Political MoJo

Rah Rah Rah! California Just Passed a Law Protecting Cheerleaders

A new reason to cheer for the NFL's sidelined female employees.

| Wed Jul. 15, 2015 6:33 PM EDT
The Raiderettes and other pro cheerleaders now will make minimum wage in California.

Here's a reason to cheer: Today, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a bill that guarantees better pay and working conditions for professional cheerleaders. Introduced by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, the new law was inspired by a series of recent lawsuits in which NFL cheerleaders, including the Oakland Raiderettes, alleged that they received less than minimum wage, had to make unpaid appearances, and were fined for things like bringing the wrong pom-poms to practice. (For more on these degrading working conditions, check out our coverage of NFL cheerleaders and NHL ice girls—which Gonzalez says was "essential" for gaining support for her bill.)

Under the new law, professional sports teams will be required to pay cheerleaders minimum wage as well as provide paid overtime and workers' comp. It protects professional mascots as well, though most mascots, most of whom are male, are already granted basic employee rights. (According to Gonzalez, the average mascot makes about $30,000 per year.)

A former college cheerleader, Gonzalez describes the law as a "no-brainer" that addresses basic gaps in equality and pay. "We would never tolerate shortchanging of women workers at any other workplace," she said in a statement. "An NFL game should be no different​." Gonzalez hopes the law will inspire national change; earlier this year, New York lawmakers introduced a similar bill. 

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GOP Candidates Pile On to Praise Planned Parenthood Sting

Here's what Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, and others had to say about the undercover viral video.

| Wed Jul. 15, 2015 6:17 PM EDT

Yesterday, an eight-minute undercover video alleged that Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest provider of contraceptive and abortion services, profits off the sale of "baby parts," catching the attention of abortion foes everywhere.

Speaker John Boehner called for President Obama to "denounce, and stop, these gruesome practices."

Now conservative presidential hopefuls are weighing in. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has announced the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals will investigate the claims made in the video, in part because Planned Parenthood plans to open a $4 million clinic in New Orleans. Texas Gov. Rick Perry called the video "A disturbing reminder of the organization's penchant for profiting off the tragedy of a destroyed human life."

House Speaker John Boehner called for Health and Human Services Secretary Slyvia Burwell and President Obama to "denounce, and stop, these gruesome practices." In a short written statement, he said: "Nothing is more precious than life, especially an unborn child. When anyone diminishes an unborn child, we are all hurt, irreversibly so. When an organization monetizes an unborn child—and with the cavalier attitude portrayed in this horrific  video—we must all act."

There's just one problem: It's not clear whether key revelations in the video, which has cleared 1 million views on its YouTube page, are accurate. In it, Planned Parenthood Senior Director of Medical Services Deborah Nucatola is shown having a meal in a restaurant and discussing the tissue donations with what the nonprofit claims are "actors posing as buyers from a human biologics company." She says the clinics "absolutely" want to accommodate patients who want to make donations. "They just want to do it in a way that is not perceived as, 'This clinic is selling tissue, this clinic is making money off this,'" she says in the video.

But Media Matters, a a nonprofit "dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in U.S. media," found that key elements of Nucatola's conversation were cut out.

Key parts of the Planned Parenthood director's conversation were cut out from the video.

Nucatola discusses pricing for tissue in the video, giving the impression that there is a profit involved. "You know, I would throw a number out, I would say it’s probably anywhere from $30 to $100, depending on the facility and what’s involved," says Nucatola. "It just has to do with space issues, are you sending someone there that’s going to be doing everything . . . is there shipping involved? Is someone going to be there to pick it up?" 

Media Matters notes that the unedited footage shows a nearly eight-minute conversation regarding the basic reimbursement costs for the legal donation process in which Nucatola also says, "Nobody should be selling tissue here. That's not the goal." This statement does not appear in the viral video. In the unedited version of the video, Nucatola repeatedly refers to the process as "tissue donation," not "tissue sale." In its statement on the video, Planned Parenthood notes that only the actual costs, such as the cost to transport tissue, are reimbursed, which is the standard in the medical field. 

The group behind the video is the Center for Medical Progress, a nonprofit associated with the Life Legal Defense Foundation, an anti-abortion group that "supported" the undercover project and regularly aggregates abortion horror stories and anti-abortion legislative victories.

