have combined and produced fire and smoke."Life Science, 3rd ed., Bob Jones University Press, 2007

3. "God used the Trail of Tears to bring many Indians to Christ."—America: Land That I Love, Teacher ed., A Beka Book, 1994

4. Africa needs religion: "Africa is a continent with many needs. It is still in need of the gospel…Only about ten percent of Africans can read and write. In some areas the mission schools have been shut down by Communists who have taken over the government."—Old World History and Geography in Christian Perspective, 3rd ed., A Beka Book, 2004

The literacy rate in Africa is "only about 10 percent"--give or take a few dozen percentage points. residentevil_stars2001/FlickrThe literacy rate in Africa is "only about 10 percent"…give or take a few dozen percentage points. residentevil_stars2001/Flickr

5. Slave masters were nice guys: "A few slave holders were undeniably cruel. Examples of slaves beaten to death were not common, neither were they unknown. The majority of slave holders treated their slaves well."United States History for Christian Schools, 2nd ed., Bob Jones University Press, 1991

Slaves and their masters: BFF 4lyfe!  Edward Williams Clay/Library of CongressDoesn't everyone look happy?! Edward Williams Clay/Library of Congress

6. The KKK was A-OK: "[The Ku Klux] Klan in some areas of the country tried to be a means of reform, fighting the decline in morality and using the symbol of the cross. Klan targets were bootleggers, wife-beaters, and immoral movies. In some communities it achieved a certain respectability as it worked with politicians."United States History for Christian Schools, 3rd ed., Bob Jones University Press, 2001

Just your friendly neighborhood Imperial Wizard! Unknown/Library of CongressJust your friendly neighborhood Imperial Wizard Unknown/Library of Congress

7. The Great Depression wasn't as bad as the liberals made it sound: "Perhaps the best known work of propaganda to come from the Depression was John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath…Other forms of propaganda included rumors of mortgage foreclosures, mass evictions, and hunger riots and exaggerated statistics representing the number of unemployed and homeless people in America."United States History: Heritage of Freedom, 2nd ed., A Beka Book, 1996

Definitely Photoshopped.  U.S. National Archives and Records Administration/WikipediaDefinitely Photoshopped. U.S. National Archives and Records Administration/Wikipedia

8. SCOTUS enslaved fetuses: "Ignoring 3,500 years of Judeo-Christian civilization, religion, morality, and law, the Burger Court held that an unborn child was not a living person but rather the "property" of the mother (much like slaves were considered property in the 1857 case of Dred Scott v. Sandford)."American Government in Christian Perspective, 2nd ed., A Beka Book, 1997

9. The Red Scare isn't over yet: "It is no wonder that Satan hates the family and has hurled his venom against it in the form of Communism."— American Government in Christian Perspective, 2nd ed., A Beka Book, 1997

Meanwhile, God sneezes glitter snot in the form of Capitalism. Catechetical Guild/Wikipedia Catechetical Guild/Wikipedia

10. Mark Twain and Emily Dickinson were a couple of hacks: "[Mark] Twain's outlook was both self-centered and ultimately hopeless…Twain's skepticism was clearly not the honest questioning of a seeker of truth but the deliberate defiance of a confessed rebel."Elements of Literature for Christian Schools, Bob Jones University, 2001

"Several of [Emily Dickinson's] poems show a presumptuous attitude concerning her eternal destiny and a veiled disrespect for authority in general. Throughout her life she viewed salvation as a gamble, not a certainty. Although she did view the Bible as a source of poetic inspiration, she never accepted it as an inerrant guide to life."Elements of Literature for Christian Schools, Bob Jones University, 2001

And her grammar was just despicable! Ugh! Todd-Bingham picture collection, 1837-1966 (inclusive)/ Manuscripts & Archives, Yale UniversityTo say nothing of her poetry's Syntax and Punctuation—how odious it is.Todd-Bingham picture collection, 1837-1966 (inclusive)/ Manuscripts & Archives, Yale University

11. Abstract algebra is too dang complicated: "Unlike the 'modern math' theorists, who believe that mathematics is a creation of man and thus arbitrary and relative, A Beka Book teaches that the laws of mathematics are a creation of God and thus absolute…A Beka Book provides attractive, legible, and workable traditional mathematics texts that are not burdened with modern theories such as set theory."—ABeka.com

Maths is hard! Screenshot: MittRomney.comMATHS: Y U SO HARD? Screenshot: MittRomney.com

12. Gay people "have no more claims to special rights than child molesters or rapists."Teacher's Resource Guide to Current Events for Christian Schools, 1998-1999, Bob Jones University Press, 1998

13. "Global environmentalists have said and written enough to leave no doubt that their goal is to destroy the prosperous economies of the world's richest nations."Economics: Work and Prosperity in Christian Perspective, 2nd ed., A Beka Book, 1999

