Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The 60-Second Version Of Sports Illustrated's Lance Armstrong Doping Takedown

Lance Armstrong Angrily Denies Sports Illustrated's Doping Report

We've read through Selena Roberts and David Epstein's "The Case Against Lance Armstrong" and will have more analysis later, but here are the key points for those who don't have time to read the whole thing.

Most of the claims and evidence arise from lawsuits filed against Armstrong and his company, as well as from sources involved in the grand jury investigation currently ongoing in Los Angeles. Armstrong denies all the charges in the story.

Among the key claims:

Armstrong hired a UCLA anti-doping lab to monitor his drug testing regimen after returning to the sport in 2009. A former employee of the lab says the director is Lance's "greatest admirer."

That same lab had three of Armstrong's test samples from the 1990's that tested well above normal levels for testosterone-epitestosterone, but because they could not be confirmed by a second sample they were listed as negative.

Stephen Swart, a teammate of Armstrong's in the 1990s, says "Armstrong was the "instigator" of the team's decision to start taking EPO, though he claims he never saw Armstrong inject EPO or give it to anyone else.

Swart does claim that he his teammates (including Armstrong) regularly tested their hemacrit level and Armstrong's was once "54 or 56." A positive test at that level would have resulted in a 15-day ban.

Mike Anderson, a former bike mechanic of Armstrong's, claimed he once saw a box labeled "Andro" in Armstrong's apartment.

Anderson also claimed that he helped with a ruse to fool anti-doping testers who had showed up at Armstrong's house when he was not here. (Athletes in testing program are required to report their whereabouts at all times.)

Betsy Andreu, the wife of Armstrong's former teammate Frankie Andreu, claimed in a sworn deposition that she witnessed Armstrong being asked by his doctors if he had ever taken performance enhancing drugs. She says Armstrong replied, "Yes," and listed "EPO, growth hormone, cortisone, steroids, and testosterone."

Stephanie McIlvain, an Oakley marketing rep and friend of Armstrong's, also witnessed that conversation and refuted Andreu's claim in court. However, cyclist Greg LeMond has a taped phone conversation with McIlvain, where she appears to confirm it.

Two of Armstrong's teammates on the 1990 U.S. Junior cycling team said coaches administered steroids to them directly.

An arrest of one of Armstrong's former Radio Shack teammates uncovered emails and texts that linked Armstrong to Michele Ferrari, a controversial doctor who has publicly supported use of EPO (A blood doping drug.) The contacts are from 2009, though Armstrong claimed to sever all ties with Ferrari in 2004.

Floyd Landis claims that Armstrong's use of private planes allowed him to easily bypass customs, even when carrying drugs in his luggage.

Facebook shaming for drunk drivers voted down

THERE will be no Facebook shaming of those arrested for driving under the influence by posting their mug shots, the council of a California beach city decided late Tuesday.

While drinking and driving is a huge problem in Huntington Beach, aka "Surf City," the council gave a "no" vote to their colleague's proposal to put repeat offenders' mug shots on the police department's Facebook page.

Devin Dwyer wanted to put the information on the Facebook page, saying before the meeting, "If it takes shaming people to save lives, I am willing to do it ... I'm hoping it prevents others from getting behind the wheel and getting inebriated."

During discussion Tuesday, council member Kevin Bohr said the proposal "might be well-meaning, but it is misguided, misdirected ... It's the wrong tool at the wrong time."

City officials noted that arrest information is already available online via the police department's website.

Council member Connie Boardman was perhaps the most eloquent when she spoke of the repercussions such an action could have.

"I appreciate council members Dwyer's efforts to deal with this serious problem of drunk driving and thinking creatively," she said. "But, "repeat drunk drivers, well ... they're addicts; they're alcoholics, and putting their picture on Facebook is not going to stop them from drinking. But what it will do is humiliate their parents and terribly embarrass their children.

"Children of alcoholics live in a private hell as it is, and I don't want this city to make it any worse for them," she said. "You know how savvy kids are with Facebook. A picture that appears on the police department's Facebook page is not going to stay there. It's going to be on the home pages and (Facebook) 'walls' of hundreds of kids at the high school or middle school where the children of that alcoholic go. These kids may have real successful in hiding a secret that they're deeply ashamed of, and we've just outed them. And I just don't want to contribute to that."

Karzai Delays Afghan Parliament as Vote Crisis Deepens (ANOTHER good reason to get OUT!)

KABUL, Afghanistan — President Hamid Karzai decided on Wednesday to postpone the inauguration of a new parliament for another month on the recommendation of a special court he appointed to study electoral fraud, deepening the nation’s political crisis.

The move will leave Afghanistan without a Parliament five months after its September election, with the prospect of even further delays, and puts the president at odds with his international supporters, who have insisted the elections were valid.

The winning candidates and a range of Afghan and international officials consider the special court unconstitutional and say Afghanistan’s election commissions, which have certified the results, have final say over the legitimacy of the election. The commissions have refused to cooperate with the court, saying it has no jurisdiction.

But in a courtroom packed with candidates declared losers by the Independent Election Commission on Wednesday, the court’s chief judge, Sediqullah Haqiq, declared that it could throw out the results of the election entirely if it wants, and asked President Karzai to postpone seating the new parliament. The inauguration was scheduled for this Sunday.

While the losers were jubilant at Judge Haqiq’s declaration, the move threatened political turmoil and an even more protracted period in which President Hamid Karzai is in effect ruling by decree, as he has since Parliament disbanded in advance of the Sept. 14 poll.

The president’s decision seemed certain to deepen the rift between the winning candidates, who are unlikely to accept any reworking of the results, and the losers, who say fraud and insecurity left much of the nation’s majority Pashtun population, based mostly in the south, disenfranchised in the balloting.

The Electoral Complaints Commission, which has already reviewed 6,000 formal complaints from the polling, rejected the ad hoc court’s attempted intervention, also inviting it to view its own Web site,, where the results of its work were published, according to Ahmad Zia Raffat, the commission’s spokesman. “According to the country’s laws and constitution, the special court is totally illegal,” he said.

The E.C.C. had the authority to review complaints and remove winners, which it did in numerous cases, while the I.E.C. was responsible for certifying final results. It did that Nov. 24, after two months of deliberation, sparking persistent public protests by the losing candidates. President Karzai invited the disgruntled losers to make their cases to his attorney general, Mohammad Ishaq Aloko, and later appointed the special court to hear the evidence Mr. Aloko gathered.

Mr. Aloko, a strong supporter of the president, was critical of the commissions for certifying the results, calling their findings premature. In an interview on Wednesday, he expressed the hope that the special court would eventually invalidate the elections entirely, requiring holding a new poll, a process that would leave Afghanistan without a legislative body for many months or even years.

No one disputes that the parliamentary elections were badly tarnished. The I.E.C. threw out nearly a fourth of the total votes recorded as fraudulent or tainted, which invalidated the election of many candidates — particularly members of the most numerous ethnic group, the Pashtuns. The E.C.C. also invalidated other candidates on fraud charges.

