Tag Archives: bans

Wisconsin editorial roundup: on college costs, drone bans and union declines

Higher ed proposals will help, but much more is needed to hold down college cost

Wisconsin State Journal, Jan. 31

A key Assembly committee just endorsed a package of modest yet worthy bills to make college more affordable.

The full Legislature should approve them, understanding much more must be done so students aren’t saddled with tens of thousands of dollars in debt.

The bills, which cleared the Assembly Committee on Colleges and Universities last week, would give a larger tax break to thousands of people paying back student loans. Lifting a $2,500 cap on a tax deduction for borrowers won’t save them a lot, but it will save some.

The bills also would provide more financial help to technical college students, including “emergency grants” for unexpected expenses, such as car repairs. That could prevent some students from quitting classes when trouble strikes.

The bills will connect more students to internships for real-life experience.

One of the most important measures the committee advanced would require colleges to provide students with better information about the debt they’re taking on. A financial reality check should persuade more students to streamline their course loads or work more hours at part-time jobs to borrow less.

Good counseling is a must, too, so fewer students go down academic paths only to find out — after considerable time and expense — it’s not for them.

Republicans have supported the bills, as do UW and technical college officials. Democrats voted against them at committee, saying the legislation didn’t go far enough. We get the point. But the bills represent progress. They deserve bipartisan support.

Gov. Scott Walker’s tuition freeze, in place since 2013, has saved students a lot of money. But the freeze was coupled in the latest state budget with a $250 million cut in state aid to UW System schools.

Wisconsin is one of the few states reducing aid to higher education, which isn’t a path to prosperity. Wisconsin needs to invest in its colleges to compete in a global economy and secure more good-paying jobs.

Even with the governor’s tuition freeze, the cost of higher education is a much heavier load than it used to be. At UW-Madison, for example, students pay twice as much today for tuition, housing and related expenses — nearly $25,000 — than their peers did three decades ago, when adjusted for inflation.

And the erosion of state aid has forced UW to draw down its reserves. That’s not all bad, since they were high. But our universities need some reserves for stability, just like a private company.

The next state budget should prioritize younger generations, rather than handing out still more tax cuts.

Democrats have prioritized legislation allowing students to refinance their education loans. That’s a needed change Republicans should embrace.

More private donations for tuition are helping pay for college. And schools such as Madison Area Technical College are striving to make two years of instruction free for lower-income students.

But bigger ideas are needed. Leaders should explore a “pay it forward” model where students get free college, then pay a percentage of their salaries after graduation to offset the cost.

Universities must aggressively pursue technology to deliver instruction more efficiently.

The current system of higher and higher cost for young people can’t continue.

Decline of unions isn’t good news for Wisconsin

The Capital Times, Jan. 30

There undoubtedly was some high-fiving among Gov. Scott Walker and Republican legislators and their corporate campaign contributors over the news that union membership has plummeted in Wisconsin over the past two years and is now far below the national average.

That may be good news for plutocrats, but it’s terrible news for working people and Wisconsin’s middle class.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that just 8.3 percent of workers in the state now belong to a union, which is down from 11.7 percent in 2014. Nationwide roughly 11.1 percent of working people belong to an organized labor union.

The big drop in union membership — estimated to be roughly 83,000 workers in little more than year — helps explain why Wisconsin’s economic recovery continues to trail the rest of the country. The figures are even more stark when compared to 2010, the year Scott Walker was first elected governor. More than 14 percent of Wisconsin workers belonged to unions then.

Unions may not be the be-all and end-all, but they’ve historically strengthened the country’s middle class, winning wage hikes and benefits for workers so they could support their families and share in the nation’s wealth, and making sure employers provided safe and healthy workplaces. Unions never did represent a majority of American workers, but they provided the benchmarks that nonunion employers used to keep their workers happy so they wouldn’t be tempted to form unions themselves.

It’s not coincidental that the biggest gains in the middle class occurred during the heyday of unions. And it’s also not coincidental that the middle class has suffered in recent years as union membership has eroded. The result has been an alarming increase in the gap between the rich and poor.