Plotting world destruction, BRB.  Lynn Freeny, Department of Energy/FlickrPlotting economic apocalypse, BRB Lynn Freeny, Department of Energy/Flickr

14. Globalization is a precursor to rapture: "But instead of this world unification ushering in an age of prosperity and peace, as most globalists believe it will, it will be a time of unimaginable human suffering as recorded in God's Word. The Anti-christ will tightly regulate who may buy and sell."Economics: Work and Prosperity in Christian Perspective, 2nd ed., A Beka Book, 1999

He'll probably be in cahoots with the global environmentalists. Luca Signorelli/WikipediaSwapping insider-trading secrets is the devil's favorite pastime. Luca Signorelli/WikipediaWhew! Seems extreme. But perhaps we shouldn't be too surprised. Gov. Jindal, you remember, once tried to perform an exorcism on a college gal pal.

Big Ag Spends Big Bucks to Keep GMOs in Your Food Secret

| Tue Aug. 7, 2012 6:00 AM EDT

(Yesterday I wrote about a related pet project of agribiz giants: bankrolling the deregulation of genetically modified foods. You can read that post here.)

Remember that California ballot initiative, which will be voted on in November, that would require labeling of all foods containing genetically modified ingredients? I first wrote about it here. Since GM corn, soy, sugar beets, and cotton (the oil part) are processed into sweeteners, fats, and other additives that suffuse the US food system, the initiative would require the labeling of something like 80 percent of all nonorganic processed food sold in supermarkets. If the California initiative passes, it will likely force food processors to label food nationwide, since it would be costly and cumbersome to have one set of labels for California and another for the other 49 states.

And labels, of course, could prompt consumers to demand more GMO-free foods—and in turn push farmers to demand non-GMO seeds, imperiling sales growth for the Big Six.

Protection money: cash raised to defeat Califronia's labeling proposition.  Pesticide Action Network of North AmericaProtection money: cash raised to defeat California's labeling proposition. Pesticide Action Network of North AmericaCue a gusher of agrichemical cash into the effort to defeat the labeling initiative. This year through June 1, hundreds of thousands in donations had already bolstered the coffers of the astroturf group "Coalition Against the Deceptive Food Labeling Scheme, Sponsored by Farmers and Food Producers," the Secretary of State's Office reports.

In July, industry trade group the Biotechnology Information Organization added $250,000 to the till, DuPont dropped in $310,000, and BASF shelled out $126,000. Big Food companies—which would no doubt prefer to avoid labeling—came up with cash for the effort, too, in July, ranging from Kellogg ($13,080.78) to Nestle ($24,184.46) to Pepsico ($35,494.94).

Paul Towers of Pesticide Action Network, who has crunched the numbers on financing for the anti-labeling group, calculates that, based on the Secretary of State's Office's latest release, the group has raised about $1.98 million, with $1.13 million of it coming from the Big Six and its trade groups and the rest coming from Big Food companies. He told me that he included the $375,000 donated by the Grocery Manufacturers Association under the Big Food category, even though its membership incudes Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow, BASF, and Bayer, along with food giants like Kellogg, Nestle, Pepsi, and the like. The president of the Grocery Manufacturers Association recently declared defeating the labeling proposition "the single-highest priority for GMA this year," Michele Simon reports.

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The Sikh Temple Shooter's Racist Tattoos, Deciphered

| Mon Aug. 6, 2012 4:54 PM EDT
Wade Michael Page

Law enforcement officials in Wisconsin say that Wade Michael Page's tattoos tipped them off to the possibility that his shooting spree in a Sikh temple was domestic terrorism. But what exactly did those tattoos tell them? Using photos of Wade from his white-power band's Myspace page, it's possible to see what concerned police: Much of his body reads like a poster text for white nationalism.

In particular, a tattoo on Page's left shoulder (pictured below) suggests he was a committed devotee of white-power ideology. The tattoo consists of a large "14" in Gothic lettering superimposed on a black cross in a circle. The cross, known elsewhere as "Odin's Cross," is "one of the most popular symbols for neo-Nazis and white supremacists," according to the Anti-Defamation League. It's also used as a logo by Stormfront.org, one of the world's most-visited racist web forums.

Wade Michael Page, with a white-power tattoo visible on his shoulder. MyspaceWade Michael Page, with a white-power tattoo visible on his shoulder Myspace

The "14" itself is particularly telling: It's a reference to "the 14 words," a racist credo first set down by David Lane, the cofounder of a white nationalist terror group known as The Order. (The Order—whose name was inspired by a similar group immortalized in William Luther Pierce's racist novel, The Turner Diaries, a favorite of Timothy McVeigh's—has been active for nearly 30 years and was implicated in the 1984 murder of Alan Berg, a liberal Jewish radio host.)

