Jeff Bezos wearing a suit at an event

Amazon Doesn't Care About Its Workers Who Are Veterans

Amazon is posing as a friend to veterans who need jobs when they return home from military service — while mistreating those veterans just as brutally as any other Amazon worker.

By Suzanne Gordon, Steve Early, and Jasper Craven, Jacobin

Corporate America loves to proclaim its love and support for our veterans. The persistent problem of veteran suicide has provided big firms with an opportunity to demonstrate their concern about the health and well-being of former military personnel, including those they employ. Unfortunately, at companies like Amazon, this performative patriotism does not involve improving working conditions or changing any management practices that might actually make them better employers, even while they pledge to hire more employees with military backgrounds.

Jeff Bezos wearing a suit at an event

A recent report by Brown University’s Costs of War project found that “four times as many men and women who have served in the U.S. military have died by suicide than were killed in post 9/11 wars.” Cost of War researchers estimate that the total suicide toll among veterans and service members during the past two decades is more than 30,000. According to a study by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), veterans are 1.5 times more likely to die by suicide than nonveterans, while female veterans are 2.2 times more likely to die by suicide than civilian women.

When soldiers leave active duty, their employment status and job conditions — pay, benefits, and treatment by supervisors — can have a major impact on their emotional and financial stability. With this in mind, the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation joined forces with the Trump administration two years ago to promote a suicide reduction initiative called PREVENTS. Its objective was building “a public-private partnership to strengthen emotional well-being in the workplace.”

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Oil derricks against a setting sun

Democrats Appoint Oil And Gas Lobbyist To Environment Subcommittee

Kristi Parrott is joining the Subcommittee on Environment from HBW Resources, where she lobbied Congress on behalf of an astroturf group for oil majors.

By Donald Shaw, Sludge

House Science Committee Democrats have hired a lobbyist for an oil and gas industry front group as a professional staff member for their Subcommittee on Environment.

Oil derricks against a setting sun

Kristi Parrott, the subcommittee’s new staff member, comes from HBW Resources, where she was federal affairs director. HBW Resources is a PR, communications, and lobbying firm that specializes in representing clients in the energy industry.

The firm appears to operate Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA), an oil and gas company-funded nonprofit that fashions itself as a consumer group and describes its mission as “expand[ing] the dialogue between the energy & consuming sectors to improve overall understanding of the need for a balanced energy policy for America.” CEA’s members include oil companies like Chevron, Shell, and Occidental Petroleum, as well as trade groups like the U.S. Oil & Gas Association and the American Petroleum Institute. Chevron discloses paying the group up to $49,999 annually, Phillips 66 disclosed a payment of $80,000 in 2019, and utility company Dominion Energy disclosed paying the organization $88,000 in 2018.

CEA lists HBW Resources’ Houston, Texas office address on its tax filings, and it pays HBW Resources millions of dollars annually as an independent contractor. CEA does not list any staff on its tax forms, and many of the staff listed on its website are affiliated with HBW Resources. CEA President David Holt is a HBW Resources managing partner, for example, and HBW’s other partner, Andrew Browning, is CEA’s chief operating officer.

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Room at women's health clinic with empty patient table

Abortion Restrictions Will Force Doctors Into Impossible Decisions

In a post-Roe world, doctors will increasingly face a terrible choice: to follow heinous laws or to uphold ethical obligations to provide patients the care they need. When law and professional duty conflict, medical personnel must carry out their duty regardless of the state’s commands.

By Lily Sánchez, Current Affairs

Every now and then, in a pediatric medical practice, a parent of a patient will faint or have some kind of medical issue that needs attention. Once, when I was still in practice as a pediatrician, a parent fainted in the clinic lobby, and I was called to assess. It turned out the woman had had an abortion just a day or two prior. I don’t remember whether it had been medical or surgical or where she had gone (this was Texas, so one wonders). But she’d been bleeding, and she hadn’t eaten anything all morning. When I got to her, she was alert and medically stable, but I thought she needed urgent evaluation. She agreed but declined ambulance transport to the local emergency room (I would have done the same thing, as ambulance bills can be a nightmare).