In its statement, Planned Parenthood said that the "well-funded group" operates solely to damage Planned Parenthood, and that the video "falsely portrays Planned Parenthood's participation in tissue donation programs that support lifesaving scientific research." This is not the first such "sting video" the abortion provider has confronted—Live Action, a conservative anti-abortion group, has been making similar videos since 2007.

The Center for Medical Progress describes itself as an organization composed of citizen journalists "dedicated to monitoring and reporting on medical ethics and advances." A blog post dated July 6, 2015 is the first sign of its existence and introduces the organization and conveyed its mission to create "a world in which medical practice and biotechnology ally with and serve the goods of human nature and do not destroy, disfigure, or work against them."

Planned Parenthood, meanwhile, explained in its statement that fetal tissue has been an essential part of significant medical studies because of its rapid cell division and its adaptive nature. A version of the rubella vaccine came from fetal tissue, and the 1954 Nobel Prize for Medicine went to scientists who used the tissue to develop a polio vaccine using cultures from fetal kidney cells.

"In health care, patients sometimes want to donate tissue to scientific research that can help lead to medical breakthroughs, such as treatments and cures for serious diseases," it said. "Women at Planned Parenthood who have abortions are no different. At several of our health centers, we help patients who want to donate tissue...just like every other high-quality health care provider does—with full, appropriate consent and under the highest ethical and legal standards."

Obama Hits Back at Critics of Iran Nuclear Deal

The president has vowed to veto any legislation blocking the deal's implementation.

| Wed Jul. 15, 2015 3:07 PM EDT

A day after Iran and six world powers announced a historic deal aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear capabilities, President Obama took questions from reporters to defend it from congressional critics who say the plan fails to eliminate the threat of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon.

"This nuclear deal meets the national security interest of the United States and our allies," Obama said at a press conference on Wednesday. "It prevents the most serious threat, Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon, which would only make the other problems that Iran may cause even worse. That's why this deal makes our country and the world safer and more secure."

Tuesday's announcement from Vienna follows years of diplomatic negotiations between the United States and Iran and capped off an 18 day marathon conference led by Secretary of State John Kerry to finalize the plan's details.

The deal, which is now subject to congressional scrutiny, was met with strong condemnation from conservatives both in the United States and Israel, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the deal a mistake and warned lifting economic sanctions in Iran would only "fuel their terror and military machine."

On Wednesday, Obama specifically hit back at such criticism, suggesting rejections from members of Congress were primarily focused on playing politics rather than on the national interest.

Acknowledging that "legitimate concerns" surrounding Iran remain, Obama said, "For all the objections of Prime Minister Netanyahu and some of the Republican leadership that has already spoken, none of them have presented to me or the American people a better alternative."

"We don't have diplomatic leverage to eliminate vestige of a peaceful nuclear program in Iran, but we do have the leverage to ensure they don't have a weapon. That's exactly what we've done."

In a statement shortly after the deal's announcement, Obama vowed to veto any legislation blocking the plan's implementation.

Former Reddit Leader Explains Why Trolls Will Soon Regret Taking Down Ellen Pao

Ex-CEO Yishan Wong says a purge of hate speech on the site is imminent.

| Wed Jul. 15, 2015 2:55 PM EDT
Former Reddit CEOs Yishan Wong and Ellen Pao

Reddit's latest CEO Steve Huffman might be about to do what former CEO Ellen Pao never dared: Purge the site's notoriously freewheeling discussion boards of hate speech. Posting to the site Tuesday night, former Reddit CEO Yishan Wong argued that Pao was actually the last best hope for radical free speech on Reddit—a claim that, if true, is deeply ironic given that the denizens of Reddit's most racist and sexist discussion boards were some of the loudest voices calling for her ouster. "I don't think there's a place for such [hate speech] on reddit," Wong says Huffman once told him. Huffman, who on Friday replaced Pao, is expected to announce a new content policy for the site tomorrow.

Wong, who ran Reddit between 2012 and 2014, has been defending Pao in recent days. Earlier this week he blamed the decision to fire popular Reddit employee Victoria Taylor—the event that precipitated Pao's resignation—on the site's other cofounder, Alexis Ohanian.

