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Happy (Forced) Mother’s Day!

[NB: check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

Hope all of the mothers in our community are having a restful Sunday, whether mothers in fact or mothers of invention.

Not wishing a happy day to this senator, however.

Remember this GOP senator’s freakish fundie-speak rebuttal to President Biden’s State of the Union? She’s back with an attempt to move this country ever closer to Gilead of The Handmaid’s Tale.

She and 13 co-sponsors — Sen. Rubio (R-FL), Sen. Cramer (R-ND), Sen. Daines (R-MT), Sen. Grassley (R-IA), Sen. Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Sen. Marshall (R-KS), Sen. Moran (R-KS), Sen. Ricketts (R-NE), Sen. Rounds (R-SD), Sen. Schmitt (R-MO), Sen. Tillis (R-NC), Sen. Wicker (R-MS), and Sen. Lankford (R-OK) — submitted S.4296, the “More Opportunities for Moms to Succeed Act,” a.k.a. the “MOMS Act” this past week.

As Salon and the Guardian reported, the bill creates a database which allows the federal government to track persons who use a government-developed and hosted website, “pregnancy.gov,” while seeking information and resources related to pregnancy.

The bill may initially look innocuous to those who aren’t familiar with how websites work, but one doesn’t have to read very deeply to see this is horrifying:

11 “(a) WEBSITE. — Not later than 1 year after the date
12 of enactment of this section, the Secretary shall publish
13 a public website entitled ‘pregnancy.gov’. The Secretary
14 may not delegate implementation or administration of the
15 website below the level of the Office of the Secretary. The
16 website shall include the following:
17 “(1) A clearinghouse of relevant resources
18 available for pregnant and postpartum women, and
19 women parenting young children.

[page] 3
1 “(2) A series of questions through which a user
2 is able to generate a list of relevant resources of in-
3 terest within the user’s zip code.
4 “(3) A means to direct the user to identify
5 whether to list the relevant resources of interest that
6 are available online or within 1, 5, 10, 50, and 100
7 miles of the user.
8 “(4) A mechanism for users to take an assess-
9 ment through the website and provide consent to use
10 the user’s contact information, which the Secretary
11 may use to conduct outreach via phone or email to
12 follow up with users on additional resources that
13 would be helpful for the users to review.

The server on which the website is hosted would capture the user’s IP address. That’s normal for all web servers. Because we don’t have a national standard curriculum for computers and networks, the average American will not understand they shed this information whenever they visit any website.

If the prospective user then seeks any resource near them, they may not only validate their physical location but pregnancy or postpartum status.

Someone from Health and Human Services could follow up with them — *shudder* — although the bill gives a weak nod to consent.

If they speak other than English — think asylum seekers here — their ethnic/national identity might be deduced by this bit on page 5 of the bill:

3 “(d) SERVICES IN DIFFERENT LANGUAGES.— The
4 Secretary shall ensure that the website provides the widest
5 possible access to services for families who speak lan-
6 guages other than English.

Worse, all this data will be reported to Congress:

7 “(e) REPORTING REQUIREMENTS.—
8 “(1) IN GENERAL.— Not later than 180 days
9 after the date on which the website is established
10 under this section, the Secretary shall submit to
11 Congress a report on—
12 “(A) the traffic of the website;
13 “(B) user feedback on the accessibility and
14 helpfulness of the website in tailoring to the
15 user’s needs;
16 “(C) insights on gaps in relevant resources
17 with respect to services for pregnant and
18 postpartum women, or women parenting young
19 children;
20 “(D) suggestions on how to improve user
21 experience and accessibility based on user feed-
22 back and missing resources that would be help-
23 ful to include in future updates; and

[page] 6
1 “(E) certification that no prohibited enti-
2 ties are listed as a relevant resource or are in
3 receipt of a grant under subsection (b)(3).
4 “(2) CONFIDENTIALITY.— The report under
5 paragraph (1) shall not include any personal identi-
6 fying information regarding individuals who have
7 used the website.

