Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Maybe you can 'just make stuff up'


Just over the last two weeks, Mitt Romney's presidential campaign has released three television ads and two online videos devoted exclusively to -- you guessed it -- welfare. The issue was a complete non-factor in the 2012 race until the Republican decided the racially-charged, peripheral issue could be exploited by telling a transparent lie.
The latest video was released overnight.

In this new clip, viewers hear from Danny Vargas, the former National Chairman of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly, who again accuses President Obama of removing work requirements from federal welfare law.

In this plane of reality, President Obama did not remove work requirements from federal welfare law. The Romney campaign simply made this up. The facts are unambiguous: governors asked the Obama administration for some flexibility on the existing welfare law, and the White House said that'd be fine, so long as the work requirement isn't weakened. It's consistent with the policy endorsed by many Republican governors, including Romney himself, just six years ago.
And yet, it's the basis for a ridiculous lie, predicated on Romney's assumption that voters are easily fooled, and his campaign will pay no price because the media won't call him on it.
For his part, President Obama weighed in on the subject yesterday, and as Greg Sargent noted, it was "the first time Obama himself has charged that virtually Romney's entire campaign is based on a 'centerpiece' that's flat out false." Take a look at these comments from the president's press briefing:
"I don't think that Governor Romney is somehow responsible for the death of the woman that was portrayed in that ad. But keep in mind this is an ad that I didn't approve, I did not produce, and as far as I can tell, has barely run. I think it ran once.
"Now, in contrast, you've got Governor Romney creating as a centerpiece of his campaign this notion that we're taking the work requirement out of welfare, which every single person here who's looked at it says is patently false. What he's arguing is somehow we have changed the welfare requirement -- the work requirement in our welfare laws. And, in fact, what's happened was that my administration, responding to the requests of five governors, including two Republican governors, agreed to approve giving them, those states, some flexibility in how they manage their welfare rolls as long as it produced 20 percent increases in the number of people who are getting work.
"So, in other words, we would potentially give states more flexibility to put more people back to work, not to take them off the work requirement under welfare. Everybody who has looked at this says what Governor Romney is saying is absolutely wrong. Not only are his super PACs running millions of dollars' worth of ads making this claim; Governor Romney himself is approving this and saying it on the stump.
"So the contrast I think is pretty stark. They can run the campaign that they want, but the truth of the matter is you can't just make stuff up. That's one thing you learn as President of the United States."
That certainly sounds reasonable. In theory, part of leadership is realizing that you "can't just make stuff up."
But Romney believes he can ignore this maxim and win anyway. He's working under the assumption that the political rules have changed, we've entered a new era of post-truth rhetorical norms, and there are no longer punishments for deliberately saying the opposite of the reality.
Indeed, we've created a system of incentives -- Romney will benefit by crafting a racially-charged lie, which has no bearing in fact, but which rallies his base, for whom the distinction between fact and fiction isn't terribly important. At the same time, the lie will begin to permeate the mainstream's understanding of current events, thanks to reporting that tells voters, "Romney claims Obama gutted welfare law; Obama disagrees."
Greg Sargent added, "It's true that there's serious truth-stretching on both sides.... But it remains the case that we are seeing nothing from the Obama side that's anything like what Romney is attempting. Romney right now is premising one of the central arguments of his whole campaign on a complete lie."
And with each passing day, Romney appears increasingly certain he can get away with it.
Michael Tomasky explained today, This is not normal. Normal is to stretch the truth.... But the Romney welfare ads have no grain of truth at all."
Romney is testing American politics, pushing past boundaries, raising uncomfortable questions about just what kind of man he really is. Eleven weeks before Election Day, however, Romney just doesn't seem to give a damn.

Sununu stands by debunked welfare criticism of Obama

Sununu stands by debunked welfare criticism of Obama
August 22nd, 2012
08:46 PM ET

(CNN) - John Sununu, a high-profile surrogate for Mitt Romney, on Wednesday stood by the criticism of President Barack Obama in Romney campaign television advertisements that make a claim CNN and others have found to be false.
"But on July 12th, President Obama quietly announced a plan to gut welfare reform by dropping work requirements," said one ad, using language similar to a spot released Wednesday morning. "Under Obama's plan, you wouldn't have to work and wouldn't have to train for a job. They just send you your welfare check."

Sununu, who is a former governor of New Hampshire, argued on CNN's "The Situation Room" that the Obama administration weakened work rules related to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program in a July 12 Health and Human Services memorandum.
Sununu said the memorandum goes "well beyond" a waiver request from several governors related to the law. Among the governors who have recently requested waivers are two Republicans.
Governors can request, and may be granted, waivers from certain aspects of the law, and the memo in question said the "Administration for Children and Families (ACF) is interested in more efficient or effective means to promote employment entry, retention, advancement, or access to jobs that offer opportunities for earnings and advancement that will allow participants to avoid dependence on government benefits." Requests must be accompanied by an "evaluation plan," a timetable, budget, public input, and "a set of performance measures that states will track to monitor ongoing performance and outcomes throughout the length of the demonstration project."
Romney and Republicans have seized on the memo. Last week, Romney told reporters that the president has allowed for "a removal of the work requirement in certain cases." Romney's running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, charged in an interview Tuesday that Obama "is weakening the work requirements which where I come from in Wisconsin, it was a smashing success."
Sununu argued that the Obama administration's memo included "broad-enough language that allows it to include aspects that are not employer training, real training or employer related.
"And what you want to avoid is language that encourages or permits people to do those soft self-studies that a lot of people have been talking about that people ought to be able to do, to look for work on the Internet instead of going to an employer," he told CNN's Wolf Blitzer.
Blitzer read from the governors' requests and the HHS memo, and told Sununu,"We've done the research. Not only us, but every major fact-checker has done the research and the president wants to make sure that in this particular case, that work requirement is maintained."
"It's not just CNN, it's every major fact-checking organization has said he has not gutted, has not gutted by any means, the work requirements," Blitzer said.
A CNN fact-check of the ad's claim aired earlier in the program and rated it false. categorized it as "Pants on Fire!" and wrote, "A Mitt Romney TV ad claims the Obama administration has adopted 'a plan to gut welfare reform by dropping work requirements.' The plan does neither of those things."
Pressed about the fact check reports in an interview Wednesday, Romney himself offered a defense and essentially faulted the outlets for showing bias, even though his campaign has used analyses by some of the groups, like, to bolster its own arguments.
"Fact-checkers on both sides of the aisle will look in the way they think is most consistent with their own views," Romney told the Des Moines Register in Iowa, before repeating the claim. "It's very clear that others who have looked at the same issue feel that the president violates the provision of the act which requires work in welfare, defines what work is. He guts that, he ends that requirement for those that seek that welfare."
The president also answered a question on the subject in a Monday news conference, saying, "Everybody who's looked at this says what Governor Romney is saying is absolutely wrong."
"In fact what's happened was that my administration, responding to the requests of five governors, including two Republican governors, agreed to approve giving them, those states, some flexibility in how they manage their welfare rolls as long as it produced 20 percent increases in the number of people who are getting work," he said. "So in other words, we would potentially give states more flexibility to put more people back to work, not to take them off the work requirement under welfare." 

