Friday, June 15, 2012

Did alleged spy spill secrets, compromise China's intelligence agents in US?

Accused Chinese state-security official purportedly worked for CIA and revealed 'political, economic and strategic intelligence,' sources say 

updated 6/15/2012 5:14:58 AM ET
A Chinese state-security official arrested this year on allegations of spying for Washington is suspected to have compromised some of China's U.S. agents in a major setback that angered President Hu Jintao, sources said.
  1. Only on
    1. Extend school day to boost achievement?
    2. Brazilians snap up South Florida real estate
    3. Chinese officials apologize to woman in forced abortion
    4. Foreign automakers keep UAW off the line
    5. Bringing Andrea back from brain injury: A father's story
    6. Cave art sparks a Neanderthal mystery
    7. DoJ files corruption allegations against Africa leader's son
Hu personally intervened this year, ordering an investigation into the case after the Ministry of State Security arrested one of its own officials for passing information to the Americans, two sources with direct knowledge of the matter said.
The official, an aide to a vice minister, was taken into custody sometime between January and March after the ministry became alarmed last year over repeated incidents of Chinese agents being compromised in the United States, they said.
The ministry's own investigations found the aide had been working for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for years, divulging information about China's overseas spy network in the nation's worst espionage scandal for two decades, they added.
Gruesome photos put spotlight on China's one-child policy
The sources' comments represent the first confirmation that overseas Chinese espionage was deemed to have been damaged by the security breach, which has been kept quiet by both Beijing and Washington. Reuters first reported it on June 1.
The aide's identity has still not been revealed but he worked for vice minister Lu Zhongwei, the sources said, speaking anonymously due to the sensitivity of the case.

They declined to elaborate on the information he is said to have passed to the Americans or how it compromised China's agents, but they have said it involved "political, economic and strategic intelligence".
Video: Blind Chinese activist in U.S. 

Blind social activist Chen Guangcheng is starting a new life of freedom in the U.S. NBC’s Michelle Franzen reports. 

Despite the breach, Lu has been spared formal punishment, the sources added, confirming for the first time that the vice minister had been cleared of working for the Americans after the wider investigation ordered by President Hu.
Instead, Beijing found that Lu had failed to properly screen the aide before hiring him. It stopped short of disciplining the vice minister, anxious to put the scandal to rest after several other political and diplomatic embarrassments this year.
"Lu Zhongwei's problem was he used a person without (adequately) investigating first," one source said, adding "The central government does not want to create trouble in a politically sensitive year."
Scandal sends China's netizens into a feeding frenzy
China's ruling Communist Party plans a once-a-decade leadership transition late this year and is keen to wrap it up without further trouble. The normally well choreographed process has already been marred by a murder scandal which claimed the career of Bo Xilai, a contender for the new leadership team.
Scandal after scandal China's Foreign Ministry has declined to comment on the security breach. The Ministry of State Security is one of the most opaque government agencies in China and does not have a public website or spokesperson. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has declined to comment on the case, saying only this month that the two countries continued to cooperate on many issues.
Read more about China on NBC's Behind The Wall
Lu turns 59 this year and is set to retire soon anyway, a second source said, noting the vice minister was not suspected of having worked for the Americans.
"He did not change color," the source added.
Lu, a native of Shanghai, also has ties to a Beijing-based international think-tank which, according to two researchers familiar with the organization, recently curtailed contacts with foreign researchers and also trips to conferences abroad.
Video: Murder and corruption scandal rocks China 


Nearly two weeks after fleeing his country, Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng on Thursday spoke out saying his family has been the target of retaliation from Chinese officials. The NOW w/ Alex Wagner discuss what’s next for Guangcheng and his family. 
In 1999, he was president of the think-tank, the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, which is backed by the Ministry of State Security.

Lu speaks fluent Japanese and sits on the board of the semi-official China-Japan Friendship Association, the sources said.
The spy scandal ranks as the most serious between China and the United States to be made public since 1985 when Yu Qiangsheng, an intelligence official, defected to the United States. The defection exposed a retired Chinese-American CIA analyst who killed himself in 1986 in a U.S. prison cell, days before he was due to be sentenced to a lengthy jail term.
Lu's aide was arrested at around the same time that China's worst political scandal since the 1989 army crackdown on the Tiananmen pro-democracy protests was unfolding, though the sources said the two cases were unrelated.
City divided by disgraced Communist leader's legacy
The political scandal erupted in February when the police chief of Chongqing in southwest China took shelter for 24 hours in a U.S. consulate. Chongqing's ambitious Communist Party boss, Bo Xilai, was later suspended after it emerged the police chief had been investigating Bo's wife for murder.
Bo's wife has been detained on suspicion she poisoned a British businessman, Neil Heywood, in a dispute over money.
Blind Chinese activist Chen in US: 'Promote justice and fairness in China'
In late April, relations came under even more pressure when blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng escaped from house arrest and sought refuge in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. He spent six days in the embassy, sparking a diplomatic crisis that was resolved only after he left China last month to take up an academic fellowship in New York.

