House Republicans Pass Anti-Abortion Bill Based On Pseudo-Science

Conservatives rarely give up on a bad idea, and have no problem with basing their legislation on junk science. Back in January, 2015 I wrote about Republican efforts to restrict abortion based upon the scientifically invalid idea that a fetus can feel pain at twenty weeks:

Conservative efforts to ban abortions after 20 weeks are based on ignoring science, just as many conservatives do in denying evolution and climate change. Conservatives make pseudo-scientific claims that the fetus can feel pain at this point, despite the cerebral cortex not being developed until well after this point. There is no real controversy over this point in medicine. Conservatives sometimes twist studies showing simple reflexes as indicating that the fetus is feeling pain. Often they misquote researchers to falsely claim their is a scientific basis for their bogus claims. More on this faux controversy over the science here and here.

The 20 week ban is especially harmful to the rights of women as fetal abnormalities are often not discovered until after this point. It is understandable that a woman who discovers after 20 weeks that she is carrying a fetus which has severe brain abnormalities which would prevent survival might want to abort, but Republicans would deny them this choice by setting an arbitrary limit before such abnormalities are apparent. It is also feared that once they set the line at 20 weeks they will use more pseudo-science to justify moving it up.

Conservatives have also practiced pseudo-science in trying to make the abortion debate over the moment when life begins, when development of the human embryo and fetus is a continuum. Conception is a process without an exact moment at which it occurs, and even fertilization can take twenty-four hours.

If conservatives are really concerned about preventing fetal pain their policies are counterproductive. Late term abortions are very rare in this country, primarily done when the mother’s health is in danger. Another common reason for abortions being delayed until after 20 weeks is the inability of the mother to obtain the abortion earlier, often due to roadblocks placed by Republicans making abortions more difficult to obtain. Of course Republican opposition to contraception further increases the number of abortions. If conservatives were consistent in desiring to prevent fetal pain, they should facilitate the ability of women to obtain both contraception and to obtain early abortions even beyond twenty weeks and before the actual ability to feel pain is present.

What I wrote in that previous post still applies today as the House of Representatives passed a bill to ban abortions nationwide after twenty weeks, ignoring the fundamental right of a woman to control her own body, ignoring the science, and even ignoring conservative arguments regarding states’ rights. Vox reports on this, and presents arguments regarding the science similar to those made above:

The House voted on Tuesday to pass a bill that would make abortion after 20 weeks illegal in every state in the country. Called the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, it’s based on the idea that a fetus at 20 weeks’ gestation can feel pain.

“The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act will protect the voiceless, the vulnerable, and the marginalized,” said Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the House majority leader, in a statement last month. “It will protect those children who science has proven can feel pain.” President Donald Trump has promised to sign the bill if it passes; during the campaign, he said such a bill “would end painful late-term abortions nationwide.”

In fact, the best available science shows that fetuses probably cannot feel pain until well after 20 weeks. Advocates of abortion rights say 20-week bans at the state level have harmed women, forcing them to travel to another state, often at great expense, to get the care they seek. And opponents of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act fear that, though it is unlikely to pass the Senate, it will ultimately spread dangerous misinformation…

The text of the bill includes a section on the science of fetal pain, which states that “there is substantial medical evidence that an unborn child is capable of experiencing pain at least by 20 weeks after fertilization, if not earlier.”

However, the general scientific consensus is that no such evidence exists. “There’s actually conclusive evidence that shows that the neurologic structures in a fetus aren’t completely laid down and working yet until much further along in pregnancy, we think even the third trimester,” said Jennifer Conti, a clinical assistant professor and OB-GYN at Stanford University and a fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health. Twenty weeks, she said, “is just an arbitrary limit set in place by politicians that has no medical or scientific backing.”

The most comprehensive look at fetal pain to date was a literature review published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2005. According to the review, the structures needed for fetuses to feel pain begin to develop between 23 and 30 weeks’ gestation, and studies of premature babies suggest they can’t feel pain until 29 or 30 weeks. While this review is now 12 years old, it still holds true — “no research since its publication has contradicted its findings,” wrote Mark S. DeFrancesco on behalf of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in 2015.