The confidentiality requirement is a fucking joke. Once this data is released to Congress, it’d be far too easy to hunt down the users. It’s yet another opportunity to breach users’ privacy, just like every other website and application for any purpose.

There’s nothing helpful about this at all. It’s a means to allow the federal government directly into women’s uteruses across the country, not exactly small government.

This also blows away the idea of states’ rights when it comes to regulating reproductive rights, though the states are supposed to provide the contact information of approved Gilead resources to be offered through this national website. If states want to offer pregnancy or postpartum resources they can do that through state health departments. They don’t need the feds harvesting this data in a central repository.

The really aggravating part about this bill? The creation of yet more federal and state government bureaucracy intended to get deep into mothers’ and prospective mothers’ crotches, while a non-governmental solution has existed for years with federal support through block grants, eventually suppressed by far-right anti-reproductive rights lawmakers and the orange hellbeast.

Maybe you’ve even heard of it before — it’s a national nonprofit called Planned Parenthood.

~ ~ ~

Comment Operations Note

You may have noticed a change in the comments system this week. After many complaints about comments being unreadable after fourth or fifth reply to a reply to a comment especially on mobile devices, the maximum width of threaded nested comments has been set to four.

In other words, this is what will be permitted as seen on a desktop:

A fifth reply to the fourth comment in this thread will not see a Reply button.

If you wish to leave a reply to that fourth comment, preface the comment with the user’s name and date/time of the comment to which you wish to reply. You can also pick up the link to that comment by right-clicking on the date/time and then pasting into the preface of your reply. Example:

Rayne (edit)

Reply to Legonaut, May 3, 2024 at 6:11 pm

Nice or Noise?

Not an actual reply in that thread, just an example of how to leave a fifth-wide comment and what it will look like.

Will it slow your comments down? Sorry, yes, it may, but if you really feel compelled to share a comment this is a trade-off for readability. What good is your comment if it can’t be read by a substantial portion of the EW community?

I should also add here that wordy comments lacking concision have also helped force this change. You know who you are; think more about your audience here because even at four wide, some comments will still be challenging on mobile devices. Under the previous setting, those overlong comments acted like a Denial of Service to other readers.

There will be more changes to comments in the near future, though a couple tweaks to the righthand sidebar will happen first. Watch for them.

~ ~ ~

Treat this as an open thread.

The Supreme Court Has Always Been Terrible

Index to posts in this series

The Civil Rights Cases

The Slaughterhouse Cases and US v. Cruikshank are preludes to the final gutting of the Reconstruction Amendments in The Civil Rights Cases, decided in 1883. Earlier bills aimed at insuring the full citizenship of Black people were struck down by the Supreme Court but Congress kept trying, passing another Civil Rights Act in 1875.

The new law required all businesses to serve people equally regardless of race or prior condition of servitude. The Civil Rights Cases are a consolidated group of cases brought by Black people to enforce their right stay in a hotel, to visit a theater, to sit in the dress circle of a theater, and for Black women to ride in the Ladies Car on a railroad. The Court struck down the law on the same grounds as cases linked above. I have two further observations.

1. Writing for the majority, Joseph Bradley writes:

We have … felt, in all its force, the weight of authority which always invests a law that Congress deems itself competent to pass. But the responsibility of an independent judgment is now thrown upon this court, and we are bound to exercise it according to the best lights we have.

Bradley doesn’t say who threw the “responsibility of an independent judgment” onto him. He uses the passive voice to hide it. We know it can only come from the minds of the members of the Court. He also knew he could get away with this outrageous assertion of power. By 1883 Congress was controlled by the Democrats, then the part of White Supremacy, so they didn’t care. The presidency, then at a low ebb in power, was irrelevant.

The lives and liberty of Black people didn’t count, and nothing was left of the Reconstruction Amendments.

