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Feel Free to Share – This information is meant to get you started… so you can do more research on your own… dig a little deeper and find what works for you. This article is for educational purposes only, I strongly recommend that you seek advice from your own GP, private doctor, or medical specialist for any ailment, illness, or medical condition.. this article not meant to be a scientific analysis in any way, shape, or form. 

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Gender identity: What do legal changes have to do with women’s rights? – BBC News

Image copyright EPA

Trans activists have welcomed moves from the government to “streamline and de-medicalise the process” of changing legal gender. But some women are worried about the potential impact on their own legal rights.

Today, anyone who wants to legally change their gender in the UK has to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC). Many don’t though, because they feel the lengthy process is invasive and demeaning.

In order to qualify, trans people do not need to have had surgery but must have lived for two years in their preferred gender and have a diagnosis of gender dysphoria – distress caused by a mismatch between biological sex and gender identity.

One way to simplify things for trans men and women would be to allow individuals to self-declare the gender in which they choose to live, without the need for medical evidence or proof. That’s what the government has now put out to consultation.

But the idea has been met with anger and shock in some forums including parenting website Mumsnet, where the latest in a series of threads attracted more than 1,000 comments in two days.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Former boxing manager Kellie Maloney says her application was twice rejected before her gender recognition certificate was granted

At present, the guidance issued to service providers – women’s refuges, for example – by the Equality and Human Rights Commission states: “Where a transsexual person is visually and for all practical purposes indistinguishable from someone of their preferred gender, they should normally be treated according to their acquired gender unless there are strong reasons not to do so.”

Those with a GRC “should be treated in their acquired gender for all purposes”.

That means that anyone who identifies themselves as a woman – whether that is their legal status or not – can already use separate-sex facilities such as changing rooms, toilets or single-sex gyms.

The proposed changes to the gender recognition act does not change that.

The concern is that the greater ease with which gender could be legally changed would give a tiny minority with nefarious motives greater opportunity.

The Equality Act 2010 also permits service providers – including hospitals and prisons – to use their discretion to refuse a trans person access to single-sex services on a case-by-case basis.

This legislation however, could also change.

A report on transgender equality published in January 2016 by Parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee recommended discretion should not apply where a trans person had been recognised as their acquired gender “for all legal purposes” under the Gender Recognition Act – in other words, obtained a GRC.

And it’s that which could get much easier in future.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Under current law, any person who self-identifies as a woman can use female-only services like toilets and changing rooms

A lot of the discussion online is around women-only spaces.

Refuges and rape centres, even changing rooms are places viewed as “safe” by women, some of them fleeing violence, because they typically exclude men.

Many of those commenting on Mumsnet fear that simply by choosing to call themselves women, “predatory males” – a minority who may want to abuse the system – could get access to those places and put women at risk.

Prisons are another area of concern, with warnings that biological males, some potentially dangerous, could be placed in facilities with vulnerable women.

In the world of sport, the users also fear women could find themselves at risk or unable to compete as they could be taking part alongside biological males.

GRCs do not however, affect the categorisation of people for sporting purposes. Sports authorities have their own rules. UK Athletics for example, says trans women can compete in their affirmed gender on providing hormonal evidence.

Image copyright Reuters

One Mumsnet commentator, BahHumbygge, described “biological sex” as “vitally important”, adding: “The idea that a predatory male can just decree by personal fiat he is now female and can now access any female-only space is simply horrifying.”

“I fully support the right of people to dress how they like, call themselves what they like, and 99% of the time do whatever job they like or live wherever they like… But 1% of the time – women’s prisons, women’s spaces where they are naked and vulnerable, women’s shelters and rape crisis centres – people with penises should not be in these spaces or taking jobs in those places,” M0stlyBowlingHedgehog writes.

Mumsnet CEO Justine Roberts said the site’s users were “deeply divided”.

“It’s a hugely complex and emotive issue that, sadly, seems to pit two vulnerable groups against each other,” she added.

The fears expressed echo those raised by some in the feminist movement, including writer Sarah Ditum, who argues the move could create a system “vulnerable to exploitation and open to abuse”.

“We have female-only spaces to protect women and help them participate in public life. It’s taken a long time to establish women-only services,” Sarah said.

“Discretion must be protected,” she said, so that facilities such as prisons can continue to use their judgement on a case-by-case basis.

‘Long overdue’

Set against these complaints are other voices, who stress the value of a law change to trans people.

“This gender bill would be an amazing step forward for trans rights. You are indeed on the wrong side of history,” writes BuffyChiro.

Campaign group Stonewall called the current system “demeaning and broken”.

Writer and broadcaster Paris Lees transitioned when she was a teenager. She has not applied for a GRC but her passport says she’s female. She told the BBC anything to make the transitioning process “just a little bit easier” was “long overdue and great news”.

She rejects the fears raised on Mumsnet and elsewhere as “absurd”.

Reality Check: What does legally changing gender involve?

  • It can take more than five years for trans men and women in England and Wales to legally change their gender under the current system
  • To change gender in the eyes of the law, individuals have to apply for a certificate under the 2004 Gender Recognition Act
  • They must be aged 18 or older and must live for two years in their preferred gender
  • They need to have a diagnosis of gender dysphoria from a psychiatrist – a condition where a person experiences distress because of a mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity
  • Once someone has this diagnosis, they can apply to a gender recognition panel – a legal tribunal which will look at the evidence submitted before deciding whether to issue a certificate
  • People can change the gender on documentation including passports and driving licences without a gender recognition certificate

Read more

Gender vs sex

Critics of a change also warn about possible implications for data gathering.

If official information no longer distinguishes between natal sex and identified sex, statistics would inevitably be affected.

“This would obscure important trends in society,” Sarah said, “like the gender pay gap, crime and male violence – especially with regard to who is committing crimes against who”.

Trans people currently have explicit protection under the Equality Act if they’ve undergone “gender reassignment”, be it medical or non-medical. Other so-called protected characteristics include race, religion, sex and disability.

But the term “gender reassignment” has been deemed outdated and a bill to change the protected characteristic to “gender identity”, is awaiting its second reading in the House of Commons.

“Gender identity legislation makes it appear that sex discrimination doesn’t exist anymore. But it does,” said Sarah.

Image caption Broadcaster Dame Jenni Murray came under criticism in March after suggesting men who have had sex-change operations should not claim to be “real women”

Stephanie Davies-Arai founded the Transgender Trend website – a group for parents to discuss transgender issues.

“Men could in effect identify their way into the protected category for women,” she said.

What this means for women, Stephanie argues, is that the female sex would no longer have a protected category or political representation.

“‘Women are oppressed on the basis of their biological sex, not their gender identity,” she added. “There has to be a place for the female sex as a distinct group.”

This argument – the distinction between sex and gender – is refuted by some, including trans activist and feminist author Julia Serano, who argues there are more than two discrete mutually exclusive sexes.

Instead, she argues sex is made up of a number of variable dimorphic traits – like chromosomes and reproductive organs – that sometimes align in a person, and sometimes don’t.

Both Sarah and Stephanie have stressed their support for trans rights, but that hasn’t stopped criticism being directed at them.

“There’s a climate that if you challenge this – you are a trans-phobic, bigoted hater,” Stephanie says.

The government’s consultation is due to be published in the autumn, but until then the debate for all women’s rights continues.

Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-40713645

HIV tests for new GP patients ‘can aid early diagnosis’ – BBC News

Image copyright Getty Images

Offering HIV testing when people register with a new GP in areas of high prevalence is cost-effective and could prolong lives, a new study says.

Patients at 40 GP surgeries in the London borough of Hackney were given finger-prick HIV testing when registering.

The study, in the Lancet, found this raised the rate of diagnosis four-fold.

The Terrence Higgins Trust welcomed the findings and called on healthcare commissioners to act on them.

Public Health England already recommends that all GPs in areas where HIV prevalence is high, or extremely high, should offer testing to everyone who registers with the practice and has not previously been diagnosed with the virus.

Around 86,000 patients in Hackney, which has a high HIV prevalence rate – eight in 1,000 people – were tested as part of the research.

‘Exhausted and skinny’

Alex Causton-Ronaldson, who was diagnosed with HIV in 2014, says more accessible testing in GP surgeries would have greatly benefited him.

He learned of his diagnosis at the age of 24 and said: “I lost loads of weight really rapidly. I started getting this rash all over my body and I didn’t know what it was,” he said.

“I was exhausted and skinny.”

At the time, he was living with his parents in Norwich, which has a relatively low prevalence of HIV, and had to get a test elsewhere.

Image copyright Alex Causton-Ronaldson

A positive result came through a week later.

Alex said: “I cried like I’ve never cried before.”

The late diagnosis meant he was taken to hospital affected by a condition called thrombocytopenia, where his body would not clot blood.

“I got put in a wheelchair because I couldn’t get knocked or bruised, or even a paper cut,” he explained.

“If the test was more accessible, I could have been diagnosed earlier and kept out of hospital.”

Investment call

In the UK around 13,500 people do not know that they have HIV, meaning they miss out on treatment, remain infectious to others and are more expensive to treat.

Dr Werner Leber, from Queen Mary University of London, one of the study’s authors, said: “We’ve shown that HIV screening in UK primary care is cost-effective and potentially cost-saving, which is contrary to widespread belief.

“This is an important finding, given today’s austerity.”

The researchers called on healthcare commissioners to invest in rolling out HIV screening to all 74 local authorities in England with high HIV prevalence.

They said testing had fallen in some areas because of financial pressures on local-authority budgets.

Early treatment benefits

Their work shows costs are high at first – because more people will be diagnosed and need anti-retroviral treatment – but these programmes become cost-effective in the longer-term.

This is because onward transmission of the virus is brought under control, and people who start treatment sooner stand the best chance of staying healthy.

Dr Michael Brady, from the Terrence Higgins Trust, called on healthcare commissioners to act on the findings.

“One in seven people living with HIV do not know that they have it. Undiagnosed HIV infection puts individuals at risk of preventable illness and death,” he said.

Alex Causton-Ronaldson now lives a healthy life in London with HIV. He would love to see testing be more accessible across the country.

He said: “If everyone was tested and on drugs, so it’s undetectable and can’t be passed on, we could stop the spread of HIV in our lifetime.”

Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-40756196

How your body changes when you turn 30

Aging is an inevitable process, but there are some bodily changes that you might not know about as you say goodbye to your 20s.

Turning 30 opens the door to prolonged hangovers and a slump in metabolism and yes, youll even get gray hairs down there.

Weight gain
Shifting weight wont be as easy as it was in your 20s, and you might notice a loss in muscle tone as your metabolism begins to slow.

This is more noticeable in women than in men and is often as a result of pregnancy when the body struggles to bounce back as easily.

Stress at work can also cause weight gain, as a reactionary release of hormones can encourage you to store weight around your middle, nutrition and weight loss expert Jane Michell told MailOnline.


But its not all bad studies have shown people today tend to gain less weight in your 30s than they had in previous decades.

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that the average person typically puts on 1 to 2 pounds a year from early adulthood through middle age, according to the Washington Post.

Sex drive
Women might think their libido declines as they get older, but experts say its actually the opposite.

Researchers found that women ages 27 to 45 had more sexual thoughts, fantasies, and sex in general compared to those in their early 20s or women going through menopause.

The study, published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, suggests women may have an increased sex drive due to a decline in fertility.


For men, testosterone levels decrease after 30, which can in some cases lead to a declining libido.

It happens at a rate of about 1 percent a year, and by age 70, the decrease can approach 50 percent, according to Livestrong.

Changes in this hormone also have an impact on increased body fat, hair loss, mood swings and erectile dysfunction.

Gray hair
Were all well aware that we could see the odd gray hair here and there at some point in life but what about in the pubic region?

Dr Jessica Shepherd, assistant professor of clinical obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of Illinois College of Medicine, said its just like finding a grey hair on your head.


I hear this complaint in the office,”she told the Huffington Post. This is one we can laugh off together and say, its fine.

For some people, grayness isn’t the only worrisome change that comes in their 30s hair loss can also be a problem. 

Fertility starts to drop off from the age of 30, and the chance of conceiving around this age is about 20 percent per month.

From about age 32, a womans chances of conceiving decrease gradually but significantly, and by 35 the decline speeds up.

After that, the proportion of women who experience infertility, miscarriage or a problem with their baby increases.


Its not just an issue for women the quality of a mans sperm can decrease with age, leading older couples to have issues getting pregnant.

Theres also an increased risk of not conceiving at all.

The volume of a mans semen and sperm motility (the ability of sperm to move toward an egg) decrease continually between ages 20 and 80, according to YourFertility.org.au.

Women can expect changes in their menstrual cycles from their mid 30s as oestrogen and progesterone levels dip.

They might become shorter or longer, lighter or heavier, or start earlier or later than usual.

Dr Shepherd told the HP some women can experience perimenopause the transitional phase before menopause, as early as their late 30s.

Some menstruation changes are natural, but she advises seeing a doctor if you are concerned as it could signal something more serious.

Bladder weakness
Trouble with a little light bladder leakage could become a problem as you reach your 30s especially for women who have had children.

Shepherd explained this is because vaginal labor can sometimes damage the muscles and nerves that control urination.

Urinary incontinence affects around 25 percent to 45 percent of women, so if this happens to you, dont be embarrassed to see a doctor.

To help fix incontinence, your doctor may prescribe medication or recommend doing pelvic floor muscle exercises to tighten your bladder and improve control.

First published on The Sun

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/lifestyle/2017/05/26/how-your-body-changes-when-turn-30.html

Doctor Will Provide Free Surgeries For Trans Military Personnel

A former Navy surgeon said that because of President Donald Trumps announcement of a ban on transgender peopleserving in the armed services,she will waive the cost of gender confirmation surgery for some military personnel.

Dr.Christine McGinn, who is also transgender and was once nominated for the Navys flight surgeon of the year award, told CNNs Michael Smerconish on Saturday that if the military wont pay for its trans service members gender confirmation surgeries, any patients she already has scheduled for those operations will receive them for free.

If the commander-in-chief wont take care of our veterans, our veterans will.I will do surgery for free on the number of people that I have already lined up for surgery, she said. She added that shes more than happy to do so.

The scope of the transgender military ban, which Trump announced in a series of tweets on Wednesday, remains unclear. Military officials were caught off-guard about the policy change and said they were awaiting instruction on how to implement it. White House officials were unable to answer reporters questions on when the ban would go into effect and whether it would apply to current military members, leaving the fate of McGinns patients and thousands of others hanging in the balance.

Its obvious discrimination, McGinn said. I think any fifth-grader could see that.

Trump claimed in his announcement that transgender service members burdened the military with tremendous medical costs and disruption. But as McGinn and many others have noted, the cost of caring for those personnel is a drop in the bucket of the militarys massive budget.

The militarys transition-related health care costs, for example, amounted to less than 10 percent of what it spent on erectile dysfunction prescriptions in 2014.

I think its being twisted and spun to make it seem like it would be more than it is, McGinn told CNN of Trumps budget claims. I think the cost of getting rid of very well specialized, trained military service people is exponentially larger than just taking care of them.

Those that choose to have transition-related surgeries may only be out of work for a few weeks, she added.

Most of my patients are back to work in six weeks, sometimes two weeks, she said. I think that this is getting inflated to make it a little more political.

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/doctor-free-transgender-surgery_us_597e0e1fe4b02a4ebb760a2f

5 of the most interesting things we saw at Politicon, the Comic-Con of politics

Pasadena (CNN)Politicon has lived up to its reputation as the “Comic-Con of politics.”

The third annual event, held in Pasadena, California, drew in thousands of political commentators, journalists, celebrities and politics nerds from across the US.
Here are five of the most interesting things we spotted at the two-day conference.
    1. Tomi Lahren mania
    Lahren knows how to stir up a crowd.
    The conservative firebrand, who made a name for herself speaking sharp and fast about conservative politics, told an audience at Politicon that she wants to repeal and replace Obamacare — but then casually added later she’s still on her parents’ health care plan.
    “Luckily I’m 24 and I’m still on my parents’ health care plan,” she told comedian Chelsea Handler, who conducted the Q&A.
    Some people in the crowd booed, seeing it as a contradiction because former President Barack Obama’s signature health care law and frequent Lahren target — the Affordable Care Act — is the reason why she can still be on her parents’ health insurance plan. The ability to stay on your parents’ plan until you turn 26 is a popular feature of Obamacare.
    But Lahren has as many fans as she does haters.
    Devin Dudley, 18, trekked from Michigan sporting a T-shirt with a collage of Lahren’s face.
    “I got if off a website because I heard she was going to be here,” he told CNN. “I was looking for different types of merch, and I found this and said ‘I have to have this.’ I like that she’s very outgoing, she doesn’t hold back. She loves to talk about politics, just like I do. I might not agree with her about everything, but we do agree a lot.”
    2. Creative outfits
    Alex Ishkov, Brandon Firla and Richard Kenyon (above) came dressed as George Washington, Abe Lincoln and founding father Alexander Hamilton.
    But they weren’t the only people at Politicon who got creative with their attire.
    Artist Ricky Rebel came clad in an America jumpsuit.
    “Make America glam again,” he said while posing in front of a giant American flag during the event.
    3. Fun activities on the con floor
    Anthony Scaramucci, the newly appointed White House communications director, bailed on Politicon after The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza published a piece last week detailing a phone conversation he had with President Donald Trump’s new hire.
    But just because he wasn’t there doesn’t mean he was forgotten. Politicon had a photobooth set up where attendees could get GIFs of themselves in front of a White House-esque podium. Cut-outs of ‘the Mooch,’ now ex-White House press secretary Sean Spicer and his successor, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, were available for people to pose with.
    Also on the floor: A booth where attendees could make their own “pussyhats,” the pink, handmade, cat-eared knit hats created to show solidarity and support for women’s rights.
    “Politicon reached out to us they wanted to be be part of it,” Kat Coyle, who helped design the hat for Pussyhat Project co-founders Krista Suh and Jayna Zweiman, told CNN.
    4. Politically inspired art and merch
    Organizations handed out everything from pins to comics, showcasing their various politically inspired products.
    One company, The Tea Book, put up a large poster showcasing the cover art for its latest tea-storage devices, which are made to look like books on the oustide: “poli-tea-cal,” and “ImPeachMint.”
    “We create teas that tell stories. Every tea has a character that talks about different issues,” Noah Bleich, who owns the Tea Book, told CNN.
    5. Lots and lots of Trump swag or impersonations
    Many attendees sported the Trump campaign’s signature red “Make America Great Again” hats. Others took their passion for the President further by dressing up as him — and a few wouldn’t break character.
    Even outside the event on Saturday, a person dressed as Trump danced on the street.
    Some of the cars that drove by honked.

    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/30/politics/politicon-five-most-interesting-things/index.html

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    Trump Said Trans Soldiers Come With ‘Tremendous’ Costs. He Is So, So Wrong.

    PresidentDonald Trumphas justified his Wednesday announcement banning transgender people from the military by saying they burden the armed services with tremendous medical costs.

    But this statement could not be more false.

    After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military, Trump said in a series of tweets. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you.

    Last year, the Pentagon lifted its ban against transgender people serving in the U.S. armed forces.The Williams Institute said in a 2014 study that trans people make up more than 15,000 soldiers serving in active duty or in reserve. In total, the study found nearly 150,000 transgender people serve in the military in some capacity.

    Its unclear why the president, who has passed no meaningful legislation and continues to be embroiled in scandal, has decided to set his sights on discriminating against the trans community.But looking at the numbers shows that Trump isnt doing this simply because of medical costs.

    Since the Pentagons 2016 decision,health care costs for active duty personnel in the armed forces increased between $2.4 million and $8.4 million a year, according to study from the nonprofit RAND Corp, which was commissioned by the Department of Defense.

    Those costs make up a 0.04 to 0.13 percent increase in health care expenditures. Furthermore, only between 29 and 129 service members in active duty will seek transition-related care each year.

    As CNN points out, and as is obvious by the numbers, the costs for the most powerful military in the world to care for its transgender soldiers isnegligible in comparison to the overall budget.

    Another study in 2015 showed that transition care for trans soldiers would be little more than a rounding error at $5.6 million a year. That amounts to 22 cents per service member per month, Aaron Belkin, an academic at the San Francisco State University, told Reuters. The current budget for annual health care in the armed forces sits at around $47 billion.

    Perhaps most disturbing of all is the fact that while Trump decries the costs of caring for trans soldiers, the Department of Defense currently spends more than $84 million a year on Viagra. Viagra is a pill designed to treat erectile dysfunction in men.

    Alissa Scheller/HuffPost

    If the president wants to target the trans community actively serving this country with political vitriol, he should at least be honest enough to call his decision what it is: discrimination.

    Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-said-trans-soldiers-come-with-tremendous-costs-he-is-so-so-wrong_us_5978ab01e4b0c95f3760a3e7

    Startups want to change what you insure and how you insure it

    In an insurers ideal world, thered be a profitable policy for every conceivable risk. Click once, and youre covered.

    In the real world, however, insurance coverage hasnt kept up with the social and economic changes of recent years. Sharing economies have gained scale. Jobs have gonefrom full-time to gig-based. And the vast millennial generation has entered adulthood intent on completing any complex transaction in a couple of minutes online.

    Insurance policies, in contrast, look the same as they always have.

    But if it seems like old-school terms and sales methods no longer fit, give it some time. If theres a way to make money selling coverage, assume insurers are working on it. If not a big insurer, then probably a startup.

    Insurance is such a big sector that even niche categories have the potential for building large businesses, says Caribou Honig, a founding partner atQED Investors, a VC firm with a number of insurance investments. Startups are also competing with incumbents by building better interfaces to sell policies via smartphones.

    So far this year, insurance-focused startups have raised more than $700 million in venture funding,according to Crunchbase data, with significant backing from both traditional VCs and large insurers. The lions share of investment has gone to companies pioneering and popularizing coverage categories and delivery models, with a particular focus on millennial customers.

    Here are some of the areas new insurers are targeting (outside of healthcare, deemed too massive and politically in flux to address here).

    On-demand insurance

    Theoretically, people might like the idea of insuring personal belongings or big life events like weddings and world travel. In practice, however, few of us have time and inclination to shop for policies.

    An emerging breed of on-demand insuring apps, however, are betting that more people will choose to buy coverage if doing so is fast, easy and affordable. Several are also folding in options to snap pictures of possessions to be insured, with quick quotes to follow.

    The changing nature of work has also created demand for new kinds of coverage.

    One of the most richly funded players in this space isTrv, which has an app for quickly insuring personal and work items like laptops, smartphones and high-end cameras. The five-year-old company raised a$45 million Series Dround in April led by reinsurer Munich Re, bringing total funding to nearly $90 million. The company has been operating in Australia and the U.K., including a recent launch in the U.S.

    Cover, which just closed an $8 million Series A, offers a similar service. Customers take a picture of the item they want to insure and Cover offers a policy, underwritten by a partner insurance firm. Another player, New York-basedSure, has focused on on-demand coverage for events. The company raised an $8 million Series A round in January to build out its mobile app offering quick insurance quotes for things like weddings, baggage, flight cancellations and pet health. (Like Cover, Sure doesnt actually underwrite the policies it sells. Thats done by big insurers like Nationwide, Chubb and MetLife.)

    Driving new auto policies

    Standard auto insurance policies arent always the best fit for people who drive very little or who borrow a car for a short time. Startups are attempting to deliver to these and other use cases.

