U.S. House votes to limit access to health insurance

“Wait,” you may be saying, “I thought the headline I saw in the New York Times was, ‘House Votes to Limit Access to Abortion.'” See, that was very polite, downright obedient, of the NYT to write that headline, but that’s not exactly what the bill, which passed 251-175, says.  (The number of the people who voted yea is higher than the number of Republicans in the House, so at least a few Democrats voted for this too, by the way.)

The text of the bill is clearer, and clarifies that the House named the bill “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” but more specifically denies anyone federal funding or tax-credits for health insurance plans that provide coverage for abortion.  So this is much more invasive than denying “taxpayer funding for abortion,” and places limits on people who would never have been in a position to seek abortion services, if their insurance plan could have covered it.

That’s the party of small government in my country, making sure that, for example, a fifty-year-old man who works in public service and whose family health insurance plan covered abortion has to seek a new policy.  Fortunately for insurance companies, the legislation helpfully suggests that insurance plans could charge a whole new premium for separate abortion coverage!  Thanks, guys!

Is this commercial ‘pro-life’?

Pro-life blogs have been abuzz recently with praise for this Pampers commercial (you can go here for an example). The shared sentiment seems to be that Pampers has made a strong pro-life statement, with some bloggers going so far as to urge readers to bedeck their babies’ behinds in nothing but Pampers from now on. But is the commercial really anti-choice?

Personally, I can’t see much that’s offensive about it, apart from the implication that a woman getting married while pregnant didn’t plan her pregnancy and the use of the unhelpful terminology ‘special needs’. And there are bits of it that are kind of sweet (the American-consumer saccharine overload aside). But I’m very curious what others think. Is Pampers using this commercial to make a subtle anti-choice statement? Or is this just another instance of people who are ‘pro-life’ assuming that those of us who think abortion should be legal must hate babies?

What Kate “must” now do.

The bad news: 

According to a recent Guardian article, Kate Middleton set a high standard with her wedding dress that she must now meet.  If she fails, she will find her love affair with the British press is at an end.  She will also sorely disappoint the British fashion industry which apparently expect her to be a live advertisement for British style.  Even worse:

Kate’s success and contribution to the British monarchy will now be measured not simply by what she does or says, but on what she wears.

The value of a life depends on the clothes one wears?  A thought or fear too many women can understand, one expects.

The good news comes from the comments on the article.  Many people thought it rubbish.  For example:

– The shallow making vapid comments on the uninteresting and the banal clothes they wear is of no remote interest to any respectable human being capable of any level of coherent logical thought.

–  It’s up to the Duchess. Giving a nod to the fashion industry, wonderful, if she chooses. But we should realize, she isn’t a Barbie doll that we can dress up.

Its not exactly unusual to wear a dress a step up from your usual rags if its, I don’t know, the most important day in your life. Especially if that day is being watched by a third of the human race. Given the couple plan to return to a quiet northen town instead of Paris, I’m guessing ‘Jigsaw frocks and Monsoon jewellery’ [the article’s characterization of her standard style]  might be making a come back.

The people are not buying it.

University of Nottingham suspends whistleblower

Readers may remember a disgraceful incident that unfolded at the University of Nottingham in 2008. An MA student in the Politics Department, Rizwaan Sabir, asked a friend, Hicham Yezza, who worked as an administrator to print some documents he needed for his studies. Unfortunately for the two men, they are Muslim, and the documents were about Al-Quaeda. Cue: all Hell breaking loose. Despite the fact that the documents concerned are in the University of Nottingham’s library – I’m going to say that again – the documents are in the University of Nottingham’s library, and Rizwaan’s tutors confirmed that they were necessary for his research, the University called the police, and both men were arrested and detained for six days under the Terrorism Act. They were released without charge, as neither has any links whatsoever to any terrorist organisation. But of course, in these murky days of the War on Terror, there’s a big difference between being cleared, and being considered innocent. Once charged, forever tainted – both Yezza and Sabir have been subjected to various forms of harassment and constraint ever since. You can read about some of it on this campaign page.

Now, in a new twist to this sorry tale, Rod Thornton, a lecturer in Politics at the University of Nottingham, has just been suspended for criticising the way the University handled the incident. Thornton believes that the senior University personnel involved acted in ways that “can be classed as unfair, discriminatory, and sometimes, outright illegal”. He has called for a public investigation into the University’s actions. His accusations are based on a rigorous and detailed consideration of the evidence. Moreover, Thornton seems well-placed to understand these issues – before coming to academia, he spent nine years in the army, serving three years in Northern Ireland in a counter-terrorism role, which included a six-month period in a police station, operating in an intelligence capacity. You can read his description of events here.

An anonymous ‘university spokesman’ has called Thornton’s article “highly defamatory” of a number of his colleagues. The official reason for his suspension is apparently the “breakdown in working relationships with [his] colleagues caused by [his] recent article”.

You can read the Guardian article here.