The Boy Scouts of America has agreed for the first time to allow openly gay boys as members, but a vote of the organization's National Council left in place a ban on gay Scout leaders.
The Associated Press reports that of the local Scout leaders voting at their annual meeting in Texas, more than 60 percent supported the proposal.
While the vote would allow openly gay scouts, it will continue to exclude adult Scout leaders who say they are homosexuals.
As Reuters reports, the National Council's decision came amid intense lobbying by gay-rights activists and members of conservative organizations. The change does not remove the organization's ban on gay adult leaders.
One such organization, GLAAD, praised the Scouts' decision:
"Today's vote is a significant victory for gay youth across the nation and a clear indication that the Boy Scouts' ban on gay adult leaders will also inevitably end," said GLAAD spokesperson, Rich Ferraro. "The Boy Scouts of America heard from religious leaders, corporate sponsors and so many Scouting families who want an end to discrimination against gay people, and GLAAD will continue this work with those committed to equality in Scouting until gay parents and adults are able to participate."
Lois Lerner, the IRS official who oversees the branch of the agency that allegedly targeted conservative groups, has been placed on administrative leave a day after she refused to answer questions in a congressional probe of the scandal.
Lerner, who invoked the Fifth Amendment in refusing to testify at a House hearing on Wednesday, is effectively suspended from her job as head of the exempt organizations division in Cincinnati, Ohio, according to a congressional aide who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
On Wednesday, Lerner made a statement before House Oversight and Government Reform Committee saying she'd done nothing wrong and had broken no laws, but otherwise declined to answer lawmakers' questions.
The AP reports that the new IRS acting commissioner, Danny Werfel, sent an email to agency employees saying he'd selected a new acting head of the tax exempt division.
He said Ken Corbin would be the acting director of the division that Lerner had overseen.
Rep. Jo Bonner (R-Ala.) says he will leave Congress effective in August in order to take a senior position at the University of Alabama.
Bonner, who has represented Alabama's First District for six terms since 2003, will become vice chancellor of government relations and economic development at Alabama. His sister, Judy Bonner, serves as president of the university.
USA Today says:
"Bonner has been best known in Congress for helping his constituent service and his work on the Appropriations Committee, the panel that allocates most federal funds. Through that committee, Bonner worked to get federal aid to states hard hit by Hurricane Katrina.
Beyond Alabama, however, Bonner may best be remembered for service on the Ethics Committee when [New York Democrat Charles] Rangel was censured — the toughest form of punishment short of expulsion. Serving on the ethics committee has long been a thankless task for members of Congress because of its role in policing lawmakers. Bonner took the unusual step of criticizing then-Ethics Committee chairwoman Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., for not scheduling Rangel's trial ahead of the November elections in 2010."
The Washington Post reports that potential Republican candidates for the vacant seat would "include state Sen. Bill Hightower, state Sen. Trip Pittman and 2010 gubernatorial candidate Bradley Byrne, who lost a runoff to [Gov. Robert] Bentley. The district is strongly Republican, giving Mitt Romney more than 60 percent of the vote in 2012."
Quite a few medical school students have something against obese people, and most of those who have such a bias are unaware of it.
That's the conclusion of study appearing in the July issue of Academic Medicine. It was conducted at the Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C. The study's author says the subconscious judgments could affect how patients are treated.
Here's how the study was done: Researchers gave third-year medical students Harvard's Implicit Association Test on weight. The test is designed to get at people's subconscious biases by measuring how long it takes for them to associate a positive word, such as "love," "laughter" or "pleasure," with a drawing of a person who is either thin or obese.
Psychologists have shown that people's subconscious biases affect how fast they can associate a positive trait with someone they think poorly of.
More than one-third of the students had a moderate to strong bias against obese people, as measured by the test, whereas only 17 percent had an anti-thin bias. Two-thirds of the students were unaware of their anti-fat bias.
Since this study was only done with students in North Carolina, the researchers can't say for sure these attitudes apply to medical school students elsewhere. But given the fact that previous studies have shown that doctors have a similar subconscious bias against overweight patients, it's likely the Wake Forest students are fairly typical.
