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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Republicans demand HHS issue regulations restricting abortion coverage in high-risk pools

Following the issuance of an Executive Order last week stating that women in the High Risk Pools that have been set up as a temporary pools until the state-run insurance exchanges are up and running are ineligible to have an abortion, 13 Republican senators are demanding further rules preventing any woman from obtaining an abortion while enrolled in these plans, even if they pay for a separate rider out of their own pocket.  This on top of the Hyde Amendment, which already prevents the use of federal funds in the case of an abortion.

Senate Republicans on Wednesday called on the Obama administration to "act immediately" to prohibit federally funded state high-risk pools from covering elective abortion.

More from The Hill

Monday, July 26, 2010

Court Under Roberts Is Most Conservative in Decades

An interesting breakdown and analysis of the make-up of the US Supreme Court, and its concerted move to the right under Chief Justice Roberts.

When Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and his colleagues on the Supreme Court left for their summer break at the end of June, they marked a milestone: the Roberts court had just completed its fifth term. 

In those five years, the court not only moved to the right but also became the most conservative one in living memory, based on an analysis of four sets of political science data. 

And for all the public debate about the confirmation of Elena Kagan or the addition last year of Justice Sonia Sotomayor, there is no reason to think they will make a difference in the court’s ideological balance. Indeed, the data show that only one recent replacement altered its direction, that of Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in 2006, pulling the court to the right. 

UN says aid to Gaza should be delivered by land

The United Nations said Friday that groups seeking to deliver aid to Gaza should do so by land, after Israel warned it would intercept two ships seeking to break a blockade of the Palestinian enclave.

"There are established routes for supplies to enter by land. That is the way aid should be delivered to the people of Gaza," UN spokesman Martin Nesirky told a press briefing.

"Our stated preference has been and remains that aid should be delivered by established routes, particularly at a sensitive time in indirect proximity (peace) talks between Palestinians and Israelis," he added.

Nebraska abortion law may need to be reworked, AG says

A new abortion law requiring health screening for women wanting abortions in Nebraska may be flawed enough that Attorney General Jon Bruning won't exhaust all legal options to try to keep it on the books.

Bruning said Friday he is considering whether it is worth the time and expense to defend the law through what could be a lengthy appeals process, or whether a new bill should be drafted instead.

"Despite the fact I'm very pro-life, I need to be realistic in utilizing the legal resources of the state," Bruning said.

The director of a group that is challenging the screening law that lawmakers passed early this year said that Bruning's comments, combined with a federal judge's decision last week to block the law, could prevent other states from considering such a measure. It would require women wanting abortions to be screened by doctors or other health professionals to determine if they had risk factors, cited in medical journals, indicating if they could have mental or physical problems after an abortion.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Texans tip their Stetsons to Israeli business

Israel + Texas = big business for both!
 While at first glance Israel and Texas may seem worlds apart culturally and in their approaches to business, consultant Arie Brish, an Israeli-American businessman who has spent more than two decades in the State of Texas, doesn't see any dissonance. He sees tremendous potential for business deals between the two.
Read more at Israel21c

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Who's Against a Two-State Solution?

An excellent explanation of the history of the conflict in the Middle East in the last century, and a suggestion as to why peace remains so elusive. 

"Two states, living side by side in peace and security." This, in the words of President Barack Obama, is the solution to the century-long conflict between Jews and Palestinian Arabs in the Middle East. Washington is fully and determinedly on board. So are the Europeans. The UN and the "international community" vociferously agree. Successive governments of the state of Israel have shown their support for the idea. So far, there is—just as there has always been—only one holdout.
Read more from Middle East Forum

Friday, July 16, 2010

Missouri governor lets abortion law take effect

New mandates now require abortion clinics to offer women the opportunity to see ultrasound images and listen to fetal heartbeats as a result legislation in Missouri that was allowed to become law this week by Governor Jay Nixon.  Governor Nixon, instead of signing or vetoing the bill, let the bill become law by not taking any stand on it, in light of Missouri constitutional provision allowing bills to become laws without the governor's signature.

"The legislation is part of a national trend among abortion opponents to encourage women to reconsider their decisions through the use of modern medical technology.
A Planned Parenthood official said legal challenges to other states' laws offering ultrasounds generally have been unsuccessful, and its Missouri clinics are preparing to comply with the law when it takes effect Aug. 28.

"But "there are various aspects of this law that are troubling, difficult and are really just intended to make it harder for women to get safe legal abortions," said Paula Gianino, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region.

