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The antiabortion group that’s behind the sting videos targeting Planned Parenthood on Friday released raw footage from its undercover foray into a Denver clinic. The edited version makes up barely a minute in “Human Capital – Episode 1: Planned Parenthood’s Black Market in Baby Parts” and has been touted as evidence that the abortion provider illegally profits off the sale of “aborted babies’ body parts.”

Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains President and CEO Vicki Cowart fervently denied any wrongdoing, but wouldn’t comment on any specifics until full context was made available.

Now, full context is available – minus a few omissions on behalf of the antiabortion activists.

The Center for Medical Progress — a tax-exempt nonprofit billed as “a group of citizen journalists […] concerned about contemporary bioethical issues that impact human dignity” — released the raw footage and an accompanying transcript on the organization’s website.

The whole encounter is nearly three hours long and features plenty of inane business-meeting banter like when the Panera delivery driver arrives.

Here’s the gist of the video.

Medical director Dr. Sativa Ginde and some other PPRM staffers are meeting with people they believe to be representatives from the tissue-procurement company “Biomax.”

“Good to see you again,” says one of the actors posing as a Biomax rep. They’ve met before, but never at the clinic, he says. It’s their first time in Colorado, he indicates.

The footage is apparently captured by a camera inconspicuously affixed to the buyer’s lapel.

Prior to the meeting, the two parties had been corresponding about an arrangement in which Biomax would procure, transport and sell fetal tissue from the clinic to research facilities. PPRM didn’t have a fetal tissue donation program at the time, but Biomax’s proposals swayed them to entertain the idea. It’s a practice that gives women who choose to get an abortion the option of donating the byproducts to science, and it’s perfectly legal as long as nobody’s profiting from the sale.

During the conversation captured on video, the group discusses all the nuts and bolts of how such an arrangement would look but never actually strikes a deal. They discuss the logistics of what gets procured (careful not to crush anything), how it’s preserved (jars in refrigerators), and how it’s transferred (overnight shipping from the FedEx next to a nearby Sonic).

They also talk about a payment scheme that’s priced per specimen rather than at a flat rate. Similar talk appears in the edited version. Over the duration of the raw footage, the supposed Biomax rep is the only one to use the word “profit.”

Ginde and the other PPRM staff only say the words “donation” or “reimbursement” in the context of payment.

Aabout 45 minutes in, the actor wearing the camera explicitly references a contract that Biomax and PPRM are in the process of drawing up. PPRM staffers continually reiterate that their legal department handles the terms of any financial transaction.

Here’s the full version:

Biomax rep 1: “I was going to ask, we had talked about, we emailed back and forth with your attorney about the prototype materials transfer agreement that we use currently with some donation centers. Then, I know that in the past you said with CSU it was a research contract that I guess the attorney is redacting right now. Is there, does it make a difference right now on your end which of those, what that needs to look like?”

Ginde: “No. I mean, I’d have to look at the original one and look at yours, see what yours- see what’s in it. But of course we’re doing some slightly different activities for you than we were for them. Just making sure that all the language, and that’s the lawyers, what they’ll do. And just making sure it’s all spelled out. And I know that our legal is obviously very in tuned to just the overall politics of the state and what you, you know, the antis would do. I don’t know if you ran into them when you guys came in here?”

Biomax rep 1: “Oh yes, the welcoming committee!”

Ginde: “But the welcoming committee, how they would respond, you can imagine where they would run with this. “Oh, they’re selling body parts!” You know. And so I think he’s sort of making sure that all of our ducks are in a row, that that would never be an issue.”

Biomax rep 1: Mhm.

Ginde: “So, I don’t—”

J.R. Johnstone, PPRM Clinical Research Coordinator: “I think as long as legal is fine with any contracts that we work out, whether it’s —”

Ginde: “And that’s why we do it under research. It makes it a lot different, to do it as a research program, you know. This is research just like any other program where we also collect specimen for a bunch of other studies that we do. Whether it’s cervical tissue or anything else.”

Biomax rep 2: “So that’s the key then, if I’m hearing you, that it’s research, the attorneys will frame it that way, and there’s not a problem, or would there be a problem that, I’m just trying to foresee any problem that an attorney would say, well, no, this is not gonna work, or—”

Ginde: “No, I mean I think that the other sort of PR piece, the spin on it, right, is that this is stem cell research, this is going to stem cell research. It’s not for, that we’re selling a liver to someone else for transplantation. It’s not organ sales or anything like that that would otherwise be, that someone could take out of context.”

Biomax rep 2: “Okay, so as long as they have the language in place that frames it properly.”

Ginde: “Yeah, and I think it makes it easier too to know that these samples will be going directly to a research program or a researcher and not to like some warehouse. You know what I mean? It makes it a lot more legit.”

Biomax rep 1: “Right, right.”

The two parties never actually enter into an agreement. Even the arrangement they discuss but don’t enter into does not entail a commercial sale for profit.

It’s also worth noting the “full footage” Center For Medical Progress released Friday isn’t exactly “full.” Both the video and the transcript have omissions.

Here’s the edited version, released last week:

JeffCO Public Schools officials call cops on veteran teachers during new teacher orientation

“We recognize that we’re in some different times in Jefferson County right now.” – Jefferson County Superintendent Dan McMinimee

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A handful of Jefferson County’s veteran public school teachers met outside Green Mountain High School today to welcome incoming teachers at the district’s induction day – a new employee training. The long-timers handed out flyers inviting the newbies to an afternoon get-together put on by the Jefferson County Education Association, the teacher’s union.

First, security showed up and told the veteran teachers to get off the premises. When they didn’t, the police arrived and threatened to arrest the teachers for trespassing on school grounds. Eventually, the district’s lawyer came out and negotiated with the union a small piece of school property the teachers were confined to.

“They don’t want teachers talking to teachers, I guess,” said Scott Kwasny, the communications and field operations director of the JCEA.