    One of the most richly funded insurance startups over the past few years isMetromile, which insures based on how much customers drive. Rack up few miles, and pay little beyond a small monthly base rate. Drive more, and it goes up. U.K.-basedCuvva, meanwhile, has raised seed funding to build out insurance offerings for short-term use of a car, for people learning to drive and for people who drive very little.

    Covering homeowners insurance

    Startup home insurance providers are also stepping up to compete. The group includes two-year-oldLemonade, a provider of homeowners and renters insurance that uses AI to price policies, while pledging leftover premium money to charity. The New York-based company has raised $60 million from VCs, plus an April investment of undisclosed size from insurer Allianz.

    Silicon Valley-basedHippois also marketing itself as a new kind of homeowners insurance company, with policies that offer stronger protections for common valuables like home electronics. Another newcomer in the space, Utah-basedSwyfft, which markets itself as a provider of speedy quotes at competitive prices, raised a $7.5 million Series A earlier this year.

    For short-term rentals, meanwhile,Slice Labsis partitioning off a space. The two-year-old company offers policies for homeshare hosts to cover property theft, damage to electronics, bug infestations and other problems caused by bad guests. Slices longer-term goal seems to be to position itself as an insurer for the gig and sharing economy, and its also currently testing a new offering for rideshare drivers.

    New world of work

    Like rideshare driving, many of todays most common jobs either didnt exist or werent nearly so popular years ago. The changing nature of work has also created demand for new kinds of coverage.

    Insurance coverage hasnt kept up with the social and economic changes of recent years.

    Next Insurance, founded last year, sells coverage for yoga instructors, photographers, home contractors and others whose needs dont always fit with standard insurance policies. The Silicon Valley company raised $48 million to date from VC and insurance industry backers.Bunker, which bills itself as an insurer for freelancers and independent contractors, is also scaling up. The San Francisco company closed a $6 million Series A round in May.

    Life insurance, redux

    Lastly, theres life insurance. While this isnt usually a top-of-mind topic for millennials, it is expected to become more important down the road, particularly as more members of the generation become parents.

    A handful of venture-backed companies are looking to update the buying process. One isLadder, which has raised $16 million to build out a platform for offering direct-to-consumer term life insurance online. Another, Brooklyn-basedFabric, has raised $2.5 million for its digital platform offering instant quotes on accidental death coverage, as well as broader life insurance policies.

    Honig sees life insurance as one of the most promising areas for startups, which have the potential to supplant the longstanding model of face-to-face sales. The typical life insurance product is overly complex and too opaque, which is in a sense OK when its pushed through a face-to-face channel, he says. But it is a problem for consumers looking to buy online.

    Covering their bets

    With all the varieties of coverage out there, it remains the case that no one can affordably insure a venture capital investment portfolio. There are just too many risky wagers by design.

    That said, insurance may be a safer bet than other sectors. It is a massive market. And given the hefty valuations industry leaders command, its easy to envision at least a few of todays early-stage companies joining the unicorn club.

    Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2017/07/29/startups-want-to-change-what-you-insure-and-how-you-insure-it/

    Let this fitness tracker motivate you to get moving

    Just to let you know, if you buy something featured here, Mashable might earn an affiliate commission.

    Theres nothing better than being in shape. It prolongs your life, it makes you feel better, and it can even boost your mood. Unfortunately, its really hard to get in shape, and even harder to maintain it.

    Luckily, there are some great fitness trackers that can help you achieve your goals like the Moov Now Personal Coach & Workout Tracker. This award-winning tracker actively monitors your bodys motion to ensure that you get the most out of every workout. It even gives you personalized feedback to correct your form and help minimize your risk of injury.

    But what really separates Moov Now from the competition is its coaching. Moov Now features a real-time audio coach that gives you positive feedback throughout your workout so youre always pumped to conquer that next hill or set a new personal record. Its the perfect training tool for high-intensity workouts like circuit training, running, cycling, swimming, and cardio boxing.

    Moov Now also shows you how to work in proper intervals so you can recover safely, gain results faster, and gradually level up to more intensive workouts. Plus, it constantly changes your workouts so you stay motivated and dont plateau.

    With a tracker like this, its much more likely that you’ll actually get your butt off the couch.Moov Now normally costs $79.95, but you can get it for just $49.95, a savings of 37 percent. Buy it here.

    Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/07/29/a-fitness-tracker-thats-also-a-personal-trainer/

    Here Are A Few Things That Cost More Than Health Care For Transgender Troops

    President Donald Trump on Wednesday cited tremendous medical costsas one of the reasons he will no longer allow transgender people to serve in the U.S. military.

    Since the 2016 Pentagon decision that allowed trans people to openly serve in the military, health care costs have risen by between$2.4 million and $8.4 million a year, according to one estimate. A separate study from 2015 predicted that additional health care costs for trans soldiers would come to just $5.6 million a year little more than a rounding error in the context of the militarys nearly $50 billion health care budget.

    For perspective, here are a few other things that cost way, way more than health care expenses for trans troops:

    Trumps trips to his properties

    Since becoming president, Trump has spent 25 days at Mar-a-Lago, his private club in Palm Beach, Florida. Estimates on the cost of a single trip range from $1 million to $3.6 million.

    Congress also allocated $41 million to reimburse places that Trump visits, like Palm Beach and Bedminster, New Jersey, where he owns another club. The funds cover security costs when Trump comes to town, which he has done frequently.

    Trump security

    The New York Police Department spent $24 million from Election Day until the inauguration to protect Manhattans Trump Tower. The citys fire department expects to spend another $4.5 million on security there in 2017. The Los Angeles Times estimates that travel and protection costs for the Trump family during Trumps first 100 days in office came to at least $30 million compared to an average $12 million a year for President Barack Obama and his family.

    A border wall with Mexico

    An internal report by the Department of Homeland Security estimated that building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border would cost $21.6 billion. Senate Democrats have estimated the wall, one of Trumps signature campaign promises, could cost $70 billion to build and $150 million a year to maintain.

    Erectile dysfunction medication

    In 2014, the Defense Departmentspent $41.6 million on Viagra and $84.24 million in total on erectile dysfunction medication. From 2011 until 2015, the Defense Department spent $294 million on erectile dysfunction drugs, according to the Military Times.

    Wasteful spending

    A Defense Department study last year found the Pentagon could save $125 billion over five years by making its operations more lean. Officials buried the report amid concerns that lawmakers would use it as an excuse to cut defense spending.

    A clean coal plant

    A Mississippi clean coal operation conceived under President George W. Bush closed last month, having cost $7.5 billion in all. The plant was supposed to provide a viable energy alternative, but it failed.

    Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/transgender-troops-health-care-cost_us_5978ce86e4b0a8a40e84c154

    Doctor delivers a baby right before she gives birth to her own

    A big day.
    Image: Shutterstock / Angyalosi Beata

    A doctor in Kentucky and her patient will always remember their babies’ birthdays.

    Amanda Hess, an OB/GYN in Frankfort, Kentucky, was in the hospital as she prepared to give birth to her daughter. While she waited, Hess heard another expectant mother who was closer to giving birth.

    The doctor went to the room, where a woman who happened to be one of her patients was fully dilated. The doctor on call was on his way to the hospital, but the baby was coming. So Hess stepped in and handled the delivery right before she went back to her own room to give birth.

    I just put on another gown to cover up my backside and put on some boots over my shoes, to keep from getting any fluid and all that stuff on me, and went down to her room and I knew her,” Hess told WKYT.

    “She was just glad to be able to get to push and have the baby out and not have to wait any longer,” she added.

    Then, Hess gave birth to her own daughter, Ellen Joyce.

    Congratulations to the two mothers! Now time for maternity leave.

    Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/07/29/doctor-delivers-baby-gives-birth/

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    This Reported Connection Between The Trans Ban And The Border Wall Is So Sketchy

    Chaos and confusion have followed President Donald Trump’s Twitter announcement early on July 26 that he will ban transgender individuals from the military. He cited the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender [sic] in the military would entail. The decision which Trumpclaims he discussed with military personnel has reportedly stunned people in the Pentagon.

    But now we might have an idea as to why the announcement was made: reports that Trump most likely made the announcement to save a spending bill which includes funding for several Trump campaign promises including a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico.

    The bill, which would partially fund Trump’s promise to build a wall, was in dispute overtransgender troops.

    House Republicans were reportedly split on whether or not to include an amendment in the spending bill which would have prohibited Pentagon funding for gender reassignment surgery.

    Those who did not want to foot the costfor the procedure threatened to derail the bill if it didn’t include the prohibition, putting the moneyfor Trump’s promises at risk. Legislatorsreportedly went to the president to discuss the dispute. And he got to tweeting, solving his problem by banning transgender individuals fromserving at all.

    Senior House Appropriations Committee member Robert Aderholt, a Republican from Alabama, told This isn’t about the transgender issue; it’s about the taxpayer dollars going to pay for the surgery out of the defense budget.

    Only afew weeks ago, House Rep. Vicky Hartzler, a Republican from Missouri, introduced an amendment to the Defense Appropriations Bill, which would have banned transgender military members from receiving gender reassignment surgery. The amendment was defeated 214-209.

    But Trump’s announcement a total ban on trans individuals serving in the military is a far cry from the already-dubious attempts to prohibit funding for gender reassignment-related care.

    The reality is that spending on medical care for trans military personnel, including transition-related care, is not tremendous as the president has claimed.

    Rather, gender transition-related care is estimated to cost the military anywhere from $2.4 million to $8.4 millionper year, according toCompare that to military spending on erectile dysfunction medication,which costs the Pentagon approximately $84 million per year.

    Additionally, a wall between the U.S. and Mexico could cost anywhere from $21.6 billion to $70 billion to build and $150 million per year to maintain, per .BanningPentagon-funded gender reassignment surgery and any transgender-related care, for that matter would hardly make a dent in the funds required to build a wall.

    Trump asked Congress for $1.4 billion to build the wall back in April, but backed offshortly after his initial ask.

    But now, Trump’s announcement, according tos report, might just save the $1.6 billion allocated for his wall in the House spending bill.

    Just last year, the Pentagon lifted the ban on transgender individuals serving openly, and according to a 2016 study, there are anywhere from 1,320 to 6,630 transgender individuals serving in active duty, while anywhere from 830 to 4,160 members are in the reserves.

    The exact parameters of the ban when it will start, if it will affect active duty members or just those who are trying to join up are still up in the air, but protests are already being organized around the country, and civil rights organizations like the ACLU are already springing into action to contest the ban.

    Read more: http://elitedaily.com/news/politics/reported-connection-trans-ban-border-wall-sketchy/2028906/

    GOP state officials disappointed Trump ousted Priebus

    Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump’s decision to replace Reince Priebus as chief of staff deepened the concerns of some Republican state party officials over the direction of the White House.

    “I am extremely disappointed,” said Robin Hayes, the chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party.
    “Reince gave his heart and soul to the administration,” he said. “This is not an appropriate reward. And it sends a message to other potential folks who could help them: Watch out.”
      As the sitting president, Trump largely sets the direction of the Republican Party. But his ties to its nationwide infrastructure are tenuous, and Priebus — who spent six years as the chairman of the Republican National Committee — was Trump’s most important connection.
      Trump’s allies in the state parties broadly knew Priebus and liked him. “He knows where the lights are,” Hayes said.
      Jeff Kaufmann, the Iowa Republican chairman and a vocal Trump supporter, said he’d “certainly felt comfortable” with Priebus as chief of staff.
      “Having a friend in the White House that you’ve known before, that friend acquired that kind of power — yeah, there’s a comfort level there, no doubt about it,” Kaufmann said.
      However, he said he feels confident Trump will protect Iowa’s status as the first state to vote in the presidential nominating process — the biggest national priority for Iowa’s state parties — and likes John Kelly, the Homeland Security secretary Trump appointed as Priebus’ successor.
      “I think there’s a sense here that this is a very unorthodox presidency. It’s very active. There are multiple ways that this president communicates. And when you do that, you’re probably going to see more turnover,” Kaufmann said. “Let’s face it, it’s an exhausting job.”
      Many Republicans were already seething over new White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci’s profanity-laced attacks on Priebus and chief strategist Steve Bannon.
      “It’s not necessary and it’s not productive. It’s bothering our folks and this is not New York,” said Hayes, in a reference to the home state of Scaramucci and Trump, as well as Trump’s daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner — both of whom are White House advisers.
      “We don’t talk that way down here,” Hayes said. “I wish (Trump) would not allow problems to be created because of untimely and inappropriate comments coming from a number of different places.”
      Iowa Republican activist and evangelical leader Bob Vander Plaats, who backed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in the 2016 GOP primary but ultimately supported Trump, also lambasted Scaramucci on the website of his organization, the Family Leader.
      “Mr. President, it is time to look in the mirror, accept responsibility, apologize to the American people, and declare an end to this behavior immediately,” Vander Plaats wrote.
      “I suggest you lead by first washing out Mr. Scaramucci’s mouth with a bar of soap,” he wrote. “After a thorough rinsing, strip his credentials and escort him personally off the White House grounds.”
      Across the board, Republican state party chairs said their much bigger beef with Trump and the GOP-led Congress is its failure on health care.
      Jeff Hays, the Colorado GOP chairman, said Republicans there are “probably 90/10” willing to continue being patient with Trump’s administration.
      “I don’t think that’s in infinite supply. There are people that are really very frustrated,” he said — adding that the anger is largely over the party’s inability to repeal Obamacare.
      “It has been frustrating. I’ve tried to be calm about it,” Hays said. “I look at this thing as a little bit of a baseball game. The fact that we can’t get it done in two swings at the plate or so — I look at these as foul balls, and I think our team is still in there swinging.”

      Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/28/politics/reince-priebus-gop-state-party-chairs/index.html

      How life may find a way on Saturn’s moon

      (CNN)It may not be like the alien life in science fiction, but researchers have just confirmed the presence of something that may lead to life on Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, according to a study published Friday in the journal Science Advances.

      Vinyl cyanide is a complex organic molecule capable of forming cell membrane-like spheres. While it may sound toxic, this chemical would be right at home on Titan, where significant quantities of it have been detected through data from the Atacama Large Millimeter Array, a group of radio telescopes in Chile.
      Titan isn’t exactly known for being hospitable.
        Larger than both our own moon and the planet Mercury, Titan is unique in our solar system. It is the only moon with clouds and a dense atmosphere of nitrogen and methane, which gives it a fuzzy orange appearance.
        Its atmospheric pressure is 60% greater than Earth’s, meaning it exerts the kind of pressure you feel at the bottom of a swimming pool, according to NASA.
        So it would make sense that the potential for life on Titan would have to look a little different. But Titan’s atmosphere may not be much different than that of primordial Earth’s — and life found a way here.
        Titan also has Earth-like liquid bodies on its surface, but the rivers, lakes and seas are made of liquid ethane and methane, which form clouds and cause liquid gas to rain from the sky.
        The surface temperature is so cold — minus 290 degrees Fahrenheit — that the rivers and lakes were carved out by methane, the way rocks and lava helped to form features and channels on Earth.
        These methane pools on the surface are the kind of environment that could help vinyl cyanide molecules link together to form cell-like membranes, not unlike the basis for organisms on Earth.
        “The presence of vinyl cyanide in an environment with liquid methane suggests the intriguing possibility of chemical processes that are analogous to those important for life on Earth,” said Maureen Palmer, lead study author and researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
        The ALMA data confirmed what previous studies and simulations, like one from Cornell University in 2015, had predicted about the potential presence of this molecule on Titan.
        “Researchers definitively discovered the molecule, vinyl cyanide, that is our best candidate for a ‘protocell’ that might be stable and flexible in liquid methane,” said Jonathan Lunine, a Cornell professor who participated in the 2015 study. “This is a step forward in understanding whether Titan’s methane seas might host an exotic form of life.”
        Titan is also believed to have an internal liquid water ocean, like those on Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons, and Enceladus, another of Saturn’s moons. Earlier this year, NASA announced that Europa and Enceladus’ oceans have some or most of the ingredients necessary for life as we know it.
        But how does Titan compare? First of all, it’s bigger than Europa and Enceladus. It’s also entirely unique in its possession of a dense atmosphere, which has obscured the observations that researchers have tried to make of Titan. And Titan doesn’t have confirmed active geysers on its surface.
        Given its complex chemistry, it’s safe to say that Titan isn’t hospitable to humans. But it is attractive to researchers.
        NASA’s Cassini spacecraft mission to Saturn comes to an end later this year, but proposed mission concepts already exist for a type of “Titan airplane” called the AVIATR (Aerial Vehicle for In-situ and Airborne Titan Reconnaissance) and a submarine that would explore Titan’s seas.
        “Saturn’s moon, Enceladus, is the place to search for life like us, life that depends on — and exists in — liquid water,” Lunine said. “Titan, on the other hand, is the place to go to seek the outer limits of life — can some exotic type of life begin and evolve in a truly alien environment, that of liquid methane?”

        Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/28/us/titan-saturn-moon-alien-methane/index.html

        Trump Says His Trans Military Ban Is Because Of Costs, But Viagra Costs More

        On Wednesday, July 26, President Donald Trump announced he’s banning transgender people from serving in the military. Trump cited medical costs and disruption as the justification for this move. But, research doesn’t support this assertion.

        In fact, the military spends less on medical care for transgender troops than it does on Viagra, which helps treat erectile dysfunction,the reports.

        A 2016 study from the RAND Corporation found providing transgender troops with gender-transition-related medical treatment would cost the military between $2.4 million and $8.4 million annually. That represents, at most, a 0.13% increase in spending.

        Meanwhile, the military spends $84 million annually on Viagra, according to The Military Times.

        The United States has the highest military budget in the world by far roughly $600 billion. There’s a very strong case to be made it could easily afford to provide medical treatment for transgender troops.

        The Pentagon is also notorious for wasting money. It was recently reported, for example, that it blew$28 million on uniforms for Afghan soldiers that were the wrong camouflage pattern for the region.

        Trump’sclaim transgender people cause disruption in the military is not supported by research, either.

        The RAND study, cited above, also showed 18 countries allow transgender people to serve openly in the military with little or no impact on unit cohesion, operational effectiveness, or readiness.

        These countries include major U.S. allies: Australia, Canada, Israel, and the United Kingdom.

        In the U.S., trans people were barred from serving in the military until June 2016, when the Obama administration reversed the policy.

        It’s estimated that as many as 15,000 trans people currently serve in the U.S. military.

        Following Trump’s announcement, trans veterans began to speak out.

        Speaking with Business Insider, Kristin Beck, a 20-year veteran of the Navy SEALs who is transgender, asked Trump to meet her face to face and you tell me I’m not worthy.

        Long story short, Trump’s justifications for banning transgender people from the military don’t add up.

        Read more: http://elitedaily.com/news/politics/trump-says-trans-military-ban-costs-viagra-costs/2028315/

        Congress’ message to Donald Trump is tough

        (CNN)Even by the standards of Donald Trump’s presidency, this week has been extraordinarily chaotic and, more importantly, disastrous for the President’s agenda. Just hours before Senate Republicans failed to choke the life out of the health care program known as Obamacare — a top domestic priority for the administration — the entire Senate, Democrats and Republicans, voted on imposing new Russia sanctions, effectively tying the President’s hands on dealing with that country.

        Then, on Friday morning Russia announced its own sanctions against the United States, ordering a cut in the number of US diplomats and the seizure of two US properties in Russia. The move echoed sanctions imposed by President Barack Obama just before leaving office to punish Russia for interfering in the US election.
        Clearly the Obamacare debacle is an embarrassment for the President and for Republicans, but the new legislation on Russia sanctions — which Trump has not yet signed — should worry him far more.
          With it, Republicans and Democrats signaled bluntly that they do not trust President Donald Trump to act in America’s best interest when it comes to Russia.
          By overwhelming majorities in the House and the Senate both Republicans and Democrats didn’t just defy the President, they deliberately opted to stand in his way on one of his top foreign policy priorities.
          That was a pivotal move, one that historians may look back on as an early turning point in this baffling period of America’s history.
          The legislation, approved by the Senate in a 98 to 2 vote and the House by 419 to 3, requires that the President obtain congressional approval before it can lift existing Russia sanctions brought on by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, its annexation of Crimea, intervention in Syria, and human rights violations at home. It expands Obama’s sanctions against Russia, as well as North Korea and Iran.
          The bill, among other things, is a warning to Vladimir Putin that the United States will not tolerate further interference in its elections. It also reaffirms US objections to Moscow’s behavior in Syria, Ukraine and Eastern Europe, where it has launched a campaign of political intrusion and intimidation against America’s NATO allies.
          Trump has reportedly not decided how he will proceed. His dilemma: If he vetoes the bill it would not only add to the controversy over his campaign’s ties with Russia, but the Congress could easily override.
          On Thursday, during his very odd telephone call to CNN, White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci suggested Trump may veto the bill and propose even stronger sanctions. But attempts like this to make Trump sound tough on Russia are unconvincing.
          For Putin, getting Washington to lift economic sanctions is urgent. His country’s economy has stagnated, incomes are falling. Most troublingly for Putin, the sanctions target the oligarchs, the spectacularly wealthy few who have benefited from Putin’s role because of a tacit agreement whereby they look away from his autocratic ways while he allows them to amass fortunes through questionable means, often with government support.
          If the oligarchs are not free to enjoy and expand their wealth because of sanctions triggered by Putin’s geopolitical machinations, they may question that understanding. The prospect of getting sanctions relief was one of the reasons Putin wanted Trump to win.
          After all, since the early days of his campaign Trump proclaimed he was open to lifting sanctions, even suggesting he might recognize Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea.
          According to the man who was in charge of sanctions enforcement at the State Department, Trump tried to lift sanctions as soon as he took office. Dan Fried, who retired in February, said “panicky” officials called him looking for a way to prevent Trump from lifting sanctions without conditions. He started lobbying Congress to block Trump from rolling back sanctions.
          Americans are keenly interested in Trump’s relationship with Russia and skeptical of the President’s explanations about what happened during the campaign.
          Even before the most recent revelations of meetings between Donald Trump Jr., Trump campaign officials and Russian envoys, polls showed that more than two-thirds of Americans are concerned that Trump is trying to impede the investigation into his campaign’s possibly inappropriate ties with Russia. Trump’s repeated, lavish praise of Putin, adds to the puzzle.
          When Trump Jr. dismissed the talks with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya as “mostly about adoption,” he essentially admitted the meeting was about sanctions. That’s because the Kremlin banned US adoptions of Russian orphans as a direct response to the first of part of the current US sanctions against Russia.
          In 2012 Congress passed the Magnitsky Act, freezing the assets of key Russians after 37-year-old Sergei Magnitsky, an attorney for a US investor, discovered a vast scheme of official corruption. Magnitsky was sent to a Russian jail and died chained to his bed without medical help while suffering from an excruciating attack of gall stones and pancreatitis.
          To push back against the Magnitsky sanctions, Russia punished its own orphans, halting adoptions. Veselnitskaya’s talk about adoptions was, more precisely, about overturning the Magnitsky Act so that wealthy Russians could again visit the United States and enjoy their wealth.
          Despite White House claims that Trump favors strong sanctions, there is little question that he has wanted to lift them as part of a plan to improve relations with Moscow–mainly to gain help in fighting ISIS.. The question is what else he expects to gain in return.

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          He has talked about working together with Moscow in Syria and on the fight against terrorism, but Russia remains an antagonist of the United States in a number of areas. Most recently, evidence is emerging of Russia helping America’s enemies, the Taliban in Afghanistan.
          Like most Americans, congressional leaders are suspicious of Trump’s intentions regarding Russia. That is why in a week of defeats and headaches for the President, the pain for the Russia sanctions bill is symptom of a problem that will not be easily cured.

          Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/28/opinions/trump-russia-sanctions-opinion-ghitis/index.html

          Fight your nightmares for a better night’s sleep

          (CNN)A bomb rips through the Humvee in the road ahead, sending it flying into the air. The pop of gunfire is everywhere.

          The man next to you — your best pal in this godforsaken place — suddenly slumps over. Screams and dense smoke fill the air.
          It’s the stuff nightmares are made of, and all too real most nights for many returning veterans.
            “Six to eight months after I got home, the nightmares really started to come in,” said Army Reserve veteran Aaron. “Middle of the night, all of a sudden I’m back in Iraq, full battle mentality, running, chasing people down.”
            Aaron is one of many soldiers identified by their first names who shared their stories on video on Make the Connection, a US Department of Veterans Affairs website devoted to returning veterans.
            “I was having to sleep on the front porch, I couldn’t even sleep in my wife’s bed,” added Mike, who served in Iraq for the Army Reserve and National Guard. “When I slept in her bed, I’d wake up every 30 minutes with nightmares that someone had come into the house and were harming my family, my kids.”
            “Over half all veterans have nightmares,” said psychologist David Cooper, who works with traumatized veterans at the Department of Defense National Center for Telehealth and Technology. “It’s a common symptom that comes along with PTSD, or post-traumatic stress syndrome.”
            But it’s not just veterans who struggle with nightmares. The American Sleep Association estimates between 80% and 90% of us have disturbing dreams at night.

            The dark side of nightmares

            For most of us, nightmares occur when we are stressed and worried, or when we’ve experienced an upsetting event. Nightmares tend to stay with us longer if they are fear-based, but studies show confusion, guilt, disgust and sadness are the most common triggers.
            It’s not just feelings. Late-night snacks, some medications, and even the withdrawal of medications or alcohol can trigger repugnant dreams.
            Science says these types of dreams may actually be good for our psyche. Instead of living with vague feelings of unease, the brain, usually during the REM stage of sleep, consolidates our bad feelings into a concrete memory that we can then process, file away, and forget.
            But for the unlucky among us, nightmares can become chronic, and turn into a disorder that rips apart sleep and destroys productive lives.
            “I started having a lot of trouble sleeping, sleeping for two, three hours a week,” said US Army veteran Bryan in a Make the Connection video. Bryan served several tours in Iraq. “I just couldn’t sleep through the whole night.”
            “They start avoiding sleep for fear of the nightmares,” said neuropsychologist William Kerst. He worked with soldiers with PTSD and nightmares while in the Air Force and now counsels vets in his private practice in Alaska.
            “And chronic sleep deprivation is associated with lots of bad things,” Kerst continued. “Obviously their attention, concentration and memory are going to suffer … depression risk, it goes way up … there’s even lots of studies to show a really clear link between chronic sleep deprivation and suicidal thoughts.”

            It can happen to any of us

            You don’t have to be a veteran to have PTSD and the accompanying nightmares. Anyone who has suffered or witnessed major trauma, such as natural disasters, domestic violence, rape, terrorism, even a terrifying car accident, can develop ongoing, frightening memories of the event. The National Center for PTSD estimates 10 out of every 100 women and four of every 100 men will develop PTSD at some point in their lives, and as a result, may suffer nightmares.
            And here’s the really nightmarish thing. Even if the PTSD is addressed and overcome, studies show the gut-wrenching dreams may not go away.
            “The tendency for these individuals to have trauma related nightmares and then sleep disruption and sleep disturbances continued well after successful PTSD treatment was complete,” said Kerst.
            The reason why may lie in how PTSD and nightmares are treated.
            “When I’m working with a patient with PTSD one of the things I want them to do is expose themselves to those traumatic feelings over and over again so that their body learns to calm down and not react as much,” said Cooper. “But traumatic nightmares are not treated the same way as other PTSD symptoms. Instead we give something new for the brain to focus on which eventually reduces the overall frequency of the nightmares.”
            The approach is called Imagery rehearsal therapy or IRT. The goal of this type of therapy isn’t to relieve or process the trauma in your nightmare. Instead you want to change it — tweak it, really — so the nightmare loses its power over your mind and your sleep.
            “Let’s say I’m working with someone who has a nightmare about going on patrol in Afghanistan where their Humvee was blown up by an IED,” said Cooper. “I may want to have them change that explosion to confetti, or a balloon popping.”
            “Or instead of an IED on the road,” Cooper continued, “maybe it’s a grocery bag that the Humvee hits, something that is not going to elicit the same emotional response, but still remains true to a majority of the dream.”
            Developed in the 1990s by Dr. Barry Krakow at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, Imagery rehearsal therapy has shown some impressive results in studies. Besides limiting chronic nightmares and improving sleep quality in over 70% of the subjects, IRT has been shown to decrease PTSD severity, as well as reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression.
            Other research found the effects of IRT on nightmares can be long lasting, especially if the rewritten dream removes violent details.

            How IRT works

            Imagery rehearsal therapy works by having the patient write down specifics about the nightmare, creating almost a movie-like script of the disturbing dream. Then, in conjunction with a therapist, the patient rewrites the nightmare to make it less disturbing. Then they are told to practice the re-scripted dream during the day.
            The good news is that it doesn’t take long for the positive benefits of IRT to take place, for both those with PTSD and more common nightmares.
            “It’s usually only a couple of sessions, maybe four,” said Cooper, “and we ask that folks rehearse the new dream one or two times throughout the day for 20, 30 minutes. That’s really all the actual work that it takes.”
            In fact, one of the most time-consuming parts of the process, said Kerst, is the writing process. That’s why he was excited to partner with Cooper and the National Center for Telehealth and Technology to develop an app called Dream Ez. While it can be used on its own, Kerst and Cooper say it will be most effective with an IRT-trained therapist.
            “You wake up, you grab your phone, you record your nightmare,” said Kerst. “Then you rate how distressing or disturbing the nightmare was, and with the help of your therapist turn the dream away from the distressing turn of events.”
            The app allows users to audio record the re-scripting of the dream, and then encourages them to practice the reworked dream, while also providing some relaxation tools to foster better quality sleep.
            The app is currently being evaluated by various sleep clinicians.

            See the latest news and share your comments with CNN Health on Facebook and Twitter.

            “We know IRT works, so we’re not studying that,” explained Cooper. “But we want to know if making the process more user friendly will help people stick with it longer, so they get the full effect of something that we already know works.”
            One of the biggest pluses for IRT is the avoidance of prescription sleep aids, which often cause drowsiness, lethargy, and in some cases, are dangerously addictive. It’s also helpful for veterans or others who refuse to be treated for PSTD or other disorders, perhaps because of stigma or personal pride.
            “A lot of people are willing to say I want to get rid of my nightmares and sleep better,” Kerst explains. “So even when people don’t want to talk about their trauma specifically, they’re willing to say that and they begin to get the help they need.”

            Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/27/health/treatment-for-nightmares/index.html

            This Is How Many Transgender People Already Serve In The Military

            On Wednesday morning, Donald Trump tweeted (because how else would he do it?) that the U.S. military would no longer allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity. This ban is obviously a devastating blow to the LGBTQIA+ community.

            But just how many trans people serve in the military currently? Well, Trump’s ban is actually affecting a huge number of trans invidiuals.

            There are several conflicting statistics in terms of how many trans people are actually serving in the military currently. A 2016 study by RAND Corporation (commissioned by the Defense Department)estimated that the number may be between 1,320 and 6,630. However,according to the National Center for Transgender Equality, that estimate may stand closer to 15,000.

            Trump’s announcement came in the form of several tweets, blaming tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail as the main reason for the ban.

            The tweets read,

            After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow

            .Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming..

            .victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you

            Under the Obama administration,a previous ban on transgender people serving in the military was lifted in an announcement by the defense secretary at the time, Ashton Carter, in June 2016:

            Our mission is to defend this country, and we don’t want barriers unrelated to a person’s qualification to serve preventing us from recruiting or retaining the soldier, sailor, airman or Marine who can best accomplish the mission.

            So clearly, Trump’s ban is a devastating setback to progress the LGBTQIA+ community specifically trans individuals have already made.

            Alex Wong / Staff/Getty Images

            Though Trump cites tremendous medical costs as a reason the military cannot accommodate trans people, the aforementioned RAND study found that the medical costs needed to cover trans individuals may not be as tremendous as Trump makes it out to be.

            In fact, the study claims that coveringgender transition-related services in military health care would only increase the cost by $2.4 million to$8.4 million a tiny 0.04 to 0.13 percent increase to what the government was already spending.

            Since the dawn of Trump’s administration, LGBTQIA+ individuals and activists have been incredibly weary of the current administration reversing the progress the community has already made under previous administrations.

            Though few accuse Trump of being an honest man, this blatant disregard for the trans community certainly contradicts his previous statements that he would fight for the LGBT community.

            And if this latest blow from the Trump administration is any indication to go by, fears of even more setbacks to the LGBTQIA+ community are certainly warranted.

            Read more: http://elitedaily.com/news/politics/how-many-trans-people-serve-in-the-military/2027905/

            Senate health care: ‘We’re in the twilight zone of legislating’

            Washington (CNN)It was a dramatic turn of events Thursday night when four Republican senators gathered for an impromptu press conference in the Capitol to declare they would only vote for a last-ditch piece of health care legislation if they had a guarantee — that it would never become law.

            The “skinny bill” would repeal Obamacare’s individual and employer mandates, but a growing number of Republican senators say they don’t want it to become their legacy when it comes to fullfilling their seven-year promise to overhaul the Affordable Care Act. It’s an atypical legislative strategy in which Republicans would vote “yes” on legislation that no one wants to ultimately pass.
            And so Republicans are actively lobbying their fellow Republicans in the House to make sure they will stand in the way of House Speaker Paul Ryan if he does bring it to the floor for a vote. Ryan issued a statement saying he would go to conference, but didn’t guarantee there wouldn’t be a vote on a Senate-passed “skinny bill.”
              Sen. John McCain didn’t like what he heard.
              “I would like to have the kind of assurances he didn’t provide,” McCain, R-Arizona, told reporters.
              Graham told reporters that he was communicating with the leader of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, Rep. Mark Meadows, all day Thursday trying to get assurances that his conservative members would block Ryan.
              “We’re in the twilight zone of legislating,” Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri said Thursday of the GOP’s strategy.
              A slew of Republican senators openly acknowledged on Thursday that the “skinny repeal” bill wasn’t perfect, while some went as far as to blast it as bad policy.
              “The majority leader cannot promise what the House can do,” said Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson. “That’s not in his powers. The House has to decide that. It’s the House’s decision.”
              “It may be all we can get,” said Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona who was among those members who thought it might not be the worst outcome.
              Graham, meanwhile, called the proposal a “political cop-out” that would throw the insurance markets into “disarray,” and that “as a final product, it would be a disaster.”
              “The worst possible outcome is to pass something that most of us believe is a placeholder and it becomes the final product,” Graham said.
              Republican senators know that they need to pass something in the next few hours if they want to advance their health care negotiations to conference where a group of House and Senate members could then be tasked with hammering out the final legislation. But they also recognize that strategy is rich with risks — one of them being that the “skinny repeal” could become all they get when it comes to gutting Obamacare.
              It’s possible that even if Republican senators pass the “skinny repeal” and it goes to conference, House and Senate Republicans won’t be able iron out disagreements between moderates and conservatives that have dogged them for months.
              Republican senators are also very aware that the “skinny repeal” might not get them any closer to the goal they set from the outset of the process to lower premiums.
              GOP Sen. David Perdue conceded the “skinny repeal” bill would make it hard for people to afford insurance, but that he would vote for it — if he knew the bill could be improved during conference.
              “I’m gonna have to have some assurances that they’re not going to pass that. I’m passing this wanting to get to a conference bill,” Perdue said.
              As he received a barrage of questions from reporters about the Senate’s apparent strategy of passing something that it doesn’t ultimately want the House to pass, Cornyn pushed back with this quip: “I guess we ought to go back to Schoolhouse Rock.”

              Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/27/politics/were-in-the-twilight-zone-of-legislating/index.html

              Satellite Eye on Earth: June 2017 in pictures

              Patagonias icefields, Australias changing tides, and volcanic activity in Alaska are among the images captured by Nasa and the ESA last month

              Alaskas remote Bogoslof Island volcano erupted in a series of explosions starting in December 2016, triggering the highest aviation alert as it shot ash plumes at least 35,000ft into the atmosphere. By monitoring the volcano via satellite and seismologic data, scientists can provide a warning of when further eruptions could pose a risk to aircraft. This image shows just a small puff of smoke rising from the volcano, while a sediment plume drifts towards the top left of the image, turning the Bering Sea a bright blue-green.


              The Vanuatu archipelago is situated in the South Pacific Ocean; this image shows two of its islands: Pentecost island to the north and Ambrym island to the south. The red-hot lava lakes of Ambryms two active volcanoes can be seen through the clouds, with a smoke plume drifting out to the west.

              Photograph: Modis/Aqua/Nasa

              Turquoise swirls in the Black Sea indicate a phytoplankton bloom. Coccolithophores are one kind of phytoplankton found in the Black Sea, and are plated with white calcium carbonate that makes the water appear bright from space. But not all phytoplankton have this effect diatoms, which also bloom in the Black Sea, darken the water instead, say Nasa scientists.

              Photograph: OLI/Landsat 8/Nasa

              Patagonias icefields stretch for hundreds of kilometres along the Andes mountains in Chile and Argentina. Two areas, a north and south icefield, are all that remains of a vast ice sheet that reached its peak 18,000 years ago. Today, climate change is thinning the ice further still. This image shows the entire north Patagonian icefield the smaller of the two.

              Photograph: TIRS/landsat 8/Nasa

              Nasas Thermal Infrared Sensor (TIRS) allows scientists to capture the rift on the Larsen C ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula even in the dark of winter. In this false-colour image the blue hue of the crack can be compared to the orange of the warmer areas of open ocean and thin sea ice, and the lighter blues and whites of the colder ice shelf.

              Photograph: VIIRS/Suomi NPP/Nasa-Noaa

              The snaking shape of Pakistans Indus River can be seen even in nighttime satellite imagery. Though the river itself is barely visible, the dark crops and vegetation growing along its banks reveal the general shape of the river, with the brighter desert beyond.

              Sri Lanka

              Before and after images show the extent of severe flooding in Sri Lanka, in the town of Matara, one of the hardest hit places.

              Photograph: ISS/Nasa/ESA

              The Spanish town of Isla Mayor, is located near the marshlands of the Unesco listed Doana national park. The fish ponds there seen here as larger, multi-coloured squares are fed with river water, which contains natural food including algae and shrimp, rather than commercial fish feed or antibiotics, to help preserve the wetlands. The smaller, dark rectangles are rice fields, an agricultural practice that is being phased out, along with cattle raising, to further encourage the return of a more natural wetland landscape.

              Photograph: MODIS/Aqua/Nasa

              Smoke plumes spread out over Lake Baikal and the Angara River in southern Siberia after wildfires broke out in late June, burning at least 27,000 hectares (100 sq miles) in the Irkutsk Oblast region and another 27,000 hectares in neighbouring areas, according to Russian state media.

              Photograph: Sentinel-2A/ESA

              The Great Barrier Reef off Australias northeast coast.

              Photograph: OLI/Landsat 8/Nasa

              Tomales Bay lies about 50km (30 miles) northwest of San Francisco. In this image, two shades of green clearly show the different types of vegetation on the island dark green conifer forests on the western shore and light green grasslands on the east. What we cant see beneath the surface is the San Andreas Fault line that runs between two tectonic plates and famously partitions California for hundreds of miles.

              Photograph: ISS/Nasa

              The central Meidob volcanic field in western Sudan covers an area of about 5,000 sq km and is dotted with nearly 700 vents that are thought to be about six million years old. The area shown here has distinctive landforms that include explosively-formed maar craters, lava domes built by viscous lava flows, and scoria or cinder cones formed around a single volcanic vent.

              Photograph: Sentinel-2A/ESA

              The Thar Desert in India, with the city of Bikaner visible in the lower part of the image, surrounded by agricultural land and sand dunes. The red areas are vegetation. Satellite data on land cover and land cover changes can be used to combat drought and desertification in regions such as this.

              Photograph: OLI/Landsat 8/Nasa

              Kings Sound, on Australias northwest coast. The sound has one of the worlds largest tidal ranges, at about 11-12 meters, second only to that of the Bay of Fundy on Canadas Atlantic coast. Lighter shades show areas that are often exposed, darker shades are areas that are only above water at low tide, with the darkest shade being perpetually submerged areas.

              An Australian research team has created an intertidal zone map for the entire Australian coast approximately 50,000 km (30,000 miles) using 28 years of Landsat data. The maps can be used by coastal resource managers to help protect intertidal zones and the benefits they provide, particularly in response to the growing pressures of sea-level rise and land reclamation.

              Trump’s Mar-a-Lago visits cost twice as much as all transgender military medical expenses

              President Donald Trumpon Wednesday said the military will no longer allowtransgender individuals to serve in the United States military due to tremendous medical costs.

              After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military, Trump wrote on Twitter. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelmingvictory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.

              However, the data on which the Department of Defense crafted its own policy notes that the costs are exceedingly small and account for less than half of 1percent of the Department of Defense’s healthcare budget.

              The RAND Corporation, a research organization that helps craft public policy, worked with the Department of Defense last year to review its policy on allowing transgender personnel to serve in the military and receive treatment during their military service.

              In a report last year, RAND found that only 29 to 129 service members in active duty would seek any type of gender transition care in any given year, between 30 and 140 people would seek hormone therapy, and 25 to 130 people would seek surgical treatment.

              Overall, the military’s health system costs for active members would only raise between 0.038 to 0.134 percentbetween $2.4 million and $8.4 million annuallyand overall DoD health-related costs would only rise between 0.005 to 0.017 percent, according to the group’s findings.

              To put this in perspective, Trump’s trips to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida areestimated to have cost taxpayers $21.6 million during the first 80 days of his presidency. Further, an analysis by the Military Times concluded that the Pentagon spends $84 million annually on erectile dysfunction medication like Viagraat least 10 times the healthcare costs associated with transgender service members.

              This represents an exceedingly small proportion of active component health care expenditures, RAND wrote in the report. RANDadded: Even upper-bound estimates indicate that less than 0.1 percent of the total force would seek transition-related care that could disrupt their ability to deploy.

              The DoD’s entire fiscal year 2017 budget is $582.7 billion. Trump has called for significant increases in the 2018 budget.

              Screengrab via RAND Corporation

              The RAND study found that between 1,320 and 6,630 transgender personnel were in the military out of a total of about 1.3 million service members. The National Center for Transgender Equality estimates approximately 15,000 transgender service members.

              Only a small portion of service members would likely seek gender transition-related medical treatments that would affect their deployability or health care costs, Agnes Gereben Schaefer, lead author of the study and a senior political scientist at RAND, said at the time.

              The DoD transgender policy allowed transgender service members to serve openly and specified that they could not be separated or discharged from the military solely for being transgender individuals. It was enacted last year.

              The DoD originally planned to begin accepting new transgender recruits on July 1, but the effort was delayed until Jan. 1, 2017, at the request of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which said the military needed more time to assess the policy. However, Defense Secretary said in a memo that the delayin no way presupposes an outcome.

              Since becoming the secretary of defense, I have emphasized that the Department of Defense must measure each policy decision against one critical standard: Will the decision affect the readiness and lethality of the force? Mattis said. Put another way, how will the decision affect the ability of Americas military to defend the nation? It is against this standard that I provide the following guidance on the way forward in accessing transgender individuals into the military Services.

              Members of the Joint Chiefs have said thattransgender service members currently serving in the military are not an issue.

              Ultimately, Trump’s decision appears to have beena political ploy rather than a move to protect the effectiveness of the U.S. military, according to a Trump administration official.

              Read more: https://www.dailydot.com/layer8/transgender-military-trump-cost/

              Report: Scientists edit human embryos for first time in US

              (CNN)America reportedly has moved ahead in a controversial race to tinker with human DNA — but the scientific feat is shrouded in unanswered questions.

              The MIT Technology Review published on Wednesday a news report about the first-known experiment to create genetically modified human embryos in the United States using a gene-editing tool called CRISPR.
              Shoukhrat Mitalipov, director of the Oregon Health & Science University’s Center for Embryonic Cell and Gene Therapy, reportedly led the new research. Mitalipov and the university would not confirm details of the research to CNN.
                “Results of the peer-reviewed study are expected to be published soon in a scientific journal. No further information will be provided before then,” according to an emailed statement from the university’s press office. Another researcher cited in the MIT report, the Salk Institute’s Jun Wu, did not reply to CNN’s request for comment.
                Mitalipov also declined to comment in the MIT Technology Review report, referencing that the research results have not been published yet in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, which is considered the gold standard for scientific research. The author of the MIT report would not confirm to CNN whether he had seen the paper.

                  On China: Genetically modifying human embryos

                Previously, Mitalipov and his colleagues reported the first success in cloning human stem cells in 2013, successfully reprogramming human skin cells back to their embryonic state. In 2007, a research team led by Mitalipov announced they created the first cloned monkey embryo and extracted stem cells from it.
                The MIT Technology Review reported that the researchers in Portland, Oregon, edited the DNA of a large number of one-cell embryos, specifically targeting genes associated with inherited diseases in those embryos. The MIT Technology Review could not determine which disease genes had been chosen for editing in the new research.
                “I’m not surprised that they were looking at genetic diseases to try and see if they could target them, because that’s exactly where I think the future inevitably leads,” said Arthur Caplan, a professor and founding head of the division of bioethics at New York University Langone Medical Center, who was not involved in the research.

                CRISPR research and controversy

                Previously, scientists in China were the first in the world to reveal attempts to modify genes in human embryos using CRISPR. Three separate papers were published in scientific journals describing various studies in China on gene editing in human embryos.
                When it comes to the new research, “my reaction was, this is an interesting incremental step, and boy, I bet it’s going to get blown up as being more important than it is,” said Hank Greely, professor of law and genetics at Stanford University, who was not involved in the research.
                “It’s not the first time anybody has CRISPR-ed human embryos. It’s not the first time anybody’s CRISPR-ed viable human embryos. It’s certainly not the first time people have CRISPR-ed viable mammalian embryos,” Greely said. “It’s the first time it’s been done in the US, but the embryos don’t care where they are.”
                Yet the research has already generated attention and controversy.
                “This is pushing the research faster than I thought we would see,” said Dana Carroll, professor of biochemistry at the University of Utah, if the MIT Technology Review report rings true. Carroll has used CRISPR in his own studies, but was not involved in the new research.
                He pointed out that the new research reportedly involved earlier, more delicate embryos, and CRISPR reportedly was still demonstrated as efficient.
                “From the perspective of research that would ultimately make germline editing safer and more effective, the earlier embryos will provide more relevant information,” he said.
                CRISPR — an acronym for clustered, regularly interspaced, short palindromic repeats — allows scientists to cut and edit small pieces of DNA at precise areas along a DNA strand, essentially modifying DNA.
                Once scientists discovered that they could develop a system that modifies pieces of DNA, they tested the gene-editing technology in microbes, then non-human mammals, then non-human primates, and then, by 2015, human embryos.
                The controversy surrounding gene-editing in human embryos partly stems from concern that the changes CRISPR makes in DNA can be passed down to the offspring of those embryos later in life, from generation to generation. Down the line, that could possibly impact the genetic makeup of humans in erratic ways.
                “There is also considerable concern about off-target effects, such as making mutations at sites in the genome other than the intended target,” Carroll said. In other words, an edit made in one area of DNA possibly could cause problems in another, as a ripple or domino effect, which could be concerning.
                Some CRISPR critics also have argued that gene-editing may give way to eugenics and to allowing embryos to be edited with certain features in order to develop so-called designer babies.
                Though, not all experts are too concerned.

