Saving Privat(izing) Ryan: Mitt Romney selects a running mate

By Glenn Altschuler, Cornell University

On Saturday, August 11, “before the press and just about everyone else” was notified, the Mitt Romney campaign used a mobile phone app to inform supporters that Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan would be the Republican candidate for vice president.

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Romney’s choice is significant. No vice presidential candidate has been a deciding factor in an American election since Lyndon Johnson carried Texas for John F. Kennedy in 1960. Since then the operative principle for Republicans and Democrats in selecting a VP has been the political equivalent of the Hippocratic Oath for physicians: Do No Harm. Romney was widely expected to make a “safe” choice—of former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty or Rob Portman, U.S. Senator from Ohio. Instead, he has, uncharacteristically, rolled the dice.

The forty-two year old Ryan is an experienced, articulate and influential legislator, a vigorous campaigner, and the darling of conservative Republicans and Tea Party activists. A key factor in his selection is his ability to energise the party’s base, which has been less than enthusiastic about Governor Romney, a former Massachusetts moderate. Ryan’s supporters suggest as well that he will help the GOP win the 10 Electoral votes of his home state, which has been carried by the Democrats in every presidential election since the 1980s.

But Ryan’s presence on the ticket also gives President Obama an opportunity to change the conversation from the fragile, and some say faltering, economy, to a federal spending plan, authored by Ryan, that Newt Gingrich (of all people) called “right wing social engineering.” First introduced in 2010 and known variously as The Path to Prosperity and The Roadmap, the Ryan budget proposes radical changes in the role of government in promoting and protecting the welfare of American citizens – and an attack on Social Security and Medicare, two of the most popular programs in the United States.

In its current version (which passed the House of Representatives with support from all but four Republicans and died in the Democrat-controlled Senate), the Ryan budget would cut $6 trillion in discretionary spending over ten years, reducing the deficit to about 3 percent of Gross Domestic Product by fiscal year 2014, three years ahead of the White House plan. Favorable to the wealthiest Americans in virtually every provision (Ryan has signed the “no tax” pledge of lobbyist Grover Norquist, who famously aims to shrink the federal government until it’s small enough to be drowned in a bathtub) it collapses individual income tax brackets into two rates— 10% and 25% —and promises to clear out “the burdensome tangle of loopholes that distort economic activity,” without identifying any specific loophole. And it cuts corporate tax rates ten points to 25 percent while eliminating (as yet unnamed) exemptions.

Unlike a previous iteration of his plan, Ryan would not now privatise Social Security. But Democrats will surely remind voters of his earlier views — and will ask Governor Romney if he agrees with them. The latest Roadmap does phase out Medicare, a government guarantee of health care for senior citizens, in favor of vouchers, which would be used by individuals to pay for private insurance premiums – but which, according to critics, will not pay the full freight.

The Roadmap is not popular with voters. When Ryan discussed it at town hall meetings in his home state, he was shouted down. Fearing dire consequences at the ballot box, conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer characterized the Ryan Plan, which weighed in at 73 pages with 37 footnotes, as perhaps “the most annotated suicide note in history.” Until recently, Romney, who has endorsed The Roadmap, kept his distance from it.

He will not now be able to do so. And so, the selection of Ryan will make it far more difficult for Republicans to carry Florida, a must-win state with many senior citizens – and 29 Electoral votes.

As Democrats assert that, by jumping on Ryan’s Express, Romney has demonstrated that he is a hostage to Tea Party extremists, they may also take note of Ryan’s record during the presidency of George W. Bush, when he voted for sweeping tax cuts, a costly prescription-drug entitlement for Medicare, two wars, and the multibillion-dollar bank-bailout legislation known as TARP, and in so doing, helped add $5 trillion to the national debt. Ryan now claims that the experience made him miserable. The GOP faithful will give him the benefit of the doubt, but mainstream voters may be less forgiving.

