The Shaheen Amendment currently has 12 cosponsors. It should have all 100. This amendment should be entirely non-controversial and should appeal even to those who generally oppose abortion but are sympathetic to its need in cases of rape or incest. Even the Hyde Amendment — the original ban on government coverage for abortion — allows for abortion in those circumstances. Thus, as it currently stands, civilian government-sponsored health insurance, such as Medicaid and the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, covers abortion in cases of life endangerment of a pregnant woman and when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. Yet military government-sponsored health insurance, known as Tricare, only covers abortion care in cases of life endangerment. This means a servicewoman — someone who has volunteered to serve our country and defend our rights in a time of war — is not entitled to the same government-sponsored health care coverage that her civilian counterpart receives. That is the unacceptable situation that the Shaheen Amendment would correct.
This is not just a theoretical problem. According to the Defense Department’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office’s FY 2010 Report, 3,158 sexual assaults were reported in the military last year, of which 27.7 percent, or approximately 875, were rape. However, underreporting is rampant — DoD estimates that 86 percent of military sexual assaults go unreported. That means there may have been closer to 6,250 rapes in 2010. About 5 percent of first-time unprotected sex results in pregnancy, but that number can rise in the context of repeated acts of sexual assault. Based on those factors, we estimate that upwards of 300 military rapes resulted in pregnancy last year. Furthermore, recent research suggests that junior enlisted women are much more likely to be raped and, at the same time, to have the fewest financial resources. DoD reports that more than half of military sexual assault victims are 20 to 24 years old, and the overwhelming majority earn less than $23,000 per year — barely above the federal poverty level for a family of four. Thus, the servicewomen least able to afford to pay out of pocket for an abortion following a rape are the most likely to need it.
Beyond the basic fairness rationale of treating our soldiers at least as well as civilians and meeting the needs of our most vulnerable soldiers, our national security demands the Shaheen Amendment. When politically-influenced policies interfere with a soldier’s access to care, they leave her unprepared to fight and thereby disrupt military readiness. The Shaheen Amendment would permit a servicewoman to receive safe, legal, and affordable abortion care on base or in the military’s health network in a seamless fashion along with the other services to which she is entitled after being sexually assaulted. In other words, it would allow her to get timely, compassionate care and to return to duty without unnecessary delay.
Ideally, servicewomen and military dependents would have coverage for abortion care whenever they needed it, but in the meantime, the Shaheen Amendment is a step in the right direction and the very least these brave women deserve.
by Dan Krotz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
What will a day in the life of a Californian be like in 40 years? If the state cuts its greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 — a target mandated by a state executive order — a person could wake up in a net-zero energy home, commute to work in a battery-powered car, work in an office with smart windows and solar panels, then return home and plug in her car to a carbon-free grid.
Such is a future envisaged in a study published Nov. 24 by the journal Science that analyzes the infrastructure and technology changes needed to reach California’s aggressive emissions reduction goal. The study was conducted by scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the San Francisco-based energy consulting firm Energy and Environmental Economics (E3).
How to get from here to there: Seven measures reduce California’s emissions from 875 million metric tons of CO2 in the 2050 baseline case to 85 million metric tons of CO2 emissions in the mitigation case.
The researchers describe a not-so distant time in which lights, appliances, and other devices are pushed to unprecedented levels of energy efficiency. Electricity is generated without emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. And most importantly — even after these measures are implemented — cars, heating systems, and most other equipment that now run on oil and natural gas will instead be powered by electricity.
The scientists say that all of this will be technologically feasible by 2050 if today’s pace of innovation continues.
“This study is meant to guide decisions about how to invest in our future. Assuming plausible technological advances, we find that it’s possible for California to achieve deep greenhouse gas reductions by 2050,” says Margaret Torn, the corresponding author of the paper and a staff scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Earth Sciences Division. Jim Williams, chief scientist at E3 and professor at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, is the lead author of the paper.
“To reach this goal, energy efficiency comes first, followed by decarbonization of electricity generation, followed by the electrification of transportation and other sectors,” says Williams.
The scientists developed this prescription using a model of California’s greenhouse gas emissions from 2010 to 2050 that takes into account the state’s changing population, economy, and physical infrastructure. The model includes six energy demand sectors (residential, commercial, industrial, agriculture, transportation, and petroleum industry) and two supply sectors (fuel and electricity).
They explored the best ways to reach California’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in 2050 by 80 percent below 1990 levels. This target is consistent with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fourth Assessment Report, which outlines the global emissions required to stabilize atmospheric concentrations at 450 parts per million. In California, this means a sharp reduction in CO2 emissions per year from 427 million metric tons in 1990 to 85 million metric tons in 2050.