Room at women's health clinic with empty patient table

In the days since the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade, I’ve been thinking about how most people working in the medical community, even those who do not themselves perform abortions or specialize in the healthcare of pregnant people, will be affected by this blatant denial of patients’ medical freedom. Where there are people of reproductive age, there will be people who need or who have had abortions; some of these people will need (possibly) urgent medical or surgical care, and their healthcare needs may be related to the pregnancy or something else entirely. Hence, the mother in my clinic who fainted for unknown reasons (abortions are very safe, and I never found out the cause of the woman’s symptoms). Even though I was not technically the woman’s doctor, I was for the moments after she fainted. Had I been mandated to call the police on her because she’d had an abortion, I cannot imagine having done so. And calling the police on her would have been a gross violation of the informal trust she had placed in me (and in our clinic to take care of her child).

The problems with the Supreme Court’s Dobbs ruling are many. But a particularly heinous one is that abortion restrictions force doctors and clinical staff to commit ethical violations of the highest order. Abortion is healthcare, and to prevent doctors from providing abortion is to force them to withhold care and act in violation of their basic duties to patients.

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EPA headquarters building, One of several doorways at Federal Triangle campus. EPA is the Environmental Protection Agency.

West Virginia v. EPA Is Settled; So What Are The Decision's Implications?

The decision will limit — but not prevent — the EPA’s regulation of greenhouse gas emissions.

By Shannon Osaka, Grist

This story was originally published by Grist. You can subscribe to its weekly newsletter here.

On Thursday morning, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its long-awaited decision on West Virginia v. EPA, the case challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. Though the court’s six-member conservative majority moved to limit the EPA’s authority, earning the ire of environmentalists and the Biden administration alike, the court’s ruling did not deal the blow that many climate advocates expected. Ultimately, however, the decision’s use of the controversial “major questions” legal doctrine could have a chilling effect on future regulations.

EPA headquarters building, One of several doorways at Federal Triangle campus. EPA is the Environmental Protection Agency.

Contrary to early news reports, the decision, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, does not prevent the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions. Indeed, the ruling is unlikely to change the Biden administration’s approach to regulating emissions at all. In a surprising twist for a court that has seemed intent on overturning settled precedents, the ruling was narrowly framed, focusing on one reading of a single section of the Clean Air Act.

“In some ways I’m actually relieved,” said Cara Horowitz, a professor of environmental law at the University of California, Los Angeles, in a statement circulated after the ruling. “With this court we were bracing for almost anything, so this could have been worse.”

To understand West Virginia v. EPA, it helps to turn back the clock. Seven years ago, then-President Barack Obama, facing a Senate that refused to pass his landmark climate billunveiled a new plan to cut carbon emissions through the EPA’s executive authority. The resulting regulation became known as the Clean Power Plan, and it would have required American power plants to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions. Part of that involved “generation shifting” — ordering some utilities to generate less electricity from dirty sources like coal and more from cleaner natural gas and renewable sources.

That last component was the specific regulation disputed in Thursday’s decision. The state of West Virginia, joined by North Dakota and two coal companies, argued that the Clean Air Act, which gives the EPA sweeping authority to regulate pollutants in the atmosphere, doesn’t provide the authority necessary to require utilities to shift from one source of power to another. The EPA countered that it did have generation-shifting authority under Section 111d of the Clean Air Act, which allows the agency to mandate the “best system of emissions reductions” for existing power plants. The best system of emissions reductions, the EPA reasoned, was simply to switch to a power source that doesn’t produce as much carbon pollution.

The court ultimately sided with West Virginia. Invoking a newly-in-vogue legal doctrine known as “major questions,” Chief Justice Roberts argued that an agency cannot adopt regulations of great social and economic consequence without the clear and express approval of Congress. “A decision of such magnitude and consequence rests with Congress itself,” Roberts wrote. (In a scathing dissent endorsed by the court’s two other liberal members, Justice Elena Kagan argued that “whatever else this court may know about, it does not have a clue about how to address climate change.”)