The commissions, however, supported by the international community, ruled that their certification of the results was valid once they removed the problem voting districts and candidates in a process that was legal and transparent.

“In the whole country, there was no province from which we did not receive any complaints,” said Judge Haqiq. “The whole world should know that there was a huge, enormous fraud in these elections.”

Judge Haqiq said he viewed “with great sadness” the election commissions’ refusal to cooperate with the court.

“Unfortunately losers in Afghanistan will never accept that they are losers,” said one of the winning candidates, Abdul Zuhair Qadir, who was attending orientation sessions for the new parliament.

The special court’s actions appeared to be just the latest in moves by Karzai’s government to discredit the work of the two election commissions. In December, ten members of the I.E.C., including all seven of its commissioners and three high-ranking staffers, were indicted by the attorney general on unspecified electoral fraud and abuse of authority charges, according to Abdullah Ahmadzai, the I.E.C.’s chief electoral officer and one of the indictees. In addition, the attorney general indicted four prominent members of the E.C.C. on the same charges, including all three of its Afghan commissioners, Mr. Ahmadzai said.

President Karzai appointed all of the I.E.C. commissioners and the three Afghan E.C.C. commissioners; the other two E.C.C. commissioners were foreigners appointed in consultation with the United Nations. They have not been charged.

“This is all happening because they feel the results need to be changed and they can’t change them,” Mr. Ahmadzai said. The electoral commission’s certification of the results is final and there is no legal mechanism for changing that, he said.


This Everyday "Healthy" Beverage Poisons Your Body One Swallow at a Time

You've probably heard a lot about bottled water. That it's healthier for you than tap water, that it can replace your vitamins, that it's really only tap water and how environmentally unfriendly it is.

With this type of conflicting information about water, it's easy to get confused. Let's see if we can help you cut through the clutter and lead you down the path to healthier water consumption.

Environmental Impact
There's no sense in sugar-coating it. Bottled water is destructive to the environment. It is a fact that 67 million water bottles are thrown away each day.

That's a staggering amount of waste considering only 10 percent of these water bottles are ever recycled. Despite the good reputation recycling has, this practice is not always best for the ecosystem as it is labor-intensive, costly and burns natural resources. Also, just because you are throwing your used water bottles into the recycling bin, it does not necessarily mean they are able to be recycled.

Another problem with bottled water is the incredible amount of fuel needed to transport these heavy loads of plastic (and sometimes glass) bottles to your local supermarket, home or office.

Where Your Bottled Water REALLY Comes From
About 40 percent of bottled water is nothing more than bottled tap water! So not only might you still be drinking all the chemicals you were trying to avoid in the first place, you may be exposing yourself to even MORE chemicals by drinking from plastic bottles….

The Dangers of Plastic
Drinking water from a plastic water bottle poses serious health risks to you and your family. Let's take a look at some of these dangers to give you a better idea of why bottled water is not the healthy choice you've been led to believe it is.

Plastic would obviously be an issue for most bottled waters but it also comes into play for home or commercially filtered waters, or even raw spring water in that you need a container to store your water before you consume it. Obviously the best container is glass because when you choose plastic you are potentially exposed to the following chemicals.

BPA – Bisphenol A or BPA is an estrogen-mimicking chemical that has been linked to a host of serious health problems including:

•Learning and behavioral problems
•Altered immune system function
•Early puberty in girls and fertility problems
•Decreased sperm count
•Prostate and breast cancer
•Diabetes and obesity
If you are pregnant or nursing, your child is also at risk. If you are feeding your baby or toddler from a plastic bottle, switch to glass to avoid BPA contamination.

Phthalates -- Phthalates are widely used in the United States to make plastics like polyvinyl chloride (PVC) more flexible.

Phthalates are endocrine-disrupting chemicals that have been linked to a wide range of developmental and reproductive effects, including:

•Reduced sperm counts
•Testicular atrophy or structural abnormality
•Liver cancer
Further, in experiments on rats, phthalates have demonstrably blocked the action of fetal androgens, which affects gender development in male offspring, leading to undescended testes at birth and testicular tumors later in life.

Studies have also found that boys whose mothers had high phthalate exposures while pregnant were much more likely to have certain demasculinized traits and produce less testosterone.

Yet another study found that pregnant women who are exposed to phthalates gave birth more than one week earlier than women who were not exposed to them.

Pharmacy in a Bottle -- As mentioned above, about 40 percent of bottled water is tap water. This means you are not only exposed to dangerous BPA from the bottle, you may also be exposed to a variety of water contaminants such as fluoride, chlorine, arsenic, aluminum, disinfection byproducts and prescription drugs.

Although you may have been told that disposing your unused prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) drugs in the garbage instead of down the toilet means this eliminates the threat of your water supply being contaminated, this is simply not true. Water that drains through landfills, known as leach rate, eventually ends up in rivers. Although not all states source drinking water from rivers, many do.

According to studies, human cells do not grow normally when exposed to even minute amounts of prescription or over-the-counter drugs.

Some drugs that were never meant to be combined are mixed together in the drinking water you consume every day. Millions of people have drug allergies. Are you one of them? If so, how do you know the unusual symptoms you've been exhibiting are not due to ingesting small doses of the drugs you're allergic to from your bottled water?

Ticking Time Bomb
Though drinking bottled water directly from a store shelf poses serious health risks, leaving this bottled water in your car or strapped to your bike and exposed to the hot sun will cause even more serious chemical exposure. Ultraviolet rays from the sun or high temperatures will accelerate leaching of the plastic chemicals mentioned above into the water.

Adding to this health threat is a toxic substance called dioxin, which is also released into bottled water when it is left in the sun. Dioxin has been strongly linked to the development of breast cancer.

Health-conscious people like to transport filtered water from home to ensure a safe supply on the go. If you're one of these individuals, using a glass or steel bottle instead will bypass the risks associated with carrying filtered water in plastic.

"Vitamin Water" – As Unhealthy as Soda
One of the biggest scams soda manufacturers have come up with is, "vitamin water". The marketers for this cleverly disguised "health drink" take advantage of your growing interest in health and try to make you believe it can measure up to the vitamins and minerals in food. It can't even come close.

In truth, vitamin water is one of the worst types of bottled water you can drink!

Most vitamin waters contain health-harming additives such as high fructose corn syrup, which is a primary cause of obesity and diabetes, and food dyes that can wreak havoc on your physical and emotional health.

Don't be fooled. Skip the vitamin water. If you eat a healthy diet and follow my comprehensive nutritional plan , most of your vitamins will come from food. For more information about the health hazards of vitamin waters, please see this link.

Do Not Deliver
For years, you may have enjoyed the ease and convenience of having bottled water delivered straight to your door. The idea of being able to avoid the dangerous chemicals in tap water by having your very own water cooler full of fresh, mountain spring water to drink from may have seemed to good to be true.