The scientists started with this 85 million metric ton target and worked backwards to determine the changes needed to get there. They arrived at four mitigation scenarios, all of which rely on three major energy system transformations. Among the findings:
Energy Efficiency Comes First
Energy efficiency has been the low-hanging fruit for decades when it comes to reducing energy demand, and will likely remain so. The scientists found that energy efficiency improvements will net 28 percent of the emissions reductions required to meet California’s goal. The catch, however, is that energy efficiency will have to improve by at least 1.3 percent per year over the next 40 years. This is less than the level California achieved during its 2000-2001 electricity crisis, but it has never been sustained for decades.
The scientists found that the largest share of greenhouse gas reductions from energy efficiency comes from the building sector via improvements in building shell, HVAC systems, lighting, and appliances.
Next, Decarbonize Electricity Generation
Another 27 percent reduction in emissions comes from switching to electricity generation technologies that don’t pour carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Renewable energy, nuclear power, and fossil fuel-powered generation coupled with carbon capture and storage technology each has the potential to be the chief electricity resource in California. But they all must overcome technical limitations, and they’re all currently more expensive than conventional power generation.
Because it’s unclear which technology or technologies will win out in the long run, the scientists developed three separate scenarios that emphasize how each can reach the target, plus a fourth scenario that includes a blend of all three.
In addition, they determined that Californians can’t rely on renewable energy alone. At most, they found that 74 percent of the state’s electricity could be supplied by sources such as wind and solar. The scientists also stressed that a renewable energy-intensive grid will require breakthroughs in energy storage and ways to enable smart charging of vehicles, among other technologies.
And Finally, Goodbye Gas, Hello Electrons
Even after these emission reduction measures are employed, the scientists still came up short in ensuring California meets its emissions reduction goal by 2050. So they turned to cars, space and water heaters, and industrial processes that consume fuel and natural gas.
They determined that most of these technologies had to be electrified, with electricity constituting 55 percent of end-use energy in 2050, compared to 15 percent today. Overall, this nets a 16-percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, the final push needed to achieve an 80-percent reduction below 1990 levels.
The largest share of greenhouse gas reductions from electrification came from transportation. In the study, 70 percent of vehicle miles traveled — including almost all light-duty vehicle miles — are powered by electricity in 2050.
“The task is daunting, but not impossible. California has the right emissions trajectory with Assembly Bill 32,” says Williams, referring to California’s 2006 emissions legislation. “And it isn’t a matter of technology alone. R&D, investment, infrastructure planning, incentives for businesses, even behavior changes, all have to work in tandem. This requires policy, and society needs to be behind it.”
– Dan Krotz, originally published at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory website.
But when the movers hired by the bank and police were dispatched to evict the two women, they had a change of heart. In a huge victory for the 99 Percent, the movers “took one look at” Lee and decided not to go through with it. Watch WSB TV’s Channel 2′s video report about the incident:
The stress of the possible eviction made Lee’s daughter ill; she was rushed to the hospital the same day. Lee had one message for Deutsche Bank: “Please don’t come in and disturb me no more. When I’m gone you all can come back and do whatever they want to.”
The latest Annenberg study of women’s representation behind and in front of the camera in the movies in 2009 is out, and the results remain depressing: women have just 32.8 percent of speaking roles in the movies the study examined (the same percentage as in 2008 and up from 29.9 in 2007), and just 21.6 percent of producers (up from 19.1 percent in 2008 and 20.5 percent in 2007), 13.5 percent of movie writers (down from 13.6 in 2008 but up from 11.2 in 2007), and 3.6 percent of directors are women (down from 8 percent in 2009 and up from 2.7 in 2007). If women are involved as writers on a movie, the percentage of female characters in that film jumps from 29.8 percent of characters to 40 percent of characters, and if women are directing, the percentage of female characters rises from 32.2 percent of the speaking cast to 47.7 percent of the characters. Putting women in a position to tell stories changes the kinds of stories that get told, and our failure at the former guarantees our failure at the latter. The gains we’re making are small, and they don’t appear to be particularly durable from year to year.
A couple of data points, or the absence thereof, stood out at me. I’d actually be interested to see an analysis of non-speaking roles as well as speaking ones. If women had a majority of non-speaking roles, it might reinforce the idea that women in the movies are passive or merely eye-candy. Are there are a lot of women in the background of scenes where men are speaking, whether they’re presented as sexually available or part of the landscape? Do movies with female stars put women in the frame in passive roles instead of putting men there? If the percentages of speaking and non-speaking roles for women are roughly equal, it might just be that Hollywood is more comfortable telling stories about men or in male settings. Those problems are interrelated, but they aren’t precisely identical.
