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May 22, 2013

Host: Ted Simons

Abortion Ban Ruling

  |   Video
  • The ninth circuit court of appeals struck down an Arizona law which bans abortions after 20 weeks. Arizona State University law professor Paul Bender talks about the ruling.
  • Paul Bender - Arizona State University Law Professor
Category: Law   |   Keywords: abortion, ruling,

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Ted Simons: The ninth circuit Court of Appeals yesterday struck down an Arizona law banning abortions after 20 weeks. Joining us is Arizona State University law professor Paul bender. Always a pleasure. Good to have you here. What did the ninth circuit look at, what did they rule?

Paul Bender: They ruled that Alabama -- they have a law too. Arizona's law which says -- which would ban abortions after 20 weeks of fetal life, that is – 20 weeks after conception was unconstitutional, violated Roe versus Wade. The reason is Roe versus Wade held a woman has a right to an abortion up until fetal viability. If you pass a law which fixes a time that is pre-viability, and says you can have an abortion after that time, the ninth circuit says that's unconstitutional because the Supreme Court has said that you have a right to an abortion up until the time of fetal viability. The Arizona law clearly cuts that right off before fetal viability.

Ted Simons: Correct me if I'm wrong, the Arizona cite seems to suggest states are aloud reasonable restrictions and limits to abortions and the 20-week limit was reasonable.

Paul Bender: There are a lot of reasonable regulations but they are not allowed to prohibit abortions until fetal viability. That's Roe and Wade clear as can be. It says women have a right to have an abortion until the fetus is viable. You can say it may be in a hospital. You can tell the woman this, that or the other thing about the abortion. People have tried waiting periods. A lot of that is unconstitutional. But this is not a regulation. It's a prohibition. Under Arizona law you can't not get an abortion if the fetus is more than 20 weeks and you have a constitutional right to get an abortion up until fetal viability. It's that period between weeks and viability that it's unconstitutional to prohibit it.

Ted Simons: This ruling reversed a judge which upheld the law. Talk about that decision and why the ninth circuit unanimously said no go.

Paul Bender: The ninth circuit said it because it's clearly unconstitutional. A number of states have passed laws that time is different from one to another but if you set a time before viability and prohibit abortion after that time, it's clearly unconstitutional under Roe and Wade. There's a lot of arguments, some sensible, as to why that's a bad rule, but that happens to be the law now, and the ninth circuit has to follow it. All the courts do unless the Supreme Court changes it. What the District Court said was, well, the fetus may feel pain at 20 weeks. Well, that may be true, but Roe versus Wade isn't based on whether the fetus feels pain, it's based on viability. He said a couple of other things, well, you could have the abortion before weeks so we're not stopping them from having an abortion, but that gets -- that's inconsistent with what ROE said, which is you have a right to an abortion until fetal viability. If the state says you can't have an abortion before viability that's got to be unconstitutional under Roe.

Ted Simons: The state in arguing for this law were thinking, some were, this is not a surprise out of the ninth circuit, it will go further, an there's an idea that you mentioned viability. It's a key word. Viability standard in and of itself needs to be reexamined by the Supreme Court.

Paul Bender: There's a lot of reasons to support that. The viability standard is a very unusual one because it turns upon a guess as to a medical physical condition. Viability means the fetus is capable of living outside the womb. So how do you know whether a fetus is viable or not? It's a guess, a medical guess. It's about something that's fairly subjective. What do you mean by capable of living? What are the chances that it would survive? 90% chance? The court did go out of its way to say capable of living alone or in an incubator. Still nobody knows exactly when a particular fetus is capable of that. It changes because medical science changes. The time of viability has moved earlier by a couple of weeks.

Ted Simons: I read during Roe versus Wade it was weeks. Now it's down to 23, 24.

Paul Bender: Some think it's 24. Everyone agrees that's one of the problems with the state's position in this case was that the ninth circuit says I assume it's true that everybody agreed that 20 weeks was not -- a fetus at weeks is not viable. Once you agree a fetus is not viable the woman has a right to abort that fetus. There is reason I think to rethink the whole thing in terms of what you're trying to do here is trying to protect the woman's right and you're trying to protect fetal life as much as you can. What you really maybe want to do is work out some system where women have a fair chance to have an abortion and that may turn on the reason they are having an abortion because women do it for different reasons. It may turn on when they find out about things. If you build flexibility to the system and have a rule that let's women have an abortion, give them a fair chance to have them so they don't have an unwanted child, then says you've had your fair chance, that might be a workable standard. But that's not what Roe versus Wade does.