                Treating diseases

                “Some people are worried about, where’s this all going to head? Are we going to wind up with super babies and eugenics? And to me, I don’t find that an interesting objection. It’s too soon for that objection,” Caplan said. “Clearly, if we’re going to let this research proceed, it’s going to be to treat diseases and prevent diseases.”

                  On GPS: Are designer babies in our future?

                The enthusiasm surrounding gene-editing in human embryos partly stems from the promise CRISPR has shown in editing away and treating devastating intractable diseases. Earlier this year, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine published a report on human genome editing, addressing potential applications of gene editing, including the possible prevention or treatment of disease.
                “I hope the applications will be for the treatment of serious diseases and in cases where a sensible alternative is not available, as the National Academies’ report proposes,” Carroll said.
                Greely said: “The National Academy of Sciences came out with a big report on Valentine’s Day this year about genome editing in humans, and I thought they very usefully divided it into three categories: basic research, treating living people, and making changes that will pass down from generation to generation.”
                As for the reported new research, “this is category one. This is basic research,” he said. “Category three is the ethically crucial one; this isn’t that. We’re still a long way from that.”

                What’s next

                Other strides have been made recently in CRISPR research. Scientists at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York used the technology to genetically engineer immune cells to target and kill tumor cells in mice.

                  GPS Web Extra: Editing DNA to cure cancer

                The mouse study was published in the journal Nature in February. More research is needed to determine whether similar results would appear in humans.
                Last year, scientists in the Netherlands published a study in the journal PLOS Pathogens demonstrating that CRISPR could be used to edit the DNA of three types of herpes viruses in a petri dish. More research is needed to see whether this tool could be used to fight herpes in actual humans.
                Other examples of diseases where CRISPR could show promise as a treatment or preventive approach in the future include cystic fibrosis, sickle cell, hemophilia, and mitochondrial diseases, such as the rare degenerative condition that the terminally-ill British infant Charlie Gard has, Caplan said.

                See the latest news and share your comments with CNN Health on Facebook and Twitter.

                “There are what are called point mutations where you can go in and fix one genetic error. The simpler the genetic error, the easier it might be to try to repair it using a CRISPR gene-insertion technique,” Caplan said about genetic diseases.
                “I think rather than trying to treat cystic fibrosis, or treat sickle cell, or treat hemophilia, it does make ethical sense to figure out ways to prevent it,” he said. “Now, obviously if it’s too risky we won’t do it. If it’s too dangerous or maybe it won’t work, we still don’t know. We’re in the early, early days (of research), but I don’t think it’s fear of eugenics that should stop us.”

                Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/27/health/crispr-human-embryos-genome-editing-bn/index.html

                Hey Trump, Viagra costs Pentagon 5 times as much as trans services

                Viagra costs the military a pretty penny, but no bans have been announced on the erectile dysfunction drug.
                Image: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

                President Donald Trump says his ban on trans people in the military is cost-based, but no one’s buying it after Twitter pounced on this data nugget: the Pentagon spends more on Viagra than trans medical services.

                The Washington Post took a Military TimesU.S. Department of Defense spending analysis from 2015 and found that erectile dysfunction drugs cost the military a lot. Like $84.24 million a lot.

                Spending on Viagra alone was $41.6 million in 2014. That’s five times what a 2016 Rand study estimates transgender health care costs the military between $2.4 and $8.4 million a year, according to the Washington Post.

                These numbers put things into perspective, as many noted on Twitter. Looks like Trump was just spinning when he noted in his three-tweet announcement of the ban Wednesday morning that the military “cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption” of trans service members.

                The American Medical Association also issued a statement saying that the financial cost “is a rounding error in the defense budget and should not be used as an excuse to deny patriotic Americans an opportunity to serve their country.”

                But there’s more. The real reason for the trans ban appears to be political vote jockeying.

                Politico reported that GOP leaders wanted to ban military-funded gender confirmation procedures, not ban trans service members outright.

                But here’s the cherry on top, purportedly: Wednesday’s sudden announcement came after Trump was apparently trying to protect funding for the Mexican border wall construction in some delicate political maneuvering.

                But Trump doesn’t do delicate. Instead, he’s discriminating against people fighting for the country and spinning them as the costly burden.

                Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/07/26/trump-transgender-military-ban-viagra-costs-more/

                Trump’s transgender tweets are an affront to the all-volunteer military

                (CNN)There is a lot to dislike about President Donald Trump’s decision this morning to reinstate the ban on transgender service.

                First of all, it’s an affront to the very ideals of the all-volunteer force, the force we both joined and served in for a combined 68 years. The central tenet of that force is that young men and women from across the spectrum of American society can choose to wear the cloth of the country in service to the nation.
                As long as they swear the oath to defend our ideas, meet the professional standards, complete the training and thereafter serve with honor, they have the privilege of defending our country. It’s led to a highly professional, well-led and motivated force that continues to be the world’s example of professionalism in military service. Right now, only about 1% of the nation make that choice, and transgender troops are a part of all that.
                  To be sure, there have been times when ‘all-volunteer’ didn’t mean every volunteer. Policies throughout the years have altered the physical and mental aptitude requirements, have restricted — and still restrict, to a lesser degree now — the service of women, have banned the service of gays and lesbians, and have even made racial equality and equal opportunity a challenge. There is still much work to be done on these fronts.
                  Wednesday’s decision doesn’t make that work easier. Indeed, it sets us back.
                  It also violates the covenant, as well the very contract, between recruits and the Defense Department. If we are to believe the President’s statement this morning — which barred transgender troops from serving in “any capacity” — then it follows that every transgender soldier currently in uniform is in a state of limbo right now, uncertain whether or not they can continue their military careers.
                  Sen. John McCain, along with many other lawmakers, objected to Trump’s tweet. “The Department of Defense has already decided to allow currently-serving transgender individuals to stay in the military, and many are serving honorably today,” McCain wrote in an official statement.
                  As Army Staff Sgt. Patricia King told CNN today, “The great thing about being in the military is when we take our oath we take it to our country. I felt like I had just gotten fired via tweet.”
                  They deserve better than this.
                  There’s another problem: this new policy could actually hurt readiness. A study by the RAND Corporation — commissioned by the Defense Department — found that somewhere between 1,320 and 6,630 transgender troops currently serve on active duty. If you consider the upper end of that estimate, you’re talking about the same number of people who fill out an Army Brigade Combat Team, a little more than two Marine Expeditionary Units (MEUs) or an aircraft carrier with its embarked air wing. And this RAND estimate doesn’t include many thousands more transgenders who likely serve in the Guard and Reserve.
                  That’s a lot of talent … a lot of people with unique and necessary skills. These are not individuals attempting to make a statement, these are citizens wishing to serve their nation. They serve in the infantry. They repair and maintain tanks, planes and ships. They fly, navigate, sail and drive all manner of machinery, vehicles and aircraft. They send missiles downrange. They keep supplies coming. They are interpreters and military analysts. They hunt down and kill terrorists.
                  We — the American people — have trained them. We’ve invested time and dollars in their education, in their development as leaders, and in their contribution to teams. We put them out there on the front lines, and now — apparently — our Commander-in-Chief wants to call them back in.
                  At a time when the Secretary of Defense and all the Service Chiefs are rightly concerned about readiness levels, when each of the military forces needs the continued funding and support of Congress to reset a force that has operated — and continues to operate — at a high tempo, it makes little practical sense to deprive the ranks of these professionals.
                  We should be better than this.
                  Many proponents of this new ban will say that it actually saves money … that the costs of providing specialized medical care to transgender troops deprives the services of funds that could be applied to weapons systems, training and operations.
                  “Should we be spending any tax dollars to do gender reassignment surgeries when we have soldiers who don’t have body armor or bullets?” asked Republican Congresswoman Vicki Hartzler, a supporter of Trump’s decision. “We need to be investing every dollar that we have to meet the threats that we’re facing as a nation,” she added.
                  Citing an internal study conducted by her office, Hartzler claimed that gender reassignment surgeries alone would cost the Defense Department $1.35 billion over the next 10 years.
                  But the RAND report (to remind, commissioned by DoD) disputes that, calling the costs of transition-related treatments “relatively low” with an increase by between $2.4 million and $8.4 million annually, roughly a 0.04- to 0.13-percent increase in “active-component health care expenditures.” The study also concluded that only a small percentage, estimated in the study to be between 29 and 129 service members, would even seek “transition-related care that could disrupt their ability to deploy.”
                  So, yes, while there would be a financial cost to keeping the policy in place — and the concomitant time away for post-operative rest and recuperation — it’s beyond a stretch to assert that it would debilitate the military.
                  Finally, there is the actual process … how this whole thing came about today. In a tweet. Without, apparently, much coordination with the Pentagon. Without any heads-up to Congressional leadership. Without a statement to our troops as to what this means for them and how it was going to be implemented.
                  Politico posted an excellent piece this afternoon, citing sources that claim the President made this decision to ensure passage of a spending bill that would fund, among other things, his cherished border wall. If true, that represents the worst kind of political gerrymandering on an issue that should have been thoughtfully considered and weighed — just like Trump’s defense secretary had wanted to do in the first place.
                  Only three weeks ago, Defense Secretary James Mattis informed the Hill that he needed another six months to review transgender recruiting, saying he would use the “additional time to evaluate more carefully the impact of such accessions on readiness and lethality,” and would have those results in December of 2017.
                  That reflection, additional analysis and further evaluation is now moot. There will be no thoughtful deliberation about consequences or impact, no careful planning about how to move forward one way or the other. Just a knee-jerk political decision with no input from those who must execute it. No consideration over the lives and careers it affects.
                  We went from studying the impact of transgender recruiting to banning their service altogether at light speed, or should we say tweet-speed. Regardless of how you feel about the issue, that’s just not the way to set personnel policies in the greatest military on earth.

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                  This was an ill-considered, unplanned, and poorly executed decision. It is as unfair to Pentagon leaders as it is cruel to the thousands of serving troops it directly affects. It violates the very ideals behind our all-volunteer force, deprives us of much-needed talent, and flies in the face of the President’s own promise to take care of our troops.
                  We must be better than this.

                  Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/26/opinions/trump-trans-military-opinion-hertling-kirby/index.html

                  Here’s what actual trans military voices have to say about Trump’s ban.

                  In June 2016, the U.S. secretary of defense made a long-overdue announcement: The military was ending its ban on transgender service members.

                  With the 2011 end to the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy banning gay, lesbian, and bisexual people from serving, allowing trans people to serve openly seemed like the logical next step.

                  As then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter explained, Our mission is to defend this country, and we dont want barriers unrelated to a persons qualifications to serve preventing us from recruiting or retaining the soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine who can best accomplish the mission.

                  Fast-forward a year, and President Trump has undone that progress, tweeting that “the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military.”

                  He cited “tremendous medical costs” as the reason behind his decision despite the fact that a RAND Corporation study found that the total additional cost of allowing trans people to serve in the military is $2.4 million-8.4 million. (For comparison, in 2014, the military spent more than 10 times that on erectile dysfunction medication alone.)

                  But maybe Trump’s decision wasn’t about cost at all. According to Axios reporter Jonathan Swan, a Trump administration official was quoted as saying the move “forces Democrats in Rust Belt states like Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin, to take complete ownership of this issue.”

                  “How will the blue collar voters in these states respond when senators up for re-election in 2018 like Debbie Stabenow are forced to make their opposition to this a key plan of their campaigns?” Swan quoted the official as saying.

                  In other words, Trump’s decision doesn’t seem to be about readiness, cost, or any of the other reasons frequently tossed around by opponents of trans inclusion in the military. Instead, it’s just a game of politics, with trans lives as pawns.

                  There are currently an estimated 15,000 trans people serving in the military. What do they think of Trump reinstating the ban? We asked them.

                  Amanda Clark was discharged back in 2007 after coming out as trans. While she says she’s ambivalent about military service, she sees this as a matter of basic civil rights.

                  “I cant possibly fathom what openly out trans people in the military are feeling right now. Hell, I feel scared now just being a trans person in the civilian world. It feels like the f*cking fascists who run this country are coming for us, and openly serving trans people are next. Im sure a lot of officers/[non-commissioned officers] are going to be thrilled to get involved in paperwork hell discharging folks.”

                  Kristen Carella, who served on active duty 2001-2005 as an intelligence analyst stationed in Germany, pointed out that many U.S. allies (18 in total, including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom) allow trans people to serve without issue.

                  “Here was an opportunity for this country to move forward, recognizing the sacrifices transgender people have ALWAYS made in the armed forces, by allowing us to serve openly. [According to Human Rights Campaign] stats 26% of the trans community serves in the military at some point during their lives, that is TWICE the rate of the general population.

                  Trump’s decision is a stunning reversal that can be taken only as a slap in the face, personally to every transgender person who has ever served. It accomplishes nothing more than making sure transgender people remain a demonized and hated target that right-wing politicians can target to scare their base and push their agendas. Of course, all of this demonization ensures that the ignorant violence which leads bigots to murder transgender people in the streets (particularly trans women of color) will continue.”

                  Penelope R., an intersex trans woman who served in the Air Force for six years before leaving to pursue transition, says “members are going to die” because of this new policy, and she urges those who might not generally support the military to care about this.

                  “[The] American military, despite its many infelicities, has always been a reliable space for many kinds of marginalized people to hide out in. This is why trans people are disproportionately represented in the military.

                  Enlisting was always a last resort for me I’ve known I was trans since I was a child, and knew going into the military meant carving away parts of my identity I cherished, but at the time the alternative was death. Just death. I chose to live, and as a result I met my wife, found a chosen family that makes the sun rise for me, made enough money to afford transition, and qualified me to receive transitional health care from the Illinois VA. … The military helped make my life worth living. And now it’s all gone to shit for everyone.

                  Despite what he says, there’s nothing Trump can say or do to stop trans people from serving he can only get rid of those he knows about. It will only go back to how it was before, with trans service members confined to the closet at the risk of their careers.”

                  Then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter lifts the ban on trans troops on June 30, 2016. Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images.

                  Landon Wilson, who served in the Navy and was the topic of a widely read 2014 Washington Post profile about trans people in the military, points out that the ban means “honorably serving people” will be removed from service, “effectively weakening our country.”

                  “It’s a heartbreaking shame that the President of the United States is choosing to ignore the sacrifices of transgender service members, particularly at a time where so many have proven their dedication to this country. A diverse military makes a strong military; by removing honorably serving people from service, the President is effectively weakening our country, both as a fighting force and as a leader in civil rights.”

                  Vivian Wise, an information systems technician on active duty in the Navy, came out to her shipmates the day President Obama and Secretary Carter lifted the ban in 2016. She disagrees with President Trump’s assertion that trans people serving in the military is a “disruption.”

                  “To say that my service has been a ‘disruption’ is an outright lie. My Commanding Officer, immediate superiors and co-workers have all been fully supportive of me. I am one of the senior technicians within my division, responsible for training our new sailors and managing our day-to-day and week-to-week work list. I was, until just now, being groomed to lead one of our division’s two watch teams for our upcoming deployment, beginning late next year. In that capacity, I serve a critical role in my work center.

                  Summarily discharging me from military service, for nothing more than petty bigotry and electoral politics, is the disruption. The GOP as a whole, and the Trump administration in particular, are degrading my unit and hundreds if not thousands of other units across the armed services by taking away valuable people. We, and the American people, deserve better than this.”

                  Cisgender allies, activists, and experts are voicing their concerns, as well.

                  In an email, TransMilitary co-director and executive producer Fiona Dawson (who, in 2015, documented the story of two trans service members who fell in love) weighed in on the move, saying she hopes Trump will actually take the time to meet some of the trans personnel he deems unfit for service.

                  “Donald Trump’s assertions against transgender service members are baseless. Science and ethics determine there is no rational reason why the thousands of transgender women and men who have been defending our country and fighting for our freedom for hundreds of years should not be permitted to continue doing so.”

                  Former Secretary Carter offered his opinion on the reinstatement of the discriminatory policy as well, saying that it “has no place in our military.”

                  Advocacy organizations and civil rights groups across the country are issuing press releases, denouncing the tweet on a number of grounds.

                  The Palm Center called this “a worse version of ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell'” and hit Trump over his claims of “tremendous costs.”

                  “As we know from the sad history of that discredited policy, discrimination harms military readiness. This is a shocking and ignorant attack on our military and on transgender troops who have been serving honorably and effectively for the past year. As former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen stated yesterday, their service must be respected. The Rand Corporation has estimated that the cost of medical care for transgender troops is approximately one one-hundredth of one percent of the military annual health care budget, or at most, $8.4 million per year. To claim otherwise is to lie about the data.”

                  Tyler Deaton of the American Unity Fund, a conservative LGBTQ organization, criticized Trump for going back on what he saw as LGBTQ-friendly campaign promises in a statement that is long but worth reading in its entirety:

                  “President Trump promised to protect the transgender community. As President, he said he was ‘respectful and supportive of LGBTQ rights’ and would ‘protect the community from violence and oppression.’ But President Trump has broken his promise and, coupled with his administration’s efforts to roll back protections for transgender students in our nation’s public schools, he is developing an undeniable pattern of anti-gay and anti-transgender policy while in office. … As conservatives and advocates for LGBTQ freedom, AUF calls on President Trump to reconsider his comments, and stand with all of our soldiers, including those who are transgender.”

                  Former Justice Department official Vanita Gupta, currently president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, slammed Trump’s move as “yet another broken promise to the American people.”

                  “President Trump doesn’t understand that our military is stronger when there are no discriminatory barriers to service. The civil and human rights community will continue to loudly and proudly stand up for the rights of all who are willing to protect the security of our country, including the thousands of transgender people currently serving in our military.”

                  And of course, there was pushback from a number of Democratic and Republican politicians alike.

                  House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) commented on the sad irony of Trump’s decision to increase discrimination on the 69th anniversary of President Truman’s order to desegregate the military.

                  Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) announced plans to introduce legislation that would overrule Trump’s decision.

                  Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-New York) highlighted the number of trans people serving in the military.

                  Rep. Illeana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida), who has a transgender son, spoke out against it as well.

                  Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Massachusetts) offered to stand in solidarity with trans soldiers.

                  Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said “transgender people are people, and deserve the best we can do for them.”

                  And Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) called trans service members “patriots.”

                  Trans people exist in the world and have every right to engage in the same activities and occupations as anybody else.

                  This is a big deal, and it’s not just a distraction. Nobody should be discriminated against for who they are not in the military, not in education, not in housing, not in employment, not in health care, not at all.

                  Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/heres-what-actual-trans-military-voices-have-to-say-about-trumps-ban

                  Conservatives lobbied White House on transgender policy but total ban wasn’t what they asked for

                  (CNN)Republicans on Capitol Hill are scrambling to respond to President Donald Trump’s announcement Wednesday to reinstitute a ban on transgender people serving in the military after conservatives who lobbied the White House say they were pushing only to prevent the Pentagon from paying for medical costs associated with gender confirmation — not an outright ban.

                  Trump’s decision, announced Wednesday on Twitter and sparking bipartisan outrage on Capitol Hill, comes after the White House was lobbied by conservatives on the issue, including Rep. Vicky Hartzler, who proposed an amendment on the defense authorization bill to ban the Pentagon from paying what Hartzler called “transition surgeries,” as well as hormone therapy. The Missouri Republican lobbied the White House in recent weeks to do something on the issue, a GOP congressional aide familiar with the situation told CNN.
                  House Republican leaders knew the White House was already looking to change policy related to transgender people, but only as it relates to how or whether taxpayer money is being used for medical treatments, two Republican leadership sources told CNN.
                    Trump’s announcement on a total ban of transgender people serving in the US military was “far beyond leaders’ expectations and caught many by surprise,” one of those sources told CNN.
                    Hartzler tried to engage with Defense Secretary James Mattis on service members’ gender-related medical costs before the House took up the defense authorization bill, the aide said. When her amendment to that bill failed, she went to the White House to “address the issue” before the security spending bill was brought to the floor, a GOP congressional aide familiar with the situation told CNN.
                    While Hartzler was pushing for her proposal on the cost issue, she still supported Trump’s decision to ban transgender service members.
                    A study from the Rand Corporation estimated the cost of medical services for transgender individuals in the military at $2.4 million and $8.4 million out of a $6.2 billion medical budget for the military.
                    CNN has reached out to the White House for comment on whether conservatives lobbied for the change and have not yet gotten a response. News of conservatives lobbying Trump on transgender issues was first reported by Politico.
                    Republicans on Capitol Hill are having difficulty responding because the Pentagon is still trying to explain the actual policy and how it would be implemented.
                    There were no plans to have another debate on the House floor on the taxpayer pricetag for gender-related medical expenses for members of the military. The House defeated Hartzler’s amendment 209-214 on the defense authorization bill earlier this month, with 24 Republicans joining with Democrats to defeat the measure.
                    Aides stress that, among those who did not want the Pentagon to pay for these costs, there was concern about losing a second battle on the floor after Hartzler’s amendment on the defense bill had been defeated.
                    Some conservatives, such as Rep. Mark Meadows and others in the Freedom Caucus, had been threatening to try to kill the spending package if the transgender health provision was not included, but Republican leadership was confident they had the votes to get the bill over the finish line, according to congressional aides.
                    House conservatives were trying to avoid a roll-call vote, too, pushing leadership to add the amendment banning medical expenses for trans service members as a “self-executing” provision to the House Rule for the security bill, which would have avoided a specific vote, according to a senior GOP aide. But leadership rejected that idea. On Wednesday afternoon the final parameters for debate on the spending bill were set and no amendments or changes to the bill were allowed ahead of floor votes on the military portions of that legislation.
                    Congressional aides said none of the defense committees — House or Senate armed services and the defense appropriations panels — were given any kind of notice or briefing on the decision.
                    House armed services committee Chairman Mac Thornberry told CNN Trump’s decision appeared to catch the Pentagon by surprise, too, in addition to Congress.
                    “It was a complete surprise, not only to us but to the Pentagon apparently,” Thornberry said.
                    Asked if he agreed or disagreed with Trump’s decision, Thornberry said: “I don’t know what it means.”
                    Florida Rep. Tom Rooney, who served in the Army in the JAG Corps, admitted he didn’t know what the administration policy announcement was because he missed the tweets.
                    He supported the effort to ban the Pentagon from using taxpayer money to cover medical costs of transgender medical procedures. But he told reporters the President’s tweets on the new transgender policy “throws us off” the message about what the Republican Congress is accomplishing.
                    He pointed to the President tweeting about Attorney General Jeff Sessions when the Senate was making progress on repealing Obamacare, and the President tweeting last month about something off-topic on the same day that the House passed an immigration bill known as “Kate’s Law” that the administration supported.
                    But things may be different in the Senate, where Sen. John McCain — who criticized Trump’s move Wednesday — could soon be presiding over his defense policy bill when health care is done.
                    “I would assume there will be an effort on the floor to do something,” Sen. Jack Reed, the top Democrat on the Armed Services panel, told CNN.

