2007 - %3, February

Rampant Abuse of GLBT Students in US Schools

| Wed Feb. 21, 2007 8:32 PM EST

glbt_buttons.jpg

A study released last week by Human Rights Watch reads, in part:

In the United States, only 55 percent of students say they feel safe in school. Human Rights Watch found that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth in many U.S. schools are particularly vulnerable to unrelenting harassment from their peers. Despite the pervasiveness of the abuse, few school officials intervened to stop the harassment or to hold the abusive students accountable; in fact, some teachers and administrators encouraged or participated in the abuse. Over time, verbal harassment often escalated into sexual harassment and other forms of physical violence.

Turns out all the drumming up of anti-gay sentiment Republicans have been doing to win elections has real consequences. For kids.

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AAAS Statement on Climate Change Represents 10 Million Scientific Voices

| Wed Feb. 21, 2007 8:32 PM EST

Annoyed by pesky climate change naysayers? Wish you had some ready ammunition at hand? Carry a copy of this in your bike bag.

The AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) Board of Directors released a statement at their annual meeting in San Francisco last weekend on climate change. Founded in 1848, the AAAS is an international non-profit organization serving some 262 affiliated societies and academies of science, and 10 million individuals. Its journal Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of one million. In other words, this is the real deal, people, as close to the Science Bible as it gets.

The text of the AAAS statement on climate change reads as follows:

The scientific evidence is clear: global climate change caused by human activities is occurring now, and it is a growing threat to society. Accumulating data from across the globe reveal a wide array of effects: rapidly melting glaciers, destabilization of major ice sheets, increases in extreme weather, rising sea level, shifts in species ranges, and more. The pace of change and the evidence of harm have increased markedly over the last five years. The time to control greenhouse gas emissions is now.

The atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, a critical greenhouse gas, is higher than it has been for at least 650,000 years. The average temperature of the Earth is heading for levels not experienced for millions of years. Scientific predictions of the impacts of increasing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases from fossil fuels and deforestation match observed changes. As expected, intensification of droughts, heat waves, floods, wildfires, and severe storms is occurring, with a mounting toll on vulnerable ecosystems and societies. These events are early warning signs of even more devastating damage to come, some of which will be irreversible.

Delaying action to address climate change will increase the environmental and societal consequences as well as the costs. The longer we wait to tackle climate change, the harder and more expensive the task will be.

History provides many examples of society confronting grave threats by mobilizing knowledge and promoting innovation. We need an aggressive research, development and deployment effort to transform the existing and future energy systems of the world away from technologies that emit greenhouse gases. Developing clean energy technologies will provide economic opportunities and ensure future energy supplies.

In addition to rapidly reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it is essential that we develop strategies to adapt to ongoing changes and make communities more resilient to future changes.

The growing torrent of information presents a clear message: we are already experiencing global climate change. It is time to muster the political will for concerted action. Stronger leadership at all levels is needed. The time is now. We must rise to the challenge. We owe this to future generations.

Thought Things Couldn't Get Worse in Iraq?

| Wed Feb. 21, 2007 7:39 PM EST

Wrong again. Today, our last ally of note, the UK, announced that it had seen the writing on the wall and will begin withdrawing troops. (Denmark and Lithuania are also going to begin withdrawal.) Add to that a new tactic being used by insurgents: bombs that dispense lethal chlorine gas. Three such bombs have exploded in the last month, killing 27 and wounding 180, and insurgents haven't yet learned how to use the bombs most effectively.

The insurgents have another new tactic: Shooting American helicopters out of the sky. They've had success with that as well, shooting down their first chopper today since the military said it was changing flight patters to thwart the emerging trend.

Add to that that the much-touted crackdown in Baghdad is a flop (with violence spilling out of the security zones and continuing within) and what you have is a situation anyone in their right mind would get the hell out of, post-haste.

So?

Guess Who's Coming to the GOP Fundraiser?

| Wed Feb. 21, 2007 6:21 PM EST

jimmy_camp.gifOne of the GOP hard-hitting political campaign managers in California is a punk musician and one-time druggie who disappears for days at a time running from the police. Said chairman of the state Republican party: "Some of the more conservative (politicos) are taken aback by the tattoos and leather jacket, but that goes away as soon as they realize how good he is at what he does."