The committee drafting the Republican Party’s platform rejected a bid to include a plank calling for preservation of the mortgage interest tax deduction Monday.
The battle pitted allies of the beleaguered real-estate industry – who favor the deduction – against some conservative activists, who favor a simpler tax code with fewer deductions overall. Party leaders also opposed the amendment, hoping to avoid a drawn-out battle over preserving a range of different tax breaks in the party platform.
But some opponents of Monday’s amendment conceded that the home-mortgage break is uniquely important to many voters, and the final vote on the measure was close.
The rejected amendment, proposed by Shirley Wiseman of Kentucky, would have added “We must preserve the mortgage interest deduction” to the party’s platform.
A number of delegates backed the measure, calling it an important statement of support for the struggling residential real estate market and homebuyers.
“This shows the Republican Party’s policy of supporting the middle class, supporting those who want to enter the middle class,” said John Sigler, a delegate from Delaware.
Opponents of the amendment, including former Missouri Sen. Jim Talent, said specific platform provisions on the tax code would bog down the platform and get in the way of major tax reform.
Proposals like this one, said Minnesota delegate Kevin Erickson, are the reason an overhaul of the tax code is so hard.
“As soon as we start talking about it, everyone has a pet one,” Mr. Erickson said. “Comprehensive tax reform that we’re talking about means the entire thing gets redone from the ground up.”
The amendment failed on a show of hands, after committee leaders couldn’t decide which side won a voice vote.

First on CNN: GOP prepares tough anti-abortion platform
August 20th, 2012
10:41 PM ET

First on CNN: GOP prepares tough anti-abortion platform

Tampa, Florida (CNN) - The Republican Party is once again set to enshrine into its official platform support for "a human life amendment" to the Constitution that would outlaw abortion without making explicit exemptions for rape or incest, according to draft language of the platform obtained exclusively by CNN late Monday.
"Faithful to the 'self-evident' truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed," the draft platform declares. "We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment's protections apply to unborn children."
The party will reaffirm its opposition to federally-funded embryonic stem cell research and demand that the government "not fund or subsidize health care which includes abortion coverage."

Republicans have also inserted a "salute" to states pushing "informed consent" laws - an apparent reference to ultrasound bills that have moved through some state legislatures - "mandatory waiting periods prior to an abortion, and health-protective clinic regulation."
The document, crafted Monday in a subcommittee meeting of the Republican Party's official platform committee in Tampa, is being closely guarded by party officials but was provided to CNN by a Republican source here.
The source cautioned that the statement of principle is still in draft form and must be approved by the full platform committee on Tuesday and by delegates to the Republican National Convention next week.
The GOP's abortion plank faces scrutiny every four years, and this year's document contains language similar to the platforms that were adopted by the party at their conventions in 2000, 2004 and 2008.
But the abortion issue has been thrust into the center of the presidential campaign as this year's convention approaches, thanks to comments from Missouri Rep. Todd Akin, a U.S. Senate candidate, about abortion and "legitimate rape."
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan sharply condemned Akin's remarks and pledged that under a Romney administration, abortion would be allowed in the case of rape.
An exemption for rape, though, is not included in the platform set to be adopted by the party Romney will officially lead when he accepts the Republican nomination next week.
And Ryan, his vice presidential pick, has opposed exceptions for rape and voted alongside Akin in the House, though Ryan now says he defers to Romney's position on the matter.
Debate over the abortion plank flared four years ago when John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee at the time, said he wanted to add language to the platform to recognize exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother.
That prompted angry finger-wagging from top social conservatives.
Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, chided McCain and said it would be "political suicide" for him to add language about exceptions for rape or incest in the abortion platform.