Photos: The dance of two giants: History of modern relations between the United States and China

 2009: U.S.-China recession tensions
Amid global recession, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner traveled to China to discuss economic issues with China's top leaders. Washington pressed Beijing to let its currency trade more freely to help correct the trade imbalance. The U.S. also urged Beijing to encourage Chinese citizens to save less and spend more to help boost the global economy. An increasingly assertive Beijing also presented its agenda, calling on the United States to "guarantee the safety of China’s assets" in the U.S. Beijing worried that Washington’s policies would cause the dollar to depreciate, with dire consequences for its investments. Beijing holds $1.45 trillion in U.S.-denominated assets. In this June 2, 2009, image, Geithner meets with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in Beijing. (Getty Images)
 2007: Dalai Lama award angers Beijing
The 14th Dalai Lama greets supporters October 17, 2007 in front of the U.S. Capitol during a trip to Washington, D.C., to receive the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award bestowed by U.S. lawmakers. The award infuriated Chinese leaders who had long accused the Tibetan spiritual leader of seeking independence for Tibet, which China claims as part of its territory. The Dalai Lama has lived in exile since 1959 when China's military crushed the Tibetan resistance movement. He denies advocating independence for Tibet and instead accuses Beijing of committing cultural genocide in the region. (Mandel Ngan / AFP/Getty Images)

 2001: Midair collision
A U.S. spy plane made an emergency landing on Hainan Island off China’s southern coast after a collision with a Chinese F-8 fighter jet. One Chinese pilot died after parachuting into the South China Sea. China detained the 24-member U.S. crew of the EP-3 Aries II reconnaissance aircraft for 11 days, releasing them only after the U.S. sent a letter of apology. Beijing also suspended all U.S. military visits to Hong Kong, a key stopover point, for three months. In this image from an April 13, 2001, briefing at the Pentagon, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld tells reporters that the Chinese jet became aggressive and hit the U.S. plane from below. (Getty Images)

 2000: Trade with China normalized
After years of negotiation with Beijing, U.S. lawmakers granted China Permanent Normal Trade Relations status, allowing unconditional, unlimited access for Chinese-made goods into the U.S. market. It also ended an annual review of China’s human rights record, upon which continuation of trade access had been conditioned. The action also paved the way for China’s entery into the World Trade Organization in September 2001. From 2000 to 2008, U.S.-China trade volume soared from $116 billion to $409 billion. In this image from May 2000, Chinese workers produce shoes for a U.S. company at a factory in northeast China’s Shenyang city. (Goh Chai Hin / AFP/Getty Images)

 1999: U.S. airstrike hits Chinese Embassy
During NATO air raids on Serbia, U.S. warplanes bombed China’s embassy in Belgrade, killing three journalists in the building. U.S. President Bill Clinton and other U.S. officials apologized for what NATO described as a tragic error. But Beijing and many Chinese citizens believed the strike to be intentional, and the incident sparked anti-American protest in China. In this image, taken May 9, 1999, a day after the bombing, thousands of Chinese protesters march on the U.S. and British embassies in Beijing. (Stephen Shaver / AFP - Getty Images)

 1997: Breaking the ice after a decade
Chinese President Jiang Zemin and U.S. President Bill Clinton held formal talks in Washington in late 1997, marking the first state visit by a Chinese leader since before the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown. The meetings covered trade tensions, nuclear technology, human rights abuses and religious persecution in Tibet. In this image, Jiang and Clinton share a toast during a state dinner on Oct. 29, 1997 in the East Room of the White House. A year later Clinton traveled to Beijing for formal discussions, signaling that relations between the two countries were getting back on a more normal footing after a decade of tension. (Paul J. Richards / AFP - Getty Images)

 1995: Lee trip rankles Beijing
For the first time since it re-established formal diplomatic ties with China, Washington granted a visa to a sitting Taiwan president. The move drew a harsh protest from Beijing, which also suspended nuclear and missile control talks with the United States. Lee Teng-hui, Taiwan's first democratically elected president, especially angered Beijing because of his ambivalence to reunification with China. Breaking from decades of Nationalist Party rhetoric, Lee stressed the right of Taiwan people to determine their future. Some feared that if Lee or newly empowered Taiwan voters made a formal call for independence, it could prompt military action by Beijing and pull the U.S. into the conflict. In this June 10, 1995, photo, Lee chats with Cornell University President Frank Rhodes after speaking at the school. (Bob Strong / AFP/Getty Images)`

