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Today’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Hearing Highlights

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Gates: “I fully support the president’s decision” to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” (But read the fine print…)

Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Carl Levin held a hearing this afternoon on repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” There are few new headlines, but here’s my overall perspective, with some key quotes and exchanges. Bottom line: Republicans tried to turn the purpose of the hearing into a “whether we should repeal DADT,” and the Democrats conducted the hearing as an effort to assist and understand the military’s route to repealing DADT — how and when.

Sadly, all three sides — the GOP, the Dems, and the military — are approaching this wrong. There was too much call for delay and stalling.

Both witnesses testifying at today’s hearing, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (remember, appointed by Bush) and Admiral Mike Mullin fully support repeal.
As I reported last night, Gates trotted out that he will have the military conduct a year-long study to determine all the perils and pitfalls of repealing DADT. He called for a “working group” to study the effects of repealing DADT on “unit cohesion,” saying they will “reach out to outside experts.” Not one single senator actively challenged the need for yet one more study on DADT repeal.

This “study” is a stalling tactic. I support making sure policy changes are rolled out effectively, but, as General McCaffrey said earlier today, “This is not going to be a problem unless we have an individual debate, topic by topic.”

Gates did mention that this is the first time the military itself is doing a study on DADT repeal, saying also, “We would feel it very important we be given enough time for that implementation — at least a year.” So, one year to study, then one year (at least!) to implement. Meanwhile, hundreds more LGBTQ soldiers will be subject to discharge, even though Gates said the military will ease up on that process.

In his opening statement, Gates proclaimed, “We have received our orders from the Commander in Chief and we are moving accordingly.” Admiral Mullin stated, “Allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do. For me it comes down to integrity… Our members can and would accommodate such a change.”

Senator John McCain was perhaps the most active opponent of repealing DADT during the hearing, railing against Secretary Gates, stating, “I’m deeply disappointed in your statement Secretary Gates … it’s one that is clearly biased. Then, to both Gates and Mullins, McCain, clearly posturing for a fight, lectured, “I’m happy to say we still have a Congress despite your plan to repeal [DADT] by fiat.”

(John Aravoisis points out McCain’s hypocrisy and inability to accept views he doesn’t agree with. McCain in 2006: “…the day that the leadership of the military comes to me and says, Senator, we ought to change the policy, then I think we ought to consider seriously changing it because those leaders in the military are the ones we give the responsibility to.”)

But perhaps the most offensive comments came from Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) who equated a law banning gays serving in the military — at all — to military regulations banning “alcohol, adultery, body art, and fraternization.” He went on to say, “The presence in the armed forces of homosexuals poses an unacceptable risk to standards of good order and discipline.”

(One must therefore assume our armed services are a disaster. Or, Senator Chambliss is extraordinarily ill-informed.)

Fortunately, Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MI) indirectly set Chambliss straight. Stating to Admiral Mullin that we “welcome the service of gays and lesbians in our armed forces,” that they are serving “with distinction,” she asked how the Pentagon’s study will be sure to include their voices. The Admiral, recognizing that any service member who is outed is subject to discharge, and therefore, participating in the study could end their career, was, well, a bit shaken.

Senator Susan Collns (R-ME) asked leading questions which seemed to place her in favor of repeal. She asked Mullins if, as our forces are working directly with NATO forces, whcih have openly LGBTQ members, have there been any incidents that had “any impact on combat effectiveness?” The answer: “No.”

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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.

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

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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