That’s been a particular problem here in Wisconsin. A Pew Charitable Trust report from last March showed Wisconsin with the largest decline among the 50 states in the number of middle class families. In 2000, 54.6 percent of Wisconsin families fell into the category of middle class, but that was down to 48.9 percent in 2013. The real median household income in our state had fallen 14.7 percent during that time.

While the drop in union membership has coincided with lower wages and fewer benefits, the upper classes have done well.

So we shouldn’t be happy that unions have taken big hits as a result of the Republicans’ attacks on public employees and teachers and the enactment of a right-to-work law, which hampers private unions.

No, we should be sad for the economic health of Wisconsin and worried about its future.

Regulate drones, but don’t ban them

The Journal Times of Racine, Jan. 30

“Star Wars” might be big at the box office, but drone wars are cropping up all over the country, including Wisconsin.

The latest initiative to drive the electronic beasts from the sky comes from Madison where Republican legislators are pushing a bill to fine people who fly a drone over a state correctional institution $5,000.

According to news reports the legislation follows a series of cases in which smugglers flew drugs, pornography and other contraband over prison walls. Last summer, according to an Associated Press report, a drone dropped a package of marijuana, heroin and tobacco into a prison yard in Ohio, triggering a fight among inmates. Other such instances have cropped up in Oklahoma, Georgia, Maryland and South Carolina.

We have previously called for regulations of drones, so we were all ready to jump on the bandwagon and back the legislative effort headed by state Sen. Richard Gudex, R-Fond du Lac, to stop this potential airborne crime wave.

Then we read a story that in Denver legislators rejected an ordinance to curb private drone use —for the third straight time.

It even rejected a watered-down version that would have banned only drones used to deliver contraband to prisons after opponents pointed out that prison contraband delivery is already a crime by any means.

“It’s really not a necessary bill,” said Vic Moss, owner of a suburban Denver photography business and a drone enthusiast, according to an AP report.

We would suspect that Wisconsin has similar prohibitions on sending contraband into a prison.

Disturbing, as well, is a provision in Gudex’s proposed legislation that would allow local municipalities and counties to establish areas where drones cannot be flown and to set fines of up to $2,500 for violations. We have no idea where that would go.

California bans paparazzi from using drones on private land, Arkansas bans drone voyeurism and News Hampshire bans their use for hunting, trapping and fishing.

We have previously endorsed the need for regulation of drones in order to make sure our skies are safe for air travel.

But we have also suggested that the current Federal Aviation Administration regulations that prohibit drone flights within five miles of an airport are too stringent. That rule essentially makes the entire city of Racine a no-fly zone.

Moreover, there are potentially many good uses for drones — from the delivery system posed by Amazon or their use in spotting forest fires to use by insurance companies in checking damage to roofs or other property _ and even to detecting potato diseases by flying them over fields to find stressed out plants. And, of course, hobbyists love them.

While air safety is important for commercial and private planes and there are other legitimate concerns for things like privacy and individual rights, the stampede of proposed regulations and bans should slow down until reasonable plans can be made.

Drones are not inherently evil and they need a little air space.

Made available via The AP.

Monsanto’s glyphosate most widely used weed-killer

Monsanto’s signature herbicide glyphosate, first marketed as “Roundup,” is now the most widely and heavily applied weed-killer in the history of chemical agriculture in both the U.S. and globally, according to a report published today.

The paper, published Feb. 2, in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Sciences Europe, reports that to date 8.6 billion kilograms of glyphosate have been used globally. Glyphosate use has risen almost 15-fold since so-called “Roundup Ready” genetically engineered crops were introduced in 1996.

In 2014, enough glyphosate was sprayed to leave more than three-quarters of a pound of the active ingredient on every harvested acre of cropland in the U.S., and remarkably, almost a half pound per acre on all cropland worldwide (0.53 kilogram/hectare).

The paper by Charles Benbrook, Ph.D., titled “Trends in glyphosate herbicide use in the United States and Globally,” is available free online at Environmental Sciences Europe. 

“The dramatic and rapid growth in overall use of glyphosate will likely contribute to a host of adverse environmental and public health consequences,” Benbrook wrote.

