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Regnerus Anti-Gay Scandal: Open Letter To Texas Attorney General

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We have been reporting on a politically-motivated hoax “study” of supposedly gay and lesbian parents, funded through the National Organization For Marriage-linked Witherspoon Institute and carried out by Mark Regnerus of the University of Texas at Austin (UT). The hoax study has been weaponized for use against gay rights in the courts and during the 2012 elections.

This reporter sent UT an Open Record Request for communications between Regnerus and his Witherspoon authority funder W. Bradford Wilcox.

In response, the University of Texas sent Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott a letter asking for authorization not to honor the Open Record Request.

Here is a letter subsequently sent to Abbott, explaining that the public has an overwhelming, legitimate interest in his telling UT to release the requested documentation.

**********

September 28, 2012

Honorable Greg Abbott
Attorney General of Texas
Open Records Division
Price Daniel Building
209 W. 14th Street, 6th Floor
Austin, Texas 78701

From:

Scott Rose
Investigative Journalist
Contributor
www.TheNewCivilRightsMovement.com

In Re:     Open Record Request #3 from Scott Rose to
The University of Texas at Austin –
  AG ID# 471661 (OGC#146221)

To Texas Attorney General Abbott:

I made the above-referenced Open Record Request for 1) communications between 2) UT’s Mark Regnerus and W. Bradford Wilcox, Director of 3)  The Witherspoon Institute’s program for Marriage, Family and Democracy, which is: 4) the chief funding agency for Regnerus’s New Family Structures Study (NFSS) carried out at UT.

For the record, Witherspoon’s 2010 IRS 990 form describes the NFSS as an “achievement” of Wilcox’s Witherspoon program.

I requested the communications because Regnerus and Wilcox have been deliberately dishonest in their public statements about the NFSS. They are seeking to mislead the public into believing that Regnerus carried out his study independently of influence from his study’s funders. Their deliberate dishonesty has undermined the trust on which science is based. Fulfillment of my Open Record Request is essential to beginning to restore public trust in science. The public has a legitimate interest in having access to the requested communications.

As UT explained to you in its September 24, 2012 letter about my Open Record Request, Regnerus and Wilcox have collaborated on NFSS data collection and data analysis. Indeed, Wilcox was issued, and signed, the Regnerus NFSS study consulting contract — for data analysis — to which UT assigned the “UT EID or Doc ID” number ww2897.  The record shows that Wilcox was paid $2,000 for that one contract.

Despite the clear documentation that Regnerus collaborated with his study’s Witherspoon funding agency representative Wilcox, both Regnerus and Witherspoon repeatedly have lied to the public by saying that no NFSS funding agency representative has participated in NFSS data collection, data analysis, study design, et cetera.

In his published study, which appeared June 10, 2012 in the Elsevier journal Social Science Research, Regnerus wrote: “the funding sources played no role at all in the design or conduct of the study, the analyses, the interpretations of the data, or in the preparation of this manuscript.” A PDF of “Additional Analyses” of the NFSS that Regnerus recently had accepted for publication in Social Science Research for November repeats that same deliberate lie.

Please note, Attorney General Abbott, that Wilcox is on the editorial board of the journal that published Regnerus, Social Science Research. Regnerus’s submission received no valid peer review prior to publication, as the peer reviewers were non-topic-experts with conflicts of interest. Note also that in his published study, Regnerus states that a “leading family researcher” from the University of Virginia was on his study design team. Wilcox is Director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia.

Witherspoon established a stand-alone website to promote the NFSS to an international public. Wilcox obviously has editorial authority over that site. On the Q&A page of that site, Question 13 reads: “What involvement did the Witherspoon Institute have in the design, implementation, or interpretation of the NFSS?” The deliberately misleading response that Wilcox’s Witherspoon Institute gives is: “In order to insure that the NFSS was conducted with intellectual integrity, beginning from the earliest stages the Witherspoon Institute was not involved in the Study’s design, implementation, or interpretation.”

In a study of this sort, interpretation and data analysis coincide.  Data collection certainly coincides with study implementation. Witherspoon incontestably is lying in its Question 13.

