TPM Cafe: Opinion

Teen pregnancy rates have been steadily declining in the United States within the last 40 years, but a new study argues that in recent years, that decline has become more rapid due to a surprising source: MTV. The National Bureau of Economic Research study argues that MTV reality shows "16 and Pregnant" and its spin-offs programs have reduced the teen pregnancy rate by 5.7 percent. But while these shows may have contributed to a decline in teen pregnancy rates, they also fit a larger trend in teen pregnancy prevention of using teen mothers as objects of shame.

The study found that "16 and Pregnant" and its spin-offs may have prevented more than 20,000 births to teenage mothers since 2010. It also found that after being introduced to "16 and Pregnant," teens and young women searched and tweeted about birth control and abortion. Obviously, this is encouraging. Women are seeking out information on reproductive health care, and in a climate where access to that information and care from traditional sources like school-sponsored sex ed programs is increasingly hard to come by, it is promising that a show may be inspiring teens and women to inform themselves by going online.

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With a single cover image, Time has successfully dashed any hopes that electing the first president who isn’t white would ease the passage for the next potential president who isn’t male. The latest cover of the magazine, illustrating a story about Hillary Clinton’s electoral chances, features the headline “Can Anyone Stop Hillary?” with an illustration of teeny man hanging off the back of the heel of a giant woman in a pantsuit. The image captures the moment before the man gets violently squashed to death as the woman’s heel comes down, like he’s a victim of a misogynist B horror film about giant women getting revenge.

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Five years ago, North Carolina was making great strides in voter participation. More and more young, low-income, and minority voters were going to the polls. But in 2010, Republicans gained control of the legislature for the first time in a century, and rewrote district lines to ensure even more gains in 2012. Last summer North Carolina’s newly-elected general assembly, led by conservative Republicans, passed a comprehensive voter suppression law in a series of party-line votes, effectively turning back the clock on voting rights.

The seeds had been planted long before.

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During last fall's New Jersey gubernatorial contest, which Gov. Chris Christie used as a rehearsal for a 2016 presidential bid, the media were so mesmerized by his outsize personality that they paid little attention to his track record as governor. Contrary to his carefully-crafted image, Christie has not been a can-do bipartisan pragmatist but a hard-line conservative. When he plays the no-nonsense tough guy, it is usually aimed at the most vulnerable people in society. But he gets all warm and fuzzy when it comes to the rich and powerful.

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Congress is poised to pass its $1 trillion appropriations bill to implement the broad budget deal worked out last year by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA). With another round of across-the-board sequester cuts looming to the scientific research budget of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which funds most biomedical research around the nation, the budget deal produced a near-audible sigh of relief from scientists across the country.

The deal that Ryan and Murray negotiated and that Congress is set to pass in a final appropriations bill reverses $63 billion of sequester cuts for 2014. When the agreement was announced, the White House released a statement that the act “clears the path for critical investments in things like scientific research, which has the potential to unleash new innovation and new industries.” The final agreement still keeps the National Institutes of Health budget below 2012 levels, but it does avert about $1 billion in cuts, keeping the total budget at $29.9 billion.

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Who knows how the “Bridgegate” scandal is going to work out? Maybe Chris Christie will turn out to be a blast from the Nixonian past and his career is already circling the drain. Perhaps his effort to straddle wounded victimhood and brave responsibility will work out and staunch the bleeding.

The one thing we do know, however, is that Christie’s already suffered enough high-profile damage that it’s very unlikely he will offer Republicans in 2016 the devilish temptation of invincible electability. And that’s a real problem for those in and around the Republican Party who are determined to save the GOP from itself.

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When Supreme Court announces which cases it will take up for review, pro-abortion rights and anti-abortion activists alike hold their breath. This time, those who support the right to legal, safe abortion are sighing with relief now that the court has announced it will not take up the Arizona law that banned abortion after 20 weeks — but really 18 weeks post fertilization — leaving it blocked and unenforced.

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Over the last three years, anyone who has followed the pitched battle over letting eligible American citizens vote or not should be familiar with the political dynamic behind it. Following the 2010 midterm elections when Republicans made major gains across the country, a tsunami of bills were introduced that were clearly designed to throw up obstacles to voting for traditionally Democratic constituencies: African Americans, low income people, immigrants, among others. Remarks made by a number of Republican officials — like Pennsylvania state House Republican leader Mike Turzai who came straight out and said the state’s voter ID law would “allow” Mitt Romney to win in 2012 — hardly helped make the objective behind these laws a secret.

Important new empirical research published in December in the journal Perspectives on Politics by Keith G. Bentele and Erin E. Obrien at the Univeristy of Massachusetts-Boston, however, shines a bright light on just how crass this effort has been and how clear the motives of the Republican state lawmakers have been in proposing and passing laws that would deny eligible citizens the right to vote.

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This morning I was a guest on MSNBC’s “Up With Steve Kornacki” where Steve Kornacki offered up some new reporting on the September 2013 George Washington Bridge closures. (See segment #1 and segment #2) After that segment Steve had me offer some context regarding the politics of real estate development in New Jersey in general and in this case in particular.

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In January 2006, I was a student at NYU School of Law, home for holiday break. I had just gotten my wisdom teeth out. I remember that, because I was on a lot of painkillers, and I kept thinking that maybe my cloudy brain just wasn’t comprehending what I was reading on an anonymous message board created for law students, called AutoAdmit. There were hundreds of threads about me, with comments including:

"Official Jill Filipovic RAPE thread"

"I want to brutally rape that Jill slut"

"I'm 98% sure that she should be raped"

“that nose ring is fucking money, rape her immediately”

“what a useless guttertrash whore, I hope that someone uses my pink, fleshy-textured cylindrical body to violate her”

“she deserves a brutal raping”

“Legal liability from posting pic of Jill fucking?”

“she’s a normal-sized girl that I’d bang violently, maybe you’d have to kill her afterwards”

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