Second, one statistic that’s gone down is the percentage of female characters who are described as attractive within the movie, from 18.5 percent in 2007, to 15.1 percent in 2008, to 10.9 in 2009. During this same time, the percentage of female characters who are depicted partially unclothed has ticked up 1.8 percent, and the number of women portrayed in relationships has gone up 6.9 percent, which may mean that audiences don’t need to be told that yes, in fact, yet another pneumatic starlet is a good-lookin’ woman. But interestingly in 2009, the attractiveness of just 2.5 percent of male characters was remarked on during the course of a movie. Could it be? Could attractiveness be a more important indicator for women than it is for men? Could it be that we just sort of take for granted that a broad range of men are considered attractive, whereas it’s a requirement that the sexiness of women, particularly those who don’t fall in a narrow mold, be constantly reaffirmed?
And finally, it’s fascinating and deeply weird to me that just 16.83 percent of movies have casts that are balanced between men and women, up from 15.1 percent in 2008 and 11.88 in 2007. I get that some subjects, like war movies, are likely to be weighted toward heavily male casts. But for movies set in the civilian world, it’s not like the majority of women work at ladymags, or all-female PR firms, and it’s not like the majority of men work in all-male investment banking or management consulting shops. Even if they do, men and women tend to have friends, neighbors, and relatives of the opposite sex. We don’t divide our cities and towns into cloisters, and that’s the source of so many of our joys and torments, our consolations and stumbles towards the light. It’s odd that our movies try to separate us from each other, except in pursuit of sex and love.
Opponents of marijuana legalization often suggest that legalization would lead to an increased number of vehicle accidents. However, a new study from the Institute for the Study of Labor finds that states that legalized medical marijuana have seen a decline in traffic fatalities, the “leading cause of death for Americans age 35 and under.” According to researchers, states in which medical marijuana is legal saw a decline in alcohol use which, in turn, helped lower the number of traffic fatalities. “Specifically, we find that traffic fatalities fall by nearly 9 percent after the legalization of medical marijuana,” they said. As of now, 16 states have legalized medical marijuana and recent polls reveal that an overwhelming majority of Americans believe medical marijuana should be legalized.
Planned layoffs dropped for the second consecutive month in November, but the number of job cuts in 2011 has already surpassed the 2010 level as federal, state, and local governments continue shedding jobs, CNN Money reports. Job cuts this year total 564,297, a 13 percent increase over the 2010 total of just under 530,000. The public sector was hit the hardest, shedding roughly 180,000 jobs in 2011. Still, according to payroll company ADP, the economy added 206,000 jobs in November, including 130,000 in the private sector.
The American Lung Association has released a striking new ad with a nationwide buy to call on the Environmental Protection Agency to stop bowing to polluters and issue long-delayed air pollution standards that will protect children’s health. The EPA has just sent a proposal to allow power companies to delay compliance with the rules on mercury, air toxics, soot, and other pollutants. The ad features a bright red baby carriage against the dark backdrop of a coal-fired power plant.
A new Kaiser Family Foundation poll finds that support for the Affordable Care Act increased since its lowest approval dip in October, but Americans are still unsure of the actual provisions included in President Obama’s health care reform law. For instance, while 44 percent of voters have an unfavorable view of reform, 50 percent want to expand or keep it in place, with only 37 percent supporting repeal. A majority also favor its most popular elements like easy-to-understand benefit summaries and tax credits for small businesses:
But a surprisingly high number of voters are unaware that these these provisions are actually part of the law, with a majority falsely believing the ACA includes a new public option. A third of respondents also “think the law allows a government panel to make decisions about end-of-life care for people on Medicare”:
Kaiser suggests that public disapproval of the law has less to do with the actual provisions in the law — voters either like them or don’t know about them — and more with the “general disillusionment with the state of the country and Washington politics” (and, I would add, the long drawn out and complicated process of actually passing reform). If that’s the case, then the Democrats have a real opportunity to build support for the measure by highlighting and campaigning on some of its best features, a task that will seem less daunting as a growing number of voters begin to actually benefit from the law.
Elena Babich, a deputy of St. Petersburg’s Legislative Assembly and a supporter of the city’s proposed anti-gay propaganda law, has suggested that rainbow flags and homosexuality will lead to national extinction. Now, the St. Petersburg Times reports that Babich is linking the so-called “gay problem” to the “Jewish problem,” a term that is typically associated with Germany’s Third Reich:
Babich said she had “very many” friends who are gay, but all of them led “covert” lifestyles, and advised that LGBT people should act so as not to be visible to the public. She then compared them to the Jewish community. “It’s very important not to draw attention to oneself too much,” she said.