Superintendent Dan McMinimee’s explanation of the incident to The Colorado Independent: “I don’t know if it was the teachers union or any of that. There was a group of people at Green Mountain High School this morning who were confused about where they could be on our campus handing things out.”

Apparently, McMinimee didn’t recognize that the “confused” people were his longstanding employees.

“Pieces of paper is what I understood they were handing out,” he said. What was on those pieces of paper, he did not know.

In past years, the JCEA has presented workshops and provided lunch during the district’s induction day. But this year, with a voter recall of three school board members in the works, contract negotiations underway and rumblings about a potential strike, relationships between the district and the union have broken down.

Kwasny said this year the JCEA was no longer welcome to provide lunch at the event and that the union’s workshops were cancelled.

As McMinimee tells it, the union was welcome to the event and had a table just like Kaiser Permanente and a credit union.  “They were treated just like any other group that was going to work with our teachers,” he said.

Except that staff from Kaiser Permanente and the credit union weren’t threatened with arrest.

Kwasny said the outreach was “about veteran teachers welcoming new teachers to the district and building community, which is critical to our schools’ culture and the success of students at Jeffco. My question to the district would be why do they want to ban teachers from talking to and welcoming their new colleagues.”

“We recognize that we’re in some different times in Jefferson County right now,” McMinimee answered. “And we want to make sure our teachers have a focus on working with students that very first day of school.”

 

Photo courtesy of Scott Kwasny

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A Vietnam veteran who died late last year of severe liver disease complications was a victim of substandard care at the Grand Junction Veterans Affairs Medical Center, according to an investigation by a nationally prominent liver specialist.

In a report released Monday, Dr. Joanne C. Imperial, a fellow of the American Association for the Study of Liver Disease, cataloged the many missed opportunities at the VA hospital to provide adequate care for veteran Rodger Holmes over an eight-month period in 2014. She called his care “chaotic and reactive rather than proactive.”

Imperial was hired to look into Holmes’ illness and death by advocates who took up the 64-year-old’s case after his social worker at the veterans’ hospital became alarmed at the way the hospital was handling his care. The advocacy group, called Remembering Veteran Rodger Holmes, is hoping that highlighting his case will help more veterans in a health-care system that has come under increasing fire for poor performance nationally.

This all confirmed my impressions since day one about the extent of the poor medicine practiced in this case,” said Chris Blumenstein, who resigned his social work position at the VA hospital last year in protest over Holmes’ care.

Hospital spokesman Paul Sweeney said he couldn’t comment on the report because the Office of Inspector General is currently doing an investigation of Holmes’ case. Sweeney pointed out that past internal and regional VA reviews of Holmes’ care found it was adequate.

Holmes died Dec. 20, 2014 after going through a high-risk treatment program for advanced hepatitis C. His disease dated back to the 1970s after he served in Vietnam and subsequently began abusing alcohol and became homeless. In the last four years of his life, Holmes had been sober and had been a steady volunteer – driving a van and playing drums – at the Salvation Army in Grand Junction.

Holmes agreed to aggressive treatment for his chronic condition after his primary care provider referred him to a hepatitis C clinic at the Grand Junction hospital in March, 2014. The clinic was staffed by a part-time internist, a psychiatric nurse practitioner and a pharmacist. There was no liver specialist on staff .

The internist recommended Holmes be treated with a trio of antiviral drugs, including interferon, a drug that can have severe side effects. Within weeks, Holmes complained of weakness, dizziness and nausea. But his physician noted in his chart that he was “tolerating the interferon fairly well.”

Holmes continued to get sicker. Several weeks later, he went to the emergency room complaining that he was “sick as a dog.” He was treated for dehydration and sent home.

Less than a week later, at his monthly hepatitis C-clinic appointment, the clinic pharmacist noted that Holmes was beginning to develop liver failure. His interferon treatment was discontinued. But Holmes continued to get sicker and developed an infection.

A liver specialist at a VA hospital in Denver was consulted and recommended that Holmes be referred to specialty liver care in a private Grand Junction hospital or at the University of Colorado hospital. He was not referred.

Instead, Holmes spent 10 weeks in the Grand Junction VA hospital. The hospital was one of the Veterans Administration hospitals cited in a national 2014 study, for providing deficient care to other patients.

When Holmes was discharged, he was provided with home nursing-care visits. On Dec. 2, Holmes called for an ambulance because he was experiencing severe abdominal pain.

He was taken to St. Mary’s Hospital where he was diagnosed with a severe infection and multiple-organ failure. He died 18 days later.

Imperial commented in her report that the health care providers at the VA “clearly lacked an in-depth understanding of liver disease.” She noted that providers missed many opportunities to change the course of treatment for Holmes.

This substandard care is described by a succession of potentially harmful treatment decisions or omissions,” Imperial wrote.

She also noted that many medical-care providers at the hospital “worked diligently and industriously to provide the patient with the best care possible within their abilities.”

But their abilities did not include enough expertise in chronic liver disease.

The Office of Inspector General’s report into Holmes’ care is expected to be released in several months. It was initiated in January after U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet requested a study. U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner wrote a letter stressing the need for a thorough investigation. And the Colorado Legislature also weighed in with a request for action in the case.

Blumenstein said he is giving Imperial’s report to the Inspector General’s investigators, and he has hopes it will have an impact on the findings.

Blumenstein said that Holmes, in his last months, expressed hope that his case would help improve the care given to many other veterans.

I’ve stuck with this campaign. I promised him on his deathbed that I would,” Blumenstein said. “I told him, ‘I will see this through, my friend’.”

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A convicted rapist is making strong admissions in a Denver rape case for which an apparently innocent man is serving his 28th year in prison.

After three days of bombshell testimony in Denver District Court, the biggest mystery in the 1987 rape, beating and burglary in Denver’s Five Points neighborhood seems less about “who dunnit?” than why District Attorney Mitch Morrissey’s office continues trying to quash facts about what for years has looked like a wrongful conviction.