2. To add insult to injury Bradley offered this argument.

When a man has emerged from slavery, and, by the aid of beneficent legislation, has shaken off the inseparable concomitants of that state, there must be some stage in the progress of his elevation when he takes the rank of a mere citizen and ceases to be the special favorite of the laws, and when his rights as a citizen or a man are to be protected in the ordinary modes by which other men’s rights are protected. There were thousands of free colored people in this country before the abolition of slavery, enjoying all the essential rights of life, liberty and property the same as white citizens, yet no one at that time thought that it was any invasion of his personal status as a freeman because he was not admitted to all the privileges enjoyed by white citizens, or because he was subjected to discriminations in the enjoyment of accommodations in inns, public conveyances and places of amusement. Mere discriminations on account of race or color were not regarded as badges of slavery.

The Supreme Court had struck down that “beneficent legislation”. Bradley knew about the Colfax Massacre. He knew the army had been sent in to stop murderous groups like the KKK. He know about lynchings, rapes, robberies, and mob violence. He knew that states refused to protect Black citizens, and that Congress was trying to fill the gap. He knew full well the intent of the Reconstruction Amendments was to enable the federal government to protect Black Citizens. He just didn’t care.

Bradley would fit right in with the MAGA SCOTUS of today.

Our Current SCOTUS Doesn’t Care About The Consequences of Its Decisions

Three examples will suffice.

Gun Case. Here’s a section of the oral argument in Macdonald v. City of Chicago.

… BREYER: You’re saying they can have — no matter what, that the City just can’t have guns even if they’re saving hundreds of lives — they can’t ban them.

….

… SCALIA: There’s a lot of statistical disagreement on whether the Miranda rule saves lives or not, whether it results in the release of dangerous people who have confessed to their crime, but the confession can’t be used. We don’t — we don’t resolve questions like that on the basis of statistics, do we?

Miranda is not analogous, and the intellectual fraud Scalia knew it. The statistics the odious Scalia is talking about are real dead and injured people. Like this child. Scalia doesn’t care about these murders or what guns and gun violence do to our society. He thinks his views of the intent of the Founders are more important. He thinks the Founders would sacrifice thousands of dead people for the right to waltz around with an AR-15.

The OSHA Rule. Here’s a snippet from oral argument on the OSHA Covid vaxx or test rule.

… ROBERTS: No, it’s not so much that OSHA has less power. It’s that the idea that this is specific to particular agencies really doesn’t hold much water when you’re picking them off one by –one by one.

I think maybe it should be analyzed more broadly as this is, in effect, an effort to cover the waterfront. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing.

But I don’t know that we should try to find, okay, what specific thing can we find to say, oh, this is covered by OSHA? What specific thing can we find to say that this is covered by the hospitals? What specific thing can we find to say, oh, no, we’re doing this because this is a federal contractor?

It seems to me that the more and more mandates that pop up in different agencies, it’s fair –I wonder if it’s not fair for us to look at the Court as a general exercise of power by the federal government and then ask the questions of, well, why doesn’t Congress have a say in this, and why don’t the –why doesn’t this be the primary responsibility of the states?

Roberts is saying it’s suspicious that Biden (and Trump before him) marshaled all government agencies to deal with the pandemic. He’s going to decide how the government can respond, no matter what the statutes say, and as Elizabeth Prelogar, the Solicitor General responds, he could just read the statute. But you won’t see Roberts taking any blame for the people who died, or spent days or weeks in intensive care, or got long Covid, because of his decision. For him, that’s just statistics. He doesn’t care.

Abortion. In Dobbs v. Jackson Whole Women’s Health Alito says SCOTUS doesn’t have to follow precedent, meaning Roe v. Wade, in part because no one can prove they rely on it. Reliance requires proof that one is planning in advance based on the precedent. No one plans to get pregnant then get an abortion. Presto, no reliance. There’s more, and it just gets more cruel.

Alito ignores the actual effect of Roe v. Wade: that women and their families can control their own lives, that their lives are valuable. The abstract idea that states should have a say in women’s lives is more important than an unknown number of deaths, thousands of dangerous pregnancies, and loss of dignity as citizens. Alito doesn’t care.