The House bill makes a number of claims that contradict scientific consensus. For instance, the bill states that “after 20 weeks, the unborn child reacts to stimuli that would be recognized as painful if applied to an adult human, for example, by recoiling.” However, according to the group Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) at the University of California, San Francisco, “limb withdrawal occurs even in full-term babies in response to non-painful tactile sensations, including light touch. Thus the appearance of limb withdrawal on ultrasound represents a reflex rather than a response to pain.”

Donald Trump Looked Up At The Eclipse, Apparently Denying Science And “Fake News”

If you paid even the slightest attention to the news, the most important thing discussed about the eclipse was to not look up at the sun. It would take someone who thinks that almost all the news is fake (with even Mitch McConnell publicly disagreeing with him), and doesn’t believe in science, to ignore these warning. Apparently Donald Trump thought that the stories about effects of the eclipse on vision were a hoax, like climate change and the earth being round. Despite a warning from a nearby aide, Donald Trump actually did look up at the solar eclipse.

What makes this even stranger is that Trump actually had protective glasses, which he put on later.

Now it will be interesting to see if Donald Trump starts bumping into walls, has difficulty reading teleprompters, or stops talking about how beautiful he thinks Ivanka is.

Regardless of whether he develops visual problems, this is yet another example of bizarre behavior on his part. There is a reason that some psychiatrists are publicly questioning his sanity. There is also a reason for the 25th Amendment.

Scientists March Against Trump’s War On Science

Scientists celebrated Earth Day by marching in support of science. The New York Times reports:

Thousands of scientists and their supporters, feeling increasingly threatened by the policies of President Trump, gathered in Washington on Saturday under rainy skies for what they called the March for Science, abandoning a tradition of keeping the sciences out of politics and calling on the public to stand up for scientific enterprise.

Mona Hanna-Attisha, a pediatrician who helped expose lead poisoning in Flint, Mich., and who addressed a rally before the march, called the protest the beginning of a movement to ensure that governments do not dismiss or deny science.

“If we want to prevent future Flints, we need to embrace what we’ve learned and how far we’ve come in terms of science and technology,” Dr. Hanna-Attisha said in an interview…

Its organizers were motivated by Mr. Trump, who as a presidential candidate disparaged climate change as a hoax and cast suspicions on the safety of vaccines.

Their resolve deepened, they said, when the president appointed cabinet members who seemed hostile to the sciences. He also proposed a budget with severe cuts for agencies like the National Institutes of Health — which would lose 18 percent of its funding in his blueprint — and the Environmental Protection Agency, which faces a 31 percent budget cut and the elimination of a quarter of the agency’s 15,000 employees.

Bill Nye spoke at one rally in Washington, D.C.:

“Without scientifically literate citizens, the United States — any country, in fact — cannot compete on the world stage,” Bill Nye the Science Guy told a cheering crowd at the March for Science in Washington, D.C., on Saturday. “Yet today we have a great many lawmakers — not just here, but around the world — deliberately ignoring and actively suppressing science. Their inclination is misguided, and in no one’s best interest.”

Nye touted the ways scientific discoveries have improved global quality of life, arguing that science is not merely “purview of a different, or special, type of citizen.” “Our numbers here today show the world that science is for all,” he said, and government must come to recognize that “science serves every one of us.”

I am happy to see them protesting, but it sure is pathetic that it is necessary to protest in support of science. The importance of science should be accepted by anyone elected to the presidency in the 21st century.

 

Clinton & Trump Failing At Fooling The Voters While News From NASA Offers Potential Escape Plan

Clinton Trump Clowns

Regardless of what other surprises occur during this campaign, it is safe to  predict that Hillary Clinton will not convince people she is not a crook, and Donald Trump will not convince people he is not xenophobic and racist. Among the worst consequences of Clinton being elected will be to see Democrats become the Republican Party of 2001. After opposing both neocon foreign policy and the “culture of corruption” under Bush, the Democratic Party now owns both with the nomination of Hillary Clinton.