These are far from being the only ethically-challenged public communications about the NFSS that Regnerus and Wilcox have made. Along with three other Witherspoon authorities, Wilcox signed an open letter in support of Regnerus under the banner of Baylor University, without disclosing that they are Witherspoon authorities and that Witherspoon funded and is promoting the NFSS. Wilcox’s Baylor letter, furthermore, contains multiple distortions of the scientific record.

No scientific authority without a conflict of interest with the NFSS has vouched for its methodology. In fact, in Golinski v. United States Office of Personnel Management, the following 8 parties filed an amicus brief, in which the NFSS methodology is analyzed as being scientifically unsound: The American Psychological Association, The California Psychological Association, The American Psychiatric Association, The National Association of Social Workers and its California Chapter, The American Medical Association, The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychoanalytic Association.

Additionally, a group of over 200 Ph.D.s and M.D.s in fields relevant to the NFSS sent the journal Social Science Research a letter expressing concerns about the study’s lack of intellectual integrity as well as about the suspicious rush publication schedule for it. The signers of that letter now include the President of the American Sociological Association, Dr. Erik Olin Wright, and the editor-in-chief of the premiere journal in this field, the Journal of Marriage and Family.

One example of the umpteen manifestly false and absurd “findings” in the NFSS will for now suffice. Regnerus asked his respondents “Have you ever masturbated?” According to Regnerus’s NFSS Codebook on UT’s NFSS site, 110 of Regnerus’s 2,988 respondents chose not to answer that question. However, 620 respondents between the ages of 18 and 39 said that no, they had never once in their lives masturbated. That data obviously does not correspond to empirically understood reality. The more so that Regnerus claims his study is generalizable to the entire population of the U.S., meaning, that according to Regnerus and Witherspoon, out of every 2,988 Americans aged eighteen to thirty-nine, 620 ( six-hundred-and twenty) have never once in their lives masturbated.

Witherspoon authorities and their associates are using the NFSS in the courts and in political campaigns, despite the manifest unreliability of the study. While UT alleged it was conducting a misconduct inquiry into Regnerus this summer, it had conflicts of interest; UT officials had placed advertorials for the NFSS as a favorable example of what the university produces. Throughout the inquiry, UT’s Communications Director David Ochsner was given to the public on the Witherspoon site as the contact for information about the NFSS.  At one point when I attempted to supply UT attorney Jeffrey Graves with documentation relevant to the inquiry, he told me in an e-mail that UT did not need to hear anything more from me.

In its letter, UT tells you that the state’s investment in UT’s research efforts must be protected. That actually is an excellent reason for my Public Record Request to be honored, as all other state investments in research at UT are imperiled by the way that the NFSS has undermined the trust on which science is based. The public understands that Regnerus, Wilcox and Witherspoon have deliberately lied about the NFSS.  The public understands that such organizations as The American Medical Association have — in official court filings — declared the NFSS’s methodology scientifically unsound. Therefore, the public looks at all research done at UT with suspicion. That suspicion, furthermore, is amplified by the matter of UT Professor Charles Groat. Groat conducted a study without disclosing his conflicts of interest. At first, outside groups urged UT to investigate, but the university refused. Only after additional pressure was brought to bear did UT decide to review the matter.

UT additionally told you that my Open Record Request must not be fulfilled because the NFSS “data can be used to validate the original survey instrumentation.” UT appears to be telling you that the public should not be allowed to fact-check the NFSS.

UT’s claim that people could use the requested communications as products for sale is absurd. Since his study was published, Regnerus has been saying he will release his raw data “soon.” The study is plainly irredeemably defective; no serious-minded sociologist of integrity wants anything to do with it or its methods. By contrast, allowing the public a better chance to understand exactly what Regnerus, Wilcox and Witherspoon have been lying about will go some distance toward restoring trust in science.

Conclusion

All arguments UT presents against release of the requested documentation are outweighed by the overwhelming legitimate public interest in release of the documentation. Regnerus, Wilcox and Witherspoon have told the public deliberate lies about the NFSS in hopes of better promoting the study to the public, out of non-science-based motives. The entire balance of public investments in research at UT — other than the NFSS — is in jeopardy so long as the requested communications are not released.