Rape Pregnancies Are Rare

John C. Willke, M.D.
Life Issues Connector, April 1999, Reprinted with permission

CLR NOTE: View the CLR statement dated August 21, 2012, on the Akin controversy by clicking here.
First, let's define the term "rape." When pro-lifers speak of rape pregnancies, we should commonly use the phrase "forcible rape" or "assault rape," for that specifies what we're talking about. Rape can also be statutory. Depending upon your state law, statutory rape can be consensual, but we're not addressing that here.
A relatively new category is "date rape." For some reason this is supposed to be different, but, forcible rape is rape, regardless of whether it occurs on a date or behind the bushes. If a college woman is raped on a date, she should undergo a medical examination and treatment, just as she would in the aftermath of an assault rape. It is not a separate category.
Assault rape pregnancies are extremely rare. Most pro-lifers have heard this comment, but too often cannot back it up with facts. A candidate for office in the State of Arkansas made this comment before the last elections. He was roundly criticized and ridiculed by the opposing candidate and the media. Unfortunately, there was no evidence that he offered substantive proof to back up his claim that rape pregnancies were rare.
How many forcible rapes result in a pregnancy? The numbers claimed have ranged the entire spectrum of possibilities. Some feminists have claimed as high as 5 to 10 percent, which is absurd. One problem has been the lack of available studies and accurate statistics. Often women do not admit to having been raped. On the other hand, it has been known that women, pregnant from consensual intercourse, have later claimed rape. Is it possible to know the actual facts?
There have been some studies. In the statistical abstract of the US in 1989, there were 90,000 rapes reported in the United States. (Bureau of Census Table #283)
Another study was from the U.S. Justice Department, which surveyed 49,000 households annually between the years 1973-1987. In 1973, it reported 95,934 completed rapes. In 1987, the figure was 82,505. The study stated that only 53% were reported to police. Factoring this in, the totals were 181,000 rapes in 1973 and 155,000 in 1987. In August 1995, the US Justice Department, using a different study with different questions, returned a result of 170,000 completed rapes plus 140,000 attempted rapes.
There are approximately 100,000,000 females old enough to be at risk for rape in the United States. If we calculate on the basis of 100,000 rapes, that means that one woman in 1,000 is raped each year. If we calculate on the basis of 200,000 rapes, that means that one woman in 500 is raped each year.
Now for the important question. How many rape pregnancies are there? The answer is that, according to statistical reporting, there are no more than one or two pregnancies resultant from every 1,000 forcible rapes.
But, does it make sense? Let's look, using the figure of 200,000 rapes each year.
  • Of the 200,000 women who were forcibly raped, one-third were either too old or too young to get pregnant. That leaves 133,000 at risk for pregnancy.
  • A woman is capable of being fertilized only 3 days (perhaps 5) out of a 30-day month. Multiply our figure of 133,000 by three tenths. Three days out of 30 is one out of ten, divide 133 by ten and we have 13,300 women remaining. If we use five days out of 30 it is one out of six. Divide one hundred and thirty three thousand by six and we have 22,166 remaining.
  • One-fourth of all women in the United States of childbearing age have been sterilized, so the remaining three-fourths come out to 10,000 (or 15,000).
  • Only half of assailants penetrate her body and/or deposit sperm in her vagina,1 so let's cut the remaining figures in half. This gives us numbers of 5,000 (or 7,500).
  • Fifteen percent of men are sterile, that drops that figure to 4,250 (or 6,375).
  • Fifteen percent of non-surgically sterilized women are naturally sterile. That reduces the number to 3,600 (or 5,400).
  • Another fifteen percent are on the pill and/or already pregnant. That reduces the number to 3,070 (or 4,600).
  • Now factor in the fact that it takes 5-10 months for the average couple to achieve a pregnancy. Use the smaller figure of 5 months to be conservative and divide the avove figures by 5. The number drops to 600 (or 920).
  • In an average population, the miscarriage rate is about 15 percent. In this case we have incredible emotional trauma. Her body is upset. Even if she conceives, the miscarriage rate will be higher than in a more normal pregnancy. If 20 percent of raped women miscarry, the figure drops to 450 (or 740).
Finally, factor in what is certainly one of the most important reasons why a rape victim rarely gets pregnant, and that's physical trauma.
Every woman is aware that stress and emotional factors can alter her menstrual cycle. To get and stay pregnant a woman's body must produce a very sophisticated mix of hormones. Hormone production is controlled by a part of the brain that is easily influenced by emotions. There's no greater emotional trauma that can be experienced by a woman than an assault rape. This can radically upset her possibility of ovulation, fertilization, implantation and even nurturing of a pregnancy. 
So what further percentage reduction in pregnancy will this cause? No one knows, but this factor certainly cuts this last figure by at least 50 percent and probably more. If we use the 50 percent figure, we have a final figure of 225 (or 370) women pregnant each year. These numbers closely match the 200 that have been documented in clinical studies.
So assault rape pregnancy is extremely rare. If we use the figure of 200, it is 4 per state per year. Even if we use a figure of 500, we're talking about only ten per state, per year. In the United States in one year, there are more than 6 million pregnancies. Roughly 3 million eventuate in live birth, 1.5 million are aborted and 500,000 miscarry. And so while each assault rape pregnancy is a tragedy for the mother (not for the baby, though), we can with confidence say that such pregnancies amount to a minuscule fraction of the total annual pregnancies in the United States. Further, less than half of assault rape pregnancies are aborted, even though that course of action tends to be vigorously pushed by those around the woman. 2,3
One final thought, Sandra Mahkorn, in two excellent studies, has asked such women what was their chief complaint? One might fully assume it was the fact that she was pregnant, but that is incorrect. Her chief complaint was how other people treated her. Such treatment ranged from negative, to simply getting little support from those around her. Even in a culture that offers little support and aggressively pushes abortion as a solution, fewer that half of such babies are killed by abortion. Think of how many fewer yet there would be if each pregnant victim of a rape were given the support, aid and tender loving care that she and her baby deserve.
Our goal is to offer truly compassionate care to the woman. That is what is best for both mother and child.
New England Journal of Medicine, A.N. Groth, Sexual DyFORBESSunction [sic] During Rape, Oct. 6, 1977, p.764-6
2 Mahkorn & Dolan, "Sexual Assault & Pregnancy." In New Perspectives on Human Abortion, University Publisher of Amer., 1981, pp.182-199
Mahkorn, "Pregnancy & Sexual Assault." In Psychological Aspects of Abortion, University Publishers of Amer., 1979, pp. 53-72
By J. C. Willke, MD,
reprinted with permission from 4/99 Life Issues Connector

Health Experts Dismiss Assertions on Rape

Representative Todd Akin’s assertion that women who are victims of “legitimate rape” rarely get pregnant provoked outrage across the political spectrum, but the views he articulated are far from new in anti-abortion circles.
The idea that during rape, “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down” to prevent pregnancy, as Mr. Akin said, has surfaced periodically among anti-abortion advocates over the past two decades, usually involving the term “forcible rape” to refer to what Mr. Akin called “legitimate.”