Judge Kandace Gerdes has two months to decide whether to grant a new trial to Clarence Moses-EL, who’s serving a 48-year sentence for a rape he has said, unwaveringly, he didn’t commit.

See also: “What was done in the dark

The following new evidence backs up his claim:

*That L.C. Jackson — the first man the victim named, repeatedly, as her assailant — is confessing to having sex with her and beating her up at the exact time and place of her attack.

Police and prosecutors never questioned Jackson as a suspect. Instead, they pursued Moses-EL based on the only evidence linking him to the case: The victim’s assertion a day and a half later that his identity came to her in a nightmare.

*That Jackson’s then live-in girlfriend corroborates Jackson’s testimony that he had left their house during the exact time of the victim’s nearby attack

*And that blood evidence shows it’s “very likely” the perpetrator’s semen was from a man with Jackson’s blood type and “very unlikely” it came from a man with Moses-EL’s, according to a University of Denver forensic biology expert who analyzed the results of a vaginal swab from the case.

Data about the swab is all that’s left of the forensic evidence which – though stored in a box marked “Do Not Destroy” so it could be tested for DNA — police tossed in a dumpster.

“Mr. Moses EL has been waiting a long time for this day — almost exactly 28 years,” defense attorney Eric Klein told Judge Gerdes, trying to persuade her to let Moses-EL be retried.

“We’ve got abundant evidence pointing to L.C. Jackson,” Klein continued. “At the end of the day, a jury would have reasonable doubt.  A jury should get to hear this evidence and make a decision.”

Morrissey doesn’t want a new trial. He and his staff have spent nine years not only denying that there’s any new evidence in Moses-EL’s case, but also misstating facts about it.

In a stunning display of tax-funded, win-at-all-costs hubris, Morrissey’s chief deputy, Bonnie Benedetti, spent much of the three-day hearing trying to defend Moses-EL’s conviction despite the fact that, through a DNA cold case hit orchestrated by her own office, Jackson has been convicted in what had been the unsolved 1992 rape of a mother and her 9-year-old daughter at knifepoint not far from the scene in the Moses-EL case and under circumstances that were uncannily familiar.

Benedetti tried blocking several defense witnesses in the Moses-EL hearing, saying their testimonies would be a waste of the court’s time.

She strained to argue that Jackson’s sworn confession “wasn’t a confession.” She said he lacked credibility because he admitted only to having consensual sex – not raping – the victim he also beat up in Moses-EL’s case. And she said his admissions put forth “absolutely no new evidence in this case whatsoever.”

“There is nothing new,” Benedetti told Gerdes.

The judge used to work with Benedetti — and under Morrissey — as a Denver prosecutor. She has 63 days to issue a written order about whether there’s enough new evidence to lift Moses-EL’s conviction and, if her former colleagues in the D.A.’s office so choose, let them retry him.

“I’m making it an utmost priority,” Gerdes said.

 

Photo: Clarence Moses-EL, by Susan Greene

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Planned Parenthood just survived the most recent attempt at its defunding in the U.S. Senate, with Colorado’s Michael Bennet joining other Democrats to block a bill supported by Cory Gardner and the GOP in a procedural vote late Monday. Republican presidential hopefuls Sen. Rand Paul and Sen. Ted Cruz co-sponsored the legislation that failed to garner the 60 votes that would have made it filibuster-proof on the upper chamber floor.

In a 53-46 vote, two antiabortion Democrats, and one pro-abortion rights Republican facing a tough election in Illinois defected from party ranks. Another nay was cast by Republican majority leader Mitch McConnell so he could preserve the option of bringing it up again in September. Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of the 17 candidates in the Republican primary, was absent for the vote.

The House has already punted the issue until after its summer recess, and President Obama said he would veto any legislation that strips the nonprofit of its more than $500 million in annual funding. This most recent effort to deflate Planned Parenthood was sparked by a series of videos released by the Center For Medical Progress — a 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization that bills itself as “a group of citizen journalists … concerned about contemporary bioethical issues that impact human dignity” that’s led by a handful of longtime anti-abortion operatives.

These videos have caused outcry among antiabortion conservatives across the country, including here in Colorado where Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains was targeted by the undercover activists. The conversation at a clinic in Denver between medical director Dr. Sativa Ginde and actors posing as representatives from the fake “Biomax” features some graphic shop-talk about certain aspects of abortion that many would prefer not to think about — particularly how much it costs to procure tissue from an aborted fetus for use in stem cell research.

Claims that the videos show Planned Parenthood illegally profiting off of the commercial sale of “aborted babies’ body parts” underlie the current movement to defund the health care provider, though in raw footage from the encounter released late Friday, Dr. Ginde and her colleagues never make — or agree to make — any transaction that involves selling fetal tissue to pad the organization’s bottom line.

“Although it is essential to discontinue any funds to any organization that devalues life, we all know that defunding is not enough and it is not our goal” said Vice President of Colorado Right to Life Suthan Sutherland in a statement about the vote. “WE MUST ABOLISH BABY KILLING THROUGHOUT THE LAND NOW!”

Cathy Alderman, Vice President of Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado, blasted Senator Cory Gardner for his “yea” vote for defunding Planned Parenthood. “He says he wants increased access with over-the-counter (and more expensive) birth control pills, but his vote to defund Planned Parenthood clearly states he truly wants to deny access to needed family planning services,” she said in a statement. “Senator Gardner’s hypocrisy is showing.”

 

Photo credit: scythrill, Creative Commons, Flickr.

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Undercover videos purporting to expose the illegal sale of human fetal tissue surfaced in July, prompting anti-abortion Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn to launch a public health investigation into Colorado State University’s use of fetal tissue in medical research. Last week, the university agreed to put its nationally funded research seeking a natural treatment for HIV on hold pending investigations.

Earlier in July, the Congressman wrote a letter to CSU president Tony Frank requesting an explanation of the university’s “acquisition of aborted babies’ body parts for experimentation or for other purposes.” Regardless of whether the practice actually violates any laws, Lamborn, whose office declined to comment on this article, called on CSU to immediately put an end to such research.

