Welcome to ThinkProgress Economy?s morning link roundup. This is what we?re reading. Have you seen any interesting news? Let us know in the comments section. You can also follow ThinkProgress Economy on Twitter.
While states across the nation are imposing new restrictions on abortion procedures, California advanced legislation yesterday to expand access to a first-trimester abortions. Under a senate measure, “nurse practitioners, nurse midwives and physician assistants would be able to perform what is known as an ‘aspiration’ abortion, which is the most common abortion procedure and takes place in the first trimester of a pregnancy.” A separate bill advanced in an Assembly Committee “passed a separate bill that would expand access to birth control by allowing registered nurses to dispense the medication.” Supporters of both measures hope that the bills would expand the accessibility and affordability of the procedures, especially for women who live in rural areas (where 97 percent of rural counties have no abortion provider). Significantly, the expansion is also safe: a five-year study conducted by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco “found that nurse practitioners, midwives and physician assistants can perform the abortions as safely as physicians.”
A round-up of the top climate and energy news. Please post additional links below.
Governments are falling badly behind on low-carbon energy, putting carbon reduction targets out of reach and pushing the world to the brink of catastrophic climate change, the world’s leading independent energy authority will warn on Wednesday. “The world’s energy system is being pushed to breaking point,” Maria van der Hoeven, executive director of the International Energy Agency, writes in today’s Guardian. “Our addiction to fossil fuels grows stronger each year. Many clean energy technologies are available but they are not being deployed quickly enough to avert potentially disastrous consequences.” [Guardian]
Van der Hoeven said: “The current state of affairs is unacceptable precisely because we have a responsibility and a golden opportunity to act. Energy-related CO2 emissions are at historic highs, and under current policies, we estimate that energy use and CO2 emissions would increase by a third by 2020, and almost double by 2050. This would be likely to send global temperatures at least 6C [11F] higher within this century.”
Speaking during an automotive conference in Detroit on Tuesday, Jeff Immelt — whose company is a key supplier to automakers producing electric cars — said GE is “committed to long-term development” of alternative-fuel vehicles. The executive shrugged off the perception that electric cars are just novelties and said the industry needs to find solutions to cost and infrastructure challenges. [Reuters]
In February 2007, in his very first presidential campaign visit to New Hampshire, Mitt Romney toured a solar power plant. Unsurprisingly for a politician in such a location, he found some nice things to say about renewable energy. [Salon]
More than 127 million Americans — about 41 percent of the country — still suffer from pollution levels that can make breathing dangerous, according to a new report. [Huffington Post]
Clergy belonging to a group called Interfaith Moral Action on Climate are urging Congress to enact legislation to combat global warming. [Associated Press]
Maine regulators on Tuesday put three utilities on the path to distribute electricity harnessed from tides at the nation?s eastern tip, a key milestone in a bid to turn the natural rise and fall of ocean levels into power. [Washington Post]
At 11:10 a.m. on the dot, a squad of fresh-faced environmental activists bearing ominous black balloons sashayed into Apple’s flagship store on Union Square. [Los Angeles Times]
India is considering establishing a strategic energy fund to finance purchases of overseas assets to help secure raw materials such as coal and crude oil, three government officials said. [Wall Street Journal]
Remaining mangroves in Vietnam face the threat of being razed entirely to make way for a golf course as part of local economic development plans ? part of a global development trend that has seen the clearance of as much as 50% of the world’s mangroves over the past half a century. [Guardian]
So you may have noticed that the Nightowl Newswrap went missing last night. That's on me. I got home from school yesterday afternoon to a flakey internet connection, so I put my head down and got busy, working on my project for my computer science class. I found my groove right off the bat, and things were rolling along and everything was working and I got so much stuff done that my path to an "A" -- and perhaps a better job next semester -- is broad, smooth and clear. But the down side to that time well spent: the next thing I knew, it was 11:35, and I had forgotten to even create the template, let alone populated the bullet points with news and snark.
Since I have a pretty busy day of studying for a chemistry quiz, I probably won't get a lot of blogging done today, either, so I'm starting you off with a quad shot of stories I would like to get to if I have the time, but you should know about whether I do or not:
* The fact that this does not surprise me doesn't make the practice any less despicable or deplorable -- or necessary. A lawsuit in Minnesota has cast a light on a practice that most people are not likely aware of...embedding debt collectors in emergency rooms and sending them to the bedside to try to collect money for previous outstanding balances, down payments for treatments about to be rendered, or to try to talk the patient into forgoing care if they can't afford it. The debt collectors are not clearly identified as employees of a collection agency, and patients who believe they are hospital employees do not have that misperception clarified.
** This is the sort of idiocy that gives government a bad name. Last year in New York City, public health workers distributed over 37 million condoms as part of a municipal effort to curtail the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. And many of these same condoms were then confiscated and admitted into evidence by police and prosecutors building prostitution cases against individual hookers and Johns.