 1992: U.S. weapons sales anger Beijing
China protested vehemently when U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, which had been hovering around $500 million a year, suddenly jumped more than 1,000 percent with the sale of 150 F-16 fighter jets. China charged that the sale violated a 1982 agreement with Beijing in which Washington said it would not increase weapons sales to Taiwan in either quality or quantity. Supporters of the sale said it was in line with the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, in which the United States pledged to provide arms to Taiwan seen as necessary for its defense. In this Sept. 12, 2007, image, missiles are arrayed next to an F-16 fighter jet at the Chiayi air force base in southern Taiwan. (Sam Yeh / AFP/Getty Images)

 1989: Tiananmen crackdown puts relations on ice
Popular protests in Beijing and other cities were crushed by a military crackdown, leaving hundreds of people dead. In response, the United States imposed economic and trade sanctions on China and many U.S. citizens working or studying there left the country. Beijing remained unrepentant in the face of the sanctions and criticism over its human rights record, which the Chinese government rejected as “interference” in China’s internal affairs. In this June 4, 1989, photo, dead civilians lie among mangled bicycles near Beijing's Tiananmen Square. (AP)

 1979: Formal ties
Formal diplomatic relations were restored between Beijing and Washington on Jan. 1, 1979. Simultaneously, Washington severed formal relations with Taiwan (Republic of China), while continuing business and cultural ties. Through the Taiwan Relations Act, Washington also promised to supply defensive weapons to Taiwan. Shortly after the resumption of ties with Beijing, Chinese Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping visited the United States, meeting with top U.S. officials and business leaders. Deng was pressing economic reforms in China and preparing to greatly expand his free market experiment in the 1980s. In this image, Deng, right, and his wife Zhuo Lin, far left, appear with U.S. President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalynn Carter on Jan. 31, 1979. (AFP - Getty Images)

 1976: Mao's end, start of a new era
The death of Chairman Mao Zedong in 1976 marked the end of an era of radical politics and isolation from the West. In just a few years, Deng Xiaoping triumphed over conservative ideologues who had surrounded Mao, and rose to leadership of China's Communist Party and government. While beginning experiments with economic reforms, Deng also opened the doors to broad cultural and educational exchange with the United States. In this image, Chinese citizens file past Mao as he lies in state in Beijing on Sept. 12, 1976. (AFP/Getty Images)

 1972: Nixon visit “changed the world”
In February 1972, U.S. President Richard Nixon, who had a reputation as a tough anti-communist, traveled to China to hold talks with Communist Chairman Mao Zedong and Premier Zhou Enlai. On the final stop of the trip to Beijing, Hangzhou and Shanghai, the U.S. and Chinese governments issued the Shanghai Communiqué — a pledge to work toward the normalization of diplomatic relations. Nixon later said of the trip: "This was the week that changed the world,” in which the two sides agreed “to build a bridge across 16,000 miles and 22 years of hostilities which have divided us in the past.” In this Feb. 22, 1972, image, Mao and Nixon shake hands after their meeting in Beijing. (AFP - Getty Images)