Whether Ryan’s presence on the ticket proves a boost or a bust, it could inject a substantive discussion of the issues into what hitherto has been a dispiritingly vicious contest. Congressman Ryan could save both Romney’s campaign and his own efforts to privatize the economy. He could also sink them both.

Glenn Altschuler does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

How ethical are hymen restorations?

Because they have had pre-marital sex and risk being ostracised by their family; because they are victims of rape; or because they “want to achieve a sense of a clean slate”.

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These are just some of the reasons why some women are asking cosmetic surgeons like Dr Les Blackstock to restore their hymens.

“I’ve done women from most cultures and most religions; I’ve done women who have been victims of rape, I’ve done women who have no sexual interest, they’ve been returning to be a nun,” he tells SBS’s Insight.

“They want to very much achieve a sense of a clean slate.”

Hymen restoration is the surgical repair of the hymen. There are no hard data on hymenoplasty rates in Australia, but surgeons say there is a steady demand for the procedure in Australia.

CULTURAL DEMANDS

In some cultures, having gynaecologists ‘inspect’ hymens is not uncommon. Sydney-based gynaecologist Dr Wafa Samen often issues doctor’s certificates in English and in Arabic certifying that a hymen is intact.

“Culturally and religiously, it is important to preserve the virginity and that applies to woman and men,” says Dr Samen.

In cultures that place a high value on virginity there may be serious consequences for the woman and her family if her hymen is not intact, including being outcast from the community, beatings, mutilations and honour killings.

“One of my standard questions when I interview the woman is: will they be at physical risk?” says Dr Blackstock. “Because in some the cultures the women have told me that they may be physically harmed and there have been deaths reported for lack of virginity.”

He adds: “I know that my hymens have passed inspection in Australia and overseas and not been detected.”

 

WATCH: The audience receives mystery packages. Can you guess what they are?

ETHICAL DILEMMAS

Surgeons are faced with a moral dilemma: on one hand, they can help women avoid social and mental consquences through hymen reconstruction. On the other hand, performing such an unnecessary surgical procedure might contribute to persisting gender inequality.

One paper published in the International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics writes:

“Gynecologists may oppose hymen reconstruction on grounds that it is deceptive, not medically required, or that the requirement of evidence of virginity discriminates against women and the procedure supports holding them to higher standards of virtue than are required of men.”

However, the paper also writes that gynaecologists “may justify the procedure” if the hymen reconstruction preserves “mental and social wellbeing”, especially if the woman faces violence or death.

So what happens when a gynaecologist, who certifies intact hymens, like Dr Samen, detects a restored hymen?

“As a doctor I should keep the confidentiality of the patient,” she tells Insight.

What do you think about hymen reconstructions? How do you define virginity? Watch the Insight discussion on virginity tonight at 8.30PM on SBS ONE. The program will also be streamed live here.

Join the discussion by using the #insightsbs hashtag on Twitter or by commenting on Insight’s Facebook page.

 

WATCH A PREVIEW

Srebrenica: Massacre victims reburied

Bosnians buried 520 victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, with the two alleged masterminds of the slaughter finally on trial for genocide.

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About 30,000 people gathered at a special memorial centre in Potocari, just outside Srebrenica, for the mass funeral on the 17th anniversary of the worst single atrocity on European soil since World War II.

After speeches and the Muslim prayer for the dead, people began hoisting the simple coffins covered in green cloth to carry them to the freshly dug graves. Clouds of red dust rose over the vast cemetery as relatives covered the caskets with earth under the sweltering afternoon sun.

Mujo Salihovic, 30, had come to bury his father and one of his brothers — his other brother was already among the 5,137 victims already laid to rest there.

“I haven’t told my mother that they will be buried today. She is sick and still believes they will return,” he said tearfully.

“If I tell her, it would kill her. I cannot lose her, she is all that I have left”.

It is the first anniversary being commemorated since the massacre’s alleged architects, Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic and political leader Radovan Karadzic, went on trial before the UN war crimes court.

