Cutting edge

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Invasive procedures

From Pittsburgh's Spork in a Drawer blog: "Honestly, if there's a more unself-aware group on this planet ... in this universe, than modern American conservatives, I don't want to know about it."

Then comes this example, quoted from Talking Points Memo:

A new online web series from an anti-Obamacare group takes conservative/Republican scare tactics to a whole new extreme. One video, which almost plays like a mini-horror movie, portrays a young woman who has "signed up for Obamacare" and is visiting her gynecologist. As her real doctor leaves the room, with her in the stirrups, a person in an Uncle Sam mask pops up to take a look. "Don't let the government play doctor," the ad warns. "Opt out of Obamacare."

Spork is not amused: "Does government-mandated trans-vaginal ultrasounds ring a bell? And who, pray tell, is behind those?"

Ultimate global warming

A troubling article at theguardian.com bears this cheery headline -- "Long-Range Forecast: Sunny Spell Will Wipe Out Life on Earth." No, the august British news source isn't borrowing from The National Enquirer or The Onion.

The piece says scientists estimate that great heat from the sun will make Earth uninhabitable in 3 billion years, give or take, and that a "journey to balmy Mars may be the best escape route." As the sun gobbles hydrogen at an increasingly furious rate, the heat from the star that once nurtured life on the blue planet will force Earthlings to consider a move to the red one.

"It will get progressively hotter and there's nothing we can do about it," says Andrew Rushby, whose specialty at the University of East Anglia is planet habitability. Though frigid now, Mars will be relatively balmy by then and will occupy a new "habitable zone." If water is discovered, it will mean a chance to keep humanity's story going -- if the story is still worth another chapter.

Concussion deniers

Global warming isn't the only thing being denied these days. Writing at BillMoyers.com, sports writer Joshua Holland tracks the right-wing meme that nanny-state liberals want to stifle the manly aggression of American football.

Although the National Football League is finally addressing the long-term effects of brain trauma with a $765 million settlement with former and current players, that's not stopping right-wing critics from claiming "there's no evidence that the game is dangerous" and accusing "liberal sports media" of wanting to over-regulate football.

Mr. Holland tracks the argument on right-wing blogs and on Rush Limbaugh's radio program, where it's a given that talk of concussions is a liberal plot and part of the "feminization of the league." Tell that to an NFL player's neurologist.

Riding privatization

The Allegheny Institute for Public Policy, a conservative think tank, notes that more than the Port Authority's board of directors should change if transit riders want a more effective system.

In "PennDOT Has a Critical Role in PAT's Future" at alleghenyinstitute.org, the group reminds its audience that the same Act 72 which revamped the authority's board also requires PennDOT to study whether consolidation with neighboring transit systems and/or privatization of certain routes would reduce expenses and increase revenues.

The institute, of course, is a big backer of privatizing public services and may be feeling lucky with Republicans in control of state government these days: "There is every incentive for the state to want to push this idea and it would be surprising if the PennDOT report does not include a recommendation for PAT to pursue this option."

Pirates' progress

Like everyone, pittsburghtoday.org, which gauges how the region compares to its peers, is taking stock of the Pirates' first winning season since 1992. Julia Fraser reports that in the last two decades Allegheny County lost 111,581 in population, but the seven-county metro gained 135,200 jobs.

She says that housing prices have risen by 84.3 percent, but the city's poverty rate has climbed from 21.4 percent to 23.8 percent. The region's air is cleaner and violent crime is down, but the Port Authority has cut routes, from 224 to 102.

Like a Pirates season, the numbers on the region are a mix of wins and losses.

opinion_commentary

Compiled by Tony Norman (tnorman@post-gazette.com) and Tom Waseleski (twaseleski@post-gazette.com).


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