Frederick Harris Attack Not Grounded in Reality

Posted: 06/05/2012 6:25 pm

Last week, Professor Frederick Harris penned an op-ed in the Washington Post lampooning President Obama's commitment to the African American community and made the slanderous claim that we are "Still Waiting For The First Black President."
Harris' main thrust stems from a belief that the President has abandoned the African American community and pursued a "racially defused electoral and governing strategy" for political expediency. He cites an apparent lack of focus from the President on a range of issues including reform of the criminal justice system, addressing the foreclosure crisis, black unemployment, and HIV/AIDS.
But the distortions and omissions of the President's record from a professor at an esteemed university were so egregious that the column begs its readers to question whether the author is merely trying to boost sales of his upcoming book.
For example, Professor Harris claims that President Obama failed to reform the criminal justice system. But he omitted any mention of the Fair Sentencing Act signed into law by the President that reduces sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine from 100-to-1 to 18-to-1. He failed to mention that the Obama Administration settled the longstanding Pigford II litigation, fought laws aimed at restricting access to the ballot box, and investigated the Trayvon Martin shooting -- just to name a few.
Harris conveniently dismissed the President's effort to save the American auto industry - an industry that has propelled thousands of African American families into the middle class. At the time, Mitt Romney said we should just "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt." But the President bet on the American worker, and thanks to his leadership, thousands of African Americans are getting back to work.
Throughout the past three years, President Obama has been focused on building an economy that is built to last. And in spite of the obstacles, the economy is making progress and each month, more and more Americans, and African Americans are getting back to work.
Not only did he secure the payroll tax cut putting $800 back into the average family's pocket, but he also expanded the Child Tax Credit, and African American small business owners have had access to $4 billion in low-interest loans through the Minority Business Development Agency. In fact, 21 percent of loans included in the Small Business Jobs Act have gone to minority-owned businesses, helping them create jobs for African Americans.
Despite a stubborn housing market, President Obama has taken action through the Making Home Affordable program to help homeowners across the country avoid foreclosure, reduce their monthly payments, refinance loans, or get help if their home is under water. This is real progress, and African-American families are finally starting to see some relief.
And President Obama understands the plight HIV and AIDS has had on the African-American community. That's why he has aggressively fought to reduce the number of HIV infections, committed an additional $15 million for HIV clinics and $35 million for state AIDS-drug assistance programs, and set a goal that many once thought was impossible decades ago: an AIDS-free generation.
Let's not forget that this President pushed for and signed the Affordable Care Act, which improved access to health care for all Americans. Thanks to his determination, 7 million African Americans currently living without health insurance will get the coverage they need, and nearly a quarter of African Americans will no longer be denied access to health insurance because of a pre-existing condition.
But the most outrageous part of Professor Harris' column is his attempt to pit the African American and gay community against one another. It simply has no place in our politics and distracts from the real work that we have to do.
While the President may have been elected by 53 percent of the country, he is responsible for fighting for 100 percent of the country, regardless of their party affiliation, race, gender, or sexuality and there is nothing disingenuous about waging that fight.
But after taking stock of all that President Obama has achieved in the face of almost unanimous opposition by a hostile Republican party, you can see why some African Americans are doing a little "cheerleading." And given the tremendous struggle for equal rights that spanned generations, it's not surprising that African Americans would be proud of electing the first black President.
Now, the American people, and African Americans in particular, face a real choice in November. It's a choice between a "severely conservative" Republican nominee with empty rhetoric or a President who has delivered since day one and delivered for not just African Americans, but for all Americans.
Barack Obama has never forgotten who he is or where he came from. He has fought every single day to improve the livelihood and well-being of the African-American community. And in a second term, he'll only build on the monumental achievements of his first term.
We have our first black President, his name is President Barack Obama, let's start paying attention to what he is doing -- for all of us.
Michael Nutter is the Mayor of the City of Philadelphia.
Philadelphia is the Largest American City with an African American Mayor

unless you know where you have been, you will neve

02:55 PM on 06/11/2012
Though I like Pres. O, I have to agree with Prof. Harris. Pres, started his visits to the black communities after three years of living in the WH. He addressed all the other issues, i.e. gay, latino, Israel, war, etc. before every attempting to sit and talk with blacks. I personally don't care if he wins or loses that time around.