Turns out, it was. Home water delivery is not an environmentally-friendly way to get the water you need.The plastic bottles they come in pose health risks that are less significant than the pint or quart water bottles as they have denser plastic and they typically are reused many times, unlike the smaller bottles.

Although some water home delivery companies will ship their water in glass, you still have no real idea where your water is coming from. Also, the load is that much heavier and requires that much more fuel to transport and heavy glass bottles can be difficult to manage and have been known to break and cut seriously injure or even kill people.

The Truth about Fluoride
Tap water, and bottled water that originates from tap water, is loaded with fluoride. Though you may have been lead to believe this substance to be vital to the dental health of you and your family, this is simply not the case. Unfortunately, the belief that fluoride prevents cavities is a common misconception. In fact, the exact opposite is true.

As this recent study done on children in India shows, fluoride is anything but a cavity fighter. Fluoride is a toxin that actually leads to an increased risk of cavities and can cause a wide range of health problems, including weakening your immune system and accelerating aging due to cellular damage.

One study, published in the September 2001 issue of International Journal of Pediatric Dentistry, found that South African children who drank water containing high levels of natural fluoride (3 ppm), had more tooth decay than children in other parts of South Africa who drank much lower concentrations (between 0.19 to 0.48 ppm). And fluoride-saturated American teenagers had twice the rate of cavities as the South African children drinking low levels of natural fluoride!

A new study in the Journal of the American Dental Association, published in October of last year, also found that, contrary to what most people have been told, fluoride is actually bad for teeth.The study found that fluoride intake during a child's first few years of life is significantly associated with fluorosis, and warned against using fluoridated water in infant formula.

In response, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated the information on their website, stating:

"Recent evidence suggests that mixing powdered or liquid infant formula concentrate with fluoridated water on a regular basis may increase the chance of a child developing ... enamel fluorosis." "In children younger than 8 years of age, combined fluoride exposure from all sources—water, food, toothpaste, mouth rinse, or other products—contributes to enamel fluorosis."

More importantly however, on January 7, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that they will take another look at the standards and guidelines for fluoride in drinking water due to the increase in dental fluorosis.

This is the first time in 50 years that the federal government has recommended changing the amount of fluoride added to public water supplies. They're now proposing the recommended amount of fluoride in drinking water be reduced to 0.7 milligrams per liter of water. The recommended range has been 0.7 to 1.2 mg/L, so for many communities this new level will equate to a fluoride reduction of nearly 50 percent! The EPA is also initiating a review of the maximum amount of fluoride allowed. Depending on their findings, the maximum amount of fluoride allowed may also be revised. This is at least a step in the right direction!

However, this is likely not the last you'll hear on this issue. According to a recent press release by The Fluoride Action Network, "Fluoridegate" is fast approaching as it's becoming clear that dental fluorosis is "just the tip of the iceberg." The press release states:

"A series of disclosures are surfacing about the actions of water fluoridation promoters that point to a likely tsunami of Fluoridegate investigations, hearings, and explosive courtroom entanglements. Tennessee state legislator Frank Niceley states, "There is a real Fluoridegate scandal here. Citizens haven't been told about harm from fluorides, and this needs to be investigated by the authorities and the media."

Washington D.C. toxic tort attorney Chris Nidel says, "I think when we look back we'll ask why Fluoridegate didn't surface earlier. There are serious concerns about possible conflict of interest and heavy editing of information being fed to the public about fluoride risks and impacts."

Your Optimal Water Choices
Your most convenient solution is to filter your own tap water. African women spend five hours per day, on average, seeking out water and carrying it back to their villages. If you're like most modern Americans, you have indoor plumbing in your home. So, why are you purchasing and transporting bottled water from your supermarket?
The most economical and environmentally sound choice you and your family can make is to purchase and install a water filter for your home. Alternatively, you can look around for sources of mountain spring water, which is about as close to ideal as you can get.

There's a great website called where you can find a natural spring in your area. This is also a great way to get back to nature and teach your children about health and the sources of clean water. The best part is that most of these spring water sources are free!

Final Thoughts
Your body is made up of 80 percent water and you can only live a few days without this precious, life-giving substance. Most of you are dehydrated and not even aware of your body's many cries for water. But the quality, and hence the source of your water is vitally important for maintaining optimal health. To learn even more about water, please visit my water index page for links to more articles on this important topic.

Dr Mercola

It's time to inject sanity into the gun debate

The school shooting in Gardena and the Tucson rampage drove home the point that the U.S. dialogue on weapons and ammunition needs to include moderate voices.

The gun was in a backpack, we're told. The backpack was dropped or set down in a Gardena High School classroom Tuesday morning, and the gun fired accidentally, critically injuring a 15-year-old female student who was struck in the head. A male student, also 15, was shot in the neck.

You send your kids to school, and before the lunch bell rings, they're in the hospital.

So the questions begin.

Why is it so easy to smuggle a gun onto campus? How many more guns are on school campuses in greater Los Angeles and beyond? And when someone carries a gun for self-protection, as this kid allegedly did, isn't everyone, including the guy with the gun, at greater risk?

Maybe there's a simpler and more direct question to be asked:

When it comes to guns, why do we seem to be out of our gourds?

As the drama was playing out Tuesday at Gardena High, I got an unfortunately timed e-mail, at 11:11 a.m., from the National Rifle Assn. I get regular e-mails because a reader and NRA supporter once gave me a membership. This particular missive was a "GRASSROOTS ALERT."

In response to the deadly rampage in Tucson, the alert warned, various calls have been made for new gun control legislation. But I wasn't to worry.

"Please rest assured that the NRA will, as always, stand front and center in defense of the rights of gun owners," the alert said.

I was actually pleasantly surprised. Given the timing, I thought that maybe the NRA might be writing to suggest that if every student at Gardena High School had been armed, they might have been able to take out the kid with the gun before he did any damage.

Now look, we all know it's not possible to seal off every campus from every kid trying to sneak in a gun, nor will there come a day when we're all safe from gun violence, regardless of legislative initiatives. But in a country that averages 82 gunshot deaths a day, can't we do a lot better in limiting the number and type of guns, and can we please make it harder to buy a Glock than to buy a can of Coke?

Does anyone believe that Jared Lee Loughner, the accused Tucson shooter who was kicked out of college for scaring people, should have been allowed to legally buy a weapon capable of firing 31 rounds without reloading?

Does anyone believe that, unless you're on active duty in the Army, you probably don't need a 31-round clip?

Stupid questions, I know. The gun lobby bankrolls lawmakers, who know what's expected in return, and the gunslingers couldn't be happier.

There was a gun show in Tucson a week after six people were killed and 13 others wounded. That's right, a gun show, attended by thousands, some of whom bought guns like the one Loughner allegedly used at the Safeway.

And it gets crazier.

In Nebraska, a state senator introduced a bill to allow teachers and school administrators to carry concealed weapons on campuses, and that was AFTER Tucson.

In California, proud members of the "open-carry" crowd have been showing up in recent months at restaurants, coffee shops and other locales with holstered guns, as if they all think they're Rooster Cogburn.