Sincerely,

Scott Rose

 

 

New York City-based novelist and freelance writer Scott Rose’s LGBT-interest by-line has appeared on Advocate.com, PoliticusUSA.com, The New York Blade, Queerty.com, Girlfriends and in numerous additional venues. Among his other interests are the arts, boating and yachting, wine and food, travel, poker and dogs. His “Mr. David Cooper’s Happy Suicide” is about a New York City advertising executive assigned to a condom account.

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‘When Was Your Most Recent Period?’: Student Athletes in Florida May Be Required to Share Menstrual History

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For the past two decades teenaged women participating in Florida high school athletics have been asked to submit their menstrual history, including the date of their first period, the date of their last period, and how many periods they have had in the last 12 months. The board of directors of the Florida High School Athletic Association, the organization in charge of coordinating high school athletics in the Sunshine State, will debate later this month if they will make divulging that information mandatory for participating in sports. According to the FHSAA website that board is comprised of 14 men and two women. Not one is a physician or medical professional.

Critics are voicing concerns over a variety of issues, including the right to privacy, the need for the highly personal medical information, who has access to it, how it is stored, and how it could be used against the students, including to determine possible pregnancy, miscarriage, abortion, or if the athlete is transgender.

“Many parents and doctors are worried that schools will use the menstrual data to monitor students for late or missed periods, a possible sign of pregnancy, or to out transgender students by watching for girls who don’t get periods or boys who do,” The New Republic reports, calling it “a terrifying glimpse of our dystopian post-Roe world.”

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The three-page form, called the Preparticipation Physical Evaluation, asks:

“When was your first menstrual period?” “When was your most recent menstrual period? “How much time do you usually have from the start of one period to the start of another?” “How many periods have you had in the last year? and “What was the longest time between periods in the last year?”

A draft form slightly alters the questions, asking instead, “Have you had a menstrual period?” and “How old were you when you had your first menstrual period?” in addition to the other three questions.

While it currently states answering is optional, at the end of this month those questions could become mandatory, although the reason for the possible change has not been disclosed.

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Because the information is not being given by the athletes to a physician or other medical professional or organization, the information is not subject to HIPAA regulations. And in some school districts the inform action is stored on a third-party platform, possibly exposing it to other entities.

“This is clearly an effort to further stigmatize and demonize transgender people in sports [and] meant to further exclude people who aren’t assigned female at birth in girls sports,” the  president of PRISM, a South Florida nonprofit organization that provides sexual health information to LGBTQ+ youth, Maxx Fenning, told The Tampa Bay Times. “Beyond that, I think there’s concern among LGBTQ+ and non-LGBTQ+ [students] alike. This is an extremely invasive mode of gleaning into someone’s reproductive history, which is especially dangerous in this post-Roe world we live in.”

TIME adds that critics “have noted that this policy would be a major challenge for transgender athletes who may have to out themselves with their responses to the questions. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis approved a bill last year—which is currently under legal fire—that bans transgender female students from playing on women and girls’ sports teams.”

READ MORE: Trump Vows to Use DOJ and Congress to Make Being Transgender Illegal While Promoting the ‘Nuclear Family’

According to the fan-checking site Snopes, “these written forms with students’ medical information are submitted to school officials, contrary to a number of other states where only a doctor’s signature is required to clear an athlete for play.”

Snopes adds that “concerns grew as many states worked to criminalize abortions after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and transgender athletes faced scrutiny. In Florida, abortions are banned after 15 weeks, with only a few exceptions.”

“Any forms (physical or digital) could be subpoenaed. Meanwhile, in Palm Beach County, nearly all athlete-registration forms moved online, which meant reproductive data for athletes was being stored by a third-party software company called Aktivate. Other counties were also planning to digitize their forms.”

Last October NBC News reported that an Aktivate spokesperson said a student’s information could be removed but only with parental and school district consent.

Image via Shutterstock

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George Santos Says Man Interviewed for Staff Position ‘Violated’ His Trust After Secretly Recording Conversation

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U.S. Rep. George Santos is angered a man interviewed for a staff position in his Capitol Hill office secretly recorded the conversations, claiming it “violated the trust that we had in him.”