Dr. John C. Willke, a general practitioner with obstetric training and a former president of the National Right to Life Committee, was an early proponent of this view, articulating it in a book originally published in 1985 and again in a 1999 article. He reiterated it in an interview Monday.
“This is a traumatic thing — she’s, shall we say, she’s uptight,” Dr. Willke said of a woman being raped, adding, “She is frightened, tight, and so on. And sperm, if deposited in her vagina, are less likely to be able to fertilize. The tubes are spastic.”

Leading experts on reproductive health, however, dismissed this logic.

“There are no words for this — it is just nuts,” said Dr. Michael Greene, a professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School.
Dr. David Grimes, a clinical professor in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of North Carolina, said, that “to suggest that there’s some biological reason why women couldn’t get pregnant during a rape is absurd.”

Mr. Akin’s statement did have supporters. Bryan Fischer, director of issue analysis for the American Family Association, a conservative Christian group, defended Mr. Akin on his program “Focal Point,” citing “John Willke, who is an M.D. by the way — a lot of these ignoramuses on Twitter are not.”
He read from Dr. Willke’s 1999 article, which described what is “certainly one of the most important reasons why a rape victim rarely gets pregnant, and that’s physical trauma.”
He continued with the article: “To get and stay pregnant a woman’s body must produce a very sophisticated mix of hormones. Hormone production is controlled by a part of the brain that is easily influenced by emotions. There’s no greater emotional trauma that can be experienced by a woman than an assault rape. This can radically upset her possibility of ovulation, fertilization, implantation and even nurturing of a pregnancy.”
Mr. Fischer concluded: “In other words, ladies and gentleman, Todd Akin was exactly right.”

Representative Ron Paul, an obstetrician who ran unsuccessfully for the Republican presidential nomination, was asked about the issue Monday. “Rep. Paul has no comment,” a spokeswoman said by e-mail.

Dr. Willke, 87, asserted yesterday that “way under 1 percent” of rape victims become pregnant, not just because of female biology but because about half of rapists “do not deposit sperm in the vagina.” That, Dr. Willke said, is because many rapists have “a preference for rectal intercourse over vaginal”; experience “premature ejaculation, which is a major factor”; or “some of these guys just plain aren’t fertile.”

But several experts said there is no solid data supporting such contentions. A 1996 study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, generally considered one of the few peer-reviewed research efforts on this subject, estimated that 5 percent of rapes result in pregnancy.
“Yeah, there are all sorts of hormones, including ones that cause your heart to beat fast when you’re frightened,” said Dr. Greene. But he added, “I’m not aware of any data that says that reduces a woman’s risk of getting pregnant.”

As for the contention that a rape victim’s fallopian tubes tighten, Dr. Grimes, formerly of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said, “That’s nonsense. Everything is working. The tube is very small anyway and sperm are very tiny — they’re excellent swimmers.”        

Soldiers relieve sailors at Guantánamo prison

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Posted on Monday, August 20, 2012
GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba U.S. Army troops now stand guard where the U.S. Navy once stood watch.

With the military out of Iraq and drawing down in Afghanistan, the Pentagon has been systematically turning over the prison camp guard role to specially trained soldiers and relieving sailors brought to patrol prison camp cellblocks as a stop-gap measure in the war on terror. This realigns forces for the long run in the prison camps that President Barack Obama campaigned to close.

Now, overwhelmingly it’s soldiers guarding the 168 foreign men at the detention center. The sailors the Pentagon pulled from their regular assignments are being returned to sea duty.
The Department of the Navy wouldn’t talk about it, leaving it to a Defense Department spokesman, Army Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale, to explain there’s “nothing nefarious here.”
“Nearly all the guard force in the camps is the regular Army or Army National Guard,” said Breasseale. “It was once about 50/50 Army-Navy.”

To be sure, Guantánamo is still a Navy base — the oldest belonging to the United States overseas. A Navy captain, whose rank is the equivalent of an Army colonel, is the base commander. He’s known as the “skipper,” Navy lingo for the commander of a ship, which in this instance is a 45-square-mile corner of southeast Cuba that has a McDonald’s, public school, seaport and suburban-style housing for sailors who get to bring along their families.
A total of 804 U.S. Navy enlisted and officers are assigned to the base, where foreign workers hired by Defense Department contractors outnumber service members. They’re mostly from Jamaica and the Philippines, and they do the service jobs that sailors no longer do on land duty — cook in the galleys, run the power plant, mop the floors.

But pass through at Roosevelt Gate, Guantánamo’s entry into the Detention Center Zone, and there are twice as many soldiers than sailors assigned to prison camp jobs. Puerto Rican National Guard troops run the checkpoint. Once through, the first thing you see is a sign promoting the Army’s Value of the Week, one of seven mottos like “Courage” and “Selfless Service.”

Headquarters still has a mixture of all the services. The commander of the camps is a Navy admiral and his staff attorney, public affairs officer and chief of staff are all Navy captains. The officer in charge of the guard force is an Army colonel. Medical services are run by the Navy, whose forces are distinguishable in the camps by their different patterned battle-dress uniforms.