To assert their right to do so. And yes, it's legal under California law, provided the gun is not loaded.

"What good is an unloaded gun?" asks an informational listing at "Obviously, not much. However, with a little practice, one can easily load a handgun in under two seconds."

Terrific. You've got time to load, stir your latte and shoot six people at the next table if someone makes a false move.

The California Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, meanwhile, has launched a statewide project to demand "gun-free dining," urging restaurants to prohibit firearms on their private property.

I told Brady coordinator Karen Arntzen that if we need a conversation about whether it's OK for someone to show up at the local diner with a six-shooter, we've lost our marbles.

Is it 1823?

Do we live in Tumbleweed?

"It is outrageous," Arntzen said. "But the NRA over the last few years has had a big push to try to normalize guns all over the country....They want more guns everywhere…and behind it is the gun industry, which will sell more guns."

Thursday evening in Manhattan Beach, open-carry proponents are scheduled to strap on their sidearms and meet at a pizza parlor on Sepulveda Boulevard. Suzanne Verge, who heads the L.A. chapter of the Brady campaign, said she and others will be there to protest at the restaurant.

"If more guns meant less crime, we'd be the safest country in the world," said Verge, whose brother was murdered by a gunman in 1978.

Fortunately, state Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D-La CaƱada-Flintridge) has a problem with open carry, and he introduced legislation last week to ban it.

"There's a proper place for firearms, and having a proliferation of them strapped to hips is something that belongs in a Western movie, not Main Street, California," he said in a press release.

When I reached Portantino on Tuesday, he said he had been asked by two state police organizations to introduce the bill.

"They've seen a rise in people carrying a gun on their hip," Portantino said. "According to the law, you can have a gun on one hip and cartridges on another hip."

Verge told me she attended events commemorating the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday and was struck by an MLK quote about "the appalling silence of the good people." The NRA has loudly championed its views, Verge said, and it's time to pump up the volume on the other side.

"People have to take a stand on this," Verge said. "Today we lost 82 people. And tomorrow, 82."


Parenting by Gays More Common in the South, Census Shows

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Being gay in this Southern city was once a lonely existence. Most people kept their sexuality to themselves, and they were reminded of the dangers of being openly gay when a gay church was bombed in the 1980s. These days, there are eight churches that openly welcome gay worshipers. One even caters to couples with children.

The changes may seem surprising for a city where churches that have long condemned homosexuality remain a powerful force. But as demographers sift through recent data releases from the Census Bureau, they have found that Jacksonville is home to one of the biggest populations of gay parents in the country.

In addition, the data show, child rearing among same-sex couples is more common in the South than in any other region of the country, according to Gary Gates, a demographer at the University of California, Los Angeles. Gay couples in Southern states like Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas are more likely to be raising children than their counterparts on the West Coast, in New York and in New England.

The pattern, identified by Mr. Gates, is also notable because the families in this region defy the stereotype of a mainstream gay America that is white, affluent, urban and living in the Northeast or on the West Coast.

“We’re starting to see that the gay community is very diverse,” said Bob Witeck, chief executive of Witeck-Combs Communications, which helped market the census to gay people. “We’re not all rich white guys.”

Black or Latino gay couples are twice as likely as whites to be raising children, according to Mr. Gates, who used data from a Census Bureau sampling known as the American Community Survey. They are also more likely than their white counterparts to be struggling economically.

Experts offer theories for the pattern. A large number of gay couples, possibly a majority, entered into their current relationship after first having children with partners in heterosexual relationships, Mr. Gates said. That seemed to be the case for many blacks and Latinos in Jacksonville, for whom church disapproval weighed heavily.

“People grew up in church, so a lot of us lived in shame,” said Darlene Maffett, 43, a Jacksonville resident, who had two children in eight years of marriage before coming out in 2002. “What did we do? We wandered around lost. We married men, and then couldn’t understand why every night we had a headache.”

Moreover, gay men who have children do so an average of three years earlier than heterosexual men, census data shows, Mr. Gates said. At the same time, there are fewer white women of childbearing age nationally, according to demographers, while the number of minority women of childbearing age is expanding.

Jacksonville was a magnet for Ms. Maffett even before she moved here. While its gay residents remained largely hidden, it had a gay-friendly church. In 2003, she spent her Sundays driving 90 minutes each way to attend from the town where she worked as a school bus driver.

Ms. Maffett appreciated the safety of the church in Jacksonville. Her father was a Baptist preacher, and her former husband was a member of the Church of Christ, so she knew how unwelcoming some churches could be for gays. Even so, she felt little connection to the gay congregation in Jacksonville — mostly white, male and childless.

“The pastors were all white guys,” said Ms. Maffett, who is black. “They were nice to us, but we weren’t really feeling that they knew how to cater to kids.”

Then she met Valerie Williams, a customer service worker with a sunny personality and a booming voice. Ms. Williams, 33, had been part of the city’s gay community for years, and when the first African-American, gay-friendly church opened in 2007, she thought it needed to go one step further.

“People were looking to do stuff with their kids, and they had no place to go,” she said.

So last summer, Ms. Williams became pastor of St. Luke’s Community Church, one of the oldest gay-friendly churches in the city, and immediately set up a youth program. Attendance by the mixed-race congregation swelled to more than 90 from 25 in just a few months.

“All of a sudden you started seeing all of these women coming out,” Ms. Maffett said. “All of them had children.”

In 2009, the Census Bureau estimated that there were 581,000 same-sex couples in the United States, Mr. Gates said; the bureau does not count gay singles.

About a third of lesbians are parents, and a fifth of gay men are. Advocacy groups argue that their children are some of society’s most vulnerable, with fewer legal protections and less health insurance than children of heterosexual parents.

Even so, their ranks have been mostly left out of national policy debates, because the Census Bureau did not conduct its first preliminary count of same-sex couples until 1990. This year, the bureau will count married same-sex partners for the first time.

“We don’t know a lot about this group,” Mr. Gates said. “Their story has not been told.”

About 32 percent of gay couples in Jacksonville are raising children, Mr. Gates said, citing the 2009 Census data, second only to San Antonio, where the rate is about 34 percent.

Some gay parents here say that family life can be complicated. Cynthia, the mother of a talkative 9-year-old, can be herself at her daughter’s cheerleading practice, because it is far from their home. But at her daughter’s school, she tells no one that she is gay, because her partner, Monique, teaches there.

Their daughter, they said, ends up with a mixed message at school.

“We tell her, ‘Be honest, don’t lie, but keep this in the closet,’ ” said Monique, who asked that the couple’s last names not be used to protect her privacy at work, “It gets confusing for her.”

Ms. Williams confronts those troubles directly with a program called Youth Power Hour, a kind of group counseling session for children of gay parents. This month, the group of about 20 young people discussed their problems after a free spaghetti dinner cooked by one of the adult moderators.

“This girl at school is always bullying me,” said a 9-year-old named Diantra.

Ms. Williams responded, her voice filling the room: “Remember what we said? Tell an adult.”