03:28 AM on 06/11/2012
I've voted for Obama four years ago. And did a 60 second vocal soundtrack promoting his candicacy on radio. Since then i've learned quite a lot. What are we really talking about when we say he's not doing enough? Doing enough for hiv/Aids? Are we meaning let the scientific community whose voices have been supressed speak and provide evidence for all the clear evidence that's coming out on the issue of Hiv/Aids ? Or are we saying provide more toxic drugs rather then nutrional foods, clean water, promoting non drug use, & clean enviroments that would surely sustain life as intended? Lacking these essentials causes Hiv/Aids. And in fact, what Hiv/Aids is. Where's this epidemic that happened over twenty years ago? Shouldn't we have been dropping like flies like with past epidemics? Hmmm! And because these issues and noble prize winning scientist are silenced tells me alot about how things work. What can anyone say to me that stand behind people in power who's committing crimes against hummanity? Nothing! Nothing's credible to me from anyone who won't even make mentions of clear evidence. On every front! This a black voice! But for all voices of human kind.
02:10 PM on 06/10/2012
I f any one thought Pres. Obama would get elected and everything would change immediately, they are living in some alternate universe. Do these people think black America would be better off with McCain in office. Let's see, the war in Iraq would still be going on and blacks AND whites would still be dieing. Are people forgetting what Mitch McConnell said? His number one goal would be to make Pres. Obama a once term president. The republican from SC disrespecting him during the State of the Union by yelling out "You lie!". A lesser man would have folder with all the attacks he has weathered. I am proud to call him my president if no one else will do it. Let Fredrick Harris, Tavis Smiley, Cornell West, etc. criticize. What have they done except to try and exploit this hate on the right by selling books. I wrote an email to Prof. Harris at his Yahoo and Columbia University accounts and asked him to donate the proceeds of his book to the NAACP. I listen for his announcement to prove he is not just after the money. After all, with blacks doing so badly they will not be able to afford his book.
07:58 AM on 06/08/2012
Obama and his cabinet are smart people, however, Obama has done more harm to African Americans than good. I am sure the people of Philadelphia are not better off since Obama became president since Obama has continued to undermine the family. And strong families are what makes neighborhoods safer, schools more effective, relationships stronger, less drug sells and abuse, better employment and business opportunities, better health, better HIV control, and fewer abortions. Obama has been a strong advocate for women and gays, but has shown no interest in helping men. What that means is the percentage of fatherless children before Obama's election is most likely the same or increased. Therefore Obama continues family destructive child support enforcement policies and further destroys the family by approving of same sex marriage. Same sex marriage leaves manhood out of the family entirely because same sex men act like women and same sex women are only women. Where do our children learn to respect the men, women and children traditional family with Obama's policies? "What profiteth a community to gain the whole world and lose its families?" No, we do not have our first black president. We have our first black woman president. Michelle Obama is the real leader. Obama has never forgotten his non-father roots. And his anti-father policies are the proof.
02:24 PM on 06/10/2012
Do you people never stop? Anti-father makes me LOL. You don't think of him as good husband, loving father, loving son and grandson? You think Pres. of the Harvard Review says anything? You don't think he cares about men stopping the war in Iraq? You think HIS order to taken out OBL or other terrorists demonstrates anything? I get it, you want to question his manhood, don't you? Hmm, what's more manly - golf or basketball? Maybe you think Trump or Romney are tough guys? Why hasn't these great white men or their sons served in the military? I have only one question I want you and your kind to answer. Is he a better president than George W.? Answer that and I'll see how "fair and balanced" your are!
12:32 AM on 06/11/2012
Obama before he was nominated used his podium to bash men, especially black men. All of his efforts are to ignore the needs of men and even increase child support enforcement. Families are already fatherless and he wants to continue policies that push fathers farther away from children. And why doesn't he respond to Shared Parenting Legislation? All of his support is behind women and gays. It is no surprise he supports gay marriage. Gays know he is their special president. It is not about his personal orientation or manhood. It is about what he supports. George Bush did not get the endorsement of blacks. The question is what has Obama done for blacks? He is continuing the destruction of our families.
This user has chosen to opt out of the Badges program
What should a person say in their micro-bio
11:14 AM on 06/07/2012
Why not ask Black American people - HOW THEY HAVE EXPERIENCED THE LAST 4 YEARS? A Democratic elected official is not sufficient for this conversation. Clearly, Republicans are not qualified to define President Obama for Black Americans. Black Americans have their own ideas of what Obama means to their livelihood
“My country, right or wrong
01:03 AM on 06/07/2012
Barack Obama has never forgotten who he is or where he came from. He has fought every single day to improve the livelihood and well-being of the African-American community.????? Fought whom and won what,that is nothing but hyperbole,and Mike you should worry more about Killadelphia.
03:52 PM on 06/06/2012
We just took another hit in our 401k Friday. Why doesn't he ask congress and the senate to repeal Gramm-Leach-Biley Act. This law is not good for America. That's why Glass-Seagall Act was put into law in 1933 to prevent another Great Depression which happened in 1929. What about the single payer healthcare option. He went behind closed doors and made deals with the very groups who are exploiting the healthcare system, the insurance and pharmacuetical companies.
03:52 PM on 06/06/2012
Who knew he would be a warmonger, talking that same terrorist propaganda nonsense as those that came before him. What about his choice for the World Bank position, she should have been chosen because she was most qualified and could really help Africa and other poor countries, but he didn't. What about Israels Aparthied against the Palestinians. If Aparthied wasn't good for Black SAfricans and Jim Crow not good for Blacks in America then it shouldn't be happening to the Palestinians. His lie to the American public about NATO's mission being a humanitarian mission to Libya. It was a regeime change. He threw Rev Wright over, under and through the bus just to satisfy people who don't want to hear the truth. That was a teachable moment, but no he ran away from any Black person the some feel is a threat. I'm going to vote for him only because he is the lesser of two evils. But I am no longer a fan. He's hustling people just like the rest of the politicans are. He is no different. Hope and Change, really?

