Texas Republicans lead in the War on Women — kill more pregnant mothers than any developed nation

The rate of Texas women who died from complications related to pregnancy doubled from 2010 to 2014, a new study has found, for an estimated maternal mortality rate that is unmatched in any other state and the rest of the developed world.

The finding comes from a report, appearing in the September issue of the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, that the maternal mortality rate in the United States increased between 2000 and 2014, even while the rest of the world succeeded in reducing its rate. Excluding California, where maternal mortality declined, and Texas, where it surged, the estimated number of maternal deaths…rose…about 27%.

But the report singled out Texas for special concern, saying the doubling of mortality rates in a two-year period was hard to explain “in the absence of war, natural disaster, or severe economic upheaval”…

No other state saw a comparable increase.

In the wake of the report, reproductive health advocates are blaming the increase on Republican-led budget cuts that decimated the ranks of Texas’s reproductive healthcare clinics. In 2011, just as the spike began, the Texas state legislature cut $73.6m from the state’s family planning budget of $111.5m. The two-thirds cut forced more than 80 family planning clinics to shut down across the state. The remaining clinics managed to provide services – such as low-cost or free birth control, cancer screenings and well-woman exams – to only half as many women as before.

At the same time, Texas eliminated all Planned Parenthood clinics – whether or not they provided abortion services – from the state program that provides poor women with preventive healthcare. Previously, Planned Parenthood clinics in Texas offered cancer screenings and contraception to more than 130,000 women…

The report comes just as public health advocates are raising questions about Texas’s ability to prepare for the Zika virus, which is transmitted by a common species of mosquito and has been linked to severe birth defects. The World Health Organization has advised women in areas of local transmission to delay pregnancy.

Texas is one of several southern states where health officials say there is a risk of a local outbreak. But about half the state lacks ready access to OB-GYN care, making it difficult for women to obtain contraception or for pregnant women to confirm the health of their babies. Just this month, Texas’s health department drew fire for allocating $1.6m of the $18m the state budgets for low-income women’s family planning to an anti-abortion group that does not provide basic health services.

It is truly hard for me to react politely to the politics of these miserable low-life scumbags. Every now and then I step back and reconsider condemning bible-thumping fundamentalists for the crimes committed in the name of some invisible white guy up in the clouds. Then, a report like this comes along and pisses me off more than ever. Superstition and holier-than-thou smugness provides the votes for every level of support for the War on Women that today’s Republicans justify as essential to class warfare.

They couldn’t care less about clinics closing down that serve poor and middle-income women, white, Latino and Black. These are families that shouldn’t be allowed any political power in the eyes of the Republican Party. Working folks in Texas exist only to serve the comfort and needs of the Oil Patch Boys,
local flunkies for military industrial corporations with factories and forts in the state – and that’s about it. Democracy, equal opportunity, constitutional rights are good for election campaign slogans and meaningless the rest of the time.

Republicans and the voters who elect and re-elect them are as responsible for the deaths of these women as any terrorist, foreign or domestic. Their crusade has different names. That’s all.

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Prevention-based food safety works — and soon to be the law


iStock

A food company recently issued a recall of hot dogs and corn dogs after its facility tested positive for Listeria.

On July 19, Oklahoma’s Bar-S Foods Co. issued a recall of more than 370,000 pounds of chicken and pork hot dogs and corn dogs. Bar-S Foods made the decision after multiple samples taken throughout its facility tested positive for Listeria. As of July 22, no illnesses have been linked to its hot dogs.

This is a prevention-based food safety approach in action. When routine tests of the facility environment suggested that the hot dogs might be contaminated, Bar-S Foods made immediate and decisive moves to protect consumers. The company’s response was consistent with the comprehensive guidance for controlling Listeria issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. FSIS regulates meat, poultry, and egg products — approximately 20 percent of the U.S. food supply. In addition to regulations, the agency publishes guidance documents such as the one addressing Listeria, which spells out what concrete steps for companies should take to test for Listeria contamination and what they should do if they find it.

Enforcement of FDA’s preventive controls rule — mandated by the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act — will begin in September. These prevention-based regulations require that processing facilities under FDA’s purview develop a food safety plan that identifies hazards, requires measures to minimize them, and establishes procedures to monitor the hazards, correcting them if they prove ineffective. Moreover, FDA’s regulations indicate that environmental testing for a pathogen such as Listeria monocytogenes or an indicator organism, such as Listeria species, should be done if contamination of a ready-to-eat food by this pathogen is likely.

