Archive | March 2013

Baptist pastor tells ABC: Same sex marriage is ‘the freedom God has given you’

By David Edwards
Sunday, March 31, 2013 13:14 EDT

Abyssinian Baptist Church Pastor Calvin Butts

Abyssinian Baptist Church Pastor Calvin Butts on Sunday called on the U.S. Supreme Court to legalize same sex marriage because it was part of “the freedom God has given you.”

“It’s something that we don’t believe in, in terms of what we have learned from the Bible,” Butts told ABC’s George Stephanopolous. “But in terms of men and women having their rights as citizens and human beings, we certainly affirm that.”

“You should have every right as a citizen of this nation and every right as a human being to enjoy the freedom that God has given you. The choice is yours. And I should not stand in the way of you making that choice.”

Butts added that even though his religion did not teach that “marriage between a man and a man or a woman and a woman is God’s divine imperative,” it would be wrong for him to oppose marriage equality for all Americans.

“And I think that the Supreme Court should not stand in the way of that,” the pastor explained. “I have to support that in a civil society because, otherwise, I would not be a good citizen of our great nation and a participant of this great experiment in democracy.”

“However, I choose to believe the book upon which I build my life.”

Thank you to the Raw Story for this article.


Conservatives freak out after Google honors Cesar Chavez on Easter

By Eric W. Dolan
Sunday, March 31, 2013 12:05 EDT

["Freaked Out Businesswoman Ready To Smash Her Laptop Computer" on Shutterstock]

Conservatives reacted with outrage on Easter Sunday after seeing that the search engine Google had honored labor activist and civil rights leader Cesar Chavez, who died 20 years ago.

“I thought the Chavez-google thing was a hoax or an early April Fool’s Day prank…are they just going to leave that up there all day?” Fox News host Dana Perino wrote on Twitter.

Other conservatives also expressed their disapproval of the “doodle” via Twitter. Some of the reactions were compiled by the conservative website Twitchy, showing conservatives announce their astonishment that the search engine didn’t recognize the religious holiday.

One man declared that Google had alienated “all Christians in America today.” Others promised to switch to Microsoft’s search engine Bing, which featured Easter Eggs on its website.

Radio host Glenn Beck also joined the chorus of conservative outrage on Twitter, writing, “Cool for Google to not celebrate Easter but really?!!? Go to . HAPPY Caesar Chavez day everybody! #HELIVES!”

The “doodle” placed a portrait of Chavez in the middle of Google’s logo to commemorated his birthday on March 31. The date is celebrated as a state holiday in California, Colorado and Texas.

The Chicano labor leader gained iconic status after co-founding the United Farm Workers to fight against unfair labor conditions. The conservative publication described Chavez as a “cult figure in California” and complained it was “not the first time that Google has chosen to honor leftists over tradition.”

Thank you to the Raw Story for this article.

Natural gas extraction causing frequent quakes, property damage in northern Netherlands

By Agence France-Presse
Sunday, March 31, 2013 10:00 EDT

Elze Schollema shows a crack in his garage wall, caused by an earthquake due to natural gas extraction, in Usquert, northern Netherlands, on March 12, 2013.

Farmers living atop Europe’s largest gas field in the isolated northern Netherlands are angry at increasingly frequent earthquakes caused by extraction.

Freezing winds and a glimmer of cold light pass through the three-foot by two-inch (one metre by five centimetre) crack in Martha and Jan Bos’s stable in Middelstum, a few miles (kilometres) from the Netherlands’ most northern point.

Their farmhouse, built in the early 20th century, has around 15 large cracks and part of the floor inside the entrance has dropped around three inches.

“We’ve been living here for 25 years and for the last five years we’ve had regular earthquakes,” Martha Bos, 48, told AFP.

Her husband Jan, wearing traditional wooden clogs, is tending to the sheep: “We don’t want to leave, we’ve built our lives here but we’re really very afraid of a big earthquake,” she said.

Their home in the northern province of Groningen is built on top of the biggest gas field in the EU, which gives the Netherlands — the world’s 10th-biggest gas producer — two-thirds of its gas, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA).

In February of this year alone, four earthquakes above magnitude 2 have hit the region.

The relatively low magnitude is nevertheless felt more because the quakes happen just two miles (three kilometres) beneath the ground, experts say.

The earthquakes are a “natural” result of huge pockets of air left underground by massive gas extraction.