Cynthia’s daughter, also part of the group, said the sense of community it provided helped her.

“It feels good to be around people who don’t just have moms and dads,” she said, pulling her braids nervously. “I like it because I’m not alone anymore.”

Married same-sex parents face legal hurdles. Florida does not recognize same-sex marriage, and its domestic partnership recognition, while growing, is an uneven patchwork, and still leaves many spouses uninsured.

Even when employers agree to cover domestic partners, those couples pay higher taxes, because without federal recognition of their status, health coverage is considered income and is taxable. Until recently, Florida was one of a handful of states that expressly prohibited adoption by gay couples.

But money is often a more immediate problem.

Ty Francis, a bank customer-service worker here with a sharp sense of humor, supports six children together with her partner, Rosalyn Cooley, a health care worker.

“I’m one check away from being on welfare,” Ms. Francis said.

But that kind of financial difficulty does not dampen enthusiasm for coaxing along acceptance in this conservative city of more than 800,000 people. A recent billboard supporting gay and lesbian youth drew no public scorn or boycotts, and gay pride parades have been held for several years.

Ms. Williams compares the community’s efforts to the struggles of the civil rights movement.

“Slowly but surely, all this will pass,” she said. “I truly believe that.”


Video Captured ‘Calculated’ Gunman in Tucson

TUCSON — The chief investigator for the sheriff’s department here has for the first time publicly described the brief and gory video clip from a store security camera that shows a gunman not only shooting Representative Gabrielle Giffords just above the eyebrow at a range of three feet, but then using his 9-millimeter pistol to gun down others near her at a similarly close range.

The video, according to Richard Kastigar, the investigative and operational bureau chief of the Pima County Sheriff’s Department, also reveals that Judge John M. Roll appears to have died while helping to save the life of Ronald Barber, a Giffords employees. Mr. Barber, who was near Ms. Giffords when he was shot twice, has left the hospital.

Mr. Kastigar said Tuesday that the video shows Ms. Giffords standing with her back a few inches from a wall when she was shot by the gunman, who approached in “a hurried fashion” with the gun at his side and then raised it and fired a single bullet above her eye at a range of no more than two or three feet.

Jared L. Loughner, 22, has been arrested in the shootings. In the video, the pistol “is down near his right side, but it is visibly out from where he was keeping it, presumably under his clothing, and then he raises it and fires,” Mr. Kastigar said. “It happens in a matter of seconds.”

The gunman “was very deliberate in my estimation, very calculated,” said Mr. Kastigar, who viewed the video as part of the extensive investigation by the Sheriff’s Department that involves close to 250 people. About 200 F.B.I. agents and analysts are also on the case. The video, he said, is now in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Describing the video, Mr. Kastigar said the judge was “intentionally trying to help Mr. Barber,” adding, “It’s very clear to me the judge was thinking of his fellow human more than himself.”

The judge guides Mr. Barber to the ground, shields him with his body, and then tries to push himself and Mr. Barber away from the gunman, who was no more than three to four feet away as he fired, Mr. Kastigar said.

“He pushes Mr. Barber with his right hand and guides him with his left hand. The judge was on top of him and is covering up Mr. Barber, literally lying on top of him, and his back was exposed,” Mr. Kastigar said.

The judge was shot in the back. Ms. Giffords remains in the hospital in serious condition, and doctors said Tuesday that she continued to improve.

In his first interview since the shooting, Capt. Mark E. Kelly, the husband of Ms. Giffords, said he had heard news reports that erroneously said she was dead. “And I just, you know, walked into the bathroom, and you know, broke down,” Captain Kelly, an astronaut, said on ABC’s “20/20,” broadcast Tuesday. He later learned at the hospital that she was still fighting for her life.

More than a dozen video clips, from cameras at the scene and the hard drive of a security system at the Safeway supermarket at the mall where the shootings occurred on Jan. 8, provide other new information about the minutes before the shootings, which left 6 dead and 13 wounded. Some were described in an article on The Washington Post’s Web site on Tuesday.

When a deputy sheriff arrived minutes after the shooting and took control of Mr. Loughner, who was being held down by two people, the deputy removed a set of earplugs from Mr. Loughner. Minutes earlier, a surveillance photo also shows Mr. Loughner inside the Safeway talking to a clerk and “pointing to his ears because he’s telling the individual that he can’t hear what she’s saying because he’s got earplugs in,” Mr. Kastigar said.

He said about 15 minutes elapsed between the time Mr. Loughner arrived by cab at the Safeway — and had to go inside to get change to pay the driver — and when the shooting started at 10:10 a.m.

The crucial video showing the shooting of Ms. Giffords, Judge Roll and Mr. Barber lasts only about five seconds before the gunman steps out of the frame.

At the start of the clip, it shows the “suspect coming from just outside of the frame of the video toward the parking lot,” Mr. Kastigar said. “He goes around a table set up for part of that gathering and walks up to Gabby and shoots her directly in the forehead.” It was not clear from this video, he said, if Ms. Giffords realized what was happening.

The gunman “then turns to his left and indiscriminately shoots at people sitting in chairs along the wall,” he said. The video does not show those people being shot, he said. But quickly the gunman is back in the video, which shows him turning to his right and shooting Mr. Barber, who had been with Judge Roll “standing side by side with the table to their backs.”


Duvalier faces possible trial in Haiti

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- Haitian authorities moved toward trying Jean-Claude Duvalier for alleged corruption and embezzlement during his brutal 15-year rule, opening an investigation against the former dictator whose unexpected return from exile took an already tense nation by surprise.

The former strongman known as "Baby Doc" was questioned by judges for hours behind closed doors in a court in Haiti's capital Tuesday, defense attorney Gervais Charles said. The case is now in the hands of a judge of instruction who will decide whether there is enough evidence to go to trial, Charles said. The process that can take up to three months.

Haiti's system allows for pretrial detention, but Duvalier was allowed to remain free and returned to his hotel room under police escort following the questioning. He cannot leave the country, however. His longtime companion Veronique Roy had earlier said Duvalier expected his trip from France, where he has lived in exile, would last three days.

"If he has to leave (the country), he will ask and he will leave," Charles said. "As of now, he doesn't even have a passport."

Several hundred Duvalier supporters gathered outside the court, burning tires, chanting slogans and calling for the arrest of President Rene Preval, then cheering as Duvalier left the courthouse. Earlier, some supporters had tried to block streets with overturned trash bins and rocks to keep police from taking Duvalier from his hotel to the courthouse.

There are no signs of widespread support for Duvalier, however. Demonstrations on his behalf have been relatively small by Haiti standards. More than half the nation's people are too young to have lived through his government.

Duvalier has been accused in the past in Haiti of stealing hundreds of millions of dollars in public money and overseeing the torture and killing of political enemies. He was not in handcuffs as he arrived at the courthouse Tuesday, nor was he handcuffed when he left.