“The callous barbarism of selling aborted babies’ body parts should have no place in our society,” he said in a statement accompanying the letter on his website. “Because of my grave concerns, I alerted Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman.”

In response, Coffman thanked Lamborn for forwarding her the letter to Tony Frank, indicating she’s been following the matter closely. Enforcement of the statute falls under the jurisdiction of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, she wrote Lamborn, and passed his request along.

CDPHE has opened a complaint investigation.

Meanwhile, the CSU president responded to Lamborn. As “a leader in the ethical conduct of research,” Frank said the university welcomes the opportunity to provide transparency “as we navigate the ethical waters associated with several research areas.”

He explained that CSU had one research project that used human fetal tissue — an investigation into a cure for HIV funded by the National Institutes for Health. The study used small cellular samples extracted from liver and thymus tissue provided by StemExpress, one of the vendors accused of having illegal transactions with Planned Parenthood.

“We do not obtain or use full organs or body parts in this research program,” Frank wrote, “although we can understand how someone could mistakenly reach that conclusion based on the wording of the StemExpress invoices in question.”

The university is in full compliance with the law. according to Frank, but nonetheless convened its Bioethics Advisory Committee to look into the matter.

A memo from the committee stated the 15 plus year study involved turning fetal tissue into stem cells to induce a human-like immune system in an immunodeficient mouse.

“The research has produced significant results regarding HIV infection, pathogenesis, and treatments,” and has resulted in many publications important to the scientific community, the memo stated. Over the years, the university has welcomed federal sponsors from NIH to ensure the research complies with the law. Because vendors are responsible for the actual procurement, CSU is not privy to whether the tissues they use come from induced abortions.

Ultimately, the committee recommended that “CSU suspend acquisition of fetal tissue from StemExpress or any other vendor in question with Planned Parenthood until the congressional investigations are concluded” and that “all efforts … be made to seek alternatives to aborted fetal tissue sources where such alternatives allow key research discoveries to proceed.”

So that’s what the university will do, Frank wrote.

Lamborn, on his part, said that “these steps are definitely headed in the right direction. However, they simply aren’t far enough.” The Congressman called on Frank to commit to ending the use of fetal tissue in research once and for all.

Professor Thomas Campbell, a doctor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Campus in Denver is concerned that CSU, an academic institution, would cave to political pressure. Research using stem cells from fetal tissue is not new, he said. “For the university to shut it down now just because an influential politician is complaining, that’s the only thing that’s new.”

There are already drugs out there that can keep an HIV infection at bay, but they come with long-term side effects like high cholesterol, fat accumulation, impaired kidney function and reduced bone density. So the next step in the field is to find an effective treatment without harmful side effects, and that’s exactly what CSU researchers are working on.

Campbell called the mouse model, in which scientists use stem cells to induce a human-like immune system in mice, “an innovative and futuristic approach to treating HIV. It doesn’t require drugs, like someone taking a pill, but rather modifies someone’s stem cells to make them naturally resistant.”

“All this is going to do is put faculty at a disadvantage,” Campbell said, “and potentially take CSU off the map of AIDS research.”

CSU faculty can’t comment on the situation because of the ongoing CDPHE investigation, according to the university’s public affairs and communications director Mike Hooker.

Now, Lamborn is looking beyond just CSU. He said Frank’s response “contained another troubling fact.” The university also contracted with another vendor wrapped up in the crusade against Planned Parenthood — Advanced Bioscience Resources.

“Revelations such as this highlight the murky underworld of suspect organizations, legal loopholes, and dubious ethics involving the use of fetal tissue,” Lamborn said. “That’s why, later this week, I will be introducing legislation designed to end this barbaric practice once and for all.”

Last week, the congressman introduced the “End Trafficking of the Terminated Unborn Act of 2015” to the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill would prohibit any transfer of human fetal tissue for any purpose other than disposal “if the donation affects interstate commerce and the tissue will be or is obtained pursuant to an induced abortion.”

The commercial sale of human fetal tissue is already illegal under federal law, and donation of aborted fetuses for scientific research only happens with the explicit consent of the patient.

Lamborn’s bill would also remove the authority to fund research using tissue from an induced abortion, though tissue obtained from a miscarriage or stillbirth with consent would still be fair game.

The legislation will be in the hands of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce when the chamber reconvenes in September.

The choice to donate fetal tissue to science is one many women face.

The Guttmacher Institute estimated that nearly 30 percent of American women will have an abortion before the age of 40, and depending on the clinic, they’ll have the option to donate the aborted fetal tissue to medical research. Donation always requires informed consent.

Fetal tissue is used to find cures for Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and muscular dystrophy, in addition to HIV.

“What this practice is doing is saving lives,” said NARAL Pro-Choice political director Gena Ozols. “If a woman who decides to get an abortion is comforted to know she’s donating to lifesaving research, that’s wonderful.”

Ozols pointed to the consistent failure of so-called personhood measures designed to outlaw abortion. Anti-abortion conservatives “have been like a dog with a bone,” she said. “They won’t give it up. They don’t care about the will of voters.”

It may be that voters in Lamborn’s definitively conservative district in Colorado Springs elected him to take staunch anti-abortion stances like this. But Ozol said this recent crusade has troubling consequences.

“He’s not doing anything to help the people of Colorado by attempting to stop life saving research.”

 

Photo by Freier Denker, Creative Commons, via WikiMedia.

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OK, it wasn’t like we weren’t warned. But here was the U.S. Senate not only voting on whether to defund Planned Parenthood, but promising that this is just the beginning of a long fight, maybe one that would last even longer than Congress’s summer recess.

As expected, Democrats successfully filibustered the bill, but the defunding exercise, in some form, will be back. And not only will it be back, but some Republicans are even threatening to attach it to this fall’s spending bills so we can – yes – face yet another shutdown showdown.