Conclusion

The Constitution doesn’t give SCOTUS the final say on our rights. It doesn’t say SCOTUS has the unrestrained power to throw out laws and rules created by the elected branches. That’s all invented by SCOTUS itself, taking power and control away from democratically-elected officials.

The Fox News Six would repeat every decision of the Reconstruction Era Supreme Court. They follow in the footsteps of people who don’t care.

Senate Democrats’ Unanimous Fail

[NB: check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

This is fucking maddening.

Not one bloody Democrat voted against this unnecessary crap. Local police could do more to enforce ordinances against noise and the lack of protest permits but you had go on the record supporting this fascist suppression of First Amendment speech instead.

Perhaps these Senate Dems were thinking ahead to the day Ketanji Brown Jackson is sworn in as a justice and needs protection. But without any statement to the Democratic base explaining this, the base can only assume they are protecting from First Amendment-protected protests the fascist wing of the SCOTUS which is intent on destroying women’s rights to autonomy.

While Senate Dems’ unanimously support protecting fascist jurists from their neighbors who aren’t happy with them, or gods forbid, the horrors of chalked messages on sidewalks like those which terrified Sen. Susan Collins…

…this is what’s going on in Realityville, USA.

The patient in this thread would have been dead in states where zero tolerance abortion laws have been or will be passed.

She’d tried to avoid getting pregnant and it still wasn’t enough to stop an ectopic pregnancy which threatened her life.

The patient in this next thread would have been prosecuted.

She didn’t even know she was pregnant, but if there had been any misinterpretation of her symptoms and history she would have been prosecuted for aborting the fetus.

As she notes women have already been prosecuted for miscarriages.

While Senate Democrats unanimously supported protections for SCOTUS against so-scary First Amendment protests, states are moving to eliminate women’s basic human rights — like traveling to another state for health care.

Because treating women’s reproductive organs is health care and Texas can’t have that.

Somewhere soon, within hours or days, women are going to begin to die from these anti-abortion, anti-women laws passed in red states. The first will be women with ectopic pregnancies who will bleed out while hospital employees stand around and tell her they can’t do anything about it though the mortal threat can be treated by aborting the unviable pregnancy.

Partitions between states will appear as new state laws are introduced, creating what are little more than concentration camps for women — yes, concentration camps because Texas women of childbearing age will not be able to leave Texas if there’s any possibility they may be pregnant.

Imagine having to take a pregnancy test before being allowed to cross a state line; it’s not an outside possibility.

These laws within these partitioned states will deny fundamental human rights to a class of citizens.

We’ve seen this before and fought a civil war over it.

But do pat yourselves on the back, Senate Democrats — you’ve ensured the Supreme Court’s fascist faction which leaked the salvo setting off this cryptic civil war is protected from women writing poignant demands on the sidewalk in front of their homes.

Go, you. Especially you, Sen. Chris Coons. How bipartisan of you to work with the concentration camp state’s Sen. John Cornyn. Don’t let the appearance of two white men get in the way of shepherding a bill intended to assure the abolition of rights for more than half the population doesn’t inconvenience the people who will ensure those rights are abolished.

[graphic: Hurricane Maria, 20SEP2017, via NASA GOES]

Three Things: Was Slow Response to Hurricane Maria Deliberate?

NB: First, a call to action at the bottom — come back and read this after you’ve read the call. Don’t let last night’s tragedy swamp effective action; Congress continues its work no matter what tragedies befall the rest of us.

Having worked in both site and systems administration with responsibility for business continuity, I can’t help wonder why the post-hurricane response to Puerto Rico’s devastation was so bad — so bad it looks deliberate.

~ 3 ~

As an administrator, I looked ahead a year or more to mitigate both costs and risks to my employer and stakeholders. Budget roof repairs expenses for this year, budget roof replacement capital next year; replace the analog alarm system with digital system, budgeted last year. It’s pretty dull stuff but all it takes is one break-in, or one bad storm, and the losses from damage and business disruption could easily surpass capital and expense budgets combined.

