September 15th, 2012

Hobby Lobby sues over morning-after pill coverage

Christian-oriented Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday challenging a mandate in the nation's health care overhaul law that requires employers to provide coverage for the morning-after pill and similar drugs.

The lawsuit by the Oklahoma City-based chain claims the government mandate is forcing the company's owners "to violate their deeply held religious beliefs under threat of heavy fines, penalties and lawsuits." Failure to provide the drugs in the company's health insurance plan could lead to fines of up to $1.3 million a day, the company said.

"By being required to make a choice between sacrificing our faith or paying millions of dollars in fines, we essentially must choose which poison pill to swallow," David Green, Hobby Lobby CEO and founder, said in a statement. "We simply cannot abandon our religious beliefs to comply with this mandate."

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Oklahoma City, alleges the Health and Human Services mandate is unconstitutional and requests an injunction to prohibit it from being enforced. Hobby Lobby is self-insured and will be required to comply with the mandate by Jan. 1, the start of its health insurance plan year.

"We are confident that the court will act quickly,"
said Kyle Duncan, general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty in Washington, which represents Hobby Lobby. Duncan said 27 other lawsuits have been filed nationwide over the mandate, mostly by nonprofit groups.

"This mandate violates the religious liberty of millions of Americans," Duncan said. "The government has turned a deaf ear to the rights of business owners."

Duncan said the lawsuit does not challenge rules regarding a variety of other birth-control measures.

Charles Miller, spokesman for the civil division of the Department of Justice, said the agency had no comment on the lawsuit.

Jane Scherdt, who was shopping in a store in Edmond, Okla., said she agreed with the business' decision to challenge the federal mandate.

"I think the government has overstepped its bounds for sure in requiring that," Scherdt said as she exited the store Wednesday. "It's part of a core belief in human dignity, the sancity of human life."

Hobby Lobby calls itself a "biblically founded business" and is closed on Sundays. Founded in 1972, the company now operates more than 500 stores in 41 states and employs more than 13,000 full-time employees who are eligible for health insurance coverage.

The lawsuit also was filed on behalf of another of the Green family's businesses, Mardel, Inc., a bookstore and education company also based in Oklahoma City that sells a variety of Christian-themed materials. The company operates 35 stores in seven states and has 372 full-time employees.

Hobby Lobby is the largest and only non-Catholic-owned business to file a lawsuit against the Health and Human Services mandate that forces all companies, regardless of religious conviction, to provide coverage of drugs the lawsuit alleges are abortion-inducing, including the morning-after pill and week-after pill.

"The Green family's religious beliefs forbid them from participating in, providing access to, paying for, training others to engage in, or otherwise supporting abortion-causing drugs and devices," the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit says the family also has "a sincere religious objection" to providing coverage for certain kinds of intrauterine devices and alleges they can cause the death of an embryo by preventing it from implanting in the wall of a woman's uterus.

The morning-after pill works by preventing ovulation or fertilization. In medical terms, pregnancy begins when a fertilized egg attaches itself to the wall of the uterus. If taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, it can reduce a woman's chances of pregnancy by as much as 89 percent.

But critics of the contraceptive say it is the equivalent of an abortion pill because it can prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus.

In his statement, Green said the federal government is challenging his faith by forcing his company to offer the morning-after and week-after pills in its insurance plan.

"These abortion-causing drugs go against our faith, and our family is now being forced to choose between following the laws of the land that we love or maintaining the religious beliefs that have made our business successful and have supported our family and thousands of our employees and their families," Green said. "We simply cannot abandon our religious beliefs to comply with this mandate."


Saddam and Gomorrah: Iraqi dictator lookalike kidnapped at gunpoint to be in Hussein porn film.

Egyptian Mohamed Bishr was offered £205,000 to play the despot, who was executed six years ago.

A Saddam Hussein lookalike told yesterday how gunmen kidnapped him and tried to force him to impersonate the tyrant in a porn film.

Egyptian Mohamed Bishr was offered £205,000 to play the despot, who was executed six years ago.

But the devout Muslim snubbed the thugs’ threatening phone calls. Shortly after, three men snatched him from his car then beat him up after he still insisted he wouldn’t do the hardcore sex flick.

The gang had apparently wanted to pass the tape off as genuine footage of ex-Iraqi leader Saddam.

Mr Bishr, who was yesterday recovering in hospital from his beating, said: “The three men, who had guns hanging from their belts, forced me out of my car and shoved me into a van, hitting my head.”