I know this must be a shock to many. In fact, on Election Day there were nearly a million people in Colorado alone — and that’s not counting The Denver Post editorial board — who maintained that it was absurd to think that abortion would be a critical piece of our national political debate. And yet, The Washington Post is calling the defunding of Planned Parenthood — a long-time stand-in in the abortion wars — “a centerpiece of the Republican agenda going into the summer congressional recess.”

Mark Udall, call your office. Oh, wait …

In case anyone has forgotten, it’s Cory Gardner’s office now. He, of course, voted for the defunding (Michael Bennet voted against), just as he used to vote for personhood before he, um, understood the ramifications.

And when Gardner was asked by The Denver Post about his vote against Planned Parenthood, he said, with full understanding of the ramifications, “This bill would redirect funding for women’s healthcare away from the scandal-plagued Planned Parenthood and towards responsible community health clinics that operate without a political agenda. Funding for women’s healthcare must actually go to fund women’s healthcare, not to line the coffers of an organization under increased scrutiny for reprehensible, inhumane behavior.”

I’d like to ask Gardner about his comments, but he doesn’t return my calls, which is just as well. I think I understand what he’s saying.

When he says the thing about “line the coffers,” I assume he is accusing Planned Parenthood of being in it for the money, just one more non-profit in another get-rich scheme. I wonder if Donald Trump is investing. I also assume Gardner’s relying on the unedited videos from the antiabortion group, Center for Medical Progress, which conducted a sting operation on Planned Parenthood, including Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains. According to factcheck.org and others, the unedited videos, which the center released, show no profit motive. They do show heavily edited scenes meant to mislead the viewer. I wonder if Gardner has mentioned that point.

Not that Planned Parenthood is without blame. How many stings must there be before people start to catch on? And why would anyone cavalierly talk to strangers about abortion and harvesting organs, particularly to someone who might have a camera in his tie-pin?

But is Gardner’s attack on “reprehensible, inhumane behavior” referring to what Hillary Clinton called “disturbing” images from the videos or is he talking about the biomedical research that has, over many years, saved millions of lives? It’s research that many Republicans have voted for, including Mitch McConnell, which is why Erick Erickson over at Red State says not to trust McConnell. I don’t, but I don’t think it’s for the same reasons. And Clinton, by the way, later made a video strongly in support of Planned Parenthood’s work. If you trust the polls, I’m pretty sure Erickson doesn’t trust her either.

Let’s look at the notion, offered by Gardner and friends, that Planned Parenthood is not using its resources to “fund women’s healthcare.” The organization does get more than one-third of its $1.3 billion budget from the government. It also serves 2.7 million clients, most of them low-income women without insurance. It offers cancer screenings, birth control counseling and other reproductive services. The idea that you should defund Planned Parenthood — and spend the money elsewhere, as if there is enough elsewhere — while possibly putting the health of poor women at risk is, I don’t know, reprehensible? It’s probably just a coincidence that Planned Parenthood also does abortions, although federal funds cannot be used for them except in rare circumstances.

The vote also shows, of course, that these critics are not really serious about debating the use of fetal organs, or else they’d be working on changing the law instead of attacking Planned Parenthood. This is all about abortion politics and presidential politics and a pre-recess show vote.

The videos have given culture warriors on the right – who have been losing most battles on the federal front – a chance to get back in the game, the way they have on the state level. And when you’ve got four Republican senators running for president, this is what happens — a chance for them to appeal to those Republicans who aren’t voting for Trump, who was once, of course, pro-choice, not that it seems to matter.

Democrats, meanwhile, are making the case that limiting women’s access to birth control would lead to more unwanted pregnancies and, therefore, more abortions. Somehow that doesn’t seem to matter, as we saw in the Republican-controlled Colorado Senate, where they voted down money for a free-IUD program that, from all accounts, had drastically reduced teen pregnancies in the state.

I doubt if Republican leaders really want defunding Planned Parenthood to be a centerpiece of their agenda. And I’m sure they don’t want to risk a government shutdown. But if people push the issue hard enough — watch the upcoming debate for clues — they may have no choice. And if it does get that far, how do you think Cory Gardner would vote?

 

Photo credit: DonkeyHotey, Creative Commons, Flickr.

Wiretap: How Obama can push the Clean Power Act without Congress and still keep it legal

…and more news about to be tested around the world.

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Court ruling

Obama’s greenhouse-gas rules are meant to accomplish many things, including convincing other nations to follow suit. But maybe the most important component of the new rules is for them to be able to stand up in court. Via The Atlantic.

No Congress?

Meanwhile, The New York Times asks and answers five questions about the Obama plan, starting with how can he do it without Congress.

Awkward guys

In a 14-person Trump-less GOP forum (not a debate, because that’s against the rules) in New Hampshire, there was much awkwardness and very little news. Oh, there was Jeb Bush stumbling over the Bush-family question again. Via The New York Times.

No doze

Chris Wallace promises some “doozies” as moderator of Thursday’s debate. Via The Washington Post.

10th place

Oops: It looks like Kasich is in and Perry is out for the 10th spot in the debate. Meanwhile, Trump’s poll numbers are crushing the field. Via The Washington Post. Hotline’s GOP power rankings put Trump all the way up to … fourth.

Strategic thinking

Santorum on the debate he won’t be in: The key to success is to avoid any substantive answers but to deliver memorable “zingers.” Via Real Clear Politics.

Long shot

Will Joe Biden run? If he decides to, he’d be a long shot. Is he really ready, at age 72, to take that on? Via The New Yorker.

Summer slump

Doyle McManus on Hillary Clinton’s summer slump. The trust question isn’t going away, but there was a candidate back in 1992 who had a campaign-long problem with the trust question. His name was also Clinton. Via The Los Angeles Times.

Death spiral

Vox explains the Puerto Rico debt crisis: There’s not one death spiral but two.

 

Photo credit: Jack Pease, Creative Commons, Flickr.

 

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As expected, today, the Obama administration announced the release of final rules creating the Clean Power Plan.