The decision will therefore limit — but not prevent — the EPA from making future regulations around greenhouse gas emissions. According to Andres Restrepo, a senior attorney at the Sierra Club, the ruling “removes the most important tool that EPA had in its tool kit.” However, he added, “there are still plenty of avenues under the Clean Air Act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

For example, the court did not overturn Section 111, meaning that the EPA will still be able to require existing power plants to use the best available technologies to cut emissions — perhaps even through carbon capture and storage. The EPA can also still regulate carbon dioxide emissions from cars and trucks, as well as methane emissions from oil and gas infrastructure. In fact, the Biden administration itself has not actually  invoked the generation-shifting power of Section 111d to pursue its climate goals — and likely would not have, given the likelihood of a legal challenge similar to the one that dogged Obama’s Clean Power Plan and ultimately resulted in Thursday’s decision.

Despite the narrowness of the specific ruling, West Virginia v. EPA endorses a legal doctrine that could provide ammunition for opponents of a vast swath of government regulations in the future, hampering the executive branch’s ability to enforce regulatory laws. The major questions doctrine is both vague and powerful; in future cases, it could be used to hobble the ability of federal agencies to interpret statutes and write commonsense regulations to protect public health or the environment. In her dissent, Justice Kagan argued that “special canons like the ‘major questions doctrine’ magically appear” when it aligns with the court’s broader goals.

“Today, one of those broader goals makes itself clear: Prevent agencies from doing important work, even though that is what Congress directed,” she wrote.

One of the great ironies of the case is that the regulation at issue, the Clean Power Plan, never went into effect. When President Donald Trump came into office in 2017, he repealed the plan. But economic forces were doing the work that Obama wanted to achieve with regulation: Natural gas was getting cheap, renewables even cheaper. In 2015, the goal of the Clean Power Plan was to cut carbon dioxide emissions from the electricity sector by 32 percent by 2030, compared to 2005 levels. The country reached that goal 11 years ahead of schedule, in 2019. The U.S. Energy Information Agency published a short post commemorating that milestone. The agency also noted the cause: The country’s utilities had pursued generation-shifting after all.

Tourists visit the grounds of the West Virginia Capitol Complex on a late summer afternoon.

Joe Manchin Loses His Grip As Progressives Surge In West Virginia

Dozens of Democratic insurgents flipped the script on the old guard of the state party.

By Daniel Boguslaw, The Intercept

For decades, Sen. Joe Manchin has presided over West Virginia’s Democratic Party, crowning candidates and throwing cushy appointments to allies while the state’s jobs, wages, and environment have gradually been ground to dust. But earlier this month, a grassroots slate of over 50 Democrats took control of the West Virginia Democratic Party after winning a majority of seats on the executive committee and ousting party leadership, thus ending Manchin’s de facto control of the state party apparatus.

Tourists visit the grounds of the West Virginia Capitol Complex on a late summer afternoon.

Now, after a six-year organizing push, every old guard party apparatchik — save for the treasurer — is out of office, replaced with activists from across the Democratic spectrum set on revitalizing the state and forcing renewed support from the national party. The June 18 victories mark the beginning of the end for an era defined by atrophy, nose-diving voter rolls, and just a single Democratic statewide representative: Manchin.

They did it by flipping the script on the Democratic Party. After Manchin and the Democratic National Committee used the bylaws governing unelected superdelegates to throw West Virginia’s 2016 presidential primary for Hillary Clinton — despite the fact that Sen. Bernie Sanders won every county in the state — activists used the DNC’s own rules to unseat the base of one of its most powerful members. They sowed the seeds of power by demanding that the party make good on its rules governing gender and racial equity in its staffing as well as those governing free, fair, and timely leadership elections.

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Emissions bellow from smokestacks with an urban environment in the foreground

West Virginia V. EPA Decision Handicaps Efforts To Fight Climate Change

One Democratic senator warned the high court’s right-wing majority “could unleash a new era of reckless deregulation that will gut protections for all Americans and the environment.”

By Jake Johnson, Common Dreams

Climate advocates are apprehensively watching the U.S. Supreme Court Thursday morning as it’s expected to deliver a ruling that could imperil the federal government’s regulatory authority to rein in carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, striking a potentially fatal blow to global efforts to fight the climate crisis.