The researchers for the North Carolina study say medical education should include strategies for recognizing these subconscious biases and guarding against their affecting medical judgments.
How would bias affect the way doctors take care of obese patients? Several ways, study author David Miller told me in an email.
"If doctors assume obese patients are lazy or lack willpower, they will be less likely to spend time counseling patients about lifestyle changes they could make," he said. "Doctors also may be less likely to recommend formal weight loss programs if they assume their patient is unlikely to follow through. "
Miller said bias might also make doctors less effective. "If a patient senses his or her doctor doesn't like them or doesn't respect them," he said, "that will damage the trust that is key to an effective patient-physician relationship."
Current-events buffs probably think they know the tale of WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange. Prolific filmmaker Alex Gibney may have thought the same when he began researching his film We Steal Secrets. But this engrossing documentary soon diverges from the expected.
Even the movie's title, or rather the source of it, is a surprise. Not to spoil the fun, but it's neither Assange nor one of his allies who nonchalantly acknowledges that "we steal secrets."
Assange himself, currently in self-imposed exile at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, didn't speak to Gibney. Neither did prominent WikiLeaker Bradley Manning, who's been behind bars since early 2012. But Gibney's reliance on archival footage of these two doesn't hobble the movie, and the writer-director did locate some seriously conflicted people who were once close to either Assange or Manning.
The narrative begins in 1989, when Australian computer hackers hit NASA to protest the launch of a plutonium-powered Jupiter probe. The anonymous attackers, who called themselves WANK ("worms against nuclear killers") probably included one Mendax, an alias used by a then-teenage Assange.
The nom de hack comes from the term "splendide mendax," Latin for "nobly untruthful," and in clips unearthed by Gibney and his team, the grown-up Assange retains the adolescent grandiosity such a choice suggests. He says he likes "crushing bastards" and calls WikiLeaks "an intelligence agency of the people." Like many a maximum leader, it seems, Assange can't always distinguish between "the people" and himself.
Two decades after WANK, the peripatetic "transparency radical" used his skills and connections to expose the Icelandic bankers whose schemes crashed that small country's big economy. Then he turned to the American military and State Department, using material provided by Manning, a U.S. Army intelligence analyst under intense psychological pressure. (Among other things, Manning was reportedly beginning to identify as a woman.)
One of the mysteries We Steal Secrets explains is Manning's access to so much intel. After the Sept. 11 attacks, barriers between U.S. agencies and databases were lowered, to increase the likelihood that someone in the loop somewhere might recognize a pattern pointing to another catastrophic assault.
Seeking approval for his actions, Manning began an online dialogue with hacker Adrian Lamo. It was a ruinous choice; Lamo revealed Manning's identity to the FBI. Interviewed by Gibney, Lamo seems remorseful — and no more emotionally stable than Manning.
Although he has yet to come to trial, the ex-analyst has already paid heavily for his leakage. Assange hasn't, at least not directly. But he did fall out with such important allies as former German WikiLeaks spokesman Daniel Domscheit-Berg and Guardian reporter James Ball — who speak on-camera in the film — and has become a fugitive from extradition after two Swedish women accused him of sexual assault.
Assange's supporters were quick to dismiss those allegations as part of a conspiracy against him, perhaps organized by the U.S. government. We Steal Secrets makes a strong case to the contrary, suggesting that they are neither bogus nor part of a conspiracy. This involves a detour into Assange's sexual history, which is among the movie's stranger episodes.
As is typical of Gibney's style, the movie includes some jokey bits and animated asides. There's a Star Trek clip, as well as attempts to visualize the flow of digital information; they're less compelling than the interviews the director conducted and the clips he unearthed.
Before its commercial release, We Steal Secrets was already being denounced by WikiLeaks supporters — and reportedly by Assange, despite his onetime insistence that all information is good information. Even for a transparency radical, that turns out to be a difficult standard to uphold. (Recommended)