In announcing the CPP, President Barack Obama said this generation is the first “to feel climate change – and the last that can do something about it.”

The emissions standards established in the Clean Power Plan will require a 32 percent decrease in carbon dioxide emissions, compared to 2005 levels, according to the president. That’s equivalent to the annual emissions of 166 million cars, he said.

The finalized rules released by the Environmental Protection Agency on Sunday are more ambitious than the draft rules issued last year, according to Inside Climate News.

Many environmental groups in Colorado cheered the final release of the rules. Several pointed out that Colorado is already well on its way to complying with the new standards, given the state’s progress on renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Carrie Curtiss, deputy director of Conservation Colorado, said the state has more than a decade of experience in reducing carbon pollution. “The new EPA standards will allow us to continue our leadership, advancing clean energy solutions and tackling the most pressing issue of our time, climate change,” she said.

Curtiss added that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which will help develop the state implementation plan, is well-equipped to reduce carbon pollution, given its successful track record in reducing Colorado’s brown cloud, and passing methane pollution safeguards.

The Small Business Majority’s John Arensmeyer said the new rules will create new market opportunities for small businesses. He added that polling shows a majority of small business owners support the EPA’s efforts to reduce emissions, and that a majority of entrepreneurs believe clean energy investing will stimulate the economy and create jobs.

The President cited several major companies that have already taken steps to reduce their own climate change impacts, such as Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola and General Motors. In addition, several hundred companies last week signed a letter of support for the Clean Power Plan that went to 29 governors of the National Governors Association. That included Colorado companies like Aspen Skiing Company and New Belgium Brewing Company.

Critics claim the rules will force the closure of coal-fired power plants and cost a million jobs.

The impact on Colorado varies, depending on who you ask. The National Mining Association said in a 2012 report that nearly 74,000 jobs are tied to the coal mining industry in Colorado. That includes 17,000 direct jobs in coal mining and another 57,000 in indirect jobs. However, the Economic Policy Institute reported the total number of direct jobs is much lower, about 24,000 nationwide, with a total direct and indirect job loss of 96,000.

Jonathan Lockwood, executive director of Advancing Colorado, said today that this “very strict, and extreme, so-called power plan is dirty, expensive and unnecessary. What we are seeing is a job-killing ideological push that will increase energy costs on Colorado families.”

Senate President Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs, said Senate Republicans will offer legislation next session to require full public hearings and approval from the Public Utilities Commission before any state agency “adopts rules to implement this costly electric power generation mandate in Colorado. This President continues to show complete disdain for Congress with another end-run around the legislative process. The liberal extremists are conspiring with the White House to eviscerate federalism, the separation of powers and state’s rights.”

Sen. John Cooke, R-Greeley, called on Gov. John Hickenlooper to “commit to a true public process, including a rigorous review by the people’s representatives in the Colorado General Assembly, before giving a green light to Colorado’s implementation of this new federal mandate.”

Last year, 12 states filed suit against the EPA, attempting to block the rules. But a federal judge tossed the suit in April, calling it premature. Now that the rules are final, more lawsuits are sure to follow. At least two states have already announced their intention to sue, and Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallon issued an executive order in April that would bar her state from complying with the CPP requirement that each state come up with its own state implementation plan.

Congressional Republicans have also introduced legislation that would allow states to opt-out of power plant regulations. The House voted 247-180 in June to put the CPP on hold until its court challenges are completed, but that is a guaranteed veto from the president.

The Clean Power Plan does leave the administration open to criticism from some environmental organizations. In Colorado, Jeremy Nichols of WildEarth Guardians told The Colorado Independent today that the Obama administration is trying to have it “both ways.”

WildEarth Guardians filed a lawsuit against the Interior Department last year, seeking to block the expansion of two coal mines near Craig, Colorado. A federal judge in May ruled that the Interior Department had approved the expansion illegally.

Nichols, the organization’s climate and energy program director, said Monday that the CPP “has been a major contradiction that we’ve seen with the administration. They get ‘props’ for cutting carbon from smokestacks, but at the same time the Interior Department is propping up the coal industry and keeping it viable. This is hugely inconsistent,” he said.

Nichols said the Interior Department is undermining what the EPA is trying to accomplish. He pointed to a hearing on the Clean Power Plan rules held in Denver a year ago. The very same day, the Interior Department was auctioning off coal leases in western Colorado from its Lakewood office.

“It’s a vivid example of how much the Interior Department is out of step,” Nichols said.

He hopes that with the Clean Power Plan Obama is signaling to his agencies that he expects progress, and that the message gets to the Interior Department.

According to an EPA fact sheet, fossil fuels will continue to be a “critical component of America’s energy future. The Clean Power Plan simply makes sure that fossil fuel-fired power plants will operate more cleanly and efficiently, while expanding the capacity for zero- and low-emitting power sources.”

 

Photo credit: Greg Goebel, Creative Commons, Flickr.

Reader’s view: Sen. Irene Aguilar on the anti-abortion video attack on Planned Parenthood

“The recent fraudulent and highly-edited videos are another attempt to attack Colorado women’s access to safe abortion services.” — Irene Aguilar

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The Colorado Independent’s Nat Stein has been covering the recent hit videos against Planned Parenthood in “No stinger in sting video aimed at Denver Planned Parenthood – but it still left a political mark” and “Colorado delegates stake claims in Planned Parenthood frenzy.” In response, Colorado state Sen. Irene Aguilar wrote in.

 

To the editor:

As a doctor, woman, and state Senator, I know that reproductive health care is a major part of each person’s whole health. Planned Parenthood has provided Coloradans access to important reproductive health care for close to 100 years.

The recent fraudulent and highly-edited videos are another attempt to attack Colorado women’s access to safe abortion services. The makers of these videos clearly manipulated the providers to vilify needed medical procedures and research practices. As a provider myself, I am appalled by the violation of trust and the ethics of these actions. However, I know these extremists goal is to eliminate access to abortion and close down a trusted provider.