Emissions bellow from smokestacks with an urban environment in the foreground

The closely watched case, formally known as West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency, is the culmination of a yearslong legal campaign by Republican attorneys general and right-wing activists financed by the oil and gas industry, which is hoping the high court’s right-wing supermajority will hand down a decision that guts the EPA’s rulemaking authority.

If the court does just that, it would spell doom for President Joe Biden’s stated goal of transitioning the U.S. to a 100% clean electricity sector by 2035. As the Washington Post notesWest Virginia v. EPA “comes before a Supreme Court that’s even more conservative than the one that stopped the Obama administration’s plan to drastically reduce power plants’ carbon output in 2016.”

“This will undoubtedly be the most important environmental law case on the court’s docket this term, and could well become one of the most significant environmental law cases of all time,” said Jonathan Adler, an environmental law expert at Case Western Reserve University School of Law.

Given the United States’ status as the world’s largest historical emitter and second-largest current emitter of planet-warming carbon dioxide, the Supreme Court’s decision will have serious ramifications for global efforts to avert climate catastrophe.

“The Supreme Court could hand down an extreme decision in the case of West Virginia v. EPA, which would devastate the federal government’s ability to curb climate chaos,” Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) tweeted late Wednesday. “The Supreme Court must not give corporations license to recklessly destroy our planet.”

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) similarly warned earlier this week that the Supreme Court’s ruling “could unleash a new era of reckless deregulation that will gut protections for all Americans and the environment.”

During oral arguments over the case earlier this year, the Supreme Court’s conservative justices appeared inclined to restrict the EPA’s regulatory authority to slash carbon emissions—authority that the court affirmed a decade and a half ago in Massachusetts v. EPA.

Climate experts and advocates fear the worst from the industry-friendly Supreme Court majority.

“Each morning at 10 am, my anxiety spikes,” Sara Colangelo, director of the Environmental Law and Justice Clinic at Georgetown University Law Center, told the Post Thursday morning, referring to the time the court’s ruling is expected to drop.

Texans brought prayer candles, bottles of water, and religious icons to a makeshift memorial at the site where 46 migrants were declared dead Monday

Migrant Deaths Are A Grim Reminder Of Our Failed Border Policy

Dozens of migrants were found dead Monday evening in a semi-truck in San Antonio, Texas, and the death toll keeps rising

By Alexandra Martinez, Prism

The historic migrant death crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border continues to grow. On Monday evening, 46 migrants were found dead in a semi-truck in San Antonio, Texas. As of Tuesday evening, the death toll had risen to 51, according to Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Sixteen people, including 12 adults and four children, were initially found alive and taken to medical facilities, according to San Antonio Chief Charles Hood. Twenty-two of the people who died were Mexican nationals, seven were from Guatemala, and two were from Honduras. Authorities have yet to confirm the nationalities of the remaining victims.

Texans brought prayer candles, bottles of water, and religious icons to a makeshift memorial at the site where 46 migrants were declared dead Monday

What is being called the deadliest “human smuggling” case in modern U.S. history and the largest migrant mass casualty event, is the latest in a series of increasingly frequent fatal incidents deaths at the border. Immigration advocates say deterrent policies like “Remain in Mexico” and Title 42 have pushed migrants to seek dangerous forms of migration, and risk their lives in the process.

“Our hearts go out to all of those affected by this horrific tragedy. We mourn for those who lost their lives, and send well wishes to those in recovery,” said Bruna Sollod, the senior communications and political director for United We Dream, in a statement. “This is one of the deadliest incidents of attempted migration in recent history and it was completely preventable. People will always move, and our government has a responsibility to ensure that people are able to do so safely and with dignity.”

While U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has not reported the number of deaths across the entire border since 2020 (despite being required to do so), according to the Washington Office of Latin America’s Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas, there have been 10 drownings in El Paso’s irrigation canals since June 9 alone. Since October 2021, CBP has reported 14,278 “search and rescue efforts”, exceeding the 12,833 efforts in all of fiscal year 2021. CBP has reported encountering more than 1 million migrants at the southwest border since January.