Obama assumes that Black people don't pay attention to politics and what he's doing. Some of us are Mr. President and we don't like what we see!
06:34 AM on 06/07/2012
Vote for Romney? Stay home? you sound so out of touch with reality. It's about time minorities and others move into the real world and unless you are privy to the same information as POTUS and have 360 million people who safty and opportunities for well being are on your shoulders, be less critical and more analytical.
04:25 PM on 06/11/2012
"Who knew he would be a warmonger,"

Well, he did CAMPAIGN on getting tougher in Afghanistan. Not that I imagine most of the people who voted for him paid much attention to anything he said, but still.

This was the first time in a long time I've read the phrase "teachable moment" used in a non-ironic sense.

A controversy is born after 2 Michigan lawmakers' comments in abortion debate

June 15, 2012 

State Reps. Lisa Brown, D-West Bloomfield, left, and Barb Byrum, D-Onondaga, were scolded over their remarks related to abortion.
State Reps. Lisa Brown, D-West Bloomfield, left, and Barb Byrum, D-Onondaga, were scolded over their remarks related to abortion. / File photos
The debate over proposed new abortion regulations in the state House this week was heated, loud, even graphic, with words like "vagina," "vasectomy" and "stirrups" being mentioned.

The words didn't stop passage of the legislation, but they did get two Democratic lawmakers -- state Reps. Lisa Brown of West Bloomfield and Barb Byrum of Onondaga -- silenced Thursday from speaking about any issue before the House on its final day of session before the Legislature's summer break.
Brown and Byrum were told they wouldn't be recognized to speak because of comments they made Wednesday during the emotional abortion-rights debate.
Brown found out when she tried to speak on a bill that would change retirement benefits on teachers. Byrum wanted to introduce a group of visitors from her district who were watching the session. She was told she couldn't speak.
What did Brown and Byrum do to warrant the silent treatment?

Brown, who voted against the abortion regulations, told supporters of the bill: "I'm flattered you're all so interested in my vagina. But no means no," referencing the proposal.

Byrum was gaveled out of order after she protested when she wasn't allowed to speak on her amendment, which would have required proof of a medical emergency or that a man's life was in danger before a doctor could perform a vasectomy.

The House bill, passed on a 70-39 vote, mandates sweeping new regulations and insurance requirements for abortion providers; makes it a crime to coerce a woman into having an abortion, and regulates the disposal of fetal remains. It won't be taken up in the state Senate until at least September.

Ari Adler, spokesman for Speaker of the House Jase Bolger, R-Marshall, said it was the prerogative of Majority Floor Leader Jim Stamas, R-Midland, to keep order and decorum.

They "will not be recognized to speak on the House floor today after being gaveled down for their comments and actions yesterday that failed to maintain the decorum of the House of Representatives," Adler said.

"House Republicans often go beyond simply allowing debate by welcoming open and passionate discussion," he added. "The only way we can continue doing so, however, is to ensure that the proper level of maturity and civility are maintained on the House floor."

State Rep. Lisa Lyons, R-Alto, said the speaking ban was appropriate.
"I was personally offended by Rep. Lisa Brown's disgraceful actions during Wednesday floor debate," she said. "I fully support Majority Floor Leader Jim Stamas' decision to maintain professionalism and order on the House floor."

Brown and Byrum said they were dumbfounded.

"I don't have a history of being violent or out of line," Byrum said. "But I do speak my mind. I have given them no reason except that I disagreed with them and offered an amendment that they did not like."

Brown said the ban was unprofessional and outrageous.

"There have been many occasions of inappropriate behavior by men on the floor, and they haven't lost their voice," she said. "I was speaking to the bill at hand, I didn't use any curse words and I was using anatomically correct language."

Inside Michigan Politics editor and former legislator Bill Ballenger said he was surprised by the comments during the debate, including a suggestion from state Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, that women withhold sex from their partners until such abortion-limiting bills stopped being considered.

(Tlaib, for the record, was not hushed.)

"Those comments were really over the top," he said. "But the idea of muzzling an elected official is not only counterintuitive but outrageous."

Vagina remarks, silencing of Michigan lawmakers draws firestorm online

11:00 AM, June 15, 2012
What started out as a debate in the Michigan House of Representatives spilled out to the Web yesterday. And while state Reps. Lisa Brown of West Bloomfield and Barb Byrum of Onondaga were banned from speaking by the Republican leadership, that didn’t stop pundits and bloggers from chiming in.