But the earthquakes have become increasingly frequent after the Netherlands more than doubled its gas production since 2000, hitting 50 billion cubic metres annually, according to a report published earlier this year by Jan de Jong, the inspector general of the State Mines Surveillance (SoDM) service.

There were 110 earthquakes here between 1991 and 2000, SoDM figures say, but the frequency has risen more than six-fold to hit 500 between 2000 and 2013.

The Dutch Oil Company (NAM), a joint enterprise between energy giants Shell and Exxon, which is in charge of the extraction admits that the earthquakes are linked to its activities and has set up a 100-million-euro (130-million-dollar) compensation fund.

“That’s good, but it’s not enough,” said Corina Jansen, who heads the 1,000-member Groninger Bodem Beweging (Groningen Earth Movement), set up because of “the tumult created by the earthquakes.

“Some damage is paid for but besides the fact that the procedure taks a long time, old cases of cracks or land subsidence are not covered,” Jansen told AFP.

“People have had it up to here and if necessary we won’t be afraid to go to the courts to defend everyone’s safety,” she said.

The SoDM’s De Jong wrote that if gas extraction carries on at its current rate, there’s a one in 50 chance that an earthquake of 4.5 magnitude or higher will hit the area in the next 12 months.

“It’s not only fear, but also the uncertainty and anger at not being listened to by the government,” said Marijke Bronskema, who lives in the nearby village of Usquert, among the flat fertile fields of the northern Netherlands.

Almost every window or doorframe of her one-storey house has been weakened by a network of cracks about six inches long.

“We’re supposed to sell the house because my husband just lost his job, and we had just renovated everything, but who would want to buy a house where you’re regularly hit by earthquakes?” she said, accusing the government of not listening.

The Dutch government has reaped around 250 billion euros from its gas fields since the 1960s, according to Finance Ministry figures.

In 2011, the state raked 12 billion euros of gas cash into its coffers, representing around 8 percent of state revenues, and that is set to hit 14 billion euros when 2012 figures are released.

Without the gas, the Netherlands’ deficit would have been around 6.2 percent in 2011, or around the same as that of crisis-hit Cyprus.

Faced with the huge challenges of the eurozone crisis, the damage and worry in the north of the country, far from the capital Amsterdam and seat of government at The Hague, don’t carry much weight, according to the area’s inhabitants.

“This is a real cash cow for the government,” said Bronskema.

In his report, De Jong suggested the government reduce its gas extraction “as quickly as possible to avoid a big earthquake,” but his call was quickly rejected by Economic Affairs Minister Henk Kamp as “economic irresponsibility”.

“I need further information,” he said during a debate on the subject in parliament in January during which some opposition parties accused the government of putting national economic interest ahead of citizens’ wellbeing.

“On an economic level, it makes no sense to take a decision immediately,” Kamp said.

The NAM, which failed to respond to repeated interview requests from AFP, wrote to De Jong to say it would “take measures which according to us are reasonable to reduce as much as possible the damage caused by the earthquakes” but declined to reduce gas extraction.

Meanwhile, some Dutch northerners are more stoical than others.

“Economic interests are important and that’s how it is,” said mechanic Elze Schollema.

“But it’s true that if I had a choice, I’d rather the earthquakes stopped,” he said.

Thank you to the Raw Story for this article.

3-Exxon pipeline leaks thousands of barrels of Canadian oil in Arkansas

Sun Mar 31, 2013 12:44am EDT

* U.S. environmental agency categorizes pipe rupture as “major spill”

* Exxon shuts Pegasus pipeline after thousands of barrels spilled

* Twenty-two homes evacuated

* Second spill in the United States involving crude from Canada this week

By Matthew Robinson and David Sheppard

NEW YORK, March 30 (Reuters) – Exxon Mobil was working to clean up thousands of barrels of oil in Mayflower, Arkansas, after a pipeline carrying heavy Canadian crude ruptured, a major spill likely to stoke debate over transporting Canada’s oil to the United States.


Exxon shut the Pegasus pipeline, which can carry more than 90,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil from Pakota, Illinois, to Nederland, Texas, after the leak was discovered on Friday afternoon, the company said in a statement.

Exxon, hit with a $1.7 million fine by regulators this week over a 2011 spill in the Yellowstone River, said a few thousand barrels of oil had been observed.