“One of the books that I have starts like this: The issue of same-sex love is somewhat like the Jewish problem. When there are too many Jews — in every field of management, on television, in the arts, everywhere — it ends badly for Jews themselves. They [Jews] always make efforts to regulate this aspect.”
The bill — which would fine groups and individuals for “public actions aimed at propaganda of pederasty, lesbianism, bisexuality, and transgenderism among minors” — has passed the first of three readings, but has stalled as lawmakers work to agree on specific language. The second reading had been tentatively set for Nov. 30, but has now been postponed “until after parliamentary polls on December 4.”
Embattled Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain, after a series of embarrassing gaffes on foreign policy, insisted that “leaders” don’t need to actually know about world affairs, but merely provide “clarity” and have a competent staff. If that’s indeed the case, Cain (if he stays in the presidential race) ought to consider firing whoever put together his foreign policy website — a case where advisers and staff, if not the candidate himself, showed glaring incompetence.
Cain’s campaign website on “foreign policy and national security” leaves a little something to be desired in terms of basic geography: It lists Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom as countries in “the Americas.” Take a look at a screen shot of the campaign website, with those countries highlighted:
While the downloadable version of the document does indeed have a subject heading for “Europe,” where part of Russia and the whole of Germany and the U.K. are located, the website version leaves it out. Cain’s team, it seems, has a problem with editorial oversight on even the most basic subjects.
Other areas of Cain’s plan defy his simplistic foreign policy credo of “peace through strength and clarity” — namely, that he admits having no clarity at all on Libya. The intervention in Libya and its nascent transition to democracy have bedeviled the former pizza company C.E.O. Asked about it earlier this month, Cain gave a bizarre and rambling five-minute answer heavy on long, dramatic pauses. Months before that, though, he did have some clarity on the matter: opposing whatever President Obama was doing. Cain’s answer, which he blamed on a lack of sleep (promising to take a nap upon taking the White House), dovetails nicely with the declaration on his website that he “needs clarity” on Libya. That should come as no surprise from a man who thinks the Afghan Taliban insurgent group took over the North African country. (HT: UN Dispatch)
There is an alternative to the choice between ecological disaster and economic destruction. But we need efforts that go beyond Corporate social responsibility, an unprecedented commitment and shared sacrifice
by John Fullerton
A $20 trillion “externality” presents civilization with a big choice: economic destruction or ecological destruction, both with chilling global security implications. It’s a big challenge, but one we can solve.
The Carbon Tracker Initiative recently released an illuminating report, Un-burnable carbon – are the world’s financial markets carrying a carbon bubble? It addresses the role that the value of corporate managed oil, gas, and coal reserves will play on the climate crisis and visa versa.
What the report does not make explicit is the apparent big choice: either we must absorb a $20tn write-off into our already stressed global economy over the next decade, or we will implicitly accept civilization-transforming climate change.
The report details three salient facts: in order to reduce the risk of exceeding two degrees Celsius warming to a 20% chance, our carbon-burning budget for the next 40 years is 565 GtC02. Total proved fossil fuel reserves are estimated at 2795 GtC02, nearly five times the remaining budget, implying 80% of these reserves should be left in the ground. Seventy-four percent of these reserves are state owned, while 26% is owned by the 100 largest listed coal companies and 100 largest listed oil and gas companies.
From the market value of the public companies, we can extrapolate the total estimated market value of these reserves to be $27tn.
A cap on carbon emissions designed to limit warming to two degrees will mean sovereign states and public corporations must strand 80% of their $27tn of proved reserves and related assets, a loss exceeding $20tn.
If we incur a write-off of this magnitude, the risk that our fragile and interconnected global economy would collapse is high.
[JR: I disagree with this particular conclusion, see below.]
Fossil fuel intensive economies and investors would be severely damaged, triggering a deep and prolonged recession. Some nations, like Saudi Arabia where energy represents 75% of government revenues, and Venezuela (50% of government revenues), would face economic devastation leading to widespread social unrest.
The markets are ignoring this risk today, as the Carbon Tracker report makes clear. They have been given no reason to do otherwise — the US House of Representatives recently defeated a resolution which simply said “climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for public health and welfare.” It is no wonder that American Electric Power announced that it is shelving plans for the nation’s most prominent coal-plant-directed carbon sequestration initiative until economic and policy conditions create a viable path forward.
Rising fossil fuel stock prices indicate that the markets assume we will blow past the 2 degree warming limit without blinking, while scientists estimate that three billion people will lose access to fresh water at four degrees warming. Were private and government investment in sequestration technologies of a scale that mattered and tangible signs of revolutionary progress in those technologies evident, one could conclude the market is not predicting ecological destruction.