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OP: Poor guy. But I'm also wondering what a porn movie with Saddam Hussein in would be called. Maybe, inspired by the Abba song, 'Gimme Gimme Gimme Saddam After Midnight'?
Gundam Chibi Char

Obama Shirt-Wearing Robert Kravitz Allegedly Accosted By Connecticut Fireman Paul Neugebauer

Paul Neugebauer, a Bridgeport, Connecticut firefighter, allegedly lost his cool on Thursday when he aggressively confronted a President Barack Obama supporter who was filling up his car at a local gas station.

Robert Kravitz told the Connecticut Post that he was wearing an Obama 2012 shirt and sitting in his Volvo, which was also adorned with pro-Obama messages, when Neugebauer approached.

"I'm sitting there texting my daughter, and this big, burly guy puts his huge head into my car and starts screaming at me, calling me a f---ing socialist," Kravitz told the Post on Friday. "I thought at first it must be a joke by some friend of mine. Who does that to a total stranger?"

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Clearly this guy has some anger issues, as well as being a racist. Not surprised really.
mus | like a bird in a cage

Transgender activists protest ‘sensationalist’ segment from ‘Anderson Live’

The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) spoke out against a segment on Anderson Cooper’s talk show “Anderson Live” featuring an individual who claims a treatment for hair loss made them transgender. According to the “Anderson Live” website, the story, which was scheduled for Thursday, September 13, featured “Mandi, who was born male, speaks out for the first time, claiming that a hair loss treatment caused him to become transgender.”

NCTE Director Mara Keisling expressed her disappointment with the programming decision on the group’s website, saying, “Anderson Cooper knows better than this. Anderson’s team is better than this.”

In an interview with Raw Story, she said, “So many people have done so much work to educate the public about who we are. Shows like Anderson’s have a lot of influence, and for them to just put that out there in a way that is purposefully sensationalizing, it’s harmful. It’s harmful when you get stereotyped.”

“Real people are facing family rejection,” she continued, “Real people are facing job discrimination and physical violence because of who they are. It’s important for the public to know that we really exist. We’re just part of nature’s diversity.”

When asked if she feels particular disappointment that the program promoting the story is hosted by an openly LGBT journalist like Cooper, Keisling seemed to feel less disappointed in Cooper than in the program and the prurient way that it has chosen to promote the show.

“I don’t find that at all,” she said, “Anderson has been really good in all of his roles for standing up for the truth, and really standing up for marginalized people, and yet here’s a case where a non-truth is set to negatively impact marginalized people, and it’s disappointing. Remember, there’s a transgender person involved here, too, who ought to know better.”

On Wednesday on the NCTE website, Keisling said, “In the past, Anderson Cooper and his team have earned a great deal of respect from trans people for their coverage of our issues. Tomorrow, they’ll throw all of that away. Worst of all, they seem set on misinforming the public about the causality of trans identity.”

NCTE released a statement that reads, “All of us here at the National Center for Transgender Equality are surprised, saddened and disappointed that a respected show likeAnderson Live would give credence to this type of sensationalism and misinformation. This segment is just another case of sensationalizing an already marginalized population plain and simple.”


VA Board approves tougher abortion clinic rules

Bowing to Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, state health regulators Friday undid an earlier decision to spare existing abortion clinics from strict new building requirements that operators say will drive many out of business.

That reversal delighted abortion opponents, who rose in applause after the Board of Health voted, and it left those who support abortion rights angry.

Some erupted with chants of "shame on you" as security ushered them out of a packed hearing room too small for all of the hundreds who stood outside with signs denouncing abortion for killing unborn children and denigrating Cuccinelli for bullying the board.

In a 13-2 vote, the board approved rules requiring clinics already in business to meet hospital-like architectural standards for operating room size, hallway widths and other specifications.

The General Assembly last year changed state law so clinics that perform at least five first trimester procedures monthly must be licensed and charged the health board with developing regulations.

The board in June adopted rules that excused existing clinics from rigid building standards over objections from Cuccinelli's office, which a month later sent them back to the board for reconsideration.

This week, Cuccinelli's office issued a memo warning board members they could be denied legal representation from his office and have to cover their own attorney bills, if they continued to disregard his advice.

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Pride & Prejudice

Czech Republic bans liquor in bid to curb methanol deaths

The Czech Republic has prohibited the sale of hard liquor after 19 people died and dozens were poisoned by methanol-laced bootleg vodka and rum.

The ban, issued by the Health Ministry on Friday, covers the sale of any drink containing more than 20 percent alcohol. The prohibition is temporary, but no indication was given when it might end.