*** Yet another reason to avoid Wal-Mart. Yesterday we learned about the part of Wal-Mart's business strategy that involves buying off opposition with bribe money. Today the Washington Post is reporting that efforts to overturn the law that the company may have violated has been high on the "to do" list of the companies lobbyists.
**** The Supreme Court hears challenges to Arizona's "Papeles, por favor" immigration law. Right around the time this goes up, the Court will be hearing oral arguments on the parts of the law that have been stayed pending a ruling by the high court after the Justice Department said it was overly broad and infringed on the rights of the federal government to set immigration policy. The court is expected to hand down their ruling on both the Arizona immigration law and the Affordable Care Act in June. And no matter what they rule, it's going to be a long, hot summer with a lot of pissed-off people letting everyone they come in contact with know it.
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Cross posted from The Stars Hollow GazetteThis is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.Find the past "On This Day in History" here. April 25 is the 115th day of the year (116th in leap years)[...]
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When the potential for anti-Mormonism harming Mitt Romney's candidacy is discussed, it's usually evangelical Christians we're talking about, since they have traditionally had the greatest antipathy toward Mormonism (some of them, at least). But what about liberals? Peter Beinart argues that by the time this election is over, they're going to evince more anti-Mormonism:
One reason Democrats may be more anti-Mormon than Republicans is that Democrats, on average, are more secular. Devout Protestants, Catholics, and Jews may be more tolerant of Mormonism because they understand from firsthand experience the comfort and strength that religious commitment brings. Many secular Democrats, by contrast, may start with the assumption that religious orthodoxy produces irrationality and intolerance.
I'm a little skeptical that devout believers of other religions are going to be more tolerant of Mormonism "because they understand from firsthand experience the comfort and strength that religious commitment brings." If that were the case, we would never have had any religious conflicts at all. As for secular Democrats turning against Mormonism because of "the assumption that religious orthodoxy produces irrationality and intolerance," well, sure. But secular people think most, if not all religions produce irrationality (usually) and intolerance (often). Mormonism is nothing special there. And those of us who don't believe in any gods long ago made peace with the fact that our only choices for president will be believers of one religion or another.
I'm sure that every once in a while during this campaign, a Democrat is going to say something mean about Mormonism in general or Mitt Romney's Mormonism in particular (it has already happened). And I wouldn't be surprised if over time more liberals begin to answer poll questions about Mormon candidates more negatively, and conservatives begin answering more positively. Because now, when respondents are asked, "Would you vote for a Mormon for president?", the first image that pops into their minds will be Mitt Romney. The answers they give may say as much about their feelings about him as about their feelings about his religion.
Beinart argues that individual Mormons should bear no more responsibility for their church's views on things like gay rights than individual Catholics should bear for the Vatican's views. Which is true enough, but Mormons are less familiar to Americans than adherents of other faiths. You probably know a dozen different kind of Catholics: some who long ago rejected the Vatican, some who go to mass but disagree with the church on lots of things, some who take the Pope's word on faith, etc. But since most of us don't know lots of kinds of Mormons, many will conclude that there must only be two types: those who are still tied to the church and are therefore supportive of all of its beliefs and activities, and those who have left it behind. If those were the only two choices, Mitt Romney would be the first kind. As one liberal Mormon described it in a Boston Globe article from last year, "Normally it's either all in or all out - that's both how Mormons view themselves, and that's how people view Mormons."
Mitt Romney is now basically the ambassador to America from the LDS church, for better or worse. But he's going to stay pretty quiet about the particulars of his beliefs and practices, which means that his candidacy won't tell people much about his faith. One big question is whether the feelings people project onto the religion from their feelings about Romney persist after this campaign.
The House debated six suspension bills yesterday, passing two (H.R. 2947 and H.R. 491) by voice vote, H.R. 2157 by a recorded roll call vote, and postponing three more votes for today.
The Senate considered and rejected the resolution of disapproval seeking to block the new NLRB rules, then went on to run through 16 of the 39 pending amendments to the postal reform bill. Of those that got roll call votes, only one (Akaka amendment #2049, managerial organizations) went down despite majority support. (All amendments were subject to the "painless filibuster," that is, an agreed-upon requirement of 60 votes to pass.) They did manage to muster the 60 votes needed to waive the Budget Act with respect to the bill, however. Sen. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, III (R-AL) had objected that the bill's provisions transferring back the USPS's now-infamous forced overpayments for its pension system was a violation of pay-for requirements. But that's not accurate, and 62 Senators collectively told him to go take a flying leap. And that was that.
Looking ahead to today:
The House takes up two more suspension bills today, which I didn't even realize were coming to the floor under suspension at all when I wrote This Week in Congress for Monday. But yes, the DATA Act and the Small Business Credit Availability Act are both in fact being voted on under suspension of the rules.