Detention Center staff figures provided to The Miami Herald on Monday estimated there were 900 from the Army, 400 from the Navy, 100 from the Air Force, 80 from the U.S. Coast Guard and five Marines assigned to what is technically a temporary detention mission. That’s a ratio of nearly 9-to-1 troops to captives — from the cellblocks to the court compound to special seaborne security.

But the Navy deployment to the detention center is “is slowly but surely being ramped down,” says Rear Adm. John W. Smith Jr., commander of Joint Task Force Guantánamo, as the prison camps project is called.

Sailors first starting guarding at Guantánamo’s cellblocks in 2004 or 2005, according to a Defense Department official who was authorized to discuss Guantánamo’s staff issues on condition of anonymity. At that time, the Army found itself battling an insurgency in Iraq and stretched across two battlefronts, from Baghdad to Kabul. And it was “tapped out” by 15-month deployments, stop-loss policies and trouble meeting recruiting targets, the official said. The best choice for Guantánamo may have been Army MPs, soldiers who were specially schooled in detention and corrections skills, notably to do guard duty at Fort Leavenworth, the “disciplinary barracks” for criminal service members. But they were tapped out, too.

So the Navy pulled sailors off land and sea duty as “individual augmentees,” gave them special training and dispatched them to one-year tours at Guantánamo. Some were “Masters at Arms,” the official said, Navy cops who typically patrol a base or waterway, do some criminal investigations and enforce traffic laws. But many were not. Engineers, bosun’s mates, supply specialists, even clerks got special training and one-year tours in the cellblocks of Guantánamo.

Today, Smith said, only a few Guantánamo guards are sailors.

They’re assigned to at least one of the three camps that the military won’t let reporters see — Camp Iguana, housing a few men the courts have ordered free; Camp 7, housing former CIA prisoners, or Camp Echo, a segregation site for lawyers to meet their captive clients and others. He would not elaborate.

And MP units, both active duty and reserves, have moved in to the place that Obama ordered closed upon taking office even before he ordered the withdrawals from Iraq or Afghanistan.

Smith, who has done mix-and-match service from Iraq to his last post at the Key West interagency anti-trafficking center, says it’s all about trying to create stability in a place where troops come and the “one thing that’s constant is the detainees.”

Most of them have been in U.S. custody for more than a decade.

“The detainees will use that,” said Smith, noting the captives at times know the military’s Standard Operation Procedures that govern Guantánamo detention “better than we do. So to have a constituent force in some form or fashion will help facilitate and mitigate that gap.”

Read more here:

Rape, Pregnancy and the Akin Controversy

Rev. Robert Fleischmann, National Director of Christian Life Resources

In a media hungry for controversy Congressman Todd Akin appeared as a tidy morsel of thoughtlessness.  And what began as an appetizer has grown into a full course meal of presumed misinformation.
On Sunday, August 19, 2012 Rep. Akin told KTVI-TV in an interview, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”  There you have it!  Enough words to feast on but let’s dissect it.
Akin referenced a “legitimate rape.”  Hard to conclude anything but thoughtlessness to speak of a “legitimate rape,” as if there were any other kind of rape.  In a world of sound bites Akin got bit.  But is there such a thing as an “illegitimate rape”?
The most conservative studies have suggested false rape reports account for 4%-8% of all reported rapes.[1]  So, 4%-8% of rape reports could rightfully be called “illegitimate rapes.”
But it dodges the real point.  In an issue as emotionally charged as rape, any qualification is dangerous and open to misunderstanding if not intentional misinterpretation.
As one might expect, Akin felt the harsh rebuke of those seeking an opportunity to portray him as insensitive.  In a campaign ad response to the criticism Akin stated:
Rape is an evil act. I used the wrong words in the wrong way and for that I apologize.  As the father of two daughters, I want tough justice for predators. I have a compassionate heart for the victims of sexual assault. And I pray for them. The fact is, rape can lead to pregnancy. The truth is, rape has many victims.
The mistake I made was in the words I said, not in the heart I hold. I ask for your forgiveness.
Taking Representative Akin’s words in the best possible way we can accept his apology for failing to respect the high emotion of the rape issue.  Now, how do the facts hold up?
Akin suggested that the emotional trauma of a rape creates some sort of natural birth control reflex in a woman’s body.  He does not say pregnancies never occur, but in fairness he does not acknowledge that fact either.  Is he just clinging in hearsay and rumor?
Right now news sources are quick to repeat the familiar mantra that a pregnancy occurs in 5% of rape cases.  It is a 16-year-old statistic lifted from a study of 4,008 women.[2]  A 1982 study of 692 women suggested the chance of pregnancy occurring from a rape to be between 2% and 4%.[3]  While statistically 2% to 5% is not a large percentage, for the victim the prospect no matter how remote emotionally compounds an already traumatic event.
But let’s be honest here – Akin violated the emotional sanctity of this topic with his term, “legitimate rape.”  We now want to know the accuracy of his statement.  Emotionally, there is no debate that even 2% is 2% too much.  Is it true that the trauma of the rape reduces the chances for pregnancy?
I have yet to see a study that demonstrates some sort of contraceptive effect from a rape.  I do believe, however, it is not an unwarranted conclusion.
According to eMedicineHealth[4], a woman who is a typical user of combination hormonal pills has an 8% chance of getting pregnant.  If her partner is a typical user of the male condom she has a 15% chance of getting pregnant.  If she has never delivered a child and is a typical user of a cervical cap she has a 16% chance of getting pregnant.  If she and her partner were typical in practicing the withdrawal method, she would have a 27% chance of getting pregnant.  And finally, if neither she or her partner used any form of birth control, she would have an 85% chance of getting pregnant.
Eugene F. Diamond, MD, Professor of Pediatrics and Past Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine, wrote in the “To the Editor” section of the April 11, 1985 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine:
Pregnancy is rare after a single act of forcible rape. In a prospective study of 4000 rapes in Minnesota, there were no pregnancies. In a retrospective study covering nine years in Chicago, there were no pregnancies. In a prospective study of 117 rapes there were no pregnancies among either the 17 victims who received DES or the 100 who did not.
Statistically speaking, it appears something happens in a rape, either with the victim or with the perpetrator, that reduces the incidence of pregnancy.  Fertility specialists continually debate the role of emotions, unresolved conflicts and trauma play in female infertility.  As you review the literature you will see there are strong convictions on both sides.
That all being said, could Akin be right?  Does the 2% to 5% of rapes resulting in pregnancy suggest something else is “shutting down” what otherwise could be a 27% (withdrawal) to 85% (no birth control method) chance of getting pregnant?
The Real Point
In a rape in which pregnancy does occur there are two victims – the woman and her unborn child.  The suggestion that an unborn child should be classified as a victim along with the woman is the rub.  The naïve component of the abortion-rights movement likes to continue the outdated mantra that in the early stages of the pregnancy it is merely a blob of cells.  As such it is of no value compared to the needs of the mother.
The more sophisticated element of the abortion rights movement are more honest in their evaluations and shocking in their conclusions.  The sophisticated advocate admits that in an abortion a child dies.  It is not profound logic that leads to this conclusion.  After all, upon fertilization it is a chromosomally unique individual that grows and migrates down the fallopian tube and implants in the uterine wall.  Even if prevented from implanting, the developing life could continue maturing as a human being with nourishment and care.  Today they can be transplanted into surrogate mothers and we are still hearing rumors of progress made in the invention of an artificial womb.  At fertilization that embryo was you as it was you at implantation in the uterine wall, as it was you when you made that first in utero kick, as it was you at birth, at school, at marriage, as a parent and as a grandparent.
So the sophisticated advocates of abortion acknowledge that in abortion a child dies and consider it a sad but necessary evil to protect the autonomy of the mother.  It is of subordinate value to the life of the mother.  By referring to the mother and baby both as victims injects emotional value to both mother and the child – something abortion-rights advocates want to avoid.
Akin’s point was that killing one of the two victims of a rape is morally wrong.  At the same time Akin’s supports toughening the law against the rapists.  Now, that is focusing the punishment on the real fiend!
It is hard for any of us to get past the emotion of the rape experience.  Its violation of human dignity and intimacy is atrocious.  The memory never disappears and an entire future is altered.  Akin, as many others of a pro-life persuasion, want harsher punishments for rapists.  They want greater support services and protection for women in danger of rape and for those who have been raped.  They also want to protect a woman who will never forget her rape from compounding the tragedy of terminating her own child’s life.
Without a doubt Akin could have said what he said much differently and with more sensitivity.  Also, in the interest of winning the favor of the general public he must also accept the fact that most people today can’t get past the thought of the rape event.  His advocacy for protecting the unborn child conceived from a rape is morally correct but at this time is not politically prudent.
We live in a nation that has taken the lives of more than 54 million unborn children through abortion.  Getting society to realize the error of all that is a big and noble task.  Opinion polls suggest we are making progress but we aren’t there yet.
I would counsel Akin to focus on that larger picture and leave the emotionally distorting event of pregnancy from a rape for a later day when society is better educated.  It is a prudent move which does not desert the plight of the unborn child resulting from a rape but rather is taking the steps for progress where you can get it for a greater and more lasting solution in the future.
The enemies of Representative Akin would consider his defeat in the run for the U.S. Senate dessert.  I am more hopeful that the proper education that can come out of all this might better result in tougher laws against rapists, care and support for the women who have been raped, and protection for the most defenseless of all – the unborn child.  Now wouldn’t that be sweet!
By Pastor Robert Fleischmann, National Director of Christian Life Resources
August 21, 2012

 “Section II: Crime Index Offenses Reported”. FBI, 1996 and Kelly. L., Lovett, J., Regan, L. (2005). “A gap or a chasm? Attrition in reported rape cases”. Home Office Research Study 293. London: Home Office.   Lonsway, Kimberley A.; Aschambault, Joanne; Lisak, David (2009). “False Reports: Moving Beyond the Issue to Successfully Investigate and Prosecute Non-Stranger Sexual Assault”. The Voice 3 (1): 1–11.  Cybulska, B. (July 2007). “Sexual assault: key issues”. J R Soc Med 100 (7): 321–4. doi:10.1258/jrsm.100.7.321. PMC 1905867. PMID 17606752. [sources cited in Wikipedia entry on “Rape Statistics”
[2] Rape-related pregnancy: estimates and descriptive characteristics from a national sample of women. Am J Obstet Gynecol 1996;175:320-324
[3] Yuzpe AA, Smith RP, Rademaker AW. A multicenter clinical investigation employing ethinyl estradiol combined with dl-norgestrel as postcoital contraceptive agent. Fertil Steril 1982;37:508-513
The standards for 'embarrassment'