His arrival Sunday was a surprise for a long-impoverished country, and comes as Haiti struggles to work through a dire political crisis following the problematic Nov. 28 first-round presidential election, as well as a cholera epidemic and a troubled recovery from the devastating earthquake of a year ago.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and others have urged the Haitian government to arrest Duvalier for widespread abuses. Amnesty International issued a statement praising what it called "the arrest" of Duvalier but said it was just a start.

"If true justice is to be done in Haiti, the Haitian authorities need to open a criminal investigation into Duvalier's responsibility for the multitude of human rights abuses that were committed under his rule including torture, arbitrary detentions, rape, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions," the group said.

Fifty-six-year-old Chal Christen, waved a flag of Duvalier's political party - one he said he'd had stored away since the one-time "president for life" was deposed in a popular uprising and forced into exile nearly 25 years ago.

"We don't have food, our houses collapsed, our children can't go to school. It's Preval that is the dictator," Christen said. "We want Duvalier for president. Under him we ate well, we were safe."

Fenel Alexi, a 31-year-old mechanic, watched the scene and denounced both Duvalier and Preval, a former anti-Duvalier activist.

"The citizens of this country have endured so much crime," Alexi said. "We haven't had a president who hasn't committed crimes."

Duvalier was removed from the hotel after meeting in private with senior Haitian judicial officials inside his hotel room amid calls by human rights groups and others for his arrest.

The country's top prosecutor and a judge were among those who met with the former leader in the high-end hotel where he had been ensconced since returning to Haiti.

Dozens of Haitian National Police officers were posted inside and around the hotel, some of them in riot gear or guarding the stairwells.

Henry Robert Sterlin, a former ambassador under Duvalier who has said in recent days that he was speaking as a spokesman for the former dictator, told reporters at the scene he was shocked by the developments. "Let's see if they put him in prison," he said.

Duvalier assumed power in 1971 at age 19 following the death of his father, Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier. The father and son presided over one of the most brutal chapters in Haitian history, a period when a secret police force known as the Tonton Macoute tortured and killed opponents. The private militia of sunglass-wearing thugs enforced the Duvalier dynasty's absolute power and lived off extortion.

At Fort Dimanche, a fortress prison, Haitians were executed or died of malnutrition during the 1957-1986 Duvalier dictatorships. Ripples of pain and violence stemming from the Duvalier family's dictatorship over 29 years still deeply scar many Haitians, including those who were forced into exile abroad.

Duvalier has also been accused of pilfering millions of dollars from public funds and spiriting them out of the country to Swiss banks, though he denies stealing from Haiti.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights spokesman Rupert Colville said Tuesday that Duvalier's return increases the chance that he could be charged with atrocities committed during his 15-year rule because it will be easier to bring charges in the country where the crimes occurred.

He cautioned, though, that Haiti's fragile judicial system may be in no position to mount a case.

Duvalier and his family spent years living in luxury on the French Riviera, driving fancy sports cars and staying in exclusive villas. Following financial difficulties, Duvalier moved to the Paris region in 1993. He allegedly lost a large part of his fortune when he was separated from his free-spending wife. The Duvalier clan has waged a long-running battle to retrieve at least $4.6 million frozen in a Swiss bank.

For most of his exile, the ex-despot was quiet. But in September 2007, Duvalier took to Haitian radio from abroad to apologize for "wrongs" committed under his rule and urged supporters to rally around his fringe political party.

A handful of loyalists campaigned to bring Duvalier home from exile, launching a foundation to improve the dictatorship's image and reviving his political party in the hope that he could one day return to power democratically.

The Associated Press

Murdoch's Fox propagandists, degrading journalism

Amid the recent hubbub over the violent and paranoid rhetoric that stems from much of the American right, one name has been conspicuously absent.

We've heard a great deal about Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly - the usual suspects. We've heard very little about the man who employs many of them for his financial and political gain: Rupert Murdoch.

Most coverage of Murdoch for the past couple weeks, in fact, suggests a very different story. The Good Rupert has been hard at work with Apple's Steve Jobs developing a digital newspaper, to be called the Daily, for the iPad. Veteran journalists have been hired.
For a modest fee, reports the New York Times, readers will be able to subscribe and have the Daily pop up on their iPad tablets every morning.

If it succeeds, the Daily will join Murdoch's Wall Street Journal as two of the very few newspapers for which readers are willing to pay to read online. This is why Murdoch is often hailed, even by people who detest his politics, as a kind of journalistic savior - the man who figured out how to monetize the Web.

The other Murdoch story of recent weeks concerns the attempt of his company, News Corp., to buy Britain's Sky Broadcasting company, and whether the ongoing police investigation into illegal hacking by reporters at one of Murdoch's British papers, News of the World, will make government regulators less inclined to approve the deal.
But the deal has raised additional concerns - chiefly, whether combining News Corp. and Sky will give Murdoch too much control over news in the United Kingdom. An Enders Analysis study of Sky's ratings and News Corp. readership concluded that 22 percent of the news that Brits consume would come from the merged conglomerate.

Even if Murdoch had no clearly defined political agenda, that level of concentration would still raise huge questions - about, for instance, such a company's ability to slant news in ways that enhanced its financial prospects, or its market power to exclude certain stories from public scrutiny. The political slanting of news from News Corp. outlets, however, is conscious and constant. Consider, for instance, the memo (subsequently leaked) that Fox News Vice President Bill Sammon sent at the height of the health-care debate, shortly after Republican pollster Frank Luntz said on Sean Hannity's Fox show that Americans were split on a "public" option but that when it was called a "government option," voters overwhelmingly opposed it.
Sammon directed news staffers to "use the term 'government-run health insurance,' or, when brevity is a concern, 'government option,' whenever possible."

Murdoch's appetite for news outlets in both old media and new is no less insatiable here than in Britain. His acquisitory zeal may at times appear less menacing because the product he turns out for elite audiences is often high-quality stuff.
His purchase of the Wall Street Journal initially sparked concerns about what direction the Journal's news pages might take. But in his bid to undercut the New York Times, he has turned the Journal's weekend arts and literature section into an extremely smart cultural weekly with no discernible political bent.

Yet the stuff his company feeds mass audiences is the most sustained and coordinated dose of right-wing propaganda this country has ever seen. Father Coughlin, Joe McCarthy, George Wallace and their ilk were freelancers, much as Limbaugh is today. The choir at Fox News, by contrast, sings from Murdoch's hymnal. Their mission, promoted by Fox News president and former Richard Nixon aide Roger Ailes, is to advance right-wing causes and Republicans.

Does Murdoch believe all the things that his Fox News employees say on the air? That, as Glenn Beck has alleged, President Obama hates white people? That the specter of socialist authoritarianism lurks behind Obama's reformist policies?
We have no way of knowing, though the fact that Murdoch has in the past endorsed reformists in the Obama mold - Tony Blair as Britain's prime minister, Hillary Clinton for New York senator, when, to be sure, they looked likely to win - suggests that Murdoch personally doesn't swallow all the swill he pays for. But even if he doesn't exactly bank on the accuracy of Beck & Co.'s arguments, he finds their hyperbole useful in pushing the nation to the right.

