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Religious Embrace Helping Fuel Support for Gay Marriage, Expert Says PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Wednesday, 20 June 2012 12:28
Landmark Poll Finds More Strong Support
Than Strong Opposition

For the first time, a new poll shows more Americans “strongly support” same-sex marriage than “strongly oppose” it, a finding that could be attributed to changes occurring within organized religions, says a Presbyterian elder and lay preacher.

“For 2,000 years, religion has been the genesis of antipathy toward homosexuals, but now, three major American denominations have approved ordination of openly gay clergy,” says Paul Hartman, a retired PBS/NPR station executive and author of The Kairos (www.CarpeKairos.com), a novel that imagines Jesus as gay.

“Gay has become the civil rights issue of the 21st century,” he says.

The May survey of more than 1,000 adults found a dramatic reversal from earlier surveys: more adults now “strongly support” same-sex marriage rights (39 percent) than “strongly oppose” them (32 percent).  Over all, Langer Research Associates says, 53 percent of Americans believe same-sex marriages should be legalized – up from only 36 percent just six years ago.

“Episcopalian, Lutheran and Presbyterian denominations have overturned centuries of tradition in welcoming openly gay clergy,” Hartman says. “There’s a growing realization that religion can and should help lead us all toward a more mature understanding and acceptance of minority sexual orientations.”

In 2012, he says, there is a new human rights landscape in the United States. He cites these additional recent developments:

The U.S. military joined 43 other countries when it repealed “Don’t ask, don’t tell” and allowed openly-gay service members.

Same-sex marriages are now legal in six states and the District of Columbia. Three other states -- Washington, Maryland and California -- have same-sex marriage under active consideration. Eleven more offer “civil union”-type status for same-sex couples.

A federal appeals court in Boston recently struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (which defines marriage as “one man, one woman”), making consideration by the U.S. Supreme Court almost certain.

Dr. Robert Spitzer, one of the last nationally-respected scholars whose studies lent credence to “gay reparative” therapies, recently offered a retraction and apology to the gay community.

“Unfortunately, the occasionally hateful crowd still resonates with a very small group of people, including those headed by preacher Fred Phelps and congregants, who continue to make news as they picket the funerals of soldiers and celebrities,” Hartman says.

Western cultures’ condemnation of same-sex love appears to have originated from Judeo-Christian scriptures, but contemporary biblical scholarship amends old interpretations, he says.

“That’s why I wanted to tell a religion-based suspense story about homophobia,” Hartman says. “It addresses fear of all kinds, because in passage after biblical passage, scripture tells humans who are facing change, sickness, alienation, death, and everything else: ‘fear not.’  It applies to homophobia, as well.”

About Paul Hartman

Paul Hartman is a retired PBS/NPR station executive with a passion for biblical history. He is a Presbyterian elder, a lay preacher and a Dead Sea Scrolls aficionado. Hartman, a father and grandfather, confesses he is a lifelong fear-fighter.

 
Attorney General Holder meeting on Fast and Furious PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Wednesday, 20 June 2012 08:49

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today made the following comment after participating in a meeting with Attorney General Eric Holder and Rep. Darrell Issa on the Operation Fast and Furious gun-walking operation.  Grassley has been working on getting answers from the government on the ill-advised operation for months.

“The Attorney General wants to trade a briefing and the promise of delivering some small, unspecified set of documents tomorrow for a free pass today.  He wants to turn over only what he wants to turn over and not give us any information about what he’s not turning over.  That’s unacceptable.  I’m not going to buy a pig in a poke.  Chairman Issa is right to move forward to seek answers about a disastrous government operation.”

 
Senators Question President’s Authority to Issue Immigration Directive PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Wednesday, 20 June 2012 08:27
WASHINGTON – Senator Chuck Grassley is leading a group of senators  in questioning the directive announced last week by President Obama to grant deferred action to illegal immigrants and asking for a full accounting from the President of his legal authority to issue such a directive, how the executive action will be implemented and administered, and the cost to taxpayers.

In a letter sent to the President this afternoon, the senators asked for written responses to a list of detailed questions and a briefing from the administration officials who will be responsible for the program.   They described their concerns about President’s circumvention of Congress in issuing the directive and questioned the impact of allowing work authorizations for illegal immigrants at the same time young Americans face record-high unemployment rates.

Grassley’s letter was signed by Senators Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Mike Crapo of Idaho, James Risch of Idaho, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Johnny Isakson of Georgia, John Boozman of Arkansas, Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Roger Wicker of Mississippi, David Vitter of Louisiana, Mike Johanns of Nebraska, Pat Roberts of Kansas, Mike Lee of Utah, Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, John Barrasso of Wyoming, and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.

Click here for a signed copy of the letter.

 
US Forest Service adds four heavy helicopters to support wildfire suppression PDF Print E-mail
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Written by U.S. Forest Service   
Tuesday, 19 June 2012 13:08

WASHINGTON, June 19, 2012 - U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell today announced the agency is adding four heavy helicopters to the aviation firefighting fleet.


“The addition of these helicopters to our aviation fleet will increase our ability to respond quickly and aggressively to fight wildfires and protect lives and property,” said Tidwell. “We will continue to mobilize our firefighting assets when and where they are needed as we respond to a very challenging wildfire season.”