Associated Press
You've got to be kidding me.
Mitt Romney said Thursday that President Obama and his allies should be embarrassed over a controversial ad from a super-PAC supporting the president that links the death of a cancer patient to the GOP contender's tenure at Bain Capital.
"You know, in the past, when people pointed out that something was inaccurate, why, campaigns pulled the ad," Romney said on Bill Bennett's radio show. "They were embarrassed. Today, they just blast ahead. You know, the various fact-checkers look at some of these charges in the Obama ads and they say that they're wrong, and inaccurate, and yet he just keeps on running them."
Look, I know the Priorities USA Action spot is provocative. The spot, which hasn't actually aired anywhere, is borderline on the fairness scale (even if the ad's detractors haven't pointed to specific inaccuracies). I get it.
But the ad was released the same day as Romney's welfare smear, which was as dishonest a national ad you'll see in this campaign cycle or any other. Paul Waldman wrote this week, "I've been paying very, very close attention to political ads for a long time. In my former career as an academic I did a lot of research on political ads. I've watched literally every single presidential general election campaign ad ever aired since the first ones in 1952.... But I cannot recall a single presidential campaign ad in the history of American politics that lied more blatantly than this one."
Romney wants to talk about politicians who'd get "embarrassed" when "people pointed out that something was inaccurate"? He wants to talk about "the various fact-checkers"? As Greg Sargent noted, "[I]t remains puzzling that Romney would go here. After all, fact checkers have called out his ads as wrong, inaccurate, misleading or false again and again and again and again and again and again and again. If Romney pulled any of those ads, I'm not aware of it."
Ultimately, I'm having a hard time understanding how Romney's brain works. When he gets caught lying, he brazenly repeats the lie. When he runs dishonest ads, and gets called out by fact-checkers, he keeps airing them. And yet, Romney then whines in Republican media about his amazement that Democrats aren't "embarrassed" by "inaccurate" claims.
I want to understand the mindset that makes such cognitive dissonance possible, but I'm coming up empty.
Consider another example from yesterday.
"I am seeing some of the ads out there. I don't know whatever happened to a campaign of hope and change. I thought he was a new kind of politician. But instead, his campaign and the people working with him have focused almost exclusively on personal attacks."
Right. Mitt Romney has spent the last several months arguing that President Obama is a corrupt liar, who hates free enterprise and religion, and who's driven by an ideology that's "foreign to the American experience." One of Romney's chief surrogates has said the president should "learn how to be an American," and "has no idea how the American system functions," in part because "he spent his early years in Hawaii smoking something."
But Obama, we're told who is "focused almost exclusively on personal attacks," despite the inconvenient reality that the president has yet to attack Romney personally in any way.
I'm not sure which thought is more disconcerting: the notion that Romney believes what he's saying (in which case he's burdened by deeply strange delusions) or he doesn't (in which case he's a profound cynic who perceives Americans are uninformed fools).
Either way, I'm left with the same question: if the president were as awful as Romney says he is, shouldn't the Republican candidate be able to stick to the facts?

The scandal behind Romney's new attack ad


Mitt Romney's presidential campaign has presented the political world with an important test. I'm eager to see whether we pass or fail.
First, a little background. Some Republican governors this year asked the Obama administration for some new flexibility on welfare standards -- the governors had some ideas about moving folks from welfare to work and needed the White House to sign off. Obama agreed -- existing work requirements would stay in place, but states, if they want to, can take advantage of new flexibility when it comes to experimenting with existing law.
This is the sort of shifting-power-to-the-states policy that Republicans are supposed to love. As of this morning, however, it's the basis for a new Mitt Romney attack ad.

It's important to realize this is as dishonest an ad as you'll ever see -- in 2012 or in any other campaign cycle.
For those who can't watch clips online, the ad shows President Clinton signing welfare reform into law in 1996, "requiring work for welfare." The spot then argues, however, that President Obama "quietly announced a plan to gut welfare reform by dropping work requirements." The voiceover tells viewers, "Under Obama's plan, you wouldn't have to work and wouldn't have to train for a job. They just send you your welfare check.... and welfare to work goes back to being plain old welfare."
We then learn, "Mitt Romney will restore the work requirement because it works."
Romney's lying. He's not spinning the truth to his advantage; he's not hiding in a gray area between fact and fiction; he's just lying. The law hasn't been "gutted"; the work requirement hasn't been "dropped." Stations that air this ad are disseminating an obvious, demonstrable lie.
All Obama did is agree to Republican governors' request for flexibility. That's it. Indeed, perhaps the most jaw-dropping aspect of this is that Romney himself, during his one gubernatorial term, asked for the same kind of flexibility on welfare law that Obama agreed to last month. Romney, in other words, is attacking the president for doing what Romney asked the executive branch to do in 2005.
The entire line of attack is simply insane.
And that brings us back to the test for the political world.
How are we to respond to a campaign that deliberately deceives the public without shame? This lie about welfare policy comes on the heels of Romney's lie about voting rights in Ohio, which came on the heels of Romney's lies about the economy; which came on the heels of Romney's lies about health care; which came on the heels of Romney's lies about taxes.
The Republican nominee for president is working under the assumption that he can make transparently false claims, in writing and in campaign advertising, with impunity. Romney is convinced that there are no consequences for breathtaking dishonesty.
The test, then, comes down to a simple question: is he right?
The cynical response to an ad like this is that the lies are routine -- it's just something "everybody" in politics does. That's wrong. An ad this dishonest is a genuine scandal and it's time for political observers treat it as such. Reporters within earshot of the candidate shouldn't ask, "What about the gaffes?" They should ask, "Why are you lying about welfare policy?"
Also note the larger context: if Obama were as awful a president as Romney claims, the Republican attack machine wouldn't have to make stuff up -- the truth would be so brutal that voters would recoil and flock to the GOP candidate naturally. What does it say about Romney's strength as a candidate that he has to make up garbage and hope voters don't know the difference?
Postscript: I'd be remiss if I neglected to mention the racial subtext of an attack ad like this one. For decades, Republicans used "welfare" as part of a racially-charged message ("Democrats want to give white people's money to lazy black people who'll get checks for sitting around"). I can't speak to Romney's motivations -- I'm not a mind-reader -- but the language in the ad harkens back to the kind of ugly and racially divisive rhetoric we heard from GOP candidates for far too long.
It's quite likely Team Romney would prefer to spend the next several days debating whether or not his new attack ad is racist -- it'd beat talking about his secret tax returns -- but that's not much of an excuse.
Indeed, it's what arguably makes this ad, not just painfully dishonest, but also disgusting. If Romney has any shame left, now would be a good time for him to take a long look in the mirror and come to terms with what he's become.
Ohio GOP Admits Early Voting Cutbacks Are Racially Motivated
Earlier this month I reported how Ohio Republicans were limiting early voting hours in Democratic counties, while expanding them on nights and weekends in Republican counties.