So I'm hardly going to celebrate the debut of the Daily, media-business-breakthrough though it may be. No one did a better job of spinning and spreading the paranoid fantasies in which the right is awash than Murdoch's Fox News employees. Time will tell if Murdoch has found a way to save journalism. It's already clear that he's found a way to degrade it.

Harold Meyerson Washington Post

In Wreckage of Lost Jobs, Lost Power

Alone among the world’s economic powers, the United States is suffering through a deep jobs slump that can’t be explained by the rest of the economy’s performance.

The gross domestic product here — the total value of all goods and services — has recovered from the recession better than in Britain, Germany, Japan or Russia. Yet a greatly shrunken group of American workers, working harder and more efficiently, is producing these goods and services.

The unemployment rate is higher in this country than in Britain or Russia and much higher than in Germany or Japan, according to a study of worldwide job markets that Gallup will release on Wednesday. The American jobless rate is also higher than China’s, Gallup found. The European countries with worse unemployment than the United States tend to be those still mired in crisis, like Greece, Ireland and Spain.

Economists are now engaged in a spirited debate, much of it conducted on popular blogs like Marginal Revolution, about the causes of the American jobs slump. Lawrence Katz, a Harvard labor economist, calls the full picture “genuinely puzzling.”

That the financial crisis originated here, and was so severe here, surely plays some role. The United States had a bigger housing bubble than most other countries, leaving a large group of idle construction workers who can’t easily switch industries. Many businesses, meanwhile, are reluctant to commit to hiring workers out of a fear that heavily indebted households won’t spend much in coming years.

But beyond these immediate causes, the basic structure of the American economy also seems to be an important factor. This jobless recovery, after all, is the third straight recovery since 1991 to begin with months and months of little job growth.

Why? One obvious possibility is the balance of power between employers and employees.

Relative to the situation in most other countries — or in this country for most of the last century — American employers operate with few restraints. Unions have withered, at least in the private sector, and courts have grown friendlier to business. Many companies can now come much closer to setting the terms of their relationship with employees, letting them go when they become a drag on profits and relying on remaining workers or temporary ones when business picks up.

Just consider the main measure of corporate health: profits. In Canada, Japan and most of Europe, corporate profits have still not recovered to precrisis levels. In the United States, profits have more than recovered, rising 12 percent since late 2007.

For corporate America, the Great Recession is over. For the American work force, it’s not.

Unfortunately, fixing the job market will take years. Even if job growth accelerated to the rapid pace of the late 1990s and remained there, the unemployment rate would not fall below 6 percent (which some economists consider full employment) until 2016. We could now be in only the first half of the longest stretch of high unemployment since World War II.

The best way to put people back to work is to lift economic growth. For Washington, lifting growth will first mean avoiding the mistakes of 2010, when the Fed, the White House and some members of Congress prematurely assumed that a solid recovery was under way. The risk this year is that they will start reducing the budget deficit immediately by cutting federal programs, rather than having the cuts take effect in future years.

Policy makers could also help the unemployed by spreading economic pain more broadly among the population. I realize this idea may not sound so good at first. Who wants pain to spread? But the fact is that this downturn has concentrated its effects on a relatively narrow group of Americans.

In Germany and Canada, some companies and workers have averted layoffs by agreeing to cut everyone’s hours and, thus, pay. In this country, average wages for the employed have risen faster than inflation since 2007, which is highly unusual for a downturn. Yet unemployment remains terribly high, and almost half of the unemployed have been out of work for at least six months. These are the people bearing the brunt of the downturn.

Germany’s job-sharing program — known as “Kurzarbeit,” or short work — has won praise from both conservative and liberal economists. Senator Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island, has offered a bill that would encourage similar programs. So far, though, the White House has not pursued it aggressively. Perhaps Gene Sperling, the new director of the National Economic Council, can put it back on the agenda.

Restoring some balance to the relationship between employers and employees will be more difficult. One problem is that too many labor unions, like the auto industry’s, have been poorly run, hurting companies and, ultimately, workers. Of course, many other companies — AT&T, General Electric, Southwest Airlines — have thrived with unionized workers, and study after study has shown that unions usually do benefit workers. As one bumper sticker says, “Unions: The folks who brought you the weekend.”

Today, unions are clearly playing on an uneven field. Companies pay minimal penalties for illegally trying to bar unions and have become expert at doing so, legally and otherwise. For all their shortcomings, unions remain many workers’ best hope for some bargaining power.

The list of promising solutions to the jobs slump can go on and on. Reforming the disability insurance system so it does not encourage long-term joblessness would help. “Once people enter the system,” as Mr. Katz of Harvard says, “they basically never come back.” Improving high schools and colleges — reclaiming the global lead in education — would help even more. Remember, the jobless rate for college graduates is only 4.8 percent, and some highly skilled jobs continue to go unfilled.

The jobs slump has become too severe to disappear anytime soon. It will be part of the American economy and American politics for years to come. But there is no reason to treat it as a problem that’s immune from solutions. For starters, it would be worth figuring out what other countries are doing right.


How Many Deaths Are Enough? BOB HERBERT NYTimes

April 22, 2008

almost exactly one year after 32 students and faculty members were slain in the massacre at Virginia Tech, the dealer who had sold one of the weapons used by the gunman delivered a public lecture on the school’s campus. His point: that people at Virginia Tech should be allowed to carry concealed weapons on campus.

Eric Thompson, owner of the online firearms store that sold a .22-caliber semiautomatic handgun to the shooter, Seung-Hui Cho, did not think that his appearance at Virginia Tech was disrespectful or that his position was extreme. He felt so strongly that college students should be allowed to be armed while engaged in their campus activities that he offered discounts to any students who wanted to buy guns from him.

Thompson spun the discounts as altruistic. He told, “This offers students and people who might not have otherwise been able to afford a weapon to purchase one at a hefty discount and at a significant expense to myself.”

The sale to Cho was not Thompson’s only unfortunate link to a mass killer. His firm sold a pair of 9-millimeter Glock magazines and a holster to Steven Kazmierczak, a 27-year-old graduate student in DeKalb, Ill., who, on the afternoon of Feb. 14, 2008, went heavily armed into an auditorium-type lecture hall at Northern Illinois University. Kazmierczak walked onto the stage in front of a crowd of students and opened fire. He killed five people and wounded 18 others before killing himself.

We’ve allowed the extremists to carry the day when it comes to guns in the United States, and it’s the dead and the wounded and their families who have had to pay the awful price. The idea of having large numbers of college students packing heat in their classrooms and at their parties and sporting events, or at the local pub or frat house or gymnasium, or wherever, is too stupid for words.

Thompson did not get a warm welcome at Virginia Tech. A spokesman for the school, Larry Hincker, said the fact that he “would set foot on this campus” was “terribly offensive” and “incredibly insensitive to the families of the victims.”