But what of states and territories? State/territory, local and federal governments do what they can within the plodding framework of legislation, regulation, and budgetary requirements and restraints. Sometimes things just can’t be addressed preemptively, like major storms. Fortunately, there’s adequate monitoring to help predict when they will hit and what the likely impact will be, and there’s the awesome power of the largest military in the world to deploy as needed.

We have monitoring like NASA’s GOES satellite imaging, which visually tracked Hurricane Maria from birth to death as a weakened tropical storm.

And NOAA’s Hurricane Center, which makes accurate assessments of timing and strength of a storm’s impact.

Not to mention whatever additional monitoring and reporting the Defense Department had to offer.

We know with certainty the U.S. government was aware from NASA and NOAA reporting that Maria was a Category 5 storm as it approached Puerto Rico. The National Hurricane Center issued 17 reports over four days warning of the storm’s size, strength, and timing of landfall. I can’t imagine government agencies offering any less now than they did under the last administration.

And yet the Trump White House did virtually nothing to prepare for storm response.

You’d think that a guy with experience managing real estate and businesses for continuity would have utilized these best-on-earth notifications to mitigate and recover injury and damage to Puerto Rican Americans and their property. But for some reason this same guy now occupying the White House spent his time harping about NFL players and golfing instead.

~ 2 ~

This tweet thread crossed my timeline last week; I wondered who leaked and why there was so little followup, because the claim it makes is quite serious. (Click to expand the thread in Twitter.)

If this claim is accurate, the Trump White House sat on its tiny mittens and did absolutely nothing to approve a response to a major catastrophe which was expected with a very high degree of certainty to devastate an American territory home to ~3.5 million citizens.

If this happened five days AFTER landfall, was nothing done by the White House BEFORE Maria made landfall?

It’s not as if taking proactive action was difficult, either. I am certain government agencies and the Defense Department were ready to move with plans they’ve had prepared for some time, tweaked for this particular event. All it would take is a simple verbal Yes to proceed.

Or an executive order which we all know this White House can produce like so much facial tissue.

~ 1-a ~

All the monitoring and reporting provided to the White House, from NOAA and NASA to Defense Department, was budgeted and authorized by Congress for the purposes of serving American citizens. The public expects a level of performance for the taxes they pay; monitoring and reporting on weather and risks from weather are but part of their expectations.

American citizens expect and pay for their government to deliver effective and timely response when their domestic tranquility and general welfare are disrupted, whether nation-state or weather- and climate-based threats. They do not expect to be left without clean water, no minimum shelter, no emergency health care, let alone an empty wallet depleted by taxation which paid for common defense they didn’t receive.

Why have Puerto Rican Americans not received the same level of government responsiveness and services their fellow citizens have received post-hurricane Harvey and Irma?

Why can’t we get a straight answer about the White House’s planning in response to Hurricane Maria two to three days after landfall? Is it because the lack of any response is as bad as the lack of preparation — utterly missing, perhaps deliberately so?

At some point this isn’t about the White House and its executive function. It’s about Congress which has failed to ensure the executive knows exactly what is expected of it and what action should be nearly automatic from the executive office.

Oh, but that’s too much legislation, conservatives will say. No — it’s inadequate existing legislation which has incorrectly assumed for too long a competent manager will execute U.S. laws. It’s too many sick, injured, dying, dead Americans in the wake of ineffective governance.

And it’s inadequate action on the part of Congress to tolerate an incompetent executive.

To be concise, more than one branch of government failed Americans.

And those branches now have blood on their hands.

Do something about this before more Americans die. Do more than hold a hearing.

~ 1-b ~

By the way, FEMA’s Brock Long has proven himself an idiot. He should be given the boot.

An under-funded agency could land two rovers successfully on Mars and operate them for years to conduct research, but humanitarian response to a predicted hurricane utilizing the largest standing military on earth is too complicated? Fuck that.

And fuck this guy — I don’t even know who this pasty slack-handed suit is, but he can take his lies and shove them sideways. The storm did NOT cause you and your co-workers to be idiots and liars, boy.