If only social conservatives could grant the rest of us the same largesse.

Read a complete (two-part) profile here and here.

Guess Who's Coming to the GOP Fundraiser?

| Wed Feb. 21, 2007 6:18 PM EST

jimmy_camp.gifOne of the GOP hard-hitting political campaign managers in California is a punk musician and one-time druggie who disappears for days at a time running from the police. Said chairman of the state Republican party: "Some of the more conservative (politicos) are taken aback by the tattoos and leather jacket, but that goes away as soon as they realize how good he is at what he does."

If only social conservatives could grant the rest of us the same largesse.

Read a complete (two-part) profile here and here.

Boys Will Be Boys, Even if They're Depressed

| Wed Feb. 21, 2007 5:45 PM EST

This week's Newsweek features a story on men and depression. It's a confusing story because women have long been known to suffer depression at twice the rates men do, and though the tone of the article is meant to suggest that scientists are finding increasing rates of depression in men, no such statistic is ever offered.

This could be a great story if it focused on how a few men actually experience depression, and what that means in our guy-centric go-get-'em culture. But, after a brief and superficial discussion of a state senator suffering from depression, the story goes on to reassure the reader that men suffer from depression in those same stereotypically male ways in which the media insists they do everything else. Here's Newsweek "discovering" its own mainstream biases in science:

In a confessional culture in which Americans are increasingly obsessed with their health, it may seem clichéd—men are from Mars, women from Venus, and all that—to say that men tend not to take care of themselves and are reluctant to own up to mental illness. But the facts suggest that, well, men tend not to take care of themselves and are reluctant to own up to mental illness.

In fact, even being mentally ill can't make American men act less like men:

Instead of talking about their feelings, men may mask them with alcohol, drug abuse, gambling, anger or by becoming workaholics. And even when they do realize they have a problem, men often view asking for help as an admission of weakness, a betrayal of their male identities.

Is this stuff for real? What about the possibility that working too much and drinking too much cause depression? This is Logic 101. Haven't scientists and science reporters learned that when you stumble upon your preconceptions, maybe it's because they are right where you left them? Here's another gem of the surprising-yourself-in-the-mirror variety:

If modern psychologists were slow to understand how men's emotions affect their behaviors, it's only because their predecessors long ago decided that having a uterus was the main risk factor for mental illness.

Or, it could be that because a disproportionate number of scientists are men, they didn't want to learn that men had feelings, too. This is the single best reason for ensuring that minorities and women are represented in all fields.

So what should we do about this new epidemic? You guessed it: First, we should suddenly take depression seriously, and call it a genuine illness instead of just some mopey bullshit your wife pulls on you. Second, we should empathize with men when they get in to bar fights and yell at their wives, because, it turns out these are symptoms of male depression! (The disease behaves entirely differently in women: Weeping women are depressed; irritable women are just bitches!) Seriously:

Depressed women often weep and talk about feeling bad; depressed men are more likely to get into bar fights, scream at their wives, have affairs or become enraged by small inconveniences like lousy service at a restaurant.

Your husband cheated on you? Give the guy a break; he's depressed! Rageaholic? Poor baby! Rather than taking the example that men also suffer from depression to indicate that perhaps our gendered expectations of them—success at all costs! Don't talk about your feelings, you girl!—may be misplaced, the article takes the opportunity to reaffirm that even depressed guys can be part of the rat race. All of the men profiled in the article are successful guys who, after taking some time off and getting medicated, go right back to their successful jobs. What hard lives they lead! It's perfect, really, because it gives us an excuse not to look more deeply into the reasons why women and some minorities are more likely to be depressed.

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John McCain Might as Well be Gay

| Wed Feb. 21, 2007 4:40 PM EST

Asked if they'd be willing to vote for a "generally well-qualified" candidate with the following characteristics, here's how Americans responded in a Feb. 9-11 Gallup poll.

