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Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2010

Issue of the Week: Women’s Reproductive Freedoms Threatened

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Here’s the good news for supporters of reproductive rights: Last week, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, Nancy Keenan, visited Milwaukee to honor the dedicated staff of Affiliated Medical Services with its new Dr. Tiller award, given to those who have an outstanding commitment to women’s health. In addition, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin is celebrating its 75th anniversary on Thursday, Aug. 26, with “Party in the Park” at Washington Park. (For more information, go to www.ppawi.org.)

And here’s the bad news: Women’s reproductive rights are under attack by politicians who are more extreme than their predecessors. For example, Republican gubernatorial candidates Scott Walker and Mark Neumann have both accepted the endorsement of the extremist Pro-Life Wisconsin. That means that they have promised to oppose abortion in all cases—including when a woman has been raped or is a victim of incest, or if her life is in danger—and also oppose all forms of birth control, including condoms.

In contrast, Pro-Life Wisconsin did not endorse the Republicans’ gubernatorial candidate in 2006, Mark Green. And former governor Tommy Thompson, while reliably anti-abortion, also supported family planning programs and contraception.

Walker and Neumann are more radically right-wing than their Republican predecessors on reproductive rights and, if elected, would have the power to undo hard-won victories, such as the Compassionate Care for Rape Victims Act, prescription protection measures, and family planning coverage for men. The attack on reproductive freedom may be a stealth one right now, but it should be on every voter’s radar before the Nov. 2 election.

Event of the Week

Dryhootch Open House and Grand Opening Celebration

Dryhootch, a nonprofit peer-to-peer counseling organization for returned veterans transitioning to civilian life, is launching its very own coffeehouse. Celebrate the grand opening of the Dryhootch coffeehouse, at 1030 E. Brady St., and support combat veterans and their families. On Saturday, Aug. 28, at 10:30 a.m., the grand opening ceremony begins with greetings from Congresswoman Gwen Moore, Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Ken Black, Brig. Gen. Donald Dunbar, Milwaukee Veterans Affairs Director Robert Beller and Dryhootch members. From noon to 11 p.m., there will be free Palermo’s Pizza for Dryhootch members (while supplies last) and music by Guitars for Vets. On Sunday, Aug. 29, at 10:30 a.m., Chaplain Ray Stubbe will preside over an ecumenical prayer service/blessing; later, Guitars for Vets will return. For more information, go to dryhootch.org.

Hero of the Week

Jim Fiste

When Jim Fiste retired from his career as an engineer, he never envisioned the role he would play for children worldwide. But his post-retirement plans changed once he learned of “Operation Christmas Child,” which collects and distributes toys and necessities to children in need.

Fiste, the program’s Milwaukee-area coordinator, organizes a year-round volunteer effort to get items into the hands of children living in the world’s most adverse locations: war zones, refugee camps and areas of natural disaster or extreme poverty. Donors are asked to fill and decorate a standard-sized shoe box with gifts for boys and girls in three different age brackets. Though the collection period is the week before Thanksgiving, Fiste notes that the logistics require long-term planning because gifts are shipped to often-volatile areas via oceangoing vessels.

To see recommended items for sharing and a list of collection points, visit www.occmilw.org.

Jerk of the Week

GOP Senate Candidate Ron Johnson

Do you like your home mortgage tax deduction? Then you may not like what Republican Senate candidate Ron Johnson wants to do with it. In an interview with a Madison TV station, Johnson said he’d consider “horse trading” it to simplify the tax code. According to the nonpartisan Tax Foundation, roughly a third of Wisconsin taxpayers claim this deduction; the average deduction is about $8,700, a significant chunk of change for a homeowner. Johnson may want to reconsider his radical tax plan if he doesn’t want to raise taxes on Wisconsin residents.

The comments come on the heels of other Johnson gaffes that have drawn national attention, such as claiming that sunspots cause global warming (they don’t), trees “suck down” carbon dioxide (pollution is good!), that Greenland was once green (it wasn’t) and that he didn’t want to “second-guess” Bush administration claims that Saddam Hussein had “nuclear weapons capabilities” (Saddam didn’t, but Bush invaded anyway).

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