In all, around 8,000 Muslim men and boys were slaughtered by Bosnian Serb troops who overran the UN protected enclave on July 11, 1995, in the only episode of the 1992-95 Bosnian war to have been ruled a genocide by international courts.

US President Barack Obama in a statement slammed moves to downplay the scale of the massacre in a clear swipe at Serbia’s new President Tomislav Nikolic, who said last month that the killings in Srebrenica constituted “grave war crimes” but not genocide.

“The United States rejects efforts to distort the scope of this atrocity, rationalise the motivations behind it, blame the victims, and deny the indisputable fact that it was genocide,” he said.

Holocaust-survivor and US rabbi Arthur Schneier, who spoke at the commemoration, condemned the massacre and also the international silence in the face of grave injustice that allowed it to happen, drawing a comparison with events in Syria.

“Silence is not a solution; it merely encourages the perpetrators and ultimately it pays a heavy price in blood,” he said.

“It is a lesson that the world must learn again today as we witness the massacres being perpetrated by the regime in Syria against its own people. It is time again for humanity to say with one clear voice: these crimes must end,” he urged.

Many survivors and relatives in Srebrenica said Wednesday the trials at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague are too little, too late.

“It hurts me to watch broadcasts of the trials… it does not comfort me. (Karadzic and Mladic) plead not guilty, they say this was not genocide,” Muniba Cakar, who buried her husband, said bitterly.

“It should be enough to come here and see the thousands of graves. If that is not proof, we should give up,” the 63-year-old said, gesturing at the thousands of simple white headstones around her.

The trial of Mladic, who commanded the attack on Srebrenica, resumed in The Hague this week with the first prosecution witnesses testifying, a little over a year since his arrest in Serbia after nearly 16 years on the run.

Karadzic is due to start presenting his defence in October. His trial opened in 2009 after he evaded justice for 13 years.

Both men have pleaded not guilty to genocide charges for masterminding the massacre and all other charges against them over the Bosnian war that left around 100,000 people dead.

So far 38 former Bosnian Serb military or police officials have been convicted, including some for genocide, for their role in the Srebrenica killings, both by the ICTY and Bosnia’s own war crimes court.

In the past 17 years, the remains of 6,800 victims have been identified, but the search goes on as excavations of mass graves continue.

It’s fun, fun, fun for clubhouse leader Jimenez

The pony-tailed Spaniard stole a march on the youngsters after mixing two birdies and two bogeys in a level-par 71 that gave him a three-under tally of 139.

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“Being on top of this major championship field makes you feel a lot of pressure but that’s what I like to feel,” he told reporters on another glorious day of sunshine at Muirfield.

“I like to feel the pressure. As long as you can handle that, it’s no problem. I feel comfortable.”

Jimenez said he always felt relaxed because he had a job that he adored.

“Enjoy yourself in what you do in life,” added the cigar-smoking, Rioja-drinking Spaniard. “That’s the secret and that’s what I’m doing.

“I love what I’m doing. I play golf, I do this for a living and I’ve kept doing the same thing for 25 years.

“Sometimes maybe you will say to me, ‘That’s too many years’ but you’re wrong. It’s the only thing I like to do in my life.

“This is fun to me,” added Jimenez. “Having fun does not mean you have the biggest smile and you fall on the floor laughing – fun is when you enjoy what you’re doing.”

Jimenez has still not fully recovered from the broken leg he sustained in a skiing accident in December and is also suffering from tennis elbow.

Yet the former Ryder Cup player believes he is capable of becoming the oldest major winner of all time, eclipsing American Julius Boros who was 48 when he triumphed at the 1968 U.S. PGA Championship.

“I keep elastic and flexible,” said Jimenez. “I’m still training and walking and still able to shoot low.

“If I cannot shoot low then I will not be here anymore, don’t worry about that. I wouldn’t waste my time travelling around the world kicking my backside,” he said to howls of laughter.