It is rather disappointing to see how many Democratic bloggers who criticized corruption under Bush find ways to rationalize actions they would have never tolerated under Republicans, and attack the media as opposed to those acting unethically. No, just because you think your party represents the good guys, this does not excuse such action. Less partisan sources are more critical of the latest revelations regarding the unethical relationships between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department revealed in the latest batch of emails and the AP’s review of the number of meetings Clinton had as Secretary of State with large donors to the Foundation. For example, USA Today called for the Clinton Foundation to be mothballed:

Ending foreign and corporate contributions is a good step, but allowing them to continue at least through the first week of November looks more like an influence-peddling fire sale (Give while you still can!) than a newfound commitment to clean government.

And the complex plan for allowing donations from U.S. citizens and permanent residents, keeping some parts of the Clinton Foundation alive, and maintaining scores of Clinton-family allies on the payroll is less an opportunity for a clean slate than a guarantee of new controversy.

Yes, the Clinton Foundation supports many good works, notably the fight against HIV/AIDS. No, it is not “the most corrupt enterprise in political history,” as Donald Trump is calling it, nor is there enough evidence of potential criminality to warrant appointment of the special prosecutor Trump is seeking.

But the only way to eliminate the odor surrounding the foundation is to wind it down and put it in mothballs, starting today, and transfer its important charitable work to another large American charity such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. If Hillary Clinton doesn’t support these steps, she boosts Trump’s farcical presidential campaign and, if she’s elected, opens herself up to the same kind of pay-to-play charges that she was subject to as secretary of State…

When Clinton became secretary in 2009, new ethical quandaries arose that few people imagined at the time. She gave key State Department aides permission to work for the Clinton Foundation while they worked at State and drew paychecks from a Clinton-affiliated for-profit consulting firm. Emails from her private server reveal communications between foundation representatives and her aides about setting up meetings between America’s top diplomats and the Clinton Foundation’s top donors, including Gilbert Chagoury, a Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire.

According to an Associated Press analysis of Clinton’s State Department calendars released so far, more than half the people outside of government she met with or spoke with on the phone as secretary of State had made pledges or donations to her family charity. Those 85 people donated as much as $156 million. The tabulation published Tuesday does not include the meetings and phone calls with representatives of 16 foreign governments that contributed as much as $170 million to the foundation.

Should Clinton win, she’ll face an uphill battle to rebuild trust in government and find a way to get Washington working again. That task will be all the harder if millions of voters repulsed by Trump’s rhetoric and concerned with his volatile behavior find that his “Crooked Hillary” taunt had some substance in fact.

While Clinton, enjoying a huge and possibly insurmountable lead, prefers to try to run out the clock and continues to avoid the press as much as possible, Donald Trump is trying to convince voters that he is not racist. Aaron Blake poked holes in Trump’s statement of regret for some of the things he has said and, Jonathan Chait pointed out that the one flaw in Trump’s plan is that he really is a racist:

The main difficulty Trump faces in dispelling the impression that he is a racist is that Trump is, in fact, a gigantic racist. His first appearance in the New York Times came in the context of his being caught refusing to rent apartments to African-Americans. A former Trump employee has detailed a series of private racist statements and acts — saying “laziness is a trait in blacks,” objecting to black people working for him in accounting, his staff shooing black people off the casino floor when he arrived. Trump has replied that the comments were “probably true,” but berated the person who made them as a “loser.” He has questioned the legitimacy of President Obama’s birth certificate, called him a “terrible student,” and implied he only made it into Harvard Law School due to affirmative action…

Trump has spent more than a year identifying himself as the candidate of white-backlash politics, using his appeal to the most racially resentful Republicans to win the nomination. And now he’s running to Clinton’s left on criminal justice! Trump adviser Roger Stone tells the Post, “an entire generation of young black men are incarcerated” because of the 1994 bill. So African-Americans should instead vote for the candidate who literally called for “retribution” and an end to civil liberties. Does Trump’s campaign really think anybody is going to believe this?

One of these dreadful candidates will win, with most voters hating the outcome regardless of how they vote. The one good news in this awful political year is that NASA announced finding a potentially habitable planet as close as Proxima Centauri, the closest star to our solar system. This might provide a potential escape route from an earth in which either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump is President of the United States.

SciFi Weekend: Captain America; Agents of Shield; Legends of Tomorrow & The Justice Society of America; DC Four-Way Crossover; Star Trek; Mr Robot; Limitless

captain-america-civil-war

Captain America: Civil War, like the previous movie in the series, made major changes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe which also extend to Agents of SHIELD on television. Spoilers ahead for both the movie and television series. Civil War showed a continuation of what was seen in Captain America: Winter Soldier, which led to moving SHIELD underground. It ends not with Captain America being killed as in the comics, but with both giving up his shield and going underground. Other members of the Avengers are in similar situations. Collider summarizes how the MCU has changed, with major spoilers for those who have not seen the movie and recent episodes of Agents of SHIELD.

It did seem strange that Nick Fury was not involved, and his role since the changes in SHIELD remain unclear. Civil War writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely were asked about this by The Los Angeles Times:

I’m curious. Where was Fury? 

Stephen McFeely: I’m curious too!

Christopher Markus: We called him, but he let the line blink. Primarily it felt like one too many possible opinions. We didn’t want him to take one side or the other, because that’s not his place in the universe. And then we didn’t want another, “Is he still with the government? Is he opposed to the government but supporting the government?” It got to be the potential for a lot more polemic discussion that the movie did not have room for.

He’s the guy who put it together. He’s been the sort of parent figure to the Avengers. Let the parent go away, and see if the kids can handle this. See if the kids can be who they’re supposed to be without that governing voice. Um… and they didn’t do that good of a job.

Are we going to see him in “Infinity Wars?”

McFeely: I would think.

Markus: It’s probably all hands on deck.

McFeely: Don’t you assume you’ll see everybody in the “Infinity Wars?”

You heard it here first: Everybody is in “Infinity Wars.” Hopefully that includes Sam Rockwell’s Justin Hammer and Whiplash’s bird.

Captain America: Civil War acted as the origin story for Black Panther, and introduced Spider-Man to the rest of the MCU. Iron Man will be appearing in Spider-Man’s upcoming solo movie, Spider-Man: Homecoming. There is also speculation that there is yet another connection, with “homecoming” being one of the trigger words used by Hydra in brainwashing Bucky Barnes.

Deadline has a long interview with  Kevin Feige. One of the many items discussed included the possibility of  Black Widow getting a solo movie in the future:

DEADLINE: You’ve got a bunch of characters in this movie from Falcon and War Machine and Black Widow and Hawkeye, who have so far guest starred in movies with another characters title above the fold. Is there one destined to get a solo movie down the line?
FEIGE: We’ve announced the next nine movies, 10 counting Civil War, through the end of 2019. Where we go beyond that are ongoing discussions that we’ll focus on in the next few years because we have a lot to do before then. Of the characters that you’ve just mentioned I would say certainly the one creatively and emotionally that we are most committing to doing is Black Widow.

DEADLINE: Why?
FEIGE: We think she’s an amazing character. We think Scarlett Johansson’s portrayal of her is amazing. She’s a lead Avenger and has amazing stories in her own right to tell that we think would be fun to turn into a stand-alone franchise.

Agents-of-SHIELD-Cover-04272016

Agents of SHIELD also worked in the Sokovia Accords, the movie version of the Superhero Registration Act, and ended the season with some deaths. Even Daisy now appears to be on the run, and who is this new Director of SHIELD? There was a second death for a Brett Walton villain, first Grant Ward, and now Hive. It looks like he might finally be finished with the series.  Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen spoke with Comic Book Resources about the finale.