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A tanker peeps out of the hatch of a T-64 tank.

NATO and Russia Both Aim to Fail

It’s impossible for either side to see, but Russia and NATO depend on each other.

By David Swanson

Whichever side you’re on, you

  • agree with weapons-maker propaganda that the available actions in the world are (1) war, and (2) doing nothing;
  • you ignore the historical record of nonviolent action succeeding more often than war;
  • and you imagine militarism to be required completely independently from considering what the results will be.

A tanker peeps out of the hatch of a T-64 tank.

It’s possible for some people to glimpse the stupidity and counterproductive nature of war as long as they look at old wars, and don’t apply any lessons learned to current wars. An author in Germany of a book about the stupidity of World War I is right now busy telling people to stop learning lessons from him and applying them to Ukraine.

Many are able to look somewhat honestly at the 2003-begun stage of the U.S. war on Iraq. The pretended “weapons of mass destruction” according to CIA predictions were only likely to be used if Iraq were attacked. So, Iraq was attacked. A big part of the problem was supposedly how much “those people” hated “us,” so, although the surest way to make people hate you was to attack them, they were attacked.

NATO has spent decades hyping, exaggerating, and lying about a Russian threat, and simply drooling over the possibility of a Russian attack. Inevitably knowing that it would radically boost NATO membership, bases, weapons, and popular support by attacking — even if the attack actually demonstrated its military weakness — Russia proclaimed that because of the NATO threat it must attack and enlarge the NATO threat.

Of course, I’m the lunatic for suggesting that Russia should have used unarmed civilian defense in Donbas, but is there anyone alive who thinks NATO would have been able to add all these new members and bases and weapons and U.S. troops without the radical escalation of the war in Ukraine by Russia? Will anyone pretend that NATO’s biggest benefactor is Biden or Trump or anyone other than Russia?

Sadly, there are a lot of people who do imagine, just as ridiculously, that NATO expansion wasn’t needed to create the Russian invasion, that in fact more NATO expansion would have prevented it. We’re supposed to imagine that NATO membership has protected numerous nations from Russian threats that have never been hinted at by Russia, and to completely erase from all human awareness the nonviolent action campaigns — the singing revolutions — that some of those nations used to defeat Soviet invasions and kick out the Soviet Union.

NATO expansion made the current war possible, and further NATO expansion as a response to it is insane. Russian warmaking drives NATO expansion, and further Russian warmaking is a lunatic’s response to NATO. Yet here we are, with Lithuania blockading Kaliningrad. Here we are with Russia putting nukes into Belarus. Here we are with the U.S. saying not one word about the violation of the Nonproliferation Treaty by Russia, because it’s long had nukes in 5 other countries (Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Turkey) and has just put them into a sixth (UK) and had put bases capable of launching nukes into Poland and Romania as a key step in the steady and predictable built up to this mess.

Russian dreams of quickly conquering Ukraine and dictating the results were plain nuts if actually believed. U.S. dreams of conquering Russia with sanctions are sheer madness if actually believed. But what if the point is not to believe in these things so much as to counter hostility with hostility, having taken a principled stand within one’s head against acknowledging any alternatives?

It doesn’t matter whether attacking Ukraine will work! NATO continues its relentless advance, refuses to negotiate, and aims eventually at attacking Russia, so our choices are to attack Ukraine or to do nothing! (This despite NATO’s need for Russia as an enemy, despite the desire spelled out in a RAND study and by the USAID to provoke Russia into a war in Ukraine and not to attack Russia, this despite the fact that it would surely backfire.)

It doesn’t matter whether sanctions will work. They’ve failed dozens of times, but it’s a question of principle. One must not do business with the enemy, even if sanctions strengthen the enemy, even if they create more enemies, even if they isolate you and your club more than the target. It doesn’t matter. The choice is escalation or doing nothing. And even if actually doing nothing would be better, “doing nothing” simply means an unacceptable choice.

Both sides are thus mindlessly escalating toward nuclear war, convinced there are no off-ramps, yet pouring black paint on the windshield for fear of seeing what lies ahead.

