Keeping tabs on President Obama’s same-sex marriage endorsement

Jase Peeples watches a television broadcast of President Obama declaring his support of same-sex marriage Wednesday, May 9, 2012, at The Mix bar in San Francisco. Peeples, who has lived with his partner for nine years, welcomed the news. Photo: AP Photo/Ben Margot

A few weeks ago, nationally syndicated sex-advice columnist and LGBT rights activist Dan Savage discussed President Obama’s evolving attitudes toward gay marriage in a candid interview: “Barack Obama pretends that he opposes gay marriage and gay people are honor-bound to pretend to believe him.”

All that changed yesterday when the president told ABC News, “For me personally it is important … to go ahead and affirm that … same-sex couples should be able to get married.”

To understand why the White House decided to back marriage equality at the start of a fraught general election season, I spoke with Richard Kim, executive editor at The Nation, who has written extensively about LGBT issues.
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Did the NYPD’s spying on Muslims violate the law?

Last August, the Associated Press launched a series detailing how the New York Police Department has extensively investigated Muslims in New York and other states, including preparing reports on mosques and Muslim-owned businesses, apparently without any suspicion of crimes being committed.

The propriety and legality of the NYPD’s activities is under dispute. Mayor Michael Bloomberg – who claimed last year that the NYPD does not focus on religion and only follows threats or leads – is now arguing that, as he said last week, “Everything the NYPD has done is legal, it is appropriate, it is constitutional.” Others disagree. In fact, Bloomberg himself signed a law in 2004 prohibiting profiling by law enforcement based on religion.

Fifteen Muslim clerics, including Imam Al-Hajj Talib Abdur Rashid, boycotted New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's annual interfaith breakfast last December over a police effort to gather intelligence on Muslim neighborhoods, whose existence was revealed in a series of Associated Press articles. Photo: AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

This week, Attorney General Eric Holder told a congressional committee the Justice Department is reviewing whether to investigate potential civil rights violations by the NYPD.
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Lower percentage of OB-GYNs willing to perform abortions, study finds

While the debate over abortion remains one of the most vitriolic political battles in the U.S., a new survey finds that the percentage of obstetricians and gynecologists willing to provide the service may be dropping.

A study published in the science journal Obstetrics and Gynecology last week found that while 97 percent of OB-GYNs have encountered patients seeking an abortion, only 14 percent are willing to perform them, a drop from a reported 22 percent in 2008.

Religious belief, unsurprisingly, was one of the key factors for doctors unwilling to provide abortion services to patients. The survey, conducted among 1,144 OB-GYNs by researchers at Duke University and the University of Chicago, also uncovered several other trends of doctors willing to perform abortions: female physicians are more likely to provide abortions, as are younger doctors (age 35 and below) and those based in urban areas. OB-GYNs in the South were found to be least likely to offer abortion services.
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Contraceptives to be available without co-pay in 2013

In a landmark move this past Monday, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) mandated that insurance companies provide full coverage for a broad range of women’s preventative health services, including birth control.

These services will be available to women without co-pay beginning January 1, 2013. The preventative health label was expanded to also include domestic violence counseling, checkups for gestational diabetes, breast feeding support, and HIV and STD counseling.

The inclusion of birth control in the package, however, has provoked some protest from socially conservative and religious groups. But under the new rules, religious institutions would be able to opt out of the free contraception provision. DHHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Monday that because birth control was the most commonly prescribed drug for women, not providing full coverage “would be like not covering flu shots.”
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News of the World deep throat found dead

A newspaper is opened to show the advertisement apology for News International at a news vendor in central London, Saturday, July 16, 2011. Photo: AP/Sang Tan

The News of the World cellphone-hacking and police corruption scandal has claimed its first fatality. The AP reported today that Sean Hoare, the former News of the World and Sun reporter who leaked information regarding the tabloid’s widespread use of cellphone hacking to the press, has been found dead at his home in Watford, England. Police said they do not consider Hoare’s death to be suspicious.

Hoare worked as a reporter under Andy Coulson, former News of the World editor and communications chief to Prime Minister David Cameron, who was the first official from the paper to be arrested during the investigation.

Obama taps Cordray as head of consumer protection agency

President Barack Obama announces the nomination of former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, right, to serve as the first director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Monday, July 18, 2011, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington. Photo: AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Just three days before the official launch of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), President Obama has announced that Elizabeth Warren, who has been helping to organize the agency as a Special Advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury, will not be nominated to lead the agency. Warren is widely credited as devising the concept for the federal agency, which will enforce consumer protection laws on products like credit cards, student loans and mortgages. But earlier today Warren wrote in a blog post that the President will announce his intent to nominate her deputy, Richard Cordray, to serve as the Bureau’s first director.

Cordray, who was one of Warren’s first recruits to the agency, has been the assistant director for enforcement. He was previously attorney general for Ohio and Ohio treasurer, and has been praised by Warren for being  “smart… tough” and an advocate with “a proven track record of fighting for families.”
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The chronic fatigue syndrome Rubik’s Cube

Photo: Flickr/o5com

Two new studies released this week have thwarted hopes that a cure for chronic fatigue syndrome may be imminent.

After a 2009 study linked chronic fatigue syndrome, or CFS, to a virus called XMRV, some sufferers hoped the link would lead to a cure. But two studies published this week in Science refute the initial link, claiming it was the result of laboratory mistakes. The authors of 2009 study stand behind their research.

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In teachers we trust?

A classroom in Shanghai. Photo: Flickr/ Harald Groven

Ezra Klein’s Washington Post blog recently featured a guest post by Columbia University journalism student Dana Goldstein entitled “Is the U.S. doing teacher reform all wrong?” Goldstein focuses on the findings of a recent National Center on Education and the Economy’s study, which compares education policies in five top performing countries — Finland, China, Japan, Singapore and Canada — with the United States. One of the main conclusions is that, basically, the way the U.S. recruits, prepares and evaluates teachers is completely out of step with this group of high-achieving countries.

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On terrorist watch list, but allowed to buy guns

The Houston gun show. Photo: Flickr/M. Glasgow

The AP is reporting today that 247 people who are on the federal government’s so-called “terrorism watch list” bought guns in the U.S. last year, and it’s all totally legal. We know about these purchases because these buyers all went through the mandatory federal background check required from licensed gun dealers. But there is no law prohibiting people on the terror watch list from buying guns.

There’s also no way of knowing how many people on the terror watch list bought guns from private gun dealers, like those who set up stalls at hundreds of gun shows around the country. Why? Because private gun sales – meaning guns sold by un-licensed sellers – require no federal background check whatsoever.
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