Texas Abortion Law: What’s All the Fuss?

This past summer, you probably heard about the filibuster led by Texas Democratic Senator Wendy Davis, who stood on the floor for 11 hours to try and stop a controversial Texas anti-choice bill called SB5.

Texas Senator Wendy Davis stood on the floor for 11 hours in a filibuster to stop the state’s controversial new abortion law.

What makes a Texas Senator stand for 11 hours to try and stop a bill becoming law? Senate Bill 5 (or SB5), which was temporarily stopped by Senator Davis’s filibuster and others opposing the anti-choice bill in June, eventually became the Texas law HB2 in a subsequent special session called by Republican Governor Rick Perry. A provision in this law requires clinics that perform abortions to obtain something called “admitting privileges” at local hospitals that have surgical facilities, and also requires doctors to adhere to what critics call a questionable and outdated protocol for giving patients the abortion pill. There are also provisions requiring changes as to what women must undergo leading up to the procedure.

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Where the Immigration Reform Debate Stands

The national immigration reform debate seems to have phased out for the time being, with the government shutdown and near default on the nation’s debt in October dominating headlines and Congress members’ agendas.

Demonstrators gather in Chicago to protest the nation’s immigration laws.

Comprehensive immigration reform, however, remains a top priority to both President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats, as well as a number of Republican members of Congress. Those who favor reform argue that the economic benefits of immigration reform alone outweigh the arguments of those who oppose reform based on a belief that providing a pathway to citizenship for the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants is equivalent to providing amnesty for those who crossed the border illegally.

So where does the debate stand?

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Exploring Russia’s Anti-Gay Propaganda Law

In recent years, the LGBT community and their straight allies have begun to make significant progress in expanding gay rights worldwide. Same-sex marriage is now legal in over a dozen states in the U.S., including the newly added state of New Jersey. While gays and lesbians in America rejoice over recent victories, sorrow plagues the LGBT community in Russia in lieu of the recent “anti-gay propaganda” law passed by President Vladamir Putin.

Demonstrators protest Russia’s new anti-gay propaganda law.

What Is the Anti-Gay Propaganda Law?

Recently, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been considering a number of laws restricting gay rights within Russia. In June, he passed the controversial anti-gay propaganda law, which bans “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors.” Russian lawmakers believe that the passing of the propaganda law marks a new era for the country– one where Russian people can live healthier and happier lives without being influenced by so-called “nontraditional sexual relations.”

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Top HealthCare.gov Security Official Steps Down

A top official involved in the failed rollout of the HealthCare.gov health insurance marketplace is resigning from his position, this according to an announcement made by the Centers of Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) on Wednesday.

The top security official involved in the botched HealthCare.gov rollout has officially announced his resignation.

As Chief Information Officer for CMS, Tony Trenkle, a veteran official, was in charge of security efforts for the HealthCare.gov website. His main responsibility was determining whether private information entered into the exchange system would be safe from hackers and identity thieves.

Trenkle’s resignation comes just days after a CBS report found that the final security testing for the HealthCare.gov website was delayed three times and ultimately never completed. According to an Obama administration memo released by the House Oversight Committee, four days before the site went live the government granted itself a waiver to launch the website with “a level of uncertainty…deemed as a high (security) risk.” Trenkle’s boss and CMS administrator Marilyn Tavenner signed off on the authorization.

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Illinois Lawmakers Approve Gay Marriage

On Tuesday, Illinois lawmakers approved a bill that will soon make that state the 15th in the country to legalize gay marriage.

With legislation passing both the House and the Senate, Illinois is poised to become the 15th U.S. state to legalize gay marriage.

The bill, introduced by Senator Heather Steans (D) in January of this year, originally passed the Senate in February, but was delayed for vote in the House until the October and November veto session of this year.

On Tuesday, in a narrow vote of 61 to 54, the Illinois House passed an amended version of the bill, which was quickly approved by the Senate, thereby sending it to the desk of Governor Pat Quinn (D) to be signed into law. An aide for Governor Quinn says he will do so by the end of this month.

