Chum chum-un-ey, Chum chum-un-ey, Chum chum chum-ee!

As we come closer to the wire for the conference, I’m getting crazier and crazier. Thank goodness for lunch time and being able to read the news. That will keep me calm, right?

  • From the “Sneaking It In Under The Wire” Department: The Bush administration is planning some last minute regulation changes that will provide for a broader ability of doctors and other medical personnel to refuse to do things based on their conscience. This broad new “right of conscience” rule would permit medical facilities, doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other healthcare workers to refuse to participate in any procedure they find morally objectionable, including abortion and possibly even artificial insemination and birth control. In addition to permitting the refusal of abortions, it would go further by making clear that healthcare workers also may refuse to provide information or advice to patients who might want an abortion. (Given the controversy with Prop. 8, I could also see providers refusing to help same-sex couples on moral grounds–a bad thing). HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said he intends to issue the rule as a final regulation before the Obama administration takes office, to protect the moral conscience of persons in the healthcare industry. If the regulation is issued before Dec. 20, it will be final when the new administration takes office, HHS officials say. Overturning it would require publishing a proposed new rule for public comment and then waiting months to accept comments before drafting a final rule.
  • From the “Goodnight Irene” Department: The legendary folk singer Odetta has died at 77. I hope this isn’t the start of another trifecta; Mary Travers has been sick for a long time. Anyway Odetta was one of the top folk singers of the 1950/1960 folk revival. I’m one of those revivalists: I was much less into rock in the 1970s and 1980s — I was listening to Peter, Paul, and Mary, the Kingston Trio, and soft folk like John Denver or Gordon Lightfood. Even today I listen to albums by The Weavers, The Gateway Singers, Tom Paxton, and of course PP&M and the Kingston Trio. Odetta was central in the folk music community, and it is sad to see her voice stilled.
  • From the “Son, Go To College” Department: According to the New York Times, higher education may be unaffordable for most in a few years. California fares better than most, but still the costs of a UC or CSU education are rising, and high school students are fighting over a smaller financial pie, with loans less available. I’m not looking forward to facing this myself in 2012. Basically, a recent report shows that published college tuition and fees increased 439% from 1982 to 2007, adjusted for inflation, while median family income rose 147%. Student borrowing has more than doubled in the last decade, and students from lower-income families, on average, get smaller grants from the colleges they attend than students from more affluent families.
  • From the “Wilma, Stop This Crazy Thing!” Department: Next on the musical bandwagon: “The Flintstones”. Yup, Bedrock’s favorite familiy is being prepped for the stage by none other than Marco Pennette (Book), with music and lyrics by Jeff “Avenue Q” Marx and Jake Anthony. The plot of The Flintstones, according to Variety, will focus on contemporary issues: “Wilma, for example, mulls leaving Fred because he still acts too much like a caveman and hasn’t adapted to more modern ways. Barney and Betty tackle fertility issues before deciding to adopt. Musical will also tackle global warming — but in this case, as The Flintstones takes place before the ice age, the characters will confront ‘global cooling.'”