In response to the public outcry, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, who intervened in favor of limiting early voting hours in Democratic counties, issued a statewide directive mandating uniform early voting hours in all eighty-eight Ohio counties. Husted kept early voting hours from 8 am to 5 pm on weekdays from October 2 to 19 and broadened hours from 8 am to 7 pm from October 22 to November 2. But he refused to expand early voting hours beyond 7 pm during the week, on weekends or three days prior to the election (which is being challenged in court by the Obama campaign)—when it is most convenient for many working Ohioans to vote. Rather than expanding early voting hours across the state, Husted limited them for everybody. Voter suppression for all!

Montgomery County, Ohio—which includes Dayton—is now at the center of the early voting fight. (Obama won Montgomery County by 6 percent in 2008). On two separate occasions, December 28, 2011, and August 6, 2012, the four-member county board of elections unanimously approved expanded weekday and weekend early voting hours. But in a meeting on August 17, the two Republicans on the board reversed their position and opposed expanding early voting hours. With the committee deadlocked between Democratic and Republican members, Husted broke the tie in favor of the GOP, like he’s done in Cleveland, Columbus, Akron and Toledo.

Yet before breaking the tie, Husted ordered Democratic board members Tom Ritchie Sr. and Dennis Lieberman to hold a new meeting and rescind their votes in favor of early voting. When they refused, arguing that Husted’s directive did not apply to weekend voting, Husted suspended them from the county board of elections. (A third of the 28,000 in-person early voters in Montgomery County in 2008 voted on the weekend.)

“There’s no reason in the world for him to do what he’s doing to us other than to suppress the vote,” Ritchie, who’s served on the board of elections since 1995, told me. At a hearing in Columbus today, Husted’s office will decide whether Ritchie and Lieberman will be permanently suspended. “I fully expect that me and my fellow board member will be removed,” says Ritchie.
(UPDATE: a ruling is expected later this week.) If that’s the case, Ritchie and Lieberman plan to appeal their suspension to the Ohio Supreme Court. (He also believes that Husted’s order that the board hold a second meeting on August 17 violated Ohio’s Sunshine Laws, which requires that a government body give twenty-four-hour notice to the media and general public in advance of a public meeting.)
Llyn McCoy, president of the Ohio Association of Election Officials, says she was not consulted about Husted’s directive—despite his claim that he sought the input of local election officials before making his decision—and was “surprised” by the suspension of Ritchie and Lieberman. “I don’t see why Husted got into this ‘you voted, now you’re suspended’ kind of thing,” McCoy says. “The secretary of state was trying to send a message that he wasn’t going to tolerate any extended hours.”

Husted’s drastic action marks a dark day for democracy in Ohio. “Historically, the Montgomery County Board of Elections has been very well-run and is widely viewed as one of the best board of elections in the state,” says Ellis Jacobs, an attorney with the nonpartisan Miami Valley Voter Protection Coalition. “The board of elections planned ahead to maximize voters’ access to the polls and now they’re being punished by the secretary of state for doing their job so well.”

Why do Ohio Republicans suddenly feel so strongly about limiting early voting hours in Democratic counties? Franklin County (Columbus) GOP Chair Doug Preisse gave a surprisingly blunt answer to the Columbus Dispatch on Sunday: “I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban—read African-American—voter-turnout machine.” Preisse is not some rogue operative but the chairman of the Republican Party in Ohio’s second-largest county and a close adviser to Ohio Governor John Kasich.

Like Pennsylvania House majority leader Mike Turzai, who said his state’s voter ID law “is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania,” Preisse said publicly what many Republicans believe privately—keeping turnout down among Obama supporters is the best way for the GOP to win the 2012 election. That’s why, since the 2010 election, Republicans have devoted so much energy to voter-suppression efforts like limiting early voting hours, restricting voter registration drives, passing voter ID laws, disenfranchising ex-felons and purging the voter rolls.

Cutbacks to early voting disproportionately disenfranchise African-American voters in Ohio. African-Americans comprise 21 percent of the population in Franklin and Montgomery counties and 28 percent in Cleveland’s Cuyahoga County but accounted for 31 percent, 52 percent and 56 percent of early voters in the respective counties in 2008. (Nearly half of early voters in Franklin County in 2008 did so on nights or weekends.)

Now it’ll be harder for voters across Ohio, particularly in the most populous, heavily Democratic cities, to find a convenient time to vote before Election Day in order to avoid the long lines that plagued the state in 2004 and may have cost John Kerry the election. “In the hours and days now eliminated by legislative and Sec. of State restrictions, an estimated 197,000 Early In-Person votes were cast, constituting about 3.4% of all votes cast statewide in 2008,” according to a new report by Norman Robbins, research director for Northeast Ohio Voter Advocates. “This is very significant in Ohio where major elections have often been decided by a 2% margin of victory.”

Republicans were for reforms like early voting until Democrats started using them. “It just so happened that [2008] was the first time that early voting had been used in large numbers to mobilize African American and Latino voters," Wendy Weiser, director of the democracy program at the Brennan Center for Justice, told the Huffington Post. A federal court ruled on Thursday that early voting cutbacks in Florida—where blacks outnumbered whites by two to one among early voters in 2008—violated the Voting Rights Act. As Doug Preisse admitted on Sunday, Republicans are doing everything in their power to make sure 2012 isn’t a repeat of 2008.

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