~ 0 ~

Call to Action: Congress continues to work on bills regardless of the tragedy in Las Vegas or the growing catastophic death toll in Puerto Rico. Your efforts helped kill the last ACA repeal attempt formerly known as Graham-Cassidy. These are our next challenges.

CHIP expired at midnight Saturday night. Congress left for the weekend allowing health care funding for 9 million American children to expire. Not much better than President Cheeto going golfing while ignoring Puerto Rico. Call your representatives and demand CHIP funding be addressed immediately. Script for the Wyden-Hatch bipartisan CHIP bill here — note also you may need to call your state officials as well.

Net Neutrality is back on the bubble. FCC chair Ajit Pai has consistently attacked it throughout his brief tenure, sucking up to the telecom industry while ignoring the public’s best interests. Call your representatives and demand net neutrality be assured by voting NO on another five-year term for Pai as chair. Script for your call here. VOTE IS SCHEDULED TODAY — HURRY. Get a leg on this before AT&T persuades the Supreme Court to wade in.

Guns on schedule this week: a bill to approve the sale of gun silencers. Las Vegas’s mass shooting last night should be proof enough that “hearing protection” for shooters is the last thing Congress should worry about. The bill also allows the sale of armor-piercing ammunition. Hell, no. Script for your House rep, and script for your Senators.

A vote to make abortion illegal at 20 weeks on tap tomorrow. No. No freaking way. You may not like abortion, but read this piece — imagine the emotional and physical horror for a woman and her family as she is forced by law to carry a non-viable fetus to term. This decision should be between her, her partner, and her doctor. Make the call.

Congress’ switchboard number is (202) 224-3121. Don’t be like the guy in the White House when you can see action is needed.

Wednesday: This One Day

In this roundup: British fascists rise, smart fridge serves porn, and a Zika overview.

Today’s featured short film by Crystal Moselle is about finding one’s tribe, finding one’s place, crossing the threshold to adulthood in the safety of community. Men may not feel this one as keenly as women will. Many of us are skating alone, running into obstacles set before us simply because we are. With a little support we could skate the world.

Love how Bikini Kill’s Rebel Girl plays us out at the end. That.

Brexit and broken

  • Ian Dunt: Tories have become Ukip (Politics.co.uk) — Op-ed looks at UK’s Conservative Party and its aggressive shift toward white nationalism.
  • No joke: UK’s Home Secretary sounds like a Nazi (LBC) — Seriously, read the link. Can’t tell Amber Rudd’s speech from Hitler’s Mein Kampf.
  • The Daily Mail as Tories’ key influencer (OpenDemocracy) — Anthony Barnett looks at the Mail’s succession to Murdoch’s right-wing propaganda mill. The Mail was one of the two largest traditional media influences on right-wing politicians and Brexit voters (the other being NewsCorp’s The Sun); an American parallel would be the shift in media influence on public opinion as Fox News gave way to a more rightest, Trump-friendly CNN. We don’t trust CNN any more than we do Fox, and the UK shouldn’t trust the Mail any more than it should trust The Sun.
  • Theresa May’s Tory Conference speech: fascism wearing a progressive mask (VICE) — May isn’t well known by either UK or US public; her speech this week to her own party gave us a better look at the politician, and she’s not at all pretty. May uses progressive language to make her case, but what she’s really pushing is outright fascism.
  • Unwinding a country rich in diversity (OpenDemocracy) — University of Birmingham lecturer and Oxford University research associate Nando Sigona looks at the United Kingdom as an EU citizen. How does a small but densely populated country — land mass the size of Michigan with a population equal to California and Texas combined — move away from the diversity which has made it rich for millennia? Imagine one of those U.S. states (MI/CA/TX) suddenly telling anyone not ‘native’ to that state to leave; what would it do to that state, let alone the people who must leave? It’s not tenable.
  • 80th anniversary of East London’s Battle of Cable Street (Guardian) — The British have apparently forgotten their history and are now condemned to repeat it. Who is this generation’s Oswald Mosely: Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, Michael Gove, Theresa May? With attacks on immigrants increasing, the new blackshirts already make their presence known; they only lack a Mosely.