The freshman New York Republican lawmaker who is believed to be under multiple DOJ and local investigations, suggests the candidate handed the recordings over to Talking Points Memo, and says he expects an article will be published there Thursday evening, after the news site contacted his office.

“According to Santos, his office had been in the process of hiring Derek Myers for a position, but paused when they saw he faces wiretapping charges in Ohio after publishing recorded court testimony — obtained from a source, he said — as part of a story for a small newspaper,” Semafor reports. “FIRE, a nonprofit advocacy group dedicated to First Amendment issues, has defended Myers, arguing local authorities in the state were criminalizing legitimate journalism.”

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“While they said they expect the audio will just show them questioning him about his specific circumstances, it’s unknown if he recorded other exchanges.”

Regardless, Santos is taking action.

The GOP congressman accursed of deceiving his constituents with countlessly false claims that helped get him elected, says he is going to report Myers to the Biden administration, claiming he has a White House press pass.

Santos says he wants Myers’ White House press pass to be revoked, after Myers, the congressman says, claimed to have one.

“He should have that revoked if it’s true, if it’s even remotely true he has it,” Santos told Semafor.

It’s not known if Myers does, and if so it’s unlikely it’s a permanent hard pass. It’s also unlikely it would be revoked if Myers did not break the law.

Semafor adds in Washington, D.C. it is legal to record your own conversation with another party without obtaining their consent.

READ MORE: ‘Firehose of Disinformation’ Sarah Huckabee Sanders Picked to Deliver State of the Union Response in Nod to Trump (Video)

 

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‘They’re Not Taking My Gas Stove’: Joe Manchin Teams Up With Hard Core Republicans to Promote False Claims

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U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) is again promoting the false claim that the federal government is planning to remove gas stoves from private homes, after news last month revealed once more the open-flame appliances are responsible for hundreds of thousands of cases of children’s asthma.

“They’re not taking my gas stove out,” said Manchin, who has made millions from coal and protects his state – which  ranks in the top five for production of natural gas – at every turn.

Manchin, a rare breed of conservative Democrat, announced in a Senate hearing on Thursday that he is teaming up with Republican Senators Ted Cruz and James Lankford to fuel the unfounded fears of the federal government coming to rip gas stoves out of Americans’ homes – fears promoted by the right.

READ MORE: ‘Firehose of Disinformation’ Sarah Huckabee Sanders Picked to Deliver State of the Union Response in Nod to Trump (Video)

“Gas stoves have been in the news lately and I’ve come out strongly against the Consumer Product Safety Commission pursuing any ban of gas stoves,” Manchin declared, despite there being no possibility of that. “In fact, I’m introducing legislation today with Senator Cruz that would ensure that they don’t and separately sending a letter to the commission with Senator Lankford.”

“I’ve always been a proponent of energy efficiency,” Manchin continued, “but the draft proposes efficiency levels that DOE [Dept. of Energy] says at the highest level, up to 96% of gas stoves don’t currently meet. I don’t like where I think they’re going with this and I tell you one thing, they’re not taking my gas stove put. My wife and I would both be upset.”

Manchin went on the claim the Biden administration is “looking to find ways to push out natural gas.”

And he warned the feds to stay out of his kitchen.

“Like I said before,” Manchin declared, “the federal government doesn’t have any business telling American families how to cook their dinner.”

The federal government does have a responsibility, by law, to warn Americans of health and safety issues in their homes. For decades it has been doing just that.

But the West Virginia Senator went even further, stating: “retrofitting or removing stoves that people have had for years is not going to happen.”

Manchin isn’t just blowing smoke – he has a lot at stake in the “gas stove war.”

READ MORE: ‘Pry It From My Cold Dead Hands’: GOP Vows ‘Stove War’ Legislation, Doesn’t Want Feds ‘Coming After Kitchen Appliances’

“West Virginia is the fourth-largest producer of marketed natural gas in the nation,” according to a federal government December report.

“At every step of his political career, Joe Manchin helped a West Virginia power plant that is the sole customer of his private coal business. Along the way, he blocked ambitious climate action,” The New York Times reported last year. It called the West Virginia Democrat “the single most important figure shaping the nation’s energy and climate policy.”

Watch Sen. Manchin below or at this link.

 

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