California Is Doubling Down on Banning Plastic Bags

“”Manufacturing a paper bag takes about four times as much energy as it takes to produce a plastic bag, plus the chemicals and fertilizers…create additional harm to the environment,” explains National Geographic. “(F)or a paper bag to neutralize its environmental impact compared to plastic, it would have to be used anywhere from three to 43 times.” Given that paper bags aren’t very durable, “it is unlikely that a person would get enough use out of any one bag to even out the environmental impact.””

The Comstock Act, the long-dead law Trump could use to ban abortion, explained

“On the one hand, Trump frequently claims credit for the Supreme Court’s decision eliminating the constitutional right to an abortion — and well he should, since the three Republicans he appointed to the Supreme Court all joined the Court’s 2022 decision permitting abortion bans. As Trump told Fox News last summer, “I did something that no one thought was possible. I got rid of Roe v. Wade.”
At the same time, Trump at least claims that he has no interest in signing new federal legislation banning abortion. When a reporter asked Trump if he would sign such a ban last month, Trump’s answer was an explicit “no.”

Behind the scenes, however, many of Trump’s closest allies tout a plan to ban abortion in all 50 states that doesn’t require any new federal legislation whatsoever.”

Ron DeSantis Says Letting People Buy Cultivated Meat Is Like Forcing Them To Eat Bugs

“It is not yet clear whether the alternative protein products known variously as “lab-grown,” “cell-cultivated,” or “cultured” meat will deliver the environmental benefits touted by their boosters or when they will be appealing and cheap enough to be competitive with conventional poultry, beef, and pork. But Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis already has made up his mind, deeming these products so repellent that selling them should be a crime.
When he signed the nation’s first ban on cultivated meat last week, DeSantis said he was “fighting back against the global elite’s plan to force the world to eat meat grown in a petri dish or bugs to achieve their authoritarian goals.” That bizarre, Orwellian spin, which portrays legal restrictions on consumer choice as a blow against authoritarianism, illustrates how right-wing virtue signaling—in this case reinforced by protectionism—compromises conservative principles by turning even activities as mundane as a trip to the supermarket into a political issue.

The technology that revolts the governor, first developed in 2013, uses cell samples to grow meat in bioreactors, obviating the need to raise and slaughter animals. Worldwide, more than 150 companies are working on such products, but they have been approved for sale only in Singapore and the United States, where their distribution so far has been limited to chicken sold by restaurants in San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

DeSantis nevertheless claims to think the threat posed by this nascent industry is grave enough to justify its criminalization. His reference to mandatory bug eating, bewildering on its face, goes to the meat of his complaint.

As DeSantis tells it, a “global elite” is conspiring to stop people from eating good, old-fashioned meat based on dubious environmental concerns, leaving consumers with icky alternatives that include insects as well as “fake meat.” As evidence of that conspiracy, DeSantis cites a 2021 World Economic Forum article describing insects as “a credible and efficient alternative protein source,” which he says reflects “the World Economic Forum’s goal of forcing the world to eat lab-grown meat and insects.””

“Although the Yale-educated, Harvard-trained lawyer’s populist pose is hard to take seriously, he evidently thinks it will appeal to Republican voters gullible enough to accept his equation of coercion with freedom. DeSantis is also playing to entrenched economic interests, as reflected in his promise to protect “100% real Florida beef” produced by “local farmers and ranchers.””

The astonishing radicalism of Florida’s new ban on abortion

“In spring 2022, just months before the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Republicans in Florida passed a law banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, down from the previous legal threshold of 24 weeks. It took effect that summer, but advocates for reproductive rights challenged it in state court as unconstitutional.
One year later, Republicans in Florida took even more aggressive action against reproductive freedom: Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a new bill to restrict abortion at six weeks of pregnancy. But the fate of that law rested on what the court would decide about the 15-week ban. If it decided that ban was legal, the six-week ban would be, too.

In early April, nearly two years after challengers first filed their lawsuit, the Florida Supreme Court finally issued its ruling: The 15-week ban is constitutional under state law, and therefore the six-week ban would take effect 30 days later, on May 1.

In practical terms, six weeks is a total ban. Many people do not even know they’re pregnant by then. Even if they are aware, Florida requires patients seeking abortions to complete two in-person doctor visits with a 24-hour waiting period in between, a challenging logistical burden to meet before 15 weeks and a nearly impossible one before six.

Not only will the six-week ban decimate abortion access for Florida residents, but it will also significantly curtail care for people across the South, who have been traveling to Florida from more restrictive states since Roe was overturned. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research group, there were 8,940 more abortions in Florida in 2023 compared to 2020—a 12 percent increase that researchers attribute largely to travel from out-of-state patients. Residents of Florida’s bordering states face either a total ban (Alabama) or a six-week ban (Georgia).”

A Cruel and Risky Abortion Ban Versus an Overreaching Interpretation of Federal Law

“Abortion bans with no health exception are horrible for women and for medical professionals. Oregon doctor Jennifer Lincoln referred to them as “not dead enough yet” rules. If a pregnant woman shows up at a doctor’s office or hospital with serious and potentially-but-not-yet life-threatening complications, doctors’ hands are tied.
Under such a paradigm, performing an abortion is illegal until it’s certain a woman’s life itself is in jeopardy. This leaves women in the terrible position of having to wait while their health worsens, knowing all the while that a (possibly much-wanted) pregnancy cannot continue and also that the longer they wait, the greater the chance of damage to their reproductive organs or other body parts. And steep penalties for performing an abortion outside of life-threatening emergencies may lead some doctors or health systems to be overly cautious from a liability perspective, further putting pregnant women’s health at risk.

Meanwhile, doctors are put in the position of having to either send women in such circumstances out of state if possible or simply watch and wait while their patient’s condition deteriorates.”

