Friday, August 28, 2015

Abstinence Only or Cancer -- The Republicans' False Dichotomy

There was a very interesting special on NOVA, PBS, last night dealing with vaccinations in America; their history, development, and some of the controversy that’s plagued them. We all know about the fraudulent Wakefield study and how it caused a lot of parents to avoid getting their children the MMR vaccination and all the problems that caused (and continues to cause, because some idiots still believe vaccinations cause autism -- see for example, 'Health Impact News').

I didn’t know that the vaccination to prevent the Human PapillomaVirus (HPV), which can cause cervical cancer was so controversial. The physician discussing it on the Nature special said (and I’m quoting from memory), “We’ve all wanted some way to prevent cancer, now we have an incredible scientific breakthrough that prevents cervical cancer, why wouldn’t we use it?” Good question.

Then we switch to a video of a female physician discussing the HPV vaccination with a woman and her pre-teen daughter. The mother and daughter are facing away from the camera so we don’t see their faces. The physician explains the dangers of HPV and the efficacy and reliability of the vaccine and recommends the mother have her daughter vaccinated. The mother declines to do so. The physician asks if the woman has any fears about the vaccine harming her daughter. The mother says no, she isn’t going to have her daughter vaccinated because she, the mother, believes in “chastity.”

There is some back and forth on this, with the mother explaining that she expects her daughter to refrain from sex until she’s married, and the physician explaining that the blushing bride could still get HPV from the groom, or even through “deep kissing,” should she ever have a boyfriend in her poor unfortunate life living with this deeply disturbed mother.

But the mother says that having her daughter vaccinated against HPV will encourage her to have premarital sex. She is adamant. She will not approve the vaccination! So the physician says, “Well, let’s just do the flu shot today and we can talk more about the HPV vaccination another time” (little did the physician know that there are those that claim the flu vaccination is "the most dangerous vaccine is the U.S." -- see again, Health Impacts News, whose Managing Editor and Founder, Brian Shilhavy, has a “BA in Bible and Greek from Moody Bible Institute, and an MA in Applied Linguistics from Northeastern Illinois University.”).

Well, this mother must be an outlier, right? Unfortunately, no. Mrs. ‘Tightlips’ is part of a conservative ‘abstinence-only’ movement that apparently would rather see their daughters (or sons -- men can get cancer from HPV) die from cancer than have pre-marital sex (it is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women).
I should have remembered this outbreak of anti-science, because Rick Perry kept apologizing during the 2008 Republican presidential debates for signing an executive order making the vaccine mandatory in Texas for all sixth-grade girls. “I made a mistake,” he said -- oops! And who could forget Michele Bachmann claiming on Fox and ‘Today’ that the vaccine caused mental retardation. Was she talking about herself? Did she get vaccinated? I doubt it. There must be another explanation.
As of July 30, 2015, 4 out of 10 adolescent girls and 6 out of 10 adolescent boys have not started the recommended HPV vaccine series, leaving them vulnerable to cancers caused by HPV infections.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Pro-Life Republicans? Where?

Republicans will do absolutely nothing about gun violence in America. Republicans oppose paid maternity leave (the US is one of only 3 countries not to do so (Oman and Papua New Guinea are the other 2). Republicans are attempting to axe Title X Family Planning. More than half of Republicans in the Senate and almost half of Republicans in the House voted against the creation of Medicare, and House Republicans have vote over 50 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Republicans believe people need to starve before they'll 'really' look for work (Republicans believe that policies like disability insurance or the Earned Income Tax Credit take away a key motivation -- hunger).

People stand in line waiting to fill boxes with food at a Las Vegas food pantry.
Republicans oppose a plan from the chairman of the FCC to subsidize broadband Internet for poor Americans. Republicans want to send children born in America of undocumented immigrants back to where they DON'T come from. Republicans oppose diplomacy to address the Iran Nuclear Issue courting the possibility of armed conflict. Republicans won't even say "climate change" unless to brand it a "hoax," and climate change is already causing hundreds of thousands of deaths due to drought, failure of crops, flooding, and extreme weather. Republicans "Pro-Life?" Hardly.

Monday, August 17, 2015

We Should Have Stayed In Iraq -- Oh, Really?!

Is Obama responsible for the rise of ISIS and the chaos and conflict raging in the Middle East? Republicans, especially the now unrepentant Jeb Bush, say Obama's decision to pull troops out of Iraq caused this debacle. Nonsense. "One can argue the single most consequential decision that brought us to today’s deplorable situation is the decision to invade Iraq." This from the conservative National Review. No kidding!

As for pulling out of Iraq, Shortly before Obama took office in January 2009, his predecessor, George W. Bush, finalized an important agreement after about a year of negotiations with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Called the Status of Forces Agreement, it spelled out the withdrawal of all American troops by the end of 2011.

The agreement failed over a demand by the U.S. that American troops be given immunity from prosecution by Iraqis, a very touchy political issue within the Iraqi Parliament. Obama was not going to allow American troops to be judged by Iraqi courts after the disaster that was the Bush Administration's prosecution of the war.
No immunity meant no residual troop presence. In an October 2011 news conference, Nouri al-Maliki said, "When the Americans asked for immunity, the Iraqi side answered that it was not possible. The discussions over the number of trainers and the place of training stopped. Now that the issue of immunity was decided and that no immunity to be given, the withdrawal has started."

One can easily imagine how "enraged" Republicans would've been had Obama agreed to allow American troops to be prosecuted in Iraqi courts for alleged crimes. They might've started throwing shoes!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Japan's Pacifist Constitution Obligates the United States

by John Phillips

The reaction of Japan to its current situation is a potent example of the difficulties of nuclear disarmament. Those traumatized by atomic bombings 70 years ago don't want a future generation of Japanese to experience the horror of their personal experience. They have come to appreciate the value of the pacifist constitution, forced on Japan by the U.S. after WWII. The side of that not often discussed is the fact that the U.S. is the ultimate guarantor of Japanese security -- including a heavy conventional presence and extended nuclear deterrents.
Hiroshima Destroyed by U.S. Atomic Bombing August 1945
Whereas Japan is not obligated to defend the U.S., the U.S. is obligated to defend Japan, even in a nuclear exchange if necessary. Japan will not and should not allow the U.S. to shirk its responsibility since that was the essential bargain in exchange for Japan's pacifist military posture.

Now, Japan is surrounded by hostile nations that have not forgiven WWII atrocities and, in some cases, older conflicts (e.g., the Russo-Japanese War). China is rapidly building a modern nuclear weapon capability of poorly understood scale. North Korea continuously threatens Japan with its nuclear arsenal and has even kidnapped Japanese citizens. South Korea's enmity with Japan simmers beneath the surface, held at bay by close conventional alliances and extended nuclear deterrents from the U.S. in both cases. Russia still holds the Kuril Islands since the end of WWII. The angst against Japan runs deep, fueled by a history of genocides, human trafficking, 'comfort women,' etc., under the dominance of the Japanese empire.

Thus, being pacifist in a very dangerous neighborhood today is purchased by a history of U.S. dominance in the Pacific theater since WWII, nothing more. Given direct and accelerating challenges posed by China to U.S. regional dominance, continuous threats to Japan in North Korean rhetoric and its ballistic missile launches over Japanese airspace, and the U.S. tiring of the high cost of maintaining a post WWII military sphere of influence in both Asia and Europe, Japan is reasonably concerned about its position looking forward.
The U.S. has cautiously encouraged Japan to take on more military responsibility, but must be very careful to ensure that Japan's faith in ultimate nuclear security remains guaranteed -- this lies behind Obama's pivot to Asia. Otherwise, nuclear breakout is not an unlikely outcome. How do we make progress at untying such convoluted Gordian Knots? Complex global and regional realities lie at the heart of approaches to nuclear disarmament. There is no simple approach to solve such problems, but the human and environmental catastrophe that awaits us if we fail demands from us nothing less than our best efforts.
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Jon Phillips is a Senior Nuclear Technology Expert at the International Atomic Energy Agency and Director, Sustainable Nuclear Power Initiative at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. The opinions expressed here are his own.