CBR News: How difficult was it to say goodbye to Brett Dalton and Lincoln Mitchell?

Maurissa Tancharoen: It was so, so hard. There were many tears. It was very emotional. Even in the process of developing their arcs and breaking the season, it was a decision we struggled to finalize. We knew that we had to, though. We had to close a chapter with Ward. To sustain an antagonist for this long or to go beyond three seasons — we just didn’t want it to lose any steam. At our wrap party, there were several emotional speeches being made for both of those guys.

Jed Whedon: One of the things about television is that it’s fluid. You always have to generate a lot of different stories. Sometimes you eliminate a character and it’s easy, because you either don’t like the person or you don’t like the character. This was a situation where we didn’t have that. Both of these actors are just great guys, they’re great to work with and are pros. It was a very emotional end of the season for everybody.

Tancharoen: A week before we wrapped, we were here at home. I was thinking of Brett and Luke. They are such great people, and so talented and so handsome. “Oh, my God. What have we done?”

After watching Ward evolve from a member of S.H.I.E.L.D., to Hydra agent, to Hive, why did it feel that this was the time to let him go?

Whedon: One of the reasons we closed that chapter was to start a very different, very new chapter next year. We’re very excited about it, but that’s as specific we can get.

Now that viewers have seen the finale, what were the most important aspects, to you, about the send-off you gave Ward/Hive?

Whedon: Hive revealed his motivation: “I want a connection.” That’s a fitting end to his story. Also, to Ward’s story, he wanted that with Skye. Now, here he is, sitting with Lincoln, the one person who had that with Skye/Daisy. There’s some poetry to the simplicity and the quietness in that moment that we loved. It was a fitting end for someone with [goals of] world domination, and to our buddy Grant Ward, who we managed to maintain as an antagonist for three seasons, which is a lot for one character.

While some themes from the movies are reflected in Agents of SHIELD, the two are also disconnected, especially with Coulson being alive in the television show but still considered dead in the movies. It is also strange that nobody from The Avengers got caught up in the battle against Hive. Chloe Bennet talked about this last week. When asked if she would like to show up in the movie universe she replied, “The Marvel Cinematic Universe loves to pretend that everything is connected, but then they don’t acknowledge our show at all. So, I would love to do that, but they don’t seem to keen on that idea.”

legends_of_tomorrow_s01e16_still

The Berlanti shows on CBS and the CW Network are almost completed for the season, with Arrow and The Flash presumably to complete their story lines related to Zoom and Damian Dahrk next week. Legends of Tomorrow remains the weakest of the four, but did improve in its final episodes. The good news was that it got more timey wimey. The bad news is that it handled their rules of time travel much more poorly than other genre shows such as Continuum and 12 Monkeys. As time travel does not really exist (which I assume as I have never received a list of winning lottery winners from my future self), a show can get away with their own rules, but they should be internally consistent and make sense. Screen Rant has more on the plot holes. More spoilers ahead.

It should help the show in the future to have Vandal Savage defeated. Having them spend the season getting close to him but not killing him led to many unsatisfactory episodes. Some old members of the cast will be gone. Ciara Renée is leaving as a series regular, but the manner in which Hawkgirl and Hawkman flew off certainly leaves open for the possibility of their return, even without using time travel. Wentworth Miller’s character Leonard Snart (Captain Cold) sacrificed his life on Legends of Tomorrow. In the Berlanti universe, death is not a permanent change (except for the Earth 1 Laurel Lance), and Miller will be a recurring character in various shows in the universe. Presumably time travel or effects from the destruction of the Oculus will  provide the explanation.