Ted Simons: With that in mine does this case likely try to make its way to the Supreme Court?

Paul Bender: I would imagine they are going to try to get the Supreme Court to review this. As I said before there are a number of states that have passed this statute. The Supreme Court is not going to take all those cases, so it's a good chance it would take one of them.

Ted Simons: If it takes this case and the state really pushes that let's look again at a viability standard, is this likely to do it and if so, what would they rule?

Paul Bender: This is not a good case to do that.

Ted Simons: How come?

Paul Bender: It's a fixed week standard. Everybody agrees that the fetus is not viable at weeks. It’s direct confrontation with Roe versus Wade. If the state tried to do something more flexible, had rules about how you tell when a fetus is viable so it would help decide whether there's viability, that I think would have a much better chance of getting through the Supreme Court. In order to uphold the statute the Supreme Court has to overrule Roe versus Wade and come up with a completely new definition of when a woman has a right to an abortion.

Ted Simons: Last question. Is this court the makeup of the court as it sits, is this a court, A, to consider, B, to perhaps make serious changes?

Paul Bender: I think it's unlikely. There are probably four people on the court who would be willing to overrule it, dramatically change what it says, but justice Kennedy joined in an opinion some years ago in which he said he was not willing to do that, and I think he and four people presently on the court if he's not willing to there are four on the court not willing to do it, so I would think that the chances are that Roe and Wade would not be changed. That means the court would not take a case like this because people even if you want to overrule Roe versus Wade you don't want to take a case you know you'll lose. They may be waiting for a statute that's more flexible.

Ted Simons: Paul, always good to see you. We appreciate it.

Paul Bender: Nice to be here, Ted.

AZ Technology & Innovation: Eye Tracking Technology

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  • The Technology Based Learning and Research Center in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University announced a revolutionary mobile software tool developed along with Massively Parallel Technologies Inc. The tool is focused on optimizing a mobile eye-tracking application for smartphones and tablets using MPT’s Blue Cheetah software. TBLR’s Visual Engagement Mapping mobile application employs real-time eye tracking, a method used to ascertain students’ level of attention during an online lesson. Kevin Howard of Massively Parallel Technologies will talk about the new software.
  • Kevin Howard - Massively Parallel Technologies, ASU
Category: Technology   |   Keywords: technology, mobile, teachers, ASU, software, online, smartphone,

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Ted Simons: Tonight's focus on Arizona technology and innovation looks at a mobile eye tracking device developed in collaboration between the learning and research center at ASU and Massively Parallel Technologies, a Scottsdale based high-tech firm. Kevin Howard is with Massively Parallel Technologies. We talk about the new software. Good to have you here.

Kevin Howard: Thank you for having me.

Ted Simons: We're talking visual engagement mapping.

Kevin Howard: Yes.

Ted Simons: What does that mean?

Kevin Howard: Let me go back a little bit. The teachers college was really one of the drivers of this innovation, but visual engagement means from looking at your eyes we're able to tell whether or not you're getting the material being presented to you. That's in a nutshell what we're trying to do.

Ted Simons: That you're understanding what you're looking at, what you're reading?

Kevin Howard: Whether you're playing a video game that is trying to teach you something, reading some content or just interacting with an individual. How your eyes behave can be tracked.

Ted Simons: Give us an example. I think we have video of a kid doing something on a screen here. What are we looking at in his eyes?

Kevin Howard: You're looking at placement of the eyes, dwell time, how it's scanning. Between the child, the game and we have a supercomputer, 56 cores, a reasonable size machine, it's actually taking a map of where the eye ought to look based upon what the game is trying to present to the child, and determining from how long the child looks at various parts of the screen and how long they should be and where their eyes are looking whether or not the child is just lackadaisically doing things mechanically or whether or not they are actually actively engaged in picking up the information.

Ted Simons: When it comes to online learning the screen would be able to figure out if whoever is watching this particular online lesson is attentive or actually -- how do you differentiate? Some folks are barely paying attention but are retaining everything.