I also see these same extremists at the Capitol every year as bills go before committees and the floor. This year, I heard committee testimony on a bill (that ultimately died) that would have forced women to get unnecessary ultrasounds and make doctors provide biased counseling before an abortion.

My goal as a doctor, woman and state Senator is to protect all Colorado women’s access to the health care they need. That is why I stand with Planned Parenthood.

Sen. Irene Aguilar

Denver, CO

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James Holmes is still eligible for the death penalty, a jury determined Monday.

After three hours of deliberation, all 12 jurors have decided that the mitigating factors of the case, including Holmes’ mental illness, normal childhood and relationships with family and friends, do not outweigh the aggravating factors of his crimes. During the next phase of the sentencing trial, each juror must make the individual decision, answering the moral question of whether to sentence Holmes to death.

“When does mitigation outweigh aggravation?” defense attorney Tamara Brady asked jurors during her closing arguments Thursday. “When the mitigation is the cause of the aggravation. The mental illness…the psychosis is what caused James Holmes to shoot the people in the Century 16 theater.”

Brady encouraged jurors not to drag out the trial unnecessarily, urging them to speak up now if they don’t think they will be able to sentence Holmes to death. Monday’s verdict shows that not a single juror spoke up.

In a case like this, that’s not uncommon at this stage, said defense attorney David Lane.

“Jurors will frequently say, ‘Yes, the crime was so horrendous that there could be nothing worse. The aggravation outweighs the mitigation,'” he said.

But Holmes’ mental illness may still save his life in the next phase.

“A number of jurors might feel, in their own personal judgements, that it would be wrong to sentence a mentally ill person to death,” Lane said.

Former prosecutor Bob Grant disagrees. “I think it’s odds on that they will find a death penalty verdict,” he said.

To Grant, the best argument in Holmes’ defense is one his attorneys failed to make. “I don’t think they’ve made the right argument, and that argument is that society could have prevented this. I think they were just banking on the sympathy factor.”

The defense is unlikely to present any more evidence during Phase 3, Grant said. Jurors can expect to hear more emotional testimony from shooting victims about how the crime has impacted their lives.

Court will resume Tuesday at 10 a.m.

 

Correction 8/3/2015: Initially, this article identified Bob Grant as a prosecutor. He is actually a former prosecutor. 

Homebrew: Colorado and Missouri guvs talk guns, cop cameras and background checks

… and other news shooting around the state.

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Lessons learned

At a Saturday Aspen Institute event, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon shared their thoughts on two very different types of gun violence: Hick talked universal background checks after the Aurora theater shooting, while Nixon talked police body cameras after the Ferguson cop killing of Michael Brown. Via The Aspen Times.

Buy and dry

Third generation farmer Marc Arnusch shows The Denver Post’s Bruce Finley all the ways he’s trying to conserve water, but insists farmers shouldn’t succumb to pressure to sell water rights to municipal or industrial interests. Of Colorado’s water supply, 85 percent goes to agriculture, but state water planners doubt the shrinking farmers’ and ranchers’ share is realistic.

Unusual suspect

Thaddeus Murphy, the man who bombed the Colorado Springs chapter of the NAACP in what he said was not a hate crime but a revenge mission against a dead accountant, is expected to accept a plea deal today. Via The Gazette.

Good guy with a gun

A regular parishioner at a Boulder church was saying her prayers as her estranged husband throttled her neck, threatening to murder her in the parking lot. A passing church employee flashed his concealed gun, getting the attacker to flee. Police later nabbed the husband. Via The Daily Camera

TABOR tour

Gov. Hickenlooper made his first stop on a statewide tour trying to rally voter support for exempting the hospital-provider fee from state-revenue collection. Doing so would let Colorado keep and spend around $200 million more on schools and infrastructure next year, rather than dole out taxpayer refunds. Via The Durango Herald

Don’t need binoculars to see

Westword’s Joshua Zaffos spent a day cruising around the Pawnee National Grassland with bird-watching enthusiast Gary Lefko talking about the rise of oil and gas development. “A great day on the Pawnee is not seeing anyone,” Lefko said. But now, pump jacks, well pads and tank batteries dot the prairie. “That’s changed.”

Photo by Jenni Konrad, Creative Commons, via Flickr

Wiretap: Farewell to Jon Stewart, comedian turned patriot

…and more news going away around the world

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The jester

Jon Stewart set out to be a working comedian and ended up being an invaluable patriot. So writes David Remnick as Stewart makes his exit from The Daily Show. He was also heroic and persistent, Remnick says. And also funny in the important way that comedians-turned-patriots can be. Via The New Yorker.

Promoting abortion

Milbank: This may not surprise you, but by attacking Planned Parenthood, what Republicans are really doing is promoting abortion. Via The Washington Post.

Super cool

If you want to be like the cool kids — or at least the very rich cool kids — you don’t just give your million bucks to some generic Super PAC, supporting the candidate of your choice. You give money to your very own customized-just-the-way-you-like-it Super PAC. Via The Los Angeles Times.

Tactical care

Hillary Clinton goes up with ad buys in Iowa and New Hampshire. They’re meant to remind you that she cares about people like you, particularly if you’re going to be talking to any pollsters any time soon. Via Vox.

Something about Bernie

Molly Ball on Bernie Sanders: There’s something about Bernie. She goes to find out just what it is. Via The Atlantic.

Not in Kansas

The Washington Post explains why teachers can’t hotfoot it out of Kansas fast enough. Here’s betting you knew the answer before the explainer.

Culinary ethics

Do not read this while eating: But eating chicken is morally worse than killing Cecil the lion. Via Vox.

Haters

P.J. O’Rourke: Democrats hate your guts. So, of course, do Republicans. But Democrats really really hate your guts. Republicans may hate your guts, but they really can’t be bothered. Via The Weekly Standard.

Opening up

The latest from Ted Cruz. He doesn’t just ridicule Mitt Romney in private any more. Now it’s all out there in the public. Via National Journal.