While some characters are gone, the ending suggested the introduction of the Justice Society of America. Collider has background information on this. Marc Guggenhein also discussed this with The Hollywood Reporter:

The CW’s Legends of Tomorrow used Thursday’s season one finale to reveal that Rex Tyler aka Hourman (Patrick J. Adams), along with the JSA, would be a major part of the Arrow/Flash spinoff’s sophomore run. He arrived on a Waverider as the Legends team intended to take off as Time Masters, warning them that they would all die if they did.

“With his final words in the finale, he planted a pretty deep flag about where we’re headed in season two, which is not just introducing Hourman but introducing his teammates in the Justice Society of America,” executive producer Marc Guggenheim tells The Hollywood Reporter. “For comic book fans, everyone knows the Justice Society is really the precursor to the Justice League, so it’s a pretty big move in our DC universe here on TV.”

Although the DC Comics franchise keeps its film and television projects separate (unlike rival Marvel, which connects its film and TV projects in one shared universe), it’s interesting to note that it’s the newest — rather than the highest-rated DC show (Flash) — that is going to be the one introducing the iconic superhero team…

The introduction of Hourman and the JSA won’t be the only reason Legends of Tomorrow will look different in season two. Along with some casting shakeups, the elimination of the Time Council and the set timeline takes away a huge part of the story and the rules that were established all season long.”One of the other big things we’ve done in the season finale is we planted another flag in the form of Rip’s [Arthur Darvil] statement. Because the Time Masters are essentially gone and the Legends have destroyed the Oculus, that all means that someone else has to do the job of the Time Masters,” Guggenheim says. “Our Legends take that on as their new responsibility. It’s sort of like, you break it, you buy it.”

“That’s really exciting to us, that our team of Legends, our misfits, are going to be responsible for the preservation of the timeline and protection of history,” he adds. “As we’ve seen, our team, our guys are not always the most responsible people around so maybe time has got some new troubles. But it will provide a lot of fodder, a lot of fun story for season two.”

With Supergirl getting picked up by the CW Network, they didn’t waste any time in announcing  plans for a four way crossover with Arrow, The Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow. This is facilitated by all four now being on the same network and all being filed in Vancouver starting next season. These matters are far more important then the logistics of getting Supergirl involved with characters who are on a different earth.

Above is a trailer for the movie Star Trek Beyond. It also looks like Paramount has been convinced that it is not a good idea to sue fans over copyright infringements in fan-made movies. JJ Abrams made this announcement:

A few months back there was a fan movie, Axanar that was being fan made, and there was this lawsuit between the studio and these fans. And Justin was sort of outraged by this as a longtime fan. And, we started talking about it and realized this was not an appropriate way to deal with the fans. The fans should be celebrating this thing, we all [as] fans are part of this world. So he went to the studio and pushed them to stop this lawsuit and now within the last few weeks it will be announced that this is going away and the fans will be able to [continue] their productions.

Hopefully they realize that it has been the fans who have kept interest in Star Trek alive, enabling them to make money from continued movies and soon a new television series.

CBS also released the above teaser for the upcoming Star Trek television series, which does not really provide any information. There has been some speculation that the statement of “new crews” in pleural might suggest more than one crew, possibly taking place in different eras.

The above trailer was released for season two of Mr. Robot which begins on July 13. We see that Christian Slater’s character is still around, and don’t know how much of anything else is real or in someone’s head.

With it doubtful that CBS will renew Limitless (but no cancellation announcement either), there is now talk of trying to sell it to another network. I don’t know if the finances would work, but it seems like it might be a good fit at USA Network. Supergirl has already moved from CBS to the CW Network, and I’m still hoping attempts to keep Person of Interest alive at anther network are successful.

Moving from science fiction to science, Mars is appearing as it biggest in over a decade:

Mars comes into opposition — the point when Mars and the Sun are on directly opposite sides of the Earth — once every two years.

But on Sunday night, as the Red Planet edged towards its closest point to Earth in 11 years, it appeared much bigger and brighter in the night sky than usual.

Amateur astronomer Dr Ian Musgrave, from the University of Adelaide, said it would trump Venus as the brightest object in the sky, aside from the Sun and the Moon.