"Missouri law already requires a woman to be told of the physical and psychological risks at least 24 hours before undergoing an abortion. The new law will require consultation in person instead of over the phone and mandate that women receive a description of the "anatomical and physiological characteristics of the unborn child."
Read more from Google News

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The New Abortion Providers

An excellent expose on both the history and current status of abortion providers in the US.  Looks at how most abortions used to be performed in a hospital, but now are done at an ever shrinking number of clinics, and how doctors are starting to take back what is truly a medical procedure.  This is a long article, but well worth the read!

On a clear and mild March day in 1993, the Operation Rescue leader Randall Terry spoke at a rally in southern Florida against abortion. “We’ve found the weak link is the doctor,” he told the crowd. “We’re going to expose them. We’re going to humiliate them.” A few days later, Dr. David Gunn, an abortion provider, was shot and killed outside his clinic in Pensacola, Fla., about 500 miles away. It was the first of eight such murders, the extreme edge of what has become an anti-abortion strategy of confrontation.

Terry understood that focusing on abortion providers was possible because they had become increasingly isolated from mainstream medicine. That was not what physicians themselves anticipated after the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade. An open letter signed by 100 professors of obstetrics and gynecology predicted that free-standing clinics would be unnecessary if half of the 20,000 obstetricians in the country would do abortions for their patients, and if hospitals would handle “their proportionate share.” OB-GYNs at the time emphasized that abortion was a surgical procedure and fell under their purview.

But then most of the OB-GYNs left the stage. After Roe, the shadow of the greedy, butchering “abortionist” continued to hover, and many doctors didn’t want to stand in it. As mainstream medicine backed away, feminist activists stepped in. They set up stand-alone clinics to care for women in their moments of crisis. In many ways, the clinics were a rebel-sister success story. Instead of a sterile and expensive hospital operating room, patients could go to a low-cost clinic with pastel walls and sympathetic staff members. At a Planned Parenthood I visited recently in Rochester, while women were having abortions, they could look at photos of a Caribbean beach, taped above them on the ceiling.

But the clinics also truly came to stand alone. In 1973, hospitals made up 80 percent of the country’s abortion facilities. By 1981, however, clinics outnumbered hospitals, and 15 years later, 90 percent of the abortions in the U.S. were performed at clinics. The American Medical Association did not maintain standards of care for the procedure. Hospitals didn’t shelter them in their wings. Being a pro-choice doctor came to mean referring your patients to a clinic rather than doing abortions in your own office.  

This was never the feminist plan. “The clinics’ founders didn’t intend them to become virtually the only settings for abortion services in many communities,” says Carole Joffe, a sociologist and author of a history of the era, “Doctors of Conscience,” and a new book, “Dispatches From the Abortion Wars.”

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Judge blocks new Nebraska abortion screening law

A federal judge on Wednesday blocked a new Nebraska law requiring mental health screenings for women seeking abortions because the measure could have made it impossible to get an abortion in the state.

U.S. District Judge Laurie Smith Camp granted Planned Parenthood of the Heartland's request for a preliminary injunction against the law, which was supposed to take effect Thursday. The order will prevent the state from enforcing the law until the lawsuit challenging it is decided.

State officials have said the law is designed to make sure women understand the risks and complications that may accompany an abortion.

Smith Camp said the evidence presented so far showed that the screening law would make it harder for women to get an abortion in Nebraska by requiring screenings that could be impossible to perform under a literal reading of the law. She also said the law would make doctors who perform abortions at risk of crippling lawsuits.

Monday, July 12, 2010

MESS Report / Hezbollah has regained control over southern Lebanon

Four years after the Second Lebanon War, the Shi'ite group has managed to rebuild its military capabilities across from Israel's northern frontier. Still, most sources say it's not interested in another round of fighting. 

Four years after the Second Lebanon War, Hezbollah can credit itself with yet another achievement in its campaign against Israel: southern Lebanon is once again in its hands. According to various assessments, the Shi'ite organization has rebuilt its military capabilities north of the Litani River, where it has established a network of missile launchers any army in the world would be proud to possess. Furthermore, it has repaired the infrastructure of the Shi'ite villages south of the Litani that were severely hit in the war.

The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, which was deployed to southern Lebanon in 2006 in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1701 - passed at the end of the war - was supposed to prevent such activity. In recent months, however, UNIFIL has been harassed by Shi'ite villagers in the southern part of the country who are apparently acting on Hezbollah's orders. The international peacekeeping force, particularly its French battalion, has been repeatedly humiliated by the local population. Villagers have hurled stones and eggs at them, and have even seized soldiers' weapons. UNIFIL's commander, Maj. Gen. Alberto Asarta Cuevas, this week asked the Lebanese government to protect his troops. 