Asked how he was leading the British Open at the age of 49, he replied: “Why? Have I not the right to do it? Is it only the young people who can do that?

“I’ve been on the tour 25 years, I have 19 victories, and I would love to have a first major in my career. Why not this one?”

Jimenez warms up for half an hour before he takes to the course and not for him is the lifting weights regime that many of the young generation of golfers adopt.

“You have to do the same things you do every day, you don’t need to change anything,” he said. “As soon as I finish here I’ll go and be with my girlfriend, my sons, and we will have dinner like I do every day.

“I don’t need to do anything special because I’m leading and I won’t be going to bed at 10 o’clock… I’ll go when I feel like it… after I smoke my cigar,” he said with a big grin.

(Editing by Toby Davis)

BBC boss quizzed Savile on assault rumours

As police revealed Savile’s alleged catalogue of child sex abuse could have spanned six decades and included around 60 victims, Derek Chinnery, BBC Radio 1 controller from 1978 to 1985, admitted that he quizzed the presenter directly about the rumours.

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The scandal has mushroomed since ITV screened a documentary in which five women alleged they were abused by the late broadcaster, with Scotland Yard saying there are allegations spanning 1959 to 2006.

Chinnery, who was Savile’s boss at Radio 1, told BBC Radio 4’s Broadcasting House: “I asked, ‘what’s all this, these rumours we hear about you, Jimmy?’

“And he said, ‘That’s all nonsense’. There was no reason to disbelieve (Savile).”

Savile worked at Radio 1 from 1969 to 1989 presenting a show of chart songs from previous decades.

Speaking about his acceptance of Savile’s denial, Chinnery told the BBC: “It’s easy now to say: ‘How could you just believe him just like that?'”

He added: “He was the sort of man that attracted rumours; after all, because he was single, he was always on the move, he was always going around the country.”

Scotland Yard is pursuing 340 lines of inquiry in the Savile abuse case and so far 12 allegations of sexual offences have been officially recorded but this number is increasing, police said.

Metropolitan Police detectives are in contact with 14 other forces as the number of allegations against the former DJ continues to rise.

The BBC has been sucked into the scandal after it emerged that Newsnight abandoned an investigation into the alleged abuse. The organisation has also come under fire with claims that staff were aware of

Savile’s behaviour and failed to take action.

On Friday, BBC director-general George Entwistle offered a “profound and heartfelt apology” to the alleged victims of Savile’s sexual abuse as he announced that two inquiries would be launched.

One will look into whether there were any failings over the handling of the abandoned Newsnight piece.

A second independent inquiry will look into the “culture and practices of the BBC during the years Jimmy Savile worked here”, Entwistle said.

Canada launches seal cull

Canadian authorities have increased the number of harp seals that can be culled to close to one million between 2003 and 2005. This year as many as 350,000 could be killed.

Animal rights groups say the cull is the largest since the 1960’s.

Canadian authorities contend that the seal population is a growing threat to cod stocks in the Atlantic, and that it can withstand humane culling.

Atlantic harp seal numbers have grown from 1.8 million in 1970 to 5.2 million, according to the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO).

If hunters take their full quota of 975,000 seal pups over three years, the population in 2006 will be about 4.7 million harp seals, which DFO deems a reasonable figure.

“Seals are a valuable natural resource that, when harvested sustainably, provide valuable income to about 12,000 Canadian sealers and their families,” said Canadian fisheries minister Robert Thibault when he announced the new culling limits last year.

Greenpeace, which led a major campaign against seal hunting in the 1970’s, is no longer opposing the hunting of adult seals because the species is not threatened.

However the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and allies Sea Shepherd argue the cull is inhumane.

The government has insisted that new guidelines to ensure most seals are shot and not clubbed to death mean the hunt is more humane. The DFO has also established stricter requirements to show that the animals are dead before the hunters begin removing their white pelts.