                    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/26/politics/congress-transgender-policy/index.html

                    Rule that patients must finish antibiotics course is wrong, study says

                    Experts suggest patients should stop taking the drugs when they feel better rather than completing their prescription

                    Telling patients to stop taking antibiotics when they feel better may be preferable to instructing them to finish the course, according to a group of experts who argue that the rule long embedded in the minds of doctors and the public is wrong and should be overturned.

                    Patients have traditionally been told that they must complete courses of antibiotics, the theory being that taking too few tablets will allow the bacteria causing their disease to mutate and become resistant to the drug.

                    But Martin Llewelyn, a professor in infectious diseases at Brighton and Sussex medical school, and colleagues claim that this is not the case. In an analysis in the British Medical Journal, the experts say the idea that stopping antibiotic treatment early encourages antibiotic resistance is not supported by evidence, while taking antibiotics for longer than necessary increases the risk of resistance.

                    There are some diseases where the bug can become resistant if the drugs are not taken for long enough. The most obvious example is tuberculosis, they say. But most of the bacteria that cause people to become ill are found on everybodys hands in the community, causing no harm, such as E coli and Staphylococcus aureus. People fall ill only when the bug gets into the bloodstream or the gut. The longer such bacteria are exposed to antibiotics, the more likely it is that resistance will develop.

                    The experts say there has been too little research into the ideal length of a course of antibiotics, which also varies from one individual to the next, depending in part on what antibiotics they have taken in the past.

                    In hospital, patients can be tested to work out when to stop the drugs. Outside hospital, where repeated testing may not be feasible, patients might be best advised to stop treatment when they feel better, they say. That, they add, is in direct contravention of World Health Organisation advice.

                    Other experts in infectious diseases backed the group. I have always thought it to be illogical to say that stopping antibiotic treatment early promotes the emergence of drug-resistant organisms, said Peter Openshaw, president of the British Society for Immunology.

                    This brief but authoritative review supports the idea that antibiotics may be used more sparingly, pointing out that the evidence for a long duration of therapy is, at best, tenuous. Far from being irresponsible, shortening the duration of a course of antibiotics might make antibiotic resistance less likely.

                    Alison Holmes, a professor of infectious diseases at Imperial College London, said a great British authority, Prof Harold Lambert, had made the same point in a Lancet article entitled Dont keep taking the tablets as early as 1999. It remains astonishing that apart from some specific infections and conditions, we still do not know more about the optimum duration of courses or indeed doses in many conditions, yet this dogma has been pervasive and persistent.

                    Jodi Lindsay, a professor of microbial pathogenesis at St Georges, University of London, said it was sensible advice. The evidence for completing the course is poor, and the length of the course of antibiotics has been estimated based on a fear of under-treating rather than any studies, she said. The evidence for shorter courses of antibiotics being equal to longer courses, in terms of cure or outcome, is generally good, although more studies would help and there are a few exceptions when longer courses are better for example, TB.

                    But the Royal College of GPs expressed concerns. Recommended courses of antibiotics are not random, said its chair, Prof Helen Stokes-Lampard. They are tailored to individual conditions and in many cases, courses are quite short for urinary tract infections, for example, three days is often enough to cure the infection.

                    We are concerned about the concept of patients stopping taking their medication midway through a course once they feel better, because improvement in symptoms does not necessarily mean the infection has been completely eradicated. Its important that patients have clear messages and the mantra to always take the full course of antibiotics is well known. Changing this will simply confuse people.

                    The UKs chief medical officer, Prof Dame Sally Davies, said: The message to the public remains the same: people should always follow the advice of healthcare professionals. To update policies, we need further research to inform them.

                    [The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence] is currently developing guidance for managing common infections, which will look at all available evidence on appropriate prescribing of antibiotics.

                    The Department of Health will continue to review the evidence on prescribing and drug-resistant infections, as we aim to continue the great progress we have made at home and abroad on this issue.

                    Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/jul/26/rule-patients-must-finish-antibiotics-course-wrong-study-says

                    John McCain had the chance to do the right thing on healthcare. He failed | Lucia Graves

                    There are many reasons to respect the Arizona senator, but his remarkable stoicism and service cant excuse his yes vote in the Senate

                    John McCain often gets cast as a truth-teller to Donald Trump, but his voting record says otherwise. And nowhere was that more clear than on Tuesday when, despite his own ill health, when it came to the decision of whether to take other peoples healthcare away, he cast a decisive vote in the wrong direction.

                    Addressing his fellow lawmakers, McCain called passionately for a return to regular order, and for senators to work constructively across the aisle. Why dont we try the old way of legislating in the Senate, the way our rules and customs encourage us to act, he said in his Tuesday speech. If this process ends in failure, which seems likely, then lets return to regular order!

                    Though he has often railed against Trump as if he cant actually affect what he is complaining about, McCain isnt a helpless observer hes an influential senator. And on Tuesday, as the country draws closer than ever before to the death of the Affordable Care Act, he was a pivotal one.

                    Had McCain simply voted no to the question of whether the Senate should begin debate on a repeal or replacement of Obamacare, which squeaked by in the Senate with a vote of 51-50, the chambers leader Mitch McConnell might well have been forced to do the very thing McCain claimed to want: restore the chamber to order.

                    Instead, McCain, who was recently and tragically diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer, and who returned to DC explicitly to help save the GOP healthcare bill, voted yes.

                    To put it another way, faced with a rare opportunity to make a real tangible difference, he risked traveling amid failing health to make possible the very thing he decried.

                    More damningly, he voted yes to take away healthcare from millions of Americans including an untold number of other cancer patients even as he continues to access benefits of the quality care afforded him as a senator, care subsidized by American taxpayers.

                    Never mind that at this point in time Republicans have little idea what the bill they would replace Obamacare with will contain. Never mind that we have arrived at this point through a secretive process devoid of public hearings, or even that Republicans would have the healthcare of millions of American women dreamed up entirely by men.

                    Politics appears to have triumphed over logic. Sadly, the politics that won out today are is not even a sort personally dear to John McCain that much was made clear in his floor speech. Its not even his own electoral politics that won out, either; after a tough re-election battle, he wont be up again until 2022, freeing him up as much as electorally possible to act solely with his moral compass as the guide.

                    Instead, McCain did the very thing he had just railed against, acting out of partisan loyalty.

                    There are many reasons to respect McCain, a former prisoner of war who endured torture in the five and a half years he spent captive in North Vietnam, and has campaigned against torture by the US. His 2008 campaign against Barack Obama now looks like the very model of civility in the wake of Trump.

                    But even his remarkable stoicism and service cant excuse what he just did.

                    The grim reality is that health insurance is of the utmost importance when it comes to surviving cancer, the second leading killer in America after heart disease. Put simply, the uninsured are much more likely to die than those with insurance and sooner.

                    A recent study in the journal Cancer found the uninsured were 88% more likely to die of testicular cancer than those with insurance. For patients with Medicaid, the number dropped to a 58% greater chance of dying than privately insured patients like McCain.

                    The study found the same trend held true for patients with glioblastoma, the malignant brain cancer McCain was recently diagnosed with. Its a terribly disease with a median life expectancy with his type of just 15 months, and thats as true for McCain as anyone, but the uninsured still die faster than anyone.

                    Voting to subject any one of millions of Americans to go to meet such a fate without even the benefit of the best tools medicine has to fight it is cruel, given McCains new-found appreciation of the benefit.

                    The estimated cost of McCains recent surgery to remove the cancer above his eye is a sum that would bankrupt many Americans, using the Medicare rates for which McCain qualifies.

                    Theres a way to fix the fact that many Americans under the age of 65 dont have access to any such care: let everyone under it buy in, a scheme for which many on the left have argued. But on Tuesday, McCain helped move the country in precisely the opposite direction.

                    We still dont know which of several bills Republicans will bring up for a vote, but all of them involve millions of Americans losing the very sort of health insurance upon which McCain depends.

                    The only question is whether its a matter of 22, 32, or just 15 million people who will lose access. What we can say with confidence is whatever version moves forward, McCains lost more than his good health hes lost his decency.

                    Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jul/25/john-mccain-healthcare-senate-vote-republicans

                    Trump to rally: GOP senators who oppose health bill ‘will have a lot of problems’

                    Trump speaks for an hour at campaign-style rally in Youngstown, Ohio, and boasts of accomplishments while pledging once again to build that wall

                    Donald Trump warned that Republican senators who dont support legislation repealing and replacing Obamacare will have a lot of problems.

                    Speaking for an hour at a campaign-style rally in Youngstown, Ohio, Trump took a victory lap after the Senate voted to begin debate on legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act. We are now one step closer to liberating our citizens from this Obamacare nightmare, he said.

                    Before a raucous crowd in the blue-collar city, Trump went on to warn that any senator who votes against repeal and replace tells America that they are fine with the Obamacare nightmare, and I predict theyll have a lot of problems.

                    However, Trump spent comparatively little time discussing healthcare. Instead, he returned to familiar themes from his freewheeling presidential campaign, deriding fake news and pledging once again to build that wall on the border between the United States and Mexico. He also returned to familiar boasts about how, with the exception of Abraham Lincoln, he can be more presidential than any president thats ever held this office and taunted protesters, saying about one: Hes going back home to mommy.

                    He spent much of the rally boasting about his accomplishments since taking office: I think, with few exceptions, no president has done anywhere near what we have done in his first six months.

                    In particular, Trump dwelled on his efforts to curb illegal immigration and deport undocumented migrants from the United States. Trump claimed that in doing so we are liberating our towns and cities and warned darkly of immigrants in gangs committing crimes.

                    They dont want to use guns because its too fast and its not painful enough, claimed Trump. So theyll take a young, beautiful girl, 16, 15 and others, and they slice them and dice them with a knife because they want them to go through excruciating pain before they die, and these are the animals that weve been protecting for so long.

                    Trump though did not address the investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election or his growing displeasure with Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, for recusing himself from the justice departments investigation into the 2016 campaign.

                    Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/25/trump-republicans-healthcare-bill-rally-ohio

                    Endangered Republicans stick with Trump on key health care vote

                    Washington (CNN)The two Senate Republicans in the most jeopardy of losing their seats in 2018 faced a choice in Tuesday’s health care vote: Stick with President Donald Trump and face a barrage of Democratic attacks, or break ranks and risk a potentially serious primary challenge fueled by Trump himself.

                    Both Nevada Sen. Dean Heller and Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake decided to stick with Trump.
                    Their votes came after stern signals from the White House that the President was willing to work to defeat his own party’s incumbents if they crossed him on health care.
                      Trump and White House aides have met and spoken with several potential Flake primary challengers.
                      And Trump, sitting next to Heller at a recent meeting, predicted the Nevada senator would reverse himself and vote to advance the GOP’s health care effort Tuesday.
                      “He wants to remain a senator, doesn’t he?” Trump said.
                      Conservative Kelli Ward is already challenging Flake in the primary, and former Arizona state GOP chairman Robert Graham told CNN either he or state treasurer Jeff DeWit could also enter the race. In Nevada, Danny Tarkanian — the son of legendary UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian — told CNN he is considering challenging Heller in the GOP primary.
                      Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen is running for Heller’s seat in Nevada, while several Democrats in Arizona are still weighing potential runs.
                      Both Flake and Heller gambled that their votes Tuesday could assuage their party’s base — and that, if the chaotic process the Senate is entering doesn’t result in the passage of a major Obamacare repeal bill, the political impact next November would be muted.
                      Still, as soon as they’d voted, Democrats began attacking the two — with Heller in particular facing questions about why he’d reversed the stance he’d taken weeks ago.
                      Already, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee had launched radio ads Tuesday accusing Heller and Flake of “dismantling our health care.”
                      After the vote, the DSCC lambasted Heller for casting the “deciding vote” — a label that could be applied to any Republican, since the party voted to advance the bill in the Senate without any votes to spare.
                      The Democratic super PAC Priorities USA also launched a digital ad campaign hitting Republicans in seven states — Heller’s Nevada and Flake’s Arizona, as well as five others where Democratic senators are up for re-election.
                      For Heller, in particular, Tuesday’s vote raised questions about why he’d stood with popular Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval and said he’d oppose the bill just weeks ago.
                      “Obamacare isn’t the answer, but doing nothing to try to solve the problems it has created isn’t the answer either. That is why I will vote to move forward and give us a chance to address the unworkable aspects of the law that have left many Nevadans — particularly those living in rural areas — with dwindling or no choices,” Heller said in a statement.
                      He added that he plans to support efforts to “protect Nevadans who depend on Medicaid” — a reference to the 210,000 who gained coverage under Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, who he’d recently cited as the reason he would oppose an earlier Senate Republican health care bill.
                      “If the final product isn’t improved for the state of Nevada, then I will not vote for it; if it is improved, I will support it,” Heller said.

                      Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/25/politics/dean-heller-jeff-flake-trump-health-care/index.html

                      The creepy doll on ‘The Bachelorette’ is a viable suitor given their low, low standards

                      Image: abc

                      Rachel Lindsay suffered many indignities in the season premiere of The Bachelorette and accepted it all with poise, even when a man attacked her by playing an acoustic guitar at her. Another dude who’s known her since they were children was suddenly interested once it meant he could be on television.

                      Still, she was only thrown off her game when she met Adam Jr., a doll who is, apparently, French.

                      “That’s scary looking,” Lindsay says, backing the hell away. “I don’t know which one to look at.”

                      Adam Jr.’s chaperone, Adam, is a real estate agent based in Dallas, so it’s sort of unclear how the pair met. Also, does Adam Jr. have a job? Even a fake job, like Whaboom? A lot of questions here.

                      The Bachelor franchise has always had an iffy grasp on personhood. Take, for example, The Twins.

                      On Bachelor in Paradise, The Twins (legally named Haley and Emily Ferguson although, if you watch these shows religiously like I do, you’re still unlikely to know that) were treated as a single individual. Even their “best friends” like Amanda Stanton, just called them “The Twins” all the time. Accordingly, the rules of the game treated them as one entity: if one twin matched up with a suitor, the other twin got to stay.

                      Soon, they’ll have their own Freeform spinoff, The Twins: Happily Ever After? where, presumably, no one’s allowed to get married unless it’s a double wedding.

                      So what’s the deal with Adam and Adam Jr.? Adam, bless Rachel’s heart, got a rose. But was that just so she could keep Adam Jr., who unlike pretty much everyone else, doesn’t say anything horrific because he literally cannot open his mouth?

                      Adam Jr. (or AJ) did get to express himself with voiceover, though, and revealed that he actually has more emotional intelligence (hey, Taylor) than most of the contenders. The ability to read the room is a rare gift in Bachelor Nation.

                      Adam Jr. had a staggering amount fan support and even some conditional cosigns from fellow suitors.

                      “I really feel like everybody’s here for love, including AJ. He doesn’t have to say much for you to know what he’s thinking and I can tell he’s getting a little jealous,” observed Josiah.

                      “AJ’s dressed fresh, he’s actually got a pretty dope fade if you look,” added Kenny before offering to light the doll on fire if he ventures into true horror movie territory.

                      Look, we know AJ isn’t going to win this thing, but since there are like two viable suitors for Lindsay to pick from, why not go for a hometown date in the French countryside at the doll factory he comes from?

                      Oh, yeah, that’s why.

                      Well, if he floats, he’s a perfect contender for Bachelor in Paradise, where even Evan the Erectile Dysfunction Expert who faked an illness so his crush would accompany him in an ambulance found love.

                      Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/05/23/creepy-doll-adam-jr-the-bachelorette/

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                      Police: Parents gave newborn daughter drugs to hide infant’s addiction

                      (CNN)A couple in Utah told police they gave their newborn daughter a pain medication in the hospital to cover up the fact that the child was born addicted to drugs.

                      Colby Glen Wilde, 29, and Lacey Dawn Christenson, 26, both of Elk Ridge, gave their daughter Suboxone, a prescription pain medication used for pain management and addiction treatment, on the day she was born, according to a press release from the Utah County Sheriff’s Office.
                      Investigators learned that Christenson had been using heroin and prescription pain medication heavily during her pregnancy, leading to the child being born addicted to the drugs, the press release said.
                        The episode occurred April 9, the day the girl was born at Utah Valley Hospital, the sheriff’s office said. The couple told authorities they crushed up Suboxone pills and put the powder on the infant’s mouth and gums while medical staff were out of the room.
                        According to the press release, informants told law enforcement that parents of drug-addicted babies sometimes do this to hide signs of addiction from hospitals.
                        The couple were not arrested until June 26, when Wilde was taken into custody after an incident at a Walmart in Spanish Fork, Utah, where he was accused of stealing merchandise. Christenson was also in the store and arrested on an outstanding warrant.
                        Sheriff’s deputies said that when store employees and bystanders tried to apprehend Wilde, he handed his infant daughter to a stranger, ran to his car and began driving away.
                        With the parents in jail, the couple’s three other children — all boys, ages 2, 4 and 8 — were taken into custody by the Utah Division of Child and Family Services. Their now 3-month-old daughter was evaluated at the hospital, and the other children were also drug tested. On June 28, deputies also got a search warrant for the home based upon a tip from someone caring for the couple’s pets while Wilde and Christenson were in jail.
                        “Deputies discovered items of drug paraphernalia in many different areas of the home, including next to a baby bassinet, next to a child’s sippy cup, and others,” said the press release. As a result, additional charges were filed against the couple.
                        The couple were released from jail on the prior charges — Christenson on June 28, Wilde on July 5 — but deputies served a second search warrant on July 18 because they had information that the parents were still doing drugs. When deputies arrived to do the second search warrant, they found Wilde “actively smoking heroin,” Sgt. Spencer Cannon, public information officer for the Utah County Sheriff’s Office, told CNN.
                        Christenson and Wilde were charged with distribution of a controlled substance in a drug-free zone, use of heroin and methamphetamine, endangerment of a child and possession of drug paraphernalia. Cash bail for the pair was set at $10,000. It wasn’t clear Monday if either one of them had an attorney.
                        Deputies later learned the results of the children’s drug tests.
                        “The oldest child did not test positive for any drugs,” Cannon said. But the three younger ones all tested positive for methamphetamines, while the infant also tested positive for heroin and morphine. Cannon said Christenson was given morphine for pain during the delivery and that was the source of it in the infant.
                        To test the children for drugs, authorities tested their hair follicles, Cannon said, adding that “evidence of drugs in the body remains in the hair for longer than it would in blood or other means of testing.”
                        Police said they don’t believe the other children were given drugs directly like their infant sibling but that their parents smoked drugs in their presence and the kids ingested the smoke secondhand.
                        “They were routinely exposed to secondhand smoke from (the parents’) smoking methamphetamines and heroin,” Cannon said.
                        Authorities said that despite the secondhand exposure, the children weren’t exhibiting any signs of ongoing problems from the drugs.
                        After the execution of the second search warrant, the couple admitted to investigators that the crushed pills found in their home was the Suboxone used on the daughter in the hospital, Cannon said. Christenson and Wilde told authorities they talked about it with their friends and came up with the plan together.

                        Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/24/health/utah-newborn-drugs-trnd/index.html

                        5 Shocking Ways The World Is About To Change

                        First off, fuck the apocalypse and everybody who predicts it. There’s always an apocalypse somewhere, and our pop culture’s obsession with an America ruined by war/disease/starvation basically boils down to, “Can you imagine if the shit that’s constantly happening in the Third World happened to us?” There’s somebody out there living the social breakdown of The Walking Dead right now. Only instead of zombies, it’s some warlord’s death squads, and a crossbow won’t do shit.

                        No, this article is about the future, but isn’t about the apocalypse or a dystopia — this isn’t about killer robots (which we already have!) or a looming American police state. You’ve seen all that shit in movies. This is about the super weird changes that are coming in your lifetime that Hollywood doesn’t seem to care about.

                        Semi-related note: My new novel about cybernetic super-criminals and shit is out right now!

                        #5. You’ll Eat Bugs (And You’ll Like It)

                        If you found a cockroach in your cereal, your whole year would be ruined. We have such a physical revulsion to bugs that the above headline probably sounds like a threat: “In the future, food will be so scarce that you’ll scarf down a grasshopper! You know, right after cooking and eating your own diiiiick!”

                        “I wish my kids were here to witness this, but I ate them out of desperation first.”

                        But I’ve already told you this isn’t about making you afraid of a nightmare future. I’m saying that bugs will slip seamlessly into our diets the same way high fructose corn syrup did, only this time the world will be much better for it. I’m going to prove it to you in five steps. Ready?

                        A) You already eat bugs; you just don’t know it. The strawberry flavoring in your milkshake/yogurt/smoothie contains crushed insects — specifically this guy, the Dactylopius coccus:

                        It’s a type of beetle that creates a nice red dye when ground up, and food companies have been using it as a natural food coloring for as long as anybody can remember (note: If you see “cochineal” on the label, that’s ground-up beetle). You didn’t mind, because you didn’t know it was there. And in the future they’ll come up with some other name for the ground-up cricket meat in your burger. See, that’s the thing — when I said “eating bugs” earlier, you imagined shoving a writhing praying mantis into your mouth. But you wouldn’t eat a chicken that way — there’s a bunch of shit they do to it at the factory first. It’ll be fine. “But,” you say, “anyone would puke the moment they saw the cockroach farm where their ‘food’ is being grown!” To which I respond: Ever been inside a slaughterhouse?

                        B) It’s the only way to feed the world meat without permanently ruining the environment. I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but bugs seriously don’t give a shit — they can pretty much live anywhere and eat anything. They breed like crazy even when we’re desperately trying to kill them. So, with the same amount of resources, insects will produce about 800 percent more meat than beef and generate a fraction of the greenhouse gases. It doesn’t seem like there’s much “meat” on an insect, but for instance 80 percent of a grasshopper is edible as opposed to only 40 percent of a cow. They’re boneless!

                        And they go great in pie.

                        C) They’re healthier to eat. Per calorie, a cricket has 40 percent more protein than beef and 40 percent less fat. Your rebuttal is probably, “But what does that matter if it tastes like shit? Or rather, tastes like a bug, since most people would rather eat shit than a cricket?” But consider that …

                        D) About 2 billion people already happily eat insects. In Mexico, the only reason they don’t eat more grasshoppers (chapulines) is because they can’t afford them — demand is so high that grasshoppers cost more than beef or pork. They’re trying to scale up production as we speak (right now they don’t farm the insects so much as try to go out and catch them — you can imagine what a pain in the ass that is, people running round with nets and shit).

                        E) Visceral disgust is something humans get over pretty easily. Remember that these huge, disgusting insect-like monsters …

                        … used to be so revolting to people that they were fed to the poor and prisoners. Lobsters used to wash up on the beaches in big, gross, smelly heaps, the giant, red, mutant cockroaches of the ocean. Now you’ll pay $40 for that ugly bastard. This:

                        Is meat stuffed into a tube that used to be filled with a pig’s actual shit. And it’s fine; we rinse it out and stuff it full of ground-up entrails and spices and eat it in the parking lot of a football stadium. Someday, you’ll just as happily eat a sausage made of mealworms. I think 80 percent of you don’t believe me (I actually left the bug-eating bit out of my book because I thought readers would immediately treat it as a horror novel) and that’s fine — if you can’t get over it, your kids and grandkids will. That’s because humans adapt. That’s what we’re good at.