The big news of the day, though, is that they're bringing up a motion to go to conference on the latest transportation bill, which is the first indication that the House is finally be ready to talk to the Senate about a compromise position that'll get a full-fledged reauthorization passed, at long last. The Senate has had its own bill passed (with 72 votes) and waiting since mid-March, but until now the House had held out and refused to take it up. Now they can consider the Senate's position mostly away from prying eyes, in the conference room setting, rather than under the glaring lights of the House, where they'd have been forced to give up their ridiculous and overly partisan positions in full view of the C-SPAN cameras.
The Senate starts off its day with a few more hours of debate on the motion to proceed to the Violence Against Women Act renewal, but then switches gears at 2:00 p.m. to take up the 20 or so remaining amendments to the postal reform bill, followed by a vote on passage of the bill itself. Why the debate on a different bill first, when you know you have so many votes to take care of? Well, setting aside the time until 2:00 for this other debate gives Senators time to hold and finish up the bulk of their committee meetings, before their presence is required for a long series of back-to-back votes. So although the scheduling may seem backward to the rest of us, to Senators it makes sense.
Hey, you have to take what you can get and hold on to it tight when you find something in the Senate that makes sense.
Today's floor and committee schedules appear below the fold.
From the GREAT STATE OF MAINE?
The Birthday Boy Responds to the Un-American Liar
First the un-American liar:
Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., says he believes scores of his Democratic House colleagues are members of the Communist Party. At a town hall meeting [earlier this month] in Palm City, Fla., the Tea Party-backed freshman was asked by a man in the audience: "What percentage of the American legislature do you think are card carrying Marxists or neo-Castro Socialists?"8 days later, the un-American liar doubled down:
West responded that he believed "there's about 78 to 81 members of the Democrat Party that are members of the Communist Party." When asked to name them, he declined.
?So name names for me,? [CNN's Soledad] O?Brien said. ?Start naming the 78 to 81??Today is Edward R. Murrow's 104th birthday?born April 25, 1908 in Polecat Creek, North Carolina. He had more integrity in his pinky than Congressman West has in his whole body. Murrow went after un-American liar Senator Joe McCarthy for saying stuff like this:
?Oh, we don?t have to?? West countered.
?Oh, we do! I?m dying to know,? O?Brien pressed. ?Which are the members of the??
?You can go look up the progressive caucus?? interrupted West.
?I got ?em right here!? O?Brien interjected?
?[T]hen you?ve got the names,? West said.
"The issue between the Republicans and Democrats is clearly drawn. It has been deliberately drawn by those who have been in charge of twenty years of treason. Not the hard fact is...the hard fact is that those who wear the label...those who wear the label "Democrat" wear it with the stain of a historic betrayal."So, since West feels so moved to revive McCarthyism, here's a little Murrow magic from his famous See It Now broadcast of March 9, 1954:
"We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men---not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular.Happy birthday, Ed, wherever you are. And Congressman West? The 50s called. They'd like their red-baiting back, please.
This is no time for men who oppose Senator McCarthy's methods to keep silent, or for those who approve. We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his responsibilities. As a nation we have come into our full inheritance at a tender age. We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.
The actions of the junior Senator from Wisconsin have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad, and given considerable comfort to our enemies. And whose fault is that? Not really his. He didn't create this situation of fear; he merely exploited it---and rather successfully. Cassius was right. "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves." Good night and good luck.
Cheers and Jeers starts below the fold... [Swoosh!!] RIGHTNOW! [Gong!!]
While Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA) is vetoing bills to promote solar power, Massachusetts is showing Virginians what could've been had the state chosen to embrace clean energy.
A new Center for American Progress report details how the Bay State's clean energy policies have the industry booming, with 64,000 people now working in clean energy jobs in Massachusetts and growing at an annual rate of 7 percent. That's compared to just 16,907 clean energy jobs in Virginia, according to the most recent data I could find in a 2009 Pew report.
But even that relatively low number of clean energy jobs dwarfs the number of coal mining jobs in Virginia - just 5,164 in 2011. Across Appalachia, just 59,059 people work in coal mining - and that represents a 14-year high.
Meanwhile, Gov. McDonnell and the Republican-controlled, Dominion Virginia Power-funded General Assembly aren't just protecting tax giveaways to the coal industry, they're adding new loopholes to let coal companies like Consol increase their already sky-high profits by polluting more.
Even with a slightly improved 2011 job assessment, "Virginia's job losses in 2011 were in construction, manufacturing and the information sector" - some of the same industries that would benefit from the move to clean energy.
Imagine if Virginia had set strong, mandatory clean energy & energy efficiency standards at the same time Massachusetts did. How many of these stories would we be hearing from across Virginia?
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If a flood swamped subway or commuter-rail tunnels, it could devastate an urban area?s buried electrical cables and foul up transportation for days or weeks. That?s not just some fantasy-based, apocalyptic scenario dreamed up to scare us: It actually happened. Twenty years ago, in Chicago, a small leak in an unused freight tunnel expanded beneath [...]Related posts: