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Ending the HIV Travel Ban

Most of the time, if you're a liberal, you probably find yourself in disagreement with Andrew Sullivan. He's a loud and proud conservative pundit, (even if he does support Barack Obama). But now, many liberals are supporting Sullivan in the fight to end the HIV travel and immigration ban.

This ban, which prevents people who are HIV positive from entering or immigrating to the United States, was instituted in 1987 by Jesse Helms. Andrew Sullivan, came to the US in 1984 before the ban was enacted but, because of the ban, he hasn't been allowed to become a citizen of the country he loves.

Now, Senators John Kerry and Gordon Smith in the Senate and Congresswoman Barbara Lee in the House have introduced a bill called the HIV Nondiscrimination in Travel and Immigration Act of 2007 to remove HIV from the list of diseases that exclude people from entering and becoming a citizen of the US.

There is no scientific evidence to support the claim that the HIV travel and immigration ban is an effective way to prevent the spread of HIV or that it provides any economic benefit by reducing costs to the public health care system.

Today a group of Faith organizations such as the Presbyterian Church, Washington Office, the United Methodist Church, General Board of Church & Society and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops announced their support for ending the ban on the grounds that because of their "commitment to the well-being of all God's people," they must support a bill that could "reduce stigma and discrimination against HIV-positive persons, enhance U.S. leadership in the global fight against AIDS and allow our ministries to more effectively partner with those most severely affected by HIV and AIDS in the world.

This is a political issue that directly affects the lives of many would-be Americans like Andrew Sullivan and prevents them from truly becoming a part of our American community. This bill will come to a vote any day now, maybe even any minute. If you want, you can write your Senator or Representative to tell them how you feel about the ban.

The Jed Report

Must link for sake of awesomeness.

Blogging Liberally: Happy Bastille Day!

1. Obama will visit the West Bank during his European trip in two weeks, and finally make peace in the Middle East.

2. Sacre Bleu! It's Bastille Day! More on that later.

3. Obama op-eded the New York Times like it was nobody's bizness.

4. The President is lifting the executive ban on offshore drilling. Is this a Bush-McCain policy or a McCain-Bush policy?

5. Could the New Yorker be dumbest magazine ever? Si se puede! Don Hazen with the take down.

6. Jeffrey Wright got arrested in a bar fight. He's such a good actor. Can't wait to his Colin Powell.

7. Mark Sanford on the TV and not much better than Phil Gramm.


Our Denier-In-Chief Punts While the World Pants

Image By Holly Wong courtesy of United Farm Workers

Is global warming a hazard to your health? Just ask 42 year-old Abdon Felix Garcia, a farm worker in Central California. Oh, wait! You can't, because he died on Wednesday after working in a vineyard in 108 degree heat. And he's just the latest casualty of the heat wave that's gripping California's Central Valley; three other farm workers have died under similar circumstances since May.

Meanwhile, the EPA issued a 588-page federal notice on Friday that, the AP reports, makes "no finding on whether global warming poses a threat to people's health."

That is, like, so bizarre! Because just three weeks ago, the folks at the EPA had concluded that it did, and called for the regulation of greenhouse gases under the auspices of the Clean Air Act.

Three weeks ago I was in Central California myself, to attend my oldest brother's wedding. The day before my departure, when my husband Matt thoughtfully added the weather for Paso Robles to my iPhone, he literally started to shake the phone as if it were broken.

"This can't be right!" he exclaimed; the forecast showed daytime highs ranging from 107 to 110 degrees. On the day of my brother's wedding, the temperature was predicted to hit 108 degrees, so the ceremony, which had been set to take place outside, had to be moved indoors. Why? Because, well, 108 degree heat can be hazardous to your health. Just ask--oh, nevermind.

The LA suburb I grew up in, Woodland Hills (sounds so bucolic, doesn't it?), made the news recently when temperatures there hit a record 109 degrees. My memories of my Valley Girl childhood are filled with disasters: earthquakes, fires, floods, mudslides, Ronald Reagan's ascension from Screen Actors Guild President to Governor of California.

Sometimes the smog was so bad, when I was a kid, the city would issue an alert warning us not to play outdoors. That was normal. But 109 degree weather? Not even close.

In Central California last month, I couldn't get over how horribly dry and brown the hills looked, like the proverbial tinderbox. Grace, my fifteen-year old niece from lush, leafy Larchmont, couldn't either.

"What happens when lightening strikes?" she wondered. Well, Grace, you get hundreds of wildfires raging out of control, is what happens. And more every year, as the Santa Barbara Independent noted last week:

A 2006 study published in Science found that since 1986, the number of major wildfires has increased by 400 percent, and the amount of land these fires burned increased by 600 percent, compared to the period from 1970 to 1986.

Until recently it was often assumed that spiking population growth and expanding land use patterns were mainly to blame for any increase in the number of big fires. But the Science study, which was conducted by researchers at the Scripps Institute and the UC Merced, concluded that these factors have had "relatively little effect." Instead, the authors wrote, the change has come about mainly because summers have gotten longer, hotter, and drier. "The transition has been marked by a shift toward unusually warm springs, longer summer dry seasons, drier vegetation, and longer fire seasons."

Do greenhouse gases contribute to global warming? You can debate that point--if you're a dumbass. But how can you possibly question whether global warming is a hazard to our health? From drought to floods to fires to a rise in pest populations and plant diseases, the world is reeling from the consequences of this fossil-fueled fever.

But it's the Bush administration that's delirious, determined to fight any attempts to regulate greenhouse gases on the grounds that it would damage the U.S. economy and cause too many job losses. So the White House forced the EPA to revise its earlier document, which not only supported regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act but noted, to the Administration's consternation, that there could be a "net benefit to excess of $2 trillion," as the Wall Street Journal reported Friday:

The White House on Thursday rejected EPA's conclusion three weeks earlier that the 1970 Clean Air Act can be both workable and effective for addressing global climate change. Instead, EPA said Friday that law is ''ill-suited'' for dealing with climate change...

...''One point is clear: the potential regulation of greenhouse gases under any portion of the Clean Air Act could result in unprecedented expansion of EPA authority that would have a profound effect on virtually every sector of the economy and touch every household in the land,'' EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson said in a preface to the 588-page federal notice Friday.

As opposed to global warming, which only affects some households? Like the families of the farm workers dropping dead in the fields? Or the folks who've lost their homes in the California wildfires? Or the farmers in the heartland who've lost their crops to floods?

Instead of taking action, the Decider's decided that we need to continue to debate this matter until someone who's even more of a Decider sets up shop in the Oval Office, according to the Guardian:

The US environmental protection agency (EPA) announced today that no action will be taken to regulate carbon emissions while George Bush remains president.

The EPA's decision to sit on its hands comes after months of wrangling between government scientists, who pressed for action in the wake of a landmark US Supreme Court ruling, and White House officials dead set against regulating pollution...

...the EPA forestalled environmental action today with a unique response. Rather than weighing in on how to regulate emissions, agency administrator Stephen Johnson extended the period for public comment on climate change until after Bush leaves office, effectively depositing the problem in the lap of the next president.

OK, so here's my public comment: on behalf of Abdon Felix Garcia and his fellow farm workers who've perished in the scorching Central Valley heat, may I state that global warming is, like, rilly, rilly deadly? Like, seriously? Mister Prezidon't, if you can't stand the heat, get out of the White House, already--you're killing us.

Another reason

why John McCain doesn't fit in too well with the Drinking Liberally community : When he was born there were no six-packs.

Oddly, it took until sometime in the early-40’s for someone to come up with the brilliant idea of packaging drinks (”Dad’s Root Beer”, to be precise) six at a time. (The concern about the whole fish-killing thing, although widely overblown, didn’t kick in until the 1970’s.)

So, in other words, what we’re saying here is that John McCain is older than what amounts to little more than a system of counting. Fantastic.

The Daily Digest

1. Along with some journalists, attorneys and other organizations, the ACLU is suing the government.

Check out this video of a conversation with ACLU's Jameel Jaffer, The Nation's Chris Hedges and Human Rights Watch's Dinah PoKempner

2. John McCain’s top economic advisor Phil Gramm weighs in: "We’ve never been more dominant. We never had more natural advantages than we have today. We’ve sort of become a nation of whiners."

3. Journalists report Obama raised $30 Million in June; McCain raised $22 million. Some are underwhelmed, some are questioning the numbers.

4. Josh Bolotsky calls it "Obamadodd"

5. Democratic Campaign for the Congressional Committee releases its blueprint for ad marketing.

6. The Horror, the Horror, Iraq was for Oil, a Bill Moyers essay

8. Iran shows a missle test on TV. Washington reacts by preparing to deploy part of its antiballistic missile shield.

9. Lawrence Lessig: Obama’s vote on FISA is not surprising, but he did self-swiftboat

10. Veteran Affairs bans voter registration drives, making it difficult for veterans to vote

11. Psychedelics are again being considered a good medical alternative. The new scientific theory: take whatever makes you feel good.

Reading Liberally: Read of the Day

The one thing every liberal must read today:

by Bill Scher, Campaign for America's Future

Bill Scher exposes the real issue with Phil Gramm's comments about America's "Psychological Recession." These aren't the ideas of one radical right winger. These are ideas at the core of the conservative ideals that John McCain is running on.

Lunch at the Century Foundation

Today The Century Foundation hosted the first of three summer brown bag luncheons. Their lovely upper-east side building brimmed with bright, young, progressive, public-policy minded teens and twenty-somethings all eager to listen to a four-person panel discuss our country’s current economic conditions. Forecasts were grim across the board. Economic mobility is an elusive ideal, activist Amaad Rivera explained. Tamara Draut, Director of the Economic Opportuity Program at Demos painted an analogy: While our parent’s generation rode through the job market on an escalator, those entering the job market today will find themselves riding on a moving walkway. Journalist Daniel Brook zeroed in on the ever widening wealth gap. Our economy is unsustainable.

Hard words to swallow for young idealists such as myself. But of course, give the bad news first and save the glass of hope for last. Veteran journalist Jeff Madrick provided the rallying call: what we need is not idealism but pragmatism. "Vote, keep voting and don’t give up. Remember your vote counts," he concluded.

The Century Foundation is a great resource for young people, and their events are well managed and stress-free. I recommend going to the next luncheon. It will be on the impact of the youth vote. Bring your lunch, get a free drink and cookie and get some pragmatic advice. For webcasts and more information, check out their website .