A company spokesman confirmed the line was carrying Canadian Wabasca Heavy crude. That grade is a heavy bitumen crude diluted with lighter liquids to allow it to flow through pipelines, according to the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association (CEPA), which referred to Wabasca as “oil sands” in a report.

The spill occurred as the U.S. State Department is considering the fate of the 800,000 bpd Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry crude from Canada’s oil sands to the Gulf Coast. Environmentalists, concerned about the impact of developing the oil sands, have sought to block its approval.

Supporters say Keystone will help bring down the cost of fuel in the United States.

The Arkansas spill was the second incident this week where Canadian crude has spilled in the United States. On Wednesday, a train carrying Canadian crude derailed in Minnesota, spilling 15,000 gallons of oil.

Exxon expanded the Pegasus pipeline in 2009 to carry more Canadian crude from the Midwest to the Gulf Coast refining hub and installed what it called new “leak detection technology”.

Exxon said federal, state and local officials were on site and the company said it was staging a response for a spill of more than 10,000 barrels “to be conservative”. Clean-up crews had recovered approximately 4,500 barrels of oil and water.

“The air quality does not likely present a human health risk, with the exception of the high pooling areas, where clean-up crews are working with safety equipment,” Exxon said in a statement.

U.S. media said the spill was in a subdivision. Mayflower city police said the oil had not reached Lake Conway nearby.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency categorized the rupture as a “major spill,” Exxon said, and 22 homes were evacuated following the incident.

A spokesman for the Department of Transportation confirmed that an inspector from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration had been sent to the scene to determine what caused the failure. The Environmental Protection Agency is the federal on-scene coordinator for the spill.

Some environmentalists argue that oil sands crudes are more corrosive than conventional oil, although a CEPA report, put together by oil and gas consultancy Penspen, argued diluted bitumen is no more corrosive than other heavy crude.

The U.S. Department of Transportation earlier this week proposed a fine of 1.7 million for Exxon over pipeline safety violations relating to a 2011 oil spill in the Yellowstone River. Exxon’s Silvertip pipeline, which carries 40,000 barrels per day of crude in Montana, leaked about 1,500 barrels of oil into the river in July 2011 after heavy flooding in the area.

In 1989, the Exxon Valdez supertanker struck a reef in Prince William Sound off Alaska and spilled 250,000 barrels of crude oil.

Thank you to Reuters for this article.

Losing my religion for equality…by Jimmy Carter

25 JANUARY 2013

Women and girls have been discriminated against for too long in a twisted interpretation of the word of God.

I HAVE been a practicing Christian all my life and a deacon and Bible teacher for many years. My faith is a source of strength and comfort to me, as religious beliefs are to hundreds of millions of people around the world. So my decision to sever my ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, after six decades, was painful and difficult. It was, however, an unavoidable decision when the convention’s leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be “subservient” to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service.

This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths. Nor, tragically, does its influence stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue or temple. This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women’s equal rights across the world for centuries.

At its most repugnant, the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime. But it also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment and influence within their own communities.

The impact of these religious beliefs touches every aspect of our lives. They help explain why in many countries boys are educated before girls; why girls are told when and whom they must marry; and why many face enormous and unacceptable risks in pregnancy and childbirth because their basic health needs are not met.

In some Islamic nations, women are restricted in their movements, punished for permitting the exposure of an arm or ankle, deprived of education, prohibited from driving a car or competing with men for a job. If a woman is raped, she is often most severely punished as the guilty party in the crime.

The same discriminatory thinking lies behind the continuing gender gap in pay and why there are still so few women in office in the West. The root of this prejudice lies deep in our histories, but its impact is felt every day. It is not women and girls alone who suffer. It damages all of us. The evidence shows that investing in women and girls delivers major benefits for society. An educated woman has healthier children. She is more likely to send them to school. She earns more and invests what she earns in her family.

It is simply self-defeating for any community to discriminate against half its population. We need to challenge these self-serving and outdated attitudes and practices – as we are seeing in Iran where women are at the forefront of the battle for democracy and freedom.

I understand, however, why many political leaders can be reluctant about stepping into this minefield. Religion, and tradition, are powerful and sensitive areas to challenge. But my fellow Elders and I, who come from many faiths and backgrounds, no longer need to worry about winning votes or avoiding controversy – and we are deeply committed to challenging injustice wherever we see it.

The Elders are an independent group of eminent global leaders, brought together by former South African president Nelson Mandela, who offer their influence and experience to support peace building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity. We have decided to draw particular attention to the responsibility of religious and traditional leaders in ensuring equality and human rights and have recently published a statement that declares: “The justification of discrimination against women and girls on grounds of religion or tradition, as if it were prescribed by a Higher Authority, is unacceptable.”

We are calling on all leaders to challenge and change the harmful teachings and practices, no matter how ingrained, which justify discrimination against women. We ask, in particular, that leaders of all religions have the courage to acknowledge and emphasise the positive messages of dignity and equality that all the world’s major faiths share.

The carefully selected verses found in the Holy Scriptures to justify the superiority of men owe more to time and place – and the determination of male leaders to hold onto their influence – than eternal truths. Similar biblical excerpts could be found to support the approval of slavery and the timid acquiescence to oppressive rulers.

I am also familiar with vivid descriptions in the same Scriptures in which women are revered as pre-eminent leaders. During the years of the early Christian church women served as deacons, priests, bishops, apostles, teachers and prophets. It wasn’t until the fourth century that dominant Christian leaders, all men, twisted and distorted Holy Scriptures to perpetuate their ascendant positions within the religious hierarchy.

The truth is that male religious leaders have had – and still have – an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter. Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world. This is in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, Muhammad, and founders of other great religions – all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of God. It is time we had the courage to challenge these views.

Thank you to the Women’s Press for this article.

This Week in God

Sat Mar 30, 2013 10:21 AM EDT
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (D)

First up from the God Machine this week is an interesting fight over “religious freedom” legislation in Kentucky, which isn’t quite what it appears to be.

As in every state, residents of Kentucky already enjoy religious liberty under the First Amendment, but conservatives in the state legislature decided to craft a proposal that would empower Kentuckians with “sincerely held” religious beliefs to disregard state laws and regulations. In effect, if a law conflicted with the tenets of your faith as you interpret them, your conscience would trump your obligation to follow the law.

This wouldn’t mean folks could just run red lights and tell the police their “sincerely held” beliefs trump traffic lights — the legislation has a few safeguards, though critics argue they’re overly vague — but as my friend Rob Boston at Americans United for Separation of Church and Staterecently explained, the Kentucky proposal could carry widespread consequences.

What are some of the things that could happen if this bill becomes law? A pharmacist could refuse to provide Plan B drugs to a rape victim. The owner of an apartment building could refuse to rent to an unmarried couple. A woman who gets pregnant out of wedlock could be summarily fired from her job. The measure would also largely nullify protections for gays and lesbians that a handful of Kentucky communities have passed.

In short, the bill could end up elevating the religious beliefs of some people over the civil rights of all.

The bill nevertheless passed the legislature, largely with Republican support, but also with the backing of some conservative Democrats. Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (D) then vetoed the measure, citing “serious unintentional consequences that could threaten public safety, health care and individuals’ civil rights,” and the need to avoid “costly litigation” the state would likely lose.

In response, the legislature overrode the veto this week, and it will become state law in 90 days. Religious right activists who lobbied aggressively for the measure have vowed to “move along with the rest of the country,” taking their proposal to other states.

Expect some interesting lawsuits to soon follow.

Thank you to the Maddow Blog for this article.


There Aren’t Enough Women Even Considering Running for Public Office

There’s a wide ambition gap when it comes to politics. Is there any way to close it?

  MAR 29 2013, 8:10 AM ET


Ashley Judd decided not to challenge Mitch McConnell for his Senate seat, but at least she thought about it (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Ashley Judd announced earlier this week that she would not be running in Kentucky to challenge Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Her decision highlights a deeper truth about women running for office. The vast majority of women don’t even seriously consider running for office, and new research shows that young women especially are far less likely than men to think about trying to be an elected official.

According to research released this week by the Women & Politics Institute at American University, the first-ever survey of 18- to 25-year-old men and women on political aspirations reveals that women still fall far behind their male counterparts in what’s becoming known as the “ambition gap,” or the likelihood to think about running for office someday.

The researchers tried asking the question in different ways, including what kinds of jobs college-aged women found most appealing. When asked to pick a job if income were not a factor, 42 percent of the women said they found teacher to be most appealing on the list and 8 percent said mayor was most appealing compared with 30 percent of men who found being a teacher most appealing and 15 percent of men who found mayor the most appealing job.

“Given this persistent gender gap in political ambition, we are a long way from a political reality in which young women and men are equally likely to aspire to seek and hold elective office in the future,” the report grimly predicts.

Jennifer Lawless, professor at AU and director of the Women & Politics Institute, finds these results disturbing because she conducted a survey sussing out the likelihood of older women to run for office in 2001 and found similarly weak numbers among women best situated in their careers to run for office. This new research shows that these trends start earlier than she previously thought.

“This is the time that they’re considering all of their career options,” Lawless said. Yet older women were half as likely as men to think “many times” about running and 20 points more likely to say they had never thought about running for office at all.

“Although we expected to see some degree of a gender gap [with younger people], we certainly thought it would be smaller. The evidence suggests it’s just as big,” she said.

One group that does have a smaller gap, though, is high school students. Twenty-three percent of girls and boys both ran for high school student government and won at roughly equal rates (15 percent for girls and 14 percent for boys). “If you look at their broad socialization as high school students, there were far fewer gender differences than there were once they reached college. So it seems something is happening once they enter college,” Lawless said. “It seems like the key intervention at this point really needs to be on those college campuses because they’re more similar before they get there than when they leave.”

That intervention could take some deep-seeded cultural change. Lawless’ group found a number of factors they felt were holding women back when it came to running for office.

For instance, college-aged men were much more likely to say that a parent had encouraged them to run for office someday; about a third of men said their mom or dad had encouraged them while less than a quarter of women said the same.

Researchers also found men were much more likely to put themselves in politically immersive environments, like getting involved in the College Democrats or College Republicans, reading political news, or even discuss politics with friends.

Meanwhile, what had changed for women in the ten years since Lawless’ previous study was female political role models: Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, former Republican presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann, former Democratic presidential candidate and later Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former vice presidential nominee and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin all rose to prominence since 2001. Yet those female role models had virtually no effect on whether women were inclined to run for office.

“Certainly having Nancy Pelosi be speaker of the House suggests that a woman can get elected and become speaker of the House and that’s a vital ingredient,” Lawless said. “But having an internship in any member of Congress’ office probably confers a greater degree of confidence, experience, skills, and interest in terms of someone’s own future potential candidacy than the mere presence of a female speaker.”

In other words, it might have more of an effect on women’s future political prospects to work in Nancy Pelosi’s office than to see that Nancy Pelosi is holding that office.

The silver lining is that this new research indicates that among those who played varsity-level sports, men and women were both much likelier to express interest in running for office. Sixty-three precent of men who played sports were likely to say they would consider a run for office compared with 55 percent of men; among women, 44 percent of those who played sports said they would consider a run compared with 35 percent who did not.

And the number of girls and women participating in competitive sports has risen dramatically in the last 40 years since Title IX. The National Federation of State High School Associations reported that in 1972, when Title IX giving women equal access to sports was passed, girls made up just 7.4 precent of high school athletes. In the 2010-2011 school year, that percentage was 41.4.

The downside, of course, is that women are less likely to play sports—and especially competitive sports—in the first place.

“I think getting women to participate in these organized sports is going to require the same kind of encouragement and recruitment that politics requires,” Lawless said.

If cultural forces manage to change for women who might run for office one day, it might get women to gender parity. In the meantime, the United States currently ranks 77th on an international list of women’s participation in national government. And the strategies that have been successful at getting women’s participation rates up—strong party systems and constitutional quotas—are unlikely to ever happen in America.

Stephanie Schriock, president of the pro-choice political PAC EMILY’s List, said in a statement provided to The Atlantic, “Whether you see the gender gap in leadership as a reflection of innate or systemic roadblocks, getting more women to run for political office is the answer. Not only do women in elected office serve as role models for future generations to follow in their footsteps, they inspire a country to develop more women into leaders.”

Lawless seems optimistic that changing cultural forces might eventually lead to more women in government, but she worries about women ever getting to the point of considering running for office.

“If a woman or a young girl thinks about running for office, and makes the conscious decision that this is just not for her and she’d rather work behind the scenes or she’d rather be an astronaut, that’s fine. My concern is that it’s less likely to appear on women’s radar screens in the first place,” she said.

Lawless wants more women to be like Judd, who at least seriously thought about running for office. Lawless’ ultimate goal is to get more women actually running for office so that more women can hold office. Her research points to a disappointing number of women who are opting out before they even consider the idea of running.

Thank you to The Atlantic for this article.


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