'Vaginas aren't dirty, even in Michigan'

Naomi McAuliffe writes for The Guardian
“Apparently, when discussing a medical procedure, it's not really appropriate to use medical words. Well not about lady bits anyway. It makes me wonder what euphemisms would be acceptable. "Will the representative get his hand out of the otter's pocket?" "Can the honourable gentleman refrain from trespassing in the lady cave?"”

'Lawmaker banned from speaking after referring to her vagina in abortion debate'

Allison Yarrow from the Daily Beast writes:
“Brown said that the Republican leadership did not tell her why she was banned. In her brief floor remarks Wednesday, she also explained that as a Jewish woman, she chooses to keep kosher in her home, and that she also abided by the Jewish tenet dating back to the biblical era that “abortions performed in order to preserve the life of the mother are not only permissible, but mandatory.” ”

'Say it with me: 'Vagina! Vagina! Vagina!' '

New Statesman's Sarah Ditum adds:
"But whether you've got a foof or a fandando, a growler or a ladygarden (or even an Iron Ladygarden), the important thing is that you're on first-name terms with it. As the Michigan incident tells us, those who want to control women's bodies also want to treat that body as an obscenity. The best answer to people like Mike Callton is simply to say the word: vagina, vagina, vagina."

' 'Vagina' Is Too Lewd for Michigan State Republicans'

Connor Simpson from The Atlantic wire:
"Someone uttered the horribly offensive, borderline criminal V-word during a Michigan House of Representatives debate over an abortion bill. Which is to say, a woman said "vagina," and now Republicans are mad about it."

'Female legislator who dared Say 'vagina' during abortion debate banned from speaking on House floor''s Erin Gloria Ryan writes:
"Rather than be a manly man and tell the women to their face that they had upset the Speaker, Bolger acted like a mincing, spineless ninny and relayed the women's speaking ban through their party's House leader. He gave no explanation as to why the women were banned, so both are left guessing (and fuming) today. ...
Women have been absent from the debate around a bill that seeks to govern their bodies from Day 1. During committee, no pro-choice women were allowed to speak. Planned Parenthood was barred from testifying. And now this — two pro-choice female legislators all-out banned from voicing an opinion on the state's role in their anatomy. … Let this be a lesson to you, women: shut up and let men do all the deciding about your bodies."

'Michigan GOP Bans Lawmaker for Using the V-Word'

Noreen Malone from adds:
"An excellent question! What term do Callton & Co. prefer, if not the clinical one? Hoo-ha? Vajajay? Ladybits? The Cave of Forgotten Dreams? Literally, these are the only less-explicit ways of referring to female genitalia in polite company, and frankly, they are not exactly dignified. (Except vajajay, because Oprah uses it, so American medical textbooks might be updating any minute now.)"

' #VaginaMovieLines: Using the v word to tackle anti-abortion laws'

Nicky Clark from The Independent says:
"So the overreaction to Rep Lisa Brown and member Barb Byrum’s intelligent and articulate attempts to offer amendments and voice freely their objections to the state interference in women’s rights, drew a disappointing yet predictable response. The were silenced."

' 'Vagina' is the New 'Voldemort' '

Sarah Mirk from The Portland Mercury quips:
"From now on, people in Michigan must refer to 'v—————' as 'one's squiggly bits.' That is all."

Lisa Brown on Rachel Maddow's show

The lawmaker was on MSNBC last night to give her take on the controversy.

As Punishment For Opposing Anti-Abortion Bill, Male Michigan House Leader Bans Two Female Reps From Speaking

A male Republican House leader in Michigan silenced two female Democratic state legislators on Thursday after the pair tried to advance a measure that would have reduced access to vasectomies.

While discussing a bill that would erode the availability of abortion, Reps. Barb Byrum and Lisa Brown introduced an amendment to apply the same regulations to vasectomies that GOP lawmakers wanted to add to abortion services.

The debate grew heated, as Republicans sought to gravel down the women. Byrum was not permitted to speak in favor of the measure and Brown was repeatedly interrupted. “I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but no means no,” she said. The next day both were silenced.

Majority Floor Leader Jim Stamas (R) was “uncomfortable with me saying vasectomy,” Byrum explained, noting that no one told her why she had  been banned or how long it would last. “I can only assume it’s because I stood up for my district and women in Michigan yesterday,” she added.
Ari Adler, spokesman for House Speaker Jase Bolger (R), said the women “will not be recognized to speak on the House floor today after being gaveled down for their comments and actions yesterday that failed to maintain the decorum of the House of Representatives.”

Watch their comments:  
This post has been updated to correct Brown’s quote from her floor speech.

Michigan Anti-Abortion Law Sparks Sex Boycott, Vagina Fear

It’s gonna be a dry summer in Michigan, boys.