Still skeptical about Tories’ aggression? Just look at this tweet from Tim Colburne, former deputy chief of staff for LibDem Party’s Nick Clegg. This is not the work of a party working for business interests. We are watching a new Nazism rapidly engulfing the United Kingdom. I doubt it will remain united much longer at this pace.

Keep in mind some of the foreign workers and children the Tories (and Ukip) want identified are U.S. citizens.

Elsewhat, elsewhere

Cybernia, ho!

  • Ireland not happy about the Yahoo email scandal (ITNews-AU) — Ireland wants to know if Yahoo’s scanning emails on behalf of U.S. government compromises Irish citizens’ privacy. Germany’s Fabio de Masi, a member of the European Parliament, has also asked for more details. Yahoo’s scanning could put the brakes on a US-EU data sharing agreement.
  • Alleged terror plotter charged, had operating system in cufflink (Guardian) — Located in Cardiff, Wales, the accused also possessed a book on missile guidance and control; he was responsible for a blog with information about Isis and cyber-security guidance.
  • Smart refrigerator – now with Pornhub (The Register) — Didn’t manufacturers clue in about so-called smart refrigerators a couple years ago after they were hacked? Clearly not if it’s still possible to hijack displays on Internet of Things devices for porn.

Longread: Overview on Zika
This is a decent meta piece in Omni magazine. Article also points out simple preventive interventions to reduce Zika infections: air conditioning and window screens. Also suggests implementing these in Africa where other arbovirus diseases are endemic, like yellow fever, dengue, chikunguya as well as Zika — except AC will create a greater demand for electricity as well as manufacturing pressure for screens. Also doesn’t really deal with the fact more people are outside during daylight hours in warmer climates, and those who work outdoors (like farmers) have no choice. More comprehensive research on arboviruses is needed and work toward vaccines is probably cheaper, faster, and less taxing to the environment than scaling up electricity and manufacturing. Worth a read if flawed.

Phew. That’s enough for today. Thankfully it’s downhill from here. Catch you later!

Monday: American Mouth

In this roundup: Volkswagen vacillations, disappointments a la Colombia, UK, Hungary (and don’t forget Poland!), anthropocene extinction, and maybe a straggling bit at the end to get this Monday on the road. Read more

Pakistan’s Geo Now Accused of Blasphemy: That Couldn’t Happen Here, Could It?

Just under a month ago, Pakistan’s largest private television news station was engaged in a dispute with Pakistan’s intelligence agency, ISI, over charges that the ISI was behind an assassination attempt on one of its anchors. For Geo, those probably seem like the good old days, because now the station is engaged in a controversy that has already caused a proliferation of lawsuits and threatens to erupt into massive vigilante violence against Geo employees and buildings. Reuters describes the threats Geo now faces and how the situation came about:

Pakistan’s biggest television station said it was ramping up security on Tuesday after it became the object of dozens of blasphemy accusations for playing a song during an interview with an actress.

Geo Television is scrubbing logos off its vans and limiting staff movements after receiving scores of threats over allegedly blasphemous content, said channel president Imran Aslam.

“This is a well-orchestrated campaign,” he told Reuters. “This could lead to mob violence.”

/snip/

The cases allege a traditional song was sung about the marriage of Prophet Muhammad’s daughter at the same time a pair of shoes was raised.

Both elements are traditional in a wedding ceremony but the timing was insulting to Islam, dozens of petitioners have alleged. Others allege the song itself was insulting.

Lawsuits arising from the incident are proliferating. The Express Tribune has a partial list of the cases filed recently here.

But the Reuters article points out that under Pakistani law, blasphemy itself is not actually defined clearly:

Blasphemy carries the death penalty in Pakistan but is not defined by law; anyone who says their religious feelings have been hurt for any reason can file a case.