                        #4. At Some Point, Lying Will Become Impossible

                        I have a question for any children who might be reading this: Do you still have that “Liar Kid” at your school? I and everyone I know had at least one in our class, the kid who’d just make up grandiose bullshit for no purpose. He’d claim he found a shark swimming in the creek near his house, or that his uncle was a stunt man who played the yellow Power Ranger — just a font of name-drops and fascinating anecdotes, all of which were pulled straight out of his asshole.

                        I ask because, well, how can that kid exist today? A trip to Google on your iPhone would disprove all of those things in five seconds.

                        “OK, you say your dad beat up Steven Seagal at a club in Bangkok? What was the exact date?
                        I’m just going to check to see if he was in the country at the time.”

                        It’s a whole personality type that would presumably be put out of business by modern technology. You know, the same as how the sleazy used car salesman is facing extinction for the same reason — anyone with an Internet connection can find out what a car is actually worth. So who else is about to see their dishonest house of cards come tumbling down?

                        How about sex offenders? Or just the dude who goes on vacation and hits the clubs pretending he doesn’t have a wife and three kids back home? Sure, right now it might be considered rude to do a background check on a dude while he’s sitting on the next bar stool offering you a ride on his yacht, but soon all of that will be done automatically, on the fly. Google Glass failed because it looked stupid and didn’t work, but the general concept — the ability to instantly make key information pop up right in front of your eyeball — is inevitable. Facial recognition will scan everyone you encounter, a little pop-up box letting you know that dude not only isn’t an Internet millionaire but is a fugitive known to the police as “The Key West Disemboweler.” If a search doesn’t raise any red flags but he still seems generally dishonest, that’s OK — they’ll have software that will watch his facial movements and tone of voice to see if he’s telling the truth.

                        Now let’s pause for a moment to appreciate how that little advancement will utterly change interpersonal relations in a way that’s almost too profound to comprehend.

                        “Now, when you say the porn on your computer must have been ‘put there by a hacker’ …”

                        I mean, I don’t know if you’ve really stopped to think about it, but lies are kind of what make civilization possible. Try to get through just one day without A) lying or B) intentionally withholding information and/or spinning the truth — see how long it takes you to ruin every relationship in your life. “Honey, you said you liked your Christmas present, but TruthApp says your eye movements indicate a 99.96 percent chance of falsehood. Now tell me you love me; I want to watch your face this time …” Oh, and just wait until your kids are old enough to use it, and ask you which child is your favorite.

                        Some of you have already lived long enough to see how, for instance, it’s gotten way harder to lie at work. If you’re a professional driver, you don’t stop at a bar on the way and claim you got stuck in traffic — they’re using GPS to track your vehicle and (if you have a company-issued phone in your pocket) your body at all times. Work at a warehouse and miss your quota for the day, don’t bother claiming you got sidetracked by another project or had “equipment problems” — they’re literally tracking your every footstep; they know you’re dragging your ass. Some companies have developed sensors for employees that “identify a person’s tone of voice, movement, and even their posture when communicating with others.” Awesome! You’ve never gotten angry at a co-worker, right? Or gossiped behind someone’s back?

                        “Hi, Janet! When you get a chance would you kindly take a moment
                        to eat my shit? Thanks!”

                        Of course, that’s not even mentioning the obvious: cameras, cameras everywhere. It’s legal for companies to record you everywhere but in the bathroom, and the law isn’t even completely settled on that. And don’t bother lying about what you did away from work, either; Facebook has developed software that can search every photo on the Internet for your face. “Steve, it’s come to corporate’s attention that you were at a party this weekend in which drugs were being consumed. As you can see, you’re plainly visible in the background of this Instagram photo here, between the man with the bong and the chimpanzee wearing a bra. Now, as you know, the company has strict policies about employee conduct when in public …”

                        Yeah, those last two words are going to come up a lot — your concept of what counts as “in public” is going to change radically over the next couple decades. But that just brings us to the fact that …

                        #3. Your Genitals Will Be For Public Consumption

                        And I don’t mean this in a good way. Regular readers know that I had a nude video leak to celebrity site TMZ, who has yet to publish it even though I’ve continued to “leak” it to them over email every few days since June. I’ve just decided that this is where the world is going, so I need to get ahead of it.

                        After all, these days when an Internet privacy issue surfaces, it’s met mostly with a few alarmist blog posts and then a collective yawn — like when it came out that Windows 10 literally logs your every keystroke and sends the data back to headquarters. “Eh, I’m sure it’ll be fine.” The only way these breaches make headlines is if they include A) photos/video of a famous naked person or B) a famous person saying something racist.

                        And when nude photos of a bunch of celebrities leaked recently, it was interesting to see the sharp divide in the reactions. Anyone older than, say, 25 seemed to be in disbelief that these people would have ever taken a naked photo of themselves, on any device, ever. Among those younger than 25, well, somewhere between 70 percent and 90 percent have themselves sent a lewd photo or message of some kind. In just a few years that practice went from “Clearly the work of a depraved exhibitionist who needs some kind of therapy” to “Standard rule of dating for everyone but prudish weirdos.” That means that at some point we will hit what experts don’t call the Dick Pic Singularity: the point at which everyone will have nude photos or video of themselves on the Internet, and it just won’t be seen as a big deal. We will all be nudists.

                        Are you repulsed by that? As repulsed as you were by the concept of eating bugs earlier? Because it’s the same deal — either you’ll get over it or your kids will.

                        “Huh, back in his day Grandpa was quite the fuckboi.”

                        I can tell you firsthand that I’ve seen just as big a change in my lifetime. I grew up way back in the day when your teenage poetry, gossip, and horrible thoughts went in a locked diary that you kept hidden under your mattress. These days, it goes on Tumblr or YouTube for 3 billion Internet users to view if they so desire. Growing up, I was trained to be self-conscious on camera; today, my computer, phone, and television all have cameras that watch me back while I use them. We’re all “in public,” all the time, and that’s just the way it is.

                        And you know how they’re pushing to put body cameras on police, to make sure they’re not shooting dudes just for the hell of it? Don’t be surprised when they put body cameras on servers at restaurants, to make sure they’re being polite to customers, and soon after that, body cameras on everyone. In that book that I keep linking to, I speculate that these will become standard, everyday gear, not because some oppressive government is making us but because we want to. Just, stream it all — stream everything. Whatever need for privacy we once had, we’ve decided the need for the approval of an audience is greater.

                        “I’m leaving you. It’s not you or me; my viewers just think you’re boring.”

                        So, these days when somebody gets fired because they were secretly recorded saying something awful in the privacy of their own home (as Hulk Hogan was), we don’t worry about the “secret recording” aspect at all. “Hey, if they didn’t want their employer hearing them say it, then they shouldn’t have said it! Even in private, at home!” But are you sure you want that to be the rule, that everything you do is for public consumption? If you’re reading this as a defense of telling racist jokes, let me ask you:

                        Do you like your job?

                        If not, do you ever vent about it?

                        Because you can say goodbye to that — no employer is going to keep you on the payroll if you complain about what a shitty company it is in public (where “in public” now means “in your own home, near a microphone you didn’t know was recording”). Now think about the secretly atheist kid in a religious family who now has to self-censor every conversation for fear of it getting out. Or the closeted gay/trans teenager, or the secret revolutionary in an iron-fisted dictatorship. Even if you rid your own life of cameras and microphones (which itself will tag you as a reclusive weirdo), you’ll be surrounded by strangers who have their own.

                        And if you complain about how back in your day kids weren’t obsessed with documenting
                        their lives, everyone will know.

                        At my first job out of college, the guideline was, “Never put anything into an email you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of the New York Times.” You are, they said, creating an electronic record of your words, and the mere existence of that record gives anyone an automatic right to publish it. Well, in an era when every conversation creates an electronic record, you can amend the rule: Instead of, “Never put anything too controversial into an email,” it’ll be, “Never say anything too controversial out loud.” Unless, of course, we stand up and demand the right to not automatically lose our livelihood just because we got upset and said some stupid shit one time.

                        In other words, this doesn’t have to be part of our future unless we let it. Which just leads me to the fact that …

                        #2. Our Concept Of Employment Is About To Radically Change

                        It’s easy to shrug when you see a headline screaming that about half of our current jobs will soon be done by robots, or that there’s a factory in China that needs no workers at all. That whole “robots are taking our jobs!” bit has been around since before they invented robots. In the 1800s they told cautionary tales of a great man made obsolete by a steam engine; today we’re shown videos of hotels staffed by robot dinosaurs:

                        And yet … the trend is pretty clear.

                        A hundred years ago, the average American worked about 60 hours a week; it’s about 34 hours now. The percentage of American adults either working or trying to find jobs has been dropping since the ’90s, now matching the lowest point in 40 years, and of the ones who are working, more of them are part-time. So this prediction of a future “job-free” economy isn’t some crazy Nostradamus prophecy, it’s the direction we’ve been heading for a while now — each time there’s an economic crash, the jobs never quite come back to where they were before.

                        But when/if this jobless future arrives, the problem won’t be the robots taking over (how can it be a bad thing that we’re able to make more stuff with less effort?). No, the issue is how much we humans hate each other.

                        Spoiler: a lot.

                        See, the idea is that soon the only jobs left will be the ones that computers can’t do — tasks that take creativity, or people skills, or that are just plain too complicated (it’s actually hard to imagine a robot plumber doing all the steps needed to find and fix a leak inside your wall). So there will be a certain class of people who have those complex skills, and then there will be everyone else (and feel free to speculate on what percentage will be in each group).

                        Now, it doesn’t make sense that everyone but the most talented will be left to starve (as so many pessimistic articles seem to imply) — the corporations buying those expensive robots need customers to buy the shit they’re making, and the evil billionaires and politicians who run the world need happy consumers. This is where ideas like a guaranteed basic income come into play — basically the government gives everyone a paycheck just for being alive. The idea is that if we don’t need humans to do the work, we do still need them to make and raise children, to not riot in the streets, and to consume things so that the economic Circle of Life keeps running.

                        They’re going to start opening the stock market by holding out a child, with a dollar sign
                        drawn on its head, Simba-style.

                        And at the mere suggestion of that, a whole bunch of you just felt a sense of physical revulsion. “You mean 200 million people will be on welfare?!?” You’ll spit that last word like an accusation, in the same way you’d scream “TRAITOR!” or “WHORE!” That’s because most of us have been raised from birth to hate the able-bodied poor, and I mean Hate with a capital H. To see them as leeches, as a cancer in the system. As thieves. That guaranteed income will be taken out of the pocket of the robot repair guy who still has a job; what is his reaction going to be when he’s walking home, exhausted after a double shift, and sees your jobless ass hanging out at a coffee shop and spending your government check on robot-made Frappuccinos? It doesn’t matter that his job makes him 10 times more than you get, because that doesn’t change the fact that his paycheck would be 50 percent bigger if he wasn’t having to support your lazy ass.

                        We don’t have to guess his reaction, of course — go to any Fox News comment section. Listen to Mitt Romney.

                        Unemployment, they say, is immoral. Sinful. Here’s a story about somebody setting a homeless man on fire. Here’s another one. We’re as repulsed by them as we are by, I don’t know, a bug we found in our food or something.

                        “It’s time we start eating the real insects in our society. Vote for Smith. Vote for cannibalism.”

                        The cruel irony is that if this automated future comes about, we’ll have all the makings of what sci-fi writers used to describe as a utopia — we’ll be growing the food and building the houses just fine. The obstacle won’t be a lack of resources; the obstacle will be us, and the fact that we have been taught to motivate ourselves with the hatred of the “lazy” lower classes. And when we start kicking them around, what can they do about it? Go on strike? They don’t have jobs. Refuse to buy anything? Then they’ll starve. Riot in the streets? We’ll roll in with tanks. And notice how I’m saying “we” like I won’t be one of the ones left out? How many of you are doing the same thing? No wonder I’m pushing this book shit so hard.

                        But that just brings me to the final point …

                        #1. There Will Be A Fundamental Shift In Power — We Just Have To Decide What It Looks Like

                        Raise your hand if you rent your home, rather than own it. Now raise your other hand if your landlord has ever done something that would get a person fucking shot if they’d done it to a homeowner — like let themselves in to check your fire alarm while you were asleep in the next room. There is a fundamental difference in power between renting and owning — “your” home is literally not yours. They decide if you have a pet, or smoke, or repaint the place. Oh, and guess what — home-ownership is at its lowest point in half a century. Everything is heading that direction — the entire concept of owning things is slowly going away. This is a bigger deal than you think.

                        You gamers out there already know what I’m talking about; once upon a time you would go to the store and buy a physical object called a video game, which you fully owned, forever, to do with as you pleased. Now, you’re just renting, regardless of what they call it. A few years ago a Steam user found this out the hard way when Valve banned him from using any of the 250 games on his own computer due to a misunderstanding that was eventually cleared up. I bet until that day he actually thought those were “his” games. Today, more and more non-game software is being sold via a monthly subscription so that you lose access to it the moment you stop paying.

                        “Look who’s come crawling back” -MS Paint when your Adobe subscription starts to equal your rent

                        Meanwhile, the biggest competitor to Ford and Toyota isn’t Tesla — it’s Uber — the future will most likely be a swarm of cars, all networked together, probably driverless, conveniently picking you up and dropping you off on command. No need for you to get a car loan or pay for gas and repairs (renting is always more convenient than buying). And then one day, when you’re running late for work, you’re going to try to order a ride on your phone and the app will tell you that you’ve been banned from Uber. And only then will you realize that, as in all of the above situations, you traded power for convenience.

                        I mean, what’s to stop them from shutting you out if, say, you were heard insulting the company in public? They can just add it to the terms of service you didn’t read before tapping the “Accept” button. You know, the same as how PayPal can freeze access to your own money if they think you’ve broken their terms of service and can lock out your access to your money for six months while they investigate.

                        “It’s cool; I’ll just tell my colon cancer to chill.”

                        “So? I’ll just use some other company!” Well, here’s the thing: For whatever reason, this new economy seems to favor monopolies. Amazon dwarfs the next biggest e-commerce site, and can you even name an auction site other than eBay? When’s the last time you used a search engine other than Google? PayPal is 80 percent of the online payment market; Steam utterly dominates PC game sales

                        That means we’re heading toward a future in which you rent the things you have to have, from the only game in town. The future is Comcast.

                        Now think about the entry above, about the jobs. Having your own unique skill and source of income also comes with power; you have something the world needs, and as long as you do, you “own” your livelihood. But if the government is simply giving you a check, then you are at their mercy — like how they’re constantly threatening to cut off welfare recipients for doing drugs. Now you’re “renting” — you can find yourself completely locked out of the system because you violated somebody’s terms of service. So you’d better damned well fall in line. You will make that power-for-convenience trade until your life is full of convenience and devoid of power. It will be very nice and comfortable, right up until you do something They don’t like.

                        “That’s the last time QueefMaster420 calls my company Fartcast.”

                        Now, I wasn’t lying when I said this article wouldn’t be scare-mongering about a coming dystopia. That’s because it doesn’t have to happen. We will have to reclaim that power. I’m not talking about quitting society to go live in the wilderness or forming mobs to burn down the banks. We will instead have to come together as a people and guarantee the fundamental rights of even the most unprofitable human beings. Getting over our distaste of those outside the economy will be no different from getting over our distaste of bugs — we’ll do it because it’s what we need to do, as most of us will eventually be in that same bug-eating boat.

                        We won’t let our own pettiness destroy society. I’m … almost sure of it.

                        Uh, right?


                        Read more: http://www.cracked.com/blog/5-shocking-ways-world-about-to-change/

                        ‘Despacito’ singers condemn use of song by Venezuelan government

                        Caracas (CNN)Luis Fonsi, the singer behind the wildly popular song “Despacito,” often applauds others who cover his big hit. But not this time.

                        On Monday, Fonsi condemned Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro for creating an altered version of “Despacito” to promote an upcoming referendum that opponents say will erode the last signs of democracy in the South American nation.
                        “My music is for all those who want to listen to it and enjoy it, (but it’s) not to be used as propaganda that intends to manipulate the will of a people that’s crying out for liberty and a better future,” Fonsi wrote in a statement posted to his Instagram account.

                          A post shared by Luis Fonsi (@luisfonsi) on

                          Maduro debuted his version of “Despacito” at a rally on Sunday to promote the July 30 vote. The rhythm and chorus are similar to the original “Despacito,” which is the most streamed song of all time. But the lyrics are entirely different.
                          “We have a big message for you, it’s called ‘the constituent,’ which only wants to unify the country,” the song begins, referring to the name of the vote.
                          Reggaetn star Daddy Yankee, who sings in a remix of the song with Justin Bieber, also condemned Maduro’s mash-up.
                          He said it came as little surprise that someone who had “stolen so many lives” would illegally appropriate a song for a “disastrous marketing plan.”
                          “Your dictatorial regime is not only a mockery for my Venezuelan brothers but for the entire world,” he said in an Instagram post Monday.

                          Qu se puede esperar? de una persona que le ha robado tantas vidas a jvenes soadores y a un pueblo que lo que busca es un mejor futuro para sus hijos. Que te apropies ilegalmente de una cancin (Despacito), no se compara con el crimen que cometes y has cometido en Venezuela.Es una burla, no tan solo para mis hermanos venezolanos, sino para el mundo entero su rgimen dictatorial. Con ese nefasto plan de mercadeo, usted solo continuar poniendo en evidencia su ideal fascista, que ha matado a cientos de hroes y ms de 2000 heridos. Como co-autor del tema, tambin me uno a las expresiones de la co-autora de la cancin "Despacito" @erikaender. #NoAprobado #BastaYa #venezuelalibre

                          A post shared by Daddy Yankee (@daddyyankee) on

                          Maduro isn’t the first in Venezuela to use “Despacito” for political means. Venezuelan opposition leaders created a modified version of it to rally voters for an unofficial vote on July 16 against Maduro’s referendum. Fonsi didn’t object to that version.
                          Fonsi posted a message earlier in July cheering the release of Leopoldo Lopez, one of Maduro’s biggest political opponents who had been imprisoned since 2014 on disputed charges of encouraging violence. Fonsi also posted a video in June of young Venezuelans singing his song.
                          The referendum would replace the opposition-controlled National Assembly with an entirely new institution, the constituent assembly, filled with more than 500 Maduro supporters. He could then rewrite the constitution to his liking and strip political power away from opponents.
                          Months of protests against the referendum and Maduro have left close to 100 people dead. On Monday, protesters held a vigil to those who have died. Witnesses told CNN that police dispersed the youth with rubber bullets.

                          #Venezuela youth opposition holding vigil for those who have fallen. #police disperse crowd with rubber bullets.

                          A post shared by Ma Brocchetto (@mabrocchetto) on

                          More than seven million Venezuelans cast ballots in the July 16 vote against Maduro’s referendum. Maduro ignored the results.
                          President Donald Trump said in a statement that Maduro “dreams of becoming a dictator.”
                          Trump has threatened “strong and swift economic action” if Maduro goes through with the vote. Maduro said the vote is happening regardless of what Trump says or does.
                          Against the backdrop of political turmoil, Venezuela is in a severe humanitarian crisis triggered by years of economic mismanagement. Citizens suffer through mass shortages of food and medicine.

                          Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/24/americas/despacito-nicolas-maduro/index.html

                          ‘A Better Deal’ is more of the same from Dems

                          (CNN)Democrats would like voters to believe the party’s slogan for its new economic agenda rolled out Monday, “A Better Deal,” describes a program aimed at fighting for regular people — even though it mostly rings like a sales pitch for a discounted item at a shopping mall. Worse, the specifics of the strategy are a path to more electoral failure, because “A Better Deal” embraces falsehoods about economic power while leaving a bankrupt system unchallenged.

                          Right after the presidential election, I argued that the crisis facing Democrats, which was at least a decade of electoral losses in the making, boiled down to a failure to show voters any clear differences between the parties when it comes to propping up a failed economic system. As it now stands, it’s a system in which lobbyists shower both parties with money, tax cuts for business and keeping taxes too low on the wealthy are a bipartisan goal, health care is still something to leave in the hands of insurance companies and, above all, the glory of the “free market” is extolled by Democrats and Republicans.
                          Until Democrats display the strength to reject the system, they’ll continue to lose, and “A Better Deal” is just more of the same.
                            The stupefying foolishness of the plan is evident in three main points from Monday’s s outline offered in op-eds by Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and three Democratic House members in which they purport to give the broad strokes of the party’s economic strategy.
                            Schumer specifically says the party will fight to increase “workers’ incomes by lifting the minimum wage to $15.” He and the House Democrats also talk a lot about retraining workers to give them skills to get higher-paying jobs. Most of the rest of the mumbo-jumbo is the typical warmed-over “innovation” and “don’t we all love small business” standard fare that excites elite policy wonks but is largely irrelevant to voters.
                            Perhaps the most glaring omission here is that none of these party leaders use the word “union” even once. That isn’t entirely surprising: The typical party ethos going back to Bill Clinton has been to minimize the embrace of labor unions, beyond the occasional rhetorical gesture, except when it’s election season (read: when the party needs donations and campaign troops).
                            But the “Fight for 15” has been primarily funded by unions, some of whom frankly were dragged into the battle by other affiliated organizations who were less than inspired by the Obama administration’s and congressional Democrats’ support for a paltry minimum wage hike to $10.10. To the consternation of the Wall Street wing of the party, the Bernie Sanders movement made $15-an-hour a central part of its economic message, and forced $15-an-hour as a goal, into the party’s 2016 platform.
                            And if raising wages and preserving pensions is what Democrats want, they’re not going to get it without growing the power of unions. Unions built the middle class. Wages are low because, over the past several decades, employers have effectively stolen the productivity gains made by workers and only by revitalizing unions, publicly, aggressively and explicitly, will that change.
                            Schumer and the House Democrats compounded this problem Monday by perpetuating the myth that workers need more skills to get “high-paying” jobs and that politicians can ensure they get those skills by, you guessed it, that sure-fire election winner: giving a tax credit to companies. This has been an untenable proposition going back to the 1990s, when then-Labor Secretary Robert Reich flogged his elitist “symbolic analysts” solution, in which workers can all find a place in the creative and knowledge economies, which supposedly fix everything.
                            Reality is more difficult. Skills have nothing to do with the class warfare underway in the country. Workers are not dumb. It’s simple: There is no reason a retail worker, janitor or any worker who isn’t “highly skilled” can’t be paid a high wage, other than the lack of power to demand it through collective bargaining.
                            Even so, today’s Democrats, with the “A Better Deal” slogan, have the temerity to channel Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “New Deal” by explicitly stating, as Schumer does in his op-ed, “Our better deal is not about expanding the government.” Shame on them. That position betrays a continued acceptance by Democrats of a decadeslong Republican talking point that demonizes government, adopts the idea that taxes are too high and puts blind faith in the “free market.”
                            Our problem has not been a growing government or a spending problem. It’s the priorities political leaders have set and how we raise money. And it’s a continued belief in “free market” neo-liberalism: a system that relies on market mechanisms, argues against expanding the role of the state and social services, and empowers corporations and wealthy individuals at the expense of citizens.
                            To take the current policy debate around health care as the perfect example, a large majority of people support universal, single-payer health care, which would entail expanding government’s role. Yet, Schumer is trying to short-circuit universal health care as a party priority, even though it would end up saving businesses and average people hundreds of billions of dollars.

