Friday, February 21, 2014

Stuff To Read Over The Weekend, 2/21/14

This long article on the rise and fall of Chris Christie is of interest for political geeks and nerds.

Several states are trying to introduce far wider religious "conscience clause"  protections for firms and workers.  Arizona just passed such a law.

This time the focus is not on abortion or the "right" to refuse to prescribe the contraceptive pill, but on having the "right" to refuse to serve, say, gay or lesbian customers or clients. All this lawmaking probably has its roots in cases like this one, from New Mexico:

Vanessa Willock sent a brief email to Elane Photography wondering if they’d take pictures of her 2006 commitment ceremony to her longtime partner, Misti Collinsworth.
Elaine Huguenin, the photographer and co-owner of Elane photography with her husband Jonathan, said no. “As a company, we photograph traditional weddings,” read her response. “Are you saying that your company does not offer your photography services to same-sex couples?” Willock asked. “Yes, you are correct in saying we do not photograph same-sex weddings, but again, thanks for checking out our site!”
Willock told the state Human Rights Commission she was “shocked, angered and saddened” by Elane’s response, and suddenly worried she and Collinsworth would be unable to find a photographer. Though they eventually did, Willock also filed a complaint with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission, saying that Elane Photography had violated a New Mexico state law banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
In August, the New Mexico Supreme court agreed, ruling unanimously that Elane Photography had violated state law by refusing to photograph the ceremony. Now the Huguenins are seeking to have their case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, saying that forcing them to take pictures of same-sex ceremonies violates their First Amendment rights by compelling them to engage in speech they don’t believe in. If the Supreme Court accepts the case, it will provide the first key test of a conservative political and legal strategy of reframing a losing battle against gay rights into a conflict over religious freedom, one that could rewrite the bounds of anti-discrimination laws in the United States. The case has “widespread ramifications for the conflict between religious rights and anti-discrimination rights,” said Caroline Mala Corbin, a professor at the University of Miami School of Law.

The bolds are mine.  It's important to note that these "religious rights" laws must be written in such general terms that they would open up the door for any type of discrimination that can be justified by some religion somewhere, even if that religion doesn't absolutely require that kind of shunning, unless the particular type of discrimination is already explicitly banned in other state laws.  The possible outcomes are mind-boggling.

In rodent research news, a new study argues that alcoholic daddy mice can sire baby mice with severe problems:

Published in Animal Cells and Systems, researchers studied male mice exposed to varying concentrations of alcohol and one control group exposed only to saline. After exposure the mice were mated and resulting fetuses examined. The findings revealed previously unknown and riveting evidence that paternal alcohol consumption can directly affect fetal development. 
A number of fetuses sired by males exposed to alcohol suffered abnormal organ development and or brain development. Those in the saline group were normal. So, can developmental abnormalities be predetermined at fertilization? This research proves so. The authors believe alcohol consumption affects genes in sperm which are responsible for normal fetal development. 
Until now fathers' lifestyle choices have not seen any repercussion on their unborn children. This ground-breaking research provides the first definitive evidence that fathers' drinking habits pre-conception can cause significant fetal abnormalities.

So prospective papa mice should probably stick to the saline drinks. 

I'm writing about this study because mice studies have in the past been interpreted as giving explicit health advice to human women about their fertility, so seeing that this has recently been expanded to giving health advice to human men about their fertility is kinda interesting.  Another recent study about papa mice taking vitamin B9  also gave human men health advice:

'Men really need to think carefully about the life they're living.'- Sarah Kimmins, McGill University 
Folate, found in leafy green vegetables, cereals, fruit, beans and liver, is known to prevent miscarriages and birth defects in humans if taken by the mother. Because of that, folate supplements are often recommended for women of childbearing age, especially if they are trying to become pregnant, and a lot of processed food is now enriched with folate. In men, folate deficiency is already known to reduce fertility.