Access to birth control pills easier in 102 countries – outside the U.S.

On World Contraception Day, let’s reflect on the fact that Americans still need to see their doctor to get birth control.


Click to enlargeAP/Charles Dharapak

❝ In this March 25, 2015, file photo, Margot Riphagen, of New Orleans, wears a birth control pills costume as she protests in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, as the court heard oral arguments in the challenges of President Barack Obama’s health care law requirement that businesses provide their female employees with health insurance that includes access to contraceptives.

Yup. This is about as advanced and up-to-date as Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats think our healthcare should get. Keep access control in the pockets of the medical-industrial complex.

Equifax hack — Executive stock sale before announcement

❝ A U.S. senator has called for a criminal investigation of executives from credit bureau Equifax for stock sales after a massive data breach this summer, and said their actions were comparable to insider trading.

The breach, which the company learned about in July but did not acknowledge until this month, also prompted expressions of concern from U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and the Federal Trade Commission. Cyber security experts believe it is one of the largest data hacks ever disclosed…

❝ Senator Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat who sits on the Senate Banking Committee, said it was “disturbing” that it appeared executives sold nearly $2 million worth of company stock in the time between learning of a sweeping hacker intrusion and making it public.

“If that happened, somebody needs to go to jail,” Heitkamp said at a credit union industry conference in Washington. “It’s a problem when people can act with impunity with no consequences. How is that not insider trading?”

I’ll second that emotion.

BTW, since this article was published, it turns out Equifax learned about the hack even earlier than previously admitted.

Trump flunky thinks sexual assault survivors don’t need protection

❝ The education department is rescinding Obama-era guidelines, a move survivors and advocates have long feared.

❝ On Friday the Department of Education announced it would rescind the Obama administration’s 2011 guidelines on schools’ responsibilities under Title IX, a move advocates have long feared would discourage survivors from reporting assault and encourage schools to use unfair or ineffective investigation practices.

Schools do need to do a better job of responding to sexual assault allegations and protecting students. But DeVos’s approach — which has included taking advice from those who have questioned and targeted sexual assault survivors — is likely to do more harm than good…

❝ In a speech at George Mason University, Betsy DeVos listed a number of situations in which she argued that “the failed system” put in place by the Obama administration had resulted in inequities either for survivors or for students accused of sexual assault. And she argued that “overreach” by schools and “the heavy hand of Washington” had ruined the lives of survivors and the accused alike…

Even before this announcement, the education department had sent strong signals that enforcing the 2011 letter wasn’t a priority. The department announced this summer that it would no longer require investigators to collect data on schools’ past behavior as part of civil rights investigations. This indicates to schools that the department will be less thorough in looking into whether they are following the guidelines or not.

Blaming the victim is back in fashion in Congress and the White House. Trump installing Betsy DeVos in charge of Education at the Cabinet level pretty much assured that.

Dogs Who Live With Smokers Die Younger


How to kill your best friend

❝ Dogs are like small children. They tend to explore their environments by putting whatever they can find in their mouths, as well as sniffing about your carpet, your furniture, and your lap. It’s no surprise, then, that your canine friend can be harmed by toxic chemicals in your environment. New research confirms that dogs living in smoking homes are more likely to suffer from DNA damage and show signs of premature aging than those living in non-smoking homes.

❝ In people, the potential health risks of smoking and inhaling second-hand smoke are well documented. But to understand how environmental tobacco affects our pets, Natalie Hutchinson, a veterinary researcher at the University of Glasgow, recruited 42 dogs and their owners, approximately half of whom lived in smoking homes and half in non-smoking homes. Each of the dog owners completed a survey about their smoking habits, frequency, and whether they smoked indoors or stepped outside. Then researchers collected blood, hair samples, and cheek swabs from the dogs during a health checkup. They also offered free-of-charge neutering, and collected spare tissues for genetic analysis.

