National Briefs

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Conservatives coordinate Senate rebellion

(WNS)–Several conservative organizations announced Oct. 11 a coordinated effort to take down the Senate’s Republican Party leadership. In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and his top deputies, grassroots groups cited GOP failures to deliver on key campaign promises and said it’s time for change. “2017 has been a disappointing year for the millions of Americans who fully expected, and had every right to expect, real change in Washington,” the organizations wrote. “Republicans were given full control of the federal government. They—you—have done nothing.” Senate Conservatives Fund president Ken Cuccinelli, Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Beth Martin, FreedomWorks president Adam Brandon, Conservative HQ chairman Richard Viguerie, and Media Research Center president Brent Bozell signed the letter.


States sue over Trump contraception mandate rule

(WNS)–Four states so far have filed suit against the federal government over rollbacks to the Obamacare mandate that forced insurance companies to provide cost-free birth control, including abortifacients. The states filing suit include Massachusetts, California, Washington, and Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said on Oct. 11 the government “broke the law and undermined the health and economic independence of American women.” The new rule allows religious universities, organizations, for-profits, and individuals—in addition to churches—to claim an exemption from the mandate.


The power of language

(WNS)–The Associated Press (AP) recently updated its stylebook entry on gender and sex. U.S. news companies reference The AP Stylebook as an authority on English usage and style. (The Good News Today uses the stylebook for spelling, punctuation, and grammar guidelines, but with exceptions, including this one.) The AP now encourages writers to avoid phrases like “both genders” or “opposite sexes” to include people who say they are neither male nor female. The updated stylebook also recommends describing surgeries that are part of a transgender person’s transition as “gender confirmation” surgeries instead of the previously used “gender reassignment” surgeries. AP also tells writers to avoid any reference to a transgender person being born a boy or girl. For example, “Jack, who identifies as a boy, but was born as a girl,” is considered incorrect.


Air Force punishes colonel over marriage views

(WNS)–U.S. Air Force officials have suspended a decorated officer and revoked his recommendation for promotion to brigadier general because he would not sign an unofficial document affirming a retiring subordinate’s same-sex marriage. Col. Leland B.H. Bohannon, Air Force Inspection Agency commander at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, N.M., signed all the requisite documents for a senior noncommissioned service member’s May retirement ceremony except for one: a letter of “spousal appreciation” for the gay serviceman’s partner. Bohannon’s Christian convictions about marriage put him at odds with the request to sign the unofficial, optional letter, and he sought counsel from his chaplain and judge advocate general. While awaiting guidance, and with the retirement ceremony days away, Bohannon asked a two-star general who did not object to sign the document instead.


Has interest in homeschooling waned?

(WNS)—A recent government survey showed interest in homeschooling appears to have leveled off in the last five years. Education analysts pointed to the results as evidence the homeschooling “fad” had reached its peak after three decades, but homeschooling experts disputed that conclusion—and the data it’s based on. Before he reviewed the numbers, Brian Ray with the National Home Education Research Institute expressed doubt about their accuracy. But when he drilled down to state-level data, he knew for sure the federal researchers missed something. “I don’t think I can say there’s an obvious problem,” he said of the government data. “But what they found defies what’s on the ground in state-specific data.” Ray collected data from 15 states that had numbers for the same five-year timeframe covered by the federal surveys. While one state saw a 3.4-percent decline in the number of homeschool students, 11 saw significant increases, ranging from 10.3 percent to 94.7 percent. One county logged a 203-percent increase in homeschoolers between 2012 and 2016. Taken together, the overall increase averaged out to 26 percent.


Kicking the gender question can

(WNS)–The U.S. Department of Education won’t change the wording of the gender question on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) after all. Transgender activists protested the plan, announced earlier this year, to ask applicants, “Were you born male or female?” instead of, “Are you male or female?” They claimed it would create confusion and potentially “out” transgender students. Education Department officials initiated the change to help make it easier to check Selective Service registration, required for all men who receive federal student aid. After the uproar, Education officials decided to punt the potential problem to the Selective Service System, advising applicants to check with it to make sure they’re not labeled draft dodgers. While it’s no longer the Education Department’s problem, it’s still a problem. Should women who identify as men be required to register? And should men who identify as women get a pass?


A new era for international religious freedom?

(WNS)–People often ask Sam Brownback what to call him: governor? Senator? He hopes soon to add a new option to the list: ambassador. The Republican governor of Kansas and former U.S. senator is President Donald Trump’s choice to take over as ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, a post vacant since January.  Brownback came to Washington for his confirmation hearing Oct. 4, putting him one step closer to the State Department’s International Religious Freedom (IRF) office.


Textbook ripple effect

(WNS)–Gay rights groups are lobbying the California Department of Education to expand LGBT influence over textbooks set for review this year. In 2011, California mandated students learn about the historical contributions of those who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender. During a state commission hearing last week, advocacy groups insisted that simply mentioning historical figures wouldn’t cut it. They want each person’s orientation and relationship status outlined in specific detail. “It’s not something to appease a particular part of the population but to truly include inclusive history throughout grades K-8,” said Renata Moreira, executive director of San Francisco–based LGBT advocacy group Our Family Coalition. Their success will have a ripple effect: California is the biggest market for textbooks and publishers peddle books crafted for California elsewhere.


New fossil find puts early humans outside the framework of Darwinism

(WNS)–Researchers just discovered ancient human footprints on the Greek island of Crete that undermine the Darwinian theory of the descent of humans. Per Ahlberg, one of the study authors, admitted in a statement, “This discovery challenges the established narrative of early human evolution head-on and is likely to generate a lot of debate.” The new discovery presents difficulties for evolutionary theory in two ways. First, evolutionary scientists believe human beings originated in Africa and remained isolated there for a long time before they migrated to Europe and Asia. But the footprints could indicate humans trekked on the Greek island long before evolutionists thought they migrated out of Africa. Second, the appearance of the footprints doesn’t make sense within an evolutionary framework. The unique structure of the human foot—with a long sole, five short, forward-pointing toes, no claws, and a big toe larger than the other toes—does not appear in any other animal, including apes.


First Amendment fact-check

(WNS)–American college students do not understand the First Amendment’s free speech provisions, according to an August survey of 1,500 students on four major U.S. campuses.

When asked if the use of violence to prevent a speaker known for “hurtful” language from speaking was acceptable, 19 percent of students agreed. That number may seem relatively low, but survey author John Villasenor, a visiting professor of law at UCLA, said “any number significantly above zero is concerning.” When asked if the First Amendment protected “hate speech,” 44 percent of students said no, 39 percent said yes, and 16 percent said they did not know. By a slim margin of 51 to 49 percent, students agreed it was acceptable to shout down speakers known for “offensive and hurtful statements.” And 62 percent of students incorrectly believed the First Amendment requires a counterargument be offered when controversial speakers come to campus.

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