Beyond the preventive controls rule, however, FDA should follow the example of FSIS and provide the food companies it regulates with information on when and how to sample and test ready-to-eat products and processing facilities for Listeria. Such a detailed guidance document would hopefully lead to fewer recalls and outbreaks—the ultimate goal of FSMA.

Hey, it’s only been a century or so since regulatory oversight for the American food industry was proposed. You just can’t rush into policies that save lives. Profits come first.

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A rose by any other name…


Click to enlarge

NGC 7129 is a fascinating and terribly lovely object. It’s a stellar nursery, a site of active star formation, buried deep within an invisible cloud of very cold molecular gas and dust…

NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope sees in the infrared, and detects dust. Some of this dust defines the blister in the larger cloud (red), while some is coming from the stars ejecting material (green). The overall effect makes NGC 7129 look like a closed rose bud.

Wow!

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Eurofurence 22 in Berlin — Europe’s largest furry convention


Click to enlargeCarsten Koall/Getty

More than 2,500 people have gathered in Berlin for Eurofurence, a convention for “furries” – lovers of anthropomorphic cartoon animals. Many of those attending Europe’s largest “furry” convention wear life-sized fantasy animal costumes, while others are fans of those who wear fursuits.

Members of the furry fandom often create their own “fursona” – an animal character. This avatar allows them to express characteristics quite different from their own personalities. Although around 80% of furries are male, many of their avatars are of a different gender.

Hope the weather ain’t too hot for furry suits.

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Mexico’s human rights agency says police murdered 22 at ranch

Federal police killed at least 22 people on a ranch last year, then moved bodies and planted guns to corroborate the official account that the deaths happened in a gunbattle, Mexico’s human rights commission said Thursday.

One police officer was killed in the confrontation in the western state of Michoacan on May 22, 2015. The government has said the dead were drug cartel suspects who were hiding out on the ranch in Tanhuato, near the border with Jalisco state.

The National Human Rights Commission said there were also two cases of torture and four more deaths caused by excessive force. It said it could not establish satisfactorily the circumstances of 15 others who were shot to death…

Mexico’s national security commissioner, Renato Sales, who oversees the federal police, denied the accusations, holding his own news conference before the rights commission had finished its own…

“The use of weapons was necessary and proportional against the real and imminent and unlawful aggression,” Sales said. “That is to say, in our minds they acted in legitimate defense.”

Thirteen of the 22 people the commission said were killed had been shot in the back…

Law and order in our southern neighbor. A police state is a police state – even when they’re killing criminal suspects – without a trial.

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New Army manual warns soldiers about store-bought drones

With easy access via online storefronts and similar sources, terrorists and rebels and even government forces from Iraq and Syria to Ukraine’s breakaway Donbass region have been increasingly using small drones. With little training, insurgents can use these tiny flying machines to spy on their opponents, direct artillery strikes or even possible attack targets directly.

Now, the U.S. Army is warning troops to be on the lookout for these specific threats in a new manual.

In July, the ground combat branch released a new publication called Techniques for Combined Arms for Air Defense. The handbook includes sections specifically dealing with drones…

…Two types of pilotless aircraft are “the greatest challenges for Army forces,” the manual declares. “The smaller platform … provides the user with the ability to meet reconnaissance, surveillance and information collection requirements without being noticed.”

The Pentagon describes the first category as remote control aircraft generally weighing fewer than 20 pounds that routinely fly below 1,200 feet. The next level up are craft up to 55 pounds that can travel up to 3,500 feet in the air. Troops shouldn’t expect drones in either group to fly faster than 300 miles per hour…

The category covers an ever increasing number of commercial types already available to hobbyists and private citizens. The most common variants are miniature helicopters with four, six or even eight separate rotors, which can cost anywhere between around $100 and $500 depending on the particular configuration.

These are obviously the kind of drones the Army was thinking about when it drafted the manual. The graphics inserted into the text clearly show a commercial quadcopter design.

The manual says these drones present four basic types of threats, from spying to indirect and direct attacks to swarming friendly troops. The possibility of enemy fighters snooping on American positions is a very real concern…

On top of traditional surveillance, the Army air defense manual points out that enemy fighters could use the drones to watch troops approach a roadside bomb or other hazard. With the remote controlled camera overhead, they could set off these improvised explosives at the best possible moment without having to be nearby…The Army is worried that militants could turn these amateur flying spooks into remote controlled bombs, too.