However, neither is the case, and in fact the promise of carbon sequestration technology fix is diminishing as reality sets in.
There is an alternative to the big choice between ecological destruction and economic destruction, but it is not simply hopeful corporate social responsibility programs and growing the green economy. A viable plan will entail real costs, unprecedented commitment, and shared sacrifice.
Many economic models seek to estimate the cost of climate change mitigation, often concluding the costs are trivial in comparison to the costs of inaction. If such models focus on aggressively limiting carbon to 350 parts per million as the science now demands without presuming carbon sequestration will solve the stranded asset problem entirely, the predictable costs get quite scary.
The portion of the $20tn cost potential that will be written off depends upon unknowable developments in carbon sequestration technology. Prudence suggests that we should plan on incurring at least half of this potential loss, and get serious about developing and implementing policies to limit carbon pollution. The choice of burning Russian sovereign coal or Exxon shareholder oil presents complex political, financial, social, and security challenges.
Mitigating the unpleasant consequences boils down to a macro capital allocation decision. We must of course invest aggressively in clean technologies of all kinds. At the same time, we must accelerate and scale up the tremendous potential of low technology paths — like avoided deforestation and grassland restoration — to sequester carbon.
We must also, though, remove subsides and divest from our destructive fossil fuel based energy, transportation, and industrial agriculture systems, and from the destabilizing and counterproductive speculation of the Wall Street financial system. We must choose to scale back our Cold War military infrastructure and wasteful government “bridges to nowhere”. The energy system transition demands a truly unprecedented, focused commitment of private and public investment resources and public policy that supports it.
It’s time for true leadership from the richest half billion people whose consumption and investment decisions will determine the fate of civilization. It’s time we awaken to the burden we bear.
– John Fullerton is founder and president of the Capital Institute
JR: I don’t see the write-off causing economic collapse for three reasons. First, the companies and countries with those reserves won’t have to zero them all out overnight. Second, there may be some compensation. Third, the 2-degree target will require more than $40 trillion in investment by 2050, a great spur to the global economy.
Finally, I agree we are in a carbon bubble, but the stranding of fossil fuel investment is inevitable — and so is economic collapse if we do not take swift action (see “Is the global economy a Ponzi scheme?). It is delay that is economically untenable, as the International Energy Agency explained earlier this month:
“On planned policies, rising fossil energy use will lead to irreversible and potentially catastrophic climate change.”“… we are on an even more dangerous track to an increase of 6°C [11°F]…. Delaying action is a false economy: for every $1 of investment in cleaner technology that is avoided in the power sector before 2020, an additional $4.30 would need to be spent after 2020 to compensate for the increased emissions.”
Iowans for Christian Leaders in Government, an social conservative group, is trying to prevent the FAMiLY Leader from endorsing Newt Gingrich, citing “his previous adultery with two wives and the former U.S. House speaker’s financial ties to [group president Bob] Vander Plaats.” Gingrich has also refused to sign the FAMiLY Leader’s controversial 14-point marriage fidelity pledge until the group adopts certain changes, and the Leader “has been in communication with the Gingrich campaign about the pledge and expects to hear something from them shortly.” Vander Plaats has previously brushed aside suggestions that Newt Gingrich’s multiple marriages and infidelities undermine social conservative beliefs.
Q: My question is, how would you feel about having a referendum on the ballot to legalize marijuana in the United States. To tax it, control it, sell licenses to manufacture it, and put the drug cartels out of business in Mexico?
GINGRICH: Well, I would oppose it. First of all, we don’t do things by referendum in this country. Because we are a republic, not a democracy. It’s been a very conscious design by the founding fathers. Second, I personally would be opposed to the legalization of marijuana. I think it is one of those passing fads where people don’t think through the consequences. If you legalize marijuana, as far as the drug cartels go, does that mean you’re going to legalize cocaine, which is a major source of revenue. Are you going to legalize heroin? I think what we need is a much more effective strategy of eradicating drugs in the United States in order to cut the off money that goes to the drug cartels of Mexico. I’d rather try to find a way to minimize American drug use, not find a way to legalize it and make it acceptable. That’s just my personal bias.
But Gingrich didn’t always think referendums were so un-American. In July 1995, Newt Gingrich actually endorsed a national referendum on whether illegal drugs should be legalized, as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported at the time:
It appears that Gingrich is either being a hypocrite or changing his views on the fundamental nature of American democracy. Additionally, many of Gingrich’s allies in the social conservative movement are happy to use referendums to suppress gay rights.