In past years, IFAW activists have reported seeing hunters skin live seals, drag live seals across the ice with hooks, and leave seals with gunshot wounds to die slowly on the ice, in defiance of regulations.

Fallujah ceasefire extended

And police are being deployed in the central Shi’ite Muslim holy city of Najaf following an agreement for the pullout of armed militiamen from the streets.

“An agreement has been reached between the coalition and the office of Sadr,” said Najaf police chief Ali al-Yaseri, referring to radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

Under the terms of the agreement, coalition troops will not enter the city, which will be under Iraqi security control, said Mr Yaseri.

The city had been under the control of Sadr’s banned Mehdi Army militia.

But a coalition spokesman said he is not aware of the deal, adding that the situation in Najaf is under control.

The ceasefire in Fallujah has dramatically reduced the fighting, but there has been fighting between Iraqi guerrillas and US Marines overnight.

And US forces have suffered more losses, with three marines killed during an attack in western Iraq.

Another six were reported killed in Baghdad and Samarra over the past three days, taking the US death toll to 62 since April 4.

Also, a US Apache attack helicopter was shot down, killing two crew members.

“The ceasefire was extended by 24 hours last night, so it is supposed to last until Monday evening,” said Alaa Makki, a senior member of the Iraqi Islamic Party which is involved in the mediation efforts.

“It had initially been due to last until today morning, but the two sides agreed to 24 hours [more],” he said.

Many of Fallujah’s 300,000 residents have fled, and fighters are the main group out on the streets.

Hospital officials said hundreds of Iraqis have died in the past week in Fallujah, where the local soccer pitch has been turned into a makeshift cemetery.

Mr Makki said more than 600 Iraqis have been killed and 1,250 wounded since the start of hostilities.

The ceasefire came into force after coalition forces suspended its offensive and waved the white flag.

An Iraqi delegation, led by members of the Iraqi Governing Council, has held meetings to mediate an end to the bloodshed.

Hundreds killed as insurgency mounts

Coalition forces have pressed on with offensives to crush a two-pronged rebellion in the west and south of the country that has claimed hundreds of lives over the past week, with one US commander comparing the fighting to Vietnam.

Here are the main military developments on Thursday:

Fallujah:Ten Iraqi insurgents and two US soldiers were killed as marines met ferocious resistance. As the day drew to a close, sniper fire and mortars were being fired around the main marine compound in the industrial area on the eastern edge of town.

Baghdad:Radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al Sadr’s militia, the Mehdi Army, vowed to resume combat against US-led occupation forces, after US tanks and gunships destroyed the group’s main headquarters in the capital. Some 20 kilometers (12 miles) west of the capital, a US patrol was attacked and armed insurgents could be seen dancing around two blazing military vehicles.

Samarra:Fighting broke out between US troops and unknown gunmen. Protestors fired rocket-propelled grenades at the headquarters of the US army and Iraqi paramilitary forces in the city, triggering retaliatory fire. Earlier, mosques urged people to show solidarity with the residents of Fallujah.

Karbala:The United States sent 120 troops to help Bulgarian troops in Karbala deal with the escalating conflict, after Sadr’s militia issued an ultimatum to occupation forces to quit the holy city. The Polish army said its troops were meeting with moderate Shiite clerics to try to ease tensions, adding that patrols had been suspended within the town for the soldiers’ protection.

Kut:The US commander of ground troops in Iraq, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, said his troops will retake the central Iraqi city “imminently”.
1,300 Ukrainian soldiers evacuated their base in the city under US protection on Wednesday, leaving it a militia stronghold.

Najaf: The inner part of the holy city remains under control of the Mehdi Army, including police stations and government buildings. Hospital officials said 10 Iraqis were killed and 20 wounded in clashes there on Wednesday.

Samawa:Japanese troops in the southern Iraqi town have temporarily halted humanitarian operations amid reports they have come under attack for the first time.