Many Czech cocktail bars put out signs informing patrons about the ban, while supermarkets cleared their shelves of liquor following the announcement.

The measure builds on a previous restriction ordered on Wednesday, which banned the sale of spirits by street vendors and market stalls. Smaller businesses could be hard hit by the prohibition if it continues indefinitely.

The move aims to to curb the worst outbreak of alcohol-related poisonings in the eastern European country in decades. The first deaths occurred last weekend in the Moravian-Silesian region, 350 kilometers east of Prague. Authorities were unable to identify the source of the deadly drinks.

In addition to killing 19 people, another two dozen victims were hospitalized in connection with the poisoned liquor, many in induced comas or suffering from blindness.

Czech authorities did not restrict alcohol exports, believing that only local distribution networks were affected by the outbreak. The country's health ministry has contacted other nations over the matter as a precaution.

mus | like a bird in a cage

The False Promise of Back-to-School Commercials

As the summer comes to a close, television stations are inundated with back-to-school commercials that show beaming children eager to run through the doors of beautiful brick school buildings and out into the lush green fields and playgrounds that surround them. But this imagery couldn't be further from the truth of what real school life is like for millions of kids across the country.

The reality is that most public schools today do not create warm and inspiring environments that are conducive to learning. In fact, they do the opposite.

Scores of studies on educational psychology, learning styles, and productivity have found that children and adults alike learn best when they are physically active, well nourished, and take breaks throughout the day. And savvy organizations are finally starting to pay attention, modeling enviable companies like Google, Evernote, and Facebook.

Surely the idea that people need healthy conditions to perform optimally also applies to school performance. Yet, even as today's office culture leverages this new research, our nation's schools are stuck in the last century, ignoring the science and instead using narrow and restrictive practices to try and increase student performance.

For example, neuroscientists have long recommended "brain breaks" every 90 minutes in order toincrease productivity. The most innovative workplaces have taken notice, offering everything fromoffice yoga to flexible work hours and napping mats. At these companies, employee health and wellness has become just as important for the bottom line as cutting costs and balancing budgets.

While parents are recharging through lunchtime workouts in office gyms, their children are tethered to desks, stuck in classrooms all day with no hope of movement in sight. Clearly something's wrong with this picture. Can you imagine being forced to sit still and pay attention to someone droning on in the front of the room for six to seven hours a day with no breaks? That's what each school day looks like for the approximately 30 percent of school-aged children in the U.S. who are denied recess.

According to the National Association of Sports and Physical Health:

Recess provides children with free unstructured time to engage in physical activity that helps them develop healthy bodies and enjoyment of movement. It also provides children the opportunity to practice life skills such as cooperation, taking turns, following rules, sharing, communication, negotiation, problem solving, and conflict resolution.

One of the arguments used to explain the decrease in recess and physical education across the country is lack of time in the school day. Since the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 more focus has been placed on test results and less on the well-being of students. Schools have adopted the concept of "drill and repeat" instead of recognizing that free time and recharging can enhance cognition and memory. 

The assumption is that more time focused on this form of test prep will help performance, even though the research suggests that the opposite is true. Today's indoor children are less physically fit, less able to concentrate, and less able to relate to others than any previous generation. The effects can be clearly seen in the rise of childhood obesity, poor test scores, and negative classroom behavior. 

With this in mind, my colleagues at the National Wildlife Federation issued a report titled Back to School: Back Outside. The report highlights the fact that kids today are under far more pressure than their parents were decades before them, yet they have less access to simple modes of decompression and stress relief, like riding their bikes to school or playing a game of Red Rover at recess. They don't have the luxury to roam free in the schoolyard like the "free-range" kids of the 80s, so parents are left to bridge the gap. As our report notes:

Parents can play a particularly important role in helping their children to have more productive school time by allocating home time for outdoor activities in natural settings and by being strong advocates for schools to offer more safe outdoor time and experiences to their children.

While this advice is useful for some, the reality is that many families, particularly those who are low-income, have real barriers to the outdoors and are unable to fill the void being left by schools. And they shouldn't have to. It is up to us, as a whole society, to stop thrusting our 21st century kids into sterile, rigid, and overly structured learning environments--spaces we would never except in our own offices today, and shouldn't tolerate in our schools. 

As we pack up the beach gear in favor of backpacks, now is a perfect opportunity to examine exactly what students are heading back in to. For most, it's not a beautiful brick building set atop a grassy hill, or a playground filled with games and laughter.