Here are the key parts of Wong's post from last night, which is worth reading in its entirety:

[T]he most delicious part of this is that on at least two separate occasions, the board pressed /u/ekjp [Ellen Pao] to outright ban ALL the hate subreddits in a sweeping purge. She resisted, knowing the community, claiming it would be a shitshow. Ellen isn't some "evil, manipulative, out-of-touch incompetent she-devil" as was often depicted. She was approved by the board and recommended by me because when I left, she was the only technology executive anywhere who had the chops and experience to manage a startup of this size, AND who understood what reddit was all about. As we can see from her post-resignation activity, she knows perfectly well how to fit in with the reddit community and is a normal, funny person - just like in real life - she simply didn't sit on reddit all day because she was busy with her day job.

Ellen was more or less inclined to continue upholding my free-speech policies. /r/fatpeoplehate was banned for inciting off-site harassment, not discussing fat-shaming. What all the white-power racist-sexist neckbeards don't understand is that with her at the head of the company, the company would be immune to accusations of promoting sexism and racism: she is literally Silicon Valley's #1 Feminist Hero, so any "SJWs" [social justice warriors] would have a hard time attacking the company for intentionally creating a bastion (heh) of sexist/racist content. She probably would have tolerated your existence so long as you didn't cause any problems - I know that her long-term strategies were to find ways to surface and publicize reddit's good parts - allowing the bad parts to exist but keeping them out of the spotlight. It would have been very principled - the CEO of reddit, who once sued her previous employer for sexual discrimination, upholds free speech and tolerates the ugly side of humanity because it is so important to maintaining a platform for open discourse. It would have been unassailable.

Well, now she's gone (you did it reddit!), and /u/spez [CEO Steve Huffman] has the moral authority as a co-founder to move ahead with the purge. We tried to let you govern yourselves and you failed, so now The Man is going to set some Rules. Admittedly, I can't say I'm terribly upset.

Obama on Bill Cosby Allegations: If You Drug a Woman and Have Sex With Her, It's Rape

The president responded to whether the comedian's Medal of Freedom award would be revoked.

| Wed Jul. 15, 2015 2:45 PM EDT

On Wednesday, President Obama responded to a question about Bill Cosby's ongoing rape allegations, specifically as to whether the comedian's Medal of Freedom award would be revoked.

"There is no precedent for revoking a medal. We don't have that mechanism. And as you know I tend not to comment on the specifics of cases where there might still be, if not criminal, civil issues involved," he said.

But after a brief pause, and without specifically naming Cosby, Obama issued a strong condemnation of the allegations.

"If you give a woman or a man without his or her knowledge a drug and then have sex with that person without consent that's rape. And I think this country and any civilized country should have no tolerance for rape."

Last week, a judge unsealed documents from a 2005 legal deposition in which Cosby admitted to giving Quaaludes to a woman and then having sex with her.

Poll: Lincoln Chafee Has No Supporters

The candidate literally received no votes in the latest Democratic primary survey.

| Wed Jul. 15, 2015 11:18 AM EDT

A month and a half into his presidential campaign, Lincoln Chafee is having trouble connecting with voters—even a single one. A Monmouth University poll released today reports that the Democratic presidential candidate "registered no support."

To be clear, this does not just mean that the former Rhode Island governor got 0 percent of the vote, leaving room for him to receive some votes but not enough to amount to 1 percent. No: Chafee received exactly zero votes in the poll, according to a research associate at Monmouth University. The poll surveyed 1,001 adults and included 357 Democratic or Democratic-leaning registered voters in the results.

Just 9 percent of respondents to the poll have a favorable opinion of Chafee, largely because 78 percent have no opinion of the little-known candidate. Efforts to boost his name recognition haven't been helped by the fact that he's raised hardly any money and has even been locked out of his own Facebook account. The Chafee campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Monmouth University

 

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Here's How GOP Presidential Hopefuls Are Reacting to the Iran Nuclear Deal

Sen. Lindsey Graham calmly compared to agreement to "declaring war" on Israel.

| Tue Jul. 14, 2015 10:35 AM EDT

Early Tuesday morning, Iran and six world powers announced a landmark agreement aimed at halting Iran's nuclear capabilities in exchange for lifting international sanctions that have long crippled the country's economy. The accord, which concluded a tense 18-day summit in Vienna, was met with praise by both U.S. officials and Iranian leaders as ushering in a new era of cooperation between the two historically at-odds nations.