Last year, 17 of the world’s top cancer researchers voted unanimously to elevate glyphosate’s cancer profile on behalf of the World Health Organization. After the panel of experts reviewed all of the publicly available research, the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer classified the weed-killer as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”  Following WHO’s action, the state of California is currently in the process of listing glyphosate as a known human carcinogen under its Proposition 65 law.

As Benbrook’s paper notes, other recent studies have found connections between glyphosate exposure and a number of other serious health effects, including liver and kidney damage and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, among others. 

Remarkably, 74 percent of all glyphosate sprayed on crops since the mid-1970s was applied in just the last 10 years, as cultivation of genetically engineered corn and soybean crops exploded on both U.S. and global croplands.  

Glyphosate was first sold commercially in 1974, but its use by farmers was limited at first because the active ingredient killed both weeds and crops. The subsequent development and approval of genetically engineered (GE), herbicide-tolerant (HT) crops dramatically changed how farmers could apply it. Starting in 1996, Monsanto and other seed companies began marketing GE-HT versions of three major crops – cotton, corn, and soybeans – making it possible for farmers to apply glyphosate for months after crops started growing.

The use and efficacy of HT technology, particularly in its first decade, led to its rapid and near-universal adoption in the U.S., Canada, Argentina, Brazil, and a half-dozen other countries. As a result, glyphosate use by U.S. farmers rose from 12.5 million pounds in 1995 to 250 million pounds in 2014, a 20-fold increase. Globally, total use rose from 112.6 million pounds in 1995 to 1.65 billion in 2014, a nearly 15-fold jump.

“My hope is that this paper will stimulate more research on glyphosate use and human and environmental exposure patterns to increase the chance that scientists will quickly detect any problems that might be triggered, or made worse, by glyphosate exposure,” Benbrook added.

“This report makes it clear that the use of glyphosate, combined with the dominance of genetically engineered crops, has produced a looming public health threat both in the U.S. and around the world,” said Mary Ellen Kustin, senior policy analyst at EWG. “Farmers have sprayed billions of pounds of a chemical now considered a probable human carcinogen over the past decade. Growers spray glyphosate several times a year on the majority of U.S. cropland. The sheer volume of use of this toxic weed-killer is a clear indication that this chemical dependency is a case of farming gone wrong.” 

California to big-league ballplayers: Stop chewing tobacco

California lawmakers have taken the first step toward accomplishing something Major League Baseball could never do: Stop players from stuffing those big wads of chewing tobacco into their mouths during games.

With Gov. Jerry Brown signing a bill banning the use of smokeless tobacco in all California ballparks, a practice dating to the days of Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb now seems headed toward the sport’s endangered species list.

Although California is only one state, it is home to five of Major League Baseball’s 30 teams and team owners themselves have been pressing for a ban for years. Last May they got one in San Francisco, home of the reigning World Series champion Giants. In August they got another in Boston, site of fabled Fenway Park, and when Brown signed Assembly Bill 768 one was already in the works for Los Angeles.

“Major League Baseball has long supported a ban of smokeless tobacco at the Major League level and the Los Angeles Dodgers fully support the Los Angeles City Tobacco ordinance and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids,” the Dodgers said in a statement last month.

Major League Baseball still needs buy-in from the players, however, because the statewide ban that takes effect before next season has no provision for enforcement.

“The question we’ve been asked is are we going to have police officers walking around checking lips, and no, that’s not the case,” said  Opio Dupree, chief of staff to Assemblyman Tony Thurmond, D-Richmond, who introduced the bill. “It’s going to be left to the team and the league.”

Interviews with players in recent years indicate that many are ready to quit — if they could.

“I grew up with it,” pitcher Jake Peavy told the Boston Globe last year when the newspaper polled 58 players the Boston Red Sox had invited to spring training and found 21 were users.

“It was big with my family,” said Peavy who is now with the San Francisco Giants. “Next thing you know, you’re buying cans and you’re addicted to nicotine.”

He added he would like to quit to set a better example for his sons.

Last year’s World Series MVP, San Francisco Giant’s pitching ace Madison Bumgarner, also chews tobacco but told The Associated Press earlier this year he planned to quit after San Francisco became the first city in the nation to adopt a ban. That one, like the statewide provision, also takes effect next year.