The confrontation Hezbollah initiated with the French contingent has renewed the internal debate in Lebanon - between the Shi'ite organization and the Al-Mustaqbal camp headed by Lebanese Prime Minister Said Hariri (and thought to be under French patronage ). While Hezbollah hinted that UNIFIL's French battalion is serving "foreign" (namely, Israeli ) interests, Hariri flew to Paris to conciliate President Nicolas Sarkozy and clarify that Lebanon is interested in keeping French troops on its soil. 

Read more... 

PM Netanyahu addresses Conference of Presidents of American Jewish Organizations

I had a very good meeting with President Obama yesterday. We discussed those issues that formed the common bond between Israel and the United States. I'm speaking now in the city of New York. New York was bombed several years ago. There were reactions that were different throughout the Middle East. In many places there were celebrations. In Israel people wept. They grieved because we view ourselves as part of that same civilization that the United States of America represents - a free, pluralistic, democratic society. America has no better friend, no better ally than the State of Israel.

The President and I discussed Iran, and he reiterated his determination to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. We discussed the sanctions of the Security Council that formed an international consensus about the lack of legitimacy of Iran's pursuit to develop atomic bombs. That's important. Equally important were the sanctions that were signed by the President the other day - they have teeth. It's important that other countries follow suit with sanctions with teeth. That means that they bite into Iran's energy sector.

I cannot tell you that this will stop Iran's nuclear program. I think that it's important to understand however, that it must be stopped and I welcome the determination and the clarity that this issue that I've been talking about for fifteen years and it was the first thing that I discussed in my first term as Prime Minister before a joint session of the U.S. Congress. I said that there is no greater threat to humanity than the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran and today the greatest threat is still that the world's most dangerous regimes acquire the world's most dangerous weapons. This must not be allowed to happen. Iran must not be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons.

We also discussed our quest for peace with the Palestinians. I outlined my vision of a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish State of Israel. Now let me be clear about the elements of this vision. I said a demilitarized Palestinian state. First of all, we don't want to govern the Palestinians and we don't want them to be either our subjects or citizens of the country. But we also want to make sure that they have their own independent dignified life, but that they don't threaten the State of Israel.


Wednesday, July 07, 2010

UN celebrates a 'watershed day' for women

Global body launched: The fight against rape, female circumcision, child mortality and poor healthcare takes on a higher priority.

Some 65 years after it was founded, and after decades of reports on every species of sex discrimination and its wasteful effects, the United Nations has decided to set up a single, powerful body to promote equality for women around the world.
The General Assembly voted unanimously on Friday to launch a new agency called UN Women. It will begin its work in January, have a high-level leader, probably twice the $250m annual budget now allocated to gender issues, and will be tasked with challenging governments on women's plights and rights.
UN Women will press hard for women to have a more widespread and prominent role in politics, and also try to reduce some of the world's more glaring discriminations. These include lack of access to health and education, forced marriages, rape, female cicumcision, and trafficking. Diplomats at the Assembly greeted news of the new body with spontaneous applause as the decision was announced with a rap of its president's gavel. "This is truly a watershed day," said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. "Member states have created a much stronger voice for women and for gender equality at the global level. It will now be much more difficult for the world to ignore the challenges facing women and girls or to fail to take the necessary action."

Jindal signs abortion regulation bills

Women getting abortions in Louisiana will be required to get ultrasounds, and doctors who perform elective abortions won't be covered under medical malpractice laws after Gov. Bobby Jindal signed those latest restrictions on the procedure into law Tuesday.

Also signed by Jindal, according to the governor's office, was a ban on coverage for elective abortions in the insurance purchasing pools set up by the federal health overhaul legislation.

No exceptions are allowed under any of the bills for victims of rape or incest. The only exceptions are for abortions when a mother's life is in danger.

Each measure prompted opposition that it would further restrict access for women, but the ultrasound requirement received the most vigorous debate during the recently ended legislative session.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Obama, Netanyahu promise to work toward direct Mideast peace talks

President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Tuesday pledged to work toward a new round of direct Mideast peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, with Netanyahu saying discussions could begin within the next several weeks.

The two men expressed confidence that preliminary discussions hosted by the United States will lead to direct negotiations over a new peace in the region, but they acknowledged that a final agreement will be difficult and require sacrifice.

"Those are goals that have obviously escaped out grasp for decades now," Obama said as the two leaders completed an hour-long discussion in the Oval Office. "It's going to be difficult. It's going to be hard."

Obama added: "I believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu wants peace. I think he's willing to take risks for peace." The president did not offer a timetable but said he was encouraged that so-called proximity talks being led by former Sen. George Mitchell will lead to the direct discussions.