Is the new push to ban TikTok for real?

“The constitutional law here appears straightforward: Congress can’t outright ban TikTok or any social media platform unless it can prove that it poses legitimate and serious privacy and national security concerns that can’t be addressed by any other means. The bar for such a justification is necessarily very high in order to protect Americans’ First Amendment rights, Krishnan said.”

“members of Congress have not provided concrete proof for their claims about Chinese digital espionage and seem to have little interest in offering any transparency: Before the committee voted to advance the bill Thursday, lawmakers had a closed-door classified briefing on national security concerns associated with TikTok.”

Ohio bans gender-affirming care and restricts transgender athletes

“Ohio has banned gender-affirming care for minors and restricted transgender women’s and girls’ participation on sports teams, a move that has families of transgender children scrambling over how best to care for them.”

“The new law bans gender-affirming surgeries and hormone therapies, and restricts mental health care for transgender individuals under 18.”

One Texas case shows why women can’t rely on legal exceptions to abortion bans

“The Texas Supreme Court has ruled against Kate Cox, a 31-year-old woman who sought an abortion in the state. Previously, Cox argued that the lethal condition impacting her fetus and health risks she’d face during the pregnancy meant she qualified for the exemptions outlined in Texas’s abortion ban. The court decision, which comes after Cox left Texas to obtain an abortion, sets a disturbing new precedent in a state that already has one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the country.
It’s a notable ruling because it further narrows what Texas law considers medical exceptions to its abortion ban, and could have implications for other states with similar policies. Currently, abortion is broadly banned in the state, and there are limited exceptions for conditions that endanger the life of the mother or that cause “substantial impairment” of bodily functions. Given how opaque the law is, it was not clear exactly what those exceptions entailed, and though the court didn’t explicitly clarify that ambiguity in its ruling, its decision suggests that health challenges like those Cox faced — including risks to future pregnancies — don’t qualify for the exemption.

“Some difficulties in pregnancy … even serious ones, do not pose the heightened risks to the mother the exception encompasses,” the court concluded, noting that Cox’s doctor hadn’t effectively affirmed that the complications she could face — including threats to future fertility — reached the threshold for an exception to the ban.

The justices also maintained existing uncertainty when it came to providers’ prerogative to conduct abortions in the state. Some providers have refrained from giving abortion care due to fear of legal consequences: Medical professionals found in violation of Texas’s abortion law can face up to 99 years in prison as well as large fines, while those who are found to have aided in providing abortion access can face civil suits.

The court ruled that the decision about whether a condition constituted a medical emergency, and thus qualified for an exemption, should be left up to physicians and not the courts. “Under the law, it is a doctor who must decide that a woman is suffering from a life-threatening condition during a pregnancy, raising the necessity for an abortion to save her life or to prevent impairment of a major bodily function,” the decision reads. The court didn’t resolve the legal tension inherent in the fact that Cox’s doctor felt an abortion was warranted in her case while the court said it was not.”

Infographic: Florida’s Public School Book Bans

“No state banned more books than Florida in the most recent school year, according to free expression nonprofit PEN America. Over 40 percent of school book bans in the U.S. happened in Florida, though a slight majority of Florida school districts had no bans at all. Justifications for the challenges vary, but scenes depicting nonconsensual sex are a common motivator.
PEN America’s definition of a “book ban” is admittedly broad, and all these books remain available for purchase from private sellers, but most challenges against books still end up hindering free speech and open debate. Combined, 1,098 different books were banned in Florida in the 2021–2022 and 2022–2023 school years.”

The ‘Monster’ Isn’t the Drug, It’s the Prohibition

“People who disapprove of drugs want to end their use, but consumers have never demonstrated a willingness to comply. Sellers always arise to meet their demand. Drug innovation to evade prohibitionists, and making cocktails of those drugs, is inherently more dangerous than legal markets.”

“Singer attributes endless innovation in ever-stronger drugs and the rise in resulting overdoses to the competition between prohibitionists and illicit suppliers to outwit one another.
“The iron law of prohibition — ‘the harder the law enforcement, the harder the drug’—means we can expect more potent and dangerous forms of drugs to continue to arise,” he adds.

If you blend “more potent and dangerous forms of drugs” in “polysubstance use” (or just speedball it) you’re going to add risks on top of risks. The results can be tragic, but they’re less the result of drugs than they are of restrictions and prohibitions that inevitably drive consumers to seek intoxicants from illegal suppliers.”

“”Like opioids, which originally came from the poppy, meth started out as a plant-based product, derived from the herb ephedra. Now, both drugs can be produced in bulk synthetically and cheaply. They each pack a potentially lethal, addictive wallop far stronger than their precursors,” Hoffman wrote.

Why grow a crop in a field, which can be targeted for destruction by prohibitionists, when you can synthesize the active ingredients in a hidden laboratory that’s difficult to find and can be moved if necessary? And if you’re going to synthesize it, why not find ways to make it more concentrated so that large numbers of doses can be moved in compact shipments? You can always cut it at the distribution end and sell it in lower-concentration doses.

Unfortunately, illicit laboratories aren’t always as reliable as aboveboard ones and underground chemists aren’t necessarily as competent or diligent. When somebody screws up or just doesn’t care, it’s much harder to hold a criminal network to account than it is to go after a corporation that has a mailing address and a reputation to maintain. The end result, for the drug trade, is illness and death from intoxicants of unknown purity and potency, if the formulation was even safe to begin with.”

“People have always wanted to alter their consciousness in ways great and small. They will continue to want to get high no matter how much disapproval their activities draw from sober scolds. The only question is whether those getting high will acquire their intoxicants of choice from legal, responsible suppliers who have to maintain their brands and explain themselves in court, or from illegal suppliers who meet demand by any means necessary.”