Planned Parenthood reports more money, fewer servicesNational Shorts - NewsBriefs

(WNS)–Abortion giant Planned Parenthood raised more money in 2016 but provided fewer services, including abortions, according to the annual report it released in early January. The report struck a tone of defiance against recent pro-life efforts but offered no explanation for the drop in assistance for women not seeking abortions, services political activists claim are vital to the organization’s mission. Students for Life of America president Kristan Hawkins likened the report to “crocodile tears,” saying in a statement that Planned Parenthood leaders “claim to be under attack, but their profits from the rising number of abortions and from the hard-working taxpayers are up again. Making money from ending lives is big business at Planned Parenthood.”

New year, new school choice option in New Hampshire

(WNS)–School choice advocates didn’t have much to cheer about in 2017, but New Hampshire lawmakers gave them something to celebrate not long after the ball dropped in New York City’s Times Square. On Jan. 2, New Hampshire became the seventh state to approve an education savings account (ESA) program, providing state funds to low income and special needs students who want to attend private school or choose other educational options. Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, has pledged to sign the bill into law, but first it has to go before the House Finance Committee on April 4. But like other ESA programs, the New Hampshire bill could face legal challenges. The American Civil Liberties Union argued before the vote that the program violated the state’s constitution because it sends public money to religiously affiliated schools. The state Associate Attorney General Anne Edwards agreed but then changed her mind before the final vote.

Homeschoolers get a lump of coal from Congress

(WNS)–The tax system overhaul passed just before Christmas hit an unexpected bump just hours after House lawmakers finished celebrating their historic vote. Several items ran afoul of Senate procedural rules and had to be pulled from the bill before final approval. One of those directly affected homeschooling families. Under the bill, lawmakers expanded 529 educational savings accounts to include private K-12 schooling. They also attempted to include homeschool expenses, a tax benefit the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) has lobbied for since 2000. “We were an inch away from victory,” said William Estrada, HSLDA’s director of federal relations.

Back to the political appointee drawing board

(WNS)–A new year often brings new beginnings, but for many of President Donald Trump’s political appointees, 2018 amounts to going back to square one. Per Senate Rule 31, about 200 of Trump’s nominations for positions throughout the government were returned to the White House after failing to receive a confirmation vote in 2017. These nominees must be re-nominated and sent back to the Senate for consideration—delaying the already stagnant process of filling key roles in the Trump administration. Trump closed 2017 with 300 appointees confirmed. At the end of their first years in office, Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush had 418 and 493 confirmed, respectively.

Natural selection’s mixed-up marching orders

(WNS)–Natural selection predicts populations should show gradual improvement and increased fitness. But, time and again, scientific studies reveal the assumptions of evolutionary theory are just plain wrong. In a study published last year in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, researchers compared the body structure of modern humans to fossils of Pleistocene hominins, a species evolutionists believe are human ancestors who lived during the most recent Ice Age. The scientists analyzed the relationship of hip width, femur length, and body mass to determine how much energy walking requires. The leaner skeletons and narrower pelvis of modern humans reduce the work the hip muscles must do to maintain stability while walking, the scientists said. Based on the predictions of natural selection, they believed the bio-mechanical advantage of modern humans should require fewer calories for locomotion. But contrary to the predictions of natural selection, the researchers found the broader pelvis of the Pleistocene hominins worked much more efficiently.

DACA’s wild week

(WNS)–Lawmakers appear closer than ever to agreeing on an immigration bill with a solution for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Here’s where the debate stands after a topsy-turvy few days. More than 20 lawmakers from both parties sat down with President Donald Trump on Jan. 9 to define terms and determine what kind of deal the president would sign. The group left with four areas to work on: border security, chain migration, the visa lottery system, and DACA. Hours later, a federal judge in California ruled against the Trump administration, ordering it to allow some DACA recipients to reapply for protected status. But thousands of undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children still risk deportation after March 5 if Congress does nothing. Lawmakers say they’re closing in on a deal.

Sessions plans to rescind Obama-era pot policy

(WNS)–Attorney General Jeff Sessions plans to scrap a 2013 Obama administration policy that discouraged prosecutors from enforcing federal marijuana laws, according to the Associated Press. Eight states and the District of Columbia currently have laws allowing recreational marijuana use. The Obama administration issued a directive known as the “Cole memo” that ordered federal prosecutors to back off enforcement in states with laws permitting marijuana use. Congress still recognizes pot as an illegal drug, but the memo deprioritized marijuana-related cases in those jurisdictions. Sessions has been a longtime critic of marijuana use, dating back to his time as a prosecutor in Alabama. While in the Senate, Sessions repeatedly rebuffed efforts to loosen marijuana restrictions. On Jan. 1, California became the sixth state to begin sales of the drug for recreational use. Voters in Massachusetts and Maine approved legalization measures last year, and the new laws will go into effect later this year. When Colorado and Washington legalized the drug in 2012, it marked the start of a booming cannabis market. Marijuana sales topped $10 billion in 2017, according to a report from Arcview Market Research.

Homeless instead of penniless in the Golden State

(WNS)–Living on the streets has a new meaning in California. In a state whose cities ranked among the highest in the nation for “unsheltered” homelessness in 2017, more and more people choose to live in their cars. Surprisingly, many of the newly homeless car-dwellers have jobs. Their homelessness is an independent solution or planned choice. One such car resident in Atlanta, writing as “nihilistscientist” on Reddit, claimed friends offered their couches and floors, but he responded, “Nah, I wanna do this. It’s intentional, not out of desperation.” Online forums offer advice on how to take up urban living without a home. People discuss not only the best parking lots in which to stay overnight but also share tips on how to eat using rice cookers or convert a Ford Escape into a bedroom. High housing costs are a major factor driving the “wheel-estate” boom, wrote Chris Reed, an opinion editor for The San Diego Union-Tribune. He predicted California would again set a national trend as people opted to live in 80 to 150 square feet of their cars and vans rather than shelling out up to $3,500 a month for a small apartment.

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