Michigan lawmaker Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) is calling for a statewide sex boycott after the state legislature's lower house passed a slate of bills designed to restrict access abortion services—under the guise of protecting women's health.

Opponents have loudly protested against the measure that has been jammed through the legislature — it was introduced on May 31 and a committee approved it last week — and Democratic lawmakers spoke out against it before the House passed the bill
“We’re launching a war on women. Stop having sex with us, gentlemen, and I ask women to boycott men until they stop moving this through the House.”
The 45-page cockblock in question aims to regulate nearly every aspect of reproductive health services, from rigid restrictions on health centers to targeting physicians who provide abortion services. Taking a cue from restrictive legislation passed in Virginia, Alabama, and Georgia, one of the nation’s most severe anti-abortion bill burdens both women and health care providers with onerous regulations by:

Here’s what you should know about these far-reaching anti-abortion bills:
1) Bans Abortions After 20 Weeks, Even For Rape And Incest Victims: A woman would not be able to have an abortion after 20 weeks of gestation based on the widely disputed idea that a fetus can feel pain after that point. The only exception would be if a woman’s life was in danger. The legislation also includes new regulations related to the disposal of fetal remains, though penalties would be civil infractions rather than felonies.
2) Transforms Doctors Into Detectives: The Republican-backed legislation would make it a crime for anyone to coerce a woman into having an abortion. Doctors will have to give their patients a questionnaire to inform them of the illegality of coercion and determine if the woman had been coerced or is the victim of domestic abuse before the abortion procedure.
3) Limits Access For Rural Women: Under the omnibus bill, doctors would have to be physically present to perform a medication abortion, thus preventing a doctor from administering abortion-inducing medication by consulting via telephone or internet. This would especially hurt rural women, who may have to travel hours to meet in-person with a specialist.
4) Requires Doctors To Purchase Costly Malpractice Insurance: If HB 5711 goes into effect, then doctors would be required to carry $1 million in liability insurance if they perform five or more abortions each month or have been subject to two more more civil suits in the past seven years, among other requirements. But the qualifications are so vague that almost all doctors who perform abortions could be required to carry the additional liability insurance at a potential cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
5) Regulates Clinics Out Of Existence: HB 5711 would create new regulations so that any clinic that provides six or more abortions in a month or one which advertises abortion services would have to be licensed as a “freestanding surgical outpatient facility.” That means that even if a clinic does not offer surgical abortions, it would be required to have a full surgical suite.

Now that the state House has passed the largest of the three bills, it will likely approve the two companion measures as well. Even though lawmakers rushed the bill through the House, the state Senate is not expected to vote on the measure until September. The body is composed of 26 Republicans and 12 Democrats.

State Rep. Mike Shirkey (R-Clark Lake) told a local television station on Wednesday that he supports the bill and hopes it will end abortion in Michigan. "This [abortion] is nothing short of infanticide. Until we completely eliminate abortions in Michigan and completely defund Planned Parenthood, we have work to do," he said. 

Supporters of the bill maintain that the legislation is designed to protect women and their health. What remains unclear, however, is exactly how tricky regulations, threats of criminal sanction, and unnecessary equipment will help achieve that end.

The bill passed by a vote of 70 to 39, with all Republicans and six Democrats voting for it, after two days of protests and an emotional debate in the House chamber.

Democrats said the regulations were unnecessary and that the bill's purpose is only to shut down abortion providers in the state. Some of the female lawmakers tied the legislation to the so-called Republican "war on women."

State Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) suggested that women withhold sex from men until they stop the bill. "Stop having sex with us, gentlemen," she said. "And I ask women to boycott men until they stop moving this through the House.”

What Michigan women need more than ever is an open, honest discussion of the issue at hand—but even that seems impossible for the Great Lake State. Michigan state Rep. Lisa Brown (D-West Bloomfield) was prohibited from speaking in the legislature on its final day in session after using the word vagina in a floor speech on Thursday. Because there's definitely no good reason to use the appropriate medical term for a female reproductive organ during a hearing on abortions, right? Perhaps next time, Brown can show a little self-restraint and use an appropriate euphemism: "Mr. Speaker, I'm flattered you're all so interested in my vagina. But no  means no."

The ban on abortions after 20 weeks is in HB 5713, one of the companion bills that the House is expected to pass soon.

Lawmakers will not hold votes on the two additional anti-abortion bills, including the 20-week ban. “We decided not to take that up right now so we can discuss the legislation further,” Ari Adler, spokesman for House Speaker Jase Bolger (R), told the Detroit News.

  • Related
Report: Indiana abortions fell 5 percent in 2010