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Drone Strikes Killing More Civilians Than U.S. Admits

America has been known for various things throughout the many long years that it’s been a world power, freedom being chief among them. What’s most curious about America’s recent spate of bad publicity, then, is how often it’s the innocent people of the world that end up paying for that freedom.

Recent reports by human rights groups suggest that U.S. drone strokes in Pakistan and Yemen are killing more civilians than officials are willing to admit.

Barack Obama’s presidency is no stranger to controversy. The health care reform his administration championed remains a divisive issue, as does its complicity in recently discovered NSA spying programs, both in the U.S. and abroad.

Still, the more alarming trend thus far has been the president’s favorable stance toward drone strikes. The Obama administration has put drones to work in armed conflicts across the globe on a scale that they don’t seem comfortable talking about. The Huffington Post reported recently that the CIA refused to divulge even the number of internal documents in their possession related to the drone policy, claiming that doing so would damage national security.

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Rand Paul: Plagiarizer?

Last week, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow publicly accused Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) of plagiarizing parts of his October 28 speech at Liberty University from the reference site Wikipedia. Just days later, BuzzFeed also reported that Paul copied an entire section of his book Government Bullies. So is Rand Paul really a plagiarizer? Let’s find out.

On Oct. 28, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow publicly accused Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) of plagiarizing parts of a speech he gave from Wikipedia.

On October 28, Paul delivered a speech at Liberty University in support of Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli. The topic? Eugenics, specifically in regard to genetic testing and abortion. To strengthen his case, he referenced the 1997 science fiction film Gattaca, in which scientists screened embryos for diseases before implanting them.

According to Maddow, however, who called out Paul’s speech on-air that same evening, “the speech that Rand Paul gave seems to have been totally plagiarized from the Wikipedia page on Gattaca.”

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Common Problems with HealthCare.gov

The Affordable Care Act is in full crisis mode with the Obama administration trying desperately to salvage the website that would finally allow every American to have affordable health insurance, HealthCare.gov.

Since its launch on Oct. 1, the HealthCare.gov website has been plagued with problem after problem.

The site has been plagued by complaints, mostly technical, since its launch on October 1. Here is a rundown of some of the more serious issues brought up by applicants as well as the site’s detractors:

  • Pages freeze up and the site crashes while the applicant is registering.
  • Error messages appear on screen during sign-up.
  • Bugs in the software are slowing down the process.
  • Duplicate or incorrect personal information has been transmitted to insurance companies including the applicant’s weight, height, age, Social Security number and health history, thus jeopardizing their privacy.
  • It takes days to weeks to fill out an application due to slow activity.
  • It has been estimated that just 20,000 people have actually enrolled out of 17 million visitors.
  • Users must fill out a profile before being allowed to browse for health care plans.
  • The website is unusable for most applicants due to glitches.

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New Snowden Leak: NSA Taps Google and Yahoo Servers

A new report in the Washington Post Wednesday reveals that the NSA has secretly tapped Google and Yahoo’s overseas servers, this according to documents leaked by former contractor Edward Snowden.

A new report reveals that the NSA has broken into Google and Yahoo’s overseas servers

According to a top-secret accounting dated Jan. 9, 2013, the NSA, along with its British counterpart the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), reportedly broke into the main fiber-optic cables that connect Google and Yahoo’s overseas servers in a controversial project called MUSCULAR.

By breaking into the servers, the NSA and GCHQ have access to data on millions of user accounts, including “metadata” indicating who sent or received e-mails and when, along with content such as text, audio, and video. Millions of these records are sent daily from the internal Yahoo and Google networks to data warehouses at the NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland.

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Senate May Soon Pass Employment Nondiscrimination Act

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced Monday that the U.S. Senate will soon vote on legislation that would make it illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

U.S. Senators will soon decide whether employers can legally discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA) has been proposed in every Congress since 1994. If passed, it would be the most significant piece of gay rights legislation since Congress repealed the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in 2010.

The bill, like all Senate legislation, will require a cloture vote of 60 votes before it can pass. With recent endorsements from both Democrats and Republicans, ENDA might very well get the votes it needs. Continue reading

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