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by Hannah McCartney 10.10.2013
 
 
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National Reporting Project to Examine Accessibility of Plan B

Crowd-sourced maps will show where and who is illegally limiting emergency contraceptives

The right to obtain emergency contraception is one that was only recently granted to all women of child-bearing age, marking a huge national victory for women's health rights over conservative political agendas.

But now that's it's available over-the-counter, is it really easy to access?

According to the Reproductive Justice Reporting Project, it depends on where and who you are.

The project, a newly-formed coalition comprising a number of alternative news publications under the umbrella of the Association of Alternative News Media (AAN) and the Media Consortium, part of a larger initiative to "study how independent news organizations can work together to create a collective impact," according to AAN.

The newest component of the project — "
Where Is Your Plan B?" — is a website that uses crowd-sourced data to monitor the availability of emergency contraceptives across the country. 

News outlets collaborating on the project include Austin Chronicle, Bitch Magazine, In These Times, LEO Weekly, Making Contact/National Radio Project, Ms. Magazine, People*Power*Media, Portland Mercury, Public News Service and Santa Fe Reporter.

Once the site gets a little more press, it will start publishing detailed maps documenting which pharmacies are readily providing Plan B, where it might be illegally restricted and where it's available but possibly made more difficult to obtain by roadblocks. For now, you can also find a thorough collection of investigative works from the Reproductive Justice Reporting Project from its participating news outlets, chronicling everything from how Native American women are being actively denied fair access to Plan B and women's access to abortion in New Mexico.

Plan B One-Step was first approved in July 2009 for use without a prescription for women only ages 17 or older; women younger than 17 were previously required to obtain a prescription.

In April, Judge Edward Korman ruled that the age restrictions on over-the-counter sales of emergency contraception were "arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable." His ruling prompted the FDA to announce Plan B One-Step's availability to women 15 and older without a prescription, which was in June amended to include women of child-bearing age.

Many women's health advocates have expressed concerns about how pharmacies are restricting accessibility to the drug, such as asking for identification even though the FDA doesn't require it or keeping the drug locked up or behind a counter, which could be a daunting barrier for some young girls, making an already unpleasant experience worse.

Commonly known as the "morning-after pill," Plan B is intended to be used when other methods of contraception fail. In extreme cases, it can be a rape victim's only option to prevent becoming pregnant.

The drug, which contains powerful levels of hormones found in some types of birth control pills, is more effective the more quickly it's taken after having unprotected sex, particularly within three days. That means having to obtain a prescription could null the effects of the pill or render it ineffective for a young woman struggling to get a doctor's appointment.

A research study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in January 2012 found that of several pharmacies called in five different cities, 20 percent did not have emergency contraception in stock on the same day the patient called.

Visit your local pharmacy and fill out the form here.

Where is Your Plan B? from altweeklies on Vimeo.

 
 
by Ben L. Kaufman 06.26.2013
 
 
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Curmudgeon Notes 6.26.2013

Media musings from Cincinnati and beyond

I hope Nelson Mandela is alive and healing when you read this. He’s an old man with a persistent and probably lethal lung problem born from decades in prison. 

His colleagues in the ANC are preparing the country for his death and the news media are full of calls for prayer, admonitions against futile hopes for recovery, and assurances that Mandela is getting the best care possible without making him miserable and sicker. 

If he's died since I wrote this on Tuesday, he lived a life of dignity and service. By example, he led South Africans of all races and ethnicities into a post-apartheid era with good will and high, if unreal, hopes that someday, the wrongs of apartheid might be erased.  

For more than 50 years, I’ve followed his career with an interest that few others provoked. My active appreciation began during graduate school in London where I prepared for a career in Africa. Mandela, Sisulu and others were heroes of the anti-apartheid movement. Their efforts to end violent, toxic white minority rule in South Africa was companion to the growing momentum for independence in Europe’s African colonies, protectorates and overseas provinces. 

“Winds of change” was shorthand for all of this but no one expected it to blow away the racism and segregation of South African apartheid. 

That so-called “separate development” of South Africa’s various racial groups was even, then, anything but development. If anyone doubts it, look at the generations impoverished by separate education and training and how this burdens the aspirations of today’s black majority. 