But it gets even wilder. It turns out that a rival station is now also accused of blasphemy. Why? Because they repeatedly played snippets of the original program carried on Geo. And Reuters points out that blasphemy cases also are dangerous for judges and attorneys, as well:

Advocate Tariq Asad said his suit named the singers and writers of the song, cable operators, television regulators, a national council of clerics and ARY, a rival television station.

ARY repeatedly broadcast clips of the morning show, alleging it was blasphemous, an action that Asad said was blasphemous in itself.

Judges frequently do not want to hear evidence in blasphemy cases because the repetition of evidence could be a crime. Judges acquitting those accused of blasphemy have been attacked; a defense lawyer representing a professor accused of blasphemy was killed this month.

So just repeating the blasphemous material, even as a judge or attorney citing it in court, is a blasphemous act in itself worthy of vigilante action.

But of course, nothing so outrageous could happen here in the US, could it? Sadly, such a ridiculous state of affairs doesn’t seem that far off here. Note that politicians, even leading candidates for the US Senate, now openly state that “Government cannot force citizens to violate their religious beliefs under any circumstances” and even that such stances are not negotiable in any way. But that’s not just a campaign stance. We have companies now going to the Supreme Court to state their right to ignore laws to which they object on religious grounds.

So if both politicians and companies now openly advocate to ignore laws on religious grounds, how far away are we from these same zealots advocating for prison terms or even death sentences for those who offend their religious sensibilities? After all, we have already seen a bit of the vigilantism that goes along with such attitudes.

Update: It turns out that the incident with ISI hadn’t blown over yet. Breaking news from Dawn:

A committee formed by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) has suspended the licences of three television channels owned by the Geo TV network.

The committee has also decided that Geo TV offices be immediately sealed.

However, a final decision on the revocation of the licences will be announced following the meeting on May 28, which will also be attended by government representatives.

The committee, which includes members Syed Ismail Shah, Pervez Rathore and Israr Abbasi, was tasked to review the Ministry of Defence’s application filed against Geo TV network for leveling allegations against an intelligence agency of Pakistan.

It will be interesting to see how Geo responds.

Verboten: Vagina and Vasectomy

In spite of the fact that MI’s economy–which had been turning around–is now turning back down again, the Republicans who run Lansing are busy enacting new restrictions on abortion and contraception. Busy with that, and busy silencing two state Reps who had the audacity to say “vagina” and “vasectomy” on the House floor.

Representatives Lisa Brown and Barb Byrum, both Democrats, were barred from participating in debates Thursday because they were “disrupting decorum” during debate on Wednesday over three bills that would put restrictions on abortions, said Ari Adler, spokesman for House Speaker Jase Bolger.

The cause of Brown’s gag order was this statement, which she made during a floor speech opposing a bill that would prohibit abortions after 20 weeks: “I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but no means no.”

Byrum’s speaking privileges were revoked after the state congresswoman shouted multiple times at the legislature’s chairman that she should be given a chance to speak on her amendment, a chance she was not given during debate Wednesday.

Byrum’s amendment, which ABC apparently doesn’t want to talk about either, was to require men to show medical necessity before getting a vasectomy.

Byrum caused a stir when she marched through the House gallery Wednesday protesting that she hadn’t been allowed to speak on her amendment to the anti-abortion bill that would have required a man to have proof of a medical emergency before he could have a vasectomy.

“It’s my impression that I’m being banned from speaking as a result of my use of the term vasectomy — a medical procedure,” Byrum told The Huffington Post.

Now that the national press has wondered what kind of neanderthals ban the use of vagina (they’re afraid to talk about that other V-word), Republicans have responded by making their “issues” clear.

“They behaved in a way that disrupted the decorum of the House,” [House Majority Leader’s spokesperson Ari] Adler said. “For Brown, it was not the words she used, but the way she used them that resulted in her being gaveled down.” In Byrum’s case, Adler said, “I hate to put it this way, but she essentially had a temper tantrum on the House floor.”

When women try to ask men to be held to the same terms as women, you see, it amounts to a temper tantrum.