The intense fighting has come at an unwelcome time for the US military, exactly a year after coalition soldiers toppled a statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad, marking the unofficial end of the Iraq war.

A total of 637 US troops have been killed in Iraq, including 447 in hostile action. Since President George W Bush’s declared an end to major combat operations on May 1, 506 troops have been killed, 339 of them in hostile action.

Rice defends White House on 9/11

She also defended President George W Bush’s counter-terrorism strategy while admitting the country could have been better prepared.

In almost three hours of intense, nationally televised questioning, Ms Rice said that “structural” and legal problems prevented agencies from working together to counter terrorism before the 2001 attacks that left about 3,000 dead.

But she insisted that President Bush had understood the al-Qaeda threat as soon as he took office and that it took priority over Iraq.

Her long-awaited testimony in front of the commission sought to defuse politically damaging statements from former counter-terrorism chief Richard Clarke, ahead of November’s Presidential elections.

“For more than 20 years, the terrorist threat gathered, and America’s response across several administrations of both parties was insufficient,” Ms Rice said.

The commission’s leaders have already said they believe the attacks could have been prevented, but Ms Rice insisted the United States was “blind” to the impending disaster.

“There was no silver bullet that could have prevented the 9/11 attacks.”

The hearing’s business-like tone was punctured by sharp questions from commission members, which at points drew applause from the overflow audience.

The most contentious exchanges involved a classified memo sent to President Bush about a month before the attacks that may have warned that al-Qaeda was planning to hijack US airliners.

“It had a discussion of whether or not they might use hijacking to try and free a prisoner who was being held in the United States,” she said.

“But I can also tell you that there was nothing in this memo that suggested that an attack was coming on New York or Washington DC. There was nothing in this memo as to time, place, how or where.”

The White House, which initially opposed an inquiry into the attacks, has refused to release that memo as well as other documents dating to President Bill Clinton’s administration.

Families of the September 11 victims were among the audience, and some said they were disappointed that Rice did not offer an apology for the government’s failure to prevent the attacks.

Hamas threatens Israel’s Sharon

Abdel Aziz Rantissi, who has been named as Sheikh Ahmed Yassin’s successor in the occupied territories, also sought to allay fears that United States targets could be attacked.

In a statement issued after Yassin’s death in an Israeli military strike, Hamas’ military wing hinted the US could be targeted, as Israel must have “obtained the green light from the terrorist American administration”.

But Rantissi said: “If they are worried, then they are stupid because we have said it many times that we will target only our enemy, the (Israeli) occupiers.”

Rantissi has been receiving condolences at a football stadium in Gaza in the wake of the death of the movement’s spiritual leader and founder.

He said: “As long as we are under aggression and occupation we are not ready to speak about a ceasefire.”

The Islamic movement’s Damascus-based political chief, Khaled Meshaal, also said he would like to see Yassin’s assassination avenged by targeting Sharon.

“I hope that the mujahedin (holy warriors) will be able to respond to this odious crime by targeting the top rank Zionist leaders,” he told a Hamas-linked website.

“Yes, Sharon is one of them, but it is up to the military leadership on the ground to decide on its application. I hope that they are successful.”

And Hamas’ armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, promised an “unprecedented” response to the assassination of the wheel chair-bound cleric.

Despite the barrage of international condemnation that followed Monday’s assassination, Israel pledged to pursue the same policy and wipe out the whole leadership of Hamas.

Israel has been on high alert, with extra security forces deployed around the Palestinian territories and in Israeli cities, for fear of suicide attacks in retaliation for Yassin’s killing.

Meanwhile the UN’s Human Rights Commission, meeting in Geneva, adopted a resolution Wednesday condemning Israel for killing Yassin.

Thirty-one countries in the assembly voted in favour of the resolution brought by Pakistan and other Muslim states, while Australia and the US rejected it. Eighteen countries, including the EU states, abstained.