By the time I reached Southern Africa in late 1963, Mandela and others were on trial, accused of sabotage and conspiracy. Blacks, whites and Indians, they were leaders of the armed wing of the African National Congress. In plain words, they were revolutionaries. In mid-1964, all were convicted and most were sentenced to life in prison.  They could have been executed. Mandela already was in prison, convicted of illegally leaving (and re-entering) the country. 

Our weekly Zambia News and then daily Zambia Times — hundreds of miles to the north — were able to report with freedom unknown in South Africa. We benefited from the freest journalism in Southern Africa, including Southern Rhodesia, Southwest Africa, and Portuguese Mozambique and Angola. 

When Mandela dies, it’s going to be fascinating to see what obits and commentaries focus on: terrorist, lawyer, prisoner, statesman, president and like Cincinnatus, a leader who walked away from power.  

Tim Funk, one of the best student journalists I was lucky enough to teach, was arrested recently for not moving swiftly enough to please cops in North Carolina. 

The Charlotte Observer’s religion reporter, Tim was covering a local demonstration by local clergy at the state legislature in Raleigh. 

Tim is saying nothing, under orders from his bosses, until after his mid-July court appearance. However, his paper said authorities claimed Tim, “who covered the statehouse in the 1980s, failed to move away from a crowd of about 60 that was demonstrating and peacefully surrendering to arrest.” He “was handcuffed and taken along with the arrested protesters to the Wake County magistrate’s office to be arraigned on misdemeanor charges of trespassing and failure to disperse.

“Jeff Weaver, police chief for the General Assembly Police in Raleigh who oversaw the arrests, told The Associated Press that Funk did not heed a warning from officers to disperse before the arrests began.” The paper said Tim was released late that same night.

“We believe there was no reason to detain him,” said Cheryl Carpenter, Observer managing editor. “He wasn’t there to do anything but report the story, to talk to Charlotte clergy. He was doing his job in a public place.”

One online reader commented that it probably was no accident that Tim was among the first arrested; that assured he could not report how police dealt with demonstrating clergy. Readers also noted how zealous police tested federal constitutional guarantees with their orders to disperse: freedom to assemble and petition government and freedom of the press. 

A 2012 survey of almost 900 American TV journalists found roughly 20 percent showing signs of burnout and uncertainty whether they will remain in the industry. 

Scott Reinardy, associate professor of journalism at the University of Kansas, said TV news staffs increased by 4 percent, revenue was up, and stations were producing more content than ever before, often as much as 5 1/2 hours more per day. “I wanted to see how all of that played into burnout,” Reinardy said.

The KU press office reported his study. He said that questions about exhaustion, cynicism and professional efficacy found that respondents who reported higher levels of exhaustion also reported lower levels of organizational support, while those who reported higher levels of professional efficacy — or satisfaction in their jobs — reported higher levels of organizational support.

Reinardy reported that 81 percent of his respondents said they work differently “than a few years ago.” Many have increased social media responsibilities, are expected to produce content for multiple platforms and have more frequent deadlines.

“Many said, ‘I can’t do this much longer,’” Reinardy said. “You’re probably going to see the TV business get younger, a little more inexperienced and, as a result, there will be a loss of institutional knowledge, which doesn’t bode well for community journalism at any level.”

I’m waiting for conservative pundits to wonder aloud how Republicans can tell us to trust the National Security Agency while assuring us, "Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem." I guess it’s the same mental gymnastics that reporters find when legislators kill money for family planning and do all they can to assure that low-income women can’t get abortions. 

A good sex scandal ages well even if protagonists don’t. 

In the early 1960s, party girl Christine Keeler almost brought down the British government. She shared beds of British Secretary of State for War John Profumo and a Soviet spy, naval office Yevgeny Ivanov. 

At the time, there were public assurances all around that her activities were sexual, not Cold War espionage; pillow talk was erotic, not nuclear. 

Now, the London Daily Mail says Keeler’s new book includes her admission that she helped her friend, society osteopath Stephen Ward uncover secrets about missile movements in the West that were later passed to the Soviets.

“However I dress it up, I was a spy and I am not proud of it. The truth is that I betrayed my country.”

The Sunday Mirror also quotes Keeler as saying, “The Establishment was far more interested in painting it as a sex scandal and chose to ignore claims of a widespread spying network. Far better that the Establishment be caught with its pants down than involved in stealing secrets. That was the thinking.” 

Osteopath Ward, who introduced young women to rich and powerful men, often at country houses, committed suicide as he became the scapegoat in the scandal. 

I was at UPI in London at the time. Keeler is right. There was a political/aristocratic Establishment and its first concern was its own survival. For months, we treaded lightly as we reported seemingly unrelated events without connecting them in fear of ferocious, costly libel laws. 

But the unreported stories we heard and traded proved to be less salacious than the facts as they came out. Profumo probably would have escaped with modest embarrassment had he not been caught lying to the House of Parliament about the affair. That breach of the Establishment’s expectations of a Gentleman, and not widely held suspicions of Soviet espionage, brought him down. 

Tuesday’s Morning Edition on NPR included the kind of remark that fuels conservative conviction that public network is a coven of Lefties. The host was asking a foreign reporter about the different responses of Turkish and Brazilian leaders to ongoing street protests. After the reporter offered the political context for the seemingly accommodating reaction of the Brazilian president, the host suggested that the Turkish prime minister hadn’t responded to young protesters there. First, the host was wrong. He responded. Second, it was obvious that the Turk’s response wasn’t acceptable to the NPR host because it was hardline rather than accommodating.

 
 
by Hannah McCartney 06.14.2013
 
 
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Ohio Bill Could Ease Restrictions on Semi-Automatic Magazines

Bill would remove language monitoring sizes of magazines

Six months ago today, 26 children and adults were slaughtered at the hands of Adam Lanza and a semi-automatic Bushmaster XM12 E2S rifle inside Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., one of the deadliest school shooting massacres in U.S. history. As parents, friends, family and gun control advocates around the country mourn and commemorate the loss of life, Ohio gun rights advocates are worried about something else.

Their concern: how to make it easier for Ohio citizens to obtain high-round magazines for their semi-automatic weapons.

A new Ohio House Bill introduced by State Rep. John Becker (R-Union Township) could, if passed, allow people to purchase high-round magazines for semi-automatic weapons, removing language from the Ohio Revised Code (ORC) that currently restricts use of magazines exceeding 31 rounds for semi-automatic weapons.

Specifically, the proposed bill would remove the definition of "automatic firearm" from section 2923.11 from the ORC that currently qualifies a weapon traditionally defined as a semi-automatic firearm (which operated by firing only once for each pull of the trigger) as an automatic firearm under Ohio law when used with a magazine holding greater than 31 rounds of ammunition.

Gun rights advocates are in favor of deleting the line because qualifying a semi-automatic as an automatic weapon under Ohio law (dependent on magazine size) subjects gun owners to greater background checks and stricter purchasing restrictions, which they consider an unlawful hassle and burden.

Jim Irvine, Chairman of the Buckeye Firearms Association, says that the sentence Becker has proposed to remove is one that inherently conflicts the actual definition of an automatic weapon; he says it doesn't make sense to qualify a semi-automatic weapon under the same umbrella as an automatic weapon when the two are entirely different types of firearms.

He says that the issue is one of convenience for most semi-automatic gun owners, including himself. "Loading up magazines can take time," he says. "When I go to the shooting range I want to use my time up shooting, not reloading."

That extra time, though, is exactly the point of the wording in the ORC, explains Toby Hoover, executive director for the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence. Limited magazines were what eventually stopped the Arizona gunman who shot former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords because a bystander was able to attack the shooter when he dropped a magazine while trying to reload.

Hoover asserts that gun rights advocates like Irvine are being subversive in their reasons for wanting to change the changed law.

She says the legal issue is not that the ORC is trying to directly equate semi-automatic weapons to automatic weapons — they clearly operate differently — but that grouping them together using that magazine restriction is a common-sense way to define them both as dangerous, unnecessary forms of firearms that simply shouldn't be readily accessible to the average gun owner. Semi-automatic weapons are extremely easy to purchase in Ohio, she says, while purchasing automatic weapons involves many more complicated restrictions and regulations.

"I'm just really upset with the way they [Ohio Republicans and gun lobbyists] are ignoring the fact that people in Ohio want gun restrictions. They're just going the opposite direction," she says. "If they're really concerned about the wording of the law, just have them maybe separate the definitions but keep the restrictions the same."

Ohio is one of several states monitor magazine limits on semi-automatic weapons, she explains, so it's not unusual at all that the ORC does so.

Adam Lanza, Sandy Hook's shooter, had several 30-round magazines on him and was also carrying two handguns. It's estimated he used somewhere between four and 10 magazines during the shootings, which took place over a matter of minutes.

The bill has been assigned to the House's Transportation, Public Safety and Homeland Security committee, where it currently awaits hearing

 
 
by Hannah McCartney 05.03.2013
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

New NRA president, local homicide rates increase, cutest zoo babies contest

The National Rifle Association (NRA) will name Alabama lawyer Jim Porter its new president at their annual meeting in Houston this weekend. Porter replaces current president David Keene, whose two-year term is at an end. Porter served as the first vice president of the NRA board for two years and second vice president for another two years. His father, Irvine Porter, was NRA president from 1959-1960, making Jim the first son of a former NRA president to take the gun lobby's highest office. Meet the man who frequently uses the word "ain't" and believes U.S. gun owners are treated like "second-class citizens" here.

NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre will reportedly continue to hold down the media spotlight. Connecticut Gov. Dannell Malloy recently compared an "out of whack"
LaPierre to "clowns at the circus" in response to LaPierre's criticism over the state's tightened gun control laws

Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee yesterday signed legislation making Rhode Island the 10th state in the nation to allow gay marriage and the final of the six New England states to do so.

The city of Cincinnati has ceased Recyclebank, an incentive program encouraging residents to recycle, thanks to low participation rates. You can still redeem your points, though. A new perk program will be launched sometime soon.

Homicide in Cincinnati has increased by 50 percent compared to statistics from the same period last year, according to the Cincinnati Police Department.

In other grim news, the suicide rate among middle-aged Ohioans rose significantly over the past decade, a trend mirrored across the U.S., according to new statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2010, Ohio saw 783 suicides among residents 35 to 64 years old, compared to 517 in 1999. That marks a 41.5 percent increase, significantly higher than the nationwide average of 28 percent.

Art on the Streets and the City of Cincinnati Bike Program are sponsoring The Music Ride tonight as part of Bike Month to celebrate Over-the-Rhine Night at the Cincinnati Symphony. Instruments will be provided, and all age and skill levels are welcome. 

Today marks the kick-off of a weekend full of Flying Pig Marathon celebrations, which, in the aftermath of the Boston bombings, will feature heightened security meaures. If you're planning on driving anywhere around downtown this weekend, be sure to check out road closures first.

The Cincinnati Zoo is holding a “Cutest Baby of All Time: Sweet 16” people’s choice contest. Advancers so far include Gladys the baby gorilla in the "Primate" category and Bernard the King penguin in the "Wings & Things" branch. Today, vote between Joseph the cougar or Savanna the cheetah in the feline bracket.

Speaking of Gladys, she made her public debut in her outdoor yard Tuesday.

We at CityBeat nearly lost our marbles when we lost internet at the office for 24 hours. Meet a man who survived without it for an entire year and lived to talk about it.

Happy Friday: Here is a video of Ryan Gosling smirking a lot and, for a second, shirtless.

 
 
by Andy Brownfield 09.07.2012
 
 
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Investigation: Secret Ohio Group Supporting Mandel

Investigation finds Super PAC headed by Columbus lobbyist running ads attacking Brown

An investigation by nonprofit journalism group ProPublica has uncovered the identity of one of the secret super PACs funding advertisements attacking U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and promoting his challenger, Ohio state treasurer Josh Mandel.

The group is the Government Integrity Fund and is headed by Columbus lobbyist Tom Norris. Norris’ lobbying firm Cap Square Solutions employs former Mandel aide Joe Ritter.

Ritter declined to comment to ProPublica about his role with Norris’ lobbying firm or whether he is involved with the Government Integrity Fund.

The race between Brown and Mandel is considered vital to Republicans who want to take control of the Senate and Democrats who want to hold on to their majority. It has turned into Ohio’s — and the nation’s — most expensive race.

The Associated Press reported in August that outside groups — like the Government Integrity Fund — have spent $15 million supporting Mandel, while similar groups have spent $3 million for Brown.

It’s unknown where the money is coming from because federal regulations and the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United case allow the groups to spend unlimited amounts of cash on political ads without disclosing their donors.

Such groups are classified as non-profit “social welfare” groups, which don’t have to release donor information or register with the Federal Election Commission. They’re supposed to be “primarily” engaged in promoting social welfare.

Super PACs aren’t supposed to coordinate with campaigns, but it is common for them to hire politicians’ former aides.

According to ProPublica, Ritter was first hired by Mandel as an aide when the candidate was in the Ohio Legislature. He was then the field director for Mandel’s state treasurer campaign and then became a constituent and executive agency liaison when Mandel won that race. He left the treasurer’s office after six months to work for Norris’ lobbying firm.

Ritter was part of an ethics complaint filed after a Dayton Daily News investigation into Mandel’s practice of hiring former campaign workers for state jobs. Ritter has contested the charges.

Norris' ties to the Government Integrity Fund was discovered by ProPublica through documents filed with Cincinnati NBC affiliate WLWT. The Federal Communication Commission requires TV stations to keep detailed records about political advertisers.

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 04.06.2012
 
 
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Analysis: 'Stand Your Ground' States Have More Shootings

Shadowy ALEC group helps push for the laws

An analysis of U.S. crime data by a British newspaper has found there’s been a 25 percent increase in civilian justifiable homicides since the controversial “stand your ground” (SYG) laws started being introduced in 2005.

London’s Guardian newspaper analyzed data from FBI and state sources. It concludes that the spike in civilian justifiable homicides is related not only to SYG laws, but also weak gun control laws in certain states.

Florida was the first state to introduce an SYG law in 2005 and similar measures have now been adopted in some form by more than 20 states. Most were passed in 2006. Ohio doesn’t yet have such a law, but it’s believed that gun advocates might be planning a campaign for one here soon.

Florida’s SYG law is expected to be part of the defense made for George Zimmerman, if he is charged with a crime. Zimmerman was the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot and killed an unarmed African-American teenager, Trayvon Martin, Feb. 26 in Sanford, Fla. The incident has triggered widespread public outrage.

The Guardian’s analysis shows that SYG laws alone cannot be statistically linked with the rise in justifiable homicides. But in states with both SYG laws and the weakest gun control laws — as defined by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence — it found a statistical correlation with an increase in justifiable homicides.

Across the United States, such killings have risen sharply over the past five years, according to the data provided by the FBI and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. From 2001-05, there were 1,225 homicides classified as justifiable, compared to 1,528 in the period 2006-10. By contrast, violent crime overall has been falling.

"The police are shooting more people and citizens are shooting more people. We're evolving into an increasingly coarse society with no obligation to diffuse a situation and rapidly turn to force,” said Professor Dennis Kenney, of John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York and an ex-police sergeant in Florida. "People are literally getting away with murder."

SYG laws allow a potential crime victim who is in fear of “grave harm” to use deadly force in public places, not just inside their own homes. They eliminate the legal requirement to retreat before a person may claim he or she acted in self-defense.

SYG laws have been pushed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which drafts model legislation for state lawmakers to use.

State Sen. Bill Seitz (R-Green Township) is among ALEC's leaders, as CityBeat has previously reported here and here. The group, which held its annual meeting in Cincinnati last spring, has a membership of nearly 2,000 state legislators and around 300 private-sector members.

Funded by the Koch brothers, the National Rifle Association, oil companies and others, ALEC’s model bills have served as the template for "voter ID" laws that swept the nation in 2011, for the voucher programs that privatize public education, for anti-immigrant legislation, and for the wave of anti-labor union legislation pushed during the past two years in Ohio, Wisconsin, Indiana, Arizona, New Hampshire and elsewhere.

This week Coca-Cola and PepsiCo dropped their memberships in ALEC, amid the threat of boycotts.

In 2010 National Public Radio reported that Corrections Corp. of America (CCA), a private-sector ALEC board member, participated in the drafting of Arizona Senate Bill No. 1070. The report documented the behind-the-scenes effort to draft and pass the law and how the CCA stood to benefit from people incarcerated under it.

Marvin Meadors, a Huffington Post contributor, has described ALEC as “a bill-churning mill which uses corporate money to draft model legislation that advances the agenda of the Far Right and encourages crony capitalism.”

 
 

 

 

 
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