“I’ll be all right. I can quit,” Bumgarner said in August. “I quit every once in a while for a little while to make sure I can do it.”

All the players should, said Christian Zwicky, a former Southern California Babe Ruth League most valuable player who grew up watching the Los Angeles Dodgers play and says he never cared for seeing all that tobacco chewing and the spitting of tobacco juice that follows.

It didn’t influence him to take up the practice, the 22-year-old college student says, but he can see how it might have affected others.

“I understand the sentiment there,” said Zwicky who adds he’s not a big fan of government regulation but supports this law. “You don’t want these people that kids look up to using these products that could influence children in a negative way.”

Moves to adopt a comprehensive ban have been gaining support in recent years, fueled by such things as last year’s death of popular Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn of the San Diego Padres, who blamed his fatal mouth cancer on years of chewing tobacco. Former pitcher Curt Schilling, a cancer survivor, has also taken up the cause.

Use of smokeless tobacco has been banned in the minor leagues for more than 20 years, but Major League Baseball and its players union haven’t been able to reach agreement on a similar restriction. Players and coaches are prohibited from chewing tobacco during television interviews and can’t been seen carrying tobacco products when fans are in the ballparks. But the chewing during the game continues.

“It’s a tough deal for some of these players who have grown up playing with it and there are so many triggers in the game,” San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy told the AP earlier this year.

“I certainly don’t endorse it,” said Bochy, an on-and-off-again user for decades. “With my two sons, the one thing I asked them is don’t ever start dipping.”

Federal court upholds ban on sales of puppy mill dogs

A federal court has upheld a measure banning pet stores in Phoenix from selling puppies produced in inhumane, commercial, dog breeding facilities known as puppy mills.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona rejected a pet store’s federal constitutional challenge to the local ordinance.

Jonathan Lovvorn, senior vice president and chief counsel of animal protection litigation for The Humane Society of the United States, responded, “Not only does this type of regulation crack down on the puppy mill industry, but it also reduces local pet overpopulation and euthanasia rates in shelters by driving the market toward the adoption of homeless animals and purchases from only responsible breeders.”

According to the organization, more than 70 localities across the country have enacted similar ordinances.

Four federal courts have determined that the laws are constitutional. Those courts are in Florida, Illinois and Rhode Island.

HRC calls on state officials to remove obstacles to marriage without delay

The Human Rights Campaign called on state officials to act with all deliberate speed to remove remaining obstacles to marriage equality.

The HRC, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group, made the call following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling striking down bans on same-sex marriage and clearing the way for marriage equality nationwide.

The HRC sent letters to the governors and attorneys general in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas, all states where marriage licenses were not previously being issued to same-sex couples statewide, and in Alabama, where the state supreme court had sought to obstruct the issuance of marriage licenses.

HRC’s legal director Sarah Warbelow, in the letters, said, “In order to be in full compliance with the law, we urge you to take immediate action to ensure that all Justices of the Peace begin issuing marriage licenses to all eligible couples immediately. …Delaying the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples is not only unlawful, but allows the discriminatory impacts of an unconstitutional law to continue.” 

In a 5-4 ruling issued on June 26, the majority of the Supreme Court made clear that bans on marriage equality did not pass constitutional muster. 

Bias bites | Pit bull bans blasted as biased, without merit

Eavesdrop on the social circles at the local dog park.

The snippet of conversation about discrimination and bullying might sound like a discussion of the latest proposal to allow businesses to refuse service to gays. But the human companions to the canines may be denouncing breed-specific laws and defending pit bulls.

“When I walk my pit bulls, I get looks and people cross the street to get away from us,” said Lisa Williams, founder of Moonracer No Kill Animal Rescue, a nonprofit that rescues pit bulls and other large dogs from animal control shelters. “My dogs will not hurt anyone, they love people. But, because of how they look — some with cropped ears and tails, cut before I ever got them — people won’t give them a chance. People will look at our pictures on display at events and say, ‘Oh, you’re a pit bull rescue’ and walk away.

Dangerous breeds?

“So many end up in the shelter because people think they cannot be family dogs. It is the perception. … My favorite adopter was a 70-year-old island woman who adopted a pit puppy in order to promote them as the wonderful dogs they are,” said Williams, whose rescue is based in Florida.

Earlier this spring, the first known political action committee formed to fight breed-specific legislation. The Ohio PAC, founded by pit bull champions Alisha and Luke Westerman, operates under the banner Ohioans Against Breed Discrimination. The PAC maintains that breed-specific legislation is discriminatory, ineffective, unenforceable and unconstitutional.

Similar arguments were shared this spring in the Wisconsin community of Platteville, where the common council considered a proposal to prohibit Staffordshire bull terriers, American pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers and mixes with those breeds.

The council in April voted 4–2 against continuing a discussion on the matter after hearing from opponents of a ban, which lacked an endorsement from the police chief and was the focus of an online petition drive.

Platteville resident Kieryn Aigner launched the Care2 petition campaign in March, after Ald. Mike Denn proposed making it “unlawful to own, harbor or keep” a pit bull terrier or a mixed breed of pit bull.

Aigner, who adopted a pit bull in 2013, quickly collected thousands of signatures and lined up dozens of people to address the common council if necessary.

“Considering the reputation pit bulls get on being a ‘bully’ breed, I made sure to do my research” before adopting, Aigner said. “I knew I was going to get a lot of criticism and I knew I had to be smart when it came to this puppy. If he ended up being poorly trained, it would have been because I failed as an owner. Just as kids are raised, so are puppies. As parents, we have to teach them right from wrong, good from bad.”

Other opponents of breed-specific bans have adopted the online petition as an effective lobbying tool. A year ago, activists defeated a proposed ordinance to ban pit bulls in Medford, Oregon, after amassing more than 8,600 signatures on a Care2 petition.

“It is wrong to discriminate against a breed,” said Aigner. “If you are going to go after someone, it should be the owner for not training their dog correctly, not the breed.”

DogsBite.org is a website “dedicated to reducing serious dog attacks.” The site maintains that the number of dog bites in the United States is under-reported and that certain types of dogs — pit bulls and Rottweilers — are deadly. The group says from 2005 to 2014, pit bulls and Rottweilers caused 74 percent of the human fatalities from dog attacks. 

“Unlike other dog breeds, pit bulls frequently fail to communicate intention prior to an attack (surprise attacks), possess a lethal bite style (hold and shake) and a ruinous manner of attack (gameness),” reads a “dangerous dogs” passage on the website.

Yet, the American Veterinary Medical Association says no breed or type of dog is more dangerous than another. 

The AVMA says, “Any dog can bite, regardless of its breed, and more often people are bitten by dogs they know. It’s not the dog’s breed that determines risk — it’s the dog’s behavior, general size, number of dogs involved and the vulnerability of the person bitten that determines whether or not a dog or dogs will cause a serious bite injury. Dogs can be aggressive for all sorts of reasons. A dog that’s bitten once can bite again and a dog that’s never bitten could still bite. Don’t rely on breed stereotypes to keep yourself safe from dog bites. A dog’s individual history and behavior are much more important than its breed.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Bar Association and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals also oppose breed-specific legislation. 

The ABA “urges all state, territorial and local legislative bodies and governmental agencies to adopt comprehensive breed-neutral dangerous dog/reckless owner laws that ensure due process protections for owners, encourage responsible pet ownership and focus on the behavior of both dog owners and dogs, and to repeal any breed-discriminatory or breed-specific provisions.”

In its review of the issue, the CDC notes that data collection related to bites by breed is fraught with the potential for error in identifying the type of dog, especially among mixed-breed dogs. A 2009 study supports this point, noting a significant discrepancy between visual determination of breed and DNA determination of breed.

The ASPCA’s position statement says the organization “is not aware of credible evidence that breed-specific laws make communities safer either for people or other companion animals. There is, however, evidence that such laws unfairly target responsible pet guardians and their well-socialized dogs, are inhumane and impede community safety and humane sheltering efforts.”

In its lengthy statement, the ASPCA says breed-specific laws ignore factors known to affect a dog’s tendency toward aggression: early experience, socialization, training, sex and reproductive status.

Breed-specific laws also “can cause hardship to responsible guardians of properly supervised, friendly, well-socialized dogs. … Although guardians of these dogs may have done nothing to endanger the public, they nevertheless may be required to choose between compliance with onerous regulations or forfeiture of their beloved companions,” according to the ASPCA.

States rethinking bans

In Ohio, after passage in 1987 of a law that identified pit bulls as “vicious,” some dog owners faced difficulties finding housing or securing liability insurance. Lawmakers removed the language three years ago, but a number of Ohio communities still label pit bulls as “vicious.”

Forfeiture of animals also results in crowded shelters or increases in killings by animal control. In Ohio in 2004, animal control agencies killed at least 7,400 pit bulls. In Prince George’s County, Maryland, 80 percent of the 500 to 600 dogs seized and killed under a ban on pit bull terriers are “nice, family dogs.”

Williams said, “It is heartbreaking when dogs are labeled dangerous and they really are not. … Many dogs that have been labeled ‘dangerous’ or ‘aggressive’ have been rescued or adopted and turn out to be just the best dogs ever, once they feel safe and secure. We want them to have a chance to shine, if they can.”

And animal welfare advocates stress an unintended consequence of breed-specific legislation. As one type of dog is banned, those who exploit and abuse animals train others to be aggressive, to fight.

Breed-specific laws exist in 55 Wisconsin communities, according to DogsBite.org. Thirty ordinances ban pit bulls, while other measures place restrictions on ownership of pit bulls and Rottweilers, such as prohibiting pit bulls declared “dangerous” or “vicious.”

“No good comes from discrimination, whether it’s discrimination against dogs or people,” said animal welfare advocate Shelaghla Donohue of Madison. “Instead of more communities passing bias legislation, I think Wisconsin should prohibit breed-discriminatory legislation. Probably that won’t happen anytime soon.”

States with measures against enacting breed-specific legislation include California, Connecticut, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Nevada, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Virginia.

“The way I see it, outlawing a pit bull or a Rottweiler or a Chihuahua, for that matter, is like saying, ‘We don’t like that kind of person,’” said Green Bay animal rights advocate Laura Lippert. “And we just don’t do that.”

Said Williams, “Give pit bulls a chance, you won’t be disappointed. Help out at shelters so the dogs can be more socialized and have a chance to find homes. Ask to pet a pit bull, you will most likely end up covered in kisses.”

State to state activists campaign against ex-gay therapy

Advocates for LGBT youth succeeded in March in thwarting a campaign in Oklahoma to give statutory protection to those who practice so-called “ex-gay” therapy on minors. 

No major medical or mental health associations endorse the therapy, which is dangerous and characterized by some leading health professionals as child abuse.

Republican state Rep. Sally Kern introduced the Oklahoma bill, intending to legitimize conversion therapy and provide state sanction for the practice denounced by the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association. Kern’s bill was the first of its kind and a direct response to the movement to outlaw “ex-gay” therapy for minors in other states.

“It’s not often that we can say defeating a piece of legislation actually saved lives, but with HB 1598, that is exactly what happened,” said Troy Stevenson, executive director of Freedom Oklahoma, a statewide LGBT civil rights group.

The bill died without reaching a vote in the House.

Marty Rouse, national field director for the Human Rights Campaign, said, “Stopping this bill was an incredibly important victory for LGBT youth in Oklahoma. So-called ‘conversion therapy’ uses fear and shame, telling young people that the only way to find love or acceptance is to change the very nature of why they are. Psychological abuse has no place in therapy, no matter the intention.”

HRC and the National Center for Lesbian Rights are working with state LGBT civil rights groups to advance legislation banning “ex-gay” therapy for minors. California was the first state to enact such legislation, followed by New Jersey and the District of Columbia, where a ban went into effect this year.

This year, efforts to pass legislation against “ex-gay” therapy are underway in the states surrounding Wisconsin — Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois — and also Virginia, Colorado and Texas.

“Time and again we see the psychological wreckage of so-called conversion therapy and it has to stop,” said Chuck Smith of the statewide group Equality Texas. “Even one-time champions of this dangerous technique have changed their minds as the evidence piles up that such ‘therapy’ doesn’t work and, worse, is dangerous.”


The National Center for Lesbian Rights based in San Francisco is campaigning to end conversion therapy — so-called “ex-gay” therapy — with a strategy that includes advancing legislation and public education.

The campaign is called #BornPerfect.

To get involved, go online to nclrights.org.

— Lisa Neff

Wisconsin lawmakers to take up bill to ban vaping indoors

Wisconsin lawmakers are set to reignite conversations about whether vaping — using electronic cigarettes and other vapor smoking devices — should be included in Wisconsin’s smoking ban.

The ban took effect in 2010 and it outlaws smoking in all public indoor locations, including restaurants and bars.

But the ban does not currently apply to vaping, giving venue owners the right to decide whether or not to permit e-cigarettes.

Democratic Rep. Debra Kolste of Janesville says because the indoor smoking ban has been so successful, the bill seemed like common sense.

But the bill will face Republican opposition.

State Rep. Joel Kleefisch, a Republican from Oconomowoc, says he will introduce a bill to protect e-cigarettes from the ban.

Scientists urge White House action to protect bees

More than 100 scientists called on leaders of President Barack Obama’s Pollinator Health Task Force to take action on pesticides to protect and promote healthy populations of bees and other pollinators.

“Bees have been quietly pollinating our crops for millennia, but now they need our help. It is vitally important that we take steps to reduce exposure of bees and other wildlife to these systemic, persistent neurotoxins,” said Dave Goulson, a bee expert and biology professor at the University of Sussex. He is a leader of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s global Task Force on Systemic Pesticides.

The 108 scientists — whose areas of expertise include entomology, agronomy, ecology, ecotoxicology — called on task force co-chairs Gina McCarthy and Tom Vilsack to place a moratorium on use of neonicotinoid pesticides in the United States and to increase investment, research and funding for growers to adopt alternatives.

Almost a year after Europe implemented a moratorium on neonicotinoids, federal policymakers in the United States have yet to take any substantive action.

Bee declines across the country have continued at unprecedented rates — more than 30 percent annually —with significant ramifications for beekeepers’ livelihoods, crops that rely on pollination and the agricultural economy. EPA has refused to finish its review for clothianidin and thiamethoxam, as well as other neonicotinoids, before 2018.

“The president’s task force should listen to the body of science that links pesticides to bee harm and bee declines,” said Jim Frazier, an entomology professor at Pennsylvania State University and commercial beekeeper advisor who specializes in chemical ecology. “These systemic pesticides are not only lethal to pollinators, but at low doses can disrupt critical brain functions and reduce their immunity — leaving them susceptible to common pathogens. The weight of the scientific evidence certainly incriminates neonicotinoids, in line with the 2013 European Food Safety Agency’s review of 800-plus publications that led to the current moratorium on certain neonicotinoids.”

The IUCN’s June 2014 “Worldwide Integrated Assessment (WIA)” — a review of over 800 studies by 29 independent researchers — documents significant harms to bees and ecosystems from neonicotinoids. Scientists submitting the letter today join others around the globe calling for new, dramatic restrictions on bee-harming pesticides in the United States and beyond. The report also suggests that the current regulatory system has failed to capture the range of impacts of these pesticide products. And it suggests the impacts on ecosystems can, in turn, have even greater impacts on food and farming in the United States.  

“Native bees are important contributors to crop pollination – not only do they serve as our insurance policy when supplies of honey bees are low or variable, but they often contribute as much or more to fruit and vegetable pollination as honey bees do. They can complement the actions of honey bees by flying under different weather conditions or visiting different parts of the plant – leading to more production. In all of these ways, they enhance farmer’s abilities to get their crops pollinated,” said Claire Kremen, PhD, a conservation biology professor at University of California – Berkeley, and co-director of the Berkeley Food Institute. “Policymakers must protect native pollinator habitat on farms and ensure that their populations are not damaged due to harmful pesticides.”

As more studies link pesticides to bee harm and declines, more studies show that neonicotinoid seed treatments aren’t serving farmers or promoting pollination. In a study released in October, the EPA noted, “Published data indicate that in most cases there is no difference in soybean yield when soybean seed was treated with neonicotinoids versus not receiving any insect control treatment.” 