Just last week, a sophomore at Florida State University, Ashley Cowie, was shot to death accidentally by a 20-year-old student who, according to authorities, was showing off his rifle to a group of friends in an off-campus apartment complex favored by fraternity members. A second student was shot in the wrist. This occurred as state legislators in Florida are considering a proposal to allow people with permits to carry concealed weapons on campuses. The National Rifle Association thinks that’s a dandy idea.

The slaughter of college students — or anyone else — has never served as a deterrent to the gun fetishists. They want guns on campuses, in bars and taverns and churches, in parks and in the workplace, in cars and in the home. Ammunition everywhere — the deadlier, the better. A couple of years ago, a state legislator in Arizona, Karen Johnson, argued that adults needed to be able to carry guns in all schools, from elementary on up. “I feel like our kindergartners are sitting there like sitting ducks,” she said.

Can we get a grip?

The contention of those who would like college kids and just about everybody else to be armed to the teeth is that the good guys can shoot back whenever the bad guys show up to do harm. An important study published in 2009 by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine estimated that people in possession of a gun at the time of an assault were 4.5 times more likely to be shot during the assault than someone in a comparable situation without a gun.

“On average,” the researchers said, “guns did not seem to protect those who possessed them from being shot in an assault. Although successful defensive gun uses can and do occur, the findings of this study do not support the perception that such successes are likely.”

Approximately 100,000 shootings occur in the United States every year. The number of people killed by guns should be enough to make our knees go weak. Monday was a national holiday celebrating the life of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. While the gun crazies are telling us that ever more Americans need to be walking around armed, we should keep in mind that more than a million people have died from gun violence — in murders, accidents and suicides — since Dr. King was shot to death in 1968.

We need fewer homicides, fewer accidental deaths and fewer suicides. That means fewer guns. That means stricter licensing and registration, more vigorous background checks and a ban on assault weapons. Start with that. Don’t tell me it’s too hard to achieve. Just get started.

Basic Questions, Elusive Answers on Health Law

WASHINGTON — As the fight over health care returned to the House floor on Tuesday, the debate could largely be stripped down to four questions that are relatively simple to ask, if not to answer:

Will the health care law, approved last year by Democrats with no Republican support, increase or reduce future federal deficits?

Will the law lead to the elimination of jobs by overburdened employers as Republicans assert, or will it create jobs as Democrats maintain?

Will the law raise or lower the cost of medical care for individuals and families, employers, and state and federal governments?

And, will the law achieve President Obama’s goal of providing coverage to more than 30 million uninsured Americans?

Given the complexity of the issues, none of these questions can yet be answered definitively.

More certain is the fate of the Republicans’ bill to repeal the law, which contains 24 lines of legislative text and 38 lines of the names of the lawmakers sponsoring it. While House Republicans will vote to approve it on Wednesday, the Democratic-controlled Senate is highly unlikely to act on it.

Still, the assertions from the two sides highlight their radically different views about the proper role of government and market forces in the health care system. It is a policy fight that is likely to rage for the next two years in Congress and to figure prominently in the 2012 presidential campaign.

As floor debate on the repeal measure opened on Tuesday, Representative Paul Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin and chairman of the Budget Committee, who is a respected voice on fiscal issues, declared that the health care law would “accelerate our country’s path toward bankruptcy.”

Mr. Ryan expressed one of the Republicans’ main complaints: that Democrats and independent Congressional budget analysts have underestimated the costs of the law, which Republicans say will ultimately add hundreds of billions of dollars to future federal deficits.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office disagrees.

In its official analysis, the budget office estimated that the cost of new benefits in the health care law would be more than offset by revenues from new taxes and by cuts in projected Medicare spending, reducing future deficits. Repealing the law, the budget office has predicted, would add $230 billion to federal deficits from 2012 to 2021.

Republicans dispute that, saying the cost will be far higher than expected.

“We believe that it is an unsustainable, open-ended entitlement that could very well bankrupt this country and the states,” the House majority leader, Representative Eric Cantor, Republican of Virginia, said at a news conference on Tuesday.

The budget office has said that its estimates are based on the most likely outcomes, and that the eventual cost of the bill is equally likely to be higher or lower.

The office has also said that lawmakers may find it difficult to follow through with some aspects of the law, particularly cuts in projected Medicare spending. If the cuts do not take hold, the cost of the law could soar.

Democrats, meanwhile, say the law could save even more money than expected because the budget office does not give them credit for likely improvements in the delivery of medical services that could slow the growth in costs for individuals, businesses and the federal and state governments.

Weighing into the debate, Mr. Obama said Tuesday that Americans were already enjoying many benefits of the new law, and that he would not let Republicans dismantle it.

“I’m willing and eager to work with both Democrats and Republicans to improve the Affordable Care Act,” Mr. Obama said in a statement. “But we can’t go backward.”

The White House and Congressional Democrats said the law would create more than 300,000 jobs, by slowing the growth of health costs so employers would have more to spend on wages and hiring. In addition, they said, the law provides tax credits to help many small businesses buy insurance for their employees.

By contrast, Representative Sam Graves, Republican of Missouri and chairman of the House Committee on Small Business, said the law “could cost our economy 1.6 million jobs, one million of which could come from small businesses.”

Many economists say the effects on jobs are likely to be modest. Most large companies already provide health benefits to employees. And many small businesses will be exempt from penalties if they fail to do so.

While employers often pay premiums for their employees, economists say, the cost of health benefits is, over time, generally passed on to workers, through reductions in wages or other compensation. But employers cannot reduce the wages of people earning the minimum wage.

Thus, the Congressional Budget Office says, the new law “will probably cause some employers to respond by hiring fewer low-wage workers,” or by using more part-time and seasonal workers.

But Democrats say that if the law provides coverage to more than 30 million currently uninsured people, as intended, it will increase demand for medical services, thus creating new job opportunities in the health care industry.

Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Democrat of Florida, said, “There is not a single area of health care” that will experience job losses as a result of the law.

Republicans have emphasized the jobs issue, even naming their bill the “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act.” But they have also pressed an argument that the law does not do much to slow the growth of health spending.

The law includes many provisions intended to restrain medical costs, which have long grown faster than general inflation.

For example, it would trim Medicare payment rates for hospitals and many other health care providers; create an independent advisory board to recommend further savings in Medicare; and encourage doctors and hospitals to coordinate care, eliminate duplicative tests and reduce the readmission of patients to hospitals.

But experts say they are not sure how effective these provisions will be, and note that countries around the globe have struggled to control medical costs.

Republicans say the law is geared less to limiting costs than to extending coverage to the uninsured. The budget office has estimated that by 2019 the law will have reduced the number of uninsured Americans by 32 million.

But even with a provision in the law requiring that most Americans obtain insurance, it is possible that the law will not cover as many people as expected. Some supporters of the law have questioned whether federal subsidies will be adequate to make insurance affordable for lower- and middle-income Americans. And while the law includes a broad expansion of Medicaid eligibility, many people now eligible do not enroll.

In addition, the continuing political controversy around the law has created even more uncertainty about how people will respond to it.