Friday, March 18, 2011

Links for a Friday

--Anent the New York Times's coverage of the gang rape in Cleveland, Texas, which a couple of us posted about a few days ago, an update is in order. Not only did the New York Times article blame the victim, but it also excluded race issues from its report. In her post at Colorlines, The Gang Rape of a Latina 6th Grader, and a Horrific Community Response, Akiba Solomon does a superb job of discussing the rape, community reaction to it, and reactions to the reactions to the reactions-- without ignoring race issues. (Link thanks to Suzie at Echidne of the Snakes, who also posts at length on the complications of the situation omitted from the Times' article.)

--A bill sponsored by the Republicans, expected to pass easily in the US House of Representatives, will instruct the IRS to police how abortions are paid for:
To ensure that taxpayers complied with the law, IRS agents would have to investigate whether certain terminated pregnancies were the result of rape or incest. And one tax expert says that the measure could even lead to questions on tax forms: Have you had an abortion? Did you keep your receipt?

In testimony to a House taxation subcommittee on Wednesday, Thomas Barthold, the chief of staff of the nonpartisan Joint Tax Committee, confirmed that one consequence of the Republicans' "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act" would be to turn IRS agents into abortion cops—that is, during an audit, they'd have to detemine, from evidence provided by the taxpayer, whether any tax benefit had been inappropriately used to pay for an abortion.


[D]uring Wednesday's hearing, Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) highlighted the IRS enforcement issue, which has until now flown under the radar. He asked:

Would a woman have to certify that the Health Savings Account funds she spent on birth control pills or for a doctor's visit weren't used to pay for an abortion? If a woman were audited, would IRS agents be at her house demanding court documents or affidavits proving that her pregnancy was the result of rape or incest?

Barthold replied that the taxpayer would have to prove that she had complied with all applicable abortion laws. Under standard audit procedure, a woman would have to provide evidence to corroborate facts about abortions, rapes, and cases of incest, says Marcus Owens, an accountant and former longtime IRS official. If a taxpayer received a deduction or tax credit for abortion costs related to a case of rape or incest, or because her life was endangered, then "on audit [she] would have to demonstrate or prove, ideally by contemporaneous written documentation, that it was incest, or rape, or [her] life was in danger," Owens says. "It would be fairly intrusive for the woman."

Not everyone has "contemporaneous written documentation" that a pregnancy was the result of rape or incest. And, as Owens notes, adults sometimes pay for abortions for their children. If H.R. 3 becomes law, parents could face IRS questions about whether they spent pre-tax money from health savings accounts on abortions for their kids. "It would seem there would have to be a question about that [in an audit] and maybe even a question on the tax return," Owens says.

Read the whole Huffington Post article here (including several updates).

--Justin Snider's interview of Finland's Minister of Education, Henna Virkunnen, appears in the Huffington Post as Keys to Finnish Educational Success: Intensive Teacher-Training, Union Collaboration. In Finland, see, people want to be teachers, but only "the top students are offered the chance to become teachers." The interview explores why that is, and offers some sense of why Finland's educational system is so successful. It makes me want to cry, as I consider how privatization is destroying what is left of the US's existing educational system. I figure I may as well be reading about a fictional utopia. (And god, how I'd like to rub a few governors' noses in it.)

--Chris Rohman reviews Andrea Hairston's Redwood and Wildfire for the Valley Advocate. A snippet:
Hairston's work, on stage and page alike, insistently searches for signs that humans can overcome their divisions and oppressions, both external and self-inflicted. This book's geographical, emotional and spiritual journeys, spanning the early years of the 20th century, are odysseys of self-discovery and healing from wounds of the body and soul. The novel mirrors the eclectic, cross-cultural composition of the Chrysalis company and Hairston's own background—a multiracial poet-playwright-actor-musician-scholar who draws nourishment from diverse traditions.

--At Val Grimm's Portal, Jaymee Goh reviews Gwyneth Jones's The Universe of Things. The lengthy reviews begins thus:

The Universe of Things is a difficult anthology to review, since it is populated by some very difficult writing, and I don’t mean the language is hard to understand. By this, I mean that the stories are very challenging, and not straightforward at all. Gwyneth Jones’ writing is unsettling, which can be interpreted as a sign of her skill as a writer.

--And finally, don't forget to get a good look at tomorrow's "supermoon" (weather permitting). The moon will be both full and closer to the Earth than it has been for 18 years. This is from

In a statement released Friday, noted NASA scientist Jim Garvin explains the mechanics behind the moon's phases and the causes of the supermoon. Garvin is the chief scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

"'Supermoon' is a situation when the moon is slightly closer to Earth in its orbit than on average, and this effect is most noticeable when it occurs at the same time as a full moon," Garvin wrote in the NASA statement. "So, the moon may seem bigger although the difference in its distance from Earth is only a few percent at such times." [Photos: Our Changing Moon]

The full moon of March will occur next Saturday on March 19, when the moon will be about 221,567 miles (356,577 kilometers) away from Earth. The average distance between the Earth and the moon is about 238.000 miles (382.900 km).

"It is called a supermoon because this is a very noticeable alignment that at first glance would seem to have an effect," Garvin explained. "The 'super' in supermoon is really just the appearance of being closer, but unless we were measuring the Earth-Moon distance by laser rangefinders (as we do to track the LRO [Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter] spacecraft in low lunar orbit and to watch the Earth-Moon distance over years), there is really no difference."


Val Grimm said...

A correction to your post: The Portal is not affiliated with It is independent. I founded it last October.

Timmi Duchamp said...

My apologies! I misunderstood. I'll correct that pronto.

Val Grimm said...