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                            The ideological straitjacket “A Better Deal” creates goes deeper than a neglect of history or a refusal to empower citizens. It’s a failure of political philosophy and imagination. Its advocates say they want to protect the promise of Social Security and Medicare. But embracing a growing government would expand Social Security and Medicare, and, then, also fund free college education, and guaranteed annual incomes and a livable pension. We could fund some of that if, for example, we just cast off (a quarter-century after the Cold War ended) the government’s bipartisan priority to underwrite a bloated military and maintain the country’s prominence as the largest weapons merchant in the world, arming repressive regimes like Saudi Arabia.
                            Of course, to do any of these things requires a political spine, and leaders who finally admit that the “free market” system cannot be fixed. Until the Democrats get this message, they might as well have a slogan closer to “Better Hygiene, Better Grammar, Better Front Lawns.” At least it won’t mislead.

                            Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/24/opinions/democrats-economic-plan-opinion-tasini/index.html

                            Karen Carpenter: starved of love, by Randy Schmidt | Extract

                            Karen Carpenter's velvet voice charmed millions in the 70s but behind the wholesome image she was desperately unhappy. In a revealing new biography Randy Schmidt tells the full story of her losing battle with anorexia

                            The Carpenters were one of the biggest-selling American musical acts of all time. Between 1970 and 1984 brother and sister Richard and Karen Carpenter had 17 top 20 hits, including “Goodbye to Love“, “Yesterday Once More“, “Close to You” and “Rainy Days and Mondays“. They notched up 10 gold singles, nine gold albums, one multi-platinum album and three Grammy awards. Karen’s velvety voice and Richard’s airy melodies and meticulously crafted arrangements stood in direct contrast to the louder, wilder rock dominating the rest of the charts at the time, yet they became immensely popular, selling more than 100m records.

                            Richard was the musical driving force but it was Karen’s effortless voice that lay behind the Carpenters’ hits. Promoted from behind the drums to star vocalist, she became one of the decade’s most instantly recognisable female singers.

                            But there was a tragic discrepancy between her public and private selves. Offstage, away from the spotlight, she felt desperately unloved by her mother, Agnes, who favoured Richard, and struggled with low self-esteem, eventually developing anorexia nervosa from which she never recovered. She died at the age of 32.

                            In 1996 journalist Rob Hoerburger powerfully summed up Karen Carpenter’s tribulations in a New York Times Magazine feature: “If anorexia has classically been defined as a young woman’s struggle for control, then Karen was a prime candidate, for the two things she valued most in the world her voice and her mother’s love were exclusively the property of her brother Richard. At least she would control the size of her own body.” And control it she did. By September 1975 her weight fell to 6st 7lb (41kg).

                            Karen’s quest to be thin seems to have begun innocently enough just after high school graduation when she started the Stillman water diet. Although she was never obese, she was what most would consider a chubby 17-year-old at 10st5lb. (She was 5ft 4in tall.) She levelled off at around 8st 8lb and maintained her weight by eating sensibly but not starving herself. Even so, eating while on tour was problematic for Karen, as she described in 1973: “When you’re on the road it’s hard to eat. Period. On top of that, it’s rough to eat well. We don’t like to eat before a show because I can’t stand singing with a full stomach You never get to dinner until, like, midnight, and if you eat heavy you’re not going to sleep, and you’re going to be a balloon.”

                            Karen was shocked when she saw photos from an August 1973 Lake Tahoe concert where an unflattering outfit accentuated her paunch. She hired a personal trainer, who made visits to her home and recommended a diet low in calories but high in carbohydrates. Instead of slimming down as she had hoped, Karen started to put on muscle and bulk up. Watching the Carpenters on a Bob Hope television special that autumn, she remarked that she had put on some extra weight. Richard agreed she looked a bit heavier. She was discouraged and vowed she was going to “do something about it”. She fired her trainer, and immediately set out on a mission to shed the unwanted pounds on her own. She purchased a hip cycle, which she used each morning on her bed, and because it was portable the equipment was packed and taken with her on tour.

                            “She lost around 20lb and she looked fabulous,” recalls Carole Curb, the sister of Karen’s then boyfriend, record executive Mike Curb. “She weighed 110lb [7st 12lb] or so, and looked amazing If she’d been able to stop there then life would have been beautiful. A lot of us girls in that era went through moments of that. Everybody wanted to be Twiggy. Karen got carried away. She just couldn’t stop.”

                            Having witnessed Karen’s meticulous routine of counting calories and planning food intake for every meal, Richard complimented her initial weight loss during a break from recording as the two dined at the Au Petit Caf, a favourite French bistro on Vine Street near the A&M studios. “You look great,” he told her.

                            “Well, I’m just going to get down to around 105.”

                            “A hundred and five? You look great now.”

                            Karen’s response worried Richard. In fact, this was the first time he paused to consider she might be taking the diet too far. Friends and family began to notice extreme changes in Karen’s eating habits, despite her attempts at subtlety. She rearranged and pushed her food around the plate with a fork as she talked, which gave the appearance of eating. Another of her strategies involved offering samples of her food to others around the table. She would rave on about her delicious meal and then insist that everyone try it for themselves. “Here, you have some,” she would say as she enthusiastically scooped heaps on to others’ plates. “Would you like to taste this?” By the time dinner was over, Karen’s plate was clean but she had dispersed her entire meal to everyone else. Her mother, Agnes, caught on to this ploy and began to do the same in return. “Well, this is good, too,” she would say as she put more food on to her daughter’s plate. This infuriated Karen, who realised she would have to find other ways to avoid eating.

                            By the time Karen’s weight dropped to 6st 6lb, she looked for ways to disguise the weight loss, especially around those she knew would make comments or pester her to eat more. She began to layer her clothing, a strategy her agent Sherwin Bash noticed in the early part of 1975. “She would start with a long-sleeved shirt and then put a blouse over that,” he explains, “and a sweater over that and a jacket over that With all of it you had no idea of what she had become.”

                            But family friend Evelyn Wallace was shocked when she caught a glimpse of Karen’s gaunt figure as she sunbathed topless in the back garden of the Carpenters’ home in Downey, California, one afternoon. “They put this screen around her so nobody else could see her,” Wallace explains. “She loved to go lay out in the sunshine. I don’t know whether it was to get a tan or get away from her mother. Anyhow, I happened to go out to the kitchen for something and I saw her out there. She just had on her little bathing suit shorts. You couldn’t tell whether it was a girl or a boy. She had absolutely no breasts.”

                            Karen’s new slim figure required that she purchase a new stage wardrobe, and she opted for a number of low-cut silky gowns, some strapless or even backless. Bash was horrified to see her bony shoulders and ribs. Even her hip bones were visible through the thin layers of fabric. He asked Karen to rethink the wardrobe choices before going on stage. “I talked her into putting a jacket on over the bare back and bare arms,” he said, “but the audience saw it.”

                            There was often a collective gasp from the audience when Karen would take the stage. In fact, after a few shows, Bash was approached by concerned fans who knew something was terribly wrong but assumed she had cancer or some other disease. Even critics took note of her gaunt appearance. A review for Variety praised Karen’s emergence from behind the drums to centre stage but commented on her deteriorating appearance. “She is terribly thin, almost a wraith, and should be gowned more becomingly.”

                            No one really understood why Karen wasn’t eating. To those around her the solution seemed simple: eat. “Anorexia nervosa was so new that I didn’t even know how to pronounce it until 1980,” band member John Bettis said. “From the outside the solution looks so simple. All a person has to do is eat. So we were constantly trying to shove food at Karen My opinion about anorexia is it’s an attempt to have control something in your life you can do something about, that you can regiment. That just got out of control with her.”

                            Band members witnessed her exhaustion. She was lying down between shows, something she had rarely, if ever, done before. They were shocked to see how she could be flat on her back one minute and on stage singing the next. Even when doing back-to-back shows, Karen displayed “a tremendous amount of nervous energy”, said Bash. Unlike her parents, Bash had no qualms about confronting Karen on the issue of anorexia. “The fact that she was anorexic was discussed innumerable times There was every attempt to get her to seek professional help, but I believe her family was the kind of family where the mother would say, ‘We can take care of ourselves. We don’t need to have someone help. This is a family matter.'”

                            When Karen dieted, or “overdieted”, Bash explains, there was a rush of attention from the family, especially Agnes. “Karen had never had attention from Agnes before her mother doted exclusively on Richard so she liked it. The experts say that one of the things that seems to drive young girls to overdiet is that they were oftentimes the kids that never got attention. It’s a way of getting the love from their family that they never got before.”

                            By the autumn of 1975 Karen’s failing health could no longer be ignored. In addition to her skeletal appearance, she was mentally and physically exhausted. Although she made it through a series of shows in LasVegas without a major incident, upon returning to Los Angeles she checked into Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre, where she spent five days while doctors ran tests. “She is suffering a severe case of physical and nervous exhaustion,” said Dr Robert Koblin in a statement to the press. “She had a hectic four-week schedule lined up in Europe but I could not allow her to go through with it. In my opinion it would have been highly dangerous to her long-term health.” Melody Maker reported that the Carpenters’ tour would have been the highest-grossing tour in Britain and that approximately 150,000 people were set to see them during the planned 28-day European trek. Ticket sales for the 50 shows, which sold out in a matter of hours, were refunded. It was reported that the Carpenters may have easily lost upward of $250,000 due to the cancelled concerts.

                            Under Agnes Carpenter’s close watch, Karen slept 14-16 hours a day. “My mother thought I was dead,” she told biographer Ray Coleman. “I normally manage on four to six hours. It was obvious that for the past two years I’d been running on nervous energy.” Her weight eventually climbed to 7st 6lb.

                            Over the next five years Karen continued to struggle with anorexia and bulimia nervosa. Meanwhile Richard Carpenter fought and won a battle with Quaalude addiction. Then in June 1980, after an unsuccessful attempt to launch a solo career, Karen announced her engagement to a property developer called Tom Burris.

                            Thirty-nine-year-old Tom Burris met a number of Karen’s requirements in a potential husband. “He was very attractive, very nice, and he seemed very generous,” said Carole Curb. Two months into their relationship, Burris told Karen he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. The couple’s plan for a year-long engagement was ditched when they announced in July their plans for an August ceremony. The push to be married alarmed Karen’s friends. According to Karen ‘Itchie’ Ramone, Karen’s friend and the wife of producer Phil Ramone, “That’s when everybody’s antennas went up.” Days before the wedding rehearsal Burris dropped a bombshell: he had undergone a vasectomy prior to their meeting. Karen was dumbfounded. He offered to reverse the procedure but their chances at a family would be significantly lessened.

                            Karen felt betrayed. Burris had lied to her; he had withheld this information for the duration of their courtship and engagement, knowing full well that starting a family was at the top of Karen’s list of priorities. This was a deal breaker. The wedding was off. Karen picked up the phone and called her mother. She cried to Agnes as she explained the deceit that left her with no choice but to cancel the ceremony. But Agnes told her she would do no such thing. Family and friends were travelling from all over the country to attend the event. Moreover, the wedding expenses had already cost what Agnes considered to be a small fortune. “The invitations have gone out. There are reporters and photographers coming. People magazine is going to be there. The wedding is on, and you will walk down that aisle. You made your bed, Karen,” she told her. “Now you’ll have to lay in it.”

                            Most of Karen’s family and friends had assumed Burris’s lifestyle and net worth were comparable to her own. The expensive cars and other possessions gave him the appearance of a multimillionaire, but what others did not realise was that he was living well beyond his means.

                            “It wasn’t long after they got married that he started asking her for money,” recalls Evelyn Wallace. “He’d give her some excuse, and she’d give him the money. He’d ask for $35,000 and $50,000 at a time. Finally it got down to the point where all she had left was stocks and bonds.”

                            As Itchie Ramone recalls, “Tom couldn’t afford the houses, the cars, her wedding ring; he couldn’t pay for anything.” Karen began to share with friends her growing misgivings about Tom, not only concerning his finances but also his lack of feelings for her. He was often impatient, and she admitted being fearful when he would occasionally lose his temper. “He could be very cruel to her,” says Itchie. But Karen’s longing to be a mother proved to be stronger than her desire to leave her husband. At their house in Newport Beach Karen expressed to Burris her desire to get pregnant and start a family. His response was brutal. She was still crying hysterically when she called Itchie Ramone for support. Burris had told her he wouldn’t even consider having children with her and called her “a bag of bones”. According to Itchie, this marriage was “the straw that broke the camel’s back. It was absolutely the worst thing that could have ever happened to her.”

                            Friends suggested she and Burris seek marital counselling. Instead, the Carpenters prepared to leave for Europe and South America. Itchie went along to keep Karen company. In reality, however, according to Itchie, “Laxatives were her major companion. When we were in Paris we made quite a scene in a pharmacy across the street from our hotel about her needing to buy more laxatives. I suggested natural food groups that might relieve her ‘constipation’ but she always won those arguments.”

                            Following a brief stop in Amsterdam, the Carpenters arrived at London’s Heathrow airport on Wednesday, 21 October 1981. They made numerous promotional appearances while in London, both in person and on television. On Thursday they taped an interview for Nationwide, a popular news magazine on BBC television. Barely one minute into their visit, host Sue Lawley surprised Karen by casting light on her darkest secret. “There were rumours that you were suffering from the slimmer’s disease anorexia nervosa,” Lawley said. “Is that right?” “No, I was just pooped,” Karen said with an intense frown. “I was tired out.”

                            “You went down to about six stone in weight, I think, didn’t you?” Lawley asked. “I have no idea what ‘six stone in weight’ is,” Karen replied, becoming noticeably uncomfortable and increasingly agitated. She struggled to fake a laugh, rolling her eyes at the interviewer, who quickly converted the amount to approximately 84lbs. “No,” she said, shaking her head adamantly. “No.”

                            In actuality her weight was hovering around 5st 10lbs even then. The interviewer’s continued efforts to pinpoint a reason for Karen’s skeletal appearance prompted Richard to come to his sister’s defence. “I don’t really feel that we should be talking about the weight loss,” he told Lawley. “Maybe it’s better to take a pass on the whole thing. It’s really not what we’re here for.”

                            “I am just asking you the questions people want to know the answers to,” Lawley replied.

                            Returning to Los Angeles in November 1981, Karen filed for divorce. Leaving behind the pieces of her broken marriage, she set out on a year-long recovery mission, relocating to New York City’s Regency Hotel in January 1982. Manager Jerry Weintraub arranged for Karen and Itchie Ramone to share a two-bedroom suite. Cherry O’Neill, the eldest daughter of singer Pat Boone who had herself recovered from anorexia, had recommended Karen consider coming to the northwest and seeing the doctor who helped her. But in Karen’s world, one name was synonymous with anorexia treatment, and that name was Steven Levenkron. He was a psychotherapist specialising in eating disorders and his successful book The Best Little Girl in the World had become a highly acclaimed television movie, which aired in May 1981. Levenkron agreed to treat her. He received 100 for each hour-long session five days a week, totalling $2,000 a month. “I liked Levenkron, at least in the beginning,” Itchie Ramone says. “No one really knew why someone would get the disorder or how to treat it, so we were really looking to him to ‘save’ her.”

                            Arriving at Levenkron’s office at 16 East Seventy-Ninth in Manhattan, Karen weighed in at an alarming 5st 8lb. A week into their daily sessions, Karen admitted to Levenkron she was taking a large number of laxative tablets 80-90 Dulcolax a night. This did not surprise Levenkron. In fact, it was a common practice for many anorexics. “For quite some time, I was taking 60 laxatives at once,” admits Cherry O’Neill. “Mainly because that was how many came in the box I would ingest the entire contents so as not to leave any evidence.”

                            What did stun Levenkron was Karen’s next casual disclosure. She was also taking thyroid medication 10 pills a day. He was shocked, especially when she explained that she had a normal thyroid. Realising she was using the medication to speed up her metabolism, Levenkron confiscated the pills. This was the first case of thyroid medication abuse he had seen in his dozen years in the field.

                            According to Levenkron’s 1982 book, Treating and Overcoming Anorexia Nervosa, the patient must become totally dependent upon the therapist. Once the patient has transferred their dependence on to him, he tries to teach them how to create their own sense of identity, and he helps them disengage from their dependence on him with new behaviours, habits, and thought patterns.

                            Karen took advantage of the beautiful spring weather and began a new exercise routine to and from her sessions with Levenkron a brisk two-mile round-trip walk. This was yet another method to burn extra calories. Outwardly Karen seemed committed to the idea of therapy, but as evidenced by her daily walking regimen, she was not as committed to making actual changes that would result in real progress. “She was still walking a lot, and she was exercising,” Carole Curb says. “And then she was into throwing up and taking pills that make you lose water-weight. Debilitating things like that.”

                            Several months into his sessions with Karen, Levenkron began to suspect that she had fallen off the wagon. He invited the Carpenter parents and Richard to a 90-minute family therapy session at his office. “They did come to New York finally,” Itchie Ramone recalls, “and only after a lot of nudging. By then, Karen seemed to be starting to turn the corner a bit emotionally.”

                            The stigma surrounding mental illness and a need for therapy was frightening for the family, especially Agnes, who felt Karen was simply going overboard as far as dieting was concerned. If only she would stop being so stubborn and just eat. Over the years the family tried every possible approach to get through to her and make her eat. “Everyone around her did everything that they could have humanly done,” Richard said in 1993. “I tried everything the heart-to-heart, the cajole, the holler It can just make you crazy. Obviously it wasn’t about to work, and I was upset.”

                            Levenkron explained that the family’s attempts to threaten or bribe Karen out of her behaviours would never make them go away. According to his book, “Failure of the family to understand this produces division within the family that in turn results in feelings of anger and guilt. The family atmosphere is chaotic, reinforcing the anorexic’s belief that she and no one else knows what is best for her.” Levenkron suggested to the family that Karen was in need of a more tactile, demonstrative kind of love. Karen cried uncontrollably during the meeting. She told them how sorry she was for having put them in a situation where they felt a need to defend her upbringing, and she went so far as to apologise for ruining their lives. “I think Karen really needs to hear that you love her,” Levenkron told the family.

                            “Well, of course I love you,” Richard told her unreservedly.

                            “Agnes?” The therapist tapped the mother’s shoe with his own.

                            Rather than address her daughter, Agnes explained how she preferred to be called Mrs Carpenter. “Well, I’m from the north,” she continued. “And we just don’t do things that way.”

                            “Agnes couldn’t do it,” says Itchie Ramone, who discussed the meeting with Karen and Levenkron after the family left. “She couldn’t do it In therapy you’re basically stark naked. Then your own mother can’t reach out to you? And the way she doted on Richard. Most children would try to dance as fast as they could to make their parents love them, but it was at that point that I think Karen decided it was time to take a step back.”

                            After the meeting with Levenkron, Richard became angry with the treatment plan, which he thought to be worthless. He was upset that Karen had not checked herself into an inpatient facility as one would do to conquer substance abuse. He and his parents returned to California and chose to keep their distance after this painful encounter. They made no further attempts to contact Karen’s therapist. “What I find interesting,” Levenkron stated in 1993, “is that in the entire time Karen was in New York, I got zero calls from the family. I have never treated anyone with anorexia nervosa whose family didn’t call regularly because they were concerned.” Likewise, Richard claimed to have never received a call from Levenkron.

                            Karen and Itchie were surprised to learn that Levenkron was not an actual doctor. “We used to call him ‘Dr Levenkron’ all the time,” Itchie explains. “Then we found out that he wasn’t even a real doctor. Any medical issues she had, we had to go see this other doctor at Lenox Hill Hospital.”

                            According to Evelyn Wallace, “Karen picked the wrong guy to go to. He wasn’t even a doctor. It seemed like Levenkron was simply trying to talk Karen out of having anorexia, but she’d talk to him and she’d go back to the same routine.”

                            By the autumn of 1982 Karen showed no real signs of progress. In fact, her walks to and from sessions with Levenkron kept her body weight beneath the six stone mark. Itchie Ramone called Levenkron and voiced her concerns. “Look, Karen’s getting thinner and thinner,” she exclaimed. “Plus, it’s obvious she doesn’t have her usual energy anymore. When do you expect this turnaround? She’s just skin and bone.”

                            The therapist agreed that Karen seemed extra tired and was not responding as quickly as he had hoped, and vowed to try another approach. After her next session with Levenkron, Karen asked Itchie if she could borrow a swimsuit. “What?” Itchie asked. “There’s no pool in the hotel. Besides, it’s cold out!”

                            “No, I have to wear it tomorrow for Levenkron,” Karen answered. The two stopped by the Ramones’s apartment to pick up a size 2 light green bikini belonging to Itchie. Karen changed into the bikini and emerged smiling. Itchie was mortified and unable to hide her reaction. “What’s the matter?” Karen asked. “It fits.”

                            “Uh, yeah, it fits,” she said hesitantly. “You can use it tomorrow, I guess.”

                            Returning to Levenkron the following day, Karen was asked to change into the bikini and stand in front of the office mirror. He urged her to survey and evaluate her body. “She didn’t really see any problem with how she looked,” Itchie recalls. “In fact, she thought she was gaining a little weight. But she was 79lb.”

                            In mid-September Karen phoned Levenkron and told him her heart was “beating funny”. She was quite upset, anxious, and confused. She complained of dizziness to an extent that she was unable to walk. Despite not being medically qualified, he recognised her symptoms as those of someone suffering extreme dehydration. Karen was admitted to New York’s Lenox Hill Hospital on 20 September 1982 to begin hyperalimentation, or intravenous feeding.

                            The next morning she went into surgery to have a small-bore catheter implanted within the superior vena cava (right atrium of the heart). An unexpected complication was discovered later that day when she complained to the nurse of excruciating chest pain, and X-rays revealed the doctors had accidentally punctured one of her lungs in their attempts to insert the tube.

                            As her lung began to heal, Karen’s body quickly responded to the artificial means of feeding. The hyperalimentation process completely replaced all of her nutritional needs, and a precise daily calorie intake was dispensed through the catheter. This loss of control was known to often spark fear in patients, and doctors who oppose hyperalimentation argue that it does not teach the patient to eat properly. However, Karen went along with it and gained 12lb in only a few days. Solid foods were slowly reintroduced as the level of assistance from Karen’s IV lessened, and she continued to gain weight steadily. Unlike many other patients she seemed pleased and excited to show visitors her progress. Richard flew in to visit on 25 October and, like most who saw her there, was shocked and saddened. She was still horribly emaciated and barely identifiable by this stage. “You see how much better I look?” she asked.

                            Richard nodded in agreement but only to appease his sister. In an attempt to divert the attention away from herself, Karen told him of other patients who were much worse off. But he was not sidetracked. “Karen, this is crap,” he said suddenly. “Don’t you understand? This is crap! You’re going about this all the wrong way. This guy isn’t getting anything accomplished because you’re in a hospital now!”

                            By November Karen was eating three meals a day at Lenox Hill, and trying to stay positive about the weight gain, by then approaching the 30lb mark. The return of her menstrual cycle, which had ceased during the previous year, seemed to signify an improvement in emotional and physical wellbeing.

                            On 16 November Karen visited Steven Levenkron for the last time and presented him with a farewell gift, a framed personal message in needlepoint. The large green-threaded words “you win I gain” served as tangible proof of the long hours Karen had spent alone in the hospital. Learning of her plan to leave, Levenkron reminded Karen she was abandoning the program much too soon, and that treatment takes at least three years. He suggested a therapist in Los Angeles so that she might continue a routine of some sort upon her return home, but she declined. She promised to call him and swore she would not take any more laxatives or diuretics. Agnes and Harold (Karen’s father) met up with her at Levenkron’s office that day. The couple had flown to New York City to bring their daughter and her 22 pieces of luggage home. It was obvious to most that Karen’s treatment was inadequate and ending too soon.