I went on a Russian U.S. radio show on Wednesday and tried to explain to the hosts that Russia’s warmaking was as evil as anyone else’s. They wouldn’t stand for that claim, of course, though they made it themselves. One of the hosts denounced the evils of the NATO assault on the former Yugoslavia and demanded to know why Russia shouldn’t have the right to use similar excuses to do the same thing to Ukraine. Needless to say, I replied that NATO should be condemned for its wars and Russia should be condemned for its wars. When they go to war with each other, they should both be condemned.

This being the actual real world, there is of course nothing equal about any two wars or any two militaries or any two war lies. So I will be weeding out the emails responding to this article screaming at me for equating everything. But being antiwar (as these radio hosts repeatedly claimed to be, in between their comments supporting war) actually requires opposing wars. It seems to me that the very least that war supporters could do would be to stop claiming to be antiwar. But that won’t be enough to save us. More is needed.

Nancy Pelosi shrugs at a podium with Tom Perez and American flags in the background

Donating To Democrats Will Not Save Us

Just hurling money at the Democrats won’t save abortion rights.

By Marc Ash, Reader Supported News

The Democrats are going full-bore on post-Roe fundraising and the donors are hurling money at them in record amounts. That formula can actually be counterproductive. Why fight for anything if not fighting fills the coffers? And anyway fighting isn’t the Democratic way.

Nancy Pelosi shrugs at a podium with Tom Perez and American flags in the background

Again, for the record Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, both Republican Senators have authored legislation that they say will preserve abortion rights on a federal level in America. The Collins-Murkowski proposal is likely not perfect but it does provide a potential pathway forward. The Democrats continue to rake in money and ignore Collins and Murkowski entirely. No effort whatsoever to construct a cooperative solution.

Justice Clarence Thomas is or should be professionally vulnerable right now. His wife was clearly involved in a collaborative, seditious effort to overthrow the United States government with violent extremists, culminating in the attack on the Capitol on January 6th, 2021. There is no effort underway by the Democrats to hold Thomas accountable or to force his resignation from the Supreme Court. There absolutely should be. But again this requires fighting spirit.

In short, the Democrats have no plan to defend abortion rights or rein in this rogue, politically appointed, politically motivated Supreme Court. Just handing the Democratic Party more and more money does nothing to preserve abortion rights or any of the other rights and protections this court is hell-bent on eradicating.

Abortion Chaos

Expect abortion rights to be replaced by legal chaos nationwide as jurisdictions for and against abortion rights face off over enforcement. This decision will create social disruption and upheaval on a scale not seen since the Vietnam War. A literal avalanche of legal challenges looms. For 50 years Roe v. Wade has been settled law. It is now replaced by interstate legal tribalism. Good luck predicting where this is going to go.

Dobbs v. Jackson, the case that overturned Roe V. Wade is done. Supreme Court v. American Social Progress is the case we will now all be litigating. Save your money for proven fighters. Choose your battles wisely. The real fight is just beginning.

A pro-life protest with American flags waving in the background

The Christian Right Has Been Preparing For This Moment For Decades

Leaders of the movement understood very well that if you can capture the courts, you can change society.

By Katherine Stewart, The Guardian

The supreme court decision in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which reverses the constitutional abortion rights that American women have enjoyed over the past 50 years, has come as a surprise to many voters. A majority, after all, support reproductive rights and regard their abolition as regressive and barbaric.

A pro-life protest with American flags waving in the background

Understood in the context of the movement that created the supreme court in its current incarnation, however, there is nothing surprising about it. In fact, it marks the beginning rather than the endpoint of the agenda this movement has in mind.

At the core of the Dobbs decision lies the conviction that the power of government can and should be used to impose a certain moral and religious vision – a supposedly biblical and regressive understanding of the Christian religion – on the population at large.

How did this conviction come to have such influence in the courts, given America’s longstanding principle of church-state separation? To understand why this is happening now, it’s important to know something about the Christian nationalist movement’s history, how its leaders chose the issue of abortion as a means of creating single-issue voters, and how they united conservatives across denominational barriers by, in effect, inventing a new form of intensely political religion.

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