The helicopters will be available this summer for large fire support and initial attack to any location in the United States.

The U.S. Forest Service successfully suppresses about 98 percent of the approximately 10,000 wildfires that occur each year on National Forest System lands. 

Two of the heavy helicopters are S-61s owned by Siller Helicopters of Yuba City, Calif.; one is an S-64 Skycrane owned by Erickson Air Crane of Central Point, Ore.; and one is an S-70 owned by Firehawk Helicopters of Leesburg, Fla. 

Helicopters are used primarily for dropping retardant or water during wildland fires, supporting the actions of firefighters on the ground.  The additional helicopter assets will strengthen the agency’s capability to respond effectively to fire activity during the summer wildfire season.

The Forest Service can respond vigorously to wildfire with an array of assets that includes more than 15,000 USDA and Department of the Interior firefighters (about 70 percent from the Forest Service) and up to 950 engines, 14 large airtankers, eight Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems, one very large (DC-10) airtanker, 300 call-when-needed helicopters, and a mix of type 1, 2, and 3 helicopters.

On June 13, the agency awarded exclusive use contracts for seven "Next Generation" airtankers. Three will be operational in 2012 and four in 2013.  This is the first step in implementing the Large Airtanker Modernization Strategy, which was submitted to Congress in February and recommends 18 to 28 large airtankers.

The Forest Service uses many tools for wildland fire suppression including accelerated restoration efforts that include thinning and other fuels treatments. Restoration of National Forest System lands are critically needed to address a number of threats to the health of forest ecosystems, watersheds, and forest dependent communities. 

This year, as in the past, firefighting experts will continuously monitor conditions and move assets as necessary to be best positioned and increase initial attack capabilities.

The mission of the U.S. Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. Recreational activities on our lands contribute $14.5 billion annually to the U.S. economy. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world.

 

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USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Ave., S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call (800) 795-3272 (voice) or (202-720-6382 (TDD).

 
Veterinarian Proposes Law Recognizing Pets’ True Value PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Tuesday, 19 June 2012 12:24

A veterinarian is asking anyone who will listen – legislators, judges, fellow pet owners – if the loss of a pet is akin to the loss of furniture, a computer or a car.

Kenneth Newman, a 33-year veterinarian and author of Meet Me at the Rainbow Bridge (www.meetmeattherainbowbridge.com), has proposed a law that answers his question. Gracie’s Law recognizes the emotional bond between pet and owner by entitling the owner of a pet killed through an act of malice or negligence to $25,000 in damages.

“It’s time we change the laws to more accurately reflect what pets mean to the average American,” says Newman.

Gracie’s Law would not supersede current laws, he says, which entitle owners to the property value of their pet. And it would not replace criminal prosecution for acts of malice. And owners who decline a recommended veterinarian procedure to save a pet would not be held accountable under the law, he says.

Newman’s dog Gracie was killed in April 2008 when a negligent driver backed up 25 yards without looking, crushing Newman and Gracie between two vehicles. The vet escaped with a broken leg; Gracie saved his life, he says.

“An attorney looked me in the eye and said that my dog was a piece of property, that I wasn’t entitled to anything for the dog, and that this was a simple broken-leg case,” he says.

In every state, he says, laws view pets as property. Owners are entitled to no more than replacement value; no law takes into consideration the loss of companionship, grief, or pain and suffering.

Newman says that doesn’t jibe with Americans’ attitude toward their pets. According to an American Animal Hospital Association survey, 90 percent of owners consider their animals part of the family. Other findings:

• 52 percent of Americans would rather be stranded on a deserted island with their pet than with another person.

• 83 percent call themselves “Mommy” or “Daddy” in reference to their pet.

• 59 percent celebrate their pet’s birthday.

Cases involving pet owners’ bonds are increasingly showing up in the courts, Newman points out:

• Matrimonial law: Attorneys have experienced a 23 percent increase in pet cases, according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. This includes custody battles over pets, veterinarian bills and visitation rights. Harvard now has a course dedicated to pet law.

• The North Carolina Court of Appeals: While the plaintiff’s wrongful death lawsuit was denied, animal activists applaud a judge’s willingness to at least hear a case involving a Jack Russell terrier that died while undergoing tube feeding at a state facility.

• Texas justice: On Nov. 3, 2011, Fort Worth's 2nd Court of Appeals ruled that value can be attached to the love of a dog. That overruled a 120-year-old Texas Supreme Court case, which held that plaintiffs can only recoup the market value of their pets.

• Largest award: In April, a Denver judge awarded Robin Lohre $65,000 for the death of her dog, Ruthie. Lohre had accused Posh Maids cleaning service of negligence for allowing the dog to get outside, where it was hit by a car. Newman notes this sets a new precedent for pet value, but that such uncapped awards may threaten affordable veterinary care.

To read Gracie’s Law and copy it to share, visit meetmeattherainbowbridge.com, click “image gallery” and scroll down.

About Kenneth Newman DVM

Kenneth Newman graduated from Purdue University with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree in 1979, and has since been a practicing vet. He experienced a badly broken leg and the death of his Labrador retriever Gracie due to the negligence of a driver in April 2008. Since then, he has proposed and advocated Gracie’s Law, which recognizes that pets are more than common property. Newman lives with his wife and their son, as well as several pets.

 
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