❝ A year later, Hutchinson followed up with 25 of the pet owners and conducted some more tests. She found that certain biological markers, such as the presence of nicotine in dogs’ hair, were much higher in dogs exposed to smoke at home and were related to the amount of smoking going on. “The fact that we found significant increases in various biomarkers over just a year’s worth of data is the most worrying part for me,” she says. “Dogs can live up to 10 to 15 years with us, which means they could be exposed to even more harmful effects over time.”

But dogs that came from smoking homes were already showing signs of DNA damage that could lead to shorter lives, Hutchinson says. Their telomeres, which cap and protect the ends of chromosomes, were much shorter compared to dogs from non-smoking homes. Telomeres not only protect DNA from oxidative stress, once they reach a critically short length, cells stop dividing and may even die, Hutchinson explains.

No surprise to me. Still, it’s nice to see the beginnings of scientific research validating what lots of folks know anecdotally.

There’s a Secret Collection at an Army Base in Kansas

❝ Located on the outskirts of Kansas City and home to 2,500 soldiers, Fort Leavenworth houses a 4,000-piece art collection, and almost no one knows it exists. The United States Army never meant to hide the collection, but also never meant to amass it.

Now, thanks to a local art gallery owner, portions of the collection have been on public display and the collection has a name: “Art of War, Gifts of Peace.”

❝ This year, 119 students from 91 nations will spend almost a year in the accredited master’s-level courses to earn a Master of Military Art and Science. They also have the option of earning one of 12 other degrees by taking additional courses at a nearby university. Officers in foreign armies with the rank equivalent of a U.S. Army major are eligible to apply within their respective countries; the U.S. State Department and Department of Defense choose which nations may send students…

❝ Over the years, several, if not most of the esteemed officers presented something to the college upon graduating — but most of the items disappeared into storage. A select few adorned private offices and hallways, until they became part of the furniture, common objects no one gave much thought to.

Intricately carved ivory sailboats, gold-plated swords, and hand-worked pewter vases silently joined jewelry, bronze statues, and detailed ebony masks in the storage room. Regardless of the material or value, LaMoe says his obligation as a government employee is to accept the gifts and ensure that they are catalogued and stored properly. Nothing more.

So, the gift collection has grown in the darkness of the storage room for decades.

RTFA. Cataloging the collection must be a journey of delight and intrigue.

N.F.L. Protests Across the United States, Across the Atlantic

❝ N.F.L. players across the country demonstrated during the national anthem on Sunday in a show of solidarity against President Trump, who scolded the league and players on Twitter this weekend. With the support of team owners, some of whom joined their teams on the field, dozens of players knelt in silent protests, while Tom Brady and others opted to stand and lock arms.

❝ The Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans both stayed in their respective locker rooms prior to their matchup in Nashville.

The young woman who sang the national anthem for their match – also took a knee in solidaruity.

Most expensive fighter ever — F-35 Ejection Seats will only harm a couple dozen pilots 1st year in service

❝ The F-35 fighter jets’ flawed ejection seats, which Air Force officials said in May had been fixed, still pose a “serious” risk that will probably injure or kill nearly two dozen pilots, according to an internal Air Force safety report that service officials withheld from the press.

The F-35 Joint Program Office — which runs the $406.5 billion initiative, the most expensive weapons program in history — has declined to try to save those lives by conducting less than a year’s worth of additional testing that would cost a relatively paltry few million dollars, the report shows…

❝ Specifically, the 2015 tests indicated 98 percent “probability of fatal injury” for pilots weighing less than 135 pounds when ejecting from the original seat when the jet was too low to the ground to cushion the force of the ejection by the smaller parachute, according to the internal documents.

For pilots weighing up to 165 pounds, there was a nearly one in four chance of fatal injury, the documents showed. In Air Force press releases, that was described merely as “elevated” risk

❝ New F-35s will have the somewhat improved seats, but all but four of the 235 jets that pilots are flying today have yet to be modified…

But, the military-industrial complex is making a boatload of money. Which do you think counts more with the Pentagon or Congress. Profits or pilots?