Kevin Howard: That's actually a reasonably small percentage of the population over time. What you want to do is say on the averages, especially for smaller kids, are they engaged. Adults are much better at being able to look like they are not looking at anything or paying attention and actually are paying attention. Children not so much. They don't have those same facilities.

Ted Simons: This is developed for -- it's mobile. Talking cellphones and tablets?

Kevin Howard: Anything that's mobile. The whole world is going mobile or already there for many people. The problem is that you might have seen eye tracking stuff on some cellphones. But that's not what we're talking about. We're talking about being able to analyze not just the eye position but all kinds of other factors and do that in real time regardless of the computing power of your mobile device. Say you had your old flip phone. If it happened to have a camera on it and they had an app on there that they were learning something from we could use that because the computing power of that device is not driving it.

Ted Simons: Interesting. You're using -- I'm getting it's called blue cheetah software. Is that the software that goes into everything?

Kevin Howard: No. That's actually in a supercomputer way away from the mobile device. There's a tiny little piece of blue cheetah that is on each of the devices, but it's tiny because all the computing is done in the cloud. It's not done in the device.

Ted Simons: Okay.

Kevin Howard: So think about what that means. That means you can literally have people all over the place, multiple people doing massively multi-player learning games, and the system is tracking all of them simultaneously and getting the merged effects of what the learning experience actually is.

Ted Simons: You work with ASU technology based learning research center. Talk about that collaboration.

Kevin Howard: It's been a wonderful collaboration. Paul Skiera and myself we share grad students. They make video games for teaching. They make not just video games but a plethora of mobile training devices and tools. What we added to the party was the ability to take massive amounts of data, analyze it in real time and present that information back to the mobile device so that divisions can be easily made on the mobile device without the device itself having to do the calculations.

Ted Simons: We could basically have a situation where I'm taking an online class, I think, I got this, I'm going to the next chapter, the computer says, no, you don't.

Kevin Howard: Better than that. As you're going through the material the system can recognize, wait a minute, this person doesn't like to read. If you have four lines the person's reading starts slowing down. They start drifting off. Instead of presenting it as large blocks of text maybe we have to present it differently. The system can then present the information in a way that learns how you actually learn in real time and then enables you to have the experience.

Ted Simons: That really is something. That is the next generation of learning devices it would seem.

Kevin Howard: Well, we believe that it is. You can't really do that on an individual device by individual device basis. You have to have a cloud component that allows all of these pieces and parts, devices to come alive together.

Ted Simons: Massively parallel technologies. You're based in Scottsdale.

Kevin Howard: All our engineering is done in Scottsdale. We have a branch office in Colorado. But what we do is high performance computing, large scale government class huge computing systems. What would you use these for? Weather modeling for example. We try to take cutting edge science and computer technology and instead of applying it to the more traditional high performance computing, oil exploration and the like, we said, what could we take this technology and enhance the learning experience of our children by taking very high-tech knowledge but presenting it in a way that is seamless and invisible to the child. If it's invisible all the child knows is the experience is better. They have no idea that the reason the experience is better is because the system is understanding how they actually learn.

Ted Simons: If they did have an idea they would know I better pay attention or the computer will be messing with me.

Kevin Howard: Or learning what's going on.

Ted Simons: What's next for your company?

Kevin Howard: Well, for this engagement we're going beyond just the mobile devices to whole classrooms. Because we have large scale computing behind us we can cheaply put a few cameras in a classroom, very inexpensive nowadays, determine the engagement level of the entire class and then feed in real time to the teacher whether or not which percentage of the classroom they are losing. In real time so they can automatically adjust.

Ted Simons: This is remarkable stuff. Good to have you here. Thank you so much. We appreciate it.

Kevin Howard: Thank you.

Legislative Update

  |   Video
  • Join us for a weekly legislative update with Arizona Capitol Times reporter Jim Small.
Category: Legislature   |   Keywords: legislative, update, legislature,

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Ted Simons: Good evening. Welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Medicaid expansion is still being considered and the governor continues her bill signing moratorium. Here with the latest in our update is Jim Small of the Arizona Capitol Times. Thanks for joining us. Medicaid expansion. We talked last week, Senate, all sorts of fireworks. Moves over to the hours, fireworks. Anything going on?