 

Photo credit: Mark Levin, Creative Commons, Flickr

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On Monday, the Obama administration and the Environmental Protection Agency are expected to finalize new clean air rules that environmentalists say will be a major step toward reducing global warming.

Opponents, however, claim the rules will drive up electricity rates for consumers and harm Colorado’s coal industry.

The Clean Power Plan has been in the works for two years. It seeks to set the first nationwide limits on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, power plants account for 40 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions. The EPA believes the rules will result in a 30 percent reduction of CO2 emissions nationwide by 2030, compared to 2005 levels.

Thursday, environmental groups held a “solar picnic” in Denver to support the Clean Power Plan. Environmental activists asked about 100 in attendance to contact Sen. Michael Bennet, D-CO, to urge his support for the EPA rules.

Kim Stephens of Environment Colorado said the plan “will speed Colorado and the rest of the country toward a clean energy future, one that draws 100 percent of its energy from renewables.” In addition, this plan is a “key piece to an international agreement on climate change,” she explained.

Emissions contribute to climate change, and Coloradans know it, Stephens said. Because of climate change, farmers have to adjust their growing seasons, she said. Ski and snowboard resorts are seeing shorter seasons.

The EPA says that CPP will cut “hundreds of millions of tons of carbon pollution and hundreds of thousands of tons of harmful particle pollution, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides.” That will be better for the health of the most vulnerable Americans, such as children and seniors, the EPA explained.

The CPP is made up of two rules. First issued in 2013 and modified last year, the rules impact power plants that generate electricity through natural gas or coal. The first rule sets national limits on the amount of carbon dioxide emissions a natural gas or coal-fired plant can produce. The second rule sets goals for each state for CO2 reduction. Under the goals set by the EPA, Colorado could lower its CO2 emissions by 35 percent by 2030.

Opponents argue the plan will cost the nation jobs and result in higher electricity costs.

The Institute for Energy Research, an energy industry-funded non-profit, claims the Clean Power Plan will result in the loss of one million jobs and cause higher electricity costs, and will threaten the nation’s electric power grid.

“Even if the wind energy industry tripled in size over the next two decades, these job losses will overwhelm any modest gains in the subsidized wind industry,” according to an Institute press release. These regulations, combined with others on mercury standards and cross-state pollution, are the most expensive in the EPA’s forty-year history, the Institute said this week.

Lee Boughey handles public affairs for Tri-State Generation and Transmission, the state’s largest wholesale supplier of electricity to 44 rural electric co-ops. He said Friday that until they see a final rule, “it is impossible to predict the impacts on Tri-State and Colorado rural electric cooperatives.” He noted that co-ops expressed legal and technical concerns during the rulemaking process. “We hope the EPA took those concerns seriously and will address them in the final rules,” Boughey told The Colorado Independent.

But most importantly, he said, when the final rules are released, “we are committed to working with Colorado officials to create a plan that will continue to allow the state’s co-ops to serve members with affordable and reliable electricity.”

The impact on Colorado’s coal industry could be devastating, according to Watchdog.org, an investigative media outlet tied to the Koch brothers-funded Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. Watchdog.org claimed yesterday Colorado could lose 17,000 jobs in the coal industry. The National Mining Association said that every job in coal creates four others, so the total impact could be up to 74,000 jobs lost in the state.

But the CPP does have the support of the Hickenlooper administration. In May, Gov. John Hickenlooper wrote a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, who had sent a letter in March to the governors of all 50 states, urging them to ignore the CPP.

“Colorado is already a leader in reducing carbon emissions from power plants, on track to hit an estimated 20 percent reduction over 2012 emissions ­‒ and we have done this all while keeping energy rates affordable,” Hickenlooper wrote. “We will continue to engage with our industry to develop a compliant Clean Power Plan, as required by federal law.”

Although complying with the Clean Power Plan will be a challenge, “states tackle problems of this magnitude on a regular basis. We think it would be irresponsible to ignore federal law, and that is why we intend to develop a compliant Clean Power Plan,” he concluded.

Once the finalized rules come out on Monday, opponents have 60 days for challenges, either in Congress or in court. Congressional Republicans vow to fight the rules, but any bill headed to the President’s desk will likely be vetoed and Congress lacks a veto-proof majority. The stronger challenge is likely to come from trade associations and states that may file suit against the EPA.

 

Photo credit: Señor Codo, Creative Commons, Flickr.

Colorado Ethics Watch nudges Jeffco school board: Stop violating Colorado Open Records Act

“The Board’s refusal to adopt an email retention policy in the face of such clear mandatory language in a state statute is a flagrant, and apparently willful, violation of CORA.” — Colorado Ethics Watch

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The embattled Jefferson County School Board, which has been accused of violating the Colorado Open Records Act by failing to have an email retention policy, may finally be developing one for board members and employees – but it hasn’t yet.

Last October, Chalkbeat Colorado discovered the board had no policy outlining how members or district employees should retain email records. That lack of policy conflicts with the 20-year-old Colorado Open Records Act, according to government watchdog Colorado Ethics Watch.

Ethics Watch this week sent a reminder to the school board’s attorney, Craig Hess. The letter, written by attorney Peg Perl, pointed out that the school board’s attorney had advised the Board last January that it needed such a policy.

But now, a half-a-year later, Ethics Watch learned that the Board has yet to adopt such a policy, although it is “considering discussing the matter this fall.”

“The Board’s refusal to adopt an email retention policy in the face of such clear mandatory language in a state statute is a flagrant, and apparently willful, violation of CORA,” Perl wrote in the letter.

She recommended the board adopt a sample policy, developed by the Colorado Association of School Boards, at its next meeting. That’s scheduled for September 3.

Hess told The Colorado Independent today that “outside counsel” is working on a draft policy, and that they hoped to have it “up and running” by the end of August. Whether it will be ready in time for board approval by the September 3 meeting is unknown.

Read the letter from Colorado Ethics Watch below.

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Photo credit: R. Nial Bradshaw, Creative Commons, Flickr