Black 94%
Jewish 92%
A woman 88%
Hispanic 87%
Mormon 72%
Married for third time 67%
72 years of age 57%
A homosexual 55%
An atheist 45%

Several things stand out. First, Americans are much more tolerant of inherent characteristics (race, sex) than of things they view as a candidate's choice (religion, sexual orientation, marriage tendencies), which means we've moved past racism to simple prejudice. Take that for what it's worth.

Also, John McCain is old -- so old that his age puts him at the same disadvantage as a gay candidate for president, the very idea of which must horrify a huge portion of our (obviously) homophobic electorate and would galvanize the religious right. I suspect we should take these numbers with a grain of salt, but... wow.

(H/T Crooks and Liars)

Increase in STD Vaccines Signals Trouble for Abstinence Industry

| Wed Feb. 21, 2007 4:35 PM EST

Via Feministing, we learn that there is a new shot to prevent chlamydia in the works. It seems STD prevention in the form of needles is the new black. A few weeks back, Cameron plugged this Prospect piece on the new HPV vaccine. The article discussed that low income girls do not have access to the vaccine, due to lack of funding, but are most at risk. Today, Feministing discusses "the clam" as well as what the proliferation of STD-prevention shots could mean for the abstinence-only education industry. (Mother Jones did a profile on this billion-dollar industry in our November/December 2006 issue.)

"If the scientific community continues to develop STD vaccines, abstinence-only programs are going to have to resort to their far-weaker arguments about the emotional/moral consequences of sex rather than the straight-up medical risks."

Is There DDT in your Omega-3s?

| Wed Feb. 21, 2007 4:19 PM EST

A new study commissioned by Greenpeace [PDF] found that that OmegaPure brand omega-3 fish oil supplements contains high levels of DDT, the pesticide Dieldrin, and PCBs. Yikes. That's bad news for consumers of OmegaPure, which is made by Omega Protein, North America's biggest fish-oil producer. But as we've already reported, DDT and PCBs aren't the only reasons thoughtful consumers might want to skip OmegaPure. First of all, it's made from menhaden, an ecologically crucial fish that's in danger of being wiped out by Omega's fishery. And if you still need a fatty acid fix, there are other, less destructive options out there. Which is not to say that other fish-oil products don't contain some of the nasty stuff apparently in menhaden oil. I suspect that there's no longer such a thing as a contaminant-free fish oil.

Sadr City On the Table for Security Crackdown

| Wed Feb. 21, 2007 3:30 PM EST

The LA Times reports today that, due to political pressure from Sunnis, the U.S. military is now considering entering Sadr City as part of its security crackdown. This signifies a shift in strategy that many feared. Bush's top advisers on the recent surge warned last month that entering the Shi'ite neighborhood would "unnecessarily unite the country's now-splintered Shiite leadership" and "would almost certainly force the [Al Mehdi militia] into [a direct] confrontation with American troops." There has been careful consideration of the military's failed attempt to control the city in 2004 and that of the fact that among ruin and chaos in Baghdad, the neighborhood is a beacon of prosperity and calm (due to a hefty chunk of reconstruction funds from the government).

But according to the Times, all this consideration will likely be thrown out the window and surge advocates are doing a 180. It looks like once again, we are about to make a military error. What is most interesting about this shift is that, in part, it stems from rumors that Mehdi Army leader Muqtada al-Sadr has fled to Iran, opening a window for the U.S. military to move in. This rumor appears not to be true. Military analyst and surge adviser, Frederick Kagan also says that he "overestimated the Sadrists and underestimated Maliki." So, let's get this straight. We are going to enter a relatively secure (the surge is about security, right?) area, because of false intelligence and due to a lack of respect for our enemy.

In addition, there are broader consequences that a mistake like this could have within the Iraqi government. As Tim Grieve points out over at Salon's War Room:

Sadr and his supporters make up one of the key constituencies of the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki; if Sadr were to withdraw that support, Maliki's government might well collapse."

Rest assured, a collapse of the Iraqi government would do nothing for the security of the country. And, yes, we can't ignore the fact that Sadr City is a safe haven for the Mehdi Army and has spawned death squads, but I guarantee a few thousand troops can't do anything about that, except, maybe, make the situation worse.