Sen. David Vitter, R-La., was named the Humane Senator of the Year for his leadership on securing needed funding to strengthen USDA enforcement of key animal welfare laws, as well as on bills to require licensing and inspections of puppy mills selling directly to the public via the Internet or other means (the PUPS Act, S. 707) and to prohibit interstate and foreign commerce in nonhuman primates for the pet trade (the Captive Primate Safety Act, S. 1324). Sen. Vitter helped get a bipartisan group of 34 Sens. to join in seeking funding for USDA to improve its oversight of puppy mills, laboratories, zoos, circuses and other regulated facilities; rein in the illegal “soring” of show horses (where trainers inflict severe pain on the animals’ legs and hooves to make it hurt them to step down, so they will exaggerate their high-stepping gait and win prizes); strengthen enforcement of the humane slaughter law; prevent illegal animal fighting; ease a shortage of veterinarians in rural areas and USDA positions through student loan repayment; and help address the needs of animals in disasters. Sen. Vitter also has been a champion over the years on legislation to require accurate labeling of fur apparel regardless of dollar value, to crack down on dogfighting and cockfighting, to ban the creation and distribution of obscene animal torture (“crush”) videos, and to strengthen the law against shark finning (cutting the fins off and throwing the rest of the living animals back in the water).
Vitter announced the news himself on his Twitter feed, noting "My fmly adopted rescue dog-Elle-in '09."
Last month, the Humane Society named Sen. Mary Landrieu its "Humane Horsewoman of the Year":
because of her tireless efforts to introduce and gain support for the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (S. 1176/H.R. 2966) in the U.S. Senate. We also recognized her successful efforts as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee to help secure a 40 percent increase in funds for the enforcement of the Horse Protection Act to crack down on criminal soring of Tennessee walking horses in show competitions."
Catholic Bishops, including New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond, say a federal ruling that will require religious-affiliated employers — hospitals and colleges but not places of worship — to provide employee insurance that includes contraception is “an unprecedented attack on our religious liberty, which is a founding principle of our nation.” (Interestingly, here in New Orleans, the Catholic Loyola University now offers contraceptive coverage in its employee health insurance plan, according to the benefits handbook posted on its human resources web page.)
Their parishioners, however, feel differently, at least according to survey results released today by the Public Religion Research Institute. 55 percent of total respondents — and 58 percent of Catholic respondents — told PRRI they believed that employers should provide contraception coverage. When it comes to religiously affiliated hospitals and schools, only 49 percent of total respondents felt the same way. Among Catholics, however, 52 percent again said they felt those institutions should be required to cover birth control as part of their employee insurance.
Louisiana Sen. David Vitter (a Catholic) has signed on as a cosponsor of a bill, filed by (Catholic) Florida Republican Marco Rubio, that would extend conscience based exemptions to the requirement to any employer, not just religious institutions. Vitter didn't respond to Gambit's request for comment on the issue.
But here's what (Catholic) Sen. Mary Landrieu had to say:
“According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 87 percent of Louisiana women of all faiths have used preventive birth control methods — including preventive birth control medication — at some point in their child-bearing years. It is important that these women continue to have access to affordable, preventive birth control under a doctor’s supervision. Equally important, I am sensitive to the position and beliefs of the Catholic Church on this issue. I am taking this issue under advisement, and will be open to views from a wide variety of organizations and individuals.”
Avondale Shipyard, Northrop Grumman's sprawling West Bank shipbuilding facility, is set to close in 2013. Rolling layoffs will impact thousands of workers. Local and national campaigns fight, hope (and pray) to keep it open — and this morning, hundreds of union members, laborers, families and others joined a march and rally to help save the shipyard. (Read more in Gambit.)
Hundreds gathered at the foot of Champions Square, carrying signs representing their unions or the campaign to keep the yard open. Mayor Mitch Landrieu shook hands in the crowd before making his way to a small stage and emphasizing the importance of keeping the yard open, both for the Westwego and West Bank communities and New Orleans. "Everyone (here) helped rebuild America," he told the crowd. "Let's get to work."
Among the unions and organizations in the march were NAACP, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, AFL-CIO, United Steelworkers, and laborers, boilermakers, teachers, musicians and several other local union affiliates.
The police-escorted march began on Poydras Street outside Champions Square and made its way to the Hale Boggs Federal Building several blocks away. Jefferson Parish President John Young and labor leaders, led by the Treme Brass Band and Rev. Jim VanderWeele of New Orleans Interfaith Worker Justice, carried Save Our Shipyard banners and marched in the front. Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, and Rep. Robert Billiot, D-Westwego marched among dozens of groups following the lead.
"It's a nuclear bomb," Morrell said of the economic impact of a potential Avondale closure. "And the state doesn't have a sense of urgency."
In July, a bipartisan group of Gulf Coast senators introduced the RESTORE Act, which, they promised, would ensure 80 percent of the fines BP incurs from Clean Water Act violations for the Gulf oil disaster would be divvied among states on the Gulf Coast — rather than the feds.
The act passed the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, chaired by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and now makes its way to the Senate floor.
"This is the most important step Congress can take to ensure that the Gulf Coast recovers from the economic and ecological destruction caused by the oil spill,” said Sen. Mary Landrieu in a statement. “By directing BP penalty money back to the states that are dealing with the clean-up and restoration from this devastating spill, we help ensure that the Gulf Coast continues to thrive for decades to come." Landrieu also thanked Sen. David Vitter, who co-sponsored the bill.
Meanwhile, Rep. Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia, defended his statement that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) is "like the CIA and the Gestapo" when he wasn't able to meet with BOEMRE staff to discuss stalled drilling permits. He defended his choice of words to Politico:
I mean at the end of the day it's a term referencing how the actions are being out there. ... I mean I'm not going to get into this political niceness. You know, it's a fact. The man is not allowing U.S. congressmen to visit their offices. There's something wrong with that. ... The people in my district are suffering down there. I've got no apologies, if anything (BOEMRE director Michael Bromwich) owes me and the people in my district an apology. ...It is what's wrong with Washington in the federal bureaucracy. We — the people of my district along with every other United States citizen — pays their check. It isn't the other way around. No apologies."
In a letter to Landry, Bromwich was none too pleased with being compared to a Nazi: "Your comparison of the minor inconvenience you experienced to the tactics and methods of the Nazi secret police is simply unacceptable from anyone, but especially from a public official.”
Godwin's law states that any discussion or argument ultimately will reduce itself to "Well, you're a Nazi," or, "Well, that makes you Hitler." Apparently we've reached that point in the drilling debate.
Neighborhood residents and local, state, and national dignitaries (including Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Senator and keynote speaker Mary Landrieu and District E councilman Jon Johnson, who represents the neighborhood and organized the event) gathered this morning at the Hurricane Katrina Memorial on North Claiborne Avenue between Tennessee and Reynes in the Lower Ninth Ward, to honor the memory of the storm—and the lives lost and altered in its path—that devastated the neighborhood, resulting in a nearly 80 percent population loss between the 2000 and 2010 Census counts.
The event began with a performance by the Martin Luther King Jr. Charter High School band:
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