Sooner or later a $500 drone is going to take down a $500 million military aircraft. Ain’t economic democracy something to behold?

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Everyone’s favorite new selfie — naked Trump


Click to enlarge

Disturbing statue of nude Donald Trump with tiny genitals was removed from Union Square in NYC. Copies put up in other cities were still standing this afternoon.

NYC Parks stands firmly against any unpermitted erection in city parks, no matter how small,” said Parks Department spokesman Sam Biederman.

Har.

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Only one Republican from New England may be left in Congress after the November elections


“I will not be voting for Donald Trump for president” – Senator Susan Collins

New England’s shrinking Republican delegation in Congress is moving toward the brink of political extinction in November with Donald Trump at the top of the party’s ticket…Only four Republicans remain in New England’s 33-member congressional delegation, and three are in competitive races this fall. The other, four-term Senator Susan Collins of Maine, doesn’t face re-election this year.

Republican moderates who once represented the region became a dying breed in the past few decades as the party moved to the right. Trump, with his controversies and bombastic demeanor, has complicated what was already a difficult task of getting re-elected for the region’s party members.

Losses by Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte and Representative Frank Guinta, both of New Hampshire, and Representative Bruce Poliquin of Maine could leave Collins as the only member of her party in Congress from the six New England states: Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Maine and Massachusetts…

Democrats, even before Trump was nominated, were banking on Clinton’s coattails to help them win the Senate and make gains in House seats. Trump’s antics and cratering poll numbers have some Republicans increasingly worried about a rout in November.

Princeton’s Julian Zelizer said there’s a “cushion” of Republican congressional seats in the South to guarantee continued strong presence, even with a loss of some members. But there’s no such cushion in New England for Republican lawmakers.

The Pew Research Center says the combined House delegation of six New England states went from 15 Democrats and 10 Republicans in 1973-74 to 20 Democrats and two Republicans in 2011-2012.

The cradle of the American Revolution was also an important center for every generation’s fight against bigotry, for civil rights. Whether you were an Abolitionist, fighting for Women’s Suffrage, involved with the LGBT struggle for equal opportunity, New England could be counted on for national support.

As one of the centers for education in the nation, contempt for populism and Trump makes rote Republican politics a liability.

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Sometimes you get what you need, sometimes you lose what you deserve to lose – eh, North Carolina?


Bob Donnan/USA Today Sports

The NBA has decided to hold the 2017 All-Star Game in New Orleans after taking the midseason event out of North Carolina because of a state law that limits anti-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay and transgender people.

New Orleans, announced Friday as the new location of the game, replaces Charlotte, which was set to host the game until the NBA decided last month to move it elsewhere.

Unlike several other Southern states, Louisiana has not been swept up in legislative efforts to pass laws similar to that in North Carolina — a fact Gov. John Bel Edwards has touted while lobbying the NBA to bring its All-Star weekend to New Orleans.

“We embrace our rich cultural heritage and see our diversity as a virtue,” Edwards wrote in a letter to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver in late July. “Should the NBA choose to bring the All-Star Game back to New Orleans in 2017, it will strongly reaffirm its commitment to communities that value fairness and inclusion.”

The NBA’s decision — and the economic boost it will bring — provides a timely dose of good news following disastrous flooding across large swaths of southeast Louisiana that has killed at least 13 people and damaged an estimated 40,000 homes…

This marks the third time New Orleans, which became an NBA city for the second time in 2002, has been selected to host the league’s All-Star Game.

A number of entertainment acts, including a Bruce Springsteen concert, have canceled North Carolina events because of its so-called HB2 law…

The Human Rights Campaign, a national civil rights group working on behalf of lesbian, gay and transgender people, applauded the NBA’s decision to choose New Orleans.

The boycott is an old and honorable political act. The opportunity to stick it to a state controlled by voters who elect and re-elect bigots – and take away $100 million in revenue that would have landed in the North Carolina business community – is enough to make an cynical old Leftie like me smile for days.

That the process ends up benefitting the people of a state traumatized by natural disaster – and expands upon services rendered to needy folks by the kindness and social understanding of NBA athletes – is a special bonus.

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