Neonicotinoids are an increasingly widely used class of systemic insecticides that are absorbed by plants and transported throughout the plant’s vascular tissue, making the plant potentially toxic to insects. They are commonly used in commodity agriculture as seed treatments, and also as foliar and granular treatments in nurseries. Neonicotinoids including imidacloprid (Bayer), clothianidin (Bayer), thiamethoxam (Syngenta) and dinotefuran (Mitsui Chemicals) first came into heavy use in the mid-2000s. Additional systemic pesticides that similarly disrupt brain function like sulfoxaflor (Dow) are slated to come to market soon.

A state by state look at gay marriage bans

State bans on same-sex marriages have been falling around the country since summer 2013, when the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the federal government to recognize state-sanctioned gay marriages. The high court on Oct. 6 cleared the way for more expansion by turning away appeals from five states seeking to prohibit it.

The court’s decision effectively made gay marriage legal in 30 states and the District of Columbia. The Supreme Court refused to hear appeals from Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin in a ruling also affecting six states where same-sex marriages had been put on hold pending high-court review: Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming.

The remaining state bans are all under legal challenges.

A look at where the issue stands across the country:

• ARIZONA: In a ruling that called into question Arizona’s gay marriage ban, a U.S. District Court judge handed a victory Sept. 12 to a gay man denied death benefits after losing his spouse to cancer.

• ARKANSAS: A state judge in May struck down the state’s ban. The state Supreme Court brought marriages to a halt and is weighing state officials’ appeal. Same-sex couples are also suing the state in federal court. The attorney general’s office hadasked that proceedings in both cases be put on hold while the U.S. Supreme Court considered whether to take up a case from Utah.

• FLORIDA: A federal judge declared the state’s ban unconstitutional in mid-August, joining state judges in four counties. He issued a stay delaying the effect of his order, meaning no marriage licenses would be issued immediately issued for gay couples.

• HAWAII: Same-sex couples sued in 2011 to overturn the state’s ban. A federal court later upheld the ban, but then the Legislature last year legalized gay marriage. A 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel heard arguments on the Hawaii case in San Francisco on Sept. 8, along with cases from Idaho and Nevada.

• IDAHO: State officials are appealing a federal judge’s decision to overturn the state’s ban. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel in San Francisco heard arguments Sept. 8 along with appeals from Hawaii and Nevada.

• KENTUCKY: Two Kentucky cases were among six from four states heard in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati on Aug. 6. Rulings are pending on recognition of out-of-state marriages, as well as the ban on marriages within the state.

• LOUISIANA: A parish judge ruled Sept. 22 that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional; the attorney general has appealed to the state’s Supreme Court.

• MICHIGAN: The state’s ban was overturned by a federal judge in March following a rare trial that mostly focused on the impact on children. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati heard arguments Aug. 6, and a ruling is pending.

• MISSOURI: The state’s attorney general, Chris Koster, announced on Oct. 6 that he wouldn’t appeal a circuit court order that Missouri recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other states. Two other same-sex marriage cases are pending. One is a federal challenge in Kansas City, and the other is a St. Louis case that focuses on city officials who issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples to trigger a legal test of the ban.

• NEVADA: Eight couples are challenging Nevada’s voter-approved 2002 ban, which a federal judge upheld a decade later. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel heard arguments Sept. 8, along with appeals from Hawaii and Idaho.

• OHIO: Two Ohio cases were argued Aug. 6 in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and a ruling is pending. In one, two gay men whose spouses were dying sued to have their out-of-state marriages recognized on their spouses’ death certificates. In the other, four couples sued to have both spouses listed on their children’s birth certificates.

• TENNESSEE: The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments Aug. 6 on an appeal of a federal judge’s order to recognize three same-sex couples’ marriages while their lawsuit against the state works through the courts. A ruling is pending.

• TEXAS: A federal judge declared the state’s ban unconstitutional, issuing a preliminary injunction. The state is appealing to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, which is soon expected to set a date for arguments.

• ELSEWHERE: Other states with court cases demanding recognition of gay marriage are: Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Most lawsuits challenge same-sex marriage bans or ask states to recognize gay marriages done in other states.