Unsurprisingly, the accord was also met with a barrage of criticism from conservatives who had long opposed negotiating with Iran in the first place. They were specifically outraged by President Obama's vow to veto any congressional legislation attempting to block the deal from being implemented. Upon learning that the negotiations had successfully concluded, GOP presidential hopeful and foreign policy hawk Sen. Lindsey Graham told Bloomberg's Josh Rogin the deal was "akin to declaring war" on Israel.

It didn't take long for others to weigh in. Here is a sampling of the reactions from Republican presidential candidates below:

Conservative pundits also weighed in:

Congress now has 60 days to review the details of the agreement, and the intense rhetoric is likely to escalate.

Iran Nuclear Deal Reached Betweeen World Powers

President Obama said he will veto any legislation attempting to block the deal.

| Tue Jul. 14, 2015 7:53 AM EDT

Following years of negotiations, Iran and six other world powers have finally reached a historic agreement set to curb Iran's nuclear capabilities. In return, longstanding international sanctions will be lifted.

 

The accord, perhaps the most significant diplomatic victory of Obama's presidency, was struck between Iran, the U.S., Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia, after a grueling 18-day negotiation in Vienna, Austria. It includes an agreement to allow Iran to continue its nuclear program, but reduce its current stockpile of low enriched uranium by 98 percent and its centrifuges at its main enrichment facility by two-thirds, for at least a ten-year period.

Under the agreement, United Nations inspectors will also be allowed into the country, but their entry is not guaranteed. If denied, the world powers would convene to assess the situation.

Hours after the announcement early Tuesday morning, President Obama praised the landmark agreement and indicated he would veto any legislation attempting to halt it, in a televised address from the White House.

"Today, because America negotiated from a position of strength and principle, we have stopped the spread of nuclear weapons in this region."

"I will veto any legislation that prevents the successful implementation of this deal," Obama said.

Congress now has 60 days to review the deal.

Elizabeth Warren Wants the Federal Government to Encourage Research on Pot's Medical Benefits

She and seven other senators seek changes, including a review of the drug's classification.

| Mon Jul. 13, 2015 8:29 PM EDT

On Monday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren wrote a letter to top federal drug enforcement and health officials requesting that they do more to conduct and facilitate research on the health benefits of marijuana. Among other things, she urged the government to end its monopoly on the supply of pot for research purposes, coordinate large-scale epidemiological studies on marijuana use, and assure scientists that their work on pot won't jeopardize their other federal research funding.

"While the federal government has emphasized research on the potential harms associated with the use of marijuana," says the letter, which was signed by Warren and seven other Democratic senators, "there is still very limited research on the potential health benefits of marijuana—despite the fact that millions of Americans are now eligible by state law to use the drug for medical purposes."

Last month, the Department of Health and Human Services made a widely publicized move to streamline the approval of medical-marijuana studies, but Warren argues that this should be just the start of a broader effort to legitimize and institutionalize research into the benefits of pot. Her letter urges HHS to conduct its own clinical trials and facilitate communication among the 23 states that have legalized pot as medicine "in order to derive a more accurate picture of marijuana use and treatments across the country."

The senators also appear eager to see the government reevaluate marijuana's listing under Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, a category reserved for drugs, including heroin and LSD, that have "no currently accepted medical use." They ask for a timeline for analyzing existing pot research and making a recommendation for re-scheduling the drug. Their letter also asks whether the analysis will include comparisons with tobacco and alcohol.

Pentagon Reportedly Finalizing Plan to Lift Ban on Transgender People

The formal announcement could come as soon as this week.

| Mon Jul. 13, 2015 3:49 PM EDT

The Pentagon is expected to announce its plan to lift the military's longstanding ban on transgender service members as early as this week, according to the Associated Press. The plan, which is currently being formalized, would allow transgender people to openly serve in the military and protect current service members from being discharged based on their individual gender-identities.

A recent study estimated that approximately 15,000 transgender individuals are serving in the military.

Just last week, Defense Secretary Ash Carter sat down with President Obama to discuss the plan. In February, both Obama and Carter expressed their openness to such a policy change. Once formalized, military leaders will have six months to work out the logistical issues before fully integrating transgender service personnel into the military.

While the president officially repealed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" back in 2011, which ended the military's ban on gay people, transgender service members were not included under the policy change. This measure seeks to change that.

For more on the Pentagon's transgender problem, read our deep-dive here.