                            “She tried to get help,” says her longtime friend Frenda Franklin. “She went to New York to try. It just wasn’t the right way to do it. If this had happened in today’s world I think Karen would have lived. I think we would have had a good shot. They know so much more. We were dancing in the dark.”

                            Karen ate heartily on Thanksgiving Day, much to the delight of her family, and she even called Itchie Ramone that night to tell her of all she had eaten. “She said to me, ‘I ate this and that and all my favourite things,'” she recalls. “She was very proud of herself then. We were all very proud of her. It seemed like progress.”

                            In the weeks following her return to Los Angeles Karen went back to shopping and socialising without delay. Although others felt she was still quite fragile and thin, Herb Alpert, who had first signed the Carpenters to A&M, saw Karen shortly after the New Year and recalled her looking terrific. She bounced into his office saying, “Hey, look at me, Herbie! What do you think? How do I look?” Alpert agreed that she looked happier and healthier than he had seen her in some time, and felt she appeared to have won the battle. “I am so happy,” she told him.

                            “I’m ready to record again, and Richard and I have been talking about getting the group together and performing.”

                            Despite her high spirits, she was taking more naps than usual and sometimes lying down by seven in the evening. Richard did not believe she was well, and he told her so. On Thursday 27 January Florine Elie drove to Century City for her weekly cleaning of Karen’s apartment at Century Towers. There the housekeeper made an unnerving discovery. “When I was working up there I found Karen,” Elie says. “She was lying on the floor of her closet.” She gently shook Karen who awoke but was groggy. “Karen, is there something wrong?” she asked.

                            “No, I am just so tired,” she replied.

                            “Maybe you better go lie on your bed,” she said, helping Karen up and tucking her into bed.

                            Florine checked on Karen again before leaving. By then she was awake and adamant she was OK.

                            Tuesday 1 February found Karen dining with her brother, this time at Scandia on Sunset Boulevard. They were joined by stage producer Joe Layton, and the trio discussed plans for the Carpenters’ return to touring. Karen ate with enthusiasm and after dinner returned to Century Towers. This was the last time Richard would see his sister alive.

                            The next day Karen spoke with Itchie Ramone, who was pregnant with her and Phil’s first child. Karen shared her plans for the week. She would sign the final divorce papers on Friday and then prepare to leave for New York. “That weekend, 6 February, she was going to hop on a plane and be there for the birth,” Itchie recalls.

                            Shortly after midnight, staying overnight with her parents, Karen went over her to-do list with Frenda Franklin by phone, and finalised plans for the next day. “OK, I am going to drive in. There shouldn’t be a lot of traffic,” she said. According to Frenda, Karen enjoyed keeping up with traffic reports. “Then we’re going to go get the red fingernail polish.” The two had a noon appointment for a manicure in celebration of her divorce.

                            On Friday morning, 4 February, Karen awoke and went downstairs to the kitchen, where she turned on the coffeepot her mother had prepared the night before. She went back upstairs to get dressed. When the coffee was ready, Agnes dialled the upstairs bedroom phone, but its ring, heard faintly in the distance, went unanswered. Agnes went to the foot of the stairs and called to her daughter but there was no response. Entering the room, Agnes found Karen’s motionless, nude body lying face down on the floor of the walk-in wardrobe. Her eyes were open but rolled back. She was lying in a straight line and did not appear to have fallen. “She had just laid down on the floor and that was it,” Agnes recalled.

                            The autopsy report listed the cause of death as “emetine cardiotoxicity due to or as a consequence of anorexia nervosa.” The finding of emetine cardiotoxicity (ipecac poisoning) revealed that Karen had poisoned herself with ipecac syrup, a well-known emetic commonly recommended to induce vomiting in cases of overdose or poisoning.

                            Levenkron claimed to know nothing of Karen’s use or abuse of ipecac. In their phone calls she assured him she was maintaining her new 7st 10lb figure and had completely suspended use of all laxatives. He never suspected she was resorting to something much more lethal.

                            In a radio interview taped shortly after Karen’s death, Levenkron discussed the autopsy findings: “According to the LA coroner, she discovered ipecac and started taking it every day. There are a lot of women out there who are using ipecac for self-induced vomiting. It creates painful cramps, tastes terrible, and it does another thing that the public isn’t aware of. It slowly dissolves the heart muscle. If you take it day after day, every dose is taking another little piece of that heart muscle apart. Karen, after fighting bravely for a year in therapy, went home and apparently decided that she wouldn’t lose any weight with ipecac, but that she’d make sure she didn’t gain any. I’m sure she thought this was a harmless thing she was doing, but in 60 days she had accidentally killed herself. It was a shocker for all of us who treated her.”

                            In one of Levenkron’s most recent books, Anatomy of Anorexia, the author boasts of his above-average recovery rate in working with those suffering from eating disorders. “In the last 20 years I have treated nearly 300 anorexics,” he wrote. “I am pleased to state that I have had a 90 per cent recovery rate, though tragically, one fatality.” That was Karen Carpenter.

                            Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2010/oct/24/karen-carpenter-anorexia-book-extract

                            Saturday Night Live: Rock’s solid guarantee of strong finale

                            Dwayne Johnson teams up with Tom Hanks while long-time cast members Vanessa Bayer and Bobby Moynihan leave on a high

                            In recent years, Dwayne The Rock Johnson has been toying with the idea of running for president and the idea seems less ludicrous by the day.

                            So it was a natural fit that the monologue for his fifth time as host of Saturday Night Live would take this idea and run with it, positing that the actor and former wrestler would use his on-screen bravado to win over voters. Hes a lock for the minority vote, he explained, because everyone just assumes Im … whatever they are.

                            His natural fit for a running mate? Fellow five-timer Tom Hanks, of course, who brought his calming, paternal gravitas to the ticket. I have been in two movies where a plane crashed, Hanks reminded us, and people are still happy to see me on their flight.

                            It kicked off a strong season finale: Johnson is a great host, and the episode featured a ton of Vanessa Bayer and Bobby Moynihan, long-time cast members who are leaving the show. Both are great, goofy players who will be tough to replace.

                            Other sketches worth checking out include:

                            • Johnson and Moynihan resurrected their wrestler characters Koko Watchout and Trashyard Mutt, who were trying to outdo each other in the promos for a big fight, but Koko couldnt quite understand why his way-too-personal insults (exposing Mutts infertility, complex familial history) didnt fly. It wasnt the most sophisticated premise, but it was executed very well, with some great punchlines for Johnson.
                            • A commercial parody of erectile dysfunction drugs, starring Johnson as a construction worker who is recommended Zentrax by a co-worker, only to be informed by his doctor that it is effectively poison. What started as an obvious take on awful prescription drug ads had a nice slow build and ended with a great run of gags.
                            • Weekend Update had some good one-liners Colin Josts President-for-Now Trump and Michael Ches Trump is a politician like Ja Rule is a festival organiser but the standouts where Bayer and Moynihan reprising some beloved characters. Bayer was back as Dawn Lazarus, the gibberish-speaking meteorologist whose melodic tone is oddly mesmerising: On the west coast, sun is always a wow. Moynihan brought back Drunk Uncle, the Trump-supporting old-school guy who cant quite deal with the modern-day world: Is this pomegranate juice gender fluid?
                            • Kenan Thompson tried to control his New Money Crew in a rap video that quickly got out of control. Worth watching for one special cameo.

                            Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2017/may/21/saturday-night-live-rocks-solid-guarantee-of-strong-finale

                            Honorary Alaska ‘mayor,’ Stubbs the cat, dies at 20

                            (CNN)In today’s political climate, catty politicians claw for every vote, but the mayor of Talkeetna, Alaska, was different. His ability to unite through cuddles and his fondness for naps made him remarkable, and this mayor — Stubbs the cat — also proved that opposable thumbs aren’t necessary for success in politics.

                            The honorary mayor of the small Alaska town, elected as a write-in in 1997 due to a paucity of viable human candidates, died at age 20, according to a Saturday news release from his owners.
                            “He was a trouper until the very last day of his life,” Stubbs’ owners said. “You are are a remarkable cat and we will dearly miss you.”

                              A life in the spotlight

                              Stubbs served Talkeetna for 20 years. His office, at Nagley’s Store, became a destination for locals and tourists alike who sought sage council from the cat.
                              And although Stubbs lacked the legislative and rhetorical prowess of a typical politician, he always did well in the polls.
                              “Over 75% of visitors ask ‘Where’s the mayor?’ or come in with this statement ‘I have an appointment with the mayor,'” the news release said. “I think we heard those two statements over 100 times a day during our first year.”
                              Stubbs’ career wasn’t completely free of controversy, though.
                              In 2013, Stubbs suffered a vicious attack from a neighborhood dog that left him sidelined in a hospital.
                              But even a punctured lung, fractured sternum and deep lacerations couldn’t keep him from his duties. Stubbs recovered and assumed all his previous mayoral responsibilities.

                              A steady health decline

                              Although he loved the attention as a kitten and younger cat, Stubbs’ life in the public eye eventually began to wear on him.
                              He began a retreat from public life in 2015 due to old age, and he cut back on visits to the store, according to the news release.
                              By 2017, Stubbs just wasn’t having it anymore.
                              “Stubbs did a couple TV shows and more than a handful of interviews, but was not fond of the camera and all the people; it had gotten to be too much for him,” his owners said.
                              In the wake of his death, his owners hinted another of their kittens, Denali, may assume his role.
                              “We couldn’t have asked for a better understudy than Denali — he really has followed in Stubbs’ pawprints in just about everything.”

                              Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/23/us/mayor-cat-stubbs-dies-at-20/index.html

                              Turkish activists decry attack on press freedom as journalists stand trial

                              Charges include claims that Cumhuriyet journalists helped the separatist Kurdistan Workers party and Glen movement

                              The trial of 17 reporters and executives from Cumhuriyet, one of Turkeys last standing opposition newspapers, is set to begin on Monday with rights activists decrying the continuing muzzling of free speech in one of the worlds largest jailers of journalists.

                              The charges include accusations that the newspapers journalists aided the separatist Kurdistan Workers party (PKK) and the Fethullah Glen movement, which is widely believed in Turkey to have orchestrated last years coup attempt, and complaints of irregularities in the elections of the organisations board of executives.

                              Rights activists say the trial is an assault on freedom of expression and the accusations are absurd, because Cumhuriyet, the countrys newspaper of record that is committed to secularism, has long warned of the dangers of the Glen movement, which itself has long been at odds with the PKK.

                              They argue that the other charges are an attempt at replacing the newspapers board of directors with government appointees more pliable to the ruling partys influence.

                              I have been a journalist for a long time and have dealt with this for a long time, said Aydn Engin, a veteran journalist with Cumhuriyet who is also standing trial on Monday, but had been released for health reasons. I will say that I am ashamed and in agony for my country because of these irrational accusations, he said.

                              President Recep Tayyip Erdoan and his ruling Justice and Development (AK) party have, for years worked to dismantle or co-opt Turkeys free press. That crackdown has accelerated in the year since last Julys coup, with more than 150 journalists believed to be behind bars in Turkey, the highest in the world ahead of China and Egypt.

                              As of March this year, 173 media outlets had been shut down, including newspapers, magazines, radio stations, websites and news agencies. More than 2,500 journalists have been laid off as part of the closures and 800 have had their press cards revoked, according to the Republican Peoples party (CHP), the main opposition bloc.

                              The government has also exerted pressure on media outlets that do not toe the official line by pressuring advertisers not to do business with them and pursuing cases of defamation, or by slapping them with large, unpayable fines. After media outlets that once belonged to the Glen movement were seized, the government-appointed trustee boards that have transformed those newspapers and TV stations into a loyalist press.

                              These loyalist media outlets are often referred to as penguin media because a TV station that was fearful of antagonising the government during the Gezi protests of 2013 aired a documentary about penguins instead of broadcasting the protests.

                              That threat of a trustee board hangs over Cumhuriyet, a newspaper that was founded in 1924 and is the only serious newspaper in circulation that is vehemently opposed to government policies. It has described the crackdown after the coup in which the government dismissed or detained tens of thousands of civil servants, police and military officers, academics, judges and journalists as a witch-hunt, and has repeatedly criticised Erdoan as an authoritarian attempting to destroy democracy.

                              Erdoan has described democracy as a train before, said Engin, referring to a quote by the president that described democracy as a train that one can get off from once you reach you destination. Its going to be worse for Cumhuriyet. Maybe it will be a shut down, a quick and painless death, or we will suffocate slowly.

                              The newspaper has also joined calls for a ceasefire and peaceful resolution to the conflict with the PKK at a time when the government had opted for a security-focused response amid heightened tensions. The former editor-in-chief, Can Dundar, is in exile after being prosecuted for a 2014 article that revealed the National Intelligence Organisation (MIT) was sending weapons across the border into Syria under the guise of humanitarian aid, a story that the authorities say was leaked by Glenist conspirators.

                              On Monday, a week of hearings is expected to begin in the Cumhuriyet case against 17 of the newspapers journalists and executives. The case will commence with a reading out of the indictment and opening defense statements, and they expect for the presiding judge to decide whether to release the defendants on bail by Friday.

                              This trial offers the government another opportunity to change course in its campaign against Turkeys independent media, said Tobias Garnett, a human rights lawyer with P24, an organisation that advocates for press freedom and supports Turkish journalists on trial. Journalism is not a crime. Prosecutors should stop dressing up legitimate criticism as terrorism and harassing journalists through the courts.

                              Blent zdoan, the managing editor of Cumhuriyet, said in an interview with the Guardian that the trial was not just about press freedom, but about the governments campaign in the aftermath of the coup more broadly.

                              Its not just a struggle for free press, he said. Our arrested colleagues are people of a high moral and intellectual calibre. Its for everyone who lost their jobs, those who have been on hunger strike. Theyre struggling for both of us. Thats why I believe its a new start.

                              The arrest of journalists has earned Ankara criticism from abroad. Late last month, the UN human rights councils working group on arbitrary detentions issued a legal opinion arguing that the arrest of the Cumhuriyet staff contravened the universal declaration of human rights and was arbitrary. The panel of experts called on the Turkish government to release the journalists.

                              Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/24/turkish-activists-decry-attack-press-freedom-journalists-stand-trial

                              North Carolina police chief helps addicts beat opioid addiction

                              Nashville, North Carolina (CNN)He’s only 24 years old, but he struggled with addiction for more than a decade. Thomas Spikes now owes his sobriety to none other than the chief of police in this small eastern North Carolina town.

                              “He saved my life for sure,” he said. “I owe a lot to him and the program.”
                              That program, called the HOPE initiative, is a collaboration between Nashville’s town manager, Hank Raper, and Chief Thomas Bashore. As deaths from opioids continue to dramatically rise across America, topping the list for unintentional deaths at a higher rate than car accidents, North Carolina saw more than a 340% increase from 2010 to 2016.
                                “There’s no clear characteristic of what a heroin or opioid addiction looks like. It’s not a white problem, it’s not a black problem, it’s not a Hispanic problem, middle class, working class, upper class. It affects all peoples of all walks of life,” Raper said.
                                So, the conversation began on how this small town of 5,400, where everyone knows their neighbors, could get ahead of the problem. The HOPE initiative, modeled after the innovative “Angel” program in Gloucester, Massachusetts, which opens the way for addicts to get police assistance and medical help without fear of arrest, is a way of rethinking law enforcement’s role in responding to this growing epidemic.
                                “They walk into the front door, if they have drugs or paraphernalia on them at any time, they can turn it in to us at that time, and have no charges filed. And we facilitate them into recovery,” Bashore said.

                                Drugs, but no arrest

                                So far the department has seen paraphernalia, syringes, cookers, pipes and injection “rigs” turned in. “We have actually had individuals who have brought in heroin bags and turned that over because they knew that they were going to get into recovery and they didn’t want that around when they got out,” Bashore said.
                                Possession of heroin in North Carolina is a felony charge and having paraphernalia is a misdemeanor. Bashore and Raper met with the county’s district attorney to ensure he was on board with not charging people. He was in full support.
                                HOPE, which is not an acronym but the town’s offer of help in capital letters, kicked off on February 9, 2016. Eight days into the program, the first addict came into the police department.
                                “It was eye-opening, recalled Bashore. “That individual came in and we spent the better part of 7 hours getting him processed. Only then did I leave the hospital and come back to the police department to start calling facilities to start having him placed, after he left detox. You can spend hours on the phone, calling facilities, saying, “Do you have a bed?”

                                Chief escorts addicts to detox

                                Bashore has driven many of the 172 men and women of HOPE to a detox facility himself. He has built personal relationships with several rehabilitation facilities across the state that now alert him when there is space available. And the business card he passes out has his personal cellphone number.
                                “My cellphone, it rings all the time. Each participant who comes through the program and all their family members have it. So, when they need something, they reach out,” Bashore said.
                                HOPE has created a positive result between the police and the community. Bashore said he wants people to understand that substance abuse is a disease and the police department’s intention is to be “supportive not only for their benefit, but for the community benefit.”
                                Since the program began, Bashore said, crime is down 40% in the town, about 45 miles northeast of Raleigh. “We’ve had a pretty significant drop in our crimes that are associated with substance-abuse disorder. Things like shoplifting and larcenies and breaking into cars.”
                                HOPE is not limited to residents of Nashville. People from all over the state have walked through the police station doors, as well as people from California and Pennsylvania.
                                The program comes at no cost to the participants. It is funded through small grants, fundraisers and donations.
                                “The chief paid for the first two months that I was there and the rehab I was at,” recalled Spikes. Four months removed from rehab, he is now sober after being involved with drugs and alcohol for more than half his life.

                                Unlikely friendship

                                Spikes told CNN he first used drugs when he was 12 years old. “It started off with just smoking weed,” he said, “then occasional pills, and it progressed through the years.” His addiction became a $200 to $300 a day habit at its worst.
                                Heroin became his drug of choice. He was caught with it in October 2016 and sent to jail. His arrest led to his first encounter with Bashore.
                                Spikes was skeptical of police and their offer to help. “You don’t talk to cops, you don’t associate with them, they’re not your friends,” he said.
                                That changed quickly. Spikes said he recognized Bashore was solely there to help him, no questions asked. The chief “never tried to pry into anything in my life in that era,” Spikes said, “(He doesn’t) care who you hang out with, what kind of drugs you do.”
                                Spikes has cycled through countless rehab facilities, but said his life made a complete turnaround because of the chief and the HOPE initiative. “He saved my life for sure because if it wasn’t for the HOPE Initiative, I wouldn’t have gotten help.”
                                As he hops back on the tiller in the hot summer sun, he smiles and says, “My life has done a 180. I’m working, I have a vehicle, a house, I have a beautiful girlfriend with a baby on the way.”
                                And as for Bashore, he lives up to the name of his program. He hopes to continue to battle the opioid epidemic in his town, one addict at a time.
                                “Of those 172 people that have come through the program, I’ve actually been to two funerals. Knowing what the alternative could have been for Thomas … (who) just recently disclosed to me that his girlfriend’s pregnant, he’s going to be a father,” he said. “So, that’s an amazing thing. That touches me deeply.”

                                See the latest news and share your comments with CNN Health on Facebook and Twitter.

                                Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/23/health/north-carolina-police-help-opioid-addicts/index.html

                                Where the elderly take care of each other — because no one else will

                                Tokyo, Japan (CNN)In a elementary school turned nursing home, Tasaka Keichi jokes with a group of cheerful old women.

                                At 70, he could be mistakenfor a resident, but Tasaka isn’t thinking of retiring anytime soon. Instead, the former tofu-maker is forging a second career as a caregiver to the elderly in Tokyo’s Cross Hearts nursing home.
                                “I always had an interest in care-giving and pensioners don’t receive much in Japan so I’m really thankful that this opportunity existed here for me,” Tasaka told CNN.
                                  “I’m old too so I can understand what these seniors are going through. I actually feel like I’m hanging out with the residents here as opposed to caring for them”

                                  Catering to a ‘super-aged’ nation

                                  With its fast-declining birthrate and growing cohort of old people, Japan is considered a “super-aged” nation, where more than 20% of the population is over 65. By 2020, there will be 13 such countries in the world.

                                  To cope with a growing labor shortage that’s set to hit the care-giving and industrial sectors the hardest, and in the hopes of reinvigorating a stalling economy, the Japanese government has encouraged more seniors and stay-at-home mothers to re-enter the workforce.
                                  In many ways, Tasaka is a trailblazer for this incentive. For the past five years, he’s ferried daycare residents to and from their homes, and helped feed and provided companionship to others.
                                  He lives in one of the facility’s neighboring apartment complexes and is just one of a couple of dozen employees over 65, who work alongside both younger Japanese and foreign staff. In many countries, these jobs would be filled by foreign workers but Japan lacks a concrete immigration policy has resulted in older citizens staying in employment for longer.
                                  The facility — which has a waiting list of several hundred — sets their official retirement age at 70, but lets people who want to work do so until 80. The common retirement age in Japan is between 60 and 65, but doctors recently proposed raisingitto 75.
                                  Despite efforts to encourage more senior citizens to work for longer, 80.5% of companies in Japan still set their official retirement age at 60, according to a 2015 survey conducted by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.
                                  In 2013, the government passed a law requiring companies to raise the mandatory retirement age to 65. But full compliance isn’t required until 2025.

                                  This has created a situation where many companies rehire senior workers at lower salaries once they pass retirement age, according to Atsushi Seike, an economist at Keio University in Japan.
                                  “There should be more pressure on companies to extend mandatory retirement to 65 as a decline in wages really discourages older workers to continue working,” he said.

                                  Developing second careers

                                  Cross Hearts executive director Seiko Adachi told CNN that many of her more senior charges are motivated through their interaction with younger workers and older residents.
                                  “Growing old is the first step in losing something, whether that be your sibling, your parent, or your role in society … the good thing about elderly carers, is that they really understand how our elderly residents are feeling,” she said.
                                  “It’s also good preventative care for them as if they feel like they have a place to go, that will keep them going.”
                                  According to Adachi, the key to engaging more senior employees is by helping them focus on their care-giving job, not as a part-time wage-filler, but as a second career that they can really develop.
                                  For some, the possibilities appear endless.
                                  “I want to study for another care-giving license and take on a managerial role later on,” Tasaka said with a grin. “I don’t feel limited by my age.”

                                  Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/22/asia/japan-nursing-home-old-workers/index.html

                                  This Is What Your Favorite Foods Look Like In Their Natural Habitats

                                  When we buy food from the grocery store or order it from a restaurant, we see it in a certain way. Most of the time, the food that we eat doesn’t appear the same way in nature. In a lot of cases, people would be unable to identify common food items that they consume almost every day if they saw them in nature.

                                  So enlighten yourself and have a look at the weird origins of your favorite foods and spices.

                                  1. Kiwis

                                  2. Broccoli

                                  3. Peanuts

                                  4. Blackberries

                                  5. Saffron

                                  6. Walnuts

                                  7. Mangoes

                                  8. Potatoes

                                  9. Pistachios

                                  10. Coffee

                                  11. Cashews

                                  12. Watermelons

                                  13. Pineapples

                                  14. Black Pepper

                                  15. Sesame

                                  16. Blueberries

                                  17. Vanilla Beans

                                  18. Bananas

                                  19. Almonds

                                  20. Cacao

                                  21. Mustard

                                  (via My Modern Met)

                                  If I didn’t know better, I would never believe that these are the same things we eat all the time! What a difference it is from the plant to the plate. Nature is pretty amazing, isn’t it?

                                  Read more: http://www.viralnova.com/natural-food/