As formulated by Lane, the 14 words are reportedly inspired by a longer passage from Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf and form the basis for Lane's "88 Precepts" (PDF), in which he lays out The Order's founding philosophy—including its condemnation of homosexuality, abortion, and "mixing and destruction of the founding race." (88, too, has special significance for neo-Nazis and other white hate groups.)

In their entirety, the 14 words—commemorated on Page's skin—read: "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children."

Mother Jones has also obtained a copy of a 2010 interview with Page, courtesy of the Southern Poverty Law Center, conducted by his band's white-power record distributor, Label 56—you can read the full text below.

In the interview, Page describes how he traveled to Southern California to play bass for a series of skinhead bands called Youngland, Celtic Warrior, Radikahl, Max Resist, Intimidation One, Aggressive Force, and Blue Eyed Devils. He also spoke openly about the frustrations with society that led him to start his own racist band, End Apathy, in 2005. "A lot of what I realized at the time was that if we could figure out how to end peoples apathetic ways it would be the start towards moving forward," he said. "Of course after that it requires discipline, strict discipline to stay the course in our sick society."

Update: For more info on Page's tats—including a 9/11 tribute and a Confederate stars and bars—check out The New Yorker and Lawyers, Guns & Money. And for a full rundown on the Sikh temple shooting, jump over to our explainer.

 

No, Barack Obama Isn't Trying to Undermine Military Voters

| Mon Aug. 6, 2012 3:39 PM EDT

Today's Outrage of the Day™ is Mitt Romney's contention that Barack Obama hates our men and women in uniform and wants to prevent them from voting. Here is Katie Biber, legal counsel for the Romney campaign:

We disagree with the basic premise that it is "arbitrary" and unconstitutional to give three extra days of in-person early voting to military voters and their families, and believe it is a dangerous and offensive argument for President Obama and the DNC to make.

That does sound offensive, doesn't it? The nickel version of the truth is that Ohio recently restricted early voting for everyone except members of the military, and the Obama campaign wants the law overturned. They want everyone to be able to vote early. In other words, if Obama gets his way, nobody in the military will lose their early voting rights. Romney was just flat-out lying when he implied last week that Obama was trying to "undermine" the voting rights of members of the military.

On the other hand, it's also true that if Obama's suit succeeds, members of the military will no longer get special consideration, as the Ohio legislature wanted to give them. There's little doubt that the motivation for this was largely partisan (the military tends to vote Republican), but you know what? There's also a perfectly defensible case to be made that military voters do indeed deserve preferential treatment. Obama's suit argues otherwise, and Republicans are making hay with it.

Anyone suggesting that Obama is trying to restrict military voting rights is pretty plainly lying. On the other hand, if you stick to the argument that the military deserves special treatment and Obama opposes giving it to them — as Biber did — you're in the clear. It's nasty stuff, but still pretty garden variety attack politics.

Pregnant? No School for You in This Louisiana Public Charter

| Mon Aug. 6, 2012 3:10 PM EDT

A public charter school in Louisiana is getting national attention for requiring female students to take pregnancy tests if they are suspected of being pregnant and, if they are, forcing them to leave school. The ACLU of Louisiana sent a letter to the Delhi Charter School on Monday arguing that the policy is unconstitutional and "in clear violation of federal law."

Delhi is a kindergarten through 12th grade public school in a town by the same name in northeastern Louisiana. Its "student pregnancy policy" states that the school seeks to ensure that students "exhibit acceptable character traits"—and in order to do so, allows the school to force any "suspected student" to take a pregnancy test. Here's the policy:

If an administrator or teacher suspects a student is pregnant, a parent conference will be held. The school reserves the right to require any female student to take a pregnancy test to confirm whether or not the suspected student is in fact pregnant. The school further reserves the right to refer the suspected student to a physician of its choice. If the test indicates that the student is pregnant, the student will not be permitted to attend classes on the campus of Delhi Charter School.

Any student who is pregnant will be forced to go on home study. The policy goes on to state that any student who refuses to take a pregnancy test "shall be treated as a pregnant student" and also put on mandatory home study.

"I am not aware of anything else like this," said Marjorie Esman, executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana. "This so blatantly illegal and discriminatory. This is about as draconian as anything I have ever seen." Esman said the policy is not new, but had been brought to the ACLU's attention this summer.

In the letter to the school, the ACLU argues that the policy violates the Title IX federal protections against educational discrimination on the basis of sex as well as the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

School administrators did not respond to requests for comment via email and telephone at press time.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for August 6, 2012

Mon Aug. 6, 2012 2:27 PM EDT

US Army Pvt. Zakery Jenkins, front, with Charlie Troop, 3rd Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, provides security in Mush Kahel village, Ghazni province, Afghanistan, on July 23, 2012. US Army photo by Spc. Andrew Baker.