Jim Small: Nothing this week. The bill has gone over to the house on Monday, I think. Right now it's just a holding pattern. House speaker Andy Tobin last week put out his plan for how he wants to address the issue, has some reforms, legislative oversight, different provisions than what the governor had proposed. Most strikingly the thing it would is send it to the ballot for a special election. He's trying to get support for that. Initially there was no support for it. He's been meeting with hospitals, insurance companies, members of the business community to sell them on the virtues of why his plan is a better plan than what the governor is offering. I think there's also some discussions amongst Republicans in the caucus about his plan and what the Senate budget is, maybe what priorities they want to see in the budget versus what the Senate passed.

Ted Simons: As far as what he's trying to sell to outside interests and to lawmakers, as well, anyone buying?

Jim Small: Tough to say. Initially after last week he proposed sending it to the ballot a number of folks in our office were talking to house Republicans. Not finding a lot of support for it. In fact almost no support outside of the speaker and one or two others. You have a group of folks who don't like the expansion and don't want to put it on the ballot because of that, and a group that want to support the governor rather than putting it on the ballot. I think it's incumbent on him to get together a core group of people and use as a way to get something out of the governor's office.

Ted Simons: let's say he wins this and sells enough to get it out there, is the Senate going to go along with this?

Jim Small: As it stands, probably not. The thought process is that okay the Senate got their budget out, sent it to the house. Now the governor's office is going to work with the house. With Democrats, Republicans, whoever it is, to find a plan that's going to first of all get to the floor, the speaker will let it advance, second that will get the votes it needs to get out. At that point it will be sent back to the Senate.

Ted Simons: We almost had a mutiny there in the Senate regarding this plan for expanding Medicaid. Compare that kind of acrimony, good way to describe it, with what's happening in the house. The two dynamics there.

Jim Small: The Republican caucus in the Senate is fractured since Russell Pearce got elected Senate president you've had nothing but infighting and a clear divide amongst Republicans in that chamber. The house hasn't been that way. Andy Tobin is well liked amongst his members. Even folks may disagree with him politically he goes out of his way to defends what they do and fight for their issues. Stand up for them. I think he's built up a lot of loyalty there. While most observers think the votes do exist in the house, if the Medicaid expansion would go to the floor tomorrow the votes would be there. It would get 31,32,33 votes and pass. But the difference is you don't have -- the group of Republicans with who would vote for that are not willing to basically undermine their leadership, not willing to do the procedural things that happened in the Senate to force that vote to happen and to force the policy through.

Ted Simons: We have talked about this from the get-go, this idea that some see the provider assessment as a tax and thus would need two-thirds of the legislature to go ahead and approve this. Obviously we're not seeing two-thirds approval on anything right now. Is that still Damocles hanging over the whole process?

Jim Small: It is. That's one of the things speaker Tobin has said he thinks this is a tax increase. As such the constitution requires a two-thirds majority. Certainly some of the opponents of the expansion have said that. For a lot of those people whether that two-thirds majority exists they would still be opponents of it. It's kind of -- it's something to say against it but not necessarily what's keeping them from going for it.

Ted Simons: As far as the governor is concerned, moratorium on bills still intact?

Jim Small: Yes. The Senate passed the budget. Couple days after the governor had said I'm not going to sign any more of your bills, the basic response out of the governor's office when they were asked whether the moratorium would be lifted was, the budget out of the Senate was a good first step but we're not there yet. So finish your work on the expansion and the budget and other issues and we'll revisit the issue at a later date.

Ted Simons: As the speaker shops his idea of sending this to the ballot mostly with other things is the governor -- are they pushing? Shopping as well?

Jim Small: I think right now they are sitting back. By all indications they are sitting back. The folks Andy Tobin has been going to are folks that supported the governor since almost the beginning on this issue. I think that the response from the governor's office was, at least Andy Tobin is the first person with a plan of his own who has put it on paper and has something to take around to people. God bless him for doing that and we're going to let him do it because they are confident at the end of the day he has to come to them and they have to negotiate.

Ted Simons: any idea when the hearings would start?

Jim Small: No earlier than next week. The earliest is after the Memorial Day holiday. We'll have see what kind of progress gets made. Got made today and gets made tomorrow and in the days to come.

Ted Simons: Good stuff, Jim. Thanks for joining us.